The Free Motion Quilting Project: Entering Local Art Shows

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Entering Local Art Shows

For the longest time, I haven't called myself an artist. I was content with the title of "quilter" and left it at that. But having worked through so many limitations in Hot Cast, I've finally come to realize that what I make can be called quilts, but it can also be called art, therefore, I am an artist!

This is a brand new definition for me and already I'm seeing small changes in my quilts and what I plan to do with them.

It all started with being invited to join Fiber Art Options, a group of art quilters in Charlotte, NC. This fun bunch of ladies organize group shows and challenges, share news of local juried art exhibits, and are wonderful resources for quilting inspiration and information as most of them are also teachers.

The first meeting started with members sharing news of local art shows and I sat rather nonplussed, wondering if I would really fit in. For the last 8 months, my focus has been on my family and business, not really on showing my quilts. It sounded a bit scary - would Shadow Self really do well in an art show against a traditional painting or sculpture?

I left that first meeting wondering and opened my eyes to the possibilities around me. Here in Shelby, NC we have a very active art council that hosts many wonderful exhibits throughout the year. Just as I started looking, venues for my work started popping up everywhere!

So this week I have two deadlines: Shelby NC Art Council is hosting a juried art exhibit titled "The Art of Self Expression" and the Southern Art Society has a juried art exhibit titled "I am Woman." I don't think a venue for my quilts comes better than that!

- Just a quick warning before you get further -
Possibly disturbing or offensive photos below

I'm showing art quilts here which some might considered disturbing and/or offensive. If you don't want see them, please click here to check out the design I posted today.

It was the Art of Self Expression exhibit that pushed me to take down that old photo from my wall and try my hand at a black and white portrait which I played with in Experiment #2.

I made two versions of my portrait - one exactly as the photo showed and the second dark and twisted, a representation of my inner negative voice before I'd dug it out last year. I wanted to combine these two portraits together, kind of like a before / after photo, but I knew this was not really something I would want to enter into a quilt show.

So knowing this was destined for an art show actually freed the process a bit. I made decisions with this piece that I couldn't have made had this been destined for a quilt show, and this made the project go much faster. Last night I sliced the two portraits in half and connected them together with a piece of 1" binding. Red binding around the edge finished the piece that I will hand stitch down this evening.

I went to bed with my head buzzing after finishing up this little portrait. I'm SO pleased with it!

I know it's dark, I know it may be disturbing for some, but for me this is a beautiful piece. It is a visual representation of how far I've come, and that makes me feel wonderful.

As I laid in bed trying to fall asleep, I started thinking about the art exhibit again. Self expression...what does that mean?

I started thinking about words, how powerful they are, how destructive, and how healing. I thought about how words, mostly lies, had torn me down to nothing, but just the same way have words in books, comments from readers, and loving conversations with my family have helped me rebuild and heal.

What if I made a quilt of all those words together?

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo I started writing a list of these words, every expression I'd ever heard, good and bad. It's sad to say that the list of bad expressions, cuss words, cut downs, and criticisms was far longer than the list of good words.

I even checked online to try to find more good words and phrases and struggled there too. Is our language the problem? We have far too many words that are hurtful and demeaning than positive words meant to uplift and love.

There are literally hundreds of single words that cut like a knife, like "asshole" or "bitch." In the brief searching I did this morning, I found no opposite to these words. You can say "You're beautiful" or "You're kind" but it takes more time and it doesn't have the same punch.

So I took my lists of words and organized them so every good word would be followed with a bad word. I did this quickly and without thinking. It's not poetry - just a list.

I set all the letter size to 48 points and had loads of fun playing with different fonts. Really this project has exhilarating because I've gotten to do so many things I never do: play with cuss words and funky fonts!

I created 4 pages of these words and printed them out onto computer printer fabric. Since I'm using my inkjet printer and I didn't treat the fabric beforehand, I have no idea how color fast the words will be or if they will even last on the fabric. I just needed this transferred very quickly because I have to get this second quilt finished in 2 days!

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhat am I going to make with all this nonsense? I'm going to make a banner, a long skinny quilt that I plan to hang in my dining room on the wall as you enter the kitchen. It's a good place to hang this quilt of expressions because this is where we do the most talking.

