Saturday, March 31, 2007

Stamps

Apologies for going AWOL - a variety of reasons that I won't bore you with have kept me away from both blogging and creating. However, yesterday I tested the stamps I bought not long ago - here are the samples on paper. Will share the results on fabric once I take one more step in the process. In the meantime, today was journal quilt day. Boy do I need a jump start, and it was good to have an obligation to be in the studio. Will post picture and explanation tomorrow.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Bit of Progress

I'm getting a bit obsessed with this Crow's Feet project. I pieced 4 blocks yesterday, as many as could be sewn with the navy thread in the machine. I enjoyed the rhythm of joining the parts, the repetition soothing, not tedious. I got to wondering why that was, why sewing four identical blocks in a row wasn't boring me. I decided it was because these were not identical blocks. Each had its own pair of fabrics, its own combination of colors and textures. Each held a certain mystique - would my choices be as successful in the finished block as I imagined they would be? When I added that block to the ones already sewn, would it fit, blend, help add interest, make the whole greater than the sum of its parts?


Back when I was new to patchwork, I was fascinated with geometric blocks and what seemed an infinite number of ways they could be colored and joined to change the look of the basic block. I'd read about quilters who found traditional blocks boring and quickly fled to the type of contemporary quilting that they found less rigid and more interesting. I really couldn't imagine running out of ways to manipulate traditional blocks into exciting designs and found myself pretty impatient with these renegade quilters.


Of course, now I too have moved beyond traditional blocks, although I still find ways to incorporate them at times. I understand better the hazard of getting bored making the same block over and over again. I'm sure that sampler quilts and scrap quilts have such a strong following in the traditional quilt world because they are not boring to work on. For anyone who loves all kinds of fabrics, commercial prints as well as hand-dyed fabrics, there is always excitement in pulling many different combinations together to see how they interact. Otherwise, yes, making say 20 or 30 absolutely identical blocks can be incredibly tiresome.


Today I wanted to finish up the piece I've been experimenting with to try out a casual curved piecing technique. I'm making it work, but I'm not all that keen on it. Best to finish it up so I can clear some things off the work table and be done with the blue thread for awhile. Yes, this is one of my quirks: I hate changing threads back and forth so I've been known to sew as much as I can on as many projects as I have going that use the same color thread before changing to another color for the original project. Dumb but that's the way I am, although I'm not quite as obsessive about it as I used to be.


I used a lot of steam today to block the units into submission. This is one of the things I don't like about this method - too much distortion. I added an insert and a piece to the top and bottom of the smaller unit, the one with the extreme curve. Then I joined it to the larger piece with a bridging insert. You can see quite plainly from this picture that this technique leaves you with quite a skewed piece to be squared up. It's fairly obvious that grainlines are off, although that might not bother some people. Me it bothers. I decided not to square it before quilting and got it layered using 505 Spray Baste. I don't think I'll quilt it right away. Grid 3 is still waiting for me to get back to its quilting. But at least it's ready to go.


I would have layered another piece for quilting while I was at it - one of the willow leaf prints - but the fabric I want to back it with needs washing. I cut a length and will wash it along with some sale fabric I picked up last week. At $2 a yard, I couldn't pass it up, falling back on the quilter's standard excuse: I can always use it for backing...


And before quitting for the day, I couldn't resist changing threads and sewing one more Crow's Feet block!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Being at the Right Place

"The greatest sin against your own life is to know what you want, and not act."

"Kim R. Strafford, Lochsa Road: A Pilgrim in the West, copyright 1991

Alyson B Standfield's St. Patrick's Day post entitled, "Do you feel lucky?" commented: "Luck has little to do with your art career." I understand what she was getting at, that we can't sit around waiting to be discovered, that we have to put in a lot of hard work to be successful. (Read entire post here.)

