Monday, August 4, 2014

This is SAQA Europe/Middle East: the Romance countries (or: An American in Paris)

Elizabeth Byrom

I’m an American quiltmaker living in France.  My husband Stuart and I moved to Paris in 2008 after retiring from IBM and the University of North Carolina repectively.  Most of my career focused on research, evaluation, and professional development in the use of technology for teaching and learning.  Although my career was fulfilling, it was completely unrelated to quilting or textile arts.  It was also demanding, making it difficult to find time for working in my studio, participating in quilt groups, and taking art or quilting classes.  Since retiring, though, I’ve been known to happily spend days on end in my studio in Amboise (Loire Valley), trying new techniques, methods, and materials for making art quilts. I especially enjoy experimenting with various aspects of surface design, such as screenprinting, monoprinting, multi-layer dyeing, and the use of resists.
One of my recent projects was to create a chart of over-dyed colors. 

Several years ago I took a class from Heide Stoll Weber in which 21 students collaboratively created notebooks of 1750 color samples made from combining gradations of the basic (unmixed) procion mx dyes.  What a fabulous resource the notebook has been!  The more I get into over-dyeing, though, the more I’ve needed a similar reference, one that shows what you get when you over-dye an unmixed color over another.  The results are sometimes surprising.  Because I work a lot on silk, I made the chart with silk twill, which is easier and less expensive to buy in France than mercerized or PFD cotton.  I suspect a similar chart made with cotton would look somewhat different.
Another recent project was in response to “A la manière de…”, a challenge proposed by Exploration Pour l’Art Textile (EPAT): .  My piece, Hommage à Frank Gehry, (Photo 2) was inspired by the architect’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa, Spain, which I see as a cathedral to modern art.  It’s breathtaking!  

As one might guess from the quilt, Gehry doesn’t like rectilinear shapes.  His structures have a certain lightness about them, realized through the use of glass interiors and exteriors as well as titanium outer layers of the buildings.  To make the quilt, I used about 25 different surface design techniques, including deconstructed and breakdown printing, monoprinting, and dyed transparent fabrics.

In 2009, four friends and I created EPAT as a way of bringing together quilters interested in learning techniques and methods of textile arts.  I’m the group’s Directrice Artistique, said with a wink, as we are an unpretentious group.  Most of the 40 EPATantes live in Paris or nearby, while others live in other parts of France.  We originate from many different countries, including France, the United States, England, Canada, Italy, Germany, and Norway.  At least three EPATantes also belong to SAQA.  EPAT meetings are held once a month at the Mairie du 4em Arrondissement (town hall of the Marais) from September through June.  Each meeting features a two or three hour workshop on a particular theme, technique, or material chosen from a list voted on by the members, e.g., shibori, resists, working with acrylics, working with metals, creating texture, creating abstract designs, etc.. Workshops are led by EPAT members and tend to be hands-on.  Each meeting also features a Show and Tell where members have an opportunity to show recent work.  When possible, we have exhibitions of our work resulting from annual challenges, one thematic and the other based on the themes of our workshops. In June, 2014, Elizabeth Barton came to Paris and led a very successful three-day class for us based on her book Inspired to Design.  Photo 3 shows the EPATantes at the June, 2014 meeting of EPAT.  I’m the one in blue, sitting at the right end of the first row.  

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