Monday, June 28, 2010

Mission Impossible?

The mission--which of course I will choose to accept--is to make the rainbow quilt in blues and greens.
As you may remember, this quilt was a definite challenge--going from yellows to oranges and reds to purple and then blue. However, the wonderful couple is not fond of the reds and oranges so I want to see what happens if I go to blues and greens.

I will be doing the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftspeople Show in Wilmington, DE July 31-August 1 so I do need to have plenty of work. This show is in air-conditioned comfort. I think it should be great. But enough about that--let me consider the mission at hand.

One of the main problems is that the color progression will go yellow--green--teal--blue.  Sounds easy but green is one of those difficult colors to find in fabric. Sure there are the earth tone greens. Usually there is some bright primary color green. However, all the other more subtle colors of green can be very hard to find. Each year there seem to be different greens introduced--and the colors do not work together as well as they should. But there is no choice.

Rather than fretting--it is a lot easier to just begin with what I know. Doesn't this piece look so lonely on the design board by itself. It sure seems like it will take forever.

Well, let me fill in the yellows and greens. Here I can use the earth toned greens so this shouldn't be that hard.

OK--the colors are a bit softer than the rainbow quilt. That's OK.  Now though I have to begin going into the true greens and teals. How much change do I need to make the quilt work? After all I don't want the colors to be a blur--but I want the change to look logical and calm. Let me try.

Thinking about blur--sorry for the fuzziness of the image but the colors do change too suddenly, don't they? Too much blue. It's funny--it looked fine while I was making it. I can see this quilt will be a challenge.

OK let me rethink this. If I change this what will it look like? That piece of fabric was originally made to resemble a watermelon rind--but it is a great color.

Amazing how such a simple change can make the quilt work.  Time to take out some stitches. I can see this process will be very slow.  Oh why did I start this piece?

OK--let me try this

Friday, June 25, 2010

solo show Contemporary Landscape Quilts

I just shipped my quilts off for my solo show Contemporary Landscape Quilts of Ann Brauer at the Landmark at Corporate Campus in Tarrytown, NY.  I'll post images from the show after it is hung. Thanks Wendy Kelley for all your work.

Here is the information about the show:

Tarrytown, New York

Contemporary Landscape Quilts

July 2 - October 1, 2010

Ann Brauer grew up on a farm in Illinois where she watched her grandmother make quilts. She complete her education to become an attorney Twenty eight years ago she moved to Western Massachusetts and began supporting herself making contemporary art quilts.

Brauer's work is in museum and public collections including the US Dept of State, the Springfield Federal District Court, the American Museum of Art + Design, NY Wool Institute, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Museum of Women in the Art both in Washington, DC. She has received an award of Excellence from the American Craft Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. The quilts are for sale. Viewings by appointment.

All inquiries should be directed to Wendy Kelley Fine Arts   203.912.1044

Thursday, June 24, 2010

sometimes I'd rather be gardening

Recently the weather here has been almost perfect--sure it's been too dry. Our pond has become little more than a puddle. But it has been sunny, clear and not too warm. I hear that a Canadian air mass seems to have settled over us. Very few bugs even. I noticed on my days off that even fabric shopping doesn't have the pull that it normally does. I'd much rather just stay home and work in my garden. Of course I am a "good" business woman. On days my studio in Shelburne Falls is supposed to be open, I am open.  I have lots of work to do--orders to fill, quilts I need to have.  At the end of July I am even doing what should be a wonderful craft show down in Wilmington, DE through the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftspeople. But at the end of the day I hurry home and head for the garden. Supper has become at best a rather informal affair. Salads and sandwiches. Poor DH.

Why though? After all gardening is hard dirty work. My muscles ache. I get splinters in my fingers. And still the weeds keep growing. I just can't catch up. That's what I've been thinking about recently.  I read on my day lily forum of one gentleman who spend a day moving hundred pound clumps of hostas to a new bed and I am jealous. (Yes, I am a member of the American Hemerocallis Society--it is fun being involved with something that isn't quilts.) Another woman writes of weeding all day and tumbling into bed and I envy her.  Right now my gardens don't even look that good. It is almost an in-between season here. The Siberian iris have ended and need to be dead headed. How short that season is. The Japanese iris are just beginning. Only a few day lilies are blooming right now--my favorite is pinocchio.

