In Summary

September 17, 2015

Follow me on Instagram for shots of my studio process and progress.


During the summer of 2014, I assigned myself a simple task: document a single mixed media quilt, start-to-finish, with a daily accounting of my work in blog form. I anticipated an intense three-week endeavor. Instead, it became a two-month-plus undertaking that grew to encompass my French knots series, my studio trials and tribulations, my life.

These blog posts now exist in reverse chronological order as a snapshot–or, really, almost like a slow-motion video–of my studio practice. To read from the beginning, start here.

 

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Day Sixty-Two: Thus Concludes Our Program

July 28, 2014

And just like that, this project is finished. This piece has received all the paint it will receive. Its edges are fully bound. Although there is no such thing as enough stitches, I have set my needle down.

The piece is finished, but its life is actually just beginning.

First, it will be critiqued—both by myself privately and then by a small group of peers next weekend. I can already identify its many flaws: the original photographic composition needed further Photoshop tweaking to enhance its contrast; I needed to clean the print heads more often for consistency of printed color; I should have taken the time to determine the true necessary seam allowances for the shapes and paint thicknesses with which I was working; always, I should improve my painting. I can also identify its successes: overall, the composition works and has all the added elements it really needs; the colors and piecing pattern for the quilt background support the conceptual content; the imaginary character is more fully developed than previous pieces. All of this feedback—both from myself and others—will be digested and applied to the next piece.

Next, this piece will be prepared for exhibition. Although it—as an artwork—is finished, it has no professional means of display at the moment. I—likely with the help of Tricia—will stitch a strip of Velcro loops near the top on the back side of the piece. This strip will correspond with a strip of Velcro hooks stapled to a strip of wood of the same length. With this convenient installation method, the work can just be ripped off the wall on the way out if one ever needed to quickly flee a burning building.

The piece also needs to be professionally photographed. I have taken snapshots in my studio, but have never been able to capture the crisp detail of which a professional is capable. These images of the work are really every bit as important as the work itself. They go out into the world as its ambassador and professional representation. Most people will never see my work in person. It is only as good as the images representing it.

Finally, this work will go physically out into the world. I will submit it to competitive exhibitions and it will travel with others in the series to solo and small group shows. I will hope—as always—that someone will love it enough to buy it. If that happens, I will be absolutely thrilled and not the least bit nostalgic for its presence in my life. When a piece is finished, I am ready to move on.

Oh, and I have named this piece The End of Romance. I’m not entirely sure why.

"The End of Romance", finished.

“The End of Romance”, finished.

"The End of Romance", detail.

“The End of Romance”, detail.

The End of Romance, detail two.

The End of Romance, detail two.

 

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Day Sixty-One: Is Anybody Out There?

July 25, 2014

Within a few more days, this piece will be finished and this little blog project will have reached its conclusion. When I first envisioned this undertaking, I assumed it would be a three-week mission. Instead, I have passed the two-month mark. I didn’t realize in advance that I would generate a project requiring this many hundreds of tiny parts, or that it would need more painting than any other piece I have ever made.

I thought blogging would be a simple, effective and efficient way to document my process, and I’m delighted that I now have this readily accessible record on my website. I thought it would serve as extra motivation to push myself hard in the studio, and indeed I’ve powered through exhaustion at times when I might otherwise have succumbed to a nap. I thought it would be a means for critically analyzing my work, and I have, in fact, reached multiple epiphanies about both my abandoned house series and—unexpectedly—my French knots. I also thought it could be a good way to publicize my work, when self-promotion is my absolute least favorite part of this art-making job. And now, I wonder: is anybody out there? I know there are ways for more digitally-adept people to delve into their websites’ innards and sleuth out just how many people are visiting and how they arrived; I, however, barely stumbled through the site-building process in the first place and certainly lack the skills to do any innards-delving. So, if you have been following along in any part of this project, I would love for you to drop me a quick line using the “contact” link above. Let me know if you would like to be added to my e-mail list (though I have never actually sent out an e-mail newsletter or anything of that ilk), or, put your tangible mail address in the body of the message if you would like to be on my actual mailing list (and I do on occasion send out real, solid postcards).

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Day Fifty-Nine (and Day Sixty): Continuing to Quilt (and Getting Ahead of Myself)

July 24, 2014

Technically, when constructing a quilt there is a very specific order of operations to be followed: piece the top, baste the three layers, stitch the layers together working from the center to the edges, and—finally—bind the edges. This system ensures that the quilt comes together in a neat, tidy, wrinkle-free manner. Most quilts, though, do not begin their journey with layers of gesso and paint and printing. I break so many rules en route, I have no qualms about beginning the binding process while—gasp!—there is still more quilting to occur.

For this entire series of works, I have used a manufactured black quarter-inch bias tape to finish the edges. It creates a fine thin line framing the piece without competing with it. The consistent black edge visually links the pieces together, reinforcing their shared techniques and subject matter. I also see it as somewhat mournful, and a nod to black photo corners holding pictures in albums.

The binding on this piece is not yet fully finished. I simply took the first step today of machine-stitching it to the face of the quilt. Over the next several days, I will fold the binding around the edge of the quilt and hand-stitch it to the backing, using tiny nearly-invisible stitches. I will also, of course, continue to quilt. It is approaching the point of having “enough” stitches, though knowing when to stop is always one of my greatest challenges.

The full piece, with binding stitched to the face.

The full piece, with binding stitched to the face.

More quilting on the surface, with the unfinished binding.

More quilting on the surface, with the unfinished binding.

