Of colors and Winter

February 9, 2015

Don’t we all need colors in Winter ? More colors than the occasional yellow or red leaves that highlight a green bush ? Thanks for them Colours that strike you vibrantly and bring a smile Colours that make you blink as if the sun had hit your eyes Or as if a rainbow from elsewhere would bend down gently over  you  to warm your heart I send you the gift of a quilt I sewed recently, digging into my scraps boxes with the utmost pleasure. DSC00829 I will be kept away from my window to yours for a while. Should you wish to send me a message, it will definitely bring more colors to one of those mailboxes, and to the other too since they are so close together. mailboxes, 2 Wishing you all the best. With love Isabelle

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Christmas wishes

December 24, 2011

We are almost there, aren’t we ? Christmas Eve will be celebrated later tonight . Most cards have been sent,  the Christmas tree is all lit up as I write and the menu for dinner  is ready… in my head. Our village postman has been busy delivering mail and packages. Yesterday I was on his list, he brought me a large parcel sent from the United States.

My friend Fina, from South Texas, had carefully wrapped up this lovely Christmas decoration : a Mexican musician and his sweet señorita. They looked so colourful and different from our usual decorations that I could not help but sharing them with you. I  delicately  put the pretty decoration on a branch of a pine tree in the garden. The two of them did not seem to mind the change of temperatures…

Snow had fallen a few days ago and children  spent hours in the field  near our house building a snowman. A joyful party that was still there at dusk, surrounded by parents and friends, screaming and jumping around their artwork. Today snow has melt, the only remaining sign of the snowman is his red scarf and a carrot that is looked at with greedy eyes by Nino the beagle.

Most of these handmade cards are gone, sent to family and friends here and there. My box of African fabrics scraps is almost empty. It is a good feeling to imagine that  maybe these cards will give as much pleasure as I felt sewing them. Bringing  some  thoughts, light and strong colours where and when they are needed.

This mosaic is also meant to bring you, my Friends, my best wishes for A Merry Christmas. A celebration of peace and togetherness, sharing time and affection, joy around the Christmas Tree.

Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Merry Christmas,  Glaedelig Jul, Hyvaa Joulua, Sretan Bosic and more good wishes wherever you are.

About quilt making

June 27, 2011

Rules or improvisation ?

After reading Sherri Lynn Wood’s post in http://daintytime.net/2011/06/20/a-quilt-makers-memoir-of-rules/ , I thought a lot about rules or improvisation in the way I have been quilting for many years.  Sherri is a wonderful textile artist and a great source of inspiration. Her “Improv Mondays series” particularly is a forum where quilters can exchange their experiences and learn from one another with Sherri’s encouragement and teaching. I started looking at pictures of my previous quilts and see how my own quilting has evolved over the  years from rules to improvisation.

 This is one of my first quilts. It is sewn and quilted by hand since I had no sewing machine yet.  The materials are leftovers of curtains (silk-like) found in an interior design shop. I cut the nine-patch patterns  around templates I was taught how to make. This warm blanket that has been mended countless times and I am still so happy with it. At that time I decided to name each quilt I sewed, adding a small fancy label at the back. Since I had very little knowlege about sewing, another rule was to start with easy patterns and move on slowly until I felt more or less confident with  what I was doing.

“Baroque”

When I joined a patchwork group later, we were proposed to sew a sampler of the colours of our choice. I bought the large turquoise fabric but used only scraps for the different patterns.  No improvision yet for this quilt apart from the “crazy squares”; it was  fun to learn new designs and techniques, like  paper piecing for instance.

“Demi-teintes” (Halftones)

Later I ventured into curves. Controlled curves, mind you ! Four different shapes of curves cut with the cutter and assembled together according to colours and forms. I enjoyed this immensely for the surprise it created and the many variations. Not endless though, I knew there was more to learn and improvise about it. Another rule was : explore, try new techniques for a wider form of expression, even if it is not “perfect” according to some rules. Letting go of definite shapes and lines whenever I felt like it.

“Enchanted Forest”


One of my all time favourites is this light quilt made in a very thin and sheer material, organza. There were also leftovers given by a friend who sewed the most beautiful little handbags.

