Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Lucky Recipient

Goodness - I am indeed humbled by the lovely comments made on my Post 1600. I may be giving away a padfolio but in return I too am a lucky recipient - of supportive and affirming thoughts. Basically, you said you like my blog for the same reasons I like it, which I suppose makes perfect sense. But I think this is an important point because many who blog, including me and some of the commenters, worry that we are not providing what our readers want or expect, that if we veer off our primary theme (no matter how interesting it may be), we will lose readers or make the ones who stay a bit grumpy - where are the quilts? Thankfully, it appears that many of you appreciate the variety I offer and also the detail I go into about my process. In at least one case, I discovered that through my blog I have been not only an ambassador for quilting but also an ambassador for the area in which I live. And apparently I have been the catalyst for continuing conversations elsewhere. Oooo - to be a fly on your wall!

To blog or not to blog - that is a question many ask themselves. I know some have gotten into it because they felt they had to - peer pressure you know - and don't really enjoy it or quite know what to share. My tendency would be to encourage giving it a try, partly because I love seeing what others are doing too, and because I think it can be a beneficial process. Still, it may not be for you so don't feel guilty about that. While my reasons for maintaining this blog have been many, and there have been times when I wondered if I was just talking to the ether, no one reading at all, in the end I've realized that one has to do it first and foremost for oneself. It's a bit like making quilts. If you do it because you love what you are doing and are getting something out of it, then it doesn't really matter if anyone else notices. But notice they will, because they will see something authentic and interesting and want to know more. Blog for yourself first, but of course, don't forget your audience - blog for them too. And perhaps like me, you will increasingly see how so many facets of your life affect and feed into your own creative journey.

Well, enough of the chit chat. I can tell you're chomping at the bit to know where that padfolio is going. Oh wait - you probably skipped down here to the bottom straightaway, right?  But if not, look below - the winner of the giveaway is:

Condolences to the losers - I wish I could send each of you a prize. I will be sending an e-mail response to your comment if an address is available. Thank you everyone for playing along and making me feel all warm and fuzzy. :-)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Catching Up

What's in a name? Still pondering. . .
My art group met early last week, my turn to host. So besides the usual scramble to get something to the feedback point, there was some major house cleaning going on - another bonus to belonging to the group! I only have my own things to show as I didn't think about photos for the blog. The most interesting part of the discussions though was noting how we perceive perspectives differently. My piece shown above is one example.

Beads are difficult to photograph. Look closely for five clear yellow ones.

I'm looking for the perfect word that describes what I see in this piece of distorted tyvek attached by beads to a colorful piece of hand-dyed fabric. It strikes me as floating, suspended, between clouds in a fiery sky. I'm looking up and watching it float away from me, up up like a kite let go. But at least one member looked startled at that description. She saw it as being viewed from overhead as if from a plane, looking down through an opening in the clouds. And she can't get past that when she first saw this squiggly piece of tyvek, it reminded her of a frog's leg. Yeah, I can see that!

I'd spent some time with a thesaurus and rattled off some of the words I'd come up with, asking if anything else came to mind, a single word for this tiny 3-1/2 x 5" piece (The photo was photo-shopped for the ArtWalk application as I was waiting on frames to arrive. It is actually double matted as I was experimenting with here to bring its framed size to 11" x 14".) I'd narrowed it down to two and was pleased that the group was leaning towards these as well. What do you think - "Gossamer" or "Flux" or something else?

Our new member also had something that we could not agree on as to what it portrayed. She'd experimented with painting on a small piece of cotton and didn't know where to go from there. It had an impressionistic feel to it - think Monet and waterlilies. But the way it was turned felt upside down to me. Where the others saw flowers floating in a swampy area, blue skies above, I wanted to flip it so that blue was a lake and the red "flowers" were more blooming trees overhead - cherry blossoms perhaps. In the minority, my idea lost out but we did figure out a way she could turn that muddled pond into a water feature leading the eye into the scene.

