Sunday, September 30, 2007

Twyla Tharp's "Movin' Out"

This was my little treat to myself yesterday. If you're a fan of either Twyla Tharp's choreography or her book, see it. If you're a fan of Billy Joel music, see it. If you are a fan of both, this is definitely a must see.

Word of warning: For those of us who lived through the Vietnam War years, some scenes may hit a little too close to home, cause some emotions to well up. Ok, I admit it. Parts made me cry. And I decided that was a good indicator that this was a class production. Excellent in every way. And I'll quit gushing now.

Friday, September 28, 2007

More on Catalogs

Home Dec catalogs can be a great source of information and inspiration for the artist. I get several, and like the bedding catalogs, I rarely order anything from them. But I always look through them, if for no other reason than to note color combinations. A recent Charles Keath catalog provided much more than that.

Right off the bat, I spotted this "transitional cabinet." It was the shape and configuration of the drawers that drew my interest. Fodder for my grid series? I think so.

Further on, I started to see "original wall art." I've often wondered how decorative artists can possibly keep up with orders once they show up in mass-marketed catalogs. Here I saw several ways, other than the common print. Fairly prevalent is transfer printing of images or photographs onto different bases like wood and canvas, followed by hand-finishing with oil brushstrokes or other coatings to mimic the feel of an oil painting. (The one shown here is by Don Li-Leger.) I happened to view such a photo transfer to canvas in an exhibit today, and it is a very effective technique. As they say, the look of an original oil with very crisp detail. I rather liked it.

Another method I've heard a lot about lately, but didn't understand until reading the description here is giclee (scroll down page and click on the giclee link). The catalogue describes it this way: " image of the original painting is laser printed directly onto canvas. It is then hand brushed with an acrylic sealer which adds highlights to enhance its beauty. This piece is by Linda Bernhard.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I receive several catalogs specializing in bedding for the home. I rarely order from these catalogs but I do find it interesting to look through them and note how this industry mirrors the popularity of quilts with their inexpensive imports. A recent one from linensource indicates a shift towards stripes. I couldn't believe how many quilts sporting stripes were shown, going both horizontally and vertically. And I'm not just talking striped fabric here. My grounding in traditional antique quilts spotted many variations on the "strippy quilt" theme: wide bands of different fabrics. varying in width and value. The one pictured above astounded me, though, with its quilting (click on picture to see more detail). This is so reminiscent of the North Country or Durham Strip Quilts with the vertical cable design running up the panels. Some Amish bar quilts look very similar.

Here are two of my own versions of strippy quilts. Both alternate strips of fabrics with strips of pieced blocks.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Memorial Art

Check out this post on ARTiculations blog regarding memorial art. The last paragraph in particular is one art quilters should take heed of:

"Memorializing is arguably one of the strongest of human impulses. But the commonality of this impulse sometimes leads to art that is formulaic rather than expressive. Memorial as art should be held to the same rigors and high expectations as any other work. Those events and individuals we remember demand it. "

This is a piece I made 2 years after my husband's death, made from his silk ties and shirt and some leftover silk he bought me in Canada. It was not made for public consumption but as part of my grieving process. It is not great art, and it is a bit formulaic - quite typical of what a quilter would produce. But as the quotation above states, the impulse to memorialize is strong and we turn to what we know best. I have other ideas for quilts about him and what I went through, but they are hopefully a bit more artistic and something I wouldn't mind exhibiting. Something more along the lines of what the ARTiculations blogger is talking about. I am in a different place both in my creative journey and in my grieving process and the resulting quilts should show that.

This sort of work is difficult to face, to begin sometimes. Who in their right mind would purposely do something with such potential to stir up painful emotions safely pushed down and locked up? Yet when the time is right, working through these memories, good and bad, through the medium of fabric is cathartic, satisfying, worth the risk.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What I've been up to, where I've been

Company's here and gone, and I'm trying to remember just what I did with my time before they inundated my life! We had a great, if busy time, putting over 400 miles on the car as we indulged in several nostalgia trips. Here we are, my sister-in-law, brother and me, just minutes from the outskirts of town overlooking beautiful Pend Oreille Lake. (I've kept the pics small, but if you're really interested, clicking on them will open nice large versions.)

