Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Very Big Brag

Back in April, I shared with you a small brag - a quilt that had won a blue ribbon at a local quilt show. It was a small brag, not because there wasn't much competition, but more because this show does not draw the truly fabulous top names that a show like Houston or AQS does.

But now I feel I have reason to truly brag. Some of you already know this but for those who haven't heard, one of the quilts I entered in the Small Works II juried show was accepted! Ok, calm down, I thought. Yes, this is a big deal to you, but you have no idea how many entries were considered and how many were ultimately chosen. Then I found out: 275 total entries, 28 spots. This was definitely the affirmation I needed. I have always felt "June! June! Strawberry Moon" was a strong piece, and indicative of the direction I want to go with my work. I'm so glad I made the effort to get it finished out and entry sent off in time.

Ah, but fame does not come without a price! Now I need to submit not only an artist statement, but a bio, a resume and a high resolution jpg. Ok, I admit there was a moment of panic. I haven't even put the sleeve and label on this yet. The artist statement has been knocking around in my head for awhile so that's no big deal. I have several versions of a bio on file, but it hadn't been updated for 2 years, and my how my emphasis has changed since the last revision. Well, that really is good practice to think about who you are, where you've been and where you're going, so I spent an afternoon soul searching and tweaking. I found it a bit unnerving to see my most recent incarnation in print - may have to live up to it after all!

The real panic was over that resume. At first I was thinking I'd have to start from scratch and just what did they expect included?. I'd studied Lisa Call's website when she revamped it not long ago and was impressed with the way she presented all that personal and professional information, so went back to it to review. Ah, I realized I in fact do have the beginnings of a resume...I just never thought to call it that. So sometime in the next few weeks, I'll be spiffying up my professional packet.

I wish I could go see the exhibit, attend the opening reception, experience what it is like to have work hung in a gallery, but alas, all my travel dollars are tied up in my very quickly approaching house hunting trip to Idaho. If any of you are in the area in August (Small Works II is being held in conjunction with Lowell Quilt Festival), please go view my little work and let me know how it stands up to the competition!

Ayer Lofts Art Gallery
TELEPHONE : 978 970-3556

Sorry for the quiet...

It's not that I haven't been doing anything, but for some reason, I just haven't had the oomph to post anything lately. Guess I've been too busy catching up on e-mails, making travel plans and the like. I felt myself losing a bit of sanity so decided I had to get back to my old routine of studio time in the a.m., and regular life stuff in the afternoon. It really did make me feel better, and as I laid out Irish Eyes for basting, I actually felt like I was working again, even though this step is that part of the process I refer to as grunt work. Sometimes grunt work is ok. I felt so competent (unlike how I sometimes feel during the design process), have done this so many times that it just happens without a lot of thought.

Then it was time to quilt. I banished any guilt about stitching in the ditch with monofilament thread, loaded the CD player with "Yes" discs, and stitched away. It really did make me realize how pressured I've felt to free-motion quilt with decorative thread, even though I often prefer this more utilitarian and supportive style of quilting. There are pieces where I want the quilting to be more in your face, but I guess the pendulum has swung so far that direction in the quilting world, I felt obligated to keep up or be left behind. Frankly, I see many quilts now where the quilting really is the main emphasis and I don't like the way it takes over the design. Call this my little rebellion and a retreat into my comfort zone. Walking foot users unite!

I'm down to quilting shamrocks in the square-on-points. If you click on the picture for a larger view, you can see that I quilted the Cathedral Window arcs in the border using a (gasp!) colored cotton thread. That's an Oliver Twist hand-dyed 50 weight thread in just the right green, not so heavy as to overtake the quilt, and I'm using it on the shamrocks too, although my retiring self was tempted to put the monofilament thread back in. I should be able to finish the quilting tomorrow, and with any luck, have it bound and ready to send off to its new home by week's end.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Oh, My!

I was not being totally honest when I alluded to the fact I'd used up all the mixed and diluted paint from my paint play sessions. I actually had quite a bit of the brown and a smidgen of blue which sat on the bathroom counter teasing me. After about a week of getting irritated with the cart that was very much in my way but not moved back out into the hall because I was delaying putting everything away until I did something about that paint, I dug out the last piece of muslin, accordian-folded it, then did the triangle fold thing. Squirted the brown directly from the bottle along the edges and between the folds, squeezing the wetted fabric to help the paint disperse and spraying it with more water. Then I did the same with the blue, only this time running it along the inner folds and then squiggling it here and there until no more white showed and all the paint was gone. And since this was Setacolor paint, I couldn't resist setting it outside in the sun. That undoubtedly accounts for the really dark areas along one side.

