Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I've moved!

...blogs, that is. My new internet home can be found here:

I'll no longer be posting updates at this address, so click over and follow me there if you'd like! Thanks, friends.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Here's a detail shot of my final project for Surface Design II. My final critique is in a matter of hours, and all I have left to do is print my title and finalize my statement! After that, I have to rush off to main campus for my literature final, and then I am done with this semester. What a relief!

This piece is part of a series (photos soon) of tiny works. All of these fabrics (silk noil or raw silk, cotton, and a poly-cotton devore piece in blue). Hand-stitched and embroidered. Oh yes.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

on the bus

Last week, I demonstrated how to print yardage at my school's Celebration of Craft. Here's one chunk of fabric I ended up with:

The buses are screenprinted, and the triangles are block printed. I used fiber-reactive dyes on cotton, and intend to overdye this piece once it's been steamed and washed out.

A highlight of the day was when a very excited kid, maybe 7 years old, asked how I got all the triangles to look the same. I showed him my block, and printed it for him. He asked to try it, so I gave him a pair of gloves and he chose where and in which direction the triangles would point.

I forgot how much fun, and how time consuming it is, to block print yardage! I should carve bigger blocks...

Saturday, April 6, 2013


If you are living in the Northern Hemisphere of Planet Earth, you are hopefully emerging from what felt like the longest winter in the history of the world. (Apart from the Ice Age, but nevermind that.) Today was finally warmish, and I noticed this on my front porch:

My mint is beginning to grow back. Last summer, I yanked a big handful of mint from an overgrown patch at my school, and after neglecting it in a jar of water for far too long, finally planted it. It struggled along through the summer months, and finally succumbed to the double winter that seems to be leaving us. Hooray! I know mint is hardy, but I am still surprised to see it grow back after such a rough start. Hopefully it will do its minty thing and shoot up with a vengeance, so I can start making all manner of wonderful mint iced teas...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

postcard from my nook in the fibers studio

Pictured, in no order: fried egg pincushion; hand-drawn transparencies for a Tri-Met (PDX) bus print and for a print of the first house I lived in as a wee one; antique tape measure; pattern pieces for a sculpture assignment dealing with mass, balance, and gravity (executed in fabric, naturally); pieced curve blocks in hand-dyed and shot cotton.

Friday, March 8, 2013

thanks, bees!

As you might have read, my gentleman friend is a beekeeper with three hives. A few months ago, he got into one hive and harvested a bit of comb for me. The bees have begun filling it with honey, but have not started in on the larvae. 

How pretty! I intend to use the wax for soapmaking. There isn't enough honey here to save, but I can't bear to eat it all yet! It's the most fantastic thing I've ever tasted. I didn't know honey could taste so good and complex. 

I like how the hexagons appear as tumbling blocks when you look through the comb. You can also get a sense for just how fragile the wax is by the light shining through!

These photos were taken at my school, which is in the middle of the woods. It's quite lovely. In the winter, we can see the lake through the trees. Thanks, bees, for making such pretty and useful stuff!

Friday, March 1, 2013

midterms are upon us...

...and all around the Craft Center, cries of "DAMMIT!" can be heard. I am working steadily on this wall hanging for Surface Design. With 15 different screens, most printed a couple to dozens of times, I might have overdone it. But I want to have a finished piece I am proud of, so here I am, working til the wee hours yet again! I'll photograph the final thing once it's done and graded.

A detail of one of my screens, with my wall full of fabric 'sketches' in the background.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Gee's Bend quilts

