Old Irons, New Fires

Had to get the antique irons out for this one. Some patterns that I draw are either so big, or the dimensions are such that the drawing is always slipping off my work table. So I found that these old irons are perfect for weighing down the edges — and they have nice handles to move them around as needed. I can’t imagine heating on of these things up on a fire and using it to iron clothes. But maybe moving them around a lot will also help tone up my arms:)

Sometimes it’s a little scary at the beginning of a project, facing a big wall of raw fabric wondering if you’re ever going to be able to make something out of it. Wondering how it’s all going to come together. So you just sort of have to jump in and have faith that it will work, or that you will indeed be able to improvise and adapt to whatever problems you have set yourself.

Here’s some more colors that I plan on using. Earlier I had picked a safer, easier palette of mainly blues with a few teals, but then Russ challenged me to use a combination that would really pop. Sometimes it’s also good to have someone behind you, pushing to try something new. Do you have any tricks to push yourself past fear and inertia?

International TECHstyle Art Biennial (ITAB)

I’m pleased that two of my quilts will be shown soon at the International TECHstyle Art Biennial (ITAB) at the San Jose Quilts & Textiles Museum. Skating on Thin Ice will be there, and also my newest work, Tokyo – Wish You Were Hair.

layered cotton fabrics stitched with thread, 65"x50" by Pam RuBert

ITAB is a juried exhibition of work by artists exploring the intersection of fiber art with new information and communication technologies, to be held in conjunction with San Jose’s biennial ZERO1 Festival, the 2010 01 SJ Biennial, which runs from September 16-19, 2010. The exhibition includes 41 works by 28 artists from six countries—including Canada, China, Germany, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. For more information and some images from the upcoming show, check out the museum website article.

San Jose Quilts & Textiles Museum, San Jose, CA
August 17 – October 31, 2010
Opening reception is Sunday, August 22, 2-4pm

Still Sewing

This project for an exhibition at the San Jose Quilts and Textile Museum is going slower than I anticipated — partially due to the size of the quilt, but more because of the complexity. There many small details in the landscape that have to be sewn separately, and I have to be careful about which order to sew them so they don’t bubble up or go all wonky.

Quilting in the studio

As always, I am fascinated by the abstract designs being formed on the back of the quilt, so even though it’s slow — it’s an enjoyable process.

Shoes and Clutter

I don’t know why shoes are so fun to make out fabric. These are sort of fantastic kimono shoes with Japanese socks. I actually have a pair of these, not so high, but probably can’t fit my fat feet into them anymore. The socks are more comfortable than they look. And they snap behind the ankle.

polka-dot kimono shoe

These flip-flops on a rag rug are the ones that I wore on the way to my worst case of poison ivy ever. And these fancy ones I saw in a catalog – except that I embellished them with color, pattern, and daisy panty hose.

Paris catalog shoe

These days I’m trying to work at least a couple of hours a day in the studio. Sometime more, except for days like this when I had to move EVERYTHING not attached to the walls out so I could get the carpet cleaned. Since my studio is in a warehouse, the carpet gets pretty dirty after a while. So I’m very proud and pleased that it came this clean.

As for the rest of the space — thank goodness for clutter. It helps hide the dust!

Update: I was joking about clutter when I wrote this post late last night, but just now read a good blog post about myths of clutter by organization expert Julie Morgenstern. One line really jumped out at me: “Releasing the obsolete will get you unstuck—by opening up space for something new. It creates the energy, space to think, and time to figure out what’s next.”

clean carpet

Kimonos and Patchwork

Kimonos have always fascinated me and influenced my work. Not as a piece of clothing, but as a form of expression. If you look at kimonos both in real life and art (such as Japanese wood block prints), they are often a combination of sophisticated and sometimes surprising choices of contrasting patterns and color. I’m not sure of the proper terminology, but I’m talking about the under-layers around the neckline, the outer gown, the obi, even the shoes can have color and pattern.

Likewise my attraction to pattern in origami paper and later old-time patchwork quilts when I discovered them a few years ago. I try to remember the surprising contrasts between organic and geometric fabric patterns in kimono design and the sponteity and scrappyness of patchwork quilts when I’m designing my own work.

In addition when I’m telling a story, I think about the symbolic aspects and scale of pattern I’m using, all the while trying to layer in depth and keep a clarity of design. Sometimes the possible combinations of pattern seem infinite and perplexing. Other times I don’t know why something works, but it just makes me happy and feel light when I look at it.

I take a lot of photos while I work, because the camera helps me to step back and see how a print is reading visually in terms of tone and color. Here’s my current struggle on the design board, and below that, a screen-grab from my iPhoto library. I try not to re-cut things because it seems like I’m just spinning my wheels. But many times, it’s unavoidable.

The Next Step

Luckily I have a great technical support team. Russ is my main got-your-back guy. He coaxed the big printer into producing a pattern for my next quilt even though it was reluctant and wanted to only produce bits and pieces. Mochi handles the panting, drooling, and waiting very well.

Meanwhile, I cleaned my studio. Previously this wall was filled with old quilts to decorate for the Mariachi Hasta laVista studio party we hosted a month ago. But I’ve found it’s good for me to start with a clean slate for a new project. I left one quilt on the wall as reference because that one was selected for the San Jose Quilt & Textiles Museum’s International TECHstyle Art Biennial that will be on exhibit August – October of this year. The other quilt is in process.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time getting back to a blank wall. There’s usually all sorts of little things that I collect and pin to walls, and I really don’t know what to do with it all when it’s time to clean up. For instance, these old button cards. I probably could never bear to take the buttons of the original display cards to actually use them for something, so I’ll just move them to another part of the studio…..

