Archive for Art Quilt Techniques

Whole Cloth Painting on an Art Quilt (1)

Thunderbird Sculpture - Joshua Tree, Arizona

Thunderbird Sculpture – Joshua Tree, Arizona

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

I recently had the exciting opportunity to take a workshop with an art quilter whose work I have admired for a long time, Susan Brubaker-Knapp. Her work is often featured in the pages of “Quilting Arts” magazine, and she is the host of the popular TV series on PBS TV, “Quilting Arts TV“. To get in the workshop, I found by chance in a local arts newspaper, an announcement that a local quilting organization, the Western North Carolina Quilter’s Guild, was having a symposium in a few weeks just eight miles from where I live. I quickly contacted the organizers, got in Susan’s class, gathered my supplies, and eagerly awaited the first day of a day and half class.

The first thing to do before going was to choose a photograph on which to base my future art quilt. The finished piece would be about 8″ x 10″ ( 30 cm X 25 cm), so what was in the photo would translate in the finished piece pretty much as life size. Susan’s directions said to pick one of our own photos that had light, mid, and dark tones and that was clearly in focus. Normally, I would have chosen one of my floral pictures, as I’m a plant geek, but the iron sculpture in the above that I shot out in Joshua Tree, Arizona a few years ago spoke to me with its strong contrasts.

Thunderbird Painting & Photo for Comparison

Thunderbird Painting & Photo for Comparison

Once in class, and after narrowing down our photos, we were instructed to tape the one we chose under a piece of special tracing paper with the delightful name of “bum wad”. Used by architects, it’s stronger than regular tracing paper, and can be found in a wide variety of art stores and on-line. Using a fine line black marker,we recorded as much of the details as were needed to make the image onto the tracing paper. Then, the paper was taped under Robert Kaufman’s Pimatex PFD fabric, which is available on-line from a number of sources. I was unfamiliar with it, and was amazed at how sheer it was. It was pretty easy for me to copy my lines onto the fabric (using a mechanical pencil, BTW). However, there were some others in the class who had really dark backgrounds on their phoot, and had to tape their tracing paper and fabric to a window to get the outlines of the different areas in the photo they had chosen onto their own fabric.

Then, as you can see in the above photo of how my work was progressing, each area is filled in with small paint brushes as accurately as possible to match the color in the original photo. Susan really emphasized for us to look closely at the photos that we had and to portray what we saw as carefully as we could. Actually painting what we saw, and not making “coloring book” renditions of leaves, trees, and other natural forms was hard for some, but my sculpture was pretty much all in the foreground in my photo. That made it easy for me to interpret.

The paints that we used were PRO Chemical and Dye Textile Paints. They’re acrylic paints and had an extender to mix in to make the paints move around on the fabric longer. Otherwise, they would have dried in about five minutes. I hadn’t painted anything except faux painting on walls in quite a while, actually years, now that I think about it. Probably the hardest part for me was deciding how much paint to pour out into the compartment of my little artist’s palette, as Susan had said not to dip paint directly out of the jar. If we did that, we ran the risk of contaminating the paint and causing mold to grow in it. I wanted to have enough that once I had mixed a color, I would have enough to finish that area. This desire when I first started caused me to pour out too much paint and waste some. However, wrapping the palette in plastic wrap and having a lid on it before putting it in the refrigerator can lengthen its life span.

One day's painting and possible future embellishments

One day’s painting and possible future embellishments

This photo shows what I had done after the first day’s work, (six hours). During that class, I had talked with Susan about how I might incorporate my use of buttons and beads into the piece, as while I wanted to experience her technique, my fingers were itching to start sewing on things. She suggested making a frame on the outside where most of the embellishments could be contained and leaving the center pretty free except maybe for some seed beads, like she does. I was excited about that idea and back in my studio that night, I hauled out a large selections of metal feathers, gears, copper buttons, and washers. I was tickled that I had them all on the ready and wouldn’t have to buy anything new. So, before the second day of class began, I arranged the pieces around the painting and photographed them for future reference, as you see in the above photo.

Completed Thunderbird painting

Completed Thunderbird painting

Then, I put away the metal embellishments and dug into painting. I had about three hours to finish painting in the middle of the bird and the sides of the walls, which was my goal at the start of class. Brown was not a color in our sampler paint sets, and Susan generously let us borrow what was in the big bottles she had brought. I scruffed in the paint, and then the last hour started in on the sky. Before I knew it, I had completed the two closely matched shades of blue that I had mixed for that area, and ta-dah.. I had finished my painting, with half an hour to spare.

Susan had the great idea of outlining each part of my piece with black lines before I stitch with all black thread, and I have yet to do that. Also, the wobbly outside edges of painting that you see in the above photo include a 1/4″ ( 5 mm) seam allowance that will be evened out in the finished piece after I quilt it.

What  great good fun I had. Susan is a masterful teacher, and had tons of practical, clear advice on how to proceed with each student. Sometimes, i just put down my paint brush and listened to what she was saying to others as there was always something insightful. As a teacher myself, I’m really picky when it comes to being taught, so if you ever get the chance to be in one of Susan’s classes, by all means, do so. You’re in for a treat!

I often find that I learn the most in classes outside of my usual medium. This was a painting class, and I had to learn about how much to mix and blend with this brand of paint. What have you learned from other media?

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.

