Susan Shie and James Acord
Turtle Moon Studios
Our Large Quilts; an overview of our whole career up to early 2005
Below is a partial sampling of our major art works. The large quilts here begin with rather early pieces and go to the first crazy grid whole cloth piece, "NEO Buddha." Our career includes work back to 1985 and up to present, and there is a lot more work to do on this gallery to make it more inclusive and more available visually. Visit the Gallery index page to see other projects and the very inclusive 2006 gallery.
"The Lost and Found." 1988-91.
96"h x 96"w.
Private collection, Boston.
Materials: Painted and sewn all by hand, on fabrics. 3-D forms and paintings form the surface, along with a lot of hand embroidery and beadwork. Found objects include glasses frames, an antique purse, seashells, leather cockroaches, and a wooden camel. Main backing is an old silk bedspread.
This piece was made by me (Susan) only, a year before Jimmy started working with me on the quilts. I had been making art quilts since 1980, but was a graduate student until 1986, so I didn't enter professional shows back before then. When I finally did, I received Best of Show in Quilt National '87, for a piece called "Neighborhood with Comet Scar."
"The Lost and Found" is about living alone in New York City, during a six month artist in residence program at PS #1, an international art program, through the Ohio Arts Council. I had never lived alone, and this quilt tells the story of missing Jimmy and our daughter Gretchen, and about making New York a good temporary new home. It was a good combination of fabric painting, using found objects, and making 3-D painted and embroidered forms, to make a very dimensional and very large piece.
Later, in 1991, Jimmy helped me renovate this quilt, adding the leather cockroaches. They look very Egyptian, in their stylized tooled designs.
"Fork in the Road." 1988-91.
90"h x 108"w.
Materials: Painted and sewn all by hand, on fabrics. 3-D forms and paintings form the surface, along with a lot of hand embroidery and beadwork. Found objects include: clothespins, real eating forks, and tooled leather crows (added by Jimmy in 1991).
I made "Fork" during my NYC residency, and we both added more stuff to it, in 1991. Its premise was that the time in New York ought to cause some kind of shift in my art career, but it wasn't clear then (or later!) Up the center of the quilt is a 3-D Serpent Mound, my symbol of Ohio. Instead of eating an egg, as the real Serpent Mound is doing, this one is eating up a big clock, TIME. (I was pretty homesick for Jimmy and Gretchen for six months!)
There are something like 14 dinner forks on the two snakes that curve away from the center. These are forks I used to take to the artists' potluck suppers at PS #1. We were artists from all over the world, and we organized these gatherings on our own, since the organization didn't have any group plans for our bonding. (We just each had our own studios, paid for by our country or state.) We ate together and showed slides of our work. It was great!
The paintings in the background of the piece are various scenes of experiences in New York, including shopping with new friends, and being very sick with the flu. The white line things around the piece are fabric cigarettes, representing all the smoking that went on at the potlucks! (Ick!!!) Remember, most of the artists were from other countries, where smoking is still really hip! When Jimmy added to the piece in 1991, he put large disks of leather, with crows tooled on them, in the center panel, on the sides of the serpent.
"Tropical New York." 1988-99.
90"H x 90"W.
"Tropical New York" is made with many kinds of fabrics, including cottons, velvets, silks, synthetics. Embroidery floss. Embellishments include: various kinds of beads, polymer clay, found objects, mussel shells. Made in separately quilted sections and then hand sewn together. Each section is batted and backed, all hand quilted, hand embroidered, embellished. There are many 3-D forms, sewn, stuffed, quilted, embroidered, and then attached to the quilt. These include figures, masks, windows, snakes, subway signs, alligators. :)
I was living in New York for six months, doing an artist in residence program at PS #1 in Long Island City, right across the river from the Gumby Building, thanks to an incredible grant from the Ohio Arts Council, Jan. to July, 1988. Partway through the long time apart, Jimmy brought our 17 year old daughter Gretchen and her two best friends out on Spring Break. This quilt is all about the great things going on in those days. The black windows are my apartment building. The snakes are the subways, winding through the city. Embroidered subway stops and alligators in the sewers are woven in with paintings of the wild characters we met. The giant yellow bubble of positive energy embraces our entire family, with protection and homesickness.
There really was a pick pocket in the crystal shop, and we truly enjoyed our pecan pie at Two Boots, a funky and good restaurant in the East Village. I painted Jimmy falling and spraining his ankle at South Street Seaport, and me getting him a cane at Volunteers of America, across the street from my studio. There's a serene painting of all of us sleeping happily in my little apartment, under the clothesline of undies. The mussel shells were from our last meal in New York that year, with Joan and Frank Gardner, at a very nice Italian place in my neighborhood. I miss the nabe and New York. It was a great time for us all, and we plan to never live apart for six months, ever again!!!!! And I really do function better working in the garden in Ohio! (I'm adding notes to this statement in 2002, and Gretchen and her husband Michael have moved from Cincinnati to Cleveland, because she now works at the art museum up there, and it's a lot closer than Cinci or NYC! Life is good!)
I still consider this to be one of our best quilts. I keep adding little things to it, every time it comes home from somewhere. It's got a lot more hand quilting on it than in 1988, and I've added a lot more beads, and have replaced the mussel shells, as they perpetually break offthey were a bad idea. Don't ever use them on quilts! Tooooo fragile, but very pretty! Tropical New York is probably the best example of a good fusion of all the processes we've used, except for Jimmy's leather and airbrush. Oh, and there's no hand embroidered writing, except for all those subway signs. Now I hand stitch every word, when I can, no matter how much writing I do!!!! This is why I take forever to large pieces now! Trop. NY took initially about eight months. It would take two years to make now, with my fussier processes! Glad we made it then!
"Back to Eden: The First GREEN QUILT."
1989. 80"h x 78"w. Private collection, Hudson, OH.
Materials: Painted and sewn all by hand, on fabrics. This was the first quilt Jimmy collaborated with me on, making many hand tooled and painted leather disks, which I sewed to round pockets. 3-D forms and paintings create the surface, along with a lot of hand embroidery and beadwork. There are a lot of large clear quartz crystals in this quilt.
This piece is about healing the Earth. Its central figure is Copper Woamn, who is the First Person in one Native American creation story. On either side are hummingbirds, bringing Earth beauty. Beside these are shrines, with their doors opened wide, for meditating on bringing more love awareness to us all. At the bottom of the quilt is a little Peaceable Kingdom of my own, painted, quilted, and embroidered. The leather totem animals are Jimmy and my medicine wheel animals. At the top of the quilt are two Earth Angels surrounding a Goddess of the Earth Oasis.
"For the Birds - A GREEN QUILT."
1990. 87"h x 73"w.
Processes and materials: Painted and sewn all by hand, on fabrics. 3-D forms and paintings create the surface, along with a lot of hand embroidery and beadwork. There are a lot of large clear quartz crystals in this quilt, some sewn in between Guatemalan hen potholders and Indian glass bird ornaments. A wooden bird goddess doll in the quilt's center was decorated with black ink by our niece Julie Shie, and she and her sister Aimee drew designs on many wooden ice cream spoons, for Bird People. Our daughter Gretchen contributed two ceramic masks she had made at school. Jimmy made leather tooled hummingbirds, and I did ceramic figures of us, and made them little crochetted sleeping bags. Lots of found objects and conchas are on this piece.
