Sunday, September 27, 2015

What's old is new

I learned to sew when I was young. My mother is an amazing seamstress and excels at complicated patterns and tailoring. She made all the clothes for our family and I spent many afternoons on the floor of her closet watching her sew.

The first item I sewed was a beanbag toy shaped like a turtle. I moved on to sewing doll clothes and then my own. I continued making my own clothes whenever I could steal time on mom’s machine or during the summer when I visited the grandparents. Unfortunately by the time I inherited my grandmother’s machine, I was well entrenched in a career that required long hours and travel and left no time for creative pursuits.

Decades later, my mother-in-law showed me quilt after beautiful quilt to entice me to learn her craft. There were traditional log cabin quilts, hand appliqued marvels and quilts with dizzying piecing of colorful half square triangles. Her passion and skill were so evident, it was hard not to succumb. My love of sewing overwhelmed my lack of desire and I plunged into quilting head first.

From this I learned: if you want to make someone a quilter, show them your quilts. I also learned I love piecing! What I realized quickly after, however, is that I don’t like repetition.
My mother-in-law gave me a traditional round and round kit for my birthday that year and I barely completed half the blocks. I just couldn’t bring myself to continue doing the same thing over and over again. As a result, I erroneously equated tradition with boredom.

On one hand, I’m thankful, because disdain for tradition led me to discover art quilting. And yet, I have this lingering sense of loss. I have never made a log cabin quilt! I have never hand quilted or hand appliqued anything. Embroidery scares me. I have never attempted those very things from Anna’s quilts that stunned and captivated me in the beginning.

Thank goodness for the grace of aging! I’m more mature now and I welcome the opportunity to explore the unknown. What is old, is new to me. Thank you Misik for a chance to reflect and to reclaim the roots of this splendid art form.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Log Cabins in Alsace

What a privilege to attend the European Patchwork Meeting and share Viewpoints 9 with Europe!  The exhibits were filled with new, exciting, though-provoking, inspiring exhibitions from Europe and beyond - - but, also, included some beautiful examples of traditional Log Cabin quilts from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum collection in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Some food for thought in our current challenge….

From the EPM program:

Coordinator: « Les Editions de Saxe » in partnership with the IQSC&M/Quilt House, Lincoln, NE (USA)
First published in 1995, « Editions de Saxe's » magazine « Magic Patch » has always been in close relation with and promoting contemporary and traditional artists.
As for International Quilt Study Center and Museum renamed a little while ago Quilt House, it regularly exhibits some of its numerous collections, choosing mostly historic themes.
These very instructive exhibitions give us the opportunity to better understand the American quilt history.
Thanks to the partnership between these two institutions, the EPM will be able to present a wonderful and meaningful exhibition.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Memory of Red

by Lin Hsin-Chen
Tradition is not a new word to me, but when it comes to the traditional sewing techniques in Taiwan, I find myself so unfamiliar with it. I have no idea how to explain the traditional techniques to you. I have to admit that I haven't been paying much attention to it. Thank you, Misik, for giving me the opportunity to think about the subject and to find out the tradition that I am not familiar with. Here is not the complete information, but I would like to share a few images with you.

First of all, I would like to introduce the “shoulang yam”. Shoulang yam is a very important plant to Taiwanese aborigines. It is a traditional dyestuff. Why is it so important? Fibers dyed with shoulang yam are believed to ward off negative situations. It is also being used as mosquito repellents and it helps to strengthen the toughness of fabrics. Most importantly, it’s a beautiful red color. For Taiwanese people, red symbolize joy. Everyone wants to live a joyful life!

Shoulang yam is traditionally much used by Taiwanese aborigines as natural dyes.
(Photo from:

The tubers of shoulang yam
(Photo from:
Next, I would like to talk about traditional sewing techniques in Taiwan. Weaving has not been emphasized in the literature, but it’s a very common technique for Taiwanese aborigines. Lots of images of Taiwanese weaving works can be found in Google. Paper mulberry, ramie and banana tree string are 3 common natural fibers. They are weaved in red or its natural color to form very special patterns. It’s an irreplaceable traditional technique.

Atayal traditional groom costume
(Photo from:

The favorite color of Atayal culture is red.
(Photo from:

There is also a very detailed technique for celebrations - the gorgeous embroidery. Embroidery has a long history in Taiwan, but not many people pay attention to it or learn it now. Though it is somewhat a sunset industry, I have always been fascinated by its gorgeousness.

