Quilt Patterns

Gone to the Dogs

This week has gone to the dogs. Well, to my dogs anyway: Sirius, Snug, and Lula. You hear about Lula all the time because she is basically a miracle disguised as a hiccup. But before Lula, there were Sirius and Snug.

Sirius is pretty much a dog’s dog and other than having serious separation anxiety, which I will not embarrass him by discussing here, spends his time doing ordinary doggy things. He doesn’t have a lot of time for hanging around art projects and posing for pictures, though I do have this one of him with Snug — before Snug got his hair cut.

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Snug, on the other hand, is a total ham and would gladly photo-bomb every shot I take of Lula if he could. He LOVES Lula and alternates between licking her sweetly, or stepping on her head and sitting on her chest. He weighs 15 lbs. which is close to 3 times as much as Lula, so she doesn’t put up with that for long!

Anyway, everyday this week has had a doggy demand — vaccinations, grooming, tryouts at Camp Bow Wow. It’s exhausting. I’ve barely had any time for art. So instead I’m sharing 2 of my 3 favorite reasons for putting the projects off until tomorrow….

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By the way, that quilt they are playing on is the one I’m Kantha stitching for Lula to hula on. So see! I am trying to get work done. It just doesn’t look like I am.

Who Knew?

This is as close as Lula will ever get to wearing a grass skirt.

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This is probably as close as Lula will ever get to picnicing in Hawaii.

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This is a detail of the quilt I block printed with the feather wood block from my “Confluence” print — which I have already spent 20 hours Kantha stitching, for future picnics with Lula, and only finished one fifth of so far.

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So is this.

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And why, you ask, go to all this trouble for one little pup with four left paws, who would not eat pineapple if you paid her?

Lula.

Must.

Hula.

Second Helpings: Kantha Stitched Quilts

In addition to finding quilts hugely inspiring for surface pattern design on cigar boxes, dishes, jewelry boxes, and doors, I’m also rather fond of the actual thing.

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And guess what? You can find handmade comforters which have not yet been quilted at just about any secondhand store. My hand to God.

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Personally I like the weird ones. The thoughtless fabric combinations. Though once in a blue moon I do find some real gems like this sweet little polyester number. (Somebody had great color sense and absolutely no tactile sensibility whatsoever!)

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Once you have your un-quilted comforter then mend it if it needs it, wash and dry it, and baste its layers in a big grid or parallel columns just to help keep it square. Then you can begin quilting.

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I do the Kantha stitch which is pretty much just straight stitching in straight lines. I use embroidery floss in colors which contrast with the fabric so they stand out, and I follow the shape of the piece of fabric I’m stitching within.

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One of my favorite stores carries quilts just like this for beaucoup bucks and every time I see them I do the math and figure I’ve got around two grand worth of quilts for about the cost of a year’s worth of streaming Netflix.
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In fact I think I might just hotten my cup, pile on the Kantha quilts and watch a couple or five episodes of Orange is the New Black.
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Nothing wrong with my color sense!

Second Helpings: Painted Cigar Boxes

These may really qualify as “one man’s trash” as opposed to secondhand castoffs finding new life as objet d’art, but either way they start out ordinary, end up special, and that’s enough for me.

I’m talking about painted cigar boxes:

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You should have no problem finding a variety of boxes at smoke shops, or if you have a grandpa or an uncle, or even an interesting aunt who relishes a fragrant Cuban now and then (well who wouldn’t?) you may be lucky enough to find these boxes closer to home.

Once you’ve got the box then all you need is paint. I use that same acrylic paint I’ve been painting everything else in creation with…

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and when I paint I let little bits of the original cigar brand artwork peek through. I like to pick out words or phrases like “ART” or “CAN DO.”

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My patterns lean toward the geometric and often look like quilts. Not much of a stretch for me I guess.

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Sometimes I play with the original images on the box and add more of my own to create a little story.

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So if your recycling is more likely to end up in your studio than in the blue bin out back, and you would never refer to a raw material as trash — consider the humble cigar box.

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And if you run across any fragrant Cubans let me know. I’m working on my Interesting Aunt credential.

Second Helpings: Gee’s Bend Jewelry Box

Jewelry boxes and chests in all variations of delicacy and heft can be found crammed in with the mismatched sets of salad bowls and oddly shaped cutting boards from well intentioned children’s shop class Christmas projects at your favorite secondhand store. My personal favorites are the jewelry boxes which never saw the mass market. Like this one.

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This is a wooden box with metal hardware, which I painted with acrylic paint. The kind of acrylic paint you can buy at any art supply or craft store for less than a dollar, in a hundred different colors with names like Tuscan Red or Bluegrass Green.

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When the box was completely painted I sealed it with Minwax Polycrylic water based acrylic sealer. I go through gallons of this stuff. It comes in satin and gloss finishes, washes up with water, and forms a clear, hard, protective surface that you can literally walk on — it’s the same sealer I use on the rugs I paint on the floor, like the one I just finished in my dining room.

