Monday, March 31, 2008

Community—ties that bind

I had so many ideas, most of them just terrible, that it was hard to settle on what I wanted to do about the theme "community". It seems a very abstract idea for trying to capture graphically. I tried to sort out in my own mind what makes a group of people a community. A kind of organization, for starters, whether it be formal or informal, and so I lined up my little faces in an organized grid. Then it seemed that organization isn't enough. The group becomes a community only when connections begin to be made. I was thinking about this 12 x 12 community and all the pictures we've posted of members meeting in real life, making those face to face connections, not to mention the comments and the encouragement. A connection here. A connection there.

The faces, which don't represent any real people, are individuals. You can click on this to see the faces more closely if you like—each is actually different from all the others. But taken as a whole, a community becomes an entity unto itself.

I had a lot of fun making the little faces. I drew them, then scanned them, then printed them on fabric. I painted them and stitched them to the background. I used several shades of thread to stitch them down to continue the subtly variegated look and planned to use several shades of floss for the connecting stitches. But when I was at the beach with my friends, my friend Gerrie (yes, our Gerrie) bought the last skein of a wonderful hand-dyed perle cotton that, it turned out, worked perfectly on my piece. I tried to ask politely if I could use a little of her beautiful floss, but I probably all but snatched it out of her hands! At any rate, she very kindly shared with me. Isn't that what community is all about?

Birds of a Feather

Well, I didn't come up with a concrete idea until very recently. Then I had family stuff for a week, so I devoted yesterday and today to getting this done. A community means that the members have something in common — where they live, a religion, shared genetics, hobbies, etc. So, I felt that birds hanging together was a great metaphor for community. then I couldn't decide whether I wanted city birds or country birds. You can see where I went - it is much easier to abstract the city architecture.

In doing my research, I found several Flickr groups devoted to birds on a wire - quite amazing. I used some of my geometric commercial fabric for the buildings. I had fun doing that, but now my studio is a mess.

Here is a detail:

I will spend some time looking at every one's work more closely tomorrow. They all look fantastic, and there are more to come!!

Brunswick Street

I apologise, everyone, that I am cutting and pasting this post from my blog because today I am sick and can hardly think straight enough to write anything fresh! When I am well again, I'll come back and visit your quilts and comment.

Remember how I managed to be a month early for my Twelve by Twelve challenge? I'm still amazed by that, but...


Here it is.

The theme was "Community" and even though it's a huge cliche to see a community as a tree, the more I thought about this theme the more meaningful that tree image became to me. We have moved quite often and the communities that I have been a part of that have meant the most to me and that I have enjoyed the most have been the ones where every individual is valued and appreciated for who they are. I love to be in communities where every leaf is different and there are a few nuts growing amongst them! In February I visited Melbourne and met up with some bloggers ( Hi Crafty! Hi Stomper!) for dinner in Brunswick Street. It must be one of the best places in the whole world! While we were sitting there talking I watched out of the window as people walked by - Harajuku-styled kids, an old guy on a bicycle who was a dead ringer for Robert Winston, tattooed chicks in leathers and, later, as we walked along the street, a middle-aged transsexual in a really bad blonde wig sat reading the paper.

My People

My People by Brenda Gael SmithOriginally conceived as a series of cut out paper doll stencils, my "people" took on a life of their own as hand painted stamps. Some defied definition and assumed certain imperfections. Others lost their grip and can be seen flailing and teetering despite being surrounded by people. A community can be like that.

District Six

I have a soft spot for all things South African and as soon as the theme was announced found a way to connect my quilt with Cape Town. District Six was a vibrant, multi-ethnic community which was cleared by forced removals during the apartheid era. Over 60,000 occupants were forced to move to the 'homelands' where there was little or no infrastructure or employment or else ended up in the desolate 'townships' in the Cape Flats. The area was destined for redevelopment but in fact was never built on again.

The District Six museum, is now a place of remembrance to a destroyed community. One worker, employed to bulldoze the houses and shops had the foresight to save the street signs which now hang in the museum over a giant map on the floor of the main hall.

