Thursday, 31 January 2013

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Where Do You Read 'The Canadian Quilter'?

Do you like the idea of a challenge with a chance to get published, win some prizes and not spend a year creating the project?   
If so, this challenge is for you! Every quilter reads The Canadian Quilter (our CQA/ACC newsletter) from cover to cover. Where do you do this? On your deck, in your studio, on the toilet, we want to know!
It doesn’t have to be realistic, give us an abstract interpretation. It only has to be a 12" x 12" quilt. The best part is you don’t even have to mail us your entry! If you have never entered anything before, why not give it a try? How thrilling it would be to see your work published in a national magazine!

Check it out here to find out all the information.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Kathy K. Wylie

She is charming and down to earth, and can make you stop in your tracks when you see her quilts.   She won what some say, is the biggest quilting award in North America, and she is Canada's own quilting sensation.  It is my pleasure to introduce Kathy K. Wylie.

Please tell us a little about yourself outside of your quilting career.
I was born and raised in Ottawa, ON. After graduating from McGill University with a business degree, I moved to Toronto to begin a career in marketing with IBM Canada. Seven years later, I resigned to stay at home and raise my family. This was when I started quilting.
I now live in Whitby, ON with my husband and two sons (when they are home from university) and enjoy spending summers at our cottage in Muskoka.

You have won numerous awards, including one of the big ones at Houston, can you elaborate on your success as a quilter?
I entered my first quilting competition in 2002, the “Great Lakes, Great Quilts” Challenge. My quilt “Lake Ontario Fan” was accepted as one of 17 finalists and came in third place. As a result of going to see the exhibit in Houston, I saw the amazing work being done by quilters around the world and what I needed to do to make my work better.

"Instruments of Praise"

I continued to enter my work into a variety of competitions, learning more about my art and craft with each one. “Instruments of Praise” received the Bernina Machine Workmanship Award at the American Quilter’s Society show in Paducah and now resides in the U.S. National Quilt Museum. “Flourish on the Vine” was honoured with the International Quilt Association Founders’ Award last fall in Houston.

"Flourish on the Vine"

Kathy, you have one book published, did I read somewhere you have another one coming out?
My first book is called Sewflakes: Papercut Applique Quilts. It was published by C&T Publishing in 2008.
C&T is also publishing Pattern Packs for my quilts “Flourish on the Vine” and “Instruments of Praise”. Pattern Packs are an ideal format for an applique quilt. Inside the glossy 8 1/2” x 12” cardboard envelope are full-size pattern drawings and a 16-page colour instruction booklet. The pattern for "Flourish on the Vine" is out now and "Instruments of Praise" will be available next June.

Tell us a little about your work as a quilt author?  
Writing a quilting book was a dream of mine. I remember attending the professional development sessions at Quilt Canada 2004 to hear the sessions on publishing and pattern designing. I had an idea; I just had to figure out what to do about it.
I downloaded the submission guidelines from two or three publishers. I decided to start with C&T Publishing because of their excellent photography and the “look and feel” of their books. Carefully following the guidelines, I completed my proposal and submitted it in June 2006. The proposal included a questionnaire, sample chapter, sample project, plus two quilt samples. It wasn’t until November that I learned that C&T had accepted my proposal!

We agreed on a deadline of May 2007, which would mean the book would be released in May 2008. There were some intense moments, but the process went smoothly for the most part. I was in a good position since most, if not all, of the quilts were already completed so I wasn’t scrambling to finish quilts and a manuscript at the same time.
Editors are great and they make my work better. Still, it was sometimes a challenge to clearly communicate the changes/edits I wanted made. It was so much easier this last time around, now that technology offers so many more options!
Writing a book is very much like making a quilt. It is a creative challenge; there is a lot of editing and problem-solving required along the way; it takes time and energy; and the end result is extremely rewarding. 

Your quilts show a lot of hand appliqué work, is this a favourite technique? 
Yes, hand applique has really emerged as my signature technique. I have always liked hand work and now that I quilt exclusively by machine, I find my quiet meditative enjoyment in the applique. I also find that I have the most control and get the best results with needle-turn applique.

Your quilts have been related to passages/terms in the Bible, is that a source of inspiration for you?
Definitely! Thank you for asking. My faith and my relationship with God are very important to me. He has given me this gift of quilting and I want to use it to honour and glorify Him.

