Friday, July 24, 2015

It's not a mistake, it's a new design!

Everyone makes mistakes.  It's part of life. As an art quilter, I get asked by friends to do all kinds of things fiber related.  (I imagine that's true of people in many different fields, not just artists!)  This was one of those cases.

Our car club needed a backdrop for an event at the beach.  It sounded like a fun thing to do and something I hadn't done before so I agreed to do it. Life's an adventure!   Here's the backdrop in use:
My backdrop for the Funkhana
The main challenge in creating it (other than the size--I don't usually work so large!) was adding the lettering. I printed out the letters on regular printer paper. Then, I taped the sheets together with correct spacing and ironed a long strip of freezer paper* on top, cut out the letters and removed the typing paper. (Note to self--don't use steam for this part--it makes the paper stick a bit too much to the freezer paper, which makes it difficult to remove.) This left me with a long stencil that could be ironed onto the background. It mostly turned out great!

It was a learning experience, though. One thing I learned, though, was to NOT go back and add more paint after the freezer paper stencil got quite wet and started to dry--as the paper starts to lift up from the fabric. After finishing the painting I lifted the freezer paper from the canvas. Aargh! Leakage!
Paint leaked under my stencil. Drat!
Leaks happen....
After throwing down my brush, jumping up and down and saying several magic artist words, I considered my options and set to work.  In this case, I was able to lift enough of the leakage by re-wetting to then paint over what was left so it looked good. Whew! One can't always do that, though.

Which brings me my philosophy on quilting mistakes. "It's not a mistake, it's a design opportunity!" Or, as my friend Lynda Prioleau says, "Put a button on it!" I'm really, really, really lazy. So I hate ripping things out and look for every possible reason not to do it. Honestly, in most cases, unless you tell someone, no one will notice...and if they notice, they won't think it's a mistake. So don't point it out.

Sometimes, though, things will bug you and you have to be creative. Fusing stuff on top is always good. Or adding buttons. Slice and dice to add more fabric in there. (I've done this when the border fabric I wanted to use wasn't enough.) Paint. Appliqué. And, every now and then, rip something out. I DO have a seam ripper. I did that when I inked the wrong date on a gift for a friend. I had to rip out a set in piece with curved seams. Ouch, that hurt! But that's always my last resort.

I have a quote that's perfect for those times when mistakes happen. I don't know who first said this, or where I got it--it's just written down in my sketchbook:
If plan
A favorite saying....
Words to live by. Everyone have a great day! And don't sweat the small stuff. As they say, it's all small stuff! *Freezer paper is white with a plastic-y coating on the back to make it waterproof. It's been used for a long time to wrap meats before putting them in the freezer. Reynolds has it; some grocery stores carry it. It has instructions on the box now for how to use it in quilting. The coated side will melt just enough to temporarily stick to fabric, making it ideal for templates and stencils. It peels off fairly easily when you're ready.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Lecture by Denyce Schmidt

I attended a lecture recently by Denyse Schmidt, courtesy of the DC Modern Quilt Guild. (Didn't think to take a picture until the end of her lecture, sorry!  I was too immersed in her talk.)
Denise Schmidt Lecture
Denyse Schmidt Lecture at Northern VA Community College in Alexandria, VA. Sponsored by the DC Modern Quilt Guild.
If you're not familiar with Denyse, here's an excerpt from her bio:  

A former graphic designer and graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, Denyse Schmidt has been sewing since she was a young girl, taught by her mother. As a professional seamstress, Denyse worked on everything from tutus and bishop’s mitres to fine clothing. She brings these eclectic influences together in patchwork quilts characterized by simple graphics, rich color, and quality workmanship.

Firmly rooted in the techniques of quilt-making in this country, Denyse reinterprets tradition to make modern functional quilts that are fresh and offbeat. Her Couture custom quilts, in production since 1996, are pieced to order in her studio and hand-quilted by Amish women in Minnesota. Denyse Schmidt Works, a line of machine-quilted pillows and quilts with an industrial-chic aesthetic, are made at her studio located in a Bridgeport, CT factory building. Clients of DSQ have included The Philip Johnson Glass House, Ralph Pucci International, Takashimaya, The University of Michigan Art Museum, The American Folk Art Museum, and The Whitney Museum Store.  

