Saturday, March 26, 2005

Heron - Batik Artquilt 19" wide x 42" high
copyright Pat Dolan

Heron - detail showing glass beads, quilting, batik c2004 Patricia C. Dolan
copyright Pat Dolan

Blue Heron - photo/color enhanced
copyright Pat Dolan

Green Heron - photo/color enhanced
copyright Pat Dolan

Blue Heron - photo enhanced
copyright Pat Dolan

Art & Quilts & Cameras & Such

The dining room table needed to be cleared for tomorrow’s Easter feast… 4 quilt tops in various stages lay calmly on that table awaiting my sandwiching skills. Today was the day. The weather cooperated so I could spray-baste the backing to the batting, and then the quilt top to the backed batting. Ahhhh……. Four new quilts ready for quilting – my favorite part of it all.

Somehow, it’s the quilting that makes the piece for me. I love the color selections, the designing mode, and the mixing and matching that goes on as I’m piecing a top. But the quilting is the final statement – the quilting cements the design in more ways than simple the technical “sandwiching” of sewing the three layers together.

I recently received my last completed piece back from a college show. I had yet to photograph this piece and was anxious to try my new digital camera to see how well it could/would capture art quilts.

This particular piece took lots of time working from a tiny sketch seen on-line of the subject and turning it into my design. Then choosing to use batik to express the theme – and having to do color separations so that I could put the piece in the dye baths in proper order. This is/was only my second batik – the first was much smaller, maybe 1/3 the size of this one.

My concern was all that open space behind the bird – lots of orange in the design. I knew the quilting would ‘cut’ that space, but I also knew the quilting had to be just right to divide the space into interesting segments and while maintaining the continuity of the background. Once it was completed, I was very pleased with the results of my quilting over the surface. I added a few glass & metal beads as embellishments – water droplets falling from the heron’s beak. The lower edge of the quilt has a full strip of similar beads attached. Now I wish I had used blues and greens for this design…so I tried that in PhotoShop and the results are below. The quilt measures 19” wide x 42” long – including the beads.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Snow Drops 3-19-05
copyright Pat Dolan

Winter Pansies 3-19-05
copyright Pat Dolan

EQUINOX - Spring 2005

While my sister in Minnesota is shoveling new snow, we in New Jersey are seeing the Snow Drops appearing in our gardens. The winter Pansies are struggling to stand upright after being buried under snow for much of the winter. Sunshine permeates our home and it feels like Spring is finally here.

Equinox is always a time of shifts & changes – not just in weather, to be sure. I’ve been watching our grad students and noticing how severely stressed out some of them are as life circumstances are changing for them. Others seem flexible and more able to go with the flow of change rather than bothering to fight it. For myself, I seem to go back & forth between being very relaxed with what is so, to becoming worried about some silly little circumstance. It is at the equinox times that I find my balance tested & refined; my boundaries are challenged and I must remain constantly in touch with my own inner knowing.

With external change, internal changes occur. At equinox, I often come to see where I have been artistically for the past 3-6 months with regard to line, form, color, space, structure, shape, composition, texture, complexity and the like. I’m noticing my new color choices as I work on several items for Fabri-quilt Fabric’s booth at the Spring Quilt Market in Kansas City this year and for a special exhibit there: “Kansas Art Quilter’s: Spring Market.” Now I realize I don’t live in Kansas anymore – nor did I ever, although once I drove through it during a devastatingly HOT summer… However, membership in Kansas Art Quilter’s is open to all art quilters around the world and it is wonderfully active – their daily digests often number in double-digests when there is a ‘hot’ topic! That’s when I get behind in 1.) reading my e-mail or 2.) doing anything else!

Anyway, I received my shipment of Fabri-Quilt fabric and fell in love with the wild, colorful selections. I immediately made one quilt top within 24 hours of receiving my box. A second top is now completed with a third in progress. Two are now sandwiched and ready for quilting – and how I love to draw with my sewing machine on a new quilt top!

And so, for me, Equinox Spring 2005 is proving to be inspirational, pivotal, and delightful. O happy spring!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Going Somewhere...
copyright Pat Dolan

Music & Art

Our on-line QuiltArt group has been discussing the pros & cons of playing music during workshop studio hours. While I haven't attended many workshops, I did take a 5-day course with David Walker in Bennington, VT where music was often played. David's music selection was extensive, of course, and clearly chosen to suppport creativity from the background. The volume in the evenings was often a bit loud, but the music was good. Occasionally someone would play their own CD's and most of the time that was OK with me, but not always.