How do you go about designing/coming up with an idea of a quilt and getting that onto fabric?
There are three main tools I use for designing:
1. Computer - I find EQ Quilt Design software very helpful for auditioning layouts, border widths, even fabrics. Some quilts have been designed exclusively in EQ; others in part. But I find it indispensable! I also use CorelDraw software for drawing, editing clip art, or manipulating images/photos.
2. Paper and pencil (and eraser!) - Sometimes it’s still easier to do it by hand - especially the hand applique motifs. I often work in combination with the computer: scanning my hand drawings or tracing my computer printouts.
3. Design wall - Here is where the actual fabrics get placed into the design. It is risky business to rely on the computer screen for this - it has to be live. I might use EQ for colour schemes, but I still want to see the actual fabrics working together on the design wall before stitching them into the quilt.
Close up of "Flourish on the Vine"

What are some of your favourite aspects of quilting?
As long as I’m being creative, I’m not unhappy. I think my favourite times are quietly stitching my applique or machine quilting my quilt into life. But I receive great joy and energy from quilters at guild meetings and students in the classroom. The challenge is finding balance between the two!

How often do you get into your studio?
Not as often as I would like! (Doesn’t everyone say this?) My strategy this fall has been working really well: I have scheduled a minimum of one day per week as studio time on my calendar. I treat it as an appointment and won’t schedule anything else on those days if I can help it.
Hand applique doesn’t require studio time and I find I am able to get in a couple hours most evenings.

If you could describe your studio in a few sentences, what would you say?  
Well, I actually have two studios…
My home studio is a room in the basement. It has two tables in the middle of the room, surrounded by book shelves filled with fabric, books, thread, notions, and tools. It is a comfortable and efficient workspace - not always as tidy as I would like.
Home Studio

My cottage studio is new, so therefore blessedly uncluttered. It has three walls of windows and is filled with natural light. It looks out over the side yard and I can even see glimpses of the lake. I am still learning how to manage the back-and-forth, but I’m not complaining about finally having a dedicated space to create in the summer months!
Cottage Studio

What is your favourite food while quilting?
Um, there’s no food while quilting! a) I couldn’t possibly eat and stitch at the same time and b) I wouldn’t want to get my quilt dirty! I do like to have a bottle of water nearby.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Fun Tips and Giggles #6

Did you know that each year Pantone picks a colour of the year.. millions wait breathlessly to see what it will be then go like crazy to work with that.   For quilters, we like to be in the know with our colour choices and patterns.
  For 2013 Pantone chose Emerald.
PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR 2013 - Emerald 17-5641

PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR 2013 - Emerald 17-5641

Do you plan to use Emerald in your quilts this year?

While conducting the Stitch Across Canada challenge, one guild wrote me and gave their inches and stated their guild name was 'Chocolate River Quilters' from Riverview, NB.  Well, when you have a name like that, I had my sewing machine packed and ready to head out there.

Here is what guild member Betty Rice told me:
The proper name of the river is the Petiticodiac, which flows from the Bay of Fundy. You might have heard about our Tidal Bore which essentially fills the river, and then empties twice a day. With the tidal action there is a lot of buildup of silt, which makes it look muddy........kind of like chocolate, certainly not edible stuff.
This river separates the city of Moncton and the town of Riverview. 
In regards to the guild, a group of quilters were looking to start a new guild that would meet during the day. They found an available place in Riverview and someone suggested the name Chocolate River and it stuck.

Here is their banner.

This is their Pam Bono quilt challenge.

This is one way to make quilting an outdoor activity!

Artist Simon Beck must really love the cold weather! Along the frozen lakes of Savoie , France , he spends days plodding through the snow in raquettes (snowshoes), creating these sensational patterns of snow art. Working for 5-9 hours a day, each final piece is typically the size of three soccer fields! The geometric forms range in mathematical patterns and shapes that create stunning, sometimes 3D, designs when viewed from higher levels.

How long these magnificent geometric forms survive is completely dependent on the weather. Beck designs and redesigns the patterns as new snow falls, sometimes unable to finish a piece due to significant overnight accumulations. Interestingly enough, he said, 'The main reason for making them was because I can no longer run properly due to problems with my feet, so plodding about on level snow is the least painful way of getting exercise. Gradually, the reason has become photographing them, and I am considering buying a better camera.” Spectacular art for the sake of exercise!

If you are finding your sketch pad is just a bit too small, why not use Mother Nature's pad to create your next quilt?


Monday, 21 January 2013

Elaine Quehl

I have the utmost pleasure of introducing Elaine Quehl to our blog.   Elaine is a warm, funny and an amazingly talented quilter.  She inspires her students and has a never ending amount of patience when teaching her workshops.

