Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Crit Group, very wordy

The thing I miss most about being in Florida for the winters is my crit group.  I've written about us before but I will again today because it is such a special and important part of my life.  Back in about 1980 or so I had met Judy Becker and we started a little support group with two other women we met in our local guild, Quinobequin Quilters that had just formed.  We were so happy to meet each other because the rest of the guild (maybe 10 of us) were more interested in traditional work.  The woman who actually got busy and formed the guild was forward thinking and did some very scary booking of speakers knowing we had no way of paying them, but somehow, someway we always came up with the money at the last minute.  So, our tiny guild booked people like Mary Ellen Hopkins, Jean Ray Laury, filled the high school auditorium to hear a new quilter on our horizon, Ruth McDowell as well as others I don't remember.  So we were exposed to influences beyond our home town and before there were quilt books documenting every friggin quilt stitch!

But back to the crit group.  One of our original four members got a divorce and had to get a full time job, so with the emotional and physical turmoil she was going through she had to let go of quilting.  Our hole was filled by one of Judy's good friends who did some wonderful work but also was dealing with a troubled personal life and she had to move on.  Another member was an art teacher from a neighboring town who was also a member of another guild, a longer established and more avant garde group called Quilters' Connection based then in Arlington, but now in Watertown  MA.  They were known for their wonderful annual show which I attended for the first time with this bunch.  I was simply blown out of the water at what could be done with quilting and stitching and from that point on my fate was sealed.  I joined the new guild (I think Judy beat me by a year or so.) as my little original guild moved toward more traditional work and speakers after the driving force visionary woman moved to Florida.  Meanwhile Judy and I continued meeting weekly over pizza and talking about extending invitations to several women whose work we really loved in the QC show.

So. (and I may have some of this out of sequence) we added in Sylvia Einstein and Nancy Crasco right away, later Linda Behar and Carol Grotrian, then Jude Larzelere when she was in the Boston area.  When Jude left, we asked Barb Crane to fill her space.  So, for over 30 years we have kept that line-up and have regularly met every three weeks. When we started we all had young kids, and now we all but one have grandkids.  We went through much adolescent angst, had a few troubled teens between us, but amazingly we are all still married to our original husbands.  All of us have at least one kid who has gone on to make a living in the arts.  Most of us have taught across the country, several of us internationally.  Every one of us has at some point been in every big-deal show at least a few times and I don't think there has been a single book about contemporary quilting that doesn't include most of us..  We cheer each other on with each little victory.

OK, but what do we DOOOOooooo, you ask.  We haul in whatever we are working on, we bring in books we have read we want to pass on (not necessarily fiber related), information on upcoming shows and events, we have our stories on what we have done since the last meeting-  and now that includes much travel and adventure outside our formerly small circle.  We sympathize with each others sorrows as we have all lost family members and dealt with failing parents.  We celebrate the triumphs of each offspring's wedding or a new grandchild.  We don't have snacks but Judy makes us a big pot of decaf that we drink out of her husbands beautiful handmade mugs.

But the big thing is the trust and almost 'shorthand' we have developed when describing our own or discussing each other's work.  Sometimes there is the dreaded silence that descends over the group, and oh boy, how that says it all!  Occasionally work is rolled back up immediately when that stone-wall-thing happens, knowing well that it needs to go back to the drawing board.  Sometimes there are questions of intent, questions of method, questions of direction.  We know that if we need to do too much explaining that things are NOT where they should be and work needs to be done.  Sometimes things are met with ohhhhhs and ahhhhhs.  We are beyond the 'rules' of critique.  We don't feel it necessary any longer to cushion our comments, but we certainly feel free to offer advice and point out problems freely.

The thing is that for some reason none of us are the Alpha Dog, we have no leader or someone who runs the machine.  There is no thread that shows itself in all our work, and in fact as we go along it gets more and more individual.  This is so different from other crit groups I have known where a certain  similarity appears.

Judy for several years now has been working on a series of 12" square mounted work using commercial fabrics, hand stitching and quilting, and always embellished with a piece of found rust that we bring to her from our morning walks.  Her pieces are all abstract, but there is no doubt they are landscapes.

 Sylvia also exclusively uses commercial fabrics and is totally involved with how her color moves from one block to another, the connections between blocks, and the grid that is so evident as a unifying element.  Her work is so completely her own that you can spot it immediately by it's bright colors and high contrast.

 Carol, on the other hand, has taken dyeing and shibori to new heights.  She has become a master at dying each specific piece of fabric in her landscapes to fit specifically.  She has used very traditional dyeing techniques and made them strictly her own and does luminous and beautiful work.  Lately she has added more of her hand stitching though her pieces are always hand quilted.

Barb also used commercial fabrics but changes them by using reverse sides, painting in certain areas, subtle modifications that give her exactly the color and value she needs.  Sometimes there is paint added when the piece is all together, but we can never find it-  she is a master of the light hand when it comes to paint.  Lately she has spent less time quilting and has devoted herself to poetry which she approaches in the same manner as her art-  adding similar subtle modifications with words and meanings.  She is known for her ethereal and spiritual landscapes featuring trees and their relationships to sky, or birds which we all know are symbolic of Barb herself. Her work is usually hand applique and hand quilting.

Nancy has gone off on a completely different tact working with the traditional Korean pogaji form but doing contemporary ideas with it,  Her work is largely environmental in focus but she also explores time and place, on going themes.  Her 'quilts' now are transparent silk organza sandwiches enclosing paper and fabric and found objects, all with meaning and intent beyond their ethereal firs impressions.

Linda is the remaining member, and she has given up quilting completely and now does exquisite embroideries using both machine and hand work.  She also deals with landscape, but the miniaturized version  as few of her works exceed postcard sizes.  She photographs extensively and bases her work on what she sees on her travels.  Each piece takes months, and when you go to her site you will see the attention to detail. Recently she had a show at the Fuller Craft Museum where they made some tote bags out of her images, using their huge display banners.  When I saw them I went crazy because each of her tiny stitches is blown up to several inches long-  I HAD to have one!  So I am toting around a Linda Behar piece wrought larger than any life!

So, I challenge you to go check out all my friend's websites and see what you can find there in common with each other!  (You'll find mine HERE if you aren't familiar with my own artistic schizophrenia.)

Note:  I got the binding machine stitched on the baby quilt yesterday, got TY back to the airport, did a babysitting stint with Elias while his daddy slept off the flu, food shopped for my remaining week here, and made it to crit group last night!  I'll get the binding stitched down on the quilt, and hopefully on the wall to block it before I leave for the Clam City this afternoon. Speaking of that, TY and I ate at our favorite fried clam place yesterday and I didn't get any!  I had a hunk of salmon of top of salad and later the glucose levels were perfect, so I was somewhat happier over the NO-FRIED-CLAM dictum.   This sucks.  Today I am trying a new pasta that supposedly traps most of the carbs and sends them through your system without giving them time to stop and look around.  This is my Great Pasta Hope, in spite of the serving size being 2 oz., so I will report back later after I try some.  Lettuce Prey.

1 comment :

Kay Koeper Sorensen said...

I absolutely loved this post Sandy.
So great getting up close and personal with the members of your crit group.
I believe the only one I have met is Linda Behar at a Fiber "something" meeting in Racine, WI.