Jan 7, 2018

docent for a day for artsy quilt exhibit

The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft invited me to be a docent for a day. I was asked to be present during a reception for their very artsy quilt exhibit called "Storyline: The Contemporary Quilt." My job was to answer questions about how the quilts were made, and show the backs. It was great fun.

There were several Luke Haynes quilts on view. His message to curators is to display the quilts any way they want... and to be creative. I love how this one quilt is just plopped down on a display box. It looks like a hard sculpture, or something sitting on my couch.

This one is definitely not a quilt, but it certainly references one. It is made with discarded motion picture film from the Fashion Institute of Technology. The artist cut up bits of film and stitched them together with monofilament and regular thread using half square triangle block patterns. I love the creativity. It is displayed on a light box. Here's a closer look.

Michael James made this art quilt below. He is a longtime art quilter and is known for many innovations in this form. He is head of the textile department at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

This black and white whole cloth quilt is by Carolyn Mazloomi. Beautifully done (detail image). The visitors to the Museum really responded to this quilt and I enjoyed pointing out the beautiful stitching that really 'makes' this piece. Some stitches pull the design forward, and some quilting pushes the image backward. Brilliant.

Now this one below is totally unique... weird and strange in a really good way. Look closely... then read more below.

You are seeing the whole quilt. It is a whole cloth quilt, hand dyed and hand quilted!

It looks fuzzy but the image is in focus. Anna Von Mertens created this. It is the 'aura' she imagines would surround Whistler's mother... and she has carefully stitched the pattern of Whislter's famous painting of his mother sitting. See the titghtly stitched pattern now? Then the echo stitching stretches out from there. Here's the description panel, which includes the original Whistler painting. 

So to sum up this small exhibition with a critical view.... I love that this important Houston museum is featuring the quilt as art. And I think they have succeeded (for the most part) in choosing pieces that elevate and illustrate the craft of quilting as art, which is part of their mission.

They brought in some new pieces that I had never seen and I loved learning about these pieces and the artists who made them. I am particularly interested in the piece by Anna Von Mertens. She has created something I've never seen before and that always gets me excited. Her piece is so strange, so artistic, totally innovative, yet she created the most important element - the line - with hand stitches. So a mix of very old and very new forms. Totally cool.

For me, what's not so cool is that there were 6 artists featured in the show - 3 men, 3 women. No offense to the men who were chosen, but for an art form that is dominated by women, I feel the women were underrepresented in this show. And I think about this every time someone writes an article about the men of quilting, or hosts a show with men only. Don't get me wrong, I do not think this is undeserved, I just find it an interesting question to ponder. Men are a minority in quilting and needle arts and every minority deserves a voice and a chance to be recognized.

But I wonder. Are the men quilters more well known because they are men? Do museums give them preference because they are men? Are men quilters taken more seriously as artists because they are men? In some cases, and at some times, the answers are yes.

And my biggest example of that is the quilts by Luke Haynes in this particular show. Luke has done some really innovative work and I have enjoyed seeing his take, but none of his innovate quilts were here. Instead, there were 3 examples of his improv log cabin series, something anyone could have done, and many have done with equal measure of success. So, why was he chosen? Why were these quilts included? Is it because of their connection to Donald Judd's exhibition at Marfa, as the panel explains? Donald Judd is a serious artist, a man. So are Luke's log cabin quilts worth more because he made them with Donald Judd in mind?

I've seen lots of stunning log cabin quilts, many are infinitely more interesting than the ones shown here. But those quilts were made by women and the makers did not market their log cabin quilts as inspired by Donald Judd and they didn't hang their log cabin quilts outside in weird places and in unusual ways. Luke did. And because of that, his log cabin quilts have this "story" now, and an aura of art that other log cabin quilts do not. So there you go.

Lastly, here's my selfie of my docent for a day experience. Selfies always look better in front of a quilt!

One last little tidbit - I made the dress I am wearing. Its a pattern from Tilly and the Buttons, Coco dress. And I got this really interesting knit fabric from The Cloth Pocket (in Austin - great store!!!) I think they still have this fabric in stock and they sell the pattern too!

Jan 4, 2018

the search for Earl Campbell (quilt)

The year was 1980. Bum Phillips was the coach for Houston's beloved Houston Oilers football team. And that same year, one devoted and enterprising quilter made a quilt with a life-size image of the Oiler's star running back: Earl Campbell.

