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You Were Always on My Mind

Art Journal Every Day: Where Quilting and Art Journaling Meet

ArtJournalEveryDayLogo-150We are almost half way through 2011 and if you ask me what I have enjoyed most about this crazy Art Journal Every Day idea, it's an easy answer.  And it has nothing to do with my own art journaling journey.  Rather I have been inspired by others' bravery in what they write -- the stories they tell in their journals.  I have been impressed by the amazing talent and the gorgeous pages rolling through the flickr pool each and every week!  I have been awe struck by how powerful a few scratches of color and a well placed word or two can be.  And I have been introduced to wonderful amazing people I never would have found otherwise. 

Today we have a guest post from one of those amazing people I've met along the way: Kathleen Tesluk.

Hi everyone!  My name is Kathleen, and I am a traditional quilter who has been actively working in my art journals for about a year now.  Julie asked me to write about how my quilting impacts my journaling, and vice versa.  First of all, I would have to say that in my case, quilting and journaling are natural progressions in my art education.  I wanted to make art all my life, but for years never tried because I thought that "real" artists had to go to art school.  Since I had no formal background or training in art, my logical mind rationalized that I could never be good enough.  Mixing colors was particularly intimidating for me.  Eleven years ago (on my birthday!), a quilting book literally fell on my foot at the library.  I picked it up and was instantly mesmerized by the idea that I could use a gazillion little pieces of fabric to represent one color -- without having to do any messy paint mixing!  This realization changed my life, and quilting became my pathway into the art world.  I am especially drawn to gradations of color; sometimes I think I would be perfectly happy just making color wheels and nothing else!  

1 orange peel
1 orange peel
Journaling has been the next logical step in my art education.  Quilting taught me to use color, and from there it was a short leap to painting, printmaking and other surface design techniques on fabric.  I started to move toward visual journaling when I realized I really needed to learn about composition and collage techniques if I ever wanted to make an art quilt.  My journal became the natural playground for ideas and techniques. It allows me to experiment with different styles and materials and to find the ones that best express my own inner world.

3 tea lady
3 tea lady
I was struck by the instant gratification you get from visual journaling.  That led me to stop thinking of quilts as bed covers.  I started to make small quilts that I could complete quickly, with no purpose in mind other than just to express a thought. 

5 starburst
5 starburst
Soon I started thinking of fabric and thread just as I would any other medium on the journal page. 

7 prayer flag
7 prayer flag
I even started to use mixed media techniques in a quilt.  Here is a small piece I made using a technique Julie taught on an episode of Quilting Arts TV.   The image was painted with watercolors onto muslin covered with gesso, and came together very quickly one day when I was feeling overwhelmed by the disaster in Japan.  

9 madonna prayer
I am really looking forward to learning more techniques this summer when I take Julie's class on mixed media quilts at The City Quilter!

Most of all, I love how my journals are becoming places where I can try out new ideas for quilts.  I am currently fascinated by color wash quilts, and am working on one now.

10 work in progress
It quickly became obvious that it is a lot easier to arrange fabric around in my journal than it is on my design wall!  Here's a journal page where I'm trying to work out the overall composition... it's still not quite capturing my idea, so there's definitely a series in the works here.

11 fragment journal
In the end, though, traditional quilting and journaling create a dynamic tension in my life.  They are both opportunities for reflection and expression.  I love the slow, meditative quality of quilting.  I like the idea of putting my thoughts, emotions, prayers, hopes and dreams into every stitch, like the 19th century quilter who said that her whole life was contained in her quilt:

"...All my joys and all my sorrows are stitched into those little pieces....I tremble sometimes when I remember what that quilt knows about me."

-Marguerite Ickis, quoting her great-grandmother
in "America's Quilts and Coverlets" (1974

12 anniversary
For me, quilts are a lot like those journal pages we fill with our innermost thoughts and then cover up with gesso, paint, and imagery.  To the outside world it looks "pretty," but only we know the messages that are hidden in plain view.   On the other hand, journaling is more dynamic than quilting, more like a conversation than a thought: Yang to the yin of quilting, prayer vs. reflection, speaking vs. listening.   In my world, the two create balance together.

  13 vortex
13 vortex

Kathleenteslukheadshot Kathleen has studied and worked in the field of international relations, and was lucky enough to live overseas in Japan, Egypt and Italy.  She is married to a wonderful man and is a stay-at-home mom to three kids and a large golden retriever.  Now that only one child is left in the nest, she is increasingly finding time for the good things in life:  art, travel, genealogy, and cooking food that would otherwise be greeted with dismay by her children.  She blogs about her life and art in:  "It's all about color."