Dear QE Clients and Friends,
In my previous blog I announced the opening of the QEJAPAN shop on my website. This time I am happy to announce that QEJAPAN is now also LIVE on ETSY!! To celebrate the Etsy launch, there are 7 new bolts of 44” wide Japanese fabrics — including 5 of the most beautiful KOKKA fabrics that have ever entered QEJAPAN’s door (see some above), a beautiful organic solid navy blue, and a sweet hiragana print. Please visit my Etsy shop and read more. * NOTE: Contact me if you wish to pay by check.
Zoom Zoom Zoom!
I could never have imagined a world of Zoom with a zillion choices. And yet, here we are. In honor of National Quilting Month, I opted in to hear two talks last week, the first by Martha Sielman, Director of SAQA. Utilizing images from her book, Art Quilts Unfolding (2016), Martha gave a five-decade overview of the art quilt movement. I especially enjoyed seeing the quilts from the 60s and 70s again, and the opportunity to appreciate the risks many artists took that legitimized and evolved quilting to its current art form. You can catch the replay here:
The second Zoom was a fascinating interview with Jonathan Holstein, sponsored by Textile Talks and co-hosted by the International Quilt Museum (IQM) in Lincoln, NE. Holstein was the curator of the 1970 pivotal exhibition that moved traditional bed quilts to the wall as visual art. Titled “Abstract Art in American Quilts,” it premiered at the prestigious Whitney Museum of Art in New York City. Holstein shared candid details about how the exhibit came about and his views on how things have progressed — and not. See the replay here, and visit the IQM website for more info about special events and exhibits celebrating the exhibit’s 50th anniversary.
Looking back to discover where we are now
On a sunny day last December, I decided to air out some of my early quilts. Seeing them, it occurred to me that perhaps I should document them “digitally,” since my slides have become obsolete. iPhone in hand, I headed to the local park with a masked friend. It was great to see these “old friends” in the natural environment, flying in the breeze. Listening to Sielman’s and Holstein’s talks brought up thoughts about my own early influences, and what was happening in my personal life at the time. Today, I’d like to share with you three of my early quilts, demonstrating elements that defined my work then and since.
After years of making my own templates and cutting pieces one at a time, and following the traditional block patterns, I began looking more closely at Amish quilts. I constructed this Double Irish Chain with the aid of my new rotary cutter, mat, and ruler, timesaving tools that opened doors to strip-piecing and precision piecework. Using a 16” round hoop, I hand quilted a straight-line grid with red and yellow thread on the black background. On the border, I see my first energy circles — and a fan! My son, a New York City child (whose first word was “TAXI”), titled this quilt, remarking, “It’s traffic jam, Mommy.”
Element: COLOR & EMBROIDERY
Do you remember Jeff Gutcheon’s American Classic Line of prints? Well, he also produced a collection of solid colors in two finishes. My first job in the quilt world was a part-time stint in his Soho quilt shop. One of my assignments was to create a coordinated Swatch Set of 150 solid colors for mail order where at any point in the fan-out of 2” squares, five colors in a row had to work well together. As shown in this quilt, I gained the confidence to try unusual color combinations. Concurrently, Penny McMorris’s book, Crazy Quilts, had just published. I worked my way through Dorothy Bond’s handbook of embroidery stitches, using a glitzy black thread in the border blocks. The strip-pieced center portion took a day, but the crazy quilt border blocks and decorative stitching took months. “Naptime” refers to the amount of time I could quilt in a day while my toddler napped. The label on the back reads “Completed April 27, 1989, at midnight, the night before the first great American Quilt Festival opened.”
Element: JAPANESE INFLUENCE
Pronounced “Kah-keh-jee-koo,” this word translates from Japanese as “hanging scroll.” It is the framed watercolor painting or sumi ink calligraphic poem that hangs in the alcove of a Japanese tearoom behind the ikebana flower arrangement. My “painting” is made with Japanese vintage cotton kimono remnants, hand-stitched onto preprinted muslin foundation blocks in ¼” finished strips. The 2.5” x 3” blocks form a log cabin variation called Courthouse Steps. It is framed on top and bottom with a pale, subtle leaf print meant to resemble the textured mounting papers on an actual Japanese scroll. I hand quilted it — as they say — “to death.”
Looking back, I can see that several elements in my current work relate back to these early quilts: I started incorporating more of my Japan experience into my art, both cultural references and indigenous fabrics… I’m still using my original rotary cutter to cut square shapes and strips for log cabin variations as starting points… I like to “stretch” color combinations… And I’m still using decorative handwork and beading in my work, both embroidery and Japanese sashiko. I guess we can only see where we are by looking back?
It’s been a bumpy year. I feel very grateful to be alive, vaccinated, and to have had my needle skills to help me get through the isolation. I hope that you found ways to manage this past winter. The tulips have bravely broken ground once again, and we, too, must forge ahead. Thanks for reading my spring epistle. Drop me a line and let me know how things are in your world. Maybe send me a story about an early quilt you made…
Very truly yours,