Last night I attended the preview party for the 2018 Quilt and Fiber Art Festival in Everett, WA. With all the wonderful entries in this large International show, I’m awestruck and so humbly honored… I won 4 awards!
A Best of Show-Mixed Techniques Award Of Excellence for the show, “In Klimt’s Corral”
3rd place for Fiber Art- Mixed Media, “In Klimt’s Corral”
2nd place for Fiber Art- 3D/Sculptural, “Bullkelp Vessel”
2nd place for Fiber Art- Needlework, “Crested Serpent Eagle”
“In Klimt’s Corral” will be included in the “Award Winners: Quilt and Fiber Arts Festival 2018” exhibit at the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Art Museum from October 17 – November 18, 2018.
Meanwhile, I’ll be scooping up the Bullkelp Vessel and Crested Serpent Eagle pieces to include in my exhibition later this month at the La Conner Country Inn. I’m still working feverishly to finish up all my pieces for that exhibit. I haven’t even taken time to count them all up, but I think I have about 30 pieces. I’ve continued to work many of my pieces to my theme of “the Water’s Edge”, coinciding with all the work I did on seaweeds during my 2 year Level 3 Art & Design class.
I want to thank my family for all the support they’ve given me as I continue on my fiber artist journey. I was so happy have my Mom, husband Randy, and daughter-in-law Zeyneb with me at the preview party last night, and I look forward to our other kids coming to my Advanced Stitch Exhibition. I have to give extra acknowledgement to Randy for putting up with my constant stitching or other work while we spend time together as well as having my art supplies stretching into all corners of our house! I appreciate all the support from both family and friends.
As many of you know, I have been studying at the Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts for some time… I believe it’s 8 years now. I’m just finishing 2 1/2 years in the Level 3 Advanced Experimental Stitch course. Our class will be exhibiting coursework including assessment items, sketchbooks, presentation books, samples, and historical stitch studies at an exhibition on October 26-27.
Mark your calendars! We will also have an artist talk from 10:30-11:30 am on Saturday October 27.
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!
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
|Christina standing below hand-dyed
I’m back from five days in “stitch heaven” with Gail Harker. The class, “Experimental Hand Stitch” focuses on Procion MX dyeing of embroidery thread and a wool/acrylic felt to stitch on, and then learning some of the basic embroidery stitches and how to use them in a contemporary context.
|My friends”, Debbie and Rebecca, dyed felts and threads|
The felt and threads are vibrant and beautiful. Gail feels that having your materials inspire you is important, so she helps her students understand their color choices and combinations to be successful with the dyeing process.
|Some of my dyed felts and threads|
I basically stuck with an analogous color scheme from yellow-green through red-violet. If you’re unfamiliar with analogous color schemes, it means that you pick colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. So the colors I worked with were greens, blues, and violets.
After our dyeing days, we started doing small stitch samplers. Each stitch will have its own page in a small stitch book (we even learned how to bind our books!) We also worked on documenting our samples within a sketchbook, including what threads we used, any observations we have, needles that were chosen, etc.
|Some of my incomplete pages with the sketchbook
documentation pages and sample threads
Some of our samples were also worked on sketchbook pages which we dyed and then fused together, so they are quite stiff. We then poked holes in the sketchbook pages along the line which we wanted to stitch, and then added the stitch afterwards. It was so fun… it reminded me of when I was a little girl and had cards with pictures on them and holes to “stitch” through (really it was more like lacing.)
|French Knots (in process) by Christina Fairley Erickson|
While none of these samples is complete yet, you can get an idea of what they’ll look like here. I have additional ones started, but these are the most complete. The other thing which was different and interesting was the freedom which we were encouraged to take with each piece. For instance, in years past, French knots were expected to have the thread wrapped neatly around the needle two times. With contemporary hand stitching, however, we can make a variety of sizes and different textures and effects by wrapping a thread more times around the needle, or by wrapping it loosely, rather than tight.
|Running Stitch (in process) by Christina Fairley Erickson|
|Seed Stitch (in process) by Christina Fairley Erickson|
|Blanket Stitch by Christina Fairley Erickson|
|Open Chain Stitch (in process) by Christina Fairley Erickson|
Each of the pages is about 5″x 7″, so they fit in well with my 5 x 7 Challenge! I’ll be getting my final Salsa piece finished up this week, then I’ll need to work on the sashing and binding of all the Salsa blocks into a finished quilt.
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Anything Goes – Quilt ‘n Sew at Stitch by Stitch
Wow… another fantastic day of mostly working with Procion MX dyeing at the Gail Harker Center for Creative Studies. To be completely honest, I’m pretty tired… this can be hard work. So, I’m going to keep it short and sweet tonight, and just put up some images and descriptions of the processes and projects we worked on.
