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Quilt National knows the way to San Jose

by Deborah Corsini, Curator, San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Heaven & Earth by Jane Sassaman, 1992, from the Marbaum Collection

Heaven & Earth by Jane Sassaman, 1992, from the Marbaum Collection

The 1970s were a stimulating time for fiber arts. Spurred on by the counter culture, many people looked to crafts traditions and developed a renewed appreciation of working with textiles.  Alternative schools located around the country such as Arrowmont, TN, Haystack, ME, and in Berkeley, CA—Pacific Basin School of Textile Arts (established in 1973) and Fiberworks Center for the Textile Arts (also established in 1973)—offered workshops in an exciting range of fiber techniques that ran the gamut of spinning, weaving, dyeing, basketry, tablet weaving, ikat, felting, quilting, and surface design. National magazines such as Fiberarts and Quilters Newsletter (founded in 1969 by Bonnie and George Leman) were chronicling the interest in textile arts. Yarn and quilt shops were opening, and supplies, classes, and information about different textile techniques, design, and craft was readily available.

San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles now in its 37th year

In 1977, a group of forward thinking women from the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association (SCVQA) founded the American Museum of Quilts & Related Arts, which began its own remarkable journey as the first museum of its kind to recognize, appreciate, and preserve quilts and other textile arts. Now in its 37th year and in its spacious permanent home on South 1st Street, the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles (SJMQT) continues to celebrate and promote the art, creators, craft and history of quilts and textiles.

Nationally recognized and among a handful of institutions in the world that focus on quilts and textiles, the Museum has a significant historical chronicle of traditional and contemporary exhibitions and programs. It offers a substantial range of exhibitions that draw from the museum collection, the national and international textile art movements (including groundbreaking, themed group shows which focus on particular topics or techniques—Scrap Art, Primary Structures, Navajo Weaving, Milestones), and the work and legacy of individual artists. Mark Adams, Mary Balzer Buskirk, Radka Donnell, Caryl Bryer Fallert, Jean Ray Laury, Therese May, Judy Mathieson, Eleanor McCain, Ruth McDowell , Katie Pasquini Masopust, Mary Walker Phillips, Yvonne Porcella, Deidre Scherer, Joan Schulze, Lydia Van Gelder,  and Katherine Westphal, are  a few of the many artists that have exhibited at the Museum.

At this same time, a parallel experience was conceived in Athens, Ohio. The first Quilt National was inaugurated, and it too has grown and evolved during its 35 years. Establishing itself as the foremost and quintessential exhibit of contemporary art quilts, this ongoing biennial continues to showcase current trends and developments in the art quilt movement.

Over the years the Museum had the opportunity to bring portions of four Quilt National exhibits to the West coast.

Quilt National on view at the  San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Bow Tie by Sylvia Gegaregian

Bow Tie, by Sylvia Gegaregian

Viewing Quilt National is much anticipated and the shows from 2003, 2005, 2011 and now 2013 were well received. The current exhibition features 47 works by 48 artists. This year, we have added local
artist and Quilt National juror Judith Content’s quilt Cenote Azul to the mix. Like previous years the range of quilts and artistic expression is formidable, imaginative, and outstanding. From the classical Amish inspired Bow Tie by Sylvia Gegaregian to an updated still life by The Pixeladies (Deb Cashatt and Kris Sazaki), American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation, there is amazing technical virtuosity and meaning in each of these works. Once again, Quilt National features a rich diversification of style (abstract to representational) and shows us thematic content that is imbued with personal symbolism and contemporary ideas. We are pleased to host Quilt National as it fulfills the museum’s artistic goals of bringing shows to San Jose that have a broad appeal and demonstrate that quilts are a transformative and compelling medium of artistic expression.

Quilts from the Marbaum Collection of Hilary & Marvin Fletcher

In 2010 another connection to the Dairy Barn was forged. The Museum organized Cream of the Cloth: Quilts from the Marbaum Collection of Hilary & Marvin Fletcher that encompassed a 25-year survey of the art quilt movement and included work from previous Quilt National exhibits from 1985 – 2007. This private collection includes work by Michael James, Sue Benner, and Jane Sassaman. For over 20 years, Hilary Fletcher was a beloved and pivotal figure in the contemporary art quilt movement through her leadership of the Quilt National exhibitions. Under her advocacy, the biennial Quilt National exhibitions grew to be among the largest and most prestigious of contemporary art quilts in the world. She would certainly be pleased to know that pieces from her personal collection and Quilt National are still going strong and finding their way to San Jose.

Deborah CorsiniDeborah Corsini is the curator of the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles and in her seven year tenure has created a wide variety of historical and contemporary fiber art exhibitions. Some exhibition highlights include: Beyond Knitting:  Uncharted Stitches, Changing Landscapes: Contemporary Chinese Fiber Art, Hawaii’s Alfred Shaheen: Fabric to Fashion, Scrap Art, and Milestones: Textiles of Transition.

