Things are getting more and more eccentric at Casa de la Swain. Changing styles in my textile work, falling in love again with painting and photography...and then there is the ever illusive quest for continuing creativity through working with Eric Maisel. Still on the road teaching, posting now at the Ragged Cloth Cafe and taking the pledge to keep handmaiden up to date.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Few Views of Our Journey

First our booth for festival. We could set up today after 4 p.m. so while I was teaching until 5 p.m. Christy was hauling in stuff for the booth. As soon as I got out of class, I dashed down to the booth and we finished by 7 p.m. Not bad, right?
Of course, we had to include our home away from home and two lovely pictures of us after a long market and a long day.
The winners were announced tonight but because we had to get the booth done, I have nothing to report.
Tomorrow will be the worst day of the week. I have to teach until 5 p.m. and then dash to the booth to work preview from 5 until 10m p.m. Ugh! Thursday will be better since all we have to do is work the booth. Also daughter in law Kelly is arriving Thursday night to help Christy work the booth Friday while I teach an all day design class. Kisses to both of them for all the help.
We had a decent market and keeping our fingers crossed for festival. Come by and say hi if you have the chance. We got to keep the same space for festival...booth we didn't have to move out just re-configure for more stuff. We are only slightly dingy at this point..will keep you posted as the week progresses. Posted by Picasa

The rest of the class

Take note of the cute Halloween socks and the gorgeous lady wearing them was my class angel. The ladies worked hard on two basic reverse applique single leaf, and a vein line in a large tropical leaf. We had a great time.

Tomorrow is an all day class on surface design.
Great fun playing with paint and other cool stuf.

 Posted by Picasa

Working Hard on Reverse Applique

First day teaching...more pictures to follow. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 21, 2006

As promised, the Swain production company

We did it! The newest dvd is edited, burned and packaged....thanks to the help of two of my gorgeous daughters-in-law. First the Beautiful Kelly hard at work editing took time to smile for the camera. This was probably about 1 a.m. and I am not sure what day it was.
Thought I would throw in a picture of Sea Stones so you can see that I do still know how to quilt. This is a detail of the central panel of a tryptich. Who knows when the other two will even see a needle.
Next is Christy with her back to us placing all the orders for tables, drapes, electricity and phone lines for our booth.....remember 250...come see us if for no other reason than to see Christy's sweet face and gorgeous hair.
The rest of the pictures are what my office looked like while we were packing and what it looks like now that we are done. We decided on a fall theme for color. Don't ya just love those lime green and orange containers? We are using leaf garlands....big surprise, no? wrap the poles...and yes, they are fire-proof. Sheesh!
The big funny looking machine is my new HP laser printer. Yes, I managed to burn up my faithful Cannon i960 printing all the inserts for the dvds. Sad was a great printer and had really worked hard for me. However, you should see the difference in the color between the ink jet and the laser. Knocked me out...the laser is a thing of beauty. Of course, it uses toner instead of the tune of $70 a cartridge. Yep, you read that correctly but I can't wait to print some of my photography series on it.
My thanks to all of you for your thoughtful insights on my social commentary post. Please, if you have a chance go to Mel's blog and read her thoughts on the post. I couldn't agree with her more. At this point in my life and career, I want to make the work that is meaningful to me.....actually I have always felt that way but got caught up in building a body of work that would afford me the privilege of having the career. Now like Melody, I am off to new territory...unknown but undeniable. Hopefully, after Houston I will have time to tackle some of the quilting I need to do. Lots of unfinished tops just waiting to be layered. Can we call off the holidays in lieu of quilting? Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Small Discourse on Art as Social Commentary