The hardest part for me on this sort of process, be it with the paint or with immersion dyeing, is the wait until you can unfold the fabric and see what has happened. I waited until the next day, and then - my oh my! This is the sort of thing that makes my heart race, but then leaves me stumped as to what to do with it. I love this color, the way it shaded, the geometric design caused by the folding. And look what I found peeking out at me. Actually, there were two. The other looked more like a wolf face, but this one reminded me of a smiley face. There are other sections that one could construe as mask faces. This turned out very cool. Click on either picture for a larger view.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Last of Irish Eyes for a bit

No one chimed in with suggestions regarding my border dilemma, so I told my lazy bones to suck it up and add that narrow border before the wider one. I think I intrinsically knew that's what it needed, and now that it's done, I'm glad I made the extra effort.

Actually, I make many of my design decisions based on the amount of fabric on hand. In this case, I tried to get out of the narrow white border by checking to see if there was enough left of the white for the backing. Nope, a bit shy. But plenty to add 1-1/2 inch borders to float that busy center design. Dang, foiled again!

Now to contemplate quilting designs. Shamrocks for sure will be included - one in each square on point. Lots of stitching in the ditch, a trademark of mine. It's that outer border that has me a bit stumped. But at 4 inches rather than 6, I feel a little less intimidated. Maybe I can incorporate some Celtic designs.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

More Irish Eyes

Blame it on the dog. She is such a task master.

I hadn't planned to sew today. The morning was earmarked for running errands, the afternoon for computer time. But animals are slaves to routine, just as people are. When Jesse and I headed upstairs after lunch, she did what she usually does - stood in front of the studio door waiting for me to open it and get to work. Sometimes I'll do that even if I'm not planning to work in there just to get her off my back. (Her stares and sighs can make me feel so guilty.) She flops down in what little floor space there is and I go about my business across the hall in the bedroom set aside as an office. Depending on her mood, she may join me sooner or later (her couch is in the office). Today I thought, well, I need to take an updated picture of Irish Eyes for the blog, so in we went. Picture taken, I paused at the door and said, "You think I should sew, don't you? Well, maybe I should - just a little." As in, I'll just sew some of the blocks into a few rows. But just like my painting experiments, once I get going, I just can't stop. An hour and a half later, rows were all sewn into a top ready for borders and Jesse hung in there with me nearly the whole time. Eventually, she opts for the softer couch over the hard floor, but I must put out positive vibes when sewing that she picks up on and enjoys. She never seems happy with me when I'm on the computer.

Anyway, here are all my blocks arranged on the design wall before sewing them together. I made the remaining twelve 3 x 6 "sashing" units yesterday, another day that needed the calming diversion of repetitious sewing to keep me from having an anxiety attack over my impending move. (I'd finally bought my tickets for the house-hunting trip next month which moved this whole project from a "maybe it'll happen" fantasy to a more scary "I'm really going through with it" reality.) Once I'd arranged them around the outside, I was a bit disappointed. I'd gone from an interesting design with movement (click here for picture of that stage) to just a busy design. There was a momentary urge to replace them with white rectangles, but then what would I do with those pieced units? I'm really adverse to creating more bits and pieces needing a home and negating the effort of the day. Considering that this quilt is going straight to a friend's six year old, rationality won out and I will just make a note to myself to eliminate that outer round of pieced sashing should I make this design again.

You'll note there's a narrow strip of the blue fabric along the left side of the quilt. I'm trying to decide about borders. I'll use that fabric for sure, but at what width? One of my mock-ups included a 1-1/2 inch border of the green from the 4-patches, then a 4 inch blue border. Of course, I don't have any more of that fabric, but I could use white. But I'm really not motivated to do a double border. I just want to get this done and gone. So should a single border be 4" or 6"? I think I have plenty of fabric for either, but the 6" width feels intimidating when I think how I might fill it with quilting. Any opinions out there?