Sweet, isn't it?  Such a tiny perky flower.  But mostly they are just promising blooms for later.

So why do I want to spend my time in the garden? Some write of the meditative nature of gardening. Certainly that is true. My mind wanders into a quiet rhythm as I weed the new seedlings. There is the fun of looking at the new blooms. The feeling of power and strength. I wrestle one yarrow that is too tall out of the bed. Hot and sweaty work but such a sense of accomplishment. I'll put a hemorocallis flava there to accent the peony.

And it is this vision that is part of my desire.  I look at the rock garden with its hardy mums. Let me show you.

All pale yellow. They bloom at the end of the season when little else is left. But it's overgrown. Brambles have started to grow in it. I see it every day when I come home. I wonder if I can thin out the mums. Put in a few miniature iris at the edge. Find room for more day lilies--whites and pinks I think will look really great against the barn board. What fun to pull out the mums and discover such  lovely rocks. I add compost and bark mulch. Hmm. What do you think?

More mums need to get pulled. The lilacs need to be pruned. And that Stella--I am getting a bit weary of Stella. What else can I plant there?

In many ways it's like making a quilt. Visioning the whole and then putting them together. Although unlike a quilt,  I will have to wait for at least a year to see if it really works. And then unlike a quilt it will change in a week or two as the seasons change.  Clearly I need to plant bulbs this fall. Won't that be glorious in the spring? Maybe even some fall crocuses would be lovely. Interesting thought.  Taller day lilies up by the house would also be nice. What do you think? Do you find it hard to come inside on a nice day?

Monday, June 21, 2010

rainbow hills--more thoughts on design

Sometimes pictures do tell the story very easily. As you may know, I love to work in series. Each quilt helps me see what I need to make next. For instance I just finished the quilt rainbow hills.

As you may remember from my last post I was trying to make a quilt similar to hills and shadows but without the black and the sparkles of white.

This is the first of what may be a series of prototypes for a larger custom quilt. The piece was really a challenge. I began by making a very very rough sketch. Then I keep making what I know. Stop. Try to figure out what comes next. Each block is actually two different colors--they have to relate to the previous colors but they are changing. One fabric can either make the block or take the quilt to the wrong place.

It seems much harder without the black. I sort of miss the white sparkles. A very different piece.

As I work I have to stop and take pictures. This gives me an idea of what the quilt looks like from a distance. I play with different ideas--should the colors be darker. How do I go from purple to blue? How much teal should I add? Will this really anchor the piece? Are the colors sort of even in their intensity?

Then when I sew the quilt together I also look. For instance consider this piece when I have removed the top row that has the most yellow. How would the quilt look without so much yellow? Interesting.

 Maybe the next piece doesn't even need the yellow. A subtle difference--but worth considering. Amazing how different the piece looks like when it's done. Maybe I should try one with a less sudden color change. So many possibilities. I wake up at night when the moon shines just right and think of so many quilts I want to make. Now if only I could find the time. Should I just make another one like rainbow hills but with different colors? Or maybe start a different variation on this design? What do you think? How do you create something new from something you've made before?
What do you think?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

playing with design--what fun

Sometimes I am lucky enough to just have fun with my work. Consider this quilt--hills and shadows--which I made a few months ago. I love it. I love the colors and the motion. It was the first one I had made just like this and if you read any of my blog posts about it, I spent a lot of time fretting about how to create the overall effect. Wondering if it would work. Did I get the colors right? You probably know all the questions. You've probably asked them yourself.  Fretting, waking up at 5 am with possible solutions,  but in the end, let's face it--it's fun. It's why I make quilts.

Well one of the results of showing this quilt is that I have a wonderful couple who likes my work but they wanted a calmer piece with a rainbow effect. Hmm. An interesting challenge.

How to make the piece without using the black and white lines? Would it even work? And the rainbow effect--definitely a challenge to get the colors to flow. But if it works--it could be lovely. You see, that's why I love doing custom work--always something new to stretch me.

