Thursday, June 28, 2012

it's a small small world

I was about to post that only in New England could one hike to the top of Bromley Mountain and discuss Afro-futerism and Sanford Biggers installation work The Cartographer's Conundrum at Mass MOCA--but then I realized that my DH and I were speaking with a young man who had started the through hike of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and was headed for Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

Of course I loved the original piece by Sanford Biggers cousin--John Biggers. How could I not? It is about quilts and their significance to the African American community. It turns out John Biggers was one of the first African American to receive a UNESCO grant  to travel to Africa and study the many patterns and designs there. His cousin Sanford decided to learn more about John by following the travels that John did and trying to understand them. The term Afro-futurism was coined to describe this incorporation of African patterns into contemporary American art.  There is also a link to technology and music. So much there and so much I don't know, my mind spins with the possibilities.  But of course you don't even have to know this background to love this mural by John. So rich in color and emotion it haunts me even though it also humbles me with my ignorance.

I also loved how the younger Biggers took this image and the feelings of being uplifted and translated them into an installation piece that filled the entire HUGE room at Mass MOCA.  To my mind the very act of its visualization and actual creation was fascinating. One could walk through the installation getting closer and closer to the music and the joy that you could almost feel as the pews rose into the heavens. There were patterns of tiles on the floor. Broken stars of glass leading the way. Worn musical instruments providing a path to the end of the hall with the pews rising and the focus on a large melange of worn fragments of musical instruments and memories.

Then the video upstairs put lots of these feelings and the diaspora from Africa together in a manner that I had not entirely realized until I was on top of Bromley. Funny how things work sometimes isn't it? Now I want to see the show again. It runs through the end of October.  For more information  check out:

Have you seen this show? What do you think? Don't you love it when a chance conversation can help enlighten you?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

what is it about patterns and stones?

I knew as soon as I saw the listing on the map for Stone Village I just had to figure out what it was--wouldn't you? There is something so essential about stones. And also that mystery of being on the map? What was it?  Instead I read that it was a small enclave of houses all built using "snecked ashlar".  Don't you love that phrase?

Anyhow the stone came from a nearby hill in slabs about 4 inches thick and the larger stones were held in place using a method called "snecking". This is a Scottish term that means the stones are locked together with the smaller stones and then a mortar that could be mixed with moss or horsehair was used. The stone is a granite often speckled with mica called ashlar.

OK--I had to see it. The first place we stopped was the First Universalist Parish. What a lovely building, it is isn't it?

 Just look at all the patterns of the stones. Such an endless variation. So many design possibilities.

Maybe it is because I am a quilt maker I had to stare at the many patterns and resolutions. So many ideas here. The colors of the stone. The rhythms.

Luckily the church was open. Inside they had just finished a renovation. It was one of those glorious open New England churches. So serene and peaceful. With the ceiling reaching up in its simplicity. Just a bit of the previous wall paper was visible in the corner.  I was fascinated by the simple designs of the pews. More stripes as you can tell.

The church had been built as a Universalist Church in 1845 with the Town Hall in the basement floor. To maintain the separation of church and state--yes, that was so important back then--there were separate entrances with no stairways connecting them, the current minister told us.

Further, in the literature the requirements for building the church included the necessary materials and of course "a barrel of rum". The total cost was $1766.

Stained glass windows were added later. OK--should this be my epitaph?

For more information about the church and the congregation you can check out

But then it was time to move on and see some of the other buildings. They all looked like they were in use. Some were private houses and some were art galleries. Each one was different. Built in a Federalist style and all were visible from the street--although there is no sidewalk on one side of a rather busy road so use care. I loved the simple regularity of this building. Great placement of stones.

Because of the construction techniques the doors and windows have extra wide portals. Doesn't this house look stunning with the black shutters.

 Looking more closely I admired the care used to select the stones that arch over the door.


This home used white shutters. I was fascinated by all the different colors of stones used. Sweet isn't it?


