Year In Review - 2013

Happy New Year!

Today, I'm posting my annual year in review, in which I look at what I've made, what I've learned, and what I want to do next year. As usual, if you don't want to be bothered with all that - feel free to scroll through and just look at the pictures. :)

Year of the Feather

I began 2013 as I ended 2012 - making birds as I worked towards completing my first series, called "Taking Flight". I didn't realize how much those birds - or at least, the making of them -  was going to influence my making for the year, but those birds turned my art in a new direction.

"Cardinal In Winter"

"Fairy Wren"

"Golden-Headed Blackbird"

"Red Bellied Woodpecker"

"Silver-Eared Mesia"

"Green Headed Tanager"

"Velvet Purple Coronet"

In THIS post, I talked about what I learned as a whole with the series, but in summary, I learned that when working in fabric, sometimes trying to reproduce an exact replica of the source photo didn't always work - that sometimes, something was lost in the process - and that it was better to find a compatible background for the bird itself. I also learned a lot about making feathers and how to lay them down (!), and I learned a lot about balance and composition. 

All of those learnings were useful throughout the year (and in my body of work forever, I suspect); but the thing that was most influential from making those birds that I didn't realize at the time, was hand-work. A little hand-stitch "here and there" became pervasive in my work, and blossomed quickly into a new obsession! But more on that later...

Not part of the series, but another bird:

This one was a gift for a friend, a piece in which I tried to combine my "style" with her taste. I think it's a good blend of both, but not something I was completely comfortable with!

Next up was:


My post about Hiraeth is HERE but really, this was my breakthrough piece this year. It wasn't only that it was the very first time that the finished piece looked exactly as I had imagined it before I even drew a sketch - though that was significant - it was the way I built the piece (there's no other way to describe it), following a written plan of what I was doing when and how the piece would be made, layer by layer, that turned out to be the most important thing I learned this year. 

It was only during my self-imposed break in December that I came to realize that. The micro-focus I usually employ when working combined with the fact that I didn't give myself a break all year (another important learning - giving my brain time to rest and reflect allows me to actually process what I've learned) is why it took me so long to realize it. 

And though it's not readily apparent: there is rather a lot of hand-stitching in "Hiraeth". Every. single. leaf. has hand-stitched veins, and the flowers have either hand-stitched stamens or french knot centres. 

"Hare Raising'

Next up, I had a new great-niece to make something for, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to work on small painted details as (rather ironically) I wasn't best pleased with the birds in Hiraeth. Hare Raising gave me the opportunity to paint detailed rabbits on a tiny scale (each is less than a centimeter - or about 3 eighths of a inch)

And then, I decided to REALLY explore that hand-work thing:

"Last Fall - In Spring"

This began its life as an unsuccessful "lollipop" tree created in 2011 or 2012 and if you really want to see all the hand-stitched detail (and there is a lot of it!) you can see that post HERE, but this piece was never meant to be high art, or even to be displayed - really this piece was my "sampler" of sorts - a way to learn how to hand-stitch. 

There were approximately one billion hand-stitched leaves in this piece, and in retrospect - perhaps there were a few too many! 

After that, I did a few more quite small (post-card sized) hand-stitched pieces which I won't bother to show you - mostly flowers and grasses, but also:

Unnamed No. 7

Until I felt more comfortable with hand-stitching. It was when this one was done that I realized I was never going to be Monika Kinner-Whalen (!) but that judicious use of hand stitching in my large pieces would add not only detail, but soul to my work.

But that didn't stop me from exploring handwork - in my new "series" (?) "group" (?) - work that I called "The Lunchtime Projects", handwork that I did on my lunch.

"Fence Rising' was one such piece, and after machine stitching the background, I hand-stitched the night sky and the moon-lit leaves.

Meanwhile, I had an idea for another series - one that would explore the ways in which children find freedom. The first piece was:

"Winging Away". More feathers, hand-stitching in the tires and pedal, and putting to use that "building" technique I learned with "Hiraeth" (this bike and all its component parts was FINICKY), but the idea for the series didn't pull me quite the way I hoped, and after I completed this first one, I was pretty much done.

After a few weeks, another lunchtime project was done:

"What  Lies Beneath"

My co-workers could not figure out what the heck I was up to with this one, and kept asking me questions, looking at it askance and generally giving me the side-eye about this one, but like much of my other work, I had a plan when I began, even making a sketch on tissue paper that I followed like a pattern so that I knew each individual stitch and where it was going. And the piece itself carried a lot of meaning for me, which I outlined HERE. 

It was at this point that I realized, despite my statement in 2012's "Year In Review" post that my talent just didn't lie in abstract work, that I had, in fact, just made an abstract work.

