ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Monday, October 29, 2012

Introducing a Master: Joan Sowada

"Busy" by Joan Sowada, 2012

It was a few years ago that I saw Joan Sowada's work for the first time.  I was, and still am, pretty impressed.  It isn't easy to do figurative work in fabric, and even harder to do it well.  I think hers is some of the most successful figurative work I've seen in the art quilt world.  Not so much portraits or perfect likenesses of individuals, Joan's work captures moments and situations, people in movement and relationship.  Her work is characterized by arresting and unusual compositions, and there is something almost lyrical or poetic about the people she features.

I wrote to Joan last week to ask if I could talk about her on my blog and share some of her work.  She graciously offered the photo above.  Do take some time to visit her website at http://www.joansowada.com/ to see more of her work.  Joan lives in Gillette, Wyoming.

Joan was featured in the June/July 2011 issue of Quilting Arts magazine, and was interviewed by Quilting Daily in June 2011.  You can read the interview here.

Quilts=Art=Quilts Weekend

This past weekend was the opening of Quilts=Art=Quilts at the Schweinfurth Memorial Arts Center in Auburn, NY.  This is an annual show, and I have been attending for the last several years.  It is only a four hour drive from Ottawa.  This is the second time I've had work in the show.

I wasn't able to attend the opening on Saturday night as I was teaching Part 2 of my Uncommon & Unforgettable Threads class at Dragonfly Fabrics on Saturday. Here you can see students in my class having fun hand-dyeing their own multi-coloured threads.

Rosemary sent this photo this morning of her washed threads drying on a drying rack.  Lovely colours and they will look even more wonderful when wound on a spool.
After class I drove to Auburn for an overnighter, and the next morning attended brunch with all the other artists and guests of this year's Quilts=Art=Quilts show.  In photo below are Denise Giardullo on left, me in centre, and Deborah Bein on the right.
After lunch we headed to the Schweinfurth Arts Center to see the show.  Since this is an art exhibit, photographing in the gallery is not allowed.  However, I was able to take a couple of photographs with permission of the artists present.  It just so happens that some of these are actually my favorite pieces in the show.
This is Deborah Bein with her piece Almost an Echo.
The very clever piece below is called The Fence, and is made by Susan Walen.  Susan was not at the show but had written me ahead of time to ask me to take a photograph for her.
Of course I was able to get a shot of me with my Standing Ovation.
Another piece in the show that I really liked is Empyrean by Ann Harwell.  You can see a photograph of it on the Quilts=Art=Quilts website.  Just scroll down to the list of exhibiting artists, and there are a few photographs to the right of it.  You can also explore the websites of all the artists in the show as the gallery has provided links from their names.
I was also fortunate to see two works by Joan Sowada in the show, but I am going to deal with Joan in a separate blog post.
I'm heading to Houston on Wednesday, or at least I hope I am!  This morning I had notice my Wednesday morning flight is cancelled.  This is related to the hurricane on the eastern seaboard, but affects the plane that I would have been travelling on as it was either coming from or heading to La Guardia airport.  After much confusion and lots of waiting on the phone, I am now booked on a later flight.  The wind is beginning to pick up here in Ottawa!  Time to batten down the hatches.  I hope you are safe in your part of the world.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Lively Group and a Great Reception

After my visit to Manitoulin Island, I headed back to the mainland, where I drove through the stunning and dramatic LaCloche Mountains.  I took these photos just outside the village of Willisville.  The canoe access for the famous Killarney Provincial Park lies along this route.  You are really into Group of Seven country here!  In fact the artists that formed the famed Group of Seven were instrumental in convincing the Canadian government to create a protected park here. 

I arrived in Lively, Ontario, which is part of the Greater Sudbury area, on Saturday, and was billetted at the home of Fran Holland (Fran is just to the left of me in the photo ... I'm the one in the centre wearing a black zip-up hoodie).  On Sunday I taught another Collage Tree class (hey this is tree country ... and gorgeous trees there are!) for the Lively Heritage Arts Guild.  About 20 enthusiastic quilt and textile artists showed up for the day, and what a great start they got on their trees.  I showed a few of my quilts since several were not able to make it to my full trunk show in Sudbury the following day.  Members are holding some of my quilts in the photo.
After class on Sunday night, Fran and I put our feet up, had a glass of wine and enjoyed watching the movie Stitched.  I had purchased a copy of the movie on DVD a few months back and had not found time to watch it.  Before my trip I tucked it into my travel bag thinking there might be a night where a movie would be a great form of relaxation.  The movie features three quilt artists (Caryl Bryer Fallert, Hollis Chatelain, and Randall Cook) as they prepare their entries for the International Quilt Festival in Houston.  All three artists have known controversy in the quilt world: Fallert, because she was the first to win a Best of Show with a machine quilted quilt; Chatelain because she was first to win a Best of Show with a dye-painted quilt; and Cook because his quilts featuring nude males were not well received in all circles.
On Monday morning I was picked up by Dorthy McPhail (below) who took me for lunch and then on a tour of Onaping Falls, north of Sudbury.  Several people had suggested it as a scenic site I would enjoy.

