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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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Susan Shie shares her story

One of the quilts showing in Quilt National 2013 at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is the delightful Dragon Sushi: 9 of Pyrex Cups in the Kitchen Tarot by Susan Shie. This story is an excerpt from her website where Susan shares some of the inspirations for her piece.
Dragon Sushi: 9 of Pyrex Cups in the Kitchen Tarot, ©Susan Shie 2012. 60"h x 86.5"w

Dragon Sushi: 9 of Pyrex Cups in the Kitchen Tarot, ©Susan Shie 2012. 60″h x 86.5″w

On June 14, 2012 I randomly drew the minor tarot card the 9 of Cups from the Sakki-Sakki Tarot deck (which is my favorite, besides the Kitchen Tarot). This card, described as the Wishing Card, would become my piece about my trip to Girona, Spain, a city north of Barcelona in the Catalan part of Spain, near the Costa Brava.

The piece chronicles my trip to the Interquilt 2012 show in Girona (where I had a solo exhibition and taught classes) and includes many of the wonderful people I met there. Girona was a wonderful experience, and I am in love with the city and cherish my time there and all the great people I met there.

I started painting on July 31, using my airbrush like I normally do. The piece was challenging because I wanted to include ALL the cool people I met in Girona and be able to tell stories about them. I painted the old part of the city, which has an amazingly rich mixture of cultures which took turns ruling this trade city over the centuries.

I worried that the piece could easily get too detailed and muddled, if I tried to write a lot, after all the little vignettes of groups of people that I put in. So I decided to make part of the writing with fabric markers in colors, instead of doing it all with my airpen and black fabric paint. This gave the piece a way of staying lighter and less mushy, but I also had to abbreviate my stories a lot.

Detail of the quilt, including gelato

Detail of the quilt, including gelato

Gelato was my favorite food in Girona, because it was so hot, and we often carried heavy loads in all our walking. But my second favorite food there was from the Sushi Bar. Honest! It was in the big Plaza, and sitting inside, you could see the big Cathedral of Girona across the river, behind the beautiful tall, narrow houses that were built with nothing between them, and right up to the riverbanks, for a long way north and south along the pretty Onyar River.

I put the Cathedral and the big Church of St Feliu along the wall at the top of my piece, and I drew the Holy Grail there, too. I had joked that Girona felt so magical, maybe the Holy Grail was hidden there! Then, after I came home from Spain, I read a book by Patrice Chaplin, City of Secrets, all about the Holy Grail being there in Girona.

What’s in a name?

Detail of sushi

Detail of sushi

So, you wonder where I got the title for this piece Dragon Sushi, right? Well, in my free time, I made up a story to explain how come the Sushi Bar restaurant is lined up perfectly to see the Cathedral out of its windows. I had a vision: St George, aka Jordi in Catalan, slew the Dragon where the Cathedral is now, right there in Girona. Then, because he had all that dragon meat, he invented Sushi right there on the spot, and he had them build the Cathedral right where it all had happened, in honor of both slaying the dragon and inventing sushi. AND considering that this is the Year of the Dragon, my vision is very timely, as well!

Detail: Susan Shie self portrait in her Dragon Sushi quilt.

Detail: Susan Shie self portrait in her Dragon Sushi quilt.

There’s a large head of a woman beside the Eiffel Bridge arm of Xevi, and it’s MY head. On it I wrote a saying I saw on Facebook, a poster that quotes Sen. Joe McCarthy from the 1950s. It says:

Beware of artists, for they mix with all classes of society, and are therefore the most dangerous. – Sen. Joe McCarthy

I really like that. Too bad old Joe damaged and ruined so many Americans’ lives by accusing them of being Communist sympathizers and having them either banned from their careers or thrown into prison. I pray we never have that level of fanatic reactionism in our country again.

Most of the stories in this piece are about the Girona trip, with very little about current events, which I mostly squeezed into the writing on the border. I got the part about Todd Akin’s explanation about how we don’t need abortions for rape victims, because you probably can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape.” And I included some Eva visit stuff and Hurricane Issac, which had flooded and taken the electric out of Haiti and Cuba, and after hitting lower Florida, was on its way to hit New Orleans, exactly 7 years after Hurricane Katrina. OH, and I write a little about the Republican Convention, like how there was a billboard there that said” Welcome to Tampa, where the mayor and all city council members are Democrats. Enjoy your stay!”

