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As an artist, you have to be proactive about getting your work out there in the world. Since I belong to a quilt guild, I can count on being able to enter my work in the triennial show we put on. And as a member of a group of fibre artists in my community, I find it’s a struggle to find a suitable venue for our annual group show. But in June, I learned about an unusual call for proposals for art to be hung at a new health and community services centre being planned for the neighbourhood.

When it opens in 2019, the Oakwood-Vaughan Health Clinic will offer “a range of services with a focus on community members who face barriers to health care such as people living in poverty, isolated seniors, non-insured, people with complex mental health issues, those requiring interpretation and living with unstable employment.”

Artists in the surrounding community were encouraged to submit proposals for artwork that will be displayed in the programming space, clinic offices and foyer of the new centre. Themes could focus on community, health and youth, as well as the cultural history of the area. “We hope to promote the creativity that allows all to express and trust themselves. We want artists to show a spirit of inquiry and exploration through their art pieces.

Of course I was thrilled when my proposal was one of the 25 accepted. They called us all together for a “meet and greet” session on July 31. The organizers explained timelines and next steps and also issued $150 honorariums to each of the selected artists.

I had done a great deal of pondering and planning up to this point, but now that I had the green light, it was time to move on to the construction phase!

My concept for this piece is to evoke the new health centre’s intent to reach out to the community.

Here’s my artist statement:

“The arm is not one colour. It is not white, black, beige or brown, but in keeping with the multi-cultural diversity of the Oakwood Vaughan community, and indeed Toronto as a whole, it represents all skin colours. Our skin colour is immaterial. We are all part of this community … we help each other.

From my own collection of pressed leaves, I selected five different species of oak leaves and used their shapes to create fabric ones that “sprout” out of each finger and thumb. This represents healthy growth and renewal, while also supporting the importance of diversity.

Reaching out for strength within. 33″ w x 20″ h

The tree trunk, from which the arm is protruding, portrays the strength, not only of the mighty oak tree, but of our community, when we work in unison.”

picture of health centre exterior with Janet in foreground with her bike

Delivering the artwork

I delivered my completed piece in October, and on November 15, a “sneak peek” event was held to view all the submissions. What an impressive range of artwork has been gathered from community artists!

On October 22, a jury will announce their decision on the top three artworks that will receive significant cash prizes. But I feel that it is rewarding enough to be able to create what I hope is an uplifting piece of art that will be discovered by both staff and visitors at this valuable new centre.

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I was drawn to this fabric design – Fox Nap, from the Chipper line designed by Tula Pink for Free Spirit – despite the fact that the colour scheme contained not even a hint of purple! The serene mood captured by the designer focuses on a calm, relaxed (and let’s face it, very cute) single fox curled up amongst flowers, having a snooze. I bought a fat quarter (18” x 22”).

As often happens, I added it to my “recent acquisitions” stash when I got home and forgot about it for a while, occasionally pulling it out and fondling it with a wide grin on my face. Isn’t it just enough to have it, let alone use it?fabrics piled up

A few months later, the day came when I was ready to start a new project. Yes, it was time to root through my vast collection and extract some fabrics to not only accompany the foxes but to showcase them.

I still couldn’t bring myself to actually cut into the fabric.

Since I knew I wouldn’t be able to cut through the foxes, I cruised the Internet for inspiration to utilize “focus fabrics”. I blocks of fabric cut to 4" x 6"didn’t find an actual pattern, but since I determined that each fox could be easily fit into a 4.5“ x 6” rectangle, I got the idea to add interest by placing the blocks on a slight angle.

I was aiming for a contemporary look, so to help achieve that objective, the background was going to be grey/white.

It was satisfying to discover fabrics in my decades-spanning stash that complemented such a fresh new (2016) fabric.

fox quilt

I’m happy with the result (it measures 29.5” h x 34” w), and no foxes were slashed during the process – heck, they didn’t even rouse from their naps!

Unless you are a self-avowed curmudgen, you can’t help but admire these birds, and because I happen to have a free pass to one of their breeding grounds (Sauble Beach on Lake Huron), it was love at first sight for me.

Source: Why the Piping Plover is the ultimate emblem for World Shorebirds Day

Loving something, and then adapting it into a piece of textile art is another thing! But it’s a challenge that I welcome.

I used my own photographs of the plovers at the beach for guidance, and found fabrics that would convey the elements of the plovers’ habitat (lake, shoreline, beach grasses). The background is pieced, and the bird is machine appliqéd on top. You can see that I used a piece of driftwood as the hanging device.

I donated this piece to the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory‘s silent auction fundraiser that year (2007).

If you’d like more information about the Piping Plovers at Sauble Beach, visit this website: http://ploverlovers.com/.