I printed these out to use as the left and right 'bars' of the quilt. The top and bottom are my first attempt at stamping fabric using a Sherril Khan stamp from a fabric paint kit my husband bought me to play with. I suspect the letter stamping could be more distinct but we live and learn. I plead the excuse for having 2 weeks less than the rest of you due to my holidays!
I wanted to represent firstly the shame of the heart being ripped out of the comunity, hence the missing centre of the quilt. I made the bars seperately and sewed them togther by hand whipstitch ( badly as you can see - and the photo makes it look even worse!) Recently there have been attempts to start to rebuild the community with 24 houses first being built. On 11 February 2004, exactly 38 years after being rezoned by the government, Nelson Mandela ( my all time hero!) handed the keys to the first returning residents, Ebrahim Murat (87) and Dan Ndzabela (82).

I could not fit 24 houses on but these mobile like houses dangling in the space represent the 'drop in the ocean' start to fill in the gap left by apartheid. The houses are made by free motion embroidery on some stiff white stuff I was sold to make fabric postcards with ( but never did!) I have no idea what it is called! I do feel that my vision is far more advanced than my technical skills at the moment. If we ever have an exhibit I might remake this with what I hope will be increased ability by that stage. However for now, I am loving trying new things out with a purpose and being part of our own encouraging, supportive, accepting and playful community.

Fiber Art Community, By the Inch

Thanks to all your encouragement, I stuck with my inchie quilt. The other ideas just didn't come together. I created the background for the quilt with silver painted fabric and gold metallic thread for quilting in honor of the song "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold." The inchies I received from a swap at FiberArtBits last summer, with a couple Christmas inchies thrown it to fill out the grid. The artists that I exchanged with are Kate North, Gill Boughton, Gretchen L Van Nostvand, Gwyneth Green, Emily Randall, Steph Winn, Barb Hill, Priscilla Stultz, Ella More, Lorraine Strohkirch, and Diana Becka. I also added a few of my own inchies that I traded. The swirling, spiralling quilting lines are for the chaos of each of our lives, while the grid is the touch of structure that ties each of our lives together, our passion for fiber art. I am so grateful for the community of artists that I have meet on the Internet through Twelve by Twelve, blogging, and exchanges. The supportive environment has helped me to grow so much as an artist and gain confidence in my work.
I was really surprised at how hard this challenge has been. I was plagued by distractions and other obligations, along with inspiration that I just didn't have the skill to carry out. In so many ways, I think, this has been symbolic of my life operating in a community. My life becomes overburdened by the urgent within our family and the important tasks of reaching out in community are put on the back burner. At other times I have grand desires of working toward making a difference in the community, but don't have the knowledge and skills bring them to fruition. This challenge has been an eye opener for me to learn about myself.

Similar differences

Diane and I were on the same wave length with this one. I also wanted to do something abstract which is foreign to me. I wrestled with this for a long time and even now I'm not sure my message gets across. As with some of you who have posted so far, I wanted to show the positives and negatives of belonging to a community, the feeling of being in the right place, and the feeling of being left out, or on the fringe.
I started with a piece of fabric I had thermofaxed with a honeycomb pattern, then added the larger translucent fabric over that, and finally tried to tie it together and seperate it with the handstitching. I started this piece several times and became very frustrated with it several times, but I can tell you I really stretched myself on this and I appreciate the topic. I hope you are similairly stretched when I reveal the next challange.

All Together Now

I had a lot of difficulty settling on a concept for "community," but I knew I wanted to make it abstract. I tend to head in a literal interpretation most comfortably, and I want to push myself away from that familiar place.

This is called "All Together Now." To me, this illustrates various aspects of community (many of which have come up in our discussions as we've explored this theme). Unity. Difference. Messiness. Similarity. Cohesion. Jumble. Irregular. Fitting in and not fitting in. Circularity. Interlocking and overlapping and disconnected components.

You can see that my imagery includes different, irregular rectangle shapes, filled with different numbers and colors of different shapes (which sort of came to represent families to me.) The grid started looking kind of like a neighborhood to me, too.

