Monday, June 30, 2014

An Art Tour

Colors and textures in Nature
A while back in the blog-o-sphere, a writer decided it would be interesting to do a virtual tour of how writers and artists create.  Each participant of the tour answers a few standard questions, giving readers a little insight into the varied way in which we each create.  I'm honored to have been asked to participate by Natalya Aikens.  Here's a glimpse into my world:

I have several projects in the works at the moment.  I'm exploring a new way of working with my textiles: thread sketched watercolors using my eco-dyed cloth. My current project isn't ready to share since I'm in the process of adding hand stitching for texture and emphasis.  Concurrently I'm working on a quilt that's just to satisfy my itch to piece.  I've taken vintage 1930s blocks, cut them up (not to fear, they were clearly someone's practice blocks!), and am in the process of re-piecing them in a new arrangement.  I'm enjoying the mishmash of colors and patterns, along with the old seams that are all askew.

As a photographer, I'm constantly looking for the splash of color or pattern that catches my eye.  I'm hoping to spend more time finding venues to display my images.  I'm excited that I have two photographs that will be part of the OSilas Gallery Summer ARTiculated exhibition starting on July 10th.

Emerald Waters, juried in the Carmel Art Institute's Scenes from Pt. Lobos exhibition, 2012

Lately, I've been using my writing behind the scenes at the Katonah Museum of Art.  I am a docent at the Museum, and I've written a few docent training materials that provide background information on an exhibition.  I'm learning so much through the process and am thrilled to have this opportunity.  And, in a similar vein to my photography, I'm always on the lookout for art -- on the street or in a gallery/museum -- and I regularly share thoughts and reviews of what I've seen.

All creative work is influenced by the unique voice of its creator.  Artistically speaking, I tend to make focused and/or uncluttered compositions, whether with textiles or my camera. Though I love monochromatic works and abstracts that are created with a focus on form, my muse doesn't direct me that way.  As for my writing, well it tends to lean towards scholarly because I'm a geek at heart.

I'm often prompted by a thought or word in my textile art process.  Exhibition themes or on-line challenges can lead me in interesting ways.  I may not choose to create something specifically for an exhibition, but the theme may spark an idea.   In addition, I create what makes it through my brain.  I'm not a journaler; I don't make copious notes or keep a sketchbook.  Instead, I tend to focus on the ideas that continue to stay in my mind, that my subconcious can't let go of.  These are the ideas that have captured my imagination, that nag me until they're made.  Sometimes, a photograph I've taken -- even one from years ago -- will spark a new work and/or make its way into a piece of art.

This quilt is made with an image transfer of a photograph taken seven years ago
I love the natural world and constantly want to capture the textures, colors, and patterns on display in nature.  I think it's all a wonder and get so excited when I am able to recreate some of that marvel in a photograph.

As for writing ... well, I guess one answer to that question is that I'm a talker.  I like to share what I've had the opportunity to see and learn.  I also am a geek at heart; I love to research topics and learn about something new.    Finally, I ask a lot of questions when I'm at museums and galleries and the answers to those questions often lead me to do some writing.

As I noted earlier, my textile art is guided by the ideas that I can't get out of my head.  For me, that's also the best culling process; at this stage I often eliminate extraneous details that can muddle a composition.  This is often helpful because I can be very deadline driven.

The biggest factor in my photography and writing is my curiosity about a subject.  It might be an interesting juxtaposition of textures or a sentence on a museum placard that makes me want to look closer. I do love to delve deeply, and that's why I have taken, for example, hundreds of pictures of poppies and spent hours researching topics just for my own satisfaction.

Behind the Barbed Wire, made in homage to Margaret Bourke-White
And there you have it; a glimpse into the why's and how's of me as an artist.  Feel free to go back through the blog trail to see what was written before, starting with Natalya.  And check back next week when the next artist in line will be sharing her thoughts.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Studio Update

A few days ago I dove into seed (scatter) stitching on my rose piece.  I'm using a variegated thread that transitions between olive, tan, light brown, and a mossy blue, along with a light pink thread.  The stitches are tiny - 1/4 inch or less - and made with only one strand of floss.

