Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Back Story of the Purple Iris Quilt and Pattern

Japanese vase made for export, early 1900's
 This quilt came to life during a teaching trip to Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar two years ago.  I used a mixture of flower shapes so each bud and blossom was different.  There are tight buds, an unfurling flower, and 3 gorgeous flower heads, I love the way the flowers turned out. The shape of the flowers was inspired by an old Japanese vase.  I traced them off, enlarged them, and simplified some areas to make them easier to applique. I used all the rich royal purple fabrics I could find in my stash.  The good thing about the way I work is that I don't need large pieces of fabric for anything except the quilt back. To applique the long iris leaves I used a scalloped programed stitch on my machine that gave the edges a different look than anything I had ever done before.
Finished Purple Iris Quilt
During my workshop, I got all the flowers and leaves cut out and fused onto the background. It made such a beautiful picture that my students suggested that I made it into a pattern. After I finished the applique work, embroidery and quilting, I prepared the directions and pattern pieces. I created a terrific pattern cover and was so pleased with my work. 
The cover of Ann's new pattern
The stumbling block came when I realized the cost of having the pattern sheet printed, it was really expensive.  So I put everything away for awhile.  I pulled it out several times to proof read the direction booklet and check over the pattern pieces, but I didn't know what to do about the high cost of printing the 24 x 36 pattern sheet.  I had never used this large size of paper before. A second time I put it all away, trying to figure out a more economical way to print the large page.  Robbi Joy Eklow suggested I have it printed as a blueprint.  After I checked out several places, I had it printed.  I stuffed a dozen patterns in their ziplock bags and took them with me to Paducah and sold a few copies. 

Oreo demonstrating the proper cat etiquette for quilt sitting
Finally, it is ready for you to check it out, changing the colors will make this quilt your own.  How about red iris on a rich green background?  Or how about yellow flowers on a purple background?  Either of these would create a rich garden atmosphere. This is not a simple pattern, it is for someone with good machine quilting skills. The pattern envelopes are stuffed and ready to go to new homes!  You can check it out on my website.

Since I promised you, the back story, the photo above is showing the back side of the stabilizer and program stitches that I used to applique the long pointed leaves in place.  Isn't it lovely?

Have a wonderful spring.

Ann Fahl

Friday, May 11, 2012

Where is the Art? My Opinion...............

White Coneflowers, by Ann Fahl, my first "big" prize winner!
So I've been home from the big show in Paducah for awhile, and have been re-evaluating what I've seen and where my quilts should be displayed in the future.  As I walked through the show this time, instead of being overwhelmed by all the amazing work; I realized that my work no longer belonged there. Why? This is my same old song.  I am troubled by the lack of good design in so many quilts at so many shows. Oh yes, there were some wonderful pieces in the AQS show, but there were some that were not. AQS has been very supportive of me and my work, so I'd like to make it clear that this is about my opinion on what I see in all competitions, not just in Paducah.

What direction is the quilting world headed? I've been asking myself this for some time now, and my answer is: I don't understand where it's going and I don't want to follow along; I need to take my own path. It is  important that my quilts are uncluttered in design with strong visual impact.

A Brighter Day, by Ann Fahl, the most prize winning quilt I have ever made
I love thread work, of all kinds, but quilter's have gotten all tied up with doing too much thread work and heavy heavy machine quilting--to the extreme!  We have forgotten that the original design of the quilt is the most important element, the thread work in whatever form, just adds texture and surface interest.  As we have gone overboard on the heavy quilting, so have the quilt judges.  They are impressed by the quantity and quality of the thread work and they seem to have forgotten to consider the overall impact of the color and design of the quilt FIRST.

In my opinion, the overall design should be the first consideration when judging, then the workmanship should be considered next. In other words, only those quilts with good design should be selected from the category, then the workmanship should be evaluated to determine which ones are winners.  It appears to me that the quilting/thread work is evaluated first and wins the judges consideration so the design qualities are overlooked. This would account for so many quilts with poor design winning at shows. Yes the quilting is totally amazing on so many of the quilts today, but it isn't the only part of the art form. Great quilting cannot make a poorly designed and conceived quilt-- a good one!
George's Garden, by Ann Fahl

Whether one makes traditional quilts or original designs, quilting is a visual art form. We must step back from our work, and examine its visual impact.  Does it have a focal point? Does something draw the viewer in? Is there balance in the composition? Is there contrast between the colors and elements of the design?  Is there something that unifies the design (ties the quilt together,) such as repetition of shape or color?