 Even the garage  of this grand building was constructed of the stones. What a presentation.

And then of course there was the one black stone in this portal. See it in the upper right hand side.

But then the rains came in earnest and it was time for some lunch. What fun though discovering this little bit of history. The Stone Village is in Chester Depot, VT and on the National Register of Historic Places.  Yes, there is also a depot there. Apparently it is walking distance from the town of Chester where I confess there is a fabric store and a wonderful looking bookstore. So much to see. So many patterns to contemplate. And there are more stone buildings scattered throughout this area. Oh so much to see and do.

Have you been there? What hidden gems do you know?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oh Canada

What is Canada? Is it the queen? Or hockey? Long nights? The great northern lights? Or the open prairies? The benign neighbor to the north? Above the 49th parallel. Or more?

I admit I love Mass MOCA--the very large contemporary art museum so near by in North Adams, MA.  Their new show--Oh Canada--attempts just such a definition. Apparently there were about 400 visits to different artists studios and galleries in Canada looking for the best most provocative work. And what a show it is.

I loved loved loved this large latex sculpture by Kim Morgan called Range Light. Like a giant sail it stretches up to the second floor. So complex and shimmering it dominates the space.

But look at all the detail in latex. So carefully manipulated.

From the second story you can even see a door painted onto the latex and more great texture.

Listen with ear phones to the video production off the side of the large room in the first floor. It is tucked away under this scultpture. Asking in such a jaunty manner--what is Canada? Made me ponder and set the tone for the whole show.

Another piece I loved in the same room is Lookup by Wanda Koop. Again this stretches way way up with the colors and the rhythms just dominating the space. I love how it dwarfs the viewer but made me also want to stare and examine each color.

There were some wonderful ceremonial spaces and ritual objects. I took images but I couldn't capture in my camera but love the image that lingered in my mind. Some provocative drawings by the native residents on their contemporary life that I found almost heart wrenching in their poignancy. References to the dark starry nights and videos of the wind on the prairie. Another video of a ceremonial dance that kept me absorbed in the motions and colors.

I loved this large drawing of the textural slap of clay by Hans Wendt. Yes, this is a flat watercolor but the art just pops out of the frame in its perspective. This is just a detail but isn't it amazing?

I also liked the two contrasting scenes in these paintings--one of the pristine arctic and one of the ruined arctic although I failed to get the name of the artist.

Some great photographs. Some just lovely in the scenes. Others manipulated to convey a message. Lots more videos and installations. One a very dark room that you have to acclimate your eyes to see the wonders. Some pieces that I still do not understand. Shouldn't there always be work over my head? Do find the windmills of water bottles. Stunning.  And of course look for the coins carefully hidden in the corners.

So much to see--such a rich and varied exhibit. Have you seen it yet? What were your favorites? Have you seen any other great shows this summer? Here is the link to the show--it runs through April 1, 2113.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Bridge of Flowers

What a lovely day today. The heat has broken. Cool crisp air. The movie folks have left town. And I decided I just had to walk across the Bridge of Flowers to get my cup of coffee before starting work at my studio.

Have you seen it recently? Have you checked out the new water feature? Fantastic. I think I must linger here on another day. Stone by Ashfield Stone. Metal work by my friend John Sendelbach. How cool is this--no pun intended.

 Then the flowers. Masses of color. The yellow of primroses like bursts of sunshine.

The burst of blue from hydrangea. Tucked in the dappled shade of a tree.

And the roses. Never have I seen the roses look so marvelous. Sweeps of pink and red. Free flowing arrangements of white and rose. The subtleness of little moss roses. Brings back memories of the roses by our windmill. But I digress.

And the individual flowers. Each so perfect and complex. Each so different in their feeling.

Clearly I should walk across it more. Study it more. Absorb the colors. Have you seen it recently? What is your favorite feature?  If you are traveling through western Massachusetts, it is so worth the detour. And of course my studio is on Bridge Street so very very close to the Bridge of Flowers. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

is it trippy or traditional?

