Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Museum of cloth and weaving: "Tuch + Technik" in Neumünster

When we spent almost three weeks with numerous rainy days on the North Sea coast in August, I took a trip to Neumünster, the former  „Sheffield of  Northern Germany“, and visited the museum “Tuch+ Technik”. The last factory closed in 1991, but the museum offers an interesting and encompassing exhibit on the history of spinning, weaving and clothmaking.

When I got there I realized that the museum was also hosting the „European Art Quilts VI“ at that time. Sheer coincidence, but I will concentrate on the museum as such here.

The musem is easily accessible from the station. And it is a very good example for the fact that visitng a museum can be fun, entertaining and very instructive – ok, you have to be inerested in the subject matter, but that I was. I was greeted by a guide who pointed me to the beginning of the round and promised to fetch me when she was starting the actual demonstration of the machines, which she did, too.
The permanent exhibit gives a complete overview of the develoment of spinning and weaving, and frequently with objects that were actually found in the Neumünster area. And the historical development is always juxtaposed to events in local history, so you get an introduction to that as well.

These are prehistoric weights used in looms, and a reconstruction of an early loom.

You can find several looms from different periods and in various designs and sizes:

I was particularly attracted by the presentation of the development of the process of spinning, from the early hand spindles to spinning wheels, the „Spinning Jenny“ and then the automatic machines. Unfortunately, the „Spinning Jenny“ was not in working condition and waiting for repair, but we saw a demonstration of the big automatic machine:

They also have a 30-m-long „Dreikrempelsatz“, that machine which transforms unspun wool into spinnable pre-threads. A concise film shows you how this machine works:

For some reason, the pre-threads really tempted me to fetch my spinning wheel back from the attic, where it had been banned only a few months ago due to lack of use...:

And then there is qualitäty control: detecting tied knots in a finished wool blanket, opening them up and sinking the threads properly so they will not be noticeable in the finished product:

A few more impressions from the museum:

These "Spinndrüsenplatten"
- sorry, don't know the correct English term! -
are used nowadays to spin threads
from recycled plastic bottles!
Too bad that I won’t be able to go to their weaver’s market on October 8 and 9. Too far away...
But if you ever plan to be in the area - go and visit that museum, it is well worth it!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Daily Mail - conclusion of a project

The third week in September brought the final end of Kathy Loomis’ and my Daily Mail project which we both have reported about on our respective blogs in May: Kathy’s prior reports can be looked at here, and mine here
The original agreement had envisioned a daily exchange for half a year, but when that time rolled around we agreed that we would continue until Septmber 15 to complete a full year’s cycle. Except that three weeks in April were missing, when my son and I visited the States, spent a week with Kathy and her husband, and Kathy went on another trip right after that. We resumed mailing on May 1st.
The second half of our exchange saw a deepening of some of the themes we had introduced in the first part. I received a number of mails with color dyptichs, which Kathy finds at various places.

Kathy: Color dyptich
I sent reflections, light art and various instances of found art.

Uta: reflections

Uta: light art

Uta: found art (calligraphy?)

Uta: found sculpture
Uta: found art

Kathy treated me to many pictures from her cruise of the Panama Canal, whereas I sent her quite a number of impressions from my summer vacation on the North Sea Coast.
But we also introduced new themes – Kathy was delighted with shots I have been taking of German traffic mirrors.

Uta: traffic mirror in our street
I was thrilled with her initiative on lions, because these can also be found numerously where I live.

Uta: Bavarian lion

Kathy: lion

And we got into doors much more deeply than we had before.

Kathy: door in Chios

Uta: front door
And many others...

I had originally started the project with a picture-pun on Kathy’s blog-title “Art with a needle”, turning it into “art with a noodle”, and I had even managed to come up with a second picture that I had sent her on the official date of closure of the first period. Kathy got back at me by finishing with a pun on the title of my German blog, “justcolours”, turning it into “just collars”. 

Kathy: Just collars
Gave me a very good laugh, and made me shed a tear.

Now that the project is over it is no real fun anymore turning on the computer to check my e-mail because there are hardly any interesting messages waiting. I noticed that I take slightly fewer pictures than I did throughout the last year, because I won’t be considering sending them as Daily Mail anymore (which will be a relief to my son, he thought I was taking too many pictures anyway, it was definitely getting on his nerves). Though I still 'see' the shots and think “this would be a great opportunity for Daily Mail”. 
But through the project I have found a new way of focussing on the kind of pictures I take, of looking at things and their prospective value as art.
I am still a little sad about the fact that the project is over, although it feels as if it was the right time to stop. It hadn’t felt like that in March, which is why we agreed to  continue until the anniversary of the beginning. All I can say is that this year was a wonderful and enriching time for me, the exchange certainly contributed a great deal to my well-being throughout the time, and I am curious to see how it will have an overall effect on my art-making.
Thanks, Kathy, for the collaboration!