While Kelly is working her fingers to the bone editing the newest dvd, I am watching for takes two and three and thinking. Oh, boy, here she goes again. Lately there has been quite a bit of discussion that as quilt artist we aren't making strong enough statements regarding the state of our society. While I agree that art imitates life, etc., I take umbrage with this you must do a certain kind of work to be doing work of value. As I see it every piece is social commentary because it is coming from a place inside of you that is seeking to make meaning in our world. The piece doesn't have to be an in your face statement but can be subtle and still contain very deep meaning.
For example, Claire Fenton's work about Katrina is breathtaking, yet subtle and is an obvious social commentary. However, it is also a personal expression of the effects this ordeal has had on her and the beautiful state she lives in. Even if you did not know it was about the devastation of the hurricane, you would be moved by this work.
Now let's look at Rayna Gillman's work with the antique photographs...some might be from her family; others she collects from various sources. Is this a political statement? Only Rayna can answer that but it certainly is a social commentary. Rayna is revealing something to us about herself....what she is drawn to, what memories effect her, how the imagery expresses something within her emotional, spiritual nature.
On the other hand, take a few minutes to look at Melody's new stack quilts. No politics as far as I can tell. I am open to being corrected on this, Mel. However, the composition and color are spectacular. Each piece stands alone as well as in the series. Is it socially relevant? Absolutely...anytime an artist reveals something from that inner core it is a gift to us all.
So enough with the we have to be socially aware, political artists for our work to have meaning.
Making meaning comes in all shapes and sizes....and quite often it is in the viewer's eye not the artist's eye. We have to make the work that feeds our soul regardless of what the imagery is....carry on digging deep into that external place where you know beauty resides.

Packaging the last crate of dvd's, but have no idea what I am going to wear since I haven't had time to tackle the closet......and then, of course, there will be the shoe dilemna. We have already assessed that everything will not fit into my Nissan we are renting a mini-van. How far have I fallen in the cute car department? I will be constantly looking for teen-age boys to carry to baseball practice. Will post some pictures of La Casa Swain as a manufacturing company when everything is done. Until then....who's big idea was this?

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Short Treatise on Design

While admitting I have fallen of the wagon on daily blogging, that doesn't mean that I have stoped contemplating what we do as artist. My last several classes have been design classes which have left me gobsmacked at the amazing work done by quiltmakers who think they have no talent.
Why is this happening? First, as an instructor I see myself as a facilitor, guiding you to where you want to go and what you want to create. No longer do I teach from patterns unless it is a strict technique class......even then we aren't making "Gabrielle Swain" quilts. We are just learning the techniques I use in my work. My goal is to give you the confidence to try even if you don't succeed the first time; to encourage you to experiment so you can find the happy accident or learn what not to do the next time; and last to give as succinct as possible a road map to follow for future work.
Having said all that here is my standard approach to teaching design and my own work:

1. It is more important what you leave out than what you put in. Think about it we can't use every technique we know or every beautiful fabric we own in a single focus and simplify.

2. Anything asymmetrical or on the diagonal is strong than straight lines. Angles create visual tension and thereby visual interest.....which is what we are all after, keeping the viewing at the quilt longer.

3. Work with intention...know where you want to go before you get there. Have you ever made a quilt that did not turn out as you had expected? Usually, we find a fabric and let it guide us. I work exactly the opposite, I work a design until it says exactly what I want it to and then find the fabric that will give me that effect. I call this having a road doesn't prevent spontaniety since you can stop anywhere on the road for gas, food or whatever. However, without the road map you far less likely to reach your destination than you will if you have the map.

4. Finally, if design is the bones that hold the piece together, then compositon is the relationship between the bones, i.e. which bone goes where and last, but never least, color is the flesh placed over the bones that allow us to see the structure of the design and composition.

We can all do these simple steps and still find surprises along the way. Give it a try and see if it works for you. The greatest gift you can give yourself is the find a way to work in series. It doesn't have to be the same quilt over and over in a different colorway......but this is a perfectly viable series. Think of how many times Monet painted the rain, sun, at night, on a cloudy get the picture. The other way to approach a series is to find a subject matter that intrigues you a ride that horse until it drops. To use myself as an example, I have been making leaf quilts since 1994. I am currently working on a quilt called "The Last Leaf," which I just learned is the title of an O Henry story. The story goes a woman knew she would die when the last leaf fell from the tree outside her window. To keep her alive a friend daily went out and painted leaves so they appeared as if they were still on the tree. Of course, in the famous O Henry style of ending, the painter ended up dying of pneumonia since he painted in rain, snow, etc. Now this quilt has even deeper meaning to me. Lesson: could you find a story that would inspire a quilt and from that develop a series?

