Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Les Cigales

Each year summer in the South of France is ushered in by the return of "Les Cigales" (cicadas). The strong, steady "chirring" of the male cigale, as he sings his lovesong and yearns for his mate, is a constant reassurance of the hot, dry days to follow, and as such, their return is anticipated and welcomed. To pay homage to these heralds of summer, their image has been immortilized in a variety of forms: ceramics, ironworks, paintings and of course, needlework in it's many different applications. In many ways, "Les Cigales" symbolize the hot, dry days of summer and are part of the fabric of life here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Market "Daze"!




Every Saturday morning, throughout the year, local growers and producers set up their stalls at the market under the Arceaux. The Arceaux is an 18th Century aqueduct, 880 meters in length, that was used to bring water to the city. The local farmers sell their goods side by side with larger commercial growers and producers, along with vendors with imports from other neighbouring Mediterranean countries. However, only fresh, in season produce and products will be sold here, from the tomatoes ripened by the Meditteranean sun, to the latest batch of honey a local bee hive has just shared. If you are looking for apricots in January, you will not find them here. But if you are looking for them in June, you are in luck, because the sweetest, most flavourful apricots, as good as you have ever tasted, will be there to enjoy.

As it is getting to be the height of the growing season here, the tables were sagging at Saturdays market with a variety of savoury and sweet delights; from fresh fruit and veg, to cheeses, meats and olives. Le Marche (or the weekly market) is a tradition that the French still hold very dear. Even though the "hypermarche" has found it's way into the country, "le Marche" is still an integral part of the French way of life.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Boutis" is in the Eye of the Beholder



France, like many other European countries, claims a rich heritage and tradition in "needle arts". Many new sewing techniques and fabrics from the East found their way to France through the port city of Marseilles on the Meditteranean coast. The women from 17th century Marseilles and the lower regions of Provence and Languedoc, became very talented needle workers and were well known for their meticulous workmanship. It is these women that the developed the technique known as "boutis". "Boutis", as I understand it, is two pieces of fabric sewn together in channels, forming patterns. These channels are later threaded with cording, giving relief to the design. True "Boutis" ia always hand sewn, and when held up to the light lets the light pass through. (There are a many terms for "quilting" in France, and each term describes a different type of quilting. I am only beginning to understand the different techniques and terms, and hope that my definition is accurate, if not complete.)


While attending the quilt show in Nantes "Pour L'amour du Fil", I had the privilege to take a course in "Boutis" from M. Hubert Valery, a very talented fibre artist, specializing in this technique.Using only traditional stitching techniques for his pieces, M. Valery creates pieces that have a fresh, contemporary elegance. I have known of, and admired his work for a number of years from his website: www.boutisarchi.com, (or type in "Hubert Valeri, boutis" in your browser). When I saw that he was offering a course in "Boutis" at the show, I instantly registered for the course. There are a number of stitches that can be used in making "boutis", however, because this was a "debutant" class (beginner), we focussed on the running stitch. His technique for the running stitch is quite different from the "rock and roll" stitch that all hand quilters try to master. His technique works very well, however, and I hope to be able to adapt it to my "regular" hand quilting once I become a little more comfortable with it.


The photos I have included are of the work we started in class that day. As you can see, I have not made any progress since that day, however, finally being back from 6 weeks of travel, I hope to spend time in the next few months catching up with all things quilt related. Do look up his website for a better understanding of this beautiful quilting technique.

Indigo and Shizuko Kuroha





Walking into the "room" that showcased the quilts and wearable art of Shizuko Kuroha, I felt welcomed into a world of peace and harmony. There is a quiet elegance to her work. Although her colour palette revolves mainly around indigos, it is astonishing to see the variety of shades that can be obtained from the one basic colour. Her quilts have a fluidity and 3-D quality to them that is obtained by having mastered the palette of indigo.

If I may take a quote from her book, "Indigo & Sarasa", (published by "Quiltmania Magazine"), "What counts is the blend of these fabrics, how they co-exist, if they are in harmony." Shizuko Kuroha has found the way to express this in her work.

The photos in order are:

- Shizuko Kuroha inscribing a book I bought for my daughter

- A few of her quilts on display

Amazing Applique by Yoko Saito






The quilt exposition in Nantes "Pour L'amour du Fil" was filled with a number of highlights. Certainly one of the more memorable experiences was seeing the works of Yoko Saito in person.
"Elegant" is the word that best describes Yoko Saito's quilts. Although her palette is neutral, the lights and darks play very well together to create a perfect balance to the quilt. To say that the applique is amazing is an understatement. The perfectly formed 1/4" circles and the tiny leaves and stems are inspirational. And of course, the hand quilting is perfect. For the final touch, she uses embroidery as adornment in much the same way that the perfect pair of earrings complete the look of the little black dress. The opportunity to see her quilts in person has been truly inspirational.


The photos in order:

- Yoko Saito in her booth on the floor of the show

- "Pointsettia" - by Yoko Saito

- "Spring of Sweden" close -up - by Yoko Saito

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Pour L'Amour du Fil" (For the Love of Thread)









The language of thread and fibre is clearly an international language. Recently I had the pleasure of attending "Pour L'Amour du Fil" (For the Love of Thread), an international exhibition of quilts and needlework, held in Nantes, on the westwern coast of France, from April 27-30. Having only 2 days at the exposition, it was very difficult for me to choose which events and courses to partcipate in. There were so many excellent opportunities, but only limited time. After some deliberation, I chose to spend one day in a course learning about the traditional technique of "boutis" with Hubert Valeri, and the other day I chose to spend enjoying the gallery of quilts on display by some very talented quilters and needleworkers.


Among the quilters who had their work on display were the "Piece O' Cake" gals, Linda Jenkins and Becky Goldsmith. The room showcasing their work was energized with a brilliant vitality. Jan Patek was also there with her warm and cozy "Little House on the Prairie" exhibit, as were many other talented quilters from all parts of the world.


The show is sponsored by "Quiltmania", a vibrant French quilting magazine, that is now also being printed in English, and available in North America. (It's well worth looking for.) And the vendors came from all parts of the world as well, selling products for every possible quilting need. What Fun!