Monday, March 14, 2016

Robin Hawkins

Robin Hawkins has been a crafter and an artist since childhood. She has been sewing since she was about five years old when “Granny taught her how.” Robin has a degree in art from Queens University. She spends her time now being  a Creator, Collector, Curator, and Conservator of textiles and mixed media.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Karen Ponischil

Creating fiber art through quilting allows Karen to stretch her artistic talents with all the possibilities of fabric while also enjoying the calming, meditative effects of stitching. "I love to capture moments in time—a flower at the height of its bloom or the split second when an animal is still."

In 2001, she discovered art quilting.  It was a hobby until 2013 when she decided to leave the advertising industry and become a full-time fiber artist and quilter.  Karen creates quilts using wholecloth painting or raw edge appliqué. She then thread paints the quilt to bring it to life.  Her quilts have been juried into local and national quilt shows. She also enjoy lecturing and teaching her techniques to other sewing enthusiasts.

Karen is a native Southerner who lives in North Carolina with her husband and three kitty cats.  She love old movies, a glass of good wine, spending time in the mountains, and exploring new restaurants.  She also love spending as much time in her studio as possible creating quilts!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pushing the boundaries: paintings and art quilts

It seems that we are all walking very similar artistic journeys....

My husband and I were in New York a couple of weeks ago for a BIG culture blitz that included 4 plays, 1 opera, and 6 museums (and lots of good meals).

Our museum hopping took us from mechanical toys and superheroes at the New York Historical Society ...
  model train refreshment cart (photo:  D. Langsam)

Picasso's Head of a Woman (photo: D. Langsam) the Picasso sculpture exhibit at MOMA.

Picasso's The Bathers (photo:  D. Langsam)

 But a major highlight was the Frank Stella Retrospective at the Whitney Museum (now in a magnificent new meatpacking district building at the end of the NYC High Line). 

The Whitney Museum      (photo:
Why was it so special? 

Who can argue with the rare opportunity to see so many of Stella's works, outstandingly displayed,  in one incredibly beautiful exhibit space?

Installation view of Frank Stella: A Retrospective (October 30, 2015—February 7, 2016). © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Ronald AmstutzAdd caption

Or with a terrific audio tour (accessible online) that's made all the better because it includes a totally unpretentious and unassuming Frank Stella thoughtfully discussing his art? 

But what really struck me was how much of Stella's journey involved re-imagining traditional views of painting.  Hmmm...sounds an awful lot like the art quilters I know and the ever evolving art quilt genre.          

Here are some examples:

---  I thought of Rayna Gilman and her "Cinderella Quilts" when I saw Stella's Delta.      
Frank Stella (b.1936), Delta, 1958. Enamel on canvas, 85 3/8 × 97 in. (216.9 × 246.4 cm). Private collection. © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Delta began when Stella, tired of a painting that just wasn't working, covered his canvas with black paint.

But the black paint didn't entirely obliterate the underlying shapes.  And bits of color peeking through lent nuanced tones that intrigued him.  Ultimately, the piece inspired him to purposely create his "black painting" series of work. 

Rayna has her own way of dealing with "it's not working for me" items (see her blog post for details).  In her case, it's ugly or old or unsuccessful blocks and UFO's.

an "unloved" stepsister block (photo:  Rayna Gilman)

 Her solution:  get out a rotary cutter.  She boldly slices and dices and recombines the pieces with new materials to transform them, Cinderella-style, into something new, fresh, and exciting....

Finished Cinderella quilt (photo:  Rayna Gilman)

Rayna's working in a different medium - but really, the artistic process is the same...

---  Another example:  at some point Stella doesn't want to force his colorful, hard-edged, geometric paintings into the traditional confines of squares and rectangles;  his solution...cut the canvas to fit his vision.   
Frank Stella (b.1936), Empress of India, 1965. © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY. . © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Sound familiar?  For hundreds of years, a "proper" quilt would have been defined as rectangular or square.   Not so much these days...quilts come in all manner of shapes.  Vicki Pignatelli's dream catcher is just one great example:

"Dreamcatcher" (photo:  Vicki Pignatelli)
Clearly, there's nothing square or rectangular about the edges of this quilt.  And Vicki goes one step further by cutting out the central portion as part of her dreamcatcher theme.  The traditional "rules" for quilts (or paintings, or sculptures) don't necessarily apply anymore.

