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Plein Air Art Quilts? Why not?

July 15, 2017

By way of introducing myself, I will share a recent experience.


I have many painter friends, as I am active in the local art world as well as the community of Art Quilters.  So when Plein Air West Reading (Pennsylvania) loosened its rules this year, I decided to take up the challenge.


This is the second year of the event. For 2017 only 80% of your piece had to be completed outdoors.  The rest ccould be in the studio.


Here’s what I did: limited my palate to blacks, whites and grays, and pre-fused some workable size pieces to take with me. I packed a scissors, tracing paper, parchment paper, drawing paper, muslin and pencil and set up a small table near an outlet so I could plug in my iron.


I started as any Plein Air artist would: made sketches.  For me, the final sketch had to be the same size as the finished piece would be (the cartoon).  Then I worked as I always do: traced the shapes in the drawing from the cartoon (the buildings, the sky etc) and cut them out in fabric.


Honestly the experience did me more good than I thought it would.  As in all plein air work, the values are higher keyed (brighter — more white) than when translated through a photograph.  Since values are my most difficult artistic component, it was a useful adjustment to work outside. Also, of course, you can walk around and better see what you are trying to depict than when working from a photo.


The most difficult part was trying to keep the pieces from moving in the slightest breeze.  A pin or two helped here. And I don’t know how I could do this without an extension cord and iron fairly handy. I used it by heating it up, unplugging and bringing over to my work — still hot enough to activate the fusing and hold the fabric pieces down. But I couldn’t be too very far from it.


 I finished the pieces in my studio: using my sewing machine for the quilting and binding. I also took photos, printed them on cloth, and places them in key spots.  Those I printed in color, so the final works are black and white, with bits of color.

 Martha Ressler, Art Quilt, On the Avenue, 25 x 18"

 Plein Air Art Quilting set up.  Penn Avenue, West Reading, PA

 As far as I got with "Curious" while on the scene.  The rest I finished in my studio.

 Martha Ressler, art quilt, "Curious" 18 x 20.5" This won a purchase award in the event "Plein Air West Reading."


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