Monday, April 8, 2013

How to "Finish" Your Work


                This photo shows two separate details of  Manuscript 1, which have been merge to show the surface stitching.  



Last week I posted about my work which was chosen to be included in the art collection of The Fine Arts Center in Greenville, SC.  One of my readers, Betsy, left the following comment:


Terry, I really like your "Manuscript one". It is hard for me to see whether you have chosen to forego the quilting...I am trying to wean myself from the need to cover everything I do with running stitch, and would love to hear your comments! 

Is the pieced composition not sufficently beautiful?!


Have you backed this piece? How have you treated the edges? 


First I want to thank Betsy and all those who take the time to leave comments.  Very helpful and much appreciated.

Well, as you can see from the detail shots this work has lots of surface stitching....more than I usually use and certainly more idiosyncratic.  The full image of the work doesn't show the stitching because (I think) of all the color variation and the surface texture/pattern of the black marks.  In addition to the loopy variety of line, I used several different thread colors and all were variegated.  I made these choices in response to the work.  The choice of thread and stitching  support the work and add to the work.  Most often this type of stitching would not be appropriate for what I make but here I think it worked.  Manuscript 1 has batting, a backing and a facing. A very traditional combination.

But here is the bigger issue, must we always finish work in this manner?  The answer is unequivocally no.  You are the artist and you can make your work as you choose.  I began working with fabric with the intention of making a traditional quilt.  I grew up with quilts and I learned the construction of a quilt using traditional techniques. Once I began to see that I was going to use the techniques I had learned to make art it was very hard for me to let go to be more free and spontaneous.  That began to kick in about 3 years ago although I still do most of the finishing in a traditional manner. There is however, a gorilla in the room.  The gorilla is what you want to "do" with the work you make and where do you want to show your work.  

I love the overall concept of the open fiber or textile shows.  I've only seen FiberArt International  once but there were things in that show that I couldn't tell where the fiber was.  I like that.  But if you are completely committed to the idea that you are making a "quilt" and you only enter quilt shows, then you will need to be aware of the various descriptions of what constitutes a quilt and follow the guidelines for any specific show.  You may need to have two or more layers, quilting stitches that show on the back of the work and perhaps a specific type of edge.  At the same time I've seen tea bags stitched together and exhibited in a major quilt exhibition.  It met the show criteria so there can be lots of wiggle room.  Many of the shows that focus more on "surface design" often feature work that is a single layer, no bindings or facings.  

We are not alone in needing to be aware of the guidelines for specific types of shows.  Examples are photography shows that specify how the work must be glazed, shows for painters that may  require the work be on stretchers, or the weight of a specific sculpture may be limited.  All of these considerations, and many others, have to do with the showing of the work but it does not define the work.

I hope you will follow your urge to experiment with finishing work in a new way.  You may find you don't like the results.  You may find that it is the perfect solution for your work.  You won't really know until you try. 

Please let me know if you do try a new finish and what your feelings are about the results.

***

Thank you for spending time at Studio 24-7.
I'm getting excited about the opening of FiberArt International 2013!
If you are there please come by and see my work!
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12 comments:

  1. Interesting post, as always, my friend. For me, finishing is usually where things go to hell. I often (too often) don't finish a piece because I can't resolve to my own satisfaction my desire to have a casual- or spontaneous-seeming feel to something that still looks and feels deliberate and contributes to the wholeness of the work.
    -Melanie

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    1. Thank you Melanie. My personal feeling is that the "finish" is not separate from the work as a whole. The finish has to support whatever you have already established in the work. Many people express confusion regarding how to "quilt" a work. That decision is based on the what you have already created and I believe the finish is the same. xo, T

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  2. I tend to take the minimalist approach when it comes to the quilting. I am fascinated by and am a bit jealous of those who can add tremendous texture to their works with stitch. However, that's not how my muse works and I've come to accept it -- somewhat reluctantly perhaps, but that's the way it goes. I don't think my artwork suffers too much because of it because it's my work, and that's just one element that makes it mine.

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    1. Bravo Vivien. Your description of how you approach the various elements of your work is as it should be. I too see things in others work that I admire and that work but you have to be true to your own esthetic. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Good post. Making decisions about how to finish a piece is what can make the work sing or fall flat.

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    1. This is very true. I think finish can be one of the most powerful aspects of work. Anyone who has ever seen a show from The American Crafts Council will know this. Doesn't matter what the medium, the attention to detail makes all the difference.

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  4. Hi Terry,

    Another great post. I, too, have had thoughts about the "traditional" way of finishing my fiber work, and have of late, made a number of pieces without any top stitching. The work was pieced the same way as always, but instead of adding any stitching to the top, I merely mounted the work to cradled board and allowed the composition to speak for itself without the addition of topical texture. There are times, in my work, that I think the top stitching obliterates the composition and I prefer it "barren." Up til now, however, it has been only small pieces but i want to do some larger ones in that manner.

    Mostly I have moved away from entering "quilt" shows as I seek a larger audience for my work. I am still working on how to finish those larger pieces which do not have the addition of top stitching so they will hang properly. I am trying to avoid mounting those on cradled boards as I don't want the additional weight; I am looking at raw-edge pieces as well as using a pillowcase finish.

    Thanks again, Terry. Your posts always have something to say and require thought!

    Bye for now,
    Aryana

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    1. Hey Aryana! Great to hear from you. Loved hearing your thoughts about how to treat your work. I am hearing more and more artists who are stretching and looking for new venues and more diversified venues to show work. I think this is representative of growth. It's all good.

      Adding or not adding additional stitching or batting to our work certainly presents challenges. At least I see them as challenges. I recently "destroyed" a piece by adding stitches but then resurrected it by adding even more. I'll have to post that.

      I did recently mount a small piece on stretchers which I had covered in heavy canvas. It looks fine but I'm not ready to deal with larger pieces this way. Shipping, storage etc. keeps me from going in that direction ;-( Thank you for commenting!

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  5. Your post is encouraging alternative thinking about always densely machine quilting and facing my work. Tight composition often calls for that approach. Maybe the key for me is loosening up the composition which may invite new finishing (or not) techniques.

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    1. Thanks Sandra! I love that you are leaving your options open!!!

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  6. I had to grin when you mentioned Fiber international - My good friend Sandy got in this year for the first time (after years of trying) with her ecaustic piece. Its an image of hand stitching in wax. I"m over the moon for her - but still I can't help tease her that the best way to get into Fiber International is not to enter anything with Fiber in it. She assures me that there is fiber in the paper in the wax as well in the wood frame - LOL! We laugh and laugh - and I hope she laughs all the way to opening this month in Pittsburgh!

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    1. Congratulations to Sandy! I'll be sure and look for her work at the show. Thanks for sharing your story Nina Marie. Sounds like two good friends having fun.

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