Orange Coneflowers By Ann Fahl
What can you do to improve the visual impact of your work?  Take photos of your work in progress or look at the quilt with binoculars backwards. Always use a design wall to design and view the progress of your composition.  Read books on design or take a class. Look through books, magazines and websites and see what you like best, and what is most appealing to your eye. We need to take a step or two back from heavy quilting and spend more time on the initial design, this is what should "sell" your quilt to your viewer or a judge.

A prize winning or a successful quilt should have both a well designed top and great quilting!


Ann Fahl

Friday, May 4, 2012

Red Roses of Paducah

Red roses at the IL Artisan Shop at Rend Lake, IL
At the end of my Paducah trip, I headed home on I 57.  One of the highlights of that drive is the Artisan Shop at Rend Lake.  It features the work of IL artists, there was a show of IL quilts and snack buffet for the quilters heading home! Because of my new emphasis on gardening, I have been searching for a new piece of garden art, not a turtle or a gnome, something else.  I found this metal calla lily metal sculpture that just struck my fancy.  By the time I finished purchasing it, I was friends with all the women working there. It was a delightful stop.  

Cally Lily sculpture in its temporary setting.

Let's talk about Paducah. My first evening was a teachers' meeting at the convention center.  I had never seen it without the ratty old adjoining hotel.  Now there is a huge parking lot, it would seem that it could hold thousands of cars before filling up--that is a good thing.

I taught 5 different classes, a rather strenuous schedule, even for me, after teaching for 30 years, it seemed almost overwhelming.  I was surprised at the number of beginners attending the workshops, they had no idea on where to begin.  It is good that there are beginners, because I don't want to see quilting die out, like it did in the 1940-50's.  But it was difficult to teach a wide range of abilities, on vendor machines, in a classroom with 20-25 students. Every class brought a new challenge or two.

Fortunately, I had Janome machines that for the most part caused few problems. On my second and third day, Karen Zimmerman was the Janome educator in my classroom, and she was wonderful.  She had a thorough knowledge of the machines and had a sense of humor that made each subject more fun.

Outside the front door, there were more red roses in front of the convention center.  They were planted downtown, near the river and at the entrance to their beautiful old cemetery. I guess we missed the dogwoods and azaleas because of the warm spring, but it was OK, the roses were colorful and fragrant. The city must have purchased a truckload of these old fashioned rose bushes, they were beautiful.

Another highlight was visiting Caryl Bryer Fallert's studio.  She has been there for about 6 years now, that's how long it has been since I was in Paducah last.  Her work is hung throughout the studio, as well as quilts made by other quilters of note.  I purchased one of her mugs with Corona II: Solar Eclipse on it.  This is my favorite quilt of all time. Many of her famous quilts are available on mugs at her studio/shop. And ......I couldn't leave without purchasing quite a few of her gradated fabrics and faux hand dyed pieces.

On my last full day in Paducah, I visited the Fantastic Fiber exhibit at the Yeiser, and went to the Quilt Museum of the United States.  Both of them were amazing, the exhibits were well presented, relaxing and uncluttered.  Next time you visit this quilt Mecca, make a point of going to both of these places. They are well worth your time. In all, I had a successful teaching trip at Paducah.  It is an honor to be asked to teach there.

I did have two chances to walk through the big show and competition.  Here is a link to the winners, it is a very well edited video put to Mozart. There were some great quilts there, and then there were the rest.  More on this subject at a later time!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Meet Ann in Rochester MN

Hi everyone.  I am back from a teaching week in Paducah.  The weather was warm and summery, so different than here in WI. 

You will get my Paducah report in a few days, but right now, the fine people in Rochester, MN wanted me to tell you that there are still openings in two of my classes at MN Quilters 34th Annual Show and Conference:

Beaded Landscape class project

June 14, full day class titled Beaded Landscapes.  This is an easy handwork class that doesn't require much equipment.
Dancing Coneflowers detail 
 June 15-16, two day class, Dancing on Your Quilt.  If you are interested in a thorough class on free-motion quilting, this is it! A machine is required, the second day you will need a small wall hanging to quilt. There is still time to prepare for this workshop.

Here is a link to all the classes at this four day event and quilt show.