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Pamela Allen — a most unlikely art quilter

“So how on earth did she ever become a fiber artist?” you might ask. “For Pete’s sake, the woman could hardly thread a needle at first. She inquired of 2000 art quilters online what a fat square was. Her first show entry came back with a judge’s score of 0 out of 5 for her pathetic binding.  And the coup de gras was her $30.00 church basement sewing machine that needed duct tape over the dogs to free motion quilt! A truly unlikely candidate for the exacting enterprise of art quilts, if you ask me.”

The biggest thing in my favor when first switching to fiber as my medium was ignorance.

More than that, ignorance coated with arrogance that “ it can’t be that difficult”.  I arrived on the scene having worked for more than twenty years as a full time artist. First exclusively a painter, but moving over time, to printmaking, assemblage art and paper collage.   It was that last adventure with paper that made me question why I couldn’t do the same in a more permanent medium like fabric.

Does this look like an art quilt to you?  Well there you go! So did I.

LOS CONQUISTADOR, 1993, Paper collage by Pamela Allen

LOS CONQUISTADOR, 1993, Paper collage by Pamela Allen

Now I want to explain these two adjectives I applied to myself just then. First ignorance.  This describes a complete lack of knowledge of the materials and how to use them. I knew nothing about the tyranny of stitches per inch. I knew nothing about never using corduroy next to silk.  I completely ignored the sin of having knots on the back of my quilts. After all nobody ever looked on the back of my paintings! Finally I knew nothing of the unseemliness of entering every show in the universe.  I became known as a show slut, long before I could make a proper mitered corner!

Furthermore I didn’t know anyone.  Luckily I happened across extremely helpful email lists very early on.  The BIG one. It’s  quiltart@quilt.net. Everyone there took pity on me and soon got me on the right path with basic techniques and advice about planet Artquilt. Not only that, but anyone who was anyone in the art quilt world seemed to be on that list. I soon discovered that unlike the so called “fine art” world I was used to dealing with (they think they are so exclusive) the quilt art world had many many venues, festivals and quilt shows that I could try for  (see the show slut section above) Also I received very kind and good advice about pulling in my horns concerning the rules of the judging. Segue into the second adjective. Arrogance.

Normally that word is quite derogatory. And I confess it was accurate enough at the beginning because I was quite a brat about the fore mentioned rules. I continued for many years to flout them- knotty backs, folded over “bindings”, wonky edges. Finally I slapped myself and agreed that maybe there WAS some reason for rules. My quilts started looking better. I got 3 out of 5 on my bindings one time! I actually won some awards. Recently an award-winning quilt of mine came back with the judge saying there was nothing I needed to do to improve my workmanship! I had arrived!

THE BIG LOSER, 1st prize Masters Original Design La Conner quilt Museum 2013 by Pamela Allen

THE BIG LOSER, 1st prize Masters Original Design La Conner quilt Museum 2013 by Pamela Allen

There was another side to the arrogance though. I was not really arrogant, I was confident. I had a good art education and twenty years experience. So I never had a problem with the formal considerations like good composition and attention to principles and elements of art. I no longer wracked my brains about what the subject matter would be. I rely on every day events in my life, which seem to resonate with others. I think that is why I got into a lot of shows. After all you really can only see the imagery on a slide or jpg. What they saw was what they got. Who knew the back was all lumpy, bumpy and knotty in the beginning. And as I said, I actually got better as I went along. Last year was stellar for me, achieving a long time goal of getting into Quilt National.

What next? This year I am turning my attention to the business side of being an artist.  That means the dreaded “M” word. Marketing!

To be continued…

Pamela Allen

Pamela Allen

Pamela Allen (B.F.A. Queens University), an award winning winning fiber artist, exhibits regularly in  Canada, the U.S and abroad. Pamela has taught as an adjunct instructor in the Fine Art department at Queens University (Kingston) as well as leading workshops for fabric art in Canada and the U.S. To see more of Pamela’s art go to her website at www.pamelart.com, at ETSY, or ARTFUL HOME

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An interview with Lora Rocke

Lora Rocke is a quilt artist from Lincoln Nebraska. Her quilt Kathryn, Katy, Katie, Kate was in Quilt National 2009. She continues her creative work in fiber with a focus on portraits. We asked her a few questions about how she works and what inspires her.

Kathryn, Kathy, Katie, Kate by Lora Rocke

Kathryn, Kathy, Katie, Kate by Lora Rocke

How does your art fit into your daily routine?

