surface design

Teaching: Anilinas Montblanc, Santiago

Recently, I was honored to be invited to teach a two day workshop at Anilinas Montblanc, the almost 70 year old Chilean Dye Company that supplies not only industry but also artists working with wool and felt. They also have an awesome program, Colorearte, to support art education in Chilean schools the length of the country. I first learned about Colorearte in a presentation by the company’s owner, Patricia Reutter, at the World Shibori Symposium in Oaxaca, Mexico, in November, 2016. When I returned to visit family in Chile in March 2017, I visited Patricia, and we made plans for this workshop.

left to right: Astrid, with Patricia Reutter and Tomas Clemmons in front of Anilines Montblanc’s sales area for artists. Shown: roving for felting in a luscious array of colors.

The reason for the workshop was to introduce the local textile community to surface design techniques using fiber reactive dyes. In February, I learned that these are Remazol dyes (not Procion MX, which I use). Mont Blanc imports Remazol dyes to industry but they are not well known in the local artist community, which is more accustomed to felting and immersion dyeing of wool. The workshop was set for March 7 & 8, 2018. It would be conducted in English, and although most understood some English, would require some translation.

I had a wonderful class of 10 participants including professional artists, teachers, studio owners, textile lab managers and two clothing designers. They include Ximena Bravo-Cuadra, a studio artist and workshop teacher who has also studied shibori with Karrin Brito in the US; Rocio Gomez Zalazar, a felter who also teaches at Anilinas Mont Blanc; designer Carolina Raggio; screenprinter and designer Patricio’s Sago Estudio; Paulina Figueroa Dumay, an artist with the Chilean arts and crafts store Manos del Alma and others whose contact information I didn’t receive. Media represented include shibori, felting, screenprinting, clothing design, immersion dyeing and stamping. These were good, intense workshop days. Working in 2 languages with translations going on plus materials I didn’t know fully, those were challenges. But the group was great and the facilities ample and well supported. Students dove in to play, to try mixing dyes, activator, to work on steamer prep, rinse and washout, and every other aspect of this. I could not have asked for a better group.

Carolina Raggio, with her own handmade wooden stamps.
Carolina and Patricio discussing their separate clothing lines. Here: Patrico’s from Sago Estudio.

Carolina Raggio, with her own stencils and stamps




Remazol Dyes

With my dye suppliers in the US, these are the liquid fiber reactive (Remazol) dyes and are no longer sold. Here in Chile, Remazol dyes are in powdered form and are imported by Anilines Montblanc for the textile industry. Uses by artists for surface design painting, printing, etc, are relatively unknown. When I consulted in the US on dye procedures for Remazol, I was told that they do need steam for setting, and that baking soda alone can be used as the activator. Downloadable instructions included being able to store activated dye for up to two months (ie with baking soda added.)

Here, at Montblanc, an outside Sales Representative told me they should be treated just like Procion MX dyes. My real experience was that they seem more intense than Procion MX. So, my usual “medium” range color amounts of dye, actually resulted in “dark.” (The approach is to mix stock solutions and then dilute according to hue and depth desired, adding activator.) Since color preference is so personal, I counseled using less dye in those stock solutions.

Another interesting finding is that when we went to pre-rinse after steaming, there was only mild color loss in the water, which seemed remarkable. I wasn’t sure if this was also due a different sodium alginate, or is somehow the alginate got “trapped.” Subsequent hot wash and rinse in pH neutral soap left no unwanted extra alginate thickener, except at times in the silk samples. If this mild color loss is the pattern, this is good news for Chile, which is a very dry country with more limited water reserves.

Sodium Alginate / Print Paste

This centerpiece supply is critical to the concept of using fiber reactive dyes in multiple applications. Local Chilean sources came up with highly processed sodium alginate in fine powder form, not the more granular, less processed form I am accustomed to. On the day that I worked on setting up the workshop and testing unfamiliar materials, managing the sodium alginate was by far the most challenging and worrisome. Would I get it to be the right consistency (thinner for painting, thicker screen printing, and even more for monoprinting?) Would it be easy enough for students to manage?

This form jelled very quickly, more so overnight. It had to be thinned down and remixed for a painting consistency. And yet, it was lumpy for screen printing. Cooling the temperature and letting it sit overnight helped.