--- And one final example:

In the 1970's and 80's Stella, literally, took his art into new dimensions.  No longer content to paint on flat surfaces, he begins to "build" his paintings out into 3 dimensional space by using using felt and wood to project out portions of his canvases... 

Jarmolince III (Frank Stella):  front and side view (photo:  D. Langsam)

 ...and then continues on to produce even more pronounced sculptural "paintings" using all sorts of supportive elements: 

Installation view of Frank Stella: A Retrospective (October 30, 2015—February 7, 2016). © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Ronald Amstutz

For quilters, this isn't exactly new...if you stitch through 2 layers of fabric and batting, there's going to be some 3 dimensionality.  Add some beads or trapunto and the effect is heightened (pun intended).

That being said, there are many quilt artists who are pushing themselves and their quilts even further into the 3rd dimension.   

Among the many, I'm thinking about Diane Savona and her extraordinary  "strata" series in which objects are sewn between the layers of the quilt sandwich.

Sewing Strata by Diane Savona   (photo:  Diane Savona)
 Or Naomi S. Adams' Diamonds.   Adams made 4 quilts (with dyed batting), cut crescent shapes from the quilts, and then attached the crescents to a 5th quilt which extends 3 inches from the wall.

Naomi S. Adams Diamonds:  "The Future of Quilting" Award @ 2010 IQF  (photo:  Naomi S. Adams)
Or going even further, Diane Núñez' quilted constructions....

Diane Núñez Cross Section:  Quilt Surface Design Symposium Award of Excellence @ 2015 Quilt National (phono:  Diane  Núñez)

I'm not enough of a visionary to know where art quilts and quilting will be in ten years.  But I left the Whitney knowing this:  we're all -- individually or collectively, as painters or sculptors or fiber artists -- pushing some very similar boundaries on our artistic journeys.



Deborah Langsam Fiber Art

also posted on:

Creations by Nina-Marie

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"What Was I Thinking?"

I confess...

...I have a stash of "what was I thinking?" fabric (hereafter referred to as "WWITF").  It's not a huge stash,  although I guess that depends on how you measure a stash.  Still, it's large enough to haunt me.

The WWITF's are neatly folded on my shelves...a sure sign that they haven't been used.  And I imagine their plaintive cries of "Take me!"  as I root around through piles of neighboring batiks.

The "whimsical" WWITF's are delightful in their colorful, light-hearted cheeriness -- like this one of exuberant crows dancing around cherries on a sunny yellow background.

It was an optimistic, wishful thinking purchase -- probably made on a cold,  gray winter day.  The thought process may have gone something like this:  "I love so-and-so's whimsical work.  Her pieces are charming and funky and fun.  And look at this fabric, it's funky and fun;  exactly the type of fabric that might inspire me to unleash my own inner whimsy."

Well, maybe not...the fabric is still charming, but it hasn't unleashed my inner whimsy - at least not over the past 2 or 3 years. 

What it has unleashed is a desire to do something with the fabric.  So, here they are...some funky, and hopefully fun, whimsical (and easy) potholders.

There are plenty of YouTube tutorials for making potholders, but the lack of a binding attracted me to this one.  I really don't know who originated the design -- if anyone does, please contact me and I'll happily give credit.   

These particular pieces finish off to a little more than 7"x7" -- but you can really make them any size that works for you.

I started each potholder with the following 8"x8" materials:
-  2 squares of black fabric (I didn't have enough WWITF to use here, so I went with black - but, by all means...rock it out with the WWITF if you have enough)
-  1 square of white flannel
-  1 square of the Insul-Bright (an insulating material by The Warm Company)

I layered them in the order shown above and sewed 2 diagonal seams (top left corner to bottom right;  top right corner to bottom left).  An 1/8" seam was sewn around the perimeter.

