Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Challenge Quilt Done!

Remember my primary goal for last week? Familiar with Murphy's Law? All I really needed to do was finish a small quilt in time to mail it on Friday, but as Gilda Radner's character, Rosanna Rosanna Dana would say, "It's always somethin'." Wednesday night, the dog had a close encounter with a skunk, and Friday night she managed to hurt her front leg or shoulder enough that I thought she was having a seizure or stroke the way she was whining and staggering. Up a lot of the night with her, running her to the vet on Friday to make sure nothing radical was wrong, and coddling her way too much. Pretty soon I realized that yes, she hurt, but maybe not as much as she was letting on. Yup, she was playing me a bit once she figured out which behaviors brought out the worried mom in me. Needless to say, it was hard to concentrate on finishing up the quilt, but finish I did, and off it went yesterday, 3rd day UPS.

So back to the quilt. As you may recall, this is what I started with: A piece of my hand painted & sunprinted fabric & three commercial challenge fabrics. Go here for my first thoughts of how I might incorporate them into my design.

This is my view that became the design inspiration. It is looking more or less east towards the "long bridge" that crosses the lake to Sandpoint.

And here is the finished project, called "Far From the Midwest Prairie."

I fused the bridge, leaves and orange/yellow cloud-sun using Lite Steam-a-Seam 2. It's not as stiff as regular Steam-a-Seam and the edges of the fabric do not have to be stitched to prevent raveling or pulling up from the fabric. It doesn't gum up the needle either so I had no problem running quilting stitches through it. I also stitched around the sunprinted leaf shapes. I used a variety of threads in the quilting, including Oliver Twist Hand-dyed cotton thread, Sulky variegated rayon thread, Sulky twist rayon thread and Madiera solid rayon thread.

As for the large tree, it was helping to extend the width of the piece to comply with the contest minimum measurement; I didn't want to fuse it because not all of the trunk would be on top of another fabric. I ended up, like I so often do, combining two different methods to come up with my own hybrid version.

I started with Sharon Malec's method of cutting the shape from freezer paper and ironing it to the right side of the fabric. Then I trimmed leaving about 1/4" seam allowance. At this point, Sharon would have you apply glue stick to the wrong side of the seam allowance and roll it to the back, using the edge of the freezer paper as a guide. If there were overlapping parts to the pattern, you'd continue to prepare each piece, gluing in place until you had a complete free-standing applique. The final step is to remove the freezer paper and stitch over all the turned edges with invisible thread.

I'd watched a friend use this method of building up applique, and although it has its merits, working with that glue is a messy proposition. So I wondered if I could just iron the seam allowance to the back like Karen Eckmeier does with her Accidental Landscapes method. I'd tried this in a journal quilt and was surprised at how well it worked with gentle curves. Add the freezer paper pattern on top as a guide for a less accidental tree shape, and I should have the best of both worlds. And it worked! I only had to clip in a few places to get a good turn. Removed freezer paper, pinned to background fabric (or I could have used dots of Roxanne Glue-Baste-It) and zigzagged in place with the monofilament thread.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Open House Review & Observations

Things I learned, things I'd do differently, things I'd recommend.

Who to invite:
As I mentioned before, in my circumstances I felt I needed a safe group of people to invite. That meant people I know who I felt relatively sure would do more than smile and say, how nice and then not show up. Nothing more deflating than giving a party that no one comes to. It did NOT mean just people who are savvy about quilts or textile arts. I really wanted some feedback from people with no quilt background but knowledgeable about art in general. The members of my small church fit this description perfectly.

Opening it up to the public was far too risky on several levels. Primarily, my studio is the back bedroom in my rented house, so there were real safety issues, both during and after the open house if I didn't control who came. Also, parking is problematic; opening it up to the public had the potential to increase the numbers beyond what I could handle (or have that dreaded no one show up happen).

If my studio were a stand alone structure large enough to display a good number of pieces, then I would be somewhat less concerned about large groups of strangers traipsing through. If all I wanted to do was exhibit work, I'd definitely find a space off-site and broaden the invitation.