This was the start of a loop into Montana, with many stops at historic markers and scenic overlooks. This is looking down the Clark Fork River just below Cabinet Gorge Dam. On the right you can see the old two lane highway snaking its way along the mountain.

Once in Montana, we jogged north along the Bull River. In the background you can see the Cabinet Mountains, complete with fresh snow.

Our main destination was the Yaak River, and its extraordinary set of waterfalls. It's difficult to get a good picture of them, and this time of the year with the water low, they are not as spectacular as with the spring runoff. Still, the rock formations have always fascinated me. Just above the first falls you can see that layers of rock are starting to tilt up.

I think a lot of people miss the lower falls since it's not visible from the road and no signs mark the trail. I know it's there because Dad and I fished this stretch of river from the campground downriver to the falls. Here the rock slab takes a real tilt.

My dad made me sit at the top of these rocks and drop my line way down into the eddying hole below. Scared me to death. The picture doesn't give a good idea of the actual size of these rocks. My brother was particularly interested in the various colors and shapes - as if they had been painted. There may be some artist in him after all.

Heading west back into Idaho, a scenic overlook gives you this view of the 2nd highest bridge in Idaho over the Moyie River. In the background, that spot of water that looks like a small lake is from the Moyie Dam.

We'd spent much more time than planned, so after this stop, we hightailed it back home. The previous day we'd spent over and around the town where we'd grown up. I guess we were so absorbed in finding old haunts and marveling at what had and had not changed that we totally forgot to get the camera out. Or perhaps it was just so familiar that we didn't think to snap any current shots. Here's a shot I took a couple of years ago when I came out for my college reunion.

Our final day of sightseeing was a little more relaxing as we took an hour and a half boat cruise on the lake. I never tire of looking at the mountains. Some that were pointed out to us were The Green Monarchs, Scotchman Peak, Seven Sisters and Roman Nose. The day was a bit blustery and not the best for pictures, but we tried anyway. This site has lots of aerial shots around the area, including many we saw from the boat as well as the car.

And now enough of the travelogue. It's back to the grind...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Slight Diversion

In between cleaning for company and taking care of normal business, I found a chunk of time to make up the yearly block for my nephew's future quilt. He is turning eleven, and has made it known for a bit now that he wished Auntie would send him something more fun for his birthday. Poor child. Doesn't realize that I don't send presents as a normal rule. I'm hoping that when he receives the finished product around his 21st birthday, he will have circled back to appreciating this ongoing gift recording events in his life. But for now, I'm hoping this particular block will make him chuckle.

He starts band this year, and has decided to take up the trumpet, like several other males in the extended family. While digging around for an appropriate background for the applique, I ran across this rabbit fabric. It may not seem appropriate to you, but earlier in the year, his family discovered the dog playing with a baby bunny. Upon closer inspection, they discovered that mother rabbit had decided to make her home in their yard, dog or not. Much hand ringing ensued, calls were made, and soon they were erecting a small fence around the burrow to keep the dog out until the bunnies grew up and moved on. So yes, rabbits and trumpets tell part of the tale of this nephew's year.

The applique, by the way, was applied with my current favorite method. No fusible, just a little glue baste to hold things in place until the edges were finished with a satin stitch. Tearaway stabilizer pinned to the back keeps the fabric from drawing up and distorting.

Friday, September 14, 2007

An Anniversary

One year ago today, I arrived in Sandpoint for good. This was my new view, visible from the rooms on the south side of my rental house, including the bedroom that would become my studio.

I spent that first night with what few belongings I could cram in my car, a borrowed sleeping bag and chair, and my dog. The movers would arrive the next day with the rest of my worldly possessions, and chaos would ensue for the next few months.

