UK Textile Tour Day 9: Audrey Walker at the Ruthin Craft Centre – Wales

One week before I was scheduled to leave on my trip, I received my “Embroidery” magazine, the publication from the UK’s Embroiderers’ Guild.  To my surprise, an article highlighted an upcoming exhibition at the Ruthin Craft Centre in Northern Wales of Audrey Walker’s amazing embroideries.  And it was opening one day after I was scheduled to drive North through Wales up to Scotland!

Christina Fairley Erickson with Audrey Walker's "Adam" and "Eve" stitched textiles (2000) and drawing study for "Eve".

Christina Fairley Erickson with Audrey Walker’s “Adam” and “Eve” stitched textiles (2000) and drawing study for “Eve”.  Adam and Eve each approximately 16″ w x 40″ high (the embroidery). On loan by Graham Holland.

As an artist who does a lot of pictorial work, I’ve been a fan of Audrey Walker’s work ever since my mentor and tutor, Gail Harker, introduced me to Audrey’s intricate stitched portraits.  So, without much hesitation, I worked out a change in my itinerary to stay an extra day in Wales, so I could see the exhibition on its opening day.

Detail from "Eve" by Audrey Walker 2000.

Detail from “Eve” by Audrey Walker 2000.

Audrey Walker’s six-decade long career in embroidery has influenced many contemporary embroiderers.  Not only is she an amazing artist in her own right, she succeeded Constance Howard as the head of the Goldsmith’s College Embroidery & Textiles Department (1975-88) guiding another generation of makers.  She focused on teaching her students to seek out and explore their ideas first, then to study the history and techniques to realize their artistic vision. Her first textile associate was Jan Beaney, who went

"The White Tulips" by Audrey Walker 2012. On loan from the Embroiderers' Guild UK

“The White Tulips” by Audrey Walker 2012 (approximately 48″ h x 16″ w). On loan from the Embroiderers’ Guild UK

on to become internationally renowned for her stitchwork, as well as being one of the Cities and Guilds tutors and evaluators who taught Gail Harker.  So, I guess I can claim Audrey is my embroidery great-grandmother!

Detail from "The White Tulips" 2012 by Audrey Walker

Detail from “The White Tulips” 2012 by Audrey Walker

This exhibition, in Audrey’s 90th year, is a retrospective of her work, with pieces coming from as far away as the U.S. (owned by private collectors) brought together at the Ruthin Craft Centre, the location of Audrey’s first solo exhibition 18 years ago.

Audrey’s start in textiles began ten years after completing her degree in fine art (mainly portrait painting), after seeing an exhibit of fabric collages by Margaret Kaye (1912-2002).  Prior to that , Audrey associated embroidery with the domestic textiles of her youth.  Rather than continuing on as a painter, textiles became Audrey’s medium of choice.  She even incorporated some of her family’s domestic textiles into her artwork, giving a nod of recognition to the historic roots of embroidery.

"A Cumbrian Birthday" 1997/8 embroidery by Audrey Walker uses a tray cloth from Audrey's childhood.

“A Cumbrian Birthday” 1997/8 by Audrey Walker uses a tray cloth from Audrey’s childhood. The embroidery (approximately 30″ w x 20″h) represents the Cumbrian tradition of offering guests a class of port and cream crackers with rum-butter on the best china, when visitors came to see a newborn baby.

Topics that have figured prominently in Audrey’s work include “momentary glances, encounters, inward smiles, the power of a gaze, vulnerability and the simple pleasures of life”.  Some of her figures have a wistful, enigmatic look or smile, reminiscent of the Mona Lisa.  Audrey’s process includes drawing portraits prior to her stitching and even drawing at the end of a day of stitching as a critique of her work or to an express an idea to develop in the future.

"Beach Woman" by Audrey Walker 1996, approximately 36" h x 28"w. 

“Beach Woman” by Audrey Walker 1996, approximately 36″ h x 28″w.  The larger-than-life size was to be suggestive of ‘heroes’.

Embroidery detail from "Beach Woman" by Audrey Walker 1996.

Embroidery detail  from “Beach Woman” by Audrey Walker 1996. Machine and hand stitched.

It’s remarkable to see the incredible detail that has gone into each of these large pieces.  The images are created through color blending with the threads.

