Saturday, February 10, 2018

"More Sewing, Less Thinking" - or a Joe (the Quilter) Cunningham Retreat/Workshop

I am so pumped! I'm fresh back from a Joe (the Quilter) Cunningham Retreat/Workshop.  I think it's just what I needed to get myself going in a fresh direction.  A freighter ship takes miles to make a sharp turn and I've been feeling a bit like a freighter lately - wanting to change direction, but having a difficult time doing it.  Joe Cunningham is brilliant and just what the quilting doctor ordered - a huge dose of direction changing ideas.

The retreat was at a location near Seattle.  Here is a look at the week....

Monday morning, Joe spoke about his quilting philosophy, which I love.  A couple of "Joe-isms": "more sewing, less thinking" and "it's not the fabric that makes the quilt, it's you".  He spoke of some of his experiences.  And he showed some of his amazing quilts.  It was seeing his quilts, one in particular, last summer at the Sisters Oregon quilt show, that got me interested in him in the first place, so seeing more was a real treat and an eye-opener.

[As usual, my pix are not great, but will give you an idea of what to go looking for elsewhere on the web - many better pix of the same quilts.]


"New Lone Star" - Joe likes to tip his hat to past generations of quilters in some way.  In this instance, he took the name of a traditional block and pretended that he didn't know what it looked like, then made this quilt as what he thought a Lone Star might look like.  One of his "trademark" techniques is to use bias tape, which he did to great effect in this quilt.


"Some Dumb Old Painting" - apparently inspired by gallery paintings - he would rather have a portrait on a quilt.  Love his sense of humour.  And at this point, I have to mention that I didn't write any of this down - looking up the quilts for the names and trying to remember a bit about the detail - so it won't be very accurate.  Take everything I say with a huge bunch of salt and go directly to the source if you want accurate info.




"Bicameral Lover's Knot".  It seems to me that Joe started out by saying that a relationship should be all interwoven, blah, blah, blah - holding the quilt so that only the green side was showing.  Then opening it up to show both sides.  The individuals in a relationship are very different!  Did I mention he has a great sense of humour?





"Crazy City: Detroit" - lots of description of the various awesome fabrics used.    The dogs are by a person he knows.  He said snarling dogs.  But to me they look more like they just want to lick you to pieces.  It's all in the interpretation!!!  😎 The quilting is the really interesting thing to me - we associate Detroit with cars of course, and a close up of the quilting reveals rows and rows of parked cars!


I tried to zoom on some cars, can you see them (below - on the back)?



"Job's Tears" - made with paint drop sheets, old jeans, etc.!  It's soooo cool!!!!


If I recall correctly, the quilting is based off a piece of art (below). This is a huge take-away for me.  Joe has a computerized machine and he somehow manages to pick up art and put it into his computer, which will stitch it out.  I don't have a computer on my long-arm and not really interested in getting one, so I'm going to have to come up with some way to do something similar.  I guess I already have on some of my quilts in a small way - but I'll have to do it more and I'll have to refine the technique.



"Untitled".   This one is intriguing.  Joe explained that he took pictures of  the random patterns left on asphalt after the cracks have been repaired by that oily gooey stuff.  Then he took them to a person who embroidered them in black onto that almost white-ish fabric.  And he put them into this quilt.  And quilted it - again using his computer and genius ideas from art history.







"The Creek Dreams It's a River"  This one is of a creek flowing into a river (or something like that) and is based off some memories Joe has of some special friends in the place where he grew up.  He associates a couple of kinds of flowers with these two ladies and so the quilting captures those memories.






Finally, there is this quilt.  Ok - I'm suffering "traveler's hang over" today.  If I get back to this, I'll spend some more time researching to see if I can find a name for it.  Oh - who am I kidding?  I'll be quilting!  What I can say is that he used a bit more of that drop cloth and the quilt is fabulous!



And of course he spends some time being a musician, and he brings his guitar to his retreats, so we were "treated"!  Get it?  It's a pun....



Here are a few pix of the venue - Saint Andrew's House Retreat and Conference Center -  it's about 2 hours south and west of Seattle.  A beautiful spot.  Excellent food.  A bit rustic.  


Something like 17 people in the group, all madly sewing, creating.


