Thursday, December 26, 2013

Setting Goals for 2014: Art and Business

"Dew On The Web"
Christmas is over, the New Year is on the way, I've been cleaning up my studio and I'm about ready to get going on my next adventure in art quilting!

I've been in a rather negative funk creatively since my show in September.  I worked all summer creating many new pieces and filled the gallery with my work.  Unfortunately I base my success with a gallery show on the sales because that is what keeps a gallery alive and successful--and willing to book me again down the road!  I had one small sale.

Since then I have wondered about what I would consider success in regards to my art and evaluating what I hope to accomplish over the next year.  I don't usually make "resolutions" for the new year, but I do write down what kind of things I want to accomplish with my business and what I'd like to do next.  So far I've been rather successful with meeting those goals and getting to where I'd like to be with my efforts.  I have gotten my name and my work out there for people to see, I've won some awards, been published with images as well as how-to articles, taught a successful class, and sold quite a number of artworks over the past six years.  I already have a solo exhibition set up for 2014 and it is in a new venue outside of my local area which is quite promising.  I have a new gallery showing my work on the other side of our (rather large!) state, and the owner is enthusiastic about my work and so far very enjoyable to work with. 

Unfortunately this year my local gallery, River's Mist, is closing its doors so that reduces where I am able to show my work locally.  I do hope to find other representation in the area but the options are limited in this market.  I'm working on a proposal to another fine art gallery in the area and once I get my website somewhat updated I'll pursue representation with them.  They do not currently show any fiber art (could be good or bad...?) but they have a great contingency of artists that I would be proud to show with.

Currently I am considering the following for my business and art goals for 2014.  Sharing them with you could be risky, but they all seem doable to me so I guess I'll take that risk!

1.  Publish more articles in more magazines--at least 2 new ones
2.  Obtain another gallery either in the Bitterroot Valley (where I live) or elsewhere in the region, to replace the one in my hometown that is closing.
3.  Create more challenging pieces that I have ideas for but haven't taken the time to work on.
4.  Continue trying to get into one or more of the top fiber art shows in the country.
5.  Re-organize my studio and keep the business side of things organized.
6.  Start saving up for a trip to attend one of the major quilt shows or an art quilting workshop/retreat.
7.  Join Artist's Along the Bitterroot and participate in their studio tour.
8.  Try to teach on a regular basis, design new classes, keep in touch with potential students.
9.  Develop and maintain an e-mail list for people interested in my art and classes.
10.  Update and maintain my website with current work and information.

One of those items, #3, relates to what I actually want to do with my art and it will be a challenging one for me.  Taking more time with one piece from start to finish means that I can't turn out smaller pieces for my local galleries that need the lower priced work for sales.  I think I need to move into doing things that are more interesting and maybe even innovative--and possibly larger.  Many of the fiber art shows that I aspire to seem to like the larger pieces as they have a much bigger impact in a show.

Local sales versus national recognition.  I've been trying to work on both of these and it is difficult to find time for it all.  So this year I'll hope to change my focus and go for the national recognition.  I believe that will lead to more publishing, more teaching, and maybe even some larger sales down the road.

I'm ready to overcome my challenges of the past few months and change my melancholy attitude into a more positive and  foreward-thinking one.  I have had a modicum of success with my work in the six years that I have been pursuing this and I am proud of that.  I know that I can continue to get better and find more and even richer success in the coming years, so I need to continue working towards that.

Setting goals was never something I did for my life until I decided to pursue art quilting as a business.  Now I find it rewarding to review what I have done and see that I have been reaching goals, accomplishing what I have set out to do, and finding it rewarding.  Not every effort is successful, but in the whole I have been blessed with good fortune, a positive response to my artwork, and wonderful opportunities.  I thank all the people who have supported me along the way and look forward to casting my net even wider and creating an even larger circle of supporters.

Wish me luck! 
I wish you all the very best of health, happiness, and prosperity for the coming year!!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

First Teaching Experience

This past Saturday I taught my first full-fledged day long class and it was a joy. I had a full class of 8 students, the maximum the facility could accommodate with sewing machines. The class was not about the sewing however, it was about design. It was based on my recent article in The Quilt Life Magazine (October) on making Strata Art Quilts.