This quilt was chosen for the exhibition titled: Quilts All American Beauty. And it was on display at Quilt Festival '80, which was held at the lovely Shamrock Hilton Hotel.

Were you there? Do you remember this quilt? Do you know who made it?
Earl was a fierce competitor and he is still revered today as one of the great all time players in the NFL. During his heyday with the Houston Oilers, he was enough of a star for at least one quilter to take the time to immortalize him in a quilt.

Somebody out there knows who that quilter was. I would love to hear from you!

Why am I searching for this quilt?

As I stated in my blog post yesterday, I am currently researching and writing a book on the 45 year history of the International Quilt Festival, and the two women who created Festival, Karey Bresenhan and Nancy O'Bryant Puentes.

I think a quilt this quirky from 1980 certainly deserves a mention. Maybe you know another quilt story related to Festival that's equally quirky or infamous. If so, please share.

write me at   teresa at third floor quilts dot com

Jan 3, 2018

share your International Quilt Festival memories with me!

I'm working on an amazing new book: a history of the International Quilt Festival and the biography of the two women who helped build this industry and who've run Festival for the past 40+ years.

Would you like to help?

Do you have any really great stories about attending Festival? Epic tales? Unforgettable moments? If so, please share them with me.

Do you have old photos from early Festival events? If you have photos that are more than 20 years old, I would love to see them! Maybe I can publish them in the book and give credit to you.

More specifically, did you attend the Festival event at the Shamrock Hilton when a giant quilt featuring the football star Earl Campbell was displayed? I'd give my right arm (not really) for a photo of that quilt! Or do you know who made the quilt? Or where it is today?

How about 1990 when a 40-foot quilt made by Japanese quilters hung from the ceiling of George R. Brown? Were you there? Have a photo?

How about photos of the bi-centennial quilt exhibition in 1980? Or the 9/11 exhibit? Other monumental exhibits....

Writing a history like this is a huge undertaking. Fortunately, I have attended the past 20 years of Festival and I believe in the power of this event to change lives. If you do too, I'd love to hear your story.

Below is a photo that depicts the life of a researcher. I've been digging through a lot of these boxes recently.... and there are plenty more still waiting. But some stories won't come from boxes. They will come from real people like you.

This new book will be published in 2019, in time for the 45th Anniversary of International Quilt Festival.

You can reach me through comments here, or email me at   teresa at third floor quilts dot com

Thanks friends!

closed my two Etsy shops

I finally closed my two Etsy shops. Neither of them were even remotely successful.

Partly because I never had enough inventory to make it a "real" shop. And partly because I lost motivation. There are billions of items on Etsy and it was impossible for my products to be found on even the most sophisticated searches.

These days, the craft supplies and manufactured items have taken over. Its no longer a place for handmade.

I opened one shop back in 2013 and I had about a dozen quilts and tote bags offered for sale. I sold 1 quilt through the site and I got one commission. The other shop was opened about 18 months ago to sell my handbags. That was slightly more useful and I sold several purses, but it was a struggle to get noticed.

One of the things I find really interesting about Etsy now (versus what I saw 4 years ago), is it seems most people use Etsy the same way they use Pinterest. They "like" your product and collect images in their "favorites" list. Each time a user "liked" one of my products, I would get a notification.... a little ping on my phone ... a little suggestion that someone is interested and might actually buy something. So curious and hopeful, I would click to see which item they liked. What I found was that most users had hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of "favorites." They might like one of my clutches, but they also liked about 200 other clutches. Clearly, these are not buyers.

Another interesting thing I tried is the Etsy wholesale offering. After reading about it, I was very interested to see if I could find an independent boutique would be interested in carrying my handmade leather bags. I took all their suggestions about how to set up a wholesale account, I had great photography, about 20 products, good mix of large and small items, and I lowered the price by 50% as required for wholesale. I went live and waited. The first week I got about 10 views. After that, next to nothing.

So, at this point, Etsy is nothing but a distraction for me. The fees are not high, so its not a $ thing. Its just simply not worth the time. I have been meaning to shut them down for a while, but just never took the step. Now its done.

For my handbag business, I have found success. But it wasn't through any kind of online channel --- rather my new business connection came through the old fashioned channel: face to face. Last year, I went to Taos, New Mexico to present a lecture to the Taos Quilting and Needlecraft Guild. While I was in town, I scoped out a couple of the women's boutiques and went in and introduced myself. I struck up a conversation with one highly energetic owner and she loved my leather and cowhide handbags. We immediately made an arrangement for her to carry my bags and they are selling! This store has a nice offering of unique clothing and accessories and the customers and tourists appreciate something handmade that you won't find at the store down the street. The store is Michelle's. Stop by and say hi if you're ever in Taos.

