Saturday, October 20, 2012

Australasian Quilt Convention 2013 Program

Can you spot the four Colourplay quilts featured on the cover of the program for the 2013 Australasian Quilt Convention?!** You can view these four pieces, along with the other 140 art quilts in the Colourplay series, in the cloth in Melbourne from 18-21 April 2013 before the collection tours onto Townsville, Queensland 29 April -31 May.

The AQC 2013 class timetable and full descriptions of the classes can now be viewed on the Australasian Quilt Convention website. Alternatively, you can download the 2013 Australasian Quilt Convention Program as a PDF.

In addition to accompanying the Twelve by Twelve Colourplay Exhibition and presenting a daily floor talk, Brenda will be teaching two classes - the Modern X and Squared Fun: Fun Squared.

Bookings for the 2013 Australasian Quilt Convention go live at 10am, 5 November (Sydney time).

** Left to Right:  Drought by Helen;  the Pointy End by Kirsten; Bouquet by Terri and  Lollipop Forest by Nikki.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nice & Sweet!

Seeing all the yummy food photos from Belgium on Deborah's blog reminded me of an outdoor market in Nice (southern France) that had these marzipan confections on display. There's something very compelling about the patterns created by the repetition of small, bright shapes...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sweet Time in Townsville

Kirsty and I have had a great time catching up while I am in Townsville for the Craft & Sewing Show. We didn't get a photo together but we did eat delicious ice cream at Juliette's - twice.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Epic Maverick Fail

     Now that all of the Maverick quilts have been revealed, I thought I'd share with you the utter disaster that was my first response to the theme.  Maybe this is a good example of an interesting idea gone sadly awry.  Or of how doing more can make something bad even worse.  Or ... well, you can tell me what this is an example of.  I'm not sure.  In any event, since I'm sure none of you reading this has ever had this sort of thing happen in your work, I will use my disaster for its instructive purposes before I wad it up and throw it away.

  My original idea was that homeschooling is a maverick approach to education.  As a home-schooling mom (and one who never intended to homeschool and ended up doing it as a necessary evolution due to circumstances), I realize this all of the time.  We are way, way off of the beaten path in terms of schooling.  So how to illustrate it?

   I started with the shape of a school desk, and I drew one and then carved a stamp of it.  My thought was to have lightly stamped images on the background fabric for texture and the suggestion of an empty classroom -- the students have left!  Clever, eh?  Well, see this stamp?  It was the best part, as it turned out.  I warn you now: it's all down hill from here.

    I stamped it all over fabric.  (No picture, sorry.)  Then I thought I'd do a collage of the things that Miss C and I have been doing in our homeschooling lately.  I figured that even if they were only meaningful to me, I could at least make them look interesting and cohesive through composition and color.  (Turns out I was wrong.)

    So a big red A, because we just finished studying The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. (By the way, notice how the stamp looked on fabric ... too dark, but heck, it was identifiable as a desk.)

   Then, because our study of the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette was made most memorable when we watched the Sofia Coppola movie "Marie Antoinette," I included a Marie Antoinette style shoe. (There's a great scene in the movie, which beautifully portrays the ridiculous luxury with which the teenaged Marie Antoinette lived, where she and her friends are trying on beribboned, pastel shoes.)

  And then, because Caroline has been working on anatomy, I sewed a tulle overlay skeleton, which I then highlighted with colored pencil.  Ahem.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

   At that point, I had a very odd jumble of items (the A, the shoe, the skeleton).  How to make them look school-ish or show learning?  I figured science-projecty labels might help.  So I printed them out on organza and fused those on.  Because, you know, adding writing and sheers and more little bits can't hurt, right? And I needed to balance the red items on the left side, so I added a red apple to the skeleton's hand on the right. Apple.  Teacher.  You get it.

  It still read as a confused mess to me.  (I'll digress here to add that I had the vague sense that there were big problems with color, and scale, and contrast.  But I pushed forward.  When all else fails, keep going.)   I know, I thought, I'll overlay a sheer house shape to show that this is learning AT HOME.  And then I'll tie all of the elements together by having ivy (get it? Ivy?  Ivy league?  Education?) flow out of the house chimney and twine around the various elements.  Maybe that will pull it all together, she thought hopefully (or in full-out denial.)

