Archive for the ‘artists’ Category

Hello! I promised myself I’d blog this month. There is so much to catch up on!

I’ve been away from Told You Sew! for so long because of work, kids, and, well, life. I increased my working hours some time ago and it’s been harder to weave creative/crafting time into my days; I also took on a volunteer role during the school year. This summer, I’ve been lucky enough to travel. It was fantastic and restorative, but it certainly cut into my “productivity”!

It did, however, provide lots and lots of inspiration. I was astonished by how much gorgeous creativity I saw. My most recent trip focused on Paris, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, and Venice. SO MUCH ART! So much color, so many layers of history and artistic vision over so many centuries! I’d like to share a little bit of that with you over a few installments.

This was our very first stop:


Jet lagged, we made our way to the Musee de Cluny in Paris, home of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. (The museum, in the Latin Quarter, is now more formally known as the Musée national du Moyen Âge.) It was worth it. My two daughters and I occupied the room in that old medieval palace that houses the six tapestries for what seemed like hours, pouring over the tiny details embedded in these stunning works. The smaller animals, such as the monkey and dog, are rendered with intricate light and shade. The kind unicorn figure has always been a favorite of mine (ever since I was a horse-loving youngster) and the lion, with its tongue thrust out, seemed more a dandy than a danger. The women’s garments are depicted in such dimension and color. This is amazing fabric art, and so surprising to think that this tapestry series was made so very long ago, in around 1500… I also am intrigued by the beautiful necklace the lady is holding. My own passion for jewelry as an art form has only grown keener over the past two years. (More on that soon.)

We also had the chance to visit Eugene Delacroix’s studio.

IMG_1658A truly monumental painter in the French canon, Delacroix made dramatic canvases that struck a chord with my family. The color! The emotion! The tragic violence! The celebrations! I think his paintings would make for the subject of some great movies (and far better than films about video games!)… On the less violent side, I especially love his painting of a Jewish wedding in Morocco with its vivid dancer:

DSCF2878One unmissable stop for art lovers is clearly the Louvre, the Pantheon of traditional European art. We of course had to view the Mona Lisa, but my daughters were quite underwhelmed after fighting crowds to get to the front of the crowd to see the relatively small painting set behind glass and a barrier with a very wide birth… and protected by numerous guards. As I was taking this photo, I was being crushed by waves of people you can’t see behind me.

IMG_0918Really, it’s much more enjoyable viewing lesser-known works of the Italian Renaissance. The Louvre has whole galleries of them no one is looking at. Take this one, my absolute favorite, of two Venetians. Please don’t try to tell me these guys aren’t just as mysterious as Mona (or maybe I could just see them better):

DSCF2832The girls preferred the large-scale marbles, both ancient and modern. In fact, they were most taken with the 19th century pieces by Italian and French artists… many of whom no one outside the word of art history knows about today. But they are lovely indeed. And imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

IMG_1592How do you like these Three Graces? My husband snapped this artsy shot and I turned it black and white. It seemed to merit that kind of classic treatment.

IMG_1594Who is that modest young thing?

And then you find the more unusual forms of art that have been pursued over the centuries in Europe, tucked away in corners in more obscure venues. This display of miniature portraits was hidden in an 18th-century museum we visited:

IMG_0882As we strolled the streets of Paris, a very different kind of French art beckoned to us…. Unfortunately I felt my waistline would not allow an indulgence, though looking back, I wish I had! (We did sample some outstanding macarons in lovely colors, but I ate them too quickly to take a photo!)

IMG_0886I plan one more Paris installment in this travelog… one that relates to my crafts, I promise. Very soon!


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I spent much of this weekend at this year’s Pacific International Quilt Festival held in Santa Clara, CA. It’s an annual mecca of quilters and fabric artists, displaying over 800 quilts and quilted art objects. The sheer volume of materials both in the competition and for sale is overwhelming and it took me two trips to see most, but not all, of what PIQF had to offer.

I’ll spend a couple blog posts on this because I’d love to show you samples of how awesome the quilts on display were! First off, a quilt designed and made by the husband of one of my daughter’s terrific teachers, Miss Sue. His name is Bret Young and this is called “Meta” – I think it was inspired by “QR codes” that have been popping up on ads everywhere, which can be read by smartphones:

Of course there’s a huge range in the quilts on display from traditional, to modern, to innovative, to really cool figurative work. I’ll focus here on some of those landscape and figurative art quilts and save the rest for another post.

One of the most interesting pieces to me was a four-piece quilted version of a Wayne Thiebaud painting, “River and Farms,” which I recall seeing in a local museum. This work by Donna Brennan, Jenny K. Lyon, Anita Marshall, and Margo Wilson is stunning– it captures the colors and landscape view very well, and also employs three-dimensional yarns, threads and pieces that leap off the surface:

I saw several great ocean quilts. I enjoyed this one, Turtle Sea by Rusty Brockman (a closeup of the turtle too!):

And here are a sampling of a few other figurative art quilts that I admired:

“Here’s Looking at You,” Elizabeth T. Ward

“Hippo Love,” Janet Fogg

“Brian the Basilisk,” Jane Haworth

“Flooded,” Tanya Brown

“Mermaid Magic,” Donna Blum

“Down and Away Below,” Ruth De Bord (close-up)

“The World,” Rachel Wetzler

close-up from “The World”

“Stripe,” Janet Fogg

“At First Light,” 6-panel image of Portland by Tigard, OR, quilters

“If I Had a Princess,” Alexandra Von Burg

“Great Blue Herons,” Joanne Baeth

And finally here, I will share with you a work I’ve been admiring in book form for a while, which I got to see in person: Kay Mackenzie’s “Lollipop Grove”:

A tree close-up:

So very charming. I’ve been working with her book to make some crazy-patched hearts for applique…

So you can see that PIQF offered lots of inspiration and truly fantastic quilt art. More photos coming soon!

