Feb 15 2017

What We Found at the Met


Yesterday I told you about the Met joining forces with Creative Commons. Click here to read the post. Today I’ll show you some of the goodies I found. By now you know Kris and I both love text. We don’t even have to know what it means to like it. My favorites (this week) are illuminated Persian manuscripts.

“”Abu’l Mihjan and Sa`d ibn Abi Wakkas Before a Ruler”, Folio from a Khavarannama (The Book of the East) of ibn Husam al-Din”
by Maulana Muhammad Ibn Husam ad Din (Persian, died 1470)
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art licensed under CC0 1.0

Here’s an excerpt from Met’s description:

This manuscript of the legendary exploits of ‘Ali, nephew and son-in-law of the Prophet, is illustrated in a style associated with the White Sheep (Aq Qoyunlu) Turkoman dynasty ruling in the western part of Iran during the last third of the fifteenth century. Within a conventional framework, the artist of this miniature has combined a harmonious and balanced composition with sureness of drawing, crisp forms, pleasant colors and a variety of decorative patterns. (To read more, click on the link below the image.)

I like the flat look of it. After you learn about perspective and how to realize it in your own art, it’s fun to see examples of really “flat” art. I like the text in the next piece I found.

“Anthology of Persian Poetry”
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art licensed under CC0 1.0

The diagonal text on the border is very different. For some reason the text made me think of Dancing in the Louvre by my quilting idol, Faith Ringgold. 

Then I broadened my search and found other art movements with interesting text.

“Design for a certificate, awarded by the city of Vienna for the most beautiful floral balcony decorations (balcony below text)”
by Erwin Puchinger (Austrian, Vienna 1875–1944 Vienna)
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

“Chinese Junk”
by Utagawa Yoshitora (Japanese, active ca. 1850–80)
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

“Story Title Page,”Maria Morevna”, verso: text”
by Boris Zvorykin (Russian, Moscow 1872–1942 Paris)
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

“Wind among the Trees on the Riverbank”
by Ni Zan (Chinese, 1306–1374), China
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

I finally stopped when I came up with this one. No text, just beautiful colors

“Blue and Green Landscape with Figure”
by After Chen Hongshou (Chinese, 1599–1652), China
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

But I did have to lighten it a bit so I could see the beautiful design. 😉

Blue and Green Landscape with Figure (cleaned up)

To go directly to a Creative Commons search for art from the Met, follow this link. If you sign up for an account with Creative Commons, you can create lists of images and tag your favorite pieces. Oh yeah, I sure loved using the links Creative Commons provided to credit the art.

Feb 14 2017

Tech Tuesday: The Met Goes Public–Domain, That Is


There are real advantages to collaborating. Here’s one I hadn’t thought of. Kris and I don’t read the same articles, websites, and blogs. So when one of us sees something exciting, we share it with the other. Kris stumbled across a good one. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) has partnered with Creative Commons to make images of public-domain art in the museum available for free and unrestricted use. So why is this such a big deal? Let’s say you are creating a class on digital design (we are), and you would like to have some great examples to use in your class (we do). And let’s say you want to use these images for commercial purposes (yep, that’s us). We don’t have to contact The Met to get permission to use these images anymore (Are you kidding me?). And, the images come with text and html credits. (OMG! Do you realize how much time that saves us?)
So here’s how it works:

Go to this website: https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/themet. I did a search for lotus textiles.

Creative Commons Page

When I click on an image, I am taken to another page with Creative Commons information. Click on the “How to use this work” link,

“How to use this Work” page

and I’m taken to the Met’s webpage and I get a wonderful 3811 pixel x 3009 pixel image that I can save to my computer.

