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


The eyes have it

Google eye, Paula Kovarik

Sometimes you just have to stop and play. I've been thinking about animating the inanimate. Playing with stones and sticks and stains. What if they could all talk? or whisper or shout? What would they say about us? Could they give us insight on our confusion? Does standing still change life's boundaries? When rocks slide is it a party or a collapse? Do indelible stains mark a territory? If all objects had eyes would they choose to keep them closed to avoid watching our antics?

The google eye on the sidewalk prompted me to draw a crowd of eyes, as if everything around us is alive. This prompted me to think about cloth with eyes, clothes with eyes, quilts with eyes. So I designed a pattern.  Maybe I'll do one with mouths or ears or noses next. Or eyes with feet or eyes with hands or eyes with antennas.

Eyes drawing, Paula Kovarik

I think I want a scarf with eyes. Or a shirt with eyes.

Yes, sometimes you just have to play.

palate cleanser

Sometimes you just have to take a break from worry. And angst. And the sense that the world is degenerating into a chaotic mess. No amount of hopeful TED talks give solace.

This week I retreated into this make believe. Just some goofy guys. A nine patch of alternate realities.

Rock on.


The piece I was working on last week transformed before my eyes after several hours of experimental stitching. The cloth is an old circular tablecloth that I dyed with a spray bottle filled with watered down dye. It was going to be an underskirt for my nuclear testing piece that is languishing in the corner of the studio.
I pulled it out of the experiment pile last Friday and folded it in half, then cut it into two wedge pieces so that I could try some stitching ideas I had. The stitching exercise gave me some great textures. It started with random straight lines that went across the piece higgledy piggledy to anchor the cloth.

Then at each new bobbin I changed the color of the thread to add more interest. Eventually a wonky grid emerged. As the grid grew I noticed that at the junctions of the navy blue lines there was a sense of dominance. So I decided to reinforce that by starting a new line of thread (in black) that started at the juncture and traveled on in a wavy line across the piece. Letting the thread ends hang.

As the thread ends started to accumulate I had to figure out how to handle them. Bury them? let them hang? cut them off? Tie them together? I loved the extra texture the thread was giving me but the thread ends were obscuring the texture below so I decided to nail them down with a spiral of stitches and trim them off. It was then that I realized I had created a terrain of sorts with little focus points that could represent targets.

Laying the stitched cloth over the remaining wedge of fabric made me stop in my tracks. Suddenly it all made sense. This piece is about a land ravaged, surrendering to chaos and on the edge. The stitched piece created a shoreline over the second wedge.

The edges are raw. The threads are chaotic.

And now I am hand stitching trails, individuals and groups across the void. Moving them toward the calm and away from the chaos.