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What made this project special was my inspiration. Ever since I saw a traveling exhibition of the Quilts of Gee’s Bend at the Art Museum in Milwaukee, WI in 2004 I have been over the moon for their patterns. I have a book of 30 postcards from that show which I refer to over and over.

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I referred to at least six of the quilts for this jewelry box like this one called “Medallion” by Loretta Pettway for the top:

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and “Strips” by Annie Mae Young for the inside front:

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The inside of the doors was inspired by “Pig in a Pen” by Minnie Sue Coleman:

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“Housetop” four-block “Half Log Cabin” variation by Lottie Mooney inspired the right side of the jewelry box:

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A quilt by Martha Jane Pettway described as only a center medallion with multiple borders and cornerstones is on the left side:

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And on the back, one of my absolute favorites, “Bars and String-pieced Columns” by Jessie T. Pettway:

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So much of my surface pattern design is inspired or informed by patterns from other cultures, or as I’ve mentioned before from the traditional or domestic arts. My intention is never to copy exactly — though the element of “flattery” in this piece is obvious — rather to use the patterns together to form something new. The inspiration for this piece came from quilts but the end result would barely cover your lap, much less look good spread on your bed. The end result in my opinion is, nevertheless, a treasure.

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An Ordinary Tuesday, Wednesday and Probably Thursday Too

Yesterday was the first day of the rest of our lives — now that Mike and I are empty-nester artists — and though there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing getting Logan settled in it has been mostly just what I expected. Lots of concentrated time painting, still in separate studios as we have yet to do the big studio switcheroo (Action Girl is pushing for this weekend), without any squealing car chases or ear shattering explosions from Logan’s video games to provide the soundtrack.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t even notice it was quieter. Of course the Nikita marathon I watched while I painted probably made up for it.

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So when I say concentrated painting time, and Nikita marathon, I am not exaggerating one bit. Yesterday became today and is fast becoming tomorrow and I am still working on the same painting. It needs to be finished by day after tomorrow and I suppose I should eat and sleep and maybe even do a blog post or two between now and then. I’m starting to regret my choice of a #5 (very small) brush.

Here’s my life, yesterday, today, and the way things are going, tomorrow too:
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And finally, a “parting shot” for all of you who Instagram:

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Action Girl, Up, up and away!

Second Helpings: Black Glazed Dishes with Quilt Motif

This week’s Second Helpings is another set of painted dishes, and in keeping with the theme which has popped up more than once in the last few days, their motif is quilts.

Hey, it’s that home + art + functional + decorative = Domestic Arts thang again. Somebody kiss me quick!

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A few years ago black glazed dishes were very popular, and then suddenly they weren’t, and you could find them for a dime a dozen in the second hand stores.
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I personally love black as a background for color and so I bought pieces whenever I found them and put together a few different sets of dishes. Some cups and saucers, the odd tea pot, a few bowls, but mostly dinner plates.

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For this project I used the same paint as for last week’s Second Helpings: the “pebeo PORCELAINE 150 water based colour for porcelain.”

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With the black glaze you need to be tricky and do an undercoat of white, or Ivory in my case, BEFORE you paint your colors on top of that. Otherwise they are completely swallowed by the black.

Paint one coat of white, then one coat of the colors you want to see on top of the white after the white is completely dry. Let that second layer of paint dry and then fire the piece once. I have fired pieces more than once, but they get a little over baked and weird looking so I don’t recommend it.

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Part of the fun of a project like this is its ongoing nature. Any time you find a little misfit black dish you can bring it home, paint it with your chosen motif and add it to your growing collection.

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Soon you too will need a whole room dedicated to your addiction!
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And now, it’s time to paint.
XOXO, Action Girl

Evolution of a Theme

Yesterday I mentioned that quilts show up all the time in my work. As I sit here running through the house in my head taking an inventory of my art, I would venture a guess that were you to remove all the pieces that were inspired by, featured, or actually were quilts, you would assume that Mike lived here by himself, or at the very least that we only hung his art.

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Quilts started showing up with my art and domesticity mashup which occurred with the introduction of one Carolina Lorraine Chambers…

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followed seventeen months later by Logan Blackburn Chambers….

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I did say “mashup” right? I think that about covers it. Logan was born on Christmas Day (Surprise! He was due on the 29th.) and so I painted his first portrait with Christmas quilt patterns: Star of Bethlehem and Fir Trees.

I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing what I do, I just do it. Action Girl, ON IT! But it has always been clear to me that what is considered to be “woman’s work” is an art, Domestic Art if you will, and should be celebrated. Quilts show up in my artwork all the time because to me quilts are a “signifier” (damn that Art Criticism class) of home, family, connection, story and tribe.

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My tribe is made up of those who make art, who make home, and who make the two inseparable.

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Lina is all grown up now and organizing her own Big Ass closet in Chicago. Logan is getting ready to move into his new house next week. And still the theme goes on: I am starting a new painting of hot air balloons each with a different quilt pattern…Up, up and away? (Oh, you sly subconscious.) My guess is quilts will always be present in my home and in my art.

Besides, a quilt works great as a superhero cape in a pinch!

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