“Brilliance of Pearls and Eucalypts”

I very soon realised that, wanted or not, there would be curves ! And folds and bumps and total “un-evenness” (if such a word exists in English;) The organza kept sliding under my fingers, there are  few straight lines in this quilt. And guess what ? I simply loved it ! This quilt was and still is very alive, moving like a feather in its lightness and irregular folds.  Another lesson I learned there : accept the fabric as it is, play with it and follow its weaving or movement while sewing. It gives more “character” to one’s quilt, I find.

Just a detail to show you how transparent this organza was. The “pearls” and the leaves are the only pieces of coton/muslin  I inserted in the quilt; the pearls are covered with organza.

Of course I have continued sewing with African fabrics since I came back home from a five years stay there. Improvisation came naturally, just by assembling colours and designs the way I thought they would complement one another.

“Un peu de tout”  or “A little bit of everything”, a common expression and name for shops or restaurants in West Africa…


“Africa in red and black”

Now I am trying to improvise in creating quilts that I sew for a particular person or occasion, in memory of someone or to remember a moment, a place, anything that I want to keep alive. Some quilts take time and much thinking, chosing the materials  and design that will best show what I feel. I started this particular quilt over a year ago. It could be a “passage quilt” although no personal materials/clothes were available. This picture shows just a part of it, the correspondance that brings sunshine when one’s life is confined. I keep adding stitches and patches here and there as I remember events.

“R. quilt, letters”

Nowadays my quilts vary. I may sew some traditional pattern like the Seminole quilt I made a while back which was a real challenge for me. I may also follow my inspiration and put together scraps or carefully chosen fabrics and try to materialize an image, a thought, a memory.  A way of expressing myself. Those are the quilts I especially love. No real “rules” as such, apart from some  basic techniques but a lot of improvisation as I move along with pieces of fabrics and thoughts. For the pleasure of quilting.

“Reading in the Woods”

Detail of a quilt where I joined the watercolour technique – learned in a great book by Gai Perry, “Impressionist Quilts”  and my improvisation. I made books with selvages of various materials. A wonderful project based on a challenge about a French philosopher and writer,  Michel de Montaigne.

Books and quilting, two of my favourite hobbies.  Thanks Sherri Lynn for having brought up these thoughts about one’s  way of quilting and expressing it.

This is the Upper School Art Show of the Mounds Park Academy in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The show is open from May 17 to June 3, 2011.

How do I know about it ? That is a real nice story.  One that happened thanks to Internet, quilting, a painting class of  15 students between 15 and 18 and their dedicated art teacher, Renee Sonka, in the heart of the Midwest, Minnesota.

From Africa to Switzerland and on to Minnesota/USA

or how African fabrics are  inspiring and travelling !

You may remember this quilt of mine, an African mosaic I posted on January 2009 as I started this blog.  It is a logcabin pattern made with countless scraps of fabrics I brought back  home after a stay in Africa with my family.

The art teacher, R. Sonka, had a particular project in mind for her painting class. It was entitled : AFRICAN TEXTILES as inspiration for mixed media paintings. The designed plans were to study the textiles, infuse mixed media, think about subject and meaning, become the composer, develop sketches and realize one’s  idea !

In addition the students were to create a larger collaborative painting where each of them would be responsible for small sections of the whole. Together with the picture of the  quilt, I had also posted a detail of it. This is what the students chose to create painted versions of sections of my quilt.


A few students are working on their individual compositions.

Developping sketches

Glimpse  of a larger panel that students are working on collaboratively. The quilt image has been divided up so that each one can contribute a section to the larger whole.

Drawing inspiration from patterns and colours in African textiles.

This is the collaborative painting of a section of my quilt ! I cannot express how honored, admirative and touched I am as I look at the work of those 15 talented students. They used acrylic paint on canvas. Never would I have imagined that my quilt could be such a source of inspiration. It is a beautiful project and you can all be very proud of all you achieved !

The other three pictures represent individual compositions designed by students. More inspiration from patterns, textures, colours found in African textiles. They used acrylic paint on plywood, some include other materials such as fabric, cardboard and raffia.

Panel created by Avalon Levey

Panel created by Greta Gangestad

Panel created by Annette

The art teacher, R. Sonka,  sent me all those pictures, for which I am very grateful and happy to share with you.  Thank you Renee for all your mails and details; without them I would probably not have been able to explain well enough the development of this great project.

This is the school Art Show that represents the drawing, painting and ceramics classes. A beautiful compilation of weeks of work, individual and collaborative. I like this concept very much.

