TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Review: Twelve by Twelve

Twelve women, twelve themes, twelve quilts each, all twelve inches by twelve inches.  So many twelves that a new identity is formed: A Twelve.  A what?  A Twelve.

The first blog post shows up on September 4, 2007, outlining an invitation to participate in a challenge where a theme is explored and then revealed in a small quilt every two months.  Diane Perin Hock, the brainchild behind this exercise, invited other women whom she had been following or gotten to know via their blogs.  Quilt challenges are nothing new:  many online groups and quilt guilds use this exercise to encourage participants to push their normal boundaries by exploring themes or concepts they might not normally work on.  In fact, challenges are often incorporated into quilt shows around the United States, issued by the large companies that might sponsor the show (fabric, thread, batting, and other supply companies).  The new thing here is that these twelve women documented their process beautifully and stuck with it for several years, creating a fascinating record of their thoughts, techniques, and growing affection for each other.

The above quilt is Terri Stegmiller's quilt for their Community theme, her tribute to their group.  Several of the participants have never met each other as they live in distant places: eight spread around in the United States, two in Australia, one in the United Kingdom and one in Belgium.  As the challenge progressed, the process of exploring their themes, challenges and thoughts, fused their group into a deep bond, so much so that they refer to themselves as a "twelve".  "When I became a twelve....", "As a Twelve, I think....", and similar statements are peppered throughout the book.

Each Twelve selected one theme and challenged the others to interpret it.  Some evoked obvious images while others focused on broad concepts:  Dandelion, Chocolate, Community, Water, Illumination, Shelter, Mathematics, Chairs, Window, Identity, Passion, Twelve.  They used their blog to brainstorm about what these words could mean, what images they could refer to, posting pictures, sharing stories, and bandying back and forth ideas that could inform their pieces.  Then they went to work.  One of things I really enjoyed about this group was not only their geographic diversity, but also their differences in age and experience.  Some have had extensive experience in the fiber art world while others are still kind of wet behind the ears.  Their techniques and life experiences are very different from each other.  All of this led to a wide range of interpretations.  Their exchanges also led each Twelve to experiment in new ways. And, because of the blog and of working on the book, their introspection on their growth changed over time, informing new work in a fresh way.

Here are some of my favorites, which also illustrate the range of interpretation of the themes and of techniques used:

Passion & Pain by Terry

Chairs by Helen

Pop Art Identity by Gerrie

Each of these quilts comes with its unique story and process.  It was interesting to see that although in most cases the Twelves interpreted their themes in completely different ways, every now and then there would be a couple of similar takes worked out uniquely.  Three of the Twelves used finger prints as their image for identity.  In other cases, interpretations were literal or abstract, obvious or kind of tricky.

The book is beautifully laid out, an art piece in itself.  It is substantial, with 176 pages chock full of images and text.  There are many tips on techniques along with feedback on each Twelve's process.  As I read through it, I thought about how this process could work well for any group, even mixing media, just so the guidelines were understood by the rest of the participants.  Because this one chose to use a common size as the guideline, 12x12 inches, the results are cohesive and can be displayed as a unit.  The Twelves are currently working on their second series, Colorplay, using color as the theme, making their work even more united when seen as a whole.  I can only hope that this will lead to a second book as well.

One of the reasons both the book and the blog work so well is that all twelve of these women have been able to document their work in a professional way using language clearly to expose their ideas.  I feel like "Take Good Photos" is a mantra I have been chanting to other fiber artists and textile businesses in my own work within my communities.  Developing this skill is essential, especially if the only contact one has with others is through this virtual connection.  Using good sentence structure and language well also makes the process accessible to others who seek to learn from it.  The book emphasizes that the important part of this for the Twelves has been the process, the ability to share, and not necessarily the end result.  Of course, we all like to end up with work that we can be proud of, but as all of them expressed, life does not always allow for the time necessary to complete a project within the deadlines.  Ideas, however, percolate, transform, inform and become incorporated in future work.

The final theme of the series, Twelve, is the most interesting to me.  Several paid tribute to the end of the series and their relationship to each other, while others explored the number 12 in a personal way.  The pieces all show maturity and a greater comfort level with the dimensions and designs.  The three below were all very interesting in their symbolism, but I show them here to give an example of how different the techniques used affect the mood and execution of an idea.

