Saturday, August 27, 2011

I get blown over--and not by Irene

One of the things I love most about doing a really good craft show is seeing the work that my friends have done in the last couple of years since our paths have crossed. You see there are lots of good shows out there--sometimes I get into them, sometimes I don't. Sometimes my friends get into them, sometimes they don't. But what makes it interesting is that these wonderful people get into the shows because they keep pushing themselves to try new things. To take an idea and see where it goes--while still maintaining their essential focus.

Let me show you. First I stop at the booth of Renee Harris. Now it feels like I have known her forever--though it hasn't actually been that long. Her graphic images were always strong and always portrayed just that right space in the imagination. This year I looked at her booth--still Renee's work--but the images seemed a bit softer. There was something about the colors. Different but I couldn't put my finger on it. Yes, the image was framed--sorry about the reflection but I hope you get the idea.

What is it? I asked Renee. It looks different.

By now she has become fascinated using Japanese papers and upholstery fabric. She said she was doing almost no felting. Instead she loved using the upholstery fabric. She could manipulate it so that sometimes the design showed through. Sometimes it is almost hidden by the surface detail.

If you look carefully in this fish you can see the colors of the fabric shimmering in the water. From different angles bits of the hidden surface re-emerge. Hard to photograph all the detail through the glass--you really do want to see it in person if you can. They are absolutely wonderful. She told me how hard it was to learn to sew over the paper--the needles did not want to go through the surface. But so much fun to go into the studio and play with these new materials.

Then at home--yes, she and her husband do have the joys of a new puppy. What exuberance. Lots of embroidery here too. And check out the wonderful use of fabrics.

More of her work can be seen at her website:

Then it was time for me to move on the booth of Susan Hill. Now I will be to the first to confess that I don't know Susan's work as well as I would like. Sure I can recognize it but she is from Kansas City and our paths have not crossed that frequently. However, who could not be in awe of the amazing spaces full of light. As she told me each one is based on a particular story although she reassured me that you do not have to know the story to understand the work.

Just look at this piece. Wonderful isn't it. So exuberant.

It turns out she weaves her own tapestry fabric and then appliques other fabrics and designs on top of it. There are so many textures and motions. So much detail. I could study it for hours.

Just look at all the detail and motion.  She assured me that her work is framed in museum quality glass. Gorgeous. For more info check out her website:

I could have studied her work for hours but time was getting short though and I did want to see the work of Martha Fieber. Now I first saw Martha at this show in Evanston a number of years ago and fell in love with the art. So subtle and soothing. Embroidery that conveys her love of the natural surroundings in Michigan and tells a story.

This time she had a stunning piece on the back wall. The largest she has ever done, she told me. How difficult it was to work with such a large--for her--piece. The detail and the rhythm had to be just right. When she first finished, she said she would never do anything that large again, but... Isn't it lovely?

I think it might be twenty--maybe twenty four inches long. The key is examining all the detail she includes in the work. Just look at the care. So many tiny French knots. Such rhythm and depth in the trees. Never repeating but seeming to open up into another enchanted space.

Oh I do love her work. And she doesn't only do scenes from late autumn. Here is a detail of a lovely brighter day. This piece is just exquisite. Can you imagine the skill that it takes and the patience? Her website is

But now the show is opening. I must return to my booth and think about all I have seen. So much inspiration. So much design that conveys the message. I know that when I return home I will work with renewed enthusiasm having learned and observed so much. The show continues today and tomorrow at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

For more info: If you are in the area--do stop by. Talk with these and the other wonderful artists about their work. What do you think? Do you follow a favorite artist? What inspires you? Whose work blows you away--figuratively not literally please?


  1. Lovely to see what's going on out there. Thanks Ann.

  2. Thanks so much for this post, Ann. I was especially excited to see the changes that Renee is making in her always intriguing and impeccable work. It was also a treat to actually look at Susan Hill's work. Pamela

  3. I have always loved Renee Harris' work. Thank you for the update and the introduction to Susan Hill.Beautiful.

  4. Glad you didn't get blown away! Neither did I in PA. Thank you for the peak into this exhibit! I saw a quilt by Annette Bamberger at the PA Quilt Extravaganza that had the most incredible use of color.

  5. Love Renee's work and have forever. So sorry to hear about your studio, Ann! Unbelievable. But it sounds like some of the important parts survived, and like you will survive as well. Best wishes to you in your recover and rebuilding.