However, having just listened to the Chuck Close interview with Charlie Rose, I'd have to think he might disagree that luck has little to do with your art career. Rose asked him why he thought he had had such great success while many of the artists he'd gone to school with had worked hard, produced good work but remained overlooked by the art world. He explained how what the art world is looking for at a given moment may not be where an artist is with his work. That's probably a bad paraphrase, but I remember him moving his hands back and forth as he talked about how important timing is in intersecting with the art world. Some artists are never fortunate enough to be doing the "right" work, or be in the right place when their work would be noticed. He wasn't advocating trying to anticipate what the market or critics would decide was the next great trend or fad. Far from it. He advocates putting blinders on to not be swayed by these winds of change. Then work hard on your particular vision so that the work is done and ready should anyone notice. And so he felt he'd been very fortunate to have his work happen to intersect with something the art world wanted to grab on to and promote. He felt it just as easily could have happened to one of his schoolmates instead.

Sounds like luck to me. Or at least the stars aligning, as I like to say.

Which brings me to a story of my own luck. I accepted an invitation to attend a meeting of a local community service group on the basis that the program was quilt related. I've been told this is a great group for meeting the movers and shakers of the area and so a perfect place to network without having to commit to a lot of obligations. Part of me knows this is the kind of thing I should be joining to further my goals to become a working artist, yet I was pretty sure this was exactly the kind of group that would drive me crazy and feel like a huge waste of my time, contacts made or not.

I was also told that everyone was encouraged to bring a quilt to share after the speaker had finished. I was gently prodded to be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to show what I do to another segment of the community. All I really wanted to do was listen to the speaker, scope out the members, and lay low. But she was right, I needed to bring something along. Wisconsin Memories seemed a good choice. And since she introduced me as a quilt artist, it probably would have looked funny if I'd not shared anything.

To be honest, it was the longest 2-1/2 hours I've spent in a long time. The business meeting ran long and was the epitome of everything I dislike about organizations. The speaker spent a little too much time promoting some books she had for sale, and not enough on the actual history she was billed to present. I wasn't sensing any kindred souls in the room, so was ready to chalk it up to experience. As we were gathering our things to leave, one woman approached me about teaching classes. I've really sworn off teaching for now, and I thought - oh great, a test of my resolve - when she clarified it was a class on making jackets she was after. Well, no contest there. As I told her, I'd have to take a class first to learn how to make them myself! Oh, get me out of here...

And that's when another lady stepped up to introduce herself. She is with the Pend Oreille Arts Council which is the umbrella organization for all art events in the community. I knew at some point I needed to approach this group to see how I could get into one of their exhibits, but oh how I hate marketing myself. I just didn't quite know yet how to go about it. Instead, here she was approaching me. She got right to the point of telling me they were organizing a special exhibit of art quilts and wanted to give my name to the coordinator, Marty Bowne, an art quilter in her own right. Talk about being in the right place at the right time, and with a piece that must have represented me in the right light. I could hardly believe my luck that our paths had crossed this way. And that I'd considered backing out of attending this meeting at all.

Yes, I've done some hard work to get my quilting to this point. I actively searched for an artist friendly community. I uprooted and nearly broke the bank getting myself here. But if I end up garnering a bit of success now that I'm here, there will be many lucky events I can point to that helped it to happen.

Monday, March 19, 2007

More Birches - New Texture




"You should not be able to go from home to work without passing through a forest."

Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto

On my way to the exhibit last weekend, I caught a flash of white out of the corner of my eye as I passed through a small town. I quick turned my head and saw these four birches. Not able to pull over to take a longer look, I promised myself I'd do it on the way home. Turns out that these are in front of the post office and there are four more evenly spaced birches on the adjacent side. To think I was worried about leaving my muse back in Wisconsin! Luckily, I had my camera with me (I usually don't but really should get in the habit). I took a bunch of pictures from many angles, up close and faraway. As if I didn't have enough reference pictures of birches, but you never know.




I was focusing on the shapes and textures in the trunks, so at first missed the fact that some of them were reflected in the windows.




My fascination is with this texture. My Wisconsin birches (see example here) had arrow head shapes in the trunks.



Interview with Chuck Close

I don't normally watch Charlie Rose on PBS, but when flipping through listings, I saw that he was interviewing an artist so decided to check it out. You know, doesn't matter what medium one works in, one can always learn from other artists.

