October 9, 2015

On the Cover of Machine Quilting Unlimited

Machine Quilting Unlimited Sept-Oct 2015 cover Jack in the Pulpit is the cover quilt for the September/October issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited.  It’s a tremendous honor, and I am so pleased with how great it looks!
Sue Reno_MQU 2015_image 1 Inside, there’s a seven page spread with many more pictures of my art quilts, and an article I wrote sharing my process and working methods.  I focus in particular on my series The River, with imagery inspired by the Susquehanna.
Sue Reno_MQU 2015_image 2
I’m proud of my contribution to what is overall a great issue of a consistently excellent publication.  If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s available on news stands, and subscriptions and back issues can be purchased at their website. You can also follow MQU on Facebook.
MQU - Modern Quilts - September 2015
Wonderfully and  coincidentally my friend Allie Aller is the cover quilter on Machine Quilting Unlimited’s sister publication, Modern Quilts Unlimited!

September 21, 2015

New Work – Raccoon and Apple

Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple
I am pleased to reveal my latest work, Raccoon and Apple.  It is part of my ongoing Flora and Fauna series, where I work with skulls of the native wildlife here in Pennsylvania, USA.
Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, Detail 1
It feels like a very cheerful and life-affirming art quilt to me.  I love all the detail on the cyanotype prints.Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, Detail 2
Most of the patchwork is made of silks, with some commercial and hand-painted cottons.  I’ve done my best to capture it photographically, but like all fiber art, it’s even better in person where you can appreciate the texture and the shimmer.Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, Detail 3
This panel of vintage needlework took on a new life when I painted and stitched it.  I like moving the tradition of quilting forward.

You can track this work back as a work in progress by clicking on Raccoon and Apple in the sidebar.

Thanks as always for reading and commenting.

September 18, 2015

Creating in the Garden at the Governor's Residence

Sue Reno_Watt & Shand #3_PA Governor's Residence
The opening reception at the PA Governor’s Residence for the Pennsylvania Arts Experience installation was excellent. Over 70 artworks were on display in the elegant public spaces of the residence, expertly placed by curator Rob Evans.  There I am above, with my Watt & Shand #3, in the State Dining Room, and below is a wider shot.  I enjoyed looking at all the art and saying hello to the other artists and friends attending.  There is a stunning amount of talent represented in this organization.
Sue Reno_Watt & Shand #3_PA State Dining Room And after torrential downpours the day before, the weather cooperated with picture perfect conditions, low 70s and scattered clouds.  About a dozen artists set up to create en plein air in the gardens around the residence.  There were painters, a sculptor, a performance artist, and myself.  I’d never done work on site in public before, so I was excited to give it a try.
Sue Reno_Magnolia Tree_PA Governor's Gardens
I found a good spot with a view of a spectacular magnolia tree, and broke out my needlefelting supplies.  My plan was to create an impressionistic scene with wool and wool roving.  The green and yellow tool is a hand needlefelting punch.  It has needles with tiny barbs that entangle the fibers and lock them together.Sue Reno_Magnolia_WIP1 It’s a very slow method, like a lot of my work, and I was happily interrupted frequently by visitors curious about the process.  I had a lot of fun explaining to adults and kids, and giving them bit of roving to handle.  I love that fiber is such a tactile medium, and the way it speaks to everyone. 
Sue Reno_Magnolia_WIP2 I usually work in quiet and solitude in the studio, so it was challenging to figure what to focus on creatively with all the outside stimulation.  I got the background blocked out and laid in, put in the skeletal framework of the magnolia tree, and started on some rosebushes while on site.  Below is how it looked at the end of the day:Sue Reno_Magnolia_WIP3 Back at the studio, I spent some time tightening everything up by working on it with the needlefelting machine.  This device looks like a sewing machine, but in place of a threaded needle it has a cluster of barbed needles just like the hand punch.  It does a great job of locking everything together, and saves my hands and wrists a lot of trauma.  The piece now looks like this:
Sue Reno_Magnolia_WIP4
That’s just the beginning.  I will build up texture and color on the background and add the leaves and flowers, and then detail it even more with stitching.  But I am very happy with this start, and even more pleased that I took a chance on trying something new and working outdoors.  I’m already filled with ideas on how to improve the presentation the next an opportunity presents itself. 

