Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gift exchange -- art!

I wrote earlier about the gift exchange at my fiber art group's annual holiday party and showed you several of the functional pieces that were made and given.  Today, some that were not functional at all, unless you happen to think that art is necessary, like breathing.

a collage/assemblage by Alyce McDonald

a quilt, wraparound-mounted on a canvas by Marti Plager

Spanish-marbled paper by Debbie Shannon

a needlefelted piece by Kathy Loomis

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gift exchange -- stuff you can use

My local fiber and textile art group has an annual holiday party in December, with a gift exchange as the highlight of the evening.  When I first joined the group more than a decade ago, the rules were to spend about $5 on a gift, supposedly fiber-related in some way, and the gifts were predictably minimal.  The worst one I remember was a package of rubber shapes to glue onto your bathtub to minimize slipping -- "fiber-related" because they were called "shower appliques."  Appliques, get it?

After a few years I joined the board and one of my early suggestions was that since we were all allegedly fiber artists, we should all be able to come up with a handmade gift for the party.  To my surprise, my snarky observation was endorsed by everybody else and we changed the rules.  Now you must make a gift, one that would sell in the vicinity of $20-25 retail.

And the holiday party has become a lot more fun!  Last week was perhaps the best one I can recall, with a huge variety of gifts.  Here are some of the functional ones:




Books and notecards:

Even bowls:
 Now don't you wish you were at this party?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sign of the week

PS  Two minutes later, the train had come to a halt, stretching out of sight in both directions.  Here's what happened then:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Shallow alert

In the trashy weekend tabloid that appears in our Sunday newspaper, we read that an actress I've never heard of, starring in a miniseries about the four Biblical wives of Jacob, has "a newly acquired skill," thanks to filming the movie.

"I had to learn how to separate the wool that came straight from the sheep, clean it and put it on spools," she proudly tells the interviewer.  (I guess her immersion in useful fiber processes didn't extend to learning the actual terms for these newly acquired skills.)

She didn't think as much about the dust on location.  "We were covered the entire time we were filming," she complained.

Here she (the one at left in blue) and her girlfriends pretend to be carding and spinning.  I'm no ancient history scholar but it strikes me that the clothes seem to come from considerably later times (check those gathered, set-in sleeves and that plunging neckline on the chick in pink.) Likewise, I'm no scholar of textile history but that carding setup also looks suspiciously modern.  And did they have lathes in Biblical times to turn those spindles?

And where's all that dust she was bitching about?

I am so sorry that I missed the miniseries, which ran earlier this week.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My new "day job" 3

The 600+ panels in the International Honor Quilt collection were supposedly catalogued in 1994, but don't try to take that to the bank.  The database is supposed to include information on the panel, the woman or group honored in the panel, the maker of the panel and biographical information about her, the maker's statement (about why she chose the honoree, how she made the panel, or whatever else she wanted to say), technical information on the panel's condition, measurements, materials and techniques, and a detailed description of the panel.

Materials, techniques and description are my responsibility, while the other fields are being checked and corrected by others on the project staff.  In my three fields, we're finding that some panels have no information at all, while others have been incorrectly described.

For instance, 18 of the first 54 we've gone through had no information on materials, techniques and description!  That's a lot of blank spaces in the data base.

But even the ones that have been filled in by past cataloguers need to be carefully checked for accuracy.  The previous cataloguers sometimes confuse hand and machine stitching and use catchall terms such as "hand sewn" instead of distinguishing between hand piecing, hand applique and hand embroidery.  Considering that this project is officially about "quilts," it's discouraging that they have not carefully distinguished between quilting and other forms of stitching.

One of the cataloguers seemed enamored of the term "partial machine construction," which means nothing to me.  "Top stitching" is frequently used as a descriptor, except sometimes it means machine applique, other times it means quilting, still other times it means embroidery.

the cataloguer thought this beautiful padded satin stitch was machine embroidered

The previous cataloguers also didn't pay much attention to how the edges of the panels were finished -- traditional quilt binding, facing, knife-edge finish, fabric from the front or back of the panel folded over the edge and stitched down on the other side, or whatever.  In many cases there was no description at all of the edge, and in others it wasn't accurate.

In addition, we've decided that consistency in the descriptions is a virtue, so I'm rewriting them to always begin with the "border," which almost always contains the name and location of the honoree, then describe the interior triangle, then the edge finish, finally the reverse.

So I inspect each panel, compare it to what the cataloguer wrote, poke and prod the work to determine what techniques were used, occasionally feel the goods with my ungloved hand to identify the material, and write my own notes.  Then at home I type it all into the database; it usually takes me a bit longer to type up the notes than it did to inspect the panels.

The curators had acquired several pairs of those baggy, limp white cotton gloves to protect the quilts, but I said we needed Machingers to make it easier to work, so as of yesterday we're the proud owners of four pairs!  I have a long embroidery needle that I use to poke at the work and lift an edge or pull a seam open to see how it was stitched, a ruler to measure the borders and a magnifying loupe to get a better look at the stitches if necessary.  And we had to get a metric tape measure to do all the dimensions in centimeters (we argued for quite a while about whether to stick with inches, but couldn't agree on whether to say 1.125 or 1 1/8 and whether those three decimal places were misleadingly "accurate").

I had to gingerly poke at this one to determine that the tiny orange stitches are made with a punch needle, not french knots

But enough about research methods; more in subsequent posts about what I'm finding as I inspect the panels.