Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ariadne's Thread, Finished

I finally finished my Myth submission. The first thing I did was to machine quilt a small meander between the couched lines of silk yarn. That made the yarn stand out a bit more, but still not enough contrast for my liking. As I worked on this piece, I really liked the bits of gold thread that were spun into the yarn, so I played up on that by brushing the center of the piece with gold paint and a little shimmery powder to make it glow. I hope that it is enough to give what had been reading as a rather flat, monotonous, surface some focus. I bound the quilt in the standard fashion, as it seemed to need a wall of some sort to contain it. So, better late than never, my Myth quilt. Now to contemplate Maverick, which has me leaning towards cattle...

Friday, July 27, 2012

More Photos from Long Beach

It took most of the day, but we finally got the 3 twelves with Del for a photo in front of our exhibit. We look quite happy and with good reason. Our exhibit was one of the most popular at the show, once again.

We drove out to the harbor and met Del's friends, Sherry and Jim, who took us on a lovely boat ride in the harbor on their Duffy boat. Here is the boat. It was a very comfy ride and was very quiet as it is electric. 
This is the view over the bow of the Duffy boat.
After cruising the harbor and the canals of Naples, we stopped at the Yacht Club for dinner. Del's birthday is Sept 1, but since she is always out of town, Sherry and Jim had a cake to celebrate tonight. I love this photo of her and it is much more Del than the photo I posted last night. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Del Meets the Twelve by 12 Quilts

Tonight I attended the preview night for IQF Long Beach and got to see our wonderful array of quilts again. It still knocks my socks off. I found Del Thomas, our angel, at the Visions Gallery table. I was so excited to see her and the quilts together. She had taken a quick look at our quilts and will spend more time with them tomorrow as she was on duty for Visions all night.

Here is a long shot (sort of) of the show. The quilts are in one long row with a divider between the theme set and the color set.

I missed having other twelves with me. I hung out when I saw a group gathering. I got the wonderful comments - like best thing at the show. Several had purchased our book and were excited to see them.

I am looking forward to seeing Terry and Karen tomorrow. I hope to get a photo of us with Del.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Two happy Twelves in Brussels

Deborah and I, smiling ang laughing this morning in Brussels! (Excuse the closed eyes... it's been hot and sunny these days in Belgium.)

It was so great to be able to meet Deborah and her family. We leisurely walked, had some coffee, pancakes and waffles, and talked, talked, talked, of course.

And here's the Twelve by Twelve meeting matrix, already updated by Brenda!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

See Our Quilts at Long Beach 26-29 July!

With generous sponsorship from the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection, we are thrilled to present both the Theme Series and the Colorplay Series, a total of 288 quilts!, on exhibition this week at the International Quilt Festival, Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center 26-29 July 2012.  Opening hours are:
  • Thursday, 26 July: 5-9 p.m. (Preview Night)
  • Friday & Saturday 27 & 28 July: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Sunday July 29: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Karen, Gerrie and Terry will be attending the festival.  Be sure to say hello if you see them.

In addition, several of the Twelves have work on display in other special exhibits. Rituals features works by Deborah, Gerrie, Terry, Diane and Karen. (The Rituals catalogue is available on Blurb.)
And Brenda's quilt Pohutukawa Taonga is part of  Lisa Walton's Jewel Pearce Paterson Scholarship Textured Treasures exhibition:
 Pohutukawa Taonga © 2011 Brenda Gael Smith

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mythology Website Update

Although a couple of us are still putting the finishing touches on our pieces, the main website has been updated to display our latest 2012 Mythology works. It is really interesting to see how the 2012 Artist Gallery pages are developing. It's no surprise to see the common colours and motifs in Helen's 2012 series but there's a cohesiveness in other collections too such as Terry's line up:
Please e-mail Brenda if you discover any broken links or other glitches.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Against the Grain

Diane posted this fun video on her blog. It seemed to fit the Maverick theme.

Hudson - Against The Grain from Dropbear on Vimeo.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Continuing with the M theme...

As one of just five Twelves whose name was drawn to select a 2012 theme, I found coming up with a suitably engaging theme word something of a challenge in itself.