 Elaine in her studio

 Tell us a little about yourself.
Growing up on a farm in Southern Ontario (Waterloo County), I was surrounded by quilts made by my grandmother and great grandmother.  My mother used to go to quilting bees at the local church to help hand quilt charity quilts.  She was an expert hand quilter.  While I live in the suburbs of Ottawa now (my husband’s work brought us here) and love the amenities that the big city can provide, my heart is in the country and I love remote places.  I worked in administrative positions in universities and colleges, and in a literacy organization, before I escaped to pursue a full-time career as a quilt artist, teacher and dyer.  I consider myself lucky to be able to do what I love for a living.  Since I love to travel, my career fits me well as I am on the road at least 3 months of the year, and as I get better known, I am starting to be invited to places further afield.
Elaine's hand dyed fabric
What got you into quilting and what took you in the direction you are in now?
The prompt was my mother’s early-onset dementia at the age of 65.  I had a difficult time dealing with her decline and so I signed up for a quilting class in an evening program at the local high school.  This was supposed to be a diversion, but I think it was also an attempt to maintain a connection with my mother.  Since I am more of a “fly by the seat of my pants” person, the precision was difficult for me, but I persevered and got very, very hooked on fabric, but even more important I got hooked on the way I felt while I was creating … the calm and peace … the way the cares of the world just floated away.  Quilting became my meditation.  I seldom followed a pattern exactly, so when I saw my first art quilts (I think at the Ontario Juried Show in Waterloo) I was gobsmacked!  I knew this is what I wanted to do, but I had a huge hurdle!  I did not consider myself creative.   My sister was the creative one in my family.  She could draw and paint with skill.  It has taken many years of work to try to develop my artistic skills, and I am still working on them every day.
Elaine with 'In The Act'
You teach a ton ( I looked at your schedule) can you give us any tips about taking workshops, ie. How to get the most out of them?
Yes, I am in the classroom anywhere from 50 to 60 calendar days in a year.  I have a broad selection of classes, teaching both locally and across Canada, and I teach a few weeks each year at the Haliburton School of the Arts north of Toronto.  I am very fortunate because this is what enables me to make a living so I don’t have to go back to the regular day job.
I can share tips for students from both my perspective as a student and as a teacher.  At one time I took a lot of classes, but at a certain point I realized that it wasn’t more technique I needed, but rather what I needed was to develop my artistic skills, by learning more about composition and design (which has been the hardest part of developing as an artist for me), and training my eye.  These things did not come naturally to me.  When I take a class these days it is often an art class.  I look for a class that can help me develop the areas I feel I am weakest at.  So this past summer I took a composition and design class with a classical realist painter.  I am currently taking a drawing class at the Ottawa School of Art.  If I take a class with a quilt artist or fibre artist these days, it would be someone whose work I greatly admire and whose head  I wish to get inside of (so to speak).
I recommend that students read the supply list thoroughly and contact the instructor if they have any questions.  I am happy to answer questions by email if students are unsure about what to bring.   I also recommend that students check out the type of work the instructor makes, because it will give you a good idea of the types of things they may be teaching. 
'Curtain Call'
Your quilts focus a lot on hostas, and nature, tell us about that?
One thing I adore, in any art, is value contrast, depth, and drama, and curves.  Hosta leaves provide all of these.  When I take a photo of a hosta leaf or leaves there are always beautiful highlights, dramatic shadows, and lots of curve and furl.  I love translating this into fabric.  I am not inspired by urban settings, love the natural world, and so it is only natural that I focus on nature.  I never get sick of using yellow-greens in my work because to me they are the colour of life.  The hosta plant has also become a symbol and metaphor for the human life cycle.  Now that I am over 50, you will notice I am starting to depict declining hosta leaves in golds, coppers, gold-greens, browns, etc.  I am really enjoying this new palette.  I also depict trees and flowers, but they have not been as popular and have not been as successful at shows.  I should also add that since I am, after all, a quilter, I have days when I just want to cut up fabric and sew it back together, but now I love doing it freeform (without a ruler and without measuring). 
Hosta fabrics on the line
It looks like most of your work is made from your own hand dyed fabric? Why is that your preference over commercial fabric?
First of all, the serendipity of the dyeing process is so gosh-darn gratifying!  It is always like Christmas morning when you see what comes out of the dye pot.  So first of all, I’m hooked on that process, but I also love the uniqueness of hand-dyes.  Every piece shows the hand of the maker, and no two are ever the same.  Over time I have come to realize that what I really like about them is the mottled character that results when using a low-water immersion process.  This translates well to nature pieces.  Nothing in nature is flat or solid, everything is dappled with light, and hand-dyes mimic this look.  Hand-dyeing also enables me to produce a wide variety of values (lights to darks) that I need to create my work.  My hand-dyed store is in the trunk of my car when I travel to teach since students often ask for my fabric.  I take a limited selection as well when I’m flying (within Canada). 
How do you go about designing a quilt, is it from a photo, a sketch pad etc?
Both.  For a very long time I have been using the “photo to quilt” method, where the line tracing of the photo is projected onto a larger wall to create a pattern.  These days I am starting to draw my own line drawings.  It really isn’t that difficult because all you need are the lines.  The shading is created with fabric anyway.  So it is my goal to eventually draw all my own designs free-hand.  My work relies almost entirely on my own photographs though.  I love to travel, I love to photograph and love that I can marry the two worlds in my work.  I have a huge library of photos to work with.  I probably have thousands of hosta photos, but I am selective about which ones I end up using.  I like to take the photos when the sun is a bit lower (early day or late day) because it creates more dramatic highlights and shadows in the image.  I only use my own photos so I am working with my own vision and I never need to worry about copyright issues.
Tell us a little about some of the highlights of your quilting career?
The first big highlight was being invited to have a solo show at the St. Jacobs Quilt Gallery in 2004.  At that point I was a hobbyist, and I really hadn’t exhibited anywhere other than at the local quilt show.  I just didn’t think I was in that league.  That was a huge boost and after that I did start entering juried shows.  The next highlight came in 2007 when the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery used an image of my work “Moon Over Naikoon” on the cover of their summer flyer.  After that I finally got the confidence to use the word “artist” to describe myself.  The biggest highlight, however, is quitting my job in 2008 to do what I do full-time.  I had been building up my teaching business for five years before I made that leap.   I’ve had two more highlights this past year.  The first being chosen as one of the Featured Artists for the book “Art Quilt Portfolio: the Natural World” (Lark Books), and the second being invited to travel to and exhibit my work in France at the Quilt en Sud show in 2013.
'End of Days'
You have entered several juried shows and won as well, tell us why you enter?
I started entering shows because of the sheer pleasure and honour of being there.  I know how much seeing the work in shows means to me.   It isn’t about prizes or awards, although those are nice if and when they happen.  Some of the pieces I love most in any show are not necessarily the ones that win.  Entering shows for me now is about being a player in the art quilt world, keeping my name out there and building a resume so I can continue to make my living as an artist and teacher.  There are a limited number of shows in Canada, so I also exhibit a lot in the U.S., and sometimes internationally.  The benefit of this can be that sometimes a magazine will notice you and run a photo of your piece, or even an article about you.  US magazines have a wide readership and this can do wonders for your career as well.
'Red Stool'
I ask everyone this, what is your favourite food?
Food is very important to me so it will be hard to choose.  I love to try new restaurants and cuisines.  Vietnamese food is one of my favorites.  However, when I think of the foods I cannot live without every day I would have to say good coffee, good chocolate and fruit.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Pin Cushion Challenge Entries

