It was my great pleasure to attend the first ever SAQA UK meeting held yesterday in Milnrow, Lancashire. SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Association) are an US based organisation but they do have a couple of hundred members in Europe and 66 here in the UK. Whilst the organisation provides some really great exhibiting opportunities it is inevitably ‘US-centric’ and it can be difficult for those of us making very abstract work to break through.
Christine Seager, one of the SAQA Europe Reps, has initiated the UK meetings to provide more targeted support for UK members both within SAQA and in their endeavours outside SAQA. If successful she hopes that the model can be rolled out across Europe. I suggested Milnrow as a suitable meeting hall that I have booked in the past for the Etcetera group. And, of course, I took along my coffee pot! Christine and Gillian Travis lead lively discussions on what SAQA means to its members and how the UK meetings can support and promote the growth of a professional quilt / textile artist community. There will be another meeting near London early next year and I really hope that many more SAQA members will attend.
Part of the discussion was on exhibiting opportunities. SAQA currently run a biennial exhibition for members in Europe and the Middle East called Wide Horizons. (My piece Storm 2 (Dark) is currently touring with Wide Horizons V and I was delighted to get my copy of the exhibition catalogue yesterday!). Christine has fought hard and got two more opportunities for European members. The first is called Made in Europe I and will tour in the US though 2017. It is the perfect opportunity for European work to be seen by tens of thousands American quilters. The second has yet to be officially announced but will be Made in Europe II and will be shown alongside the SAQA Tranquility and Turmoil exhibition at next summers Festival of Quilts.
Wide Horizons 5
Using thickened dyes to create new colour families
I’ve written about colour families before. I learnt about them on a wonderful class with Leslie Morgan. Essentially a colour family is created when you cross mix a dark, medium and light shade of two base colours. You can dye colour families or you can blend them using thickened dyes. My Hidden Message series used a dyed colour family because I wanted to create a collection of cloth with flat colours that I could then print on top of. The fabrics I used in my Ruins series were mostly breakdown printed using a colour family of thickened dyes.
The BIG IDEA that is rattling around my head will also feature breakdown printing so I have been making colour families using thickened dyes. I have already decided that one of my base colours will be a neutral black. And because I record everything I do I know how to make it with a mixture of black and dark brown. (The black dye I buy from Kemtex is actually a very, very dark blue so it needs the addition of brown to balance it).
But my idea for my second base colour was a little vague. So my first step was too blend different amounts of magenta with black and then to blend a 50/50 mix of that with my neutral black … sounds a little confusing but I keep notes as I go. I then auditioned this 50/50 mix by diluting it with print paste to see what lighter shades would look like. I also decided to see how each of the colours would change if discharged with a thickened Formosol paste. As you can see my first attempts were very definitely still pink.
I liked the look of my fourth attempt (above, right) so then blended a full 15 piece colour family. I only needed very small amounts of each colour which is why I have a set of scales that measure to the gram! Again I discharged areas of each colour swatch.
And because my BIG IDEA is going to use very pale versions of the colour family I created an extended colour family by cross blending medium, light and very light shades of my neutral black with medium, light, very light and very very light shades of my second base colour. There are some wonderful greys here and this is definitely a very pretty colour family. But, having washed, dried, ironed, cut out swatches and put them into my sketchbook I still think it is too pink! Back to the bench Leah!
I have a confession to make – I have let ‘being kind to myself’ because I started a new day job 5 weeks ago slide into procrastination. Now I don’t mind ‘value added’ procrastination such as deep cleaning the studio before starting a new project. But I have been guilty of non-value added procrastination …. did I really, really need to finish watching all those Walking Dead boxed sets? Hmm – probably not!
Mixing a new colour family
So how am I going to get back into a good studio habit? I’m going to do one of those things that I love most of all. I am going to develop new colour families. I have had a BIG IDEA brewing for a while and have decided that now is the time to start working on it. Inevitably (as with the colour family I mixed this week) I will waste quite a lot of dye and cloth before I get something that replicates the colours in my head. However I always keep good records of everything I mix so, in one sense, nothing is wasted. And yes I always uses scales to make sure my colour families are reproducible.
Colour family made with a 60/40 Dark Brown/Black blend and Rust. Each colour was also discharged using Formosol.
Happy today? (detail)
When I needed to photograph a really big Ruins piece in August I ended up borrowing a studio and some lighting. (The design walls in my wonderful studio just weren’t big enough.) And whilst I was happy with the result it was a lot of effort to ‘book’ the studio, transport the quilt etc. So, with help from son Cal, I have built a system that will allow me to photograph big pieces and 3D pieces in the comfort of my own studio. Just in time to photograph my latest piece ‘Happy today?’ which is a double sided long thin piece designed to hang from the ceiling and pleat onto the floor.
We brought a 2.7m wide roll of photographic backdrop paper which sits on a narrow shelf built onto one of the long beams in the studio. This allows me to drop the paper down and along the floor. We brought a roll of metal mesh and used wood battens to fit a length to the ceiling in front of the backdrop roll. In the photo below Cal is using picture hooks and nylon hanging thread to suspend the quilt about 30cm in front of the backdrop. Cal made me two lighting stands. Each is a 6ft length of timber with four 10inch shelf brackets attached to the base to provide stability. He drilled out 3 holes on each upright through which he has attached regular bayonet light fittings. Having inherited my ‘tidy’ gene Cal put a junction box on each upfright so that each is run off a single plug. We used six non-directional cool white light bulbs to gave lots of good light although I need to invest in a better way of cutting the light from the french doors as this gave us a bit of problem with shadows.
Once we had finished photographing the piece we rolled up the paper and stored the lighting stands. (And moved tables, chairs and print benches back in place!). We have already decided that the system could be improved. Sometime before I use it again we need to get a 2.8m wood or metal pole to hang the roll of backdrop paper from so that it drops without any distortion. We need to replace the wire mesh with something more heavy duty especially if I want to photograph bigger, heavier pieces. And we need to paint everything white so that it looks nicer! Well maybe ‘need’ is a bit of an exaggeration but I do have the ‘tidy’ gene!