All in all, I liked the informality of the event, having control over who came, but also having a professional air to it all. I think I struck a good balance.

If in the future I decide to broaden the guest list to include people I don't know, I would feel the need to have a person in every room of the house where the guests would be milling, as a security measure. I think I would still worry, though, about the odd miscreant who'd come to case the joint.

How to invite:
I wasn't sure what to do here. I had access to the church's mailing list, so could have printed formal invitations and mailed them. But that would have been quite costly, and risked inadvertently omitting people. I considered just making an announcement at coffee hour as I've seen some people do for events that aren't church activities but might be of interest to members. But I know how I am about that; if I don't have something written in hand, I'll forget all about it. Then I noticed some simple fliers lying out on a table during coffee hour - invitations to a Basque party. That struck me as the perfect solution. I'd make the announcement two weeks before the event and encourage people to pick up a flier with all the info including directions. It worked just fine.

On a whim, I also decided to invite some business people I've had contact with since moving here. These little fliers just didn't seem appropriate, so I printed up a more formal card with one of my quilts on the front and mailed them a week before the event. To be honest, I was disappointed that only one of the six responded and came. Maybe that's a good percentage as these things go, but I would hate to spend the money to send out a lot of formal invitations if only a few responded. On the other hand, those people now have a sample of my art in hand and may be passing along my information unbeknownst to me. I guess the best thing to do is keep cultivating contacts and leads, that all important mailing list, send out personal invitations as I can afford it and not worry about how many actual bodies show up.

Don't do this alone!
Yes, no doubt I could have pulled this off totally without help. But why put myself through that if I don't have to? (Oh, because I hate asking for help, I'm a control freak, I don't always think things through...) Doesn't matter if it's a husband, kids, or good friends, chances are at some point all the details will become overwhelming and it will be to your advantage to have someone who can take care of some of them for you.

Particularly on the day of, I'd recommend letting someone else totally take care of setting up and monitoring any refreshments. This same person(s) could also be taking coats, pointing arrivals to the guestbook and explaining which rooms are included in the tour. I really should have roamed a little more than I did, and I probably would have if I hadn't been standing at the door as people arrived. Probably should have been farther in the room, near the guest book.

Oh, yes, and don't forget to eat before hand! I was smart enough to have a second cup of coffee before guests arrived, but I erroneously thought I'd nibble on food all afternoon so didn't need to eat lunch. Well, that didn't happen. I developed a terrible headache and eventually had to excuse myself to escape to the kitchen and wolf down some food.

Of course, after everyone left, there was clean-up to do - putting away the leftover food, moving furniture back into place, putting out the garbage. It was nice to have a few bodies around to help. And to give their impressions of how things went. And to crash with while watching a movie after the adrenaline wore off.

Final thoughts (well, I think they're final):
There were half a dozen people who had conflicts and couldn't attend. One woman who did come was sorry her daughter was out of town and had to miss it. I found myself saying that I wasn't going to be taking things down right away - call me when she gets back in town and bring her over. The next day the church was all abuzz about the open house and before I knew it, I'd invited a group to come out the following Sunday after church. Well, why not? It always takes more time to put up a show than to take it down, I particularly wanted this group to see my stuff, and they understood this was a private showing sans refreshments. I'm really glad I did. It made me realize I should have spent more time talking with the guests, and I got some excellent feedback and comments.

Speaking of comments, I was particularly interested in how the men responded to my pieces. I guess there was some fear that they would find them not to their taste, too feminine perhaps or not of the kind of subject matter that would appeal. Such was not the case. One even commented that he particularly like the different colors of threads I used in the quilting of one piece. (And no, he is not the husband of a quilter.)

Overall, these people are quite art savvy. I guess that's why I valued their reaction to my work. I trusted that they would not gush to make me feel good then roll their eyes when my back was turned. They weren't sure what they would see, only knew that it was not going to be quilts in the traditional sense. I watched carefully for that first unguarded reaction as they caught sight of my pieces, and it was nearly universally surprise and delight. I knew they were getting it by the comment of one woman who said to several people, "These expand the concept of what a quilt can be." Thanks!