"For the Birds" is about protecting the bird poputations of the Earth, and in so doing, also balancing the environment for us all. The birds are about the most obvious species to be killed off by pollution. We can help them in so many little ways, like feeding them, providing fresh water, and making birdhouses. But we also need to get the whole planet back into good health, for their sake, and for our own!
We made our own personal medicine wheels in this quilt. We had gotten a book and set of cards of Medicine Cards, by Jamie Sams and David Carson, and were really happy to set up our own totem wheels. You do it once, and then it's permanent, like an astrology chart. We each have some birds among our totems, so it seemed appropriate to include the wheels here, in this quilt.
Two of my favorite things on this quilt are the little bathtub drain strainer, which used to be in our tub, and the orange "Going South" potholder, which I found at Goodwill and did a lot more embellishing on. The drain strainer symbolizes cleaning our water, and the potholder is for birds' safe migrations. May they always be able to return to healthy homes! Us, too!!!
"Slinky", aka "The Girl Who Had to Wait Til She Was 21 To Own A Slinky."
1992. 46"h x 53"w.
Materials: Commercial fabrics, beads, leather mice, jewelry parts, paint. One Slinky Junior.
Processes: Machine and hand sewn, beaded. Writing put on with paint. Jimmy did the leather mice.
Gretchen lived in a big house in Kent, Ohio, and rented with four other college girls, when she was doing her BA at Kent State. It was a very wild and strange place, with a distinctly bohemian flavor. After a visit in which we were introduced to The Window Beastie, a Halloween decoration that stayed up all the time, we made this piece, to capture our daughter's college essence. She collected vintage hats and displayed them on long necked wig stands, which here represent the roommates. She's holding a real Slinky, which we gave her for her twenty first birthday, after she complained that we'd never gotten her one. (Really???) The leather tooled and painted mice, by Jimmy, scurry around the edge of the quilt---the Park Ave. house had some mice when the girls moved in. Gretchen's cat Vikki, who remained at home with us, looms large in the piece, with her tortoise shell markings shown by tie dye fabric. We made her huge, since she was so important to Gretchen, who missed her terribly. All over this piece I wrote about Gretchen's life. I really think we caught her special Kent days flavor.
"Healing Eyes - A GREEN QUILT."
1992. 59"h x 51"w.
Materils: Painting by hand on commercial print fabrics. Some mylar stuff, polymer clay forms, leather wolf heads, 3-D snake bodies. Mostly machine worked. Some hand beading.
We had a little group of five quilt artists we called "Pyramid Quilters, Local #11." Its symbol was a pyramid with an eye in it. And to me, this was a real symbol of intuitive wisdom. OK, I know it's also on the dollar bill, but symbols do get around!
Anyhow, this piece started as a challenge for Valentine's Day, among the original three Pyramid Quilters, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart, Marge Burkell, and me. We were going to make valentines for our husbands in one week, with fabrics we chose at International Fabric Collection, in Erie, PA.
I just couldn't do it in one week, at this size!!!! So Jimmy got a very little piece, using the right stuff, and it hangs over his coffee making apparatae, as a protective whammy for sacred coffee. But this thing took a lot longer, and got pretty involved.
The person in the middle is a healing entity, and the two snakes are for Jimmy being a Year of the Snake person. The tooled leather wolf heads, made by Jimmy, are the teachers, in Native American Indian symbolism. I always feel that I learn a lot from stable old Jimmy, so they are part of his energy, along with his snakiness.
I put the eyes in the pyramids all around the piece, along with some powerful spirits' masks and some little people and hands, all made of polymer clay. This was before I got back to owning a little kiln and making ornaments out of real ceramic clay again.
This piece hasn't been shown for a while, and if I get my way and the time, I'm going to do a lot of revamping to it, which probably means a lot of hand work and some real clay stuff added. There's more machine work in this one than I like. I love the lumpy textures of hand sewing with lots of embroidery floss...guess you knew that!
"Night Chant - A GREEN QUILT." 1993. 76"h x 63"w.
Materials: Painted and commercial fabrics of various kinds. Lots of hand embroidery and beading, four leather hummingbirds, polymer clay animals, carved bone animals and faces, much glow-in-the-dark paint, some airbrush. Mostly hand, but some machine quilting and appilque. 3-D dolls.
This piece celebrates the intuitive, night side of all creatures, with which we connect best to the earth. Its hope is that we can all make this aspect of ourselves more a part of our normal way of being.
This piece is made up of a lot of separate sections, which are completed before joining, which is our favorite way to work. All the quilting, beading, etc, is done before, and now standing at the work wall, I sew the panels all together by hand. Their edges have been bound with overcast embroidery stitches, and this same stitch is used to join the sections. This part of the making process takes many days, if you don't want to get a wrecked neck and back, from holding your arms up, to sew at the wall. It's the best way to control the draping of the quilt, as it's being joined. And that is also the process in which you find yourself needing to add "shims" to the quilt, where it separates.
The best part is when you take the quilt down from the wall, and you can finally see the back of the completed piece, with a new quilt formed on the back, with all the different patterns of the panels' backing fabrics, making a patchwork of their own!
No, the VERY best part of a quilt like this one is when you turn the lights out, and you see the entire thing glowing in the dark, with lines I've painted around the forms and written passages that only really show up in this darkened state. Like a different piece, it resembles those specials signs in restaurants, only huge and funky!
"That Old Devil Moon - A GREEN QUILT." 1994. 82"h x 74"w.
Materials: Painted and commercial fabrics. 3-D quilted forms, beads, buttons, orange calcite stones, polymer clay hands with glow-moons on them, lucite moons, two large leather lobsters, little plastic lobster, shells, hand crochetted yarn nests, jewelry, etc. Mostly hand quilted, embroidered, and appliqued, but some machine work.
"Devil Moon" is about how the moon was made and the stories people around the world tell about it, including my own made up creation stories. Each crescent moon has a different little story about the moon sewn on it. And the tides got included in this quilt, since the Moon contruls them. And the lobsters came in, because we were working on the quilt, while teaching at Haystack School of Crafts, on Deer Isle in Maine. The lobster fishermen took their boats out around 4 AM each morning, and it was a big part of our consciousness! We were living right on the ocean's edge. Fishing for lobsters is definitely attuned to the moon's pull on the tides, so there you are! And there are lots of just plain mundane diary stories, written and stitched all over the background of this quilt.
There are painted hands with creation spirals on their palms, also in the background, to celebrate using our hands to connect our creativity and intuition. Oh, and there's a big "Moon Maiden" in the center of the quilt, and she's just birthed a cute little red lobster! Beneath her is one of my Big Ducks, which are part of my Lucky symbolism...Lucky Duck. We do have some fun, in making this art!
"Cloud Houses for Kobe - A GREEN QUILT." 1995. 57"h x 43"w.
Materials: Fabrics, beads, mirrors, clear quartz crystals, buttons, enameled brass turtles from China, painted wooden bears, polymer forms, etc.
"Kobe" was made right after the terrible earthquake, which destroyed much of that city. It is a spiritual response, in which the main idea is asking for safe and comforting homes for the survivors of Kobe, and for us all.
I was listening to Albert Gore's book "The Earth in Balance" while working on this quilt. The book deals with deep ecology and our connection to Nature and God. I know the things I wrote on the quilt were influenced by Al Gore and the people he interviewed in the book. The whole idea of deep ecology is that we are one, and so what happens in a disaster happens to us all, not just the physical victims.
