filming for quilting arts tv pt 4: on set

When I arrived at the little studio in Cleveland the first time several years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. Now I look forward to walking in and spending a few days with many amazing artists and technicians who also happen to be amazing people!

The studio, owned by the production company (not Quilting Arts) is very, very unassuming from the outside. It’s just a door in a long string of doors in a long bring building in an older light industrial part of town. It’s not huge and fancy. You walk right into the green room where tables are set up for guests to do prep work. Each of us has one or two tables and we are given giant cookie sheets to organize our stuff for each segment. There is a monitor on the wall (you can see it in the previous post) so that you can see what is happening on set.

Off to one side is an office. There the incredibly organized Katherine Lamancusa mans the phones and keeps everything organized with charts posted on walls. The lovely Jeanne Delpit from Bernina is there all week with the latest model machines and everything she needs to help us look like we know what we are doing. I practiced at the local shop and after I got to Cleveland so that I could do the bits I needed to smoothly. (I work at home on a great little workhorse Bernina 930 Record. Yes, the new machines are fantastic – but I tend to beat mine into the ground and love the simplicity of it’s function.

What amounts to two walk-in closets in the office have become the Make-Up room – where copious amounts of paint are applied to the face just so that you don’t look like walking death under all those lights. There are a LOT of lights on set. On the other side is a “dressing room.” It’s just a garment rack for the bazillion things Susan (the hostess) has to change into with a mirror and room for your things too. There is a list of things NOT to wear on camera – notice how you almost never see stripes? Pure black and white don’t really do well either. Often what you see as a white shirt is actually a very light blue. And you need to not clash with what Susan is wearing. Or with those walls.When it’s your turn on set people swoop in and help you make everything go smoothly and look wonderful. It’s a  big room with the same set the show has used for years. I wonder where they store it for the rest of the year? They raise or lower the table, cover it or not, hang stuff behind you or not… whatever it is you need. The sound guy threads wires up your shirt, clips a thingy onto your pants in back (I learned to wear things that something can be clipped to the hard way once! He had to clip the little box remote thing to my undies while I blushed.) The mike gets clipped to your neckline somewhere where rustling cloth or jewelry won’t make noises.There are at least three (maybe four – it was dark back behind the cameras) tech people making things work in the room with you during filming. Everybody has a job but it seemed like everybody was also willing to pitch in wherever needed to help you get set up. I really loved the way the celtic knot quilts looked on set!Before you start filming a team of folks goes through the plan with you. Kathie Still, the producer is on the right. She can listen to you walk through what you’ve got set up and knows so much about this gig that she can let you know right then if you need to cut something or stretch something out with a little chatter. Vivika from Quilting Arts is in the yellow. Camera/plug-thing-like-irons-in-so-they-actually-work-when-you-need-them guy is in the back. Left is (another curse my brain can’t remember her name moment) also from QA is on the right. She takes lots of photos for marketing, monitors the monitor, and makes sure we didn’t forget stuff.

It only takes a few minutes to get a general road map of what is going to happen then everyone disappears into the control room. You can see a picture of that on this previous post.  I bring printed lists for everyone of my steps. Mostly they are for me so I don’t forget anything. Except that I always forget to put on my favorite pair of earrings. I kind of obsess about what to wear and find the perfect artistic earrings to match, then get there and forget to change earrings. Ah well. Next the cameras roll, I talk as fast as I can, Susan has to keep track of what Im doing AND listen to instructions through that invisible earpiece, and whoosh – it’s all over! Well – except when they decide something needs to change. Then they do what they call a “live edit.” They scroll back the tape to a reasonable starting point, tell you where to put your hands and your things and what you were saying, and you get a “do-over.” I seem to try to pack so much into my time that there isn’t room for Susan to chat much so she just lets me go full steam ahead and says “yes, nice, great” until it’s time to put the brakes on. I admire her ability to work that magic and help her guests look great.

