TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ralli Quilts: Customer Photos and Newly Listed!

If you follow this blog, you will know that I carry ralli quilts in my Etsy shop.  I fell in love with them a couple of years ago and have been buying them whenever I can.  As a quilter, I appreciate all the work that goes into them.  I also really like textiles that have an organic, handmade feel to them.  I like mistakes, repairs that don't match, stitches that are crooked, imperfections in dyes...  That doesn't mean that I like sloppy work.  No.  But, many of the tribal or village crafts that I am drawn to have a bold, rough finish to them that tells me a story of a way of life.

So, the other day, a ralli quilt sold in my Etsy store.  I didn't realize that it was the last one I had in stock.  Here is a photo:

 Ralli quilt that sold on Etsy.

One of the things that fascinate me about the rallis is that they do not use any patterns.  They are handed down from mother to daughter.  The quilts are stitched completely by hand and some patterns become popular in a certain village so that experts can take one look and know where they come from.  Several people might work on stitching the blocks and then when it comes time to quilt it, it becomes a quilting bee, with many women helping it go quickly.  I can just see them all sitting in a circle, chatting away about local gossip.

My customer was kind enough to send me some images of how the quilt looked in her home.  How fun it is to see a "product" become a part of an environment!

 Ralli quilt used as a table cloth.

Doesn't it just look great in her home?  I never would have thought to use it on a table like that, but love the effect!  The white walls work perfectly with the quilt.  And, notice how the grey works so well with the light green in the other room.

The effect is both joyful and serene.  Truly lovely!  I really appreciate her sending me the images.  It's a nice way to show how these quilts can be incorporated into contemporary homes.  If you have bought things from my shop in the past and would like to send me some images, I would be happy to post about them, too!

So, that sale meant that I had to get busy and take some more photos and get more rallis back into the shop.  I just got several listed last night.  Click here to see what is currently in stock.  Two of the best quilts I have ever bought are in this new batch:

 Vintage ralli quilt with applique.

Both are done with cutwork applique blocks, much harder to find than the more simple pieced ones.  These are both kind of pricey, around $350, but they are gorgeous and estimated to be from the 1950's.  I also listed less expensive ones, ranging from $42-$160.  

Jump on the ralli wagon and get one for yourself!  They will cast a warm spot on your bed, couch, wall, or table!

For more ralli quilt posts on this blog, click here.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Smart Textiles in Fiber Art

Photo: Source not named

If you read the book, Dune, you might remember how they had clothing that would transform all of the body's excretions into drinkable water.  I read the book in high school (decades ago!) and can still feel how both disgusted and fascinated I was by the idea.  Recently, I heard a pundit on a TV show talk about how close we are to making the invisible cloak.  It seems like part of the world really is heading towards the Jetson's future, while the rest of it remains in the 1800's.  

"Smart" fabrics and textiles are engineered to perform specific tasks: release perfume, send electronic messages, control sweat, heat, and so on.  These are engineered in high tech labs as seen in the video below:

Smart textiles have made their way into both the fashion and fiber art worlds.  Suzanne Tick designs specialty textiles for industrial purposes.   She also incorporates fiber optics into her fiber art:

Fiber Art using fiber optics by Suzanne Tick

Degree programs in the textile arts now offer curriculum that embraces the exploration of how smart fabrics can be used both to enhance the quality of life in specific fields and how they can push their way into new, unexplored interactive art.

Fascinating?  Absolutely!  Scary?  Absolutely.

The gap between those who have access to technology and those who don't has already divided our world in immeasurable ways.  We also hear reports of how our electronic overload might be sickening our planet.  What about recycling these smart textiles?  Already, we cannot handle the waste generated by our garment and textile industries created by the "dumb" textiles. Where will the outdated "smart" ones end up?

As with so many advances in technology, I have mixed feelings.  I like to know where things come from, how they were grown, who made them.  But, I make my livelihood using a computer, a part of an industry that has created serious e-waste.  Contradictions abound in my life.

What do you think?  Are you excited about "smart" textiles?  What pros and cons do you see?



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Felt Workshop by Lily Liu in Paducah

Nuno-felted Scarf by Lily Liu

Lily Liu and Susan Sadow.

I belong to a group of fiber artists that meets monthly here in Paducah.  We have the obvious name of Paducah Fiber Artists.  We have a potluck, catch up with each other and then hold a show-and-tell.  It's a highlight for me and one of my favorite peeks is to see what Lily Liu has been up to lately.  Lily has a motto that she quotes often, "Make every minute count!"  Her free minutes are often filled with tedious folding or wrapping of small objects that she makes by the thousands and then assembles into a sculpture.  Or, she crochets weirdly wonderful necklaces out of dyed nylon fishing wire.  Then, there is all the felting she does.  As a mother of two lively boys, Lily certainly makes every minute count.