You can find a full bio of her here.  

The lecture was really fascinating; Denyse talked about her quilting journey from a graphic designer to a quilter.  I was particularly interested in her approach to her business.  She had a great slideshow with pictures of her work and great motivational quotes along the way.  

  If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there. --George Harrison  

 There were two main points I took away from the lecture.  One is to be ready for unexpected opportunities.  Denyse got involved in several business opportunities that she wasn't looking for, but that she said "Yes" to.    

  You can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.  --Jack London  

 Be ready.  Take a chance.  Don't be afraid.  I'm writing this, in part, to remind myself of this.  It's a good mantra.  

 The second, which is a kind of corollary to the first, is that there is life after failure.  Denyse talked about her failures as well as her successes.  It's pretty inspirational to hear someone at that level say they've failed...and then had success again.  

  When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel. - Eloise Ristad  

 We all have failures, large and small.  A failed quilt that we really believed in that didn't turn out the way we thought when we started.  A harsh critique.  A show with no sales.  A birthday where we forgot to send a card. A day where we made no progress on our art. We are our own harshest critic.  The world's full of people who have failed spectacularly, in full view, and keep moving on.  I'm forever grateful that my failures are mostly tucked away in a corner of my studio in a pile of UFOs (UnFinished Objects).  (Gotta go through those and rework some, give away some and throw the rest away.  *makes note on to-do list*  Others are tucked into sketchbooks--partially fleshed out ideas that didn't come together.  

 Speaking of UFOs, this is probably my favorite quote about failure and it is soooo applicable for quilters:  

  I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. - Thomas A. Edison  

 Doesn't that make you think of your UFOs?  Hey, if it worked for Edison, it works for me.  

 As I write this, it's a cooler-than-normal morning.  The windows and patio door are all open and I can hear the birds singing.  I think it's time to go to work and see what small successes (and failures) I can find in the day.    

 Have a great day!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Saying good-bye to a piece you love


This is Aspens ©2014.  Now in a private collection.

I made it to sell... so I sold it. And I was happy to see that someone else saw in it what I saw in it. But as I sent it off to its new home, I felt a pang of regret.  Sure, I know I could make another one.  But I won't.  Perhaps something similar, as I try to do series; but each quilt is unique.  And doing the same thing over again would bore me, so THAT's unlikely to happen.

I wonder--do other artists feel this way?  Do you make multiple versions of a single work (not talking about series).  I guess I see it more in things like ceramics and small sculpture.  That's got me thinking about it.  But I digress.
When I started quilting, I made things that I liked for me.  But now, I'm making things I like for others.  I like everything I do that goes in the show booth or in the online store--I have to believe in the pieces I sell.  But every now and then one is special to me.  It comes from my heart, not my head.  And these, invariably, are the pieces that sell first.  And that brings the pang of regret as well as the pleasure that something that touched my heart also touched someone else's.
Does your art come from your head or your heart?  Or a mix of both?  Do you feel that regret when you sell it (if you sell) or give it away?  Maker's regret, I call it.  'Bye, Aspens, you were/are well loved!

Aspens. © 2014 Betsy True.  Private collection.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Fabric of Identity

I recently had a chance to visit the new Textile Museum at the George Washington University.  The current exhibition is Unraveling Identity:  Our Textiles, Our Stories.  This is a great exhibit that explores what we wear and what it says about us.

Among other things, it has a some wonderful Asian pieces, Mae West's shoes, and this fabulous piece, Lady Walking a Tightrope, by artist Yinka Shonibare.

I think we're well aware that clothing has long been an indicator of social status; and it's still one of the keys most people look to, though the differences may be more subtle now. And using clothing to make a statement is also nothing new.   The exhibition steers clear of a lot of the obvious US tropes--hippies, beatniks, cowboys, etc, and instead draws from its very large collection to show us things like Mae West's shoes, below.