I know that many people are still effected strongly by the damage done by the earthquake, and there are many places in the world where disasters continue to violate normal living. May we all have the awareness to know and feel our part in these events. We are all part of Earth, part of each other, and part of each other's lives.
"Spring Sampler." 1995. 88"h x 44"w.
Materials: Painted and commercial fabrics. Painted clothespins, leather tooled and painted peapods, shells, buttons, beads. Mostly hand sewn, quilted, and embroidered.
Here is a quilt about life in Springtime, including a big Vernal Equinox dance in our classroom at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. There are three Teapot panels, of ten made in a set. Some of the panels are writing only, which we have stitched over. Others are older panels, like the one of the woman's face, which was made for an earlier quilt, and wasn't the right size or something. It hung around the house a while, and eventually made it into this piece. That happens a lot!
The central panel, with the peapods for borders, is a scene of us at Arrowmont, learning to Cajun Two Step! Bill Griffith's dog Lily is flying across the sky above us. Below this panel is one of our cat Meeper, because she was very sick, and we were praying for her return to good health. It worked!
The clothespins, which I sometimes make editions of 100 painted ones of, are in this quilt, because they have Springs on them, and this quilt is about Spring! Sometimes it gets that tacky, the reasoning. Sorry.
"The Fiesta Ware Quilt" 1995. 87"h x 54"w.
Materials: Painted and commercial fabrics. Leather tooled and painted teacups and teapots, ceramic animals and plaques, beads. Mostly hand sewn, quilted, and embroidered. Paint is both airbrushed and brush applied.
Fiesta Ware's dancing senorita logo lady makes two appearances in the quilt, along with various painted, stitched, beaded, clay, and tooled leather images of the famous deco dishes. Diary and Dishes--what a mix!! Especially since we began our own Fiesta collection in 1995, finding the Rebel Dish Barn and Fiesta Ware Outlet, near Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, and later the bona fide, one and only Homer Laughlin China Co. factory, only two hours from home. AND, it sells seconds really cheap!! And you can take the factory tour and watch the spinning molds and the waterfall glaze process and see all the really old dishes in their little museum room! And we have some of the limited edition purple stuff, only made for one year! Now there's persimmon and lime green! Oops, they discontinued the lime in 2000!
So, enough about Fiesta! What actually happened to us that season is chronicled into the quilt. All the writing was done first draft right on the quilt, with a laundry marker, like I always do, unless I airbrushed it on. (None of our writing is copied from diaries. Never! It IS the diary!) Then I hand stitch the printed parts, which are the majority of the writing, and Jimmy machine sews over the cursive parts, with feed dogs down and no foot. I write all of it though. Jimmy's the strong silent type, doesn't write much. I do!
Our work is made in separate sections which are completely finished before everything's sewn together. Each little panel is made into a quilt sandwich and bound at the edges before any sewing is done to its surface. Painting is done first though, so paint doesn't harden up the batting.
Anyway, every applique, embroidery, and beading stitch is also a quilt stitch, through all the layers. That's the mainstay of the Lucky School of Quilting! All panels are pinned to a Celutex workwall, and that's where they still are as the piece is hand sewn together. This frees up both my hands for stitching, while the pins and gravity control the quilted panels. Little quilted shims, taylor made for the places where pieces pull away from each other, fill in the gaps, as the sewing together takes place. It's all sewn together with 12 strands of embroidery floss in a simple overcast stitch. More fun: when we take the finished piece down from the wall, there's a whole new quilt on the back, made up of the various fabrics used on the backs of the panels from the start.
Most of the diary entries are dated here, though this isn't always done. Stories of emptying my parents' house, to make final sale; creating a prosperity margarita party ritual package for our daughter Gretchen and her beau Mike (see cactus goblets . . .They're plastic, not Fiesta); going through the marijuana/patchooli mix up when our Trooper got rear-ended (on the way to the Fiesta factory.) When he arrived at the accident scent, the officer thought he smelled pot...on ME!!..., and we finally realized he was smelling my perfume, after a half hour of interrogation! It wasn't funny then!
Entries about the garden are in there, too, along with reminiscences about the first friends we had that owned Fiesta dishes.
My first ceramic quilt embellishments, made in my renovated little kiln Esperanza, a 1953 Aamaco electric wild thing, are in this quilt, alternating with Jimmy's leather dishes. My clay patio owl lights are across the top of the quilt. Lots of polished gemstones form panel borders, as do buttons, and . . . did we use pennies on this one? (A very inexpensive embellishment, the penny!)
There's an embroidery with a black background in the center of this piece, with a mermaid, a parrot, and a poem I wrote about them and their love for each other. Jimmy's the parrot, because he likes them so much. I'm the mermaid, because I can be anything I want to. I thought this little panel belonged in the quilt, even though it was mostly stitched the year before. Things hang out and eventually find the perfect spot for themselves around here. And, nope. We don't plan our work all out in advance. Are you kidding??? It grows, like a garden, over several months.
And this particular garden/quilt is flooded with that amazing bright yellow sunshine of the weird yellow fabric, thanks to Luanne, who always had the sense to buy and use whatever she felt like, whatever appealed to her artist's appetite for beauty! My friend Luanne will always speak to me, straighten out my stunted thinking, and romp in my quilts and garden. Hurray!
"Earth Angel with Anita Corum's Buttons - a GREEN QUILT"
1995. 26"h x 20"w.
Materials: Commercial fabrics, buttons, beads, jewelry parts (some antique), lace doilies, floral marbles, etc.
Processes: All hand sewn. Lucky School of Quilting applique.
This piece was in progress in Sept, 1995, when we visited our friend Anita Corum, another AQN artist. She showed us the beauty of the Sacramento area and graciously allowed Susan to pillage her button collection. There are fond memories of sitting with Anita, among her great collections of books, fabrics, quilts (hers, which are wonderful), and frogs, while gazing out over a panorama of the golf course. Peaceful and inspiring. By the time we got to Berkeley to teach and visit Miriam Nathan Roberts, another quilt genius, the angel was all done! What is written on it is a conbination of meditation channeling and good old diary.
"EARTH ANGEL" is a healing quilt for the Earth and all of us in it, as are all of our works. As a GREEN QUILT, it is part of the world healing art project we began in 1989 and which is very active today, in which many artists commit the purpose of their quilts to the promotion of balance and wholeness. Well over a thousand artists have made GREEN QUILTS, and we have slides and statements on many in our archives in Ohio and New York. We write an ideally annual newsletter, and exhibitions of the quilts are created by interested curators. (Please write to us for information.)
Our work is a salad of mixed media: Painting, applique, writing, leatherwork, embroidery, embellishment, ceramics, and gemstones. Creating quilts is only one aspect of our work, as we also make boxes, dolls, paintings, books, artists' pins, chairs, and bags. Jimmy has a full leather shop in his studio, which used to be the source of every kind of custom made leather object people could think up. Now he primarily makes art quality fly fishing cases, as custom orders. Susan loves to incorperate her healing studies of stones, stars, meditation, and cards into the work. (You know: the stuff they didn't teach in art school!)
