Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A Different Way Of Working

Working around what's not put away from the last mixed media project

Making slow progress on the rails quilt. All those quarters are now pressed and arranged and I've begun sewing them into 12 inch blocks. I am getting there. Just short stints, but as they say, those moments when you do get something done add up quicker than if you do nothing at all. Yes, a pep talk, and here's another.

Ran out of room on the table, ironing board steps in

Austin Kleon has once again led me to an artist I am unfamiliar with but who has an interesting outlook on what comprises "success", Steve Albini. I may not recognize his name but he is well-known enough to be interviewed for The Chicago Sun Times. When he was asked, "Do you feel successful," this was his answer:

“To the extent that I could care about that, I would say yes,” he replied. “I’ve lived my whole life without having goals, and I think that’s very valuable, because then I never am in a state of anxiety or dissatisfaction. I never feel I haven’t achieved something. I never feel there is something yet to be accomplished."

Wow, I was not expecting that. No goal setting? When I think about it, setting goals has been something stressed throughout my life - through the examples of others, by my parents and teachers, by the business world when considering a career or even just jobs to pay the bills (a mini-goal in itself), by every bit of advice about being a successful artist . . . I can barely think of any facet of life where one is not pressed to set goals, and I've dutifully complied. But I also recognize experiencing what he says he doesn't sans goals, anxiety and dissatisfaction. And I've always had that aplenty, in exactly how he goes on to describe:

 "I feel like goals are quite counterproductive. They give you a target, and until the moment you reach that target, you are stressed and unsatisfied, and at the moment you reach that specific target you are aimless and have lost the lodestar of your existence."

I'm not sure I totally agree with goals being counterproductive. I've often felt they were quite helpful in moving me along. However, now I'm wondering if this is why I've been a bit happier since stepping away from art quilting and exhibiting and getting back to quilting for myself and others as well as dabbling in things that I have no plans of ever exhibiting or trying to sell. Oh, I still have frustrations and self-induced stress at times, and have often been told I'm too hard on myself but it definitely feels different now since I've given up setting so many goals for myself and try to just do what makes me feel good and happy, working on setting aside pressure from within and without. He continues:

"I’ve always tried to see everything as a process. I want to do things in a certain way that I can be proud of that is sustainable and is fair and equitable to everybody that I interact with. If I can do that, then that’s a success, and success means that I get to do it again tomorrow.”

I've always been a process person too, and wanting to be proud of what I do and the way I strive to support people, and I do think I've been fairly successful at that. But the way he wraps it all up definitely makes me smile and want more, that getting to do it again tomorrow. And the interviewer sums it up similarly after asking Steve about retiring (which he shares will be when his hearing goes): "Until then, he’ll do what he loves, every day. Which is the best definition of success I can imagine." Me too.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Back On Track

At least it feels like I'm back on track with the rails baby quilt. With my additional selections of pinks, I decided to ditch the idea of adding in some blue, particularly because those blues would clash with the more aqua blue of the backing. A small thing but I tend to be swayed by them. Here are all my strips cut and ready to sew into blocks. You'll note that there are more than 4 different pinks which means a few of the blocks will have different combinations of pinks.

Here's a sample block showing the basic arrangement of the smaller 4 strip quadrants. I dithered slightly about whether to press seams to one side or open, ending up pressing to one side and wondering if open would have been better. I don't intend on doing much stitching in the ditch so open might have been better. I have to say, this is going to be a very pretty girly pink quilt!

More tree blossoms along my walks are opening up. I thought they were late but in looking back at a May 10th blog post from last year, this is pretty much when spring sprung then. 

I'd periodically check what I think are flowering plum trees in the little park I sometimes pass through and they too bloomed this week.

The annual Lilac Festival Torchlight Parade in nearby Spokane WA is Saturday, and I thought to check the lilac bush by the abandoned house on one of my walking routes yesterday to see if the blooms had opened yet. Indeed, like nearly every year, they had, right on time. I cut a few for a bouquet and their scent fills the downstairs. My knitting is coming along too, ready for decreases to form the armholes, and echoing the color of the lilacs.

Speaking of walks, I ran across a great article expounding on the virtues of walking. A bit of preaching to the choir but it had many quotations I'd not run across before, including this one which to my long time readers will sound a lot like me:

". . .I’ll first note the Latin phrase solvitur ambulando meaning “it is solved by walking.” The phrase is attributed to both St. Augustine and the Greek philosopher, Diogenes. The sense of it, as I take it, is that when you are stuck on something, you should get up and take a walk. By the act of walking you somehow allow your mind to think more freely and creatively."