Strata Art Quilt article in The Quilt Life Magazine and example from article.
The students were varied in their backgrounds and level of art quilting knowledge. I think most were in the stage of having a great interest but not having done a whole lot that they would call art quilts. They were all very enthusiastic students and I enjoyed them.

Each student had to come with a feature fabric or focal point fabric as well as some other fabrics to possibly go with it. I brought a giant stack of scraps as well, although they were of limited use in that many of them were pre-cut strips and weren't very wide.

At least two of the participants had chosen a focal fabric and then changed their minds and selected a different one. Luckily they brought their original choices and I talked them into using those as they were better choices. Go with your intuition!!

I did not know when I was planning the agenda for the day how long it would take for the students to do the actual designing of their pieces, so I allowed plenty of time. It turned out that it did take a while so the timing worked fine. Some of the students would get my attention to come see what they had done as they felt they were about ready to sew it together and I would proceed to encourage reworking what they had and almost completely changing it! I guess they were OK with that as they seemed to really like what we ended up with and could see how it worked better than what they had. Goal accomplished.

After the design segment of the class I gave them some information and tips about the quilting and then beading/embellishing. I think everyone was interested in the possibility of another class where I would help them with the beading of their projects, including maybe going to a bead shop to select what they might use. I'm considering such a class for January but haven't sat down to work out what it might look like, where we'd have it, and what I might charge for it.

I really enjoyed moving between the students and helping them with their projects and hopefully providing them insight as to what might not be working and what to consider that might make it better. There were a couple of students who were quite capable of doing this themselves and had something up on the design wall that looked pretty good in a short period of time. I didn't really feel like I offered them much assistance in their pieces besides a comment or suggestion or two, but hopefully they got something out of my lecture and tips during the other segments of the class time.

The comment was made that they definitely think I have lots of wisdom to impart so I feel a little more comfortable that I am not a fraud and that I might actually be able to teach something! I've held off doing this because I didn't want to just be regurgitating what I had learned from others. I wanted what I teach to be uniquely my experience, knowledge, technique, or style. I think I might be there finally and hope for more successful class experiences in the future.

Thank you to all my students and I'll be in touch!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mini Fiber Art - Ornaments for the Holidays

I have been spending lots of time in the last month making mini fiber and bead art quilts or "ornaments".  Most of them are not holiday motifs so that they can be hung all year round.  I have sold quite a number of them myself, and I have them in all four of my galleries in Stevensville, Hamilton, Missoula and Billings.  They are sold for $25-$28. 

They are rather time consuming to make but it is fun choosing the fabrics, yarns to twist together and couch around the edges, and choosing beads to decorate them.  They are double sided and almost all of them have fringe at the bottom and a beaded hanging loop at the top.


Reverse sides

Here is an image of one of them before I glue it together and stitch it.  I use heavyweight stabilizer between the two pieces of fabric and just baste them with glue stick.  I twist several yarns together and zigzag them to the ornament.  Then I sit in front of the TV with my tray of beads and adorn them!

Look for my artwork at Art City in Hamilton (open every day now through the holidays), The Artist's Shop in Missoula, River's Mist in Stevensville, and Bailiwick's on Grand in Billings---all in Montana. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Images from River's Mist Gallery Show

Here are some images from my show in September that was at River's Mist Gallery in Stevensville, Montana.  It was a beautiful show and I received lots of great comments, but unfortunately very few sales took place.  I made many new pieces for this show and worked for several months, and many long hours to get them done. 

Unfortunately due to a similar level of sales overall as we had for my show, River's Mist Gallery will be closing at the end of December.  I will miss it greatly as it was a wonderful showcase for my work, and that of many other great local/area artists.  I met lots of them and enjoyed seeing their work--but particularly enjoyed how Gretchen Spiess would intersperse my work with theirs.  She is a professional seamstress and thus has a particular fondness for fiber and a real knack for creating beautiful displays and "vignettes" in the gallery.  She showed my work often and probably more than she should have.  I'm sure there were other artists jealous of the amount of space I had in the gallery most months.  

The top piece is actually fused glass by Kathleen Sheard.

I will probably look for a new gallery somewhere in the Bitterroot to showcase my work.  You can always see my art at The Artist's Shop in Missoula but I'd like to have somewhere down the Bitterroot as well.

My first magazine article and one of the quilts from it.

Jacket by Odette Grassi

This was in the front window.  Fused glass is by Amy Knight.

