ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Good Week for Shows

A couple of friends wrote after the Awards Ceremony on Wednesday night, but I can now blog about it because I received the official word this morning.  My quilt, In the Act, was awarded a Judges Choice Award at Quilt Canada, the National Juried Show of the Canadian Quilters Association, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

In the Act, 2010

It is always gratifying to win an award, but I do have to say that I often experience feelings of ambivalence about ribbons. I find joy in being part of the show, and know that even without ribbons someone somewhere will like my work and be moved by it.  That is what is important to me.  My other purpose in entering shows is to get my work out there so people know about me, so I can continue making my living doing what I do.  I am very cognizant that on another year, with other jurors, this quilt might have been rejected by CQA, and the judges wouldn't have even seen it.

For me what is most important when I look at a work of art is whether it has impact and how it makes me feel.  Workmanship is secondary.  Don't get me wrong, I like good workmanship, but impact comes first for me, so as long as the workmanship doesn't detract from the piece, it doesn't have to be the kind of workmanship that quilt show judges often look for.  Being a quilt show judge is HARD, and I could not do it.  The judges have to examine over 120 quilts at this show and rate them in several categories and everything has to be carefully documented.  By those criteria they may be awarding ribbons to quilts they hadn't even considered based on initial impact. I think I must have ADD because I am just not interested in these details.

So to win a Judges Choice is a good thing I think.  This is the chance for a judge to say "this is my favorite work".  She can be completely subjective.  For me it is immensely gratifying that someone looked at my work and loved it, understood it, was moved by it or impressed by it, or whatever the judge felt in this case.

So thank you to art quilter and judge Margie Davidson from Calgary for choosing my work.  It is especially gratifying because, to be quite honest, I think In the Act is my favorite quilt of all the quilts I've made.  Why?  Because as a quilt artist without a formal art degree, I have struggled a lot with composition and design, and feel that in this piece I succeeded in what I set out to do.  More about composition and design in my next blog post.

I also just received notice today that Red Stool has been juried into the
New Legacies 30th Art Quilt Exhibition at the Lincoln Arts Centre in Fort Collins, Colorado where it will be on exhibit July 3 to September 5.

Red Stool, 2011

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Salon 2012, Quebec Quilts

I returned last night after a whirlwind two days at Salon 2012 Quebec Quilts.  It was a busy couple of days, attending the opening reception on Wednesday night, being up early to teach all day Thursday and Friday, and enjoying dinner with the workshop organizers and other teachers.  One of the benefits of teaching at conferences and shows is the opportunity to share experiences with, and learn from, other teachers!  Not something that happens on the many trips where you are alone on the road!

The weather was hot hot hot, and the traffic in Montreal was pretty intense.  Fortunately we were not affected by student demonstrations, but I learned that there is a travel advisory in effect for Montreal.

Here are photos of our organizers, Randi and Sharon, and all the instructors teaching at the show.  Left hand side, front to back: Wendy Butler Berns, Dominique Ehrmann, Pamela Allen, Randi Lenet (organizer), Sharon Stroud
Right hand side, front to back: Vikki Pignatelli, Bonnie McCaffery, Sharon Gates (organizer), Joan Shay.

Here we are from the other end of the table.  That's me with the tangerine T-shirt.

As you probably know, the official language in Quebec is french, so the first language for many of the students coming to class is french.  Teachers were assigned translators just in case.  Mostly we did OK, except sometimes there are not equivalent terms for things like "fudge factor" (one of my favorite quilting terms), so our translator, Joanne (pictured below, hamming it up for the camera) helped out in those situations. 

On Thursday I taught my Surface Design class.  We got to muck around with artist pencils, wax pastels, Shiva Paintstiks, Tsukineko inks, and foils. 

Friday I taught "In Full Bloom".  Students were eager and happy to learn how I make my floral quilts.  I always think there is a point in this class when the students must hate me because there are so many steps and so many new skills to learn.

This was my first trip in a long time that I didn't teach from a chair on wheels.  I did try to sit at times, but thanks to my new exercise regime my knees are doing much better. Good thing, because I am still waiting for an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon ... looks like it will be a loooooonggg wait!!  I do want to thank our translator Joanne who helped me pack up supplies at the end of the day, and my student Denise from Gatineau who helped and who was kind enough to help me transport my materials to my car and pack it.  