Monday, September 19, 2011

On the duration of finishing...

While we were on vacation this summer we were blessed with a lot of rain. That definitely was one reason why I was rather glad I had resisted my husband’s repeated attempts to hire a camper for our vacation – although small, we had at least two rooms that we could spread out in! We also had internet connection, and I could do a bit of blog-reading. Amongst others I read Terry Jarrard-Dimond’s post ,Are you a finisher? and the kind of energy that you can release by finishing old pieces.
I recognized a few points that I had also mentioned in my posts on UFO-completion earlier.
(By the way – there is going to be another UFO-completion-weekend at the Catholic Community College Petersberg in February 2012. More information and sign-up here.)
But Terry’s post set me thinking some more on finishing, time frames and such.
Before I had left for Switzerland end of June I had that special experience with finishing „Personality“ to enter in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, which I wrote about here.
That certainly was another lesson in taking care of oneself simply by allowing oneself enough time to finish projects properly. It is not healthy to be forced to work under stress until the last minute before the post-office closes. And usually things tend to get more complicated that way. I still remember the time when I was finishing my Ph.D.thesis – I had planned generously, allowing myself a buffer-time-zone of several weeks and managed to be finished three weeks ahead of the deadline. A year later, when I was preparing the manuscript for the printer to be published, I had booked a flight to go to Canada, was teaching, and everything had been calculated much tighter. Of course the printer broke, and everything turned very hectic. I did send the manuscript off, and I did catch my flight, but I was so exhausted that I did not even have enough strength to be mad at myself.
Ever since then I have tried to be a better planner. I set aside the weeks in my calendar when I know I will be busy dyeing the fabrics for the fabric club. I put in registration deadlines for shows or competitions in which I participate. Just a few weeks ago Ieven printed out a year’s planner for 2013, earlier than I ever have done that before. But as I realized in June – it’s not always possible to finish in proper time...

But that doesn’t really have much to do with the topic of Terry’s entry  – finishing of (older) pieces that are as of yet imcomplete.

Reasons for not finishing a piece may be numerous. One of them may be that it was started in a workshop-einvironment but they have to be finished at home. There, however, is another piece that has been hanging on the wall and needs to be completed first. And when you have finished that one, there are already so many other interesting ideas that came up that you don’t return to the workshop-piece, but start something new first, and that's the beginning of being a UFO. Or it might happen that you unpack something at home, eager to continue – and then you realize that there is something seriously wrong with the piece which for one reason or other you did not notice before.
That’s what happened to me with a large piece I had started during my stay at Nancy Crow’s barn during a Master Class in June of 2008. It was the first time I was a participant in that class, and that meant a lot of different emotions and experiences  – was I really worthy of being here in that group? I was also trying out something entirely new by using my son’s line drawings as a kick-off point for my quilts, and it was the first time that I could really work that big because I had never had such a large design wall before.

"Play of Lines II" (in progress, stalled)
I learned a lot with this piece. For example, I had never worked with this color palette before. I was getting acquainted with the techniques to get satisfying line-work in. After several days, however, I had reached a point when I thought I could not go on with it right then and that it schould be packed away. That was the time when Nancy said „I’m not particularly thrilled with that orange.“ That was quite a comment – why hadn’t she said anything about that three days ago when I first started using that orange for the lines? and what about the fact that I was certain that the orange was the right color for what I was trying to express as it caused sufficient contrast to the grey background?
As I said, at that point I had the feeling I wasn’t going to get any further with this anyway and packed it all away. When I unpacked it all at home, however, I realized that for me it definitley wasn’t the orange that was the problem, but the green configuration. 

Due to the insufficient contrast it did not achieve the kind of importance I wanted it to have. So it all went back into the box because I could not at that point figure out a way of solving the problem. Throughout the three years since it was made I kept taking it out regularly, looked at it contemplatingly, and put it back, out of sight. It was supposed to be Play of Lines II, but that gap remained in the series. But something in Terry’s entry struck a chord, and established a connection to this particular top. Suddenly I knew how I could deal with this lost top.
So finishing may take a while, sometimes gestation periods are longer than the nine months of a pregnancy... but as long as you have a special attachment to a particular top, there is still a chance that it will find its time. Now I have an idea, and as soon as the project on my wall will be sewn, the grey top is going to be taken out again. You won’t be able to recognize it after it’s completet, and it won’t be a Play of Lines anymore. That gap will stay. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A difficult „Personality“

I have written before about a quilt which I had started after Christmas and had almost ruined at one point.   It had been inspired by one of my sons’a drawings which he had given me with the words “Here, Mom, you can make a quilt from this!” That was more than a year ago, and although I really like(d) the drawing, inspiration was slow to come. At first it went well, but after a while I had to put it aside for a while, knowing it needed more work, but being unable to come up with the solution just then.