This weekend I will be teaching my first class, Strata Art Quilts, to a full class of 8 students.  I'm nervous and excited and hoping that I really do have some wisdom to impart to these paying customers.  The timing of the class is probably the most uncertain part for me since I don't really know how long it will take everyone to actually design and stitch together their own pieces.  Hopefully the schedule I worked out will work for us.  Wish me luck!!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Whole Cloth Recent Work

For my show in September I did quite a few wholecloth pieces using various types of fabric as the base.

The first one is called "Rough Play" because the base fabric is a regular old burlap that I painted or did some "mark making" on using acrylic and fabric paints.  I just played around with color and line and didn't really try to make a masterpiece or anything.  After I got it bound and quilted I chose to add some hand embroidery using embroidery floss.  The quilting did not make much impact as the burlap seems to stay rather flat and not show the sculptural effect of the quilted lines.  The embroidery helped to add quite a bit of interest to the piece.  Not a showstopper, but a nice piece.

The next piece is a hand-dyed fabric that I quilted and then added beads.  I don't think the quilting is successful on this piece because it is too disjointed and there is no one strong focal point.  I did try to repeat motifs and design elements, but I'm not sure it is all brought together to be a unified piece in the end.  I do like the colors---love the deep dark red with the bold turquoise.  This piece is called "Turquoise and Blood".  The title was chosen because to me the style of the piece reminds me of American Indian art and the two elements, turquoise and blood, are part of their heritage/history.  I did the quilting completely on the spot without any planning, so the style of it is certainly not accurate Native American.  Just reminiscent of it.

So, that is two more of the pieces that I completed this summer for my gallery.  I have many more, but maybe I'll talk about something else in my next post!  Don't want to get in a rut!

I'm busy making beaded fiber ornaments for holiday sales.  I've completed almost 30 now and have more to go.  I'm selling them for $25-$30 which means at my 40% commission gallery I only get $15-$18, but if I sell them myself (already sold 3!) I get the whole shebang---much better deal!  So I drag them with me wherever I go and hope that someone wants to buy one.  Hopefully by January they will be all gone!  Pics to come...

Monday, October 21, 2013

More Fiber Art from My September Show

This piece is called "Making My Mark" (11" x 21") as it was a study in mark making using some fabric pastel crayons.  I did some machine quilting on a sandwich (backing fabric, batting, top) using Osnaburg on top (a rough sort of muslin type/utility fabric, but looser weave), and then did the mark making.  Next I added hand embroidery using embroidery floss and bound it.  This is a rather rough piece but I enjoyed the process.  

 This next piece is called "Echoes on Evening Waters" because the circular motifs remind me of the circles on a lake or pond caused by insects and the occasional fish and the colors are reminiscent of the evening light.  This was white Prepared For Dye (PFD) fabric that was soy wax batiked using fabric paints.  I added lots of machine stitching and added some beaded fringe at the bottom.   This was one of my favorite pieces in the show.  It is only 11" x 17" but quite effective at that size.  I will likely be doing more soy wax batik as I love the depth and interplay of color and design that you get with the layering process.  I did not, however, enjoy removing the wax although I hear that it is much easier to remove than other waxes. 

I am currently working on some of my beaded ornaments for the holiday season so haven't been producing any new fiber art.  The ornaments, of course, are fiber but they don't really count!  I'll show some images when I have some time to take pictures--and before I deliver them to my galleries to sell!  I will also probably share some more of the pieces from my September solo gallery exhibition.  Not much sold so I have lots to show!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I'm Teaching a Class!

I have finally decided to give teaching a try so my first class is scheduled and I'm ready to start recruiting some students!  The class is based on my recent article in October issue of The Quilt Life magazine on how to make "Strata Art Quilts".  Strata art quilts are long narrow wall hangings made of up varying height strips.  It is mostly a design class but the strata quilts are very simply pieced so the design process is not complicated.  It's all about choosing fabrics and deciding where to put them and how much of each fabric to use.   You should be able to complete your top in class and I will give some examples, hints, and tips about how to finish your piece including quilting, beading/embellishment, and binding.