September 11, 2015

New Work in Progress – Raccoon and Apple, Update 4

I finally worked the overall design to a place I was happy with  The addition of the bright magenta silk strips really added unity and dynamics, and I was able to finish out piecing and fitting together the quilt top.Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP14 Next I painted the back.  This part is just for my own amusement, as the back is not generally viewed in an art quilt, but it makes me happy while I am doing the quilting if the back is cheerful.
Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP15
I spread my backing white backing fabric on a tarp in the driveway and dribbled and swirled textile paint on it.
Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP16
Next, I hit it with a fine mist from the hose, to let the colors blend.Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP17 As it dried in the sun, the colors wicked and blended more, and gave me this kind of beauty.
Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP18
Finally, another round of quilting on the image panels, and lots of grid-style quilting on the rest of the top.I do my quilting on a domestic machine (i.e. a regular machine, not a mid arm or long arm built specifically for quilting), so it’s very labor intensive and I spend a lot of time up close and personal with the work.  I am meticulous about my craftsmanship, but also allow my stitching enough variability that you can see the hand of the maker in my work.Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP19
Next – the big reveal!

September 8, 2015

Work in Progress, Raccoon and Apple – Update 3

Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP10
While I was working on the overall design, I did the first round of stitching on the prints.  The skulls got a lot of detailed outline work, and were filled in with pebble stitching.
Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP11
The apple prints were outlined, leaf veins added, then echo stitched.Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP12
I always add a vintage component to the Flora and Fauna works, and for this one I chose a vintage embroidery of a lily from my collection, to represent the lilies that grow under my apple tree.  It lacked punch, so I painted inside the embroidered lines, then stitched and echo stitched it.  Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP13
At that point it had a bit too much punch, and the large proportion of white space was distracting in the overall design.  So I did some dry brush work over the echo stitched lines, just hitting the ridges, and liked the effect very much.

August 31, 2015

Work in Progress – Raccoon and Apple, Update 2

After making the skull prints, I turned my attention to the apple tree.  I planted it decades ago; it’s a variety called Freedom, and Starks Nursery advertises it thusly: “Exceptional disease resistance! Easy-care tree ideal for areas with apple scab, powdery mildew, and fire blight issues. This vigorous tree has a lovely spreading nature. Large bright-red fruit with a juicy tender flesh great for fresh-eating, cider, juicing, and cooking. Cold-hardy. Ripens from late September to early October.”

Which is all true.  It’s disease free, and very prolific, although it tends to bear more heavily every other year.  It is not, however, insect free. As a strictly organic grower, I used to muck about with traps and organic sprays and so forth, but the tree got huge and I got distracted.  The crop of semi-damaged apples is now a huge boon for all the local wildlife, including raccoons, so I get a lot of satisfaction out of that.
Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP7
But I digress.  I made cyanotype prints of apple branches, including one when it was in flower, and started to play around with possible color palettes and image placement:Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP8   Here I continued to audition the design:
Sue Reno, Raccoon and Apple, WIP9

August 28, 2015

52 Ways to Look at the River, Update 2

It’s time to check in with my latest project, 52 Ways to Look at the River.  I finished the first 8 panels, and collectively they look like this pinned up on a design board:
Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Weeks 1 - 8 I’m really enjoying the challenge and the outcome, and judging from the comments I’m getting,  many of you are as well! Here’s how it works—every week I travel to the Susquehanna River and take a photo to use as my inspiration.  Back in the studio, I use the photo as a reference to create a needlefelted and stitched 4” x 6” panel.  It’s a simple concept, but one that is proving to have a lot of depth.  Each week I need to decide where to go, perhaps a favorite spot nearby, perhaps a road trip. Then I need to frame the view for the photo. Back in the studio, I get to choose what elements to focus on, and make it all work on a small canvas.

Because I want each one to feel a bit like a sketch, I set a time limit of 90 minutes for the actual felting and stitching.  Fiber art is very time-consuming, so I can’t dither. I start each one in a state of mild panic, which subsides as each design decision leads to the next one.  It’s very exciting and gratifying.

Below are the first 8 panels individually.  It’s going to be fun to see what happens as fall advances and the landscape color palette changes.

Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 1 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 2 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 3 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 4 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 5 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 6 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 7 Panel Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 8 Panel This next bit is for everyone who loves reading about process.  The only way I can complete a panel in 90 minutes is by being very organized in the studio.  I have my pieces of rayon/wool felt for the base precut.  The base color may or may not show through, depending on how I felt it, so each week I choose accordingly.
Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 1
I have bins of wool roving in various colors, and lots of medium sized silk scraps I’ve been saving.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 2
If I need something specific that’s not in the scrap bin, like the plaid for the railroad tracks in the week 9 panel, I can go to the stash of silk yardage.  I have a fairly complete mental inventory of everything, so it doesn’t take me long to find what I need.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 3
I also have wool yardage and scraps to work with.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 4
And for finer details and spots of color, I have a bin of silk snippets, and the threads that pull off in the pre-wash, that I’ve been saving for years.  A lot of the silks were hand carried back from India, so I’m loath to waste any of it.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 5
I begin with my felt panel laid out on a piece of dense foam, where I block out the basic shapes and colors.  I use a hand felting punch to take things in place before taking it over to the needlefelting machine and doing a thorough job of it.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 6
Different hues of wool roving and silk snippets are blended and layered up on the base.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP 7 Once the felting is done, I add detail with machine stitching.
Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 8 Panel
Here’s the fisheye image I started with for the week 8 panel:Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 8 Image 
I’m posting the weekly pieces to my Facebook page:http://www.facebook.com/suerenostudio
My Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/suereno
My Tumblr: http://suerenostudio.tumblr.com
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/people/suereno/
and Instagram: sue_reno_studio

I also post each week’s inspiration photo. Pick a platform and follow along!

As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

August 26, 2015

Watt & Shand #3 at the PA Governor’s Residence

Sue Reno, Watt & Shand #3  I am a long time member of the Pennsylvania Arts Experience, a non-profit arts organization promoting the arts along the scenic river valleys of southeastern Pennsylvania. Thanks to the generous support of PA First Lady Frances Donnelley Wolfe, the PAE has been invited to present a exhibition of member artist works at the Governor’s Residence, 2035 N. Front St, Harrisburg, PA in Harrisburg from September 13th through February 2016.  The exhibit will fill the mansion on the main level, and will be up for a number of special events being held at the mansion starting with the annual Gallery Walk in Harrisburg on September 13th.  More information on the Gallery Walk here.
Sue Reno, Watt & Shand #3, detail
I am pleased that my Watt & Shand #3 will one of the 60+ artworks in this exhibit.  It’s from my series The Structures, where I focus on historic local architecture, and seems like a fitting choice to be displayed in the residence. 

September 13th is also the last date for the Art of the State exhibit at the Pennsylvania State Museum, so if you are in town stop by and visit my In Dreams I Flew Over the River and all the other fine works there as well.

See works by these Pennsylvania Arts Experience Member Artists:
Benjamin Ahlgrim
Robert Armetta
Joan McAvoy Austin
Jack Bingham
Glenn E. Blue
Adrienne Brenner
Barbara A. Pillette Buchanan
Robert E. Buchanan
William Chambers
Ophelia Chambliss
Matthew Clay-Robison
Jeff Crystal
Peter Danko
Gerald Davidson
Ann DeLaurentis
Renee Evans
Rob Evans
Jonathan Frazier
Phyllis Disher Fredericks
Carol Galligan
Claire Giblin
Susan Gottlieb
Steven Alvin Heffner
Maryel Henderson
Jerome Hershey
Tim Hirneisen
Mary B. Hochendoner
Richard Chandler Hoff
Lauren Litwa Holden
Joe Jacobs
Lorann Jacobs
Gale Jamieson
Rhoda Kahler
Paul Kicklighter
Phyllis Koster
Greg Layton
Sylvia Eisenbise Lehman
Cliff Maier
Stephen March
Jo Margolis
Carol Oldenburg
Robert Oughton
Robert Patierno
Kelly Pedersen
Fran Polk
Catherine Prescott
Theodore Prescott
Pete Quarracino
Sue Reno
Linda Mylin Ross
Kerry Sacco
Dillon Samuelson
Lou Schellenberg
Mimi Shapiro
Ellen Slupe
Tanya Snyder
Linda Sommer
David M. Stallings
Marion Stephenson
Reuben Swartz
Jason Tako
Geoffrey Thulin
Mary Todenhoft
Janette Toth-Musser
Kree Weide
Rita King Whitney
Brenda Wintermyer
JD Wissler
Frances Donnelly Wolf