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Color is a passion for Christine Barnes, a seasoned Sunset Books editor who has devoted herself to fabric art. Last week I went to see her speak at a quilt guild meeting and was astonished by her art.

She first displayed a color wheel made purely of fabrics. Nice idea, since the colors are much more vibrant here than in a typical book about art theory:


She shared numerous quilts she has made, and here’s a small sampling. Before you look, see if you can spot some “magic colors” (her term) that seem to jump off the screen. The first one’s called Black Opals & Ribbon Candy–a fun name, isn’t it?

I can picture making the quilt below. You create square blocks and then chop them up and resew. The stripes are subtle but really do add a depth here:

The third quilt, above, conveys a great sense of dimension (apologies for the wavy image; this quilt was displayed on stairs). It’s inspiring, since I’ve been wondering about making 3-D illusion quilts.

This last one showed a good use of ombre fabric. I’ve seen those for sale and generally avoided their graded colors, because I just didn’t know what to do with them. But you can see here how much dimension they, too, can add:

Christine teaches classes and seminars, and I’d like to take one sometime to learn about how exactly she tracks down and auditions these colors. Very precisely, I think!


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Today, I’d like to share the work of a guest quilter, Anne T. She’s a coworker and friend, someone I’ve long looked upon as a crafting expert. Anne has taught knitting classes, and she’s showed me a number of tricks. This summer, she’s gotten into some really fresh, fun quilting, and she showed me this quilt top, which she made from a pattern called Spiked Punch. Isn’t it fun?

The photo isn’t super crisp because I took it with my phone, but you get the idea. Anne started off with a class at Back Porch Fabrics, a terrific quilt shop in the coastal town of Pacific Grove, CA. (I just wish I had more time to spend there–both in the town and the shop!) She used strips of fabric, many by textile artist Kaffe Fassett, alongside denim-colored blue strips. She explained that for each colorful strip, she sewed a tube with it and a blue strip, and then cut it at a random spot. The different breaking points in these strips adds movement to the design.

Anne said that the fun (and time-consuming) part was laying out where all those colorful rectangles should go to make a path that your eyes can’t help but follow around the quilt. When she had the strip sets, she laid it all out on her bed and sewed it up in a day! Anne bordered it with a multicolored stripe.

I really like the modern look of this quilt, and my kids enjoyed the pictures so it could be a great project for a toddler or child’s quilt, or for a funky friend.

If this looks good to you, you might want to check out the pattern – I noticed it’s for sale online at Hancock’s and other places. Perfect for all those adorable jelly rolls of bright fabric, with a neutral background. Thanks, Anne!

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Sorry for the month-long break in blogging! I was traveling on the East Coast, and then returned to a giant to-do list that is just now being whittled down to a manageable size. Sadly, my crafting was largely on hiatus as well. But I’m back!

First, I’d like to show off a few things my 5-year-old daughter made in her summer camp, during the week that the group focused on art and famous artists. I loved how her teacher exposed the kids to “real” art and then had them produce their own creative work. Here’s a sampling of it:

She painted with watercolors, and then used black ink to outline. Brilliant! I find there’s something very Picasso-esque about this one, don’t you? All the shapes are actually recognizable, which is a huge leap forward in her art ability!

Here are some sculptural objects she made. She’s very taken with the word “Imagination” and included it in both sculptures’ names:

Unlike the milk-carton-and-tin-foil objects she’s made in other camps, I actually WANT to save these:) I hope to find some wall space for her painting soon.

I’m also working on some summer sewing now. I have several unfinished objects, yet (for some reason) I have started another that I am excited about: I’m make a quilt kit from Connecting Threads, using their very bright, modern “city” fabrics, “Around Town.” (It’s their “Nieces and Nephews” kit, which I think is sold-out as a kit, but still available as a pattern.) Here are the very first blocks.

I can tell this one will be fun to make and cute to look at — so, more on this very soon!

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Art for the ages

Here’s a gallery of some of the amazing art I saw at the Art Institute while I visited Chicago… Challenge yourself: can you name the artists who made these pieces? The museum has expanded recently and it is now a behemoth, spanning three interconnected buildings. I crammed in as much 19th- and 20th-century art as I could fit into one afternoon. I really only had time for the European collections, which include Impressionism, post-Impressionism, and a range of more modern styles. No matter how familiar some of them are, these pieces just glow. They could inspire any creative soul to bigger and better things.

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Apologies for the temporary hiatus of Told You Sew! while its author visited friends in Chicago. We held a memorial for our dear friend M.N., alternatively laughing and crying. We all agreed that she was one of the funniest, smartest, kindest people we’ve had the privilege to know.

On a lighter note, my hosts E.H. and M.M. are also amazing artists and crafts-women. They shared with me their love of sock-dolls, which M.M. makes in the most creative fashion. She designs her own patterns and hand-sews each one. They are really inventive. Quite a few of them have taken up residence on this shelf:

So fun! My favorite is this fine fellow. I love his glasses and argyle style. I think of him as an Ivy-Leaguer.

M. has given some of these dolls away as gifts (including an adorable one that adorns my shelf and will appear in a future post) and I feel certain there’s an emerging market for them, as word gets out how unique and cute they are!

Their apartment also features modern art by E.H., my childhood friend who has now promised to read this blog. Are you out there E.? I love these works of “spilled” paint:

In my humble opinion, these are as good as the modern art we saw during another highlight of my trip, a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. More on that in another post!

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