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Plantano, Sycamore, Planetree

Plantano, Sycamore, Planetree

Alanna Nelson observes detailsTree bark deserves a pause. For a statically significant portion of our lives together, my hub waits as I stop at another sycamore  (or plane tree or plantano, as it is known in Italian). Pulling out my camera, the bark’s earthy, rich textures and colors are a testament to the tree’s life journey. Snap! Another amazing specimen for my collection. Isn’t it magnificent?

Sycamore photography by Alanna NelsonYears ago, hub used to groan. Now he accepts and adapts, realizing that this is just part of our life together.

Why does the bark appeal to me? The bark layers explore the possibilities greens, browns and grey. The outer bark layers peel away in rounded amoeba-like shapes. I learned that young sycamore bark can conduct photosynthesis, allowing the tree a kick start in the spring. The distinct shaggy shedding reminds me of its never-ending evolution.

My Plantano tree photo fetish started when we enjoyed passeggiate (scenic pathways) and viale in Italian and French cities. Sycamores and plane trees grow quickly, cast a wide shade canopy and put up with compacted urban soil and air pollution. French and Italian communities prune the trees to emphasize a low, spreading branch habit, which gives a knobby, gangling sculptural impact to the walkways during winter.

Alanna Nelson admires Bellano plantano trees

Bellano winter waterfront with plantano trees snuggled between sidewalks and streets.

From the photos, I assembled fabric collections inspired by those colors and textures in an attempt to recreate this lovely texture and feeling of continual rebirth. While I’ve made a couple of quilts, there were more possibilities. This winter, I turned back to those fabric packets. Layering fabrics, sewing shapes and cutting away the “bark” created branches and trunks. I also “discovered” fabrics painted more than five years ago that matched those textures!
Alanna Nelson fiber art painted fabrics
As New England hunkered through a cold, wet April, watching two Plantano quilts grow on my studio wall kept me distracted. I’ll put them up in my Fiber Art Gallery soon!

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Quilt Photo Declaration

Writing a Studio Art Quilt Associates member profile  about myself sent me scampering for quilt images. Turning to the CDs, flash drives and cloud storage nooks where my art quilt photos lurk, I found some nice memories.

Alanna Nelson art landscape quilts of Italy

Detail from “The Road to School,” 1999.

Alanna Nelson Italian landscape quilts

Detail “Road to School,” 1999

It took forever to sew these pinky nail sized leaves onto the Road to School. At that point, I would machine quilt for the bed, but art quilts were always hand quilted. Now I use a longarm or hand quilt, depending on the statement and effect desired.

Hand dyed wool, cotton art quilt Bright Sky by Alanna Nelson

Bright Sky II, 2013

I couldn’t easily find CDs of some professionally photographed quilts. Ack. There are quilts that I never photographed, some of which I’ll probably never see again.

Italian Landscapes in Art Quilts by Alanna Nelson

Gioia’s Rainbows, 2003

This little journey down quilt memory lane shows how pursuing the Master Hand Knitter program has reduced my quilting since 2013. That will soon be out of my life so I can focus on quilting more.

I hereby declare:

to photograph all completed quilts from this day forth, establishing a data storage policy which shall make future retrieval of digital images more efficient.

Nuno felt art quilts swirling into action

I promised to update you on the nuno felting results. This quilter just adores the water color, layered effect that nuno felt gives to my tops.

Equipped with roving in greys, natural off whites and blues, I actually completed one quilt with nuno felting yardage in April.  Attempting to represent moving water while still honoring the wooly origins of my materials, I placed needle felted “rocks” underneath a portion of the quilt top and then needle felted it to a suiting weight wool border.

Feline fiberista approved.

Nuno felt art quilts by Alanna Nelson With several nuno felt pieces in hand, I headed over to Laurena’s Longarm Quilting and experimented with different battings and threads. Hand quilting is imperative for certain portions of the quilt… it “moved” in just the right way.

Here’s a detail of Rapids….
Alanna Nelson art quilter Rapids 2016

And now back to the next episode of watery themed quilts. Time to dye some wool.

Trends of Quilt National 2015

Trends of Quilt National 2015

Alanna Nelson visits Dairy Barn Quilt National 2015A flash sale on Southwest Airlines suddenly snapped my long held daydream of visiting a Quilt National exhibit in Athens, OH. Owning several of the exhibit catalogs is never the same as seeing art in person. How I thoroughly treasured my afternoon dose of reality at the Dairy Barn, hanging out with the 84 expressions of art quilting today.

Choosing quilts must have been challenging for the jurors. Quilt National seeks to create a statement of today’s quilting trends; quilts that balance historic roots and yet incorporate new techniques and experimentation. As such, one could easily define this as a quilt exhibit and not a surface design or mixed media exhibit. Rich in message and layers of media, I saw these quilting trends:

  • Upscaling and recycling: True to a patchwork tradition, many artists used clothing and scraps in their work.
  • Adobe Photoshop: This software has become the quilter’s favorite. Whether creating images or modifying photographs, digital image manipulation is part of many quilters’ visual vocabulary.
  • Beyond textiles: From Deidre Adams‘ layers of paper to Wen Redmond‘s metal, to stones and other ephemera become integral to art quilting.
  • Machine quilting: The norm and not the exception, by longarm or free motion, machine quilting has become the norm. Storytelling through stitching was evident in many works. Hand quilting, what will happen to you?
  • Machine Embroidery:  Creating embroidered texture and images made dramatic statements on many works.

The show was hung well, using a variety of different mechanisms to let the work hang. Lighting was also generous and focused, without being detrimental to the longevity of the work. I walked around the exhibit once, soaking up the different artistic flavors… and the flavors were striking. There was often an enormous shift from one quilt to the next. Certainly the curators spent a lot of time trying to find the right flow.

Next to each quilt, the label stated basic quilt information and a QR code that would take you to the artist’s web site. I appreciated the artists who gave you a landing page with their QN15 image and perhaps a statement about the piece before exploring other aspects of their web site.

The Dairy Barn Quilt National 2015 You Tube Channel gives you a fantastic background for many of the works on display. Throughout the summer, I had viewed videos as they were released. This formed the basis of my second tour of the exhibit, back to visit the quilts I remembered from videos. I toured the exhibit one last time, listening to the artist’s video as I looked at the quilts. Got two minutes? Watch one of their videos… they are well done.

Quilt National closes today, but fortunately you can enjoy their YouTube channel to hear many of the artists speak about their work. If Quilt National 2017 is on your summer travel list, swing over to my travels in Athens, OH blog post for more scoops about enjoying the area as well as the art quilts.