To be honest, I struggled with trying to turn those shapes into something with a focal point, as opposed to just an expanse of pattern. The circles in the background were my effort to unify the rectangles, and I continued the colored circles with stitching so they'd show up a bit more. The circles made me think of the inter-connectedness of some aspects of community living.

I also made the edges of this very irregular. The quilt itself is an irregular shape -- I've just placed it on a red background to show up the shape, but the red background is not part of the quilt. It's SORT of 12x12 inches! But communities have messy, nonlinear edges (literally and figuratively).

Technique wise, I used my trusty tjanting tool (thank you, Gerry Chase!) and drew the rectangles with brown acrylic paint. I colored the other colors by painting with Tsukineko inks. The base fabric is a white PDF cotton.

To be honest, I'm not sure how successful this is. It's pleasing to me, but sort of jumbly. It's got a crazy, confusing, maybe overly busy aspect to it (to my eye) and maybe that suits the theme of community, too. All in all, exploring this concept and pushing myself to work in an abstract way was a good stretch for me.

Here's a detail shot:

Thanks, Kristin, for such an intriguing theme!

12 by 12 Community

Terri Stegmiller community themed quilt
Wow, what a challenging word/concept/idea to put into a quilt. Not a tangible item that readily conjures up an image in your mind the instant you hear or see the word.

Community. When I got to thinking about this word and what it means to me, I got to thinking about how we really belong to many communities all at the same time. You could say that everyone on planet earth is part of a community, everyone in your state/territory/region is part of a community and everyone in your town is part of a community. Then there are the micro-communities. Such as the social groups you belong to, the church you might attend, your school district, and more.

I decided to create my quilt about this teeny tiny community of 12 that is connected through the large and sometimes unpredictable community of cyberspace. Even though we are spread out across the globe, it's amazing how much we have shared and experienced together.

Kristin's Community

You'd think that since this theme was my idea, it would have been easy, but you'd be wrong. I did decide rather early on that I wanted to express my specific relationship to a community -- where we have lived for the past decade or more. I wanted to express the feeling of being in a community without actually belonging to it. I found this abstraction to an emotional state difficult.

I think I my solution ended up pretty pictorial, but I'm not sure that matters. I started by creating the actual community. In my case, this was photos of some of the houses and apartments in my neighborhood. I traced the pictures onto strips of hand dyed cotton shopping bags as these bags are my personal symbol for people. Everyone needs food; everyone carries their food in these bags; bags are available from nearly all the services a community needs to function; etc., etc. Then I wove the strips together since a community is all the people and services woven together by their common history and their interaction. It's not perfect though, hence the raw edges.

Now to express my exclusion. I'm afraid the best solution I came up with was a variation of the universal symbol for "don't" -- the line-through, or X literally slicing through the quilt. I didn't want the anger of a red X, so I chose basic black. I skewed it a bit as well and like that it can be read both as an X shaped barrier or as a window. Either way, I can see the community, but I don't really have full access to it.

Of course, I've confused things a bit by including our house in the community (over the rainbow, the one in the center with the criss-cross fence). Yes, we're there in the community, but there's still barriers (the latest being the day before yesterday when one of our mayoral candidates came door to door to introduce himself -- I recognized him from the posters around town and the local publication, but had to admit that I couldn't vote for him even if I wanted to because I'm only a guest in the country and have no voting rights here).

When I had finished this piece, I wasn't as wowed by it as I was by The Marquise de Coëtlogon, so a week later I tried another take on the subject. In the end I preferred this one.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Themes for Living

I've been living the Twelve by Twelve themes this weekend as some friends from my old neighbourhood came to visit. The dandelions were carefully picked by Eleanor(4); the chocolate buttons are from Belle Fleur; and the place mats were made by Eleanor and Alex (9):

Back to finishing off my community quilt tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing all the quilts on the 31st (US time)! And I wonder what our next theme will be - Karen?!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Virtual Community

Well, finally. I've been searching for an idea that excited me, and wanting to find a way to illustrate "community" in an abstract sort of way. I inevitably head straight for something literal, and this time I want to avoid that.