“There is no doubt that building up an image with absolutely separate lines of colour – the threads – is an endlessly fascinating and pleasurable activity.  But it can be infuriatingly slow and it has all kinds of hazards! …However, the very slowness of the process can be productive.  It allows a longer encounter with the idea and therefore the chance to explore it more fully and critically.  It offers opportunities for valuable interludes – for instance setting a large piece on one side for a time in order to work through related thoughts on a smaller scale or in a different medium.  The prooblems in the larger piece are often solved through side-stepping into related work.”  (Audrey Walker ‘Insights’, 1999.)

"Encounter" 1998 by Audrey Walker approximately 36 h x 54" w.

“Encounter” 1998 by Audrey Walker approximately 36″h x 54″ w.  Originally intended as two separate pieces, Audrey reworked the piece through drawings and small embroideries to overlap the images.

Detail of hand-stitched eye from "Encounter" by Audrey Walker 1998.

Detail of hand-stitched eye from “Encounter” by Audrey Walker 1998.

Audrey was a regular participant in the “62 Group” exhibitions from 1966 – 1981.  Starting in 1962, the 62 Group of Textile Artists was created as support for serious professional textile artists.  Audrey joined in 1964 and remains an Honorary Exhibiting member.

"Observed Incident" by Audrey Walker 2002.

“Observed Incident” by Audrey Walker 2002. Approximately 28″ w x 60″ h (each panel). On loan from the Crafts Council.

Detail of knight's face with helmet and shield from "Observed Incident".

Detail of knight’s face with helmet and shield from “Observed Incident”.

Detail of "Still Life" by Audry Walker, 1993

Detail of “Still Life” by Audrey Walker, 1993

Inspired by a tiny embroidery fragment less than 2″ high at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Audrey created “Observed Incident.”  The 14th Century inspiration had 3 knights in full armor with a watching figure.  She wished to salute the unknown embroiderer’s imagination with a large scale version of the topic.

"Still-life" by Audrey Walker 1993 includes a tribute to Marandi, a master of still-life.

“Still-life” by Audrey Walker 1993 includes a tribute to Marandi, a master of still-life. Aprroximately 48″ w x 28″ h. On loan by Jan Beaney and Steve Udall.

"Stop and Smell the Roses" by Audrey Walker 2004.

“Stop and Smell the Roses” by Audrey Walker 2004. Approximately 14″w x 20″ h. On loan by Jean Littlejohn.

"Life is Just a Little Bowl of Cherries" by Audrey Walker 1984.

“Life is Just a Little Bowl of Cherries” by Audrey Walker 1984. Approximately 20″w x 15″ h. On loan by Jan Beaney and Steve Udall.  Ground is a tablecloth c 1935 to celebrate Audrey’s mother’s domestic embroidery.  One of a series on this theme.

Detail "Stop and Smell the Roses" by Audrey Walker 2004

Detail “Stop and Smell the Roses” by Audrey Walker 2004

Detail "Life is Just a Little Bowl of Cherries" by Audrey Walker 1984.

Detail “Life is Just a Little Bowl of Cherries” by Audrey Walker 1984.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"The Big Blue Bowl" by Audrey Walker 2013.

“The Big Blue Bowl” by Audrey Walker 2013. Approximately 24″w x 18″ h.

Detail "The Big Blue Bowl" by Audrey Wal;ker 2013.

Detail “The Big Blue Bowl” by Audrey Walker 2013.

The Big Blue Bowl is part of Audrey’s recent body of work where she is experimenting with a single line of stitch, rather than overlapping stitches.

Detail "The Garden" by Audrey Walker 2012.

Detail “The Garden” by Audrey Walker 2012.

 

 

 

 

"The Garden" by Audrey Walker 2012.

“The Garden” by Audrey Walker 2012. Approximately “52” w x 48″ h.

"Early Landscape" (1960's) by Audrey Walker.

“Early Landscape” (1960’s) by Audrey Walker. Approximately 24″ w x 22″ h. On loan by Jan Beaney and Steve Udall

"Gaze IV" by Audrey Walker 1999.

“Gaze IV” by Audrey Walker 1999. Approximately 14″w bottom; 11″ w top x 14″ h. On loan by Diana Springall.

