Saturday, March 19, 2016

Jurying a quilt show....Could you do it? Elizabeth Spannring tells what's involved!

March CQA speaker Elizabeth Spannring (left) and CQA president Colleen Wise
Elizabeth Spannring, quilt artist from Southwest Washington and experienced quilt juror and judge, gave CQA members a reality check in a "mock jury" session at the group's March 13 meeting. Consensus: It ain't as easy as it looks!

[Editor's note: All images in this post are used with the permission of the artists.]

Spannring has been quilting for 25 years, and was executive director of the former Association of Pacific West Quilters (nee Association of Pacific NW Quilters: APNQ), producers of  juried and judged shows last held in Tacoma. It was during her various volunteer positions with APNQ that, in 2002, she decided to enter the Northern California Council's judging certification program. In 2005 she joined the National Quilting Association's judging program and, in 2006, became a certified NQA judge.

Spannring is the only US judge also certified in Canada. She explained that Canadian show judging can be quite different from most US shows, in that show sponsors are more strict about entries that involve patterns, kits, classes, derivative work, etc. These are all put into a class by themselves, and the Best of Show must always be entirely original work.

In outlining the responsibilities of a juror (Evaluate the work objectively based on principles of design, review the artist's intent, evaluate techniques, rank entries, select accepted entries), Spannring pointed out that the quilt world is really quite small, and jurors must maintain confidentiality about all aspects of the jurying--no comments may be made or reported outside of the jurors' process, about any of the entries or entrants if recognized, or selected or rejected entries.
This "wholecloth" (above) quilt is actually stitched leather....and the "traditional" quilt (below) is created from plastic animal-feed bags!

Spannring noted that one of the first challenges confronting jurors can be as simple as "What is quilt?" Many organizations have defined "quilt" as 3 layers held together by stitching or other means, but increasingly there have been many surprising developments in what some of those layers may comprise. Spannring showed what appeared to be a wholecloth quilt that was made from leather! (It was indeed stitched....) Another surprise was a piece very traditional in appearance that was made from plastic animal-feed bags! "3-D work can also be a challenge to evaluate," said Spannring, adding "What is it? How can it be evaluated?"
Evaluating 3-D work is a definite challenge for jurors
Another challenge in jurying can come when determining if a piece is derivative...or not!

She pointed out that jurors hear the artist's statement read, while judges do not: "Sometimes the piece's title makes clear what it's supposed to be. Other times, without the title or artist's statement, you have to make a decision only on the design." She then added, "There can sometimes be a big difference between the quilt and the artist's statement!".
(Above and below) Could a juror determine what these are by title alone? Would the typical artist's statement clarify the artist's intent?

Evaluating pieces in a series can be another challenge. Spannring: "Do the jurors pick one over another? Is one piece more successful than another? Show both? Together? Separately?

For a series: Choose one? Both? Show together? Separately? Decisions, decisions...
Then there's the challenge of the famous quilt, or the famous quilter, the one that's been receiving honors at show after show....the jurors have to pretend 'This is the first time I've seen this piece.'"
A famous quilt jurors would have to pretend to have never seen before!

She noted that the Judge's Choice award is the only time a judge can be subjective. ("Everyone knows I am a sucker for a cat quilt," she laughed.) It's critical that a juror be aware of his/her personal likes and dislikes, and instead confine evaluations to design principles: shape, movement, line, texture, color, balance, value. Color awards must consider if a piece were to be done in a different colorway, would it be more or less successful.
Spannring admits to being "a sucker for a cat quilt" when it comes to "Judge's  Choice"!

Spannring stressed that "As jurors, we're judging what's in front of us, not the quilter. And no one technique is any better than another." Actual technique can be hard to see in a photo the juror sees; the use of beads and "bling" needs to be carefully considered: are they distracting or an integral part  of the design? All of which leads to a restatement of a "first principle": Quality photography done exactly to a show's specifications is critical for proper jury evaluation of an entry.

Before setting up a mock jury situation in the meeting, Spannring outlined the responsibilities of an organization's exhibit committee--all the decisions that need to be made before the jurors are called in to do their work.  The show committee is responsible for selecting the show's theme and the selection criteria for entries, verifying the available space for quilt display, and creating an entry form. The committee is also responsible for setting the rules: size restrictions, age of pieces, construction requirements, and hanging and display requirements.

Then, giving the group a theme deliberately broad--"The Nature of Things"--Spannring ran through a digital-image show of 30 pieces, from which 15 were to be selected as "the show." After the first quick "look-see" run-through, attendees broke into small groups and made the usual "Yes/No/Maybe" initial selections within their groups. This resulted in a lot of spirited discussion about the merits (or not) of each piece.