Back to subject matter as series, two of my most recent students were microbiologists. They are fascinated as what they see in the lab. One jumped right in designing cell structures; the other was trying to work on leaves and flowers since everyone else in the class was doing so. She had already shown a spectacular quilt of single cell structure. Immediately, noticing that she was struggling, I gently went to her and asked why she was working against her own desires. She is in love with what she sees in her work....this is what she should be translating into art. I got a big smile and a thank you and she was off and running on a spectacular design.

Working in series allows you to fully explore an image from every possible perspective. You can work on more than one series at a time......and like chewing gum when you get all the sweetness out of one series or subject matter, move on to something else that interests you. Each series will feed energy into the other. You will have strengthened your design skills and your desire to experiment.

To close this conversation that I have with myself all the time and am now sharing with you, I leave you with these parting words: "Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should." In other words spend more time with the design trying some of the suggestions I mentioned instead of trying to get all the techniques and fabrics in this single piece; there will be othere quilts and more fabric....see what happens to you internally and externally to the work when you enter the studio eager with the possibility of the day. Remember simplicity is elegance.

Back to packaging dvd's...hope to see some of you or at least your quilts in Houston.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Finally Home

I walk into the living room only to discover boxes and boxes of jewel cases waiting to be packaged for market and festival. As you can see, Ronnie has carefully stacked with them with some help from Charles so he is hidden by said boxes. Just when I was ready to get back to quilting....what a concept....instead I go into production mode.
As you can see one whole shelf of packaged dvd's is already crated for Houston. The lower shelf is burned dvd's ready for packaging. You gotta love that black shelf on the green wall... what gorgeous contrast and what a major league job. My drop dead date to have everything finished is 21 October. I would prefer the 17th but that might be pushing it some. I just need a few days to get my clothes ready and the automobile packed. We get to move into our market booth on the 26th of October...then have to tear down and set up for festival. The good news is Quilts, Inc. was so good to me this year. I have the booth for both market and drop and say "Hi!" if you make it the celebration.

Last but never least, just to show you what retirement can do to a very tired turns them into a very happy man. Ronnie is growing his winter pelt so his beard is longer than in previous pictures.....but look at that smile. Retirement is good and believe it or not, I am enjoying every minute of being with sweet Ronnie. Live long with love and peace. Posted by Picasa

Onward to Des Moines

FirstI must say a thank you and give big hugs to Fern, Lynn, Sandy, Julie and all of students in Des Moines. What an incredibel trip. They wined, dined and treated my like a old friemd. I will always remember this trip as on of my favorites.
Better yet, they did incredibe design work but stupid me forgot my camera the day of critique. Way to go Gabrielle! I am hoping they will send me jpegs of their work when they finish.
To top it all of the weather was beautiful while it was 90 degrees Farenheit in Texas. A beautiful Indian Summer this girl really needed. Posted by Picasa

Hoping you haven't forgotten me?

I have spent much of the last month in the Heartland teaching and of course, working on dvd's for market. However, I couldn't resist posting pictures from my visit to Lawrence, Kansas and Des Moines, Iowa. These are incredible guilds. I feel so spoiled by them I may never be good for anything ever again.
Some of the ladies in Lawence had never designed before but were skilled far beyond their expectations. You will see the amazing work they produced from these pictures.
Fabric selection was imperative for each design and often required the help of a neighbor. Deep in discussion always adds to the process of design and fellowship.
Aren't these some of the most exciting flowers ever? See you can do just have to give yourself the time. Most of us are working from the fabric letting us inspire us. I work and teach my students to work from the design first and then move to the fabric. When you work in this way, you always have a road map to guide you to exactly where you want to go. Posted by Picasa