It has been many weeks since I have posted here, but I have been thinking about creative stuff, making things — mostly for Christmas, and accomplishing other meaningful tasks. It’s just that the “meaningful tasks” have been more about family and some exciting life decisions!
Yesterday my husband and I took down my design wall and wall-mounted thread racks
because we are relocating! My studio is officially off line. Over the next couple of months we will be packing up and dealing with all the logistics of a 700+ mile move. At the end of it all, we’ll be somewhere warmer and closer to one of our grown kids/his wife and accompanying grandkids. We will also be positioned to travel more easily. And (drum roll), my studio will be bigger and have a walk-in closet! As with any major life decision, this one comes with some downsides and the short-term pains of moving. This will be our sixth house in the course of 43+ years of marriage, so we know how to do it, at least.
I look forward to resuming creative posts. For now, I am stashing my creative ideas in an Evernote notebook until I have time and a new space to dive into them. I know I am a very fortunate person to have such opportunities of time and space, and I do not plan to squander them.
My two most recent pieces, Embarrassed and Face Down are signed and sealed (except for hanging devices, since I am waiting to see where they go next). I have submitted them to a show, and we’ll see what happens. As promised, I have shared the “good” pictures of both in the portfolio section of this blog.
So the inevitable question: what’s next? With no single scream foremost in my head, I am letting ideas murmur a bit. There are many, but none shouts enough to drown out the others. Do I…
- continue with pieces about the ways people push and pull on each other (including or excluding current politics?)
- dig more deeply into “season after season” ideas I am considering for the SAQA call in 2018
- or simply play with some techniques that intrigue me from the current SAQA webinar series on surface design?
I imagine “real” artists’ voices admonishing me that technique should not determine my work. If a true artist’s mecca is working in a series to help my work mature, why do I feel compelled to play with technique? Maybe my work should be play for a bit, generating a series from exploration of materials/techniques and how they amplify the murmuring ideas in my head. Or must I forcibly amplify ideas by staying within techniques used thus far? Is “series” about meaning or technique… or matchmaking of the two? This is the chicken or egg of series. Instead of declaring a series as I tried to do a couple of months ago, I think I need to let the series declare itself. Perhaps I’ll explore and let my work lay a few eggs until a true series hatches.
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 •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):
Pulling some fabrics for Face Down
Ideas pinned on the wall for Face Down
Face Down: pinning and moving things around
Face Down: The first time I quilted the details around the grasping person it simply looked too “nice.” I tore out the curly lines.
Face Down quilting lines redone to look more desperate
Face Down” detail of some of the faces
Face Down after quilting one area. What a lot of threads to tie off!
Face Down: I had to wait to hand sew the bridge folds until after quilting.
Face Down after the bridge was anchored down
Playing with the “bridge” in Face Down
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.
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”
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.
Fortunately, 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!
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.
A planning sketch and the prepped applique of the source of my embarrassment
Auditioning fabrics… my favorite kind of mess
The world complete… turned-edge, hand appliqued for all those nasty curves
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
Stopping to decide what the final frame size will be, using a ribbon to approximate it.
His head, but faceless, and “me” added (a lot of hand applique and some machine satin stitch).
Experimenting with some quilting ideas (on a scrap)
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.