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Monday, April 6th, 2020

Flags

I want to start off by acknowledging that I am very aware that I have quite the advantage with this working at home situation. Having spent years alone in my studio, I very simply see this time as one more opportunity to hunker down with my current project: 14 flags to illustrate my in-process writing: A PATCHWORK LIFE.

My interest in flags came from two sources: first a commission for a DC hotel and second my husband, Steve’s desire to produce his own prayer flags.

Steve’s Flags
SilkDenim Hotel Commission

In response to the Tree of Life Massacre I made this flag:

And a trip to NYC helped with my inspiration:

View this post on Instagram

#flag art

A post shared by Louise Silk (@silkquilt) on

And yet another commission:

D.C. Denim Flag

And now a hint of more to come:

Flag C
A P A T C H

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

Going Virtual

In this day, the world is filled with stories. Here is mine: an opportunity of a lifetime having a solo exhibition in a beautiful downtown gallery with weekly demonstrations to be with the public and then a pandemic that requires everyone to stay home.

Thank goodness, the sponsoring organization Contemporary Craft is onto creative alternatives to get the work: thus this interview with me. I am reblogging it here- mostly for my own documentation, but also if you haven’t see this before, another opportunity to enjoy!

Me at Fiberart International

Louise Silk is a Pittsburgh-based artist, writer, and quilter. For over forty years, she has been creating art that combines aesthetics and functionality with meanings and memories for family, friends, individuals, and organizations. In additional to creating exhibition-level artworks and running a zero-waste studio, Louise also join forces with her daughter at SilkDenim, a web-based shop selling one-of-a-kind, handcrafted 100% recycled clothing, bags, and quilts.

Her solo exhibition – ReNew – is on view at Contemporary Craft’s BNY Mellon Satellite Gallery in Downtown Pittsburgh through May 2020. Her artist demonstration on every Wednesday during the run of her exhibition is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we are happy to share more about Louise and her creative processes here. Louise also sent us a video to show us her studio, so make sure to read until the end!

Rasiel’s Mantle

Contemporary Craft (CC): Can you describe your work that is now exhibiting in ReNew for people who can’t see it in person?

Louise Silk: The work is divided into three sections: “Quilts”, “Denim”, and “Words of Wisdom”. The quilts, mostly kimono shapes representing angels, are made of tee-shirt remnants in a freeform patchwork. Piecing circles, in combination with stretchy knits is technically demanding, making it fun to bring everything together into a workable format that transforms wasted cloth into a greater purpose.

I partner with my daughter, Sarah, as SilkDenim, where we emphasize the craft & beauty of re-making 100% recycled materials into individually crafted objects. Our mainstay is denim because of its rugged practicality and unique ability to improve with age. The pieces in ReNew use the most challenging parts of deconstructed denim: the waistbands, the back seams, and the pockets. In addition to the spiritually inspired angels, two of the denim pieces, Dina’s Coat of Many Colors Ketonet Passim and No Hate Flag, are politically motivated. Dina, the daughter of Leah and Jacob, is the biblical accounting of women’s violation and relates to the current #MeToo movement and No Hate Flag is my response to the lives lost at the Tree of Life massacre.

“Words of Wisdom” was inspired by traditional samplers that used phrases like “a stitch in time saves nine”. I modernized that idea by using encouraging phrases and quotes that permeate the internet today with the intention of creating a more positive dialogue during the current political environment. This is the project I worked on while doing artist demonstration on-site at my exhibition. I documented some of the work on my Instagram (@Silkquilt).

Detail of Dina’s Coat

CC: What draws you to fiber arts? Why were you drawn to upcycling and reusing materials?

Louise Silk: I have always been drawn to cloth. The only thing I did particularly well in high school was sew. I have a B.S. degree in Home Economic Education. The transformation to Fiber Art began with an article in MS Magazine in 1972 about quilting as a women’s art form. 

Fiber is pervasive throughout our environment and particularly relevant to our everyday lives, making it the perfect medium for unending exploration. Upcycling and reuse became the only sensible way to keep working sustainably within our current environment.

ReNew

CC: Tell us more about your how you work and about your creative process.

Louise Silk: It seems funny to say, but my work is very organic. I live in a 2700 sq. ft. loft with a plethora of materials. The content of my ongoing process flows from what’s on my mind, how I am feeling, what’s happening around me. 

CC: How does your background influence your work? And how has your work evolved over the years?

Louise Silk: I am in process on a memoir called “A Patchwork Life” that explores the evolution of my work. Once again, the best description is organic and fluid. The quilt I made in association with the writing is a series of fourteen flags – each representing a chapter of my work. I will also make a kimono/angel for it.

