International Quilt Festival is coming up later this month, and we are excited to be sponsoring Jane Dunnewold's juried Digital Alchemy exhibition, a collection of quilts featuring digitally printed fabric designs. Jane's innovative work has forever inspired us, and we are delighted to catch up with Jane to learn more about her process in curating this show. To celebrate her creative journey, we're hoping to inspire other by giving away a copy of Jane's Design & Print Your Own Fabric!, an instructional DVD to get you started with fabric design! We'll even throw in 2 yards of Spoonflower fabric for one lucky winner. So go ahead and enter, and read on for a sneak preview of the Digital Alchemy exhibit.
Once you've entered for you chance to win, read on and take a peek at a few of the amazing quilts on display at this year's Digital Alchemy exhibition!
Please tell us a bit about Digital Alchemy and how the show came to be? What inspired you to create this collection?
JANE: Digital Alchemy evolved because of my own interest in designing fabrics for printing by Spoonflower. I teach workshops where fifteen or more people are on their computers designing fabric from artwork and photographs. Some of the results are so magical I began to think of them as alchemically transformed! By that I mean, the changes that happen because of the tools available to us through the computer and also through the various programs aren’t changes we can automatically envision – they occur right before our eyes...and although they are logical, they seem magical!
What are you most excited to showcase in the Digital Alchemy exhibition?
The range and creativity of the works included.
Whose work will be featured in this exhibition?
I juried from over 100 entries, which was exciting. I wish more work could have been included, but I selected 24 artists. They are:
- Gail Sims
- Kathy Williams
- Eileen Donovan
- Jess Jones
- Charlotte Ziebarth
- Susan Hotchkis
- Naomi Adams
- Barbara Schneider
- Susie Monday
- Teri Illingworth
- Jill Ault
- Cheryl Braswell
- Jill Kerttula
- Mary Elmusa
- Judith Ahlborn
- Wen Redmond
- Judy Momenzadeh
- Elaine Ross
- Anna Mae Gazo
- Beth Kennedy and Donna Bearden
- Linda Nelson-Johnson
- Julie Stern Brandon
Can you describe the creative processes behind some of the quilts shown? What design techniques were used, etc?
I was specifically looking for a range of approaches to the use of digitally printed fabric in the quilt format. Most of what I've seen in quilt shows in the past was very nice, but mainly an image transferred to cloth and then quilted. Having seen what students and colleagues are doing with their digitally printed fabrics, I knew there was more to it than this. There has been an impulse to see these fabrics as “sacred” somehow–that dyeing, printing, deconstructing, etc. would somehow “ruin” them. I wanted to show a range of pieces that are the best of what digitally printed fabrics can be – ramped up to ART by making the most of what was there–and then continuing to transform it.
So there are quilts where the fabrics are cut and reassembled, and quilts where paint and other mixed media components have been added.
What it boils down to is that digital printing is just another tool in the toolbox. People who make clothing and home dec have gorgeous fabrics to work with, don’t get me wrong. But from an artist’s standpoint, it’s a question of what the digitally printed fabric can do that makes it distinctive – adding to the other techniques used to alchemically assist in the creation of an artwork! What can I do with digital printing that I can’t do any other way? That’s what makes it a valuable part of an artist’s repertoire.
Can you elaborate on the digital theme of this show, and how you think that digital printing is impacting or changing surface design and quilting?
As I said above, to artists (and, by extension, art quilt makers) digital printing is a tool. The more ways an artist can explore the use of the tool, the more possibilities there are! One builds on the others. Digital printing allows surface designers and quilters to incorporate photos into their work, but in fresh and imaginative ways that far transcend printing a picture on fabric on your home printer and sewing it to a quilt! (Not that that was bad – we all have to start somewhere!)
Now we can mirror-image, change colors, warp an image, or use the hundreds of possibilities offered by Pic Monkey to further alter and “personalize” our visions. And we don’t have to start with a photo either. And that’s only what can happen prior to printing the cloth. What follows – when the fabric arrives and is carried into the studio – expands the potential even more.
Bottom line – digital printing allows artists to take control over every aspect of the creation of their work – not unlike taking white fabric and dyeing and printing it by hand, but in a format that makes production faster. Digital printing also adds design capabilities that aren’t necessarily possible to do by hand.
How have the capabilities of digital printing informed your own work as a textile artist?
I’ve been using Spoonflower since you were in Beta mode. I think my first fabric was ordered in 2008, but you’d have to check the records to know for sure! In any event, I produced a fourteen piece body of work in 2009, all based on photographs I took in the Perth, Australia Museum of Natural History. Those photos of animals and plants were put into a mirror repeat and the effect was as though the animals were disintegrating or disappearing. Perfect for the subject matter, which was the degradation of the natural world by human beings. Entitled Sacred Planet, the series became my one person exhibition (2009) at the Boger Gallery in AK, and also at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, NY. I continue to use my fabrics in my own work.
What advice or creative direction do you have for folks excited to explore the possibilities of digital surface design?
Don’t limit what you think you can do because you assume all designing needs to be repeated patterns. Those are wonderful and the creativity in that area is fabulous, but there’s plenty of room for what I call “improvisational” designing – odd scans of bits and pieces of things, watercolors, dyed fabric – these offer unexpected opportunities to create abstract (although not always) wonderful fabric designs that can then be worked into other pieces of art! I teach classes and have a workshop scheduled for Art Quilt Tahoe in early November. What could be better than studying this at a gorgeous location like Lake Tahoe!!
I’ve also written an Ebook and produced a 90 minute video for Interweave Press and those are readily available for anyone who prefers to study and review numerous times! I walk viewers through all of the basic steps to load images to the site and then riff on the hundreds of ways there are to play with the photos – both before and after loading them to the site. All of these products can be found in the Interweave Store or on my own website, where we do calls for entry for shows, offer tutorials and offer a newsletter sign-up so no one ever has to miss any of the exciting things we’re sharing and/or offering!