Ever helpful, my husband kept suggesting I go with US aircraft carriers but I thought that Deborah (with a naval pilot husband) might have an unfair advantage.

When a certain M theme emerged with the first three challenges, I thought it would be fun to continue in this vein (although I was free to choose any word(s) I liked). And so I mulled over the M section of the dictionary and landed upon...maverick.

Whether you focus on a person, or an event, a moment in time or some other tack, I hope this theme raises lots of possibilities (once you get over the initial panic?).

Mythology Mosaic

Here are all our mythology pieces, completed or otherwise, grouped together:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Catching the Sun

For weeks I knew EXACTLY what I was going to do for my Mythology piece. I was inspired by the rainbow serpent of aboriginal mythology and had all my fabrics and concept design mapped out. However, when it came time to actually make my quilt, I ended up returning to my New Zealand roots.

The desire for more hours in the day, it seems, is not a peculiarly 21st century phenomena. Maui, the hero of Maori/Polynesian mythology, was asked by his mother to slow down the sun so more work could be done in the light. Maui and his brothers made a flax net to snare the sun. They dragged the sun into a pit and Maui clubbed the sun into submission with the magic jawbone from his ancestress.

My work shows the stage of the netting of the sun. I have cross-stitched the yellow section in hand-dyed variegated threads (some I dyed myself but there's also thread from Dyed and Gone to Heaven). The stitching is quite, ahem, "organic" but it does add visual interest and nets rarely stretch evenly (that's my story anyway).

I had good intentions of finishing off the hand stitching while away on a teaching assignment but that didn't happen and I have returned home to recuperate. I'll post an updated photo when I finish the stitching, and decide which orientation I prefer.

Ariadne's Thread

When I think of Myths, my thoughts immediately go to the Greeks (and Roman variants). Textiles are even featured large in two stories. Arachne was a weaver who wove stories of the loves and transgressions of the gods. Not surprisingly, the content of these texted angered jealous Athena who slashed Arachne's face and turned her into a spider.

I had an idea I really liked combining warp threads and crazy pieced lingerie fabrics. I was packing up our house though and preparing to drive across country for a month, so that concept was not terribly practical.

Instead, I focused on Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, who gave a ball of thread to Theseus so that he may find his way out of the Labyrinth after killing the Minotaur.

I chose a Greek Key pattern for it's obvious connection to Greek Myths and couched down silk yarn because I could do it by hand on the road. My background fabric reminded me of a rocky, mussel and seaweed covered, seaside as I imagine might have been near Minos' palace.

And this is where my piece stands. I still need to machine stitch in the negative areas for some contrast, and back and bind the piece. It might even need a bit of gold accents to pick up some of the gold threads in the silk yarn. But, I'm knee deep in unpacking now, and just didn't get to it.


The mythology theme has really been a challenge for me.  While it spurred me to read a lot of different myths from a lot of different cultures, I wasn't finding any one myth that felt like the right inspiration.

Meanwhile, as a wholly separate task one day, I pulled out some work in progress that I've been storing in my closet, pieces that had stalled for one reason or another.  One of them, the core of the piece you see above, is something I was working on a year ago.  I'd started with a piece of hand-painted fabric, the multi-colored piece with doodly black lines.  I liked the effect of the city-like aerial view, which caused me to silk-screen birds over the top ("Of course! Put a bird on it!") But something about it wasn't working.  Despite my playing with different cropping options (which you can read about here) it just didn't feel right to me.  So, into the closet it went to marinate a bit.

When I pulled it out that day, the birds made me think of the myths I'd read about crows and ravens.  And one of the common traits attributed to crows in various cultures' myths is that of shape-shifting.  Some Native American tribes believed that Crow was the keeper of the sacred law and could shape-shift.  He was seen as an omen of transformation.  Crow can move through space and time, they believed, and has the ability to move in the past, present and future at the same time.

One source I read about "Crow medicine" said that when you meet Crow, he could be telling you that there will be changes in your life, and that you must be prepared to let go of your old thinking and embrace a new way of viewing yourself and the world.

Suddenly, this piece resonated with me on a number of different levels.  I'm going through a period in my life where the lessons I am faced with are all about transformation.  I started playing around with cropping my unfinished piece to 20x12, and suddenly, it felt just right. And that's shape-shifting of another, literal kind, isn't it?

