Owned and operated by fiber artist Susan Ball Faeder since 1989

New Etsy shop and what I discovered in my past work

Kokko fabrics for sale in QEJAPAN ETSY shop © Susan Ball Faeder

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.

Element: TOOLS 

“Traffic Jam” 1989 (50” sq.) made with timesaving tools.

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 

“Harlequin Naptime” 1989 (58” Ht. x 50” W.), front and back views
“Harlequin Naptime” 1989, details highlighting color and 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

“Kakejiku” 1991 (52.5” Ht. x 26.5” W.) with two details, demonstrating a 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, 
Susan

Comments · 14

  1. Great blog/newsletter! Thanks for the links to the talks. Eager to have a listen. And thanks for sharing your earlier work—both images and text.

  2. Congratulations on your live Etsy site. So appreciate the ability to explore in greater depth. I miss visiting your booth at quilt shows. Wonderful memories.

    1. Thanks, Diane. I hope you’ll stick around while I continue to build out the offerings. I do miss parts of the “booth life,” especially the annual catch up with the attendees at the shows who became friends across the years… Yes, we shared a lot of good news and not so good news, supported each other. Good memories!

  3. Lovely to hear from you Susan – Fond memories of amazing parcels arriving from USA. Still working on ,my Japanese kind of quilts. Best wishes on new venture. Gene.

    1. Ah, Gene, you take me back! The JFC days. I still do not know how to write a short email to my clients. SO lovely to hear from you. Plese DO send me a photo of you and a quilt or two. You have my email. Wishing you well, Susan

  4. I loved receiving this and passed it along to a new quilter-friend (I also know her from NYC-1980s). Alas, I’ve never lassoed my attention span or finessed my stitch to create fabric art, but you always inspire! My 98% finished quilt I started not long after I met you is still in the attic. Maybe I’ll finish it and pass along to my niece. It’s “that time” to revisit the attic with all my fabric and art and scrapbooks 🙂

    1. Sharon!! Great to hear from you. Thank you so much for your sweet comments and for passing along my info. Your words are encouraging as I try to keep going in this crazy tech world. TI don’t want to think about cleaning out my attic(s), but a 98% done quilt will never do. Get it out and see what it needs. Send me a photo- how can I help? I would love to know what you are up to these days. I guess I can google you. Isn’t it great that women know how to stay in touch across the decades? I’m sure we would have some laughs together. In fact, I easily recall you wonderful laughter. Cheers~ Susan

  5. Since I know you, Susan, from the 2004 tour to Japan that we took with you, you and your work are entwined with Japanese fabric and aesthetics in my mind. It was surprising and delightful to see these glimpses into your earlier work and influences, and thank you for the wonderful background stories. What gorgeous works of art they are! I’m loving seeing more of your work in your Etsy shop too, and since I can’t come to your studio to buy fabric I’m grateful to have access via your site and now on Etsy. I can only imagine how much work it’s been to set up. You did a fabulous job (as usual) — kudos and congratulations!

    1. Yes, we do go back such a long time, and we share many ups and downs. You have always been there on the sidelines encouraging me and cheering me on with graciousness and humor. Thank you for taking the time to write. Kudos from you go right to my heart. XO Susan

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Owned and operated by fiber artist Susan Ball Faeder since 1989

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