Sunday, December 31, 2017

Tenth in New Series: One Thing and Another

Tentatively titled: One Thing and Another

Again, hand-dyed linen, pieced,  and measuring 24 x 24. Hand-stitching with white embroidery floss. 
Detail shot below:

One Thing and Another, detail

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ninth in New Series: A Significant Other

Tentatively titled: A Significant Other

Making progress with my goal of having twelve new pieces for a solo show in early January.

Like the others in the series, this one was made of hand-dyed linen, pieced, and measures 24 x 24. The swirl of activity in the upper right is created with a variety of couched threads.  The fuchsia on the left is not as intense as it shows in the photo.

Originally it was meant to have a different orientation, which I have shown below, and which would require a different title. Which do you prefer?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Happy Christmas!

To express the pleasures of the season, I look back and reflect on the wonderful exhibition of John Little paintings, held at Montreal's Galérie Eric Klinkhoff this fall.

Rue Scott, Quebec, John Little, 1967

John Little had a way of making our mundane and slushy winter streets lyrical.

And so I wish you contentment in the small and ordinary things at Christmas, and throughout the year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Eighth in New Series: Out of the Blue

tentatively titled: Out of the Blue

Yet another finished piece in my new series! Measuring 24 x 24, made of pieced hand-dyed linen, and featuring hand-stitching. I took my inspiration from shapes I developed in my Touchstone series of acrylic collages.

I'm making good headway towards my objective of having a series of twelve large pieces made for an upcoming solo show.

Below is a detail of the hand-stitching with variegated yarn, used to create the small shape near the lower edge. I like the way the rough, irregular embroidery contrasts with the smooth, clean piecing of the larger shapes.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Seventh in New Series: In the Absence of Evidence to the Contrary

Continuing with my new, minimalist series in hand-dyed linen, here is the latest one. Like the others, it measures 24 x 24, and is mounted on a black, painted gallery canvas.

tentatively titled: In the Absence of Evidence to the Contrary

The shapes in linen are pieced together with machine stitching. The only textural stitching on this one is on the small shape in the centre. The lines are created with white cording, couched into place.

I've included small, medium and large shapes, as well as curves and straight lines. The over-sized curves suggest something going on outside the frame. Detail shots below:

The hand-dyed linen is nicely mottled and has a rich interplay of colour.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sixth in New Series: Point / Counterpoint

Tentatively titled: Point / Counterpoint

Continuing with my new, minimalist series in hand-dyed linen, this piece features couched yarn and decorative stitching. A variegated thread enlivens the central, yellow shape.

I have tried to consider small, medium and large shapes when making the composition. Other areas of contrast are value (light/dark), colour saturation (bold/faded) and colour temperature (warm/cool). Lines include curved and straight, and the textures include regular spaced lines and more organic ripples of line. Three detail photos are included below:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Wool War I

An example of "craftivism", Wool War I is on display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until January 7, 2018. It consists of an 18-meter long column of 780 hand-knitted soldiers, and represents the work of 500 "craftivists" from all over the world. Nineteen countries are represented in their various identifying costumes. The project was initiated by French artist Délit Maille.

The Museum's website reads, in part,
"Wool War I highlights the fragile destiny of the soldiers and pays tribute to the victims of the Great War (1914-18). In this centennial memorial year of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the MMFA joins with these tiny hands in solidarity to launch a message of peace."
To read a definition of "craftivism" and to learn more about it, please see the Wikipedia page.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Fray", by Julia Bryan-Wilson

Well, here's something I hope to find under the tree this Christmas.

Published in October 2017, the book warrants a mini-review in the November 20 issue of The New Yorker:
"Combining history and criticism, this study of textile crafting highlights its social and political aspects. Bryan-Wilson explores items as varied as the Cockettes' drag-queen costumes, Chilean arpilleras that documented Pinochet's dictatorship, and the ideological rifts occasioned by the AIDS quilt. Discussing current crafting trends within the context of globalized mass production, she examines art – such as the unravelled-velvet 'blacklets' of Angela Hennessy – that physically deconstructs fabric as a means of commenting on the meaning craft practices have for black women and other marginalized groups. Textiles, she writes, 'are used to make the tangible things that surround bodies and that organize, structure, and lend meaning to the contours of everyday life.'"