In the process, one student and seasoned workshop teacher, Ximena, introduced her electronic stirring tool, which makes use of a magnetized “stone” in the bottom of the solution placed in a glass container on top of a hotplate. The stone starts to percolate and mix the solution, breaking apart any clumps of dye or alginate (the yellow is particularly hard to make smooth.) We were all fascinated and coveting it. We tried using it with sodium alginate dye solutions.

Patricio, one of the students who screen prints a clothing line, was very concerned about having additional water change the consistency of the thick alginate. He tried mixing the baking soda directly into alginate thickener, and this worked well. He also had successful results mixing the dye powder with alginate solution using the electronic mixer.

My assessment at the end is that we made the sodium alginate work, but that it is more difficult to manage than the sodium alginate or print paste available to textile artists in the US. (To clarify: print paste is sodium alginate, with the addition of urea and ludigol, which mitigates hard water.) And it is only one type of consistency. In the US, you can also purchase print paste or sodium alginate specifically for silk (lower viscosity, higher solids) that gives finer edge detail on silk and, in my opinion, washes out better on that fiber. If the sodium alginate or  print paste for cotton and for silk were available in Chile, it would be preferable to the sodium alginate we received.


Montblanc assembled a great steamer from existing equipment using very simple plans I sent them. A larger than average pot with a custom-made rack accommodated two rolls of fabric rolled in pelon for steaming. We also cut rounds of paper to deflect dripping water, and rounds of old towels. The customary bottled gas was used, first with two burners, and later, we decided to use only one. The “vapor” was intense enough that 22 minutes did the trick. Even if a little earlier than I usually do it, unbundling was not a problem in results.


The company also had its in-house industrial soap, pH neutral, but not called Synthrapol. Since we just had a small quantity, I put it in the pre-rinse water, especially since there were many fabrics with white or light backgrounds that could backstain. For washing out we used a local commercially available soap, “Popeye,” that is used for children’s items and is pH neutral. I think it is also used for washing wool. Both of these, including the Popeye, were successful. The only exception were some forms of thin silk, which did backstain a little. Perhaps they needed a more acid bath.

Washing Machine 

Also new to me is a “spinner”- a small unit just used for spinning out handwashed items so they can dry with less moisture. Of course at home, I use my washing machine for this, but in situations without a washing machine, it would be great.

We did our pre-rinse, which really only required 2-3 water baths, if that. Then we washed in very hot water with Popeye. We rinsed by hand after that, and I could tell there were felters among us! Their water bath fabric processing techniques were awesome. Spinning in the spinner, then the pieces were hung to dry. In this dry summer climate, they were dry in no time.

A “spinner” used to extract excess water from rinsed or washed fabrics before drying.


After two days, everyone was had really explored and enjoyed themselves. It was an awesome experience for me as well!

Snow Tarp

Unlike last year, cold temperatures and snow have been the story for this winter. Always interesting to see how snow changes the balance of color, of white to black, of light. Here is Undercurrents 4, from my Tarp Series,  in a temporary immersion.

Undercurrents 4, Tarp Series, Handpainted, monoprinted cotton fabric with mixed media and last year’s coreopsis.

Tarp Series Portfolio

In this series, I position my expressive textile paintings as tarps. Metaphorically, I see tarps as protective, versatile and adaptive. They embody the best attributes of textile with the potential of sculptural form and expressive gestures through painting, printing and mixed media.

The Tarp Series asks what is the role of art in our modern world ruled by technology and fraught with serious issues? What does it mean to be a maker under these circumstances where political comment, identity and narrative is the primary conversation? Is there a role for creative expression in non-narrative ways, much like the role that music performs? How can we play more, separating the essence of creativity from the serious presentations of art found only in museum and gallery settings? These are wonderful, rarified, beautiful, but do not tell the whole story and lead us, as artists, to a more commercial view of our work. How can we lighten up?

For me, the concept of the Tarp is a reminder to express the powerful inner light, to shelter, to fulfill the important role that inspiration provides in order to make the rest of the oughts and musts of the world happen. To remind us of our humanity and inspire compassion. And, perhaps to remind us to play, to sail, transporting us elsewhere. Being outside.

The Studio Day: Creativity & the Great Balancing Act

Last September, I engaged in a much-needed weekend in my studio. Looking upon my upcoming role as Surface Design Association President, I knew I MUST prioritize making time for balance and creative work, so critical to making the rest of  life function well. In that,  I am just like 99.9% of our SDA members and all my other colleagues I know outside of SDA. All ages, all stages.