  I cut a big house shape out of a green piece of organza and fused it down.  And stuck it up on my wall, and here is what I had:

  Oh dear.

  And if you thought I'd wise up and throw in the towel at that point, you'd be wrong!  No! Because when all else fails, do MORE!  Ever confident in the power of my beloved Neocolor crayons, I figured that the problem (yes, still in denial) was that you couldn't see the house shape.  So I figured I'd define it by making it darker.

   There.  That's better.  NOT.  The only thing that became clearer is what a disaster this was.  And that, my friends, was the point at which I abandoned it.  Thank goodness, you say?  Yep, that's just how I felt too.

   Maybe that makes you understand why, when I started Maverick #2, that I went in the opposite direction to pale and simple.  Phew, it's a relief, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

2013 Colourplay Exhibitions Down Under

Mark your diaries! The Colourplay Series will travel down under in 2013 and will be on display at:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


There's just been way too many M's in our life lately! Sorry fellow Twelves, I just had to Shake thingS up!

And after all, you can't have M&M without an S.

So our theme this round starts with an S.  SWEET

The word sweet can be used as an adjective, adverb and noun.  There are many definition entries (too many to copy) so I'll lead you to a dictionary definition.  Follow this link.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Maverick Mosaic and Website Update

The Twelve by Twelve website has been updated to showcase the Maverick challenge quilts. Although some found the theme tricky, the collection is fun and thought-provoking. And it looks like a maverick circle has rolled off Brenda's quilt and landed on Nikki's
The 2012 Artist Gallery pages have been updated too. Here is how Diane's 2012 series is shaping up:
Please e-mail Brenda if you come across any typos, broken links or other glitches.

Art with Needle and Thread


     This was definitely a challenging challenge!  When I first started thinking about "maverick" (and got past the James Garner/Mel Gibson image of a gambler in a black cowboy hat) I found myself thinking about mavericks in the art world.  There are plenty of examples we could all name, I'm sure.  But my pondering led me to think about the place that art quilting has in the traditional art world -- and it seems to me that it is not a comfortable one.  We've all read the discussions about whether galleries should hang fiber art, what IS fiber art, what IS quilt art, can a piece of quilt art be treated as a painting, etc.  It's an ongoing discussion where ever people are talking about art quilting.

   So my response to "maverick" comes down to this: a very simple representation (drawn, not made of fabric) of traditional art tools (ink pens, pencil, paint brushes, palette knife) with a needle and spools of thread included -- because while "traditional" artists might not see spools of thread as art media, we do.  They are among our most important art tools.  

  Along the way, I also thought about this: isn't there something "maverick" in responding to a quilting challenge with imagery that isn't sewn, but is drawn with pen and pencil?  (Which led me to contemplate whether one can intentionally be a maverick, or whether it comes from doing one's own thing regardless of what anyone else is doing.)  Ah.  The Philosophy of the Maverick.

   I have to confess that after I had this idea and was mulling it around in my mind, I had another idea about homeschoolers being education mavericks.  I went off with great excitement and made what is surely my worst, most disastrous piece ever.  (I kept hearing Tim Gunn's voice in my head saying sternly, Edit! Edit! and then hearing Michael Kors say "That is a HOT MESS."  It was.)  I'll probably post about it later in the week.  But trust me, it was an absolutely Epic Fail.

  And that brought my back to my first, and simplest idea.  I wanted it to be drawn in sketchbook style (because really, that's pretty much all I can do anyway) and have a sense of lightness to it.  So I drew  on plain muslin and used inktense colored pencils for color.  After the big fussy complicated mess I'd worked on for a few weeks, it was a relief to do something so... plain.  

  I've finished it with a simple facing. It makes me happy to look at it and know that those little spools of thread hanging out with the "real art" supplies are subversive and "maverick" in their own quiet way.

