Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Amaryllis in Living Colour

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

At long last I can share!   I still can’t believe that I am amongst those juried in to the Living Colour Textiles exhibit curated by Australian Brenda Gael Smith.

Amaryllis by Sarah Ann Smith (C) 2014.  See the Living Colour Exhibit at http://livingcolourtextiles.com/

Amaryllis by Sarah Ann Smith (C) 2014. See the Living Colour Exhibit at http://livingcolourtextiles.com/

To see the full exhibit, click on the link in the caption.

I knew I wanted to do something big and bold.  At first I wanted to do a lily, but when I began working on this piece it was mid-winter—not the ideal time of year to go out in Maine and snap pictures of lilies.  Then I realized I had the perfect image right in our own dining room:  an amaryllis.  So I waited patiently for the blossoms to open, took a ga-zillion phiotos, then selected the right ones.

I dyed the red fabric as well as the green/yellow in the centers (and used commercial batiks and my hand-dyes in the background).  I thread-sketched the amaryllis onto batting and backing, then cut away the batting/backing underneath the background, added a second layer of batting (Matilda’s Own Wool-Poly, and thrilled that this wonderful Aussie batting gets to visit “home”), quilted the background densely and around the petals and stamens.   Finished size pieces in the exhibit is 40 x 100 cm, or about 16 x 39 1/2 inches.

Here is a detail:

Amaryllis, detail, by Sarah Ann Smith (C) 2014.  See the Living Colour Exhibit at http://livingcolourtextiles.com/

Amaryllis, detail, by Sarah Ann Smith (C) 2014. See the Living Colour Exhibit at http://livingcolourtextiles.com/

Brenda has a full listing of where the quilts will be on display on the website.  You can also buy an exhibit catalog (published by Blurb) directly from Brenda or, more conveniently for those of us in the US, directly from Blurb.  I’ll add that link here, but at the moment I gotta run!  Spring break has arrived and we are heading out the door to take Eli on his first college visits!  Back soon!

Filming 3 segments for Quilting Arts TV! Part 2

Friday, April 4th, 2014

This post continues my earlier one, here, about taping three segments at Quilting Arts TV Series 1400, which will begin to air in July 2014 in the US on PBS.  For information on how to see this show, please check my earlier post.

With Susan Brubaker Knapp, the new host of Quilting Arts TV,on the set (you can see the top edge of the set in the background)!

With Susan Brubaker Knapp, the new host of Quilting Arts TV,on the set (you can see the top edge of the set in the background)!

My three segments are episode 2 (gifts), 5, and 12 (I think).  The topics are:

  1. My Inside-Out Bag with Easy-Peasy zipper (with a web-extra pattern/instruction on the steps to make the bag–when the episode airs and the instructions are available online, I’ll share here and on my Resources page),
  2. Thread and Needles
  3. Free-Motion Quilting
Getting ready to roll tape for my first segment on Quilting Arts TV, Series 1400.  I show you how to make my incredibly versatile Inside-Out Bag so you can customize size, pockets, techniques for the outside (pieced, applique, surface design).  The bag is quick and easy so it also makes a great special gift.

Getting ready to roll tape for my first segment on Quilting Arts TV, Series 1400. (and yes, you saw this photo in the last post!) I show you how to make my incredibly versatile Inside-Out Bag so you can customize size, pockets, techniques for the outside (pieced, applique, surface design). The bag is quick and easy so it also makes a great special gift.

The bag demonstrated is the one on the right.  If you LOVE that ribbon, it is made by Renaissance Ribbons.  I used about 24 inches to make this bag, and the ribbon is (YIPPEEE) available here.   In the bag on the left, which has both bluebird fabric and ribbon, I used their birds ribbon which is  still available.  Can you tell I love it? My favorite ribbon designers are Phillip Jacobs, Laura Foster Nicholson and Sue Spargo, but there is a LOT of ribbon to swoon over on this site!  Sue Spargo, by the way, has some “supporting cast” narrow ribbons that are fab!

At the start of a segment, the producer sets things out on the table so they look good.  And you get fitted for a mike.  I knew the mike would distort the neckline of my blouse, so

I suggested to the audio guy (whom I had just met about a minute before) that we could perhaps pin it to my bra strap.

