Quilt National visit redux

It's nearly a month since I have returned from a whirlwind trip to Athens, Ohio for the opening weekend of Quilt National 2017. What a fun weekend it was! My friend Gail was my copilot as we let Waze guide us along the roads of NJ, PA, MD, WV and OH. The routes were all very scenic, but we had no time to stop for pictures, we had a destination to get to!

I have to say that as much as it was a thrill to see my art hanging in this prestigious exhibit, it was even more of a thrill to commune with all the artists who were there!

There's nothing better than hanging out with fellow creative souls. Sharing ideas, techniques, trials and tribulations and just basking in each others company. I was delighted to meet all the artists that I could, and wished every single one could have attended!

Here's the gallery view with my piece, Iron Spine 5XL hanging between work by Paula Kovarik and Kit Vincent, and then followed by Amy Meissner and Kerri Green

Here's moi talking about my work.... apparently I talk with my hands....
The powers that be took videos of the two minute talks that each artist gave about their work and when those videos become available I will gladly share where they can be seen. I always find public speaking rather nerve-wracking, but I was told that I spoke well and made sense. What more could I ask for?

Upon my return home, there was a lovely surprise in the mail - SDA magazine wrote a bit about the exhibit and used my art to illustrate it! So cool!
I'm still reliving bits and pieces of conversations that took place. So much to consider and enjoy remembering!


I've been preparing for my upcoming workshop at Hudson River Valley Art Workshops. And as I was going down my check list, I decided to take a peek at my page on their website. One of the images that is being used to promote the workshop is right below and is one of my favorite old pieces.
St. Pete Lace 1 © Natalya Aikens
It struck me though, that my ways of using Photoshop for my art has changed dramatically in last couple of years. And come to think of it so has my way of using vintage linens and recycled ephemera. So I took a little tour of my portfolio, and then my research and work in progress files, and pulled out a few things to share here.

Some of you might remember this piece below. It's my pride and joy, especially since it made it into QN'13. I used Photoshop to help create it. Doesn't look anything like the image above, does it?
The City © Natalya Aikens
Yet I used vintage linens, paper and dryer sheets, just like in St. Pete Lace 1. Of course I also added plastic and oil paint sticks to the materials list here. In my archives I found the Photoshopped image of the very beginnings of this piece.
photoshopped collage
I used this image as my guide for constructing the final piece. It'll be one of the things I'll be discussing in the workshop. Collage is such an integral part of what I do and Photoshop is my number one tool in the tool box.

Recently I participated as one the invited artists in The 100 fundraiser organized by Virginia Spiegel. The artwork I created for this event relied heavily on Photoshop too.
Fire Escape Abstraction © Natalya Aikens
No vintage linens here, but just paper and two dryer sheets. No machine stitching either. Yes on the hand stitching though! This one relied on Photoshop in a completely different way than The City. While Photoshop helped me create the guide for The City, in Fire Escape Abstraction, Photoshop helped me create color and line. Of course the printer was important here too. Below is how this piece started.
a plain old NYC fire escape
I am so looking forward to sharing how I use Photoshop in my art. There is just so much to it! And all of it is very intuitive despite looking scary sometimes. 
some vintage linens from my stash
I'm also looking forward to collaging the Photoshopped images with the fabrics, vintage or not, that the workshop participants will bring. Maybe even recycled ephemera too! The best part of teaching a workshop for me, is seeing what my students come up with. I love when they learn how to use a new tool to create their artwork. And how that new tool helps them create in new ways. 

And because this workshop is five full days, we'll get to spend time machine stitching and hand stitching! I've never before had an opportunity to have the time to delve in so deeply into a workshop like this. Can you tell I'm excited? ;)

To sign up for the workshop go here. To read my interview on the InnSane blog go here.

Come play with me!!

moving on...

