Friday, October 31, 2008

More interruptions

Ever feel like the world's conspiring against you, that life is trying to tell you something? Here it is the last day of October and I have little to show, the entire month feels like a wash. First the dog, then the art shows, then the company - all distractions keeping me out of the studio. Then I tweak my lower back, pick up a bug and spend the last week and a half relegated to the sick list. Lots of couch time, TV time, sitting in front of the fire time, but no studio time. I did rally some moments here and there to hand stitch the binding down on my tie quilt, but that's about it. It's enough to make me wonder if there's something else I'm supposed to be doing with my life if every time I try to get up a head of steam in the studio, life inconveniently intervenes...

Today I'm feeling much better, although the back is still complaining. I decided to go back to the beading on the TIFC quilt from August - Balance Check. I sewed my latest this-will-work combination of beads along one area and promptly removed them. Rifled through my bags of beads and happened upon these light green ones which I'm sure I considered before and rejected, but which looked like a viable option now. Went from scatter stitching to clustering and think now I am on the right track. This picture above and below shows just the start of my effort., working in the spaces in the dark orange section. (Click on pics for larger views.) I'm probably going to go back in and add additional beads next to the green ones, but not sure what kind or color yet. Just think I need to get these laid in along all the inner areas and reassess. Maybe it will need more and maybe not. Just know that I finally feel like I'm on the right track and had no compulsion to remove these and start over again. Progress.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Seeds of Doubt

Olga made this comment on my post about the Anything Goes Exhibit and my past struggles to find my creative voice: "I think that finding one's own voice can be very difficult, especially if one is the kind of person who is used to listening to others." One of my great loves is doing research - a form of listening to others. And I often ask others' opinion in an effort to clarify my own thoughts, not necessarily to find answers. But she is right that by listening to others, we may allow seeds of doubt to be sown about our own vision.

I thought I'd regain my focus this week, but it hasn't happened. I thought I'd dive right into one of two projects that I'd found clarity on, but that didn't happen either. I thought if nothing else, I could get the binding on my tie quilt, since binding is a no brainer for me and I knew what fabric I would be using. And yet...

...I found I was hedging on my decision to use the orange fabric all of you enthusiastically recommended (see this post). I was pretty sure that was the way I wanted to go before asking, but it boosted my confidence about my choice to find others that agreed and for similar reasons. Then I hauled the quilt down to Hood River to be sure I was getting the right color additional binding fabric from my friend and ended up showing it to her and three others whose opinion I value, not to confirm the binding color, but to ask about my idea to add labels and beads to the top. Imagine my shock when the first comments were all a thumbs down on the binding color!

In spite of my brave, "I don't agree & neither do others I've shown it to - I'm using it anyway" response, those comments from women I respect sowed seeds of doubt that have been eating on me ever since. No doubt, the foot dragging stems from that, and I've been mulling the issue over all week. Last night it occurred to me that I might use the orange as piping in a darker binding which would address several of the issues I had with the other color options I tried. So today it was more auditioning, pulling out fabrics I thought I was done with on this project and laying them to expose a narrow strip of orange. No good - all those other binding colors just didn't work, fell flat, even with the zing of orange next to them. I put them away and with some trepidation cut my binding strips of orange.

When I draped them around the outer edge to make sure I'd pieced together a long enough length, I felt a rush of excitement. Yes! The orange was doing exactly what I wanted it to do and I didn't feel it was overpowering the piece at all (which was the warning of the Hood River group). WooHoo! I was suddenly energized to get this binding sewn on so I could continue to the next step of beading.

So Olga, thank you for planting your own seeds in my head. Your comment was more timely than you could know.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Slightly Out of Focus

I couldn't quite settle on any one thing today. The house was cold when I got up, so I huddled under a quilt on the couch and watched some TV while working on the redwork cross and waiting for the earth stove to take the chill off.

But eventually I knew I needed to get off the couch and get to work. I darned a pair of socks sitting next to my sewing table - I one darns socks anymore, but in these economic times, it could just see a revival. Anyway, it was a warm-up to attaching the labels on my tie quilt with beads.

It was looking awfully nice outside, so I went out to get my mail and check the temperature. Oh my - warm enough to bring lunch out on the porch and too warm to go back inside after it was eaten. So I got out the azalea mosaic and appliqued some squares. Remember me saying that as fall approached I was losing interesting in working with this tropical color palette (see this post)? Imagine my surprise as I unfolded it and saw how closely my azalea yellow matches the maple leaves now blanketing my lawn.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Anything Goes" Exhibit Overview

As requested, here is the technicolor version of the "Anything Goes" art exhibit (see this post). Each artist was allowed two new pieces. In the picture above, mine are on the left: "Voices" and "Autumn Confetti." The art quilt on the right is "Serengeti" by Geri Harvill. The two art quilts pictured below are by Sue Graves. You can see I am doing very different work from these two women which was quite affirming. I have struggled so much in the past with my creative journey, feeling I had developed no distinctive style and that my work was all over the place, not to mention perhaps too much like what everyone else was doing. I've definitely developed a confidence in my work and direction this year that should carry me forward nicely in the coming months.

