31 October 2015

By the Yard - two fabric stores in London

The neo-Tudor Liberty store.
During a recent vacation in London, I journeyed to two wonderful fabric stores. No, I didn't visit Liberty, although their Tana lawn is a favorite, and is widely available here in the US and through mail order.   Using my convenient prepaid subway Oyster card,  I went a bit further afield than the Regent Street location of Liberty, to Islington in fact.  After arriving at the Angel Tube station I walked about 10 minutes to Ray-Stitch, my first stop.

Ray-Stitch, in Islington.

Helpful store associate cutting fabric.

This store sells fabric for actually making clothes, as opposed to so-called "quilt" fabrics.  I use many apparel fabrics for my quilts, as the quality is much better, and, honestly, if you are going to spend 100 hours to make something, shouldn't the materials be worthy of your time?

Lots of patterns, notions, other goodies.

Bolts of fabric; cutting table.

Books, magazines and mannequins with samples. Inspirational!

A rainbow of buttons.

My way back to the station took me along a pedestrian street called Camden Passage, with a variety of small boutiques, including vintage clothing stores, and a special destination for this chocoholic: 

Truffle flavors include Bakewell Tart and Pimms Cocktail.

Vintage clothing store, Camden Passage.

I also enjoyed the Loop yarn store, although I have a moratorium on any yarn purchases at the moment.  London shop windows are rewarding for those of us who are easily entertained.

Papier mache mascot by Julie Arkell in Loop's window.

Well, I was almost back at the station when I realized it was lunchtime.  Food is expensive in London, so I went to the Tesco's grocery store across from Islington Green park, bought a salad and a bottled iced tea, and found a bench back at the park. Cheap, good, and with a side order of people watching for free.

Next, onto Berwick Street  (Tottenham Court Road station) and the Soho location of Cloth House.

Shell and horn buttons, ticking, shop sign.

All kinds of fabrics - linen, cotton, technical, knits...

Well, I could have bought everything in this treasure house, but limited myself to some hand-printed fabrics from India.  Students receive a discount here. 

Downstairs for velvet, special occasion fabrics...


Shopping is thirsty work, and I enjoyed tea at Yumchaa, around the corner from the store.  My only regret is that I neglected to buy some of Yumchaa's loose tea to bring home. Maybe they'll come to the States, she thought, with hope...

Busy tea emporium.

Some of my purchases at Cloth House and Ray-Stitch.

05 October 2015

Rising Star Quilt Show 2015

Wall of floral-themed quilts.

Chilly temps, days with less sun - autumn brings a loss of warmth and light; however, there are compensations, such as the  Rising Star quilt guild annual show. On display October 9 and 10, this exhibit was a delight, and some representative quilts are featured below. (Click on any image to enlarge it.)

Summer in a Pot, Janice Shaw.

Many quilts explored a floral theme, including a raw-edge applique portrait of geraniums, by Janice Shaw, based on a pattern by Laundry Basket Quilts.

Summer in a Pot, detail.

It's sometimes difficult to utilize the large-scale fabrics which so many of us love, but Big Poppy succeeds in combing prints in different scales. Artist Bebe Fallick adapted the Big EZ pattern from Bloom Creek for her work.

Big Poppy, Bebe Fallick.

Large quilts and boutique area in Keilty Hall.

The quilts were hung in two areas: the basement of St. Brigid's church, in Lexington, Massachusetts, and in nearby Keilty Hall, seen above. In addition to quilts on display, there were vendors, the guild's own boutique of hand-made items -  a great resource for early holiday shopping -  and, of course, the wonderful bake shop.

Another quilt genre well-represented in the show is the landscape quilt, including Barbara Salamy's delightful original creation below.

Sea, Sky and Sand Dunes, Barbara Salamy.

Atara Halpern reflected on the challenging winter of 2014-2015, during which our entire region developed mass cabin fever.  Ms. Halpern's quilt  - a symphony of applique, beading, and embroidery techniques - showed us coping in our "cabins" by celebrating the holidays and, of course, curling up with good books!  Celebrations of color helped us get through "snowmageddon" too.  Peter Stringham's quilt, below, is based on a pattern from the book "Strip Quilting" by Diane Wold.  For her colorful quilt Love Wins 2015, Kathleen McCormick utilized the pattern "Prism Quilt" by Nancy Rink.

December in New England, Atara Halpern.

December in New England, details.

Autumn Orchard, Peter Stringham.

Love Wins 2015, Kathleen McCormick.

Love Wins 2015, detail.

Quilts can have an impact with a limited color palette too, as demonstrated in the modern quilts below. The quilt  by Missy Shay continues the venerable tradition of red and white quilts, and is based on the pattern "Diamond Alley" by Sassafras Lane Designs; a nice detail of this work is the pieced binding.

For the quilt commemorating her daughter's wedding anniversary, Pat Fryzel combined blocks won in a guild auction.  And in the third quilt below, Modern Sunset, the traditional T-square block becomes contemporary, based on a pattern by Kimberly Einmo, and beautifully machine-quilted by Sue Ahnrud.

Red and White, Missy Shay.

Happy Third Anniversary, Pat Fryzel.

Modern Sunset, Carolyn Bell.

While the modern quilts rely primarily on solids or geometric prints, my beloved plaids were on view too, in a beautiful string-style quilt by Nancy Soyring.  Melissa Radzyminski has combined a plaid fabric and prints in a quilt which, in the best tradition of the medium, makes a useful, lovely object from materials at hand, as the quilt is composed of nine-patch blocks leftover from other projects, and a plaid that was a fortuitous gift.  I love the way the plaids are a tad charmingly askew. 

