Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

How do you spell "relief"? 23,90m.

When I was an exchange student in High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, my Swedish exchange student friend had a green T-shirt which read “How do you spell "relief"? G=R=A=D=U=A=T=I=O=N!” It took me a while to understand that shirt, because I had been enjoying the year, but after somebody had taken the pains to explain it to me that first part of the sentence has stayed with me. Every once in a while there is an opportunity where it can aptly describe my feelings, whereas the second half may vary.
One such opportunity for calling up that first part of the sentence occurred earlier this week. After my husband and I had sat down to update our plans for 2012 in early January, I had felt rather panicky at first. I realized how much, and how many different things, I had on my agenda especially during the first part of the year. And I also saw that I needed to have quite a lot of yardage covered for the show at Ste. Marie-aux-Mines. I thought I would never be able to come up with 29 running meters of quilts.
For a few days I slept badly, was running around like a headless chicken with that distinctive feeling of panic, and, I admit, even considered calling it all off. Turning to making traditional quilts as blankets, giving them away, and quit trying to be an art quilt maker.
But after a couple of days I had a serious talk with myself. I told myself that this was a chance I wasn’t going to get again. That I had had other exhibits where I had hung more yardage than 29 m. That there was still a total of eight months left, which gave me ample opportunities to make more quilts, even if therre were a lot of other things that would keep interrupting me. “Stop worrying, and sit down to work!” was the thing I finally told myself.
The first thing I then did in preparation for Ste. Marie was that I once more read the rules carefully, which quilts I would be allowed to hang or not. Not allowed are quilts that had already been seen in Ste. Marie earlier – fair enough! That excludes at least five quilts of mine, two of which are still traveling with Color Improvisations and won’t be back until the fall anyway. 

Still traveling with "Color Improvisations",
and has already been shown in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines:
excluded from my show in the fall, Play of Lines VIII.
Not allowed are quilts that have been shown at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham or other major European festivals, that excludes four other quilts, again two of which are still traveling with Beyond Comfort and are not likely to be back before the fall.
When I sent in my signed contract to the Carrefour I asked whether quilts that had been shown at the Italian Abilmente in Verona (where I had a solo show a couple of years ago) counted as “shown at a major European venue”, and received the answer that if I showed one or two of them at Ste. Marie that would be ok, just as long as I did not rely entirely on those. And I also received note that I would be allowed to hang the quilt that was part of the competition last year, even though, of course, it had been shown in Ste. Marie last year.

Detail of "Personality",
my entry to last year's competition in Ste. Marie
Then I sat down and started a file in which I listed the quilts that I would be allowed to hang, including their actual measurements, and the 50cm space allowance between them added. At first calculation I arrived at about half of the yardage I need to cover. Which helped to allay the panicky feeling at least a bit. Work grew slightly more concentrated after that.

Detail of Play of Lines XXIV: Tangle (2011),
will be shown in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines

Earlier this week I updated that file with the measurements of the quilts I’ve been working on recently.

Detail of a new Play of Lines,
I think it will be No. XXVI or so,
and will be shown in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines
I also included one which is currently hanging in my husband’s office, about which I only recently realized that it had been the beginning of a new series a couple of years ago. I just did not know that then. Now the follow-ups are popping up in my mind.  

Detail of No. 3 in the new series Shapes, work in progress,
will be shown in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines
And after a new calculation I arrived at 23,90m. Whew.
That’s only 5 more meters to go – with six months ahead, and many ideas left in my sketchbooks. Now that count includes the 2,30m of the quilt I just entered for the Quilt Triennale – not knowing whether it will be accepted, I am still counting it on the list as a possible participant. So the count may actually go down to slightly under 22m. But still – even 7m sounds feasible. And who knows, some of the quilts currently on the list can easily be exchanged for newer ones that are waiting in line to be made and finished.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Little escap(ad)e: The Global Contemporary in the ZKM in Karlsruhe

During a visit with my parents in the end of January I had my son’s official order to leave him alone with his grandparents “for a long time” and dutifully obeyed by going to see another museum. It is slightly strange to ‘return’ to the city where one grew up after more than twenty years and realize how many things have indeed changed. Don’t get me wrong, I did visit my parents during all those years, but somehow I never took the chance to explore the city that I left when I went off to study at the university in 1985. I had never been to the ZKM yet, a museum for contemporary art and media, which officially opened in 1989, so I was glad I finally got a chance.

On the way from the streetcar-stop to the entrance of ZKM
I had found out beforehand that the exhibition “The Global Contemporary – Art Worlds after 1989” was on and thought that this would be an interesting destination. The ZKM is located in what once used to be a production site for weapons and ammunition. Tens of thousands of enslaved laborers from Eastern Europe were working here during World War II, and more than 600 died on the site. Something I did not know when I grew up here.
The huge buildings are also home to the Art Academy, besides housing contemporary art exhibits.
However, this was an exhibition that I felt inadequately prepared for while I was walking through the rooms. I definitely should have taken the time and read the introductory pages of the paper that accompanies the exhibition before entering, it might have helped to overcome this feeling of incompetence. But because I had other plans for the afternoon I felt as if I did not have enough time to do that, and went in open for the challenge.
The first rooms gave a historic and theoretic overview of the events that the curators say set the stage for what is happening in the art world right now. The year 1989, with its political upheavals, the invention of the WorldWideWeb, the launching of the first GPS satellite, amongst others, is considered to be the year that introduced globalization, a term not really heard of or used before. Today, everything in the world seems to be subject to globalization, and the art world is no exemption. A major claim – as far as I understood – is that contemporary art today is not only “new art” made today, but a new kind of art, produced under totally different conditions. The exhibition wants to present global practices that have influenced and shaped modern art as much as the new media had just before that.
The exhibition itself is divided into seven separate sections that are not clearly separated, however, so the viewer keeps changing back and forth between the different sections unless you kept referring to the floor plan in the middle of the catalogue paper. Which gave me a feeling of being slightly lost between nothing and everything. The sections have titles such as “Lost in translation”, “World Art” or “Art as product”. All participating artists are each presented briefly in the catalogue paper:

An artist-in-residence-programme is also part of the exhibition, and the artists included are presented in the catalogue paper with individual statements, such as this one by Ruth Sacks.

