Butterflies that Flutter-by on my Art Quilts

Butterfly made from a bow costume pin

Butterfly made from a bow costume pin

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

Butterflies have to be one of the happiest looking creatures on Earth as they bounce up and down as they fly. I am so looking forward to seeing them again, yet here in the Mid-Atlantic of the USA, just north of Washington, DC, we had light snow last night. So to brighten up the bleak forecast, and to distract me from the flowers that are already out that might freeze, I’m writing instead about how I use butterflies in my art quilts. After all, if it’s dreary outside, I can at least admire the colors in the photos of my creations.

This first photo actually shows a costume pin bow.The ruffled edges and the pearls down the middle reminded me of a butterfly, so I added on a cone shaped, wire wrapped bead for the body, a flat wire wrapped bead for the head, and sewed on some seed beads for the antenna. It looks for all the world as if it was intended to be a real living insect.

Yellow enameled metal costume pin of a butterfly

Yellow enameled metal costume pin of a butterfly

Another butterfly pin from the same quilt has a more traditional enameled pin that you seeing coming out of China these days. The brightly colored pins are imported by a dealer, Faship, on eBay, and are quite inexpensive considering how much oomph they add. (He’s also about five miles from where I grew up in North Carolina in the Eastern United States). The graduated colors in the enamels and the quality rhinestones make the +/- $6 US worth the cost in my opinion because of the attention these pins create.

 

A costume pin of a butterfly in profile

A costume pin of a butterfly in profile

The next costume pin of a butterfly is a little unusual in that it shows the insect in profile. Most pins want to get the most visual impact, so the 4 wings are usually shown flat. However, this perky little blue insect in the middle of this photo, again from this same art quilt, gives the viewer a bit of surprise as they come across it.

Pink rhinestone pin of a butterfly

Pink rhinestone pin of a butterfly

Finally, there’s this elegant rhinestone covered butterfly pin. Each vein has LOTS of stones on it to catch and play with the light. It’s lacy appearance really adds some terrific visual appeal to the piece. However, its edges also remind me a bit of the torn wingtips I’ve seen of butterflies that have been attacked by hungry birds. I try not to think of that possibility as I look at this jewelry. Its see-through wings also remind me of the Glasswing Butterflies where you actually can see through the wings.

So, if you haven’t gathered by now, I adore butterflies, and since I do a lot of garden art quilts, I can easily work them into my compositions. I’d like to think that my work is interesting enough that you’d want to walk across the room to see the piece and as you got closer, and closer, you’d see more and more details. These butterfly pins certainly help to make that happen for my viewers.

Do you have a favorite creature that keeps appearing in your medium? Why did you happen to choose that particular being? 

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write because encouragement helps the words flow!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.

“A Park at Night” Featured in a Beaded Art Quilt

Full view - Beaded art quilt -"A Park at Night"

“A Park at Night” – a beaded art quilt

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

“Quilting Arts” magazine had another Reader’s Challenge about “Art in the Park” and I wanted to make my beaded art quilt about what q park might look like at night. I felt that there are many creatures and energies that come out at night to play in the moonlight that you don’t experience in sunlight. I love doing these small 8″ or 20.5 cm square pieces, as they take about two weeks to complete, as opposed to months that some of the larger pieces take.

Photoshop elements inkjet print on to cotton fabric

Collage of photos printed on to cotton fabric base

There are 5 different photos that I used in Photoshop Elements in order to make the collage for the surface of the fabric. In the upper left in the photo to the left, there’s a sunset scene on a river that also extends to the upper right, and bottom lower left. Since cats tend to be night animals, I have two in this piece. The blue cat in the lower left is cropped from a large quilt that I made years ago. The green cat eyes are from a painting that a friend made. The blocks in the middle and right are actually glass window blocks from a bathroom, but I thought that they could also suggest sidewalk squares. The three lights on the right I wanted to suggest street lights in the park. Once I was pleased with the image, I then sent it from my laptop over to the printer, and out came the printed fabric to use as my quilt top.

"A Park at Night" detail

Detail of the beaded art quilt “A Park at Night”

I think you can quickly see from the above photos one of the problems in using a printed image from your computer as the basis for a quilt. The choices of colors in Photoshop elements are way more extensive than what my inkjet printer can produce. Also, while there are a wide range of seed beads out there on the market, there are never enough to get an exact match for the fabric, ribbon, or lace that I’ve chosen. Then, there’s the issue of sewing the beads onto the fabric and trying to duplicate the effect of light. In the photo, the moon appears as a delicate circle, luminescent in the center of the piece. In the final piece, seen tin the detail shot above, while the colors of the beads were close to that original color, the moon doesn’t look much like one. Scale is always another issue when doing one these small art quilts. In the center, you can see a red glass rectangular bead with yellow flowers that I added to suggest a garden that might be found in a park. This one near the center worked well in its location, but the two over near the right get lost in the beading for the “street lights”.

