Friday, April 16, 2010

Art Adventure: Aloha Boricua--The Art of Pablo Marcano Garcia

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to head uptown to see Aloha Boricua  (a story about the migration of Puerto Ricans to the Hawaiian islands) at the Pregones Theater in NYC.  The musical was wonderful, and I got the chance to support one of the talented cast members, Omar Perez.  An extra treat was the artwork adorning the walls.  The medium is acrylic paint, but the way Pablo Marcano Garcia paints, you have the illusion of stained glass.  To see the other photos I took that evening, click here.  For info on Aloha Boricua, click here.  To see more of Pablo Marcano Garcia's art, click here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Empire Quilters April Meeting: Betty Pillsbury

I love it when I go to a guild meeting, thinking my mind is made up about the speaker, or the topic they are presenting, and I wind up being surprised.  I try to keep an open mind, because it is a rare quilt gathering where I don't learn something useful.  I just have to remind myself of that whenever that little judgmental gremlin rears her ugly head.

Crazy quilts have always had a limited appeal for me.   I can appreciate the work and creativity that goes into them, but I have never had the desire to create one. Not in the least.  Then I saw Betty Pillsbury's work at her lecture last Saturday.  Betty brings a sense of whimsy, or what she would call crazy to her crazy quilts.  They often feature fairies, or secret messages, quotes and lovely ephemera

Her quilts varied in size, and she showed no fear putting anything on her quilt, her constant refrain:  I'm not washing them!  I loved her use of whatever pleased her, a creative free spirit.  Go Betty!  I may make a crazy quilt before long, after all.  To see some photos from the lecture, click here .

The moral of the story: creativity, like minds, works best when open.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tip of the Week: REALLY Basic Care for your Machine

It is surprising, when you think of how much they cost, that people ignore some of the little things they can do to make their machines run well. 

Many of us (not me, people!) only use 100% cotton thread in our machine.  In my opinion, it has never been about the type of thread, but the quality of thread.  Computer programmers have an acronym for this:  GIGO, which stands for garbage in, garbage out.  If you think you can buy the 4 for $1 thread and not have problems, you are in for some unhappy surprises.  I've already posted about the threads I prefer, and thread breakage has never been a problem for me.  Using cotton thread  on top and in the bobbin means one thing:--LINT--no matter what brand you are using, and what they say about it.  I use cotton on the top and a lightweight poly in the bobbin, and my machines (four of them) seem to like the blend.  A project may also involve lots of lint.  I've recently grown fond of the bags, bowls, and baskets made from clothesline; this is a lint making project if ever there was one;  ditto for fleece, corduroy, and Minky®.  There is no way to avoid it, but you can lessen the impact that lint will have on your machine by cleaning your bobbin case each time you change the bobbin.  I cannot stress this enough.  One day, in a workshop, a classmate's thread broke repeatedly.  She changed the needle, sewed more slowly, and still the thread kept misbehaving.  I suggested changing the bobbin entirely, and when I saw the bobbin case, I knew immediately what the problem was.  She had enough lint in there to make a small stuffed animal!  You don't need fancy tools to clean your machine;  I use the brush that came with my machine as well as another favorite brush that looks like a dollhouse-sized bottle brush.  I also use a Q-tip, but before I put it in my machine, I twist it around a little bit to ensure there is no loose cotton on the tips.  I never use canned air on the bobbin case, but will use it on the bed, and on the surface of my sewing table.  Another handy tool I use is a pipe cleaner, particularly in the upper threading areas. 

The second most surprising thing is that people simply forget to change their needles; each time you start a project, or every eight hours (new project or NOT),  you should change your needle.  A worn needle can not only damage your project, but do serious damage to your machine and its timing.  As for my favorite machine needles, some folks swear by Organ, and I've used that brand on occasion, but I prefer Schmetz and Klasse needles.  For long wear, Klasse and Organ makes a Titanium needle that will wear much longer than the eight hours.