Spannring then aggregated the majority selections from each group into a final group of 15...and when the metaphorical bell rang at the end of the meeting, members' opinions were widely scattered on the pieces selected and the overall cohesion of the "show" thus created. The wisdom of Spannring's parting statements was made clear: "The more information an organization gives a juror, the easier the juror's job is," she said, adding "For a really cohesive show, it's up to the show's producers to be specific and explanatory as to the theme."

As said at the top of this piece, it ain't as easy as it looks!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Small things have great meaning for artist Amanda Devine

Seattle-area artist Amanda Devine at Feb. 13 CQA meeting
A chance viewing of a small urban scene outside a hospital room window led to years of visual explorations for Amanda Devine, an artist in the Puget Sound area. At CQA's February 13 meeting, Devine shared some of the results of this event as well as other aspects of her more than 40 years of artistic pursuits.
"Memoir," a shadow box created by Devine displaying miniatures of actual items she found while closing her aunt's house which had been her grandmother's house. (12"x15"x12")
Devine's "Echo." Packing material stuffed with found objects. (Mixed media/encaustic. 7"x7"x3")
One of Devine's mixed media pieces featuring various papers, photograph, buttons. (13"x9"x3") (Amanda Devine photo).

An early Devine photo where she manipulated a "regular" photo using a paper negative.

Devine was already involved in photography, and especially alternative photographic processes when, in 1977, she was "practically living" in a Los Angeles area hospital during her husband's  week-long recovery from surgery. Looking out of the room's window one day, Devine realized that an elderly woman she saw feeding birds in a nearby parking lot had been doing this same thing several days in a row--it was her routine.

One of Devine's first "Lavina" series photos. Lavina (dark figure in center, just below rear of first car) has just finished feeding the large cluster of birds, left.
Pushing a shopping cart, Lavina (upper right near white car) presents the figure that Devine used so extensively in her "Lavina's Song" series of pieces.
Devine had only a simple camera with her at the time, but began taking photos of the "bird woman" as she entered the area, fed the birds, then slowly moved out of the scene. Not long after, Devine came across an illustrated newspaper article about the woman and learned that her name was Lavina, and the woman was quoted as saying "The birds are always hungry." Even though her photos were snapped more than composed and the negatives were scratched, Devine ended up with a sequence of 40 photographs that provided a basis for a wide variety of expressions in her art, including the series titled "Lavina's Song."

The newspaper story that identified "the bird woman" and told her story. (Amanda Devine photo)
Using Kodalith thin paper for the high-contrast images it produced, Devine made up a set of 40 prints of her Lavina pictures and then began printing portions of them. As she worked, the birds began to look like musical notes, and Lavina's shape reminded her of calligraphic symbols; some she even made into rubber stamps ("rather clunky!"). Combining the elements in different ways led to the series of prints and mixed-media pieces that make up "Lavina's Song." (One part of the series is shown below, in Devine's photo.)

Devine combined a piece of one of her "Lavina" series photos with bird sketches in this mixed media piece. (Amanda Devine photo)
"I spent 30 years trying to tell the story," Devine said. "If the photos had been better quality, I might have quit with just one set of photos!" As it is, in 2002 the whole series of "Lavina" pieces were framed and displayed in hallways on the 7th floor of Seattle's Swedish Hospital.

In various moves, Devine downsized from her own darkroom to an early MacIntosh computer given to her by a friend. This opened  up a new world for her; she has subsequently kept upgrading to the newest Apple equipment. She gives great credit to the "genius bar" staff at the University Village  Apple store for guiding her along in her art. She digitized the original "Lavina" negatives after 30 years and, with this computer capability, turned them into a book.

One of Devine's "Convergence" series large-scale (14x34") images. (Amanda Devine photo)

Devine has more recently returned to her original photographic "roots" with a series titled "Convergence," comprising 18 large-scale photo images (14" x 34") that she prints herself "each in an edition of one." Most of the subjects in this series are of shorelines and water, as are the images in her "Exploration" series that feature closeups of beach elements in smaller scale. One of her very long pieces in the nature genre was displayed in her solo exhibition at the Commons Gallery in Sammamish City Hall.
An image from Devine's smaller-scale "Exploration" series. (Amanda Devine photo)

Devine has had pieces in an extensive list of exhibitions since the mid 1970s, including both her photography and mixed media. For more about Devine and images of her work, go to

Devine's daughter took this photo of Amanda being swarmed by birds at the shoreline..."the birds are always hungry" is a fitting title!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Helen Remick's unusual materials "stitched" together to be shown at National Quilt Museum

Remick's "What I Want to Remember" (Mark Frey photo)
There's big news from CQA member Helen Remick! Her latest work, "What I want to Remember," is one of 25 quilts selected for the National Quilt Museum’s "The Gala of the Unexpected." It will be on display at the museum from April 14 to July 12 and will then travel through the end of 2017.

