Thursday, April 17, 2014

Quilting with Teenagers

I finished my 8-class contract teaching grade 8 students about quilting. It is the third year the art department of Branksome Hall hires me.

I taught the students how to make a simple 4 patch
and some half square triangles

I talked about fabric and design. I showed the students how to be accurate in their sewing.

The inside of your block can be crooked but the
outside should have 90 degree angles.
This makes it easier to sew all blocks together.
(mostly made with men's shirt fabric I bought in Verona)

Using the sewing machine in a safe way will be a skill the students will be able to tap into in their future, I am sure, even if they don't ever make another quilt.

Half square triangles can be used in a border.

Each student will be creating and designing their own block that relates to an art principle: Balance,  Contrast, Emphasis, Movement, Pattern and Unity. The blocks of the same principle will be made into a quilt. The 6 crib-size quilts will most likely be donated. To see quilts from past students click here.

Using simple squares one can create an interesting pattern.
(This quilt is mainly made with men's shirts.)

The art teacher liked some of my teaching aids, like my coloured photograph of a quilt and the exact same photograph in black and white. This explained the element of value very well.

Both photos were taken of a group quilt made at a Toronto Public Library
when I ran quilt program several years ago.

What was so gratifying was the interest of the students.

The values is what gives this quilt its movement.

Best moment... when the bell rang and no one moved, just kept sewing!

(the quilts in these pictures are the samples I brought in to show the students)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

More Empty Bowls

I returned to teach quilting at Branksome Hall and noticed there were some bowls leftover from their fund drive, Empty Bowls.

It is such a good cause, I couldn't resist buying three more.

I think they would make great one-of-a-kind hostess gifts filled with a home-made appetizer.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Empty Bowls

I was at a Toronto high school, Branksome Hall, this week teaching in their art department.

The art teacher reminded the students about their fundraiser, Empty Bowls, with all moneys going to support The Daily Bread Food Bank.

The idea is to buy a bowl made by the students and get it filled with soup. What a great idea!

I liked this size and the colours and the carved-in textures on the bottom.

I couldn't stay for the soup but I was glad to buy a one-of-a-kind bowl made by one of the art students.

The bottom of the bowl is stamped with the date and
the school and the event's initials.

I will use it at my home when I entertain on the weekend.

I will be back at that school next week to teach Part 2 of my workshop.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Birthday Presents

My niece turned 11 yesterday.

I made her two pillows for her room using a pineapple quilt block as the front.

I used old shirts for the backs, therefore forgoing the time consuming step of button-hole making.
(Clever idea from teacher Johanna Masko)

Men's shirts used for the backs of pillows.

The pineapple block centre is perfect for fussy cutting a special design.

I made a pineapple block quilt about 20 years ago. I used the traditional foundation piecing method. But the method I learned at the Workroom was shorter and one could square-up the block after each addition. It was great! I had a fun time and did learn some things even though I have been quilting for about 25 years.

Fun centre cut.
If you don't have enough of the same fabric to make 4 strips
you can use two different fabrics and place them facing each other
in the round. Your eye tends not to notice the differences that way.

For the first pillow I made, I started with the shirt colour.

I picked up this shirt at Goodwill for cheap and
resewed the buttons using embroidery floss in a nice colour.

Then I chose the corner piece from my stash, which went well with the shirt.

From there, I went through my 1 1/2 inch strips and selected the blues and whites.

I'd like to make a full-size quilt using darks with brown and orange strips. The design that appears when each block is put together is very effective.

Photo from the book Quilts by Judy Wentworth,
published by Crescent Books
This quilt is from the 19th century, thought to be
made by a plantation slave in the southern United States.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Quilts as Gifts

When you make a quilt for someone special you put your heart in it.

Decor from restaurant Olive et Gourmando in Old Montreal

I know from experience that, in general, people who do not make things or sew quilts have no concept of how much time and effort it takes to create something. I have even heard people say, Well it's cheaper if you make something...which it isn't as we know!

I made a special baby quilt for my cousin's first baby. In the card that accompanied it,  I explained what I designed for him.

I used blue to symbolize the sky- The sky's the limit in what you can do in life. I used straight quilt lines in variegated thread to symbolize the many roads he will take in his life.

I love using fun fabrics for bindings.

I explained that it should be many times do recipients say it is too beautiful to use. I wrote, "It should be used for riding in strollers, for making tents, for reading under, for cuddling under with your mom and dad."

I proposed a few games. Using the 1 inch squares you could play "I Spy"... I spy a dotted line, a star, a letter B... or find two fabrics that are the same.

I made it personal. I added a 1 inch square of a map of Paris which is where his godmother lives. On the front, I placed a large letter J for his first name. On the back, I added a fat quarter which made a reference to his family name.

Fat quarter on the back.

I also stated how many hours it took to make. People have a different level of appreciation once they know that!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Trying and Redoing

Not everything an artist does "works out". Viewers only see what did work out. All the trying and redoing are part of an art piece that is rarely highlighted in an exhibit.

At the Peter Doig exhibit at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal, the curator chose to show the "backstage" stuff! It is an important part of the art, I think.

The subject was first photographed.

Sketches were done of different aspects of the photo.

In his final rendition, Doig decided not to show what was behind the wall-the biggest cemetery in Port of Spain.

Lapeyrouse, 2003-2005

Cemetery Wall, 2003

Study of Lapeyrouse Wall, 2003

Lapeyrouse Umbrella, 2004

"The (above) works reveal the significant
amount of trial and formal investigation that
goes into the composition of his work
and offers and understanding
of the various issues at play in them"
 (quoted from the museum explanation)
It inspired me to go ahead with my work and not get discouraged with a piece. That the "bad" works are still good because they help with the final piece. They help you decide what you want to do, what you want to show and how you will go about expressing that.

Lapeyrouse Wall, 2004

I am at the 3/4 mark in the development of a piece that will be exhibited in Geneva, Switzerland, in June. I think I still have some more undoing to do before it gets done to my liking.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Quilts at the MOMA

American artist Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) worked in COMBINES- works in which he affixed cast-off items to a traditional support.

Bed (1955)
by Robert Rauschenberg
oil and pencil on pillow, quilt and sheet on wood supports
(photo courtesy of Sophia Reford)

They say that the bedding used in Bed was actually his own, making this a very intimate piece, almost as intimate as a self-portrait. 

Using cast-off items is very much in my vein of thinking.

I have used discarded items before, even an antique quilt which was badly damaged when I got it.

The previous owner had cut out a few blocks that were probably in better condition and my guess is  a pillow was made with them.

I used the damaged quilt as a starting point for "Pages of My Life" (2011).

It is an homage to my grandmother. 

"Pages of My Life" was exhibited in Toronto and in Italy
and was shown on OMNI newscast.

She came to America and started working in a clothing factory in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. 

Her job was to embellish "mistakes" in clothing therefore using her creativity to hide the mistake. The one-of-a-kind garment was often sold for more money.

I repaired the quilt and in doing so told some of the story of her life.