Monday, February 28, 2011

Re-evaluation of experiences, and cross-over techniques

I never received high marks when I had needlework classes at school, although I usually mastered the techniques quickly, and finished my projects on time. Perhaps I tended to interpret the teachers’ instructions ‚too freely’ – I was never good at knitting according to the precise knitting instructions of a pattern. But everybody admired my self-designed and hand-knitted sweaters! (I don’t cook according to a recipe either, but usually it tastes pretty good, at least that’s what my husband says....) 
What I almost hated, though. was embroidery. I vividly remember a bag for sports utensils which we had to embroider with a variety of herringbone stitches, all counted to the thread according to the lightly mint-green fabric we had to use. Unfortunately I don’t own a picture of that bag, it certainly would be interesting to compare these recollections with reality!
A few years later my mother talked me into stitching a cross-stitch picture of a Christmas tree decorated with presents, and I think that was eventually given to my grandmother as a present. In any case, as much as I enjoyed learning different techniques, embroidery certainly wasn’t for me.

You may understand why I was pretty surprised when I took up quilting – never having heard of a possibility of machine-quilting, of course – and especially liked the hand-quilting part of it. For many years I was an avid and convinced hand-quilter who never even thought about employing a sewing machine for quilting. I even bought a standing quilting frame on which the quilt can be rolled onto bars of varying lengths, keeping the quilter’s hands free for working instead of having to deal with the muddle of the quilt on one’s lap. All you have to do is remeber to sit up straight, and concentrate on your quilting pattern. It paid off, too, because was rewarded with a prize for handquilting donated by Bernina at the Bodensee Quiltfestival in 2007 for the quilt ‚Metamorphoses XVIII’:
Metamorphoses XVIII,
winner of the Bodensee Quiltfestival prize
for hand-quilting in 2007

Metamorphoses XVII, detail

Two years ago I then met Anne Lange at the Bodensee Quiltfestival in Radolfzell. We were both standing in front of the building where we were supposed to teach classes during the day, and waiting for final organizational matters to take place. During a break later on I then went up to visit her in her class.
The first thing that got me hooked was the wide assortment of hand-dyed threads and yarns she had on offer, and I was impressed with the things I saw which the participants had made in that short period of time. That certainly wasn’t even distantly related to my embroidery from school days! On the spur of the moment I decided to sign up for her nine-month-long online class. The monthly payment makes it possible to drop out any time you realize you don’t really like it, or you don’t have enough time to keep up with the regular assignments.

Because of my prior scepticism concerning embroidery I had absolutle no threads at my disposal and ordered the monthly thread packages as well.These are coordinated to the monthly assignments. And their arrival by mail always started a new wave of excitement – unwrapping a surprise once a month, and then trying to figure out ahead of time what you will be supposed to be doing with this....

My first assignment was started in a hotel in Vicenza where I was spending the evenings after being on the premises of my exhibition of quilts there during the Abilmente LINK in October 2009. When it was finished, Anne’s comment was ‚well, that can be improves upon...’ certainly hit home:

my first monthly assignment in online embroidery class
But that type of comment was exactly the right thing for me. It got me hooked, and after a couple of months I even entered a few pictures of my productions into the participant gallery, although I had rejected doing so at first. The topic ‚circles’ really got me going:

Monthly assignment "circles" in online embroidery class

detail of "circles"

another detail of "circles"

third detail of "circles"

During the entire nine months I was hardly ever behind, and in the end I won the second prize in the final competition for participants, ‚Garn-itur’.

"Meeting at the Belly-Dance" -
2nd prize winner of
Anne Lange's 'Garn-itur' competition,
summer 2010
After completion of the course I waited for a little while to let things settle down a bit. I’m not a pictorial type and certainly did not want to start making embroidery pictures, that one Christmas tree certainly had been enough for a lifetime! But even during the class I had started using additional stitching on one of the two quilts I had accepted in ‚Color Improvisations’ 

Detail of "Play of Lines X" (2009),
currently traveling with exhibit 'Color Improvisations'

and that is a technique which I want to continue.

At one point I realized that my standing quilting frame could certainly serve in this, and I have now started integrating embroidery stitches in my hand-quilting.

This quilt is currently on the frame and marks not only my return to handquilting after a period of exclusively machine quilting, but also a serious beginning of integrating embroidery stitches in the quilting design in addition to plain quilting stitches.

Currently in the process of being quilted...