Here's the second-to-last post from my patchwork independent study last semester! This was perhaps my favorite subject to research.
“We think of inheriting as land or something, not things that people teach you. We came from cotton fields, we came through hard times, and we look back and see what all these people before us have done. They brought us here, and to say thank you is not enough.” -Louisiana Pettway Bendolph
Loisiana Pettway Bendolph Crazy Quilt, c. 2005. Cotton. 68 x 53 inches.
Tucked away in a bend in the Alabama River, surrounded on three sides by water is Boykin, Alabama, population 275. There is one road in and out of town, which is located in one of the poorest counties in the state. Boykin, better known as Gee’s Bend, gave rise to what one New York Times critic called “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced”. Given the isolation of this region, is it any surprise?
Pettway family, Gee’s Bend, 1937. Photo by Farm Security Administration.
After the Civil War, former slaves continued working the fields of Gee’s Bend as tenant farmers, establishing their own close-knit community. The quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend possess a strong innate sense of design built on the visual language of their African American culture, which in turn is informed by African traditions.
Loretta Pettway, born 1942. Medallion, ca. 1960, synthetic knit and cotton sacking material, 87 x 70 inches.
In 1966, a civil rights worker and priest helped the women of Gee’s Bend establish the Freedom Quilting Bee, whose handiwork can be seen below. After Martin Luther King Jr. paid a visit to the region, Gee’s Bend residents attempted to cross the river via ferry to march for their voting rights. They were arrested and ferry services were cut off, leaving the community even more isolated than before. (Services were not restored until 2006.)
Quilts on the line, Freedom Quilting Bee Festival.
Below is Irene Williams’s response to this experience.
Irene Williams born 1920 “Housetop”, 1975.
The women of Gee’s Bend use primarily scrap and recycled fabrics for their quilts. Most of the materials incorporated into these pieces hold significance to their maker, and oftentimes the meaning behind them can only be guessed at by the viewer. In the case of Missouri Pettway’s Blocks and Strips quilt (below), created in 1942, the quilt is composed of deconstructed clothing that belonged to her recently deceased husband. The quilt functions as a eulogy to Pettway’s beloved; it is a memory personified, a tribute to a person made from his most basic possessions: his work clothes. The patina of age and use lent to these artifacts by their wearer further underscore their significance: no other individual could have broken in those jeans in precisely the same way. In this regard, the quilt can be viewed as a collaboration between Pettway and the deceased.
Missouri Pettway, 1902-1981. Blocks and strips work-clothes quilt, 1942, cotton, corduroy, cotton sacking material, 90 x 69 inches.
Nearly 30 years later and in strong contrast to the piece above, Missouri Pettway made this quilt:
Missouri Pettway, 1902-1981. “Path through the Woods” (quiltmaker’s name), 1971, polyester knit, 73 x 69 inches.
It is charming in its asynchronous rhythms, hot pink against heathered grey jostling its way into the striped border. I like to think it is symbolic of Missouri Pettway’s resilience in the face of personal tragedy.
The women of Gee’s Bend took patchwork and quilting traditions and transformed them into a visual language unique to their community. The best-known quilts from Gee’s Bend date from the 1920s to present times, with most created during the mid-50s to mid-70s. During this time, popular patchwork focused heavily on static blocks composed of precisely-sewn, minute pieces of fabric. Quilting was mostly executed by hand, with an emphasis on tiny, evenly-spaced stitches in tight motifs that emphasized the patchwork.
The Gee’s Bend tradition continues with Loretta Bennett, Autumn Lady, 2008 87 x 65 inches.
The women of Gee’s Bend exploded these conventions, taking traditional block patterns, such as the log cabin, and altering the block setting, scale, or even the very rigid construction of the block itself. Quilting stitches are large and uneven, usually forming exuberant flowing lines that complement the bold nature of the patchwork.
Look at the quilting! Annie Mae Young, born 1928. Work-clothes quilt with center medallion of corduroy strips, 1976. Denim, corduroy, synthetic blend, 108 x 77 inches.
In Gee’s Bend, a log cabin block is called ‘housetop’, and looks a distant cousin to the formal log cabin quilts created by quilters outside of the community. Mary Elizabeth Kennedy’s Housetop quilt, created in 1935, is a thrilling example of the Gee’s Bend answer to Depression-era patchwork. Executed mostly in shades of teal and cream, this quilt utilizes nine blocks approximately 20 inches square, arranged in a combination of traditional settings at once to form a strong vertical zig-zag at the left of the composition. While not my favorite quilt, I appreciated Kennedy’s design approach, which predated Abstract Expressionism while being altogether removed from the art scene of the time.
Mary Elizabeth Kennedy, 1911-1991. “Housetop”– “Log Cabin” variation, 1935, cotton, rayon, 84 x 79 inches.
One of the most outstanding examples of a Housetop variation was created by Mary Lee Bendolph in 1998. Composed of a solid palette of black, brown, cream, red, and dusty pink, this quilt is a thrillingly loose interpretation of the log cabin block, to the point of being nearly unrecognizable as such.
Mary Lee Bendolph, born 1935. “Housetop” variation, 1998; quilted by her daughter, Essie bendolph Pettway, in 2001, cotton, corduroy, twill, assorted polyesters, 72 x 76 inches.
The composition is intensely rhythmic and dynamic, consisting of repetitious use of color. Many of the fabrics used in this quilt are polyester double-knit, repurposed from a family member’s unwanted collection of leisure suits. That such outdated garments could be transformed into such a striking work of art speaks to the resourcefulness and talent of these quiltmakers, who make art from make-do.
Loretta Pettway, born 1942. “Housetop,” 1963, cotton twill and synthetic material (men’s clothing), 80 x 74 inches.
Does this call to mind Amish quilts at all?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

hand applique!

Here it is! Oh, if I could, I would spend most of the winter months reverse-appliqueing sorta-circles like this. All over the place.

This was just a quick composition... well, the composition was conceived quickly, but executed slowly, stitch by tiny blind stitch. I would like to have more elements in the aqua negative space, but in the interest of time, limited myself to what you see here. Still, I think it's pretty successful! I especially like the pink-on-pink triangles. That is a block print carved and printed by yours truly, last spring semester. I dyed all of the fabric by hand, too. Behold, the freaky lighting change:

The pink egg and bar shapes are appliqued in reverse, meaning they sit below the aqua fabric. The orange bars and circular shape are appliqued on top of the background. I really enjoy this process. It is slow, but it produces handsome results. There is something mysteriously appealing about meticulous work.

This piece's true color lies somewhere in between these two photos, but the institutional lighting in my studio combined with my sorry lack of Photoshop skills mean that you must use your imagination. Sorry! Woof, that's bad. Anyway, tiny tiny stitches, look! This reminds me, I need to find more John James golden eye needles...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

postcard from the fibers studio

Here is a closeup of the hand-sewn applique and reverse applique sample I was working on for my Surface Design II class.

It is currently being graded. I'll post a picture when I get it back, but I can tell you that it's about 13.5" square, and features fabrics I dyed and block printed by hand using fiber-reactive dyes. As it turns out, I quite enjoy reverse applique, particularly curvilinear shapes, which turn under so easily.

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