The greatest boon to my productivity was discovering that my brain is not creatively active in the morning.  After my first cup of coffee, I can dive into mundane, day-to-day business: updating my website, answering emails, filling out forms, paying bills etc.  I am efficient, single-minded and able to multi-task.  But by mid-afternoon, my creative side takes over, I can almost feel my brain switch over to the right side. Working intuitively, choosing fabric and thread with a “skwinty” eye, I imagine what each will look like when applied to my current portrait. The music gets louder and my focus turns to shape, color and texture, and I will gladly stay on this path until early evening (unless someone interrupts with a “What’s for dinner?”).

Why do you use textiles/quilting as a medium?

I have an affinity for getting my fingers into any project.  Early on it was charcoal & pencil drawings, then batik work with the dipping and dying of fabrics, even my painted portraits involved moving the paint around with my fingers.  The tactile nature of fabric and thread has always intrigued me.  With years of practice, trial and error and some successes, I found that thread and fabric can be used much like pen, pencil, ink and paint.  With patience, I can create an intensely stitched face that has the same depth, detail and personality.

What inspires and motivates you to make art?

The main inspiration for any piece that I do, whether it is a commissioned piece or one for exhibition, is a personal connection.  Is there an emotion that touches me?  Do I feel that it can clearly be portrayed through fabric and thread?  It sounds silly, but I look for the story in each piece that I stitch.  Who are they, what are they thinking, what do they want to say and how can I communicate that?  In the end, I love the look on the faces of those who view the completed portraits, and the questions that they ask about those people that I have stitched.

Catfish Stringer by Lora Rocke

Catfish Stringer by Lora Rocke

What are you working on right now?

I have just completed several pieces for exhibition.  These “Ordinary People” include a fisherman and his catch, two “trick-or-treaters” and a little girl after a birthday party.  The most intense piece, done in thread and appliqué, is a triptych of a little boy and his self-styled haircut.

Lora Rocke

Lora Rocke

The intimate images in my portraits have stories to tell.  Captured in dense freehand stitching and cloth, I strive to create the face of a loved one, the romance of childhood, or the remembrance of a lost friend.

To see more of Lora’s work visit www.lorarockequilts.com

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A journey through landscape – Alison Schwabe

Ora Banda by Alison Schwabe

Ora Banda by Alison Schwabe

I’ve had four works in Quilt National and this article will show how they fit into my development as an artist as I gradually morphed from a young girl into ‘a senior’. I am currently working on a slide lecture covering the development of my textile art from the late 70’s to the present, for presentation to a group of Western Australian art quilters and fibre artists. As I include images of finished works, samples and snippets from sketch books, I am able to look back on things that have provided the consistent themes appearing throughout my work.

Obiri by Alison Schwabe

Obiri by Alison Schwabe

When young, in the ‘60’s, it never occurred to me that the practical, feminine,  domestic arts of dressmaking, household sewing, embroidery, knitting and crochet and others, could be ‘art’.

I am an early Baby Boomer, and we girls in those days learned those skills at school, from our mothers, aunts and grandmothers. Looking back, while acquiring many skills that have become second nature, some of the things I made showed early signs of creative flair even as I followed patterns. I have always loved putting fabrics and threads together in various ways to produce practical and creatively decorated things.

My university degree included geography and a little geomorphology which I loved. Around age 30 found myself making both kids clothes and creative embroideries (mixed media) of paint plus stitch celebrating my fairly myopic view of small patterns, colours and textures of landscape.  Leaving the leafy green environment in which I grew up, I moved about  Australia’s Outback, mostly mining centres in harsh rugged landscape. The individual characteristics of the landscapes included highly evocative shapes and colours that stayed in my memory even without a photo.

I have a keen sense of place in the modern world and at the same time feel very strong connections to people back in the mists of time. This sense of history only came to me through experiences in Australia’s ancient landscapes. Signs of how ancient people had interacted with their environment left some patterning or symbolic evidence of their time there.

Timetracks 1 by Alison Schwabe shown in Quilt National 2007

Timetracks 1 by Alison Schwabe shown in Quilt National 2007

From 1988 I came under the influence of traditional quilt making in the USA, and after one flying geese quilt, produced a series of original quilts that combined landscape elements of line, shape and color, quilted with motifs based on markings of the ancients in pottery, carvings, cave walls and stones.  I learned more about the early native American Indian people.  As this Ancient Expressions series developed, fabric strips as lines became an important design element, influenced by cloisonné enamel work and native American inlaid turquoise jewelry, and the traditional quilting influences still in my work include repeat units arranged in grids.