Shibori to ori

This was not an easy theme. "Maverick" didn't speak a lot to me! I decided to forget "maverick" for a while and to think "different" instead. Much easier!
Some time ago, I started to teach myself to weave. It's always been a kid's dream for me. And now my new quest has become to somehow incorporate weaving into my art and to do something DIFFERENT from what I've been doing for the last few years. I really don't know yet where this will lead to, but in the meantime, I thought I would simply add a little woven piece to my quilt.
My Maverick quilt had to follow my self-imposed Japanese theme and fit in with the first three quilts of the 20x12 series. I thus used a shibori piece of fabric I had dyed when I was working on my "Mythology" quilt. This dyed piece in itself is a bit of a Maverick as it came out really different from my other shibori pieces, with very definite marks, strong contrast and lots of personality.
The small weawing was done with a paper yarn purchased in Kyoto last spring. At first, I only attached it to the quilt with some hand stitches, but it kept moving as it is rather loosely woven.
Thus, I added some machine stitching using the same variegated thread as for the quilting of the solid blue part of the quilt.
I also used this thread to quilt one square of the shibori fabric, to add a little layer of Maverick to my piece...
Two other squares are quilted in dark blue. I might quilt the rest of the shibori piece in the same way (i.e. blue), but I'm not sure yet it really needs it.
The title means "Shibori and weaving". Thank you to my dear Japanese friend for suggesting it!

caution to the wind

I have a soft spot for the mavericks of the world. More than a soft spot, actually - I admire them and love them for the joy that they bring to my life. Rule-breakers make our world an ever-changing place. They are the ones who inspire us to be better and kinder human beings by embracing racial and gender equality; the ones who say "What if...?" and invent popping candy and silly putty and iPhones; the ones who terrify and enthuse, startle and bless. God love them.

 Many times over my forty three years of sewing I have thought of the women who, a hundred, two hundred, three hundred years ago, were the mavericks of their generation. How constrained were they by the sewing conventions of their times? How constrained are WE? I take so much delight in imagining the "naughty" ones at the quilting bees who stitched a little rebellion into their quilts. I must admit to not enjoying a single second of making this quilt. I'm not sure why - maybe I am kind of done with challenging quilt making and am wanting to return to simpler sewing? Maybe it's just that we have changed direction again personally and are now doing a 1200km round trip weekly for work. Who knows but time?

Anyway, now that it is done, it has surprised me by appealing to me aesthetically so much more than I expected it to. It's a simple and quiet(ish) commentary on rule-breaking maverick quilters through the last hundred or so years.I have been making quilts long enough to have heard more than a few people refer to machine-stitched quilts as "not real quilts".Others have loudly declared that using fusibles is "cheating". The much-admired (maybe 'adored' is not too strong a word!)and heavily influential quilts by the quilt makers of Gee's Bend would, at one time, not have been as well-regarded. It used to be, not all that long ago, that competitions and exhibitions defined a quilt as "three layers" and required that they be bound. That's no longer necessarily the case. What kind of rule-breaking does one have to do to be a quilting maverick these days, I wonder? The bottom row of this quilt is made of paper and cloth. My apologies for the fairly dodgy photos. My beloved phone has its limitations.


Using the Google It mode of design I wrote about earlier I quickly found that Mavericks was a 'Revue Bar' or 'Gentleman's Club' in Cape Town. Or, as  High Court Judge Desai put it, "In less polite language, Mavericks appears to be a 'strip club'".

I am sure you all know me well enough by know to recognise that it was the High Court Judge bit of that introductory information that got me intrigued. At the time of writing Mavericks is embroiled in a hotly defended legal battle relating in the first instance to the  withdrawal of their corporate permits to  employ a total of 200 foreign workers as 'exotic dancers'. Permits were taken away for alledged lack of compliance with the Immigration Regulations and the conditions of the authorisation certifcate.

There was a hearing in the High Court of South African ( Western Cape High Court) on 3rd February 2012 when the club sought an interim restoration of its certifcate pending the fuller hearing of the issue. Not only did they fail, they got themselves into rather hotter water still once Judge Desai looked into the 'employment conditions' of the dancers.