It will be interesting to see how it turns out in the end, when it comes off the frame!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Inspirational pictures

Here are a few more pictures of reflections. Some of them were taken when I was teaching a class and trying to show the students the surprising places where you can meet inspiration, in this case on the ceiling of an entrance hall to a fairground. And you'll know which one was taken at the zoo...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Button Paradise

Last weekend I went to Fulda for a meeting with a few friends whom I had met through my work as a regional representative for the German Patchwork Guild. They are still active regional representatives in other areas of Germany, and although I’m no longer active, I am still allowed to join in that private meeting. We stayed at the Kloster Frauenberg , where we had already held our meeting last year.
Last year we arrived in a heavy snowstorm, some of us didn’t make it at all, and we almost stayed in the house all weekend. At one point, however, we decided that we did need some fresh air and took a slippery and cold, but fun stroll down the hill into town. Unfortunately, we had chosen Saturday afternoon for this outing, and while some shops were still open, we were disappointed to be left outside of what seemed the most interesting shop of them all: Leinbergers Knopfparadies. Now, doesn’t that sound exciting? Button Paradise.

I still remember the excitement when I was allowed to play with the button box in which my mother kept superfluous or retrieved buttons. Blouses and shirts might be worn out and thrown away, but the buttons were retrieved, and saved in a huge box. Whenever I enter a store in which fabric and sewing materials are sold, I automatically look for the box that holds leftover buttons – the last ones of a shipment, sometimes sold at discount prices. Hardly ever can I leave without having acquired another single button to add to my box of buttons, but I also like to have sets, for which I don't exactly know the future use yet:

Uta's button box, part of it

So it was a true paradisical experience – standing in front of the locked gates of Button Paradise. A year has passed, but the shop had not left my mind, and when I booked my train ticket I made sure that I arrived early enough on Friday to make sure I got there while that gate was still open!
So once we had moved into our rooms and left our luggage, we went downtown. Although we didn’t really know the city, I definitely had a strong sense of orientation that led me directly towards it, and now I also know the address: Gemüsemarkt 11.

They don’t seem to have their own website, only the mentioning when Hessen local TV aired a report on them.

This time the gate was open, and this is a view into the shop, part of it:

Here is a view of the the black button section:

And here is close-up to give you more of an impression of the variety of buttons you can get:

This is the selection of buttons I left the store with – and needless to say, I could have bought many more.

Personal button selection
- characterized by a lot of restraint!

If  you like buttons and ever come to Fulda ...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Daily Oak - amended rules

In my first report on my daily art project 'Daily Oak' I reported that I had missed only one day in the month of January.

In February, I have already missed two because I was out of town visiting my parents. 
And I am going to miss at least two more, because I will be spending this weekend out of town, too, and although I plan to catch an early shot tomorrow morning right after taking my son to kindergarten, I will not be able to do so on Saturday and Sunday. When I returned from my visit to my parents, I tried to take a late night picture, but due to the situation with the street lamps (Daily Oak is standing right at an intersection) that doesn't work at all, and a return after sunset definitely means 'no picture on that day'. Which will happen on Sunday, too. 
While I was thinking about this - and the more and more numerous days looming ahead when I will be traveling to North Carolina in April, taking a family holiday with my husband and son during the summer, or two weeks in Falera in Switzerland, interpreting for Jan Myers-Newbury and taking a class with Nancy Crow, and how that would look on the statistics, I came up with an idea for an amendment of my rules:

On every day that I am not in town, I will try to take a picture of another impressive tree wherever I am and include these in the overall project, featuring them as "Guest Trees", so to speak.
But I only came up with this idea this morning, so I am lacking two pictures for February 5 and February 6. I did take a nice picture of trees on the evening of February 4 just across the street from my parents' house, but it can't feature in Daily Oak, because I have pictures for February 4:

So here is my request for help: Is anybody out there who took  a picture of a tree or trees on February 5 and February 6? Send them in, I will post them in the report on March 1. Similarly for this upcoming weekend - after all, I may not find a really nice one. Take your chance, submit a guest tree to this blog!
Looking forward to what I may receive!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Back in focus

I sold a quilt two days ago, the personal delivery of which was the reason for that drive-by-shot at finding the statue by Marg Moll which I wrote about here. I was jubilant and very happy, and treated myself to that art search and a little stop at Lake Wörthsee south of Munich, with a gorgeously sunny day glittering on the ice that still covered the lake.

Lake Wörthsee, south of Munich, still covered by ice
This is the quilt I sold, it is also featured on the ‚November’ page of my eternal calendar:

Play of Lines XIV (2009)
The next day, I received a rejection of the second quilt I had entered for the German Patchwork Guild’s travelling exhibition „Tradition bis Moderne“, which I had written about in my German blog
The jury had only invited one of my two entries to be sent in for closer inspection by the jury to begin with, but I had thought this one might have a good chance. The judges’ commentaries regarding the criteria according to which the quilts were judged to me clearly prove that my points of criticism mentioned earlier apply indeed. The quilt was entered in the category ‚innovative’ and it seems this category was judged according to exactly the same criteria that applied to categories ‚traditional’ or ‚contemporary’. So why set up a division into those three categories at all, if these categories are not judged under a different set of criteria each?