CC: What are your inspirations?

Louise Silk: Spirit practices like Zen and Kabbalah; engaging in a thoughtful process; contemporary art and artists; high fashion and interior design.

CC: What is your dream project? Or if you have completed one already, what is it?

Louise Silk: I would love to have a major gallery exhibit that was an enclosed environment made totally of quilts.

Contemporary Craft Drop In Studio

CC: What’s the most fulfilling part about being a maker?

Louise Silk: Every day is exciting and meaningful.

CC: Tell us about your favorite artist or artists that inspires you.

Louise Silk: My favorites are Louise Bourgeois and Magdalena Abakanowicz, both fine artists who use fiber in their work. 

CC: What role does the artist have in society?

Louise Silk: I have always been a little ahead and to the left of the general society and as much as that is true for other artists, we help to inspire and forge the path.

CC: What is the best piece of advice you received as an artist?

Louise Silk: Be open- don’t hesitate- discover connections-follow your gut- take it further.

CC: Lastly, what is art/craft to you?

Louise Silk: Pure inspiration.

Louise Silk: Studio Tour | Video by Steve Root


Friday, February 7th, 2020

ReNew: The Words

Showing at BNY Mellon Contemporary Craft Satellite Gallery

This part of the ReNew Exhibition is a collaboration project with my daughter, Sarah Silk. Together, we are SilkDenim, re-making 100% recycled materials into individually crafted objects. We’re particularly attracted to denim because of its rugged practicality and unique ability to improve with age. ​Using recycled materials requires us to work with authentic details & create every piece anew, providing a unique one-of-a-kind object that emphasizes the craft & beauty of re-using over discarding.

Words of Wisdom came from our personal collections of words, phrases and inspirational quotes that permeate the internet. Why not translate them into a evocative textile that embody warmth, craft, and permanence?

Words of Wisdom; Individual Word Blocks; Various Sizes, Materials and Techniques. $95 each.

Words of Wisdom: You Create
Embroidery, patchwork, hand stitching 
Words of Wisdom: Mindful Steps
Embroidery, patchwork, hand stitching 
Words of Wisdom: SuperHero
Reverse applique, patchwork, hand stitching 
Words of Wisdom: Imagine
Reverse applique, patchwork, hand stitching
Words of Wisdom: ReNew
Hand embroidery, quilting, reverse applique; recycled SilkQuilt, Mother’s hand embroidery 
 

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Renew: The Denim

Showing at BNY Mellon Contemporary Craft Satellite Gallery

Dina’s Coat of Many Colors Ketonet Passim; 57” W X 52” L X 2” D; Hand and Machine Pieced Denim Remnants, Old Quilt Remnant. Hand Quilted; $1600.00.

The current #MeToo movement is an expanded global community of survivors from all walks of life highlighting the breadth and impact of a worldwide sexual violence. They demand perpetrators be held accountable and strategies implemented that sustain long term, systemic change.

Dina, the daughter of Leah and Jacob, is the biblical accounting of women’s violation. The equal combination of divine attributes of strength, gevorah, and lovingkindness, chesed, come together as a significant force in the healing process.

Uriel’s Yukata and Pant; 66” H X 54” W X 2” D Machine and Hand Pieced Colored Denim and Old Quilt Top; Boro Stitching; $1100.00

Each angel has a single divine purpose. The angel Uriel is an action angel preforming service for universal peace. A yukata is a casual version of a kimono. 

Saturday Night Angels; Blue 27” L X 53” W X 4” W; Multi-color 36” L X 41” W X 4” W; Machine Pieced denim and sweatshirt remnants; applied denim seams; $900.00 each.

These Angelic Mantles represent the metaphysical color system of angels based on seven different light rays. Working with recycled denim, the most difficult part of jeans to use is the back-center seam. These pieces transform that waste into this higher purpose. 

No Hate Flag; 33” H X 44” W; Machine Pieced and Quilted Denim Waistbands and Remnants, $1111.00.

There is a long extensive herstory of quilts made as a public expression of political issues. This was mine in response to the lives lost at the Tree of Life massacre.


Friday, January 31st, 2020

ReNew: The Quilts

Showing at BNY Mellon Contemporary Craft Satellite Gallery

Gabriel’s Mantle; 52” W X 26” L X 2” D; Machine Pieced and Hand Quilted Tee-Shirt Remnants, Old Quilt Remnant; $900.00

Gabriel is the pure spirit identified with the divine attribute of Yesod- the longing to connect. The mantle, like a quilt, serves the practical function of keeping someone warm protecting them from the elements. In this case, it also serves as a symbolic divine representation.

