ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Nature Meets Art in Haliburton

Last week I had the pleasure of a week just for me! After my father's 90th birthday party in Waterloo, I headed up to Haliburton to take a week-long class at the Haliburton School of the Arts. Yes, this is the same college I teach at. This year I was thrilled to find a small and inexpensive cabin in the woods for a little solitude. It had all the features I was looking for, and while it was only 15 minutes away from the village of Haliburton, it felt very. very remote.

The last few kilometers to the cottage involved gravel roads, and then a trip down a long lane way through the forest to get to my cabin and the home of the people who own it. I personally love long lanes through the woods like this one!

The cabin was peaceful except for the sound of the torrential rains and crashing thunderstorms we experienced last week. Nevertheless, I was cozy there, and when I woke in the morning this is the sight I saw out my window. My wee cabin faced the lake! This photo was taken on one of the few sunnier days.

This tree near the water facinated me because of its shibori-like horizontal marks, reminding me of a discharged fabric I created several years ago.

Nothing seems as peaceful and calming to me as sun glinted yellow-green leaves and blue skies and water. 

Several times I spotted deer on the drive up the lane.

Boats at dusk, on calm waters, at the cottage next door.

From the cabin guestbook, I learned that many students of  Haliburton School of the Arts have stayed in this cabin, including a couple that have visited each year for the past 17 years. One student even left behind an artwork of the little blue cabin.

The owners of the cabin lived just up the road, and I could go there to pet their cats whenever I wanted. The felines seemed to accept me and felt they could "talk" to me ;-)  Harriet had a few complaints. Apparently she was found frozen to the road one winter. She is missing part of her tail.

Sylvester guards the place, and is a force to be reckoned with, just because of his sheer size. I don't think I have ever tried to lift a heavier cat. He is really big-boned and solid. 

The class I registered in was called "Passionate Colour" with artist Al van Mil. I was really pleased that when I emailed Al to ask if I could work in fabric, I got a really open-minded and encouraging response. I am far too used to people responding with stories of their grandmother's patchwork when I use the word "quilt". Not Al ... he saw the possibilities.  And so I embarked on the course with a full palette of my hand-dyed fabric, to which I had adhered fusible web.

I took a design wall made of foam core board covered with quilt batting. Except for a few colour mixing exercises, I spent most of the week working with fabric.

Al and his wife Anette Blady, who was teaching in the classroom next door, often work on each other's paintings. That seemed to facinate students in our class. Al picked up on that and one day invited us to create a group painting. The only stipulation was that we had to somehow make it about the colour magenta. For that, he purchased a top quality jar of magenta paint for us to use. This is our finished painting.

Once the painting was dry, Al decided the composition was better in the opposite direction, and then glazed parts of it, to reveal an abstract female shape. He plans to contribute it to the Haliburton School of the Arts faculty art auction.

This is a photo of our class, with Al being the only guy. He is a successful Canadian artist who has had work in the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was a joy to spend time with Al and Anette. One night both classes were invited to a potluck at their cottage, where we also saw lots of art! this is a couple who successfully makes a living by selling their art. While their main residence is in Toronto, they also have a cottage outside Haliburton.

I didn't create anything earth shattering during the week, but succeeded in my goal of not being too attached to the outcome. I didn't want to worry about wasting my time or stress about making a masterpiece. I basically worked cutting fused fabric free-hand with a scissors. 

We received instruction about simultaneous contrast, and looked at samples of how it can make our work sing. So my first quick composition involved using a neutral orange next to a saturated orange, and next to the complement of turquoise.

My second composition, an abstract landscape, also uses simultaneous contrast. The very bright yellow-green pops next to the very neutral green. Same with the light orange against the earthy orange.This piece was inspired by a photograph I brought of orange-coloured leaves that had settled on a log in a stream.

This was an experiment, inspired by a seashell I brought. I don't think the composition works that well, but I'm showing it anyway.

We had an assignment to create something in the style of Klimt. Originally my background for this piece was a rusty orange. I didn't find it exciting, so I switched to something more typical of me ... chartreuse! Lots of fun working with neutral yellows and golds, as well as bright ones.

A very simple abstracted version of stairs in a garden in Italy. All cut free-hand. If I were to remake this I would take the green stairs up behind the top red step on the right-hand side. I am not fond of the straight horizontal line created across the green and red top step.

On the last day, this composition started to form. I just started playing with wave-type shapes. It is inspired by autumn reflections on a pond. It is only partly finished. What was I thinking? How would I quilt all those little circles?

So what do I take away from the week? An increased understanding and appreciation for subtle tones and shades of hues and their potential effects in my work. It also occurred to me that I might more often create art if I had a ready supply of fused fabrics. I could be doing this in short spurts of time. No it won't be the complex kind of work I normally do, but it is still worth doing.

My trip to Haliburton ended with a visit with my friend Carol, and her husband, who have have purchased a cottage about 45 minutes from Haliburton. It happens to be right along my route back to Ottawa. So I had a nice visit with them and their two lively dogs on my way home. Lucca at top and Khio at bottom. What fun characters they are!

This week it is back to reality! I've just taken my first Northcott pattern to the printer, and on Thursday I will begin stuffing 1,000 pattern packages. Then prep for the class I am teaching in Haliburton.


  1. Elaine, how wonderful to have a week to explore- I love your beginnings. A very productive week for sure!

  2. Thanks Karen ... it was just what I needed after a busy spring of teaching travel, fabric and pattern design, and website overhaul and and and ... :-))

  3. Although the colors don't pop, I really do like your seashell. And your final piece of the week is just fantastic!

    1. Thank you Suzanna. I'm still playing with that one. Or rather, will be playing with that one. Other fish to fry this week.

  4. WOW....I think your class pieces are wonderful. Glad you enjoyed your week. One day I will get back to Haliburton.

    1. Hi Sharon ... nice to see you at Quilt Canada a few weeks ago! I hope you get back to Haliburton too :-)

  5. What a delightful report of your week doing something different--quite refreshing for the brain, I agree. Having ready fused fabrics has been fun for me, and I never discard even the smallest scrap--amazing how easy it is to make a quick postcard with these bits. You have made me appreciate my found little sample packages of Steam-a-Seam since it has been out of production a while. You are lucky to find such beautiful cats in your travels. My three babies LOVE to have company, and I suspect a couple of friends visit me primarily to pet them.


Your posts are important to me. Due to a huge amount of SPAM on my blog recently, I have decided to moderate comments, at least for the time being. Please be patient, your post will be approved as soon as I can get to it.