What we'd like you to know about us is that we've been together since 1976, collaborating on various things. We work in big studios in our basement and all over the house. We teach anywhere: quilt groups, schools, universities, craft schools, and --our favorite---at our home. For these week-long Turtle Art Camp sessions, we limit the class to two to five artists, and they become part of our family during their stay. Some of our own best work is begun in those camps!!
"Chenille." 1996. 83"h x 49"w.
Materials: Painted and commercial fabrics. Chenille rug, many handmade ceramic objects and alphabets, floral marbles, embellished fabric crow, glass and other beads, turquoise and silver bangles, pencils, pennies, shells, gemstones, spools of thread, glitter balls of thread, etc. Hand quilted, hand embroidered, and hand embellished.
This piece centers around Chenille, the Voodoo Goat, at the top center of the piece, between the big moons. She was a live goat, brought to Haystack School of Crafts, by a ceramics prof, while we were teaching there. She lived in a cage, beside a cage of two live chickens, so the students could draw them from life. We snuck over to the cages one day, and gave them names with our signs, for Chenille the Voodoo goat, and Clucky and Plucky, the Voodoo Chickens. We musta been pretty wound up, as we thought we were just incredibly clever!
Then there was a challenge among us, to make quilts with a chenille rug in them, a specific rug, bought at Odd Lots, one of our favorite stores. So the whole rug is here, with panels and words made of clay, sewn to it. This quilt is all made of many panels completely finished and then sewn together, which is one way we work. Oh, the devilled eggs were added to the rug challenge, to entice one artist to join the project. A whole recipe for making devilled eggs is at the bottom, on the mermaid panel.
A panle above that, on the left side, is dedicated to Hattie Spooler, our current black lab, when she was a baby. And the opposite panel, to Elvira Almeda Acord, our lab who had just died. Also on this quilt is the entire history of Chenille, the yarn itself, and how it came to be used for bedspreads, housecoats, etc. Of course, this is a big pack of made up balognie, since I was enjoying telling ridiculous stories about the Army inventing it for blankets during WW I or II, I forget, and how it was later replaced by wool, when the army guys got called sissies, when women wore Chenille.....
I think this is one of my favorite quilts. It's a nice mixture of true diary and big fat lies!
"Prayer for Oklahoma City - a GREEN QUILT."
1996. 86"h x 78"w.
Materials: Painted on canvas, cut into sections, quilted, beaded, embellished with clay angels. Border is quilted fabrics, hand and machine embroidered with channeled writing. Dimensional fabric applique masks hand embroidered, beaded, and painted.
Statement written April 2, 1996:
What is needed is a healing. It took two weeks to make the painting on canvas for this quilt. After I finally had the nerve to cut it into many squares, so that it could be quilted and embellished more easily, it took many months to put it all back together. As we went around the country teaching, we laboriously installed the 61 separate pieces, in order to display our work in progress. Then we had to take all the parts down again, so we could take the quilt home. Over and over. What a job! Today, April 2, 1996, "Prayer for Oklahoma City-a GREEN QUILT" is all one piece again, after being painted in late August and cut up on Dec. 30, 1995. While sewing the parts back together and feeling the relief and comfort of that process, I sensed a real parallel. The tragedy and suffering of the bombing tore people's hearts and lives apart, and slowly the hearts are mending, the pieces of lives are reconnecting. The prayer is for wholeness for Oklahoma City, including treasured memories and hope for a peaceful future.
Pete Seeger said (concerning the wonderful Boise Peace Quilt Project) , "We'll piece this world together, stitch by stitch."
Our quilt began as a prayer, for me to be shown the image to paint, in order that we could do our part to help with the healing for Oklahoma City. The image spontaneously came out as brush glided over unmarked canvas, with no planned ideas or sketches leading us. Like other viewers, I look at the painting I held the brushes for, and wonder at its meaning. The woman (...goddess?...angel?) seems to be a mixture of all races. Her face radiates peace and strength. She gently holds something precious. The Earth? The future? Our lives? The birds may be symbols of grief and tragedy or of promise. Or both? The birds' outstretched wings become angel wings for the woman, whose aura becomes a halo. Two other angels or guardians look lovingly in on the scene from the corners of the quilt The picture is full of light.
Once the painting had been created through prayer, we consciously did the rest of the work, making symbols of our own choosing. There are 19 pairs of little hands airbrushed into the halo, but they're very faint, hidden in the light of the halo itself. Up close you'll notice 19 terra cotta clay angels sewn into the background. These are the children who lost their lives. Around the border of prayers are other faces of angels of the Rainbow of Hope. They honor the other 150 people who died in the bombing.
Making this piece and seeing others' reactions to it have made this the most profound art experience of our lives. We've been making artwork specifically for healing for a long time, but this is the first time a Higher Power has created the image so strongly. It has been very humbling. We're very grateful to have been asked to join the Oklahoma City Children's Memorial Art Project.
May we all receive comfort and healing and always remember to give these gifts to everyone else. For information about GREEN QUILTS, see the project's statement page.
"Rainbow Garden '- A GREEN QUILT." 1996. 78"h x 94"w.
Painted on canvas, cut into sections, hand quilted, hand appliqued, embellished with bottlecaps, wooden spoons, clothespins, rhinestones, buttons, beads, pincushions, shells, leather, paintings on wood, ethnic doll, etc. Diary writing on surfaces is painted or embroidered on.
Our garden season and this quilt both started on April 9, 19996. The quilt is all about our lives, centered in our Rainbow Garden. There are many layers of built up painting and sewing, corresponding with the many layers of living experienced all the time. It's a celebration of the joy in making a garden, and in keeping oneself grounded to Earth, through the tasks of making things grow.
The central figure of this quilt is a sort of garden goddess, based on our Irish friend Pearl, aka Bridget O'Connell, who identifies with St. Brigid, the goddess of healing for Ireland. Pearl taught us that on the night before St. Brigid's Day, you can place a cloth on the ground, and in the morning, that cloth will be full of healing energy, blessed by the goddess, during the night.
Our Pearl holds a basket full of tomato pincushions, all of which have affirmations embroidered on them, for a crop of very healing vibrations. At Pearl's feet are two good cats of the garden, along with many little spirit heads of blue clay, and two young raccoons, tooled and painted in leather.
The actual rainbow of the garden is shown as colored bands of fabric, behind Pearl. It corresponds to the shaped rows of our real garden, where we live-trapped the raccoons, in our attempt to live-trap a wiley ground hog. We eventually caught that rascal and drove him to a new home! Far away! The raccoons were, of course, set free instantly! They do no harm in a garden that grows no corn!
There are some painted wooden spoons in the garden. Spoons represent, for us, the idea of abundance. Our garden brings us such good energy, both as food and as closeness to Nature. We are truly blessed by taking time to make our lives more connected to Earth.
The processes of making quilts for us, are rather unplanned. In the garden, there must be some order, but in making art, you can jump around more. The outcome of the quilt's images was fully unknown at the start. It grew together, like a garden of weeds! We work better that way!
There are many stories of our lives, written in the quilt. Some are only painted or drawn on, while many are hand embroidered. The six months it took to fully harvest the garden, were also the time it took to create this art quilt.
Oh, and the little doll popping up out of Pearl's head: She's the Garden Muse. She is the spirit who watches over the garden, even if the goddess herself has to sleep! She wasa a gift from our dear friend Robin Schwalb, who bought her at a sale of objects that had been donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Robin works.
