Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kilauea Color Scheme

I kept thinking about Kristin's color palette thinking of how familiar it seemed to me. Then I realized it was my Scorched Earth piece. Maybe I will just shrink it down to 12 X 12!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ready to start

Today I printed some fabrics, and I think I'm almost ready to start sewing this Kilauea quilt.

Countdown for Australasian Quilt Convention

It's only a month until the premiere exhibition by the Twelve by Twelve Collaborative Art Quilt Project. Lark Books have completed photography of our quilts for our forthcoming book and the quilts are winging their way down under. All 144 quilts from the first Theme Series will be on exhibition at the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne from 29 April to 2 May and Kirsty and I will be there too. Don't miss our floortalk at 1pm on Satuday, 1 May!

Here's a sneak preview of the special set of 13 postcards that will be available for sale at the Australasian Quilt Convention and the Textile Art Festival in Brisbane (25-27 June 2010). I picked up the postcards from the printer today and they look super!  At this stage, the postcards are only available to personal shoppers at Pompom Rouge in Townsville and at these two Australian exhibitions but we will review these arrangements as our international exhibition tour develops.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

New York Times Inspiration

Look at what the New York Times has in the travel mag today. Hawaiian volcano pics. It is part of a fashion spread with accessories photographed in wild nature scenes. I love the Naughty by Nature title.

I am very taken by the sensuous curves and molding of the lava.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Continuing the Quest for Lava

After teaching a fabric marbling workshop, I was inspired to make lava-like fabric. I really liked the way such a classic surface design technique, usually associated with foliage and feathers, also worked so well to convey molten rock. However, I felt like my colors weren't hot enough.

The next step was to over-dye the fabric with an intense red. Unfortunately, the red turned out more bloody than lava-like, and the intensity of the marbling paints wore off in the wash-out (though it still looks pretty rich in my photo). Gerrie suggested that I try discharging the fabric to see what happens, so I did. I used Jaquard Discharge Paste, which works nearly as well as bleach on hand dyed fabrics and is a bit less toxic. I slopped it around on some of the dyed marbled fabrics. It definitely lightened things up, but the results look more worn and scuffed to me than hot and molten.

I think this photo shows better how the black paint has faded than the pre-discharge photos do. What it also shows is a few pieces of very hot orange fabric from my quilt mom Gerrie, which I think are great candidates for more marbling. I also have an interesting piece of orange flowered fabric from blog friend Mary that's been twisted and dyed black, which has some lava potential as well.

For me, this challenge is less about producing an image that says Kilauea, than about having found an interesting and appropriate surface design technique (marbling) and working with it until I get the results I really, really want. This has become a great experiment. I could have stopped with the first marbled fabrics and used them, but they didn't feel quite right. I could have used the red dyed ones, or given up completely, but my curiosity was sparked. I probably ruined the fabrics with the discharging, but how would I have known if I didn't try? I may use a few tiny bits of these fabrics, but I am inspired to keep attempting other things until I get the finished result I can see in my head.

I'm pretty sure that marbling on orange will get me the colors I envision, but I'm not wild about how the marbling paint behaves after washing. I have marbled with paint which gives great control, and I have dyed with fiber reactive dyes which give good color and hand, so now I am keen to see if I can combine the best of both worlds and try marbling with fiber reactive dyes next. I've queried the dye and marbling source, Dharma Trading Company and though they had no formulas for me, they did think I was on the right track.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Quarter of Twelve

Karen, Gerrie and I met last night in South San Francisco for dinner!  Gerrie and Karen were attending the SDA/SAQA conference, and even though I wasn't, I took the opportunity to drive down and get a few hours with them.  They'd spent the day touring artist studios and they were glowing with excitement and inspiration.  So we headed out to a local italian restaurant, ordered a bottle of wine, and had a lovely dinner and long chat.

Not one of us remembered to take a picture -- that's how engrossed we were!  But we talked art and kids and families, and all sorts of other stuff.  We heard about Karen's construction on her house, and Gerrie's amazing works in progress, and we all agreed that we're finding the Kiluea-inspired colors for our upcoming challenge to be a Challenge indeed!  (But in a good way!)

