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Fabric Collage – Susan Polansky

My art is created through a slow and deliberate process. I strive to make believable atmospheres and images that will evoke emotional response, achieving this through a collage of fabrics and stitching. Often I’ll work spontaneously, but on larger pieces, I will spend more time exploring my concept before I actually embark on the fabric stage. Ideas are like acquaintances I’ve just met. Some are intriguing enough that I want to get to know them better. After I’ve spent some time with them, some fade and others become close friends.

Pastoral Disturbance by Susan Polansky © 2009

Pastoral Disturbance by Susan Polansky © 2009

Craft and composition support fabric collage content

I use photos for reference, and often I use Adobe Photoshop to combine parts of photos. Finding images with similar perspectives can be quite tricky, so sometimes I will round up a collection of images that gives me enough information to draw a synthesis of them.

Previously, I would make everything up as I went along, but I’ve found that preparation before the fabric stage has streamlined my process. I will use an immediate approach for a smaller piece, but if I intend on making a long term commitment, I don’t want to leave the composition to chance.

Earlier pieces experimented with materials and techniques but now my work is more content driven. I can really focus on what I want to say, and draw from all my previous experience to form the vision that I wish for.  I might research authenticity, for example:  “Pastoral Disturbance,” refers to a tragedy that occurred in an Amish schoolhouse, but the women I originally drew wore Mennonite bonnets not worn in Pennsylvania.  In “No One but You,” I needed to find out about accordions, so I did a Google Image search to supply visual information.

The story of “No One but You”

From the start, I was prepared to devote a serious amount of time to “No One but You,” (juried into Quilt National 2013). In fact, it was particularly the knowledge of how long it takes to create my art that provided inspiration for this piece, along with a family vacation photo.  Frozen in time were two dancers sharing a moment amid a bustling background. A fleeting moment caught forever by the quick click of the camera. Would I be able to capture the same feeling with an artistic process so unlike photography?  With this premise, I set out, not knowing it would take three years to reach a conclusion.

"No One but You" by Susan Polansky

“No One but You” by Susan Polansky, currently on view at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles


Why did it take so long? Like many artists, I struggle with the balance of studio and family time, feeling as if I never have enough time with either. I love the times that I’m so engrossed with who I’m with or what I’m doing that all obligations fade away, and there is no pull of “something other.” It was the quiet repose of the dancers that attracted me to the photo that I was working with in the first place. But life (and death) intervened – I lost eleven people in two years. Despite the emotional upheaval, I kept returning to the studio. How could I focus on these little pieces of fabric when there was so much turmoil around me? I knew that if I could make the connection with my art, get lost in it, the background would fade. Outside the studio, I was consumed with managing estates and dealing with other people’s things. I became ever so aware that the things were not crucial to the memory of the deceased. The things I wanted to hold onto were not things at all, but the times I had shared with them. The connections when everything else – the noise, the backgrounds – did not matter. Just the finite, precious time spent with them was what I wanted to freeze in my memory.
         Susan Polansky works with photos in her fabric collage process
“No One but You” began with a photo, but was not a copy of a photo. With the number of tools, like Photoshop, available to artists, copying photos to create realism has become more common. Yet some pieces remain soulless: they are mere copies. I felt the emotion of my piece and really understood the meaning of the work as it evolved. The advice of a teacher to “paint what you know” resonates with me. The success of “No One but You” encourages me to be wholly engaged, and time will become meaningless.

What’s Next

The quilt that I am currently working on required a lot of drawing in preparation. I was so concerned about getting the perspective correct that I took some extreme measures. After my initial sketches disappointed me, I built models out of clay to actually make the scene I had in mind, so that I could “see” how it looked. And then, when my drawings still weren’t quite right, I hired a drawing coach for a few hours to help me figure out why some figures just didn’t look human enough.        

