Thursday, February 19, 2015

Absorbing Disappointment

Two more rejection letters from the SAQA exhibition 'Wild Fabrications' leaves me to internally question, "What do I need to fix in order to get a more favorable outcome?" Knowing that sometimes a piece just doesn't work with other chosen pieces, I still am questioning what it might have been this time. I entered both 'Caught' and a new piece, 'Crazy Eights' and neither were accepted.

My composition on 'Caught' is a bit bottom heavy but there is good color movement to offset it. 'Crazy Eights' has a wonderful flow, great color contrast and movement, interesting fabric choices and a solid composition. So, other than the pieces not fitting into the show, I am left with two possible culprits. Either my stitching is not as consistently professional as it should be, or my photographs did not read well.

I am still working to get the hang of free motion quilting. Thankfully my Sweet 16 allows me to choose a percentage of the speed it does at full throttle. I have mine still set low at 35%. But I still have issues with my brain working slower than my foot. I wonder if I will ever really get the hang of it. Here are two shots of the background quilting for Crazy of the swirly moon and the still dark sky. 

If you look closely you will see how even though some areas are working well with even lines and stitching, there are wonky lines every so often and occasional uneven stitches. Judges look closely. This is a dilemma for me because the artist in me can envision the work but my skill is not keeping up. Practice, practice, practice, you might say. Well, I have taken years to do just that and it hasn't really paid off in increased skill. 

My strong skill lies in other areas. 

Contrast is a tool I often use.

I've been saving this silk specialty fabric for a long time and with it's likeness to fire was the perfect choice for a border for this fire breathing dragon.

Imagination, draftsmanship, color theory, composition, construction, fabric knowledge. These are my strong suits. I very seldom get stuck in choosing my fabrics. In the dragon I have chosen lots of complementary colors for drama, lime greens and raspberry reds, fiery oranges against the deep blue of the sky, pale yellows and light lilacs in the moon.

Fabrics can also add interest in how they play with light. The wings not only reflect light but are two layers of organza which create moire patterns when cut across the grain and are transparent giving depth to the design. One of the wings is sewn to the quilt only at one edge, free floating over the body, tethered with one stitch and wired along the top.

The wing's transparency is allowing the moon and sky to show through. 

In this shot above, the relief work is more evident and the left wing is showing the curl of it's wired edge. All of these effects took some brain-power to figure out. The quilt stitching was done on the front body pieces with interfacing behind before stitching a tube (below) and filling with fiber fill. The flanges on the head were completely made with a lining and stitched before both fusing and stitching to the background. 


I was really worried about whether the background would be strong enough to hold the weight and twisted contortion of the relief work in the front. I used thermal curtain batting as my choice of batting and the end result is that it helped to make the background stiff and sturdy. It crinkles a bit when moved around.

I am thankful for my strong workhorse Bernina, which with a leather needle, sewed through several layers with it's perfect satin stitch to adhere the body pieces. Some of those body pieces, like the tail are hand stitched in key areas and free floating in others.

I did have a photographer take my entry shots. He is a seasoned, but amateur photographer. I may have this one reshot by professional, Joe Ofria, from Arlington, MA at SAQA MA/RI's workshop in April and see if he gets a better result with the relief imaging. My details and full shot follow:

First detail shot

Side detail shot

36" x 46"
Completed January 2015

I am working on my next piece for a deadline again. It will be my third SAQA deadline in a row since 2014's 'Food For Thought' exhibit. It is a piece about how my grandmother raised chickens and sold her eggs door to door to have extra money in the household. The deadline for 'Balancing Act' is February 28, but I hope to have it completed by early next week. 

As I continue working on this piece I am ever mindful now of the need to keep my stitching as perfect as I can. I wonder if my photographer will render me a great shot. And I wonder if with three strikes you are out or if my luck will come back. Ultimately, an artist can't be thin skinned. I need to just keep making my art and hope for the best. Absorb the blow. Wish me luck.


  1. I don't know what it takes, Nancy. I know I'm not in your league, though -- your work is painstaking and detailed and your knowledge of colour and fabrics is superb. Don't the jurors ever give you any feed-back? Sometimes they get huge numbers of entries for only a few spots. Sometimes it is the photography...Jean Judd is an old hand at entering exhibits. Perhaps she has some insight?

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Margaret. I seem to only have difficulty getting into SAQA shows. Other ones I seem to do fine with. There were 200 entrants for this particular show and only 38 pieces chosen. Two entrants had two pieces chosen. It has to be either my stitching ability or the photography. I am going to reshoot the dragon with a professional and renter it into another show nod see how it does.