We marveled at how far we've come as a group, and how we never would have imagined that we'd be where we are as a group.  Of course, we talked about how lucky we feel to be in this with the rest of you twelves.

Wish you could have ALL been there!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Forthcoming Presentations & Floortalks

In just over a month, the Twelve by Twelve exhibition tour will be launched at the Australasian Quilt Convention . Here is advance notice of  some special presentations and floortalks:
  • 9am, Thursday, 29 April 2010 - exhibition floortalk for AQC delegates presented by Brenda;
  • 1pm, Saturday 1 May open floortalk at AQC presented by Brenda and Kirsten;
  • Monday evening, 10 May slideshow presentation at Be Creative by the Sea retreat; and
  • Saturday, 22 May - slideshow presentation to the Quilters Guild of NSW Inc. Visitors welcome! Indeed, you are invited to bring along your own 12x12in quilt to share in a mini-exhibition for the meeting. This can be a quilt already in your collection or you are welcome to follow along with the next Twelve by Twelve Colourplay challenge - Kilauea , a palette inspired by the volcanos of Hawaii.
In addition, there will be floortalks and demonstrations for other events on the Twelve by Twelve exhibition tour. More details to follow.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dallas Quilt Show Appearances

I entered my Fractal Tree (from our Mathematics theme) in the Dallas Quilt Celebration last year. One of my local art quilter friends thought it was wonderful, but wondered if it was a bit lost among the larger works. So... she hatched a plan to gather several 12x12 quilts for a special exhibit.

She and the rest of the "twisted stitchers" (our small local art quilt group), made 12x12 quilts and invited other friends to join us. We exhibited 65 quilts! They looked great. I had initially considered inviting all the "twelves" from this group, but I didn't want to flood the exhibit or seem like I was showing off with such a huge group of brilliant friends.

Here you can see two of the three quilts I made for "blue, white and a bit of black" and my pink quilt.
It really was inspiring to see so many quilts in this format!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Volcano colors

Last week when I was in Cleveland I went to the wonderful Cleveland Art Museum. Their newest exhibit was actually opening the very day I was there—a collection of American Indian Art from the Thaw collection. It is an extraordinary show, very diverse. In the very last room this Seminole patchwork man's long shirt stopped me in my tracks. First, because I love the look of Seminole piecing and this was such an exquisite example and second, because it immediately reminded me of Kristin's volcano theme palette. Pretty close, eh? It is only lacking a bit of chartreuse, I think.

It has me thinking.


I found a few volcano fabrics in my boxes... I think I'm going to overdye some of them before doing anything else.
The only little problem is that if I think of volcanoes, I think of Japan, Mount Fuji and Hokusai. But is it really a problem?

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I gave a workshop to my local quilt guild on marbling fabric. We had a great time, and I realized that marbling might be an appropriate technique for my volcano/lava theme! Back at home I tried my hand at lava colored patterns. I love the designs I achieved, but want the color to be a bit deeper and more saturated. I probably should have started with colored fabric instead of bright white, so I am going to work a bit backwards and try dyeing these this week with some fiber reactive dyes. My hope is that the fabric paints on top of the fibers that I did the marbling with will not be affected much and the fiber reactive dyes will seep in underneath to create a richer base. We'll see. It's all part of the experimentation and the search for the right medium for the message.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Out of the Blue

The website gallery has been updated to display our latest BlueWhiteBlack Colorplay challenge quilts:

The artist gallery pages have also been expanded.  In addition to the artist galleries from the first Theme Series, you can view the colorplay works as completed by each Twelve so far in the Artist Colorplay Gallery. Use the "Next" and "Previous" buttons to scroll through the relevant gallery. Francoise looks like she is on her way to another cohesive collection!

All these updates involved considerable changes to the navigation menus.  Please contact Brenda if you find a broken link or any other glitches.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Our Next Colorplay Theme

If you were expecting a Hawai'i-inspired theme you'd be right. I felt compelled to choose something to reflect my island home, as temporary as it may be.