I decide I should make a wall hanging as a prototype. Large enough so I can see if the concept works. Small enough that I won't be tied to the quilt forever. I am a firm believer that the way to get to Carnegie Hall is to practice and the way to make great quilts is to experiment.

Now I have a friend who makes absolutely wonderful quilts--all sorts of awards and museum collections. I love her work. She once told me she totally pre-planned her quilts before she begins. Then she spends five days doing the sewing. A very different process. But it works for her.

Not me--I begin by making a sketch--figuring out the color progression and the size of the blocks.  My sketches are very rough--usually I don't even color them in. Y stands for yellow. R for red--you get the idea. Then I start piecing. As always I tell myself that I must make what I know.

Are the colors working? Too red? Or will it be tamer and more contained when I add the blues and purples. As you can see I have already had to play with one block to make the colors a bit more intense. I think there are a few more blocks that will need to be switched.

And of course there is the problem that there is always at least one color that is hard to find--this time for me its teals. While I won't need a lot, I need a larger assortment than I have. So last Tuesday--even though the weather was absolutely perfect for gardening--sunny, no bugs, not too hot-- it's off to A Notion to Quilt in Shelburne.  (You can tell how great the day was outside just by how reluctant I was to go fabric shopping.)  I remember they do have certain teals that will be perfect for this piece.  What do you think? Enough teals? Why is it always one color that I need?

I still don't know if the quilt will work. Because each of the blocks is both a color progression and an intensity of color progression, I have to think all the time. Oh so slow this quilt is. So many blocks that just aren't right the first time. I stop and take pictures--look at it from afar. I even clean the studio a bit as I work on it. But already I'm dreaming of the next piece in the series. After all, my favorite question is "What happens if...????"

So how do you work? Do you carefully plan first or just begin? Does it change depending on what you are working on?

Do you consider the struggle fun? Are you always thinking of the next quilt? Or do you plan your works in advance?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

it's time to finish the quilts

OK--I confess that normally I am pretty good about finishing orders. As you may know, I do like to buy more fabric. In addition, I love the feeling of completion--after all that work, I want to see what the quilt looks like. The possibilities of new pieces dance before me. New colors that I have been dreaming about. 

However, every once in a while something happens and work ends up hanging over me. Such is the case with the quilts for the Springfield District Courthouse. Let me tell you a bit about this project. A new federal district courthouse was being built in downtown Springfield. A gorgeous building designed by Moshe Safdie--an internationally renowned architect. Indeed the building itself has won awards. It was built around two ancient and magnificent trees. An absolutely glorious light building. The other artist was Sol Lewitt.  There were to be four court rooms--each one named for one of the four counties in western Massachusetts. Each court room had a wall designed to hold fiber art. I was honored to be asked to make these quilts through the GSA's Art in Architecture program.

Now this was a HUGE order and of course I was brought in at the last minute--that is frequently what happens with architectural commissions as you may know. I chose a simple rolling design with each quilt reflecting just slightly specifics of the county for the room for which it was designed. For instance in the Hampden Courtroom--which is the county for Springfield, I represented the two large trees. One a copper beech and one a magnificent oak. Hampshire County is known for its fields and meadows while Berkshire County of course has the  Berkshire Mountains.

Each courtroom had three quilts--while the size varied--they were all about 4 feet by 10 feet. A lot of sewing in very little time. Indeed I learned afterwards the only question the persons in charge had was whether I could finish the work in time. Of course I had to prove them wrong.

So I sewed. I went in on my days off--I stayed at work late. I learned every way I could to save time. Since finishing the quilts requires a lot of hand work which I couldn't do all at once without developing carpal tunnel I would finish the bindings while starting a new piece. And I had a secret bit of knowledge--they were not going to build out the last court room--the one for Franklin County for a while. I only had nine quilts to make.

The quilts were all hanging when the building was opened with great ceremony and many dignitaries. I was exhausted. Don't they look great though?

And I was SO ready to move on to other designs that I put the Franklin County quilts aside. I would get around to them later while I enjoyed working in all of the wonderful colors and designs that did not fit into the court house project. I'm sure you can understand.