Sudbury is two hours northeast of Manitoulin Island, and the autumn leaves had pretty much fallen.  The Falls, which are sometimes referred to as "A.Y. Jackson Falls" (because the Group of Seven artist painted them) were still quite pretty.  I am unable to find an image of this painting on-line, but learned that it was stolen and never recovered.

That night I delivered a lecture/trunk show to the Sudbury Quilting and Stitchery Guild.  After my digital presentation, I showed about 25 quilts.  Several members walked them around the room so everyone could get close. 
From time to time I find myself delivering my lectures from a church pulpit.  Kind of appropriate for a "woman of the cloth", don't you think? 
I have to say that I don't think I've ever met a more enthusiastic crowd. There was a lot of interest in my quilts and at the end of the evening my store of hand-dyed fabric looked like a department store after a Boxing Day sale (very worked over) :-))
It was a pleasant six hour drive back to Ottawa on Tuesday, with many beautiful views along the Ottawa River.  A few hours south of Sudbury there was still a bit of colour on the trees.  


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Magical Manitoulin

Last night I returned from a week-long trip in Northern Ontario.  I began with a lecture and workshop on Manitoulin Island.  The largest freshwater island in the world, Manitoulin Island is situated at the north end of Lake Huron, in the Great Lakes Region of Ontario, Canada.  It is accessible by ferry from the south and by swing bridge from the north.  I entered from the north, after about 8-1/2 hours of driving from Ottawa.  There are many adjectives that could describe the Island, but the first one that comes to mind is BUCOLIC.  As I entered the island, the above scene stopped me in my tracks.  Although I understand the best autumn foliage had already passed by the time I arrived, what I saw was still quite spectacular.
At my lecture/trunk show to the Island Quilters Guild I was introduced by Jackie White, who many of you will know from the Canadian Quilters Association.  There she wears the hat of Director at Large, blog writer, as well as being the Association's comedian (she writes a column for the Canadian Quilter magazine).  Her own guild members are often the subject of her humourous stories.  There are a lot of artists on Manitoulin Island ... I can see why as the landscape is so inspiring!  At my lecture, I also had the pleasure of meeting textile artist, Glenna Treasure.
During my time on the Island I was billetted at the home of Myra Tallman, a master quilter known for her hand applique and hand quilting.  I expected I'd be sleeping under a beautiful hand-quilted quilt, and I was not disappointed!  Myra and her husband live on a quite picturesque farm.  Imagine my delight when I raised my blinds on Thursday morning to see this sight!
And when I entered the kitchen of their house, I noticed the fantastic view of Mindemoya Lake.  Check out the dramatic view with the burning bush in the front yard!!
Thursday I taught my Collage Tree workshop to the Island Quilters Guild.  That's Myra on the left in the green Tshirt.  The workshop took place in the village of Sandfield, in this wonderfully lit classroom where everyone had their own table.
At the end of the day we stopped for a group photo.  I can't wait to see the finished trees.  I hope everyone sends pictures.
I had Saturday off to tour the Island before I had to head to my next engagement, and it just so happened that I was connected to a relative I hadn't seen in likely more than 30 years, who now lives on the Island.  Here I am with Nancy having coffee after she showed me around the Island, and took me to her little piece of Paradise.  I envy her life there.  She lives down a winding gravel road on a small lake, with a beautiful view.  The only thing I don't envy is that she and her husband are beekeepers and I am terribly afraid of bees! 
Manitoulin Island is dotted with many old barns, and has charming rail fences crossing the landscape everywhere.  The still-colourful leaves made for great photography.  Although weather forecasts predicted rain every single day, it seldom did rain, although the skies were mostly overcast.  Here is my collection of barn photos. 
This photo includes it all: a barn, a rail fence and autumn foliage.
Sometimes I find autumn foliage even more vibrant and stunning on a grey day!
Nancy called ahead to textile artist Judith Martin to see if she was home and whether we could visit the Little Current United Church to view the Manitoulin Circle Project.  Judy met us there, and then invited us to her studio, where we had a photo taken in front of her last in-progress piece for the Circle Project (Judy on right, me on left).  Judy's work has been an inspiration to me, particularly when I was first beginning to notice art quilts. 
We ended the day with a visit to Bridal Veil Falls, an experience I will never forget!  I have read about the arduous journey of salmon as they swim upstream to spawn before they die, but had never witnessed it.  Several salmon were still struggling to make it up the falls, although many had succumbed.  The cycle of life for salmon begins and ends here.  It was late in the day with not enough light so my photos of the salmon are just a blur.
Deer are plentiful on Manitoulin, and we spotted this doe and her two fawns on the way back to have dinner at Nancy and David's house.   
 In my next blog post I'll be sharing my experiences with the Lively Heritage Arts Guild and the Sudbury Quilting and Stitchery Guild. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Copyright Conundrum