The initial disappointment has already disappeared, and I may consider entering the quilt for another call of entry, which is why I don’t want to publish a picture here at this point of time.
However, it shows that success and disappointment can be so close together that they almost overlap. Would it have made a difference if they had appeared in reverse order, first the disappointment and then the success? I don’t know.

In any case, it has resulted in a radical boost of focus.

During the first weeks of the year I have done a little bit of sewing only, spending quite a bit of time launching (and completely outselling!) the first collection of the first year of my fabric club, and starting preparations for a textile market that I will be attending in early April, hoping to acquire a few more subscribers to the fabric club. Here is a picture of the color selection of my first collection:

January 2011 collection of fabric club

And here is a picture of the stack of colours which I have dyed so far in preparation for the market (more in the making in the next couple of weeks):

Colour circle with dilutions (appr. one third of total),
prepared for textile market in April

I was focussed indeed - on the business of the fabric-club. 
This immediate succession of success and disappointment regarding my quilting, however, has resulted in an sudden release of ideas that have been brooding and that will give me plenty to do working on the sewing machine in the next couple of months. I have drawn up two ideas for entering at Ste Marie, and I am thinking about submitting quilts for the Festival of Quilts at Birmingham, which I had already written off, and there are several other ideas pretty far developed which only need to be realized.

The interesting thing is that I had started to write a post on ‚focussing’ around the third week of January, as I had read several posts by other bloggers touching on exactly that same topic. These include Deidre Adams on Dec 18, Teri Jarrard-Dimond on January 15, and focussing is also a topic which appears repeatedly with Lisa Call. That post did not get finished, and I am not going to try and update it right now. But I do want to include my personal reply to Deidre, which had initiated my attempt at writing on ‚focussing’:

In a recent post in December Deidre Adams mentioned a state of mind (or should we call it ‚modus of mind working’?) when she is not working under the pressure of some deadline. I am quoting her a little longer than that single sentence I refer to here, which I have marked in bold:

Even with a rather full plate of graphic design work in the 
past couple of weeks, I’ve been very focused on getting some 
paintings done. I’ve settled into a routine: Wake up, go 
into the studio and contemplate what I did the day before, 
then put on some more layers. Then, while those are drying, 
go downstairs, get my coffee & cereal, and do design work 
for a few hours. Then maybe exercise on those days I’m not
 successful in talking myself out of it, and then after lunch, 
reward myself with studio time. The paradox for me is that 
the busier I am, the more I’m able to concentrate in the 
studio. If I have nothing much else going on, I tend to 
procrastinate and waste time on the computer instead of 
staying focussed.

Staying focussed on your work in general, i.e. not taking too many detours trying to avoid having to face yourself and your work in the studio is certainly an important issue in any artist’s life. But is it really necessary to put so much pressure on oneself all the time? And: times without immediate pressure may actually turn out to be gestation periods for new ideas. For me, it seems right now that the past few weeks, during which I have not been trying to force myself into constant production at the sewing machine, but was occupied with other things, have given my mind enough time to slowly cook up a number of things of which I wasn’t even really aware that they were ‚simmering’. It may be useful not only to step back from one’s work and take a look from a little distance, but to even turn your back and walk away from it for just a little while.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Searching for Marg Moll

I wrote a post about the artist Marg Moll recently, whose scuplture The Dancer was rediscovered together with several other sculptures by artists who had been included in the infamous Nazi-exhibition „Degenerate Art“ when they were dug up during construction work in Berlin.
In my reading which I did in preparation for that post I had found a statement that one of her sculptures was supposed to be located in the senior residence „Augustinum“ in Munich. Yesterday I happened to drive by that residence, which is located right next to the Autobahn from Munich to Lindau on a delivery drive I had to take, and on my way back I decided to stop, take a little break and try to find that sculpture.
At first it was a bit of an orientation problem, because the residence is right next to a clinic with the same name, but I did find the right entrance eventually. At the front desk I was welcomed by a very friendly young lady (one out of three staffing the desk – it is a huge residence indeed!), who had never heard of a statue or sculpture by a person of that name. At first she thought I was talking about a current exhibition, but when I said it had to be a sculpture that must have been here for a while, she was at a loss. Her colleague suggested I look in ‚house 4’, there was a sculpture. Easy to find, but not the right artist:

