Friday, September 29, 2017

VLA Quilt: Finished!

Earlier in the week I started sharing about my new VLA quilt for our upcoming show called Life Along the Rio Grande. This is the call for entry: The wonderful variety of living things along the vitally important Rio Grande River. Work could explore historical or cultural themes, scientific or geological topics, or social and environmental issues relating to the flora, fauna, and people living on or near this historic river.

It will be quite interesting to see what people come up with.  In addition to the expected landscape or flora/fauna quilts, there's a lot of human history in this area, so its possible there will be quilts on, for example, ancient Anasazi culture or something.  The Rio Grande river forms part of our border with Mexico, so it's possible that we may see some quilts about immigration or other more political topics.

In any case, the show is being curated and organized by Betty Busby and has several venues secured already (thanks to hard work by my mom and others), and the first 35 quilts submitted that meet the requirements (this show has a specific size) will be included as part of the show.  So if you're a SAQA member in (or associated with) those regions, make a quilt!  I was excited to get to make the logo for the show, and later on I'll be doing the print materials as well.

When I left off, I mentioned I'd cut out the silhouettes of three telescope antennae in preparation for some openwork free motion embroidery.  I've done a fair amount of this (e.g. here and here and here), and my general approach is to pin a sheet of water soluble stabilizer underneath the opening and then just stitch away.  I started off that way on this quilt, beginning with the medium sized telescope, and boy was it a giant mess.  It got all puckered and pulled funny and was a general disaster.  Part of that was that my quilt sandwich was a bit thicker than usual, so it was difficult to get off the open/stabilizer part back onto the quilt.  However, two other factors played a much bigger role in the mess.  First, the openings were just very large.  Second, I ran out of my good water soluble stabilizer. Unfortunately, I don't know what brand the kind I liked was, but it was very fibrous, and though not thick, was not stretchy and held its shape very well.  When I ran out after my last project, I bought a roll of Sulky Super Solvy heavy duty water soluble stabilizer and it is terrible!  Its thin and plasticky and stretchy and sticky, and though it's sturdy in the sense that it didn't rip when sewing through it, it has absolutely no stabilizing ability due to its shiftiness and stretchiness.  After nearly ruining my quilt on the middle telescope, I wound up hooping with a large embroidery hoop for the other two.  To be fair, for the large telescope especially I probably would have had to do that even with my old stabilizer, but even with the hoop, free motion-ing on the large telescope with the sulky stuff was awful.  And of course the large telescope is large enough that it took five different hoopings to cover all of it, each with ~5-6 different thread changes.  Yuck.  I'll definitely plan differently next time!  Anyway, here's what the openwork telescopes look like after soaking the whole quilt in water to dissolve away the stabilizer.

There are always a few loose threads after soaking to remove the stabilizer, so here I am hand stitching a few.  The openwork didn't come out perfect; I definitely need a better way to stabilize, but I love the depth and texture the velvet gives.  I didn't have any problems with the velvet or stretch velour getting puckery (though I did stabilize the stretch velour), and it was way easier to work with than I was anticipating.

And here's the whole quilt.

Shannon Conley, VLA, c.2017, 48" x 32"

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I Like #36

Welcome to another week of I likes!

This week has been a crazy one at work, but two more days of pushing and I should be through it to the other side.  Saturday is looming large right now!

1. I like getting to blog a bit about other things!  I haven't actually been blogging this week, but last week I wrote a couple of posts about one of my new quilts; the first post went live yesterday and the final quilt will post tomorrow, so come back and check it out!

2. I like the idea of cutting up pieces that aren't working.  This is something I never really got, but I think that was because until recently I liked all my pieces.  I didn't necessarily love them, but I liked them at least.  But my piece conformational change just never sat right with me.  It felt too literal (to me, everyone else for the most part had no idea what it was), and the colors have always felt all off. Then this week I saw Paula Kovarik's latest post (BTW she's one of my favorite fiber artists) and she was talking about cutting pieces up, which reminded me that it's probably a good thing to do with my conformational change piece.  Once I finish the piece I'm working on now, I'm going to jump in with that and see if I can't use it to make something I like better.

3. I like flowers!  The chrysanthemums from my Grandfather's funeral last year are blooming and i'm so pleased they survived the hot summer.  They randomly bloomed a little bit in the spring and I was worried their cycle would be all off.

4.  I like this pendant light!  I was in Home Depot the other day looking at bathtubs because unfortunately we have some tile damage in our bathroom and are going to have to replace our bathtub and tile surround. I'm not much for home decor/diy home stuff; my house is a builder-basic suburban house, whose main redeeming feature is that the walls are chock full of art, but in any case our dining room light is the most generic looking three bulb "chandelier".  I'm not sure I care enough to replace it, but this one really caught my eye as I was running past.

5.  I like Angela Clayton's blog.  She does historical costumery, and doesn't post really often, but when she does, the things she makes are gorgeous.  She talks a fair amount about making her patterning as historically accurate as is feasible and goes through her process in quite a bit of depth which I love.  As a sewist who's always like making ans wearing costumes, but never really had the patience to really dedicate to that as my art form, it's really fun to track someone who does.

