Quilt blocks on a cutting mat.

Food themed quilt blocks in progress, Elaine Luther’s studio.

I went on a family trip in April, got sick on the last day and that turned into the worst sinus infection of all time. I should have realized it was a sinus infection at the point I ordered a thing that allows you to strap a heat pack to your head.

So that’s where I’ve been – sick, going to multiple immediate care centers (mistake) until finally getting an appointment at my usual doctor’s office and getting the right treatment.

Just now, I was looking at my photos, looking for what to write a post about when I realized, “Oh right, you didn’t do much, because you were sick forever.” I did watch a really weird show on Netflix, that now I’ll never know what happened, because my standards for TV shows are lower when I’m sick…  (but I’m pretty sure our heroes will save the day, the world, and also fall in love.)

Back to the art! In the photo above are what I started working on when I still wasn’t 100%, but I was bored and wanted to get back into the studio. I often buy bags of scraps, so I opened a bag of strips and sewed them together, just to see if I could sew straight. The answer was not really, so I kept not working on my real project, which was this:

Quilt block by Elaine Luther.

“Spider web” quilt block made by Elaine Luther with fabrics featuring household chores, cooking, coffee and a fabric with international currencies. For a protest banner about carework.

This is for a protest banner in a series of them about carework. More on those soon, the quilt tops are done for two of them. I’ve just finished the quilt top with these blocks – the blocks are 19.5 inches, so I only needed six to get to a finished quilt of about 40″ x 60″. This will be a smidge smaller, but that’s okay.

Art Show – You Are Invited

I was part of a group show at DANKhaus Chicago, a new space owned by the the German American Cultural Center. Their first floor space is being built out to be a coffee shop and gallery, and they worked with our group and let us put on a show and host events even though the space isn’t totally ready yet.

Here’s my art in the show:

Art by Elaine Luther in the show, You Are Invited at DANKhaus Chicago.

Art by Elaine Luther in the show, “You Are Invited” at DANKhaus Chicago.

There’s a group of us in Chicago and beyond who have gotten together for the past three years to host a group show in May, as part of the Taking Up Space initiative of the Thrive Together Network.

Here’s the show card and my work in more context:

Show card for You Are Invited show at DANKhaus.

Show card for You Are Invited show at DANKhaus, May-June 2024.

View of the room at DANKhaus.

Reading spot and view of the room at DANKhaus. Along the back wall, from left to right, art by Elaine Luther, Kathryn Rodriguez and Cathleen Kramer. House form holds a work by Kelley Clink.

This is the first time I’ve had an installation that mixed circular art and square or rectangular works on canvas.  It worked reasonably well.

The opening for this show had a great turn out and had so many wonderful interactive activities and spots for kids to be kids and experience the art in a hands on way. Pictured is the reading spot. They were also welcome to go into the house form, which many of them did. There was a kid-sized table with coloring pages, a sculptor had a magnetic “build a sculpture” activity that was super cool. The whole event was a wonderful example of how to include and welcome children and families. Oh, and the opening was also on a Saturday afternoon. That was definitely a big part of being inclusive and welcoming.

The curator for You Are Invited was Jill Narhrstedt, with graphic design, PR work and documentary photography by participating artists. The photos above are by one of the other artists! I apologize that I’ve lost track of who took them.

Angelica Kauffman Gallery Micro Shows Travel

The first part of this year was a whirlwind – preparing for the big show of micro galleries at the Garrett Museum of Art, then installing it, the opening, then the family trip, returning, and taking down the show.

All the while, I’ve kept up the micro shows at the Oak Park Art League, with the architectural niche gallery there. The current show is by Alex Brightbill, her show from the Garrett Museum of Art traveled to the Oak Park Art League, where it can be enjoyed by a new audience!

Teaching

I’ve also been teaching a lot, a lot, a lot. I don’t talk about it a lot on social media or here, because they’re local classes, not things you would sign up for or travel for unless you’re already local. Right now I have 5 classes per week. One project I’ve been teaching a lot is this tote bag, from a tutorial by Purl Soho.

Tote bag on a work table.

The Purl-Soho “Easiest Bag.”

This bag is a simple, elegant design and it comes together easily. What I like about it for total beginning sewists is that you can tell understand how it’s going to turn into a bag. Some sewing projects don’t make sense to beginners and they just have to trust the teacher and the process. But with this one, pretty quickly, you can see how it comes together. It has French seams and the straps are sewn on as part of the hemming the top of the bag, so it assembles quickly. It takes about three hours, for a total beginner, including cutting time.

Students are consistently really proud of themselves for completing this project and making a really nice, functional bag.  This sample was made with 3/4″ straps, the instructions suggest 1″.

Next up, I’ll be teaching scrunchies, and another project that I’m still working on the sample for. This is for a one and a half hour workshop for total beginners, to teach them how to use the sewing machine, and let them leave the workshop with a completed project.

Scrunchies.

Scrunchies – workshop samples made by Elaine Luther.

Studio Time – Add 5

In my own studio, I’m working on making progress on projects, if not daily, then at least using whatever amount of time I have. There’s one day a week where I teach for six hours in a row, so I don’t give myself a hard time for not getting into the studio that day.

A long time ago, pre-pandemic, I was in a gym contest where you counted your minutes at the gym. One week, the encouraging idea of the week was “add 5,” add 5 more reps to your weight lighting, or add 5 more minutes to your treadmill time.

I think about that in terms of my quilting projects. I may not have time to do a lot of sewing, but do I have 5, 10 or 15 minutes to pin? If I can pin, then next time, I can walk in and start sewing. So I’ve been doing that and it definitely helps.

Sometimes with a big quilting project, I get bored because the creative, design stage is over, and now it’s just implementation.  I’m working on completing the three protest quilts in this series, while also mixing in faster projects here and there, to have that sense of completion.

I’ve Gone Totally Quiet on Social

While on the family trip I mentioned, I worked with another artist to take care of my Instagram account for the Angelica Kauffman Gallery.  I pre-scheduled posts and for the entire trip, I didn’t even have to look at Instagram.  Hopefully, no one could even tell I was gone.  (I had to keep posting because there was so much to share about the Garrett Museum of Art group show.)

Well, I got back in town, got the aforementioned sinus infection, and basically stopped posting.  It wasn’t a planned, thought out break, but apparently I needed a break.  I’ve been saying for a long time that I want to switch to a “blog first, newsletter first, and then social” way of working.  Maybe this is how that happens – with my finally letting go of my weird, daily posting habit.

In that case, you probably want to sign up for the newsletter!  You’ll want to see what words I’ll be adding to the protest banner in progress, pictured above!

Newsletter subscribers really do get to see new art first, will get the first opportunity to buy new art as I list it online for sale, and hear stories and get recommendations that I don’t put on the blog or on social!

Sign up HERE.

Sign up!

Join my newsletter list here.