This quilt is a prayer or blessing for all the gardens and all the gardeners in the world, and those who wish they had time or space to garden! May we all be more and more connected to the Earth.
"Buck Rogers' Reckless Children."
©1997. 49"h x 28"w.
Materials: Commercial and hand dyed fabrics, buttons, glass, plastic, and gemstone beads, mirrors, jewelry parts, polymer clay objects.sequins, my mother's antique permanent curl rods, 3-D fabric figures made by me, cermaic pieces by me and others, beaded Christmas star, lame crescent moon faces, antique Buck Rogers Sonic Ray Gun, etc.
Processes: This piece was mostly hand sewn, made in small sections which were attached after finishing them individually. All forms are appliquéd or 3-D figures. No painting.
This quilt was made for the "Up in the Air" quilt invitational at the Roswell Museum, at the request of curator, quilt artist Petra Soesemann. The show was designed to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Roswell Incident.
Not being UFO enthusiasts, we dug instead into our memories of our fifties childhoods, to unearth our personal UFO experiences. Probably luckily, we didn't dredge up horrible memories of abductions, but rather we found vicarious traumas and wonderment from our early TV interactions.
Using a big rainbow face panel already begun as a class demo, we anchored the work in this somewhat alien looking image and gleefully went on, writing about The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone and Captain Video. But what for embellishments?
We had a minor shakedown argument over whether to include the Buck Rogers Sonic Ray Gun in the piece. This kind of tug of war is always indicative of a profound importance of the object in question. I argued to include it. It was MINE and MY father had confiscated it, along with three others like it, because my brothers and I were being reckless children. I had found the cache of half broken fifties toys right where my dad had put them at the time of the crime. Only it was forty some years later, when we were sorting through my parents' household belongings, not the next week, after we'd done some pennance for our childish behavior! Oh well! Better late than never!
But I digress.
After I won the fight over the ray gun, which Jimmy just didn't want to get stolen, it was easy to keep making sections of the piece to go with the weird childhood memories mooshed in with UFO thoughts. My mom's fifties home perm rods looked pretty outer spacey to me, so in they went. They're now alien bones!!! The ceramic aliens are Vikings made in Ireland. I wrote and embroidered a little poem on the quilt and wrote all over the yellow aliens' bodies, a monologue about the movie Fargo, which I also deemed outer space material. Green Venuses from Venus and my own clay alien faces are also indications that we were now getting into the UFO groove!
The disco kinda ball things at the bottom are a set of earrings from... the sixties?? I like them.
The blue lame space ships with sequins are the most obvious images for this topic. I made them as 3-D stuffed fabric objects. Basically this piece came out nice and strange, and it felt really good to work on. We hadn't realized how many attachments we really do have to the UFO thing. My heavenly focus has always been Astrology, not aliens, and I don't worry about what the folks on other planets are up to. There's enough to ponder right here, for me and Jimmy, too!
Here's the little poem I wrote and embroidered on this piece:
Earth is such a pretty ball.....
Turning in the Sky.
Orbits like a hula hoop.
Round a solar pie.
"Love Shack." 1997. 46.5"h x 35"w.
Materials: Whole cloth painting with fabric paint on heavy twill, pearlized paint, glitter paint. beads, sequins, buttons, hand embroidery and quilting.
This quilt was begun at a high school class, where I was showing the students how to just do it: to make up an art composition, while you are telling a story, off the top of your head. My story was about going to Eugene, Oregon, the week before, without Jimmy for once, to teach alone at University of Oregon, at an environmental conference. It's mostly about how much I missed Jimmy there, and how I pretended he was with me, inside the big handmade yurt, which was part of an art exhibiton our work was in.
The river is the MacKenzie, which my frined Jean Liittschwager lives next to, whose home I visited. I was thinking of how much Jimmy would love to see all those big trout I was sure were in that huge river! He was just getting into fly fishing in a big way. Mt. St. Helens is shown here as Gretchen, our daughter. She and I had last visited Eugene after the volcano had errupted, in 1980. I was supposed to go to summer school there, but chickened out, and we came right back home, another four days on the Greyhound!!!! No wonder Gretchen felt like errupting at me, at times!
The pincushion here was becoming one of my personal symbols, not long before I invented St. Quilta the Comforter, who ALWAYS has a tomato pincushion on her, at all times! The palm tree in the quilt is to show that I wished it was warmer in the classroom we were teaching in, as I painted. It was freezing, so I depicted some tropical energy for the students! Eugene, of course, had been mild and wonderful!
1998. 51"h x 62.5"w.
Materials: Airbrush painting on various fabrics, patchwork base, hand appliqué, batting, embroidery floss and other threads, glass and other beads, buttons, doilies, plastic silverware, ceramic figures, glass floral marbles, satin yoyos, polymer clay objects made by the artist, sequins.
Methods: Airbrushed with Createx airbrush paint over a base of machine pieced fabrics. Hand and machine appliqued. Hand quilted, hand embroidered, hand beaded. Some of the writing is with airbrush and other is done with applicator paints.
This piece was made by me (Susan) with a little help from Monique Theoret, because of a project called "Women of Taste," created by Girls, Inc, of Alameda County. What it is, is that each of a bunch of women quilt artists were asked by Lynn Richards, in mid '97, each to collaborate with a woman chef in creating a quilt about the interaction each duo would create together. My first chef was too far away and too busy to collaborate with me, so I reupped for a local chef, a friend of mine, right here in Wooster, Ohio.
Monique agreed to my idea that our interaction would be cooking together in my kitchen.
She asked me what I'd like to learn to cook, so I chose Chicken Soup and stock from scratch. So she taught me that, and I began the quilt, thinking it would be called "Chicken Soup." Then she came over and I showed her where she could help me write on the quilt. She wrote on her apron and on the leek.
Then I asked Monique to tell me a food story from her childhood in Quebec. She told an enchanting tale of making treacle, a taffy made with molasses and pulled, like regular taffy. I was so charmed, I begged her to teach me how to make that! It took a while to coordinate schedules, but finally we got together again, and made the treacle. I finished the quilt, and knew the title had to change to somehow include the marvelous experience of pulling treacle, after patiently waiting for it to get to the perfect stage for pulling.
Now the piece is renamed "Treacle Soup," and nobody will say, "Huh, like the books on Chicken Soup?" There is no such thing as Treacle Soup, except you could call the goop which will eventually become treacle, "soup," as it's slowly boiling down to the hard ball stage!!!!! (With the molasses, it takes FOREVER!!) We sure had fun waiting! You know, you mustn't stir it very much, even though it's boiling, or the sugar will crystallize, and then what are you going to do? No use crying over crystallized treacle, I always say!
I had a great time interacting with my chef. For the first time in a long time, we had a real reason to get together more. We are both very busy women, who pack our days with a lot of activities. I love Monique's food, as she is both a gourmet cook and a natural food enthusiast. And her stuff tastes great! If you come to Wooster, and you throw a party, look up Monique's Catering, and she'll fix you right up!
As for the quilt, it's a picture of what the cooking scene felt like: a big bubbling pot on the stove, and us dancing around it, chopping food and talking. Big whorls of steam rising up with our laughter! The writing on the quilt reflects all the conversation. Monique got the cliche big chef hat, and I got the proverbial black beret of the artist. There's a Baby Jesus, from our Mardi Gras King Cake, sewn into the pocket of my apron! Purple beads from Mardi Gras rip the giant red soup pot.