Rasiel’s Mantle’s; 43” H X 63” W X 2” D; Machine Pieced and Hand Quilted Tee-Shirt Remnants, Old Quilt Remnant; $1600.00.

The archangel, Rasiel, presides over our actions transforming the knowledge of information and ideas into the wisdom of achieving our deepest levels of understanding. The mantle, like a quilt, serves the practical function of keeping someone warm protecting them from the elements. In this case, it also serves as a symbolic divine representation.

Holy, Holy, Holy; 77” H X 96” W X 8” D; Machine Pieced and Hand Quilted Tee-Shirt Remnants, Old Quilt Remnant; $1800.00

In Isaiah 6:3 of the Hebrew Bible, one Seraphim exclaiming to another: Holy, holy, holy, is The Holy One: the whole earth is full with This Glory. Stating the word three times in a row emphasizes complete devotion to what is good and righteous.

Free Form Quilt #1; 76” H X 63” W;
Machine Pieced and Hand Quilted Tee-Shirt Remnants; $495.00

Quilts made of tee-shirt logos are a way to consolidate, combine and celebrate important memories. The problem becomes what to do with discarded sleeves and the edges? Free form patchwork means that there is no pattern. I take the pieces and combine them in any way they come together. The fact that circles are the most challenging seams and knits are the most stretchy materials creates quite the challenge, but it is also part of the fun to be able to bring it together into a workable format. 

FreeForm Quilt Detail


Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

A Most Significant Ritual

ReNew; 16”H X 12”W; Hand Embroidery, Quilting and Reverse Applique;
Recycled SilkQuilt and Mother’s Hand embroidery.

At 9:00 today I will create what feels like a very significant ritual. I will put on my walking shoes, pack up a hot tea, download my latest Impeachment podcasts and walk from the loft down to Contemporary Craft’s BNY Mellon Satellite Gallery where my exhibition ReNew with a selection of some of my most vibrant and powerful works will be on display from today through to May 1st.

When the opportunity presented itself, my first thought was how cool would it be to actually sit in the space, allowing the viewers an opportunity to not only see the work, but also share in the process: observe the stitching, ask questions, suggest ideas, even sit along with me and having their own stitching experience?

Words of Wisdom: Imagine; Old Linens,
Reverse Applique, Patchwork, Hand Stitching

The seed germinates. The idea presents itself. It is fostered and supported. A ritual is created including an observation, an acknowledgement, a step, a stitch, a sip, a listen, a word, an action, a thought, a prayer. It feels powerful and I wanted to share it with you.

Words of Wisdom: Superpower; Recycled Men’s Shirts and Denim,
Reverse Applique, Patchwork, Hand Stitching

Hope to see you there, every Wednesday around lunchtime for the next 12 weeks.


Monday, November 11th, 2019

Three Seraphim

Machine pieced & hand quilted t-shirt remnants, old quilt remnants, assorted yarns

On view at the 107th Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Annual Exhibition; Westmoreland Museum of American Art; November 9, 1919-January 26th, 2020.

I use ordinary textile remnants to create art quilts. This work is one in a series of mantles representing spiritual entities. The mantle, like a quilt, serves the practical function of keeping one warm while protecting from the elements. These mantles serve as symbolic divine representation multiplied by the power of three.  The purple stars of Sariel evoke inner wisdom. The eyes of Chamuel, surrounded in green, channel strength and courage. The yellow and orange wheels of Uriel bring knowledge and insights. 


Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

A Patch Work Life: The Hands On Guide To Living Piece By Piece

PatchworkLife

Life is a Verb

Piecing

Stitching

Quilt:
Voluminous layers
Countless hues and values
Embedded with meaning
Personal herstory
Minuscule patches that speaks volumes
Ensconcing with warmth and protection
Hand Stitched patterns
Endless sizes, shapes and forms
Piecing, Stitching, Darning, Mending, Ripping

Producing Quilts:
The next one is always better than the one before
Organized cutting and construction steps
Staying at the machine until the entire set is pieced
Process over product
Creating something original comes unexpectedly without planning

Memory Quilts:
One little patch tells its own story
Stains and holes add meaning
Satisfies individual needs for healing
Can heal through past, present and future

Essence of Me:
Strong family ties
Thinking outside the box
A little ahead and to the left
Reticent to get involved yet too quick to jump in
Problem solver, looking for practical solutions
Transforming continually from being to doing and back again
Compelling deep connection with spirit
Big heart
Gestalt, big picture thinker
Direct understanding derived through personal experience