And still more stitching.

And still more stitching.

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Day Fifty-Eight: The End is Near

July 22, 2014

I have more than one piece in my past that took more than 6 months to complete. With both Escape Attempt and The Rise and Fall of Old Mold House, it was the final stitches that took forever. Even though the stitching underway on this piece is not nearly so complex, I had myself mentally prepared for slow going, particularly after the time committed to earlier steps seemed to expand exponentially. Instead, my work here is nearly finished. Just a few more hours stand between me and an acceptably quilted piece. As early as tomorrow, I could begin binding the edges, signaling the last final stage and the conclusion of this project.

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Day Fifty-Seven: Night and Day

July 21, 2014

This piece is now officially a quilt. It is not a finished quilt, of course, but it is a quilt nonetheless. It is populated with stitches binding the three layers together, and with every stitch, I am fighting against my own natural inclinations for perfection and uniformity. These stitches need to be rougher and rawer to balance out the sweetness and romance of beads and candles, and—quite honestly—to hide some of the many flaws in the pieced construction. This process is literally painful as nature never intended needles to puncture the paint-thickened fabric. It is also cumbersome as I repeatedly maneuver the unwieldy work. And, it is how I will pass each day in the studio for the next several days. Although I am stitching—needle, embroidery floss, fabric—this stitching is night-and-day different from the French knots I continue to compile at night. Those beloved French knots are simultaneously sweet and delicate and mindless. They can no more happen during the day than the real work of stitching this quilt can happen at night.

A detail of the quilting stitches.

A detail of the quilting stitches.

More quilting stitches.

More quilting stitches.

Still more quilting stitches (the roughest I've been able to generate!)

Still more quilting stitches (the roughest I’ve been able to generate!)

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Day Fifty-Six: Not French Knots

July 18, 2014

Until I made my first quilt nearly twenty years ago, I only knew basting in reference to roasting turkeys. Now, of course, I know it to be the stitches that quickly and temporarily hold the layers of a quilt together. Weirdly, I really love the basting step. It is one of the only parts of my process that is fast and sloppy. Since adding piles of paint and gesso to my work, though, basting stitches are no longer practical and I have converted to a light-weight iron-on adhesive to serve the same purpose. I generally avoid adhesives and do not enjoy applying it as I do the stitches, but it gets the job done.  The backing, batting and top are now glued together into one big, soft sandwich.

Although I rely on adhesive to temporarily hold the layers together, I am still hand-stitching this piece into true quilt form. The full-body soreness of much of my process will slowly migrate to my fingertips alone as I force the needle repeatedly through the thick layers. I use a thimble when absolutely necessary, but generally prefer to use a sturdy fingernail instead.

After all my talk about French knots these last many weeks, I do not think they will actually make an appearance in this piece. I’ve realized it needs stitches that are rougher and rawer to relate back to the abandoned bathroom itself, rather than reinforcing the sweetness of the purple-and-pink fabric and piles of beads and candles. Because this is not a functional quilt and its structure is secured with adhesive, I can scatter the stitches willy-nilly with no care or concern for their density and consistency. I can apply them in a completely compositional manner, as an extra element to reward up-close inspection of the piece. Perhaps by tomorrow, their number will be great enough to warrant posting a picture.

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Day Fifty-Five: Painting Complete!

July 17, 2014

Throughout the day, I had all kinds of titles and topics for tonight’s post flit through my mind, from lamenting the rendering challenges of ellipses to praising the paint-dissolving talents of rubbing alcohol. Now that I finally sit down to type, though, with joints stiff from the day’s contortions and specks of paint decorating my clothes, I have nothing to say other than this: the painting step is complete. Of course, I might inspect the whole in the morning and intensify a shadow, or amplify a highlight, or question my own sanity over believing the painting to be complete in the first place. But, for now, it is finished. The next—and nearly final—step will be quilting. Tomorrow I will baste this top layer to batting and backing, and then begin hand-stitching the layers together. I will be able to resume listening to NPR, or tolerate others in the same room, or even engage in idle chatter as I work. Most likely, though, my brain will increasingly devote its attention to the next piece, as this piece approaches its conclusion.

The first painted candles and their challenging ellipses.

The first painted candles and their challenging ellipses.

Two more candles.

Two more candles.

The final candle, and the end of painting on this piece.

The final candle, and the end of painting on this piece.

The full composition, with just quilting and edge finishing remaining!

The full composition, with just quilting and edge finishing remaining!

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Day Fifty-Four: High Hopes for Tomorrow

July 16, 2014

This morning, the day stretched gloriously before me: nine pristine studio hours untarnished by appointments or laundry or errands or yoga or cooking or cleaning or phone calls or anything. I had big plans to interrupt my painting only to make French knots, and interrupt my French knots only to resume painting. Less than two hours into my mission, though, a phone call from the daycare quashed my big plans. My daughter was sent home with a stomach bug. My day was drastically altered from my original vision, but at least the bug was short-lived and—although I did not get to spend the day in the studio—at least I did not spend the day cleaning up bodily fluids. Instead, there were books and snacks and walks to see the ducks. Now, tomorrow holds all the hopes and dreams put off from today.

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Day Fifty-Three: Over the Hump

July 15, 2014

With the final beaded necklace completed today, I am (theoretically) past the most tedious, difficult components to be painted. The composition now includes 8 sets of beads and two strings of star lights. Only a handful of candles remain to be rendered.

The eighth--and final--string of beads.

The eighth–and final–string of beads.

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