Kyōgen Costume: Jacket (Suō) with Design of Lotuses

And I don’t even have to make the citation. Click on the “Copy credit as text button,” and when I paste it I get this:

“Kyōgen Costume: Jacket (Suō) with Design of Lotuses” by Japan via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

When you paste it into a document, it comes with the italics, etc. But even more impressive is when I use the “Copy credit as HTML” button I get this:

Which, when copied to my blog post, gives me this fully formatted link and caption:

“Kyōgen Costume: Jacket (Suō) with Design of Lotuses”
by Japan via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
is licensed under CC0 1.0

It almost makes you want to go back to school and write research papers, doesn’t it? The Met also has a “Print” button that will allow you to print (or print to a file) all the information about the artwork with links to related objects.

If you know anything about us, we can’t just stop at one image. We browse and search, and pretty soon we’ve wasted the whole day. So you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see some of the cool things I found. Until then, back to work.

Jan 17 2017

Inspiration and Documentation


Kris and I are revamping our Digital Designing class. Sometimes it takes us quite a while to formulate a class, but this one came together in an afternoon. I just love it when that happens. So while Kris was fleshing out the outline, I was looking for inspiration for projects. I’d really love to have our students submit images of what they’d like to learn to create, but sometimes when a student is given such an open assignment, they freeze up. It’s sort of like having a new sketchbook; sometimes you just don’t know where to start. Someone once told me they took an art class where the instructor made a mark in the student’s sketch book, just so it wasn’t blank. But I digress.

I keep folders of ideas. I’ve never been a journal-type person. I wish I were, but it’s just not in my DNA. I scrawl notes on scraps of paper, rip ideas out of magazines, keep Pinterest boards, make written and audio memos on my phone, etc.


Last year I did manage to put most of the ideas on paper into a large binder, but it’s not organized at all.

Idea Binder

Idea Binder

Here are a few of the things from my idea book I thought might be helpful for our design class.






How do you document your inspiration? What would you want to learn in our Digital Designing class? Leave us a comment below by January 31, and we’ll enter you into a drawing for a free class! The winner will be announced on February 1, 2017.

Jan 4 2017

Ahh, The Company We Keep!


I regularly check out the website of Studio Art Quilt Associates because they frequently change their homepage banners. For me, it’s a weekly art fix. Well, wasn’t I surprised to check in the other day to find this amazing collage:

Jan 2017 SAQA Banner

Jan 2017 SAQA Banner

Wow, our Obama quilt is in great company! These artists have produced some amazing work, and we hope you click on their names to view more of their work. Let’s take a closer look at these “faces.”



Margaret Abramshe‘s “Zazen” is an explosion of color. She works with family photos to create compelling stories. Even subjects such as a pallbearer and immigrant are striking in their use of color.



One of our oldest SAQA friends, Mary Pal works with professional photographers in order to concentrate on portraits of older people. She is able to achieve remarkable and sensitive portrayals using . . . cheesecloth. Mary molds the cheesecloth into a story right on the person’s face, even if we don’t know exactly what that story is.

Masked Self Portrait

Masked Self Portrait

Kate Themel is known for her ability to create light. From the camera lens in this self portrait to her street scenes, look for her brilliant lighting effects. And, remember, she’s doing it all with fabric and thread.

Romancing Red

Romancing Red

Michelle Jackson often uses text in her work. In this case, she does so to great effect by interspersing words for the color red throughout the piece. It’s also an evocative portrait, creating other sensations associated with the color red.

The Picture is Only Half the Story

The Picture is Only Half the Story

Have you seen the Pixeladies‘s gallery of text art recently? We’ve been working away on pieces in our Language of Color series and our Walk a Mile in Her Shoes series. We use text to subtly influence meaning with specific word usage.

Always curious as to how things get done, I wrote SAQA’s multi-talented assistant executive director, Jennifer Solon, and asked her how these collages are selected and assembled for the SAQA banners. “I am still the person creating the banners. I select the artwork using the selections from the most recent online gallery,” Jennifer replied. We must note that among her many duties, Jennifer is still SAQA’s website master!

