We had a terrific joint meeting with our regional cohort of Surface Design Association, including their representative Ellen Schiffman on Saturday, April 8, 2017. There were 33 SAQA members and 13 SDA members (with approx 10 SAQA members also members of SDA!) in attendance at Guilford Art Center.
Our first order of business was to acknowledge our gracious host location, Guilford Art Center, and the stunning photography exhibit on display. We also noted the beautiful quilt hanging in the entryway, which was donated by Sisters in Cloth, to be raffled off as a fundraiser for the Art Center. Raffle tickets are still available, so be sure to stop in the gift shop Mon-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 12-4pm to pick up one, or a few! The final drawing will be at the Craft Expo in mid-July.
We had a brief intro to SAQA and SDA. SDA has been meeting regionally for about three years now. They have a regular newsletter, Facebook page, workshops (usually open exclusively to SDA members, due to space and material constraints), movie nights, and exhibitions (this fall, they’ll be in River Street Gallery in New Haven). Most importantly, they hold a variety activities to make the connections among its members.
Cathy Smith spoke briefly about the upcoming Textile Duo event at the Windham Textile & History Museum: June 10 will be Quilting and Fiber Arts and June 17 will be Spin Weave Knit. There will be a variety of speakers, vendors and demos (including a display of one of SAQA’s traveling trunks!). Also featured will be the month-long exhibition “Locally Inspired”, which will include pieces from some of our members. Our next regional meeting will coincide with the closing reception, on SATURDAY, JULY 1 (411 Main Street, Willimantic CT).
Cathy also mentioned that she is helping to organize a Fiber Arts exhibition at Gallery 53 for April 2018. Anyone interested in assisting her should contact her directly.
We then broke into 6 small groups of mixed membership, to share our Show and Tell pieces and stories. After carefully coordinating the timing, we broke for a brief bite to eat. We reconvened for the real treat of the day, our fabulous speaker (who just happens to be a regional SAQA member and, oh yeah, SAQA’s executive director), Martha Sielman.
In 2004, Martha became the executive director of SAQA, and at the time, our Connecticut region had a whopping SIX members. Over the years, she has had the joy of working toward and watching the organization, and our region, grow, as well as the overall awareness of and interest in art quilts start to take off. As both a result of that growth as well as a factor in it, Martha pitched, and authored, Masters: Art Quilts...then a volume 2...then a short series of specific topical books (The Natural World, People and Portraits) within the Art Quilts realm. In preparation for her newest book, Abstract and Geometric, she garnered over 1700 (!) entries to sift through and distill into a single volume. Drawing from that wealth of imagery and insight, she spoke to us on the Top Ten Trends in Fiber Art. It is a talk she has given on numerous occasions over the years, and yet it is always different.
The most significant change over the years has been COLOR. In the late ’80s, deep jewel tones were all the rage. What’s pretty current right now are golden browns/yellows/reds, though there seems to be a shifting tide toward stark black and white. But the real trend that coming through is (1) “Crayola colors” - bright, vivid, saturated primary colors.
Another feature to consider in art quilts is how they are quilted. There seem to be two divergent trends: (2) very, very dense quilting, such as in tiny matchstick patterning or a piece completely covered in stitching shapes, such as circles, with little spacing, and (3) handwork, also often dense, frequently in heavy thread to really showcase the maker’s hand and the process very visually clear in the final piece.
Other things she’s noticed gaining popularity:
(4) Machine-worked thread painting - covering the entire surface in stitching in order to create the coloring of the imagery.
(5) Use of sheers - often playing with the light and/or perspective of the viewer.
(6) Found fabrics - frequently stemming from environmental ethics of reuse, but also for memorial tributes and other purposes.
(7) Whole cloth quilts have been around forever, but it’s being done in new ways. Some examples shown were the incorporation of airbrushing, stencils, and dye-painting. One interesting comment from an artist she interviewed mentioned that the quilting catches light very differently than if the painting were just a flat unquilted piece.
(8) Inkjet and digital printing.
Like color, the use of embellishments has changed over the years. While once favored to be completely encrusted with bling, the current trends lean towards a more restrained and minimal use these days. Embellishments that are gaining in popularity are (9) text and (10) fabric manipulation, such as slashing, gathers, and dangling threads.
The whole presentation showed us tons of stunning, inspirational works by artists from all over the world. Most of the images are in Martha’s newest book, so I definitely encourage you to check it out and get your copy today!
Thank you to Martha for giving such an incredible talk, to Ellen and SDA for joining us, to Guilford Art Center for hosting our meeting, and always always, to you, the members of our region for showing up, making the work, and being passionate about art quilts. We hope to see you at our next meeting (if not sooner!).