Here are the details about the class:

Strata Art Quilts

Instructor:  Heidi Zielinski

Where:  Vicki's Quilts Down Under, 2425 W. Central Ave., Missoula, MT 

Phone:  728-9446

When:  10am-4pm Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cost:  $40.00

I'm hoping for a minimum of 5 people and the room can accommodate up to 8.  Vicki has a supply list for the class which has my phone number on it if students need help with the selection of fabrics to bring.  I plan to haul in my big bin of scraps which should have plenty of pieces big enough to use in this project. 

Here's an image of one of my strata quilts called "Sunny Disposition":

If you wish to sign up for the class you call Vickie's Quilts down Under (728-9446), or contact me if you have questions.  My e-mail address is

I sure hope there are some interested people out there--I'd love to have a full class!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Two New Pieces and New Techniques

For my recent gallery show I created many new pieces and experimented with some new techniques and many wholecloth pieces.  Here are two of the small pieces I had in the show which did not sell.  

This first piece, "Harlequin", is a black and white fabric that I painted using plain old watercolor paints and a brush.  I just played around putting the color on the fabric using water and not worrying too much about how the color flowed.  I wanted the colors to blend and move a bit--that's the beauty of watercolor.  I like the way it transformed the black and white fabric into something quite colorful.  I heat set the paint when I was finished.  I used the paint on a test piece of fabric which I then washed in soapy water and rinsed in hot water and the color seemed to hold well.

"Harlequin" - 9"x22" - SOLD

The next piece was the result of some experimenting with Nuno Felting which is a wet felting process where you are melding wool roving with fabric by layering the materials with bubble wrap and rolling and rolling and rolling and rolling...  It takes quite a while to get the roving to work its way into the fabric.  In the piece of nuno felting in the center of this piece I used a silk chiffon fabric and after the felting was done I used some coffee to color the silk and make it blend better with the roving.  This piece features quilted feathers on a linen background, and some beaded dangles for interest.  I hand tacked the nuno felted silk to the quilt.  I love the simplistic sophisticated feel of this piece.  Quite a contrast from "Harlequin" above!

"Native Song" - 12-1/2"x24-1/2" - $290.00

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Disappointment and New Opportunities



My most recent solo exhibition is now closed and I have banished most of the 45 pieces that were exhibited to their boxes in my home. Unfortunately the number of visitors and sales were very low, although I was pleased that those who did attend were very complimentary about the work. I was truly saddened that many of my friends and fellow art quilters did not make it to my show, but I would say that a good number of the traditional quilters who enjoy my work did make the effort---and it was much appreciated!

The location of this venue is not very good for traffic and they get very few drop in visitors during the week. Their best opportunity to sell anything is opening night and this one was rather slow. The weather was pretty good for most of the month so I don't think that kept people away. Busy lives and other priorities are probably the culprit.

The owner of River's Mist Gallery did a marvelous job of hanging my work and creating a beautiful exhibition. The front windows were beautiful and probably attracted some attention from passers-by. But, I think there is something about a nice looking art gallery that seems to scare some people and they are afraid to actually go in and look. I'm not sure why this is, but I have sat at the front desk and watched people look in the windows but never come in. I wish I could tell them there is absolutely no dress code, no minimum required purchase, and looking is free (and much appreciated!)!!

I now have a pretty good inventory of pieces to spread around to other shows and galleries so I guess that is a good thing!

I have had a lot of other success in the last week including a 2nd place award for my piece, “Heated Conversation” at the LaConner Quilt Festival in LaConner, Washington. I sent 3 pieces to a juried gallery fiber show in Whitefish, Montana, for the month of October and a number of pieces to a gallery in Billings that approached me about showing my work there. I have 2 pieces at this weekend's Machine Quilting Exposition (MQX) in Portland, Oregon. I received word that my 3rd article has been accepted and will be published in a future issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited. This weekend I was contacted by a company that markets a certain very popular fabric line at major quilt shows and wants to use one of my designs to create instructions/kits using that fabric. I will receive royalties on those sales so that is pretty exciting! All of this is keeping me quite busy checking e-mail, preparing images, and wishing I could be a fly on the wall at all of these places! My quilts get to travel and have much more exciting adventures than I ever do!

Locally our art group, Montana Bricolage Artists, will be showing our most recent group effort, “Reflections” at a local brewery for the month of November. Kicking off the first weekend is a city-wide art event with numerous venues around town featuring different kinds of art. So if you are in or near the Hamilton, Montana area do stop in to the Higher Ground Brewery and see this really wonderful fiber art show with our quite varied interpretations of the “Reflections” theme, and visit some of the other interesting venues around town. In particular there are approximately 100 artists who have been participants of a program to teach artists how to market and sell their work who will be showing their work at the First Interstate Building at the Hamilton Fairgrounds on the first Friday and Saturday in November.

