ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recent Dyeing Episodes & The State of the Studio

A quilter from Waterloo, Ontario recently wrote with a specific idea for a piece of hand-dyed fabric she envisioned. She described it as light blue in the middle, surrounded by soft yellow, then golden yellow, then gold, rose, blue and purple. The colours are supposed to represent the colours associated with Healing Touch Therapy. I love requests like this as they stretch me to try new colour combinations and new ways of applying dye, so I said I would give this one a try. I am not quite sure I was successful, but I know that even if Wilma doesn't like the result, someone will see these fabrics in my "store" and love them. One thing that might be a problem is that my colours go from light blue in the middle and spread into the other colours she requested until you reach the end of the fabric. I think she might have been looking for something more like an aura or halo effect. I was using two meter pieces of cloth, so they are only about 42" wide but about 80" long. It was hard to move all those colours along the width of the fabric without them all mixing and becoming mud. In the photos the two meters are placed across a washline in my dungeon (er I mean basement), so what you see is only half of the piece of cloth. The half on the other side of the line is almost a mirror image of what you see here.
If you ask me, I think these would make great stitched landscapes.
But just because I enjoy these kinds of challenges, please don't refer clients to me who wish to have garments dyed! I get emails all the time, especially from young women, who want to dye their wedding dress to reincarnate it for another purpose, or mother's of the bride who find the colour of their dress is too much like the bridesmaids' dresses. I am not a garment dyer, and I don't work with synthetic fabrics. I would not touch a bridezilla's dress with a ten foot pole, and I am not even sure where you would find someone who would.

My last dyeing job a few weeks ago involved dyeing about 20 scarves to sell in the gift shop at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum during the show that Cathy Breedyk Law and I have hanging there until December. I also have some scarves for sale in the boutique at the Ottawa School of Art. The scarves are silk/rayon velvet, and have been dyed using a pole and the Bomaki Shibori method. They are rather hard to photograph as they have a wonderful sheen that seems to cause a bit of glare. Here they are.

I'm also prepping for the classes I'm teaching in the next two weeks, so my studio is a disaster. There is a separate container with supplies for each of the workshops I will be teaching. There isn't a place left to sit, in what is really only a 10'x12' studio. The studio should look rather neat once everything is moved to my car!

But the question is ... will all of it fit in my car?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Back from Nova Scotia

I arrived home from Nova Scotia late last night. I'm unpacking my suitcases as we speak, and thinking about repacking them again for the teaching trip I leave for in a week's time. I'll be teaching three days before Thanksgiving weekend at Greenwood Quiltery in Guelph, Ontario, and spending a week after Thanksgiving with two quilt guilds in Simcoe Ontario (Norfolk County Quilt Guild and Norfolk Twilight Quilt Guild). I'll be teaching at the QUINCE Retreat for several days. What in tarnation does QUINCE mean, other than a variety of apple? Well they have named their retreat the "Quehl in Norfolk County Extravaganza". Cute, eh? It will indeed be a bit of a a Quehl extravaganza as I will be delivering two lectures and 6 different workshops.

Today in Ottawa we are enjoying a perfect summer day, although it is obvious that fall arrived while I was away. A number of trees in my neighbourhood have turned colour in the week I was away. Yesterday was also a perfect summer day in Halifax, where I spent a few hours on the waterfront before flying out.

I indulged in one last lobster sandwich before heading home.

It was amazing to see how much progress my students made in class between the first and last day. I think this illustrates how much practice can help improve free-motion skills. I saw some lovely texture develop, that was particularly enhanced by the great lighting in our classroom. This is some of Vivian's stitching:
This one is Vicki's.
I had a good laugh when Dorinda stitched her full set of notes to the back of her practice sandwich.
I have found myself in a similar situation many times! I often keep photographs of hostas, flowers and trees next to my sewing machine to provide inspiration for stitching. Do you know how many times I have accidentally stitched them to the back of the quilt? And in the early days when my studio was the dining room table, how many times did I stitch the table cloth into my work?

We gathered on the last day for class photos. This is my very talented and hard-working class.

There was a silent auction of donated items at the retreat, and I am happy to say that I placed the winning bid on a print of Laurie Swim's piece "From Our Back Yard". I am particularly fond of her Backyard Series as it reminds me so much of sights I saw in my rural childhood.