To be honest, I've never heard of Chuck Close, although he apparently is quite famous. Even after seeing some of his work (he specializes in portraits), I still don't think I've run across him before. However, here he was espousing the same wisdom and truths about making art and ignoring the prevailing winds of fad and fancy as I've admired in artists such as Michael James.

The transcript (you can order it here) is well worth the read if you can't manage to catch a repeat of the show on PBS.

I chuckled at what he said was one of his favorite sayings: "Amateurs look for inspiration. The rest of us just go to work." He talked about how new ideas and inspiration naturally arise out of the current work, so he is never at a loss for ideas. That is also the reason why he feels it is so important to do your own work, although he knows and respects artists who don't actually execute their own work. But for him, it is necessary to do the "mark making" himself, have that physical connection to the work. Well, we be preaching to the choir here.

You can listen to an "All Things Considered" NPR interview from 1998 here and a "From Scratch" NPR interview here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Celebrating Our Day...

And just how did you spend National Quilting Day? An anonymous reader suggested this alternative to actually quilting: "...curl up under a quilt with a good book and a glass of wine..." Hey, it's St Paddy's day - if you're going to curl up under a quilt with anything, it should be a hearty pint of Guinness or a wee bit of Irish Cream! I plan to do just that this evening...


In the meantime, I caught up with a couple of friends via the phone (one's a quilter so it should count as a legitimate quilting day activity, right?) before heading off to the studio. Instead of finishing up my great curved piecing experiment, I reverted back to my safe haven of precision sewing. It seemed very appropriate to spend some time doing some traditional piecing and a perfect excuse to make a block or two for the crows feet quilt. Here's my finished block. You may recognize the blue fabric as the same one I used for my studio valances. There wasn't much left so this was a good place to put some of it.


In the process of finding a background fabric to go with it, I found myself pulling and pairing fabrics from my reproduction stash. I did cut out pieces for two more blocks, but I admit I got a little carried away searching for other fabrics to help pull this quilt together. As I said, this is my comfort zone and I was having fun!


Of the 14 blocks sent to me, the purple one was the only one that really shouted, "I don't fit! I'm too modern!" So I planned to make a few purple blocks of my own pulling from my regular "contemporary" stash. I was quite surprised to find these purples among my reproductions that are very close in color and intensity. A couple other blocks were a bit on the edge of too modern, but with the right additions, I think I can bridge them in.

I fear this has gotten me off on a tangent. I want to cut blocks out now before I forget my bright ideas and while the unit measurements are familiar. No wonder the guild members were complaining - some of those triangles are very small, and the measurements in 1/8th increments. Good thing I enjoy working small and fussy. I estimate I need to make at least 18 to 20 blocks to get this quilt up to a usable size. I may as well use some of tomorrow to cut so that the drawers and bins can go back into hiding. Then when I have a few spare minutes or want a break from designing, I can quick whip up a block.

National Quilting Day

It's National Quilting Day...

GO QUILT!!!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Back in the Studio

Yesterday I finally got the taxes done - the federal taxes, that is. I still have WI state tax forms to fill out, and to my dismay, I also have to file state tax forms in Idaho as well. If I'd only moved a month later, I wouldn't have been here long enough to qualify. But the bulk of the work is done and I definitely needed a break. I determined that today would be a studio day, the first in over a week.

After doing a bit of this and that (ritual of preparation), I settled down to experiment some more with the curved piecing technique I tried out with February's journal quilt. I took my leftover pieces and sewed them together with an insert as before, only this time I sewed with a narrower seam allowance. I arbitrarily chose to use one of the inner guides on my presser foot and it seemed to work pretty well.


Once pressed, the edge of the seam allowances butted up next to each other as if I had planned it.


This second pair were not the same width as the original pair, so rather than stop here and try some different quilting from the journal quilt, I decided to continue with the cutting and sewing. Here I simply rotary cut free-hand through the piece, nothing else layered underneath, and sewed the two sides back together with a bias insert.