I'm excited about all these opportunities that have presented themselves and all the success I am having with my work in some of these new directions. I wish I could sell more work locally, but I'm thinking that I better pursue the goal I have been pondering for some time of getting my work into some gallery venues outside my region/State—and in more lucrative markets!  Now to figure out how to do that!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) Auction

Earlier this year I sent in my 12" x 12" SAQA on-line auction donation and last week the auction began.  My piece was in the first week of bidding and I am honored to say that it sold to a fellow art quilter at the $250 level.  It was the first time one of my pieces has sold for more than the final level of $75 so I have finally been able to contribute a nice amount to the efforts of this organization.

My piece was called "Tweeting About The Setting Sun" and includes a number of pieces of fabric that I created using various surface design techniques.  I hope the purchaser enjoys the piece as much as I did while I was making it!

Here are some pics:

Gift for a Friend

I have a friend who is going through a crisis in her life (and handling it rather well I might add).  Her circle of friends that share with her the passion for fiber art in her life decided to make momentos/gifts/fiber lucky charms and each of us was assigned dates for doing that.

When we were first asked about doing this the proposal was for "angels" but when I started to think about what I was going to do I knew that I didn't want to do a doll as it isn't my thing.  I chose to do a small wallhanging and to deviate from the angel theme a bit by going with fairies.  But these are fairies that give out Pixie Dust--that all powerful sprinkling that gives you the power of flight with a little faith and hope to boost it along.  What could be better for healing and lifting spirits?

So here are some pictures of my gift to her.  The little pouch at the top right-hand corner is organza and holds some sparkly sequins.  The piece is, of course, called "Pixie Dust".  On the back is a quote from the Peter Pan story, "All the World is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust".

Painting the edges of the leaves gold.

Little bag of "pixie dust" (actually sequins)

Now I am working on a second gift for my friend although I have missed my deadline.  I know she will forgive me for being so late, and hopefully she will enjoy the gift and it will lift her spirits whenever she does get it.  That is the purpose after all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

"Strata Art Quilts" Article

"A Slice of Clear Water"

 Please look for my first magazine article in The Quilt Life magazine which is in stores now (October issue).  The article is called "Strata Art Quilts" and is a how-to for an easy-to-piece art quilt.  The article is 5 pages long and has lots of images of my work. 

Let me know what you think!

I have another article in the works for American Quilter magazine which is supposed to be out early in 2014.  It is about a "stamp and stitch" technique, another easy way to create lovely art quilts.

I'm thinking about organizing a class on this "strata" quilt technique.  Would love some feedback as to whether you think this would be a good class. 

Look for more from me in the future as I'm rather encouraged by getting both of these articles accepted on the first try!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Paintings In Cloth


For my solo gallery exhibition at River's Mist Gallery in Stevensville, Montana, I have a number of new pieces that began with fabric that I created. Some are soy wax batik, one is “decolorant” or color removal, others are painted or stamped. The show is called “Paintings in Cloth” because there are a number of these pieces in the show, but also because I feel that all of my pieces are like paintings in their use of color, line, design, and texture to make something that hangs on the wall.

I took some pictures of some of the fabric before I made them in to the art quilts, so I thought it might be interesting for you to see how I transformed them with stitch and sometimes beading.

"Memory of a Woodland Walk"

"Time Passages"

"Sweet Field of Honey"

The show, entitled "Paintings in Cloth", opened on Friday, September 6, with an artist's reception. The gallery is located on Main Street in Stevensville just south of Valley Drug. The work will be up through the month, probably until Monday, September 30. I've been creating new pieces (approx. 28!) all summer and am looking forward to seeing how people like what I've been doing.   There are about 35 pieces in the gallery so it is a nice exhibition of my work and the gallery owner, Gretchen Spiess has a wonderful knack for hanging art to compliment other art/each other.  There are some beautiful wood vessels and fused glass in the gallery with my show.  Come visit! 

Stuffed Turkey Thigh/Legs

Disclaimer: This is a cooking post not an art post!  But I will say that there is an art to boning, stuffing and baking this recipe--and it ...