Many of the works presented are fotos, C-prints or videos, but ‘sculptures’, mixed media installation or paintings appear just as well:

Sculpture made from colored plastic bags,
as shown in catalogue paper
In the section titled “Border line experiences” I particularly liked Leila Pazooki’s 
piece of light art “Moments of Glory” (find a picture here), in which she sheds light on patronizing comparisons used in media coverage of so-called budding artists.
As with almost any modern art exhibition, there was little textile art, except for some pieces in mixed media installations, among them “Para-Production”, a huge textile experiment by Ni Haifeng in which visitors could become collaborators in the production of the piece by sitting down and sewing a few pieces onto the pieace already on display.

Somewhere in the exhibition I read that the central question of the art world is a problem of inclusion and exclusion – the so-called third-world countries used to be excluded from the world art market and are now much more at the center than before, whereas the so-called western world is being pushed to the edges, is on the way to exclusion. Wouldn’t it be nice if quilts could leave their place where they are still being excluded from the world art market, and enter a stage where they are included in the definition of contemporary art works? Or should we just start calling them mixed media installations, or performance, or something like that? Perhaps we would receive more attention that way.

Too bad that I had more plans for the afternoon, it might have well been worth staying on to get a better understanding of what I was seeing. And the show closed at the Karlsruhe venue just a few days after my visit, otherwise I definitely would have tried to go back on another occasion. But it is supposed to travel internationally – unfortunately, though, the catalogue paper does not give any indication, where and when you might get a chance to grab it. It’s well worth seeing – just give yourself a lot of time! And read at least the first pages of the paperwork before entering the show rooms.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Quilt Triennale 2012

Last Saturday I sent off my entry documents for the “Quilt Triennale”, a tri-annual competition initiated by the "Textilsammlung Max Berk" in Heidelberg. The letter had to be postmarked by the next day at the latest, so it was a tight fit, as so often with me and participation in competitions.
I had only decided at the beginning of the week before that I would actually enter a piece as I had been planning for most of the last year. When I had sat down with my husband  in early January to figure out our schedulesand was so hit with all that I was planning to do, I had sort of scrapped any entries to competitions such as European Art Quilts or others immediately. Couldn’t miss out on any running meter of quilt for my solo at Ste. Marie!
But then I finished a large quilt in the second half of January, measuring 1,80 on every side, that I had been working on for quite a while, sometimes even struggling hard. At first I was only happy to have it off my hands, then I finally decided that it was worth to try and enter this one.
If it gets taken, I have 2,30 m more to fill by September (that’s the measurement of the quilt plus the distance between quilts as set by the organizers.) If it doesn’t make it, I will still be able to show it in Ste. Marie. We’ll see what happens.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ice-cube dyeing

It has been a long time since I promised I would post an English version of my method of ice-cube dyeing that was published in the July edition of the Patchwork-Professinal magazine last year. Here it comes!
When you try this, you will get fantastic results in terms of color dispension and patterns –each one a unique piece. Don’t start with small pieces of fabric, as you will want to have more to work with!
I’m assuming that you know how to dye fabrics with ProcionMX dyes, the basics, security issues, materials and concentrations.
First, resoak your pfd-fabric in soda ash and let it dry on rack, hanging. That way you will get your fabric to be sufficiently flat.
Then mix your color. For a piece of fabric approx. 44 x 65 inch I mix a total of about three-fourths of a litre of colour. This solution is put into ice-cube trays (I have four trays, just enough for the amount of liquid) and these go into the freezer. Make plenty of room away from your food items in the freezer, and be careful when you put it in so you don’t spill anything. Because it will freeze right away and you don’t want to have to defrost your freezer to clean it all off. (Believe me, I learned the hard way...)

Cover a large table with plastic sheets so its surface is protected. I use cover sheets from operating rooms which I get from a friend who is a nurse.
When your ice-cubes are ready, spread the fabric onto the plastic covered table. I usually put it in at least three, sometimes even four layers. That way the lower layers will soak up melting water which a single layer would not be able to take in by itself. Noticeable results will be appearing unto as low as the third layer, perhaps even the fourth layer, anything below that will definitely require further treatment, but save you some mess...

Take the ice cubes out of the tray and spread them sort of evenly across the fabric.

When rinsing the ice-cube-trays, try to catch the water in a little bucket – you can either freeze it for another, lighter shade, or save it for a later step as described below.

Let the ice-cubes melt. Because the fabric has been soaked in soda ash a fixing is not needed anymore.

Check your result. If you find it has too many white spots, dry it on the rack and then put on another layer of ice-cubes, either a different color, or the ice cubes you made from the excess water when rinsing the trays as mentioned above. Or, if you did not freeze the leftover water, you could put the piece of fabric into the excess water in a bucket. Or you can paint into the white spots with foam brushes. ... Or... 

Different mixtures will show a different appearance after melting. Here is a comparison between 'orange' and 'bronze'.

These were the second and third layers under 'bronze' above, subsequently overdyed with yellow ice-cubes (probably layer 3 and 4, can't exactly remember).

In this following series you can see how a fabric will change with repeated applications. This is the result of a first application of blue ice-cubes.

This is the result of a second application, this time yellow ice-cubes. There were still a few white spots left.

So a third application took care of those. 

Have fun experimenting!