"Cubic Illusion" and "Off the Grid" by Sue Graves

As always, it was quite interesting to observe and hear viewer reactions to these pieces, especially since this was their first public showing. Not even any of my friends had seen them except in pictures. You may remember my struggle with Autumn Confetti, and the many suggestions people had for improving it. As in most pieces, once it was done, I could see things that could have been improved, and have been a bit lukewarm about it. So it was a pleasant surprise to hear how much the public liked it, and to have many of them point out how I brought the birch trunks alive with all the stitching (and yes, they called them birches without any prompting from me). I was a little surprised, though, when so many people thought the lichen had been crocheted. Even the one art quilter I spoke with had not heard of the threadlace technique. Idaho is isolated, but I didn't think it was THAT isolated!

But enough about me - on to the other artwork. These photos (taken in Glacier National Park and Montana respectively) are by Roopam Kakoti of Spokane, WA. He's fairly new to exhibiting and selling his work, and has become a member of Pend Orielle Arts Council on recommendation of others in the arts scene. His work was close to mine so we spent quite a bit of time talking and asking each other about technique and process. I was particularly interested to know why he chose to mat his pictures as he did and soon realized he went through the same process of choosing from what was on hand and auditioning different colors as I do with bordering and binding my quilts.

On down the second floor balcony were these spectacular photos printed on canvas by Gordon Ormesher, and this wonderful papier mache piece, "Elvira" by Leata Judd. This was perhaps my favorite piece in the exhibit. Have you not had a hair day like this?

The brick wall held a variety of paintings...

And these two humorous photos by Drew Meredith.

Down a narrow hallway, I found these two acrylic paintings by Lori Bopp. No mystery that I was drawn to them both for their rich colors and their relationship to the hand-dyed and batiked fabrics I like to use in my own work.

You might recognize the top painting from the postcard advertising the event. These two are by Sandy Pilch.

Snakes are not my thing, but please click on this picture to see the fine hand-drawn details making up the background. The artist, Brent Flint, explained that many people thought he merely generated the textured design on the computer and layered the snake over the top before printing it out. No, part of his talent is adding hand drawn details to his photos and/or the mats framing them.

Also on this level, there were two handwoven scarves by Sue Kohut. No mention of what kind of fiber she used but there was probably some alpaca in it. They were soft and inviting with lovely patterned texture.

Here is a wall of art on the main floor full of diverse mediums. This is the same space that my pieces hung in during the art quilt exhibit earlier this year.

Across from it were these wood sculptures by Will Venard.

And finally, I found myself strangely drawn to these watercolors by Rich Beber. But not so strange, I decided. Like the acrylics of Lori Bopp, these paintings reminded me of Bali batiks in my collection. On the 4th time I studied them, I spotted faces lurking in the swirls of color. I don't think it shows in the picture I took, but it gave quite a spooky feeling once I saw them.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Charles R. Bunnell

I've been preparing for company, preparing for winter, not doing much worth showing here. I don't have enough time to post the pictures from the exhibit, so while you wait for me to get some free time, I'd like to share an artist I've just discovered: Charles R. Bunnell. I had a hard time finding much about him on the internet - it was in an American Art Review article that I ran across him. The article covered a number of artists, but I was only drawn to his paintings. I DO like his abstract oils shown in the magazine, not as enthusiastic about some of his other work I found by googling. Above is "Graveyard of the Ships." oil on canvas, 48 x 60, 1958. Below is "Yellow Bridge," oil on canvas, 16 x 20, 1961.

And my favorite, "New York City," oil on canvas, 60 x 48, 1954.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Remembering when to stop...

"I think in terms of big abstract concern and I think of detail as an embellishment. I keep constantly in mind the fact that while embellishment is important, still when you begin this process of embellishment, you can also begin the process of deterioration."

Milford Zornes, watercolor artist

Monday, October 13, 2008


The leaves look different to me this year, the way they are slowly turning yellow and red. Can't put my finger on it but they definitely strike me as having subtle differences from what I would expect. We've had several rather gusty days in the last two weeks, which have loosed green as well as turned leaves from the branches, another difference. Equal opportunity freedom.

Several of the blogs I frequent have revisited their resolution word for the year, reminding me I hadn't thought of mine for quite a while. The whole idea of the resolution word versus a full resolution sentence is it focuses more on how you get to where you want to be instead of focusing on a specific thing you think you want or should do. And thus would be easier to remember, stick to, be successful in achieving. It was working for me. When I remembered to chant my word, "freedom," I indeed found focus and the drive to do those things I'd been avoiding that once done would give me the freedom I craved.

