Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Quilt Study Group of NSW Goes Hi-Tech - August 14th at Powerhouse Museum

Karen Fail and Irene Manion
Irene Manion is passionate about fabric and stitch, and all the textile work she showed the Quilt Study Group of NSW at the Powerhouse Museum on August 14th exhibited her desire for perfection, a keen eye for design and her perseverance with detail that left me in awe.

Irene is a Visual Arts Teacher and has been for the past 20 years. Nothing could be more wonderful for students than to have a practising artist for a teacher who continues to experiment and investigate new techniques in her textile art. We were certainly impressed with her array of technique swatches – some which worked and others that didn’t.

In the 70s Irene experimented with batik designs trying to capture the landscapes in the Blue Mountains. This led her to develop a complex multi-layered dying and waxing techniques. Examples of this early work were breathtaking and made it hard to believe that only batik techniques were used. The detail was wonderful.

Over the last ten years, Irene has changed direction and is now using modern technology in her textile work. She incorporates dye sublimation prints of images she has developed from her own digital photos and drawings. These are modified in programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator. She then has these images commercially printed onto fabric and generously provided us with a list of suppliers should we decide to experiment in the same way. We even had an opportunity to transfer print one of Irene’s images onto fabric for future use. Some of us even managed to get three images onto fabric from one print.

Once Irene has the image she wants, she uses computerised machine embroidery or free machine embroidery to enhance the digitally printed surface. She had many examples for us to look at but most impressive were the lorikeets, a beautiful wall hanging with birds in flight and at rest. Irene showed us a few of the printed fabrics which she rejected, again demonstrating her determination to get exactly what she wanted. Eventually the background fabric was ready with fewer  birds than had initially been planned so additional 3D birds were added. These were embroidered, padded and backed before being added to the background. We were quite in awe as we appreciated the work and time investment for this.

Irene very generously brought along her most recent work, which was part of “A Conversation with Rain” exhibition at Fairfield Art Gallery and Museum earlier in the year. Everyone spent at least some of their time examining this delightful work carefully.

Fabric and stitch, it seems can come in all guises and Irene Manion has certainly mastered the use of modern technology in her textile art and inspired some quilt study groupers to expand their horizons.

Report from Karen Fail.

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