Eisenberg Fountain: Retreat - Sheila Mahanke Barnes ©2016 11 x 14

This is the second piece I submitted with my ArtWalk application, anxious to show the group how it had turned out as we'd spent a lot of time auditioning black and other colored fabrics for the background. This might look familiar if you've been following me for awhile. It is the sample I made to test out a new construction technique for the rather large Eisenberg Fountain: The Healing Power of Water. It seemed a shame to file it away as it came out rather well so I thought to do what I've done before with smaller pieces: "mount" it onto fabric fused to Decor Bond for stability and put it in a frame. The green frame is one of several I bought as possibilities for "Energy" but the eventual choice of mat eliminated it from the running. This photo shows the green of the frame more intense than in real life and it's difficult to see the subtle teal greens in the black mount, but trust me, when I set that green frame next to the sample, it brought out the green tints in the sample fabrics bringing it a bit more alive. The background black with its subtleties does the same. No other black or grey or white or yellow did what that particular piece of hand-dyed fabric did. Hard to believe until you experience it but proves without a doubt how important it is to find just the right colors to enhance your work.

It's chaos in the studio once more!

And this is what I was hustling to get to a critique-able point and is creating the current chaos in the studio. I've been invited by one of my close quilting friends from my days in Wisconsin to participate in a slice quilt. We are using a photo taken by her husband of an old barn. There are four of us working independently on our slices of the photo and a fifth woman who will quilt them all for us. I've never done one of these and haven't done this kind of quilting for a long time. I've spent many hours just deciding how to approach it technically before finally diving into my stash. At the point of showing it at the meeting, I was struggling with finding a suitable roof fabric and how to liven up a bit what felt like an overall heaviness to my section, not very confident at all that I'd produce a "cool" slice that would work well with the others. The gals did their best to shore me up, pointing out the strong points and suggesting solutions for my iffy parts. Work progresses and I'm pleased to say I feel much better about it now that I am hitting on touches to make it distinctively mine. Stay tuned!

And don't forget to leave a comment on Post 1600 if you'd like a chance to win one of my padfolios. It's been both interesting and encouraging to hear what you like about my blog. You have through Monday so keep those comments coming! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Blog Giveaway Reminder

Lake Pend Oreille and Idaho's State flower - Syringa
 This is what it looks like right now in my neck of the woods. It's been hot and the flowering trees are flowering. What's it like in your part of the world?

There haven't been a lot of comments on Post 1600 where I am giving away one of my padfolios. But there's still time and your chances of winning are good! You have until Monday to leave a comment on that post telling me what you like best about my blog. Remember to include your name in your comment if you are logged in as "Unknown" or "Anonymous".

I limit my sales to within the United States but I'll ship my freebies anywhere. So if you are one of my international readers, this may be your only chance to own one of my padfolios. Plus I really would like to know what brought you to my blog and keeps you coming back. Pop on over and write me a quick note, and your name will go into the proverbial hat for the drawing next week.

Trees in bloom - downtown Sandpoint


Monday, April 18, 2016

Post 1600

This padfolio could be yours!
As I noticed I was coming up on my 1600th post, the number struck me as auspicious, worthy of pointing out, a perfect pairing with another Austin Kleon post I've been saving to share, and calling for a giveaway. It's the giveaway part that's been holding up this post. I've decided to go with this padfolio which, in all honesty, is what's known as a "second" - a product that in some way, generally cosmetic, doesn't meet the specifications of the manufacturer. That's what happened here, a cosmetic flaw that the public may not have recognized but which glared at me, one I've played with a bit to make less obvious before letting it out into the world. It doesn't affect its usability but I can't in good conscience take money for it. And so - I'm giving it away!

Some wonder if blogging has become passe, insisting that no one reads them anymore what with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. I still maintain that blogs are important and a richer, deeper, less fleeting expression worthy of the writer's, as well as the reader's, time. For someone who wants to "show their work" (as in the steps leading to the final product), it's a great format - at least it has been for me - and the feedback in the comments tells a fuller story than a simple click on a "like" button.  Started during a difficult time when I couldn't motivate myself into the studio, I used it as "someone" to be accountable to, "someone" who would be sitting out there wondering why I wasn't posting progress. More than 10 years later, I still feel a responsibility to my readers that often gets me off my duff and getting something done so I can blog about it. So thank you for sticking with me!