Suddenly I had an idea: talk about the importance of a studio day.  A day later, I read that I’m not alone in my thinking. Here’s the piece in the New York Times.

What follows are the closing comments I made at SDA’s Made/Aware: Socially-Engaged Practices Intensive at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. (Read a wonderful summary of this event, written by Tamryn McDermott for SDA’s NewsBlog.) I appeared in my studio garb, my SDA “uniform” —apron, t-shirt and torn jeans, rubber gloves in my pockets. I spoke to this gathering of artists, educators, students, makers, who among them have amassed an impressive list of accomplishments and inquiry, with dedication and enthusiasm.

This is what I said, illustrated here with photos from my past:

We are first and foremost, a community of makers. Many of us working in textile and new media do this as a tactile antidote to our increasingly digital world. In whatever stages of life you find yourself—longtime artist, recent college grad, juggling paid employment, or retired but wanting to rekindle a longtime interest —creative work is never an easy fit into a busy life. The quest for work-life balance challenges all of us and increasingly is part of a national conversation, as recent media articles have pointed out.

Four friends at the Surface Design Conference, Kansas City Art Institute

SDA helps us to promote connections with our fellow makers. Our group of largely textile-centric makers is the most diverse of any national textile organizations available to us. The SDA Journal, Blog, and our members show us a broader way of thinking about what we do, as do SDA’s tools such as exhibitions, grants and fellow aficionados to talk shop with.

How do YOU make time for creativity? No one path fits all. Creative success is rarely about being secluded and monastic, — it’s about living fully within our lives, a frame of mind. Often, it’s about enjoying the ride, the process rather than the final outcome.

My own life confirms this. I joined SDA as a recent college grad and worked in my studio in addition to jobs and new motherhood. I always referred to my studio work as my fourth child. If I didn’t pay attention, it screamed and hollered. There was a time when my creative moment coincided with Mr Rogers Neighborhood on Public Television.

looms are great jungle gyms for toys

Archive photo: Astrid finishing handwoven ikat wall piece

learning fold and dip dye

Later, I saw firsthand how the kind of creative thinking that artists employ brought new ideas to the table in our  Downtown District, where I worked as a long time manager for Iowa Artisans Gallery, a 4000 square foot business with 200 artists, and served on committees for community initiatives. And it wasn’t just me. For a time, the interim head of the local Area Chamber of Commerce was a graphic designer who injected new life into the organization. As a business manager/owner, I hired artists with both retail and creative abilities, or others who simply wanted to be creative, encouraging them to pursue and fulfill their own personal life destinies as artists of all stripes.

Iowa Artisans Gallery staff, 2015

Throughout this time, I always tried to guard my studio day on Fridays.  Make no mistake: work-life balance is an issue for everyone I know.

I invite you to join me in making time for creativity during a weekly Studio Day, whether it’s by learning/contemplation only, or by active doing, —for an hour a day, a day a week, or many days every month, whatever fits. And wouldn’t it be great if SDA, as an organization, took a “studio day.” (Mind you, I’m not saying we should shut down our website  for a day a week, just that our Board, staff and members can commune together in that great notion.) We share the importance of creativity to the structure and balance of our lives.  Let the community of SDA members inspire us to be more than who we are working alone. It is not selfish. It is about good self-management practices that make us more meaningfully productive in all of life.

Lastly if you believe in SDA and its community, here are a few easy things you can do to help strengthen this organization. First, invite a friend to join the SDA community. Our membership numbers are crucial to publishing our robust, quarterly Journal. And there’s more, but that’s for a future discussion. Second, thank our advertising partners and suggest new ones. (I’ll do it here for the ones I have used for years in my own work: shout-outs and thanks to ProChemical & Dye, Testfabrics, Dharma Trading.) They wonder if their ads are unseen, down some big black hole. WE NOTICE!

So, I’ve come to the end of this little talk, and on behalf of the SDA Board, Staff and all of our volunteers, I wish you a safe and inspired journey home, to the heart of your creative work and life and your very own SDA uniform! Ciao!

