Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Azaleas Bloomin'

The azaleas pretty much came and went while I was out of town, but they are sure blooming in the studio this week. Here's the last in the series, at the end of much fabric auditioning. I have yet to determine the exact width of that yellow border but the general proportions of the three pieces are pretty close. I will add some stitch to this, although whether or not there will be batting is still a question.

Happy accident! This version which I planned to mat and frame, no stitching required, was on the design while while I auditioned fabrics for the other one. While this red didn't work for Mosaic V, I was quite taken with how Mosaic IV looked on it. Changes my mind entirely about that matting thing.

This morning I put a few stitches into the hand-appliqued version that started this whole thing. Then I squared up Mosaic II, auditioned several piping fabrics, thought it a good idea, and proceeded to finish up the edge of this quilt. Just fabulous colors in that batik. Alas, after completing 2 sides, holding it up and stepping back, I decided the piping just wasn't working. Sigh...because I'd spent a lot of time pinning and carefully sewing it on, ditto with the binding, so that perfect 1/8 inch would peek out from the seam.

I must be maturing. If this were last year, I'd have spent a lot of time, perhaps even days, trying to convince myself that it DID work - not based on anything other than the time invested in applying it plus taking it off again and the fact that it had looked right in my head and the auditioning process. Reason might eventually prevail. - or not. Today, it took about 10 minutes to conclude I didn't like it - reason enough to remove it. But why, I wondered? Basically, the piping did nothing for the quilt, added nothing. If anything, it distracted the eye. So off it came. The only emotion was a bit of anger at not reaching my goal for the day (getting the binding on), but it was tempered with grudging pleasure that I'd not wasted even more time fighting the inevitable. Just put the disappointment aside and get back to work. I've been working on this series for a year now, and it's time to wrap it up.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Azalea II Quilted

At last, I'm back to finishing up what was interrupted by my recent trip. I'd told myself that the first order of business would be to get two small pieces mounted and framed, but there was Azalea II lying there at the machine, begging for me to sit down and quilt it.

Before I left, I picked up more of the Sulky dark green rayon thread that I was sure I'd be using for the quilting. As I stood there matching my mostly used up spool to the proper spool in the display, something told me to pick up a slightly lighter version too. Guess I remembered my assessment that my green threads were either light or dark. Wouldn't you know it, when I sat down to try my three choices on the edge of the quilt, it was that medium green afterthought that was the perfect one. I also tried a different length and width of the embroidery stitch than I'd tried on my earlier samples. It looks like crown vetch to me, was easy to manipulate around the corners as I followed a zig zag path between the mosaic "tiles," and the rayon picks up the light nicely. This, I think, is the first time I've used machine embroidery as the quilting stitch and I was pleased with how it worked.

I think this fulfills my need for something viney on the quilt and makes the squares pop up from the surface as I envisioned I wanted them to do. (The picture above shows the quilting in process. - the batting is Hobbs 80/20 black) Yes, after all my dithering and wondering and testing and imagining, I think this is the effect I ultimately wanted. That other stuff might end up on another version, but this one seems to want to be fairly pure.

One more decision to make - I plan a 1/2 inch binding of the background fabric, but I'm wondering if I should insert a narrow piping of the tropical batik from the purple section?

Thursday, June 25, 2009


The clouds looked very strange yesterday.

Wispy and slightly out of focus.

Yes, I know, clouds are supposed to be soft and puffy, but these went beyond that.

And then it all went surreal...

Honestly, this is how they really looked

And I had the strange sense it was my eyes going blurry.

But it was just the clouds.

June is concentrating on clouds at the moment.

She would have had a field day with these.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Row Robin Revisited

When I opened the studio door after my trip, I spotted the fabric I'd left out just in case I felt my addition to the row robin quilt needed some fussy cut flowers fused to it. Honestly, while I thought my row was ok, I don't really like to settle for ok. I think it looks much better now, plays better with the other rows.

It was surprisingly enjoyable to do this cutting and fusing, a good way to get back into the rhythm of the studio. To see what it looked like before adding the flowers, see here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Final Look at Walla Walla

I had a chance to stroll from downtown through a lovely residential section of Walla Walla, and thought I'd share some of the possible creative inspiration along the way. Click on any picture for a larger view. This Art Deco building has always caught my attention.

As always, decorative detailing is of interest.

Then there's this early 1900's building. The second story does not match the first and has so much going on.

The climate is perfect for gardening. I liked this grouping of colors.

And this gorgeous lavender rose bush - I had one when I lived here.

