18 April 2014

Three Voices in Fiber


Elin's Zinnia, detail. Sandra Gregg.

One of the features I like most about Newton's modern library is the dedicated gallery space, which features a different exhibit of work by local artists each month. April brings us the work of three textile artists,  Sandy Gregg, Rosemary Hoffenberg and Valerie Maser-Flanagan; Ms. Gregg and Ms. Hoffenberg happen to be members of my quilt guild.  Work in fiber media makes a welcome change of pace from the more typical display of paintings or photographs. The exhibit is on view from April 1 through April 30. 

The work of these three artists incorporates many traditional and modern quilt-making skills, including piecing and quilting by hand and machine, as well as dyeing, screen printing and other surface design techniques. The images here are just some of the quilts that I found personally most intriguing - the body of work is excellent. All of the quilts are for sale.


Woods Walk. Valerie Maser-Flanagan.


Hidden Messages. Sandy Gregg.


Linear Three. Rosemary Hoffenberg.


Chrysalises #1. Valerie Maser-Flanagan.


Nocturnal City Lights. Valerie Maser-Flanagan.

Elin's Zinnia. Sandra Gregg.

30 March 2014

Quinobequin Guild Quilt Show

Red and White. Carol Miller.

The charmingly-named Quinobequin Quilters guild had its biennial show March 29 and 30 in Needham, Massachusetts. Quinobequin is a Native American word meaning "meandering," referring to the path of the Charles River as it wends its way through metrowest Boston. I meandered through this delightful show and thoroughly enjoyed the artistry of the 40 or so quilters who exhibited their work.  Below are just a few of the many quilts I enjoyed.

Love the scrappy knit hat on the visitor in the foreground.

At the entrance desk, crowded with the usual display of raffle tickets, raffle baskets and the admission money box, there sat another basket of fabric squares - children were encouraged to select a square and enjoy its tactile qualities while not touching the quilts on display. Brilliant!

Spin Cycle, Linda Evans.

Spin Cycle, detail.

The pinwheel blocks which form the sashing in the quilt above were an enormous amount of work, but they perfectly enhance the Dresden blocks, resulting in a quilt with a lot of energy despite the toned color palette.

Blue Giraffe River, Jane Evans.

A gift for a young person, this quilt made of T-shirts continues the venerable tradition of commemorative textiles. The title refers to the blue giraffe print fabric used for the sashing, or the space between the T-shirt panels.

Stained Glass Windows, Deanna Dee Kingston.

The quilt above, pieced in textured near-solid fabrics, with solid black material as the sashing, is greatly enhanced by the machine quilting of professional quilter Concessa Shearer, whose work could be seen throughout the show. Teamwork between the maker of the quilt top and the quilter of that top is just one example of the collaborative nature of this medium.

Stained Glass Windows, detail of quilting by Concessa Shearer.

Below is a quilted created from just one fabric but the fabric is cut in such a way as to create kaleidoscopic patterns when the specially-cut pieces are reassembled into big hexagons. The technique is detailed in the book series One Block Wonders by Maxine Rosenthal.

Asian Wonder, Evy Megerman.


Great Great Grannie Florence's Turn of the Century Top, Susan Downs.



Until recently, the quilt above was an unfinished quilt top, stored away, its colors remaining vivid in the dark interior of a chest. Susan Downs repaired the top, added borders, and finished this contender for the prize of longest running UFO (UnFinished Object, in quilter lingo.) In the close up one can see that no scrap was wasted as the quilt pattern pieces were themselves sometimes pieced from even smaller snippets of fabric.

Small pieces stitched to make bigger pieces for top.

Colors from circa 1890 remain vivid.

Back to our century with the meticulously pieced quilt below.  The narrow blue accent in the border - a skinny strip folded and sew into place like a flange - is an exquisite finishing touch.

Razzle Frazzle, Kelly Savignano.

Blue accent strip punches up the border.

26 March 2014

Merrill Comeau - Fragments of Eden fabric collage


Viewing the large-scale fabric collages.

On its last day, DH and I, with friends Robin and Alex, visited an exhibit at the Danforth Museum, Merrill Comeau: Fragments of Eden, on view from November 17, 2013 through February 23, 2014. Ms. Comeau, an artist from Concord, Massachusetts, creates large-scale collages using, or upcycling in today's parlance, textiles with a history. These might include worn blue jeans, old sheets, plastic mesh produce bags, a mother-in-law's blouse and fabric samples of discontinued patterns.  Comeau stitches these pieces, either by hand or machine, as found, or alters them by printing or painting on the surface.  In her  Fragment of Eden series, Ms. Comeau has created gardens from remnants and rags. 