But in the turmoil that my life became (and I'm not sure exactly when that started), I forgot about my resolution word, forgot about the magic it could bestow, forgot to invoke it, forgot about it altogether. Freedom, apparently, was the last thing on my mind. Living in the moment, enduring, taking the challenges a day at a time, savoring the days that were not a challenge, became my focus. Getting back into the habit of creating also became my focus. My resolution word should have been an integral part of that last bit, but I don't recall I even considered it. I have no idea how I got off track, and little interest in backtracking to figure it out.

Now "freedom" is in the forefront of my mind, and stumbling upon the resolution word again strikes me as ironic. Part of my longing when I chose the word was a desire to be free from responsibility - something I know is not possible, but one can have one's fantasy, right? I don't think I was consciously thinking about my responsibilities of pet owner at the time, but a huge responsibility my dog became as the year progressed. And with her recent passing, I am face to face with how much freedom her exit from my life is giving me beyond the obvious things. Yes, I knew I was curtailing my travel and even some of my social life as her health deteriorated. Her needs came before mine much of the time in planning my daily schedule. I even modified when & what I might be working on creatively based on her needs.

What I hadn't fully realized was how much subconscious energy was being drained away over worry and monitoring of her condition. I think it factored heavily into my inability to work on some projects, ones demanding effort beyond my comfort zone, ones requiring a lot of design decisions. It was more than I could do, dealing with the uncertainty of her condition and the uncertainty in the studio. It made me want to pull the covers over my head and hide so many times. But of course, I didn't, because I am a responsible person and that dog depended on me. And I eventually got back in the studio doing anything I could because I'm a responsible person and I knew my well-being depended on it.

So here I am, with endless dogless days stretching out before me. Free at last to structure my days any way I want, free to pursue things I've been putting on hold, free to sew uninterrupted for hours on end like I did on Saturday (the 6 more string blocks turned into 16 - no need to stop.) Free to feel guilty about the relief I feel that the caregiver part of my life is over for awhile. Actually, the guilt hasn't been a huge factor thankfully, but there are moments. Like when I realized my inability to focus on my work was directly related to what was going on with the dog, and now I'm suddenly looking at those pieces I could not face and thinking, maybe I can really get some work done, get those pieces finished, work at the pace I expected to work after I moved here. Free. Or at least, embarking on the next stage of my life, without a dog, without the distractions. The guilt comes at thinking of her as a distraction and a deterrent, since she enriched my life so and even was responsible for getting me in the studio some days.

Last week I was reading an article about Virginia Snedeker and the American Scene (roughly the 1920's-'40's) in the February issue of American Art Review. I was struck by this observation: "Beyond the professional opportunities available to female artists, life circumstances affected female artists differently than male artists. Marriage and childrearing disrupted women's artistic careers in ways with which men did not have to cope. With less time for their careers, women were unable to maintain the level of work and self-promotion necessary for a successful career. They frequently stopped painting before they had found their unique mature style - the style that art historians label the "true" style of serious artists." The article goes on to state that this scenario played out in Snedeker's career with her only completing a few paintings after her children's birth. Snedeker herself admitted that she had to work in short, interrupted sessions and was unsatisfied with the results.

Nothing new in this, but having just gone through my own series of short, interrupted sessions with unsatisfying results mostly due to caring for this dog, it hit home and put a spotlight on what I've known and struggled with for awhile - the awareness that I needed to be spending more time "doing the work" in order to, not only improve my technique, but also develop my own style. Now, it would seem, I have no excuse keeping me from finding my "unique mature style" but me. A different kind of responsibility. A somewhat scary kind of freedom. Freedom, none the less.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

It's a start...

Today was the first in a week when I had absolutely nothing requiring my attention. So I promised myself that I must do some something quilt-related even if it was hard to get going because my buddy is no longer around. Last night I finished the paper early (normally I read through it on commercials while watching tv), and couldn't stand sitting there doing nothing with my hands. So I got out the next of the Quilted Cross embroidery panels and got to stitching. It's not as involved as the first one I did, so even though this is a bit of a late start, there's a good chance I'll have it totally done for the church fundraiser in December. Last year, I was still quilting on it as the bidding began.

