Here’s an overdue post to let you know that I hope to teach at Quilt Symposium Christchurch 2017 in October. As some of you know, my teaching engagements are few and far between at the moment (due mostly to my prioritising family time here at home), so this is a rare opportunity!
I’m listed to teach two workshops.
The first is ‘Designing Your Own Pieced Botanical Quilt’, with more details available here. This is the workshop where you come armed with a bunch of photos of a plant that you like, and you create your own quilt design based on those. We also work through the basics of beginning to piece your beautiful botanical art quilt. This includes fabric selection; creating a working pattern from your quilt designing, cutting out the quilt, and making a start at piecing the bits together. Phew! That’s a whole lot to cover in two days. I’m going to work you hard!! This a crash course designed especially for all of you who have asked many times for a workshop to cover my quiltmaking process.
The second is ‘Enriching Your Quilt with Hidden Imagery‘. In this two-day workshop, we work through ways to enhance your free-motion quilting. I love to use the quilting process to add another ‘layer of interest’ to my art quilts. I like the quilting to help in telling the ‘story’ of the quilt. Together we’ll work through a number of ways to do that. In the workshop, we work through a bunch of samples, to equip you to apply fantastic quilting to your future quilt projects!
If you’re going to Quilt Symposium Christchurch, I look forward to seeing you there!
Did you follow the Tour de France? If you've read along here for a long time you probably know that the tour features in our annual calendar here at our house. Phil loves cycling. A lot. So we've developed a bit of a tradition where we take time out from our regular schedules to enjoy the tour for three weeks every winter. The timing here in Perth is quite perfect – from 8 or 9 pm until somewhere between 11pm and midnight. It's the only TV we watch all year. (No, not kidding). So we stay up far too late and enjoy a glass of red wine and some chocolate along with it. All together, it feels like a bit of a winter getway without actually getting away – and it doesn't use up any annual leave!
I should clarify: Phil watches the tour, while I spend the time sewing furiously. I love the fact that for three weeks I get to sew long into the night for nights on end. I always make sure I have plenty of art projects lined up to keep my busy. The TV is set up in the studio, along with a comfy couch, so I still catch a fair bit of the commentary too. Hurray for cosy studio nights!
This time I spent the three weeks piecing. So now at the end of the tour, I have a stack of pieced artworks waiting to be quilted.
(c) Ruth de Vos 2016
Here is my second exploration piece (see here for the first one). In this piece I was playing with using paint in the background for an extra splurge of colour. I quite like the painterly effect combined with the piecing.
Oh, and I also experimented with quilting from the back of the artwork, using thick embroidery thread on the sewing machine bobbin (those red flowers). I’d love to do more of this in my larger artworks, but need to play with the process a bit more. I broke six needles sewing these flowers, and I can’t afford that rate of needle consumption on a larger quilt! When I asked about this on Facebook, I received many suggestions (thank you so much!). I’ve tried a few of those, without much improvement. My next step is to try a different thread in the bobbin. I love this red one, but it may be too thick or too ‘something’ for this process.
P.S. No, those edges are not straight or perpendicular – training myself to loosen up a little
I often receive emails asking for advice on how I make my artworks, or how to get started on the kind of work I make. I've shared my quilt making process here in the blog in the past, but it's probably about time a revisited it here. I haven't worked out exactly how I'll do that yet – a blog series, or a booklet or ezine, or some other way. For now though, this post shares some of my thoughts on getting started as a textile (or more specifically quilt) artist. Bear in mind that this is based on my own journey – another textile artist will quite possible give very different suggestions!
1. Just do it! Try, play, experiment, make. Don't wait until you know exactly what you are doing (I still don't!). You don't need to know colour theory inside out to start making. Or have twenty different embroidery stitches under your belt – you can go a long way with running stitch! You don't need to have exactly the right materials or know which paint is the best for your project. Just start! I watched my mum make quilts and clothing from curtain samples for years, because that was the only fabric she had access to, even though the rules said that quilts should be made from 100% cotton. I also watched my mum try out all kinds of projects and techniques throughout the years. I think she worked on the mentality that 'If they can do it, I can too – or, I can at least try.”
2. Experiment. Try a tonne of different things – different techniques, different materials, different styles. And then settle on a few that you love. During my first years as a textile artist, I attended a monthly meeting of the 'arty' chapter of our local quilt guild (up until it just got too difficult to arrange regular babysitting). During most of that time, we worked on monthly challenges, where the group set a medium or technique or word around which to base a small experimental artwork. I produced a stack of A3 sized experimental artworks that are only united by their size. I quickly established that, while appliqué (and particularly raw edge appliqué) is versatile, I drew much greater satisfaction from creating my images by piecing bits of fabric together. So piecing is a key technique that I have stuck to in my artwork every since.
In case it's not clear from what I already said, I believe it's important to experiment and try different things for yourself, but then I believe it's even more important to find what works for you and stick with it. You can experiment for the rest of your life if you wish, but it won't enable you to develop a solid body of artwork and a distinctive style.
On a somewhat similar vein, beware of workshops. Not to discredit the many wonderful workshops out there… But if you are wanting to be serious about your textile art practice, pick and choose a few workshops that allow you to develop your own style and work. Jumping from one workshop to another for years on end, especially those that are techniques-based, will leave you little time or mental space to develop your own body of work. Of course, workshops are fun, so if your goal is simple to try out lots of different things, then go for it! I've participated in a few workshops, but so far none of them have been textile workshops. Several have been about the business side of being an artist, and a couple have been focussed on illustration.
3. Start simple. After I established that piecing was a key technique that I wanted to use in my artwork, I started with piecing simple designs. Then gradually refine and build on what you do, until it really becomes your own and you become really comfortable with it. The one below is my first ever attempt at piecing together an image. After that I attempted gradually more complex designs (tighter curves, smaller pieces, and more complex images).
4. Use your library. The internet is a great source of advice and inspiration, but sometimes nothing beats a good book for understanding a technique or process. Books will often give a far more thorough picture than an online article, and will also include things like glossaries, and references. Here are some that I recommend:
Dyeing to Quilt, by Joyce Mori and Cynthia Myerberg
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards
I don't know of a specific book that outlines the quilt making process that I use; however, I'm told that Ruth McDowell uses a similar process, so if machine-piecing imagery appeals to you, you may want to check out this book (keep in mind that I haven't actually read the book, so I don't know exactly where her process is similar to or different from mine).
If you have questions about my artwork and how it is made, do feel free to get in touch. I do my best to respond, although sometimes it might take a couple of weeks – and if I can answer via a blog post, I'll probably do it that way!