If you’d like to learn even more about the people I included in this piece, please visit my website.

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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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Quilt National 2013 opens in San Jose, California

Quilt National 2013 quilts in San Jose

Quilts by Molly Allen, Rita Merten, and Joan Schulze at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles.

San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles hosts Quilt National 2013

Quilt National 2013 (collections A & B) is now on view at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. Deborah Corsini, curator for the museum, has hung the show with thoughtful placement of works in the museum’s main galleries. The opening reception for the show was held on Sunday, May 18, in conjunction with a celebration of the San Jose Quilt & Textile Museum’s 37th anniversary, and a special artists gallery walk through the Quilt National exhibit.

NEW: be sure to check out the Quilt National ’13 slideshow

Go to 2013 Slideshow

San Jose museum is a great place to see Quilt National

The San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is a special venue for viewing Quilt National 2013. The three large gallery spaces provide room to enjoy the artwork both up close and far away, enabling exploration of both the exquisite craft and overall composition of each piece.  The beautiful lighting in the museum shows the Quilt National 2013 works to their best advantage.  Seen from across the large spaces, some works, like Deidre Adams’ Tracings III and Judith Content’s Cenote Azule actually glow.

Derdre Adams, Tracings III

Deirdre Adams and her quilt, Tracings III

The Quilt National 2013 artworks have been hung so as to suggest subtle themes of color, content, and composition.  In many cases the artwork seems to whisper quietly to its adjacent neighbors, as on the wall of subtle yet powerful artists quilts by Ellen Noble, Carol Goosens, Leslie Bixel, Judith Content and Jan Myers-Newbury in the main gallery, or the environmental themes of three quilts in the grey gallery by Leslie Rego, Katherine Knaur, and Nelda Warkentin.  The overall effect is an enjoyable, inspirational, and intriguing experience.

Gallery walk features seven Quilt National artists’ talks

Seven Quilt National artists were on hand to participate in a gallery walk through the exhibit.

  • Leslie Rego – Sun Valley, ID, Four Seasons at the Beaver Pond
  • Laura Fogg – Ukiah, CA, Jammin’
  • Kris Sazaki of the Pixeladies – Cameron Park, CA, American Still Life-The Weight of the Nation
  • Deidre Adams – Littleton, CO, Tracings III
  • Leslie Bixel – Los Gatos, CA, Decay
  • Judith Content – Palo Alto, CA,  Cenote Azule

Each artist shared their stories, inspirations and techniques.  Leslie Rego spoke passionately about her love for the natural beauty of Idaho, and how it informs her work.  Laura Fogg told the story behind Jammin’, and how she just happened to be at an event with her sewing machine and strolling musicians, enabling her to sketch with her machine from life.

Laura Fogg and Jammin'

Laura Fogg and her quilt Jammin’

Kris Sazaki described the process of making American Still Life – The Weight of the Nation with her partner “Pixelady” Deb Cashatt, as one of the funnest experiences in her life.  Deidre Adams talked about the unique “post quilting” painting technique she uses in her work.  Leslie Bixel spoke to the theme of her quilt, Decay and the surface design techniques of rusting and bleach discharging cloth that will also decay over time.

Kris Sazaki

Kris Sazaki of the Pixeladies with American Still Life- The Weight of the Nation

Wrapping up the event, Judith Content explained the arduous process of judging a Quilt National biennial competition, and her own experience in judging Quilt National 2013 with fellow jurors Linda Colsh and Penny McMorris. Judith also talked about her quilt Cenote Azul and the magical light of the skies in Pinnacles national park that inspired it.

San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles logoTo find out more about the Quilt National 2013 exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles please visit their website for hours and upcoming events, including a special Fiber Talk organized by Curator of Collections, Nancy Bavor.

Special Event

Fiber Talk: Inside Quilt National with Judith Content and Joan Schulze, Sylvia Gegaregian, Leslie Bixel, Miriam Nathan-Roberts

Sunday, June 8, 2014: 1pm to 3pm

Ticket information is here on the museum website.

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