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Brooke Atherton’s Solar Sojourn

Brooke Atherton had a deadline to meet for a major SAQA exhibit. She also wanted to join her family on their annual pilgrimage to Montana. Here is the story of how they were able to do both.

Something I look forward to every year is our two week retreat to the Little Belt Mountains, part of the Rockies, in central Montana.  I grew up in Ohio where our camping was done in KOA-type facilities with daily showers, lots of other people, and trips into town for anything we forgot to pack.  Local wild life included giants—it was the training camp for the Cincinnati Bengals.  They traveled in packs, and even as a teenager I slipped my hand into my father’s and moved closer to him for protection whenever they were near.

Brooke Atherton sewing chair

Atherton’s favorite sewing chair in the middle of Lone Tree Park.

The places we camp now are full of a different kind of wildlife.  We share the woods with moose, elk, deer, black bears (but not grizzlies!), owls, coyote, and many other birds, animals and fish.  There were rumors this year of a wolf. Normally I pack notebooks and basic handstitching supplies and take lots of walks. I start every morning standing on the edge of the meadow watching the gray early morning turn into a beautiful sunrise, watching for signs of the life around me waking up or bedding down. Evenings are spent the same way; it is very calming and inspiring. Town is 45 minutes away, so we are careful to pack in everything we need.  We’ve aged out of truly primitive camping, but if the weather is fine we throw our bags on the ground and sleep under the stars. We’ve had plenty of trips, though, where we did have to tarp the campfire.

Deadline defines the solution

In August, my husband watched me working, stitching a five foot square canvas, facing an approaching deadline for my contribution to the SAQA exhibit, Earth Stories.  “You’re not going to be able to go camping, are you?” he said.

“I don’t see how,” I said.

“What if you were able to take your sewing machine?”

A week later, the afternoon before we were to leave, two portable solar panels were delivered.  We didn’t have time for testing, so packed a range of odd things—anything with a power cord.


Solar-powered sewing machine in the middle of the Lewis and Clark National Forest

And that is how I came to have my solar-powered Bernina in the middle of the Lewis and Clark National Forest, meet the deadline, and have plenty of family time around the campfire watching the moon and the stars.  We don’t run into many other people while we’re out there, so I was surprised by how many visitors we had in camp last year.  They could see something odd yet familiar from the road, and wanted to see what it was.  Most left saying “My wife’s going to want one of those.”  I’ll be back to stitching by hand next year, but it’s nice to know there are options.

Brooke Atherton

Brooke Atherton

Brooke Atherton is an award-winning quilt artist. Her piece, Springfield, won Best of Show at Quilt National 2013. Her art is a visual record of her life in the North American West.  She is inspired by natural forces such as fire and water, and a diverse range of objects and materials collected from countless walks across the landscape. To see more of her work go to

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Telling stories with photos and dyes

by Patty Kennedy-Zafred

In my work, it is the images that inspire the process, the color, the size, and the concept for the piece.  The images tell the story, create the mood, and draw the viewer in for a little longer.

After several years of making traditional, hand-quilted pieces, I began in the early 1990s to experiment with ways to get images into my work.  That took the form of transferring images to acetate, working with a Gocco printer, and other types of transfer techniques. While often quite successful (one of those pieces was in Quilt National ’95), the limitations of the materials and size of the images often resulted in smaller quilts than I desired.

Silkscreen prints on hand-dyed fabric

Silkscreen prints on hand-dyed fabric

Then, in 2011, I began experimenting with dye processes and techniques  to create the right background for my images.  My desire to make larger pieces led me to a silkscreen tutorial at Artists Image Resource in Pittsburgh. When I pulled that first print onto my hand-dyed fabric I knew I had found my niche. The skills I learned dramatically altered the concepts of my quilts.  That excitement I feel every time I screen images onto fabric has not diminished.  Now my images can truly be life size, or in some cases, larger than life.

Photographic images inspire

Although most of my earlier quilts used personal imagery, now I am working with historical photographs, including those of Lewis W. Hine, taken during the early 1900s as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee.  Descent Into Darkness: The Boys of the Mines, is one in a series of pieces based on Hine’s imagery.  I have also done pieces using the images of Edward S. Curtis, images from vintage post cards, and images by other photographers, with consent.

Once images are chosen, I dye the fabrics, hoping to further express the story and set the mood I am trying to tell.  In Descent, I dyed yards and yards of smokey, bluish fabrics, hoping to capture the sort of coloration I envisioned in the coal mine shafts.  The fabric was then cut to size based on the final image size.  I silkscreen a multitude of prints in varying hues and gradations.  Accents are added, and in the case of the Hine’s pieces, words are added. These little statements were the small hand typed notations that Hine would make and attach to his photographs on index cards or paper.  The simplicity of his notations, I believe, is a compelling addition to the quilt.

Descent Into Darkness. The Boys of the Mines by Patty Kennedy-Zafred

Being accepted in Quilt National ’13 was like lightning striking twice. Winning The Heartland Award, in addition, was a remarkable surprise.  The experience has encouraged me to follow this artistic path with my quilts, and given me support during the often isolating and lonely process of making art.

There are still a lot of stories I wish to tell with my quilts.  Sometimes the story finds me, at other times, I have the images, and my own story to tell.  In either case, the viewer draws their own conclusions, creates their own story, and a memory is made.  For me, that is success.