From rejection to sharing. The artwork that I'm sharing in this post just got rejected from the holy grail of all the prestigious art quilt exhibits out there. Quilt National. I'm a bit bummed, I'll admit, but I am happy to finally be able to share the piece that I have been working on all summer and a big push to finish it in September. I am very happy with how it turned out. (Two years ago, when I had artwork accepted to QN'13, I was excited about it, but could not share it until the reveal at the exhibit and that was hard. I love to share my work as I work on it and when I'm done. So it's hard to keep things under wraps when you think that there is a possibility that this piece you're working on right now just might get accepted into something like QN....)

So here is Washington Av. Named for the street in Brooklyn, NY, where I took the picture that served as the base for this piece. The other base is the used plastic drop cloth that is actually the back bone of this. I sketched on it, I outline stitched on it, and I applied color to it. And by color I mean recycled plastic shopping bags. I was very focused on texture here, so I scrunched and bunched the plastic bags for the building texture and stitched it all down. No glue, no melting. Just stitches...
the grocery store on the first floor
the graffiti'ed boarded up vacant building
the decorative cornices
Washington Av. © Natalya Aikens
Oh and this is pretty large. I keep wanting to work bigger and bigger! It measures 64" high by 76" wide... perhaps I'll work a bit smaller on the next one.... maybe.

But right now I want most of all to work on more like this. So I am glad that this one is staying home for now, so that it can influence, inform and encourage its companions... I have noticed that past artwork which has quickly been accepted to a long term exhibit and left home, has remained in some ways a stand alone artwork. I kept working in a similar theme, but usually not in the same technique. I wonder if that because the piece that started the technique wasn't in the studio to keep me focused? Wonder if anyone else has had the same experience?

users of scraps

I got thoroughly inspired yesterday. So much so, that I wanted to leave the museum and get to my studio pronto. (alas that was not to be, but I will get there) If you're in NYC, you've got to see the three person exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum. I discovered two new to me artists who wowed me. I feel like they are my kindred souls among the artists who use recycled materials out there. What I saw was so fresh and new and yet so deep and meaningful. Sigh...

The quote that opens the exhibit is "gather up the fragments...that nothing be lost. (John 6:12) This biblical injunction beautifully captures the subtext of quilt culture - keepers of memories, users of scraps." Indeed. Go see it.

My first discovered artist is Stephen Sollins. This beautiful quote is from his bio: "Art is this amazing thing where there is this huge effort to tell something, but it's mute. It can never speak."
detail of Untitled (First Comes Love) by Stephen Sollins
The other artist who blew me away is Sabrina Gschwandtner. She is using film strips to create her work! The effect is mesmerizing.
detail of the back of Camouflage by Sabrina Gschwandtner
And speaking of "users of scraps", a link to end with.. Check out my blog post today on the Quilt National Artist website!

quilt national

I am awed, humbled and verklempt....

Friday night was the opening of Quilt National'13 and I was there!!! Got there with car tires screeching and flustered, barely making it, but I got there! What a fabulous exhibit, what amazing works of art... and I still can't believe that I am part of it all.... But! Here's photographic proof!
me... like a deer in headlights... thanks Deidre Adams for the pic!

I wish I could have stayed for the whole opening weekend and been able to soak in everything at leisure. But alas I had to drive home Saturday morning. I stood with my jaw hanging open looking all the details of the stunning artwork, was star struck by all the artists that I met, artist friends that I was so happy to see again and all the other artists that I just a caught a glimpse of... oh well...  I will now be reading and re-reading the QN catalogue cover to cover.. and savoring the few signatures I collected.

Meanwhile I can finally reveal my work that has been under wraps for so long! Here is The City:
The City detail ©Natalya Aikens. Recycled paper was a large part of this piece.
The City detail ©Natalya Aikens. Bubble wrap made an appearance.
The City detail ©Natalya Aikens. More recycled paper, this time thick package wrapping.
The City ©Natalya Aikens
For a few more detail shots visit my website here.