Jun 11, 2019

quilted 'Pop Art' by a Japanese-born artist

Ai Kijima. "A Groovy Valentine. " 2006. 
In this quiet, classic Brooklyn street filled with hundred-year old Brownstones, lives an artist whose work is super modern, colorful, unconventional and very alluring.

Ai Kijima was born in Tokyo and came to the U.S. during her high school years as an exchange student. In fact, she credits one of her high school teachers, at a small town in Wisconsin, for pushing her toward a life in art.

That one push from a teacher has set her on a fine art career where she has had numerous museum exhibitions and solo shows. She also has art gallery representation to help sell her work. Private collectors and public museums own her work as well.

Recently, I was commissioned to write an article for Art Quilt Quarterly on the collection of studio art quilts at the Racine Art Museum, in Racine, Wisconsin. During my research and interview with the curator, I was introduced to Ai's work. I was immediately captivated and reached out to her to learn more. My husband and I travel frequently to New York to visit our daughter and Ai invited me to her Brooklyn studio for a visit!

While Ai has built an excellent following in the fine art world, she is not as well known in the quilt world.

Her incredibly innovative art is definitely rooted in quilting techniques. Ai uses all types of commercial novelty fabric and she cuts it up, fuses it to a base, adds batting (sometimes) and quilts the layers on a small, older-model Bernina sewing machine.

Her fabrics come from bed sheets, children's sleeping bags, pillow cases, shower curtains, toys, whatever she can find that looks interesting and has the colorful printed images she is seeking. There are sweet children's cartoon characters next to sexy illustrated women and Japanese anime and manga characters.

Ai takes these printed characters, toys and graphics and cuts them out. Each is carefully fused  on to a base to form a compelling and stunning original collage. She creates artful line and order out of seeming chaos. Her collages pull the eye in and keep it moving from one unexpected image to the next. In some cases, hundreds of images fill her canvas, each meticulously placed.

Her Pop Art series is by far the most innovative of her work. She conjures ideas from the 1960's pop art movement, including imagery that is ghostly reminiscent of the infamous 'POW' cartoon fist in her work, sometimes with a literal fist and sometimes with no fist at all. 

Ai Kijima. "Odyssey." 2012.
Artist Ai Kijima talks about one of her art quilts with author and researcher Teresa Duryea Wong.
Ai Kijima - detail.

This amazing wall hanging is made with textiles from Turkey that Ai has collected over the years. It is a beautiful juxtaposition of hard and soft angles, crazy prints, and unusual shapes for an eye-popping result.

In the photo above, Ai is explaining one of her first attempts at this type fused and stitched collage. Her color palette in this first one is a bit softer, the imagery is sweet. Over time her style has morphed to bolder and stronger colors.

Author and Researcher Teresa Duryea Wong and Artist Ai Kijima. Brooklyn, June, 2019.

It was such a thrill to meet Ai and see her work in person. I was inspired by her innovative techniques and her fearlessness in expressing such bold work --- and and I love that she is doing all this in the quilted form.

I hope that somehow I can help bring her work to more people in the quilt community, so stay tuned for more on that. In the meantime, the Art Quilt Quarterly article on the Racine Art Museum (which owns one of Ai's pieces) will be published this fall.

You can see more of Ai Kijima's work on her website.

She is also on Instagram @aikijima

Jun 1, 2019

a quilt made by my great-grandmother

I never really knew my great-grandmother. She died when I was still young. I hear stories that she was quite fierce. I do know that she was poor and faced a lot of tough times, especially as a young wife and mother in the 1920s. Later in life she made a few quilts as a hobby, and I have two of them in my collection.

Here is a photo of my great-grandmother Pearl. This was most likely taken on her wedding day, or around that time. I have seen photos of her much later in life, but I love this one where she looks so young and her demeanor is so determined.

Quilting was not her thing. By today's standards, her stitches are a bit wonky, even messy. She would have made these probably in the late 1950s, and in her day, quilting was probably seen as work. Even with these wonky stitches, I still love this quilt. It makes me feel closer to a woman I never knew... closer to those women who came before me and endured so much. Their quilts are something to remember them by, to know they once lived, loved, laughed and cried. And made quilts. 