Gallery staff having a painting day

Astrid teaching at Penland School of Crafts

Cat learning screenprinting at Home Ec Workshop

Natural Dyeing on the Prairie: Botanical Colors + Scattergood School


This weekend I was in my “happy place,” attending a two day natural dye workshop conducted by Kathy Hattori of Botanical Colors and held at Scattergood Friends (Quaker) School in West Branch, Iowa, a 20 minute drive from my home. Scattergood is a Quaker Boarding School in which students learn life lessons in sustainability on its a working organic farm and 27 acre prairie. Having just celebrated its 125th Anniversary, Scattergood is known locally as a place on the underground railway and as a sanctuary for victims in World War II. During summer, the students are home, the labs and classrooms are empty, and we fourteen students could accompany Kathy and Amy Weber, who’s associated with Scattergood but is a natural dyer herself, on a 45 minute walk in the prairie, gathering plants materials for our experiments. And process them in a place with outstanding history and provenance. What could be better?

St John's Wort blossoms from the Scattergood prairie tractKathy introduced herself saying that her primary activities lie in working on sustainable practices for the clothing industry, a hot-button topic in that the textile clothing industry is the second biggest polluter, just behind petrochemical industry. Cotton as it is raised today, uses vast amounts of pesticide and water.

Kathy mentioned that some change is happening. Companies such as Eileen Fisher have not only cleaned up their supply chain from a sustainability standpoint but are now accepting “gently used” EF garments for resale at a third of the original cost. The higher cost of their products reflect this sustainable model. Patagonia will mend its clothing and also has a gently used clothing site. Nordstroms has a limited “take back” program. But just “giving away” used clothing doesn’t always mean it ends up in users’ hands. Most is not used in the US. Some is sent abroad to be burned.

This leads us to corporate dye practices. Last week, it was announced that General Mills would no longer use artificial colors in their ready-made products. Cochineal, an insect long used for its red dye, is now harvested sustainably in Peru, and extracts, called Carminic Acid, or Carmine, are now used in foodstuffs and cosmetics where red color is required. As Kathy says, “baby steps” are being taken, but there are no 100% solutions.

My own odyssey with natural dyeing started in the 1970s when I was a weaver learn to dye. I purchased a book, The Weavers Garden and proceeded to plant plants that could be used for dyeing. Some are still established. But I soon was discouraged by the mordants suggested in the 1970s: Chrome, Iron, Tin, Chromium, all metals that are not safe. Natural dyes with unsafe mordants? Something was wrong there. So I abandoned my interest and moved on.

Fast forward to 2015. Safer mordants are being used, and best practices are more known. This actually applies to much of the small studio dyeing practices that many of us have. Seeing the workshops taught by Michel Garcia, of France, and what my friends have accomplished and learned, has intrigued me enough to try my hand again. Plus, it joins two distinct passions of mine: plants and art.

First, our class proceed to explore the importance of mordanting process. Mordants are the catalysts that make natural dyes “take” to fabric. We added several fabric types to the mordant baths (aluminum sulfate and tara powder) to soak for a couple of hours, or longer if desired.


Then we took our prairie hike. We looked for  individual plants to be used for “eco-printing” (like what I was so completely blown away by in India Flint’s work when I saw it in 2011), where one wraps leaves/sticks/botanical items in mordanted cloth, ties it with string into bundles, and steams or immersion dyes it. We also collected plants of this early season: Coreopsis flowers, sumac leaves and stems, walnut leaves, St John’s Wort flowers, Goldenrod “galls”, which are full of tannin and therefore good for dyeing, and more.


The dye pot was filled halfway with coreopsis flowers, a wonderful sight! Water was added and brought to a slow “poach.” Mordanted fabric was added, and the brew was cooked for 45 minutes. The colors were stunning! We also did a cochineal/hibiscus vat from materials she brought.

We also created indigo baths using Kathy’s “1-2-3” method of 1 part indigo, 3 parts fructose and 2 parts calcium Hydroxide, or calc. Fructose is the anti-oxidant here. She also supplied cochineal, hibiscus and a few more pre-packaged dyestuffs from her artist supply site at Botanical Colors.

As in the most successful workshops, it’s best not to worry about perfection, but rather to try new things. Kathy Hattori was really good about striking that balance between good information and not inhibiting our process of exploration. Ready for more!

 St John's Wort, from plant to dye pot, makes a deep, satisfying yellow. Kathy Hattori, of Botanical Colors, workshop teacher Picking plant materials on Scattergood's prairie Preparing indigo for vats, adding calc and fructose 

Golden rod burls, full of tannin, are cut apart Coreopsis blossoms, which will make a wonderful orange.