There was a banquet on the last night of the retreat, with much partying and merriment. In fact, some retreat members said we sounded like a fraternity. We were all required to wear facinator hats to the event, and then a photo was captured of the teachers in this attire. Oh the indignities that quilting teachers suffer ;-))
Jane looks like she has a propeller on her head, Daphne looks just plain giddy, and I'm looking away as though I can't believe this is really happening to me. After all, I'm the one who never watched any part of the latest royal wedding, and very little of their visit to Canada. But then I didn't even watch TV the entire week I was in Nova Scotia.

This week I'm actually home to attend our SAQA Central Canada meeting in Ottawa, and will be teaching Beyond Stippling, Part I at Dragonfly Fabrics on Saturday, and attending the vernissage of my show with Cathy Breedyk-Law on Sunday. Please join us at 2:00 p.m. at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte, Ontario. If you wish to have a sneak peek at our show, Cathy has posted some pictures I took the day we hung our show on her blog.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Greetings from Nova Scotia, Part 2

After several days of rain forecasts it finally did begin to rain tonight in Nova Scotia. I don't mind at all since I have had four more lovely days than what the Weather Channel predicted. The Mayflower Quilters Retreat began yesterday at the beautiful Pictou Lodge. The pictures on Pictou Lodge's website do not do the place justice. It is remote and beautiful.

Each of the teachers at the retreat has their own little cabin. This is mine.

At 8 a.m. this morning I opened my cabin door to head for breakfast at the main lodge and was greated by this sight.
My class, a 3-day free-motion machine quilting class, with 15 students, is taking place in this gorgeous classroom. That is the Northumberland Strait just outside our windows. I am afraid I am spoiled and ruined for good ... can any classroom ever live up to this again?

Here is a shot of the three teachers teaching at this year's retreat. On the left is Jane Sassaman from Harvard, Illinois (just outside Chicago). In the middle is Daphne Greig from Vancouver Island (North Saanich), and on the right is me.
All the attendees appear to be having a fabulous time, the food is great (planked salmon tonight) and each night before dinner the cash bar opens. Fortunately the weather has been so good that everyone spills out on the patio

Once again I am taken by the friendliness and warmth of Nova Scotians! Wish you were here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Greetings from Nova Scotia

I arrived in Halifax on Sunday night for a couple of days of R&R before I teach at the Mayflower Quilters Retreat in Pictou. Although I was supposed to fly directly from Ottawa to Halifax, WestJet cancelled my direct flight and shipped me Ottawa-Toronto-Halifax. How much sense does it make to fly an hour west in order to fly two hours east?

I spent the last two nights at the Atlantica Hotel and Marina, which I got for a steal during this off-season period. It is a lovely resort with views of the ocean from the dining room, sitting rooms, exercise room, indoor pool, hot tub, as well as many of the guest rooms.

Weather in Nova Scotia is often at its best in September, but as I watched the Weather Channel prior to my trip I swear I saw them add a day of rain each time I looked. Given that the reports change daily, I thought, surely they will have to start removing some of the rain symbols once the week is full of them!! Locals claim that these weather reports often bear no resemblance to what is actually happening here. In any case, today was a beautiful day, while yesterday was cloudy with a few showers late in the day.

Today I drove down to Lunenburg to visit with one of Canada's most successful and well-known quilt artists, Laurie Swim. Laurie is a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NSCAD), and has worked in the quilt medium for the last 40 years. I would say that makes her a pioneer in the art quilt movement. I have long admired her and her work, and I really wanted to talk to someone and ask questions of someone who is well ahead of me on this career path. I will never forget the first time I saw a show of Laurie's work at the Waterloo Quilt Festival in 2003. I would say that she has been influential in inspiring me down the art quilt path.

Laurie maintains a gallery on Lincoln St. in historic Lunenberg, where she sells her original art quilts, books, prints and cards. Her husband, Larry Goldstein, manages the gallery and looks after the publishing end of her business.
When I arrived at the gallery, Larry showed me to Laurie's studio, which is just above the gallery. I found Laurie at her sewing machine working on her latest piece.
After a viewing of her studio, we walked up the street to have lunch, and then returned to her studio and gallery. At the end of my visit Laurie took me to her apartment next door, where I was thrilled to find "At the End of the Day" hanging in her living room. It remains one of my favorite pieces.
Laurie was a gracious and sharing hostess and I have much food for thought as I move ahead with my art quilt career.

I drove to Pictou later today and will begin retreat activities tomorrow, with workshops to follow on the following three days. I will blog soon!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

SAQA Benefit Auction

In its first week, the 2011 SAQA Benefit Auction has already raised $16,675 from sales of 83 one foot square art quilts. Part 2 of the auction begins at 2:00 p.m. eastern time on Monday, September 19. My piece, "End of Season 2", on page 2b of the auction goes up for sale that day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Let the Show Go On!