These are little things, but they will save you time and aggravation; I mean, sewing is supposed to be a happy time, isn't it?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

On the Road: AQS Lancaster

Another road trip, this time with Empire Quilters Guild to the inaugural AQS Lancaster (PA) show.  The show in Lancaster was originally Quilter's Heritage Celebration, which ceased production after 22 years.  Fortunately, AQS has mounted a credible show for those of us easterners who can't make it to Paducah, Nashville, Knoxville, or Des Moines.  I shot more than 150 pictures.  The link to those photos appears at the bottom.

It was a beautiful day, perfect for a road trip.  I was looking forward to this trip for a couple of reasons; having been to Paducah, I knew that the show would be in good hands, but I wondered about the new venue, and what changes AQS would bring to this event.  I ran in to folks from Empire, Garden State Quilters, Nubian Heritage Quilters guilds, even one of the founders of the newly organized Modern Quilt Guild, with her mother and daughter.

There were several things I liked, especially in comparison to having to run across a heavily trafficked highway at the former location to get to some of the satellite venues.  The new center is beautiful, in a part of Lancaster that I'd never visited; it's their downtown, and this convention center is the crown jewel in a redevelopment effort.  Attached to the center is a Marriott hotel. There is a restaurant in the hotel, plus concessionaires set up on two levels. There are plenty of restrooms, enough so that no men's room would have to be commandeered by women.  The shuttle service is reliable and efficient (or so I am told).  There were vendors galore.  There was a men's den, with TV and comfy chairs for men who had been shanghaied for the journey.

Next, the things I found curious, lacking, bothersome, or downright irritating.  There is no on-site parking at the center for cars.  I don't want to ask where our bus driver parked.  How do you build a multimillion-dollar convention center and omit parking facilities?  AQS ran out of programs.  We arrived around 10:20, the show having opened at 9, and were given a booklet describing workshops, of which they had plenty. I hope this is only because the copy orders were somehow switched.  The ratio of quilts to vendors could have been better.  I was surprised at the small number of quilts on display; perhaps I've been spoiled by Paducah, Chicago, and Houston. There were many lovely quilts, but at those previously mentioned shows, while viewing one spectacular quilt after another, I caught myself thinking, REPEATEDLY,  this quilt didn't win a ribbon?  Not even an honorable mention?    I found the layout, in which the aisles had vendors on one side and quilts on another, to be distracting and counterproductive to the flow of shoppers and viewers alike.  Even more confusing was an aisle of quilts where you could photograph one side, and not the other.  Because of the path I took, I unintentionally photographed a 'no photos' quilt from the Burgoyne Surrounded exhibit, and got the requisite talking to.  I didn't see the sign, which was displayed behind me and I wasn't the only transgressor, either!  A display of quilts and vendors was offsite, at Liberty Place; I never got there.  I did not wish to risk missing our return boarding, with the shuttles running every 30 minutes.  I figured it would cost me over an hour in travel time.  In Paducah, they used nearby available spaces such as storefronts.  I saw empty storefronts that they might consider using next year.   Something within walking distance might have better served quilters and the vendors.  AQS did not have a pin for this show.  Surely Pin Peddlers could have filled an order on the fly.  The hoodie on sale had a modern design, but was not in the least bit artful.  The cafeteria area in the basement closed before 1:30; had my friends not been insistent, they would not have been served.  Why would you  not let people know that the cafe was closing at an odd hour by posting this info conspicuously?

Would I go again?  Absolutely, just not for a one-day trip. An overnight would have given me the luxury to explore a little bit more, plus do some shopping at the Lancaster fabric shops.  Zook's/Sauders was at the show, surprisingly, but the best bargains are still to be had at their shop.

Photos from the show can be found here.