So – stay tuned! I filmed four segments, two for series 2300 which begins airing on National Public Television in January 2019, and two for series 2400 which stars in June or July. Look up your local PBS station to see if it will play in your area, take a peek, and let me know what you think.







filming for quilting arts tv pt 3: the process

Before arriving both the hosts, publishers, sponsors, and producers of the TV series have a boatload of work to do. The host and publisher work together and find a good group of guests to appear. They need to find varied and interesting artists who are also willing and able to share their work onscreen.Vivika DeNegre with F+W media, Me, Susan Brubaker Knapp, hostess of QATV.

Teams of staff members help schedule all the guests, trying to fit everyone for an entire season’s filming into just under four days of filming. They have to figure out which segments will work together in which episodes. The hostess films a ton of “intros and outros” as well as small segments to fill any time gaps. The guests fly into the studio location, with all their stuff and with the help of excellent staff, get to show off their thing for the cameras.

Suzan Engler’s husband, snapping a quick shot of her onscreen from the “green room.” Another staffer watches through each filming to make sure nothing gets missed. She also takes publicity and still shots for Instagram and Quilting Arts online presence.

The current system is to film three artists per day with each guest shooting two or three different segments. The guests arrive a day early to settle and set up so they have the opportunity to meet the current day’s guests and watch as they film.

I had the great pleasure of watching Suzan Engler film several segments on digitally printed quilts. I loooooooove her work!

The filming isn’t linear so Susan Brubaker Knapp, the current hostess of QATV, has a complicated chart and photos of what to wear for each segment and is changing tops and jewelry constantly all day long. 

Look at the superstars I got to hang out with for a day! Vivika, Susan, Jane Haworth, Luana Rubin of, and Joe Cunningham. There were a couple of other artists there including the Pixeladies (Deb and Kris) and Enid Weichselbaum.

Next post I’ll walk you through set-up and prep for my segments. Feel free to ask any questions you have and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.

filming for quilting arts tv pt2: step outs

So how does one go from a new idea, to being ready to demonstrate it on the magic screen? With lots, and lots, and lots of work. Usually I choose to demonstrate something I am very familiar with. It’s easy to pull out all the samples and spout off the spiel that I’ve said hundreds of times while teaching.

This time however, one of the segments I proposed was a new idea. It doesn’t happen very often that I get a new idea, all nice and shiny and fresh. I mostly teach techniques so coming up with a project isn’t my usual mode of operation. And while the technique is familiar to me, this new project has me ALL excited!

Guess what folks! I’m going to make some patterns!

You’ve heard the term “learning curve” before, right? Well here I am at the beginning of a roller coaster of a learning curve! I started with a small sketch of a celtic knot. Just choosing a couple out of the many, many, many I’ve drawn took forever. Too many to choose from. Which ones would work in cloth? Which ones are easy or hard or would look great on screen?

After a number of false starts I DID NOT choose this design for my main sample.  I personally like this one, but after a few tries thought… not for TV. And especially not in red and black. Did you know cameras really don’t like red and black? I do now.

Instead I chose this. It’s a small and fairly easy knot. Comparatively. I found a talented graphic designer who cleaned up the sketch beautifully and created a vector file that I could print at any size without losing image quality.




I chose commercial fabrics thinking that people would relate more to them in that “I could do that” kind of way. And really, the whole point of the demo is to show the audience that yes, they CAN do that.

Then began the work. You know when you watch a cooking show and they have all the ingredients ready to go in pretty little bowls instead of digging things out of jars and boxes? Then they put the pan in the magic oven and pull the finished product out two seconds later? It’s like that… but a little more. When showing a project for TV you need to have a “step-out” of every part of the process. In my case I only had 8-12 minutes to teach something that could take a couple hours to make at home.

So here you are seeing:

  • The pattern printed, a light box, and tracing materials
  • Fabric half fused, already fused, ready to cut, already cut
  • Cutting materials
  • Partially fused fabric, ready to arrange
  • Batting and stabilizer for the faux trapunto technique
  • Small sample to show various thread choices
  • Sample ready to show stitch techniques
  • Stitched sample, ready to cut away extra batting
  • Trapunto batting cut, ready to layer with thin batting and backing
  • Sample ready to quilt
  • Finished sample ready for shading with colored pencils.

And there you go!

Finished and ready to pull out of the magic oven sewing machine!