Books + People + Art

Ever since I was able to read (or perhaps it started when I was a toddler, devouring picture books) I have had a strong attraction to public libraries. I think it’s the thrill of walking in and being surrounded by all those possibilities, let alone being given the chance to take some of them home!

The library interior librarysystem where I live is like an old, reliable friend. I can count on it to satisfy my curiosity about anything I care to dream up. Right now, I’m reading a novel, learning about owls and woodpeckers, listening to a Miles Davis CD and researching a trip to Scotland – all using materials borrowed from the library. And throughout my journey as a textile artist, I have relied heavily on the Toronto Library system’s impressive resources for textile artists and quilt makers.

Imagine my delight when I walked into one of the library branches in my community and discovered a notice inviting artists to display their work! This would be a chance for two of my favourite pastimes to converge!

For the month of February, I’ve mounted a small, colourful exhibit of textile art on the second floor of Maria A. Shchuka library in Toronto (Eglinton Ave. W. near Dufferin St.). One wall is near the stairwell, and the other one is in the “Quiet Study Room”.

textile art displayed on wall

The drab, grey wall is much brighter now!

I have chosen pieces that I think will invite library patrons to look and linger, and called the show “Stories in Stitches”. I hope to spark emotional connections, and expose people to the possibilities of telling stories with fabric and stitching.

This is far less formal than a gallery exhibit, and I hope that my art will evoke interest from a broader audience than would normally come to a gallery exhibit or a quilt show.

Catching up

There are so many quilts that haven’t made it into this blog! I’ll post a few photos now to try and make up for some lost time.

fullsizeoutput_143e

I blogged about this one here. It was a wedding gift for one of my nephews, and title I gave it in the end is “heart and soul mates”. The way I arranged the HSTs (half-square triangles) symbolizes two people coming together and creating something new.

img_3301This one is called “Line and Texture”. The pattern can be found in a book titled “In Love with Squares and Rectangles” by Amy Walsh and Janine Burke. My colour palette was inspired by the Jinny Beyer fabric that I used for the binding. My mother had bought a tremendous amount of this discarded 2″ trim when she visited Suttles & Seawinds in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia years ago. It’s going to take me a long time to use it all up!

img_3663Here’s another wedding quilt (couch quilt size) that I made for a niece who is a jazz musician. I had only bought a fat quarter of the feature fabric – with her in mind – but I was able to create a modern quilt, using coordinating fabrics from my stash and focusing on lots of negative space. I got the idea for this quilt by googling modern quilt ideas. Here’s the page I found, and I just made up my own measurements based on the optimum block size for the “jazz cats” imagery (actually called “Cool Cats” by Amy Boyajian/Lilla Rogers Studio for P & B Textiles).

fullsizeoutput_44My Marvellous Mythical Moth was started in a workshop with the talented Susan Carlson. I love her fabric collage technique! It is a small piece (20.5″ w x 16″ h) that was a lot of fun to put together.

WIP Wednesday

I’m posting this image for WIP Wednesday! It’s a small piece (20″ x 30″) that I am calling “Fifty Shades of Purple”. The 5.5″ block is string-pieced from scraps. Inspiration and instructions came from a book borrowed from the public library: “A Modern Twist” by Natalie Barnes.

purple quilt top

50 Shades of Purple

I am on a perpetual mission, as I am sure many quilters are, to use up fabric scraps. Unfortunately, this project barely made a dent in my scrap stash. But a girl can try, right?

As I was putting this together, I realized that I may finally be overcoming my obsession with the colour purple. The modern or contemporary quilt aesthetic has infiltrated my consciousness, and there are so many fresh colours to play with. Just wait till you see the next piece I am working on – no purple at all!

 

Sesquicentennial

red and white cotton fabrics

Ever since June, when I learned about the 2017 Challenge for next summer’s Quilts at the Creek, I’ve been pondering what to make. The theme for the show is Canada’s 150th birthday, and Northcott has generously donated a whack of red and white fabric to get things started off.

There’s no question – I want to create a special quilt, but making a decision on the design approach is holding me back!

My head is swimming with ideas! How will I be able to settle on just one … the right one? It has to be a design that I will a) enjoy working on for many months, b) allow me to use coordinating fabrics from my stash, and c) be symbolic in its own way to represent my Canadian experience (having lived in Canada all my life).

Shall I go modern or traditional? Or somewhere in between?

Lots of ideas here:

http://quiltinspiration.blogspot.ca/2011/10/free-pattern-day-red-and-white-quilts.html

And of course on Pinterest (e.g., https://www.pinterest.com/cjshanny/red-and-white-quilts/).

logo for Canada's 150th birthday

And check out the winning sesquicentennial logo design. Could be adapted to quilt piecing, don’t you think?

Stay tuned …

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