Only one problem with this - with no registration marks or extra seam allowance added, my first try ended with the vertical insert not lining up. This might not bother some, but it did me. Also, I think because it was off a bit, there was one section that distorted. So I ripped out one seam, pinned along the stitching line and folded back to check for alignment. When I finally had it to my satisfaction, I left one pin in at the center and stitched again.


Better and the whole piece lies flatter now.


My next decision was to cut a piece out of the solid section with a print piece layered with it.
Now this method works best with gentle curves, and this obvious was not gentle enough. No way was this lying flat.
So out came the stitching and with the help of pins and some gentle tugging, I got it pieced relatively well. But as you can see, the whole piece is getting wonky now and it will need a bit of steam and squaring to make things right.


In the meantime, my brain was "what if"ing. What if I cut the corner piece and add an insert to widen it. Would it then fit better into the curved seam? I got in a hurry and forgot to add the insert. But yes, sewn directly to the other side, it fit quite nicely and smoothly. But I wanted that insert, so I took the stitching out and tried again.


Again, I found some kind of alignment necessary to get a good fit. But eventually I got it together.


I think my next step will be to sew some relatively straight inserts to join additional pieces to the smaller one to make it fit next to the larger piece. In the meantime, I'm thinking that, while a single gentle curved line works ok with this more casual method, once you start sub-cutting and adding to the original piece, things get weird. I think I would be happier sticking with my more controlled, albeit, more time consuming method of making templates and cutting pieces with proper seam allowance and registration marks. And sewing with lots of pins. That's not to say this is a bad method. Just to say that my personal aesthetic is more comfortable with more precise methods. I still may find places to use this though, and for someone who is freer and looking for a quicker way to sew curves, this method definitely can work.

An Afternoon Out


One of the things on my "to do" list this week was to view some art after getting my hair cut on Thursday. My salon is downtown and a short walk from the artist cooperative, Artworks Gallery. There's such a wonderful variety of mediums represented there, and this month they were featuring a new artist which gave me an excuse to stop by. I couldn't pass up this wool/mohair yarn which is such a luscious color and has such an interesting twist. What will I do with it? Oh, who knows! Probably not enough to knit anything useful. I would want to use a rather loose stitch I think to show off that texture. On the other hand, I could knit or crochet something small that could be added to a textile piece. Or, I could try my hand at weaving. I suppose I could even try placing strands of it between Sulky Solvy and stitching with decorative threads to make a scarf or something to add to a textile piece. But for now, I'll just be enjoying how beautiful it looks all wound up in its little ball.


I thought I might also find a greeting card for a friend there. Many of the photographers and painters who have full size pieces displayed also have some of their original designs represented on notecards. I found a lovely "Birch Grove" one by Dorothy Modafferi of Hope, ID. As luck would have it, she happened to be working the register so we got a chance to chat about our love of these trees. Read more about Dorothy here.

I continued down the street to Wine Sellers on the Lake which had advertised an exhibit of local art running through March. I'd not been in this store yet, housed in one of the old brick buildings. It's high ceilings gave plenty of room to hang paintings, etchings, prints and photographs above the merchandise. I was even offered a free glass of wine to sip while I enjoyed the art. Nothing was really catching my eye much until I got to the end of the room and spotted a grouping of mixed media work looking very much like it could be textiles. After closer examination, I decided it was probably acrylic paints applied in thick "strings" with beads and chips of stones or gems glued to the surface. It was very effective and I liked the geometric designs coupled with the texture created with the various elements. Sorry - no name to direct you to.

There's one more exhibit downtown that I didn't have time for, but it runs until the middle of April. It features student and teacher art from 3 or 4 area high schools. I've often marveled at the work seen in exhibits like this. Young raw uninhibited expression sometimes trumps experience!

Monday, March 12, 2007

"Imagination Unleashed" Quilt Show

I thought I'd share a few quilts from the contemporary quilt show I saw on Saturday. But first, here's my Internet acquaintance, Nikki, and me meeting for the first time. Our paths crossed in the great blogosphere, with art quilting and Idaho/WA being our common link. I so enjoyed viewing the show with her, especially because she could tell me a bit about many of the quilters represented - all of which were unfamiliar names to me who has so recently been transplanted from the Midwest quilting scene. Nikki quickly moved from acquaintance to friend over the course of the afternoon, and I look forward to getting together with her again.