Music, as an accompaniment for me as I am creating, must - generally speaking - be low to mid-volume and complementary to the mood of my piece. Otherwise, silence is, by far, the better option. Of course, I tend to whistle, hum and sing - depending upon my mood, so I must remember that others probably don't want to listen to my off-pitch musical noises...

Workshops with a group of artists working in the same studio space offer much by way of experience – with techniques, styles, color choices, designs, etc. They also offer opportunities to learn how to deal with other highly individualistic people – most of whom are strong minded and perhaps even strong willed. It seems to me that respect for one another’s space, personality, style, music, and more all must be learned and integrated during studio workshops.

My experience was wonderful – David’s deeply personal/spiritual approach to creating spontaneously, freely, with celebration was exactly what I needed to break out of my old, rigid style of work and to experiment with things I’d never considered previously. I didn’t at all mind any of the other students because I was so wrapped up in my own world of discovery that I only noticed others when I came up for air!

All that said & done, I would have to agree with those who have spoken in favor of individual head-phones for those who want/need to listen to music as they work. That way everyone can enjoy their favorite selections – or silence, if that is preferred. All without offending anyone or disrupting the flow of creativity as it winds its way in, out, around and through each participant. Just my humble opinion.

Mind you, when I am teaching (grad students), I select specific music to match the mood I want to set in the classroom. As the students arrive after a hectic workday for my night classes, I usually play soothing music with the sounds of nature in a mid-low volume. This seems to calm the students & to set the individual energy levels in good harmony.

It’s all a matter of opinion, isn’t it…

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

c 2004 - Pat Dolan
copyright Pat Dolan

Australian Hunter with Spirit Helper Raven
copyright Pat Dolan

It's already March!!!

Time is moving more quickly than I am... I thought I would accomplish so much during the first two months of the year. In January, my calendar was empty as far as I could see - my expectations were of many happy hours playing with fabric & fiber, drawing with the sewing machine, and reveling in all that free time. I had just completed an undergrad course in the fiber arts at school, learning batik, marbling and weaving. These techniques would be explored & employed in my new work done early in 2005.

All that changed quite suddenly when a fellow teacher at grad school needed a sub for this semester... I volunteered - mostly because the course is entitled: Healing Arts, and I knew I had much to offer in this area of holistic health & healing. But I had no research ready to supplement the teaching of this course & gratefully accepted my friends class notes, hand-outs, etc. So far, I've been teaching music theory and therapy - not my area of expertise, but one with which I am quite familiar. However, the Dean has specifically asked me to include the other arts in this course, so my time is now split between researching, documenting and teaching various healing arts!

I find hand quilting to be very therapeutic - a true healing art. The rhythmic needling of the fabric is like a movement-mantra and often induces contemplation when uninterrupted. Why is it then, that I choose to machine quilt most of my work, I wonder... Speed, to be sure, is one reason. Arthritis in my hands is another quite valid reason. And I really enjoy freeform quilting - it's like drawing with my machine on fabric rather than with a pencil in my sketchbook... Any type of drawing mesmerizes me - I am transported into a state of semi-union with the object I am drawing. My sewing machine (or pencil) becomes one with my hands, my arms, my heart, my body, my mind and everything flows through me onto the drawing surface. Not only is the object now pictured in two dimensions, I am somehow in two dimensions as well since a part of me has literally moved from inside to outside in the process of creating.

Creating, in and of itself, is healing. Whether it's the way I arrange my fabric stash or the way I keep my food stuffs, I have created the pattern of these objects. When I cook, I am equally creative - although I can't say I enjoy cooking anywhere near the way I enjoy any so-called "art" activity.

When I create, I often select music to match my mood, the theme, the spirit of what I am working on. Yet there are other times when silence is preferred for only in the silence can I truly hear what the piece is asking of me. My creation is really not my own - it is from me and through me, but the piece itself dictates some of what I do. The piece may demand I leave it alone for weeks on end - we are not content with one another. Our expectations are not being fulfilled. So time apart allows a fresh vision and a better, listening heart for what the piece is asking of me and what I am trying to 'say' with the creation.

It seems to me that any creative activity is healing to the mind, body, heart, soul,and spirit. It seems to me that true creativity imparts new life into the creator and the creation. And that most certainly invites and promotes healing. I wonder if I should bring to class some hand quilting materials for my grad students to experiment with... I wonder what such an experience would be like for them... The non-sewers would be awkward & filled with trepidation. And the others? Who knows... Maybe I'll offer it as a potential option in place of another assignment. May as well research with my own students that which I am teaching!