I like where the author takes all this, a response to our ever-hurrying world:

"As Watters observed in her essay, “Walking lets you read the world — and much like the slow, contemplative mental processes involved in reading a book, the pace with which one moves through the world while walking allows for a different, deliberative kind of seeing. You notice more. You think more.”

To walk, then, is to inhabit a fitting scale and speed. It is the scale and speed at which our bodies are able to find their fit in the world, and the world rewards us by spurring our thinking and disclosing itself to us. Perhaps this is the deeper fitness we should actually be after.

This principle of proportionality or fittingness is one that we do well to remember and insist upon to whatever degree we are able because almost everything about the human-built world, in its economic and technological dimensions, is bent on pushing us past a human scale and speed, which then denies us the opportunity to cultivate our competence and enjoy its rewards. We are, in turn, sold a series of tools and techniques that promise to help us operate faster and more efficiently so that we may keep up with the inhuman demands. Some will even say that the point is to eventually slough off the encumbering body so that we may keep up with the machines and find our fit within the artificial systems we have built. Only exhaustion and alienation lie down this path."

It's an interesting read - give it a go. And then take a walk and ponder what it says.


Thursday, May 09, 2024

Decisions Were Made


On my next grocery run, I was pleased to see my store had expanded its selections of bedding plants. No hesitation now; I picked out three geraniums, more snapdragons, a couple of begonias (I've not had these before), a marigold and whatever that lovely lavender bloom is. Also picked up potting soil while at Walmart on a different day, so with the weatherman predicting weekend highs around 80, I'm prepared to set up my deck garden.

I thought by now I'd have strips cut and maybe even a few blocks sewn for the rails baby quilt to show but alas, the day set aside for that was spent dealing with a dying tv screen. It had been giving me warnings so I was not surprised when the screen suddenly went black that morning. Couldn't help but research what might be causing it and if I could fix it myself, but without buying parts and wielding a soldering iron, it wasn't going to happen. These screens are so inexpensive that replacing them is the better option. Mine was not "smart" and just like the phones, I don't really need a smart one, but of course, that's all that's available these days. I wryly scoffed at the instruction manual promising I'd be up and running in minutes. Took more than that to screw on the feet! Won't bore you with all the hoops I had to jump through to finally be able to watch my Directv and synchronize remotes, but the upside is I can now access my Paramount+ subscription through it and be able to watch those shows on a big screen relaxing on the couch rather than on my PC screen sitting in an office chair. I've always been a pretty independent woman, but I tell you, it's times like these I really miss my late husband! I would have handed it all off to him and had my studio time.

So what have I decided about the rail quilt fabric? I gave up on the lavender, everything being just too dark or not working with the pink on the table. And then I gave up on that pink as well and shifted back to a slightly different stack of pink. I definitely was feeling that I had the above problem and wondering why nothing I was seeing felt right.

I decided to assess my blues and pulled batiks. Getting closer but still . . . I'm really struggling to feel like they work with the raindrops fabric, they are so "clear" while it has that nagging off-white background.

I was actually leaving the studio when it dawned on me there was one place I hadn't looked yet, and that was in the drawers holding my many fat quarters of reproduction fabrics from the "club" subscription I had for so many years. And there, in the top drawer, I think I found the answer to my problem. Not just blue fabrics but pink ones too, and some with children's themes to fit better with the Noah's Ark backing fabric I'll be using. Way more than I probably need but plenty to choose from. Maybe I can start having some real progress on this project.

I do some of my best problem solving and decision making when turning things over in my mind while going about the regular routines of my life. Over several days, I caught myself working through options on what to do with the lavender sweater I started and probably don't have enough yarn to finish. If no more yarn is to be had, I think I could easily turn it into a sweater vest, so I decided to just keep on knitting the back and see how much yarn it actually uses. In the meantime, I did go back to the store where I'd bought the yarn, and as I suspected, no more of it there. However, the owner said she'd just put in an order for more of these mill end skeins, but she had no control over what colors they sent. They won't arrive for awhile so I will knit away while I wait for her call telling me if I am lucky or not.

Thursday, May 02, 2024

Looking For Spring

So there I was, standing with another woman outside the grocery store in the cold and damp, looking longingly at a small selection of bedding plants, a few showing blooms. So starved for color, we contemplated if it was too early to buy and plant flowers yet. There were snapdragons and pansies . . .

I was there for groceries and decided to think it over, going back the next day to pick up 4 pony packs: the pansies and the snapdragons, dianthus since the ones that have wintered over year after year are showing no sign of life, and one simply labeled "mixed". I set them on top of pots on the deck, not ready yet to do the transfer but wanting to enjoy that bit of color that I can see from the sofa. Wouldn't you know, that night we suddenly dipped below freezing, the next few nights as well, but on the deck, these new plants didn't seem to mind.