Detail of Goldwork in "Gaze IV" by Audrey Walker 1999.

Detail of Goldwork and Embroidery  in “Gaze IV” by Audrey Walker 1999.

Christina Fairley Erickson with "Temptation (The Collectors)" by Audrey Walker 2004. Approximately

Christina with “Temptation (The Collectors)” by Audrey Walker 2004. Approximately 36″ x 36″ On loan by Diane & Marc Grainer, USA.

Once in a while you need to give in to temptation… as I did by going out of my way to make it to this exhibition.  I’m so glad I did!

UK Day 2- London’s Fashion and Textile Museum

The last time I visited London, I found this wonderful little gem of a museum in the Southwark neighborhood.  This visit, they are featuring the work of Orla Kiely, one of Ireland and the UK’s most famous fashion designers, a perfect blend after just completing my trip to Ireland!

Orla Kiely studied textile design in Dublin in the early 1980’s and received her MA from the Royal College of Art in 1992. Having grown up in Ireland in the 60’s and 70’s, Orla’s design are influenced by the styles, colors and patterns of that era.

Designs from Orla’s college years

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature inspires many of Kiely’s repeating patterns.  Her “Stem” pattern has become an iconic design, catapulting Kiely into International design success in 2000.

Display of different iterations of Orla Kiely’s Stem pattern.

Display of different iterations of Orla Kiely’s Stem pattern.

Coffee mug collection featuring Orla’s designs.

Her designs are based in rhythmic and repetitive pattern, now popular in accessories, handbags, wallpaper, and home decor, as well as her seasonal fashion collections.

From the desk of Orla Kiely

 

 

Changes of scale, coordinating colors (often in a 1970’s palette, including avocado green, harvest gold, orange and chocolate brown), and whimsical, near-abstract depictions of animals are all common elements that make Orla’s designs unique and distinguishable.  The exhibition includes over 150 patterns and products and is well worth attending!

Filmed videos of Orla describing her inspirations, creative process, and collections, as well as footage of her fashion collection engage the audience in a multi media experience.

Christina surveying a display of Orla Kiely handbags

 

UK Tour Day 1- Royal School of Needlework Curator’s Tour

I’m a great admirer of England’s RSN and the incredible embroidery pieces produced by their students and tutors.  I’ve had the great fortune to visit them twice in the past, most recently in 2016 for theor Stumpwork and Raised Work exhibit.  So when planning my current tour, I looked up what is available and found their current exhibit is “Animals in Embroidery”- one of my favorite things to create!  Only problem was that the curator’s tour this month occured only at 11 am on the day I arrive from Seattle at 7 am!  I thought about it for several weeks and then decided I’d take the risk and sign up, even if timing was tight and I might miss it.  Luckily the stars must have been aligned because our flight arrived on time, we were successful with our train connections, and we met the RSN volunteers at the front ‘moat’ gate of Hampton Court Palace at 10:45 am.

The Royal School of Needlework (RSN) started in the late 1800’s with Queen Victoria as their first patron.  Their mission has been to keep the art and techniques of hand embroidery alive and thriving, as well as helping train women (now men too) for employment so they can support themselves and not become destitute  They have classes at Hampton Court Palace and other International locations lasting from 1 day to several year programs.  They also have rotating exhibitions at their on site location, which can be viewed with a curator’s tour.  Book a tour at the Royal School of Needlework here!

According to our presenter who is inher second year of the RSN teacher certification program, animals  (including birds) are the second most common subject for embroidery (flowers are the most popular.) The display of both student and tutor work includes all sorts of techniques, tied together by the common theme of animals.  The techniques include blackwork, needlelace, goldwork, canvas, Jacobean crewel embroidery, whitework, applique, and silk shading.

One piece that caught my eye was a blackwork race horse and rider.  The stitches were so tiny- about 3 mm at the longest.  To create the shading/shadows, the density of stitch is increased, often by increasing the thread weight.  The jockey was done in blackwork techniques, but using colored threads to create contrast.  This exquisite piece was given to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Cards purchased at the RSN gift shop display a few of the lovely pieces from the “Animals in Embroidery” exhibit.