Anyway, my goal for our Easter getaway was to sketch and doodle and and ponder until an idea hit that made me want to rush to my fabric to play. And, after much lying around on the couch in front of the fireplace to do vigorous thinking, I landed on something I am eager to explore.

I got thinking about the online community, how through the magic of computers and the internet I have found communities of friends -- you all here, for example, other artists, quilters, the Artful Quilters blog ring, the photography friends I'm making on flickr, the political folks I enjoy at Momocrats, and more.

My abstract interpretation will be to play with squares -- simplified computer monitors and keyboards, perhaps connected with snakey lines of stitching? I'm not sure.

But now that I'm unpacked from our holiday and laundry is underway, I will be cutting and fusing and exploring.

And heck, there are DAYS to go before the deadline. Plenty of time.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Feel like I Cheated!

I created a quilt using inchies I from an exchange I did with Fiber Art Bits last summer. Each inchie represents someone in the online fiber art community. I really like how the quilt turned out and that all the inchies are so different. But since I didn't do all the work myself, I feel like I cheated. I am still exploring other ideas, but I have had a lot of false starts and rejected ideas. My drawing skills aren't up to the image in my head and my family hasn't given me more than a few minutes at a time to think. I've already told my husband that this weekend is MINE, so hopefully I'll have time before April 1st!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I've been thinking about the idea of community and what it means to me. The first thing that comes to mind is neighborhood. We live in a "master planned" subdivision that is designed to foster community. Every house is within walking distance of a small park or playground. We have big community events like an Easter Egg hunt, fire works display for Fourth of July and Tree Lighting Ceremony at Christmas. We have one elementary school where all the kids in the neighborhood attend.

We love lots of things about living here. There are also drawbacks. It's easy to feel isolated. It doesn't always feel very diverse. I fear that some people outside of the subdivision may have some negative stereotypical views about the kind of people who live here. Some of those stereotypes are probably deserved.

As all this was swirling around in my head, I considered using a map of our "community" as the basis for the design of my quilt. I found some great images online.I converted a pdf to a jpeg and then zoomed into a particularly interesting area and I divided it into four six inch squares. I printed them out, cut them out and taped them together to make a 12 inch square. Then I traced the main lines onto a sheet of WU release paper with some sharpies.
I like the curvy street lines and all the tiny boxes lined up next to each other which represent each lot. I was still really just playing with the design. I didn't like the large empty area on my drawing. That's the golf course in real life. I had no plan for constructing the quilt. I considered reverse applique, fusing (of course), painting, hand carved stamps.

I was not feeling motivated or inspired. I've since abandoned this whole map idea and moved onto other images. I guess it's all part of the process.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Finished too.

One of my quilts is finished.
Here's a little peek at it... I hope I'll be able to quilt the other one before the deadline. There's a small picture of it on my blog (just a detail shot too).
Have a nice Easter everyone.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Back into the Community

Hi, guys --

I feel like I've been hiding a rock for a bit, what with non-creative stuff taking priority over my time over the last few weeks. But, as always, I've enjoyed seeing what you all are doing.
And I have to confess: while you all have been designing and sketching and gathering supplies and yes, even FINISHING your "community" pieces, I've just stalled. I had some early ideas and did a few sketches -- thought I had a final concept even -- and it just doesn't thrill me. We're less than 2 week away from deadline and I have no idea where I'll go with this.
But I must say that I have enjoyed hearing about and seeing your processes, even while I haven't contributed to the conversation. Knowing what some of you are doing isn't what has stalled me. I think it's that I haven't landed on a concept that makes me want to dive in.
Anyway. Deadlines are a good thing, and often inspire me to push forward to something I'm quite happy about.
And besides, there has to be one dilly-dally-er in every community, right?!