In my Surface Design class I charge a supply fee for students to use all the products without having to purchase them.  On my way home I had a happy little shopping trip to DeSerres to boost my supplies for my upcoming week-long Surface Design class.  I don't think there is anything that makes me happier than a nice box of new coloured pencils, or crayons or paint.

I will be teaching two introductory machine quilting classes in the upcoming week (Wednesday and Saturday) at Dragonfly Fabrics.  I also need to quilt the two small pieces I shared in my May 21 blogpost before June rolls around. and I have to write an article for a guest blogger appearance.  I will share the information when it is published.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer Classes: Surface Design

There are several spaces left in my "Surface Design for Quilters and Fibre Artists" class at the Haliburton School of the Arts, July 30 - August 3, 2012. Haliburton is about two hours north of Toronto, in cottage country. 

Discover and use many exciting surface design treatments to make original pieces of fibre art or to add depth, dimension and detail to your textile work and art quilts. You will be introduced to the properties and uses of Prismacolor Artist Pencils, Caran d'Ache Neocolour II Water Soluble Wax Pastels, Shiva Paintstiks, Tsukineko Inks, and Foils. Instruction will include demonstrations and a variety of samples will be available for reference. There will be ample time to experiment and create a small work.

This is an extended version of my one-day Surface Design class. Two of my students who took the one-day class in Barrie suggested a week-long class and have signed up for the week-long class because they felt there was enough material in the class to work with for an entire week.  You will have time to try all of the methods in depth.  The supply list is quite small as I bring all the products and charge a $25.00 supply fee.
Learn to design and cut your own stencils for use with Paintstiks, foils and inks.

Learn to paint on fabric with Caran d'Ache Water Soluble Wax Pastels

Learn to shade with Prismacolour Artist Pencils

Above are examples of many of the topics we will cover in class.  Come and try all these methods without investing in many expensive materials.  Take your art quilts and fibre art to a new level.

Summer Classes - Serendipity Strips and Curves

There are just a couple more spaces left in my "Quilting: Serendipity Strips and Curves" class at the Haliburton School of the Arts, July 23 - 27, 2012.  Haliburton is about two hours north of Toronto, in cottage country.  It is always a fun and inspiring time teaching or taking classes there, being totally immersed in your creative endeavours for an entire week, while learning new skills and meeting new friends.

Liberate yourself from the shackles of precision piecing and fly by the seat of your pants while producing original quilt designs using free-form strips and curves. You will be introduced to a different method of free-hand cutting and piecing each morning and shown a variety of options for using that method. The rest of the day will be available to cut, sew and work on your construction. Work from the previous day will be addressed for feedback and discussion on composition and design. There will be minimal measuring and little use of rulers!

Liberated Strip Piecing
Liberated Curved blocks
Free-Form Curves
Flip and Sew Curves

Combined Methods

More Flip and Sew Curves
Liberated Radial Piecing

Come and join the fun!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Slain by the Word?

When you step outside at this time of year, particularly at night, you can't help but notice the scented air.  I notice this every night while letting my cats out and back in.  Lilacs, and all kinds of other fragrant blooms, are in season.  The words "Come to the window, sweet is the night air" keep going through my mind.  It is a line from an old poem called "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold.  Many other lines in this poem "slayed" me when I was only a young woman in high school. 

What do I mean by "slayed"?  I mean "hit me in the gut" and captured so much that resonated with me.  As a teenager I read and wrote a lot of poetry.  The stuff I wrote was mostly just the navel-gazing drivel of a painfully shy and geeky teenage girl expressing her angst.  I even dreamed of being a writer, but instead I became a secretary as it was more practical.  I entered and graduated from university as a mature student.

Do you have a favorite line of poetry that hits you like a ton of bricks?  Have you ever had these words inspire a quilt?