I put some pockets in the quilt, like I used to do a lot of! And little tiny pieces of silverware float around in the writing, to mean, "Hey, let's eat already!!" The little head up in the top right corner (and some in the border, along with teacups and hearts) is Saint Quilta the Comforter, my matron saint (my mother), who came to me once in a rapture, and definitely hung around the kitchen while Monique and I were cooking our Treacle Soup.
"The Teapot/High Priestess (Card #2 of The Kitchen Tarot)"
1998. 87"h x 55"w.
Materials: Fabric, paint, embroidery floss, beads, gemstones, mardi gras beads, shells, buttons, antique jewelry, hand tooled leather turtles, pennies, doilies, purses from India with shisha mirrors, painting on wood, ceramic and poly clay things, clothespins, floral gems, antique rhinestones, Chinese enameled turtles, glow in the dark beads and paints, 28 pockets, large quilted mask (in center of quilt.)
Techniques: Central panel is whole cloth painting, layered with applique, hand embroidery. Brush and airbrush, much hand sewing, amd hand embellished. Borders are all hand work, including painting, embroidery, and applique. Writing is hand sewn when it's printing, and machine sewn when it's cursive. Holes in top panels are cut all the way through the quilt and hand bound. All sewing is also quilting. Leather is hand tooled.
Artists' Statement: This piece is the third quilt of The Kitchen Tarot Project! Card #0 is The Colander/Fool, and card #1 is The Salt and Pepper/Magician. There will eventually be 78 card quilts, so the project is expected to take at least 15 years to complete. Meanwhile, laminated cards of each quilt are made by hand, as the quilts are created.
In this quilt, Susan's invented saint, St. Quilta the Comforter, makes her first appearance in the deck. She wears an entire teapot, instead of her usual tierra of a Fiestaware teacup, which is in the top of the quilt now. She has her everpresent Lucky Tomato Pincushion. (Whenever one is around a room, St Q can spontaneously manifest!)
At the top of the quilt is an angel cat. This is Maggie, our 19 year old cat, who died, during the making of this quilt, in August, 1998.
There are 28 pockets on this quilt, including the Indian bags, the little paintings between them, and the letters that spell TEAPOT, at the bottom of the quilt. People may put supplications to St. Quilta into these pockets, but will of course risk getting into trouble with the gallery, for touching the art!
St. Q is wearing her 1998 muu-muu in this quilt. It is limes, sliced up on a dark background. Only it is pretty painted over!
There is a teacup on each of St Q's shoulders, which hold the voices of intuition and logic, poised in balance, with clouds of psychic steam wafting up toward consciousness.
St Quilta is modelled after my own mother, Marie Shie, whom I consider to be a saint of a mother, if there ever was one. So this quilt is dedicated to my mom. She contracted pneumonia and almost died, during the making of this quilt. She survived, but her Alzheimer's Disease got a little worse, due to the illness, and she is very unaware of her surroundings now. Besides her skill at being a wonderful mother, Mom was an amazing Registered Nurse, beloved by her staff and patients, at the nursing home she now lives at.
The Moon looks down, from the top right corner of the quilt, whispering intuitive thoughts to St. Q. The High Priestess is the goddess of intuition, of the Moon. The steam of the relaxing tea helps us to get better in touch with our inner knowings. Teapots will always symbolize intuition to me.
"The Stove / Empress"
1999. 74"h x 48"w.
Materials: Commercial fabrics, Lunn Fabrics hand dyes, back is my own hand dyed fabric, old patchwork quilt top. Buttons, glass, plastic, gemstone, mardi gras beads, jewelry parts, obsidian arrowheads, pennies, moonstone chips, bottlecaps, one rag rug reshaped into a stove, weird metal stove knobs, coffee can clock with leather hands, CDs for burners, Lucky Pincushion painting as stove's door's window, applicator applied paint, many 3-D fabric forms, etc.
Processes: All hand sewn. Lots of hand embroidery, besides the hand quilting.
This piece is the fourth card quilt in our series of 78 cards in The Kitchen Tarot. It's #3, which in "normal Tarot" is The Empress. Here she's The Stove, a big, warm, nurturing Mama of love and feminity!
She's mostly made of wild applique, including a real rag rug as the Stove itself, with the Lucky Tomato Pincushion painting as the stove's window in the door, doubling as a pocket. There are real "lucky" bottlecaps along the stove's front, as well as many moonstones embellishing its surface. The stove clock is a coffee can lid, and the burners are CDs. The stove control knobs are some kind of weird Indian things that resemble shisha mirrors, only are more like metal strangenesses. You just have to see them.
There are a lot of 3-D appliques on this quilt, including a bunch of big pink fish for Jimmy's fly fishing hunger, a real St. Quilta doll, the first Marigold the Cat doll, and a bunch of eyes, to help me see better and to watch you! Big moon faces smile down from the top corners of the piece, and some intricate hand embroideries of mine illustrate a teacup and a saucepan. Most everything on this large and rauccus piece is hand done. There's a quilt top from some sweet old lady, as the floor, and the back of the quilt is hand dyed fabric we made in a Turtle Art Camp here at our place.
This is one HOT MAMA, this stove!
"The Cookbook / Hierophant: Card #5 in The Kitchen Tarot" 2000.
61"h x 71"w.
Materials: Cotton duck canvas and other cotton fabrics. Front fabrics are white fabrics, painted by us, and backing fabrics are commercial tie dye and block prints. Other materials: Embroidery floss, buttons, glass bugle beads, ceramic alphabet beads, antique leaded glass beads, antiuqe rhinestone beads. Thimble and scissors trinket. Airbrush paint and fabric paint.
Techniques: Hand painting and airbrush painting. Hand quilting. Hand sewing on of embellishments
There are actually two quilts in this piece, as one panel is sewn along its top, onto the larger panel. The smaller panel is really the Tarot card, and it can be lifted up, to reveal the painting hidden behind it. The larger panel was painted after the card panel, and its design was dictated by the card's. On the larger panel, the main quilt, twin St. Quilta the Comforters hold a cookbook between them (the smaller and card panel.) Because the smaller panel was made in Sept, 99, tho not finished at this time, its composition needed to be expanded upon, when integrating it into the larger panel.
The real #5 card in Tarot is the Hierophant, sometimes called the High Priest or Pope. It is the authority figure. When searching for which object in the kitchen to make as this card, in our Kitchen Tarot, the Cookbook came to mind right away. We're all good at reading the recipes, looking at the pictures, and then setting the book down and ad libbing! At least we do! Rules are made to be broken! This is our best way to respond to the Authority Figure in OUR kitchen!
St. Quilta, as twins, is well equipped with her handy dandy Pyrex measuring cups and her old fashioned graters (for shredding the evidence!) Each Quilta holds up a tomato pincushion, her fave sacred relic, and between them is the Turtle Moon Studios Test Kitchen Cookbook! What we do best is to experiment, in all ways!
Marigold, St Q's favorite of our five cats, floats happily over the whole scene. She has all day to read all the diary writing on this piece, much of which became the print on St Q's twin muu-muus! Somewhere in this writing, I talked about trying to train Jimmy to do what women do best, when working together in the kitchen: The Kitchen Dance, in which we naturally move around each other, letting each other get past us, to reach things, work at counters, etc. Men are bad at this one, feeling pushed or offended, when women need to get into the drawer where the man is standing, etc. Women are fluid, men are like rocks! And we, of course, need each other.