The Show was judged by Cynthia Corbin who not only brought along some of her own work for display, but also circulated and chatted with quilters at the show. I was particularly interested in how she had quilted her work, using closely spaced parallel lines, sometimes straight, sometimes slightly curved, and in one piece some of both. She pointed out that she almost exclusively uses cotton thread for quilting, feeling the sheen of rayon or metallic would detract from her abstract work. She also noted that she is more concerned with the value of the thread rather than the color. If she's just interested in texture, then she'll keep the value very close to the value of the quilt top.



I think the quilt shown above impressed me the most. (As always, click on any picture for a larger view.) It's "Green With Envy" from Pam Mostek's Paintbox series. My apologies to Pam - I don't think the color in this picture captures the rich depth of her quilt in person. A lot is going on here, but those things aren't screaming for individual attention. It all blends so well to give this work a complexity that invites further exploration. It wasn't until I viewed it from across the room that I noted the one design device that I think really sets this quilt apart. Rather than the predictable vertical and horizontal lining up of the circles, Pam has tilted the whole thing slightly. It makes for a much more interesting composition. Pam is no slouch - visit her website here to learn more about her quilts, fabric line and books.



These two quilts spoke to me because of their very graphic nature. Each are about 5 feet high I'd guess. The one on the left is "Fences Two #9" by Borg Hendrickson. This quilt was included in an exhibit at the American Art Company in Tacoma. See the review of the exhibit here. It was mentioned that she had taken a workshop with Nancy Crow and I felt I could see that influence in this quilt. As for the quilt on the right, there was no information pinned to it, so I can't tell you more about it except that it had the added surprise of some very subtle beadwork.



This last quilt is another one I failed to get more information about. I was interested in it because it is similar to the design of my challenge quilt here, but such a different feel. I think this one has more sophistication because of the toned and more satuated palette, not to mention the additional detail. But mostly I had to sigh because she had quilted the water exactly as I had intended to quilt mine, but for some reason, I ended up doing something different that I didn't care for but didn't have time to change. Her water quilting is lovely and provides the effect and mood I was looking for.


There were other well-done quilts, a few bad ones, and a number that seemed to bolster the current discussion about the drawbacks of this type of show as well as who it benefits. For someone who has never or seldom viewed anything other than a traditional quilt show, it would be an eye opening, even though the offerings were uneven. For the fledgling art quilter, it would be a perfect venue to get her work out there and gain some valuable critiquing from an art quilter judge. There's nothing like seeing your work along side more experienced and professional quilters, too, for sizing up where you stand and how you might improve. For the two who were obviously heads above the rest of the field, perhaps even on a par with the judge, their presence elevated the importance and quality of the entire exhibit, gave them an opportunity to sell work, but surely did not add to their resumes. In this case, I don't think that matters.

By the way, there were a few vendors in attendance, but I managed to walk away from them. Not to say I wasn't tempted by the wonderful range of yarns and other goodies. However, I did come away with a few free beads. Must check out this store some day soon.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What can you do in 15 minutes?

This week's ArtBizCoach.com newsletter was about blogs, but led off with a bit about how large projects can be completed by regularly spending even a small amount of time on them. This is how Alyson finally finished writing a book that had been on hold for too long. She closed with this question:

"What do you have that you want to accomplish? Can you devote 15 minutes to it each day?"

Back in December of 2005, I wrote about capturing those small bits of time here. I was thinking more in terms of the minutes I waste because I think I need large chunks of time before starting anything. But there are many little tasks that can be completed in 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Or at least a good start can be made on them. I'm still trying to master the mindset necessary to dive into a task rather than procrastinate until I think I have more time to devote to it.

When I'm in full working mode, my studio becomes a mess - sometimes to the point that I don't have a lot of open space on the work table to actually work. Once a project is done, I often shove the odds and ends to one side rather than straightening up there and then. That one is often the product of a bit of fatigue, and when I still ignore the mess the next morning, that is more of an impatience to get on with the next project.