Finally this winter I got the last of the Franklin County quilts pieced. Again I left the bindings for later. Gradually I sewed on the Velcro for hanging. Almost done. But always just a little bit more to do. After all even if you think of it as just three quilts, there still is a lot of work to do. Three quilts to press and thread pick. Three quilts to sew on the labels. But it is time. They are almost done. And I have heard they are planning to build out the last court room soon.

Do I wish that I had finished these quilts earlier? Sure. I have other quilts to make. Will I be a bit sad when this order is done? Of course.  Maybe that is why it took me so long to finish the last three quilts. I have enjoyed working on it even though the only people who can really see the quilts are the judge, the jury and the defendants.  Will I ever get such a great order again? I don't know--my next opportunity may be something entirely different. Life works that way. But it is time and I will get those quilts photographed and down to their new home.

What do you think? Am I the only one who can sometimes find it hard to finish an order?

Friday, June 11, 2010

how to "succeed" in small business (while really trying)

OK--it finally rained--a wonderful soaking rain--just what my garden needed. And now the sun is making a brief and welcome appearance before more rain this week-end. I must find time to move some iris into a new bed.

But first I wanted to share with you this blog post by Jeanne Yocum. She has started a series of posts on tips from other small businesses. I was honored that my Quilt Studio in Shelburne Falls was the first chosen. I hope you'll read it and let me know what you think. Indeed she is going to be doing a whole series--I have a feeling she will have some more great ideas in future works. Don't we need all the help we can get in today's economy?

And now--a quilt named october sun before I head outside. See I told you this post would be short and to the point.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

thoughts on why I make quilts

Recently I read an amazing statistic on Twitter that 14% of all households in this country have at least one member who makes quilts. Think of that--that's huge. Over 16 million households spending a total of over 3.5 BILLION dollars in quilting fabric and supplies. Check out the results here-- to Quilters Newsletter in cooperation with International Quilt Market and Festival, a division of Quilts, Inc for this fact). Average age is 62. Female. They even researched the favorite types of fabric prints--but I digress.

Now let's face it--most of these quilt makers are making what we call traditional patterns. The pieced patterns--Ohio Star, Trip Around the World, Irish Chain. Patterns that they can name better than me. They are doing the newest methods in quilt making--Slash and Stash (or is it Stash and Slash),  Strip Piecing, Watercolor. Names that fly by me as they proudly tell me of their latest adventure. Do I dye my own fabric? Have I seen the latest TV show?

And I must confess there is a part of me that is a bit envious. In another life, I would love to make the perfect Double Wedding Ring Quilt. What about a Tumbling Block Quilt--hand pieced and quilted. I love the simplicity of the older Amish Quilts. A wool quilt in perfect colors. Wouldn't it be fun to see the larger patterns develop in a Storm at Sea pattern?

Now in reality I know it is not for me. I used to make log cabin quilts. Lots of them. I love that design. But I tired of the long seams. I tired of the frustration of so much repetition. I used to play all sorts of games with myself--counting the number of pieces left to sew together. Promising I could take a break when I ran out of bobbin thread. Trying not to count the amount of work left to do.  It still wasn't enough and I worked on developing my own style.

Now there have also  has been an interesting series of discussions on the SAQA forum--that is short for Studio Art Quilt Association for those who don't know. A great organization of artists who are exploring quilts as artistic expression. Some of the members I respect the most are questioning whether the definition of quilt--three layers, attached--is too confining. Would they sell better if it was called fiber art? Or textile art? Does the history of quilt making lessen the perceived value of the work? Are we now beyond this?

All interesting questions. And very sincere issues.

But I think there is more to quilt making than just following the latest patterns and designs. I think of an older woman I knew slightly. Her husband at the end of his life was becoming even more ornery and demanding by the day as his health failed. Basically as she said--he was impossible to live with--but she had no choice.  She admitted quite bluntly that without her weekly quilt group she would have gone crazy herself.

I remember a wonderful presentation I saw while waiting to give a presentation at a Quilting Guild in Williamstown. Woman after woman proudly showing the quilts they had made so a distant city hospital could wrap them around children whose lives would be all too brief. The only memory some parents would hold of an anticipated child. Hundreds of quilts made with so much care and purpose and sent off to lessen sorrow just a bit.