The other comment that sticks in my mind was one that still puzzles me: "Your quilts are so happy! Such bright colors and just happy!" Huh? She obviously didn't take a close look at "Camelot" which is anything but a bright happy quilt! She kept going on about one quilt in particular, one that is all rich dark fall colors. Mmm. Well, I wasn't about to argue with her.

Someone seemed surprised that I'd be taking most of the quilts down, thinking I'd want to leave them up to enjoy. Oh, please, don't make me try to explain how uncomfortable I felt surrounded by so much of my own work. It hadn't occurred to me that up until now, I'd only viewed a few pieces at a time, one or two in several rooms of the house, or seen one or two pieces displayed with many other quilters' work in traditional shows. It made me feel very odd surrounded by so much of it, knowing that I alone was the focus of this "exhibit." Not that I haven't thought about what it would take to put on a solo show and what that would be like, just have never done it before. It took me a long time to get comfortable with so much of it surrounding me. I think it is because every piece carries so much baggage, has some story behind it, represents some kind of struggle, and often reminds me of my limitations. It was like a huge tribunal throwing accusations at me, with only one or two taking my side and saying, good work! Ah, I think it was good for me to face that and get over it.

I think I already mentioned this in a previous post, but it was also a good exercise "curating" this group. Collecting and grouping and displaying so many pieces spanning a number of years helped me see just what I've been doing and where my work has led me, willingly or not. It posed questions I had not thought to ask, and some work impressed me as better than I originally thought. I was also surprised that a few pieces that I had only seen in the studio and not on my walls look better under "normal" lighting than the daylight bulbs.

The added bonus, of course, was to have a group of people who don't know my quilting journey, or really very much about me in general, affirm that this is work others can relate to, appreciate, even want to purchase. It definitely has given me incentive to get back in the studio and produce more, and assurance that the themes I'm working with are ones that appeal to the locals. Not that I would actively create with a particular market in mind, just that it's reassuring that what I love to make has an audience here.

Perhaps more importantly, though, by opening up to this particular group of people, I may be commissioned to make additional pieces for the church (beyond the piece I am donating), have an opportunity to exhibit work in the gallery they hope to incorporate in the new facility, and have my name spread by them to others in the community. They have already expressed interest in hosting an "artist koffee klatch" after I mentioned the idea of the artist salons. All these things suggested to me, not me asking to have it happen. I like that!

Setting up for the Open House - Miscellaneous

What's an open house if you don't offer refreshments of some kind? I really hadn't thought about it until someone offered to bring hors-d'oeuvres. Oh, yeah. At most, I thought I'd provide wine and maybe punch. No way did I want to mess with coffee. Maybe some crackers and cheese. Thanks to friend Suzanne for telling me not to serve punch, but buy sparkling cider instead. Much less mess and trouble. Three people ended up providing food, much more than I'd intended, and actually a bit more than I thought necessary. After all, this was an afternoon affair starting shortly after most people would have eaten lunch. And I didn't want them spending all their time eating - they were coming to look at my work! However, I do think the food encouraged them to lingered longer after viewing the quilts, which I liked.

Here's the loaded table in my kitchen which is off the beaten path. I encouraged people to check out the quilts, then check out the food, and most did in that order. I have to admit I went a little overboard on my teal blue theme. Was that tablecloth a good idea considering the color of my kitchen walls? I don't think so! By the way, I hate plastic tableclothes, but when I found out so much food was coming, there was no way I was going to fool with a fabric one. That was a good idea. Made for really quick clean-up.