I want a reminder on my wall, just as I created a reminder with my portrait quilt, of the weight of words. As I wrote them down, I realized that some of the most hurtful phrases weren't even expletives. Words like "Go away!" and "I don't want you." cut far further than just being called a jerk.

Is this totally inappropriate? Hmm...I know it's pushing a line and I know if it was a choice between a quilt show and an art show, I'd put in in an art show without a second thought. I like being able to push this boundary and art will allow me that freedom.
So what am I entering into the "I am Woman" exhibit?

I thought about this a lot and really wanted to create something totally new for this show, like a goddess doll, but when it came down to it, I just don't have time.

Instead I'm planning on entering two goddesses from last year: Shadow Self

free motion quilting | Leah Dayand My Cup Runneth Over

free motion quilting | Leah DayI'm intrigued to see how these quilts do against paintings and sculpture. Shadow Self especially is so huge, it will be a treat to see her on display, if nothing else.

Now I'm heading back into my studio to quickly piece up this quilt of words. I need to come up with a titles for both the portrait and the words quilt. Any suggestions?

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Leah, just wanted to say how much your sharing of your personal journey has touched my heart. You are like a butterfly ~ breaking out of a shell to reveal your stunning beauty inside and out.

  2. This is probably totally stupid, but how bout 'Words (won't) Defeat Me' ? It fits, right? You are so gonna win!

  3. Leah,

    So happy to hear you finally see yourself as a true artist. I have thought of you as an artist from the first day I found your blog.
    Good luck to you at the exhibits.

    Chester, NY

  4. Yes you ARE an artist. Let there be no doubt.
    Naming your creations helps to affirm that to yourself.
    So, would you be able to play with the word "affirmations" to name your word quilt?
    I finally started signing my quilts by stitching my initials into the quilting in the bottom right corner. This is what I needed to do to finally 'feel' the artist within.

  5. Leah,
    I am so glad you are including My Cup Runneth Over. It has been a favorite of mine. You seemed to begin your journey away from the dark side with this quilt. I am so glad you finished it and feel it is a worthy quilt.

  6. For the words quilt - something to do with voices? Thank you so much for sharing all your art. It truly is that.

  7. My title for your words would be Indefinite.
    - adjective 1. not definite; without fixed or specified limit; unlimited 2. not clearly defined or determined; not precise or exact 3. very numerous or not easily counted, as stamens or an inflorescence
    I love being privileged to share your journey.

  8. Just a comment on the portrait that you split in half - the before and after one. Great idea to combine the two - but I would have reversed the sides. I would have put the before/negative/ugly one on the left (as you look at the portrait) and the after/positive/beautiful one on the right. It looks to me like you're saying that you were beautiful before and now you are ugly - and that's so not true!!

  9. How about something on the order of Overcoming Echos. The ugly words that echo back to us from our past.
    Nothing creative off the top of my head for the portrait quilt. But I would like to know if you stitched the hair lines or drew them in with the marker. The long straight hair looks so lovely and smooth, lol.
    Maybe Now I See ME!

  10. Leah, it is an inspiration to read about your journey, as well as study your fmq! I'm glad you are entering My Cup Runneth Over - it is a stunning quilt. What came to me when I read your request for a name for the portrait quilt was Choices. We all make choices about what we let drive our lives, and I am glad you have chosen to heal.

  11. I think of your self portrait as "the 2 faces of Leah" we all have two faces but don"t like to admit it. You inspire me and I thank you for sharing your world with the rest of us needing inspiration.

  12. I think of your portrait quilt as "the 2 faces of Leah". We all have 2 faces, however don't like to admit it. You have inspired me to move on and quilt my own quilts and I thank you for sharing your inspiring journey.

  13. There is an art show by me at St. Catherine of Bolognia in Ringwood , NJ. It's a jurried show, and you pay to display your piece. There is no money if you win, but the show is beautiful and an exciting three days of visitors brings in a lot of people and possible exposure. The artists are allowed to sell and to leave their business cards around for people to collect. Some people get commissioned work from it. If you are interested, let me know. It's a show for all type of media arts, and a poetry contest and reading as well. There is a live band playing soft music and a wine and cheese affair as you go around to study the art. It's fun, and usually held in March. It's very classy and fun!


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