Ellen Ramsey
Contemporary Tapestry

Stitchin’ Magicians: More from World of Threads

I must confess that I break out in hives at the mere sight of my sewing machine, but that doesn’t stop me from admiring what other artists are able to do with this tool. There were more examples of sewn constructions, art quilts, and hand and machine embroidered work in World of Threads than any other genre. These artists take it to another level. 

Tina Struthers, “Untamed”

Tina Struthers (Quebec)

Tina is originally from South Africa and has a background in costume design. Her piece, Untamed, immediately calls to mind the shape of a garment pattern, but it also references the shape and landforms of the South African landscape. This piece is a wild visual ride through materials and processes combined in an infinite variety of configurations. References to wind, water, and dispersal abound. I think I could look at this piece every day for the rest of my life and find new and interesting details I hadn’t noticed before.

“Untamed,” detail

Hazel Bruce (Northern Ireland)

Hazel was not present at the opening, which is unfortunate as I would have liked to meet her.  She is a member of the 62 Group of textile artists (www.62group.org.uk) and is Director of Textile Art, Design, and Fashion at Ulster University. Hazels’ piece, Space Pattern Place 2, is mind blowing. It is probably the only piece in the show that is so complex that I can’t easily dissect her process. This is another one I could look at forever. It looks woven, but that is an illusion. This was the most “tapestry-like” work that was not tapestry.

Hazel Bruce, “Space Pattern Place 2”

Space Pattern Place 2,  detail

Lorraine Roy, Canada

Lorraine Roy’s art quilts are made with appliqué, paint, and machine embroidery. She is a good friend of Ixchel Suarez and although she was a little shy about talking about her work with me, Ixchel was eager to tell me all about her inspirations and process. It came as no surprise to learn that she was trained as a botanist before becoming an artist. Her organic imagery shows us what’s under the surface of our known world. Her fabric painting makes these pieces sing.

Lorraine Roy, “Through the Woods”

“Through the Woods,” detail

Roy, “The Integration,” detail

Paula Kovarik (USA, Memphis Tennessee)

I really liked Paula’s body of work. They are traditional art quilts in that they are made with whole cloth fabric and stitch - no surface design involved with the fabric and no fabric manipulation. They appeal to my inner art historian. Her work called to mind the playfulness of Paul Klee in the stitching combined with the structure, layering, and colors of a Squeak Carnwath painting – Two of my favorite artists. I can’t help but love this work.

Paula Kovarik, “Signals”

“Signals,” detail

Two artists whose work is very sympatico are Leisa Rich (USA, Atlanta Georgia) and Marijke van Welzen (Netherlands). They both use free-motion embroidery, fabric painting, and textile collage to create exuberant and ambitious work featuring three dimensional elements – including butterflys.  The difference is that Marijke’s work is made into clothing, while Leisa’s hangs on the wall. Leisa’s work hung next to mine in “Botanical Realm,” and I thought Marijke should have been with us. Alas, she was anchoring the wearables section.  

Stewart Kelly (UK)

Stewart Kelly’s Face to Face series is the gold standard for stitch drawing. You have probably seen his work in other prominent fiber art shows. I saved him for last here because he is not stitching on fabric like the others. He paints portraits in ink on paper and then overlaps them with additional free-motion stitched portraits to create layered constructions that manage to feel both dense and ethereal simultaneously. 

Stewart Kelly, “Face to Face 3”

In my next post I will focus on paper. Kelly is my transitional artist as his work is on paper, but paper is not really the star of his show. His kinship was with the free-motion embroidery of Roy and Kovarik. The curators agreed and placed him adjacent to them in the display.  

Kelly, “Face to Face 2,” detail

I must say, I am inspired to look at my sewing machine in a more positive light.

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