Occasionally, when presented with a new creative idea, I find myself addicted, obsessed and creating multiples, each new piece more exciting to me than the last. This was the case with the small origami kimono I was introduced to by a friend.
Fellow ARTAA member, Sandra, a creator of human-sized kimono, was relocating down state. It was decided that each member of our fiber artists’ group would make a mini-kimono block to be presented to Sandra as a parting gift.
As I made my first origami kimono, my “spazz brain” went into over-drive as I thought about others I could create from my enormous fabric stash, some treasured pieces dating back 50 years. I visualized that using a symmetrically patterned fabric would create a truly unique design.
I was on a quest which led to a two-month, long-overdue, sorting of EVERY piece of fabric I owned in my search for “mirror images.” I made “possible kimono fabric” piles which eventually materialized into a whopping 90 kimono, each one different from the others.
O.K., Nance, now what? I have shoe boxes full of kimono which will eventually become an integral part of a piece entitled “Washday in Tokyo.” In this crazy head of mine, the piece is finished. In actuality, it is not, but all of my fabric is beautifully organized. Nice bonus.
The registration form has been on my To Do list for a while now. Yes, I do know that the entry due-date for the Vermont Quilt Festival is February 1, the same as last year. Yes, I still have nightmares (3 p.m., Feb. 1, 2012) of last year’s entry being taped to a wall, no sleeve yet, to be photographed so that the form could be mailed, with that all important post mark, before the Post Office closed at 5:00. Why then, with this memory haunting me, am I once again in a mad dash to meet the deadline? I should know by now that a piece which I predict will take a month, will actually take two because I am so darned anal. Thanksgiving, then Christmas, which occur every year, always seem to get in the way of my best laid plans. From past experience, I am acutely aware that creating for family takes precedence over show quilts. Always has, always will. “Mom, could you? Nana, would you?” “Sure, no problem.” Eyes are older, hands are older, days, weeks seem to be passing faster than ever. So near, and yet so far. Better find the tape.
In 2005 I was asked to join a newly formed group of art quilters, the Adirondack Regional Textile Artists’ Alliance, (ARTAA), who had come together because they felt their work was often unappreciated and misunderstood in their local, very traditional, quilt guilds.
At my first meeting, with the discussion centered on gesso and gel medium, I felt as though I was in a foreign land. What were they talking about? Sewing I knew. Gel medium I didn’t, and what did that have to do with quilting? I came home feeling that maybe this wasn’t such a great fit for me. But, there was something about this group of women which drew me back. Simply put, I liked them. Their lively discussions never once mentioned 9 patches. They had adventure in their souls. They were willing to put themselves out there and create works that, quite often, only THEY understood.
Gradually, I felt more at ease as I realized each and every member of this diverse group did her own thing and was comfortable with the decision to be different. Very important to me was their always enthusiastic acceptance and encouragement of the most bizarre ideas I could present to them. They were not afraid to critique, to offer suggestions, to show an easier approach, but did so in a constructive way. I was among friends, soul sisters who understood why I do what I do.
The affirmation I have received as a member of ARTAA has been life changing for this former “closet” art quilter. Our not-to-be-missed twice monthly meetings are the highlight of my creative life. The chatter is deafening and is only drowned out by the laughter. Yes, we, the ladies of ARTAA, laugh a lot. I always come away from these gatherings renewed, feeling that life, like diversity, is good. I still don’t know what to do with gel medium.
When I began quilting in the early 1970s, I was immediately attracted to patterns depicting stained glass windows. I purchased a pattern, followed all instructions and produced an unreasonable facsimile of a stained glass window. I used solid colored cottons to depict the “glass” and, as recommended, black bias tape which was supposed to mimic the leading. NOT! Later in my quilting life, I was introduced to the wonders of batiks. The mottled colors were much more “glass-like” than the solids I had previously used in my stained glass wall hanging. Maybe I could try again. But, something still wasn’t right. It was that black bias tape.
At my urging, my husband had begun making REAL stained glass windows for our new home. After looking carefully at his finished product, I decided to try to mimic his work in fabric, using grey satin stitch, instead of bias tape, as “leading” along with batiks for the “glass.” I was on to something! Though very time-consuming, my “windows” were much more realistic than my previous attempts.
Never satisfied, I wanted to add luminescence to my next window. Scanning the aisles of my local JoAnn’s with coupon in hand, I came across a very sheer, pebble textured, iridescent fabric suitable for prom dresses. Would this do the trick? I used the newly acquired sheer fabric over a solid cotton, then appliqued the window pieces on top of it. When placed near a light source…instant luminescence! My window glowed! I could imagine the sun streaming through it. Through trial and error, my vision had been achieved. Entwined was a success. I had made a stained glass window in fabric. Hooray for the power of persistence!
My Aunt Mary Rose stood less than 5′ tall and weighed under 100 lbs., but she was a force to be reckoned with. She was an accomplished needlewoman who created the many family keepsakes we treasure to this day. Every new baby in our extended family came home from the hospital in a bonnet and sacque knit with great expertise by our aunt. She set the standard very high, not only for herself, but for those whose workmanship she chose to inspect.
I began sewing in my early teens, beginning with simple dress patterns and gradually progressing to the most difficult Vogue Couture. Examining the exterior of my latest garment wasn’t thorough enough for Mary Rose. The dreaded “The inside should always look as good as the outside” was an oft repeated remark of hers. She would turn the piece inside out and check every seam. Her critique seemed seldom kind, but brutally honest. She would, in great detail, point out each and every flaw as I stood by dejected. However, my next garment, and the next, and the next were much improved because of my determination to please her…just once.
I have a vivid memory of me in my newly created pink wool Easter suit. I was now the mother of two. Aunt Mary Rose stood ramrod straight in front of me and looked me up and down. She unbuttoned my jacket, examining the bound buttonholes and the hand stitched lining. She smiled. “Beautiful! Just beautiful!” I have never felt such a sense of accomplishment as I did at that moment. Aunt Mary Rose approved! To this day, with each and every project I undertake, her words swirl around my brain. My attention to detail has served me well with quilt show judges. I ALWAYS strive for perfection thanks to what, I now realize, was constructive criticism from Aunt Mary Rose. Thank you for lessons well learned, dear Aunt.
Box. Box??? Box!!! That’s the way this brain works. Fellow ARTAA member, Joanna, suggested the word BOX as a challenge to those in our fiber artists’ group who chose to participate. Of course, loving a challenge as I do, count me in. Thumbing through a craft magazine to kill time on a plane, I came across directions to make a box. File that one until needed (then hope you can find it in the jumble you call a studio). O.K. Directions found. Black fabric boxes made, now, what to fill them with? Having collected men’s silk ties for some 50 years, I thought it might be the perfect time to actually USE some of them. The wide ones from the 80s worked best. Look for color and wild pattern. Done. Needs a little more pizzazz. Beads! Lots of beads. Let the tie tell you where to put them. Select and stitch, select and stitch til the cows come home. Looking good! Brainstorm…secure beaded silk pieces to styrofoam blocks and insert into boxes. Getting there. Boxes need to be placed on something. Glitz! Nothing like a little glitz! Circles are my thing. Circles will work, glitzy gold circles. YES! Header with sleeve, everything connected, brass buttons added. Voila! Tie? Gee!