And so it’s on to the next step.  Those little dots in the corner are some other buttons and beads that I leave up in case I need an extra pair of eyes or drawer pulls.

But does it match the sofa?

I’ve never really thought about that when I’m making art. When I have a show coming up in a public space, I usually spend a lot of time photographing, measuring, and once even made a gallery dollhouse. I’ve also made pieces and even series of works for specific spaces.

But the odd thing is, I’ve never hung one of my quilts in a living space. So last fall when several of you commented on my blog that I needed to hang art in this space, I’d been meaning to get to it.

Big surprise here! This is what I consider to be one of my mid-size pieces — not really big, and not really small. But here in the studio lobby, it looks kind of over-powering. The sofa’s not small. It’s an antique red-velvet sofa I recovered with faux fur, and it’s a nice size for napping, or fainting, or whatever you want to call a mid-afternoon or middle of a late night crash.

Hmm, guess I’ll have to think about this some more…. maybe after a short faint.

Fiberart International 2010

Last weekend Fiberart International 2010 opened in Pittsburgh at two venues – the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and the Society for Contemporary Craft. The show will be on exhibit April 17 – August 22, 2010, then travel to the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and the San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design.

Continue reading Fiberart International 2010

Modern Materials reviews and other news

mmslideshow.jpg“Conceptual craft” is explained by Jill Rumoshosky Werner, curator of the Modern Materials exhibition at the Artspace at Untitled gallery in the audio interview that accompanies this slideshow that appeared yesterday on the Oklahoma City newspaper and website. The site also features a video of the exhibition and gallery space and this article with comments from the Artspace executive director Jon Burris.

oknews_aliensmacartney.jpgThe show will be in the Artspace at Untitled gallery until August 29. The gallery is currently checking into the possibility of traveling the show, so hopefully you’ll have the opportunity to see it in another city.

Art Quilts Lowell 2009 opened at the Brush Art Gallery in Lowell, MA last week as part of the big Lowell Quilt Festival. Maxine sent me word that my quilt Traffic Jam that is part of the exhibit was mentioned in this article in The Sun, and also that the festival and shows had great attendance.That exhibit will be up until September 19, 2009.

Both of these show articles were sub-lined somewhere with “Not your Grandmother’s Patchwork.” I can’t tell you how many articles that I’ve seen across the country with that headline or something similar. It used to bother me, but I’ve come to realize that it’s original in each situation, because the writer or reviewer in that region is trying to dispel a common misconception that a quilt art show will look like a bunch of quilts. And if their headlines get more new attendance at these exhibits and venues, more power to them!

Modern Materials and friends


Last weekend at the opening of Modern Materials: The Art of the Quilt was a real treat. The [Artspace] at Untitled gallery was my kind of space — mix of old and new and art galore. Flavored largely by the art collection of eye of [Artspace] Founder Laura Warriner, the gallery sits on the edge of hopping Bricktown and only three blocks from the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

The show has brilliant piece by top artists working in the quilt medium today, people who are really pushing the boundaries and taking changes. Curator Jill Rumoshosky Werner who did the humongous “Knitted” piece above did a great job of curating the show. Love looking at PaMdora throught the knitting weave….hmm, maybe I could talk Jill into doing some kind of installation collaboration someday!

knitting_pamdora2.jpgJill and the gallery staff all treated the visiting artists like royalty — they published a snazzy catalog of the show (and free! through a grant), let us have the run of the second floor for things like cooking up Elia Woods’ home-grown eggs into huge omelets, organized an artists’ panel discussion, and mud-painting on cloth demo.

mm-longtable.jpg My talk went pretty well. Instead of going up on the Oklahoma Memorial and local art studios tour (which I was really sorry to miss), I sat at this crazy long table, tweaking my talk and keynote presentation. Actually I had a blast sorting through 20+ years of photos, organizing some 400 into a talk I mentally titled “RuBert Studios: Creativity, Art, and Building Artists’ Communities through Volunteerism and the Internet.”

The images alternated between my husband Russ RuBert‘s work, my work and our studio, and showed how they all influence each other. I flip through images pretty quick, some like how my quilts come together are almost like animations. But still, I ran over the allotted hour by 15 minutes. No one seemed to mind too much though.

The best part was meeting and getting to know the other artists and the cool people in Oklahoma City who are doing some really exciting art collaborations. The gallery videotaped my talk, panel discussions and workshop, and did pod-cast recordings interviews with all the artists. So we’re looking forward to see that on their new website, I’ll let you know when that’s online.


Here’s Elia Woods holding her home-grown eggs standing by her quilt “All Paths Lead to Home.” One of my favorites in the show, but challenged even my open defination of a quilt. Doesn’t matter though, it’s also sculpture which is a great achievement. Wish I could say more now about the show — I also spoke about some of my impressions and explorations of the Modern Materials show on Saturday night. But since we’re already knee-deep installing Russ’s show that opens this Friday, I’ll have to save that for some other time.

In the meantime, check out all the photos I posted on Flickr about the show, gallery, artists and weekend activities.


Pictured above, left to right: Angela Moll, Elia Woods, [Artspace] at Untitled Founder Laura Warriner, Pam RuBert, Susan Else, Theresa M. Heaton, and curator Jill Rumoshosky Werner.