Traditional Embroidery Art by Tainan Kuang Tsai Embroidery Shop

These are some rough information about the traditional techniques in Taiwan that I know. There are some other techniques that I need to do further research. Just share some of them with you. Thank you. Enjoy creating the 4th challenge!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

New Traditions

Tradition, with a twist- I was delighted to see Misik's challenge for this round.
My first exposure to quilting was at the Kutztown State Fair, in the heart of Pennsylvania's Amish region.  Their incredible work was hung on the barn walls , framing the black buggies and sheepskins on display.
I still feel that they are masterworks, and the balance, simplicity and sue of color inspire me even today.
I began piecing my own hand dyed muslin squares in the early '80's,
then the dots crept in-

.....and segued into the massive dottiness that is typical of my new tradition today-
Don't know yet what I'll do for this one, but it'll be fun!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Meet Viewpoints 9 @ the European Patchwork Meeting!

Carrefour European Patchwork Meeting
September 16-19, 2015

Val d' Argent, France

Founded in 2012, Viewpoints 9 is an international, invitational, fiber art group, consisting of 9 women from 5 countries. Members represent a breadth of ages, art experiences, cultural and professional backgrounds.  The group was conceived as a “think tank” to explore new sources of inspiration and encourage experimentation. Challenges, posed by each artist, are discussed and interpreted on a bi-monthly basis, culminating in an online gallery. The emerging narrative has been a fascinating opportunity to better understand and appreciate the diverse personal similarities and differences in how and why one creates.  Challenges of 9 is the group's second body of work.  To view works included in the exhibition, click here.

Time Trials
Martha Wolfe, Founding Member and Curator

Particle Paths in the Quantum World
Alicia Merrett

Betty Busby

Diane Wright

Looking Back
Kate Themel

Life Celebration
Lin Hsin-Chen

The Last Drop
Lisa-Marie Sanders

Memory of Red and Green
Misik Kim

Our Daily Bread
Sue Dennis

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Waiting for Kelly

"Waiting for Kelly" ©2015, 40" x 48"
Apologies for being so late with this piece.  I got totally swept up in it and it kept going and going - and now I feel like it's time to walk away.

I searched my soul for ideas for unconventional materials and finally settled on a variety of papers - - tissue paper, Abaca paper (made from the leaf-stems of of a banana species - - thank you, Judy Coates Perez for suggesting and supplying), and lokta (made from inner bark of evergreen shrubs).

The cycle is from a photo I took at the San Francisco Airport of a bicycle exhibit while "Waiting for Kelly", my oldest son, to arrive from Sweden. It is a 1941 Schwinn Admiral - a stunning bicycle!  I wanted to try to mimic the glass and reflections of the case it was shown in.  The abaca was perfect to create the text-type images and the bits of reflections.  The tissue paper was a great palette for plate glass and reflections.

Where I went wrong was in fusing the tissue paper and abaca to a background of salvaged table cloth linen and silk curtains.  The entire background was covered with organza and quilted in blocks with straights lined every 1/8".  The non-woven and the woven materials behaved totally different when they were quilted and left me with a rippled background.  So, after considering a variety of solutions, I decided to make the best of it for now and just fuse the collaged bike directly to the background.  And that is where I have left it.  I am reticent to sew it further, for fear the paper won't hold up being manipulated through the machine, but perhaps some hand-stitched spokes can be added.

I had a great time creating the piece!  Thanks, Betty, for a great challenge!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Babel Confounded

The myth of the tower of Babel, as told in the Book of Genesis, means to explain the origin of the different languages. A united people, of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar. Here they agreed to build a city and tower, intending to reach the sky, to keep the people united, and to make a name for themselves. Seeing this, God thought it an act of defiance, and confounded their speech so that they could no longer understand each other; and scattered them around the world.

From the beginning of mankind, language and writing have been important communication tools. The myth of Babel – the confusion of languages – seems to stress the need for a common language – which is what English has become in the last decades – with its rich literature, great political and scientific writings, and now the language of computing. I wanted to express this concept in my quilt. It is a Babel in reverse:  from many languages, we come to a common language.

This piece is composed of two main layers:

- The background layer is a composite of computer-printed cotton sheets, stitched together by machine, where both the colour (gradations), and the texts, come from tools in Photoshop. The texts in this first layer are in many languages; some are real languages – say like French and Spanish – while others are produced using fonts (downloaded free from the internet), which purport to be a different alphabet, but they are only ‘pretend’ (like Chinese or Hebrew).

- The second, overlaying, layer, is made of ‘flaps’ of silk organza, where further texts are printed, either using the computer printer, or Thermofax screens. The organza itself is hand-painted with diluted acrylics. The texts in this layer are all in English – now the universal language – and cover a wide range of subjects: literature, computer-talk, politics, science, etc.

- There is some hand-stitching holding the layers together.

I have used materials and techniques which are unusual for me. It fits within my subject of Magic and Science, as it ranges from the mythological to current reality.

Size: 40” high by 33” wide.