Seven Houses Five Trees by Deborah

12 Months by Kristin

Twelve Women by Karen

Two of the Twelves are members of TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List;  Gerrie Congdon and Terri Stegmiller.  In fact, Gerrie joined TAFA early on, when it was still a baby.  When Twelve by Twelve was published, I was told that the authors would like me to have a copy and would I please review it.  Ha!  I was so honored and thrilled!  A TAFA perk!  I didn't want to review the book without reading it carefully first.  I finally finished it and can say that I highly recommend it to both art quilters and anyone interested in creating community.  

I have had the pleasure of welcoming new members to TAFA, reviewing their work and seeing what they are doing.  Over and over again I feel so humbled about the wonderful process that is happening all around the world through the textile and fiber art communities, along with other craft and fine art traditions.  But, there is something very special that seems to be a common thread among those who work with fabric, thread, or other fiber materials.  Perhaps these techniques help develop patience and empathy, all knowing how the process makes up the whole.  Whatever the case, I know that I love being a part of it and can only give kudos to all of the Twelves for the impact they are having on their peers and followers.  This is a wonderful group and if you have not read the book or seen their blog, I encourage you to do so now.  And, check out their individual blogs while you are at it!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Comfort Quilts Requested for Japan

TAFA Member Terry Aske

We have a long tradition of charity knitting, quilting, and sewing in the United States.  Women, especially, gather together or work independently to send clothing and bedding to the needy around the world.  I have a friend who knits for both soldiers in Afghanistan and children who have been orphaned by the war, two separate organizations.  I call her the "Yin Yang Knitter" as it seems like she is comforting both sides of the coin.  Even men and boys came together and learned how to knit in World War II, sending socks, mittens, sweaters and hats to the boys in the trenches.

TAFA Member FolkWear
Now we have this horrible tragedy unfolding in Japan.  TAFA member, Valerie Hearder, received a call for quilts which can be handed out to those who have been displaced from their homes.  The Japanese have been avid partners in quilt events, exhibiting in shows, visiting, forming alliances, and sharing techniques.  We normally have a large contingent which comes every year to Paducah for our quilt show.  This year?  I doubt very much that a quilt show will be on the list of priorities...  But, perhaps some solace and comfort can be offered from us to them through these quilts.

TAFA Member Peppermint Pinwheels

Valerie's contact is Naomi Ichikawa, Editor of Patchwork Quilt Tsushin Magazine.  Naomi lives in Tokyo and her mother and brother survived the tsunami in Sendai.  Here is Naomi's request:

Dear Valerie,

It is still bad situation now in Japan.  We are still nervous about shaking and radiation, but no way to escape.

I start to announce to the quilters to send us comfort quilts for the people who are suffered. I would like to do it to the world quilters.  We will deliver the comfort quilts to the people who are very difficult situation.  Could you please help to announce it to the quilters in Canada?

We accept any size of quilts(baby to adult), new or unused.
The deadline would be the end of May or later.

Send the quilts to:
(until the middle of April)
Naomi Ichikawa, Editor of Patchwork Quilt tsushin Patchwork Tsushin Co., Ltd 5-28-3, Hongo,Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan    zip:113-0033

(after the middle of April)
Naomi Ichikawa
Patchwork Tsushin Co.,Ltd
2-21-2, Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan zip:113-0034

I will appreciate it if you help me.


TAFA Member Victoria Gertenbach

Valerie sent a follow-up e-mail reporting that there has been a tremendous response to her email and that she has heard from groups as far away as Norway who want to help.  That is wonderful news, but I imagine that the need exceeds our ability to respond at this point, so all efforts will be greatly appreciated.  Remember, too, that we tend to think of tragedies at the moment they occur, but the aftermath of rebuilding lives and homes lasts for years and years.  Remember New Orleans and Haiti?  Not much in the news these days, yet neither has recovered from their disasters.

Valerie also added the following info:
Naomi has advised that it would be better for the quilts to arrive at the end of April and into June. They have found that lines of distribution are so difficult that it will take longer.  Also, it is not cheap to mail quilts to Japan. Some fundraising for the shipping arranged will probably be in order. If you're working in a group to ship quilts to Japan, a newspaper article about the effort could help to generate donations for shipping.

Save the Children reported that 100,000 children have been displaced due to the tsunami and earthquake.  This article talks about what they are doing to help.  The comfort quilts are a wonderful, long term project that will bring show support and care from the world community.  But, many other needs are a priority right now.  Check into your favorite charities and see what they are doing to help with this crisis.  Money is desperately needed to fund the many efforts that seek to address evacuation, water, food, shelter, and clean-up.  I have added a banner at the top of my blog that links to "Doctors Without Borders", one of my favorite organizations.  If you can afford to help, send in your donation to the organization you support and then get to work on that quilt!

