Monday, April 27, 2009

Renee Award

Just a quick post today to say thank you to Anne Huskey-Lockard for bestowing the Renee Award upon me!

Anne is a fellow artist whose work has inspired me since I first saw it when she entered the Artist as Quiltmaker exhibition I curate in Oberlin, Ohio every other year.

The award is given for those who "spread love and truly inspire" with words, artwork or deeds. I am truly honored to receive it. Thank you, Anne!

I am also honored to pass it along, as is my duty. I have mentioned mentors and mentoring in my blogs before. In the arts, I think mentors and supportive friends are especially important. Not all of mine have blogs, but I would like to honor those who do with this Renee Award. To quote Anne, "There is no particular order in how I post these----everyone is on the same level for me. Friends, people who inspire me, reading I enjoy, folks who are working hard to make creativity a living, folks who just are working hard with life." Well said!

For her life long commitment to making art, her amazing work ethic, her fun spirit, her ability to engage you in her stories, and her never ending support and kindness, Susan Shie at Turtle Moon Studios.

For her great sense of humor, her great mind and amazing business acumen, fabulous stories, and kind support, Ginny Carter Smallenburg at Small Studio Productions.

For her dedication to research, writing and fun thoughts in an amazing website and blog, Patricia Cummings at Quilter's Muse.

For her support, especially technologically, and her commitment to her work, Andi Stern at Andi's Beads, another artist I had the honor of meeting through The Artist as Quiltmaker exhibition.

Finally, for now, another Artist as Quiltmaker artist who has been so supportive in my recent efforts: for her beautiful and inspiring artwork that is the opposite of what I do, making it all the more engaging, Terry Jarrard-Dimond at 24-7 Studio.

Thank you to all of you. It's your job now to pass this award along to those who inspire you.

I know I will be adding more "awardees" in this space at a later date. For now, my friends, enjoy their blogs, and thanks again to Anne, who has really helped me get going.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Threads of Inspiration

Inland Seas Maritime Museum
I was asked to write a guest blog last week for Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed With Needles on the subject of entering juried exhibitions, and obliged happily. Having been involved in all facets of juried exhibitions, as an artist entering a show, a juror selecting artwork for a show, and a curator managing the show, I have a lot to say on the subject. My comments only just scratched the surface. Check it out if you’re interested, and post your comments or questions.

One thing I really love about working in the fiber arts field is how supportive the community of artists, curators, and galleries is. The support and interconnectedness is only enhanced by the amazing growth of websites and blogs. When I was first starting out twenty-five years ago, I read everything I could get my hands on, and worked really hard to develop my work. I set aside Mondays as my 'paperwork day', (oh, to have only one day a week of paperwork again) and used that time in part to fill out entry forms and prepare slides to enter. When I moved back to Ohio from Philadelphia, I began to meet a larger group of artists, first in northeastern Ohio, and then around the state and the country. Through organizations such as the Art Quilt Network I found support and mentoring that buoy me to this day. I feel obligated and honored to pass along the favor.

There are still a ton of artists who work with textiles in northeastern Ohio. As I wrote about in my book, Ohio has long been an epicenter for fiber art, especially since World War II. We are lucky to have high profile regional organizations such as the Textile Art Alliance and galleries devoted to fiber art, such as Ginko Gallery in Oberlin, Ohio. Attending an exhibition opening, as I did last Friday night, is usually a chance to say hello to fellow artists, who always come out to see new work and to be supportive of the artists exhibiting.
The opening for Threads of Inspiration was held at the Inland Seas Maritime Museum in Vermilion, Ohio. Located next to the historical museum and right on the coast of Lake Erie, it was a lovely setting. The artwork will be on view through May 25th.

Although a small, invitational exhibit, the one room gallery space was big enough to hold a representative sample of the eight regional artists represented.