Dandelion Inspired Fabrics

Work on my community-themed quilt has stalled due to being unexpectedly stranded in Sydney for nearly three days with car troubles. Fortunately, I was able to stay with friends who live within walking distance of the VW service centre. Actually David is a former boyfriend from 20 years ago and I'm grateful that his wife and family warmly embrace me as part of their community. They headed off to New Zealand for Easter but left me with food, broadband and a stack of magazines where I found some interesting dandelion inspired fabrics made by "sustainable design" business Bird Textiles (look under Fabrics: Seed Polka).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I finished my community quilt this morning. I'm pleased with the results and am glad I challenged myself to create it. Here's a little glimpse into how I created it.

Have you ever pictured yourself as a cartoon/comic book character? Well that's kind of the look we've got going. I'm sure you'll probably be able to figure out who is who because I followed our photos we posted here on the group, with one exception. Terry's photo was a total side view and I just can't do good side luckily I found another photo on her blog. Brenda and Francoise were a bit challenging as they were a little bit of a side shot, but I tried to conquer.

To start, I decided what size to make all of our faces. I cut out a template in that size and traced 12 squares on paper.

Then I sketched our faces.

Next I painted in the flesh tones.

And next I painted in the hair. This part may not be totally accurate but hey, I was looking at your picture on my monitor. I tried to get close.

That's all you get to see until the reveal.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Keeping in Step

I'm up to the quilting stage now. I thought I would try a practice run first with some of my "reject" people. In the spirit of openess, I share my practice piece with you now:
I've experimented with applying a diluted fabric paint wash to colour the background but I am not sure that I like the muddied effect as the wash bleeds into my stamped people. I also tried colouring the secondary hearts the show up in the space between the arms and legs but I think this detracts from the simple papercut imagery. Who knows what will happen next?!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's all about the parts

I've put together my "kit" of parts for my community quilt. Our small quilt group, 6 of us, are going to the beach tomorrow for our annual long weekend retreat and I am taking this to work on.

I am going to be interested, judging by what we have seen from one another so far, to see how many of these pieces will be houses and how many will be faces and then what else. Helen's looks like neither from her "teasers" but I could be surprised. Kristen has already noted that there is nothing new under the sun and we are on similar wavelengths it seems. I don't find this a concern in the least, because I know they will all be different and even if we are using similar imagery we are all thinking about it in different ways. Even though I am using faces, what I am really thinking about are connections. And how convenient that making quilted work is all about connection—thread to fabric, fabric to fabric, thread to thread, etc. etc. Now the trick will be to see if I can make these analogies make sense.

This has been a harder concept for me than the previous two. Those were so clearly pretty simple visual images that could be interpreted in different visual styles. Community is an idea, not an image, so we are having to choose visual images that will represent the ideas inherent in the larger idea of community. It seems to force a more abstract approach, like it or not. Actually I like it. It is pushing me to not be so literal.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

You're going to hate me but....

....yup, finished!! Mind you it's badly made and it is possible that I shall have a panic while I am in Bath over the Easter fortnight and make another one. Which will of course entail shopping for everything required.. :) The trip is the main reason it is finished already. The other is that I automatically cut two weeks ( or similar proportion ) off every deadline and work to the revised date and then try to make sure I am a little early - I think it comes from fear of failing to meet a dudlin.... see - the very thought is making me shake so I cinnot typ priperly....

Ahem. I have stuck with the District Six theme . Here are some teaster shots.

Me Too

We've had a flurry of posts this week. I find it so interesting to read everyone's thoughts. I still really like the idea of sharing our progress rather than waiting for the big reveal. But we haven't seen too much. Of course, I don't have anything to show. I'll admit I haven't even started.

Am I procrastinating? Am I uninspired? Am I interested in other projects at the moment? Do I work better closer to the deadline? Maybe.

When I first heard the theme, I thought of using some of the shapes and techniques that I really love. I've made tons of small pieces like this one.

It's about community in many ways. Communities are made up of a variety of colors, shapes and textures. People and ideas overlap each other and influence the way things appear.

I have to decide whether I want to do something new. Should I try a new technique? Will anyone think it's a cop-out if I just do the same kind of thing I've always done. I hope not. In fact, there is great value in doing the same thing. That's when you have a personal style. Right?

Here in another small house piece.