Beaded Art Quilts in the Sky – “Sky Map”

Full View - Sky Map

Full View – Sky Map

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

Once in awhile, I get to see pieces that I sold before I knew much about photography and so didn’t have a record of the piece. That’s the case with a recent re-connection with Dr. Lisa Gordon, who introduced me to a whole new world of healing. This beaded art quilt that she bought was actually visionary art, as it’s based on a dream that I had while visiting Sweden. In the summer, Stockholm only has about 3 hours of darkness.I awoke at 3 am, looked out the window at the sparkling harbor, and then went back to sleep.

I’m fortunate that I have vivid dreams in color, and in this dream, the sky was faceted with sparkling mirrors and lines. The quality of the light that far north is much more silvery than what I’m used to here in the Mid-Atlantic of the States where light is more golden. I immediately jumped up and made a very rough sketch of the image that I had seen, which wasn’t really necessary. as I can still see what I saw that night as vividly as it was way back then.

Detail (1) of Sky Map

Detail (1) of Sky Map

This first detail shot shows some of the rich diverse materials I used in the making of this art quilt. There’s a large shi-sha mirror bordered in gold near the middle of the pic. On top of it as a star piece that I baked from friendly plastic. While the gold edges were still warm, I pressed a glass cabochon into the middle to make another shiny effect. There is a metal button that is criss-crossed with lines below the shi-sha mirror, and to the right of that is a bent waffle looking shape that I have no idea where I found it, but I wish that I had more of them. Finally, there is gold mesh stitched flat on the background to repeat the images of crossing lines that catch stars.

Detail (2) of Sky Map

Detail (2) of Sky Map

In this next shot, you can see a swirled iron-on applique. Perhaps that could be a new galaxy forming out there in space? While iron-on appliques always have a glue on the back that is supposed to be heat set when ironed, I’ve scorched some, and had some fall off. Therefore, I always sew them on to make sure they’ll stay, even though it’s hard to stitch through the glue. In the middle right is a silvery leaf earring, whose outward swirls suggested to me that energy could be emanating from a central force. Scattered throughout are flat rondelles with a finish that’s know as aurora borealis. While the beads are still being made, I can’t find them with the shiny AB finish anymore. Bead manufacturers bring out new lines and stop making some, usually the ones that I really like.

Detail (3) of Sky Map

Detail (3) of Sky Map

In the center of this shot is another gold colored iron-on applique. This one however, is in a square with the lines that circle round and round filled in with background material. However, in contrast, just beneath it, is another of those bent waffle forms made out of gold colored metal. (I love to repeat patterns in different ways across the surface of one of my art quilts). In the middle left is a “spider” looking pin, which I intended to be a starburst. To fasten it to the surface there’s a glass bead that I sewed in the middle to be a stopper to keep that swirled pin fastened down.

This piece was created in 1997, and the owner bought it before it right after it was finished, so I hadn’t seen it in quite awhile. I was surprised at how big it was (41.5″T x 39″W or 105.5 cm T x 99 cm W), as the pieces that I’m doing these days are much smaller and manageable. (Those things get heavy once you start adding on all of those buttons and beads!) I was pleased to get a chance to photograph it for my records, as it was one of my favorites and can still remember the night when the sky was faceted with lines and mirrors of light.

Do you have a favorite dream that you’ve translated into a piece of art? What was it like creating that art and do you feel that the piece turned out?

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.

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.

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.

 

Beach Balls and Flowers; a Beaded Art Quilt Still-life

Full View of Beaded Art Quilt "Beach Balls and Butterflies"

“Beach Balls and Butterflies”

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

I love the punch of complementary colors. I’ve always been drawn to them long before I knew anything about them being opposites on the color wheel. In this small beaded art quilt, (9″ or 23 cm square) I used a fabric that has blue and white circles that remind me of beach balls. I remember playing with them for hours as a kid, probably because all you had to do with them was to catch and bounce them. The back ground fabric on the balls even was an orange color, although I cut that away. Instead, for the background, I used an orange and white striped fabric that reminded me of beach umbrellas.

Detail of "Butterflies and Beach Balls"

Detail of “Butterflies and Beach Balls”

When you’re working with such a small space, every button and large bead has to work in the composition. In the upper center of this detail shot is an aqua glass button from Czechoslovakia. It has raised gold bubbles that sort of remind me of sea foam. Never mind that flowers wouldn’t be growing in the ocean; this a piece about opposites. In the upper left and middle right is a large round aqua bead that has broken golden shapes on it. It reminds me of the gorgeous inside of an abalone shell.

Detail  2 of "Butterflies and Beach Balls"

Detail 2 of “Butterflies and Beach Balls”

This detail shot shows a little more of the orange and white flowers, and also a star burst flower of dark blue with black lines that reminds me of chrysanthemums. There is also an aqua flower that has navy outlines. I love pouring through my fabric stash and finding just the perfect addition to my compositions. The way that I make my beaded art quilts is that I use the colors and the shapes on the fabric to dictate the choices of buttons and beads. However, it’s not merely filling in the shapes, as a lot of choices still are made about which buttons and beads to choose.

Since this piece was about complementary colors, I also wanted to use opposites for the objects used in the piece. I couldn’t think of anything more opposite than beach balls bouncing around in a garden. I know that I would have gotten spanked when I was little if I had tromped through my Dad’s rose gardens with beach balls. So, let’s pretend that these are very, very light and will drift from flower to flower as if they’re colored bubbles.

What are some opposites that you like to use in your medium. Is it choice of materials, textures, or colors?

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.