Here's a piece of mine, made in 2006, that was inspired by the words "heartbeat of the earth", which came to me from an aboriginal radio station.  Hit me in the gut actually.  So I started sketching, and a quilt called "Heartbeat of the Earth was born:
Heartbeat of the Earth, 2006
There have been other times when a piece has been named with a title or snippet of poetry.  An example is "Vagabond Song" below.  The name is from Bliss Carman's poem A Vagabond Song, which has also been one of my favorites since high school.  It starts with the line, "There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood."  I knew one day I had to make a quilt that expressed this poem, and one day while photographing in Vermont I was stopped in my tracks (literally "slayed") by the most amazing and gnarled red-leafed tree.  It inspired my quilt, which was already named before it was made.
Vagabond Song, 2010

In some cases, a title or snippet of poetry is chosen after the quilt is made.  An example of this is "Kissing Joy" below.  Poppies are so brief and ephemeral that coming upon one is literally like "kissing joy", as described in William Blake's very short poem Eternity:
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise.      
Kissing Joy, 2009

What brings this topic to mind today?  Well it just so happens that a few days ago I read an article in the Globe and Mail about the serious and funny aspects of travelling with cats.  The writer quoted a line from Farley Mowat's book "The Dog That Wouldn't Be", describing Farley's feelings after the dog's death.  
The pact of timelessness between the two of us was ended,
and I went from him into the darkening tunnel of the years.

Are the words "pact of timelessness" not brilliant?  Hit me like a ton of bricks!  Slayed me in fact.  Will it inspire a quilt?  We shall see ...

Speaking of words slaying us, but not necessarily in a good way, a few weeks ago I had a student in my free-motion machine quilting class that claims she was told by another teacher that she is hopeless at free-motion.  Guess what?  Her free-motion machine quilting looks just like mine did when I began!  I would say there is lots of hope for her.  So we also need to remember how easy we can slay others and their creative spirits with our words. 


Monday, May 21, 2012

Fruits of the Weekend

"End of Days" by Elaine Quehl

How was your long weekend?  I got to stay home, and spend a fair bit of time in my studio.  I created two small pieces, both about 30" wide by 15" high.  My favorite is the one above called "End of Days".  Yes, I know it is Spring, and not Autumn, but this is what my heart needs to make.

As you know I have been working with my hosta series for several years now, with the intent to move into end-of-season hosta pieces.  Several issues delayed me.  First of all, I got distracted by red stools ;-).  Second, I didn't complete any work in the early part of this year ... partly due to artist block, partly busy schedule, partly not wanting to push myself given the state of my knees, and partly I wasn't ready to tackle what these works represent to me.  My works are very personal and say something about me.  To move into making end-of-season pieces was to say that I was moving into the later part of my life, into decline ... but the fact is that decline is all around us, at the same time as renewal and rebirth.  Decay and death are a part of life.  I am ready now to say it all.  So the piece above is called "End of Days".  It makes me think of the last wonderful days, weeks and years I had with my cat.  How much those days were the good days, how much they shone before they burned out.  I know this is a universal topic ... we all lose things and people that mean a lot to us ... eventually we all have to carry on without something or someone we loved.  Did it make me sad to make this quilt?  NOT AT ALL!  It made me happy; happy to express this, happy to use these colours, and happy to be creating.  I'm back!!

I've been sketching a lot more lately.  I spent several hours on one of my down days during my last teaching trip coming up with the sketches you will see here.  The one above became the general pattern for "End of Days".  In the photo below you can see the original photo that inspired it, and the mess of fabric in my studio while I was working.

But before "End of Days" was born, I made "Days Still Left" below.  I was going to make the upper leaf green with gold veins, the exact opposite of the lower leaf.  By the time I realized what I had done, I had already nearly completed the upper leaf, so I decided to finish the piece.  I'm still working on the shading on the lower leaf to make it distinguishable from the upper leaf, and to make it look like it is in the shadow of the upper leaf.  So far I'm using Caran D'Ache Neocolour 2 Water Soluble Wax Pastels.  When the piece was put together, I suddenly felt compelled to create one in rich browns and golds.
"Days Still Left" by Elaine Quehl

Did I mention there are deadlines associated with these pieces and that I still need to quilt, face and label them?  The first piece, End of Days, is going to a show that my SAQA Central Canada group is having at the John Parrott Gallery in Belleville.  If you go to that link you will learn more about our upcoming shows.  The second piece, "Time Still Left" is heading to the Haliburton Faculty show at Rail's End Gallery.