Our third colorplay theme is called "Kilauea" after Hawai'i's active volcano.

When I think of Kilauea, I think of the blackness of cooled lava, and it's myriad textures, from slow moving undulation, to glassy bits spewn forth, to the bubbly a'a rock formed when hot lava meets cool ocean. I think of red heat, and the red lehua blossom sacred to Pele the volcano goddess and Laka, the goddess of hula. And I think of the chartreuse of the young uluhe fern barely veiled by the sulfur mists of the volcano's steam vents.

This theme could be interpreted as volcano in general, or Kilauea specifically. You can use my photos as inspiration, or work with the palette of red, orange, chartreuse, black and greys. Choose the jumping off point that excites you!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Feeling for Snow

Growing up in a temperate zone in New Zealand, I did not experience snow until I was ten years old but, when I did, it was magic! 30cm of fresh powder surrounding the volcanoes in the Central Plateau of New Zealand. I remember being surprised at the consistency of snow. I guess I was expecting something more like talculm powder.This quilt is dedicated to my sister Chantel, a snowboarding enthusiast with a great affinity for the snow.  I was inspired by blue and white folk embroidery and Nordic knitwear.  I created my snowflakes with freezer paper scherenschnitte stencils and fabric paints. 
 A Feeling for Snow by Brenda Gael Smith
I chose this piece because its Scandinavian vibe best captured the fresh palette that Francoise presented us with in this challenge but I made two other pieces. 

Ice Crystals (or as my husband calls it, Rabbit Proof Fence in the Moonlight) is hand stitched shibori. And Once in a Blue Moon is the first, somewhat indistinct itajame shibori piece that I made using some new clamps.  It demonstrates that I occasionally depart from abstract piecing to make more representational pieces.  Apparently, there have been three "blue moons" in and around this challenge period.  After this month, the next occurence of two full moons in one month is not until August 2012.

It's often hard to select which piece to declare as my "official" contribution to the Twelve by Twelve project. I'd be interested to know which piece calls to you.

You Know How I Feel

Blue and white with a bit of black.  Well, to me that was sky, of course, with the silhouettes of birds in the distance.   The image came to mind immediately, but it took me a bit longer to decide on how to execute it.

I finally settled on something I've been wanting to try for a long time.  I started with a piece of hand-dyed blue fabric, painted on the birds, and then heavily quilted "wind lines" around them.  Then, using a white oil pastel crayon, I rubbed the crayon over the surface apply white where I wanted it and to emphasize the texture of the quilting lines.  Here's a detail shot:

I really liked the effect, but observed several things I would do differently were I to do this again.  First, and most importantly, I would NOT use a typical oil pastel crayon. I'd use a Shiva Paintstick or a Watercolor crayon.  The soft texture of the oil pastel crayon worked great to apply color, but the surface of this at present has a slightly tacky feel to it.  Maybe it will dry at some point (one friend suggested that oils can take up to 6 months to dry.  Sigh.)  I tried ironing this to set the white marks, but the heat just melted the color into the fibers of the blue cotton and started to vanish.  I had to reapply the white.  So, I'll keep this hanging on my design wall for some time until it feels dry, and THEN try ironing again.  In the meantime, it makes me happy.

Oh, I should mention that this is the first time I've done any piece with half of a binding and half of a turned-back facing.  But this just wanted that, so there you have it.

The title comes from the old Nina Simone song:

"Birds flying high
You know how I feel
Sun in the sky
You know how I feel
Breeze driftin' on by
You know how I feel
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good"

* I'm editing this entry to add that Lynn Kough has reminded me that this song actually comes from the musical "Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd" and was written by Anthony Newly and Leslie Bricusse.  Thanks, Lynn!

Stacked Blueware

What a fantastic color palette Francoise challenged us with this round. As soon as I pulled out my scrap fabric stash in these colors, I saw a lovely combination of color.

Because blue comes in many different shades and tones, I thought it would be fun to play with more than one. My scrap baskets tend to be overflowing most of the time and I think that I could easily create several 12” x 12” quilts just in this color palette.

