Making Decisions on a Beaded Art Quilt

Closeup on the purple and black harlequin ribbon

Closeup on the purple and black harlequin ribbon

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

In the past, I’ve showed you my works in progress, but they’re rather far along by the time that you see the photos. This time, I thought I’d let you in on some of the thought processes as I go along, and how I do what I do.

A few postings ago, I talked about the beginnings of “Sunflowers and Dragonflies” beaded art quilt. Here are some macro shots and my thoughts as I was going along. In the middle of the purple and black Harlequin ribbon running down the middle, I started by outlining the purple and black edges between each diamond. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the purple and black fabric to the left of the blue button with the black rim sticks out quite a bit. Ribbons make great lines on an art quilt’s surface, but it’s often hard to get them to lay flat. By beading, I’m quilting and sewing on the beads at the same time, and as a result the surface flattens by the time that I’m finished. I would like to fill in all of the purple diamonds with these seed beads (size 10), but there’s a lot of ribbon and not so many beads, so after outlining all of the purple diamonds, I may fill them in completely or at least some of them.

Fabric with and without lines covered with blue crystal beads

Fabric with and without lines covered with blue crystal beads

This next macro shot shows the use of the blue rondelles in the center part of the art quilt. You can see what the fabric looked like before I started filling in the lines between the rondelles with the same blue crystal beads used to fasten them in place. At first I wanted to fill in the oval blue shapes with the same blue, crystal beads. I also considered filling in the triangles between the rondelles with an aqua seed bead a little lighter than the ones already being used. I had set aside some paler, aqua beads for that purpose, (my stash of most of my beads is in storage, as I’m in the process of moving), but when I started sewing them on to the fabric, they were too gray looking. It’s really hard to tell exactly how a seed bead will look on fabric until it’s laying on top of it. I usually take a straight pin, thread a few beads on it and place it where I want it to go on the fabric. That’s why I rarely order seed beads on-line as the colors on the monitor can vary so much. If I decide to fill in those blue triangles more, I need a more teal colored blue bead, so I’ll have to wait until my studio and I are reunited.

Seed beading on sunflower petals

Seed beading on sunflower petals

This third macro shot is of one of the sunflower petals. I’ve used two colors, a flat yellow and a warm brown crystal bead. When working with seed beads, there are never enough colors to match the thousands that are found on fabrics, so I try as best as I can to match those on the fabric.  When I was setting aside yellow beads, I included a wide array, but at least for this section, only the two seemed to work for the petals. If you look to the left and the right of the two petals that have been beaded, you can see that I came pretty close to matching up the colors. However, sometimes, the beads are wider than the lines and shapes on the surface of the quilt. It’s then when I have to make artistic decisions to whether or not to cover up and cover an area with one color or the other. By looking at what is already there and squinting my eyes to get the overall effect, I make choices as to whether or not more of one color is needed than another based on what the original fabric had on it, or sometimes another color choice completely different that I feel adds to the look that I’m trying to acheive.

I’ve said before that using seed beads as intensively as what’s in the sunflower petals takes a long time. 1 sq in (2.5cm sq) takes one hour’s work, so this is not for those who want to make a quilt in a weekend. However, for me, there’s a Zen-like quality of beading like this, which gives me peace as I work.

What were some of the “take-aways” that you learned from reading this blog. I’m working on a series of inexpensive lessons on how I quilt and would love feedback on any thing that you liked, want further explained, or thought was totally useless.

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.

Street Finds Used for Embellishments for Art Quilts

Leather shoe lining

Leather shoe lining

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

I’ve always like picking up unusual objects from the streets and using them as embellishments for my art quilts. These street finds used to embarrass my husband, but he’s my ex now, so it doesn’t matter. These one of a kind objects often wait pinned to the design board I use for composing my art quilts, since there’s only one of them and I would forget it they were put away in a jar. Sometimes, I’m not even sure what the object is, as this photo on the left. It’s made of leather, and I’m calling it a shoe lining, but I’m not sure that was it’s original purpose. Still, it will make a terrific face in some future project. All of the little tiny holes around the larger ones could be stopped with a sewn on bead, or I could sew floss through the larger holes. I guess I’ll have to wait until I find the right location for its use.

Black rubber gasket/lining

Black rubber gasket/lining

The next object is even more perplexing regarding its original use. It’s made of black rubber and perhaps was a gasket of some sort. (I’ll have to ask my neighbor who’s a “car guy”.) Anyway, it’s about 1/4in (5 mm) thick. It also might have been part of a heel reinforcement on a shoe. Turned this way, as shown in the photo, it could be a mask. Turned 180 degrees, it could be an animal, maybe a bunny rabbit. I will definitely have to sew floss through the holes to hold it in place (eyelashes maybe?) as I don’t like to use glue if I can help it. I don’t know of any archival glues strong enough to hold an object of this weight onto an art quilt, and after about ten years, the glue would start to leach out on to the fabric and weaken it.