I really over estimated how much wine and sparkling cider I'd need. I don't entertain much and I didn't really know how many people to expect. I was hoping around 25 but knew there was a real possibility as many as 50 could show up. The lower figure was right, but I still felt I had to plan for the higher one. So leftover plates, cups and napkins can always be used at the next event, leftover food distributed and eaten and uncorked beverages served another day. But I surely thought even 25 people would go through more than 1 bottle of sparkling cider and 1-1/2 bottles of wine. These were Episcopalians for Pete's sake! I didn't request RSVP, but I'm not sure if I had that I would have estimated any better.
In my usual fashion, I hadn't planned on asking for help putting on or conducting this event. I'd invited my god daughter and her friend only because I wanted her to see my quilts and be a part of the event. I wasn't even sure if she would be able to make it. Knew if she did, I could always keep her occupied with taking coats and serving food. What became painfully clear on open house day was just how much I needed at least one other body to help with the last minute details, then attend to guests in order to free me up to answer questions about my work. What was I thinking??? If nothing else, it was comforting to have someone to turn to and ask, "Ok, what have I forgotten?" They also hung balloons on the mailbox, helped move furniture and made gentle suggestions when I clearly wasn't thinking straight. Thanks Sarah and Mikolas!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Setting up for the Open House - Grouping Work

Almost as tricky as deciding how to physically hang the quilts was choosing what to include, then deciding where best to hang them. Rather than pull the actual quilts out, I went through my documentation notebooks, which are organized chronologically. The majority of the quilts chosen were made in the last 3 years, but some older favorites that definitely fly in the face of strictly traditional design made the cut. Anything strictly traditional was excluded. When I counted them up, there were 18, and I thought, whew! That's a lot of quilts. They would have to fit in the living/dining room, one bedroom and the studio. Ironically, once I started hanging them, I went from "that's a lot of quilts" to "I could really stand to have more quilts to hang!" I also selected 7 of my favorite journal quilts to intersperse here and there.

The quilts fell into three categories: Birch-related designs, autumn leaf-related designs, and non-representational designs. "Camelot" and "Night & Noon on the Planet Hoffman" were the oddballs. There also seemed to be three basic color palettes - the browns, golds and greens of autumn, black or red & black, and a couple that were clear blues & pinks. It seemed logical to group the birch quilts in one area, the leaf quilts in another and fill in empty spaces with the rest. The blue/pink ones that truly clashed with everything else were relegated to the studio.

Next I thought about sight lines. The front door where people would enter is at the living room end of my main room. In this picture, it is to the left. I knew that as people entered, their eyes would see either the space above the trunk, or the opposite end of the room first. Anything hung on the wall where they entered would not be immediately noticed, although if they missed it on the way in, they would definitely catch it on the way out. The red & black quilt that I hung over the trunk has always been an eye-catcher and crowd pleaser so I decided to give it the prominent place, even though it is an older piece. "Night and Noon" made the entry wall because I could hang it at eye level where the intricate detail, including beading, could be studied. Plus it didn't fit with any of the other quilts except in color so it was a good candidate to be visually separated from everything else. I could also display the inspiration for it right next to it. The journal quilt right below it has a lot of beading, the one to the left a similar color palette, and since I tend to match instead of mix, that is why these ended up together. A small black piece completes that area, mirroring the black of the quilt over the trunk.

As people shed coats and oriented themselves, their eyes naturally settled on the grouping at the dining room end of the space. So this is where I hung the birches, which I feel best represents my current leanings. In retrospect, I'm not sure it was such a good idea to have them all together, along with the three birch journal quilts on the table below. (The table also held my guest book, business cards, price list and artist information.) Overkill or instructive in showing how I've been developing this theme? I think some people liked the fact that they could easily look from one to the other and see similarities and variations. What do you think? Next time should I split them up more? "Camelot," by the way, was hung to the right centered over the end table by the couch. It was an excellent place for it - no other quilts on either side to compete or clash with it and the light played well on it.

The bedroom space was a bit easier to work with, and there was a greater mix of quilts which I found more interesting. I was a bit torn as to which to hang on the wall directly across from the doorway - the first thing people would see. "Something Bold" won out over a larger piece that was easier to hang on a rod suspended in front of closet doors. Once it was up, I could see it was the best place, because it too is a bit of an oddball when viewed with the majority of my work.

