Out of the Blue

Cutting-edge fabric art

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Follow Second Street in La Conner south, to the elegant, 19th century Gaches mansion, home of the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum.  Quilts are what they’ve got in the permanent collection—downstairs—and quilts are featured in Sue Spargo’s “Creating Texture” exhibit on the second floor. 

Climb the stairs to floor three, however, and you won’t find anything to cover your bed on a cold winter’s night. Here is an exhibit of cutting-edge fabric art by the members of Whidbey Island Surface Design.

The name implies the creating, coloring and patterning any fiber or fabric with processes such as dyeing, painting, printing, stitching, embellishing, quilting, weaving, knotting, felting and paper-making.

All members of the group reside on Whidbey Island, but many have traveled the world to learn traditional techniques and design.   Challenging themselves with the theme “Out of the Blue,” they have come up with literal and figurative interpretations—contemporary quilts, handmade textiles, sculpture, mixed-media wall hangings and dazzling wearable art. 

“Estuary,” by Carys Ann Hamer, is an abstract collage of handmade, hand-dyed paper rectangles in blues, greens, orange and brown, with cut and torn edges suggesting a precious object washed in on the tide.  She brings to her art the experience of living with the Bemba of Zembia and the Ovambo of Namibia. She has also studied batik in Indonesia.

Danielle Bodine astonishes viewers with three-dimensional wall sculptures. Her laborious technique involves weaving an impossible “basket” out of twigs, over which she molds wet mulberry-bark paper. Once this paper form is dry, she removes it and paints, glues, re-forms, dyes and scorches it. The shell of paper is reborn as a numinous kayak, retaining only shadows of the absent twigs, ready for a dream voyage. Next to it hangs a companion creation in the form of an uncanny box, suggesting the egg capsule of a giant squid.

On the opposite wall hang three Japanese-inspired creations by Bergen Rose. In “Kimono Woman with Cricket Cage,” this artist has transferred an original image of a Japanese woman onto translucent silk organza, where it hovers above the same image on opaque cotton, to create a magical, shifting effect as you walk past.

Laura Stangel Schmidt dyes and paints fabric, paper and found materials. In three pieces entitled “Geography 4,” she has crafted subtle hangings of beige and brown using mono-printing, stamping, drawing, painting, dyeing, fusing and stitching (in her own words), combining into layered compositions that reflect her fascination with dualities.

Uniquely, one artist in the group uses constructions of a single color—in this case, a deep blue—to focus on the texture and sheen of her fabrics. Ilene Rae Sorenson has created a set of soft sculptures from wetted felt and silk called “Bluesome,” and they are striking.

An international flavor also contributes to the work of the other major exhibit in the museum: that of Sue Spargo. Her large and small traditional quilts reflect influences of travel to Zambia, England, Persia, Catalonia, and Sicily. Now she is based in Ohio, but will visit La Conner to offer a quilting workshop next October.

Spargo’s typical teaching approach is to construct one or two small quilts using, for example, her favorite icon—stylized bird figures—and then, construct a queen-size piece, such as “Robin Run the Hedge.” She uses commercially available materials as well as the gorgeous, hand-dyed fabrics from the studio of her sister, Wendy. Talent must run in the family.

SVCR Live Music
More Visual...
Sew Excited
A time for textiles

Ever since I attempted to make a flannel nightgown as part of a home economics class in junior high school, I’ve been in awe of people who can sew.

While my finished frock looked like something someone in a mental institution might wear instead of a straitjacket—one arm was…

more »
A magical resonation

In “Evidence,” the current show at Smith & Vallee Gallery, two exceptional artists give us their views—David Blakesley, of a world that might have been or what it might become, and Kathleen Faulkner, images of the forest, examined close-up and transformed by the creator’s eye.…

more »
Native Son
The life and art of James T. Pickett

Pencils and paper were scarce commodities on the remote Mason County homestead where James Tilton Pickett grew up, but that didn’t stop him from drawing.

Instead of filling sketchbooks and stretched canvasses, he committed his lines to a variety of repurposed barnyard materials. Charcoal…

more »
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

The Addams Family Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Forever Plaid

7:30pm|Conway Muse

The Mousetrap

7:30pm| Bellingham Theatre Guild

Figmentally, Circus for All

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Harvest Happens

8:00am|Bellewood Acres

Bellingham Bay Marathon

7:30am|Gooseberry Point

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Eat Local Month's Restaurant Week

8:00am|Whatcom County

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Oyster Run Motorcycle Rally


Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Whatcom Chorale Benefit Concert

3:00pm|St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Eat Local Month's Restaurant Week

8:00am|Whatcom County

Pizza Class

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Open Mic

7:00pm|Village Books

Scrooge the Musical Auditions

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre


8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

MBT Janis Joplin BOB_2017
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Eat Local Month's Restaurant Week

8:00am|Whatcom County

Scrooge the Musical Auditions

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Dog Day Afternoon

3:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Foray Into Fall Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Bellingham Reads

6:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

The Diking of the Delta

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hal

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Comedy Open Mic


Teton Gravity Research

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 MBT Janis Joplin Bellingham Farmer’s Market 2020 Solutions Sept 2017 BOB_2017 Trove Village Books