It got me thinking about how we as artists and quilters may start with an idea or image in our heads, and sometimes we carry the "myth" that things have to take a certain progression, that we need to push things to where we think they are supposed to go.  Maybe it's the expectation or myth of a tidy beginning, middle and end.  I'd love to think that as an artist, I can envision what I want to make, jump into the process, and end up with a piece that is just what I pictured.  But it doesn't happen that way to me -- in my art process or, really, in my life in general.  So as I adapted this piece for the Mythology challenge, for me my piece is about embracing transformation, being open to things changing in new and unexpected ways.

Nike's Wing

I have always been attracted to Nike--the greek goddess, not the shoes.  My name is derived from her's and who wouldn't like the idea of victory.  I have always held that promise of victory in my heart and known through all the struggles that victory is at the end.

This quilt came together surprisingly quickly.  I'm especially grateful of that fact given all the end of school and early summer activities happening these last few months.  I found an image of Nike with her wings folded back and down on an ancient vase.  From there I made a sketch and zoomed in on the wing.  I cut the various pieces out of fabric paper I already had made and sewed them down to a quilted, painted background that I've had in my stash for years.  I then added a wash of gold paint around the wing because a goddess has to glow.  I'm now ready to fly with her wings and claim victory.

Achilles' Heel

I guess it's no surprise I decided on a body part for this challenge, and Achilles' Heel sort of "jumped out"  :) at me.   Greek mythology tells the tale that Thetis was foretold while Achilles was a baby,
he would someday die in battle. To prevent this, Thetis dipped him in the River Styx which was supposed to make him invincible.  Thetis, unfortunately, did not notice the water hadn't washed over the heel she was holding, and later, in battle, the great warrior Achilles was shot in the heel with a poison arrow and died.

To make this piece, I wanted to try a using sheers in layers.  I was only moderately successful at this because I ended up with two layers instead of the three I had wanted.  They are stitched loosely at the top with about an inch of batting in between so the piece kind of moves.

I started with some MRI images of the heel which showed to progression of tendons and bones from one side to the other. The under layer is a piece of black organza. I traced the image I wanted with wax, then used Decolorant to get rid of most of the black.  This turned out great, very mottled looking.

For the top, I used white organza and hand stitched another image of the heel in red thread.  Then I applied some gold foiling, avoiding the heel.  Photographing this not easy with all the gold and sheers, so I can say with all honesty, it looks better in person.


After briefly exploring several different ideas for inspiration in the Mythology theme, I finally decided to use the labyrinth as the focus of my quilt. As I was working on this piece, the image became incredibly symbolic for me and I'm so glad I followed that path for design.

The labyrinth is originally from Greek mythology. It was an elaborate structure designed and built by Daedalus. Its function was to hold the Minotaur. Eventually Theseus killed the Minotaur in the labyrinth, but then he was stuck in the winding structure. He emerged when Ariadne provided him with a line of thread so he could find his way out again.

A line of thread!

Some people think of the labyrinth as a maze, but they are really quite different. A maze has dead ends and confusing paths. A labyrinth has many twists and turns, but follows one continuous path to the center and back out again.

As my family and I prepare to make our tenth move of the past twenty years, I feel my life is full of tiresome, winding pathways. My husband's job in the US Navy means we move quite regularly. The latest move will be just a couple of miles down the road since we have be unable to extend our current rental lease. (Grumble!) But, it still means packing tons of stuff, readjusting to a new location, changing addresses and utilities and meeting new neighbors.

Sometimes I feel as if I'm just moving in circles and it's dizzying in its chaos and monotony and hassle. But, it's also just fine. It's our life. Though I may be uprooted, I don't ever feel lost. I always know we are continuing together on the path.

In a funny way, it's both predictable and unpredictable. The experience is repetitive and I can sometimes glimpse comfortable pauses along the way. It's a bit like the labyrinth design with its concentric rings and symmetrical turns. Over the next month, it might feel frustrating and tiresome, as when one path seems to be almost to the center, but then switches back the other direction.