That brings me to Austin Kleon's blog post: 3 Reasons Why You Should Show Your Work. He's written a book on the value of showing your work and as is his way, he makes simple sense, no reason to be embarrassed. The following three reasons, I realized, are pretty much why I blog.
  1. Documenting your process helps your progress.
    Keeping track of what you’ve done helps you better see where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re headed. It’s also a great way to hold yourself accountable — if you dedicate yourself to sharing a tiny bit of your process every day, you’re forced to actually do the work you should be doing.
  2. Sharing your process reaps the benefits of self-promotion without the icky feelings.
    People are often just as interested in how you work as much as the work itself. By sharing your process, you invite people to not only get to know your work, but get to know you — and that can lead to new clients, new projects, and all sorts of other opportunities.
  3. Building an audience for what you do creates a valuable feedback loop.
    Christopher Hitchens said the best thing about putting out a book is that it’s a “free education that goes on for a lifetime.” As you gain fans and followers by sharing your work, they will, in turn, share with you. Even when the feedback is bad, it can lead you down new paths.
 There you have it - great reasons to show your work, great reasons to blog about it. And now I'd like to hear from you. In order to qualify for the giveaway, leave a comment below telling me your favorite thing about my blog. Is it sharing of my process or what inspires me? Is it introducing you to other artists or bringing you along to exhibits? Perhaps you enjoy my "deep thoughts" quotations and musings, or discovery of tools and products or techniques. Whatever it is that brought you here and brings you back, that you look forward to seeing or hearing about, that you wish there was more of or even less of, I'd like to know. You'll have until next Monday (April 25) to add a comment, and if you are "anonymous" or "unknown" designation, be sure to add your name to your comment. I can't wait to hear what you have to say!

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Kinda Back...

Scrumptious Orange Coconut Coffeecake for Easter Morning
So I deserted you for awhile to work on my taxes, and I am relieved to say I wrapped them up over the weekend. They actually went together more quickly than last year which was a pleasant surprise, but just like when a quilt is suddenly finished quicker than I expect, I am thrown slightly off and worry that I've done something wrong or forgotten something. But with today's software programs doing much of the work, I'm sure everything is fine. So if they went together swiftly, what else I have been doing? Well, I spent extra time in the kitchen, whipping up traditional Easter recipes and a curry dinner with all the sides that take more time to prepare than my usual fare. I have a ton of leftovers in the freezer that will allow me to stay in the studio pretty much right up to dinner time for quite awhile.

Experimenting with matting

I also spent an afternoon pulling all the framing and mounting materials out of the closet and corners of the studio to do a full inventory. With a couple of small pieces in the works for ArtWalk, I discovered I had no frames for the mats I had on hand and couldn't find what I wanted locally. I also discovered that while I had the size of stretched canvases I would need, I did not have the floater frames I like to put them in. I don't know how I got so off-kilter, especially with the matching up of floater frames and canvases, but what did match up were not the size I need. Of course. So now I have a list of sizes and types and numbers of frames, mats, and canvases, and have received my order to fill in the gaps (placed while I could take advantage of some sale prices and dollar shipping). I'm having trouble tracking down the size of floater frame I need, but I may have found a source of something I can live with - was holding back placing the order until I had more time to do more checking, like now. I just want to be able to work on my little pieces, and when done have everything I need to get them ready for hanging.

Frames and a canvas have arrived
There have also been longer walks in a beautiful run of spring weather and new titles from the library for recreational reading. And of course, plenty of on-line reading as well. So many good things to read and watch and I often let them pile up a bit. Then it's a bit of binge reading and watching followed by a bit of thinking sometimes. Here's one thing I saved to share with you, from one of my favorite sources - Austin Kleon's Tumblr. It is on callings, and does a bit to refute the famous Joseph Campbell quotation “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” Probably goes without saying that Jessa Crispin's response is very much in line with my own thinking on the matter but also gave me some new things to think about as to why I can't totally buy into the idea that the universe will provide. Added emphases are mine.

"I think one of the dumbest things in our culture right now is Joseph Campbell’s insistence that once you find yourself on the right path, the universe will “open doors” for you, it will help you become the person you are meant to be. . . Respect to Joseph Campbell and all that, but no. This affects how we think and talk about genius. . . .Nothing was ever going to stand in their way, the universe needed them to exist, and so facilitated their ascension.