In her studio practice she focuses on tapestry and creates dynamic wedge weave and eccentric weave works. Her pieces are exhibited in national and international venues including the International Chinese Fiber Art Biennial and the American Tapestry Biennial.

Her love and appreciation of quilts came from her previous job as the Creative Director and fabric designer for P&B Textiles, a manufacturer of quilt fabrics. She is active in the textile community and an advocate for contemporary fiber art.

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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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The Art Quilt phenomenon – thoughts from Gerald Roy

“Art quilts” and the issues they raise have been around a lot longer than most people think.

Milliner - Hattie P. Dyer  1895  - Crazy Quilt - 7 North Temple Place, Boston, Mass. 70 “ x 70”

Milliner – Hattie P. Dyer 1895 – Crazy Quilt – 7 North Temple Place, Boston, Mass. 70 “ x 70”

During the last half of the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution not only enabled a privileged few to acquire enormous fortunes, but also brought about a broader distribution of wealth to the American middle-class than ever before. With this new-found prosperity, many people built and furnished their homes in the latest of fashions. The Crazy quilt became a popular symbol of “having arrived.” No home was considered fashionable without one. Instead of being made as bedcovers, they adorned tables and upholstered furniture. The surface was highly decorated with embellishments through complex embroidery techniques, and even hand painted vignettes. That’s because the Crazy quilt was not made with the functional purpose as bedcovers, it’s no wonder it later became regarded as the first “art quilt.”

J.R.H.1886

JRH 1886 – 52” x 60” silk, satin, brocades and cotton lace.

 

It’s important to note that they technically aren’t quilts because most aren’t quilted. In addition, they did not evolve from traditional quilts. In fact, very few skilled traditional quilt makers ever made them. Having perfected their needlework skills and ability to accurately piece and appliqué, they did not find the style, materials, techniques, and embellishments of Crazy quilts appealing. Instead, most Crazy quilts were made by women who possessed minimal quilt making skills but had the time and the money to focus on beautifying and decorating their homes in the latest fashion. (Quite often this was evidenced through excess and often vulgar displays of wealth and poor taste.) Whereas bedcovers tend to get worn out, Crazy quilts more often survived the test of time. This factor coupled with their serving only an aesthetic purpose increased their likelihood of being regarded as objects of art.

The surface of Crazy Quilts are highly decorated with embellishments through complex embroidery techniques.

The surface of Crazy Quilts are highly decorated with embellishments through complex embroidery techniques. Detail of the Milliner – Hattie P. Dyer 1895 – Crazy Quilt

The controversy between art and utility has been ongoing. Because paintings serve no practical purpose and often are associated with art museums, there is a misconception that all paintings achieve art status. This in turn has led to another misconception – an object made for a practical and useful purpose is not art. Of course this premise is absurd because objects, regardless of purpose, are displayed in major art museums worldwide. Yet, even most quilts represented in museums were relegated to craft because of their association with their utilitarian purpose as bedcovers. Therefore, they generally were selected for their workmanship or historical significance and not because they were valued as works of art.

Unfortunately, this mindset has caused too many quilts to be evaluated exclusively by “The Two-Inch to Two-Foot Method,” which describes the distance from which they are scrutinized. Workmanship appears to have been the primary concern after which only its historical value was given consideration. I have often seen viewers with their noses practically touching a quilt saying, “Now this is art”

Whenever I see this occur I suggest, “Step away from the quilt and see that there’s far more to the quilt than only its technique.” This rarely occurs in art world, where most works of art undergo “The Twenty Paces Test.” Only after evaluating a work from this distance should the viewer go closer to examine technique. That’s why even utility quilts with less than masterpiece techniques can rise to “art” status.

G.R.  1886  - 56” x 58” silk, satin, velvets, brocades.

G.R. 1886 – 56” x 58” silk, satin, velvets, brocades.

Like all other arts and crafts forms, the aesthetic value of an individual work is determined by the viewer. Aesthetic response is personal and depends upon the ability of the maker to connect with the viewer on some level. Often the connection is made by sharing or stimulating a common experience, exposing the viewer to a new point of view, or reaching aesthetic sensibilities. As viewers we have the luxury of determining whether or not a work is art. The aspirations of the maker are irrelevant and no amount of their wishing can make it so. It is how others respond to a work that makes it “art.”

Gerald E. Roy at Pilgrim/Roy

Gerald Roy

Gerald Roy

Gerald Roy is an educator, painter, quilt maker and author. He is a quilt appraiser certified by the National Quilters Society and an administrator of the AQS Quilt Appraisal Certification Program. His This Old Quilt column is featured in the Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting magazine. He currently serves on the following boards: New England Quilt Museum Lowell, Mass. – Acquisitions Board and the National Quilt Museum Paducah, Kentucky – Executive Board of Directors, National Advisory Board and Chair / Acquisitions Committee. He is the curator for Quilts & Color: The Pilgrim/Roy Collection opening at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston on April 6. To learn more, visit his website, Pilgrim/Roy Antiques and Interiors

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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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