Silk-shading works beautifully as a technique for animals and birds, as you can make extremely realistic hair/fur and feathers with gradually blending the colors of very fine silk threads.  There are many true to life creatures in the exhibit using this technique including rabbits, leopards, chickens, badgers, yaks, flamingos, bats, owls and more!  Some might call this a photo- realistic style, but I think it’s so much more than a simple 2D picture.  You can’t get the range of texture in photography that you can in stitch.

From the 60,000 piece collection owned by the RSN, this banner has exquisite goldwork with 10 animals included. Can you find them all?

The tour moved then to their workroom where RSN trained embroiderers are working on commission projects.  These include both conservation work (repairing historic embroidery to stop the ravages of time) and new bespoke pieces.

As a final treat, we got to the RSN giftshop, where I picked up a few goodies.  After flying 9 hours and staying awake through planes, trains and automobiles, we headed back to our hotel in London, to get a well-deserved rest before a late dinner.

If you’re planning a trip to London, make sure to look up the RSN and see if you can take a class or tour.  You’ll be glad you did!

The front “moat” entrance of Hampton Court Palace

 

Actress in period costume working on blackwork embroidery in Hampton Court Palace.

Looking at the back side of the palace (where the school is located).

Magazine I purchased at the RSN store a out the history of the RSN since it moved to Hampton Court.

Second magazine on ecclesiastical embroidery.

New book I found at the RSN store… looks fabulous! A sweet memory to take home and inspire my own projects.

Day 7: The Mill at Avoca Village

Hand loom with weft threads and shuttles

About a month before my trip to Ireland, I get a text from my friend Pam Olney ( @quiltersgarden ) who was currently IN Ireland.  She told me  I had to add Avoca Handweavers as a stop on my trip.  I love getting recommendations from my fiber art friends!

Established in 1723, Avoca is the oldest mill in Ireland still in production.  Although it has gone through it’s ups and downs, Avoca Handweavers is now a thriving International business, employing over 800 people.  While there are 10 Avoca retail locations around Ireland, the Avoca village location allows you to tour the old mill, the current weaving production facility, as well as having both a wonderful café and giftshop.

In background, the threads are fed in the correct sequence onto the “Swift” and then onto a “Beam”, like a giant spool for warping the loom. The beam is then lifted onto the loom to be “tied in.” It can take up to 2 days to complete the setting up of a warp.

The mill displays old weaving equipment, educational displays, explanations of the different processes, as well as modern equipment in use.

Beautiful color blending combining warp & weft

Here’s a short video from our visit to the mill showing the power looms, cutting and fringing machines in action:

Antique Irons on display

Christina with the Avoca Handweavers sign at Ireland’s Oldest Mill

 

 

Day 4 – Game of Thrones Tapestry at the Ulster Museum, Belfast

My guilty pleasure… Game of Thrones (well, Fantasy & Science Fiction overall.)  Now, mix that with textile art and I’m in heaven!

Before the final episodes of Game of Thrones were filmed, an army of designers, weavers and embroiderers in Northern Ireland was hard at work.

The tapestry was designed by hand by illustrators and color artists Carim Nahaboo, Jacob Merrick-Wolf, and Rob House.  The weavers, Juliet Bailey, Franki Brewer, and a team at Dash & Miller in Bristol used a state-of-the-art jacquard loom. The linen thread was provided by Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen in Banbridge, one of the last surviving mills in Northern Ireland, and contains over 250,000 threads placed by hand.

Each episode through season 7 is represented in the 253 foot tapestry. Rather than wait for the final season to be released (Season 8, set to air in 2019), the tapestry develops its own conclusion.

Embroiderer’s working on the Game of Thrones tapestry

After the weaving was complete, delicate hand embroidery added by a team of 30 stitchers at the Ulster Museum adds color, glints of metalics, and detailing to enhance the tapestry. From King Joffrey’s golden crown to Daenerys’ shimmering white and silver hair, blood red weddings, emerald green wildfire, cold-blue White Walkers and jet black ravens, threads of metallic, cotton and silk yarns bring vibrancy and lustre to the story.  The embroidered elements  are quite simple overall, but bring much to the finished project. Stitches include chain stitch, split stitch, back stitch, running stitch, couching and seed stitch.