This month’s online gallery is called “Faces and Expressions.” You can access it by clicking here. Please take a look because there are so many other fascinating works of art in this gallery. Hats off to SAQA member Shruti Dandekar, who curated this particular online gallery!

Note: SAQA is always looking for guest curators. If you are an interested SAQA member, contact galleries@saqa.com for more information.

Oct 19 2016

Why We Go to Quilt Shows


Sure, we quilt. Sure, we like to meet up with friends. In the end, though, we go to quilt shows to get inspired. We usually go to the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara every year, but the past few years have not been very inspiring. It seems the quilts got dark and brooding (not necessarily a bad thing) and coincided with the recession. This year seemed to be a good year.

I, Deb, am going to start out. I’ll let Kris chime in later. I have to say, I’m not really interested in which quilts win prizes. Some quilts just speak to me. And mostly they just speak to me and not the judges. Here’s one of my favorites:

Sophia Wong Modern Urbanscape

Sophia Wong
Modern Urbanscape

I love the movement, the use of straight and curved lines and most of all the color combinations. I wish I were so daring. Who would think to put these colors in the same quilt?

Next I was looking at quilting. Since we are working on a quilt about water, I was interested in simple quilting that evoked water:

These three were interesting to me. The purple part of “Skyfire Shadows at the Monuments” looks like rippling water. You know, the shallow water running over rocks. The yellow part of “Symphony in the Sea” would be very effective, too. A more elaborate design like the pebbles and curvy lines in “Cracking the Code” might work, too.

Then there were just some nice examples of more elaborate machine stitches. Wendy Hill had several samples I really liked that just require you to add a zigzag stitch:

Paula Jolly’s “Instinctually Stitched” used a wide variety of machine stitches. It really made the quilt sing:

Paula Jolly Instinctually Stitched

Paula Jolly
Instinctually Stitched

Hand quilting with tiny stitches is not my idea of fun, but look at Andrea Stacke’s wholecloth quilt:

My last two photos are just eye candy. These dimensional beetles (or bead-les, as Kris called them) were magnificent.

The text quilts that Kris and I make don’t lend themselves to ornate quilting lines, but I love looking at interesting stitching.

And here is Kris chiming in: Yeah, what Deb said. And I just want to add this quilt because it made me smile:

Connie Kincius Griner  Le Chat de Mondrian

Connie Kincius Griner
Le Chat de Mondrian

Sep 6 2016

Deb’s 2016 SAQA Dream Collection


Every year Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) holds an online auction of amazing 12″ x 12″ art quilts. They invite the public to post their dream collection. Kris and I just love curating the six quilts we would like to have in our houses (and, of course, really bid on). I started to create my collection when it was really hot, so all the pieces were a cooling blue green. Then I saw a couple of architectural quilts and built a collection around them. Unfortunately, Kris posted her dream collection before I did (view it here). I know we’ve been friends for a long time, but it would be embarrassing to post a collection based on the same subject with 5 of the 6 pieces being the same. (It’s the same as when we accidentally wear the same clothes to give a talk–teal shirt, black pants, clog-like shoes).

Okay, back to my collection. So I created a different collection based on pieces that had grids in them (or what I perceived as grids). I love little boxes with things in them, so I think that’s why these pieces appeal to me. Click on any image to start the slide show and to expose the title and artist for each piece. Links to artist websites are included below so you can explore even more of their work. The auction starts on September 16. Click here to view all the auction pieces. I hope you find a piece you’d like to bid on.

Brooke Atherton
Kate Crossley
Jane Dunnewold
Diane Glos n/a
Judy Langille
Karen Miller

Aug 30 2016

Visit your Local Museum and Learn about Yourself


Ok! Now I get it. I just never understood why some people have problems with quilts hanging on a wall. Art quilters have grown used to comments like the following: “They aren’t quilts, if they’re on a wall.” “Why don’t you make a real quilt?” “You can’t sleep under it.” “That’s not like what my grandma made.”