Trees are on the cusp of blooming, but not enough warmth for them to "burst" into bloom. The chokecherry tree outside my place is slowly unfurling its delicate flowers as are other trees close by. Besides the colder weather, there have been bursts of heavy rain and some sleet. Springlike but not how we tend to envision spring. Somehow seemed appropriate though to move ahead with the rails baby quilt and get all the various lengths of strips cut from the "rain drops" background fabric. My graph paper chart worked perfectly as reference, my figuring correct, assuring I got the border strips cut with the raindrops going the right directions. I've pinned them along with sashing strips to the design wall for safe keeping.

Here are the 96 strips to go into the rail blocks. Very handy that all the cutting for this quilt is 2 inch wide strips cut to various lengths. Easy on the brain. Even so, it has been long enough since I made my calculations and notes on printouts that refreshing my memory and being sure I was getting the numbers right took a little time.

And just when I thought I had the pink fabrics figured out, this happened. I moved them from the ironing board to the work table, placed a stack of strips over them and began to question if they really did work. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the layer of purple fabrics exposed in the wire cube storage rack and pulled them out. My camera struggles with purple so to adjust settings in Paint Shop Pro to show these fabrics as purple and not blue, it turned the pinks underneath a little orange so ignore that. Focus on the fact that I am now considering purple instead of pink (these pinks and purples do NOT go together) along with some blue, and wondering if I can sneak in a little of that print fabric, all that is left of a fabric that has shown up in the other quilts I've made for the baby's siblings. Decisions, decisions! I think I'll just have to cut a few strips of various fabrics to mock up a block, see how they really look with that background fabric. Sometimes you really can't tell how fabrics work together unless they are cut to size.

I've been finding solace in my knitting as I run into issues elsewhere, making good progress on the sweater and just about have the pattern memorized. But here I am, at the end of the first ball of yarn and only halfway to the armhole decreases. In theory, when I figured the total number of yards needed for this pattern, the 6 skeins I had was more than enough. Now it looks like I only have enough for the body of the sweater, no sleeves. I bought all that was on display and doubt they have gotten more in, although I will stop by and check. But if not. . . I do have 8 skeins of this yarn in a different color and could start over, but oh do I hate undoing what I've already done. A part of me wants to continue and be happy if it turns into a sweater vest. At least then I would know exactly how short I am on yarn. Another part of me says, who are you kidding? Find another pattern for this yarn. As the owner of the local yarn shop said, as I mulled over if I could get away with a single skein of yarn for a pair of knee high socks, how willing are you to play yarn chicken? On a project with this much investment of time, I shouldn't be willing at all. Oh please, be more yarn waiting for me when I go back to the shop where I bought it. Hope springs eternal . . .

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Art and Not Art

Late in posting about my week of Flower Flow because of an annoying computer glitch taking hours of research and trial & errors to fix the problem. I am nothing if not stubborn and determined when this happens, and I am happy to say I appear to have found the fix and the old computer is speeding along doing everything it should. So that's the Not Art part, along with my return to knitting. After the bumps making that pair of socks, I found myself hesitant to dive into a sweater project, so I eased into it by swatching the three stitch patterns for the sweater. In all my previous years of knitting, I don't think I've ever knitted up a test piece to check gauge, just trusting that if I used the type of yarn and size of needles required, everything would turn out the right size. That may be why one of the sweaters I knitted for my tall husband with the long arms was so oversized that it could have fitted a linebacker over all his gear! I was pleased that this swatch showed I was right on gauge and the stitch patterns easy and providing a little interest. I've started the actual sweater now with the recently purchased mill end wool and am enjoying having my hands busy in the evenings while watching TV.

Now for the free workshop,, Flower Flow. This is the first section of the full class Laly Mille teaches, what they are now calling a "taster" with the idea that it might entice you to buy the course. I promised myself that this time I would not let any stage upset me, that I would stay open minded and not worry about my results. I allowed myself to have fun, and up until the very last step, it was fun. It started with "doodling" flower shapes with your non-dominant hand on papers that had been gessoed. I used some pages out of an old book and some blank receipts. I've never liked sketching exercises having you use your non-dominant hand but Laly demonstrated the difference in look when compared to ones made with your dominant hand. Not going for realistic here, not looking at reference photos, and using water soluble pencil and charcoal pencil that would be activated with gel medium to smudge and seal them. This was much more fun than I anticipated and the activation was magic!