Willow dragons made by Bob Johnson, basket maker at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum

 

 

 

 

In Belfast’s Ulster Museum where the Tapestry is currently on display, they also have two magnificent Willow dragons soaring above the three story atrium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the video below to view the entire tapestry!

A woman & young girl embroidering linens in County Down early 1900’s.

As well as information about the making of the tapestry, the exhibition included further documentation on the history of the linen industry in Northern Ireland, supplementing what I’d learned in Lisburn.

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Head detail

The process of making the tapestry is described in this video by Northern Ireland’s tourism department:

 

Day 2- Dublin, Ireland

Design inspired by the Book of Kells by Christina Fairley Erickson

We started our day by walking over to Trinity College, to visit the Book of Kells Museum. A beautifully preserved illuminated manuscript created around 800 C.E., the book includes the four books of the gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Depiction of Matthew, Book of Kells, folio 27v

The museum hosts incredible displays of many of the intricate illuminated pages, the processes and materials that were used in making the book, as well as information on the few other manuscripts still surviving from about the same period in history. The treasury in the museum displays both the Book of Kells and the Book of Armagh, also from the 800’s.

Symbol of ‘the lion of Mark’, Book of Kells, folio 27v

Due to the delicate nature of the volumes, the Book of Kells is split in two parts, with one section open to an illuminated page and the second open to two of the pages of ancient Medieval Latin script. They change which pages are displayed every three months (and it takes several hours to do it, with all the precautions they have to take!) The Book of Armagh is much smaller in size than the Book of Kells. It contains the New Testament of the Bible in minuscule calligraphic text, without illumination.

Part of a display at the Book of Kells Museum showing details of circles and swirls along with pieces of jewelry from the same time period with similar Celtic imagery

One thing I found fascinating was the information on the different inks they used… they even had a purple ink- a very rare color in medieval times.

The ‘Chi Rho’ page using the Greek monogram of the name of Christ. Book of Kells, folio 34r

The twisting sinuous Centic knots and designs are masterfully executed- most likely by young monks, 15-19 years old or so, as they would have had the best eyesight. There are also some other details that also lead to this conclusion, such as tiny farcical characters such as two cats overlooking mice fighting over what appears to be a communion wafer!

Here are a few more images to enjoy from this inspiring design source!

A double-armed cross with eight circles, representing the eight days of Christ’s Passion. Book of Kells, folio 33r

Some of the purple ink is still visible!

If you’d like to see the Book of Kells but aren’t going to make it to Dublin anytime soon, Trinity College has done a fantastic job of scanning the complete book and posting it online. Go to: http://digitalcollections.tcd.ie/home/index.php?DRIS_ID=MS58_003v

I’ve always found beaches to be an incredible source of inspiration for me.  We’re lucky here in the Pacific Northwest to be surrounded with water, mountains, and greenery. Every once in a while, we even get to bask in some sunshine out in nature.

This weekend, I was up at our getaway on Whidbey Island, a 2 hour trip from our home.  The day cleared up for a short while and I took our dog for a beach walk.  What a glorious day.  This great blue heron was a little far for my camera lens (and my dog was a little too close for his comfort to stay while we advanced towards him!)  But I loved the composition and think I could make a lovely pictorial quilt from this photo.

While I love beaches and sea creatures, one could imagine they might cause some bittersweet feelings for me.  Many years ago I was an extremely active scuba diver.  I was a certified PADI rescue diver and was working on my Divemaster certification.  I assist-taught classes for beginning scuba, which meant I was diving a minimum of twice a week.  I was a diver for the Seattle Aquarium, giving shows of hand-feeding the fish (even the 4-5 foot dogfish, a native shark) on a regular basis.  For those of your from warm climates, go ahead a shiver… the Puget Sound is about 40-42 degrees F. year-round.  But the diversity of sea life is incredible in our region.  It’s like going to the Amazon rain forest, only under water.

Unfortunately, while I was starting my second year in college in oceanography/ marine biology, I had a diving mishap and ended up in a decompression chamber.  It was never 100% certain that I actually had “the bends” or whether I had a pinched nerve from carrying the heavy tank on my back.  However, the result was that I needed to choose to either quit diving or risk the potential of a serious or life-threatening injury if I were to continue.