I think the writing all over the quilt, probably more than we usually do, reminds me of how we write in the cookbooks we actually end up using. We make notes to ourselves about what worked, what didn't. They can become diaries in their own ways.
All the writing is done with the airbrush this time. Only the big word letters have sewing around them. The airbrush paint is a rich enough black to not have to be sewn over. Thank God!
The most exciting part of making this piece was in creating the whole new painting around the smaller card art, mostly done, or at least with all its imagery in place, before the decision was made to enlarge the piece. Staring at all that blank canvas around the card piece was challenging, and almost scary, but exhilerating. I knew we could do it!
The hardest part was quilting all this huge expanse of canvas by hand, with embroidery floss and a crewel needle. Laid it out on the big work table, rolled the quilt in to the part we were working on, and listened to a lot of books on tape!
"Liberty Weeps for Her Country." 2001.
44" h x 34"w.
Whole cloth painting with brush on and airbrush paint over hand dyed fabrics. Machine quilted, hand embellished with glass beads glass formed image beads, Navy Waves dyed blue shell beads, antique clothespins, buttons, polymer clay faces, glass floral marbles, and two beaded snake appliques.
This quilt was made in response to the attacks on the US cities New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001. It was started on Sept. 13, 2001, and finished eight days later. Knowing that the quilting would be done by machine, I decided to make the painting strong enough to hold up visually without much embellishment. I hope it does. Making the piece was incredibly good therapy for me, in my state of shock, as was all the world in shock.
This art quilt is about wanting peace in the face of chaos. Offering beauty where you see only death and destruction. Lady Liberty here is an angel bearing two red roses of peace. Her crown is upside down, at the top of the image, with a large eye watching the future. At the bottom of the quilt are two snakes, the stealth and deceipt of the attackers, but also the reminder that it's the Year of the Snake. Snakes also represent grounding and transformation.
Along the edges of the quilt are antique tension clothespins, the ones from my 50s childhood that had heads of people or animals on them. These remind us of a happier time. The dull colored buttons between the clothespins remind us of the hard work that has been done and will continue, to rescue and clean up from the attack. Hard work must go on, to create peace again. Faces I made of polymer clay are at the top of the quilt as angels and along the side borders, as our friends and family. In the sky are blue pearl buttons, those used by the Navy on Wave dress uniforms, to represent our military trying to protect us. And on Liberty's shoulders are signs of balance and peace, for these things have always been part of the United States' offer to the world.
May things get back to balance and peace, more than ever, soon. Soon!
"The Skillet / Strength: Card #8 in The Kitchen Tarot" 2002.
44"h x 31"w.
Materials: Whole cloth painting on cotton fabricl. Embroidery floss and other threads, glass and other beads, buttons, polymer clay objects made by the artist, sequins.
Methods: Airbrushed with Createx airbrush paint, then hand brush painted with Deka Permanent Fabric Paint. Hand and machine quilted, hand embroidered, hand beaded.
This piece was made for three intents: a Valentine show at Doubting Thomas Gallery in Tremont, Cleveland; an entry for the Aullwood Audubon Center in Dayton's "Night Sky" theme show this last Spring, and of course, to be the next card in The Kitchen Tarot project of ours. The next traditional card being Strength, I had already planned to make this piece be "The Skillet / Strength," so it would need a big iron skillet, but also a Valentine heart and a big night sky. I made one little incomplete sketch in my diary junkmail sketchbook, and then took up the airbrush to my big piece of white fabric.
In the traditional Waite Rider deck, the one that most tarot artists reference from, Strength shows a very calm woman, gently closing the huge jaws of a male lion with her bare handsserenely, no less! When it came time to decide what to put inside the heart, which I'd painted inside the big skillet, I decided that St. Quilta the Comforter would be this lady, only of course she'd have her muu-muu, her frumpy cross and heart doily, her halo, her teacup on her head, and she'd be closing those lion's jaws. I did go back once and peek at the Waite deck's woman and lion images, to get the posture similar.
Below the big skillet I had more space to draw, so I put my head and then Jimmy's on the other side of the skillet. Gave him a cheese grater and me a tomato pincushion. Added one of my favorite kitchen things, an orange colander, up in the top right corner, above the comet whose tail has the word Strength written in it.
After hand painting with Deka fabric paints over the airbrush and heatsetting that, I sandwiched the painting with batting and some fabric dyed by my friend Anne Warren. Then I free-motion machine quilted the whole piece. I was playing Beat the Clock, because I had to get this work to Cleveland on Feb 6th for the Valentine show! Jimmy free-motion zigzagged around the lion, and I hand embroidered/quilted around St Q and around some of the stars, adding wiggly embroidery lines in the sky, etc. I added as much stitching by hand and beading as time allowed, and I was working on this piece to the total exclusion of my normal business paperwork, etc, which is how I would always want to work! A perfect week of nothing much besides making this quilt! Ahhhhh!
I added hand embroidered/quilted story lines here and there about making chili with Jimmy, how I grated the cheese for him, because I love him, but he chopped the garlic. Then he reminded me that he had chopped the onions for the chili, too, but there was no more room for this addition around his face and the grater, so I put that in St Q's halo, along with the French knots. I added that he also went to the grocery store, down by the pincushion. There I ran out of story telling space! I had written stuff about the Strength card's meaning, up by the colander and along the top of the piece, when I had done the original airbrush work. And I'd written around the heart and in the sides of the skillet at that time, too. So this piece ended up pretty chatty, including stuff from our daily lives, which is my favorite thing to add to any piece. I am first of all a diarist, then a storyteller!
Adding more handwork to this quilt off and on all this year, I haven't been able to leave it alone! Jimmy doesn't have this problem, but I sure do! I say I am first a painter and then a quilter, but I know the truth is I am solidly both. I don't like the machine work I do to save time, so eventually, you won't see much of that stuff, buried under the hand work!
"The Dish Soap / Hermit: Card #9 in The Kitchen Tarot." 2002
59"h x 34"w.
Materials: Whole cloth quilt, but the white "whole cloth" is made up of white dish towel and white wedding dress train pieces. Embroidery floss, fabric paint, glass and ceramic beads, sequins, shrink art stuff, buttons, a tiny golden sewing machine trinket...
Processes: Airbrush and brush painting. Much, much hand embroidery and beading. All writing is hand sewn over... maybe Jimmy did a little machine sewing over a little of it, if there's some that I wrote in cursive.
This is the tenth quilt in our Kitchen Tarot series of 78 quilts total. This one is The Hermit in regular Tarot decks, and it was hard to figure out a Kitchen image for. We got lots of ideas going, but nothing seemed to fit for a long time. Either my quilt artist friend Michele Merges Martens or I thought up that the dish soap bottle could be the hermit, and she was with me when I found the bridal train at the Goodwill, without a wedding dress to go with it. So I had to buy it, and I decided to chop the center out of it, to be the main part of this quilt. I gave her a piece of the train, too, and ended up giving parts of it to 26 other artists, and they all have 20 years in which to make their Runaway Train quilt. But both Michele and I got ours done in September, 02! Yea! Mine is this piece. But oops, that's a whole different story, the Runnaway Train Project!