At the end of April I pulled it back out when I realized I might be able to finish two quilts until the final entry date for „Tangle“, this year’s challenge at Ste. Marie-aux-Mines. But then I ran into another dead end after I had added on a piece and put in more lines. That's when I thought I had ruined it completely.

Only a friend’s encouragement saved this top from being abandoned completely. I turned the top once more – back to its original orientation, according to my son’s drawing, in fact.
And from there things developed quickly. Before I had returned home from my friend’s place I knew how I would quilt the thing, and quilting went quickly, too. But after quilting, it had a huge bulge which would not budge, no matter how much I tried.

Well, it had already gone through so many different stages of hope and despair that it really didn’t matter anymore. Radical solutions often work best. Trying to figure out where I could cut out a triangular shape, eliminating the bulge and highlighting it with noticeable stitches did not lead anywhere convincing. My husband, who has by now taken on a position of quilt advisor with frequently unusual suggestions, said: “You’ll have to cut it through all the way.” So that’s what I did – a diagonal cut all the way. Knowing full well that it would not make it any easier to present it as a whole piece, or to keep it within the size restrictions. I constructed connectors between the two parts, had to come up with a solution to keep the piece with the wider lower base from rolling up, had to do double the work regarding facings and tunnels (and I always do tunnels at top and at bottom anyway)...

"Personality", 2011, 100 x 100 cm
All of this with considerable time pressure at work. Registration closed while I was going to be away in Switzerland, so everything had to be finished, photographed, sent off before I left. Virtually during the last minutes before my departure I completed the registration form, and in that muddle forgot what title I had given the quilt, registered it under a wrong title, and sent the thing off after I had set off, trying to find a mailbox on the way. Which wasn’t easy, they don’t have a whole lot of mailboxes along the Autobahn! A couple of days later my husband sent me a text message that an envelope with an address in France had been returned because of insufficient postage, but he had taken care of it and sent it off again. At that point I was definitely ready to give up. But I did receive a mail about charging my credit card with the registration fee, so the registration must have arrived on time.
Yes, I did register two quilts. The other one had been a piece of cake - although hand-pieced, it all went smoothly, no problems, and I definitely thought that one would be a set candidate. The difficult one, with its correct title “Personality”, is the one which got chosen and will be on display later this week in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On being rejected...

So far this year has been a pretty successful year for me in terms of the ratio between entries and acceptances to competitions or juried shows. And that is apart from the quilts that are still touring as a result of last year’s successes.
For one thing, I had one quilt in TheArTQuILT ExPERIENCE in Cazenovia
 I had entered this quilt only as a very last minute decision because it was the only one that fit the size requirements - I had only heard about the show rather late and I had not had enough time to make one explicitly for this show. Out of two entries, I had one accepted to be shown in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines next week (I will talk about this in more detail in a couple of days). I am still waiting to hear about an entry to another show, which should be happening any day now.
But the ratio has not been ‘perfect’ – I’ve had a few disappointments. Those are not easy to talk about because there is always the danger that hurt personal feelings make it harder to accept a jury’s verdict. And one certainly doesn’t want to be considered whiny. Neither of my two entries to the German show “Tradition bis Moderne” was accepted. My entry to Textile News, an international show of small quilts,  was also rejected.
Any rejection is bound to create hurt feelings on the producer’s side, no matter how well one knows that only so many quilts can be accepted in a show and there must be some that will not be accepted. But these hurt feelings may change with time. With regard to my two entries to the German “Tradition bis Moderne” I am quite aware that they are not the strongest quilts I’ve made. And when I saw the exhibit at its first venue I was actually glad not to be included amongst those quilts that were suffering from the insufficient conditions of display. That helped to diminish the hurt of rejection – actually, I have a perfect record of rejection, because every time I have entered for the Tradition bis Moderne I have been rejected so far. The hurt continues, however, with regard to my doubts whether I should rather have taken a different decision when I decided to try to enter quilts that were not recognizably ‘mine’ to an supposedly anonymous jury. But that’s crying over spilt milk and another story. My entry to “Textile News” was a playful experiment that I liked (and still like) but that I did not consider as a major step in my development towards new directions. It was fun to make, and I would have liked to be in the traveling exhibit because I had been in the very first of these but had missed out on even entering with the next two. But it wasn’t that big a disappointment.
The most recent rejection, however, just arrived last week. And it still hurts – not because of the fact that I was rejected, but because of the reason for rejection that was communicated to me. I had entered a portfolio for the “Large Scale Quilts” juried exhibit that was called for by the German Quiltkunstverein (of which I am a member).
 It was open to non-members, too, and it was clear that being a member would not mean any advantage in the jury’s decision. Out of 56 entries, 22 were chosen, and I was not among them.
I can definitely live with that, especially since I had not been too keen on making several quilts that large again, after my recent episode(s) with participating in the “Color Improvisations”. But I have several interesting ideas which are rather different from anything that I have done so far, which I have not seen done by anybody else, and these I indicated as plans in the portfolio. We were allowed to include seven pictures of earlier quilts, and these I chose from the series Play of Lines, the two quilts part of the “Beyond Comfort” exhibit, and the two entries to Ste. Marie-aux-Mines. I learned that one of the reasons that was repeatedly named in my final rejection was the fact that I was “recognizably a student of Nancy Crow”.
Of course that is true, I have studied with her repeatedly, and she has definitely been influential in my quiltmaking. I would even agree that the quilts from the series “Metamorphoses”, the first ones of which originated in one of Nancy’s classes are indeed recognizable as made by a student of Nancy Crow. However, I do not think that that is still true with the quilts that I have been making since I started the Play of Lines series, and definitely not with the newest ones that are not part of that series. So I would object to the reason for rejection, because I don’t think that the quilts I included in the portfolio justified this verdict.
I honestly admit that I am a bit relieved that I won’t be making quilts for this show, in those large sizes required. My ideas, which can certainly be realized in different sizes, will make wonderful entries for the European Art Quilts, the next Wide Horizons called for by SAQA, Quilt National, or other interesting challenges that will come up. But I still think the reason given is unfair. And I don’t think that this feeling will lessen over time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Benefit-Auction for SAQA