Willow Leaves was already hanging in there over my rocker. I decided to leave it there and drape the rocker with two of the willow leaf stamped fabrics that will be incorporated into quilts for this series. California Christmas...Wisconsin Spring hung on the other side of the window on the same wall.

Two more quilts hung on the wall by the door, easily studied coming in or out. And that latest birch quilt in the hallway couldn't be missed on the way out.

From the bedroom, it's a short walk down the hall to the studio. I definitely should have hung more quilts in here. I've been saving the blank wall to the right of the window for another design space, but up until a few days before the open house, I hadn't yet found the piece of batting that was to hang there. By the time I did, I didn't have time to figure out what to put up on it so I left the wall bare. I really wish I hadn't, since it is the first place one's eye goes when entering the room.

My two little grid quilts looked a bit pitiful on the adjacent wall. I think I'd originally planned to hang Night & Noon there with them, or have Grid 3 done to help fill the space. The journal quilt on the table below is the one I did to test glues and couching techniques before making Grid 1 so it was logical to display it near that quilt. Also on the table is a batting sample, odds and ends for the next birch quilt, some of my hand-dyed fabric, and pictures and pattern for the angel quilt I'll be making for the church. I also set out some fabric that may go in to.

On the opposite side of the studio are my machines, and I left out Grid 3 in it's partially quilted state along with the threads I'm using in it. My regular design wall had the usual bits and pieces of fabric waiting for inspiration to strike or pieces in progress. This was the part about having a studio tour as opposed to just an exhibit that I really liked. This is where I could show how I work and what goes into the finished product. People asked lots more questions in here than they did when looking at the quilts in the other rooms.

After having gone through this process, I have a better idea of how much new work I need to have ready if I decide to make this an annual event. It also clarified the direction my work has taken in a way that just flipping through my chronological files or viewing a few quilts now and then has not. Have I let myself get into a rut? Am I taking enough risks, pushing myself enough? Am I keeping the series work interesting? These are all questions I hadn't really considered until I gathered up these pieces and viewed them as a whole. An excellent exercise I'd highly recommend.

Goals for Week of February 18

Oh, yes, it's time to get back to weekly goals as life returns to something resembling normal. I spent the first real studio time in several weeks today and it felt wonderful! Remember that Challenge quilt that was supposed to be ready for quilting before the open house? Yeah, right - I was too preoccupied to concentrate on it and now I have until Friday to finish it up and get it in the mail. So that is my top priority for the week, followed by updating the blog with details about the open house. Pretty simple, pretty straight forward. And I found time to work towards both goals today.
Oh, I guess there's one other thing I should add to the list. I've been looking at software for artists - the kind of thing that would help me organize not just the info about my quilts, but pictures of them, their location, sales records and mailing lists. Since I sold two pieces this weekend, it seemed like a good time to make a decision and get going on a better system. Time to complete my research and act.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Setting up for the Open House - Hanging the Quilts

Let me say upfront: Textiles are a royal pain. This realization came as I gathered the quilts I'd chosen to display and started hanging them. I had 18 altogether, 3 of which were already hung. The smaller ones posed fewer problems, but most of them had been folded at least once when stored. They would need a little steaming and blocking. And then there were the strings and lint that always find their way onto the work. Then I needed to figure out a way to hang most of them such that I wouldn't be faced with spackling and painting when the majority of them came down. I couldn't help but think how much easier this all would be if I were hanging paintings.

The way I normally hang my quilts, depending on size, is by either resting the ends of the hanging dowel on push pins inserted in the wall, or for the larger ones, inserting eyelets in the ends of a slat and slipping those over conventional picture hooks. For my temporary installation, I ended up using two methods. Thanks, Cindy, for reminding me about those 3M plastic hooks that are applied by removable adhesive strips. Supposedly, these won't rip off paint and wall board when I'm ready to remove the hooks from the wall. The only problem was that there wasn't enough gap in the hook for my dowels to slip into..