The internet is an amazing and wonderful thing. But nothing beats face to face communication.

Dec 28, 2017

new 2018 art quilt idea

I made this zebra art quilt about two years ago and I love it.

This quilt is based on a photo I took when my husband and I made a photo safari trip to Tanzania a while bag. The quilt hangs in our home next to a black and white cow quilt I also made. Clearly, I am attracted to black and white. 

Today, I saw this photo below from the extremely talented photographer Joel Sartore. I love the unconventional pose, the lighting, the limited color pallette, everything about it!

I sought and have been granted permission to base a new art quilt on this image. I think I have just figured out what I will be working on in 2018! Funny, my plate is completely full next year. I have several big projects and commitments already. But sometimes, when the creative spirit moves us... there is no other choice but to comply! Just do it.... I can't wait to get started.

Dec 23, 2017

studio redo, a new Bernina serger, & new DIY large cone thread rack

Sometimes I spend as much time organizing my studio space as I do sewing in it. 

My husband --- the hardest working man in my studio --- moves so fast he shows up twice! 

My studio is large and I am very fortunate to have such a big space. Its home to my computer and author research station, plus my quilting Bernina 820, a heavy duty leather sewing machine, way too much fabric, and all the other stuff.

Then I bought a new Bernina 450 serger and it just arrived a week ago.To give it a proper space, I had to make room for it in my studio. So... we moved everything around.
I found this great sewing table for it. Only $87 on Amazon. Small, has wheels, side storage and the end folds down. Good product for a great price.

You do have to put the table together yourself... or if you're lucky like me, your husband does it. The dog is only mildly interested in the whole process.....

Besides the serger, over the past year, I've acquired a bunch of big, beautiful cones of Superior Thread. These are bonded nylon that I use for sewing leather. I needed a way to store these and kept struggling with what to do....

I used these metal gym locker baskets for a while. But they are heavy and unwieldy. 

I purchased a rack online that was supposed to be designed for large cones, but it was a piece of junk and I sent it back. Then I was flipping around the web and saw cones on a peg board.... duh! I LOVE pegboards. And I had an extra one sitting in my studio closet.  Thanks to my nice husband, problem solved! I purchased 6 inch metal peg board hooks and they work perfectly. Plus I love the way it looks.

I'm a big fan of peg boards. I have another one I use constantly, so I took advantage of the studio redo to organize it better. Here's before and after....

Looking at the photos, I'm not sure if the peg boards looks better before or after....? But anyways, it is better organized.

Here's the finished studio.

All ready for the New Year! Thank you to all of you who occasionally read my blog. I am so grateful to have this place to share my love of sewing and quilting.

Dec 12, 2017

channeling Yayoi Kusama with a Japanese sewing pattern

If you can sew a quilt, you can sew clothes. And lately, I have been expanding my sewing skills to make garments.

Not just any garment... but tops from Japanese sewing books. These oversized fashion designs are super easy to construct, fun to make, and best of all, easy to wear.

For the latest top, I've channeled the famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

Kusama's art is scattered all over the world. She is world famous for her huge pumpkin sculptures covered in dots, her infinity rooms, and a bunch of other colorful and interesting motifs. There are so few famous women artists that people can actually recognize, and she is one of them... so I love that about her.

I visited one of her pumpkins at Naoshima Island earlier this year! And here's my top. Its 100% linen.

One dot on the back, just because. (geez, I need a haircut!!!)

I took this photo while making the top. My red stool popped into the photo and somehow fits right in.... 

The instructions are all in Japanese. I do not read or speak Japanese, but I can follow pictures. I am certain that there are details that are lost on me, but the tops I've made have all turned out great.

And if you are interested... yes, I will make one of these for you! $168.00

I am adding handmade tops to my "mariejay" website (where I sell my handmade leather bags). This particular top comes in 2 sizes, regular (or medium) and large. Keep in mind, it is meant to fit very loose and baggy. I can make this top similar to the one I am wearing in linen, or with other colors. BUT... I am also getting a new shipment of imported Japanese fabric very soon! New designs by Japanese quilter and fabric designer Yoshiko Jinzenji - all in 100% linen. So I will be making this top in her designs soon.

Just email me or leave a comment if you're interested in an original, handmade top!