The meaning of a map

improv process

Last Spring I joined a virtual workshop led by David Owen Hastings, named: Inspired by art. As inspiration source, I chose the super detailed maps by graphic designer Thomas Ashley. The workshop was interesting and comprehensive, and it activated visions since its beginning: it started with a wonderful imagery that David shared from his countryside!

As a workshop exercise, I drafted a fuzzy section of a map on my design wall.
I recalled the awesome works of gorgeous map quilters such as Alicia Merret, Leah Evans and Niraja Lorenz and, with some doubts, I asked myself: why making one more map?
In a conversation after the workshop, David encouraged me: he was very kind, and the map idea found quiet settlement in some place of my mind.

During this Summer, the occasion to elaborate this subject topic came again, thanks to the game launched by Quilt Improv Studio, Pop improv challenge: I randomly started piecing some acid green fields. And suddenly, from my design wall, a message appeared so strong that I didn’t dare to touch the pins and to adjust the vision. I found reply to my earlier question: “It depends on what you want to say with your map”.

This is the story of my quilt made for the Pop Improv game. Its title is: “River gone green”.

This Summer our family holidays found destination in Spain, to the ancient city of Valencia.
Valencia was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC. Building site were the banks of the River Turia, alluvial silts accumulated on the floodplain formed in the lower course of the river, which were highly fertile.
Valencia today is one of the world’s top rank global cities: a primary node in the global economic network. But centuries of development changed its relationship with Nature very deeply. Strong growth at the sides of its riverbanks found its limit on 14 October 1957, when the Great Flood of Valencia flooded large parts of the city of Valencia. As a reaction, Turia river was diverted and its coexistence with the citizens found an end. The old course of the river has been turned into a central green space for the city: a cultural attraction known as the Garden of the Turia, which I myself walked in, smitten by surprise.

Acid and saturated colors typical of Pop Art aesthetics, as requested by Quilt Improv Studio challenge, proved perfect to convey through my quilt the message of what happens when commodification of Nature hits an extreme, such as in the story of Turia river bed, not anymore filled with water, but now gone green. Like a glowing ghost of its former stream shape.

Today, awareness that rivers are continuously changing landscapes, which can’t be frozen into a fixed narrow stream (as it happened to the vast majority of the rivers in the world), is well consolidated in the scientific community: leaving room for rivers to flow and flood is safer than building houses too close to riverbanks. The few remaining examples of rivers having a course that still preserves its natural features, such as my beloved Tagliamento river (the “king of the Alps” worth of getting Unesco tutelage), are studied and imitated during projects for restoring damaged river’s health. Didn’t you expect that honoring the wilderness of rivers would also make safer the communities around them?

Finding inspiration at the European Patchwork Meeting

Exhibits, improv process

This month I visited for the first time the European Patchwork Meeting (EPM). The opportunity to be there was offered by having one of my quilts, “East”, part of the SAQA  Exhibit Wide Horizons: I spent one afternoon together with Giovanna, in the role of hosts for the visitors coming to the SAQA gallery: what an honor!

I spent the first two days with quilting friends from Quilt Improv Studio: you can find this part of the story in the article published on Quilt Improv Studio blog.

I took a third day by myself, and I continued the tour in the other villages of France where more exhibits were displayed. There, I found inspiration in the works by Priscilla Bianchi and her sense of composition with bold colors.

I could appreciate the real appearance of quilts by Alicia Merret and Betty Busby, which I always admired for the capability to create textures.

I discovered the skills in creating subtle variations by Misik Kim: I really spent long time observing all the details of her work “The connection”.

I could learn not only from improv and abstract quilts, but also from figurative and representational art. I could not resist to check close up view of the multiple fabrics used by Denise Labadie: she brought me back in time, to the year of my visit to Ireland with school mate friend Ambra!

Finally, the possibility to talk with Scott Culley made my day. You would be astonished by the accuracy he puts in his quilts! And with a strong message! Seeing in person his work was really a good example to keep in mind. I can go down the rabbit hole as much as I wish, with my piecing work: I am not alone in loving so much the quilting practice.