Tomorrow I’ll give you a peek at the other pieces I made for set dressing. Because, of COURSE I couldn’t just use one little sample, right? 

filming for quilting arts tv: ideas and preparation

I had the wonderful opportunity last week of filming for Quilting Arts TV hosted by Susan Brubaker Knapp. It’s lovely and long running show that airs on PBS stations in the United States. You’ll have to check your local station guide to find out if it runs your area.

I thought I’d give you a behind-the-scenes tour of the whole process. I know I’m always much more fascinated by the process than by the actual shows sometimes.

The process began months ago when Susan and I were chatting about the different artists she was scheduling and brainstorming ideas I might have for demos. I had to look it up, but I’ve done this gig three times before, filming at least six segments for five different seasons. I know it seems like I should remember something as big a deal as this, but my brain doesn’t work any more when it comes to timelines and numbers.

I had ideas for demos that concern things I’m very comfortable and familiar with, but I also had an idea that would use the celtic knots I’ve been drafting for several years. It’s a great idea. I love it. A month later and two weeks before the deadline when my kids finally went back to school and I could get some work done…. I was panicking! Why on earth did I choose something that I had NO samples and step-outs made for!!!!!

Tomorrow I’ll show you the behind-the-scenes preparation for this demo.


Artist Spotlight part 1: Melanie Testa

I would like to introduce you to an artist whose work I greatly admire. 

Still Life

I have had the pleasure of spending time with Melanie Testa on two separate occasions; as we taught at the International Quilt Festival in Houston last year, and when we filmed our Quilting Arts DVD Workshops. She is simply delightful as a person and I find her artwork to be beautiful, layered with meaning and texture, and intriguing. She is one who thinks and cares deeply both about her art, about other people, and about the world around her. Her laughter lights up a room and lifts your spirit. Her artwork draws you in and takes you on a journey. 

I hope you will enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

Lyric: What is your story, how did you become an artist?

Melanie: I have wanted to be an artist since I was a child. I remember watching TV and being riveted when I saw imagery of Andy Warhol walking the streets of New York. My mom used to sew her own clothing and I remember watching her pin a wool plaid skirt pattern out and knew the side seams would not match if she were to proceed, so I stopped her. Then a friend of hers asked if I would like to make a vest, it was a cute little vest and it had hand sewn ribbons bordering the inside front edge. It won a blue ribbon at the fair. I also won a blue ribbon for my Sugar Collection, but that is another story.

So when I was 19, I took a traditional quilt making course at the local Handcraft Center. I fell head over heels for fabric, really I fell in love with conversational prints and vowed to go to art school to become a Textile Designer. It took about 8 years for me to settle down and focus enough to make that a reality. I was accepted into the Fashion Institute of Technology as a 27 year old adult student. I was married and lived two hours outside the city, but we worked together and made it work. My husband has always been quite supportive of me and my creative efforts.
Once I was out of college and had some creative tools under my belt, I took some workshops by well known surface design artists like Jane Dunnewold and Ann Johnston. Making what I had learned into an expression all my own is, of course the adventure of a lifetime.

L:  Was it something you wanted to do from a young age or did you take a more circuitous path? Do you have any training in basic design?

M: I was able to afford two years of schooling at F.I.T and do have an associates degree in Textile/Surface Design. The education I got from F.I.T was more of a technical schooling. I was taught to put things in repeat, to paint flower and to weave. My real education came as a result of being a Vintage Poster Restoration Artist. I restore posters by Talouse-Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, and interestingly enough, Andy Warhol. I took this as an opportunity to evaluate drawing and painting styles and I learned to mix paint to exact specification. 

Still Life In Time

L:  Do you consciously think about the elements of art as you create?

M:  No, I do not. I work intuitively. I think the basic tenets of art making are well and deeply ingrained at this point that I am not really aware of what I am doing at all. I can slow myself down to describe it when asked.

L:  What are your fears as an artist and how do you face/overcome/talk yourself out of them?

M:  My fears. 
That my art isn’t good enough. Isn’t this everyone’s fear? And I don’t think this is a bad thing. If my art isn’t good enough, if I didn’t hit the ‘right’ note, then I still have room to grow, to dig deeply into what I am trying to get at. It is sort of zen, when you think of it this way, as though the very thing you strive to do sits, as if a seed, within what you are doing right now. Being an artist is really about fostering that seed, prompting new growth.