I think of myself a couple of days ago. As you may remember from my last post, I had to go to a funeral for a friend of mine who died far too young and far too suddenly. The young adult children trying to make sense of the senseless. The minister--a friend of the family--trying to promise an after life that did not at least at the time provide me with answers. For solace I pulled weeds in my garden with a quiet rhythm. I mulched day lilies. Labeled iris until I had made some order out of a chaos in my mind.

And for me I guess I need to keep this larger concept of quilts in my work. I feel that it gives an additional meaning and depth that fiber art would not. By adding these memories of the traditional my quilts become part of a greater whole. Does it lessen their freshness that they are rooted in the past? I don't know--and I am not sure I care. Would I want to forget all those other quilt makers and the needs that quilts fill? I don't think so. At least not right now.

And you--do you keep the traditional in your work? Do you think it should be kept? I am not sure of the answers.

Monday, June 7, 2010

iris, peak season, how fleeting life is

OK--I  had several different blog posts I was going to write--I'll do them later--but sometimes life just intervenes in ways that you can't anticipate. Writing about it can be a way for me to make any sense of a series of events that just happen--even when I don't see it at the time.

So let me tell you a bit about yesterday. Sunday. There was finally some rain--it has been really dry here--so my DH and I  moved some ferns from a lawn that will get mowed to an area he had just cleared of downed trees. It needed something and looked great. Then I headed to my studio in Shelburne Falls--another order to finish. The town was hopping with tourists though the weather seemed to be one of those days of rain--wind--sun--in endless repetition.

I ignored the weather and was finishing the quilt when I noticed that one block just did not work. The colors were just wrong. Grrr!!!! Was it just me--no, it didn't work. Now there is nothing I hate more than fixing a quilt. It is tedious work that always feels like a waste of time. When I am almost done with a quilt, I want to move on and work on something else. Instead I have to painstakingly pick out the stitches, make the piece right and then put it all back together again. It always takes twice as long as I intend. Grr!!!! I put it up on my design board.  Maybe the quilt will work if I wait a few minutes.

Now it so happened there was an open garden just a few miles away--peak season--this is a garden I have heard about for years. At the iris show I went to last week-end she had some of the most beautiful flowers.  Tiptoe through the rain drops. Sure. I needed a break. I could just sneak off--come back in an hour and then fix the quilt.

Yes, the gardens were absolutely lovely--even though the rains came while I was there. Huge clumps of absolutely exquisite iris in full bloom. Blooms in colors I had never seen before. Each one more beautiful than the next. The gardens absolutely perfectly manicured. Paths covered in fresh straw. All the flowers labeled. I was in awe and resolved while I was fixing the quilt to get up early the next morning and establish at least some semblance of order in my gardens at the studio. I must do more weeding. Though I also felt a bit of sorrow--peak season on June 6. Summer has not yet begun.

Last night as I was planning the work I would do in my garden I heard that a friend's husband had died suddenly. Now I didn't know them as well as I could have--until I saw his obituary I didn't know just how famous he was--but still I considered them friends. I saw them at craft fairs. She is a wonderful fiber artist--if we were both at a craft fair by ourselves, we would go out to eat together. Maybe once or twice a year I would see them. If her daughter or mother were helping her at a fair, they would stop by my booth and chat in slow moments. If her husband was at a show waiting so sweetly to help take down her booth, he would drop by to pass the time. When I needed advice how to proceed with an architectural commission, I asked him--he wrote about architecture and he knew his material backwards and forwards. And his advice was good and helped me get the commission.

So when I learned he had died so suddenly it really hit me. I had just seen them a month or so ago--they had dropped by my studio before splurging at the best restaurant in town. We chatted about writing, blogs, craft shows, their kids, how much dinner would cost but they just had to try it.  They did know how to enjoy life.  It was too close, too sudden. I hugged my DH hard last night.

This morning I went to my garden to dig out a few iris and day lilies to take down to the studio. And while I was up there working, I realized that I just had to post a few pictures of iris from my garden to show my deepest sympathies for Sally, Christopher and Catherine at the loss of their  David.  How fleeting life is--how short the iris season is. They should be enjoyed  now.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

inspiration--the color blue and iris

Last Saturday was the Iris Show in Shelburne Falls. Now this is not just any iris show but it is the Western New England Iris Show. And while most of the people are from Franklin County there were exhibits from across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. For me this is something I look forward to every year. I actually close my studio for an hour--even though there are people in town-- and look at the iris--absolute perfection. Each one so distinctive in its own way. Tiny as my little fingernail. Big as my DH's hand. What colors and designs.  Of course I buy a few more iris. There is so much hope here.