May 23, 2019

my chat with Pat Sloan on her podcast

For years, I have listened to podcasts while I quilt. I love all kinds of quirky topics and especially love a bunch of the NPR podcasts, also history topics and of course sewing and quilting.

One of the best quilting ones is Pat Sloan's All People Quilt podcast. I enjoy hearing all the stories of quilters and have truly been listing for many many years....

And now, she invited me on as a guest! Wow. Such an honor and it was so fun to talk with her. Pat is as easy going and welcoming as you might guess she is from looking at her warm smiling photos.

We chatted about the content in all 3 of my books.... and Japanese quilts and cotton and American cotton farms and textiles and more quilts... it was just the best.

The podcast is now available through iTunes for download, or you can listen on your phone or computer at either of the following links.

Episode 421




May 13, 2019

finished! "Cheddar, Charcoal and Cherry" - based on 1880s quilt

Teresa Duryea Wong. "Cheddar, Charcoal & Cherry." Cotton: 2019. Pieced and Applique. Machine quilted.
Based on a quilt originally made in 1890s (maker unknown) from the collection of Joanna S. Rose.
I finally finished this quilt! It is pieced and applique. All machine quilted... in fact almost every inch of this is covered in dense machine quilting.

I'm so happy with the way it turned out. There are some flaws... but aren't there always. The joy is in the making.

I was inspired to make this quilt after seeing the quilt below... originally made sometime around 1880-1900. It was part of an exhibition of cheddar quilts at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. The original is part of the collection of Joanna S. Rose.

Maker Unknown. Made circa 1880-1900. Part of the exhibition "Cheddar Quilts" at the International
Quilt Study Center & Museum. From the collection of Joanna S. Rose.
The pattern is identified as a Rising Sun or Circle Saw. The original was probably made in the Southern U.S. More about the exhibition here.

Apr 7, 2019

the search for Aunt Polly's quilt

Somewhere along the way, I began collecting antique quilts. A large portion of my collection has been given to me by my Aunt Polly. When I was at her home late last year, in Lincoln, Nebraska, we had an old fashioned 'bed turning.'

Ever heard of a 'bed turning'? That's where all the quilts are stacked on the bed and you turn them over one at a time to see each one.

When I first saw this antique quilt, I had a strong feeling it was made from a quilt kit.

So I started searching. I wanted to know how it was made, whether it was a pattern, or a kit, or something original. I was pretty sure it was a kit though... and I assumed that because it was so beautifully made. There is nothing wrong with quilts made from kits. Kits are in fact an excellent way to ensure that you will have a professional design and make a lovely quilt, and isn't that what its all about?

Especially in the first half of the 20th century, women did not have a lot of time to search for all the fabrics required, tools were scarce, and there were lots of demands on a maker's time and energy. So to be able to afford a professional quilt kit, and then to actually make it, was quite something.

This quilt design features two central wreaths. The applique flowers and vines are all solid colors, and the center wreath is made with two tones of blue fabric appliqued to look like ribbon. It is hand quilted, of course.

So finally, after about five months of pondering, I finally found the source! Thanks to a new book by Rose Marie Werner titled "Quilt Kits: 20th Century Short Cuts."

There it is, on page 104... My Aunt Polly's exact quilt! The author explains that this quilt was sold as a kit starting in 1934 by the Merribee Art Embroidery Company. This company was founded in New York and it is not known what happened to the company after 1952. They encouraged women to make their products and then sell them to earn extra income.

The fabric in the Merribee kit's were pre-stamped with lines on where to cut and shape the applique, and in all likelihood the whole cloth foundation would also have been stamped for accurate placement of the applique, and the quilting stitch design would be marked as well.

Based on this information, my Aunt Polly's version was most likely made sometime between 1934 and 1952.

I am so happy that I was able to find this information and learn more about this special quilt. Knowing more about its history makes all the more valuable, and more importantly, treasured.

Special thanks to my photographer husband who had the patience to take photos of the bed turning!

Apr 4, 2019

want to take a tour to Japan?

People ask me all the time if I lead tours to Japan. I do not... I love Japan and definitely know my way around, but I don't have the time or resources to host a tour.

I was recently approached by Japan Deluxe Tours about their Tokyo Quilt Festival Tour.  It looks like a good option for folks who want to attend the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival in January 2020. Japan Deluxe Tours is offering a $50 discount code for quilters via my website. Use coupon code TFQ50QF.