P.S.  You will notice that I took several pictures of the carpet and one of a mirror and the wallpaper at the show.  I look for inspiration everywhere.  ;-D

Friday, March 26, 2010

On the Road: Art Quilts Exhibition, Morris Museum

Yesterday, I combined a date night with an art exploration date.  Ron went with me to the Art Quilts:  Contemporary Expressions from the Collection of John M. Walsh III exhibit at the Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ.  It was my third trip to the museum related to this show; once we arrived late, and we able to see the exhibit, albeit quickly, thanks to the generosity of an employee; once, I went with my friend Karen to hear Carol Schepps, one of quiltmakers, talk about her art quilt journey, and this time, to photograph the quilts. 
John ("Jack") Walsh is head of Waltron, a NJ-based, international water treatment company, and many of the pieces in this exhibit (close to 40 quilts) have some kind of aquatic imagery.  He has been collecting art quilts since the 1990s, and his curator is Penny McMorris.  Ms. McMorris is, I've read, responsible for coining the term art quilt.    In speaking with a museum employee, I learned Mr. Walsh displays the quilts in his home and business, and has a room set aside for their storage.   

What I loved about the collection was its diversity.  You will recognize many of the artists in the collection:  Velda Newman, Michael James,  BJ Adams, Lucky Shie, Nancy Crow, Jan Myers Newbury; but there are also artists to whom you will be introduced, such as Joy Saville, Kay Kahn, and  Tim Harding.  Ron's comment on one of the pieces was that he didn't think it was a quilt, which I thought was the point of the show.

During the exhibit, the museum hosted artist Carol Schepps, who spoke about her journey as an art quilter.  Carol's quilt Color Squares is featured in the show.  She was a fun and free spirit, who came to art quilts after a career in clothing design.  Her quilts are organic and spontaneous, and she showed us what she is doing now in mixed media.  Her work is frequently displayed at the
 Snyderman Galleries in Philadelphia

Note to my NYC friends:  if you love art quilts, this is worth crossing the river.  The rest of you, having no  fear of crossing rivers, should make the journey as well.  The show runs through April 25.  If you can't make it, continue reading, and you'll find links to photos from the exhibit, and Carol's lecture.  Of course, as you already know, a picture of a quilt can only take you so far.  The show was reviewed by the NYT. 

The museum has a breathtaking glass collection, and an inspiring exhibit of architectural photographs, just  a few feet from the quilts.  There is also a fun exhibit, Snoopy Soars with NASA.  To Ron's chagrin, complete with eye-rolling,  I made myself child size and stuck my head in the space suit. We both enjoyed the exhibit, despite Ron's initial protest that the date "would be fun for one of us."  The museum is free on Thursday evenings, and open until 8 PM on that night.

The photo album for the  Art Quilts exhibit is here.
The photo album from Carol Schepps' lecture is here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

On the Road: Long Island Quilters Society Show

It's show season; over the next few weeks I'll be on the road quite often visiting as many wonderful shows as I can get to.  The second show of the season was a trip to Garden City for the Long Island Quilter's Society Show.  It was a wonderful weekend for a quilt show in the NY area, as the weather was in full spring mode; warm and sunny, a great relief after last weekend's nor'easter.

The quilt with the lanterns is the 2010 Opportunity Quilt, Asian Lanterns.  She is a beauty, and the show's theme, Asian Inspired was visible throughout the show.  One of the things I enjoyed about the show was seeing different versions of the same pattern.  In this way, the viewer is inspired to be adventurous in selecting different colors, different patterns, or perhaps just different values when making a quilt.  As a side note, I had an interesting email exchange with Carol Miller of Quilt University on this very subject, but that's another post.  

Back to the quilt show:  I loved an area that they had created in tribute to their late members.  It was lovingly assembled, tasteful without being morbid.  I saw some of the usual suspects in the vendor market, but quite a few that I had not encountered before.  One of the members directed me to Deb Tucker's booth, and I hope to lure her to NJ for a summer retreat. 

The white glove volunteers were friendly, and perceptive; they were consistently able to point out special features of the quilts in their area.  
I'm active in several area guilds, and I normally run into other members when I'm at a show.  This show was no different, and I wanted to share photos of some of the members I met with their work, and the stories they shared with me about their quilts.