Up close the colors move about but from a distance, I feared it looked like my rose had been invaded by ants.

I asked some trusted friends for their critique and they all encouraged me to continue, believing that if I continue up to and beyond the bottom petals (and maybe all around the flower), the texture and colors will help my rose pop.  I'm encouraged enough by their sage and thoughtful advice to keep going.  I'll post another picture when I can.

I've also done a teeny bit of eco-dyeing with onion skins.  I love the colors!  The first pass was a bit splotchy so I placed fresh onions skins on the cloths and re-wrapped them in the opposite direction. Viola!  Look at the lovely cloth hanging out to dry.

The fabric on the left has yellow splotches I find quite appealing but that happened by accident.  I was washing my hands and wasn't quite careful enough; some of the liquid soap got onto the cloth.  The cloth turned to yellow wherever it came in contact with the liquid soap.  Not the suds, only the freshly pumped soap.  I'm going to keep this in mind to see if the same type of reaction will occur on other dyed cloths with other dye materials.

Friday, June 20, 2014

New Projects and a New Winner

Something new on the design wall, made from something old
There are a few new things going on in the studio.  Driven by the rekindling of my love for piecing, I took out the pile of vintage blocks I'd received a few years ago.  You may remember seeing them here. I decided that, instead of being the background for a new piece, they'd be the star.  Since all the blocks are musty and many were dirty, I tossed a pile of them into the washing machine.  I figured if they were strong enough to handle the machine agitation, they were fit for use.

Luckily, most were.  I've cut them up and am starting to re-piece them in a new configuration.  At the moment, I'm planning on a white background for this quilt.  Some of the blocks will have a white center, while others will have a pieced center.

I love the wonkiness of the little bits.  It seems to me that these were originally someone's practice blocks because there are uneven seam allowances, mismatched corners, and irregular sizes.  But I think that's what makes these blocks so much more interesting, don't you?  Well, that and the mishmash of colors and patterns.  I'm looking forward to continuing with project.

I also have a new watercolor on the walls.  I thought that one of my rose eco-dyed cloths might be the perfect backdrop to a quilt with a rose.... and so that's what I've done.  I stitched the rose with Aurifil Mako thread, my new favorite.  I think the delicate line is perfect for a rose.  I used fusible interfacing to keep the fabric from bunching up as I stitched.  The fusible interfacing might have been a bad choice because it has little bumps that showed through as I colored, giving the rose petals an unattractive dotty appearance.   I resolved this by coloring harder and then using lots of water to try to "wash away" the bumps.  It worked, but I lost a bit of the control of the color I'd had.  I'm not sure that's a failure, just something to keep in mind if I'm trying to have more delicate and/or lighter color.    

I think I want to mount this on canvas but there are two decision to make: 1) I feel like it needs more stitching, but where and 2) should I paint the canvas?  

What to do, what to do....?
And finally, I haven't heard back from the original blog hop drawing winner and so I've drawn another name from the bowl.  Margaret from Arkansas, You're the New Winner!  I'll get in touch with you as soon as I finish this post.  Congratulations and happy stitching! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

NYC Street Art

 Last Saturday I had the pleasure of spending the day with Natalya, Kristin and Robin in New York City.  We went to the Museum of Art and Design, the Hudson Guild, and the ArtQuilt Gallery.  Kristin has written a wonderful synopsis of our day that I can't improve upon.

In between all these fabulous scheduled stops, we also saw some fun art right out on the street.  We made it a point to see Chakaia Booker's impressive rubber sculptures that were adorning the pedestrian side of Broadway.  In all, there are five tons of her sculptures from 36th to 41st Streets.