For each potholder, I cut 2 squares of the WWITF along with 2 squares  of solid fabric to coordinate with the dancing crows.  (2 squares of the red fabric for one of them, 2 squares of green for the before, all of the squares measure 8"x8")

The fabrics were folded in half (into rectangles)...  

...positioned in a basketweave pattern on the prepared sandwich of fabric and insulating material...
...and then butted up against each other (note, the folded edges are oriented towards the center / the raw edges towards the outside): 

 If you make a little handle, you can fold back the "woven" rectangles and position the handle in the corner.  The raw edge should be oriented towards the corner (to be caught in the final quarter inch seam allowance).  The folded end of handle is oriented towards the middle.  Leave off the handle and you have a choice between calling your creation a handle-less potholder or a whimsical hot-pad!  

With handle in place, I repositioned the folded-back fabrics, sewed a quarter inch seam around the perimeter, and trimmed off the points and some of the edges to reduce bulk: 

The final step was to turn the potholder inside out (or right-side in, depending on your perspective).  Essentially you're flipping the 4 rectangles that made up the basketweave to the other side of the potholder.  (Clear as mud, right?)

In the photo below, we're halfway through the little inside-out maneuver and you can see the handle as it's being revealed (not so easy to get a photo to illustrate -- but once you've made the item, it will be obvious).

My "friends" -- a trusty turning tool and a chopstick -- helped complete the turning process.  A little push here and a little smoothing there and VOILA (!) ... less whimsical WWITF in the stash -- and a holiday gift to boot.



Thursday, December 3, 2015

Quilt = Jigsaw = Diversion

For those who are looking for an excuse to avoid the tasks on your current "to-do" list...

The Quilt Show has recently posted quilts by three "Fiber Art Options" members as lovely little online jigsaw puzzles.

My jigsaw comes from a piece called Urban Renewal 2:  Visiting the Old Neighborhood.  

(Spoiler Alert:  If you're someone who likes to do jigsaws without looking at the box cover ahead of time, then DON'T look at the photo below -- or glance quickly and forget!)

Urban Renewal 2:  Visiting the Old Neighborhood

The quilt was inspired by the Brooklyn neighborhood of my childhood.  And the style was inspired by a Valerie Goodwin workshop taken several years ago.  (BTW:   Valerie, an architect by profession, is an extremely creative and talented artist and teacher).

Now here's where the decision-making comes in....  If you just need a quick break from the "to-do" list - choose the 36 "non-rotating" piece puzzle;  but if you really want a massive diversion - one that could keep you safely away from house-cleaning (or rotating your tires, or writing your end-of-year business summaries) for hours - then the 289 "rotating" piece puzzle should be just your cup of tea.  

And, if you still haven't had enough, you can check out the jigsaw made from Susan Brubaker Knapp's Fancy Fish quilt or Susan Lenz's Only Child quilt jigsaw.  Best yet, your could do all three (in the 289-300 "rotating" piece format);  you might not come up for air until after New Year's!

And don't worry, feel free to blame me...although I won't come to your house to do the cleaning, I'll be happy to take psychic responsibility for diverting your attention away from those pesky "to-do" list jobs in favor of a little low stress fun.



Monday, November 16, 2015

The Quilt Show: Behind the Scenes (and a link to the show!)

There are two parts to this post.

Part 1.  The "Cut to the Chase" section
Part 2.  The "I'd Like a Behind the Scenes Glimpse of a 'Quilt Show' Podcast Taping" section

Part 1:  For the "Cut to the Chase" Folks:
The segment I taped for "The Quilt Show" is currently being aired.  Normally, the podcast is only available to those with paid subscriptions.  But, the nice people at "The Quilt Show" send their guests a link to share with friends and family.  

The show is #1710 (Conquering Abstract Fears)...and you can watch it by clicking below:   

(Note:  this free link is only active until November 22, 2015)
I appear in the last segment of the show, talking about my photomosaic quilts.  I am lucky enough to be preceded by two extremely talented women:  Libby Lehman and Lyric Kinard.  Their segments are wonderfully inspiring and exciting.  Feel free to share this with whomever!