Remember that fun pin cushion challenge that we hosted at the end of last year?   Well, we were amazed at the number and quality of entries that came in!

The winners will be published in the Spring 'The Canadian Quilter'.  We can show you the runner ups for this fun event.    I would also like to point out that Susan Delaney gave us the pattern for her fun lollipop pin cushion.
Photo: And here is Susan Delaney's lollipop pin cushion

Yoka Scott shared her pattern for her cute hedgehog on our website as well.
Photo: Remember our pin cushion challenge?   I am not going to tell you the winners, but two of our awesome entrants made up instructions for their adorable pin cushions.   Pictured is Susan Delaney's lollipop pin cushion and Yoka Scott's hedgehog.  Check out the instructions here.

Here are some of the other wonderful entries we received.
by Judy Barnett

by Katie Friesen

by Judy Service

by Brigitte Red

by Pat Fleming

by Kathy Grant

by Linda Poppy

by Anne Sutherland

by Vivien Levermore

by Lauren MacDonald

Stay tuned next week for more on our new challenge.   You are going to definitely want to do this one.

Monday, 14 January 2013

An Interview With Laurie Swim

Her name is synonymous with landscape quilting in Canada. Some say she put Canada on the map when it comes to quilting. It is a privilege to interview Laurie Swim.

Please tell us a little about yourself outside of your quilting career.