I noticed lately that when I enter the studio, I'm not always ready to get right to work. It sometimes takes a few minutes to focus, sweep the cobwebs from the brain, decide what needs to be tackled. I found myself turning to straightening up and thought, well, there you go, procrastinating in a different direction. But in truth, taking 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning of each studio session to clear the decks not only frees up actual working space and removes visual distractions, but also allows my mind to prepare itself for the workday. Twyla Tharp in "The Creative Habit" would call this a ritual of preparation. The added bonus is that if I do this straightening up on a daily basis, I don't end up having to devote an entire work day to digging myself out.

Right now I don't have a major back burner project in mind that I want to devote 15 minutes a day to. My mind is much more thinking in terms of what I can do to avoid the backlog of paperwork and computer entry I let stack up because I think I just don't have time to face it today. Case in point: my taxes would be done had I regularly entered financial data in my Quicken program.

So perhaps what I need to devote 15 minutes a day to is my bookkeeping/computer updating in all its forms. I'll worry about that book contract later...

Things I didn't count on, Things I forgot...

When posting my goals on Monday, I didn't anticipate Tuesday being hijacked by what was probably a migraine headache. It always stuns me when something like this can strike me down and sap all energy and ability to be productive. It was gone by afternoon, but left me worthless all the same. Yesterday was fine, got lots done on the taxes plus a little putter housework and an invoice typed up.

What I forgot was that today would be mostly consumed by a 60 some odd mile drive into my dealer to have my car serviced. I've been waiting for winter to go away so I wouldn't have to worry about slick roads - all wheel drive or not, I'm a wuss when it comes to driving winter roads unless absolutely necessary. I also forgot that Saturday will be similarly consumed by a near 2 hour drive into Spokane to check out a contemporary art quilt show.
So I may not get much on my list done, but the out and abouts will no doubt energize me. As I headed out of town today, I realized this was my first foray beyond the city limits since my New Year's trip. I left early so I could swing by Michael's 45 miles down the road and take advantage of a 40% off coupon.

I was looking for base extender, but alas, they didn't have it. I could always pick up a jar of paint, but I froze a bit trying to remember what I already had and what would be a good addition. Then I wandered down the rubber stamp aisle. Oh, I am such a sucker for rubber stamps, even though I've used those I've already collected very little. The individual ones were 40% off and I immediately spotted two that I liked. Then I noticed that they had quite a collection of alphabet stamps, something I've wanted to get for some time. Since they were not included in the sale on stamps, I put back the jar of paint and chose an alphabet stamp to use with the coupon, and got the two others as well. Mmm, and here I thought I'd spend under $5!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Goals for the Week of March 5

As my American readers know, the income tax deadline is looming and I haven't started on mine yet. If not for the open house, I would have started last month. But I didn't, so now I have to get serious about them. I anticipate that working on them will take up a lot of prime time this week, just because my anxiety level will be unbearable if I don't. Never mind that I still have a month and a half before they have to be submitted. It's not something I'm comfortable leaving to the last minute (unlike completing quilts for contests!).

Still, I'm sure I'll need a break from entering data and staring worriedly at the computer screen. I should be able to get a few things done in the studio. Today I printed the label backing for my journal quilt so I can fuse that in place and turn the edges to the back to complete it. I should fill out a documentation file on my challenge quilt now that the dust has settled. Maybe I can get Grid 3 quilted, something that should be a fairly mindless and relaxing task. Beyond that, I can't think. Well, actually I can. I'm anxious to get the paints out to work on a couple of ideas, but realistically, I don't think I'll have the time or concentration for it. So let's keep it simple, and if I end up doing more, no harm done:
  1. Print journal quilt label, fuse in place and secure edges to back .
  2. Complete documentation file for challenge quilt.
  3. Continue quilting on Grid 3

Easily Amused...