I only made one and this is it. I’d had an idea rolling around in my head for a while on a way to use up scraps of fabric. I love the look of collage and remembered as a child how we would tear up papers and glue them all down to form a design or cover an object. This technique, also known as decoupage, has a very scrappy look and I wondered how I could recreate that in fabric. So with some small pieces of fabric, Mistyfuse, and batting, I made the attempt and came up with my Stacked Blueware quilt. I was thrilled with the results and have continued to play with the technique since and have plans for many more.

I love the mosaic feeling it gives and it’s fun to scrounge for the perfect fabric color to achieve the right bit of lightness or shadow. I also used some black and white textile paints to further play up the shading and highlighting.

I free-motion stitched over the entire piece. I also added a couched novelty yarn around the outer edge.

My tree

Last month, I took pictures of my garden on a bright sunny winter afternoon. I used one of these pictures to burn a screen. I then screenprinted my fabrics with black and white fabric paint. The blue and white background fabric had been dyed beforehand with this quilt in mind.
The piece is entirely machine quilted, but I added some hand embroidery. As a final touch, I had fun using screenprinted fabric for two pieces of the binding.
I've posted more pictures on my blog.

Hello! It's you again!

Living on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef has an impact. We are very aware of what's out there in the sea, so near by. And one of my family's favourite places to go in Townsville is Reef HQ, a very large marine aquarium. It's like visiting a mini reef. Every time we go there I talk to a particular fish. I know that sounds strange but this guy is brimming with personality and he is SO friendly. He comes rushing up to the glass and looks straight at me "Oh! hello!! It's you again!"
The last time we were there a volunteer told me that these fish (Maori Wrasse) are in trouble. They are so very friendly and curious that they are just too easy to catch.

My 'blue and white with a touch of black' kind of turned into a 'blue and a touch of white and black'! There is a great deal of artistic license taken with this dude's markings. I painted him on white cloth using dye-na-flow, Tsukineko inks and Jacquard paint (lumiere). He is needleturn appliqued onto the background fabric which is also painted to tone down the contrast of the paisleys. The only white ended up being the stitching on his eye and the outlining of his markings. That wasn't my intention, but you know what happens when a paintbrush takes control of your hand!

I'm very happy with this quilt. It turns out that that crazy fish means rather a lot to me and I'm glad to have this little tribute to him.

Streaming Blue

Blue, white and black are my favorite colors, so I was really happy when Francoise chose this combination.  So happy in fact, that I made three of them.  The other two were not to my liking though, so this is the one I'm publishing.  This started out as a shibori experiment.

 I stitched the fabric in two different directions, painted on some black dye, cured it, washed it out then painted on two different blues.  Before I painted on the blue however, I realized I wouldn't be left with any white, so I heated up my soy wax and filled in the white dots that were along the middle.

 After all this was done, I realized I had a big turquoise space near the center that really stood out, and tried several different methods of filling it in.

 I tried machine stitching a pattern, then hand stitching what was supposed to look like a bridge, but these didn't work.  I pulled out my beads, which I haven't used in a long time, and they filled the space up perfectly.


There is much discussion on the Internet about the need to respect the copyright in other people's work. Certainly, a direct copy of another's design is reprehensible. However, when I was in Australia and since my return I have been reading a lot about Aboriginal art and considering where I felt it appropriate to draw the line between inspiration and appropriation which are two very different things.

Much Aboriginal art has its root deep in the spiritual and cultural heritage of the many Australian indigenous tribes. The art they draw for sale is linked to ceremonial art and to tales of their ancestors. Some sacred symbolism is reserved for the initiated and so cannot be shown, or if shown is disguised.  There is a very real sense that certain designs or subject matters belong to given people withing the tribes and artists are limited by what is their subject matter according to inheritance and according to what their elders give them permission to portray. Direct breaches of copyrights have been successfully challenged in court.

However, it is less clear to what extent it is morally acceptable to appropriate the style or techniques of the art of another culture as your own. Are we to say for example that only indigenous Australians should paint with dots or cross hatching? Such work is very recognisably theirs, yet the impressionists used the same techniques in a different way.