I first became familiar with Booker's work when I saw it at the Katonah Museum of Art.  You can read my review of that exhibition here. (Did you know Booker worked with fabric long ago?)  Cafe tables and chairs were arranged around the sculptures so you could enjoy a snack alongside them

or use them to take selfies (yep, we did the tourist thing).

We also happened upon lots of other art out on the streets.  Here's a sampling:

Graffiti seen from the High Line
Fly-away plastic bags tied to decorate a fence

The wonderful work of the Clinton Middle School students on the boards concealing a construction site.
An artist working plein air, looking up the street at the Chrysler Building from the perimeter of Bryant Park.

What an an art-filled, inspiration-laden day.  I hope to have more walking jaunts in the City so I can discover more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer on the Walls

Beaded Seaweed   ©Vivien Zepf, 2014
I recently responded to a gallery's call for summer-themed artwork.  All media was welcome and I decided to submit some of my photographs.  I'm thrilled and honored to report that two of my photos were accepted!  Both were taken at one of my favorite places in the world: Point Lobos State Reserve in California.  Beaded Seaweed (above) and Beach Cluster (below) will be part of the OSilas Gallery Summer ARTiculated exhibition from July 10-August 10, 2014.  The opening reception is to be held on July 10th at 7pm.  I'd love to see you there.

Beach Cluster   ©Vivien Zepf, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

And the Winner is..

Thanks, everyone, for visiting during the blog hop!  As promised, I gathered the names of all who commented and asked my youngest to pick the winner from the bowl.  And the winner is.....

Hand picked and presented by my youngest

Congratulations, Teresa!  I'm sure you're going to love working with the Meadowlark fabric line.  I'll be contacting you off-line for all your snail mail info.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Who are the Tastemakers?

A little play on the word tastemaker....
I recently listened to a radio interview with Pharrell Williams.  You've probably heard his song, Happy on the radio in recent weeks.  (Here's a link to his video if you haven't.) Pharrell Williams has been in the music business for decades as a singer, writer and producer and yet, when praised for the success of his song, Happy, he remarked that the success didn't come his way simply because he had a good song.  He had great fans, the support of a major recording studio and.... the "tastemakers".  Who are the tastemakers? Well, in the music world, Williams said that the DJs were the taste makers.  They were the ones who decided what songs to play and when.  They decided to support new songs.  Without the support of the DJs, Happy might not be enjoying the success it is now, no matter how good it is.

That struck a chord with me (no pun intended).  So many artists across genres owe their success to a tastemaker.  In music, I believe Williams is right to credit the DJs.  In fashion, magazine editors spot talent both on and off the runway.  In traditional art circles, it's a prominent gallerist or museum curator who has confidence in the importance of an artist's work and sways public opinion.

Who are the fiber art tastemakers?

I believe that the Snydermans of the Snyderman-Works gallery in Philadelphia have "found" innovative, ground-breaking fiber artists, as well as those from other genres.  They've brought fiber art to the public via their gallery.  Jason Pollen, former Surface Design Association (SDA), comes to mind. During his years at the helm of SDA I believe he gave voice to many innovators in the fiber art field via the Surface Design journals and exhibitions.  I am sure there are others.  However, I wonder if we -- fiber artists as an artistic group -- are lacking in champions.  There is a LOT of great fiber art, but not many folks who are seeing it. 

Who are our tastemakers?

How do we find tastemakers to bring our art to the public eye?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Melly's Meadowlark Fabric Blog Hop

Welcome to the blog hop that will introduce you to Melanie Testa's fabulous new fabric line, Meadowlark, produced in partnership with Windham Fabrics.

I can't tell you anything about Melly's inspiration, the design process, or what makes this fabric line so meaningful to her.  For that kind of intel, head on over to Melly's blog.  I can, however, tell you what it was like to use her fabrics.