Plaid X, Nancy Soyring.

Plaid X, detail.
Plaid and 4-Patches, Melissa Radzyminski.

Plaid and 4-Patches, detail.

One of the highlights of the show was a fun, educational display illustrating the History of Quilting, master-minded by Nancy Howard and Julie Neu.  Brief text described, concisely yet comprehensively, each major phase of quilt-making in America, with accompanying small stitched examples.

Quilts illustrating phases of quilt-making in America.

The contributions of quilters of color were acknowledged, with a rare example of a 19th-century menswear pieced quilt, in the Box Cars pattern and utilizing suiting fabrics, shown below.

According to the label information, supplied by quilt owner Delores McCravy:
This Antique quilt was owned by Mrs. Thelma Tate (1905-1998) a long time family friend.  She was born and lived in Rogersville, Hawkins County, Tenn.  Mrs. Tate inherited the quilt, along with a larger one, from her grandmother Louise Porter (1847) who made them. My sister purchased the quilts at a yard sale held, after her death, by her son and daughter-in-law. 

So, this quilt has made quite a journey, from rural Tennessee to suburban Boston.

Finally, a detail of a miniature Baltimore Album quilt, illustrating this genre, by master quilter Nancy Howard.  The block is approximately 3" square, but loaded with expertly designed and stitched detail, not to mention charm.

01 October 2015

Whitney Museum of Art

The Whitney Museum.

The last few weeks have really been a bi-continental "tour de culture" for your humble blogger and her DH, as we visited libraries and museums in London and New York. This month we investigated the new Whitney museum, eight stories of art in southern Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River. That the museum happens to provide a southern terminus for the High Line enriches both destinations.

New York Times critic Roberta Smith's review of the museum is more or less spot-on.

An assemblage of volumes - rectangular and trapezoidal shapes of glass and steel are mounded together -  the new museum show-cased its own 22,000-strong collection in the inaugural exhibit featuring 600 works, entitled "America is Hard to See." The exhibit ran from May 1, 2015 to September 27, 2015.  The event title is from a Robert Frost poem in which the poet, somewhat sardonically, reflects on Columbus' figurative blindness in his inability to grasp that, while he didn't sail to the East Indies as planned, he discovered something monumental- exactly what, well, we're still discovering that ourselves, aren't we?

A nice place to chill.

At the ground floor, the museum "lifts its skirts," revealing a transparent glass wall in an open invitation to "come on in." The bushy bits of foliage growing in stairway planting pockets are oddly, but pleasantly, residential in scale, and the chartreuse lawn chairs scattered around add to the front porch vibe.

Gift shop.

We had ordered tickets online, so cruised past the gift shop, and the ticket line, and climbed the stairs.

Ticket desk.

Stairwell with light sculpture by Felix Gonzales-Torres.

The Whitney eschews the traditions of monumental stairs or central atrium, and the vertical pedestrian circulation can feel a bit squirrel-y for such a large building.  On the other hand, one remembers the now-defunct American Folk Art Museum, a tiny museum whose monumental stair ate up space which should have been given to exhibit space.  In addition, the Whitney's wonderful outdoor decks and stairs more than compensate for the utilitarian, fire-code-compliant interior stairs. 

Looking south.

The four outdoor terraces are splendid, and provide the best way to move between the upper floors, at least in fair weather.

Outdoor terrace and stairs.

Another outdoor terrace.
Ruth Asawa sculpture should hang here permanently.

But what about the art?  Well, when I said to DH, there's so much more art by women than the Whitney ever showed before, his response was "What, more than zero?" The work on display was incredibly diverse, in terms of historic period, style, and medium, as well as in those categories enumerated by the census, gender and race.  Let's hope future programming continues to be this inclusive, allowing patrons to make new discoveries as well as revisit canonical works.

Some works were old friends, such as Calder's Circus, seen below.  The gift shop has a DVD of Calder animating his figures made of wire and scraps of cloth and detritus such as bottle caps, or check out this youtube video.

Calder's Circus, Alexander Calder, 1926-1931.

Calder's Circus, detail.


In addition to becoming reacquainted with Calder's Circus, it was rewarding to see Lee Krasner's gestural "The Seasons," on the far wall, finally gets its due in a worthy, appropriately-sized setting. If you like to look at people looking at art, this is the place, as the generously-sized galleries make unobtrusive observation possible.  There is also a surprising amount of natural light, so the new museum avoids that entombed feeling which was a hallmark of the old Marcel Breuer building.

Looking at art.

The ubiquitous phone camera meets Chuck Close's Philip Glass.

Wayne Thibeaud's Pie Counter has its picture taken.

In the spirit of discovery, we met work by now-favorite artist Alma Thomas for the first time.  Here's hoping for a retrospective.

Mars Dust, Alma Thomas, 1972.

Some nuts and bolts: the admission price to the Whitney is steep - $22. However, each Friday the museum closes at 10 pm and has a pay-as-you-wish policy from 7 pm to 9:30 pm.  Be forewarned, the line for this low-cost admission began at 6 pm and had snaked down the block by 7 pm. In addition, there is a gallery on the first floor, celebrating founder Gertrude Whitney, that one can enter without paid admission, at least at the time of our visit.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Robert Henri, 1916.

The day of our trip to the Whitney happened to be September 11, and we walked along the river towards the Tribute in Light,  beams of illumination rising up from the former World Trade Center site. 

Tribute in Light, September 11, 2015.

Closing our day, the Tribute in Light from our hotel window.