Face Down, Step by step

about a quilt, creative process

I have finished Face Down a couple of weeks ago and finally added it to the portfolio on this blog, but I wanted to share a few pictures of it in progress. Here is the finished piece:

Face Down -FULL- Shively

Face Down •20.5W x 28.5L • 2017

This is the Artist Statement I wrote to accompany Face Down:

I am continually stunned by the vile ways people treat each other, especially in the political arena. Politicians – and those who willingly follow them – shrilly face each other down, calling out insults and redundant, robotic messages from the banks on each side. Any former bridge of cooperation has given way, stranding the individual – you or me—face down and struggling in waters filled with floating nastiness. The double entendre of Face Down, of political facedown and the position where it leaves us, is my cry for rescue.

Here are some step by step photos of this work in progress (explanations in captions):

 

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Knots

about a quilt, creative process

There are times during the making of an art quilt when things get messy, uncomfortable,  or annoying. Messy I can deal with. I actually like having heaps of fabric and scraps on my cutting table, spilling onto the couch and floor. It conjures the same feelings as a sundae topping bar. There is such possibility in all the choices, and a pair of scissors is better than a spoon.

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Detail: Face Down. I had to think about the quilting for awhile before I decided on this motif.

The uncomfortable times come when I look at a piece at the ready-for-quilting stage or nearly done and cannot decide a.) if I like it or b.) if it has a cohesive message, even if it is not the message I began with. My usual solution is to allow myself to steep uncomfortably for awhile until an underwater “aha” while swimming tells me how to quilt it, change it, or add the surprise it needs. Simply hanging it on the design wall to haunt me eventually prompts such inspiration. If I get stuck too long at the nearly-finished stage, I may finish it as is and wait for someone else to explain it to me.

 

Annoying is the time spent knotting and “burying”

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Threads — lots of them!

threads after hours of free motion quilting and thread sketching. I try so hard to come up with a lazy (aka “efficient”) way of starting my quilting at point A and completing all of it as one continuous line of thread, ending at point B. TADA!
Only two pairs of threads to tie off and hide. It never works. Either I decide I must change thread colors in different areas or I need to skip a space unstitched and cannot get over to the next one without making an ugly line hanging out there like lint on a blue blazer. Just try drawing something without ever lifting your pencil, and you will see what I mean.

 

Even more annoying is realizing that the stitching mistake I made, the area where the motif got a little wonky or the drawing unintelligible, is NOT going to be hidden enough by all the “right” stitching I did to disguise it. Enter the dreaded seam ripper and forty-five minutes spent tearing out one square inch of fine stitches formed from thread not unlike tinsel. Add micro tweezers and a magnifier.  No amount of mindless TV can entertain enough while swearing through this tedious task. The moral: fix it when it happens. Obvious mistakes are a lot easier to find and fix than the ones you try to cover up.

IMG_2497.JPGFortunately, I have made it through all of the above in working on my latest piece.  Since adding the quilting detail, I’ve changed the title from Abandoned to Face Down.  I hope people can see/hear the double entendre. If not, that’s OK. Now on to the peaceful process of facing it. (Oooh… there’s a pun!) Full photos to follow soon.


Glossary for the non-quilter, in case you care:
Burying threads: This step hides all the ends of both the top quilting thread and the bottom (bobbin) thread from the sewing machine. There are zillions of how-to blogs and videos on this annoying step. Here is just one.
Facing: Adding a finished edge to a quilt  that does not show from the front. A facing is actually a piece of fabric that is sewn to the edge and then turned to the back side of the quilt. Unlike binding, the facing fabric does not show when the piece is hanging. (I tend to use dark fabrics that will “hide” much like a shadow behind the quilt if you look at it from the side.)
Free motion quilting: (aka FMQ) Think of machine-sewn stitching lines that go all the way through the front, the batting (fluffy stuff in the middle) and back of a quilt. Now imagine that the lines are NOT straight and are guided freely by two hands moving the quilt around under the needle as it stitches. The movement is completely free because there is no sewing machine part holding the quilt down to be stitched and no part pulling the fabrics through the machine. It is guided entirely by the artist’s hands.
Quilting: The stitching that goes through a quilt front, batting (fluffy stuff in the middle) and back of a quilt to hold it together. These stitches make lines, designs, and more. Quilting can be very visible and forms the texture of the piece.
Thread sketching: Imagine drawing on a quilt using lines of FMQ (see above). Think of it as moving the paper under a stationary pen– the sewing machine needle — to make the sketched lines. Lines can do anything they could with a pen or pencil: overlap, create shading, form contours, etc. Of course, learning to draw this way is like being a stroke victim who is learning to write again!

