Fabric artist enjoys picturesque tours of France
Say what? You want us to cut this little 2-inch square of fabric into 16 tinier pieces? And repeat the process many times over with more 2-inch squares?
That’s how most of the quilting students — including myself — reacted to the instructions of fabric artist extraordinaire Lenore Crawford in a recent class titled “Blended Fabric Collage.”
Crawford, who lives in Midland, Mich., taught an all-day class recently in Grand Junction, in which the main tool was not a sewing machine but a pair of long-handled tweezers.
Her goal was to help her students learn to blend miniscule pieces of multi-patterned cloth, often small florals, into a realistic forest landscape of birch trees. Crawford compares the tedious process to assembling a jigsaw puzzle without having the original photograph to follow.
The finished size of the collage was 4½ inches by 6½ inches, so the task was not overwhelming. Still, it took most of the six hours we were allotted to complete our little scenes, turning and manipulating each half-inch square into a position that enhanced our color transitions — for example, from blue sky to dense green foliage to bright flowers.
Finally, we added shading to our trees with touches of fabric paint. This last step really brought to life each scene, which then could be glued to a larger mat and framed. No quilting or stitching of any sort was required.
But Crawford’s sleeves are filled with magic tricks, and the blended collage is barely the beginning of her repertoire, as evidenced by her Power Point presentations and actual art quilts shown to two different quilt guilds during her local visit earlier this month.
She also taught another three-day class on her prize-winning fusing/fabric painting technique — making impressionistic fabric quilts from enlarged photographs.
Her pictorial quilt titled “Port of Cassis” won an outstanding art quilt award at a California show before taking best-of-show honors from the American Quilter’s Society in 2011. It is now in the permanent collection of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., has appeared in two different art calendars and is featured in multiple quilting magazines.
The quilt, which she describes as a “construction challenge,” started with a photo Crawford took at Cassis in the south of France, a favorite destination that inspires much of her art.
“I went to France often, sometimes even twice a year, until a couple of years ago,” she says.
Visiting the French side of Lake Geneva, right next to the Alps, provides Crawford with scenes of lush gardens and distinctive structures.
“I love to try to capture the French architecture in my work,” she says.
Shadows, warm light and intricate details pull the viewer’s eye into Crawford’s “Afternoon Delight” quilt of two bicycles outside a building with shuttered windows. This quilt has to its credit such honors as overall exemplary design, best use of color, best machine appliqué and best of show in numerous 2010 contests.
In her architectural designs, Crawford says she often uses a fabric line called Stonehenge by Northcott because it mimics the texture of stone and rock and is available in shades of browns and grays. From it, she builds her structures, such as her most recent scene, a triptych titled “Le Poet Laval Three Paths,” measuring 45 inches by 8.5 feet.
After creating three separate scenes of the medieval village Le Poet Laval from hundreds of pieces of fabric, Crawford sewed them together as one.
When free-motion quilting her fused pieces, she uses a Janome Horizon 7700 QCP machine, which Crawford praises because “it’s not temperamental at all with whatever types of thread I use in it.”
As a quilt instructor, she finds herself in high demand and keeps a busy schedule. For example, she’ll teach in November at Art Quilt Tahoe in Lake Tahoe, Calif., and later in the month in Arizona. After that, other venues include Los Angeles and Charleston, S.C. At the end of May, she can visit her “Port of Cassis” quilt while teaching a multiple-day workshop at the museum in Paducah.
Wherever Crawford travels, she’s as comfortable with camera in hand as she is wielding a razor-sharp rotary blade in her Michigan attic studio where she pursues her dream job — “playing with fabric and fabric paint.”
Email Sherida.Warner@ GJSentinel.com.