Goldfinger quilt spy story

collaborations, Exhibits, improv process

The second episode of the series “The secret lives of quilts” is out on Patchworkvictim blog and its YouTube channel and here above! Like a spy story, we may call it mission Goldfinger. Do you remember the scene when James Bond emerges from the sea, unzips his submarine gears and appears perfectly suited in his smocking, equipped with a fresh flower ready for its place in the white jacket? The same happens to travelling quilts, hidden in small packages, ready to surprisingly pop out from their mystery box, to reach their destination in fully elegant settings.

This episode indeed features works by Quilt Improv Studio participants, such as the wonderful mini quilt “Delirium” made by Carla Beretta shown in the pictures below, which I had the opportunity to see in person after its travel to the venue for the gallery “The tales of the needle and the brush“: it perfectly unfolded from its tiny shipment pack, without showing any crease thanks to its incredible thick free motion quilting fill. Carla is a founder of Quilt Improv Studio together with Giovanna Nicolai and myself, and even if we collaborate by remote, I still remember the wonderful sensation of keeping first time among my fingers her masterful creation in the shades of gold.

One of the secret powers of quilts is the capability to connect people from all around the world. Since two years ago, Quilt Improv Studio launches its games online: the Instagram gallery of works made by game participants nowadays displays more than 160 quilts, showing how varied can be the ideas emerging from improv process adopted by quilters who were inspired by the same game prompt.
Quilts made for the game include excellent examples such as the works selected for QuiltCon2022 and aired last February in Phoenix, Arizona, by @aquilterstable@quiltcreation and @kathycookquilts; @sakuraquilting was awarded at Gramado Brasil quilt festival with her quilt “Emergiendo” created during Orange Summer challenge and @hollygrovethreads was awarded at Greenville quilt festival with her work “Mod Mondrian” created for Primary Improv challenge. If you want to join such adventures, you are still in time to participate to the latest game Pop Improv challenge!

To conclude with funny anecdotes, I add a bonus track here below: my favorite parodie of James Bond reiterating his name, by the great couple of Italian comic actors Lillo and Greg!

Quiltmaking is my jogging

improv process

I share my quilting studio with DaveTheWave, who collects there his tools for electronic music improvisation, and sometimes I enjoy piecing during his composition hours.
His tunes are a perfect companion for sewing with a rhythm: not only I respond better to the emerging shapes on my design wall, but also I feel confident in changing my texture while keeping unity in the overall piece.

Music improvisation and quilting improvisation are similar: when you find a good balance between control and intuitive response, you are in the flow, you are connected with the medium, the eye switches easily from zoom detail to overview check, and repetitions with variation can proceed.
Where can I learn from, if I want to practice the feeling of improvisation? Keeping a good link between body and mind reminds me of training in sports: you have learnt the basics and, during the match, you seamlessly adjust your strategy according the movements of the team.

That hue of blue

improv process

Some months ago I was walking to the city center, and I raised my eyes upwards. There was a beautiful intense blue sky, and many perfect white clouds. It was just a small field among the houses, but it gave me sense of the beauty of our remote roof on top. I decided, then, that I wanted to make a quilt out of these colors.

I talked in this earlier blog post about the start of this work. I selected all my favorite blue fabrics, and I combined them such to obtain this same feeling impressed in my memory. I wanted to render the sense of expansion, but I realized that I needed a kilometers wide quilt… it was required a real size effect!

I finally settled for keeping just the meaning, distilled into a small detail.

Now my quilt is finished, and I can keep between both hands a tiny symbol of something located so remote. I gave it title: “The space between the clouds”.