I envisioned that I could attach picture wire to either end of a dowel and hang each quilt from a single hook, just like a painting. Dream on. I sew my sleeves within 1/2" of the top of the quilt. No matter how tightly I stretched the wire, it pulled above the quilt top, leaving both wire and hook clearly visible. Not the look I wanted. Then it occurred to me, what if I insert a safety pin in the sleeve at the center? Would it slip over the hook and the quilt edges stay flat, particularly if I left the dowel resting in the sleeve?

Yes indeed, on the smaller quilts this worked great. A bit of the hook still showed at the top, but since they were clear, it wasn't readily visible from a distance. I might add, I tried both regular safety pins and the bent quilting pins. The bent ones actually worked better.

These hooks were rated to 1/2 a pound, so I wasn't comfortable using a single one for the larger quilts. But if I spaced two horizontally the width of my dowel, could I use the picture wire to make loops on the end of the dowel and slip those over the hook? This was a bit trickier, and next time I'll do it a bit differently, but the general idea worked.

Here are two quilts hung in this fashion. While I might decide to use the space above the trunk to display art, I certainly wouldn't choose to permanently hang a quilt as I have on the adjacent wall. Thus the need for a hanging system that wouldn't leave tracks.

The two smaller quilts in the picture below were hung by the single hook/safety pin method. They flank a space where I had hung a large framed print. I stored the print away and intended to use the hook to hang this similarly-sized quilt with the wire strung on the dowel. When that failed, I had a silly notion. You don't suppose that the dowel would rest on top of the picture hook and balance in place? To my surprise, it did. But would it be prone to falling off at the slightest breeze. Nope. I'd stumbled upon a great solution for areas where I didn't mind putting up a hook.

In addition to the quilts hung on the wall, I interspersed some of my favorite journal quilts and one 12 x 12 quilt as you can see in these last two pictures. Click on any picture for a larger view. These have no hanging sleeves and I wasn't about to add any to them. Instead, I thought I could use easels and this worked very well. In fact, I plan to leave some of them sitting out in my living room because they look so good that way. They weren't quite stiff enough though, so I had some mat board cut slightly smaller than the quilts and slipped one behind each journal quilt.

I found these relatively cheap (under $2) plastic easels at Ben Franklin. They came in clear and black and I bought some of each, plus two more expensive wood ones to augment several I already had on hand.

After everything was in place, I added signage. The simple way to go was to print just the title and year of each piece (excepting the journal quilts) on a 3-1/2 x 5 index card. More information was available on the separate price list placed on the table with my business cards, guest book and artist information. In cases where I had exhibit postcards or specific artist statements, such as for "Camelot" and my Changing Perspective piece, I put those on the wall as well. These were held in place with a little putty designed for the purpose.

I spent time over two days getting all this up, making sure I was done a good 24 hours before the guests arrived in case there was a problem with falling quilts or signage. Remember, this was my first go at this and much of my method was trial and error.

More to come...

Open House Report

I know there are those out there anxiously awaiting to hear how my open house went yesterday, and I am pleased to say it went very well. They came, they saw, and they still are referring to me as a talented artist! I even sold two pieces, and possibly a third. And yes, I had men show up. (In fact, one woman told me she offered to let her husband off the hook and he protested mightily.) That's Brian who works in the IT department at Coldwater Creek. His wife, Antonia, is on the right and graciously provided appetizers so I could concentrate on other things.

Don't let the pictures fool you - they really did spend time looking at my quilts before they plopped themselves down to chat, eat and even ask me a few questions. Note the suddenly perfect-mannered Jesse at my feet (yes, I'm the one on the left decked out in artist black and a pieced vest). When all her stuff, including her bed, moved to the utility room, she saw the writing on the wall and decided she'd rather behave than be locked away from all the fun.

As you can imagine, today I am totally wasted (as is the dog), so will post pictures and more details over the next few days.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

More on Curating

I spent some time this afternoon updating my artist biography, resume and statement for display at the open house on Saturday. Now it's time to get serious about choosing which works to display and how best to group them.