This morning, I continued stitching as I caught up on some TV shows I'd recorded. This is NOT my usual schedule, but at least I was making progress on the embroidering. Then it was, GET IN THERE AND SEW, for pity sake! I've been thinking about what kind of project I'd be able to face, and I'd decided something mindless where I could immerse myself in sewing sewing sewing, something with no immediate memories of a black dog at my feet or major decisions to make was the way to go. For quite a while now I've been wanting to use up the strings I've been stuffing in the drawer reserved for them. I have a bunch of blocks started from way back when I taught or demonstrated string piecing on paper foundations. Had a stack of paper foundations cut and ready to go. Had relinquished my hotshot sewing machine to the repairman again to go back to the manufacturer. Yes, making up a bunch of string blocks on my old workhorse of a Viking was definitely the right project to get me going again. I got six blocks pieced today, and if I piece another six, I'll have enough for a small baby quilt when added to the ones stored away in my teaching files. I usually donate these to charity. It's a start...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

New Exhibit: Anything Goes

I dropped my two pieces off for the POAC exhibit this morning. Note that one of my quilts made it onto the promotional postcard (upper left corner). Unfortunately, all the art is rendered in black and white, so if you really want to see the true colors, you'll just have to come see the exhibit. Opening reception is Friday from 5:30 - 7:00. Please say hello if you are in the area.

Monday, October 06, 2008

UV Protection Results

The busy weekend was a blessing to help ease the loss of my constant companion, Jesse (thanks again to everyone). I thought I could get back to working on something today, but find my heart's not in it still. So instead, I've taken down my Fabric Guard test to see how well its UV protection worked.

Well, I am truly disappointed. While the treated fabrics repel water as per product description, they have not been protected from fading due to light exposure (a total of about 5 weeks). If you click on the larger picture, you may be able to see on some of the pieces where the masking tape protected a strip of the untreated fabric from the light. Clearly, there is no difference between the exposed areas of the treated and untreated fabrics.

I've always known that some commercial fabrics fade more so than others, and it was interesting to note those differences in my samples here. The orange with the tiny print is an old Harriet Hargrave reproduction fabric and it held up quite well, as did that solid red. The other orange as well as the lighter print red show fading though and the navy floral really faded. As for the batik, it looks to have held up fairly well. with minimal fading The light turquoise hand-dye did fade while the green teal one faded very little if at all.

So what are we to do now? Does anyone know of a product out there that DOES protect fabric from fading?Now that I'm exhibiting in shows unfamiliar with handling textiles and selling more of my work, this whole fading problem really worries me. I can control the light quilts in my possession receive but not once they leave my hands. My conscience is suffering here. I need a solution.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Art at Holy Spirit

Mosaic by JP Carver

Tomorrow is the opening of the art exhibit at my church. If you happen to be in the area, please stop by!

The Artists of Holy Spirit Episcopal Church, Hwy 2, Dover, ID

Sheila Mahanke Barnes, Art Quilts
Geoffrey Cant, Photography
JP Carver, Mosaic
Elise Creed, Oils & Watercolor
Richard Creed, Woodworking
Maureen Hackworthy, Watercolors
Michelle Rohrer, Jewelry, Photography & Watercolors
Susan Wall, Watercolors

Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Today we hung the exhibit after a bit of moving and cleaning up of remodeling debris. We thought the sanctuary remodel would be complete by now, but unforeseen circumstances have halted things for the moment. Oh, well - excuse our mess!

Two walls are mostly ok. I let the watercolor/oils artists use them and decide how to hang their work. I would have done it a bit differently, but they had their own ideas and I wasn't about to take over.

I was worried about having enough art to fill the space, but I needn't have. It's really spaced much closer together than I'd like in order to get everything in, and I actually had a smaller space for my work than I anticipated. I took the new unpainted sheet-rocked wall - lovely, isn't it - and stacked some of the work to get it to fit. Not the way I'd originally planned, and I probably could have shifted things to make them look a bit better, but we were pressed for time.

I wish I'd had another one of these backdrops to hang on the wall I used, but since I didn't, I felt it was more important for my photographer to have it behind his work. This area is not totally set up in this picture. The round table will have notecards and other small items for sale while the table under the photographs will have samples of photos which people can order reprints of. This allowed him to offer more variety without the cost of framing up a bunch of pieces that might not sell. Plus, it turned out we wouldn't have had room for them.

One of the watercolor artists had quite a few very small pieces at impulse-buying price points. So they got displayed on this secondary altar. This wall used to have a quasi-stage on it. We've ripped that out which is why you see wood trimmings that don't seem to make sense and cutouts in the wall near the floor.

This was indeed a challenging space to work with, the fluorescent lighting drives me nuts, and we really have too much art hanging. Plus we had to be mindful that there would be services held in this room, and not do anything that would require major shuffling to have that happen. But this was our first go at it, and if we do it again, I will limit the number of pieces each artist may submit. Plus surely the remodel will be done by then... Click on any picture for a larger view.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Rest in peace, little one. You had a good run and were such a good companion. You had enough attitude to keep me in line and helped me through the most difficult time in my life. I hope I made your last years as happy and comfortable as I could. I'll miss you greatly.

Now go find Allen and chase some pheasants...