My quilting career is pretty much integrated with my personal life. My husband and partner Larry Goldstein and I have worked together for over thirty years now. We recently moved into an 1897 building that houses our gallery, The Art Quilt gallery of the Atlantic. My studio is directly above and the apartment alongside, all part of the Kaulbach Block in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, an UNESCO Heritage site. 

Laurie Swim Interior of Gallery

We enjoy the convenience of being close to our work and the view from the second floor deck of Lunenburg Harbour is fabulous.

In the Beginning
You are one of Canada's most well known quilters, can you elaborate on that.

Like Pamela Allen, I have a Fine Arts background. My ambition was to become a painter. Since childhood, I have dabbled with needlework and clothing construction. These two came together when I took up weaving at  NSCAD and after graduating, apprenticed in Denmark in the early seventies. I realized my medium of expression had to give me  freedom to create original images with texture and colour. Utilizing the “quilt” as a basis opened that door.

I always intended to make my living from my art and that turned out to be a great incentive for concentrating my focus on making a successful career. From 1995 to 2003, I originated community art projects, mostly memorials with volunteers for historical record and social activism. Best known is Breaking Ground,The Hogg’s Hollow Disaster 1960 (7’x 20’) now housed in a ceiling to floor glass case in the Toronto York Mills Subway Station.

Laurie with her work for interview for Globe and Mail 2010

Making a decent wage has been a struggle, a feast and famine existence. In 2010, my solo show Land, Sea and Memory exhibited at the Mary E Black Gallery in Halifax brought attention to my work. There were significant sales and it was the most attendance that the gallery had received up to that point. The show was reviewed in the Toronto Globe and Mail, locally as well, and was the topic of an editorial in Magazin’art, a Montreal publication. It was the first time my work has been mentioned in an art magazine in my career. 
In the Gut

Tell us a little about your work as a quilt author?

Meeting Larry, whose experience was as a book publisher, changed my life professionally and personally. It was our collaboration of my writing, and Larry producing The Joy of Quilting for Viking Canada in 1984 that brought broader attention to my work. While the book was at press, we found time to tie the knot and make our union official. Joy was an early book in non traditional creative quilting that sold 30,ooo worldwide and was followed by Quilting for an American publisher in 1991. Both were reprinted as second editions.

My recent book Rags to Riches, The Quilt as Art was also a joint effort in 2007. It is both autobiographical and a discussion of my work over a period of 15 years. The launch of this book and exhibit of my recent work took place in Halifax in October.

Is there a common technique you use in your quilts?

I use many techniques in my pieces, many of them innovative to get the job done, needle felting, sky painting, machine embroidery and on it goes. Each piece presents new challenges from concept to completion. It keeps the work fresh as well.

More Precious than Gold

How do you go about coming up with an idea of a quilt and getting that onto fabric?

My approach is to start with an image that I feel a connection to. This is hard to describe but I believe it is an emotional response rather than a rational one. Sometimes, an idea lies dormant until the right moment, other times, it is instantaneous and I feel motivated to act fast and seize the moment. Either way, it has to be important to me because the work is labour intensive.

My process involves either photography or sketches or both. After deciding the subject andthe composition, I blow it up as a drawing for scale and take my patterns and templates from it. I then move into fabric construction. According to how large the work is, I might break it up into sections or components, sewing them separately and then reassembling them as a whole.

What are some of your favourite aspects of quilting?
I like to teach and travel, but I like best teaching close by where I can access my studio and supplies.
I rarely enter shows since it ties up the work for long periods of time and I prefer the pieces to be on display in our gallery. My favourite aspect of quilting is when I am focused and immersed in a work. Having moments of being on ‘top of my game’ is exhilarating and heady stuff. I am happiest then.  

How often do you get into your studio?

Every day I try to spend time in my studio, even briefly. Sometimes, it is just to catch up on emails and organize my work area. I usually have several projects on the go. Leaving some to gestate often proves worthwhile.

Many of your quilts have the theme of the ocean/water in them... can you elaborate on that?

The history of Nova Scotia intertwined with my own ancestral history has had an influence in recent years. It involves the landscape, lots of texture, its people and how they respond to their surroundings. It is a richness I long to absorb and represent. My latest work is a series I call Bodies at Work. It captures people responding to their environment, upholding traditions that require physical activity and the beauty of the common human response to that activity.

The Boat Builders

What is your favourite food while quilting?
I don’t normally bring food into my studio with the apartment so close by but I often bring a drink, most likely coffee which is what I am drinking now.

Thank you Ms. Swim for giving us a glimpse into your life!  For upcoming workshops in 2013 hosted by Laurie Swim, please check out her website.