Blue children's toy piece

Blue children’s toy piece

This blue plastic object, I believe, is part of a children’s toy. There are trenches down each of the arms that will make it easy to fasten this on to an art quilt’s surface. It’s about 2.5″ (9.5 cm) at it’s widest diameter. At first I thought it might be one of those dangling toys that hang from baby carriages to amuse children, but it took me awhile to remember, not being a parent, that small objects are choking hazards. Once the slots are fee of the circle in the middle, they’re notched, so perhaps they’re meant to attach to other notched objects to construct something. This piece had obviously been run over a few times by cars, as the surface is scratched and worn, but I see that as a patina. Maybe this piece is destined to be a face also.

Flattened AA battery

Flattened AA battery

The final piece is one of my favorites, and I’ve only found two of them. It’s a squashed AA battery whose label has worn off. The terminal in both of them that I’ve found was flattened so that it looks like a little face with two small arms in front. At one point, I had thought of making some by putting batteries in a heavy duty plastic contractor’s bag and banging on them with a hammer. I even queried some of my mechanically inclined friends as how to safely neutralize the acid that would come out (Baking soda got the most votes). However, I decided I’d probably splatter it everywhere, get it on me, or do something heinous to the environment, so I just scour the streets looking for more. I know that they’re out there somewhere.

While I certainly don’t put myself in the same league as Pablo Picasso, his famous bull’s head made out of a bicycle seat comes to mind. Made in 1942, it was reviewed as being quite outrageous by some, and avant garde by others. So I guess putting a few street finds as embellishments for my art quilts isn’t that out of the ordinary.

BTW, most of these objects were found outside a local Jo-Ann’s craft store in the area. I don’t know if it’s the creative clientele that frequents the place or that they often bring children who drop things, but I can usually find something of interest every 3 or 4 times I go there. All I have to do is look down, and then remember to take the piece out of my pocket before I do the wash.

What interesting objects have you found by accident and used in your artwork? Do you have a favorite type of store that usually isn’t considered for art supplies that you’d like to share with us?

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.

Sunflowers and Dragonflies – Another Beaded Art Quilt

Sunflowers and Dragonflies - beaded art quilt

Sunflowers and Dragonflies – beaded art quilt

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

I’m in the process of down-sizing and moving to another state, so the first room I started packing was my studio as I knew it would be the hardest (all of those little button and bead jars!) Since I had no idea when my house would sell, or how long it would take me to move, I cut out 3 quilts, which would give me enough to work on for a year. I attached the buttons and large beads to them, and then set aside most of the seed beads I would need to sew on their surfaces. Then, the rest of the studio was packed into boxes and placed in storage until it’s time to move. I’m already missing some of my things, and have had to by a few small items.

Part of the title for this piece comes from my mother’s love of sunflowers. Her screened in porch had sunflower pillows, and sunflower trivets and coasters, and sunflower everything else you could think of. When I was cleaning out her closets after she died, I came across some fabric that had sunflowers that were meant to be made into pillows, so I kept the fabric, never thinking I’d be able to use it, as the flowers were so big. (5.5″ or 14 cm). It’s appropriate that I started writing this blog on her birthday. She’s been gone now for two birthdays, and I thought a lot about her today, and how she always encouraged me in my art work.

Detail of sunflower and dragonflies

Detail of sunflower and dragonflies

This detail shot shows a close-up of one of the sunflowers and the dragonfly appliques scattered all over this piece. I usually add on butterflies, but I found on eBay a good price on about 50 of these, so I bought as many as I could afford at the time. I find that I like having a lot of the same kind of object to repeat on the surface of an art quilt, and this piece has LOTS of dragonflies.

This photo also shows some of the problems in using ribbons as embellishments on art quilts. I love to use them, especially if they have a pattern, like the purple and black harlequin piece, but you have to be very careful to line them up as straight as you can, because no matter how carefully you’ve pinned it, the ribbon will slide some as you sew it down. That’s when big buttons need to be sewed on to distract your eye, so when I’ve moved into my new place, one of the first things to be unpacked will be the studio.

Detail shot 2 of the beginning of a beaded art quilt

Detail shot 2 of the beginning of a beaded art quilt

In this other detail shot, you can see the green ribbon that I think I have a life-time supply of. I loved the little picot edging on it, and so I bought as many rolls as I could afford of this antique ribbon. The store has gone out of business, so I probably can’t get anymore, but it’s shown up in a lot of my pieces over the years. To the right, is a blue fretwork like pattern with an aqua rondelle (flat bead) in the middle of each motif. These particular ones I love, but I can’t find anymore with the aurora borealis finish (AB) on them in my usual sources. I think it’s because the AB finish is not as permanent, or maybe it’s more expensive, but since I love shiny things, I’ve looked high and low to find more. I used up the last of my stash on this art quilt, so unless I allow myself to wander on eBay, I probably won’t get anymore.

What are some of your favorite materials or motifs that you like to use in your artwork?