In his judgment  he refers to them having "a flimsy one sided contract. They are guaranteed nothing. they have to share a room for which they pay rent on a weekly basis. They are not paid at all and given no benefits whatsoever. More alarmingly they have to pay Mavericks R2000 per week. "

He went on,
    "Although there have been several cases involving Mavericks and I assume that others have has sight of the contracts into which the dancers are obliged to enter, it apepars that it has been blandly accepted that these are exotic dancers whetever that may mean. The conditions under which the foreign dancers are procured, housed and expected to work makes them suseptable to exploitation. They are in a vulnerable situation and the fact that the person in control of them demands or at least expects large sum of money on a weekly basis places him in possible contravention of Article 3 of the Protocol to Prevent Supress and Punish Trafficking In Persons. I have not afforded [Mavericks] an opportunity to to be heard on this matter and there is insufficnet evidence with me to come to nay firm concludion on it.
  "However, I shall refer this matter  the Human Righs Commission for it to invetsigate..."

That case is underway and so I cannot tell you the conclusion. However, whatever the outcome against this club, human trafficking remains a very real problem. And it is not just an African problem.

The 2010 Trafficking in person report by the US Department of State found that there were 12.3 million slaves around the world. California was found to be a hot spot for domestic and international human trafficking. The United Nations estimates that 700,000 to 4 million women and children are trafficked for the purposes of forced prositution, labour and other forms of expolitation each year. Trafficking is estimated to be a US$7 billion dollar annnual business.

The irony of this quilt is that the term 'maverick' in terms of cattle comes from Samuel Maverick who did not brand his cattle as proof of his ownership. In my design  I have used a thermofax screen made from bar codes, airline baggage tags and boarding cards to brand the dancer as if she were a piece of cargo or cattle to be traded and shipped. The background is embroidered with the money symbols for dollars, pounds, euros and the South African Rand. anyone taking a close look will see some patches without seed sitching. I am tempte dto say they represnet the lost women with no voice. the actually respresent fact that I ran out of the thread the day before I ha dto post this due to going away and I live in a backwater where DMC thread is not on sale. It will be completed on my return from a place wth better shops!

Don't Brand Dan

First, I was watching last week's episode of the TV show Fringe last night, and one of the characters was hanging out in his apartment watching the James Garner series Maverick. Ha! Then, towards the end of the show, another character was sitting in a car, thinking about loss and regrowth, and there was a lone dandelion popping through a crack in the pavement. Very full circle and connected.

This was a tough challenge for me. I never really got a good handle on how I wanted to approach it. After much thinking and procrastinating, I decided to choose someone who I thought was a maverick, and portray them through the branding that is the origin of the word. Because most of my other 2012 pieces relate to Army life in one way or another, that is where I chose to look for my maverick.

In my mind Dan Choi is most certainly a maverick. He chose to go against the passive flow of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy in the military and come out while he still served. He felt it was dishonorable to wear the brand of Army Officer and necessarily lie or omit about his sexual orientation. And on the other hand, once out and branded as gay, he was excluded from the profession which he loved. So, Don't Brand Dan, or any other service member. Allow them to be truthful to themselves and to serve their country honorably (and let's get working on DOMA -- oddly, I think it's the military which will lead the way in repealing that as well). The two things (being true to one's self and service to the military) need not be mutually exclusive.

I am grateful to Dan Choi for being such a maverick and for being instrumental in the repeal of the DADT policy. Unfortunately, I don't think my small quilt does him or the gay rights movement justice. I was not careful enough in my placement of the camo uniform fabric and so the branding iron is a bit hard to read. Overall the concept is pretty literal, and while technically well made, the artwork is flat visually and conceptually. I had time to redo it, but I just didn't know where to go with it. Proof that fabulous work does not always or naturally flow from our hands.