Part 2:  For the "I'd Like a Behind the Scenes Glimpse of a 'Quilt Show' Podcast Taping" Folks:
It didn't begin on "a dark and stormy night," but rather on a lovely, cool sunny morning in the mountains of North Carolina.  

We taped on location:  at the Governor's "Western Residence" in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina.  It's a home that serves as a Gubernatorial retreat - but when it's empty, it can be rented for other functions...our good luck.

The residence itself is rather lodge-like...not pretentious or over-the-top lavish;  as a NC taxpayer, I was relieved.  It's cozy and comfortable, and has a lovely view.  We all fantasized about squatters' rights, but Alex Anderson was definitely ready to move in.  

Governor's Western Residence:  Outside View
Inside the Residence:  Alex Anderson and Lilo Bowman (Logistics Manager for The Quilt Show)
On scene were hosts Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson, producer Shelly Heesacker, logistics manager Lilo Bowman, Quilt Show photographer Greg Chase, and Alex's husband John (who manages and coordinates the Quilt Show's business and technology tasks).

The regular "Quilt Show" studio film crew didn't travel to North there were also three local stringers doing sound and videography.

We arrived to the launch of Ricky's new drone in the clearing behind the residence and to much "boys-with-their-toys" ribbing from Alex and the crew.

But Ricky may have gotten the last laugh:  the drone videos of the setting turned out to be incredibly impressive in their color, clarity, and coolness factor (and they were aired as part of a trailer for the show).  

"Official" Quilt Show Drone piloted by Ricky Tims
As far as the pre-taping routine:  there's no formal make-up or wardrobe "stuff" or "diva" behavior.

Folks wear street make-up (or not) and wardrobe guidelines are simple:  no white or busy print tops;  go for solid, bright colors (Alex had a small suitcase with casual tops that she could coordinate with guests' outfits).  I was eternally grateful for the heads up from producer Shelly Heesacker on hand close-ups;  it gave me time to get my nails in I-don't-have-to-hang-my-head-in-total-shame shape for the taping.

Guests meet with Alex, Ricky, and Shelly right before a segment is taped.  Shelly outlines the segment information and nitty-gritty details are ironed the segment will begin and end, who'll interview, how the hosts will participate in demo's, and so-on. 

l to r:  Shelly Heesacker (producer), Alex Anderson,  Lyric Kinard - going over details for Lyric's segments
BTW:  There's no formal script for the segments and I think that contributes to the spontaneous charm of the interviews.  But don't be fooled:  there's an enormous amount of preparation (particularly by Shelly and Lilo) that goes into each segment.  And, don't be fooled:    the spontaneity and freshness are a direct result of Alex and Ricky's skill and professionalism.

Taping for our episode took place on the patio...with Lyric leading the way:

Lyric with her quilts on the patio
Lyric making final preparations for her segment;  John Anderson in the background

Camera and sound crews set up on the patio;  Alex Anderson in foreground

Those who know Lyric won't be surprised by her terrific segments.  She's a wonderful teacher, with lots of experience on camera...and it shows.

And then my turn....

My photomosaic quilts set up for taping

A reminder for the hosts:  the guest's name and the gist of the interview taped to video equipment

Right before taping...talking about my upcoming segment with Ricky Tims
Some Observations:

1.  No taping is without its challenges...

At 8:00 AM, the setting on the patio was idyllic:  cool temperature, lush greenery;   birds chirping in the background, leaves rustling in the breeze .

By 10:00, a different story:   still air, hot and muggy (plus heat from the lights);  the whir of leaf blowers and the screeching of chainsaws.

We stopped multiple times to wait for a pause in leaf blowing or to reshoot a section drowned out by the chainsaws.  And we also stopped for little "blotting" sessions.  (confession:  I turn red and "glow" on my face when I get those pauses were mostly mine;  I gave up on my hair...which began to look poodle-like.) 

2.  It's all about the people...and they were warm, welcoming, and wonderful.  What you see on air with Alex and Ricky is exactly how they come across in person.  And the folks surrounding them (Shelly, Lilo, Gregory, and John) are equally gracious, helpful, and encouraging.