Next week I’ll introduce you to the lovely book that Melanie has written. It has been an inspiration to me over the past several months. And here is something special. During the month of March Melanie and I will collaborate on a small work of art – a textile postcard. At the end of the moth it will be given away to a lucky reader, chosen from the comments on each of the four posts that feature Melanie and her work. You may post each week  and have an even better chance of winning this postcard. Perhaps next week I’ll give you a little peek at what we are starting.

Fun on the Set

It’s finally done and over with. A month’s work for a few hours of taping but it was a great few hours and a very fun few days with lots of wonderful artists. I taped a 10 minute segment for season four of Quilting Arts TV as well as a DVD Workshop titled, “Surface Design Sampler Platter.” The workshop is a little taste of quite a number of surface design techniques, including carving a stamp, printing with found objects, stencil cutting, screen printing, foiling and photo transfer. Whew. Talk about cramming a lot of stuff into a short time – as well as into a small suitcase!
I met Melanie Testa who is a very fine artist and a sweet young lady to boot! It was great fun getting to know her and I look forward to seeing her again in Houston at the International Quilt Festival. It was also wonderful to watch her tape. It calmed my nerves just to watch the process and figure out that hey, I was going to be just fine. I could ask to stop if I needed to and there would be ample time to reset between each segment of the DVD. Here we’re getting a little silly – Melanie with relief that she’s done and me with nerves.

Everyone with the production is so nice. They work hard to make you look good, feel good, and come off like you know what you are talking about. Bernina’s representative, Jeanne always had a great big smile! Helen is quiet, but always there when you need her. Pokey is a hoot to watch run around – change outfits ten times – make funny faces at the camera – and check her e-mail twenty times between each shoot. That girl has some serious energy.
Here’s Helen and I – with just some of the loads of SCHTUFF on the table – getting organized. Jeanne and Karen are in back – probably planning some serious shoe shopping.
Just have to mention the amazing artist who made my drop-dead-gorgeous scarf! You can see Jill’s work at her Etsy shop.

Salsa in the Studio

I’ve spent this month working furiously toward another deadline – when am I not? I’m filming next week with Pokey for Quilting Arts TV season 4 as well as a Quilting Arts DVD Workshop.
As usual, I’m not getting enough sleep but better than usual – I’m being fairly productive in the studio. Of course the little ones are enjoying the free reign through the house. A new disaster awaits every time I exit my little enclave of art.

I hate the way my brain feels when I’m tired but I think I’ve found a cure. Nope – no caffeine for me. Music. Duh!!! you say. Well it’s been a long time since I’ve had music in the studio. This past year I’ve had to have no music while writing the book. I used to be a musician and find myself much to involved in the music when I listen so I had to have it quiet.
The upbeat music is like caffeine for my brain. Each day seems to have a theme. Classic 50’s Rock-N-Roll for a day, Big-Band Swing the next. Today it’s Latin. Right now it’s “Salsa Celtica.” Did you know your feet can dance while your hands draw? Next time I think it’s be Newgrass and Folk, then Celtic.

Quilting Arts TV

What an adventure! I spent half of last week taping a couple of segments for Quilting Arts TV

What lovely people and what a wonderful opportunity. Patricia Bolton is one of the hardest working (honestly – I don’t know when she sleeps) people I know. It has been such a pleasure to watch her add on projects and succeed with every step. I give most of the credit for the wonderful leaps my career has made over the past several years to her.  You can read her blog here.
And I learned some interesting things. The most interesting is that being the Hostess of a TV show requires three brains in one head. Pokey had to make up questions and comments on the fly, watch the crew’s cues, listen to the producer in her earpiece, and remember things like who she was supposed to introduce for the next segment. Oh – and change outfits every 30 minutes for a week. Sounds like work to me. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. I’ll have to order the DVD’s though as PBS doesn’t hasn’t picked up the show in this area. Write your local station and request the show – I have. Didn’t work but I keep writing. Hopefully it will happen eventually.
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