I suggested to the audio guy (whom I had just met about a minute before) that we could perhaps pin it to my bra strap.

At that point…hilarity ensued:

Then I said, gosh, how am I going to explain to my husband that I asked a guy I met moments earlier to play with my bra strap!  Thanks Kristine for this great shot (yes, she was there with multiple cameras around neck and cell phones opened to camera mode on the table!)

Then I said, gosh, how am I going to explain to my husband that I asked a guy I met moments earlier to play with my bra strap! Thanks Kristine for this great shot (yes, she was there with multiple cameras around neck and cell phones opened to camera mode on the table!)

Here's another great shot for that first segment--this may be the best current photo there is of me!  Good make-up (hides much, so does not standing in profile to show the chin and neck!)

Here’s another great shot for that first segment–this may be the best current photo there is of me! Good make-up (hides much, so does not standing in profile to show the chin and neck!)  And I gotta say, I wasn’t nervous because having a friend as host made me SO comfortable with the process.  Having done the DVD in Colorado last year also helped a ton!   I knew what to expect:  be prepared and know that the cast and crew and all the Interweave folks are SUPERB!

Then

Time for a wardrobe change and getting re-fitted with the tiny mike.  It picked up the sound well I guess, as we didn't have ANY do-overs, but the prongs definitely pricked--like staples poking into you--because the backing tape moved.

Time for a wardrobe change and getting re-fitted with the tiny mike. It picked up the sound well I guess, as we didn’t have ANY do-overs, but the prongs definitely pricked–like staples poking into you–because the backing tape moved.

And here’s the requisite on-set shot for segment two.   Bought the blouse–sandwashed silk and YUMMY–at Coyote Moon in Belfast, Maine, on sale!  the week before taping.   I don’t usually wear colors this dark near my face, but just loved this blouse.

On the set.  We've changed clothes for a different episode of QA TV.

On the set. We’ve changed clothes for a different episode of QA TV.

Next, the final segment:

With Susan Brubaker Knapp, the new host of Quilting Arts TV,on the set (you can see the top edge of the set in the background)!

With Susan Brubaker Knapp, the new host of Quilting Arts TV,on the set.  Bought my top from Brie Kriebel at Quilt Festival Houston in 2013.  I think my first stop at Festival this coming year is going to be her booth!   Bought my button necklace at Festival several years ago.  Can you see I’m relaxing as we get farther along?

Yeah!  I was still there when Lyric Kinard arrived!  Does ANYone have such an infectious, impish smile?

Yeah! I was still there when Lyric Kinard arrived! Does ANYone have such an infectious, impish smile as Lyric?  I’m lucky to have run into Lyric many times at assorted teaching venues and shows.  We took turns looking first at my phone camera, then hers to take this tandem-selfie!

And then it was time to pack up and head home.   I had realized shortly before leaving for Ohio that a student in an online drawing class I’m taking (we’ve taken several from Val Webb, teacher extraordinaire) lives the other half of her year in Ohio.  We’ve met here in Maine (she lives several hours from me, but four of us met up in a middle-zone place); it turns out I was going to pass by her exit on the way home, so we got to meet for a late afternoon sip before I started racking up the miles to go home:

Carole Jurack came to meet me at the McDonalds at exit 200 in Ohio on I-90.   What fun!

Carole Jurack came to meet me at the McDonalds at exit 200 in Ohio on I-90. What fun!  It was great to see you, Carole.  Here’s to sketching at the Botanical Garden in June.

So now all we need to do is wait for the series to air!  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, I’ve unpacked, slept, started to catch up on my online classes, and get ready for the next round of articles to write and quilts to quilt.  It is going to be busy in April and May!

Inspirational Quotes Illustrated by Lesley Riley

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Wooohooo!   I can’t share the picture yet, but I can let you know that a small watercolor of mine has been selected to be one of the new projects included in Lesley Riley’s Inspirational Quotes Illustrated, to be published by North Light Books / F+W (the latter is also the parent company to Quilting Arts and Interweave)!   I am tickled silly!  In 2013, Lesley Riley self-published  Quotes Illustrated; a mere two days later North Light contacted her, and the book is being expanded and will be out in November 2014!  You can see a bit more here.  What a THRILL!  Thank you, Lesley, for choosing me as one of 30 out of more than 260 new entries–really looking forward to seeing the book.