A quick story:  I followed Lyric's very professional taping and felt a little nervous as Ricky and I were about to start mine.  I turned to him and joked "Well, now it's time for amateur night at the Roxy."  He turned to me, looked me straight in the eye and pointed to himself, "If you look like an amateur, then it's my fault...just follow my lead and you'll do great."   What a gracious thing to say. 

3.  When I was first approached about doing the segment, I had long conversations with the show's extraordinary producer, Shelly Heesacker.   At one point she asked me this:  "What would YOU like to get out of you want to do more trunk shows and lectures, have more commissions?"
I gave it a lot of thought.  Trunk shows, lecture gigs/teaching, and commissions would certainly be lovely.  However, what I REALLY wanted was the adventure of being on the show, getting my own behind the scenes view of the people and the process, and having some good stories to remember and tell.

Mission Accomplished....   

Alex, Debbie, and Ricky:  It was a wonderful adventure
 PS:  It helps to have someone taking photos.  All photos:  Joal Fischer

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Of Websites and "Quilt Show"s

I confess...I've had a pitiful, woeful website for way too many years.  I always intended to revive it out of its incomplete, neglected, and moribund state.   But somehow, my intentions never got moved from back burner to front.       

However, now it's been done and the new website is online: 

So what kicked me into action?

 It all began last spring with a message asking whether I'd be interested in taping a segment for  "The Quilt Show," a podcast hosted by Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson.  I had some lovely telephone chats with Shelly Heesacker, a fascinating and fun woman who's the producer of the show.  And in July, I found myself discussing my photomosaic quilts and taping a segment for the show on the patio of the Governor's Residence in the mountains of North Carolina.
As I prepared for taping, the awful thought occurred:  what if folks wanted to google me after the segment aired?  Holy cow, there I'd be, with my pitiful, woeful website.  That definitely lit a fire under me.

So the time has come...the podcast began this week ( #1710:  Conquering Abstract Fears) and I'm honored to be in wonderful company:

Lyric Kinard and Debbie Langsam (photo: Gregory Case / The Quilt Show)
Fiber artist and award-winning teacher, Lyric Kinard is there sharing some of her extraordinary pieces and providing tips for working with foil on fabric.

Plus the show starts out with a visit to Libby Lehman - a much loved internationally renowned quilt artist, author, and teacher - who shows her spirit as she continues to recover from a devastating brain aneurysm and stroke.

Libby Lehman was a world-famous quilter, author and teacher until a brain aneurysm and stroke in 2013 ended her career. Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff / © 2015 Houston Chronicle
Libby Lehman  ( Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff / Houston Chronicle)

Next week I'll post about the "excellent adventure" of taping and I'll also have a link that will allow anyone to view the program free of charge from November 15th through the 22nd.

But as for's now official.  After hours and hours and hours and hours of work (especially from my tech-guru husband Joal Fischer).  I actually have a new website!

BTW:  I insisted that Joal give himself credit for doing so much to make the site a reality...and he did.  Those who know Joal's quirky sense of humor won't be surprised by what appears on the credit line of the home page:  Created by Good Looking Spouse Productions.  



Thursday, February 12, 2015

“Fancy Goldfish”

“Fancy Goldfish” (copyright 2015) by Susan Brubaker Knapp
Susan Brubaker Knapp here. This is my piece for The Alliance for American Quilts’ 2015 Contest, “Animals We Love.” All submissions to this contest become the property of the Quilt Alliance, and are auctioned to support the mission of the organization: “to document, preserve, and share our American quilt heritage by collecting the rich stories that historic and contemporary quilts, and their makers, tell about our nation’s diverse peoples and their communities.”

It is based on my sketches of goldfish, and wholecloth painted. After quilting around all the scales, and the details on the goldfish, I quilted lots of water currents and bubbles in the background. But I wasn’t entirely pleased with it, so I rubbed some purple-blue shimmery paint on the bubbles, which made them stand out a lot more. 

It was very tricky getting good photos of this piece. I had to shoot it five times – at different times of day today – to get the photos in this post. Some of the shots were too washed out, some were too flat. The photos here are pretty true to color, and Im pleased with how the texture of the quilting shows. 

To see photos of this piece in progress, visit my blog here.