Implying that a medium must have a specific form or use is ludicrous, I would think to myself. Well, I recently discovered my own prejudice after visiting a lovely exhibition called “Little Dreams in Glass and Metal: Enameling in America, 1920 to the present.”

I love enamel, I kept telling myself. Why wasn’t I head over heels in love with the exhibit? Why were there so many “paintings?” Enamel is supposed to be used for decorating “things,” like jewelry and boxes and, well, useful things. This is what I thought:

Marianne Hunter Kabuki Kachina Conducts the Orchestra

Marianne Hunter
Kabuki Kachina Conducts the Orchestra

Arthur Ames Waiting

Arthur Ames

William Harper Labyrinth

William Harper

Edward Winder Vegetabilis

Edward Winder

But here are a few that have me rethinking my enamel/not enamel position:

Jean Tudor Gurness Broch

Jean Tudor Gurness

About Jean Tudor’s amazing “brooch” above. The attached part in the foreground: Enamel. The background: Not Enamel.

Mary Chuduk Veiled

Mary Chuduk

Then there’s Mary Chuduk’s Veiled. It’s almost an upside down bowl. But it’s not.

Katharine S. Wood Rocket Machine Shop

Katharine S. Wood
Rocket Machine Shop

Now I’ve really got a problem. Katharine S. Wood’s Rocket Machine Shop is flat. It looks like parts that could be made into a bracelet, but it’s not.

So here’s what I learned about myself: I just don’t like flat enamel. So it’s okay if you don’t “get” art quilts. I give you permission to not like them. And now I get it that you don’t think they’re quilts. Or, maybe we should all stop trying to pigeon hole things and not worry so much about definitions.

Aug 10 2016

Kris’ 2016 SAQA Dream Collection


Every year Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) holds an online auction of amazing 12″ x 12″ art quilts. They invite the public to post their dream collection of six pieces. Deb and I just love perusing the collection to pick out what we would like to hang on our wall (and, of course, really bid on). Here is my collection (Deb will post hers next week). The auction starts on September 16. You will probably find at least one piece you would like to own. I found at least six! Click here to view all the auction pieces.
I called my collection “I Wanna Live There” because I found several city scenes that I found intriguing. They invited me to explore their space. While the techniques used sometimes varied greatly, the resulting quilts accentuate the architecture of the city they are depicting. Links to artist websites are included below so you can explore even more of their work. Click on any image to start the slide show and to expose the title and artist for each piece.

Judith Ahlborn
Natalya Aikens
Heather Dubreuil
Deborah Fell
Dolores Miller
K. Velis Turan

Feb 1 2016

Our Obama Art: From Exhibition to Times Square to Politico Magazine


When Barack Obama was first elected president back in 2008, many artists took to their particular medium to mark this historic occasion – the first African American president of the United States of America. We wanted to commemorate this momentous occasion as well. “The Picture is Only Half the Story” has toured around the country, been published in a book, and is now included in a magazine’s retrospective of Obama art. As President Obama starts his final year in office, we want to step back a moment and reflect a bit on the journey “The Picture is Only Half the Story”* has taken.

The Picture is Only Half the Story

The Picture is Only Half the Story

We had just started working on pieces that were made up of snippets of texts, so we thought we would try to make an Obama piece using this process. First we searched for texts and phrases that people could have said – people who saw Candidate Obama as a symbol of hope and change. As they were projecting their hopes and dreams onto this man, we thought to put those words and phrases onto his face. After all, we, the people, were creating a president. Once we stepped back from the face, we realized that there was something missing. What had Obama been telling us all this time throughout the campaign? We looked at each other and asked ourselves what was the most important thing Obama said to us, Kris and Deb, during this election cycle. We both said: Obama’s speech on race.
On March 18, 2008, Candidate Obama spoke in response to controversial remarks made by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. You can read about this speech and watch the video by clicking here. While we couldn’t logistically place the entire speech onto the background, we made sure the words that left the greatest impression on us were there: long march, challenges, together, common hope, same direction.
We were honored when independent curator Carolyn Mazloomi chose to include us in her exhibit and book, Journey of Hope: Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama.