Photographing your artwork

Friday, February 28th, 2014
Center focus on center of quilt.  Note hotshoe bubble level.

Center focus on center of quilt. Note hotshoe bubble level.

I just read a fabulous article on photographing your artwork here, at textileart.org.  I highly recommend it!   I was thrilled that they link to Holly Knott’s instruction page for textile artists and art quilters, and they also had embedded a very useful YouTube video put up by the folks at Saatchi Online (see the video at the bottom of this post).  Those posts inspired me to share with you how I do my own photography.

I’ve become adept at photography through self-education and practice, and you can too.  My photographs have been used in my book (AQS even gave me a photography credit!), in Quilting Arts magazine (which has some of the best photography out there), Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine, and a number of Lark Books including 500 Art Quilts, so I think I’ve reached proficiency–at least with the best of my shots.  Here’s a little of what I do in hopes that it will help you!

Set-up and level:  In the photo above, I’ve shown how I set things up in my studio.  I am very fortunate to have a LARGE (vast!) design wall, which I had built and installed when we moved into this house three (!!!) years ago.  I can pin my quilts to the wall and photograph them easily.  If you don’t have a design wall, you can create a temporary set-up easily and inexpensively:  purchase either foam core or rigid foam insulation.  Place the foam core or insulation flat (or as flat as you can get) against the wall (poster tacking putty may be helpful).   If you have to tilt the board, make sure the camera lens is parallel to the surface (see the Saatchi video, at the bottom of this post).

Hotshoe bubble level and first screen on my camera.  The hotshoe (if your camera has one) is where one attaches a separate flash mechanism.  On my camera, it is on top of the built-in flash.  These small bubble levels are inexpensive, about $15.  Mine will show you level whether the camera is positioned in landscape or portrait orientation.

Hotshoe bubble level and first screen on my camera. The hotshoe (if your camera has one) is where one attaches a separate flash mechanism. On my camera, it is on top of the built-in flash. These small bubble levels are inexpensive, about $15. Mine will show you level whether the camera is positioned in landscape or portrait orientation.

I purchased a small “gizzie,”  a bubble level that fits into the camera hotshoe (the place where one attaches a separate flash) of my camera so that I can be sure that the camera is perfectly parallel to the vertical wall and also level, because my basement floors definitely are not perfectly level.  I purchased my camera level from B&H Photo Video, a vast emporium (a real store and online) for all things photo and video; they have really expert sales people who can help you with expensive decisions (like a DSLR!) and great prices.  They are a Jewish business, so they close for the Sabbath (Friday to Saturday evenings) and holy days, so check on the website for special closings.  Otherwise, they are there.  Type “Camera level” into the search box on the site to find their current offerings.  If my eyes are telling me one thing and the hotshoe level is saying another, I often use a small “torpedo” level to double check.  When I turn the camera to vertical on the tripod, because the barrel of the lens has ridges, I make certain the front of the lens is level (see photos below).

With this particular lens, I notice that the lower right corner isn't sharp no matter what the focal length, so when I want ALL the quilt to be super-sharp, I allow extra room around the edges.

With this particular lens, I notice that the lower right corner isn’t sharp no matter what the focal length, so when I want ALL the quilt to be super-sharp, I allow extra room around the edges.

If you want to get REALLY obsessive (guilty!) you can make sure your quilt is exactly vertical using a small bubble level from the hardware store:

Making sure the sides of the quilt are vertical (or that the top is horizontal).

Making sure the sides of the quilt are vertical (or that the top is horizontal).

If you have the option, turn on a grid in the viewfinder.  This will help you see if the now-truly-vertical sides of your quilt are parallel to the grid on the screen or at an angle.  If they are at an angle, you can adjust the camera so everything is squared up correctly.

If you have the option, turn on a grid in the viewfinder. This will help you see if the now-truly-vertical sides of your quilt are parallel to the grid on the screen or at an angle. If they are at an angle, you can adjust the camera so everything is squared up correctly.