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Embarrassed – Done!

about a quilt, creative process

I have been negligent in posting during the busy summer months, but that does not mean I have not been working. The piece I mentioned in my last post, entitled Embarrassed, is complete as of today, all except for a hanging sleeve/slat or whatever I  use to hang it. So, feeling far from embarrassed, I am sharing a few pictures of the work along the way and in its final state.

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A planning sketch and the prepped applique of the source of my embarrassment

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Auditioning fabrics… my favorite kind of mess

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The world complete…  turned-edge, hand appliqued for all those nasty curves

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Adding the “stripes” at the left (fused), the jagged, pointy pieces (to be done via turned edge, blindstitch machine applique), and the headless source of my embarrassment

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Stopping to decide what the final frame size will be, using a ribbon to approximate it.

Embarrassed (WIP)

His head, but faceless, and “me” added (a lot of hand applique and some machine satin stitch).

 

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Experimenting with some quilting ideas (on a scrap)

 

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Embarrassed • 16.5 W x 13 L • 2017 • This and all images on this site ©Copyright Candace Hackett Shively. All rights reserved.

I experienced more than the usual creative “drama” as I put this piece together, a piece that really did scream to be made. It seemed the more I worked on it, the MORE it screamed. I tend to have a TV running or news alerts coming in on my devices off and on  while in my studio. Almost every day I worked on this piece, something ELSE embarrassing happened. I began to feel like one of the Fates spinning world incidents to bring on further embarrassment. Sigh.

I’m not positive where Embarrassed is going next, but a companion piece is already in progress. Here is a sneak peek. Stay tuned.IMG_9361

 

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Working both sides

about me, Art World vs Quilt World

SAQA offers many opportunities to bounce ideas around, in person, on an old-style online discussion board and on a private Facebook group. I love the conversations and the passion I can “hear” even in the written comments and debate. One oft-discussed theme is the nature of “art quilts,” “Fiber art,” etc. and whether an artist should submit work to certain types of shows. There has been very heated discussion about the value(?) of “judged quilt shows” that often seem to focus more on technique than true art elements. There is a huge difference between a juried “art” show that happens to include or be focused on fiber art and a “quilt show” that awards winners in categories such as “traditional quilt,” “wall quilt,” or “art quilt.” From what I can tell from the more vocal SAQA members, some draw a line and do not submit to the later type of show. Others do both, working both sides of the debate.

As of right now,  I am working both sides simply because it gets my work out there instead of keeping it rolled up at my house. I had two pieces that fit the size/date requirements for PNQE, pieces that are “pretty” and whose technique is not too terrible. I do live in Pennsylvania and often attend this show, so why not enter? Both got in. So here is my “badge” for being accepted:Facebook Finalist Image PNQEWe’ll see what happens, but I expect they are simply too far out there to be appreciated by a Mancuso show judge.  What is funny is that they are not at all as “out there” as most of my work in the last 20+ years.

Curious to know which ones? These two:

What’s Next?

creative process

A little over a week ago, I attended the opening of Threads of Resistance, an exciting and invigorating day indeed! Throughout the two days’ drive to and from the exhibit — indeed every day since my quilt was accepted — I have been quietly asking myself, “What’s next?” I have a piece in progress that simply screams to be made (working title “Embarrassed”). But I have not been sure whether that piece and my “Learn to Question — Learn to Lead” piece are the beginning of something new or simply isolated screams I had to let go before proceeding to other things.

Three separate messages tell me where these screams are leading.

1.) As I often do, I have been keeping notes to myself for months about possible quilt ideas, and one in particular keeps percolating to the top of my various lists.

2.) Yesterday I replied to an email from an old friend and artists’ mentor. Her question was, “Whats next?” My reply, that I intend to make pieces that make people think,  tumbled out so easily I knew my list-topper idea was dead on.

3.) Today Sue Bleiweiss posted on her blog about Working in a Series, and her suggestion of using a mind-map to get started resonated LOUDLY.

OK, OK. I get it. The series at the top of my lists is screaming out as much as “Learn to Question…” did. So I started a mind map about that percolating series, sort of. This map includes some other ideas, but the Screaming Idea is the one about feelings that erupt because of the behavior of others:

Made with Padlet

One thing I have learned over the years is that a piece I make from the intensity of my own feeling, out of passionate anger/love/frustration (or equally heartfelt humor), is the one that works best and delivers in my “recognizable style” (see what Sue says about the importance of this).

So here I go. The first piece, working title “Embarrassed,” is in progress. It is highly political, though others in this series may be broader in scope. That’s something I’ll play with and work through along the way. Stay tuned.Embarrassed (WIP)