Journey of Hope

How excited we were to see where “The Picture is Only Half the Story” traveled. A detail of our piece even served as the bookmark for the exhibit. We met amazing people during the run of this exhibition and through the publication of the book.


And if you think our heads were exploding when we saw the bookmark, we almost lost it when Carolyn Mazloomi sent us this photo of our piece flashing up on one of the big screens in Times Square. Hot diggity! We figured if we could make it there (in New York), then we could make it anywhere!

Now, if you think making it means getting published in Politico Magazine as among its favorite artworks depicting the 44th president, then we have made it! Please check out Politico Magazine‘s article called Obama, Art-ified: A tour through the unprecedented body of artwork depicting Barack Obama. (Click on #4 to see our piece.) We were humbled to be included in this amazing slideshow.

So how did Barack Obama’s candidacy, this speech, his presidency, and the making of “The Picture is Only Half the Story” impact our work? Well, we started a series called “The Language of Color” where we use colored pencils as sleek means to explore issues of race, which has come to occupy a focus of our recent work. And we’re not done. America is still striving to become that more perfect union. We’re trying to capture that journey. Here are some examples:

As I prepared this blog, I watched then Candidate Obama’s speech again. He has gotten a lot grayer, but his message of hope and change remains the same. And his call to talk about race is more important today than it was on that day eight years ago.

* “The Picture is Only Half the Story” is available for purchase ($2,044). Please contact us using the contact form.

Oct 30 2015

Chiaki Dosho: Textured Emotion


We haven’t had a chance yet to tell you about our trip to the European Patchwork Meeting. It was amazing, and it would take several blog posts to tell you half of what we experienced there. Spread out over a few charming towns in Alsace, France, the EPM hosted some of the highest quality art exhibitions around. So, what to tell you? After thinking about it for a bit (or procrastinating, think of Deb’s last post), we thought we’d start with one of the many artists we met there, Chiaki Dosho.
I have admired Chiaki’s work for a long time, so it was a joy to finally meet her, which Deb and I did at the reception for the Mixed Media Art Association. Most of the work displayed at this particular exhibition was monchromatic, very dimensional, and highly evocative. Photography was not allowed, but Chiaki’s piece was #2 in her Cocoon series. Here is Cocoon #1.

Chiaki Dosho Cocoon 1

Chiaki Dosho
Cocoon 1

Cocoon #2 (not shown) might even be better, with a horizontal white line with “fire” underneath it. In either case, the viewer is immediately drawn into the cocoon, wondering what could even be protected there.

Neither one of us were able to snap up Chiaki’s SAQA Benefit Auction piece this year, it sold so quickly:

Chiaki Dosho Cherry Blossom

Chiaki Dosho
Cherry Blossom

With her blood red cherry blossom, Chiaki is exaggerating the traditional beauty of the Japanese symbol of hope. This particular red cherry blossom evokes the red sun, the symbol of the Japanese flag (Japan, “Nihon,” basically means land of the rising sun), making it seem as if Chiaki has crammed all the good luck into this donation to the SAQA auction. The combination of red and white is always used for auspicious occasions, and Chiaki has imbued her piece with national identity as well as hope.

Chiaki presented us with brooches at the reception. Made from vintage kimono (as most of Chiaki’s work), they are exquisite. Our photos do no adequately capture the texture, sheen, and subtle color shifts you will find in Chiaki’s work. Deb’s is purple:

Chiaki  Dosho (/br> Purple Brooch

Chiaki Dosho
Purple Brooch

Here I am wearing my red brooch. The long, hanging threads in many of Chiaki’s works make me think of connections – the connections we’re all trying to make but sometimes can’t quite do. However you intepret Chiaki Dosho’s work, I am pretty sure you will be as moved by it as I am.
Kris wearing her brooch

Kris wearing her brooch