I mulled it over for a bit, and deciding that working in the abstract for awhile could only help my figurative work, so, gloriously happy, I plunged into making full on abstract with:

"Birth I"


"Birth II"

Although I like the clean spare-ness of Birth I, I felt that Birth II was really more successful than the first. Having said that though, I realized that neither was as good as I wanted to be.

So, I picked up some more hand-work while I let my subconscious brain work through this problem of abstraction, another lunchtime project that nearly immediately became my "work obsessively any freaking time you can" project as my heart learned to cope with the results of the George Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin trial.

More about that HERE. The piece took a LOT of time - just over a month, and when I was done it, I needed to take a break from thinking, and just make pretty. So I did. With what turned out to be my most sellable work this year (I mean these puppies flew of the shelves - one sold before I even posted it!):

Red Bench No. 1

Red Bench No. 2

Evening Sky

Old Blesses New

Winter Sunset

Although each of these journeyman pieces looks quite different from each other (with the exception of the Red Bench(s)), they were all exploring the same thing. The diagonally slashed papers and fabrics were my experiments combining an abstract background with a figurative foreground. Although I think they were all successful in their own way, to me, "Evening Sky" was the most successful at conveying a sense of place, although the two Bench pieces were very successful at conveying "November" in Southern Ontario!

And then I began another "lunchtime" project that ended up taking over the world as I knew it - "Erosion".


Inspired by a picture of a sewer grate on a golf course, photos, unfortunately, do not convey the beauty of this piece. There are detail photos HERE (which I have temporarily made super large), but no photo I have yet taken shows this piece well - which is terrible to me because I really believe this and Hiraeth are the two best things I made this year.

It was also with this piece that I learned that "abstract" work doesn't have to be like Rothko (much as I love him) nor like Deidre Adams (who, by the way, have I ever told you is why I became a textile artist to begin with?As an aside, I had the pleasure of meeting her this year[and who ever gets to meet their heroine], so how lucky am I?) end of aside So I learned that "abstract"didn't have to mean "painterly", but could mean simply "non-figurative". And, it turns out, I do have some talent in that area.

And then I finished the year as I began, with more feathers - this time in the form of angel wings, in

Remembrance Day

2013 was the first year in which I used my own hand-painted fabrics or papers almost exclusively, which was really satisfying and which I hope to continue in 2014.

I had work in a fair number of shows (I think 9 or 10, I lost count - the most exciting of course being Quilt National, but was also the year I showed in Canada for the first time), I also had work in four galleries and twice in print.

This was also the first year I thought my work was worthy of being sold, and began to sell - slowly at first, and then with more confidence. From now on, nearly everything I make will be for sale.

So that's it - 2013 in review.

For the first time, for 2014 I have very specific goals in that there are six pieces I want to make in 2014, and that's it! They are all quite large (60 to 90 inches on their longest sides) so I expect they will take weeks or months to make.  They are:
  1. Ethereal
  2. Three ways to view a secret (a tryptch)
  3. Sugarbush (another Hiaeth type piece); and
  4. the first piece in a new series called "Black and Blue"
I will of course continue with my lunch-time project(s), but have no serious plans for them. These lengthy projects will necessitate a different kind of blogging, but for the first time, I have decided not to take that into account as I make my work. I guess I'm growing up!

This is also my fifth Year In Review post, which means that it has been four and 1/2 years since I began quilting, 3 years since I began working towards calling myself an "art quilter", and two years since I began working towards calling myself an "artist".

I'm quite comfortable calling myself that now - now I need only work towards becoming a better and better one.

As always, my guiding principle come from Van Gogh:

I am seeking, I am striving. I am in it with all my heart.

May 2014 be a year of joy, hard work, goals reached or exceeded, creative blessings and success - for you and I!

Kit 120

P.S. Prior year in reviews are here: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Kit Lang


  1. Happy New Year, Kit. God bless your creative heart!

  2. EXCELLENT post, Kit. I am definitely going to do this next year, I can see how valuable it is. This is going to be my first year working to a plan rather than following every bright and shiny thing, so knowing that a post like this is due at the end will help keep me on track!

    I love all those birds you started out with -- it's nice to catch up on the things I missed. I can't wait to see what's next!

  3. What an amazing body of work in one single year. The birds are possibly my favs - all the hand stitching is just over the top. The benches, the trees and of course Hiraerth. You have been a source if inspiration (I'll send a private email about this) but during my recovery I have dreamt 3 new pieces all "social Justice". Humm? Wonder who inspired that??
    Love you Kit!!

  4. Such a creative year!!! Have a wonderful New Year.


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