Now as many of you know, in my "spare" time I have become fascinated with stripes. Little bitty stripes that repeat but change. Each one different but consistent with the others. There is an energy that I am trying to capture. That sense of motion and change but with the repetition that is so human. Or at least that is my opinion.

I just want to make more and more stripes. See what I can do. Learn something new.  Some customers want a large piece made like this. One customer said that upon looking more closely at it she thought there was a traditional aspect to the quilt. Another found it "trippy". His word--not mine.

 stripes--36x36"--copyright Ann Brauer 2012

Close up of the quilt.

These little strips are nothing new for me actually. Sure I haven't done them for a while but in some of my earlier quilts I used to work with silks in the tiniest pieces possible. Eventually it became too tedious. It was technique not art and I wanted to simplify my work. Get back to the message I was trying to convey. The work had become too precious.

But maybe this is why I am so fascinated by these little stripes. I don't know. Anyhow, now is the time for my trusted customers to weigh in. What do you think? Do you miss the more organic wedges that I have been using? Are you fascinated by the wedges? What about the energy of the stripes?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

a blast from the past

OK--I admit it. I have had it with the movie folks in Shelburne Falls. I could go on. Even be an old curmudgeon about the whole thing.

But it did get me to thinking about what my quilts looked like in the '80's. After all I moved to Shelburne Falls and became a quilt maker in 1981. Back then Shelburne Falls had a movie theater--above McCusker's. We had an artist co-op in one of the long narrow buildings on the south side of Bridge Street. Village Variety. May it rest in peace. And the Food Locker--now Keystone. Also a couple of auto dealerships--one became a bank.  Larry's--how can one forget Larry's/ And two clothing stores that my mom loved. I never shopped there.

Now I don't have all the images of my quilts from back then but here are a few.

As you can tell, I loved the log cabin pattern. Also loved color changes. These were all quilted onto muslin with a polyester batting that was tied in place.

Not to brag, but I remember the first time I did the Smithsonian Craft Show. It was in the Justice Building back then. I had a roommate for the show who made wearable clothing. She was related to someone famous--I forget whom. But every evening she would sit and count her money on the bed. I sold nothing until Saturday night at five when all of a sudden three quilts sold. On Sunday afternoon, I sold out between the hours of four and five. People actually were fighting over my quilts.

Those were the days I guess.

Here are a couple of my early quilts.  Can you see the similarity between them and my current work? This was back when I would get into both the Smithsonian and Philadelphia Craft Shows--of course.


Bet the movie folks don't have anything half as nice to hang in front of my studio tomorrow. But then Shelburne Falls never really was the depressed back water they are trying to make us out to be. And we really and truly did have a drive-in and it was GREAT. Just saying.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

testing, testing, testing

Two windows. Three windows. Sometimes it is the small choices that matter most. You know the placement of those blocks of light and warmth. But since I added the ocean on the bottom, I couldn't use the solution I had used in the previous quilt. What to do? Yes this is the same quilt I have been working on. Finally got the backdrop pieced.

First, I must create the windows. Make the color just right--warm enough to go with the hints of red in the other art in the room. But brown enough to reflect the wood of the bed. Arranging and rearranging the fabrics. Then sewing.

Testing them on the quilt. You must know the process.  So hard to visualize what the quilt will look like when it is sewn together but I can't sew it together until I resolve it.  Do I like the two windows anchoring at the bottom. Just that splash of color. (Yes, you can see how crowded my design board is right now. Oh well, I can focus on the quilt.)

Or three blocks--like the original quilt. More of a feeling of going into another space isn't there--but is it too much? Is it too busy? Too red?

I sit and play with the possibilities. Stand back and squint. Work on other projects. Leave it for the night--maybe this morning it will resolve itself. I won't let my decision be made by the difficulty of the piecing. No way.

What do you think? Do you have any preferences? And for those who haven't read the first blog about this quilt--here is the link.