Next step was to cut or tear out the individual flowers and pick favorites to gather into 4 groups of posies which you could then audition on whatever you were using for a substrate. Rather than cut 4 pieces of 5 x 5 watercolor paper as I did for the last class I took from Laly, I decided to work in the big art journal sketchbook, taping off 5 x 5 inch areas to work in. Later you will see my arrangements changed a bit when gluing them down and I wish I'd checked this photo at that point.

Now to add some color to the bouquets with pieces torn from magazines. You can see I have a bit of a pink hangover yet from the color challenge with Laly. Can I help it if the first things I ran into as I sorted through the bin of papers were the pink leftovers from that challenge? I wanted to use the big rose but at this point didn't know which group to add it to.

Finally, we get to do some collaging, the thing I want to get better at. I heeded Laly when she said this was just to add a little something to the page and some texture, so I didn't go hog wild covering every inch. Besides, I had that feeling that little of this would show in the end. I just repurposed some of the scraps torn off the doodle flowers.

Laly always adds paint to soften and blend this stage of the collage. I just can't get the hang of this even after watching her do it several times. Again, I told myself not to worry because I was pretty sure this layer would be covered up. (I was right.) Still, good practice. And if you look closely, I used a neutral color of paint all around the edges like a frame which did still show in the end (although I wished I'd used the other color I was considering which was more like the dark yellowish papers).

Time to make the final arrangements of the bouquets and adhere them with gel medium. I could feel myself tensing up as I'm not comfortable with my arrangements not going down exactly as I've carefully put them together but I had to shake that off and be happy with the outcome. After all, this is supposed to be play, not some masterpiece. And this arrives me at the awkward teenage stage, the place where you look at what you've done and either think it is a hot mess (not what I was thinking) or you know it needs more but may not be sure what (exactly what I was thinking). Laly gave instructions of what to be looking for to change and improve, contrasts in value and shape to add, even permission to paint out what we didn't like, add in more collage elements, pencil in stems and leaves we might have collaged over. I started with those small strips of pink to balance out the strong pink collage elements. A good start and followed Laly's suggestion of adding some straight elements to contrast all the curves of the flowers.

At this point, I knew I had to walk away from it for a bit. Had a lot of racing to watch over the weekend anyway. When I looked at it again on Monday I thought, not so bad after all. And I'd had some time to think about what I might do to improve it. Most of my flowers were pretty smudgy grey and Laly says she almost always adds some white or black as a final touch, so I whitened up some of the darker flowers with white gesso (the white gel pen and the white Maribu art crayon were too translucent). Then I wanted to "pink up" some of the other blooms and add green too which I did with my Inktense pencils, so inspired was I with what happened with the water soluble pencil. Really rewarding seeing the dull color come to life when a wet brush is added. Finally I used a black micron pen to clean up some of the smudged or covered up with paint outlines of the flowers and leaves, penciled in one small bud on a stem, inked the words "bloom, blossom, flourish and grow" on the pink horizontal strips and spattered a little green ink over each. I'm really quite pleased with the outcome. Click on the photo for a bigger view of details - I've left that photo larger than usual.

My worktable looks a lot like it does after a quilting project is complete, only it's scraps of paper, glues and paint that needs picking up and putting away. Several people taking the class commented that now they know the value of saving every scrap of paper while I was thinking this is just like quilting where I can't throw out a single scrap of fabric. There are leftover doodle flowers too, two that I really like but are too big for the 5 x 5 format, some that could go into another arrangement, a couple I really should just toss, and Laly mentioned that the too large ones could just go on larger paper while the other leftovers could make yet another smaller piece or on the front of a card. I think my too big ones may go on another page of this sketchbook with background collage that is not hidden from view and the others into a posie that could go on a small book cover. We shall see. For now, I should move on to the baby quilt.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024


Awkward Teenage Stage from February

Down to the last lingering project on my worktable, and irritated with myself that I'd not been able to move past being stuck, I spent some time over the weekend resolving the resolution word journal page. Goodness, high time to get on with it this many months past the beginning of the year. Above you see where I left it, still in an "awkward teenage" stage: ok but lacking. Addition of a few tan strips to balance the brown of the clock along with some hand written text helped but not enough.

Less awkward resolved version

Here it is after a breakthrough moment as I shuffled through my bin of collage materials and stumbled upon some possible solutions to get past the awkward stage. Still a little disjointed (I still struggle with covering up things I've strategically placed and softening edges for a less regimented look). But looking more complete.

