Monday, October 27, 2014

Alex's Quilt

Alex's Quilt
85" x 70"

It's been long overdue that I share these pictures of my last quilt commission. Alex was a vibrant young boy who died before his time from bone cancer. His family gave me the responsibility of honoring their son by repurposing his clothing into a quilt for his bed. As difficult as this sounds, I have always been thrilled to take on projects like this. To me, this is what quilt-making is all about and I love the fact that I can help people create new from the old, beauty from pain. 

Here's Alex in his element, playing sports! This isn't the first time I have seen this shirt, I also made a quilt for his aunt, out of her boys' clothing, and we featured Alex there as well. Same shirts have popped up in multiple projects I've done over the years. Because I get all my business through word-of-mouth, it means that clients recommend me to their friends and family and I like getting a chance to learn their overlapping stories.

For starters, I wanted to infuse as much happiness into the project as I could. That's where the idea for the sun came in. I also had a very strict palette of red, white, blue, and gray that I couldn't help, so I knew I wanted to bring in a third color, and you can't go wrong with primaries. Oh, and one neon green was I going to balance that? The best way I found to organize the color of his shirts was to group all the red around the middle, buffer the blue with the white and grey in between and go darker to black as I worked my way out. Then my solution for the green was to make sure there was a little pop in each section. This way it wouldn't look so out of place to have just the one green shirt. In the end, I love all the green everywhere. Something that came from constraints that I would've never done otherwise. Love when that happens.

When I made my preliminary sketches for this quilt top, I played with the idea of some kind of animal anchoring the middle. When I approached Alex's mother with the idea, she brought me to Alex's memorial garden out back - full of turtles. Apparently, he loved turtles and it became a symbol for his memory. I was thrilled to learn this because I love turtles too, so there was my next idea. I documented the making of the turtle here, including the zippered pouch along the bottom of his shell. 

This was definitely my most ambitious t-shirt quilt to date. Crazy quilting with stretch knits?? I utilized freezer paper to help me construct each wedge between the sun's rays. And I made a tape layout of the entire quilt on the floor before I even started, and I barely had a floor big enough in my house to amply design this piece. See proof below.

I realized that my new studio is just not set up for making quilts anymore. In my last space, I had 2 large design walls that were fabulous! But when I tried to work on projects other than quilts (ie-sewing clothes) I found it much more difficult. My passion for making quilts had been waining and I was craving sewing projects that I could turn around faster. Not to mention, in the 4-years that I had been making quilts-for-hire, I had yet to really make enough money to call it a sustainable business practice. Let's be honest, it is a labor-of-love business that I was falling out of love with. And in the months since I finished this quilt, I have discovered the lightness of living without a long-term project in my life. As painful as it can be to turn your back on something you have loved so deeply, it's important to allow yourself to change, and reassess your true feelings in the now. Especially for an artist. To be able to find inspiration, get an idea, and act on it promptly is a dream I always lust after. For now, this is my last quilt. On to new, exciting adventures!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Basketball Moons

A new piece I zipped through this past week.  "Basketball Moons"
I've always loved drawing basketballs, their undulating design just appeals to me. Nothing to do with the actual sport, just the shape of the ball. But it's safe to assume that, growing up across the street from Duke, in the heart of ACC country, the game has gotten into my blood. I can never bring myself to touch the color baby blue (the signature color of UNC-Chape Hill), it just feels wrong!! 

I am so happy I finally managed to knit a b-ball. To be honest, I didn't even know what I meant when I decided to mix a ball with a moon. Their 2 shapes just fit well together -- moons being something that frequently appear in my work. After it was finished, and people started telling me they liked it, instead of "are you crazy?" I realized it made sense somehow. Those of us who base our lives around the cycle of basketball. The general acceptance of a society who treats "sports as life". Or maybe the way a game can push and pull us like the way the moon controls the tides.

I use the term "us" loosely cause you know I don't give a shit!

An inside shot of how I manage to pull back the ends of my knitting and get them to lie flat on the back of a frame. After this point, I glue a piece of fitted kraft paper to the back to make it look nice and clean. And sign the paper once more. This stitching may seem crazy tedious but I gain a lot of pleasure in doing it and it really doesn't take that much time.