From the microscope to the sky

collaborations, improv process

“Beyond Borders” is a virtual quilting guild of the Modern Quilt Guild. It is virtual because many of us are not able to meet in person: the group includes members from different continents, who applied for participation to the Individual Members Coalition of the MQG.
Our last virtual gathering took place on November 16th, with participants from USA, UK, Sweden, Spain, Italy and Australia, and we talked about:

•MQG highlights: keep connected! Resources and articles setting the example.

•Off the shelf! Quilting books that we like (led by Barbara @barbararosborg and Giovanna @jonikquilts).

•”Inspiration corner”: From the microscope to the sky. Natural textures finding room into our quilts (this was my talk: I will describe it here below).

•Show & Tell: participants showed what they were working on, new beginnings, past finishes.

•News from the quilting world: coming quilting events, sharing plans to visit venues

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“Inspiration corner” is a section we have recently introduced: we have discovered the inspiration sources of Samantha @threads_of_my_life and Ally @alsterdeeluxe, from the English countryside, to the shapes hidden in the daily shadows around us.

In my turn for the “Inspiration corner” speech, I explained how I am inspired by textures that I find in nature and during my professional experience.

I have used photography for twenty years, and among my past photo galleries there was one fully dedicated to textures visible in the reflections on the surface of water.

I started to use microscopy during my thesis work at the University, and the pictures I gathered in that period became part of a science communication project which travelled around Italy for some years.

I am still using microscopy and other imaging techniques, such as optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, x-ray tomography and ultrasonic testing: I have a professional relationship with images and I continuously work extracting technical meaning from raw abstract pictures.

When I put my recent texture quilts aside to the images obtained at the microscope, sometimes I find they have similarities. I don’t use photos as a direct source to make a quilt as a replica of the subject, but the library of pictures filling my memory surely influence my quilting practice.

I’m a moderator of “Beyond Borders” group, together with @tarahartslief: if you want to jump onboard, feel free to contact me for questions!
Consider also checking the other one of the two groups of MQG Individual Member Coalition, at their Instagram profile: @modernfusionmqg

Improvising with common colors

collaborations, Exhibits, improv process

When it was time for me to propose a palette for the month of October, I immediately thought of the pumpkin color and to the works I have done with orange fabric. I chose my quilt made for the first Quilt Improv Studio game, and I listed the colors used at that time to share its juicy palette: my favorite oranges, white and a well contrasting dark blue.

You can find the resulting fabric selection made in collaboration with Patchworkvictim, at the following page of their blog.

In this video you can see how nice prints using orange blue and white we could find, to match with the solids chosen at the start.

If you wish to see with your eyes the orange quilt which was created following this palette, you can soon come to visit the quilt+painting gallery The tales of the needle and the brush, opening on October 23rd in Trieste (Italy) and displaying not only orange quilts, but also blue quilts and black and white quilts, all stemming out from the fantasy of improv quilters who followed Quilt Improv Studio game prompts. And much more!

On the making of an image

improv process

It was for several days, that a blue sky quilt idea was floating in my mind.
I resisted for all those days to the temptation to start it, because I was in the middle of other projects. A completely different color occupied my sewing table, the supersaturated red of my monochrome quilt, still to be finished.
I managed to work according to my real preference: one quilt at a time.

Then, my quilting table became free.
I started.
And I submerged for a full weekend on my new blue project, without breathing fresh air for hours.
It fullly captured me.
So strong was the effect of full immersion into a stage of new creation, that every other activity in the queue disappeared from my radar.
I even forgot for one full day to send the announcement of the new quilt+painting gallery that was in preparation here in my hometown!
(Well, the gallery announcement has just been launched – read here if you are in north east Italy, and you consider visiting this super special event soon!).

Blue and white fragments continued to get attached to one another on the design wall, when, suddenly, my composition was not working anymore.
Too big.
The clouds, inspired to the late summer sky visions stored in my mind, needed to become too large… maybe kilometers large… like in the real life.
Not working, not working image at all.