 Australian ice skaters Danielle O'Brian and Greg Merriman once performed an ice dance heavily influenced by the Aboriginal culture. They worked with the indigenous poulation at length and their interperation was accepted. More recently Russian skaters Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin also performed in Aboriginal style costumes and were castigated for their inapproriate appropriate of indigenous culture. Of course, such objections become magnified when set against a history of a people's children never mind art being stolen. Today, there is particular concern about the incorrect portrayal of indigenous art in the art community as a whole where it may be judges by standards more appropriate to Western art and about the exploitation of artists and/ or the production of inferior work for the tourist strade from artists who are paid money, much needed for them and their families, to churn out lower quality work.

When at the new South Wales Gallery I turned a corner and was bowled over by a painting by Kitty Kantilla. I cannot show it to you becuase photography was prohibited but although it was paint it looked to me like a design for a stitch sampler.  I spent a long time sitting on the floor infront of it sketching. Now that I have researched a bit more about this artist who was previously unknown to me, all her work inspires me the same way. I have been thinking hard about how to be inspired by it without stealing it. You can see some examples of her work here.

In the end I worked in different colours without referring back to the work so that I only had a vague recollected impression in my head. My marks in stitch are different to hers in paint and placed in different groupings? Did I steal her ideas? I don't think I crossed that unacceptable line and indeed as I stitched I reaslied that many viewers, who did not know much about Aboriginal Art might assume it was inspired by Indian kantha. But maybe others would consider my work too derivative for comfort, hence the question mark, which is meant to spark and continue a debate about what is and what is not acceptable.

Blue Meditation on Balance

This did not come together easily. I am pleased with the results, mostly. But the journey was bumpy. I am not sure if that mood is reflected in the quilt, or even if I want it to be. And yet, I'm spilling my feelings here.

I didn't finish this until yesterday evening. Too late to take a picture with any good light. And it's raining this morning, so still no good light. Maybe that's the metaphor here, "no good light."

My life is full of repetition; some of it is comfortable and meditative, and some is monotonous and maddening. Lots of hand stitching reflects this reality. I am continually seeking balance in my life. As I worked on the basic design for this quilt, I kept trying to add just a bit of dynamic asymmetry, but I just couldn't do it. If the only thing I can really control is the composition of this quilt, then I'm going to make it balanced.

That blue, branchy piece came from the "free" bin at On Board Fabrics in Edgecomb, Maine. My art quilt friends and I shopped there when I visited in October. Kathy and I both grabbed several of these pieces in red, green and blue and challenged each other to use them. (Here is her version, in progress. She used the backside of the green piece.) Recently, I was desperately trying to fit the fabric into another much larger quilt I am working on. It really wasn't working and I finally had to give in and let it go. (You're reading into these larger life metaphors, right?) I'm happy to have salvaged it for this piece.

I completed two other pieces for this "colorplay" challenge. I'll post them on my blog. It was difficult picking one for the official 12x12 reveal. This one has the nicest details, I think. As much as I try to simplify and let the work sit comfortably in spareness, I enjoy digging in. I like finding ways to add interest in the openness.


I enjoyed playing with the colors very much this challenge. Blue and white are so calm and relaxing -- the perfect reprieve in my otherwise crazy, hectic life. I really didn't have a good idea of what I wanted when I started experimenting, but instead just started playing with color. I once again started by quilting plain white fabric with various quilting patterns. I did eight 15" x 22" pieces so I would have a lot to work with. I then painted them with either dark blues, light to medium blues, or sparkly white. I also created fabric paper in light blue and white. Then I just started cutting and sewing back together with black thread and a zigzag stitch.

My first quilt was the strips cut at an angle and pieced together to form squares. I like the contrast between the shades of blue and white, but the design was too similar to "Pink Refractions," so I started again.

My next quilt was a simple basket weave pattern, but looked rather boring pinned to my wall.

My final attempt was based on the disappearing nine patch. I sewed different one inch squares of the various quilted fabrics and fabric paper into a nine patch and then cut them down the middle into one and a half inch squares. I then rotate them so none of the internal seems lined up. The end result was a wild quilt that reminds me of pixelated computer screen rebooting. (I don't know if computers do that anymore, but at least I'm not thinking as far back at the lines on the TV when the programming turned off for the night.)

