Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What is Art Worth? Part One

What is art worth to you?  This could be addressed in a multitude of ways: cultural, emotional, financial.  Right now, I am referring to the money worth of art.  Not the elite objects that are enshrined in museums, I want to focus on the art and fine craft made by the many creative individuals that produce and sell for the most part on a local or regional basis and travel around to sell their work directly to buyers. 

I returned this year to two art sales fairs that I attended regularly some 20+ years ago: the Boston Mills Art Fest and Winterfair.  I was inspired by both shows, and they confirmed my thoughts that I if work hard at what I love, I could eventually support myself with my creative endeavors.  However, some other recent incidents that I have observed make me concerned for the future of the local arts markets. 

These two ceramic boxes were made by Rob Wiedmaier,  The one on the right, I purchased from the artist at Boston Mills in the early 1990s.  The one on the left, I rescued from an estate auction earlier this year.  I do not recall the purchase price of my original box.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I bought the other one for all of two dollars.  (By the way, Mr. Wiedmaier, if you happen to see this, I treasure both of these lovely boxes!)

This black walnut bowl, made by a local woodworker, was purchased recently at a local benefit for a school.  The high bid was only $15, and sadly, plastic made-in-China toy trucks (likely from a certain national discount retailer) were selling for over $70 each.  How did this happen?  Why aren't the handcrafted, one-of-a-kind items; crafted locally with skill and love, valued more?

To be continued...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Odd and Ends

Oh my, there really is a random acts of art movement!  I mentioned the concept in my last post, not knowing that this was a "thing."  Even though I'd love to sell my work (I need the money!), I really like the idea of encouraging future artists and collectors by leaving original art trading cards, postcards or bookmarks for others to find. 

Earlier this week, I had a great time with my art journaling group, making artist trading cards.  Enough cards were made so that we all had a card from everyone else.  The group is continuing, but is was a nice way to have a memento from each participant.  I love the cards I that received, and will always treasure them.  This has been my first real stint at teaching, and I think that is has gone well.  I have learned just as much as the rest of the group, and I am pleased that we are inspiring each other.

Going off in another direction, I had some more auction success this past weekend:

Yes, I have a problem with fancy hankies!  This is part of a bunch of 311 vintage hankies that I bought.  Most of them will go into the resale stash, but I am going to make things with them too.  I have to have samples of projects for the stuff I sell.  These are too pretty to keep hidden in boxes and dresser drawers.  This winter I will be making several fabric collages with hankies.  Keep checking back for my progress...

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tiny Works of Art

I'm on a roll with artist card originals / artist trading cards week.  I've been making some to sell at an upcoming craft fair, and to my surprise and delight, one of my trading cards appears in the current issue of Quilting Arts Magazine!  These "cards" are always 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches.  They are fun to make, they don't take a lot of time and are a great way to use up scraps at the end of a project. 

Of course, most of mine are mini art quilts, though I occasionally make some on paper.  If you can join a swap, it is a perfect way to build a collection of tiny pieces of art.  I offer mine for sale as well, to encourage art buying and collecting.  Lately, I have envisioned leaving cards in random public places for people to discover.  I haven't done it yet, but I will soon.  I've also thought of leaving a artist card in addition to a tip at my favorite restaurants, a "random act of art" in a way.  Of course, give them to family and friends as well!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Black Walnut Harvest

For the past two years, my black walnut trees have not produced any nuts, which has been incredibly disappointing as I look forward to them for eating and for fabric dyeing.  This year - a bumper crop!
This is what I pick up from underneath the trees:

The thick, soft outer hull must be first be removed, best accomplished by smashing them with a brick.  I save the hulls for fabric dyeing.  At this point, I rinse the walnuts and let them dry for a week or two.  There is still the concrete hard inner shell to be smashed.
Once they are dried, it will be time to crack them open, pick out the nut meats, and freeze them for future use in cookies, cakes and quick breads.  It is a very labor intensive process, making one realize why black walnuts are so expensive in the stores.  The same concept applies to art work.  It is not easy making things, but I find it worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Crazy for Crazy Quilts

I'm in the midst of preparing for a crazy quilting workshop that I am teaching this weekend.  I think there is some connection between the late 1800s crazy quilting and what we art quilters now call fabric collage.  I'm just not sure of the intermediary steps, if there are any. 

I only have one example of antique crazy quilting, this lone unfinished block:

I have had it for some time, and I do not recall where I bought it.  Someday, I will put a back and border on it.  I should do that sooner rather then later, to protect it.  Just as with the 1930s unfinished quilt top I found recently, I wish it could talk.  There are stories in the stitches that I will never know.  The story inherent in a piece of art is something that I have been pondering this year.  Perhaps I am worrying too much about it.  I just need to go make more stuff!