Lily is offering a workshop on felt!  Make every minute count and come learn from her!

Felted vessel by Lily Liu

Felt-making Workshop

This workshop is for those interested in work with wool. It is my intent to provide you with an introduction to basic felting techniques; color blending, Nuno felting, needle felting, as well as using resist make 3D forms. You will end this workshop with samples from each technique and a project that you choose to accomplish (e.g. a nuno felt scarf, or a 3d form)

Location:  Paducah Tilghman Art Building 
Time:   Aug.2nd and 4th (Monday and Wednesday)
        Instruction 8:30 – 12:00
        Open studio 12:00 – 3:00
Fee:    Workshop $80.00 
            Material $20.00

Material fee includes a starter kit of white, black and multicolor roving, needle felt kit, a swimming noodle, etc, plus shared use of equipment listed below:

a.    Bamboo mats
b.    Bubble wraps
c.    Wash boards
d.    Murphy oil soap
e.    Drum carder

If you bring your own materials, you can register for $80.00.

Students should bring their own: A notebook, old bath towels and a pair of sharp scissors.

Space is limited so reserve early to secure your space, preferably before July 28th so I will have enough time to get material package ready.

-Lily Liu


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Paducah Loses Pioneer Artist: Sarah Roush

Sarah Roush, Paducah Pioneer of the Arts

As I sat down this morning for my usual perusal of emails with coffee, waking up to the world and all of its demands, my eye caught a sad announcement on IList Paducah.  Sarah Roush had lost her battle with cancer...........   I had heard last week that she was not doing well and that hospice had been called in.  All my good intentions of visiting her "soon" vanished as I read the article.  I missed my chance to say good-bye.  Life, so fleeting, once again slapped me with the reminder of the great passing, of death, of a closed chapter.  Sarah, I'm sorry I was not there to tell you how much you meant to me.  This is my good-bye to you.  

I moved to Paducah in 2005 from Chicago.  There are two streets downtown that have cobble stones, housing some fun boutiques, restaurants, shops, a museum and a theater.  One of the buildings has a cafe at the street level with apartments on top and an outdoor seating area at the back.  The front was covered with handmade ceramic tiles.  Peeking through the windows, I could see that there were all kinds of interesting clay accents throughout the space.  Doors were covered with arches embedded with 3-D tiles, parts of the walls had protruding sculptures.  Very cool!  The space was for rent.  After 20 years of working in retail spaces in Chicago, I toyed with the idea of opening a shop in Paducah.  This space could be a gallery/cafe.  My then husband, Mohammed, was a chef...  ah, the ideas ran through my head.  Although my main love is textiles, I had worked with clay for three years and still miss it.  I called the number and found out that the owner was very sick.  Several months passed until I finally met Sarah.  She was the owner and the artist who had created all of the tiles and clay work that adorned that building.  Another building on Broadway, Paducah's main street, was also covered with Sarah's tiles.  I was enchanted.  Paducah's School of Art is appropriately housed in that building.

Rachel Biel standing in front of one of Sarah Roush's walls, 
April 2009

 Sarah and her architect partner, George Fletcher, were among the first to envision Paducah as a haven for artists.  Both left indelible marks on the city through their careful restoration of buildings in key locations.  Sarah came to Paducah in 1987 and was instrumental in bringing other local artists together through group shows and events.  Even as her health deteriorated, she was a fervent advocate for artists who fell outside of the City's revitalization and promotional efforts with LowerTown and the Artist's Relocation Program.  Facing financial difficulties incurred by her health problems, Sarah lost several of her buildings, selling them in order to pay for hospital bills.  Her life, struggles and death, are all a testament to me of how upside down our system is, especially in view of how poorly artists are rated in our society.  

Sarah and Monica Bilak
The pictures to the left are from a party at my house in April of 2009.  Sarah was witty, fun, and embraced life with a passion not often found.  She loved flowers and gardening, but lived downtown in the third story of one of her buildings.  So, George built her a rooftop garden.  He lugged all the lumber up himself, creating a large covered deck filled with pots where Sarah could grow her tropical delights.  She built a mosaic on one of the walls, using clay and shards of broken plates and other objects.  Marbles and mirrors caught reflections of light. 