Fragment of Eden I.

In most of the works, the collaged elements never quite physically coalesce into a contiguous whole, but remain fragmentary. The impression is of a kind of fabric Pangaea, the ancient supercontinent from which our modern continents formed as Pangaea slowly broke up and drifted apart. 

The irregular interstices between the collaged elements reveal the gallery walls, coated with the standard gallery-issue bright white paint.  This formal whiteness is a bit jarring amongst the  almost archaeologically layered fragments; it would be interesting to see these same works mounted on walls painted greige, the color of "gray goods," the name for fabric as it comes off the loom but before bleached, dyed or colored.

Fragment of Eden I, detail.

Ms. Comeau has a deft hand with form and color, conjuring the papery fragility of a red poppy with nothing more than a scrap of red, a snippet of black and a few well-placed stitches. 

Fragment of Eden IV, Poppies, detail.

In Fragment of Eden IV, Poppies, the panels are more or less rectilinear, with vertical strips of white gallery walls revealed; the effect is of a wonderful curtain, or veil, of color and pattern built up over time. 

Fragment of Eden IV, Poppies, detail.

Her work accomplishes the harder-than-it-looks task of combining commercially printed fabrics successfully with the artist's own printed or painted designs; in less expert hands such a combination can look awkward, but Ms. Comeau blends her materials seamlessly even while her stitching itself retains a rough-and-ready immediacy.

Fragment of Eden IV, Poppies, detail.

Bessie's Bodice Ripper.

One of the newer pieces, Bessie's Bodice Ripper, while made of fragments, is not itself in fragments, although the use of sheer fabric remnants, such as net and voile, as the upper edge of the composition keeps the boundaries fluid and in flux. The trailing threads  - bodice lacings? - at the bottom edge seem a bit too literal, perhaps.

Bessie's Bodice Ripper, detail.

Another newer work is the installation piece Women's Work is Never Done. Here, the white wall functions brilliantly as a scaffolding for the dark-dyed bits and pieces, just as frameworks of time - the 24-hour day, the seven-day week - bracket all the tasks small and large, completed and unfinished, with which every woman is confronted.

Women's Work is Never Done.

Women's Work is Never Done, detail.


25 March 2014

Miyama Japanese Farm Village

Expanse of thatch.
From Kyoto, our group took an enjoyable mini-bus ride north to the rural area of Miyama, a spot popular with Japanese tourists who come to see and photograph this collection of hamlets featuring traditional thatched roof dwellings. Miyama is not on any train route and the bus from Kyoto is infrequent, so private transportation is the best way to get there; this may explain why it was not overrun with tourists.

Forested hills rise behind the village.

A thatched bus station.

The bus station had a small gift shop, with hand-made whisk brooms, a local craft, and a small assortment of snacks.

Picture map.

Entering the village of Kayabuki no Sato.

Thatch and power line.

While the homes retain their thatched roofs and, in many cases, the large central hearths, the dwellings have power, indoor plumbing and propane.  The smoke from the hearth, which exits through decorative gable end vents, helps preserve the thatch, as the fumes act as an insect repellant.  Such roofs are an expensive tradition, however, and the historic district of Kayabuki no Sato, a hamlet within the Miyama region, receives government subsidies.  As private residences, the homes are off-limits to visitors, but there is a folk ways museum. There was little Western language signage, so I'm not sure if the museum was open when we were there; in any case we enjoyed just being outside.

Rice paddy with young plants.

The village is still agricultural, with rice paddies and an elaborate system for channeling irrigation water.

Farmer in field.

Herbs drying outside a home.

Materials for brooms, I think.

Airing the bedding.

Spring was the perfect time to visit.  Japanese homemakers air the family futon covers regularly throughout the year, but it must be a more pleasant chore in breezy sunshine. 

Miyama is in the valley of the Yura River.

Roof materials - thatch, tile, corrugated metal and fiberglass.

Eave detail - lots of labor-intensive layers.

Old farm implements outside the folk museum.

The clipped hedge is a contrast to the wild shrubbery.

Spring daisies against a stone wall.

Daisies in the signage at the village bakery.

Spring brings flowers and tourists.

Last look at a gable end with carved mon, or crest.