I was inspired to knit up the basketballs after local Chapel Hill store, Thrill City, invited me to show some work on their Franklin Street walls. I went in and hung "Tig Ol' Bitties", surveyed their empty spots, and came back with "Dead, Dead, Dead" and the freshly-framed "Basketball Moons"

Their store is very sports-centered so, needless to say, you can see where the inspiration came from. Really thrilled to have some pieces out in the public and not shut up in my studio. Big thanks to the Thrill City guys for giving me a chance to get my art out to Chapel Hill! Just don't make we wear Carolina blue!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I'm really excited to share that I will be teaching some classes this fall at the Sawtooth School for Visual Art in Winston-Salem, NC. This school is situated in the Arts Council building in the heart of downtown, full of inspiring art and crafts and some seriously lust-worth studio spaces. They have brought me in in an effort to revitalize their fiber programs, and I couldn't be more pumped to offer two new classes this fall:


Color Knitting Techniques will be a 4-part class and you KNOW I'm confident about teaching that. As for Wardrobe Rehab, this is a spin-off of one of my favorite classes that I have taught over the years, where I help people repair and alter their existing wardrobe, teaching fundamental skills that will allow people to do-for-themselves and use-it-up/wear-it-out instead of buy-trash-buy. It's also a great introduction to the sewing machine for those looking to build their confidence with this amazingly practical tool.

In preparation for my new class, I decided to turn towards my own wardrobe. I'm usually pretty good about doing a periodical purge, but lately I've been feeling my style start to change, and my closet has not been reflecting that. In the past, donated items meant things that didn't fit anymore. But now, I wanted to get rid of all the things that didn't represent the direction I want to be going in and really start to dress everyday in a style that inspires me!

The whole project started with me taking every lil' thing out of my lil' closet and piling them up in Adam's band room (hehe) I wanted to take my time really curating what I was going to put back in there so moving it all into a room that I could leave messy for a while was a great luxury. Then I started with the obvious, the pieces that I absolutely love and wear to death. They went right back in. Next were some pretty easy choices ready for the giveaway pile. Now what was left is all the hard stuff. Things that used to be my favorites, things that fit but aren't exactly the style I'm cultivating, treasured vintage pieces, and, of course, piles and piles of t-shirts.

I'm gonna be honest, this stuff sat around for a while.

Ugg, decisions! I knew that things needed to be tried on and examined: does it fit in a way that is flattering? Do I feel comfortable? Do I look the way I want to look in this? Do I have complimentary garments that can make an outfit?

Day by day I would find the time to try an article of clothing on and run it through the ringer. Second opinions helped a lot when I could get them ("you say my butt doesn't look good in this? Bye bye!") Soon I discovered a third pile of "needs-alterations/needs-repairs" that would become my launching pad for coming up with some great ideas to share with my class.

As soon as I get a chance to snap some photos, I will share what kind of updates I've made to my existing wardrobe! I'm having a lot of fun with this!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

US Figure Skating Championships contest

 The city of Greensboro + Greenhill Center for the Arts held a poster competition for the US Figure Skating Championships, that Greensboro will be hosting in January 2015. At first, I wasn't sure if I was interested but the cash prize was enticing enough for me to get out my sketchbook and think of some ideas. I knew I wanted to design something that was a reflection of my personal artwork, so that meant it needed to be knitted. I ended up having a lot of fun designing this piece. It proved to be my most challenging original design yet! But, with this project, I finally learned a decent way to design my knits in the computer in an efficient manner, without buying a special program. That was huge! The Intarsia knitting was not too complicated for me but the scale of the final piece (18"x 22") proved to be quite time consuming. I spent several days cramped up into positions on the couch that took its toll on my back. Oh the sacrifices I make for art!! I turned in my piece yesterday and fingers crossed I make it to the semi-finalist round.

I'm really proud of how this piece ended up and really thankful that the city and the state create these kinds of initiatives to help support NC artists. I love my home state!!

In-progress, mega-knotted knitting. The biggest problem I had working on this was a single-ply yarn that had such open fibers, it wanted to grip and tangle with anything it touched including itself. The absolute trick for doing this kind of color knitting is working with short strands of yarn that are easily pulled through any tangles you might encounter. I would ignore the tangles until I literally could not move the yarn anymore and then sit down and untangle everything. Eek!!