Inspired by the bounty of garden produce in August and September, I created a stack of dyed and printed fabric on warm sunny days. On rainy days, I trimmed select fabric into squares and finished the edges. I call them furoshiki (Japanese cloths for wrapping and carrying objects).
The squares debut this weekend at Oak Hart Farms Holiday Market. If you received a bottle of wine wrapped in art fabric, would you spread the cloth over a table and have a celebration? And would my sewing friends stash it away for a delightful new project on a snowy day?
Creating requires practice and it produces left overs. We are a studio mindful of good economy and careful stewardship. Practice prints of trees for a chasuble are reserved for other secular art work. Paint and dye techniques practiced on silk dyes reappear on clergy stoles and women’s apparel.
I learned the lessons of practice and left overs growing up on a farm. The practice jacket for a 4-H project was not made from muslin, but rather an inexpensive cotton that was serviceable. The batches of practice brownies made the month before the county fair were snacks for farm workers. Grandma Alice’s midweek menu often included a “mess” of something, which was usually a tasty medley of this and that. Of course, patch work quilts were the destiny of fabric left from cutting clothing.
These work habits are now labeled generative and derivative work. I add time to production schedules of major projects to include intentional production of cloth that will generate new art work. I organize work space to facilitate quick cuttings of small gift items derived from both the ideas and materials of large projects. I hope to work with greater focus, continued expertise, and deeper expression.
Lutheran congregations use red paraments and vestments on Passion Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, Reformation Sunday, and services that celebrate the life of a particular saint. Today these vibrant wall hangings were delivered to Shepherd of the Hills in Haymarket VA.
Members of the congregation contributed the fabric and cut all the small crosses attached to the wall hangings. They have stories that connect them to the cloth used in this work.
I explained to newly-installed Pastor Percy that my work is not about perfection. Instead I use imperfection to help create a welcoming place for worshipers. While I strive for excellence in my craftsmanship, imperfection leaves space for worshipers to find themselves welcome just as they are. I believe that the church today is in greater need of community than of reverence expressed in finery.
This congregation was hesitant about adding hangings to the wood columns, but they trusted my design. They have sets for each liturgical season, which are an integral part of weekly worship. The cloth and color create a welcoming and comforting environment.
Creating art work for a specific environment can offer the opportunity to use new sizes and proportions. The client wanted pulpit frontals that picked up colors in the stained glass, that did not obscure the cross in the pulpit, and that complemented the chapel furnishings.
dedication of chapel paraments
The results include bold cross designs in fresh proportions and hemmed with a curve that echoes the art over the altar. During regular worship services, only one frontal is used. The frontals are crafted from easy care cottons that can be washed or dry-cleaned. It is always my hope that worshippers will feel free to touch the tactile expressions of faith.
It is not uncommon in artistic circles to use prompts to get creative juices flowing. Quilting bees issue monthly challenges to innovate familiar blocks. Writers share a verb and see what words appear on the page. Mica and Noah Scalin lead 30 day Creative Sprints on the internet and results are shared online by many participants.
I belong to two local creative circles that use monthly prompts. When I am pressed by the studio work schedule, I can resent these commitments. I do not fail to use the prompts, but I do alter my approach to them. I have set time limits on the exploration of the theme. I have prepared in advance a design format to use for an entire year. This month, I put the two prompts together for one project.
Blue and tangle inspired a mosaic of fused cotton fabric on felt, which was stitched together by a tangle of lines of variegated thread.
Several days later, I cut the work into measured squares and free-cut triangles and rectangles. The free-cut pieces are stitched together and sandwiched between two layers of construction mesh. I like where this is going, but I do not where that is!
Do you use prompts to ignite your creativity? Do you let play inform your work?
Custom work filled many summer days at the studio this year. Completed projects are now delivered. Before I completely shift into next season’s work, my hands and mind are revisiting techniques and tools: a bit like a family reunion.
Grandma Alice showed me how to tie quilts when I was a teenager. My fingers readily repeat the old motions. I enjoy adding this simple bit of thread into textile art. Seen here, knots added to wall hanging used in the worship space of The Legacy, Staunton, VA.
One of my best creative companions is my husband Ned. He understands the studio schedule. He totes things here and there. He asks the piercing questions, such as “Is this the best use of your time?” His help and perspective keep art flowing from the studio.
When Ned retired several years ago, he began art classes at Opus Oaks, a local school for arts. With lessons, guidance, and encouragement, he has completed a handful of paintings. He has been reluctant to submit them to shows, until Shenandoah Arts Council, our local council, planned an exhibition honoring the Opus Oaks school.
With some encouragement (cajoling) and help (shopping for a frame) from me, Ned submitted his work. Later he proudly posed beside it for a photograph.
Who encourages your creativity? Whom do you encourage?
This composition is based on the petition from The Lord’s Prayer, save us from the time of trial. As a child I was taught, save us from temptation. Having lived through a life altering trial, I prefer the more contemporary version.
I selected the image for this week as Christians near the observance of Holy Week. I am also studying it more closely for how I placed the elements in the square frame.
I am sharing it online, as a reminder to us all to seek justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly. That focus may be some ease to our own trials and temptations.
My fabric career spans decades, serving clients from Hawaii to Puerto Rico. I have worked on the dining table, in a spacious bedroom, down in the basement, and from the kitchen counter. Soon I will practice in a studio made just for me!
Originally a two-part wooden door opened to the work bench / potting shed of my garage. I like the above view of layered solutions. The craftsmen who integrated the block wall were a delight to watch. Photograph below shows the new door and windows. The mammoth piece of equipment signals that soon water will be piped in and out of the space.
Each one of the spaces in which I have worked has evolved my skill and craftsmanship. Clients have evoked ever-widening artistry. It is my goal that the new studio will support larger inventory, more complex work patterns, and greater focus on increasingly authentic art.
I use different scissors for different tasks in the studio just as I use a variety of knives in the kitchen. Practice informs me which tool works best for a particular task. Experimentation increases the scope of usefulness for each tool I own.
Recently, I have begun to regard my screen images as tools. This set of little suns was designed for a custom project. Before I use it for its intended purpose, I want to know more about how it works when repeated, when worked in multiple colors, when overlapped or spaced irregularly on the background.
A morning’s play with screen and paint introduced the potential of this simple design; I think I would like it in multiple sizes.