There are always lessons to be learned in every piece that I do and I love them all. I don’t have children, so my art quilts are what I’m leaving behind. As with all children, while we try and instill lessons in them, I find that I probably learn more from them then what I imagine they learn from my hands and my energy.

 What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned from your art medium. Do you listen to what it’s trying to tell you, or do you fight to impose your will?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write because encouragement helps the words flow!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.

Circles and More Circles on Beaded Art Quilts

Beaded circle on an art quilt by Nancy Smeltzer

Beaded circle on an art quilt by Nancy Smeltzer

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

I often like to take the same motif and use it in various ways on the surfaces of the same beaded art quilts. Since most buttons are round, as that shape makes it easier to go though a buttonhole, I guess I have a special affinity for round shapes. The photos in this posting are all different ways that I treated the same black and white striped circle.

This first photo shows the full circle as it was cut from the fabric. I embellished the inner and outer parts of the circle with large shell rings and small black and white buttons. I also repeated black and white buttons in different sizes around this central motif. All of the stripes, when finished, were covered with black or white size 10 seed beads.

Half of a black and white beaded circle by Nancy Smeltzer

Half of a black and white beaded circle by Nancy Smeltzer

This next detail shot shows only part of the outer ring of the black and white circle, while in the lower right is an incompleted full circle. I used large 1″ (2.5cm) white buttons with black centers to break up the stripes in the half circle. Yellow embroidery floss fastened down those buttons and added a subtle color to pick up on the nearby yellow butterfly, flowers, and buttons. I like to think that I give a viewer a lot of subtle details to observe as you look closer and closer onto the surface of the art quilt. One compliment that I often get is that people say that they could look at them for hours and not see all of the details.

Half circle with shells on a beaded art quilt

Half circle with shells on a beaded art quilt by Nancy Smeltzer

In this last detail shot, here is yet another way that I used the striped black and white fabric. In this part of the art quilt, I used white mother of pearl circles that can be bought in many craft stores. I fastened them down with about 8 stitches of yellow-green embroidery floss, and then filled the center of each circle with a small purple button. In the middle of the lower right is a blue and purple glass button from Czechoslovakia. They are being made these days with many modern materials, such as dichroic foil, but many of the mold are from the early 1900s. These buttons always elicit quite a response from viewers as they automatically reach out to touch them.

As a child, I was always drawn to buttons and beads. I would run my fingers through them as if I had a treasure chest from one of my story books. Later on, I began to learn about how different cultures view the symbol of the circle, such as rebirth, unity, and centering. When I’m working with my buttons and beads, I’m rarely trying to make a statement with the specific shapes, but just drop into a state of being and play with the materials. They bring me a great deal of pleasure, and I hope my delight in the materials is conveyed to you, the viewer.

What shape(s) are you drawn to repeat in your artistic medium? Do you have an idea why you like to use them, or do you just feel that they’re what’s called for in the composition?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write because encouragement helps the words flow!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.

How to Make Decorative Edges That Add Pizzazz to Your Art Quilts (2)

Edge of a small art quilt with buttons and beadsNancy Smeltzer, MFA

In my last posting, I wrote about some ways to finish off the edge of art quilts besides just using a mitered binding. This post has a few other ways that you might find interesting.This side of this small art quilt (8″ x 10″ or 20 cm x 25 cm) used a blanket stitch to secure the three layers of the quilt sandwich and to keep it from unraveling. To add some interest to that foundation, I used two colors of embroidery floss interspaced along the sides. Then I used large (size3 ) seed beads in a purple color to add some shine and to tie in with some other purple beads that can be seen in the middle bottom of this detail shot. Finally, I used a row of small (.5″ or 1.25cm) in white, yellow, and blue to make an edge around the corner of the piece.