I always lose something during the course of a move. This time, it was my recipe book holder. I'm sure it got squirreled away in one of the two boxes of framed pictures, but I haven't had the incentive to thoroughly go through the lot to see if it is there or got left behind. Oh, I also seemed to be missing an umbrella, which I found just yesterday. It was in a box I had packed which had extra hangers, tie-downs, assorted garage hooks in it, stuff I hadn't needed all this time. Packing logic breaks down as boxes fill and the odd (or oddly shaped) object doesn't fit with its mates. Those crafty movers must have snuck it in there when I wasn't looking. Finding it in such an odd place gives me hope that the recipe book holder will also surface one day.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Meeting a goal - mostly

I was determined to finish the angel quilt this week (with the possible exception of getting the sleeve and label on) but I am just happy to be done with the quilting at the end of today. I have company arriving on Monday to prepare for, and several other must-do items have cropped up, so if nothing else, my focus isn't what it should be. I must make up my mind about the edge finish; I once thought I didn't want binding, but now I'm thinking I do, at least on three sides. So the thought and consideration that last design step needs may not be in me until all that wonderful company leaves.

I'm still not sure how well this is working, and I'm a little lukewarm about how the quilting turned out. I am glad however, that I quilted the whole top before adding the angel and quilting it. It was much easier to continuously quilt across those sections, and the angel itself seemed easier to deal with on a pre-quilted base. I'd definitely use this process again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tip for the day

I have been silent, but I have been busy. I have been quilting away and got the angel quilt to the point of fusing the angel in place. Before applying the iron, I inserted a few pins so I could hang the thing on the design wall, check the placement of the angel, contemplate the next round of quilting. I let it simmer over night.

The next day, yesterday, I decided I wanted to move the angel up a bit, so took the whole thing down to lay it flat, removed pins, shimmied it up, checked that it was straight, and replaced the pins so it could be moved safely to the ironing board. I started fusing from the middle down, removing pins as I went. As I moved the iron to fuse the rest, I noticed a tiny piece of red fuzz on the wing and brushed it off. Mmm, still there. So I did a more deliberate picking up motion with my fingers. Didn't budge. What in the heck is it, that I can't get it off? It looks like a tiny drop of blood, but I'm not bleeding anywhere.

I then I remembered. I'd gone out that morning, applying lipstick that I don't bother with if I'm just here at home. I'd removed those pins and stuck them in my mouth until I could replace them again. I tiny bit of lipstick had clung to the pins and deposited itself in a perfect dot on the fabric. I haven't made this faux pax in 15 years! Luckily, a little spot remover solved my problem.

So the tip is, don't wear lipstick in the studio, and if you do, don't stick pins or needles in your mouth!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Music to Quilt By

I received a package from my "most favorite and fabulous" niece today, which included the CD "Pink Moon" by Nick Drake and instructions that it was for "quiet studio moments." Well, I was headed to the studio to resume quilting on the angel quilt, so I popped it into the CD player. I don't know where I've been; this is an artist I've never heard of, but oh, my...I really enjoyed this disc. Thanks, Vanessa!

I've been working from the outside in once I got the major areas of the quilt stabilized. Today I quilted the beach area using a modified garnet stitch, following the outlines of the printed rocks in the fabric. Then I quilted some "grain lines" along the top border. Both of these areas were done with slightly different shades of brown Oliver Twist hand dyed thread. I think the lake is up next. I laid out some thread possibilities before shutting down for the day.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

August Journal Quilt

Normal journal day would have been last weekend when I was away for my birthday. I returned home from that trip to the moon rising over the lake, casting its reflection in the calm waters, and I was reminded again how blest I am to have found this magical spot. So as the week progressed, and I contemplated how to interpret August's calendar theme of Wisdom with a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson, that image of the moon came to mind. As per the quotation: "The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common." I had extra motivation to work on my journal quilt Saturday; my jounal buddy Judi, who has had to put her own journaling on hold until she gets settled out in Oregon, was passing through just an hour from me and we'd arranged to meet. I'd be able to show her this and the rest of the year's journal quilts in person - what a treat!