TAFA Member My Sweet Prairie

You don't quilt?  Here's another idea: 
Buy a quilt from one of our TAFA members and send it to Japan.  
You will be helping an artist AND contributing to the cause.  The gift that keeps on giving!  
(Keep hitting the "see older posts" at the bottom of the page to see all of them.)


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Natural Disaster

Evelyne Alcide, Port Au Prince, Haiti, Seisme (Earthquake), 2010

(Santa Fe, NM - March 15, 2011)—The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Natural Disaster explores how folk artists helped their communities recover from four recent natural disasters: the Haitian Earthquake; Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. Gulf Coast; Pakistani floods; and the recent volcanic eruption of Mt. Merapi in Indonesia.

Opening July 3, 2011 in the Museum of International Folk Art’s ‘Gallery of Conscience,’ The Arts of Survival will be the gallery’s second annual exhibition. Last year’s inaugural exhibition Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives That Transform Communities showed the successful efforts of women folk artists to raise their communities from the ravages of war and worse to build clinics, provide education, and the basic necessities of life. The Arts of Survival runs through May 6, 2012.
The Arts of Survival opens International Folk Arts Week and culminates with the 8th Annual International Folk Arts Market running July 8 - 10, 2011. Highlights of the week will be artist demonstrations, artist talks, lectures, and more.


This timely exhibit comes from one of the places I long to visit, The Museum of International Folk Art.  Maybe this will be the year!  You can find more information on this page.

The Arts of Survival....  Such an appropriate title to describe our times.  It seems like the world is exploding all around us.  The exhibit zooms in on Haiti, which is still suffering so much from its earthquake last year, and now we have Japan.  There are no words to express the horrible tragedy that continues to unfold there.  It is absolutely awful.  A friend of mine is convinced that this is the beginning of the end, referring to the predictions of the Mayan calendar of 2012: total destruction of the world.

I do not feel so pessimistic.  Yes, there is a lot of chaos in our world right now.  There is nothing we can do about natural disasters except to help the survivors, pick up the pieces and try to be smarter about where we build, what we build (nuclear reactors on earthquake prone land?), and how we impact this earth with our consumerism.  Then there is all the chaos caused by human friction: protests and confrontation all over the Middle East (and Wisconsin !!!!), human slave trade, the continued subjugation of women and children, poverty and starvation caused by greed and mismanagement of resources.  It goes on and on and on...  Survival can definitely become an art!

How do we handle all of this?  One can be tempted to just shut the news off and go about life in a little bubble, a cocoon of personal happiness. 

I think that the way to respond and to feel like there is hope is to pick a couple of issues where you can feel like your time, money and energy will make a difference.  Perhaps one that is local to where you live and one that has an international focus.  Giving leads to receiving and as we engage with the other, we find ourselves and realize that we are all connected.

Artists have recorded history through the ages: the good the bad and the ugly.  We have had war and natural disasters all along our human story.  Recording these through the survivor's narrative has such an important role in our future as one thing also remains constant: we forget.  We don't learn from our past mistakes.  We keep seeing the same dynamics played over and over again in history: power, greed, oppression.  And, out of the ashes, come those voices of hope.  I know I will want to see this exhibit and if you can make it, I'm sure that you will, too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Doris Florig: Weaver on a Boat, Explorer of Traditions

"Grand Isle Corn" by Doris Florig
Searching for the Ruins of an Indigo Plantation

By Doris Florig

Six years ago, each time I told  friends that my husband, Dennis, and I had decided to spend our winters on our cruising sail boat, the first thing they all said was, “so I guess you will have to give up weaving”.  Well, I knew that was not a possibility. I knew I could adjust to nomadic style looms, but, I had no idea that my knowledge of weaving would grow with such diversity. Weaving has given me the key to open the doors to connect with new people, their culture and history.

Doris learning about mud dyeing from a Carib Amerindian in Dominica.

Dennis checking the sail trim.
Most recently, while sailing the Eastern Caribbean chain, we sailed to the island of Maria-Galante, Guadeloupe. Before arriving, I looked through a French publication by the Conseil General De La Guadeloupe. It showed a photo of ruins of 17th century indigo processing vats. My experience with natural dyeing is extensive but lacking in any exposure to Indigo. I knew that this was to be the beginning of what would develop into an intensive study of INDIGO. We rented a car and set out on a quest to broaden my knowledge of the history and the processing of Indigo. 