Testing stamp & paint on Kraft Tex and gluing translucent bag images

One thing I didn't want to lose was the way the blue and yellow watercolor paint from the first layer gave this a bright positive feel. So I tended to paint around what was still showing through as I tried to blend or hide problem areas with periwinkle Fresco Finish paint. Not much improvement. There was a particularly troublesome area at the center top where the security envelop papers did not meet and I'd left some white showing at the end of one. The paint just sat there looking like it didn't belong. Finding a piece of fabric I'd stamped with a sun-like design I'd carved gave me my aha moment of what I could add to cover that area while adding more yellow to the spread. Then there was the translucent bag I'd saved that had swirls and stars on it. Would the translucent parts of cutouts actually disappear when gel medium held them in place? A test piece said yes!

Once I stamped that sun in the upper middle, I could see the solution to how to treat the narrow border around the outside of the spread. There were a few places where it had a bit of paint over it, and I wanted it to be clean white, so was considering painting over the outside with white paint. But now I could see that using the same yellow paint as the stamped image gave me the extra brightness I desired and cohesion too. The stamped image needed definition to show up on the security envelop paper so I outlined each part with blue micron pen.

Those stars and swirls really were the final touch that brought it all together. Added a few more encouraging words and am calling it good. Just in time to embark on another free collaging workshop with Laly Mille!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Tidying up and Some Organizing

Taxes are done but I do need to gather up my copies and documents into a manila envelop for filing away, and tossing what doesn't need to be kept. There's always shredding to do as well - old bills and things no longer needing to be kept from the oldest tax file as I add the most recent one to the file box. But that can be done in bits and pieces. I got distracted when on the computer and decided it was high time to do some organizing of my photos, moving some into files and deleting others. These are the sorts of things I put off but irritate me whenever I access my two main photo files - one where I download pics off my camera or the internet and one where I temporarily put photos I've readied to upload to the blog before moving them into more permanent files. Both become a cluttered mess if I don't keep up with deleting and moving to appropriate files. Think of it the same as the piles of clutter on my worktable. However, one type of filing I do seem to keep up with is the organization of what I print out in the course of making books. I have two books made with those disks that allow you to add and remove pages, one for the monthly bookbinding instructions and one for the challenges and extra info like how to make bookcloth. Besides printing off directions and what the sample book looks like, I also like to print out any books others in the group have made with ideas I think I'd like to incorporate should I make the book again. There in the picture above is the latest challenge instructions and inspirational books duly put away.

This left me with a couple of quick finishes I've been putting off but will help with clearing off work spaces. In the course of going through the fabric stack that came off the floor when I had the rug cleaned, I ran across a few of these hot glue medallions I made back in 2019. Really liked the idea, wasn't sure how to use them. But the one I'd painted with the muted violet paint said, "How would I look on the cover of that "First Journal Challenge" book? I'd always thought it needed something, so auditioned the medallions, letting each sit for at least a day's worth of considering before settling on the violet one which picked up the same undertones as in the wrinkles across the paper. Wasn't sure about how to attach it (was NOT going to fiddle with my hot glue gun) and defaulted to PVA glue. If it doesn't hold up, I can always try something else.

And then there was the closure on the 2nd Celtic Weave Journal. I'd run the choices past members of the Handmade Book Club and of those who responded, all went for the wide flat elastic over the narrow green one. I was leaning that way too and felt it would attach well without leaving any lumps. First off was determining how far to cut the slits from the top and side. And of course, I cut the slits in the flap instead of the cover - I've been making all sorts of small mistakes like that lately. Fortunately, the unevenness of the handmade paper camouflaged the cuts which were on the inside anyway. Then I inserted the ends of the elastic (see arrows), securing them with Fabri-Tac.

Now I could cut pieces of double sided Scor-Tape to length to attach the flaps to make packets. Here the protective paper is ready to be peeled off.

And here is the flap folded over, adhered top and bottom to make the flap.

This is essentially the same type of closure as on my commercially made book I'm currently using for quotations. I like that the elastic does not go totally around the book.

And the elastic really does match the color of the leaves embedded in the paper. I may have made the elastic a bit snug, but I do know how elastic tends to give over time, and this is a book I think I will be adding to over many years.

I did spend some time yesterday on the resolution word art journal spread, trying to do some blending with paint and adding a few more strips of paper here and there. I'd like to get it finished up because I am taking another one of Laly Mille's free five day classes starting next week, more practice in collaging, and instead of using 4 individual small pieces of watercolor paper as she suggests, I think I will just work in this large art journal. It's a good deadline for something I think I have dawdled over too long. I definitely got stuck in that "awkward teenage stage" and can tell I am still struggling with not wanting to cover things up once on the page. But I think I had a bit of a breakthrough yesterday and am eager to proceed with my most recent thoughts. Will share when finished!