What a week! I put the finishing touches on three pieces for my upcoming show with Cathy. We hang it tomorrow! Today was the day to photograph all the new pieces, for both show entries and my website. First I had to move half a room to get to my photography wall, set up the tripod and remember where I put that little gadget that screws into the camera to connect it to the tripod. Then I had to set up the photography lights, find the extension cord, photograph some of the pieces on a white background and some on a black background (for my website). Then I realized one of my dowels was too long so I had to recut it. In the midst of all that I found a cat "accident" I had to clean up. How much easier it would be to be able to leave all this to a professional photographer, but then I'd actually have to get things finished well ahead of schedule wouldn't I?

So here is Red Stool, all finished. You can see a larger photograph on the home page of my website, which I updated today.

Let's just say that Red Stool stretched me and caused me anxiety. I flew by the seat of my pants the entire time I was creating it. In the end I decided to let the legs dangle and the top have an irregular edge. I had a moment of panic when it was all finished and I discovered that the top edge flops. Momentarily I thought that maybe this is a good thing? I mentioned it to my friend Deb, who is also a quilt artist, and was delighted and relieved when she felt the same way! The two upper leaves on the left side flop down a bit, kind of mirroring the dangling legs.

Here is "Curtain Call". This piece was made to replace "Exhale", the piece I sold this summer at the Haliburton faculty show. The piece that sold was supposed to be my entry to the SAQA Synthesis show, but since it sold I had to make another. The submission deadline is September 30, so this piece will hang in my show with Cathy until I need it for the Synthesis show (if I do). It is inspired by the same end-of-season Hosta leaf, but a slightly different composition. I think I prefer this composition and the fact that it seems to have more light. You can visit my website to view "Curtain Call" and "Exhale" (the piece that sold) side by side. This one isn't mounted on canvas or framed, but I do have a canvas waiting to mount it on in case I still decide to do that tonight.
"Curtain Call" and "Exhale" were both inspired by this photo of a hosta leaf that I took in Vermont in 2009.
I think I can still see even more inspiration in this photo.

Speaking of Vermont, one of the good things about living in Ottawa is that a trip to Vermont takes only four hours by car. In the last three years I have visited four times, all of them in autumn. I am, however, really nervous about going again. On the first of these trips I tripped and hit my head on my car door (a dent on the door is still visible). There was a lot of blood and paramedics tended to me! On the second visit (in which the above photo was taken) a mouse moved into the glove compartment of my car and travelled all the way back home to Ottawa with us. On the third I forgot my medication at home, and on the fourth (which was a teaching trip) I came down with positional vertigo that lasted two months. I still love Vermont but Italy has treated me better!

Finally, in preparation for my upcoming show, I mounted my triptych "Crotons" on one inch deep canvases. The quilts are flush to the edge, but the sides of the canvas have been painted green.
You may recall that I painted this piece with thickened dyes last year while I was teaching my Dye Happy class. I need all the new work I can summon for this show.

Tomorrow we hang the show, but tonight I still need to decide: mount/frame "Curtain Call" or not?

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Please join Cathy Breedyk Law and I for the opening of our show, "Naturessence" at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum, Almonte, Ontario, on Sunday, October 2, 2 p.m. The show will hang at the Museum from September 21 to December 11, 2012. For more detail and a map to the Museum, click on the publicity card below.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Killer Photo

I almost forgot the killer photo of the trip! Here it is, taken in Castiglione d'Orcia

Sunflowers, Cats and Other Memories

I've created a couple of sunflower quilts in my time, and never tire of seeing a field of these flowers, or a sunflower growing near a well-aged wall.

One of my favorite memories of the trip happened the day we thought our GPS had led us to nowhere. We found ourselves driving down a narrow country road, and crossing a dry creek bed. Around the bend we saw the most amazing sight: a "sheep" dog leading a herd of sheep, with a modern-day shepherd following behind in his Toyota! We managed to capture photos and did eventually find our way back to San Gimignano.

We captured photos of cats and dogs wherever we went. Since cats don't travel well, I can be pretty sure these are "real" Tuscan cats. The dogs, on the other hand, mostly belonged to other European tourists.

Of course we have very fond memories of the friendly people and the food:
One of my most memorable meals contained figs stuffed with soft sweet cheese, on rocket salad.
I really miss the cappucino I had in every village I visited!

Now back to work!