Look at the twist in the surface texture of the bark.

And white of these trunks demanding attention, limbs going off in all directions.

Soon it was time to head home. Last year when I drove through the Palouse about this time, the greens I saw in the fields were much brighter and more varied than they were this year. See this post. Yet as I drove out of town, I saw these brilliant fields saying goodbye.

So that wraps up my travelogue. My head's still spinning with all I saw and did. Tons of inspiration gathered along the way, and now it's time to get back to work, put some of it to good use..

Monday, June 22, 2009

Culture & Shopping in Walla Walla

My time in Oregon was bracketed by stop-overs in Walla Walla, WA, where I renewed friendships , fostered a new one, immersed myself in more art and shopped! But before I get into that, I must rectify an oversight in my Portland report. Joanelle had found two silk saris for a song, taken part of one for herself and put the rest of it up for grabs. Above you see the one I came home with. It is so beautiful, and I have NO idea what I'm going to do with it. That's nothing new - its destiny in my creative endeavors will present itself eventually. What was left of the one Joanell cut from went to my Hood River friend. Thank you Joanell, for your generosity.

Since fabric acquisition starts this post, I may as well proceed with my shopping. I wandered into Sew & Vac which also carried a lot of fabric, including an impressive collection of batiks. I was merely admiring, practicing much restraint, no intention of buying any...until it was pointed out to me that they, along with everything else was 20% off. Let the stash building begin! I also got to go to the Farmers Market (twice!) where I found the Artisan Goats Milk Soap by Midnight Oil Soap Company. I've been searching for months for a soap with both olive oil and gritty stuff in it, and here she had 6 different ones to choose from. Check out her line of all-natural products for the skin. Also in the picture you see a small box from Bright's Candies in Walla Walla which held the most decadent piece of chocolate I may have ever eaten. It was a gift from Bonnie Griffith, who I profiled in this post.

That's Bonnie on the left, and we met for lunch to get to know each other and share more "shop talk." Bonnie's another artist who I only know through the Internet, but not anymore! I thoroughly enjoyed hearing first hand of her own creative journey, and she gave me some great information and insights on a variety of art-related subjects. Thanks, Bonnie, and I hope I returned in kind. Bonnie has a blog now, and be sure to check out her beautiful paintings of that part of Washington and over the state line into Oregon on her website here.

Art is everywhere in downtown Walla Walla. Besides formal galleries, many businesses provide a revolving menu of local talent on their walls. One particular gift shop, Willow, has its own upper level gallery, where I saw the work of pastel artist Leslie Williams Cain. In an exhibit called "Down at the Bridge: Paintings Revisiting a Favorite Site," Leslie created a body of work around a specific location near Walla Walla, then teamed with poet Janice King who provided "lyrics to her music." King too had a "favorite site" in her past and eagerly accepted the challenge. It was fascinating to see the interplay between the written word and visual art, the collaboration between artists from two entirely different expressions. Made we want to be a part of something like that. And as we descended the stairs after drinking all this in, there was Leslie herself, working on yet another pastel of this location, showing how she references photos and then takes artistic license as the painting progresses.

This was going on in conjunction with the second annual Chamber Music Festival which included many free events as well as paid concerts at sites all around the town over a two week period. My friends took advantage of several rehearsals, one of which was at Willow, thoroughly enjoying the behind-the-scenes dynamics as musicians prepare a piece for performance. I got to attend a wine tasting followed by a talk and performance of Ned Rorem's String Quartet No. 4. This was a very modern piece that normally I would have dismissed but with the short talks beforehand, one could hear and appreciate what the composer was getting at. The Rorem is based on Picasso paintings, so the first talk was about Picasso (and included a really interesting e. e. cummings poem which of course I can't find on-line) and showing paintings that may have been the inspiration for the various movements of the quartet. The second talk was by one of the musicians, guiding us as to what musical motifs represented certain themes - essentially what to listen for. Then when they played, the appropriate Picasso paintings were shown on the wall over the musicians. A truly enriching experience. And now, after hearing some enticing bits about Picasso and a few of his quotations, I find I need to read more about him. Here's one: "There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality."

As an aside, I watched a couple of documentaries with my friends - one on Sam Cook and one on Bob Dylan. The Picasso talk had noted that Picasso didn't like explaining himself, and would often give conflicting answers to the same question. At one point in the Dylan documentary, I realized Dylan eventually ended up doing the same thing - at one point denying that his songs were topic specific or protest songs, then demanding that all his songs were protest songs. Or perhaps saying he had no idea what they meant. Very Picasso-esque.