Available on, which provides this description:

"In 1974, women in a feminist consciousness-raising group in Eugene, Oregon, formed a mock organization called the Ladies Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society. Emblazoning its logo onto t-shirts, the group wryly envisioned female collective textile making as a practice that could upend conventions, threaten state structures, and wreak political havoc. Elaborating on this example as a prehistory to the more recent phenomenon of 'craftivism'—the politics and social practices associated with handmaking—Fray explores textiles and their role at the forefront of debates about process, materiality, gender, and race in times of economic upheaval.

"Closely examining how amateurs and fine artists in the United States and Chile turned to sewing, braiding, knotting, and quilting amid the rise of global manufacturing, Julia Bryan-Wilson argues that textiles unravel the high/low divide and urges us to think flexibly about what the politics of textiles might be. Her case studies from the 1970s through the 1990s—including the improvised costumes of the theater troupe the Cockettes, the braided rag rugs of US artist Harmony Hammond, the thread-based sculptures of Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña, the small hand-sewn tapestries depicting Pinochet’s torture, and the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt—are often taken as evidence of the inherently progressive nature of handcrafted textiles. Fray, however, shows that such methods are recruited to often ambivalent ends, leaving textiles very much 'in the fray' of debates about feminized labor, protest cultures, and queer identities; the malleability of cloth and fiber means that textiles can be activated, or stretched, in many ideological directions.

"The first contemporary art history book to discuss both fine art and amateur registers of handmaking at such an expansive scale, Fray unveils crucial insights into how textiles inhabit the broad space between artistic and political poles—high and low, untrained and highly skilled, conformist and disobedient, craft and art."

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Please come to our opening!

Portrait of Leonard Cohen, Eric Mannella
oil on wood panel

I am very excited to be part of a group show celebrating the life and work of Leonard Cohen. Thirteen artists have come together, inspired by the Montreal-born poet, songwriter and musician. Our works reflect the complexity, humanity and mystery so evident in Cohen's oeuvre, and include sculpture, hand-made papers, collage and painting.

Tree Bowl, Mona Turner
oil on wood panel

So meet the artists! Enjoy a glass of wine! I hope that you will be able to join us at the show's opening, Saturday, December 9, from 1 to 3 pm, at the Rigaud Public Library, 102 Rue St.-Pierre.

The exhibition will continue until January 29, 2018. For library hours, and to access their holiday schedule, please visit the library website.

Né de la Lumière et de l'argile, Monique Verdier
acrylic, encaustic, gold and clay

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Women Who Sew for NASA

Have you seen the movie Hidden Figures? Here's a similar story.

Lien Pham arrived in America as a child refugee, fleeing South Vietnam as Saigon fell. She and her family survived by doing piece work in the fashion industry. Working in a lingerie factory by day, she attended engineering classes in the evening. And since 1994 she has brought her talents to the aerospace industry.

You can read her fascinating story here

The link will bring you to a text that is part of BBC 100 Women, an annual focus on 100 influential and inspirational women around the world. This year's series celebrates women in science.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Hand-dyeing linen

Needing to broaden the palette for my latest series, I started with some neutrals.

A satisfactory range of greys in hand-dyed, medium-weight linen

The most obvious neutral range is made with black dye, which produces a range of greys. I began with a depth-of-shade concentration of 8%, and then reduced it by half each time, to 4%, 2%, 1%, .5%, .25%, .125%, and .0625%. I should have begun with 10%, and that would have produced a stronger colour at each end, but nevertheless I'm satisfied with this range. It should prove to be useful in combination with other neutrals and as a foil to more vivid colours. A bit of a blue cast to the G&S Black dye.

