An Artist's Quest

Art Quilting

Robins: the bird box series

Robin 1

Robin 1 (Perching and Ground Bird) 11×14″ fabric and paper collage

For my long-time followers, you know birds pop up in my work often. They are most definitely my muses. I love to observe them, to witness each species characteristics and culture, their distinct forms, figure, flight pattern and personality traits. A Scrub Jay is different in personality and energy than a Blue Bird. Chickadees run together in a tight flock, and Ravens pair off with a partner for life. Each one unique and wonderous. Here I have been charmed by the most common of birds, the American Robins. I always admire their upright stature, sleek feathers and of course their red russet chest that seems to say “here I am, look at me”. They spend time both on the ground hopping and browsing and in the trees chatting and communing (here is a link to hear their song and calls).

Robin2

Robin 2 (Hark to the Hour) 11×14″ fabric and paper collage

The thing is, for me to observe their busy-ness, I have to stop and be still. To hear their call and song I have to be quiet. To create these little odes to the American Robin I have to stop and consider them carefully to be quiet with them, to spend time creating this space for them in the form of a fabric collage. So, thank you robin, wren and bluebird; thank you raven, flicker and sparrow, you remind me to be still to be in your time not my time and you animate my creative verve.

 

Robin3

Robin 3 (Song and flight) 11×14″ fabric and paper collage

I have developed this into a mixed media retreat so you fabric artist and quilters out there please invite me to your quilt guild to lead a workshop on making your own bird box fabric collage contact me through my website at lisathorpe.com

 

To see more in the Bird Box series see past post about Wrens.

 


Time Stamp: marking the moment

My time stamp exercise is continuing. I was visiting my sister in NYC in October and I wanted to mark the moment with a time stamp fabric collage or two. Having the challenge in the back of my mind during my visit made my eye more keen to the pattern, color and line of the place. With my handy phone/camera in my pocket I could snap away images to jump from once I was back in my studio. Two events stood out as inspiration for my fabric collage experiment with time and place. The first is a walk along the beautifully designed High Line. If you haven’t experienced this it is worth making happen –The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side and every visual detail in attended to. Pattern, line and texture are all there and we were lucky to visit just after the completion of the Vessel. It is an extraordinary centerpiece of Hudson Yards where the High Line ends (or begins depending on your perspective). It is an interactive artwork in the shape of a hallow beehive with a spiral staircase that leads you 16 stories above the Hudson River – there seems to be a wide variety of opinions about the Vessel but I loved it. This piece is a tribute to it and our day.

10-28-19Hudson Yards NYC

The Vessel at Hudson Yards at the end (or beginning) of the High Line

This next one I’m trying to express the color, hustle and energy of Times Square. I struggled more with this one because it’s not my typical color palette and it feel a bit busy and overdone … but come to think of it that’s how Times Square feels too so maybe I marked the moment even if I don’t like the art. I suppose that’s just what a practice is about; pushing somewhere you don’t always go and finding a solution of some sort.

10-29-19 Times Square NYC

Times Square at dusk


Slow stitch: a lesson in leisure

3 primary panels

For those of you who have followed for a while you know that I’m am a wandering artist. Trying this technique and then that teaching what I learn along the way. Sometimes I lament that I’m not a Monet type, you know, painting my metaphorical lily pond every day. But I’m really more of a Picasso (not the boorish, misogynist part), just when my audience knows what they like about my work I change it. Lately I’ve been doing more stitch in my mixed media work, you’ve seen that in my most recent posts. When I first started art quilting, I was all about the machine stitch…. don’t slow me down just get it done. But increasingly I’ve been drawn back to hand stitch. A participant in a workshop gave me some feedback that having a hand stitch option for a workshop would be attractive to some people, so I set about making some examples to satisfy that request. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it would be also attractive to me, that in sitting down with needle and thread in a comfy chair with a podcast or music or friends that I would find a quiet beauty in the doing. Something different than the feeling of accomplishment at finishing quickly…. sometimes in my life I have measured my success by how quickly and efficiently I could complete a piece of work or art to my satisfaction. The act of slow stitching does not check off that box. I let my stitches be improvisational and move where they want to go, sometimes sparse and sometimes dense, complicated or simple; each section of the piece tells me what it needs. Adding this leisure and slowness to my work has added a richness, a texture and a fullness that was not achieved by the machine and by speed. The hand at work is evident, the art was clearly held, nurtured into existence.