This does a few interesting things. For starters, it discounts all of their hard work, and the anxiety and fear they all had to overcome, as well as discounting the work of their mentors, collaborators, managers, advisers, etc. It also lets us ignore the societal structures in place that allowed these particular people to rise and also kept other people from rising. Such as, the welfare state that allowed Bowie to be on the dole and not work while he experimented. Or, the patriarchal structure that assisted Henry James in getting good paid work as he apprenticed as a writer, something not as available for women. But it’s also the comfort of a Calvinist worldview: we’re either saved or we’re damned. If we’re saved, we’re blessed, everything we do is golden and fated and does not need to be questioned. If we’re damned, we’re excused from trying."
Perhaps this last thought from Crispin matches my feelings most closely:
"I believe in callings. They come as Aces, like the clouds parting, the gift bestowed from above. But I also believe that callings require you to reorient your life and cut away anything extraneous. They are burdens as much as they are gifts."
So now it's time to pick up my burden again (something I do gladly) and put my gifts to work in the studio. ArtWalk beckons on the horizon. . .


Friday, March 25, 2016

Spurred Into Action

My art group met on Monday, which as usually spurred me into a late flurry of activity last week so I'd have things to share and get feedback on. So yes, despite no blogging about it, I have been getting a few things done in the studio. For instance, I finished cutting my leaf cluster block, rather fascinated with the design building up in the background. Those lines may or may not transfer, depending on how I ink the block - one of the characteristics of linocuts. I was waiting to blog about it until I'd had a chance to do a test print (ran out of time to do that before the meeting), but since this post is sharing what went on at our meeting, I'm letting you see it now. Expect to see this again in action.

Then there was that epiphany I believe I mentioned regarding Adrift. So excited to try it out but kept working on other things. I definitely wanted feedback if it worked at all so hustled to fuse two batiks together, one having these beautiful sprays of leaves to cut out. But would the cut-outs look right up in that corner where I've been stuck, the one where I could see branches or something. The leaves are on a dark blue background so I left a bit of that along the edges as I trimmed, knowing that if it didn't look right I could cut it away. I put the first spray up and . . . oh my yes!

The only problem is, these leaves change the feel of the piece. I no longer think those sheer leaves I meant to float on the water part (and giving the quilt its name) look right - ditto for the yarns I'd started cutting for the grasses along the bottom. Such is the journey a design idea may take and I think I just have to give in to it since those new leaves bring such life to this piece. Now note that arrow on the right.

It is pointing to a place on this strip of "test and paint expend" fabric where I'd tested a commercial stamp. I'd put it up there because a few weeks back I'd seen two photos on the internet showing these bushes with the bright red stems. I saved this one but can't seem to locate the other that was taken not far from where I live showing these bushes right along the water's edge, a splash of color against the drabber winter backdrop of dry grasses and leafless trees. More than the bright color struck me - I wondered if this was the answer to helping the viewer sense how wide an expanse of water I was seeing in my piece. Later, I had one of those accidental moments when I realized I actually had a stamp that might duplicate this look. The sample helped me see if the size and look were right. I decided they were. I stamped some bushes on the quilt right as it hung on the design wall - oh my, such an atypical thing for careful tentative me to do!

So by the time I showed it at art group it looked like this. Not sure the bushes look quite like I envisioned and I may add some stitch there but I like that I have the stamping as a base. Still need to do some arranging and perhaps adding of the leaves in the corner but the group loved that solution. They also agreed that the other leaves may have to go or be altered and we continued to puzzle over how many and how to group those floating leaves. The strands of yarns have been placed there only to show a thought of how some of the leaves might be "behind" the grasses which I am not planning on extending up that far. At any rate, exciting progress and more work to be done.

Now to the rest of the group. Robin has been playing with a new collage technique which is based on deconstructing old books. It is amazing what an aged look these all have.

The collages are built up on small gesso board, a product I was totally unfamiliar with but think I might like to try for mounting rather than stretched canvas. If you too don't know what that is, here's a source with detail description and pictures. Here you can see Robin has used not only the cloth from the book cover but pieces of the webbing used to hold the spine, something one doesn't see until taking a book apart. The writing is cut from old family letters.

She also incorporated bits of text from the books. In this case, we are amused by a bit of advice from an early 1900 book on Christian etiquette.

And this, she stressed, was the key to success, a mixing of the two allowing collage pieces to be moved around a bit before the glue takes permanent hold. Yeah, how often do we get that bit of text or photo in just the right place on the first try?

Meg of the giant tree has put aside her fabrics for the moment for sketching and making up color charts and general experimentation with various paints and pens. On these pages she is working on sketching the same figure from different angles and in different poses. 