To obsess a bit more, you want to make sure that once the QUILT is vertical/level, that your camera LENS is also vertical/level.  The floors in my basement studio (painted that grass green!) are anything but flat and level.  So I triple check with not only the hotshoe bubble level, but I use the small red torpedo level (seen in the photo at the side of my quilt and below) to check if the camera LENS is vertical.  If the lens tips up or down, you will get distortion called keystoning, where a true rectangle appears wider at the top or at the bottom.

Using the bubble level on the top of the lens is a challenge because of the grip and changes in the surface.

Using the bubble level on the top of the lens is a challenge because of the grip and changes in the surface.

Instead you can use the hotshoe bubble level to make sure the front of the lens is in fact truly vertical  (assuming of course that your wall is truly vertical!)

Instead you can use the hotshoe bubble level to make sure the front of the lens is in fact truly vertical (assuming of course that your wall is truly vertical!)

OR

use  your Torpedo or other level to make sure the front of the lens is vertical.  A larger level such as this one is likely to have a bit better accuracy than a small one like the hotshoe level.  It also means I don't have to jar the camera taking the hotshoe level in and out of the hotshoe!

Distortion:  Through trial, error, and observation, I have learned that when I use my Nikon DSLR with the extra long zoom lens, the lower right of the lens has some distortion:  it just isn’t sharp in that lower right corner.  So when I set up and take photographs, I know that I need to have my tripod far enough away that I can avoid having a corner of the quilt in the not-so-sharp zone.  Next on my agenda:  take out the shorter zoom lens that came with the camera and see how that does.

A focal length on your zoom of about 50 is optimal.  If your camera doesn't tell you the focal length, just don't do way zoomed in or really wide-angle.

A focal length on your zoom of about 50 is optimal. If your camera doesn’t tell you the focal length, just don’t do way zoomed in or really wide-angle.

Focal length:  I’ve also read that the optimal focal length for still photography like this is 50 mm (well, the digital equivalent of what 50mm was on old film cameras).  You definitely don’t want to go wide-angle because you will get distortion:  a square quilt will bulge out like a fish eye, the sides will appear to push out in the middle.  When I set up the tripod, I set the camera to 50mm, then I move the tripod so that the quilt fills the viewfinder (while avoiding that odd spot with my particular lens) but still allows me room to crop the photo in Photoshop Elements.

Center focus on center of quilt.  Note hotshoe bubble level.

Center focus on center of quilt. Note hotshoe bubble level. Notice that the tripod is about ten feet back from the design wall and the quilt of Pigwidgeon dancing for supper nearly fills the screen, but avoids that lower-right area.

Tripod:  I cannot overstate how important it is to have a perfectly still camera.  As you push the button, your hand introduces shake to the camera.  My first tripod was purchased used for $27.  Yep, that inexpensive.   And photos from that set-up made it into books!  I eventually replaced with an “enthusiast” level tripod, but which still didn’t cost more than $150.  Since this is my business, it was a business deduction (and honestly, the only time I’ve ever used it for anything other than work is to film Eli at a few wrestling meets–I can videotape from the tripod and take still pics sitting on the floor!) and well worth it.  My tripod head has a built in bubble level on it, too, but I rely on the level on the camera to make sure the camera isn’t tilted on a level tripod.  If you don’t have a tripod, find a ladder, chair or other stable surface and put your camera on that.  Use the self-timer, press the button, then let the camera trigger the shot; this avoids wiggling from your hands pushing the button.

At the enthusiast level, tripods and heads are sold separately.   Some photography books urge you to buy a tilt-pan head, which swivels on a ball head.  I have found for photographing a quilt, I prefer the heads that allow you to level horizontally, then vertically, using two separate knobs.  I know that once I get horizontal level if I have to adjust for vertical, I would knock it out of level.  By having the head have two separate knobs, I can adjust in one direction, get it right and lock it in, then adjust for the other direction of level.

Tulip bulbs in inexpensive shop light reflectors.  The bulbs cost about $35 each, so I store them carefully!  But they are the most expensive part of your lighting set up and are still far less expensive than hiring someone to shoot your quilts!  Unless you drop them, they last a long time.

Tulip bulbs in inexpensive shop light reflectors. The bulbs cost about $35 each, so I store them carefully! But they are the most expensive part of your lighting set up and are still far less expensive than hiring someone to shoot your quilts! Unless you drop them, they last a long time.