Next, I did some experiments with golden yellow vs. lemon yellow, and black vs. navy. The navy produces a more green-green, but the black is more interesting and complex.

From left: 18 parts golden yellow: 1 part black (4% depth of shade)
18 golden yellow: 1 part navy (4% depth of shade)
18 lemon yellow: 1 part black (4% depth of shade)
18 lemon yellow: 1 part navy (4% depth of shade)

From left, 10 parts golden yellow: 1 part black (4% depth of shade)
10 parts golden yellow: 1 part navy (4% depth of shade)
10 parts golden yellow vs. 1 part black (2% depth of shade)
10 parts golden yellow: 1 part navy (2% depth of shade)

Finally, I wanted to create some interesting neutrals by mixing the complementary colours of orange and navy, and then orange and turquoise. When using pure-pigment MX dyes, these are the only complementaries available, because while there are a couple of reds, there is no pure green pigment. And while there are several yellows, there are no violets. Here are the results:

From left, 2 parts orange: 1 part navy (2% depth of shade)
5 parts orange: 1 part navy (2% depth of shade)
8 parts orange: 1 part navy (2% depth of shade)
2 parts orange: 1 part navy (5% depth of shade)
5 parts orange: 1 part navy (5% depth of shade)
8 parts orange: 1 part navy (5% depth of shade)
1 part orange: 1 part turquoise (2% depth of shade)
1 part orange : 1 part turquoise (5% depth of shade)

Note that I used extra-hot water when dyeing with turquoise. Also, observe how, with those last two, there is a real shift in hue, caused not by different proportions of pigment but by different intensities of pigment (depth of shade).

These colours produced by complementary pigments result in some very intriguing marbling, as seen below:

1 part orange: 1 part turquoise (2% depth of shade)

2 parts orange: 1 part navy (5% depth of shade)

An appealing complexity, no?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Making Christmas cards

Every year I make a couple dozen Christmas postcards, and the tradition continues this year.

I love using up what I have on hand, and I have stashed away an embarrassing quantity of colourful cotton, printed with polka dots, stripes and checks. Here is the working sketch for this year's design, with scraps of cotton glued to paper, and with a black marker used to signify the stitching line. I know the colour scheme is not a traditional Christmas palette, but I like the lively, fun feeling of this combination.

I began by marking white cotton with a blue fabric marker, dividing it up into rectangles of 6" x 4",  leaving a margin of 1/4" around each postcard. You might be able to make out the blue lines in the photo below.

Then I cut out rectangular shapes from polka dot prints that had been backed with fusible web, positioned them on each rectangle, and fused them to the white muslin backing. You can see how I like to work on these in assembly-line fashion.

I had on hand some white polyester quilt batting, from Thermore, that I spray-basted to the white cotton. Because it didn't slide very nicely on the bed of the sewing machine, I added another layer of iron-on, lightweight, synthetic interfacing to the back, which gave me a stiff sandwich (cotton-batting-interfacing) that glided nicely under the needle.

Using quilting-weight (40) thread, I free-motion stitched the black outline to indicate the packages, ribbons and bows. The idea was to go for a "sketchy" effect, which gives more fun and whimsy to the design.

Then I pulled out a pad of watercolour paper, 18" x 24", and, using spray adhesive, glued the stitched sandwiches onto the sheets of paper. At this stage, I was working with units of 9 - 12 cards. Then it was a matter of trimming the paper-backed sandwiches to the 6" x 4" size, and sealing the edge using a closely-spaced zigzag stitch in white thread.

The greeting on the paper side of the postcards reads "Wishing you all the gifts of the season". They will go into the mail without further packaging, with a standard postage stamp.

I can see this design modified to make candles or houses. Will save these ideas for another year!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Scenic Provence

I may no longer be making Cityscapes, but if I were....

This photo has a fabric connection.
The waterwheels were once essential to the manufacture of cloth in Avignon.
This street, Rue des Teinturiers (Street of Dyers), is one of many
whose names relate to the textile industry.

a charming corner in Avignon

A highly textured wall, in need of repair. The building was for sale.
Note the stream in the foreground, which powered textile mills long ago.