Now I love my garden. It is not carefully planned with just the right hues and colors. It would never be on a garden tour. I try to label the plants--but labels do get lost. I try to arrange the flowers but sometimes I just have to tuck something in. I never have enough time to get rid of all the weeds. But there are dreams of purple and white. Pale blue and midnight purple.  I have rows of flowers that I just had to have--sometimes I move them into my more planned beds. Sometimes I just look at the flowers--the detail, the color, the awe.  A present that I get to constantly open.

Now I know there are true gardeners out there who are already shaking their heads in dismay. They would carefully decide which of two irises would be best in a particular spot.  I admire them. I love The Bridge of Flowers and the formal gardens of those who carefully plan them. But it's not me--I'm a kid in a candy store. When a friend asked if this was inspiration, I paused a second--but then realized that indeed I was getting inspiration--perhaps even at a deeper level than I realized.

Now some of it is the color blue. What is it about this color? There are so many different shades of blue--the purples, the greens, the greys. If you've ever tried to coordinate fabric--blue can be so hard.
Iris is blue. Sure there are other colors of iris, but think of the Siberian iris. The most wonderful intense blue. The iris remind me of the feelings of the color blue in so many different ways.

For instance look at this sweep of color. For about a week there is an intense sea of blue Siberian in front of our house. Isn't it wonderful with the red poppies and the barn red of our house?

It is so hard to capture the deep rich blue. Made more intense by the variations in the individual iris. It takes my breath away with the pureness of the color. Such an expanse of dreams. I could take pictures of this all week.

But then there is the wonderful little papillon--I think that's French for butterfly. I love how it grows in clumps of dancing white and blue. Aren't they absolutely wonderful and delicate? Not sure I'll ever make a quilt about it--but it is just so joyous.

And the individual plants--each with their own subtle variations. For instance consider the blue of this iris--doesn't it just glow. It really is this color.

Or this one--it is called mad magenta. Look at the range of colors in this one. So much to see and absorb. Absolutely outrageous.

And an earlier Japanese iris--so many different colors in one flower. How do you absorb it all? Such perfection--even with the ant. Again I look at this one again and again.

I could show you pictures all day--what a way to procrastinate. The deep intense blues of mountain lake--a Siberian. Or the intense purple of starlite velvet--a tall bearded. But you get the picture. I am surrounded by blues right now. These colors of the sky. Always something new. Some fleeting beauty to try to remember until it makes way for yet another one. But I think that is part of the inspiration because in the haste of the iris to bloom I have to concentrate intently on each one of them to absorb all their beauty in just a few short days until it becomes a part of me.

Yes I know I'll make a quilt that tries to capture this feeling sometime--the colors of the ocean, the expanse of the sky, the whisper of early morning. My quilt won't duplicate the individual flowers or even the flower beds. That's not what I do. But maybe I can capture the essence of this color--the feeling of the color blue. And that is part of the reason I buy more plants even though I don't have space.  And I know that in some ways my quilts will be like my gardens--lots of wonderful fabrics that I purchase because I just have to have them--and then arranged to create wonderful color sweeps that try to convey some particular feeling or emotion--the sweep of the sky, the mystery of the ocean, the intensity of my iris. Part of the reason that my quilts are inspired by life.

And you? Do you think of blue as the color of spring?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why are we so interested in art that is "new"?

Recently I have been doing a lot of thinking about the dilemma between creating a body of work versus the urge/need to create something "new." Certainly there is a lot to be said for a body of work--there is the old adage that "Practice Makes Perfect." If you hope to support yourself selling the work, then customers need to have the reassurance that they are going to get what they want. This is especially true if your customers--like mine--may take years to finally have the space and money for one of my pieces. I believe in the business world, this is called branding.