For just about two years I have been a member of SAQA, the American organisation for the advancement of the art quilt. 
Through SAQA I have already had several chances of participating in international exhibitions. Last September my quilt “Play of Lines XVI” was part of the SAQA-exhibit “Wide Horizons II” which was a juried exhibition of quilts by European and Israeli SAQA-members shown in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines in France.

„Beyond Comfort“, which I have mentioned here just recently when it opened in Birmingham for the first time, is also a show under the auspices of SAQA, and is scheduled to travel to other venues. In addition, I have been lucky to make interesting international contacts through the SAQA meeting, and the SAQA regular newsletter.
SAQA has a regular fundraiser, theirs being an auction of small quilts (maximum size of 12 x 12 inches) that have been donated by the members. This auction works the other way around – the price drops at regular intervals, and you have to catch the right moment for your bid, trying to avoid that somebody else has been willing to pay more. The auction is scheduled in three sections of six days each, with the prices dropping every day at 2 p.m.US-Eastern time. This year’s starting dates for the three sections are September, 12, September 19 and September 26.

Last year I donated my miniature quilt „Play of Lines XX“. I was happy it sold at all – after all I was a first time donator, and I was also happy that it sold during the next-to-last day, not at the lowest price, but for US-$ 150.

This year I donated a small quilt which had been an experiment with buttons and free space in the quilt, which is called „Liberté?“

Liberté will be auctioned during the third section, starting on September 26. It was also included in Sarah Kelly’s dream collection. Dream collections are collections of nine donated pieces chosen by individual SAQA-members.

Take a look at the whole collection and enjoy the display! And perhaps you’d like to support SAQA by bidding for one of these small pieces of textile art.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Daily Oak - August report

Number of days missed: 21
Number of days with more than one visit: 3
Number of visits with more than the two standard perspectives taken: 7
Total number of pictures taken: 47
guest trees: 11

This report marks the completion of already two thirds of the Daily Oak project. Hard to believe!
I knew in advance that I would miss quite a few days this month because we went on our family summer vacation, and after our return I took yet another four-day trip with my son, all of which kept me out of town for a total of 21 days. I did not find many interesting or impressive trees during those days – so I have only 11 guest trees.

Looking over my collection for this month I realize that I happened to be at the tree between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. four times. This gives one a good impression of how quickly the shadow moves, looking from perspective a. Here are three of the four pictures (there wasn’t really a shadow on the fourth because of an overcast sky):

August 28, 10:21 a.m.
August 23, 10:41 a.m.
August 19, 11:00 a.m.

Perspective b, on the other hand, shows clearly how the late afternoon sun passes beyond the tree top within three hours.
August  18, 4:36 p.m.
August 29, 5:05 p.m.
August 20, 7:43 p.m.
Once I got to the tree just as a small airplane was approaching the nearby local airport:

August 21, 5:00 p.m.
Knowing that I would be gone for the most part of the month of August, at the end of July, on the last visit before we left, I had taken a sort of inofficial ‘inventory’ of the wildflowers in bloom in the immediate surroundings of the tree just then. Not being a biologist in knowledge or in training, I just took pictures of all the little flowers that I could differentiate by sight and found 26 different species (one was actually not in bloom at that point, but I recognized the leaves and had seen it bloom at other places before). I have to admit that I was very much impressed with that result when I counted the pictures. At the end of the report I want to show you pictures of every fifth wildflower in the vicinity of Daily Oak.