Isn't it strange how we find disrepair "picturesque"when we travel?
A building in this state (peeling paint, crumbling stucco)
in our own neighbourhood would be the subject of disapproval.

Arles. The lavender-coloured shutters are thought
to keep the mosquitoes away.

The curves of these arches remind me of music. Vivaldi?
Les Baux, 15th-century City Hall.

Ménerbes, the town that Peter Mayle made famous with
his book "A Year in Provence"

A quiet corner in Ménerbes

A jumble of roof lines and chimney pots in Rousillion,
if you like that sort of thing

As these façades attest, Rousillon is known for
its production of ochre.

Fall foliage against ochre walls.

Wonderful textures and value contrasts

The cliffs of Roussillon where the ochre was mined.

Don't you love the tangle of buildings, roofs and
windows, punctuated with poplars and shrubs?
This is Gordes.

Line, texture, shape, value, negative space....

A Roman temple in Nimes

Provence is known for the art that it has inspired: Cézanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, among others. But very little art of that period remains in Provence for the visitor to see. We must console ourselves with homages, with in-the-steps-of-tours, with contemporary galleries, and with the beautiful scenery and village vignettes that will inspire artists for many years to come.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Current and Upcoming Shows

Just to let you know about some events I will be participating in over the next couple of months....

The Hudson Artists will stage their annual fall show November 17 - 19 at the Hudson Community Centre, 394 Main Road in Hudson, QC. The vernissage will be on the Friday evening, 7:30 - 9:30 pm; hours for Saturday and Sunday are 10 am - 5 pm. This show usually includes a good variety of media: watercolour, acrylic, oil, pastel, collage, "mixed" and fibre.

I will attend the show BUT my plan to show three of my newest pieces at this show has been waylaid. As my friend and fellow artist Helena Scheffer has said, in consolation, "Heather, you can't dance at every wedding."

The following weekend is the opening of the Small Works show at one of Hudson's new galleries, Galérie A's Secondemain at 524 Main Road. I will be one of ten artists showing small pieces, perfect for holiday gifting. I plan to exhibit some acrylic collages from my Touchstone series, and maybe some small cityscapes, and will definitely be at the opening on Friday evening, November 24.

Open Window, Cēsis, batik and hand-dyed cotton, fused and stitched
based on a photo by Lauma Cenne

I continue to have work on display at Café Mikko, 403 Main Road in Hudson. At this time, three of my Cityscapes in monochrome black-grey-and-white are showing in this lively café-boutique.

An Unlikely Confluence of Events,
showing at Stewart Hall in Pte-Claire until December 3

And let's not forget the stunning show at Stewart Hall in Pointe-Claire, QC. Titled The Art That Inhabits Us, this show features 150 works by 150 artists, and includes a wide variety of media. The entire show can be seen on-line here.

This show celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Pointe-Claire Art Rental and Sales Service. It continues at 176 Bord-du-Lac, until December 3. Hours are 1 - 5 pm seven days a week, open on Wednesdays until 9 pm.

Diaspora, an acrylic collage, is part of the Leonard Cohen show,
Rigaud Library, opening November 29

Tribute to Leonard Cohen, a group show that will be staged at the Rigaud Library, opens on November 29 and continues into January. A vernissage is planned for Saturday, December 9, 1 - 3 pm. The library is at 102 rue St-Pierre, in Rigaud, and hours can be found on their website.  

More than a dozen artists have collaborated to put together this show. Our works, in a variety of media, are inspired by the words in Cohen's Anthem, 
"There is a crack in everything. 
That's how the light gets in."

The Sum of Its Parts, hand-dyed linen, pieced and stitched

And in January I will have a solo show at Galérie Carlos, in Montreal's Old Brewery Mission, 902 Blvd. St.-Laurent. This will be an opportunity to show off more works in my new series of hand-dyed linen. Details to follow!