October 18, 2015

52 Ways to Look at the River, Update 3

It’s time again to document progress on my ongoing fiber art project, 52 Ways to Look at the River.  I’m at Week 16, and here is a shot of all the panels to date, informally pinned up on a design board.  Each week I travel to somewhere with a view of the Susquehanna River, take a picture, and use the photo as an inspiration to make a 6" x 12" needlefelted and stitched fiber panel.  I try to complete each panel within 90 minutes, although I’ve been stretching that just a bit longer as the panels are growing more detailed.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Weeks 1 - 16
Below are the individual panels from weeks 8 – 16.  (To see weeks 1 – 8, click here.) All images enlarge when clicked.  You can follow along, and see the inspiration photos,  as I reveal them each week on your social media venue of choice:
Facebook page:http://www.facebook.com/suerenostudio
Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/suereno
Tumblr: http://suerenostudio.tumblr.com
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/people/suereno/
Instagram: sue_reno_studio
Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 9 Panel
 Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 10 Panel
 Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 11 Panel
 Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 12 Panel
 Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 13 Panel
 Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 14 Panel
 Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 15 Panel
Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 16 Panel I am loving this project a lot.  I work well when setting up parameters that allow for experimentation within them. The panels started out as quick “sketches”, improvisational and impressionistic.  They are becoming more realistic and detailed. I’ve worked a lot with needlefelting previously, but my skills are growing exponentially as I figure these out each week, which is very satisfying. It’s worth noting to anyone who struggles with the creative process that satisfying is not the same thing as easy.  Each week when I am confronted with the blank panel and the photo, I panic.  I have NO IDEA of how I am going to pull it off.  So I start, and as I go along it works out, and when I’m done I’m rather impressed with myself.  That’s the usual creative arc, but most of my projects are large and take months, if not years, to complete.  I think it’s doing me good to go through this on a weekly basis.
Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, Week 16 Inspiration Image The trip to the river each week is wonderful as well.  It’s a beautiful river and I never tire of admiring it. Above is the inspiration for week 16, taken on a hike to an overlook at Safe Harbor Dam.  Below is the view from above of the old railroad trestle by the dam.Sue Reno_Railroad Trestle_Safe Harbor On the walk up to the overlook, we encountered black vultures!  They were hanging out on an old building and were slow to take flight.  This is the closest I’ve ever been to them, and they are magnificent:
Sue Reno_Black Vultures_Image 1 Sue Reno_Black Vultures_Image 2 Sue Reno_Black Vultures_Image 3 Sue Reno_Black Vultures_Image 4
And finally, an instant karma  tale of a type that happens frequently in the fiber art community.  Some months ago I was waiting in line at a fabric store and struck up a conversation with a young woman who was new to quilting.  She remarked on the silk I was buying, I told her I frequently used it in my work, and I gave her my card.  Recently she emailed me and asked for advice. She had been given her grandfather’s silk ties, and wanted advice on how to proceed to use them in a quilt.  I took some time to write a detailed response and sent it off, and she replied with her thanks.  And the next day, out of the blue, I was given a big bag of vintage silk ties. Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP8
They are high end, luxury brand silks, in great prints—the wearer had excellent taste in picking them out.  I deconstructed them, removing the labels and liners.Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP9
Then I carefully washed them, laid them flat to dry, and pressed them. They will be very useful for this and other projects, as I feel one can never have too much silk on hand. You can see one of them in the week 14 panel above.  It was perfect for the look of the river in the heavy rain.  Another bit is in the base layer of the foreground of the week 15 panel, giving just the right hint of gridded structure.   Sue Reno, 52 Ways to Look at the River, WIP10
Until next time, thanks as always for reading and commenting.Sue Reno at Safe Harbor Overlook

October 16, 2015

Reviewed in Down Under Textiles

 Down Under Textiles- Issue 20, 2015 My work is featured in Issue 20 of Down Under Textiles, Australia’s latest and most-exciting magazine for textile enthusiasts.
Down Under Textiles, Surface Design Delights, image 1
Artist Ali George wrote an extensive and illustrated review of my Quilting Arts Workshop DVD/download, Surface Design Essentials for the Printed Quilt.  I am very proud of the work I did for this video, and I deeply appreciate the kind words that Ali has for it in her evaluation.
Down Under Textiles, Surface Design Delights, image 2Ali was gracious enough to send me a physical copy of the magazine, and wow, it’s great!  I’ve read it cover to cover, and have been introduced to new artists and new ideas. 
Many, many thanks to Ali and to editor Kate Oszko for the coverage.

October 15, 2015

Magnolia, Update 2

Sue Reno_Magnolia_WIP5 I’ve progressed on the Magnolia piece that I started en plien air at the PA Governor’s Residence. I began the needlefelting in the garden with a hand punch, blocking out the colors and the skeletons of the tree and the bushes.  Back in the studio, I have a machine needlefelter that lets me add layers of wool and silk more quickly and securely.  I’ve built up the tree and the rose bushes, and filled in the sky.  Next I will layer this up with thin batting and a backing, and stitch it to add more texture and detail.
Sue Reno_Magnolia_WIP6 At this point the piece is about 2 foot square.  This is an awkward size by my standards, a bit too large to frame out, but not large enough to make a big impact on its own.  Plus, I like working large, and I feel like I have more to say about this image.  So I’ve begun on some strip patchwork I will use to expand the work.  It’s a variety of silks, in different weights and textures.  It will be cut up and reconfigured, but it’s pretty cool just like this, isn’t it?

Stay tuned! And as always, thanks for reading and commenting.

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

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.