making the invisible visible

I am preparing for a number of shows in 2018 by gathering up all the pieces that are done and planning some that are not. I'm looking for pieces that go together and some that contrast each other well. The studio is covered in pieces that are unpacked, unrolled and stacked. The pieces represent over ten years of work.

Five quilts piled on top of each other. Paula Kovarik

I am also experimenting with new forms. A series of quilt pillars came to life this week. Rolling the quilts over tubes produced a third dimension that appeals to me. Walking around the pillars adds an element of surprise that the flat pieces do not. I especially like the way the back or front is revealed when the tube unrolls as in the one of the right pictured here. Of course that only works if the back is as interesting as the front.

Quilt pillars, Paula Kovarik

This piece, River, has an undulating character that I love. But I never felt that it was finished so I put it on the design board to age for awhile.

When River is rolled like a scroll it reveals the underside and speaks more clearly about my original thoughts in creating it - how the land is affected by the flow of water but also how we have created zones of toxic waste near it.

I recognize recurring themes of confusion, chaos and uncertainty but also mystery, emotion and magic in my work. If I could see one thing in all of them it would be that I am trying to make the invisible visible. A task that thread and cloth can do only if I allow the length of time it takes to create each one be as long as it needs to be. Time spent allows the unknown in.

Comfort zone challenge

Steamroller. Yup. Steamroller. That's what we will use to print fabric in October. The next five weeks will find me at the Five in One Social Club workshop carving a 40" x 96" woodcut that we will ink and roll over. With a steamroller. Forty by ninety-six, big enough to be used as a banner, a shroud or a toga. Or maybe a quilt. Or two.

I've always wanted to design large prints, but never had access to large presses. This will be the first time I will carve a woodcut. It's a comfort zone challenge. There's no telling how much joy or regret I will feel during this process. Start thinking big. Yup. Big. No little stitch details necessary. (Oh...OK...maybe after I get the fabric printed I could add little stitch this space).

And of course it will be fabric. My medium of choice. Cotton, stretched delicately over an inked board, coming alive with pressure. Lots of pressure, watch your fingers.

Not sure what I will name this piece. All I know right now is that I'll be carving out all of the white areas. Final print size: 40 x 96.

So, naturally, I think about cutting it up and stitching swathes of yardage.

I could add batting and stitching to the print but if I cut it up I have some very interesting pieces of black and white fabric.

And then the decision making begins. Oh my!

It's probably a good thing that my sewing machine is in the shop for maintenance. Not sure how much distraction I need during this challenge.

Think big. Work big. Oh my.

As Jefferson Airplane says in their classic song, White Rabbit:

Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head


grids and webs

I woke up thinking about the difference between webs and grids. Webs reach, weave and beckon. Grids underpin, stabilize and neutralize. Webs are homes and traps. Grids are fences and containers. Webs spiral, grids measure cadence. Webs connect with tenuous intersections but also can withstand thunderstorms and errant wasps. Grids tie things together with a regular rhythm yet can be broken with a casual erasure of consistency. 

Webs can have enemies in them, grids can keep the lights on. Webs can be world-wide, grids map the lands and seas. Webs tangle, grids untangle. Grids are a human construct. Webs are a natural phenomenon. They are cousins in understanding where we fit.

Cracks, work in progress, Paula Kovarik

The news of Charlottesville and our president has shattered my sense of safety and calm. It may be why I keep cutting up pieces of fabric into shards and stitching them back together. Quilting this piece begins next week. I could stitch a grid onto it to find order. I could stitch a web of threads over it to hold it all together. Or I might cut it up some more and practice sewing it back together over and over again. Not sure where the thread will take me.

It's in our nature.

I've been thinking about dysfunction. Siblings, political parties, major corporations, government, non-profit agencies — they all experience a little wrack and ruin over time. Personality conflicts, power grabs, bullying, and just plain incompetence can splinter the foundation of any assemblage.

It's in our nature.

So how do we face and focus on mending? It's clear we all need the balm of empathy. We need to find common ground to forge compromise and progress.

Haywire, Paula Kovarik, 2017

We need to clear the air and listen. Speak truth to power and allow for differences.

Ladder to Elsewhere, Paula Kovarik, 2017

I say we act like crabgrass. Move with energy into the cracks. Sew up the middles so that the edges have a base to grow on.

Rough layout for Crabgrass, Paula Kovarik

Still looking

These tiles had one thing in common. Black thread on a neutral background.

I'm still thinking about how patterns emerge. And how our brains look for unifying elements to make sense of chaos. Quilts use repeat modules to create a whole from fragments. So, if I brought disparate elements together could I create a whole? Here's a few base thoughts:

  1. Regularity unifies.
  2. Grids are glue.
  3. Lines travel and connect.
  4. Connection = comprehension

So I took a few of the sample thread studies I have laying around and cut them into 2" squares. Assembling them randomly on a background substrate created a tile-like pattern that I emphasized with a grid that holds them together.

Then I started looking for connections. These small tiles really have little in common— just some black thread on neutral fabric. My eyes seemed to bounce around the assemblage, hip hopping to find similarities. So I added a line mimicking the hip-hop journey my eyes were taking. 

Adding denser fill stitching at the intersections of the connecting line and patterned tile added a sense of rhythm to the piece.

Adding hand-stitched details adds action and brings the tiles together in small areas.

Then I turned the piece to the back to see what was happening with my random connections.

The picture on the left is the front of the assemblage. The one on the right shows the stitching I added to the piece. I love the raw quality of those marks. And, I had no idea that I had formed a face in profile when I was working from the front.

Here's another comparison. The left side is dense with stitching and linework that is beginning to represent my idea of complexity and chaos. The back shows a simpler yet texturally consistent stitching that appeals to me. There's a sense of space on that side that brings more focus on the character of the lines.

I'm not sure how much farther I want to take this piece. I love the complexity that is beginning to show up with the layered stitching. And I like the back of the piece. I'll have to study it a while.