I started with some photos I'd taken earlier when I was more interested in capturing the color of the relection than getting a good sharp picture. Yes, no time to set up a tripod so the pictures are a bit blurred. I narrowed it down to these two shots, neither of which were composed exactly right, but which had elements I wished to incorporate.

Using my Paintshop Pro program, I reduced these to black & white, then applied a "black pencil" effect to bring out the main shapes only.

Next I auditioned fabric choices. The blue for the lake is some sort of synthetic dress material with a slight sheen which I hoped would make it look more like water. I changed my mind later about the fabric for the foreground, as you will see.

One of the things I wanted to experiment with was YLI's Brilliance thread. It is a metallic that glows in the dark and I have never fully come to terms with it. I'm thinking of using it in the angel quilt, so this seemed like a good place to work through my previous problems with it. I would use it to embroider the moon and reflection and these two colors were as close as I could get to matching those in the photo.

As I often do, I combined several methods to suit my needs. While I planned to use the Accidental Landscape method (see this post and this post) to create the top, that polyester fabric was ravelly and would not hold a crease when trying to press under its raw edge. I needed to stabilize the areas where I'd be free-motion stitching the moon and reflection. So I decided to try fusing the various sections to Decor Bond.

I wanted some guidelines, though, for fabric placement. I didn't want this landscape to be very accidental. Decor Bond is translucent enough for my b&w printout to show through. I used a permanent black Sharpie to draw the finished size of the journal quilt on the Decor Bond, then moved the printout underneath until I had the orientation I wanted. I used the Sharpie to mark the outlines of the foreground, lake, mountain, first on the fusible side (since I did not reverse my b&w version before printing it), then again on the other side. The polyester & sky fabric went down first, my teflon pressing sheet protecting the iron from the exposed fusible. I cut a freezer paper template of the mountain section to help guide turning under both edges, then positioned using the marked guides on the Decor Bond and fused. The foreground was cut freehand, trying to capture a bit of the ragged line grass produces, and pressed under before fusing. Because of the overlaps, those pressed under edges are loose.

Here is how it looked after stitching the moon and reflection. If you look closely (click on any picture for a larger view), you can see that the edges of the mountain and foreground are not sewn down yet - that will be part of the quilting. The camera is not lying about the color of the thread, by the way. For as different as each thread looked on the spool, it was difficult to see any difference between them on the fabric. And I think the #80 metallic needle may not have been big enough because I still had some problems with tension.

The last step was to layer the top with Thermore polyester batting and muslin and quilt it. I started with the loose edges, free-motion topstitching close to the turn under with smoke monofilament thread. And partly because I was feeling lazy and partly because I wanted to keep it simple, I continued to add minimal quilting lines using that same monofilament thread. Here's the quilting as seen from the back.

There was one other thing I wanted to try on this quilt and that was a faced edge finish. I'm seeing this on more and more art quilts where adding a binding ruins the overall effect. For you readers familiar with clothing construction it is like adding a facing to a neckline or armhole. I followed some basic instruction shared by Alison Schwabe here which is her solution to finishing irregularly shaped quilts. It's a lot like the pillow turn method, except after turning, the center of the "facing" is cut away, leaving around an inch of facing to secure to the back of the quilt, and then the facing is understitched to the seam allowance. This helps keep the facing from rolling to the front.

I had some success with this, but I think I should have clipped the corners (which were difficult to poke out) and graded the seam since I had the extra stiffness of the Decor Bond in there. Although the picture above of the finished quilt shows nice straight even edges, the real thing is less perfect. Let's here it for cropping! That is basically my issue with any edge finish I've tried other than binding. I simply can't get that evenness that is my aesthetic. I know there's another way to do a facing, and before I totally write it off, I'll have to dig it up and give it a go, because frankly, I do like the look it gives to certain pieces.