Congratulations and much gratefulness to each and everyone who participated in this fantastic and creative project. With many good wishes for the continuation of your teaching and studies.

Here is a link about the Art Show and the Mounds Park Academy in Saint Paul/MN.

http://www.moundsparkacademy.org/news/arts/2011/05/upper-school-art-show-open-fro.shtml

Teatime in Jo’burg

July 29, 2009

Teatime in Jo'burg

teatime, détail 1

Some years ago a friend sent me the manuscrit of a book she had just written. The novel unfolded in South Africa, a story of love and adventure in a vast and beautiful country. Men and animals were never far from one another as soon as one left the big cities.  Several episodes were set in  colonial houses at teatime. Peace and quietness on luxuriant terraces or inside cool rooms. All around the houses there was wilderness, unindentifiable sounds and cries, strong smells and traces on the soil that meant : animals were close.

This story my friend wrote stayed in my mind for a while. I lived in Central Africa for a few years and those sights she described were alive in my memory and brought back images I thought I had forgotten.

One day as I sat in my sewing room, I came across a pretty English fabric : teapots, cups, flowers on tables, the perfect setting for  teatime.  Then I had this idea of sewing  a quilt that would show my feelings as I read my friend’s novel.

It was not long before I found in my baskets of African fabrics all I needed to create my own story : Teatime in Jo’burg. A moment when animals would be even closer to men.

teatime, détail 2The main material was a green and golden batik I had bought in a women’s co-operative in Rwanda. The other fabrics came from various countries: Tanzania, Madagascar, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. Each with its own colour and symbols. A kind of United Colours of Africa.

It took me a few days only to sew the top, joining animals and cups of tea. My own version of my friend’s book. A quilt I truly enjoyed imagining and sewing.

poem for the day

June 24, 2009

Bright morningAs I opened the shutters this morning, I recalled this poem that I read many times…

With Every Breath

With every breath I take today,

I wow to be awake;

And every step I take,

I wow to take with a grateful heart–

So I may see with eyes of love

Into the hearts of all I meet,

To ease their burden when I can

And touch them with a smile of peace.

(author unknown to me)

These are my wishes for you on this cool but sunny Summer day.

Here is a quilt I made with so many various fabrics, all from Africa. As many fabrics as memories of people, friends, places, particular circumstances. One of my favourites because of all it evokes to me.

marchés africains 1“Marchés africains” (African markets)


quilting and travelling

January 25, 2009

One thing I love to do while travelling is visiting market places. Especially in Africa. I used  to live in different African countries. Markets are the places where you meet people,  you hear the music of various languages, you see the eating habits, you smell unknown food or wonder at local medicines. It is a place to learn so much about a country and its people ! If you look for something you cannot find in any  shop, just go to the market, someone will help you find it. You also learn how to bargain : a must ! Since I have always been interested in fabrics, a visit to the tailor’s shop is a priority. The amount and variety of materials that are sold on market stalls always fascinates me.market-3This is the market place (or Zoma in malagasy language) in Antananarivo, Madagascar, a fabulous place to get lost.

African fabrics, mostly in coton, are extremely colourful and original in their patterns. Many of them have their own designation : “palm, vines, my rival’s eyes, comb, shells, my foot and your foot, the prosperous husband, etc…” and many more very descriptive and sometimes funny names. I immediately fell in love with those bright materials and bought quite a lot of small or larger pieces which I used for quilting. Friends offer me presents of fabrics, tailors are happy to give me the left-overs of what they sewed. I even receive worn clothes that my African friends are happy to share when they get new ones ! Nothing is wasted.mosaique-africaine-jardinA few years ago I sewed this “African Mosaic”, a log cabin pattern (2m20x2m10) with bits and pieces of many materials I had bought or received during several stays or journeys through different countries. These fabrics were made in  Madagascar, Kenya, Burundi, Cameroun, Mali, Niger,Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, maybe elsewhere, I don’t know.

It is one of my favourite and precious  souvenirs of the people I met, the places I visited, the wonderful moments I spent on this great continent.

Here are some details of my African Mosaic :mosaique-detail-2Each square of this log cabin quilt is 10x10cm and there are about 200 of them. Each one unique.mosaique-detail-3This is the very center of the quilt, golden, bright and warm as the sun that shines in Africa.