Margaret commented, "It must be a sheer pleasure working on this one!" In many ways, yes. I so enjoy working with batiks and hand dyes like the ones incorporated here. But I note that there's a certain uneasiness lurking as well. I've pinned it down to the white background. I don't use white much in my quilts, and as I thought about those that I have, I remember that same uneasiness when making them. You'd think fresh and clean would be a good thing, that dark and drab would be depressing. It seems to work the opposite with me. Maybe it's my black dog or the fact that I'm not overly meticulous with keeping up on housework. White you have to be so careful with in terms of keeping it clean. Every flaw and dog hair shows up glaringly. Any errant bleeding of fabric (or me!) is immediately apparent. White is unforgiving. Working with too much white makes me nervous and it's hard to relax. It's no wonder so many dark quilts were made in the 1800's. I can sense how anxious I am to be done with this so I can go back to mixing my batiks and hand dyes with non-white fabrics!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Progress on Irish Eyes

I was waiting for a phone call today, and since I don't have a separate line for my internet, that meant staying off the computer for awhile. So I started sewing the foundation-pieced sections of Irish Eyes. These 3 x 6 inch units are like stretched flying geese and act a bit like sashings between the 6 inch blocks. I got half of them done and arranged so you can see how the design is building. I'm quite pleased with the way the colors are working together.

As I mentioned in the previous post, rather than using one block as the original pattern prescribed, I looked at the finished top and broke it into units that made more sense to me in terms of ease of construction and elimination of unnecessary seams. The picture to the left is cropped to show what the original block pattern was. It made little sense to me to have those white areas butt up to each other when they could be a single piece of fabric. I also thought of the nightmare piecing where those points would meet and the bulk it would create. This, I think, will piece together much more smoothly, especially since the seams in the 4-patches and 1/2 square triangle units have been pressed open.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Fullness of LIfe

"The fullness of life does not come from the things outside us; we ourselves must create the beauty in which we live."
C. E. Cowman

I've been staring at this quotation for several months, knowing it is true, yet finding it hard to believe that a little outside beauty wouldn't make it easier. As in the accompanying picture that I've also been staring at for awhile on my computer screen, one I took last year on my jaunt out to the Pacific Northwest. This is Pend Orielle Lake, the place I want to move to, the geographic location that I want to believe will help me find fullness of life. Note, I say "help me find' not make it happen. How could I not feel better looking at this every day? Well, I wouldn't exactly be looking at this view, but I'd be very close.

This has been a frustrating week on the moving front, enough so that I found myself in the studio yesterday with a real need to work on something, anything. It felt as much an escape from the current reality as a rebellion against putting so much on hold. For no particular reason, I decided to pull out the pattern and fabric set aside for Irish Eyes (a belated gift for a friend's daughter). I wasn't happy with the greens I had available at the time I first pulled fabric for this and now they looked even less appropriate. But I've added a lot more fabric to my stash since then, so surely I'd have a better choice now. I also needed to find a border fabric, and with the Lone Star all pieced, a hunk of blue hand-dyed fabric is now freed up for other projects - this one! In the course of auditioning fabrics, I changed my mind about a number of things, and am now only using two of the fabrics I originally chose. And that is a good thing.

Although the idea for this quilt started with a pattern from a magazine, I've changed the breakdown of the units totally, eliminating unnecessary seams. Rather than using the same block set block to block, I'm working with two main blocks, some four-patches and a 3 x 6 paper pieced unit. That paper piecing is what I have left to do after today's session.

This is another brighter quilt done in pastels mostly - pinks and blues and greens on a white background, not what I usually think I work with. I'm slipping in batiks and hand-dyes which makes it feel a bit more of a creative endeavor. I think it will be a very pleasant, albeit fairly traditional, quilt when it is done. And one more project I can cross off my lengthy list.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Day at the Races

I had a fabulous weekend with my friend at the Road America motorcycle races, in spite of the fact that the buff hunky racers were being kept under wraps. This trio of umbrella girls, though, were strutting around the grounds giving the guys quite an eyeful, putting up with their hooting and whistling and graciously posing for the cameras. I didn't realize I'd cut off their feet - those boots had 3" or higher stiletto heels! They were the antithesis of everything else going on there that day.

Road America is a beautiful facility - acres of rolling hills, grass and trees amidst which a 4 mile road racing track winds. It's spectacular for the riders and spectacular for the spectators. I wish I knew the attendance on that day - looking out over the infield we could see hundreds of bikes parked - every conceivable type of bike along with every conceivable type of rider was represented. Fans enjoyed seats in bleachers and along grassy slopes alike.

One of the draws of Road America is its policy of allowing all spectators access to the paddock - you can get within feet of the bikes and the riders. So we walked back and forth, up and down, looking for those hunky racers. But we arrived during the lunch break and it took sharp eyes to spot the racers returning on scooters from their motorhomes to the pit area. And I wasn't fast enough with the camera to catch them - barely fast enough to point them out to my friend. Pit crews though were in abundance.