Have you noticed that once you show an interest in something, all of a sudden it's everywhere? Such seems to be the case since I started thinking about this "curating" thing. First there were comments on Artbizcoach.com, then on Thelma Smith's blog (see this post for more and links). A few days later, I picked up the latest issue of The Sandpoint Reader and found this in an article titled, "Sandpoint's Art Economy" by John T. Reuter:
My attraction to the arts...has always been about the journeys within yourself that they can lead you to. However, art not only talks to us, but also to itself.

Particularly interesting are the conversations that paintings, sculptures and other works can have with each other when sharing space in an exhibition.

A painting's meaning can radically change depending on what's hanging next to it. How a set of pieces are arranged can change the meaning and sense of an entire gallery or museum. Sort of like how rearranging the furniture in your house can change the way you feel when you walk into your living room.
I wish the entire article was available on line. It goes on to talk about bringing together people from different realms of the community to share ideas each group has been talking about and see what they look like in a new context. Perhaps I'll share more on this in a future post.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

My Stubby-Earred Dog

This is Jesse, who I refer to often. She is the first all-lab I've had, the others being crossed with various setters which had the advantage of giving them longer ears and less stocky bodies. But I love her all the same.

I "met" Felicity through the Yahoo group Alternative Quilt List, but she is doing more drawing than quilting these days. And she is very talented at it. I offered her the challenge of sketching my black beauty, and thus I found the need to take a new batch of pictures.

Here she is doing what she loves best on our winter walks - diving after rodents! They must make tunnels under the snow or hole up in air pockets around the base of vegetation. Jesse seems to hear them first, then pounces and either digs or just thrusts her head into the snow. If the snow is crusty, she'll two-foot hop with her front paws until she punches a hole. Occasionally, she's successful in catching something, and then, she is oh so proud.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Shopping Day

Mostly, I was out of milk and bananas. So I used that as an excuse to do some extended shopping today. Picked up more things for the open house including the cool paper plates you see on the left. My colors and the leafy vine fits with my nature themes. They were pretty pricey, but I think worth it.

I also stopped at a quilt shop I've been meaning to check out. As I've been working on Grid 3, I decided I might need to add another color - the whole thing is pretty monotonous pink and plum and teal. But wouldn't you know it - I study the batik to find it has yellow in it, but I have no yellow decorative thread in my collection. The shop didn't have a lot to choose from, but one of these two Superior Threads King Tut's ought to do the trick. You might be able to see better if you click on the image for a larger view.

I've not used this thread before, though I've heard rave reviews. It is much finer than I expected for its 40 wt designation. In fact, it is finer than the Oliver Twist thread I've used in the satin stitching for this piece. It is extra long staple Egyption cotton and the varigation is in one inch increments. If I use it, it will be the horizontal and vertical lines crossing through the squares and I will use one of the pre-programmed embroidery stitches on my machine. Or I may run a line of beads instead. Or maybe both. Yet to be determined.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Making Progress

Thanks to all of you who have left words of encouragement, opinions and suggestions about my upcoming open house. All are greatly appreciated and being heeded! Kimberly in particular had good concrete ideas about what sorts of things I should have out besides my quilts. It matches what I've seen at a few gallery exhibits I've attended, and I plan to follow suit.

The half dozen formal invitations have been printed and mailed, reminding me that I really need to start an art address list. I tackled a few dirty spots on walls and scrubbed down a lot of woodwork yesterday. It's been needing to be done since I moved in, but it was pretty far down on the priority list and eventually, I quit seeing it. Until now, of course, when I realize how many roving eyes may be passing through my house soon. Today I made valances for two of my three studio windows. Something else I've been meaning to do, but not nearly as fun as making quilts. The third window is too wide for the old Java sari I planned to hang over it. Instead, I wrapped it around the curtain rod and called it good. The valance fabric, by the way, has the same blue and goldish green as the sari and all works with the green woodwork around the windows.