Bernd Thomas Zimmermann,
Fire and Water (2008)
I did think twice about going back to the front desk or rather calling it quits right away. But it had been a good and succesful day so far and I thought that lucky streak might be strong enough to continue for a little while yet. At the desk they started trying to figure out whom they could ask, who would be likely to know about this issue. Three phone-calls later I was asked to sit down and wait for a few minutes,  the staff member responsible for art in the building would check into the matter.
While I was waiting I was amazed at the amount of things happening at the desk – employees checking in and out, residents asking whether their taxi had been ordered as they had requested, a repair worker waiting for something, at least three or four emergency bell calls which had to be referred to immediate attention of the care personnel, approximately five phone calls coming in for various reasons... I was beginning to feel increasingly embarrassed that I had come with this awkward desire to see a little (? – I don’t know how big it is...) statue which probably had not received much attention lately due to the fact that it had been standing there for quite a while already. But now that kind Ms. Wurm had initiated the inquiry with the staff I couldn’t well leave either. After not more than five minutes of waiting she called back the lady who was supposed to find out and pressed for the information of the whereabouts of the statue.
Just a few more minutes later she was able to tell me that unfortunately most of their statues were traveling through the other dependencies of the residence throughout Germany and that nobody knew when they would be back.
So my streak of luck had broken and I had to leave without having seen a real Marg Moll, not even knowing when would be a possible time to check back for another attempt. I did apologize to her for having added to her stress at the front desk with such a petty request, but she was graciously kind about it.
I think I’ll have to go to Berlin to see Marg Moll – or find another museum somewhere closer where one of her statues is on display. The search continues...

On my way home I then happened to pass by another, definitely large sculpture, much discussed these days, at least in the smaller, and perhaps even the larger Munich area: the newly installed ‚Mae West’ on Effnerplatz, visible when you exit the recently completed Richard-Strauß-Tunnel, part of the Munich City Ring Highway:

Mae West, by Rita McBride,
at Effnerplatz in Munich
I haven’t been following the heated and controversial discussion about the sculpture, only saw that it has kept reappearing in the papers recently. However, the few things I caught about the discussion reminded me of a similar discussion I witnessed when I was living in the city of Augsburg several years ago, and the city was given a donation of a statue of 'Venus' by Markus Lüpertz, under the condition that it be installed at a central place.
The controversy which rocked the city back then way surpassed my understanding of what was going on in the minds of the people then. I admit that while I did not consider the statue particularly beautiful either (but Lüpertz' statues don't ever seem to be considered 'beautiful', from what I gathered looking on the internet), I certainly could not understand how furiously the people fought against it. They were successful in the end and the sculpture disappeared from Augsburg, but I believed then that that would be the only time I would ever be witness to such an uprising against a piece of modern art. However, from what I have gathered from the Munich discussion, it seems that the larger city can make an even larger fuss about a similar issue – with the one difference that this particular sculpture is aesthetically pleasing, despite its size, voluminosity, or whatever one wants to call it.
One point of dissent is the fact that it is called ‚Mae West’, for what does Mae West have to do with Munich? Or this sculpture with the real Mae West?
Well, I would like to suggest two different options for changing that: since the name was attached itself to the sculpture only after it had been created, to distract from the mounting discussion, and does not seem to have been the intention of its maker Rita McBride (sorry, no English article on her in Wikipedia yet!), professor for sculpture at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, one could just go ahead and rename it more appropriately. Why not call her/it ‚Mue East’, since it is placed east of the inner city? Or another possibility would be to simply call it ‚Effi’ in reference to Theodor Fontane’s realistic novel Effi Briest, since it can be found on Effnerplatz. That would give a German connection, though not a Munich one, true...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Little escap(ad)e II

Sooner than I had thought I got another chance to see some art which isn’t availabe around here. Last weekend I finally went on the Christmas visit to see my parents, which had been cancelled around Christmas due to the wintery weather conditions. My son and I took the train to Karlsruhe on Friday – he is always one for train rides! – and on Saturday I arranged that grandparents and gendchild had some time to themselves. As a lucky side-effect, Mama had some time to herself, too.

So I headed for the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. At first I had thought I would go to see the current exhibition of Pia Fries, but as I ended up in the building with the permanent exhibition first, I decided on the spot that here I would only look at the permanent exhibition and the greenhouses of the Botanical Gardens. Which was a good decision.