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 of Black, Circles of White 7″ – Another Beaded Art Quilt

Circles of Black, Circles of White 7 - a beaded art quilt

Circles of Black, Circles of White 7 – a beaded art quilt

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

This is the last cut out in the series of beaded art quilts where I used black and white circles with spokes in them, (I still have one to finish). It started out much more yellow than it ended up, but then my art quilts always tell me what they want to have on them. I used vertical stripes of black and white harlequin ribbon to play off the similarly colored spokes in the circles. I also used black industrial zippers half way unzipped to add another decorative embellishment. Black and white buttons of all shapes and patterns are scattered throughout to carry out the black and white theme.

Detail 1 of Circles of Black, Circles of White 7

Detail 1 of Circles of Black, Circles of White 7

In this detail shot, you can see a lot of those black and white buttons that I was talking about. You can also see, however, many of the other colors that were used in this piece. The background fabric started out as a yellowish piece with mottled orange circles, but by the time I sewed on red seed beads, the background appeared more red than yellow. To balance it out, I had added some yellow fabric bands, which you can see to the left of the photo. In that area, the beading is so intense, that 1 sq. in (2.5 cm sq) = 1 hour’s work. You can also see a lot of the butterflies that I added, both applique and metal pins as I love the creatures.

Detail 2 of Circles of Black, Circles of White 7

Detail 2 of Circles of Black, Circles of White 7

In this second detail shot, I’ve added some green arrows to point to some of the more subtle details that you wouldn’t see otherwise. In the very center are some square buttons that have red circles on them to play off the red circles on the background fabric. I rarely use anything but round buttons, as it’s hard to get other shapes to line up the way you want them to. These, however, were just too cool to pass up, although I only got five, and I’ve no idea from where.

The other two green arrows point to some cylindrical lampwork beads. The body is orange glass and the ends are flat yellow blobs. They remind me of the candy corn that is popular here in the States. This is the last of those beads, and is another case of where I wish I had bought all the store had at the time. When I realized how much I liked them on an earlier piece, by then the store was of course, out of them, and couldn’t re-order more. However, art does make one creative, and if you look to the very far right, you’ll see flat yellow buttons sewn on with 4 strands of red floss to make a cross and play off the colors of the “candy corn” beads. I was rather proud of myself for that innovation.

As I said, I have one more in the series to finish, which was actually the second to be cut out. (Why? ‘Cause!) I certainly have become expert a making spokes on the circles as the white beads are size 6 (larger) than the size 10 black beads. Also, in the bigger circles, I sometimes had to fill in the black with an extra, short line of beads, as there was more surface area in the “wedge” as you move away from the middle. even though I still have a lot of those black and white circles, but I think it will be awhile before I use them again. However, I’ve learned to “never say never”, especially when it comes to my beaded art quilts.

Do you have any shapes or themes that you tend to use a lot in your artwork? Any idea why you use them?

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.

Inkle Weaving – A Blast From the Past

 

Samples of Inkle Weaving

Samples of Inkle Weaving

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA In the late 60s and early 70s, there was a big move on to return to traditional textile techniques, as many of the people who knew how to do them had died, or their companies had moved overseas. While getting my portfolio together to go to The Maryland Institute of Art for my MFA, I learned crochet, macrame, and many other techniques that had been laid to the side for more modern objects and materials. One of these techniques was inkle weaving. On the left are some pretty simple versions that I made. If you Google inkle weaving, and look at the “images” section, there are many more complicated examples than mine. I got bored rather quickly with the process, since you had to manually make the “shed” or the place where the shuttle with the thread/yarn on it would be passed. To make that shed. the loom that I was using had a flat wooden piece with a notched edge to it, and that allowed a little more ease in picking up the warp or vertical threads that I wanted. You then turned the flat edge on it’s side, and that made enough room to pass the shuttle through with the color for that row.

Inkle Loom

Inkle Loom

The loom that I used was a simple table top one, although there are ones that are made that are floor models if you want to make a lot of the same pattern. This table model allowed me to make lengths about 3 feet (9 m). The above samples are about 1″ (2.5cm) wide, but I could have made them wider if I had wanted to do so. I wanted to hurry and learn as many patterns as I could, and in keeping with the times, used rustic materials such as butcher and other forms of twine. Since inkle weavings are often used as guitar straps, belts, and other forms of narrow textiles, the scratchy twine would not have been very comfortable, especially going around your neck. However, this was the time when we were “being real and true to our roots”, not that a country girl from North Carolina would have had any relatives that I knew of that had done such work. It was fun learning about folk traditions, especially through classes at the Smithsonian, such as learning to crochet with your fingers. This apparently was one early way that man learned to make fabric until someone realized that a stick or bone with a notch at the end would make things go a lot faster. My simple inkle loom would have been quite a step up in technology from the primitive finger crocheting. As I was cleaning out my studio to move, it was hard to give up the several looms that I had collected over the years from art teachers who didn’t know how to use them, and weren’t very interested in learning, since you would need one loom/child in each class. My looms ended up going to a friend who is starting a weaving studio, so I know that they’ll have a good home and traditions will be passed on.

What are some textile traditions that you have in your family? My grandmother used to crochet white edges around wash cloths. 

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.