I hope you can find your leisure in the doing. Perhaps its baking something special to bring to a friend’s house or maybe taking time to prune the roses in your yard of faded blooms, maybe even slowing down your power walk to hear the birds and watch the breeze sway in the trees.

Whatever it is be well, take care.

Black,White,REDcroppedfinal.jpg

PS. I’m teaching a workshop about this Fabric Cut out technique in October – contact me if you want more information.


The Wheel Turns

Turn Turn Turn

Turn, Turn, Turn – hand dyed fabric, stamped and stitched 24×30″

This life is a wheel, I think, ever turning, sometimes it seems to slow but never stops. Recently there have been friends who have died in their elder stages of life, the wheel turns. Today photos of a new baby arrived in my inbox, smiling tired parents and sleeping baby, I knew this woman when she was just a girl and now she’s a mom…the wheel turns again. We received a wedding announcement for a young couple who found each other at the camp where we work what wonder this turning wheel brings. Is it the wheel of a traveling carriage on a long journey? Or perhaps the spinning wheel, turning fibers into threads to weave into the tapestry of life. I think that might be it, threads sturdy and strong, threads thin and tenuous. All to be dyed and woven into to the cloth of their purpose. A garment, a blanket, a shelter. Worn to tatters as is the way of the turning wheel never stopping, only slowing now and again for us to notice if we happen to be paying attention.

This is a fabric collage piece I just completed inspired by this moment of noticing the wheel. Thank you to Joan and Ralph who have recently died, thank you for showing me a bit of the tapestry of your life sharing your shelter, wisdom and comfort. Thank you baby Solomon and his parents Calen and Myron for reminding me that the wheel that turns to death also turns to life, and thank you Colby and Noelle for inviting us to witness the turning of the wheel once more, the twining of your lives from two threads to one that will be long, beautiful and sturdy.


California Tiger Salamander

CTS sm file finished

California Tiger Salamander, Endangered Species of Sonoma County -24×36″

A recent UN report warns that one million species are at risk of extinction. The landmark global assessment warns that the window is closing to safeguard biodiversity and a healthy planet. We might think this is a faraway problem. Polar bears, elephants, and tigers are glamorous and examples of animals in danger. But right here in my little neck of the woods, Sonoma County California, we have endangered species too. The ones here may not be as photogenic or charismatic but their place in the chain of species is no less significant. I am highlighting the endangered species in my area through my fabric art. So far, I completed the diminutive Myrtle’s Silverspot Butterfly and the pint-sized Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. I now add the slightly awkward but surprisingly cute California Tiger Salamander to the list of completed art pieces. This little critter is endangered because of habitat loss (the top reason for all on my Sonoma county list) and climate change issues as well since this amphibian is dependent on vernal pools created during the rainy season for reproduction –In short, if the rains are small there are no pools to reproduce in.

I am thoroughly enjoying my process. I decide on which animal to feature next, research on the internet about the critter, find resource photos and begin creating digital paintings of the animal using the photos I found in my research as my jumping off point (thanks this time to the very extensive CaliforniaHerps.com website for really great information and lots of photos too). Once I have the images completed, I print them out on cotton fabric. These images are the basis for the supporting fabrics I create for the rest of the art quilt. In this case I created gelli prints and marbled fabric in purples, blacks and contrasting gold. With my salamander images, info page and printed fabrics ready I begin the composition process.  I want all the endangered species art to connect with each other in size and format, but I want each one to have to colors and content that the animal itself dictate.

Now on to the next endangered species…. perhaps I’ll do the Red-legged frog or the Western Pond Turtle or the charming Western Snowy Plover is tempting…. I’ll let you know when I complete the next one!