I made a quilt sandwich of white dishtowels from Lehman's hardware store as the face for this quilt, and then I appliquéd the central panel of that runaway train over them, so that the dishtowels stick out of the top and bottom, and the train, with its lace appliqués and pearls and sequins, sits between the top and bottom title words, its graceful arches of lace making the curved lines of the quilt. In fact, the way the appliquéd lace forms the shape of the dish soap bottle was remarkable to me, and I airbrushed the whole design in black outlines, as soon as I saw that form! Then I colored in the shapes with the airbrush, and added some brush on fabric paint, to polish it up.
The hermit is the dish soap bottle, because the dish soap sits under the sink, in the dark of the cupboard, and it looks like a little person. Remember how women used to have little aprons made up for their dish soap bottles? Yikes! How silly, but there they were. So it's a person under the sink, in the dark = hermit. OK, it's a stretch, but it's My idea, and I like it!
The hand holding out the candle comes from the traditional hermit card image of the hermit carrying forth this light into the world. The pink teacups are because I like teacups. The faces looking down toward the candle are twin St. Quiltas, like in The Cookbook / Hierophant quilt #5. St. Q has an evil twin, I guess, like we all do! Or maybe it's a good twin. Some people have twice the energy of the rest of us, so it could be that.
I ended up stitching this piece to pieces! I stayed up way late, many nights in August, 02, to get it done for the Quilt National entry. Then I pulled an all nighter on Sept 3, taking my slides around 5 am, so Jimmy could get them to the developer, and we could overnight our entry. We made it. I was planning to do much less hand stitching this year, and some of the quilts are painted and have a lot of machine work, compared to this one. But I've realized I truly love the hand sewing, and am bored stiff with machine sewing. I like to do it, but it's so flat! It's ok on other people's quilts, just not on mine. I hand sewed all the writing, too, and kept adding more writing, as I worked. Gretchen's flat tire, finding the Carnival Glass butter dish, Hattie's knee surgery, Julia Childe's birthday, sharing Mom's diamond ring with Gretchen, all these are written about, and more. Luanne's 11th death anniversary, during the Perseids meteor shower again, as it's the same nights each and every year.
This is our first major piece to have shrink art stuff on it, as some of the embellishments. I wanted to make all new stuff, maybe some teeny weeny dish soap bottles, for instance. But I ran out of time, so just used some of my stash of things made since late June, when we discovered Shrink Art, at Q/SDS, in our class. All the shrink art is made of Lucky Squirrel poly shrink, and I signed them all on their backs.
I liked putting the little moon faces in the pupils of the eyes at the top corners, and putting glass stars all over the two faces. Oh, I forgot that the writing on the sides, around the dish soap bottle itself, is all about our engagement and wedding and anniversaries. We just had our 26th anniversary of meeting, on Sept 14 (1976).
I had to go back and sew down all the pearls and sequins, which were on the bridal train in the first place. They turned out to be all loose! I guess they only make these things to last for one good day of use!!!! But now they're all solid again.
Next Kitchen Tarot quilt is "The Lazy Susan / Wheel of Fortune: Card #10 in The Kitchen Tarot." I have it already painted, from a class here at Turtle Art Camp in May, 2002. I used kitchen items that correspond with the signs of the zodiac, in the big wheel, and the student here that month, Trish DuBois, helped me figure these babies out. That was tricky, too. Actually, the next three Kitchen Tarot quilts are all started, thanks to demos I do when teaching. I think it'll take two years to finish all three of them.
"NEO Buddha" 2005. 56"h x 57"w. #294
Begun 2-45-05, Finished 3-6-05
Materials: White cotton, fabric paint. Airpen and hand painted. Machine crazy grid quilted. One Green Temple Buddha Boy bead.
Processes: Whole cloth painted quilt. Hand and airpen painted. All lines machine crazy grid sewn. No measuring. Tons of diary written straight onto the painting. This piece is much more a diary quilt painting than an art quilt.
Statement: When our daughter Gretchen and her husband Michael found out they were having a baby in 2004, I knew I should become the nanny for this child. Jimmy didn't like the idea, but I pushed and pulled and found ways to make it happen. Now in 2005, since Nov 1, 2004 really, I've got a granny pad in Lakewood, two blocks from the kids' place, and I go over there four or five days a week to take care of Eva, while Gretchen works at the art museum in Registration.
So now I have a double life: I live at home in Wooster two to three days a week, always weekends. And I live in Lakewood more. I have stuff in my apartment to make art with, to do my paperwork with, and to live with. Doubles of some things, others I carry back and forth, and some are just in one place, and I wait til I get there to work with them. I am trying to do art full time yet, while being a full time nanny as well.
This piece is my initial diary of what it's like to live across Northeast Ohio, commuting thanks to Jimmy, since I don't drive. About one hour each way, providing that the weather is good. It was pretty bad this winter, and winter ain't overwith yet!
I don't go out much, but have made a few new friends in Cleveland and already had some. Some of my Wooster girlfriends like Renie and Pat and her YaYas have been up and have helped me some with moving and getting back and forth, when Jimmy can't do it.
Eva is the spittin' image of my baby Gretchen, so often I get a déjà vu while taking care of her. Only I had Gretchen in 1970, and I'm a lot more both tired and wise than I was then. So it balances out, I suppose. Gretchen and I both have the advantage that we're not taking care of a baby 24 hours a day, so we both get replenished, hopefully.
I wanted to use light Spring colors in this piece, but when I made the two houses (Wooster and Lakewood) bright dark orange, then everything had to go brighter, darker, to balance. I did all the writing after the painting, in stages. As usual, I wrote whatever came into my head, and kept pulling It back to the subject, if I could. The Gates in Central Park went up Feb 12 and started going down this last week, early March, or was it really late Feb? Anyhow, Robin Schwalb, my dear Brooklyn buddy who works at The Met, got me a swatch of the Gates fabric from a monitor (this was legit!) and I was so swooning over the "saffron" color of the gates, that I chose to have this color very strong in my piece. The sewing machine thread is Christo and Jeanne-Claude's saffron in color. Or close!
I have slept under this piece, even though it isn't really big enough for a bed, and I don't consider it a quilt. I think of it as a diary quilt painting, which is what I dubbed my work way back in the mid 80s, when I was doing an MFA thesis at Kent State University School of Art. I think this is really much more like a diary quilt painting than those things were, and it sure has a ton more writing on it, thanks to my airpen!
Happy Spring! Susan, March 6, 2005, in the sun and 48º in scenic Wooster, waiting for Jimmy to get home from his first bamboo fly rod making class in North Carolina, at John C Campbell Folk School. You can read all about that on NEO Buddha, coz he was gone ten days, including today, and I really missed him.
More works to come soon! I plan to go back this Fall and add a lot more images of art quilts we've made. Maybe split the gallery into several shows, so that the pages will load faster. Please stay tuned! Thanks, Lucky
Turtle Moon Studios
Susan Shie and James Acord
| Classes | | Gallery | | Green Quilts | |Links |
| Resume | | Stuff to Buy | |Turtle Trax Diary |
| Visit Jimmy's Leather Studio
Web site created by Susan Shie and Jan Cabral ©1997. All subsequent web site work ©Susan Shie 1997 - 2006.
This page last updated by Susan Shie, June 20, 2006.
Web site hosting by Key to the Web, Ltd. ©2006.