With many background influences, then, my first quilt in Quilt National 1993, was of a color memory of the faded Western Australian gold mining town, Ora Banda, which gave its romantic name to the work.  Then came Obiri in Quilt National 1995, named for a sacred rock site we’d visited where Aboriginal people painted figures and patterns on the rock walls over the many centuries they have used the site.

Timetracks 7 by Alison Schwabe shown in Quilt National 2009

Timetracks 7 by Alison Schwabe shown in Quilt National 2009

More than a decade passed before another work was accepted for Quilt National, by which time I was focusing on the marks left by eroding wind and water over time, and had begun to think of  changed shapes and textures as ‘timetracks’.   Timetracks 1 went to Quilt National 2007 featuring the larger view of landscape changing shape. By Quilt National 2009, Timetracks 7 was concerned with remnants of marks and abrasions on surface texture signifying decay.

My journey through landscape has coincided with change in shape and texture of my own physical body. I am an age where I have perspectives that I could never have seen earlier in life, including that, so far my whole life has truly been a journey through landscape.

Alison Schwabe

Alison Schwabe

Moving because of my husband’s profession I’ve met many textile artists, developed a passion for stitch, and eventually found quilt making.  I have been exhibiting art quilts since 1989 and currently live in Montevideo, Uruguay.
To see more of my work go to: alisonschwabe.comozquiltnetwork.org.au, or saqa.com
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Holographic Memories and More – Wen Redmond

By Wen Redmond

Unhinged by Wen Redmond

Unhinged by Wen Redmond

I make art because I must. Urges to create must be followed.

I have worked in fiber in one form or another for over 30 years. My work continues to change and grow as I explore processes, techniques, and presentations. As a result, I have created several signature techniques such as Holographic Images, Digital Fiber, Textured Photographs and Serendipity Collage.

I am passionate about my work. It is biographical and reflective, a working meditation. As I work, it becomes a collaborative process with spirit or my higher self, that mind-boggling principle of the universe. This process has been called ‘flow’. When you are in this state of mind, the intuitive is tapped and the work can become more than the sum of its parts.

I am a photographer and a textile artist. Merging the two arts has allowed me to push the medium of textiles to see what it can do, to stretch its perception as valid art medium.

Discovering new processes

My fabric starts out white and I dye, paint, print, digitalize and go mad with color to create the look I want. Often I use my photographs in this process. I use transparent silk organza and combine prints in mixed media compositions. When I print with a digital printer I use inkjet-prepared organza to ensure it will not fade or run. My Epson printer is set up with Ultra Chrome inks which are archival, waterproof, and fade resistant for at least 200 years.

The 3D effect of layering an organza print over the transfer print.

The 3D effect of layering an organza print over the transfer print in Unhinged.

One day after printing silk organza, I was peeling the organza photograph off the carrier sheet and noticed the ink left on the carrier sheet had a duplicate image, somewhat like a shadow. When I layered the organza print with the secondary image it created a 3D effect. After some experimentation I found that the key to attaining the 3D look is to retain a small amount of space between the two images. If the organza image is placed flat on the same image, it merges. If the second image is placed too far from the first, the back image is lost completely.

Wen Redmond adding artist bars to the back of an organza print.

Wen Redmond adding artist bars to the back of an organza print.

I discovered 3/4” artist bars, used for stretching canvas; leave the exact space required for this dimensional image effect. My technique requires printing two identical photos, one on transparent silk organza and one for a transfer. The transfer is applied inside the backing, so the combined image of the top transparent organza photo and the transfer photo create the final 3D effect or what I have termed Holographic Images.

Normally I sew the organza photo into fabric borders so the wooden artist bars aren’t visible when mounted. I love creating my own fabrics for the borders. These include dyed, painted, stamped, and thermal fax photo silkscreens.

Workshops explore various techniques

I share my fabric painting techniques in my workshop Holographic Memories and More. The workshop covers many paints and painting techniques, including sun printing. I encourage painting several different pieces for the borders to find fabric that best compliments the final holographic picture. Students have the freedom to embrace their inner spirit, their artistic voice. The validation the student obtains is sometimes a surprise to them and a gift to me. The privilege of teaching is stimulating and rewarding to me.

WenRedmond_teachingWen Redmond, a mixed media/fiber artist, living in Strafford, New Hampshire. Redmond’s technique was first published in Quilting Arts magazine, 2007. She has appeared on Quilting Arts TV and has a DVD, Holographic Memories, and Textured Photographs available through Interweave Publishing. Her website is www.wenredmond.com and blog is fiberartgoddess.blogspot.com

Upcoming Workshops

Quilt Surface Design Symposium 2014
May 26- June 8
Columbus, OH

Hudson River Valley Art Workshops
Dec 4-7
Greenville, NY

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