During the years I completed my university degree, I was a mature student in my mid-twenties, completing my studies while being employed full-time.  I remember distinctly my experience writing my first essay for my first year Anthropology class.  In this paper I paraphrased several sources, but completely ignorant of the importance of correct source citation, I did not credit many of the works I consulted for the information I used to write the essay.  I was horrified when my essay was returned covered with comments in pen.  The Teaching Assistant who marked my paper was quite harsh in his comments, and advised that I needed to learn about proper source citation.  He finished his comments by adding that he could have easily given me 0 for the paper.  However, he decided to give me the benefit of the doubt and assume it was out of ignorance and not malice, that I had failed at crediting my sources.  Let me tell you, I quickly did research to find out how to reference ideas and quotes.  This never happened to me again.

What does this have to do with art quilts?  Well I think the copyright issues that art quilters face are very similar.  When I started making what I thought were "art" quilts about 12 years ago, I was woefully ignorant of copyright issues.  Many of us were making quilts out of art or photos we found on greeting cards, on the internet, in magazines, etc.  I admit I also violated copyright.  Here is the most obvious violation.  I purchased a greeting card called "Friendship", which featured two very heavy women leading each other through a lake.  I traced the design onto a transparency film, enlarged it and made this quilt:
I named it "Clarissa and Jennifer", after the two hosts of the British cooking show "Two Fat Ladies".  Only a couple of years later I started learning more about copyright, and also realized that this work is not an art quilt.  It might be a contemporary quilt (in that it doesn't look like a traditional quilt, but it is a copy of another art work, so in my books it isn't art).  The right thing to do would have been to contact the artist and ask her permission to recreate her art work in fabric, and then credit her on the label and on my website.  If the artist had said no, I would have had to abandon the idea. The image was not mine to take.
I have noticed in the last couple of years that quilters are becoming very savvy about copyright issues.  Most shows now typically require quilters to credit the pattern designer, the teacher (if the piece was created in a class), the photographer (if a photo was used), the machine or hand quilters (if someone else quilted the work).  Today I taught my two-day "In Full Bloom" class where students bring a floral photograph and design their own quilt.  I had advised the class ahead of time that they must obtain copyright permission from the photographer if they were using a photo taken by someone else.  We had a great discussion on copyright today, and I was really pleased to see such a savvy group of quilters who were well-versed in copyright.
I now use the quilt above (in which I violated copyright) as an educational tool during my lectures.  Many times people in my audience are aghast that one cannot just take a photo off the internet or a greeting card and do what they want with it.  I start hearing the "buts".  In fact, I once taught a class where everyone in the class argued with me about copyright except for one person.  That one person happened to have a husband who is a photographer.  As a professional photographer, and an artist, when he puts his portfolio out on the internet to get business, he does not appreciate people just "taking" his work without asking and without credit.  Looks a lot different when you are on the other side of the issue, doesn't it?  We can all imagine how we would feel if someone copied our original quilt and didn't even give us credit, not to mention didn't even ask us.