It was apparently very important to Mae that she appear taller than she actually was (5 ft tall, according to Wikipedia), so she had these platform shoes built.  The skin tone part on the top would be hidden by her long dress.  They were part of a collection of shoes, very interesting!

I was particularly taken by this jacket, worn by a Buddhist pilgrim in Japan.  The red inked markings are cinnebar stamps for each temple that the pilgrims received when they visited a site.  The jacket was white at the beginning.  So this is a version of the state map decals we used to put on the RV.

There's much, much more in the exhibit. It's the largest exhibition in the Museum's history, reflecting its new space.   There's a huge central space that you descend to from the main entrance, down a great curving staircase.  Docents were GWU students.

If you attend with someone who's not so into textiles, but does like history, there's separate exhibit about the history of Washington, DC, the Civil War and the Making of Modern Washington, that entertained my husband while I poked around the textile exhibit, trying not to set off any alarms. (I tend to get close to the pieces without touching them, but sometimes it's too close!)  My only complaint is that labels were hard to find for some of the pieces.

I visited the Textile Museum several times in its original location, and am very pleased that it has reopened in this new facility, though I do kind of miss the quaint old building it was in.  From Wikipedia:  "The museum was founded by collector George Hewitt Myers in 1925 and was originally housed in two historic buildings in D.C.'s Kalorama neighborhood: the Myers family home, designed by John Russell Pope, and an adjacent building designed by Waddy Wood.  You'll still see pictures of the old buildings if you do a search on Google, so don't be confused.

Access was easy; we took the Metro and it was a short walk.  There are restaurants in the area--make a day of it! The museum is open:

Monday, Wednesday-Friday: 11:30 AM–6:30 PM
Saturday: 10 AM–5 PM
Sunday: 1–5 PM
Closed Tuesdays and university holidays.

Prefer to drive?  Directions are here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sparking creativity

I'm trying to do some exercises to spark creativity.  One of them is to take a picture every day.  And I'm trying to do it, at least some days, with my macro lens for my iPhone. The cool thing about doing this is that looking through the camera forces you to see things in a different way.  To really look at them.

This is a poinsettia leaf--one of the two tone ones.  It's on my deck and it rained last night and I thought it would be a cool picture.  And I like it.  My husband thinks it looks like a medical slide, LOL, which shows how people see thing differently.  He sees pathology, I see a quilt!

I think I'll send this to Instagram tagged as a quilt ideas--sort of my virtual sketchbook.  Anything that  gets me thinking about a quilt is a good thing.  What things do you do to get inspired?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Scrap Quilts: From Antiques to Art

I'm giving a lecture today at Sully Plantation, in Loudon, VA at noon. Looks like it's going to be a damp day. :) I'm going to be discussing Scrap Quilts, From Antiques to Art. It's a little bit history, a little bit quilt theory, and a little bit trunk show. I'll post some pictures later, but I also wanted to post some of the books and sites I found as I did research for the talk.

There's an exhibit, Scrap ART, August 16-October 16, 2011 at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Wish I could go!

And there are good virtual tours of collections here:
Great Lakes Quilt Collection

Smithsonian Institute of American History

Here are some great books about quilt history:

And here are some of the latest books on making Scrap Quilts:

I do love scrap quilts! It's soooo much fun to examine the quilt closely and look at all the fabrics!

Everyone have a great day, and do some quilting! (Oh, and next weekend, I'm going to be at Art on the Avenue with my friend Lynda Poole Prioleau...more on that later, too!)


Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I just finished taking part in the ArtHouse Coop's Sketchbook Project. Fred mailed my sketchbook for me (I was sick with the flu). 28000 artists signed up for the project!! Of course, some will have dropped out, but there will still be a boatload of sketchbooks. ("I think we're gonna need a bigger boat.") They will be on tour, and the tour comes to Washington, DC in April. I can't wait to see some of the other sketchbooks.

Here's a link for more on the Project:

and a link to pictures from last year's Sketchbook tour.

I'll post a couple of pages from my sketchbook when I get them on the computer.

-- Posted from my iPad!