Double XY

If you read my last blog post, you can see these two pieces are night and day.  I'm back in my comfort zone with this piece.  I used up about 4 weeks on the other quilt, and even as I was finishing it I had started thinking about this.  Something I read about triggered the idea of genes, and I started thinking about the many instances of maverick ( or aberrant ) genes I have seen in my nursing career.  The double XY though is not something you would pickup in an infant. It usually shows up in teenagers, if at all.

Double XY, also called Klinefelter's syndrome, or 47, is a condition where the person has an extra X chromosome. Females are born with two X chromosomes, males are XY, so this syndrome affects males.  For more information, I can refer you to's_syndrome.

I worked with someone with this condition, and he ended up having a sex change operation because he always felt female, and she was so much happier after the surgery.  I wonder how many males are out there not even knowing they have this, wondering what's wrong with them.

I made this piece with black cotton that discharged to white, and wool felt for the batting. I added some hand stitched letters at the bottom.  I would like to go back to this idea as I think it would make an interesting series.


For the longest time the only thing I could think of for Maverick was Tom Cruise in Top Gun.  It must have been because he was my only big celebrity crush growing up.  I was just the right age when the movie came out.  I had poster hanging above my bed all through my early teen years.  But there was no way I was going to attempt a portrait!  I started to get a bit desperate as the weeks (ok months), so I headed to the dictionary. Maverick: an unbranded calf, a lone dissenter, a rebel.  I took those ideas and went abstract.  

My quilt definitely doesn't scream Maverick.  It whispers with its soft colors.  I have my field of branded cattle and the big unbranded steer.  The lone dissenter in the sea of conformity.  Ok, that may be forcing meaning on the quilt.  Those were the thoughts I had beginning the process, but in the end it doesn't feel like a rebellious quilt.

When I really think about it my quilting style is actually quite Maverick.  I don't follow any of the traditional rules or practices.  I approach the whole process backwards, starting with the the quilting, then adding color and finishing with the piecing.  I skipped the binding.  The whole thing isn't even square and I have loose threads hanging on the edges.  I'm sure I drive the quilt police crazy, or they don't even consider my work a quilt. Even with all that, I don't feel like a Maverick.  How could I feel like a loner with all the support of this group?  

Four Fancy Fish and a Maverick

First, let me say, that I am not thrilled with this piece. It is rather pedestrian in its execution. I had a pretty good idea, but didn't leave enough time to flesh it out.

Here is the story. I live in a part of the country where it is almost a badge of honor for women of my age to let their hair go naturally gray. Many women in the northwest do not even bother to have their hair styled— they just let it grow and grow and grow.

My hair, if I let it go natural, would be thin and stringy and an ugly shade of mousy gray. I was thrilled when my stylist gave me red hair about 10 years ago. It totally fit my personality and made me happy. I had always loved my grandmother's red hair.

Recently, my husband made a comment about liking my hair when it is more brown, like when he first met me. The maverick in me came out. I went in to have my monthly hair color done and asked Kevin for something new and edgy, but still in the red zone. We settled on a darker, burgundy red — in the sunlight, it looked a little purple.

The next day, we stopped in at a local gallery event. There were 3 long haired gray women talking at the counter. I overheard one of them say, I could never dye my hair purple! I laughed and walked up to the group, as the owner was one of them, and started talking to her. They were all taken aback a bit. That night, I decided that my maverick quilt would be about my hair. 

I don't do faces, hair, or people in quilts so I settled on a maverick red/purple fish. I couldn't find gray batiks that I liked so I settled for these neutral fabrics.



My first car was a 1974 Ford Maverick. My parents bought it for me when I was 16 or 17 mostly because I needed to drive to school and work. Honestly, I don't remember too much about it. I'm not much into cars. In fact, I had to email my dad to ask what year it was. White top? Two doors or four doors? 

What I do remember is forging my independence at that age. I suppose my parents had that in mind too. It won't be long before my own daughter is 16 and as hard as it is to imagine, she will need increasing independence and responsibility too.  A car can make that possible.

I worked at a retail clothing store at the local mall and I remember driving back and forth to work through the wide, open, flat landscape of central Nebraska. Through wheat fields and industrial areas. In all seasons. When the sun was shining and when the moon was rising.