We then started dyeing wool-rayon felt, which we’d cut into pieces prior to class, and will be making into hand-stitched books.
|Felt with dye poured on (wet)|
The felt totally soaks up the dye… you have to pour it on and it looks horrible and dark for the most part.
|Rinsing out the felt|
After allowing it to sit for a few hours, we rinsed it out and also set the dye with Synthropol. Since the felt soaks up so much water, we had to carefully wrap it in towels to help dry it. You don’t want to press or agitate it very much, or it starts the felting process. We then left it to completely dry overnight.
|Rinsed felt for hand-made stitch books, laid out to dry|
We also worked with painting dyes on sketchbook pages. We do these in 2-page “spreads” so that they will go together when the book is opened. We then fuse pages together, to make the pages stiff and able to be stitched on. We started working on a few pages by drawing a design on them, then punching holes through the paper with a darning needle. We then can easily put our stitches through the holes.
|Some sketchbook pages painted with dye|
I believe we’re done with the dyeing now… on to more stitchwork tomorrow!
|A two-page spread for a sketchbook, painted with Procion MX dye|
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For great ideas on freemotion quilting, check out Leah Day’s FreeMotion Quilting Project
I spent the day literally dyeing to embroider… yes, I am anxiously awaiting getting down to stitching, but I mean “dyeing” with an “e” in it. Rather than using all commercially available embroidery floss, we spent the day making our own threads, for the first of 5 days in “Experimental Hand Stitch” at the Gail Harker Center for the Creative Arts in LaConner, WA. I’ve always salivated at the yummy colors of hand-dyed threads. Now I know how to make them!
First, we had to prepare the skeins of thread. There are two main types of embroidery thread, pearl (or perle in French) cotton which is a twisted cotton and cotton floss (also known as 6-stranded cotton.) Pearl cotton comes in many different thicknesses: 3, 5, 8, 12, and 16, with 3 being the thickest and 16 being quite delicate. Six-stranded cotton is literally that, 6 strands that you can separate, depending upon how thick a piece you want for your project. Of course there are many other types of threads or yarns you can use for embroidery and any natural fiber will work for dyeing (silk, rayon, bamboo, etc.) We have several unusual yarns and threads as well as the pearl cotton and cotton floss.
To prepare for dyeing, we had to get the thread into skeins (some of it came on balls or rolls that we had to wind into a skein) and then tie the skeins about every 12 inches (30 cm), to make sure it wouldn’t get tangled up. We used a figure 8 tie with a square knot, tight enough to hold the skein in place, but not so tight that it would cause a resist and have the thread not take up the dye underneath the tie.
As with any Procion MX dyeing, we then soaked our threads in a soda ash solution, so that the chemical bond would occur in the fiber when the dye is introduced.
The next step was to use a syringe to “paint” the colors on the thread. As you inject the dye onto the thread, you then need to smoosh it down to ensure that it is completely saturated, particularly wherever the ties are. I chose to mainly go with an analogous color scheme from yellow-green, to green, to blue-green, to blue, to blue-violet, to violet. With sticking to one color scheme, I can be assured that my projects using these dyed threads will go together.
When all the dye is on the threads, you carefully roll the threads up in plastic (see red arrow) and then leave it overnight to process. I can’t wait to see them in the morning!
|My Mom, Nan Lopis, working
on her dyed threads
The best thing of all… my Mom has joined me for the 5 day class at Gail Harker’s! I was concerned that the dyeing might not be something she’d enjoy (she’ll love the hand-stitching), but she came through like a champ, and made a lovely yellow-olive-greens colorway of threads.
Note: all the threads in the photos above have wet dye on them. The colors will change somewhat upon the dye setting and washing them afterwards. One of my favorite parts of dyeing is when you unwrap it the next day and wash it out… it’s like getting a present!
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Knotted Blanket Stitch
I’ve been continuing to explore hand-stitch this last week and completed another sampler. I’m not really sure where I’m going to be using this in my work this year, I’m just certain that I am. I’ve seen so many spectacular pieces that were enhanced by using hand-stitch. I’ve also noticed that show judges seem to appreciate the extra effort that an artist has put in, when there are hand-stitch elements. Here are the stitches (on acrylic felt- not hooped):
- Double Knot Stitch (aka Old English knot, Palestrina or Smyrna Stitch)
- Cable Chain Stitch. This is like chain stitch, but with a link in between the chains
- Fern Stitch (aka Fern Leaf Stitch)
- Paris Stitch (aka Open Square Stitch)
- Fence Stitch (aka Bosnian Stitch)
- Tnorn Stitch
- Cross Stitch (aka Berlin or Sampler Stitch)
- Braid Stitch
- Singalese Chain
- Wheatear Stitch
- Fishbone Stitch (on leaves)
- Whipped Backstitch
- Threaded Backstitch
- Double Threaded Backstitch
- Chain Stitch with Backstitch running through center
- Double Knot Stitch
- Petal Stitch
- Scroll Stitch
- Ladder Stitch
- Long Armed Cross Stitch
- Vandyck Stitch (aka Flat Variable Stitch)
- Long & Short Stitch (top leaf in oranges)
- Stem Filling Stitch (bottom leaf in blues)
I’m partially doing this work as I’m taking another hand-stitch course at the Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts in March. I’m looking forward to getting more ideas in how to incorporate the hand stitches into my work.
Speaking of Gail’s classes, this Thursday, Jan 10 from 5-8 pm, the opening of “Complex Threads: Students of Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts” will be happening at the Schack Art Center in Everett WA. If in the area, be sure to check it out!