Being Prolific:
Always have the next step ready to go before stopping
Use idle time to think through ideas
Keep the materials organized, separated by type, easily accessible
Prepare the leftovers as you go
Having enough materials on hand for alternative options
Constant desire to create something new
Great outlet for compulsive behavior

Being in Relationship:
A constant search for the balance of together and alone
Prioritize its importance and give it its due
Eating meals together, getting up and going to bed at the same time
When feeling criticized step back to understand what is behind the statement
Instead of over reacting, stop, feel, find a reaction that is soft, positive and personal
When the reasons are not clear for an action, stop and ask why
Never make assumptions
Express needs, concerns, feelings openly
Step away as needed
Support the other person’s effort to be independent and responsible in other relationships
Maintain a sense of humor

Forms of Anxiety:
Fear of making a mistake
Fear of not knowing enough
Rejection
Criticism
Not feeling good enough
Negative and faulty beliefs about self
Lack of trust
What is unknown or not understood

Mothering:
Self-care enables care of others
Untold life rewards
The truest meaning of instinct
Contributes to life purpose

Basics:
Quality sleep is the backbone
Overcoming food likes, obsessions, cravings is a lifelong challenge
Aging gracefully requires a real commitment to keeping physically active
See who is in the mirror
The stillness of meditation shows the way
Anything can be a spiritual practice
Change is the only constant
Quality over quantity
Identifying and feeling emotions allows for flow
Ask questions and apply critical thinking

Life Goals:
Die with awareness
Give up judgement
Combat prejudice, promote diversity, advocate social justice
Do things that bring happiness
Listen carefully and speak from the heart


Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Moving Through Loss: A Wise Woman Ritual circa 2000

Moving Through Loss

Ritual

A Letter to the Most Illustrious the Contessina Allagia degli Aldobrandeschi, written Christmas Eve, Anno Domini 1513

I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.

Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see. And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.

Fra Giovanni Giocondo


Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

The Thousand Zippers

FiberArts Internation 2019

FiberArts Internation 2019

The thousand zippers,
One for each time
You were told to “zip it”.
A thousand times
When all you were looking for
Was an answer,
A response,
Someone to notice
That you were alive.

Your size
Made you hard to miss.
But even harder to reach.
Your hands,
Big as the basketball
You spent hours with
On the abandoned playground,
Had a gentle touch
That your grandmother
Knew well.
You carried her
From her bed
On the second floor
Down to her chair
By the window
Every morning,
Then back up the stairs
Every night.
No one ever saw
How you brushed out her hair,
Braiding it
When she was young
And beautiful.
No one knew
How much you cried
When she passed.

All that remains
Is this shell
Of who you appeared to be
But really weren’t.

Laura McGinnis
Pittsburgh, PA
May, 2019


Friday, May 31st, 2019

Forty Years and Counting

Today is the opening for Fiberarts International. It’s pretty special. The best and the brightest innovation in a traditionally warm and fuzzy medium.

Meeting the artists and the guild organizers yesterday, I am awed by this organization’s influence and support of my personally arduous and circuitous path in an ever changing definition of the fiber medium and the fiber artist.

Three Rivers

Archangel Michal and me2019


Sunday, May 26th, 2019

Craftivism

Terrorist society

Terrorist Society2

craft + activism = craftivism. Maker participation that uses the creative process making a stronger more compassionate voice, strengthening personal activism, connecting beyond the self, and making items that facilitate political thought and action.

My age old question on the hierarchy of art and craft rears its ugly head: studio art vs fiber art vs craftivism vs fine art vs contemporary craft when I listen to JULIA BRYAN-WILSON discuss her conclusions from her 2017 book: Fray:Art and Textile Politics.

I totally identified with her portrayal of the 70’s Women’s Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society, owning one of the original tee-shirts. I was completely aligned with her fine portrayal of relevant contemporary artists producing thought provoking textiles like Willam Pope, Cecilia Vicuña, Margarita Cabrera, and Harmony Hammond. Her information about the inherently progressive nature of the small hand-sewn tapestries depicting Pinochet’s torture, arpilleras (tapestries) and the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt were evidence of handcrafted textiles recruited to satisfy ambivalent ends. She also proved that the malleability of fiber means that textiles can be activated for many ideological debates about feminized labor, protest cultures, and queer identities.

But, please, when you articulate all of that so clearly, give the artists the credit they deserve. They are artists escaping the assertions of high or low, alternative or mainstream, professional and amateur, success or fail: They are the artists offering crucial insight into how textiles inhabit the broad space we call art.



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