My friend Karen and I had been admiring this quilt for some time when I heard my name called.  My name isn't common, so I know it's always someone who knows me for somewhere, but I didn't recognize the woman calling me.  I made sure she was calling me by pointing to myself and then headed over to her table, where she introduced herself as Joyce, the guild President.  I also met another Empire Quilter member, Arlaine (she is the one who identified me to the others) and Pat, whose quilt I was just admiring.  Before I decided to take photos with each quilter standing in front of their quilt, I photographed Joyce (left), Pat (center) and Arlaine (right) in front of Pat's quilt, Hi-Lily Hi-Lily Hi-Low.  The tiger lily fabric reminded Pat, and her daughter, of flowers used in Pat's wedding bouquet.  Pat is also celebrating an impressive anniversary this year, and this quilt ties into that celebration.  Take it from me, this quilt yells HAPPY!  It certainly made me smile.

 Joyce, the guild president, showed me her Forever Double Wedding Ring.  A double wedding ring quilt pattern is challenging enough, but the icing on the cake is that Joyce hand quilted this piece.  I took a close-up shot of the quilting, too.  A link to the entire album of photos from the show appears at the end of this post.   Joyce told me it took her ten years to finish it.  To her, I offer the analogy:  do you know what they call the person at the very bottom of his class in med school?  Doctor.  Your quilt is finished, and that's the most beautiful word of all to any quilter.

Arlaine's piece, Kaleidoscope Stars, has the things I love about kaleidoscope patterns; they move and flow effortlessly,  guiding your eyes seamlessly over the entire quilt, as if they were one interlocking block.  These quilts are challenging to piece, and while your color  and pattern selection may be forgiven on other projects, they are crucial to the effect of kaleidoscopes. The stars do shine in this quilt;  my photo does not do it justice.

I'd like to thank these three women for taking the time to say hello, letting me drag them over to their quilts for a photo,  and congratulations on a wonderful show.  To see my album from the show, click here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Quilt Fest of NJ

On Friday, I went to the Quilt Fest of NJ.  Based on a wonderful experience at the Pennsylvania National show last September, I was hoping to see a more robust show than in recent years, with lots of quilts and vendors.  I was surprised at the small number on both counts. Each year, I wonder if and how the organizers will be able to sustain this show next year, and this year is no different.  The photo featured is Best in Show, done by the talented Anna Faustino.  To view my pictures from the show, click here.

 What I liked about the show:
Great vendors, with lots of variety.  I enjoyed the quilts I saw, but there simply weren't enough of them, and I'd seen many of the quilts on view at other shows.

What I didn't enjoy:
The vendors who were there were interesting, but there were fewer than I expected.  Small number of quilts (53), limited listings (many quilts had a name and title card, but no listing in program.  Several quilts were on display at previous shows.

The Un-Guild

On Saturday I had a wonderful outing with the most un-guild guild I've ever been a part of  offline.  It was the first meeting of the NYC Metro chapter of The Modern Quilt Guild.

If you've been to a guild meeting, you know the usual setup:  a speaker, show and tell, block of the month, etc.. Guilds have a useful purpose, but that purpose is geared toward socializing, and if you're a new member that can be intimidating.  The sewing takes place before and after the meeting.  Often people are surprised that there is no sewing at most guild meetings.  The guild offers an introduction to talented quilters, and can offer help on a particular technique or skill.  The operative word is can.  Many people find guilds off- putting and unfriendly.  Let me say this has not been my experience, but I am an extremely extroverted person.  That said, for me the best part of a guild meeting is getting to know people individually, and sewing with them.  Most guilds are too large to offer these opportunities equally to everyone.

This brings me to what I have dubbed the "un-guild".  The Modern Quilt Guild is a national guild with local chapters, including one in the NYC area.  A group of about 15 of us met in midtown Manhattan, at the home of one of the chapter co-founders, Victoria.  We introduced ourselves, had show and tell, and discussed our vision of the guild.  The size of the group allowed us to ask questions about each other and our work.  It was a wonderful experience, complete with good food, talented people, and sewing.   Victoria, our host, had a bunch of charity quilts that needed binding, and while we talked and ate, many of the members worked on that task.  It was an auspicious beginning.  I'm looking forward to the next un-guild meeting!