Isn't that floral fabric fun? I was unsure of such a busy print, but I really liked the color palette. I'll try to focus on the fresh, light hearted style as I'm buried in moving boxes.

Persephone and Pomegranates

I knew early on that I wanted to do a myth involving plants or seeds and earth. I did some research and settled on pomegranates. Pomegranates are part of many myths and are used in a lot of religious stories and imagery.  

I was most taken, however, by the Greek myth of Persephone, the beautiful daughter of Demeter and Zeus. With Zeus's permission, she was abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld. She was not able to leave the underworld. Her mother, searched far and wide for her and withheld her blessings on the earth until she would be returned. There were droughts and the earth became barren. Zeus sent Hermes to bring her back. Hades gave her a pomegranate, and she ate some of the seeds which meant that she could not leave the underworld permanently. She would return 3 months out of the year, which is now our winter. The other months she would be with her mother and life would once again flourish. I have probably taken a few liberties with the story.

Even though I liked this story, I am not very adept at doing human forms in my work. As a rule, I don't like the human body in quilt art!! So I decided just to do a generic pomegranate tree, which I finished a while ago. I used batik fabrics and did all the quilting with black thread. A few days ago, I got an idea of how I might add Persephone. I drew a simple figure and printed it on silk organza. I then fused it to the quilt and stitched it down. I am very happy with the effect. Here are a couple of details:

Pachamama, the Earth Mother

From earliest times different cultures have revered a mother figure as representing the spirit of the earth, creativity, fertility and earth itself. Several years ago on a visit to Mexico City I visited the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe and learned that Guadalupe, a vision of the Virgin Mary, was perceived by the indigenous people of Mexico to be the embodiment of the Aztec Earth Mother, Coatlaxopeuh. This gave her acceptance among the population and made possible the acceptance of Catholicism in Mexico. The earth mother figure of the Andean cultures of South America is Pachamama. During the Spanish occupation of South America and the resulting forced conversion to Catholicism, the Virgin Mary was similarly accepted as a representation of the Pachamam by the indigneous people.

In researching Earth Mother figures I found that many times the Earth mother is depicted as young and  vital. In my mind I see the Earth Mother as ancient, wise, patient and benevolent, gently cradling the earth in her strong hands.

When I started thinking about this piece I pictured something more colorful and joyful, with a lot of flowers and greenery around a smiling mother figure. As it developed it seemed to want to be more somber. She has concerns for her children, I suppose.

Modern Day Medusa

Modern Day Medusa
20" x 12"
Medusa is from Greek mythology. It seems there are different versions of Medusa's story throughout history. At one point she is a monstrous and ugly being and during another time she is depicted as beautiful.  But most stories seem to agree that if anyone dared to gaze directly at Medusa, they would turn into stone. And for this reason, her image is often seen as a gate or door decoration as a symbol of being guarded by her.

It is said she was raped by Poseidon and became pregnant. When Athena found out about the rape and pregnancy, she turned Medusa's beautiful hair into snake-like serpents. Medusa was beheaded by Perseus while pregnant and as she died, Pegasus (the winged horse) was born from her.

My quilt is machine-pieced neutral fabrics that are then thread sketched and painted with Caran d' Ache Neocolor II Crayons.


I decided to make another quilt inspired by my travels to Kyoto. I first focused on Shinto, which is the old religion of Japan and is very rich in legends and myths.
Inari is an important kami. She's the goddess of rice, agriculture, business and probably other things too. Fushimi Inari is one of the main shrines where she's worshipped. It is located South of Kyoto.
The torii, the famous red gates of Shinto shrines, were one on the symbols I wanted to use in my quilt. I printed them with a homemade stencil.
The foxes, kitsune in Japanese, are Inari's messengers. I used a thermal screen and a homemade stencil to print them on my fabrics.
The multicoloured vertical lines were inspired by the origami cranes that are found in shrines and temples everywhere in Japan.
Of course, I had to dye indigo fabric for the background.
Here are two close-ups of my quilt...And a mosaic of my inspiration photos...