I had the pleasure of being a part of Melanie's sample team. Being part of a sample team means, of course, that my job is to create samples to showcase the luscious fabric she created.  Melly's sample team members had varying expertise and aesthetics.  We each agreed to create different items so that Melly didn't end up with 15 of the same type of sample to bring to Quilt Market.  This combination of people and projects was a perfect way to show the myriad ways the fabric line could be used. As you travel through the blog hop, you'll have fun seeing how creatively the team members combined and used the fabrics.

Like everyone, I swooned when I opened the package of Meadowlark fabrics from Windham.  The colors are rich and there's a wonderful array of images ranging from simple circles, to a toile-like floral and an array of comfy chairs.  Despite the disparate themes, strength of line, and colors, the fabrics flow together beautifully.

Strips of Meadowlark fabrics laid out on my work table
I felt it was important to wash the fabrics before using them since the samples I was making might ultimately need a spin in the machine.  It's no fun to have to spend lots of time clipping and cutting all the stray, fraying loose ends after pulling the fabrics from the wash, and then to spend more time untangling the wads of cloth that come out of the dryer.  But that was NOT the case here.  Melly's fabrics held up to washing beautifully and didn't tie themselves into knots in the dryer.  (I washed both yard lengths of fabric and fat quarters.)  The colors also stayed as bright and fresh as when I first saw them.  The fabrics ironed with ease and didn't wobble or get distorted,  even when I cut long strips.  Bliss!

I thought of how nicely all the fabrics looked stacked up one atop the other, and decided to make a Chines Coin variation for my sample table runner.  I'm calling it Spare Change since it combines bits of Chinese Coin strip sets with medallions of color, like loose dimes and nickels on the table top.

Spare Change, © 2014, 18" x 54"
I jumped at the chance to make a pet bed with the fabrics.  I could visualize Peach looking glamorous and royal on a purple bed, and how wonderfully she'd complement the color!  (I just love how the solids colors in the line aren't flat, but have great visual texture.  You can really see what I mean in the picture below.) As I thought about Peach, I considered how she had survived the streets by quick thinking, and sharp teeth and claws.  From there, it was an easy leap to use a derivative of the sawtooth pattern for Peach's Pad.  The center panel disguises an envelope that can hold a heating or cooling pad, depending on the weather.  Bella the dog is most distressed that I made this bed for a CAT.

Peach's Pad, ©2014, 16" x 24"
These two samples joined Melly at QuiltMarket, but I just couldn't stop there; I was having too much fun and was still being inspired by the fabrics.   So, I made a companion piece to Spare Change for myself.  I think the smaller square shape filled with color is perfect to show off a vase of flowers from the garden.  I'm calling this piece, Coins! because the circles make the strip sets look a bit like exclamation points.  Don't the fabrics and flowers look lovely together?

The patio table adorned with flowers and Coins! © 2014, made with Meadowlark fabrics.

I've thoroughly enjoyed working with Melly's Meadowlark fabrics and I'm certain you will, too.  The line will be available in stores in October...  BUT, if you'd like the chance to have the fabric in your hands before then, leave a comment on this blog post before June 13th.   I'll randomly select a winner on that date to receive 10" squares from the entire fabric line from all those who leave a comment here.  (If you're a winner, you'll need to send me your street address.)

Be sure to visit the blogs of the rest of the sample team to see how they used the fabric in their wonderful creations -- leave a comment on their blogs too, for another chance to win!  Here's the line-up:

June 3:  Chrissie D
June 4:  Sue Bleiweiss
June 5:  Leslie Tucker Jenison
June 6:  Jamie Fingal
June 7:  Lyric Kinard
June 8:  Jen Eskridge
June 8:  Jacqui Holmes Calhoun (guest post on Melly's blog)
June 9:  Stephanie Forsyth
June 10:Victoria Findlay Wolfe
June 11:Teri Lucas
June 12:Scott Hansen
June 12:Helen Eckard  (guest post on Melly's blog)

Congratulations to Melanie for creating such a dynamic line of fabric!