The organizer, Bay Village artist Christy Gray, showed several pieces from her water tower series. Her small framed pieces are quite intimate, embroidered with a spare horizon line on hand-dyed fabrics and quirky, oddly animated water towers. Her larger wall quilts, though still exhibiting very clean lines, have developed into more complex compositions over the past year or so. I took a double take at the overlaid leaves, unsure from a distance whether they were appliquéd or disperse dyed. Her fused appliqué technique is so fully integrated into the surface, the layering is only apparent on close inspection.

Artwork by Christy Gray, from her watertower series

Cleveland artist Christine Mauersberger’s work has taken a detour from the more conceptual pieces shown last year at the Stocker Center gallery in Elyria. The works shown in this exhibit are immensely engaging, embroidered pieces developed from dozens and dozens of ideas originally worked out in her sketchbook. They are quirky and primal at the same time, and oddly evocative of ancient textiles with their rhythmic pace. She calls them “maps.”

Another Bay Village artist, Si-Yun Chang, showed the only three dimensional works in the show. Created from Japanese paper covered with writing, the artist creates woven basket-like forms. Because they are not brightly colored, the flecks of writing still visible after the papers are woven and shaped create a gentle, beating rhythm in the pieces. Very satisfying.

Sculptural work by Si-Yun Chang

Artist Marty Young lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. A long time quilter, she recently has been inspired by rediscovered childhood photos. The work she has on exhibit in Threads of Inspiration strays from her typically larger Japanese-inspired, visually quiet wall quilts, instead incorporating hand colored black and white image transfers and brightly colored vintage fabrics, adding to the nostalgic feel of the work.

Left, artwork by Marty Young; Christy Gray's work on the right

There is much more work of interest to see, and more for me to write about in my next post. Go see the show if you can. It would be a great way to end an afternoon at the beach.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

When the Well Overflows

One of my TagTalk cards

This past week has been an absolute blur, and the pace doesn't look like it's going to let up any time soon. Even when a death occurs, as it did in our family circle last week, the world keeps spinning around and around.

Busy is good. I have always said that to myself, often under my breath. But sometimes I get worn out, tired to the bone, burned-out. That is not the case this week.

Maybe it's the arrival of Spring, or the accompanying longer days, but I feel more energetic than I have in many months. This week I worked on my new manuscript, (a biography of artist Susan Shie which is almost for details about the release date), wrote on this blog, wrote a guest blog, (check out the Subversive Stitchers link to read it), opened my etsy store, did some work in my studio, watched my grandson for two days, kept up with my email, put together new website updates for my web developer (Aaron, you're a gem!), and probably a whole pile of other things I can't remember right now.

I don't know about you, but I need to grab the momentum when it grabs me. Although I am very disciplined about my work, sometimes it feels more like "work" and less like a creative release. There are dry times for every artist, and those are the times when the well needs to be filled and renewed. Such times call for quiet reflection, long walks, catching up on unread books, and looking outward for inspiration.

Tonight, I am tired, but still exhilarated. It will be one of those nights when my mind will not rest, and I will have to make mental notes on the ideas for finished artwork that dance in my head. I'm grabbing the gold ring before my spot on the merry-go-round passes by. There will be plenty of time to rest later.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Creativity Lives

Oil pastel sketch: Aunt Vivian, Grandma, momma

Finding and connecting with the source of our creativity requires a certain amount of practice. It’s a bit like the discipline of dividing plants in the garden to keep them healthy, or performing daily exercises to stay limber.

Once rediscovered, the process of creating offers much to the human endeavor. Creativity can solve almost any problem. This is a one-sentence version of a favorite quote that I keep in my studio. The rest of the quote, attributed to George Lois, reads: “The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.”
Well, almost everything.

We are attending the funeral of a young man this morning, a young and talented artist. He was the son of neighbors, acquaintances we became friendly with through the osmosis of raising children and attending their school activities. He was found dead by his own father, hung and out of his misery. We only learned a day later that the young man had been in insufferable pain from cancer. His sudden death, still tragic, was framed in a different light with the new knowledge. For him, creating was clearly not enough to ease his suffering. Luckily for us, in his physical absence, his spirit remains in our minds and in the artwork he left behind.