I hear a lot of misconceptions out there about copyright, but it is most surprising when I find these misconceptions circulating among artists and fibre artists, who I don't think seem to be getting the same kind of education about copyright as quilters.  Because galleries don't expect artists to be copying their work from someone else, they often don't even have a mechanism for the artist to even give credit to whoever or whatever they copied.
Here are some of the excuses and misinformation I often hear about copyright:
1)  If I change mediums it is OK.  In other words, if I copy someone's painting into fabric, there is no copyright violation.  WRONG  The right thing to do is to contact the artist for permission.  If permission is not granted, you can't create the work.  There are certain artworks that are now in the public domain if the artist has been dead for more than a specified number of years (I have forgotten the number now but it isn't important to me because I don't base my work on these works).
2)  If the piece is made for my own use, and I never show or sell the work I've copied, there is no copyright violation.  WRONG AGAIN.  It is true that if no one ever sees your work, you are not in danger of being sued, but what I often see is that if the work turns out really well, the maker wants to show and/or sell it.  Then it is too late to get copyright permission.  What if the photographer says no?  I spoke with an intellectual property lawyer (who is also a quilter) and she told me that some lawyers might interpret "personal use" to still be a violation.  What concerns me now is that if I don't warn students about copyright and they use a photo without permission, then decide to enter their piece in a show, and credit me as the teacher, if there is any fall-out, I could be implicated as well. 
3)  It is OK if I only copy a certain percentage of someone else's artwork/photo.  Wrong again.  There should not be issues if you are only using the photo as a jumping off point, where the end piece doesn't look anything like the photo (i.e. you use the colours, or perhaps one shape but run in a new direction with it).  But actually copying a piece and changing only some of it, or copying the piece in other colours is still a violation.
4)  In Art School, students copy the Master's works.  TRUE, and I've done this in art classes BUT these are PRACTICE pieces to learn the methods, but are never meant to be exhibited or sold. 
5)  There is nothing new out there, everything has been seen and done.  This to me is an excuse.  When a professional photographer takes a photo, captures a beautiful composition, captures the light, and often the character of the person, flower, landscape, I think this makes the artist's job easier to recreate the photo, so I strongly believe that photographer should be credited (and asked for permission) for their contribution to the finished work.
4)  Well I really am not much of a photographer.  OK, but you can learn to take your own photos if it is important to your art.  Don't you want it to be YOUR ART? That is what I decided to do when I decided I wanted my work to be my own vision and experience and I didn't want to deal with copyright issues.  There are many wonderful cameras out there, even in the point and shoot category.  Besides that it is fun to be working on your art wherever you go by carrying a camera.  And even if you don't take your own photographs, it is usually very easy to find the photographer and contact them to ask permission.
There is one more thing I want to say.  There are some artists out there that think we shouldn't be working from photographs at all.  I once posed a copyright question to an on-line group I belong to, and received back some good information along with some of the above misinformation, but I also received criticism from several artists about the kind of work that results from using photographs as inspiration.  It seems that some look down on this kind of art.  A battle ensued on that list, from which some of us are still licking our wounds.
I'd love to hear from you!  What are your experiences with copyright?  Please feel free to post.
And just for something gorgeous ... today while I was out teaching, my husband was in Gatineau Park photographing autumn leaves.  Alas I will not make it there this year because my teaching seems to be falling on the few sunny days we've had, and I'm heading to Northern Ontario on Tuesday.  I hope there are some leaves left there!  Some of my husband's photos are stunning, but this one really caught my eye.  Can you not imagine the reflections of these trees stitched with a dense zig zag stitch.  Oh and by the way, I did ask his permission to post this (although some would say that all is fair in love ;-))).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Work

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I picked up my show at the St. Jacobs Quilt Gallery, and spent some time with family in Waterloo.  On the drive back yesterday, I was AMAZED at the beauty of the autumn colours this year! 

As promised, I am finally able to share my latest quilt with you.  I got the word yesterday from Quilt National.  851 quilts were entered, with 85 being chosen for the 2013 show.  "Curtain Call 2", below, was not among the 85 chosen, so we'll just have to find another show for it.  I am pleased to be able to share it with you today.  It is 41" wide x 19" high.

It's a busy few weeks coming up with several workshops locally later this week, and a trip to visit three groups in Northern Ontario next week.  When I get back I'll be heading to Auburn, NY for the Quilts=Art=Quilts show, and then a few days later to Houston.  More details to come.  In the middle of all came the package from Haliburton School of the Arts.  Class descriptions, learning outcomes, and marking schemes all need to be submitted within 10 days.  I have two new classes to write up.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Blog Give-away and Autumn Colour

Somehow I have ended up with two copies of the catalogue for the New Legacies: Contemporary Art Quilts show that ran this summer in Fort Collins, Colorado.  My piece, Red Stool, was in the show and won an Honourable Mention.  I am giving away my extra catalogue (value $15) to the first person who posts a message to this blog.  So leave a message and I will mail the catalogue to you.

Just to keep this post beautiful, here are a few autumn leaf photos I captured around Ottawa yesterday.   I was up at the crack of dawn for an early morning dentist appointment, and arriving too early I stopped at Island Park to photograph these. Colours appear very saturated in the early morning light, but the sky was rather grey.

Photos below were shot late day on the walking/bicycle path running along the Ottawa River near Petrie Island, south of Orleans.  The sky had cleared by then.  I think the leaves will peak here by about next week.

We found a large gathering of Canada Geese at the beach on Petrie Island.  
I'm heading to St. Jacobs tomorrow to pick up my show.  Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving to all!