...I freely admit, and sometimes easily pleased as well. I received payment yesterday for two pieces I sold at the open house. Both customers paid by check and each had made a notation in the "for" section. The woman recorded that this check was for "art work," and the man that his was for "quilt art." Why do I feel like I've arrived? I'm grinning big time here!

I just keep reminding myself that in order to be considered something, you have to say that's what you are. Get comfortable with the idea even if you're not sure it's totally true. Say it often enough, and you start believing it yourself and becoming it. And others will believe it too.

I am a quilt artist, I am an art quilter, I am a textile artist, I am an artist. Yeah, I think I believe it now.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

February Journal Quilt

You may have noticed I didn't post goals last week. It felt like one long catch-up session all week, and carrying forward of most goals from the week before. Among other things, I found I needed to complete some paperwork for the business, so creativity got totally sidetracked.

Since my journal buddy & I were frantically trying to complete our challenge quilts last Saturday, which was our scheduled day for journal quilting, we moved February's journal day to yesterday. I was looking forward to it much more than the first round, and it went more smoothly too. It was a genuine happy play day, enhanced by the strains of Barenaked Ladies on the stereo.

February's calendar theme was "simplicity" and the quotation was from Plato: "Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity." Oh great, no pressure here. So for my interpretation, I decided to focus on the simplicity part and hope that the style and harmony, etc., etc., would naturally evolve. I'm pretty pleased with the result.



I considered several ideas from my sketchbook, but settled on the idea of a simple gentle curve creating two sides to my piece. I used a technique I've been skeptical about for a long time, but when an idea of a variation on the theme presented itself, I found myself less skeptical. Here was my chance to try it out. The technique is a way to cut and sew gentle curves without using templates, registration marks or pins. For someone like me who has a hard time loosening up and has spent years perfecting curved design and piecing the old-fashioned way, it was easy to believe it wouldn't work, or at least not give the level of results I'd require.


What changed my mind was the idea of inserting a bias strip between the free-cut curved pieces. I had a bunch of 3/4" bias strips left over from a Celtic applique project. All I needed to do was choose two fabrics to go with the strips and I was off and running.


Begin by stacking two fabrics right side up and cutting a gentle curve free-hand with a rotary cutter. Well, THAT got me hyperventilating. I so badly wanted to chalk the line first so I could tweak it and then cut it accurately. But that would defeat the purpose of this technique. So after a few trial passes in the air over the fabric, I cut...and got a nice gentle curve. Whew! This technique gives you two sets to work with as you can see from this picture. Top left half pairs with bottom right half and vise versa.


Sewing the bias strip to the left side posed no problems, but I soon realized I'd best trim back that seam a bit since it would be pressed toward the insert and run into the stitching line for the other side. Perhaps next time I'll just sew with a narrower seam allowance.



Sewing the other half on was a bit trickier because now I was getting the effect of sewing a concave section to a convex section. I kept the bias insert on top, and by sewing slowly and using my seam ripper as a guide, I succeeded in piecing a curved seam sans pinning that produced a flat unit when pressed. Yes, I didn't think it possible, but it worked.



I considered several quilting options, but decided to continue with the "keep it simple, stupid" approach. Using the width of my walking foot as a guide, I quilted lines that followed the curve of the insert - a gold & purple variegated King Tut cotton on one side and an off-white/muted yellow & green Oliver Twist cotton on the other. It was tempting to quilt around the motifs in the print and transfer some of them in quilting on the other side, but since I have another pair of these two fabrics to play with, I resisted the urge.

I finished it off by fusing a border of hand-dyed fabric that picked up on several of the colors in the print. Mission accomplished.

I think this technique has merit, and as you can see from the sketchbook page, there's more to explore here. Perhaps I'll even find time this week to play with it some more.

Approaching Your Life Work

"Do not depend on the hope of results ...concentrate on the value...and the truth of the work itself."

Ok, I'll admit, this is not the complete quotation, and this bit is taken out of context. Bill Moyers used it in his address to the National Conference on Media Reform. Still, it struck me as applicable to the making of art.
If you read the entire quotation, though, you will find it says something quite different, that Merton is going someplace else with this initial thought. Less art related, but I can't disagree with his conclusion.