The quilt top is made of 35mm film negatives and overhead projector sheets printed with pictures from the negatives and other sources. Helen says of the quilt: "As my dear mother-in-law slipped into dementia, she and I repeated two lists that were important to her: the names of family members, and the places she had lived. As I finished this quilt I realized that I had created my own list. The photographs are of the people I love and the places I have been."
Detail of "What I Want to Remember" (Mark Frey photo)
Asked about how she constructed this piece when putting together such unusual materials, Helen said, "I saw potential in the 35 mm film precisely because the holes for stitching were already there, and were even.  I have a Cricut paper cutter, one of the early versions, that can be programmed to do odd shapes.  I drew a pattern for the printed areas, printed the overheads, and then cut the shapes, including the holes to match the film.  The only thing I had to punch was the diagonals on each film strip.  A nasty job, but a limited one.  Then it was easy to sew together with yarn.  The top is fastened, not quilted, to the two other layers: tulle and felt."

For more about Helen and images of her other pieces, go to

Saturday, January 23, 2016

CQA to host a one-day symposium April 16

Symposium speakers (from top): Dr. Sandra Sider, curator, Texas Quilt Museum; Cathy Izzo, Art Quilt Gallery, New York City; Kris Sazaki, president and board member, Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA)
Calling all art quilters!

Enjoy a day of gathering, inspiration and learning! CQA's upcoming Quilt Art Symposium promises to shine a light on the future of Quilt Art with three leading speakers--Dr. Sandra Sider, curator of the Texas Quilt Museum; Cathy Izzo of the Art Quilt Gallery, New York City; and Kris Sazaki, president of SAQA.

The full day includes a luncheon, a tour of the CQA exhibit "Cutting Edge," and an opening party!

**Saturday, April 16, 2016
**Washington State History Museum
**Tacoma WA

Hotel details, ticket info and other information on the event are now available at:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

CQA members get messy at annual "Play Day"

CQA artists at play, January 9, at Bellevue Arts Museum
Splashing paint around was definitely on the agenda as members of CQA got together January 9 at Bellevue Arts Museum for the group's annual "Play Day" to try out a variety of surface design techniques. Many thanks to the Program Committee for the arrangements (Helen Johnston, Nicole McHale) and especially to the instructors/demonstrators for being so generous with their materials and information: silk screening (Colleen Wise), stamping (Margaret Liston), "gelli printing" (Ginnie Hebert), and marbling (Helen Johnston). And thanks to BAM for hosting us again for this, our third year of play days. A good time was had by all! Here's a look at the day's activities, in photos.

Some stamps required careful painting. (That's instructor Margaret Liston at left.)
Other stamps could be painted more casually.
Stamping the same design in different colors makes for an interesting result.

Overlaying a different stamp design in a third color adds even more interest.

Instructor Colleen Wise (green shirt) imparts the basics of silk screening on fabric.
Leaves proved to be a popular design for silk screening.
This silk screen for a pattern features both orange and purple paint....
...for a very  interesting two-color result.
Silk screening patterns, rather than objects, was also popular... in this nice contrasty result.

In marbling, drops of paint on a jelly-like surface can be swirled for free-form patterns...
...with this attractive result.
This multicolor marble paint pattern will have spectacular results.
An interesting swirl pattern in neutrals. The blue and yellow "masks" in the background have holes that confine the paints and provide interesting patterns [see photo below].
Very unusual results were achieved with the use of a mask with many open "holes."
A bright marbled design.
Marbled pieces: The one at the left used the "mask" with holes; the one at the right was free-form.

Monoprints, many with textures from pattern forms (right foreground) were achieved from fabric paints applied to "gelli" forms such as the circle, right background.
Daubs of paint were applied to the gelli forms (this one a rectangle), then spread out with a brayer, so that fabric could be placed on the paint to achieve the desired monoprint design.
The paint was given this design on the round gelli plate...
...fabric was then placed over the paint and firmly rubbed.... that the painted design is offset onto the fabric.
Twin designs from the gelli plate were achieved directly (left) and with a stencil (right).
Products achieved through silk screening and gelli printing, above and below.