In the exhibition, I was all by myself for most of the time (except for the guards), which was wonderful. I got to see some beautiful pieces by some of my all-time favorites which I hadn’t seen before: Landschaft (Haus und Kirche) from 1916 by Emil Nolde, the sculpture Panischer Schrecken by Ernst Barlach, Rehe im Walde from 1914 by Franz Marcand Leute am blauen See from 1916 by August Macke
Of course there were quite a few names new to me, amongst them Blinky Palermo 
with Himmelsrichtungen II from 1976, (here is a review of an exhibition of his works in Düsseldorf),
Palermo, Himmelrichtungen II (1976)
Imi Knoebel (the English link is not quite as informative)  with Radio Beirut from 1982 (couldn’t sneak a picture) and Ernst Buchholz (German link, English linkwith Holzbild 23 (Neue Tafeln Nr. 3) from 1923.

E. Buchholz, Holzbild 23 (Neue Tafeln Nr. 3)

A number of sculptures were also on display, and while I was impressed with the naturalness of the proportions of Gustav Seitz’s  „Die Gefesselte“ from 1949, which looked like a normal woman, not a supermodel, nor a distortion in shape, I really liked Julio Gonzales’ (German link, English link„Kaktusmensch“ from 1939/40:

J. Gonzalez, Kaktusmensch

However, I was disappointed by the first real Yves Klein which I saw here:

Y. Klein, RE 48: SOL 1960
The blue is fantastic, of course. But the piece definitely needs a thorough dusting! Probably not an aspect Klein gave mucht thought to when he decided to attach sponges and other protruding items to his pictures, but certainly an aspect that museums need to consider (though I understand, as I am not a great duster myself...).

After the paintings and sculptures I went to see the living plants in the three greenhouses, each set at a different temperature. Here I found some very nice and inspiring patterns on and with leaves.

And after the greenhouses came the real treat: the first European exhibition of works by Nancy Holt, „Sightlines“ in the Badischer Kunstverein:

I had seen pictures of her „Sun Tunnels“ in a book on Land Art, and although I have to admit that her name had not stuck with me despite the fact that I was fascinated by the documentation on this work, I was very excited to see the photos or films of other things she has done.

A video on the construction of Sun Tunnels, with several condensed showings of the movement of light through the concrete conduits is also part of the exhibition and well worth seeing, if one can’t go to Utah in person. An extensive catalogue is due to be published any day now.

Great little escap(ad)e!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Daily Oak, first report

The first month of Daily Oak has passed, and it is time for my first report on this daily art project.

Let's start with a picture that was taken before I started the project, and which was crucial in my decision to chose this tree as the object of my daily project. In December, on the 19th of the month, I took a first picture of the tree that I had been passing by so often:

Choosing Daily Oak: December 19, 2010
You may remember: Every day that I am in town I will take at least two pictures of the tree, from two different perspectives.

The statistics of this month look as follows:
Days missed: 1
Total number of pictures taken: 98
Days when I visited the tree twice: 5
Days when I visited the tree three times: 1
Visits with more than the two standard shots: 15.

I like going to visit the tree, it has become an important part of my day, and I have no problems planning a slot for the quick walk down the street. 

The two perspectives look at the tree from different angles, and it looks very different from each of the two standard perspectives:

Round: Perspective b, on January 8

Almost Rectangular: Perspective a on January 8

As weather changes may lead to a difference in lighting, I sometimes felt a need to go twice. At first I thought I would simple differentiate the pictures by adding '2' in the file name.

a - Jan 20

a - Jan 20-2

But then came the day when I went to see the tree three times, and I realized it would be more sensible to include the time of day as indicated in the file specifications:

a - January 28, 8:33

a - January 28, 15:30

a - January 28, 17:13

So I went ahead and altered the file names - which included remembering that my camera is set on Mid-European Summer Standard Time... but I think I managed to keep track of the correct times when I had gone.

And then of course there are the additional perspectives. A third perspective has developed, which I have taken 13 pictures of, and on that January 28 I took two:

c - January 28, 8:34

c - January 28, 15:31

It is interesting to see how differently one perspective can look at different times of day, and depending on the weather conditions, of course. This picture was taken during snowfall:

b - January 11, 7:52

And yesterday, on the last day of the first month, I decided that it might be interesting to look at the fourth perspective, or the 'backside' of the tree as well - which is a bit inaccessible, and less attractive in the outcome because it shows how close to the road the tree is actually located, something which you can almost forget when looking at the other photos:

January 31, "backside"

If I remember, I will take a picture of this perspective on the last of every month.

So today is the first day of the second month of Daily Oak, I have already been to see the tree - and today I think I won't go twice, because it is very grey, very cold, and not enticing at all. But if the fog should lift, against all expectations, I could still easily change my mind about that.