6.  I like this John Muir quote!  What a perfect encapsulation of the glory of living in the mountains.  I found it via the Cabin Porn blog, which is a gorgeous collection of pictures of small isolated cabins all over the world in beautiful settings.

"We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our flesh-and-bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams and rocks, in the waves of the sun,—a part of all nature, neither old nor young, sick nor well, but immortal. Just now I can hardly conceive of any bodily condition dependent on food or breath any more than the ground or the sky."

John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra (via Cabin Porn)

And with that I'll say that I hope you guys are having things you like this week!  I hope your area is experiencing nice fall weather (it's been raining here for days but i'm just so grateful we don't have anything worse than that).  Thanks to LeeAnna for gathering us up!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New Quilt: Life Along the Rio Grande

This fall the SAQA New Mexico region is doing a call for entry called Life Along the Rio Grande.  The Rio Grande river flows through Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico, and is a critical water source for the largely high desert region.  

I, of course, went science-y with my entry.  The Very Large Array is one of the coolest radio telescopes in the world and is in western New Mexico in the Rio Grande Basin.  It consists of 27 separate radio antennae that are each over 80 feet wide.  They can be moved around over several miles into a bunch of different configurations depending on what they're looking at.  It's such a powerful tool for studying our universe, for some examples, take a look at this and this and this.  If you're ever in the area, you can tour the site and its pretty awesome.

Anyway,  I decided to make my quilt out of velvet and crushed stretch velour since I was kindly given a bunch of different pieces of it (thanks Georgia!!).  The only problem is that the colors were very flat and uniform, so painting was the first order of business.  I didn't want too much paint buildup on the surface, so I did lots of thin layers, very very wet, and build up a dark blue gradient to simulate the night sky, brown gradient (with more layered on top later) for the foreground, and purple velvet with black and grey for the mountains.  The crushed stretch velvet sky started out very light blue.

How to do the stars and milky way was a big questions-  I considered beading (too much time), painting dots (too hard to get a random look), foiling (same problem).  I also considered cutting a silk screen and then either printing with paint or glue for foiling, but it's a big sky and making a screen that big wouldn't have been easy.  Finally my mom suggested flinging paint, and that totally worked!  It gave me enough control to make my milky way, but enough variation in size to look like a starry sky rather than polka dots.  I took the top out on my back porch and just sort of Jackson-Pollacked paint at it.  I used white and grey and gold and silver and maybe even a bit of metallic turquoise.  I love the way it turned out; the sky is my favorite part of the whole thing.  After letting it all dry, I quilted up the whole thing (that's the right picture below).

Next I cut out the telescope antennas so I could have some openwork free motion embroidery.  I've done a fair amount of openwork in the last few years, but this turned out to be trickier than I anticipated.  I'll be back to share more about it later in the week!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

I Like #35

This was another super busy week, last Wednesday and Thursday I was in Washington DC to raise awareness on Capitol Hill for the importance of Vision Research and then on Friday my sister and her kids came up for a visit.

1.  I love crafting with the kids!  Alex and Anna are super fun, we took them to the state fair to see all the animals and then to Disney on Ice.  But in the afternoon when we got home we made sock puppets.  It was a blast going through my stash to find embellishments for them, and they spent the rest of the weekend running around "puppeting".  I love getting to hang out with them, they're so fun and enthusiastic!

2.  I liked seeing the day-to-day activities of congress.  We met with several of our Senators/Representatives/their staff while on Capitol Hill, and though I'm not sure how much good it did, it was interesting to see how things worked.  In the large House office buildings  each representative had a suite of offices.  Walking along the hallway it reminded me of nothing so much as a very fancy dorm hallway.  All started with the same large wooden doors, state and national flags, and state plaque, but then some representatives had tacked up posters, or put out guestbooks, and one even had a life-size Elvis cutout!  The icing on the looks-like-a-dorm cake was the office suite that had a toaster oven outside on the floor....

3.  I liked walking around on Capitol Hill.  I didn't get a chance to see much, the trip was super super short, but at least I got a few snaps.

4.  I loved getting to see the Library of Congress.  I'd never been there before, and it reminded me a great deal of the Chicago Public Library/Cultural Center building I recently got to visit.  All the mosaics were lovely and so was all the symbolism throughout.  I was lucky enough to get on a free tour, but I only had a very very short time there before I had to go catch my flight so I didn't get to see nearly all of the library or exhibits.

5. OMG Illuminated books!!!  I was so excited that the Library of Congress had its copy of the Gutenberg Bible on display.  Of course we couldn't turn the pages or anything, but it was so momentous just to get to see it.  I could have stared at it for quite a while, but unfortunately there were large crowds of people so it didn't seem fair to just stand there taking up space.  What an important book in the history of reading and literacy....

Mostly what I like right now is that I don't have to travel anywhere else until Thanksgiving.  I'm certainly not complaining,  it's a privilege to have traveled so much this year, but gosh I'm excited to get to stay home for a good long while....