Patty Kennedy-Zafred

Patty Kennedy-Zafred

Patty Kennedy-Zafred has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a Minor in Photography.  Her love for the photographic image has been life long, which is clearly reflected in her work.  She is a member of the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, Studio Art Quilt Associates and Surface Design Association.  Her work has been included in numerous national and international exhibitions and widely published. She lives in Pittsburgh with her always supportive husband, Paolo. You can learn more about her work on her website at

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Valerie S. Goodwin offers laser cutting workshop

A new workshop for quilt artists interested in exploring laser cutter technology

by Valerie S. Goodwin

valerie-goodwin_200pxThe physical means of making has always been a part of my professional and artistic life. Immense professional satisfaction and artistic expression has come from making things by hand throughout my career. On the other hand, I understand and have an interest in current technology. Much of the work I do as a quilt artist combines both the digital and physical realm of creating. Sometimes I am split between using the digital and staying true to a handmade object, the physical.

During the summer of 2013, I was selected to participate in a 3-week residency at Florida State University’s (FSU) Facilities for Arts Research (FAR). The title of my project was Mapping Time and Place. During the first week of my residency, I tested laser settings on over 30 natural and synthetic fabrics.  In addition to exploring combinations of layered materials for my experimental fiber artwork, I created a binder with fabric samples and laser cutting settings as a resource for future FAR researchers.

In the final weeks, I laser cut and engraved large fabric panels. The panels will be combined and layered in the final work which documents the displacement of Seneca Village, an African-American community that once occupied the current site of Central Park. The final piece is still underway in my studio. This link provides a small glimpse of my residency experience: Mapping Time and Place Residency

The laser cutting workshop

lasercuttingsample_600pxMy experience with the laser cutter and its interaction with fabric sparked a desire to share my knowledge with other quilt artists. Since doing the residency at FSU, my department at Florida A & M University’s School of Architecture has acquired its own Epilogue laser cutter. As a result, I am very pleased to be able to offer a 4-day mixed media fiber art workshop this summer entitled: The Laser Cut Edge.

Workshop participants will experience the new possibilities of creating a work built up of laser cut surfaces with transparent and opaque properties. They will create small art pieces comprised of  laser cut samples, (within the machine’s 1′ x 2′ dimensions). The laser cutter not only cuts, but it can score and etch. Some materials will be provided as part of a kit, but artists can and should bring their own fabrics as well. A variety of techniques will be demonstrated and experimentation will be encouraged. Students will tackle ways of creating layering and transparency, pattern as well as texture.

Our School of Architecture has a great workshop space where students will work with the laser cutter. Also provided is a separate, secure and air-conditioned studio space where students can work and get further instruction and critique. We provide a creative atmosphere for experimentation and learning.  To register click here: Laser Cut Edge

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Nature’s Voice: Regina Benson’s sculptural fiber art

Regina Bension discharges fabric in the snow.

Regina Benson discharges fabric in the snow.

To say that Regina Benson is in touch with nature is an understatement.

“My pieces are very graphic and intricately detailed at the same time. I want the viewer to be enveloped, surrounded, and drawn inside my work.”

In Regina’s show Nature’s Voice at the Art Center Sarasota, Emma Thurgood has chosen art quilts that showcase the broad range of her surface design practice. These works represent particular views of the natural world, its landscape at a distance and close-up.  Each work incorporates the use of dying, discharging, rusting and burning techniques within the execution of the piece itself.

Night Bloom by Regina Benson

Night Bloom by Regina Benson

As an example, Night Bloom, a convex work, was created by pre-dying white cloth with several colors, including black, and then discharging directly on snow using rocks and pebbles as resists. In Unearthed, a multiple convex curved work, she used found rusty objects, metal shavings and wire to layer rusty patterns on silk.  Within each work is a dimensional and architectural element that requires a specific armature that will hold the art quilt invisibly in a 3-d, concave or convex orientation.

Learn more about Regina’s techniques

Creating textile art in concert with nature, Regina has re-designed ancient mark-making techniques to work gently with the earth, textile and art. She will illustrate the many ways she removes dye from her own surface-designed cloth and how she creates permanent rust-markings on silk, cotton and rayon cloth. She will discuss how she pre-dyes cloth to create complex tonal designs in her discharge process, the resists she uses, and how various fabrics can be permanently rust layered and still retain fabric softness and pliability.
Regina will also illustrate her spatial aesthetic and how she designs textile art that hangs invisibly in convex and concave shapes.  She will have a “see and touch” table with samples of the actual materials she uses in constructing the internal supports. Using images of her own works that are juxtaposed flat and dimensional, Regina will further address the planning, surface design, fabrication, and materials’ considerations that must be involved in successfully floating works off the wall.

Regina Benson in her studio

Regina Benson in her studio

Regina Benson’s work has been shown in galleries and museums in The Hague in the Netherlands, San Diego, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Pittsburgh. Her work has been credited with maintaining artistic integrity, technical innovation, and visual excitement. She continues to press the boundaries of contemporary textile art.
Plan to attend this wonderful show if you are anywhere near Sarasota, FL.

Nature’s Voice – Works by Regina V. Benson

January 16 – February 28, 2014
Art Center Sarasota
707 North Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34236

January 16, 2014 5-7pm: Opening Reception
January, 17 6-8 pm: Creating with Nature, Lecture and demonstration

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