She has a long-term goal of writing a children's story illustrated with her fabric "quirky" kids and animals, etc. so there will be a need to repeat a character turned in different directions. She noted this was much more difficult than she anticipated.

She's also been trying to work up in sketch a bird nest that can be added to her giant tree in the exhibit (she's already added a bird as our spring is progressing to that point). I'd brought along the latest Quilting Arts Magazine to show her two articles in there showing two approaches to making bird nests for/on art quilts. Frankly, I found them a little boring and dull (where are the bright strips of yarn and fabric birds incorporate into their nest building if they find them in your yard?) but thought it might give her some ideas. This discussion led Robin to get out a big wood box where she'd stored masses of yarns and embroidery threads gotten for a song from two male tailors shutting down their business. Yeah, Meg and I had some fun picking through that - she for her nest, me for my grasses!

We were successful in wooing Cheryl (who we discovered at the Triple Threat Exhibit) to the meeting, who arrived eager to get some help with this piece that's been on her design wall for at least a year. The base fabric is one she snow-dyed, the machine quilting some of her first (with an old machine that she now realizes held her back), the heart-shape silk flowers ones she deconstructed and reassembled on the top.

Once the final arrangement is in place, she will tack each flower with a few mono-filament thread stitches, then add beads in the center. What she needed ideas for was the quilting around the outside, how to flatten out the bubbling center and if the arrangement of flowers could be improved. We lost no time diving in with input and think she is a great addition to our group. She is pretty much self-taught in the art quilt part which she is relatively new to, but not afraid to experiment and go for it. See her current work that was in the exhibit here.

Well, this should keep you for awhile. Sadly, I must turn my attention and time to doing my taxes which will limit how much progress I'll have to show here. But I'll be back! 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

We Interrupt This Distraction...

Before getting all caught up in the opening of the Triple Threat Exhibit (see last few posts), I was busy making a linocut of a leaf cluster. I was about halfway through removing areas that will not print when I allowed another distraction to take priority. Another thing I've wanted to get to for awhile, another piece of fabric set aside for it - aside but not away, such that I wouldn't forget but instead be reminded whenever working in the studio, a nagging at my consciousness - another blank journal.

But as you can see, I actually have made two. While I will soon need another one for myself for my yoga journalling, I also wanted to make one as a gift for someone who has sustained a loss. A bit of tick tock on both counts, so it was time to get these done. This one received simple outlining of the sun-printed leaves, opting to keep the feeddogs engaged so the stitching would be nice and even. As always, amazed at how a little stitch can transform a fabric.

This is an African batik of sorts, another special piece out of my late friend's stash. Done on a slightly heavier and coarser fabric than what we generally work into our quilts, it is perfect for this sort of project. And it was about the perfect size, very little having to be trimmed off. I'm sure it started off as a larger piece, probably a fat quarter, but I have no idea what my friend might have used part of it for. I used to be more about what I could do with leftovers from my projects. Now I seem to delight more in having as little leftover as possible.

That fabric had been fused to a piece of eco felt cut the finished size of the cover - I thought it could use the extra stability the fusible would provide. A little trimming of the corners of the fabric extending beyond was all that was needed before turning them over the edge and fusing to make a firm clean finish. The other African batik fabric was even heavier so I just spray basted the felt to it and stitched along the black lines (another instance of the quilting not showing but definitely felt when handling the journal). Strips of fusible were added along the fabric extensions so they could be turned over the edge and fused.

Covers done, it was time to fold the signatures and sew them in. On mine, I used a #3 wt Perle cotton which glided wonderfully through the holes of both the paper and cover. On the other I used a rayon braid from an Oliver Twist "Two of a Kind" package and it was even better! I used that 1/16th hole punch on the covers for the holes near the edges but of course could not reach into the center holes with it and reverted to a large needle. I used fray check on the ends and knots of both as a precaution, even though they are made on the inside between the pages. Carefully chosen buttons from my grandmother's/mother's button collection and elastic loops provide the closures.

These blank journals still feel like I'm working through prototypes, frustrating in how long they take, how long I end up fiddling with them unlike the padfolios that I have down to a science. But I love them - the size, the feel of the soft cover in my hand, the variety of decorative thread or yarn that can be used in the spine, the lovely antique laid paper I'm using for the signatures. You know there will be more. But first, back to the previous distraction...