Creating can be a positive outlet for dealing with pain and grief. When my mother died suddenly nearly twenty years ago, “making” gave me a place to put my feelings. In my artwork, bits and pieces of my mother’s life were transformed; sheer curtains, a St. Christopher’s medal, a bridge tally became talismans for remembering.

When my father died without warning the following year, I felt compelled to create artwork about him, as well. I continue to create such artworks even today, as I experience the loss and emotion of grief in new ways as each year passes.

Hero: Only one of Daddy's Battles and The Day Momma Died, front

Years ago I was asked to participate in a national exhibition entitled Memories—Images of the Soul. The artwork shown was a powerfully moving testimony to the abiding capacity of the human spirit for expression and renewal. I remember walking through the gallery amongst the artwork, the emotion in the space palpable, and being moved to tears by the experience. In the exhibition catalog, the project coordinator Rick Grahovac wrote, “Art evokes and transforms our inner experiences, the movements of our soul, into concrete form. Our thoughts, feelings and the meaning we create from our encounters with life and death are contained, preserved, and available for our contemplation. The process of making art allows us to mourn, to externalize the inner experience of grief. …Art gives us a way not only to remember, but also immortalize and remain connected to our loved ones who have died.”

Mother Shrine

When someone dies, all that remains for the living, regardless of one’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, are memories and objects connected to them. When all of those living who remembered the person are also gone, only the objects remain, often cut off from their original context. Creativity, the end product of human imagination, lives on, though, long after we mortals have returned to the earth’s soil. A poem, a song, an artwork hung on the wall, continue to stir the soul of anyone who is open to the experience.

What do we do when art isn’t enough? Create more art. Sometimes, it is all we have to give.

Book of Years: Granddaddy, detail

All artwork by Gayle Pritchard, Copyright protected.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Art Quilts are Still New

I had an unusual opportunity recently to speak about art quilts at a hospital. It all started a few months ago, when I received an email out of the blue from someone who had been referred to my website, After a few emails back and forth, we finally arranged a time to speak on the phone, and I learned that this family wished to learn more about art quilts in their quest to commission a memorial artwork in memory of their loved one, a well-loved physician who had lost her battle with cancer last year.

So, last Monday I found myself in Plymouth, Michigan at the historic Inn at St. John's, prepared to meet this family at a dinner party. My friend and colleague Christine, who has experience with the selection and installation of artwork in hospitals, generously made the trip with me.
When we arrived for the party, the house was packed with friends, family members and colleagues. Each conversation was an opportunity to learn about this amazing woman, who, like most women, had been a wife, a daughter and a mother in addition to everything else she was in her professional life. What was clear was that this physician had been a woman who had touched many lives deeply.

Despite arriving back at the Inn early, I found myself unable to sleep most of the night. My mind raced with snippets of conversations, thoughts about the memorial art the family was contemplating, and the text of my upcoming presentation. I have had the opportunity to speak all over the country about art quilts in the process of promoting my book on the subject, Uncommon Threads: Ohio's Art Quilt Revolution.
I have presented my Power Point presentation in dozens of locations, the lecture tweaked each time for the specific audience. This is, however, the very first time that I have ever presented such a lecture in a hospital. I was curious to see what the audience would be like.

After a very early wake-up call and a quick breakfast with the family at the hospital cafeteria, it was time to head to the auditorium and gather my thoughts one last time. As audience members continued to trickle in, I was once again amazed at the ongoing interest in the topic of art quilts that I have encountered everywhere I have traveled. Physicians, hospital staff, administrators, family members and interested hospital staff spouses had come together on this morning to honor the late Dr. Stuck, and to learn about the emergence and evolution of the art quilt movement in Ohio and the Midwest. Unlike most audiences, there were not many questions posed at the end of the lecture. What happened instead is that individuals came up afterwards, one by one, to ask the questions that had come to mind as they listened to the history and looked at the images of contemporary art quilts. When it was time to leave, I was left with a great sense of personal satisfaction that another audience had come to appreciate an art form they were not previously familiar with.