Lighting is CRITICAL!   I followed the information on Holly Knott’s website (paragraph and links below) to purchase the tulip bulbs that give even light when correctly positioned.  I screw them into inexpensive shop fixtures from the big-box hardware stores (about $9 each).

If you use only one light, or have it too close to the quilt as in this photo, you will get a "hot spot" or uneven lighting.  Notice how bright the right side of the quilt is compared to the other three sides.  This inconsistent lighting does not show your quilt at its best!

If you use only one light, or have it too close to the quilt as in this photo, you will get a “hot spot” or uneven lighting. Notice how bright the right side of the quilt is compared to the other three sides. This inconsistent lighting does not show your quilt at its best!

Instead, follow the info on Holly’s site and move the quilt stands (made from a 2×4 and four basic shelf brackets each, construction details on Holly’s site) back from the quilt to get good, even lighting.  Play with the White Balance on your camera to adjust for the type and color of light in your studio combined with the tulip bulbs.  If I recall, they recommend NOT having the overheads on, but I find that my studio is so dark that I really need my daylight-bulb overhead lights on to get a good shot.  Experiment to see what settings and lighting give you the sharpest, most color-correct photo.

Light stands and tripod set up at a good distance from the quilt.

Light stands and tripod set up at a good distance from the quilt.

Holly Knott’s Shoot That Quilt:  For fabulous instruction on how to “Shoot That Quilt,”  visit Holly Knott’s very helpful site, here.  She collaborated with a professional photographer, and I can say unequivocally that her information–especially on lighting–has made a key difference in improving the quality of my photos.  In particular, take a good long look at the “Gallery of Wrongs” which shows common errors and how to avoid them.

And watch this video prepared by Saatchi Online, a mongo huge online art gallery.  It is very well done, with a lot of good information.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!  Now go make art, then photograph it well!

International Quilt Festival 2013, Houston, #5

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
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Wind by Masanobu Miyama of Japan

When the curtain went up on this major prize winning quilt, I knew we had a game-changer.  With apologies for the analogy, this quilt is about the size of my placemat!  Finally, art quilters don’t have to force themselves to work somewhere between large and vast to have a chance at a top prize.  

The signage for that glorious dog.

The signage for that glorious dog.

That puppy made a second appearance in the quilt show in this larger quilt which Masanobu made with his wife:

A much larger quilt (I'd guess at least 60 inches) by Hiroko Miyama and Masanobu Miyama.  Do you see the Golden with the little boy?

A much larger quilt (I’d guess at least 60 inches) by Hiroko Miyama and Masanobu Miyama. Do you see the Golden with the little boy?

And the signage:

The artists' comments about this quilt.

The artists’ comments about this quilt.

Here’s a detail of the small quilt…breathtaking!

Detail of "Wind" by Masanobu Miyama

Detail of “Wind” by Masanobu Miyama.  Perfection!

A two-fer, both wonderful!

A two-fer, both wonderful!

2013.11.10.FestivalFavoritesB013The quilt on the left so impressed Karey Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes, co founders (along with their moms–they are cousins) that it won an Honorable Mention.  Here’s a detail:

Detail, A Truly Feathered Star by

Detail, A Truly Feathered Star by Karen Sievert

I was so tickled to see this quilt which I had first seen in the Art Quilts Maine exhibit at Maine Quilts.  It is by Julie Weaver, and is her first quilt (but I hope not last!) to be juried into Houston.

I was so tickled to see this quilt which I had first seen in the Art Quilts Maine exhibit at Maine Quilts. It is by Julie Weaver, and is her first quilt (but I hope not last!) to be juried into Houston.

Even more fun, I'm on the show floor when I hear, "Hi, Sarah," And it is Sarah Carpenter and Julie Weaver, from Maine!

Even more fun, I’m on the show floor when I hear, “Hi, Sarah,” And it is Sarah Carpenter and Julie Weaver, from Maine!

Artie Facts by Joyce Patterson.   How can you not LOVE this image?

Artie Facts by Joyce Patterson. How can you not LOVE this image?

And the signage:

Artie Facts info

Artie Facts info

Hope you enjoy!