Monday, June 4, 2012

how long does it take to make a quilt?

Isn't that one of the questions that we get asked so frequently? Such a seemingly innocent question--but so hard to answer. "A life time" is certainly a true answer, isn't it--although maybe just a bit snarky. An actual calculation of the time it takes to sew the quilt is another answer--but what about the design time, the thought time, buying the fabric--it does add up. Sure I can do a guestimate--after all, I am a business person--but is that really accurate either?

Currently I am working on an order for a wonderful couple in the Carolinas. They saw my quilt ancient light. You may remember this one.

Ancient light--45 x 45"--copyright Ann Brauer 2011

Lovely quilt--the pops of light just draw the viewer in. I call this quilt ancient light because I was thinking of the mystery of the early caves. But--and as you may have learned there is always a but--the quilt is for their bedroom. A light and airy space with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Now, I did try to make this quilt a few months ago. Even blogged about it here but while vernal light is a wonderful quilt--it sure does not feel light and airy, does it?

So I thought and thought. Would contemplate the quilt in those odd moments. Doing repetitive hand finishing. The early, almost awake time in the morning. The clients--such wonderful people--sent me paint swatches and colors of the rug. An almost dusty grey green. Gorgeous and soothing. And the color of the bathroom--much more spring like. They suggested that blue on the bottom would reflect the ocean and the mountains.

Hmmm. Well, I just had to work on the quilt. Maybe if I started with a dusty blue on the bottom the quilt would come to me. Nothing to lose by trying.

 Not bad. I keep the paint swatches by my cutting board as I test the fabrics. It is hard to get the greens and greys to be just right. But I note that while the colors of a single block look dubious, a row of them does create an interesting color.

 And the next row begins to define the quilt.

Now if I can only keep my attention focused as I move further and further up the quilt. But luckily I do have the concept. The color palette. My answer to "How long does it take you to make a quilt?" is often a grin and the truth "The sewing is the quick part."  And usually I don't explain that sometimes I have to make more than one quilt to get the feeling just right, if you know what I mean.

Does this ever happen to you? How do you answer the question?


Saturday, June 2, 2012

the quilts of Ann Brauer--June showers

Yes, it is June. That wonderful month when my garden begins bursting with color. Already the Siberian iris are amazing me with their soft complexity. A few daylilies have started to add their accents of yellow. And even the tomatoes and peas--yes, I do still plant a few veggies--are starting to bloom. Almost every morning I hurry up there with the excitement of discovering what is new and delightful and the purpose of keeping the weeds down to a mild roar--if you know what I mean.

The big news in my studio is that people whose opinion I respect are fascinated by some of the new quilts I have been trying in my "spare" time. Always fun to struggle with new ideas and see if I can bring them to fruition. The big news in town--and it is big news--is the movie. Yes, they are using Shelburne Falls as the backdrop for a major motion picture. So the crews are out there trying to transform our charming village back to the 1980's. Part of me says--what fun. Part of me will be really glad when it is over. But even during the process, Shelburne Falls is open for business and I am busy finishing orders--still--and of course pushing these news ideas. Do drop by and tell me what you think. I do want to hear your opinions on the new quilts. (Of course, if you are coming from a distance, please call or e-mail me first to be sure I am there.)

In July I will be doing the Guilford Craft Show in Guilford, CT. What a wonderful show in another charming town. Then August sees me at the Berkshire Craft Fair and The American Craft Exposition in Evanston--with no floods, hurricanes or other disasters this year I hope. So stay posted for more details.

And now for the quilt of the month. This time, in honor of my Siberian iris, I chose "may". Now I confess I love the colors of this quilt--blues and teals. There is a story here. A joyous quilt that celebrates the colors of spring in my opinion. It is 32 x 48" with Velcro for hanging. Normally it sells for $820 but for the next ten days or until sold I will sell it for $600 plus shipping and any applicable taxes. So if you want it, be the first to e-mail me.

Hope to see many of you soon. The quilt has been SOLD.