And now it's time to return to the Farmer's Market. My friends go each Saturday for fresh produce, and the Walla Walla Sweet Onion harvest had just begun. Vadalias don't hold a candle to these (yes, I am biased) and I was delighted to be sent home with half the bag. I have the perfect onion tart recipe for these.

And then I ran across Eric von Bargen of Walla Walla Wood Works and his lovely array of turned bowls. I've admired such bowls for a long time, but have not been able to afford any of them until now. These were so reasonably priced that I couldn't resist treating myself to an early birthday present. The one in back is made of honey locust which has a connection for me. I had such a tree once in Wisconsin and dearly loved it. The other two are of apricot wood.

Eric only uses wood obtained from salvage of trees already being removed and usually headed for use as firewood. The apricot, he has found, is particularly tricky to cure without it splitting. While he makes beautifully symmetrical items, I was more drawn to these unusual shapes with the bark left on the rims. The little on eon the right particularly amused me because of the natural gap in the bottom. "Nice but totally useless," my friend joked. "Only an artist would buy the ones with the holes," quipped Eric. "That would be me", I replied! Thanks, Eric, for giving me a great deal on the three. They make a lovely grouping.

Next, a stroll through Walla Walla before heading home...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Maryhill Museum of Art - Part 2

After exploring all three floors of Maryhill Museum itself, I headed out to the car to grab some lunch. Maryhill does have a small cafe, but I'd packed a picnic lunch. The grounds are quite extensive and include a separate picnic and camping area, but I just headed for a bench in the shade near the car. And was quickly joined by one of the resident peacocks. She was pretty scruffy looking and not at all intimidated by me, but I managed to convince her to mooch off someone else.

Or perhaps she was hiding out. I could hear the loud screeching from the male peacocks, and soon several came running past in hot pursuit of a different female peacock - one not quite so scruffy looking. On my previous visit, I remember these males strutting about with their beautiful tail feathers fanned out, but today they had other things on their mind.

After sitting for a long time, letting the wind and the vast panorama strip my brain clean of every thought or worry, I headed for the sculpture garden. This wonderful heron guards the entrance. (Click on any picture for a larger view.)

Maybe it was my recent negative space drawing exercises, but I particularly liked the pattern set up by its feet gripping a branch.

The art in the sculpture garden is a combination of invitational pieces and permanent collection. Read more about it and see pieces I did not photograph here. To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the offerings overall, but this piece truly fascinated.

It is a 2007 bronze called "Quantum Man" by Julian Voss-Andreae, is at least 8 feet tall. and part of the permanent collection. No conventional bronze this. Its look changes depending on your angle.

Seen head-on, you can see it is made up of thin steel sheets - he all but disappears. Read more about this sculpture and its basis in quantum physics and wave matter project here too truly understand this piece (click on archives, then Matter Wave Project IV).

This smaller sculpture intrigued me as well. It is "Solardarity" by Jay Moody of Portland, OR and is maybe 5 feet tall made of steel and stainless steel (2007). The story behind it is quite interesting, I thought. Jay honed his metal fabrication skills in his father's metal shop, eventually creating sculptures & functional art. This piece is inspired by the 2007 solar eclipse and represents "the unification of various metals joining together in a dynamic expression of geometric shapes with a sense of energy radiating from within." Trying to get representative photos of any of these sculptures was more of a challenge than I bargained for. Three-dimensional work, after all, is meant to be seen from all sides. Plus being in the outdoor venue, one had to be aware of what was showing up in the background.

On the far side of the sculpture garden I spotted this old behemoth with the propped up limb. Oh, you just know if there are trees around, I must photograph them...

...from many angles (I've spared you seeing all of them)...

close-up to get the texture & detail...

and looking up...

Imagine my delight when I pulled into my parking spot and saw these dancing trees framed in the windshield. Not only the four closest ones, but all the way back and to the left you can see the swaying trunks and limbs.

And one last shot before hitting the road again for Walla Walla...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Maryhill Museum of Art - Part 1

While driving down the Oregon side of the Gorge on my way to Hood River, I suddenly remembered Maryhill Museum on the Washington side. The last time I'd visited was in the 1980's and I couldn't remember exactly where it was along the river, but I guessed it wouldn't be much out of my way if I wanted to catch it on my way back home. Sure enough, it wasn't long until I saw signs for it and it wouldn't be out of my way at all. Once in Hood River, I checked the website to see about hours and exhibits and quickly added a visit to my itinerary.