I don't include photographic images in my work too often, but I am really pleased with how this car works in my fabric collage. (In fact, as I look over my 12x12 galleries, I have never before included any kind of photograph.) This seems like the perfect occasion to include a picture -- a literal Maverick!

The other motifs, colors and symbols in the quilt are a loose combination of things I enjoy and references to the car and my memories of driving it. The color palette of the whole quilt is inspired by the brown car with the white top. I chose this smaller rectangle of white fabric because it had that contrasting white shiny stripe --- just like the striping on the car.

The gray blocks could be industrial buildings and the grid could be parking lot lines. Those green embroidered stalks could be lines of wheat.

I think the quilt has a feeling of wide-open, whimsical possibility. But, it's a bit dark and jumbled. Isn't that what it feels like to be sixteen or seventeen?

The Original Maverick

Does this guy look like a maverick? He is the original Maverick!

I had such a hard time wrapping my head around the Maverick theme! Even after a great discussion with Karen and Ted Rips and my husband Ray, where we talked about what makes a person a maverick and who are and are not mavericks, I was still at a loss. Always good to do a little research at that point.

I discovered that the origin of the word was this man—Samuel Maverick, a Texas cattleman in the mid 1800's. Mr. Maverick refused to brand his cattle. The shrewdness of his decision became evident at round-up time, when he declared that all unbranded cattle belonged to him! As a result of the ensuing uproar, ever after, unbranded cattle were referred to as mavericks. The meaning evolved to include people who refuse to be branded with stereotypes and live their lives on their own terms.

When I found several old photos of Samuel Maverick online I decided I wanted to try to create the look of an old sepia-toned photo using black, tan and white fabrics. I was especially intrigued by the idea of using prints for this. I think you get the idea if you stand back and squint your eyes!

The Radical Tulip

I'm still wondering how Brenda knew about my one yellow tulip among all the red ones??!! See her post here.

The Radical Tulip
20" x 12"
I had the idea for this quilt early on in this round. I gave it some time in case any other ideas popped in my head for the theme. Well, needless to say, nothing popped.

Here is my inspiration photo. I took this photo in my garden in the spring of 2007. I had posted it on my blog and it immediately came to mind after I started thinking about the maverick theme. You know, that only idea I had early on??!!.

My quilt is raw edge fused and free motion quilted.  I added some highlights and shadows with Prismacolor pencils.

The edges are stitched with a zig zag and I also couched some coordinating fibers along the edge.  I was feeling a bit more mavericky and added a stretch of yellow fiber in place of the red.

Square Peg - Round Holes

Square Peg - Round Holes #1 ©2012 Brenda Gael Smith
In life, as in art, we are often attracted to a kind of natural order - compliance with written and unwritten rules to create familiar lines and patterns. Reassurance can be found in conformity, repetition and predictability. Then along comes a maverick and messes things up. Or does it?

I had already settled on exploring the concept of a square peg  in a round hole, when I came across the Apple advertising campaign from the late 1990s - Think Different - which celebrates the maverick with the words:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
I had fun exploring circle and square imagery in stitched resist shibori and am happy to include a shibori piece in my 2012 series. I started with a quick sketch on a piece of paper lying around:
When it came to translating to fabric, I had to be a little more precise with measuring so that my circle elements fitted into the 20x12in area.  I explain the process in my  Shibori tutorial #1 - Karamatsu–Japanese Larch Stitch Resist.  My original plan was to embellish the square element with bright hand stitching but it didn't look right.  Less is more sometimes.
 I machine quilted horizontal lines in variegated thread to create an overall embossed effect:  
I also made a second piece on a larger scale.  Here are some before and after quilting shots:
Square Peg - Round Holes #2 ©2012 Brenda Gael Smith
I favour the first piece as my official contribution as it looks more like a peg board. Do you agree? Vote if you like!
Which piece should Brenda put forward as her official contribution to the Maverick 2012 challenge? free polls 
I look forward to seeing what the other Twelves come up with and what Terri sets for our final 2012 challenge.