Sarah Roush, 2009
Inside, there was a living area.  Nice, but chaotic, filled with textiles and wonderful objects.  Sarah was not only a friend, she was also a customer.  She was one of the few people in Paducah who felt the shared my passion for tribal textiles.  She bought several pieces from me over the years, surrounding herself with inspiration from faraway places.

Most of that top floor was taken up by her studio.  The sight of it is overwhelming.  A huge space filled with creatures of clay, one part blocked off for works on paper.  On and on and on...  I often wondered what the weight of all this clay was doing to the building's structure.  Many of the pieces were fragile and pieces had chipped off.  Dust hid the vibrant colors on some of the ones that had been in place for a long time.  This was a garden of soul, an entry into the muse of an artist who just wouldn't stop, at least not without a big, long fight.

Sarah's art is unlike anything I had ever seen before.  Her work in clay used molds from dolls, religious icons, and animals to create new creatures.

 "Angels" by Sarah Roush

Runny glazes in brilliant colors fused the pieces together, often in violent collision.  Verging on grotesque, her clay work is also humorous and playful.

"Puppy" by Sarah Roush
"Columbus" by Sarah Roush

The "discovery" of the New World: a baby riding on a snail carrying a gun.  We also shared a similar interest in politics and social change.  Sarah kept up on what was going on locally and in the world.  She translated her anger at injustice into her art.  But, when cancer became a focal point in her life, her art left the outside world to focus on what was going on inside of her.  She began to narrate her life, her body, and her disease through watercolors and then computer collages.

"Torso" by Sarah Roush

The watercolors bring in some of the chaotic techniques used in the clay: the runny colors, the use of common imagery coming into a new form, but they are softer, beautiful.  Rubber stamps fill the spaces, creating texture within the colors.  Almost all of the images are of human forms, although the messages within them still harken to commentary.

"Teacup" by Sarah Roush

Her most recent work, digital imagery, explores these human shapes even more intimately.  Now it is truly autobiographical as she uses x-rays of her body as the key design element in the story.  Sometimes you have to look for them, to know that they are there.  At other times, the x-rays are obvious, stark, morbid if you don't know the story behind them.

"Boo" by Sarah Roush

In "Boo", Sarah's humor is again evident.  Does the ghostly image of skeleton and skull scare you?  Death can be scary.  But, so can life with constant pain.

A big change in the new works is scale.  The clay and watercolor pieces are large, demanding of wall or podium space.  They boldly say, "Look at me.  I am here.  You cannot pass me by."  The collages are small, ornate pieces, jeweled by their frames.  They invite scrutiny.  Treasures that can be held and studied.

"Inhabitants" by Sarah Roush

Sarah really loved her new direction.  To me, they sing of the "Day of the Dead", the embracing of our mortality, of our connection to the past and to the future.  Sarah chose to die.  She told her people that she was finally ready to stop the chemo.  All of this work helped her to face what lies ahead, to come to peace within herself.  How many of us have that courage?  I hope that when my time comes, I will have a piece of Sarah inside myself that will help me into the next phase of life.  (Yes, I do believe in an afterlife.)

If Sarah is now a ghost, I hope that she will haunt me and fuse with my muse.  Sarah, if you can hear this, know that I am honored to have been your friend.  I am filled with regret for not having been there, for not having shared more of your burdens.  But, I am also filled with joy for having known your spirit.  Thank you!

Sarah Roush, you remain with us.

Links on Sarah:


Donations can be sent to The Paducah School of Art, In Memory of Sarah Roush, 409 Broadway, Paducah, KY 42001.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Page on TAFA: Etsy Shops!

Visit TAFA! A treasure trove of textiles and fiber art!

Have you been to visit TAFA yet?   TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Arts List was launched in February and has been growing steadily into a beautiful group of textile and fiber art businesses!  I was surprised to see that about 30% of our members were also Etsy sellers.  We have decided to organize ourselves into an Etsy Team and to get the ball rolling, I set up a page on TAFA with our Etsy minis.  How fun to see us all together on one page!  The stores are divided into their main focus, although many also carry products that would fit into other categories.  Here is a sample:

Home Interiors  
Papaver Vert
Susan M. Hinckley
Vintage Renewal
Yellow Violet

Our goal?  To become THE destination for the best source of textiles and fiber art on Etsy.  Our members are both working artists and small businesses who work with cultural textiles.  You will find contemporary work and traditional techniques, old and new.  Many of us support green practices, recycling, fair trade, and other worthy causes.

Feel like shopping?  Remember, when you shop from small businesses like these, you are supporting real people, people who work very hard at making this world a beautiful place, filled with the art of all that is handmade!

 TAFA members rock!

Are you a fiber artist?  Do you work with textiles?  



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