Flying to Close to the Sun

At first my plan was to illustrate one of the many wonderful Maori legends that I grew up hearing. Brenda mentioned Maui in a post a while back and I remembered a painting that I did as an 11 year old of Maui harnessing the Sun. In the time of Maui, the Sun moved so quickly through the sky that the people didn't even have time to finish their work before night was upon then. Maui, the Quintessential Peoples' Hero, harnessed the Sun with ropes and dragged on them to slow the day. I always liked my painting and remember well how I wanted it to look, although my skills at the time didn't allow me to attain my goal. But when I thought longer, I realised that it needed to stay as it was and the time was not yet right for revisiting it. So I kept thinking.

 After considering many obscure myths and enigmatic characters, I stayed with the sun and constantly was drawn to Icarus. Poor Icarus, who dared to dream of flight and flew so close to the sun that his (rather foolish) wax wings melted and plunged him to his death. I always felt it unfair that his ambition and hope met with such doom (maybe the lesson is that preparation is an essential aspect of ambition?! hmmm....I've clearly not learned that lesson!). I rather hopefully believe in points for effort...

The background for this quilt is paper-pieced on isometric graph paper. Fabric for the wings is painted with acrylic paint. The applique is fused, raw-edge stitched and then buttons sewn on top. I didn't have fun making it and it rather shows. Maybe my quilt experience parallels the subject!

Urban myth


It was an easy step to make to go from my last 20/12 quilt, 'Vilakazi Street', straight to urban mythology. My first step was to google South Africa Urban Myths and very quickly I found a list of myths about AIDS. One of those is that having sex with a virgin is a cure. Obviously acting on that belief has very negative connotaions for any uninfected adult involved. However, as I read further I found many links leading to the same story, a story which outraged me, which moved me and which galvanised me to make art about it at once. It says a lot about the fact I have done child protection work for many years that it did not suprise me.

I am conscious that others reading this blog may be less battle hardened though, so I have decided to walk a middle ground with this post. The link to the extra information that spurred me to make this quilt is here.

If you are here for pretty art and don't want to know more that's fine. The explanation that follows still makes sense. But, I make no apology for saying what I have said so far. I hope you will read the link, because this quilt was made not to shock for effect but to express my strong feelings that unless the world knows about the dangerous urban myths and debunks them, nothing will change.

In thinking how to visually portray the urban myths I got to thinking about how we cling to perceived truths to protect us even when there is no scientific evidence behind that belief. I have used the African amulet to symbolise the myths, referencing the tradition of placing a piece of writing from a holy book inside a pouch on a hunting shirt to give magical powers of protection. This amulet contains a list of urban myths about how to cure AIDS, wrapped in a piece of kuba cloth and bark cloth with additional wax print to represent the spread of AIDS all over the continent. ( On a momentary light note I nominate myself for the Most Odd Use of Prairie Point Prize). The Cowrie shells are an African symbol of life and regeneration. The amulet is hanging over a grid of streets and city blocks. The background is, like my other 20/12 quilts stamped and scraped with screen inks.

Underneath, I have literally taken the virgin cure myth, writ it large and ripped it to shreds.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More research

I am currently teaching at Quilt Encounter in South Australia. On our free day, a group of tutors visited the Art Gallery of South Australia. The gallery has a great book shop. Is it too late to do some more research?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Twelve by Twelve Special Exhibit @ IQF Long Beach (26-29 July)

With generous sponsorship from the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection, we are thrilled to present both the Theme Series and the Colorplay Series, a total of 288 quilts!, on exhibition at the International Quilt Festival, Long Beach 26-29 July 2012. 

Myths in Manchester

Last week I went to see the We Face Forward exhibition of Contemporary African Art in the Whitworth Museum in Manchester. The first part however was a selection from their collection of tradtional textile pieces. I has already determined that my piece for the Mythology challenge involved the mythological beleif in the power of amulets so it was good to see an amulet covered hunters shirt which I had until then only seen in photos.

But the piece that amused me most was Aso Ikele (1948) by Victoria Udondian.

It is accompanied by a leaflet about its history. Which is complete baloney a carefully crafted myth about the origin of this supposedly historical African piece The artists bio says,

"Combining materials and narratives from Lagos and Manchester, Udondian weaves myths and histories into her own textiles, creating her own hybrids and questioning how stories become histories'.