This Museum has extraordinary holdings for being out in the middle of nowhere. No offense to the tiny burgs nearby, but really, this is about 2 hours from the closest major city, Portland, and to most eyes would be a very bleak area in which to live. Some wineries & vineyards have recently been established nearby, but truly, this is a stark landscape. This is looking southeast into Oregon at Biggs Junction (population 50 and essentially a pit stop). Click on this or any picture for larger view.

The windmills scattered along the horizon tell you how windswept it is. So how did this Art Museum come to be? You can read the full story here, but the short version is Sam Hill began building it as a private home with the intention of also developing a Quaker farming community nearby. The community didn't work out and his wife took one look at this desolate place (I believe the train or the river were the only means of transportation to it) and went back to the city the next day. Poor Sam - not everyone saw the beauty of the Gorge as he did.

However, as a successful businessman who traveled the world, he had friends in high places. One of them, famed avant-garde dancer Loie Fuller, talked him into turning the residence into an art museum, and used her connections in the art world to secure over 80 sculptures & drawings by Rodin. Yes, THAT Rodin.

Another friend, Queen Marie of Romania, dedicated the museum at its opening in 1926 and donated a gown & mantle, one of her crowns, Orthodox icons and many pieces of her palace furniture. Yeah, that's not something you expect to see in the range land of Washington state. Add Hill's own extensive art collection and the committed efforts of another friend, sugar heiress Alma De Bretteville Spreckels, and the Maryhill Museum of Art was off and running. Follow this link for a complete listing of on-going exhibits including a fascinating collection of chess sets and Theatre de la Mode French Fashion Dolls.

The featured changing exhibit was a collection of Hudson River School paintings. To be honest, I've never been drawn to these, although I know the reasoning behind them. They always looked dark and dull to me as represented in books and magazines. I figured I owed it to myself to see them in person, knowing how different the actual art looks compared to reproductions. In truth, in person they still looked dark and dull, with a few exceptions. Just not my cup of tea, but still interesting to study.

I remembered the Queen of Romania exhibit from my previous visit so I planned a quick walk-through to refresh my memory. As my eye scanned this corner throne, I did a double take. What was all this Celtic design doing there? I certainly did not remember it (which only indicates that I was not into Celtic designs then like I am now).

I eventually found the explanation that Queen Marie was very into the Celtic, Byzantine and Romanesque styles of the 6th through 11th centuries, so had all her furnishings designed around those motifs. Fascinating! Guess it goes back to her English roots. Here are more examples:

Another ongoing exhibit I planned to quickly view was the Native American collection. I've seen many such exhibits, and frankly thought, just how many baskets, moccasins and the like do you need to see - aren't they all pretty much the same? Well, no, as this exhibit excellently showcases. The items are grouped by region, and it is easy to see the subtle differences in material, shape and design motifs from different areas of the United States.

Not only that, I saw some techniques I'd not noticed before. The Clallam baskets above are twined plain, the decorative design being an overlay showing only on the outside.

These Western Canadian Athapaskan bark trays aren't woven at all, but are made of birch bark - the outer surface of the bark on the outside.

Other birch containers from this area had the outer surface of the bark on the inside. This one doesn't show it, but others made this way had designs scratched on this underside of the bark that is the outside of the basket. Also common to the baskets of this area is the decorative addition of yarn along the rim or embedded in the bark.

These baskets are among the most elaborately plaited in North America and were made by the Chitimacha tribe. It never ceases to amaze me how humans have this need to make the most utilitarian item decorative.

Here's a "bridal veil," something I'm not sure I'd seen before. The beading alone is fascinating to study, but check out what's dangling along the edges along with shells and beads. Yes, those are sewing thimbles. Acquired in trade with the white man, it is speculated that they were added to these veils as a symbol of the domestic prowess of the bride.

Obviously a prized possession, many thimbles adorn this dress. Could this also represent the trading prowess or wealth of the husband or father?

Finally, let me share with you this petroglyph removed from the gorge before floodwaters from a dam covered it forever. According to the signage: "A human face with rays surrounding it is a motif found throughout northwestern North America. It has been call a "solar figure" by some researchers who associate it with shamanism. In this piece the carved design has been emphasized with red ochre." I found it quite compelling and it reminded me of motifs found on 18th century headstones in New England (see this post).

Well, that was a lot for one post, but not all that Maryhill has to offer. Tomorrow...a tour of the grounds.