It wasn’t as easy as I thought. Somehow I guess I was thinking there would be something very oblivious like a sign saying “Historic Site”. We found the general area, but not the site.  I approached an elderly French women on the roadside. Knowing that neither of us spoke the same language, I approached her with the photo of the ruins and a map. Well, the map was of no help. I had forgotten that people, who don’t travel, can’t relate to maps. The photo was of some help, but we didn’t connect until I pointed to the blue on her dress and said INDIGO.  I detected a slight smile and twinkle in her eye that indicated she understood. She pointed towards the sea.  So, downhill I went and quickly discovered a field with a small low stone structure, possibly an old barn. Ignoring the oxen scattered about the field, I headed toward the structure not knowing what to expect.

The oxen didn't bother Dennis.

It took a while but eventually, I realized that it could be nothing other than the foundation for the production of Indigo.

Indigo vat ruins in Guadeloupe.

The stone ruins formed three very distinct shapes approximately 12 x 12 feet which indicated to me that these were the walls of the vats. The first vat was for fermenting the indigo for a period of 24 hours. The second vat would have been used for the churning process and the third vat used for draining the fluid from the sludge used to make the dye.  The whole thing was a mystery until I saw the openings for the draining process. That was a dead give-away, I had indeed discovered the ruins from a 17th century Indigo Plantation. I felt like an amateur archeologist. The discovery of this foundation is now the beginning of my quest to fully understand and experience the process of dyeing with indigo.

Dennis discovered the remains of an old cauldron. We think it was original equipment used in  the processing.

At the next island, Domonica, we visited a Carib Reservation. They knew no history of Indigo dyeing but Dennis and I were convinced that they were cooking their Cassava bread on a broken historic cauldron.

Doris Florig is a weaver/fiber artist. She will teach natural dye classes in Jackson Hole this summer. On Aug 6 and 7, 2011 she will present a natural dye lecture and a demonstration in Fargo, North Dakota.

Visit Doris Florig's website.

Doris, in the saloon,settled into weaving her winter tapestry project, THE GATES OF NAHANNI.  The original painting for this cartoon was done by Dwayne Harty supported by the Yellowstone Yukon Conservation Project directed by Harvey Locke.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA): New Fiber Arts Center in Georgia

There's a New Kid on the Block!

Written by:
Suzi Gough
President, Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance

Have you heard? The Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA) will be opening a fiber arts center in Atlanta this July. There will be low-cost artist studios and communal space for classes, meetings, exhibitions and informal gatherings. It will be a place for anyone interested in the fiber arts - individuals with a desire to learn a new skill, fiber artists who are expert in their field, organizations, businesses, educators, and collectors. It will be a place to connect, learn, create, share, and explore. It will be a place to engage the public, to inspire and support artists, to teach and display all aspects of the fiber arts, and to celebrate and perpetuate all fiber art forms. It will be your fiber art center.

TAFA Member, Leisa Rich, teaching a sewing class.

So, who is SEFAA? 

SEFAA is a 501(c)(3) that incorporated in July 2009 to provide a unique and all-encompassing fiber art experience. It is an alliance of all facets of the fiber art community who are collaborating and cooperating to foster the fiber arts. You can learn more about SEFAA at their website and their blog and on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

How can you support SEFAA? 
Volunteer, join, donate and spread the word.

• To volunteer, just email. A desire to help and a little spare time are the only job requirements. Right now SEFAA is looking for individuals to audit their 2010 accounts and to organize a fiber garage sale in May.
To join, print out and mail in the membership form. Individual memberships are only $50 and are good for a full year from the date you join.
To donate, click on Crowdrise, where we have a fundraiser for the SEFAA.

Spread the Word

SEFAA's goal is to raise $6,000 by April 1st through Crowdrise to finance minor renovations, to purchase tables and chairs and to ensure that they have adequate working capital prior to opening the SEFAA Center. As of today, they have raised $1,765. That means they need to raise $4,235 in the next 23 days to make this architect's rendering a reality.

Proposed space for the new fiber arts center.

Spreading the word is easy. Talk to your friends, blog about SEFAA, and post about SEFAA on your social media sites. Help SEFAA reach out and touch everyone interested in the fiber arts.
You already believe in the fiber arts community. Believe in the Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance and you'll be supporting both.

You'll be glad you did.


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