Eco-printing, shown above, where one wraps found materials in fabric, binds with stitching or rubber bands, and steams or puts in an immersion bath. (Also shown, workshop host Amy Weber, with her hand painted piece using natural dyes.) I am intrigued by this process, which I first saw in the sensational work of India Flint, but I found my own results disappointing and not even good spontaneous design at this point. The pieces placed in the communal dye bath did not hold local plant color and absorbed the dye pot’s hue. In fact, of those four bundles, the steamed sumac twigs were most interesting to me.

I took three bundles home to steam. They worked better but were still not there. Could be we need leaves that are not young. I’ll keep trying. I am really most interest in the immersion dyeing and solid colors. And I want to try mordant printing.


Immersion dye pot colors: Coreopsis (orange), sumac and goldenrod burls (yellows) and cochineal plus hibiscus (pinkish-lavender.) Blue shown here is indigo on wool/hemp mix. The hemp did not dye with this technique. More information on Prairie Plants in this database from the University of Kansas, classified by use and medicinal qualities.

I’ll get to follow up with this topic at the Surface Design Association’s Made/Aware: Socially Engaged Practices Intensive at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, this October. Can’t wait!

35 years of textile samples, part 4: non-stitched resists

Resists have always fascinated me. A resist is a substance or a mechanism used to prevent dye or colorant from acting upon a surface. My very first experiments with resist were done in high school art class. My teacher was more interested in discussing politics, so I taught myself how to do batik using paraffin. Although batik was a favorite, I found removing the wax to be a  tedious and expensive process when a dry cleaner was used. This post shows samples of other resists: dextrin, potato starch, cassava, and Japanese Tsutsugaki with rice paste, as well as discharge.

Batik on silk, samples
Batik (beeswax and paraffin) on silk by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Cassava resist on cotton, fiber reactive dyes
“Presist” resist or cassava resist on rayon, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Tsutsugaki sample using rice paste resist on cotton and Japanese dyes, from a Tsutsugaki workshop at the Surface Design Conference in Seattle, 1991. Tsutsugaki is a class of very ordinary Japanese textiles, often decorated with auspicious symbols, used in ordinary households. 
Discharge samples on rayon by Astrid Hilger Bennett. Not one of my favorite techniques due to products that are not considered nontoxic.

Potato dextrin used as a resist, Procion MX dyes, workshop samples by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Potato dextrin resist on cotton
More potato dextrin resist
Potato dextrin on silk

35 years of textile samples, part 2: stitched & clamped resists

In the previous post, I described needing a storage container and finding myself immersed in sorting through a career’s worth of textile samples and explorations. Here is Part 2 of this archive, stitched and clamped resists on cotton and silk, using Procion MX dyes. This is a tradition more popularly known as tie dye, but it stems from a rich textile heritage that is very considered and carefully made.

Bound resist cotton, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Bound resist cotton, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Clamp resist cotton, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Bound resist silk, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Clamp resist on silk, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Clamp resist and silk resist on silk, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Stitch resist, silk



35 years of textile samples, part 1: early screen prints

Sample Mix

The day began with a search for a larger container to store fabric teaching samples. It ended with a journey through 35 years of creating fabrics.  I had already edited through these samples in previous years. It’s  a convenient time to do more. Consolidation and simplicity are freeing.

So many studio directions I’d forgotten about! Pathways through handwoven and warp painted textiles. Through silk screened, handpainted pears that I was quilting for a commission on the day I delivered my first child. Playing with cassava resists. Discharge. Silk painting.  Clamp resists and shibori. Odd little paintings and stitched, painted canvas. Pigment-printed cottons, and a few fabrics stiff with residual sodium alginate (not good.)

In recent years, more a mastery of layered fabric images and color, which you can see in the pieces on my website. Glad for that. In the several posts that follow, I describe a selection of samples and their techniques.

Early pear screen prints
My first official screen print (1975, top image), using two screens and Lacquer film stencils. One labored to carefully cut only one layer from the stencil, which was then adhered to the screen using awful, smelly, toxic solvents. Use too much solvent, and your screen would dissolve. This was my first introduction to modular design. Britex fabric paints on whatever fabric was available. The Pear screens were used to create a public art piece, Pears at Play, then purchased for Indiana University-Gary Library. The last image shows screen printed interpretations of drawings made while traveling around the United States for 6 weeks in 1976.
First screen prints
First screen prints
Sample book of early screenprints
Eraser print studies, 1975. These were used to explore the concept of modular design and registration for screen printing. We HATED this assignment, but now I value the knowledge I gained.
Fish screen based on minnow drawings while supervising a 3 year old,  1988. Screenprinted using ProFab fabric paints by ProChemical & Dye. Background colors applied as thickened Procion MX Dyes.
Screen prints for table cloths, 1991, with Pro-Fab fabric paints and thickened Procion MX dyes
Pear screen prints on linen
Crow screen print, used on canvas bags, 1992. Heat setting these Pro-Fab Fabric paints is vital. At left, a properly heat set sample. At right, one that was not heat set.