Susan Polansky makes clay models of figues

I’m finding renewed interest in my drawing skills, and have created my current work entirely from my imagination. Creating a large, realistic scene with the kind of detail that interests me, without relying on photo references, is a first for me. It requires confidence that I’ve gained through all my previous work. It’s very exciting, especially now at the stage of the colors going together, materializing into a believable sight! I think of the direction I’m heading as narrative realism, and I’m also intrigued with symbolism. I want my work to be believable, yet not absolute – suggesting, not stating. I’d like to invite the viewer into my constructed world and have them explore a story that is contained within.

Whether the piece gets into Quilt National 2015 or not, I’m anxious to show the next marker of my progress.

Susan Polansky

Susan Polansky

About Susan Polansky

My creative passion is stitched fabric collage. I create credible images from small bits of commercially printed fabrics held together with fusible web (a type of iron-on glue) and stitching. I dabble with painting and crafts for fun, read and garden, and love to travel. I’ve got three great kids and have been married to my best friend for 27 years. Currently I am working on a completely new website. Meanwhile, www.susanpolansky.com remains up and running, so please visit.

 

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Art quilts and graphic design – Mary Ann Tipple

When I wanted to go to art school in 1968 my father told me I would never make a living as an artist.

I looked into graphic design, put myself through art school and upon graduation I found a job as a keyliner with a magazine publisher. Keylining was the art of putting down strips of type, drawing outlines for the photos, dropping in ads, etc. It was fine handwork, type was coated with wax and rolled down firmly. Sometimes an exacto knife was used to fix words by cutting out letters and fitting them back together. As the pages were completed, they were stacked in order till the magazine was complete and was sent to the printer. It was like piecing blocks together and sending the top out to be machine stitched. One of my jobs was finding photos for ads. I learned to find images that evoked the desired emotion to sell the product. I found this fascinating and at home did collages using photos from magazines.

The Conversation by Mary Ann Tipple

The Conversation by Mary Ann Tipple, ©2012

I discovered art quilts on a visit to Quilt National in 2001. I wanted to be an art quilter, an art quilter who used photos and cloth. I knew about Jean Ray Laury and the technology of digital printing but I wanted big photos! I solved this problem after a class with Fran Skiles where I learned to take Xerox copies and massage them into cotton duck with massive amounts of gel medium. I have one piece that incorporates 27 11 x 17 xerox pages to make a seven foot tall quilt from a photo of my mother but the cloth was so stiff that stitching was near to impossible. In 2011 I discovered the world of large digital prints directly to cloth. Since then I have been exploring the world of stitching to enhance the content!

I think my work in graphic design has influenced the content in my art, how to send a message or evoke a feeling.

Art quilters have begun to use photos with an artful purpose. I think of work by Nancy Condon, Patricia Kennedy-Zafred and others as fine examples of the use of photos in art quilts.  Often those choices are enhanced by our experiences in the commercial world of advertising and journalism where content is the key to success. The use of digital cameras, scanners and programs like Photoshop and Illustrator to add filters, layers, color changes and size enhancement has added to the content in a positive way. Nancy Condon has commented “I am very taken with the capabilities of layering in Photoshop. After spending a lot of time experimenting with various transfer methods (some of which were toxic), I began using my own small printer to print on fabric as soon as the technology became available. When I was able to print very large photographic images on cloth, I was very excited by that process. I think we are at a point with photo imagery in quilts where we need to develop more sophisticated ways of using the capability.”

Our Ladies of the Mountain by Nancy Condon ©2010

Our Ladies of the Mountain by Nancy Condon ©2010

Mary Ann Tipple

Mary Ann Tipple

Mary Ann Tipple is a resident of Elyria, Ohio. Her mother taught her to sew at a young age. Her interest in art started in the fourth grade when she decided art was the best part of the day. She began making collages in high school. A graduate of Cleveland’s Cooper School of Art with a degree in graphic design, she has worked in ad agencies as a designer and print production specialist. Now retired, she makes art quilts, mixed media pieces and paper collages. She credits her growth in her textiles to classes at Quilt Surface Design Symposium. An interest in improvisation comedy led to two years of classes with Second City, her love of humor shows in her textile pieces!

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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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