Thanks as always to LeeAnna for keeping us going!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

I Like #34

I'm out of town for a couple of days this week for work, and then after that I'm staying home until Thanksgiving!  Hooray!  I love to travel, but lately it's been a lot.

Things I'm liking this week!
1.  Urban flora!  The first picture is some bromeliads (swoon) from the Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago, so I guess it's technically not regular city flowers, but they're beautiful anyway.  And the second pic is some gorgeous blooming yucca I spotted here in OKC while out at lunch the other day.  You'd never guess it but these are in a tiny corner of dirt in the middle of a whole row of businesses and very busy streets and concrete.  What fabulous flowers!  I love yuccas, they're the state flower of NM and of course I even did a quilt on them, and it was so fun to see them!

2.  I love illuminated manuscripts!  This may be a no brainer for anyone who's been following my liturgical quilt series, but its rare that I get to see them in person.  This Italian choir book from ~1270 (by Jacobellus of Salerno) was on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, and it was fabulous.

3.  I love the history of science and medicine.  While in Chicago we visited the Surgical History museum, which was quite interesting.  I think my favorite thing though was reading about this book.  Sadly the picture I took of the tag saying who wrote it and when was so out of focus I can't tell you that, but I remember reading a funny story that went with it.  Medical illustrators were quite important in the early modern and enlightenment period when accurate illustrations were the only way to share things like anatomical information (i.e. there were no photographs or anything).  This book was a collaboration between a famous anatomist and a talented medical illustrator.  Evidently, the illustrator didn't want to do just medical illustrations so he putting really strange non medical things in the background of his pictures (see the rhino here!!).  Apparently there was a lot of pushback from stuffy people who thought that was ridiculous but he and his anatomist were like too bad for you guys because our anatomy illustrations are the best so you have to just deal with whatever we put in the background (obviously not in those words).  I thought it was pretty funny and quite nifty!

 4. I like mosaics!  In addition to the ones in the Chicago cultural center which I shared last week, I saw several more while there, including this one which was one of about 5 outside a shop in downtown.

5. I love getting out my fall decorations.  It's always fun to pull them out; I like having a sign that fall is coming other than my steadily worsening allergies.  These are a few I put up at work; some paper bunting I made a few years ago, two tiny mini quilts and a piece of wool embroidery.  The weather is actually hotter this week than it has been the last couple, but that's ok, in my brain, fall is near!

I hope everyone is having a good week and thanks to LeeAnna for linking us up!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Annual SAQA Auction

The annual SAQA auction starts this Friday, and as always there is a fabulous selection of quilts.  For anyone who doesn't know, SAQA is Studio Art Quilt Associates, a group for fiber artists of all flavors.  The auction is their annual fundraiser, and members donate a 12x12 quilt to help raise money for the group.  This is my fifth year to donate one; it's always a fun opportunity to try something a bit different.  For anyone interested, it can often be a great way to get a piece of original art at a reasonable price, while supporting a great organization.  And even if you're not interested in bidding, I encourage you to click through to the auction page and just take a look at all the quilts, it's a virtually unparalleled opportunity to see hundreds of different examples of art quilts.

These are the two my mom and I made this year:

And then part of the fun is making up collections.  I usually do a couple of different collections, this year I made one with the central theme of "plains", in keeping with my piece this year.  The second collection is just my personal favorites, things that jumped out at me or made me swoon....  There really are some fabulous pieces.

Take a minute and check out the Auction!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

I Like #33

Another week of I Like!  I was privileged to get to go on a short vacation to Chicago (which I've never visited before) with a good friend of mine from graduate school (who I don't get to see often), so this week is full of traveling-associated I likes!

1.  I like surprises!  We had lots planned on our trip, including a stop to look at the Chicago Cultural Center (the old Chicago Library).  My friend had heard it had a great stained glass dome.  Well, that was the understatement of the year.  It was absolutely AMAZING, the whole thing was filled with the most beautiful shimmery opalescent Tiffany glass mosaics.  It's one of the most beautiful building interiors I've ever been in and was totally unexpected.  It was so wonderful, the stained glass domes felt almost like afterthoughts.  It was terribly hard to capture in pictures, but I encourage anyone who goes to Chicago to stop in.

2.  I like art museums!  We went to the Art Institute of Chicago which was really wonderful.  I didn't even have time to see it all, but many of my favorite pieces came from the American wing.  There were so many great things-way too many to show.  Again with the terrible pictures, but all these favorites were brand new to me.  So awesome!

Rainy Day, Frank Weston Benson

Spring Rain, Victor Higgins

Madame Paul Escuder, John Singer Sargent

The Last of New England-The Beginning of New Mexico, Marsden Hartley

3. I love architectural ornaments.  Chicago is a mecca for 20th century urban architecture and we went on a lovely architecture tour.  I love all the ornaments on buildings- quilt inspiration for sure!

4. I love seeing old friends!  It was really great to spend time with Kristin; I wish we lived closer together!  Hooray!

Thanks as always to LeeAnna for keeping us going with the positives!