While I have not gone on this tour, I have used the Japan Deluxe Tours website many, many times for information. They have excellent information about places to go and how to get there, etc.

I encourage everyone to visit this lovely country. Its is so easy to get around. The Tokyo Dome Show is a wonderful must see. The food in Japan is fantastic. Crime is almost non-existent. And best of all, the people are polite and friendly. Go!

email: info@japandeluxetours.com

Please note: I am sharing this as a courtesy. I am not affiliated with Japan Deluxe Tours and was not compensated for this post.

There is more information about traveling in Japan on my Japan INFO page - click here.

Mar 26, 2019

Heaps of King Cotton in Quilt Batting

Heaps of King Cotton in Quilt Batting 

An Excerpt from American Cotton: Farm to Quilt 

By Teresa Duryea Wong

Quilts have been examined, copied, shared, preserved, destroyed, written about and researched for 200 years. Yet, there’s very little curiosity about the material between the two layers of fabric that make a quilt a quilt. Like a classic peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, the layers of bread are important, but it’s the stuff inside that makes it yummy.

Quilt batting, or what used to be called wadding, is the soft, solid, yummy layer inside a quilt sandwich. The batting is what makes a quilt warm and gives it its drape, and today a quilter can find a batting in almost every make, shape, and material, whether thick or thin, to meet her needs. Besides cotton, other common quilt batting materials are wool, polyester, cotton blends and bamboo.
The process to make cotton batting is strangely very hi-tech, but also strikingly similar to the way it has been made for a century. I was fortunate to visit the manufacturing facility owned by The Warm Company in Elma, Washington in 2018, and it was fascinating to learn how the cotton travels through giant automated machines and comes out the other end as a smooth, finished product, ready for the billions of quilt stitches that will eventually pierce it.

Heaps of American cotton are purchased each year and turned into cotton batting for quilts, as well as industrial batting for furniture and bedding. The Warm Company alone, whose primary business is quilting, purchases four million pounds of fresh, American cotton annually. To put that in perspective, it takes roughly 14,000 acres of West Texas farmland to produce four million pounds of cotton. That means the Warm Company buys enough cotton to cover the entire crop of at least four farmers, and they are spending approximately $3.2 million annually on those purchases.

The Warm Company has strict requirements for fiber length, thickness, strength, and color, and only the cleanest cotton is chosen. The raw cotton, which has been ginned to remove leaves, sticks, seeds, etc., travels to the Warm facilities where it is cleaned again, twice in fact. This super-fine cleaning process separates even more leaf or stick fragments from the fiber. It is natural for very tiny specs of leaf or stick to remain, even after all this rigorous cleaning. Those tiny specs are called pepper. The pepper look is what you will see in the batting named Warm & Natural. This product is so popular with quilters that many consider it essential to quiltmaking. Warm & Natural batting is not bleached, and as the name suggests, the batting has a natural-looking creamy, off-white color.

A second type of batting is made with purified cotton, and this is the cotton used to make Warm & White batting. With purified cotton, the individual fibers are scoured to remove natural oils and discoloration. The treatment involves a gentle bath of hydrogen-peroxide. This process leaves the fibers so clean and white that the fibers actually become coarse, so a lubricant is added to the cotton, not unlike when human hair is bleached and needs a conditioner to make it soft again. The Warm & White batting is preferred by many quilters who seek that clean, pure snowy-white color.

After cleaning, the cotton begins its long journey through the conveyor-belt maze of automation that turns fibers into batting. The cotton fibers are formed into layers, and the layers are laid on top of each other. Eventually a scrim is added to the layers of cotton fiber. A scrim looks a lot like a common dryer sheet, only it is significantly lighter and thinner. The fibers and scrim are needle-punched millions of times, in a matter of seconds, by very long needles. As the needles move up and down through the fibers, they force the cotton down through the scrim and back up again until the fibers and scrim essentially become completely intertwined. Thanks to the scrim, the batting holds together and at the Warm Company, no glue is added. Stitches in most modern batting can be up to 10 inches apart without worrying about the batting moving or bunching up.

American Cotton: Farm to Quilt by Teresa Duryea Wong, shares the story of the American cotton farmer, America’s textile industry and their connection to quilting. 

Available online at https://TeresaDuryeaWong.com