Here is another design I'm working on.  This design is a composite of 5 different photos (parts of 4 hosta photos and my little red stool).  Cut and taped again.
Below is the other sketch I worked on during my teaching trip, based on the above design.  Photo 1 is the first rendition,  You can still see my pencil lines there, and then I like to clean everything up with a fine-tipped black marker and ready it for enlarging.
This is the final version, with blotches of light and shading marked in.  It's already been enlarged at the copyshop.  We will see if I am compelled to make it.
Right now I'm really drawn to lines and the design they create in the hosta pieces, more so than the value contrasts.  I am not aiming for a photorealistic likeness, but more of  an abstraction where line is the focus.  That's why I chose to bypass the above design this weekend, as it is based very much on value contrasts.

I also dyed about 25 meters of fabric this weekend.  Here's the evidence: dye stains on my shoes and socs!  These are actually my indoor shoes that I wear to the gym.  I wouldn't be surprised if they ban me!

If I'd added a little more dye to this soc (it soaked through the shoe) it might actually be artful!

Here's hoping your weekend was as wonderful as mine!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Home From London

Last night I returned from my lecture/teaching trip to the London (Ontario) area.  Today I'm back home being a door person for my two remaining cats ;-)  While in the London area I drove through a lot of beautiful farm country, especially while visiting the Huron-Perth Quilt Guild in Kirkton. I was billetted at the home of Janice Hawkins (President of the Guild), who lives in St. Mary's, Ontario, a beautiful and historic town not too far from Stratford.
My lecture took place at 9:30 a.m., and the meeting was followed by a banquet held to celebrate the Guild's successful quilt show.  More than 100 women from the Huron-Perth Quilt Guild and the St. Mary's Guild turned out for the meeting.  I was warmly welcomed by a very friendly group of women.

That night I headed to London, where I stayed with Glenda Pennington, in her lovely condo near the downtown.  Next morning I gave a lecture to the Thames Valley Quilters Guild.  You can see some of the members here examining my work more closely.
Glenda kindly volunteered to sell my hand-dyed fabrics for me during the meeting.  Glenda and her Program Committee took me for a lovely dinner that night. 

The next day I taught my Liberated Radial Piecing class.  It was a bit of a challenge for some members who have never cut and pieced free-hand before.  They just need to develop a bit of confidence in flying by the seat of their pants.
You can see Alison and Mary working on cutting and sewing their stripsets here (freehand of course!).
In hindsight, there are so many photos I wish I had taken, and I think this after every trip.  But when I'm engaged in the act of teaching I am not always on my toes with photos.

After class I caught some time alone to get refreshed for the lecture I delivered to the London Friendship Quilt Guild that night.  I should add that throughout the course of the day I was offered dessert FOUR times.  I said no twice ;-)
The next day was Friday and I took the day off off for two reasons.  I needed a day of rest, and the guild preferred to hold their workshop on the Saturday.  I stayed with Jacqui VanMeppelin Sheppink during this leg of the trip.  She has a studio that I envy a great deal.  Just look at the size of it below!!  She can fit 5 or 6 students into the studio for classes, something I wish I was able to do.  Several members of her guild came over for dinner that night and we had a little show and share.
Jacqui also has a wonderful collection of antique and toy sewing machines.  The colourful line-up below includes some of the toy sewing machines.  I used to have one like the red one when I was a child!
Saturday I taught my "Beyond Stippling, Part 1" class to a group of 18 women.  The photo below is courtesy of Jacqui VanMeppelin Sheppink.  I didn't even realize I was being photographed until later in the day.  You can see more photos of the workshop on the guild's blog.
What a nice spacious classroom!
In this class I move around and demo on student machines several times during the day.  Photo below also courtesy of Jacqui.
Several women in this guild are fortunate enough to own Bernina Recorder 830 machines.  If I am not mistaken these machines came out in the 1980's.  They are very solidly built and have a beautiful stitch!  I love machines like this.  Here you can see  Lynda, the President of the guild, with hers.

And little did I know that Jacqui caught me with my shoes off.  I can't sew with a shoe on my foot!

It will be good to be home for the long weekend, and I have much to do before my workshops at Courtepointe Quebec Quilts next week.