After finishing "Reboot," I started playing with basket weave quilt. I added some applique fabric paper flowers and fabric flowers with a bead center. I find it much more interesting. Now I just need to finish the edge treatment. I'm really looking forward to the next challenge and exploring the colors to come.

It Was a Cold Winter's Night

How could I not get into my bin of indigo scraps for this challenge. It was a no brainer. And when, I say scraps, I mean scraps. I decided to go for a very scrappy, frayed edge land scape for this. The snowy area is a piece of shibori clamped silk that I had dipped in indigo. It was very pale and turned out to be the perfect snowy field. I cut strips of silk indigo shibori for the shadows of the fence.

Oh, and that fence! You will have to check out my blog to see what it once looked like. I had to sit and pick that thing apart and start over. I am so glad that I did. I then added in some of the wonderful indigo prints that Kristin gave me way back when she was living in Germany.

I am so happy with this piece because it reflects what I most love to do with my quilting now — the simple, abstracted landscape.

Broken Dishes (Completed)

Blue and white is one of my favorite color combos. I once heard that blue and white quilts sell more than other colors; at least in Europe; at least anecdotally.

In deciding which direction I wanted to go in (snowflakes, black and blue bruises, winter trees, etc.) it dawned on me that I have a kitchen full of blue and white pottery. Most of mine is Polish and has has a touch of green, not black, but the inspiration was there nevertheless (and I do have one or two Delft pieces). I thought about a mosaic bench I had seen in the town of Delft, and remembered a traditional quilt block called "Broken Dishes."

My idea was to make the broken dishes quilt block (this is a quilt challenge after all) out of conceptually broken pieces. As a crazy quilt is just that, it seemed natural to use a kind of crazy quilting to suggest pottery shards or mosaic pieces. I based many of the embroidery and beading on motifs commonly found in Delft pottery, imitating the curves and stylized flowers.

As Delft pottery is only blue and white, the touch of black became the grout. About half way through the project I realized that I could have taken the grout and mosaic theme further by piecing thin lines of black between all the crazy bits of fabric, but I liked the piece so I wasn't motivated to start over.

At some point it also ceased to be about a 12 x 12 challenge, or a finished art quilt, but only about the stitches and embellishment. It could have gone on forever -- choosing stitches, threads, and yarns; beading; couching fabric; stuffing bits; adding fringe and trim. More was more! I loved working on this, and I'm very happy with the final piece. Perhaps I will hang it in my kitchen.

Mt. Hood in Winter

This color scheme is a bit of a departure for me. While I love a good blue sky and crisp blue and white traditional quilts, I generally find myself hanging out in the warmer zones of the color wheel when I am working. So this was good. It felt clean and crisp and suitable to the season.

We have had a warmer and sunnier winter than usual this year, which has afforded us frequent views of Mt. Hood, the highest peak in Oregon and, on clear days, the spectacular backdrop to our city. Most winters the mountain is shrouded in cloudy gray and not visible to us for months at a time. There is an atmospheric effect that seems to magnify the mountain on cold, sunny days and it takes your breath away to turn a corner or come up over a rise to suddenly see it, seemingly, right in front of you. So I have known since the color theme was announced, exactly what my subject would be.

I combined two relatively new techniques for me in this piece. I am currently working on a large quilt for an invitational show and decided to use a fused fabric collage technique that I first saw used by fellow Twelve, Terri Stegmiller. It seemed like it might also work for my mountain in giving it a nice loose, but dimensional look. On top of that I "drew" in a loose, doodly way, in black thread. That provided the "little bit of black" to the otherwise totally blue and white piece. (well, there are some little yellow dots on one of the blue fabrics, but I am not counting those!)  The tree might give the impression that it is black on first glance, but it is composed from dark blue bits of fabric and stitched with black.

That tree, by the way, is a Douglas Fir, which is Oregon's state tree. So the whole thing is my valentine to my beautiful home state!