Dining room before lunch.



View from the deck.  Hard to take!  😎






Work room during lunch.



Dining room during lunch.


Now we get to the fun-for-me part!  This was the first day's assignment.  First we made the inside part - the wonky stars.  Then in the afternoon, we made the border part - the jagged rectangular parts.  This is mine, and what I did with them.  It certainly wasn't a requirement to do this standard configuration (centre and border) - I just did.  The whole idea is to make a traditional block idea in a way that does not require precise measuring, cutting, piecing - no pattern!  



I used up the trimmed parts from the stars and "left overs" in the bottom border because I was too lazy to make more of the jagged rectangles. I'm viewing all the week's work as "exercises" - not as masterpieces!


On day 2, Joe came in and set up a rather precarious arrangement of boxes.  We were to make a quilt top based on the boxes.  He did a little demo and off we went.  



This is mine.  I "borrowed" the B/W triangle fabric from another person - she was very kind to allow me to use a bit of it.  It was a perfect addition to this little quilt.  It doesn't look like boxes at all, but I really like it!  😎 My secret weapon is florescent lime green thread for quilting in the black!  😎😎😎


Apparently Joe had done this same exercise in a previous retreat with less than happy results so he was very surprised when we all were finished well before the end of the day. What to do, what to do?

Start with the next assignment, of course!

Joe was well prepared - he had made copies of 17 or 18 paintings from a favourite art book - paintings by an artist named Paul Klee - and numbered them.  We each drew a number out of a paper bag and were given the painting of the corresponding number.  I think mine was number eight.  At any rate it is called "Snake Paths".


The assignment was to make a quilt based on the painting.  So I did.


About half way through this guy, I didn't think it was coming together at all.  But I thought about it over a break, got an idea and came back to it.  Got that part done.  Then I had to take another break to get the last idea and realize how it would all come together.  And it did!  So the lesson is don't give up.  Just take a break and keep thinking about it.  

I think the first "break" may have been dinner, and  the second break may have been overnight sleeping because I  think I finished this up the next morning.  My working title is "Snake River" but I don't think it will be my final title.  Although, as a nod to the Paul Klee painting, it will reference snake or serpent in some way.

Joe was a bit surprised that most of us had finished this project a lot sooner than he'd anticipated so he just turned us loose after that.  I was limited in the fabric I had - I flew in so didn't have a van to pack full of fabric - it had to fit in my suitcase with my clothing and other important items.  Next time I will bring more fabric, fewer clothes!  That could be another Joe-ism - except it's not - it's mine.  "More fabric, fewer clothes"!  😎😎😎

I used the last day as a "play day" - just played with a few experiments then put them all together in a small quilt.


I like the quarter circle idea so will work that into something else with better fabric choices for the final effect.  Of the four little quilts I made this week, this is probably the only one I will debate about quilting.  I may use it as something else - a bag or something.  Or maybe I'll quilt it first - then use it in a bag or something.....  

This week was sew, sooooo, so much fun!!!!!  I learned a ton - mostly just to relax and not worry so much about the outcome.  It will work out and it's more fun if you don't stress about it.  Another thing Joe said is that you only need to know one thing and I think what he was referring to here was the "subject" of the quilt - e.g., the Klee painting.  it doesn't have to look like the painting, but the painting inspired the outcome.  Not sure if that makes sense to anyone but me.

In addition to being a brilliant quilter, Joe Cunningham is a really nice man.  It was really fun to be able to spend some time with him.  I found it super inspiring.  So if you are reading this Joe - thanks!

It was really fun to meet so many interesting and accomplished quilters.  I hope I can stay in touch with many of them.

I got the impression that everyone attending the workshop had at least as much fun as I did - many of them had been to several previous ones so I guess they must like it!  I'll probably try to do it again, although anyone who knows me, knows I hate planning that far in advance.  This was a stretch for me - I booked at the end of the summer.  But I do want to do it again.

Keeping in mind that we all stand on the shoulders of greatness, I'd put Joe Cunningham in a quilting category of his own - not traditional, not modern, but "Joe Cunningham".

And just for fun, this was from the retreat when I left yesterday morning:



And this is in front of my house this morning: