The Arlington Center for the Arts includes this quilt for Unravel – a fiber art exhibit that sheds light on the contemporary political scene. Difficult to photograph, this quilt shimmers in real life. The messages from signs remind me of the positive, political determination of that day on the Boston Common in 2017. That shot of energy is perfect every day!
The reception is May 17 from 7 to 9 pm, but it’s on view through July 8. The selections cover a wide range of textiles and messages. Can’t wait to see all of this fiber art in person!
On a post-travel, post-exhibit, post-finished work high, I am. The 2019 edition of Verona Tessile ended on April 28. If you are a fiber art or quilt lover, definitely put Verona on your 2021 list. Now, let me try to separate the thoughtful threads currently tangled in my brain….
By their hands, we are fed. Alanna Nelson, 2019. Cotton, wool felt.
Finished and photographed a week before my departure, relief and gratitude abounded as I tucked my contribution to Annamaria Brenti‘s Finestre Migranti project into my carry on duffle (You can read more about my thought and construction process).
What a gift it was to have the time and contemplative moments to create this work. My goal: let this quilt inspire you to savor your next meal and consider how it arrived on your plate. Here are a few detail shots…
Now it’s time to work on other pieces that fermented while stitching. I hope to flat bed scan “By their hands..,” leveraging the hours of work and ideas into other projects.
Finestre Migranti at Verona Tessile 2019
How to display more than 40 contributions totaling nearly 80 meters of fiber art – now that’s a curator’s installation puzzle to solve. Silvanna Zenatello, a key force behind the project, cleverly designed a serpentine path where each quilt flows into the next. Thanks to the Verona Tessile sponsor SEC Events, their crews adeptly installed the support structures following Silvanna’s CAD drawings.
Installation took a big chunk of the day, even with excellent preparations and layout instructions. Fortunately, Emmanuela, Katrina and I are tall enough to reduce ladder climbing. Sigrun became a master Pinner, and Maddalena dashed to wherever Silvanna asked. Silvanna brought many quilts with her from Roma and Lazio. Others were delivered to Ad Maiora in Verona, still others delivered on installation morning.
Finestre Migranti – first public exhibit, many emotions
After working alone on my Immigration Windows/Migrating Windows project, I relished hearing experiences and emotions that mirrored and differed from my own. With contributions from Chile, the US, Italy, Kenya, and Gambia, the artists presented universal and timeless perspectives on immigration. I reunited with Lazio quilters from my Frascati days. Many quilts were delivered by hand, so new friendships developed, including SAQA member Shoshi Rimer.
Our shared experience making an Immigration Windows quilt created immediate kinship even if it was the first time we met. We had a fun meal out together after the opening day, and I found myself stopping by the exhibit just to chat with whoever was white gloving.
Visitors responded thoughtfully and with great interest to the project. Nadia, a dynamic interpreter, was like a pied piper leading groups through the exhibit. In addition to enjoying the visual aspect of the work, visitors definitely enjoyed hearing the stories and understanding the techniques. With the artist statements and techniques in Italian, English and Spanish, people could alternate between the stories and the art.
On Friday morning, the Chilean textile artists gave a talk about the creation of their gorgeous contribution to the project. I shared strategies to encourage quilters to consider a conservation perspective when creating their quilts. We honored the young Italian residents with international heritage who explained the meaning behind their Finestre Migranti quilt.
Immigrants to Italy also visited the exhibit. I met three young men who are living in limbo without passports or an easy road to immigration. The enormity and duration of their endeavor was palpable in their demeanor.
“Forza,” I encouraged them. “Each day seems heavy now, but resolution will happen.”
Of course, resolution will happen. But when? How? How can I bolster and support people who are living in transient times? This window on immigration was living, not in textiles.
The opening day, April 25, was a national holiday, commemorating Italian liberation at the end of World War II. With the Festival taking place during the week after Easter and with free attendance, turnout included local, national and European contingents.
Annamaria just posted a video that followed the waves of the Finestre Migrante exhibit. Take a peek.
With Verona Tessile 2019 over, the next objective is to send the exhibit on the road. There are definite ideas and connections being made, so stay tuned for more details!
With those first threads of my travels untangled, it’s time to get back into the studio. I’ll share more people, sites and stories about Verona Tessile soon!
Surround yourself with those who share your passion.
My fiber art critique group, Joined by Stitch is a perfect example of that adage. Eight spirits work through different stages of their artistic journeys, creating beautiful examples of technique, message and visual delight. Our latest group exhibit, “Outside the Ordinary,” is on exhibit through May 31, 2019, the Sidell Gallery at the Essex Art Center. The well lit, white and brick walls of this Lawrence gallery is a beautiful setting. Let me know your impressions if you visit.
Waterfall (pictured above) debuts in “Outside the Ordinary.” Made of wool and silk felt stitched by machine and hand, this piece definitely highlights the latest bends my fiber art journey. Four of the six pieces on view were finished in 2018 – I guess I have been productive. At our Joined by Stitch group exhibit last spring, the work was more representational and used more dyed and painted woven cotton and silk.
In the Center’s Beland Gallery, you can also see work from artists who have shown at El Taller Cafe – a moving and shaking caffeinated venue in Lawrence that seeks to feed the community stomach and soul. Wow! The energy, talent and passion bounce off the walls. At the opening reception, it was great to meet some of the artists and ask questions about their work.
Blending different media and different perspectives gives the Essex Art Center a vibrancy that certainly reflects its mission. Often, fiber art hangs out in its own world. I’m delighted to see our work with painters, mixed media creators.
How lucky I am to be surrounded by passionate people.
Last summer, I felt certain my Finestre MigrantiImmigration Windows quilt would be complete by October. In October, my expectation was surely complete it by the end of 2018. Ha! As winter 2019 begins to thaw, I’m still feverishly felting and stitching.
Perhaps you read about my inspiration and thought process for my contribution to this international initiative. Although immigration and its ties to our food certainly focused my theme, the opportunities to express it swished and swirled until little lights sparked. This one quilt can’t do it all. There could be a series here.
Never had I written an artist statement before a quilt was complete. To meet the exhibition deadlines, choosing less than 75 words powered those lights. Suddenly, a path of color and texture appeared. I knew where to go next. Let this quilt brings a moment of reflection and gratitude for immigrant labor as we enjoy a meal.
Annamaria was in Boston, and we enjoyed a trip to the New England Quilt Museum. It was wonderful to talk about possibilities, logistics on the way up and then jump into the wonderful world of fiber art and quilts.
The Finestre Migranti exhibit opens at Verona Tessile on April 25. Annamaria revived my desire to go… dare I?
Follow Immigration Windows on social media using #FinestreMigranti.
With apologies to Thomas Oliphant and John Thomas…
"Deck the street with knit & crochet Fa la la la la la la la la They do mark "Clues from the Quilt " Fa la la la la la la la la Yarn and banners at seven places Fa la la la la la la la la Tis the yarn storm now in Melrose Fa la la la la la la la la"
Oh, yes, a December yarn bombing it was.
Seven locations in Melrose, MA were hit by a “yarn storm” during December 2018, as part of a the Melrose History Quilt homecoming celebration.
What is a yarn storm?
Also known as a yarn bomb or graffiti knitting, it’s an installation of knit and crochet items with a goal of expressing a public statement or to just personalize a sterile public space.
I’ve participated in a few yarn bombing and public art projects, but this was the first time leading one. From these experiences, here are five things I learned:
Define a goal to the yarn bombing (maybe your goal is just to brighten a place!)
Involve community ideas about the yarn installation.
Organize public knit and crochet sessions for contributors to mix.
Identify allies: craft guilds, knitting groups and yarn stores.
Ask for permission to install the yarn storm on private property. It doesn’t hurt to mention it to the public works department when installing on public property.
For “Clues from a Quilt,” the yarn storm (I chose a less violent term, although storms can be quite terrifying) kicked off in June, with World Wide Knit in Public Day). Thanks to support from Lucky Cat Yarns, there were monthly meet up sessions evenings and day time sessions at the Melrose Public Library. Winter yarn bombings could benefit from these tips…
Use large base components. Of course, you could have everyone make two inch squares or tiny sea shells and put your yarn bombing together, but similar sizing and larger sizes facilitate joining pieces and making an impact. We asked people to make squares and rectangles using multiples of six inches (i.e. 6″ x 6,” 6″ x 12,” 6″ x 18″), which was perhaps on the small side considering we targeted seven locations in town. Either fewer locations or larger base pieces would create more impact.
Use support structures that can be installed indoors, then set up quickly outdoors. At two locations, the yarn blocks and banners were installed on fences, which went up quickly. At other locations, old campaign yard signs, wooden shipping supports and wire tomato cages were decorated indoors, then set up outside. By joining pieces as they were contributed, it made installation at the end less daunting.
Stitch together contributions as they arrive. We installed the yarn storm during the week after Thanksgiving. Having snowed shortly before Thanksgiving, the soil was pretty hard. Cold temperatures and stiff winds reduced the amount of time mitten-less fingers could properly function.
Plan time for yarn bombing maintenance. Depending on the goal of your yarn installation, keep in mind that winter weather can be difficult on yarn bombings. If you can assign group members to check on the installation, many hands will make light work. For “Clues from a Quilt,” a 42″ tomato cage tipped over in high wind. There wasn’t enough top soil to truly support the taller structure (the 36″ tomato cage did just fine).
“Clues from a Quilt” also included banners to direct people to the web site. If I ever organize another winter yarn storm, those banners will be printed on fabric or mesh to better withstand the wind. Whew! This is one place where you don’t want to skimp on your expenses.
After the homecoming was over, we took down the yarn storm pieces, washing them and storing for the next opportunity to….
"Deck the streets with knit and crochet, Fa la la la la la la la la..."