Before doing the valances, though, I really needed to work on something quilt related. I've not all week because of the open house chores, and I could sense myself getting off-balance and anxious. The heck with what I should be working on (that challenge quilt). I just needed to sit at the machine for a bit and calm myself. So the first lines of machine quilting went into Grid 3. And it did make me feel better.

I'd ordered curtains for my bedroom and patio door. The patio door ones were on backorder and the bedroom ones were an awful color and the wrong length so were sent back for exchange. I'd heard nothing on either for awhile, but yesterday I got notification that the bedroom ones had been shipped. And this afternoon, Mr. UPS showed up with the header for the patio one. Maybe I'll have them up by the open house yet!

A lady from my church told me she had a dream about me the other night. I was having an opening at a very posh gallery and she said my work was very beautiful. I laughed and said, well, that's where I hope I'm headed and I also hope that my actual work lives up to what you saw in your dream!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

You're Invited!

Well, most of you are too far away to come, but today was the day I officially announced my Open House - Studio Tour. And if you happen to be in the vicinity on February 17th, I hope you'll stop by. What do you say, Nikki? Up for a road trip?

I made copies of this informal, down and dirty invitation to distribute at church today, and the response was enthusiastic. As I believe I mentioned before, this is a safe place for me to start with my first showing and a way to thank these people for so warmly embracing me upon my arrival as well as getting to know a few of them on a more personal level. I'll be sending out a more formal invitation to a few others I've met since arriving - like the gal who cuts my hair (an artist in her own right the way she wields those scissors!), my insurance agent, the property management rep who helped me find this rental and the potter who's work enticed me to add to my collection of bowls. But mostly this is a way to return the favor to the church community that has taken me in.

And since that is my primary audience, I wondered if it would be appropriate to have a list of works for sale with their prices. I figured a few people might ask if anything was for sale, but wondered if it was presumptuous of me to be so blatant about it. However, after I made my announcement, a lady asked me if anything I'd have displayed would be for sale and do I ever make work to order. So I decided I was worrying unnecessarily. Must be bold!

Lots to do then, in the next two weeks. Again, by having a specific event looming, I have booted myself into action. Business cards, bios and the like will get updated, that price list generated and who knows what else that I've been putting off.

Alyson B. Stanfield of ArtBizCoach.com recently had tips on editing, and they were not exclusive to the written word. Dang if I can find the reference now, but there was a comment somewhere alluding to the fact that a really good artist knows which works to present to the public, a different kind of editing. Then I've been following Thelma Smith's blog as she documented her steps as curator of an exhibit. She emphasized that every entry was worthy of inclusion, but she had to consider not only how the various quilts would work together, but also how they would work within a particular setting. She in fact curated two additional groups for inclusion in traveling exhibitions. Even the best work may not find a home.

I mention this because I've had lots of time to think about which works I want to display at my open house. I have limited room, of course, and must stay focused on my overall goal. As the date nears, I find my mind sorting and envisioning various groupings and themes to make sense of the variety of work I want to put out. A few traditional quilts keep sneaking in to my consciousness and I am undecided about showing them. I could have a "traditional work" room just to show a little historical context. But on the other hand, I might not want to send mixed messages since I'm not actively working in that style at the moment. No, I think I want to stick with quilts that show my more recent journey, the ones heavily drawing on nature and the experimental ones. Editing. Curating. Showing my best, most interesting work and placing it in a way that will create flow and continuity, impact without overwhelming. In this case, less is definitely more.

So I best get to work...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Amazing Sideways Icicles

My house has a metal roof. I don't think I've ever lived in a place with a metal roof, but many houses in areas with a lot of snowfall have them. I'm discovering a curious phenomenon occurs when snow that has built up on the roof starts to slide off. I'd expect it to project off the eaves at the same angle as the roof, then fall off in chunks as the weight becomes too much to hold it suspended in midair. Instead, it droops and curls under, hanging in this odd shape for a very long time.

In the meantime, icicles form. As the snow makes its curl, the icicles angle until they are hanging sideways. How weird is that?