Indeed when I apply to craft shows I usually have to show 5 slides showing this work. Because this body is juried as a whole, I have learned it is important to have the slides be closely related so they can be read as a statement in the 3 or 5 seconds the jury may have to observe my work.

On the other hand, show directors, gallery owners and even the general public like to see something new. Indeed there are shows that I believe I did not get into because my work wasn't "new" enough. I recently had one customer ask me if I didn't make something different--even though he hadn't looked at my work for over a year and almost every quilt in my booth was "new".

Now I will be the first to admit that I have rolled my eyes--politely of course--at the numerous artists I know who had one great idea maybe 20 years ago and have been selling it--quite successfully I might add--ever since. Why--I would wonder--can't they come up with anything new? When they did present a new concept, it just never worked as well as the old concept.

Yet now that I am feeling that I am becoming one of those people without even knowing it, I wonder if I am giving them short shift. Let me explain. Certainly I use one concept--quilts made in blocks using a method I call quilt as you go to create abstract landscapes. ( Regular readers of my blog do know my technique--or check out my quilts at my web site Within the confines of this process I am actually always pushing myself to say new and different things. For instance I began by making this work--views of spring--a few years ago.

Wonderful piece. It took forever to make.  It helped me win an Award of Excellence at the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore back then. I tried numerous variations on the form and the colors until I learned all I could from the piece. Then a couple years ago I figured how to simplify it by making prairie dawn.

Again--a great piece. I made a number of similar pieces to understand this piece. But it could be even simpler--so this winter I made prairie sky.

For me, I think of these quilts as new approaches to similar feelings of sun and sky. The time between making the first and the last was actually several years. Each quilt presented new artistic challenges and questions. Certainly the work can easily be identifiable as my work. And yet I can understand why--even though these quilts are part of my same body of work--others may think that I am not creating new-enough work.

Now I do also know and admire those who are challenging themselves to create totally new work. One quilt maker I know took an entire year off to learn how to felt. Her new work is wonderful and I so admire her effort. Another friend--a weaver--is now working in sculptural glass while retaining the feeling and memories of weaving--amazing work. How brave these women are!

But I am not sure this is for me. At least not at this point in my artistic life. I still have much to say with my current techniques. I just wish that those seeking something new would also consider the body of the work. What do you think? How do you approach the dilemma between new and having a body of work? Is it even a problem for you?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Quilts of Ann Brauer--June schedule

A monthly post on my schedule for the month of June.

Wow--can you believe it is June already? The year is absolutely flying by. Already the iris are blooming in my garden and I have the first of the day lilies. My tomato plants have started flowering.

For me, June will be a month of getting ready for shows later in the summer. This is good since it means I get to spend a lot of time in my studio in Shelburne Falls as the village gears up for the summer season. There is a lot going on this month. The Bridge of Flowers is in full bloom with new flowers opening almost every day.

On June 12 the Village becomes alive with the annual Riverfest. This celebration of the Deerfield River is a family event with sales, activities along the river and a wonderful parade of "critters" from the river.

For Father's Day the Trolley Museum just up the hill from me will be offering free rides to all fathers accompanied by a child of any age. The next week there will be a Civil War Re-enactment will be part of the annual Trolleyfest with many special activities. It should be fun.

In July I was selected from more than 100 quilt artists to have a show--The Landscape Quilts of Ann Brauer at Landmark at Eastview in Tarrytown, NY.This show which runs through October 1 may be viewed in person by contacting Wendy Kelley of Artworks at . I will be posting pictures of the show in July.

Then July 31 and August 1 I'll be participating in the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftspeople show in Wilmington, Delaware. I am very excited about this craft show which is indoors along the Riverfront in Wilmington. I will post more information about this next month.

Whew--I'm exhausted just thinking of this. I do continue to write posts to my blog a couple times a week. As you can see, I am also working on other social media. Feel free to join me on Facebook or Twitter. Or if you are near western Massachusetts, do drop by my studio--I am there most days except Tuesday--though call or e-mail me if you are coming from a distance.

Here's a picture of my most recent quilt.

Yes, this was the quilt that I've been working on--what do you think?

Ann Brauer
2 Conway Street
Shelburne Falls, MA 01370

E-mail me:



Contemporary landscape quilts.