I chose to turn the page to a new chapter in my life.  I also still choose to find joy in beaches and the sea life that I can experience, rather than holding any negativity or resentment towards my loss.  Even though I won’t ever really get to have the incredible experience of being weightless and discovering the underwater world again, I cherish my memories.  I’d love to do more artwork based on our native Northwest marine life.

One of my friends from the Contemporary QuiltArt Association, Carla Stehr, makes incredible quilts based on photographs she takes with a scanning electron microscope for her job at NOAA.  She has even published a beautiful book of photographs called “Sea Unseen” of these microscopic organisms.  Here is a video of Carla speaking about her work and it’s influence on her artwork:


Note: If you’re interested in obtaining a copy of Carla’s book “Sea Unseen”, she does have a few copies still available for sale.  Let me know via a comment and I’ll get you in touch with her.

Another wonderful aspect of the beach is finding treasures, such as this rusty grate which I found this weekend.  I’ve been saving up some rusted pieces of metal that I’ve collected off the beach and this one takes the prize!  I think the patterning will make some amazing rust-dyed fabric.

How do you feed your creative muse?  Do you have special places to go to be inspired?

You might also be interested in:

Viewing for Inspiration Sunshine and Sand- 
Design Inspiration
Golden Hour at Penn 
Cove & Monet’s Haystacks

You might want to start with a little history and look at Designing for a Theme: Innovation Part 1.

Artist rendition of Graphene molecules

With the topic “Fiber Artists Look at Innovation and Civic Action”, I personally decided to narrow down possibilities by choosing to represent innovation.  Since I’ve always enjoyed science, I started with looking at scientific journals and find out what some of the recent innovations have been that are expected to revolutionize areas of our lives.  This is where I found out about Graphene.

Graphene, a form of carbon only one atom thick and in a hexagonal cellular structure, is both the thinnest and strongest substance now known to man.  Scientists believe it will revolutionize technology from computer and mobile displays, medical devices, aerospace, desalination plants, electronics and countless ways which we cannot yet predict.  Since I’m a technology fan and my husband’s business is in aerospace, this seemed like a good place to start.  If you want to see a really cool futuristic video, check out this short YouTube “Future Applications of Graphene.”

So now I had a topic to try to represent to go along with the theme… but what could I do with it?  I decided I wanted to represent both the uniqueness of the material (thin, lightweight, hexagonal cellular structure) as well as some of the possible applications of the technology.

Another little aspect that I had to keep in mind was the unusual gallery space that this piece would (hopefully) be hanging in.  The walls were mostly all a deep dark forest green (with a hint of teal) and a couple that were a bright spring green.  Not exactly easy to hang anything on, but ok if you’re specifically designing for the backdrop color.

My idea was to have a thin sheer layer cut in a hexagonal pattern that would fiat above the quilt, which would be surfaced designed to tell more of the story. I started the quilted layer with white Pima cotton. I bought some plasticized wire garden fencing that had hexagons as its design, and started with placing it on top of the white fabric and spritzed jacquard Textile Paint through it. This created a resist, with a painted background (in blues and greens) with a shadowy faint white hexagonal grid.

Representation of a computer touch-screen made with a
thermofax silkscreen and hand-painted shading

I then created several black and white images from photos (using Photoshop) of things that will have future applications using graphene. These included a commercial airplane, computer circuit boards, a smartphone, and a computer touchscreen. I then turned these images into silkscreens using a thermofax machine. I layered these different images around on the background, using Versatex print ink.  I added some hand painting and when the paints were all dry, I finished the back/quilt with a diamond grid pattern for the quilting, as well as freemotion elements around each of the special elements.

Silkscreened computer circuit board with gold metallic
thread freemotion quilted to look like metal elements.

Now it was time to figure out how to represent the one-atom thick sheets of this hexagonal carbon molecule. I knew I wanted to have it be somewhat sheer (and black, since it is carbon, after all.) I thought that using a black organza might get the effect I wanted, so I bought some of each silk, rayon, nylon and polyester organza to test. I had a couple of different ideas on how to cut out a grid that wouldn’t ravel and could hold up, yet not be too terribly difficult or end up too uneven.

Some of my samples testing different organzas and ways to
cut and make sure they wouldn’t fray

The most consistent method and material turned out to be painting the nylon organza with matte medium, drying it, and cutting out the interior hexagons with small, sharp scissors. I’d been a bit surprised by this, thinking that a hot knife might cut and melt a synthetics edges at the same time, but it proved to be more difficult and harder to be exact than using my small Kai scissors.  Also, I tried treating with different products with varying degrees of success.  Some items made the organza too stiff (I wanted it still to be able to move in a breeze, to demonstrate the thinness of the graphene); others, like Fray Check, left a shiny plastic-like coating.

Close-up of grommet, copper pipe
& bead hanging mechanism
The organza hanging

You can imagine the time it took me to cut out each of the little hexagons on the finished piece!  The next step was to figure out how to affix the top layer so it would hang out separately from the quilted back piece.  This turned out to be quite tricky.  After many trials and errors, I was able to get a decent effect using some heavy-duty grommets, 1/8″ copper piping, copper wire, and beads.

Thankfully, my efforts were rewarded by the jury and my piece was accepted into the show!  Here is the final piece, hanging at the Seattle Center Next 50 Exhibition!  I particularly like how the hanging grid creates such interesting shadows with the gallery lighting.  The only disappointment to me was that the show chair who mapped out where each piece was to go, choose to put my piece on one of the couple spring green walls, after I’d designed it to go on the dark green ones!  Well, you can’t control everything!

“Graphene: The Miracle Material” by Christina Fairley Erickson
Whole-cloth 100% cotton background quilt hand-painted, silk-screened and machine quilted by artist.  Upper layer nylon organza treated with matte medium and cut into hexagonal grid attached with copper pipe, copper wire, beads and metal fittings by artist.

You might also be interested in:

Designing for a Theme… 
Innovation Part 1
Designing for a Theme Journeys Show at 
SeaTac Airport

I’ve been thinking once again about designing with a specific theme in mind.  If you have entered into juried shows that have a theme, you know the dilemma.  How literal do I need to make this piece to fit the theme?  Or perhaps you’ve just skipped entering those shows.

Since my preferred style in which to make art is representational or pictorial, I don’t usually have a great difficulty with making something to fit a theme.  My struggle is more about whether I really want to make a piece or not for that show.
As an example, I’d like to share about the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Seattle Center.  In 1962, Seattle was the home of the World’s Fair… the grounds on which the fair was held is the Seattle Center.  Most notably, Seattle’s best-known landmark, the Space Needle was built for this 6 month festival and exhibition.

Helen Remick’s “Spinning Out, Spinning In 1” (left)
and Margaret Liston’s “Save” (right)

Seattle Center put out a call to artists for large proposals to show during the 6 months of the Next 50 Celebration.  The theme of the overall exhibit and performances was “Illuminating Today’s Challenges, Imagining Tomorrow’s Possibilities.”  The call was set up as a two-tier process.  You sent in an extensive original proposal through Café (Call for Entry), including a series of images representative of your art.  


As I am the Exhibitions Co-Chair of the Contemporary QuiltArt Association, I prepared this proposal for our group.  The second tier was like a call-back for an audition.  Except now, you had to do an elaborate proposal, including budget, recommendations on where within the Seattle Center grounds that your exhibit would take place, showing how your art would benefit and reflect the theme of the Next Fifty, and finally a video to support your claims of your work.    

Melisse Laing’s “Sorok dva – Russian Collaboration II”


In the end, we did get chosen for an exhibition, but we did not receive any of the grant money… not a big problem as our group doesn’t typically get paid to exhibit.  But when it came down to the “theme”, they decided they wanted to be even more specific.  The dates chosen for our group’s exhibition were during September and October (2012).  Each month of the celebration had a focus… September’s theme was “Commerce and Innovation” and October’s was “Civic Action.”  So, the name given for our exhibit was “Possibilities: Fiber Artists Look at Innovation and Civic Action.”  Can you imagine trying to get a group of quilt artists to tackle that as a theme?  (Imagine a great big eye-rolling from me here.)

Artist and CQA President Marylee Drake with
her piece “Gearing Up for the Future”

But, somehow our artists always come through with a wonderful show as you can see from the photos above.  Tomorrow, I’ll talk about and share some photos of the process I went through to make my piece “Graphene – The Miracle Material.”

You might also be interested in:
Designing for a Theme
A Day of Art
Making Fabric