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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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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/.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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photo of ruins in Greece

The original photo

I wanted to make something special for my son and his wife as a wedding present, even though knew I wouldn’t actually get it done in time for the wedding. Since they already had a bed quilt made by me, I set my sights on a wall hanging.

Now this was going to be a surprise, so I had to be a little sneaky! Knowing how much they had enjoyed their trip to Greece the year before, I set out to find a photo from that trip that might be appropriate to interpret in fabric. That’s where some stealth was required. I couldn’t ask my son for a photo without explaining why I wanted it, so I snooped on his Facebook page and chose a photo that was fairly representative of their trip, and that might “translate” well.

I downloaded the image and had paper copies made (enlarged to 11 x 17) – one in colour and one in black & white. The colour copy was used as a guide to select fabrics, and the black & white one helped me sketch the outline onto the base fabric (unbleached cotton).

It’s so much fun hunting for just the right fabric scraps, and I am forever grateful to the quilter who first planted the idea in my brain that sorting my scraps by colour into clear plastic shoebox-size containers would significantly streamline the process.

Arches and Blue Sky

Arches and Blue Sky

I had the perfect fat quarter of hand-dyed blue fabric for the sky on hand, from Dye-Version, and loads of scraps, from florals to plaids and everything in between, for the stonework. I used a collage technique, based loosely on what I have learned from Susan Carlson.

I took a bit of artistic licence with some areas of the piece, but I think it fairly interprets the original photo. I hope it evokes fond memories of their Greek adventure. It was made with love.

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About six years ago, I was fortunate to discover a small group of women in my community whose interest and obsession with making textile art equals my own. Each year since then we’ve managed to find a place in the neighbourhood to mount a display of our creations.

A few times it was a room in a church, several times a funny little vacant space on the side of a building (called “Side Space Gallery”), once in a café, and this year, in a yoga studio. The expansive white wall that spans the length of the studio was just begging to be lit up with our colourful creations.

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Grounded

We negotiated with the studio owner to have specific hours (around her classes) where people could come and see the exhibit, each weekend throughout the month of November.

A_Patch_200x267

A Patch of Stillness

This Saturday, we’ll be holding the opening reception for our show at the Studio for Movement.

A week ago, we met to “hang” the show. None of us knew what each other had created, so it was a bit like Christmas morning when we spread everything out on the floor to get an idea of what the collection looked like. Amazingly, it all came together beautifully. It’s astonishing how some of us, working independently, used similar colour palettes and themes in our work. This made it fairly easy to create groupings that complemented each other.

I worked pretty hard to get two new pieces finished (each participating artist is invited to submit two pieces) and was still stitching on the labels the day we hung the show!

A third piece I had brought along (Open Arms, aka Driven to Abstraction) turned out to be just the right size for one of the walls, so that means I have three pieces in the show!

Getting together with my artist friends to plan and execute these exhibits, on a shoestring, has proven to be a great catalyst for all of us to learn, laugh, experiment and share our art with the community.E_invite_2013

If you’re in the Toronto area, I invite you to come by and be inspired!

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Isn’t it fun, once in a while, not to have everything planned out before you start a new project? That’s the way it was with the 3-part workshop I signed up for with Dwayne Wanner. He has developed a loosely structured set of guidelines to shepherd you through his “Abstract Expressionist Quilt Project”.

I was fortunate to be able to find a weekend course being held at the Etobicoke Quilters Guild, where my sister is a member. I am endlessly frustrated by my own guild’s insistence on scheduling workshops during the workweek.

Part one of the workshop consisted of exploring the styles of abstract expressionist painters such as Jackson Pollock, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Paul Klee and the Painters Eleven. Dwayne encouraged us to look at these paintings and visualize them made with fabric. Using both the Internet and library books, I studied the technique in the weeks leading up to the first session.

Then it was time to make our colour choices. Dwayne encouraged us to experiment the split-complementary scheme, which includes strong contrast that is toned down by using the colours that are adjacent the colour that is complementary to the main colour. Have I lost you yet?

For someone who usually relies on instinct for her colour choices, it was a challenge for me to consult the colour wheel and make selections based on that, but I went to my stash and tried my best. For this project, fabrics that read as solid are best – no large prints.

Our second task was to construct what Dwayne calls an “inventory” of blocks. What fun combining the fabrics into blocks and strips, knowing in advance that they would be sliced, diced and put together later, but not being able to envision the end result.

Floating squares, skinny strips, wonky strips, etc. all came together, as Dwayne exhorted us to imagine the artist splashing paint randomly on a large canvas.

Slicing a curved line in advance of sewing two sections together

Slicing a curved line in advance of sewing two sections together

One interesting trick I learned was how to match up two sections, by laying them on top of each other (both face up), just overlapping enough to cut through with the rotary cutter, in a slightly curved line. [photo]

Then, after discarding the cut pieces, you flip one piece over so that right sides are together, and sew them together. Sounds simple but I don’t think I would have thought of that myself.

Dwayne’s approach is best described, I think, as freestyle. “Pins are for sissies,” he says. I must say things move faster when you aren’t concerned with measuring and matching things precisely. And the resulting creation is truly one-of-a-kind.

Most of the quilts produced in this class, therefore, resulted in an irregular shape, and so the question was asked – how are we going to finish the edges? Dwayne explained various methods, one being the “pillow-case” method. But I chose the option to make “facing”. You make binding as per usual, but turn all of it to the back, rather than just half of it. Pretty simple and effective, when the edge of your piece is uneven.

While our sewing machines hummed, Dwayne supplied an eclectic assortment of background music, ranging from opera to the Gypsy Kings, to keep our creative juices flowing. And, I suspect, to cut down on the chitchat. He had us on a schedule, which contributed to the appeal of this workshop. All the students were confident that they would actually finish something at the end of the three sessions.

Driven to Abstraction -

Driven to Abstraction

A few months later, I am still processing some of the ideas and techniques that I practiced in Dwayne’s class. My piece, “Driven to Abstraction”, is certainly one of the most adventurous and unusual wall hangings I have made. And quite a contrast to the next quilt I will be writing about!

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