Decorative edge of a beaded art quiltThis detail shot shows a similar treatment of another small art quilt, only with a lot more embellishments. Again, a blanket stitch was used to secure the three layers of the quilt sandwich, but I only used black embroidery floss this time. In between each of the blanket stitches is a row of 3 steel grey seed beads, and an inside row of 3 white seed beads interspersed with a large yellow seed beads with black stripes on the sides. Those yellow beads were meant to play off of the yellow and black striped ribbon, and the yellow, gingham flower rosettes. In the very bottom right corner, I used red glass cylinders with dots on them to play off the red, round beads and the white seed beads found elsewhere in the composition.

Edging of a clear, plastic art quiltFinally, here is another small art quilt made mostly of plastic sheeting. I layered white paper and plastic cutouts between the top and bottom layers of plastic, but technically, the batting layer here is mostly air. In some places, I used clear, nylon thread with decorative stitches on my sewing machine to secure the elements enclosed between the two sheets of plastic. In other places, I left the thread out of the needle, and just let the needled punch programmed holes which had the same effect of keeping things from sliding inside the two plastic sheets. While technically, the plastic sheets didn’t really need a binding, as all that would get in between them is dust, I did sew on some decorative elements, such as flower rosettes along the edges for visual interest. Doing the sewing by hand was hard on my fingers, as the usual round needles didn’t easily pierce the plastic. I probably should have used a glover’s needle, which has a triangular cross-section, and is used for leather. However, the ones that I had were way too large, and I had a deadline for an exhibition entry looming. so I didn’t have time to order any. Deadlines are when an artist makes do with what she has!

There are countless ways to finish off an art quilt. I even saw one once that had used tea bags hanging off the edges. Do think about how the finished piece will be displayed and how the edges might interfere with framing the piece. After all, you don’t want some future curator taking your name in vain over how you finished off your art quilt.

What are some of the more adventuresome ways that you’ve finished off an art quilt? Any tricks of the trade that you’d care to pass along, so that we don’t all have to re-invent the wheel?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write because encouragement helps the words flow!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.

How to Make Decorative Edges That Add Pizzazz to Your Art Quilts (1)

Binding with PipingNancy Smeltzer, MFA

The usual way of finishing off the edges of an art quilt is to add binding so it won’t ravel. This tradition comes from the days when quilts were meant as bed coverings, and you needed to keep the edges from fraying. Here’s an older quilt of mine where I still was making binding by using a Clover Bias Tape Maker. That’s how the red fabric edging was made by pulling a strip of fabric through the maker. Inside, are rollers that fold the egdes under for you. Quite an ingenious low tech tool . As I was stitching down the binding on the top side, I also inserted some white piping that had a black stripe spirally around it. Even adding that striped piping caused quite a lot of comments when that quilt was exhibited. The fact that the red fabric binding had stars on it, as did the actual quilt itself, helped to tie the body and edge of the quilt together.

Blue Ribbon edge with embellishmentsWith some of my smaller art quilts, (12″ or 30.5cm square and smaller), it’s really hard for me to put on a binding, but soft ribbon will often fold easily over the sides. That’s when I will use a blanket stitch around the edges to secure the ribbon down and also add a decorative element. I then add on lots of embellishments to draw the eye outwards all the way to the outer part of the piece. The piece in this photo had a number of blue plastic circles that came from a child’s construction set. I secured them down with embroidery floss, and even had one extend over the edge to add interest to that corner. There are also a number of gold “toggle” like buttons that I added up one side and also on part of the inside of this small piece. As much as I like buttons of different shapes, they’re often hard to get to lay straight where you want them to. (That’s why most buttons are round). I have resigned myself to the fact that I’m “consistently inconsistent” and hope that the viewer appreciates all of the various design elements that I incorporate into my work and not get too hung up about how straight they are.

Chain maille links and small buttons for edgingFinally, here’s an edging that I’ve used in several of my smaller pieces. There are colored anodized chain maille links out on the craft market for making jewelry. I like to sew them on to the back of a piece, making a scalloped edge. Even though I sew them down on the two sides of the ring, they are a little hard to keep from falling forwards or backwards, thus messing up the straightness of the scalloped line. So, when I’m finished, I put a binding of white ribbon on the back that secures the chain maille circles in a relatively straight and upright line. In this particular piece, since the title was “Words, Words. Words”, and words are usually written in straight, horizontal lines, I also added rows of similar buttons to emphasize that theme.

Today is one day in which my art blog and my healing blog have a similar topic…. “Moving Into Life From the Edges”. Check it out later today.

What are some of your favorite ways to finish off the edges of your art medium? Why not share your ideas so we don’t all have to re-invent the wheel?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write because encouragement helps the words flow!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.