And of course, the bikes were being readied in full view. Here is the defending champion's bike, but where is he?

Eventually, the riders had to come out, but then they either sat with their backs to us, put on their helmets, or were so surrounded by crew that it was hard to get a shot. I spotted a former race champion chatting with a young up and comer and got my first hunky racer shot. That's Dave Sadowski, and trust me, he's better looking in person than he is on TV. Don't know the rider he's talking to, but I'm sure he was giving him much encouragement and a bit of advice.

Then my friend pointed out this racer and said, He's good looking - take a picture of him. Yes, he is. That's Geof May, who after a stellar year as a privateer, finally got picked up by a factory team. Very young though for this old gal.

Finally, I spot the defending champion - Mat Mladin. He's from Australia, like many of the racers in this series. Also like many of the racers, he's married with children, very serious about his job and an all around nice guy. Sigh... And very hard to catch on camera. Luckily I set my camera for a huge picture and could crop out the junk and lighten up the image. I was able to point out other racers to my friend, but if you want to check out their good looks, you'll have to follow the links: Ben Spies, Ben Bostrom, Aaron Yates, Neil Hodgson are all right up their in the looks department. Neil is from the Isle of Man, and the series has also drawn racers from Venezuela, Ireland, England and Italy.

Well, enough looking - time to get racing! Here's the three riders for Jordan Motorsports Team. Yes, that's THE Jordan, as in Michael Jordon. He took an interest in a young black rider from Chicago and before he knew it, he was hooked on the motorcycle racing scene. He now has his own team which is finishing just outside the top 10 in most races. I heard that the same team that designed his sneakers are now designing the paint job and leathers for his team. No one else is running these kinds of colors.

The roar when these bikes take off is really something and they reach speeds near 200 mph. There's poetry in the way they swoop and dance around the track and each other. Racing is clean today and no one gets hurt, the weather is perfect and the venue inspiring. But eventually, we must join the rest of the crowd making their way out after the last race and head back to our motel room. While we weren't planning this to be a quilting weekend, apparently the motel saw us coming. Once settled in, I plopped on the bed and saw this. Just can't escape!!!

Ok, you can all stop laughing now. I'll get back to the "creative journey" soon. In fact, when I pulled up this picture of my friend and I in the paddock, I noticed the reflection in the sunglasses and thought, "I should be able to do something with that..." Well, maybe there is a quilt in this weekend.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Off to the Races

Tomorrow I head to the other side of the state for a weekend with a friend. Now usually when we get together, it is to sew or attend a quilt show or, when we were still in business, vend. No doubt we will talk some about our quilting and I'll be taking along my painted fabrics, but the primary reason we are getting together is to spend a day at Road America watching AMA Motorcycle Roadracing. My friend has had to put up with my enthusiasm about this sport, so I decided it was about time she experienced it for herself. I've attended races at Road America at least 3 times and wanted to go once more before leaving the Midwest. If this seems a little out of character, well it's not. I'd ridden two-up with my husband most of our married lives and loved it. The interest in racing can be blamed on same husband who agreed to include in our first motorcycle vacation several days at the NQA quilt show in Grand Rapids Michigan if an equal number of days were spent at the races in Brainard, MN. It wasn't long until I was hooked, and I continue to follow both the American series and the world series via television broadcasts. Here we are on that first trip.

There is the question of why I'd attend the races if I can watch them on TV. U.S. tracks aren't generally designed to see more than a few corners of the racetrack from any given vantage point, weather can be iffy, and concession prices are through the roof. Why not just stay home and watch it all from the air-conditioned comfort of my living room?

This is why. That's me getting an autograph from the Canadian racer Pascal Picotte when he rode for Harley Davidson. Look at those biceps. Look at that buff body. And he's one of the older racers. Yes, these riders are incredibly buff - have to be to wrestle those machines around a racetrack at ridiculous speeds and lean angles. So we're going primarily to walk the pits and ogle the racers. At our age, no one would take us seriously; it's just harmless fun. As my friend's husband says, If you aren't lookin', you ain't breathin'.

And the racing's pretty awesome too. Seeing the bikes up close, hearing how loud they are, getting a real sense for the speed, mingling with the other fans - it's just a different experience that enhances my enjoyment of the broadcasts. It's not unlike the difference between listening to a musical recording and attending a live concert, or looking at art in a catalog and seeing it for real in a gallery. There's nothing like the live experience!

And no, there's not a quilt in this. ;->