ICON Gallery Exhibit, plus a night in Fairfield

Work by Astrid Hilger Bennett, Icon Gallery, Fairfield

Contemporary Art Quilts of Astrid Hilger Bennett, Carol Coohey, BJ Parady and Judy Zoelzer Levine is featured exhibition at ICON Gallery in Fairfield, Iowa. What a wonderful installation: clean, light-filled and spacious, the best installation of my own work I’ve ever come across. This is ICON’s first-ever art quilt exhibition; exhibit dates are October 7 to November 12. ICON is located at 58 Main St. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday noon to 4pm, Saturday 1 – 4pm, and by appointment. For more information, contact ICON Gallery by phone, 641.919.6252.

“Curators Wendy Read and Karen Harris have brought four of the best contemporary art quilters in the region to ICON Gallery,” says ICON Director Bill Teeple. “If you are used to traditional quilt making in Iowa, this will be an eye opener. It contains the visual and conceptual impact of a contemporary painting exhibit.” My personal opinion is that the Midwest is rich with exceptional art quilters. We appreciate the compliment, and curator Wendy Read, also a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Association) Iowa Representative and Karen Harris did a great job balancing styles of work, which makes for a conceptually strong show. What follows are images more from my own section of the exhibit; the work was divided up by artist into different mini-galleries. By the way, Carol Coohey, BJ Parady and Astrid Hilger Bennett, are all members of the Surface Design Association, and all four of us, including Judy Zoelzer Levine, are members of SAQA. For a more detailed look at images in this post, be sure to click on the image and watch it expand.

Looking towards the gallery with Judy Zoelzer Levine’s Body of Evidence, Contemporary Art Quilts, ICON Gallery

more from Judy Zoelzer Levine’s Body of Evidence, ICON Art Gallery


left to right: BJ Parady, Carol Coohey, Astrid Hilger Bennett & Director Bill Teeple in front of a work by Coohey, ICON Art Gallery

Astrid with her work, Icon Gallery, Fairfield, IA

Carol Coohey is a newer, talented fiber artist living in Coralville, Iowa,  who has recently really found her own voice. This collection of work, entitled Voices, is powerful and was developed using many surface design techniques inclduing drawing, discharge, screenprinting and painting before quilting. Carol explains, “My most recent work focuses on the rights of girls and women, especially in the Middle East.  To make my collage paintings, I use un-gessoed cloth as the foundation.  I draw, paint and print on cloth with dye, discharge paste, ink and acrylic paint.   I spend half my time teaching and conducting research on violence at a university and half of my time creating art.  The themes in my research often carry over into my artwork.  Earlier in my career, I worked as a graphic artist and an art therapist.

In the Voices Series, I focus on how policy and culture affect the lives of women and girls living in the Middle East.  I explore universal themes, such as the right to an education and the influence of culture on girl’s and women’s decision-making. Stylistically, I’ve drawn on graffiti street art which has become a form of political protest in the Middle East during recent years.”

Illinois artist BJ Parady works primarily on silk and recyled fabrics, creating smaller pieces where marks made by stitching are important. She interprets Midwestern landscape. “My art reflects the microcosm in which I live—where the tall grass prairie used to be. I am inspired daily by the big skies, the reflection of light on water, the remaining remnants of native plants. I have come to embrace the idea of abstraction—capturing the essence of a moment rather than a literal depiction of a scene that could just as easily be photographed.”

Judy Zoelzer Levine’s Body of Evidence series is composed of 25 art quilts interpreting the female human form. A Wisconsin artist, Levine created these works over a span of many years.

Astrid Hilger Bennett approaches her pieces as she would a piece of music, using painting, monoprinting, screenprinting and other techniques to make large scale, abstract wall art. For more information on  her work, please check out the gallery and other pages on this website.

Contemporary Art Quilts, ICON Gallery