Honestly, I'm going to continue to let these ideas simmer. I've got a busy week and next week is spring break so I probably won't begin really working the cloth until the last week in March. Yikes. That will be very close to the deadline.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Influence and derivation

There's nothing new under the sun.

And yet, we're always looking for, and trying to protect, the unique. This latest 12 x 12 challenge definitely posed a challenge for me in the influence category.

I can see in much of my work the influence of artists I have studied with or who's work inspires me. It's akin to studying from the Masters in my mind. I sleep well at night though, confident that although my inspirations may be obvious, no one would ever mistake my work for that of my teachers'. (And I think/hope I do a good job of giving credit where credit is due.)

What about more subtle influences, and that Murphy's Law of coming up with a solution only to find that someone else found it the day before? For our community theme, I wanted to incorporate houses. My first thought was a close variation on my "Rooted" series, with a circle of houses tied together with ribbons at their sides and roots in the center. By the end of January, I was thinking of a community "woven" together -- either strips of fabric with the houses themselves, or the ground on which I'd later stitch the houses.

Like so may others, I have bought the book "Finding your Own Visual Language" in which one of the exercises is to take a simple shape and cut it up and alter it, playing with it's graphic nature. I will eventually do the exercises in this book, but for now considered using the house as my shape and the results as a stamp for my 12 x 12 piece. But then Brenda and Françoise shared their stamped experiments and I thought, "Oh no, now I'll look like I'm copying if I do this too." A few days later, I decided that I liked the detail I could achieve by tracing house photos onto my cloth, and that this was as good a solution, if not better (for my work) as stamping.

But then Jude posted her fabric weaving. It's no secret that I hang out at Jude's blog and drool over the sumptuousness and whimsy of her work. But really, I have sketches of woven cloth in my diary, drawn a full month before Jude's What If. Of course, I admired her woven Treehouse quilt over a year ago, so the influence probably is her's, just on a more subconscious level. So now what? Do I scrap the woven idea?

I've decided not to, since my concept of a community IS a group woven together by common interest, geography, experience, language, etc...

In the end, I have houses, I have woven cloth, and I have messy edges. Am I copying Françoise, Jude, and Nikki? I see it rather as an amalgamation of influences that may or may not be from these inspirational women (and the books I own, and the classes I've taken, and, and.). To me it feels filtered through my experiences, vision, and hands. There is so much out there everywhere to be seen and experienced that it is impossible NOT to be influenced. Call me out if I'm wrong.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

My Progress...

.... is mostly in my head! I have gone with the District Six idea and have decided to focus on the way the heart was ripped out of the community and is now slowly and inadequately being replaced with a few houses being built. I am planning to have a kind of frame quilt - no, now clear idea how I will do that! - with these little houses

hanging in the gap like mobiles. They are made by basically scribbling with varigated thread on some stuff I bought to make fabric postcards but never used. I don't even remember what it is called but it proves the benefit of having stuff in your stash!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Little People

I was dissatisfied with my accuracy in cutting out small stencils from freezer paper. Instead, I decided to embrace the wobbliness and try stamping with a foam sponge cutout instead. I've been building communities of small people with varying results. I've posted other pictures on my blog.


I've been making progress on my quilt for the community theme. If you recall, I'm painting each of our faces on fabric for my piece. I need to know everyone's eye color. I'm not going to guarantee that I'll get it exactly right, but I'd like it to be in the right color family.

A small step

I've been thinking a little more about my small neighbourhood community. Trying to symbolize the fading links between its different members, I thought of drawing a kind of spiral within the house shape, a spiral centering on itself. (I drew it going inwards.)
I then carved a printing block, and played a bit with paper, fabric and paint. My quilt is slowly taking shape in my head, at last...
I wonder what you guys are doing now. Are you thinking and working hard on your 12x12 quilts? I'm very curious...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Labels on our Quilts

Have any of you been putting quilt labels on the backs of your quilts? I'm thinking of doing this for each of my 12x12 quilts and am wondering what kind of information you are including. I had thought of putting something on the label about it being for the 12x12 challenge, and of course I'd add the date and my name. Just wondering how any of you were doing this.