If you cannot get enough crazy quilting, there is another new book out on the subject: The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design by Sharon Boggon (C&T Publishing, 2017).  As the title implies, it is heavy on design and composition principles, but this is a good thing.  If we want to have textile art taken more seriously, we need to approach the creation of it with the eye of serious fine artists. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Purple Collage, the Finale

Earlier this year, or maybe even last year, I periodically documented the creation of a fabric collage here.  It was finished for entry into the Mutton Hill Quilt Show, and here it is at the show:
Image and design copyright RPS

It was an experiment, not completely successful.  While I made it, I had in mind the paper collages of Kurt Schwitters (scroll down on the link for images of his work).  I think the influence of Schwitters is evident in my collage.  However, it is a bit of a wreck in the technique.  My most significant fault with my purple collage is the trial of sewing a slightly smaller quilt base, allowing the edges of the purple dyed damask napkin hang free.  I will not do that again!  It was hard to quilt near the edges, and I just don't like the floppy edges.  Additionally, the quilting made the whole thing lumpy!  The next collage that I make using a dyed napkin for a sub-base will have a slightly larger quilt base, not smaller.  I would like to try mounting future collages on canvas and stretcher bars, like a painting.  I have heard of other textile artists having good luck with that method, citing that would-be buyers relate to the treatment better. 

Another thing that I like about the collage is the seed stitching I did to create an unobtrusive border.  The stitching was necessary to try and secure the floppy edges, and it added more texture.  Not only is there paper sewn into this piece, but there really are pieces in there that would have been trash!  There are foil chocolate wrappers and plastic mesh produce bag pieces in the mix.  Look around as you go through your day with a vision to find unusual materials to stitch. 

Despite the problems, I really had fun making this and I still love it as a learning experience.  I will hang it somewhere in my house, as it is still a visual delight to me.  I hope to start my next collage this weekend.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Scrap Lace Fabric

I always draw a crowd when I demo my "scrap lace fabric" at quilt shows.  I had several request to re-post the instructions, so here they are.  These instructions are copyrighted, please do not re-post this elsewhere or distribute elsewhere.  

Here is something fun to make with strips of sheer fabric and funky yarns.  I came up with this after numerous utterances of “what do I do with this?” from shoppers in my quilt show/market booth.  I sell packages of assorted funky yarns, and many visitors to my booth love them, but get stumped on using them.  I also had to find a way to use a stash of beautiful vintage rayon scarves that were a surprise in a big box lot from a recent auction.  The technique is an expansion of thread lace from two sources: Fun with Sulky Blendables and Solid Color Cotton Threads, (Joyce Drexler/Sulky of America, 2011) and Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond (Ruth Chandler, Liz Kettle, Heather Thomas, Lauren Vleck, Landauer Publishing, 2009)
2 pieces water soluble stabilizer (Sulky Solvy or Superior Threads Dissolve 4X), cut both pieces same size.
                HINT: Start small for the first try, about 10x10”
Assorted fancy yarns
Vintage scarf (rayon, polyester or silk)
Machine sewing thread to complement your color scheme

Here’s what you do:
1. Thread your sewing machine, set for free motion quilting
2. Cut narrow strips of scarf, roughly 1” wide, doesn’t have to be exact, vary the widths if desired
3. Place one piece of water soluble stabilizer on your work surface
Place strips of scarf on top of stabilizer, some horizontal, some vertical, some diagonal.  You don’t have to cover the entire surface, some gaps are OK.  You are creating a rough grid pattern.
4. Add random cuts of yarns on the strips; straight lines, curves lines, whatever looks good to you.
Add some more strips of scarf, but don’t completely cover the yarns you just used.
5. When you are happy with your arrangement of strips and yarns, place the second piece of stabilizer on top, matching it with the bottom piece. 
6. Carefully take the resulting “sandwich” to your sewing machine.  The fibers will shift as you sew, so watch for areas that are bunching and thin them out as you go.
7. Start quilting in a straight line pattern to “baste” the stabilizer sandwich, making your lines about 2”apart.
8. Once you get the basting lines done, you will now free motion quilt the entire sandwich.  Pick a quilting pattern that will allow you to easily double back over your design.  The first one of these that I made, I used the pebble design, and I simply stitched each pebble twice as I went.  The idea is to make sure the stitching is absolutely secure.  The quilting could take a while, since you are essentially quilting twice.  I also found that the stabilizer is difficult to maneuver at first, but it gets better as you go along.  I actually had to grab a fistful of one side of my sandwich to help it along.  Just be exceptionally careful that you don’t jerk it and break the needle.

9. When you are done quilting, you get to soak away the stabilizer.  Follow the instructions for the product you are using.  Let it dry, then you are ready to use it an embellishment, or attach to a piece of cotton and piece it into your next project.