The splash on the design wall soon turned out too busy, giant and pixellated.
I remixed, I ripped sections, I abandoned the initial purpose… but there was no way out.
Until, like a casual gesture, I placed my jelly roll blue strips on the design wall. Strips in series, like a color check, like a grid.
And, surprise-surprise… I started to see my work clearly again.
Thanks to the presence of the grid, I suddenly understood what was happening to my work.

— Alert: engineer nerd content below —

I involuntarily created an “interference grid”.
Like the one I used during my optoelectronic engineering studies… when a laser beam passed through a filter, and became transformed into physically meaningful patterns…
This grid acted, indeed, as a filter.
It helped me to extract mosaic cell scale.
To separate portions of the mosaic having different appearances.
It distilled the randomness of my work into some sub-series having a meaning of their own.

Now, I have decided a possible way on: to use only some portions of my work, to simplify it.
The image should become more readable.
Or at least, the idea returned readable for my mind. I see again a number of possible paths for the progression of my work.

I don’t know if the above story is understandable or even interesting as a quiltmaking phase.
But for me it was important.
The rest, still needs to be written…

The meaning of red

improv process

When I started discussing with my quilting friends Carla and Giovanna, about the new game to be proposed as a Quilt Improv Studio challenge, I was reading the book Abstract Art. Carla’s proposal to try quilting a monochromatic work was perfectly fitting with the chapter I was reading then: the history of American Monochrome paintings.

At the time to start my monochrome quilt, I decided to experimented a bit with extremes.
I kept the shapes to a minimum (a good occasion to discover the difficulties of minimalism).
As in the monochromatic painting experiments, I focused on surface texture, quilting red on red, going narrow up to matchstick style.

At a certain point, the differences introduced in my quilt started to be barely visible even for me… and this reminded me of a photo galley I made twenty years ago, participating to a science congress on nanotechnologies, dealing with objects having size sometimes too small for being resolved by visible light.

Well… red is the color at the gate of visible light wavelength.
Thus, I decided that my red quilt had gained grades to be dedicated to all the above.

My monochrome quilt is titled “Threshold of the visible”. It makes me think of my experience with microscopy and surface characterization, of the American monochrome texture paintings, and of the wavelength where we start to see red: 740 nanometers!

Sewing a stream

improv process

I’ve attended an on-line quilting workshop with Brenda Gael Smith, on the composition of abstract works inspired from images of our real life. It was already since the first paper-cutting exercise, that my mind started to travel along the theme of water courses. River-like mark-making appeared plenty of times on my resulting mini quilt. Thus, I gave it the title “Stream”.
I explored many rivers along the northern part of Italy, and I collected plenty of stories.

This is the story that I feel being connected with my quilt.

Last Sunday I spent all day touring by bike. I took the train, I reached the town of Cormons, and I routed to the town of San Pietro al Natisone, where a chestnuts fair was in planning.
I had lunch at midway, in Cividale.
After some tea and some rest, I was ready to push the pedal again.

In the afternoon I had to study my map.
The street I expected to use was blocked, due to a local motorbike race.
I tried to reach the limit point, hoping for the race to be finished, but they told me: “motorbikes will continue all day long”.

My route was crossing an area impossible to reach… I was tempted to show my anger to the policeman.
But I managed to keep quiet.
It had to be possible to find another way.

So, I started to explore the surroundings.
There was a tiny lane, just behind the house, that seemed to head for a backyard…
A small wooden signal appeared: “To Purgesimo, 1 mile”.
Great: this was my direction.
Dear cars, if the street is forbidden for you to pass, this doesn’t mean that for us, bike runners, there are no alternatives!

The most beautiful part of my tour started there.
A red pathway between the fields. The beauty of the river, along the side. A sunny sky with yummy clouds.
I spotted a layer of acorns under my wheels; some purple flowers of the specie “aster dumosus”; the dotted decoration on the body of a fleeting snake; two white horses running in the wood, and the sound of water stream audible only by me, cycling alone. Plenty of fruit types where shown at the chestnut fair. I headed back home, with four different chestnut packs, ready for a tasting exercise.