Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

It has been a brilliant, crisp last day of the year, the sky that particular blue I associate with snow on the mountains and temperatures in the teens or lower. In the past, I have often spent this day scrambling to finish some quilt project or other in order to count it in my tally of accomplishments for the year, or because I simply could not stand to have it linger over into the new year. Although there are several projects I'd hoped to have finished by now, and several small in-process ones that I could have wrapped up today, I simply was not compelled to spend my time that way. It seems to be the story of my year, and I'm content to end it on that note.

Today was for reading in a rocker pulled up in front of the fire, and writing the last of the thank you notes, and taking a walk out in that cold crisp sunny day, and indulging in running a photo through many filters (justified because it is the first step in a project destined as a gift), and catching up with a brother on the phone. I've popped the cork on the champagne, savored my traditional New Year's Eve dinner of chicken enchiladas (don't ask) and am ready to see the old year out.

Tomorrow will be soon enough to assess 2010, look forward into 2011. Happy New Year to you all!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Late Christmas Gift

Yes, my timing was so off this year that I only came up with this idea for a present the week before Christmas, and didn't actually start on it until a few days before. I finished it up on Monday and mailed it on Tuesday - it will make the revised promise of arriving before New Years! I'm banking on the recipient's love of purple to absolve me.

I've made this tote before (see also here for the finished product)- it is actually a purse pattern and smaller than the normal tote (about 10" high), but a perfect size for carrying a book or two or notebooks. The recipient had mentioned several times this year of needing another tote, so I don't know why it took me so long to make the connection that I needed to make her one. Nor why it took three hours to find the pattern - sometimes I am my worst enemy when it comes to my ever evolving filing system. But find it I did, where I was reminded that it calls for pre-quilted fabric - it's the batting that gives this bag its best attribute of stability, in this case Hobbs 80/20 - but you know I'm going to make my own. Which of course led to several days of pondering just how I would quilt the 15 x 23 inch rectangle. This sent me on a hunt again, for a handout from a machine quilting class I took quite awhile ago. Instead, I found some quilt sandwich samples from other classes, and as I studied them, I noticed I'd played with "writing" names. Aha! Not trusting my free motion abilities, I marked the top with a removable pen, repeating the recipients name the length of the piece.

I have had a love/hate relationship with free motion quilting since I started doing it. My biggest problem of late has been getting the quilt to move freely on the bed of the machine. No matter how I cleaned the Plexiglas surround or treated it, no matter how much I starched the backing, it was always a push and pull fight with the occasional snagging on the places where the surround does not perfectly meet the machine. It has made me dread every session facing me. But I may have just solved that problem with The Super Slider! I've looked longingly at this in ads and catalogs, read glowing reports of how well it works, even from my machine quilting mentor Diane Gaudynski. But its price put me off, along with the memory of all the other sure fire solutions I've spent money on that were a disappointment. But truthfully, I've been feeling desperate about this and decided to spend the money. Oh my - it appears that it solves my problems and machine quilting this little piece was sheer joy. Is this the fun everyone talks about?

The straps are made from a 4-inch wide piece of fabric sewn into a continuous loop. The raw edges get folded into the inside and stitching along both edges holds it all in place. Because there's batting in there, the directions say to run a line of stitching down the middle of the strap as well. That didn't seem like much fun, so I pondered what I could use instead - a meandering line? A pre-programmed embroidery stitch? Wait! My machine stitches letters, so the better and more fun solution was to stitch the strap with the recipient's name again. Well, I am certainly guaranteeing that she cannot re-gift this present to just anyone!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Best Parts of the Day

I'm a little slow sharing with you my Christmas Day, but it is just as well - the gifts continue to trickle in, some Christmas Cookies from New York arriving this morning, a very special gift from one of my artist friends delivered yesterday. But as for Christmas itself, it started with some Rhubarb bread before church - the recipe made 4 little loaves, two of which I gave away, one which went into the freezer and this one, almost gone.

After church it was time for a little holiday music - this is just a small sampling of my collection...

...and a little holiday cheer to accompany the opening of presents. Oh, I was so well remembered with some of the loveliest gifts.

There was this glittery moose ornament which made me laugh - yes there's a story there and my close friends know it!

There were books to delight & challenge the mind and spirit...

...and gifts to delight the eye & touch. That gorgeous textile draped in the background is a pashmina shawl a friend brought back for me from Germany. At least I'm pretty sure the shawl and not the glitter moose which she also gave me was the German souvenir! I didn't know what pashmina was, only that 55% of this shawl's fiber content was pashmina, the rest silk. If you want to know more about pashmina, the shawls and the cute goats that provide the fiber, see here. My shawl is woven in a manner to produce two "right" sides. The reverse side is predominately green with red accents. The pen is from my woodworking artist brother. Although you can't tell from the picture, the white portion is fashioned from North Carolina American holly, which he tells me is said to be one of the whitest natural woods. He knows I have this thing for birch trees, which also have a very light wood, but decided not to deceive me into thinking this pen was of birch. Frankly, since he now lives in North Carolina and holly is associated with the Christmas Season, I think his choice of wood most appropriate and meaningful for me. The vase is also from him, purchased form a local potter that he admires, Edge Barnes (no relation that I know of). He picked this particular one because of "the same color tones as your beloved birches." Indeed those were my very thoughts when I unwrapped it. It is just beautiful and the process used in its making fascinating. Read about the process of making "horse-hair" pots here.

There was a surprise lurking at the bottom of my brother's box. Once I pulled out the wrapped gifts, there were these ties and batiks and odds and ends from his girlfriend who thought I might get more use out of them than she. Oh yeah, I am SUCH a sucker for ties and batiks.

It's not exactly fair to say I've left the best for last since all my gifts seemed to be the best, but this piece of textile art from my friend Judi Kane, really touched me. I am so thrilled to have a piece of her work to call my own, especially this piece. In 2007 she and I did monthly journal quilts, using our own set of rules and deadlines. I particularly liked this one which is a rendering in fabric of a painting by her mother. She has mounted it on black fabric which has been stretched around a gallery canvas. I lost no time adding it to my little gallery in my studio. You can read more about it and see the original painting in this post.

After basking in the glow of my wonderful gifts, the rest of the day saw me enjoying some Christmas specials on tv and chatting on the phone with a few faraway friends and family. That cross ornament is about the only decorating I did this year.

And making a mincemeat pie to share with not faraway friends the next day. I was lucky to make it home with this last piece - it was very well received!

Hoping you had a delightful holiday filled with the wonders of the season.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Auction Find

There are a lot of things that I'm a sucker for and baskets are one of them. My church had its annual "pie" auction on Sunday. It really did start out as pies made by members and bought at auction by members to raise money for various causes. It wasn't long until those who's forte was not pie making added their own home made specialty to the auction table, be it cookies, or bread, or home-made jam. But why should cooks be the only one's contributing? Yes, other hand-made items began showing up, like knitted scarves, and bird houses and wall quilts. This year, the handmade-by-members caveat was off the plate - there were many items the origins of which were murky but which were enticing all the same. I could not resist bidding on this interesting basket, even though no one knows who made it, or even if it is handmade.

I love the classic shape, but it was the driftwood handle that really caught my eye and interest. Once it was mine (for only $10), I noticed the detail where the basket attaches to the handle.

And for reasons unknown, the donator included this seashell on a leather thong. It was loose in the bottom of the basket, under several bags of little rocks to hold dried flower arrangements in place. I like it hanging like this. And while I don't know exactly what I'll be using this for, I'm pretty sure it won't be for flowers. It seems too mystical to me for that. I think I want to fill it with little slips of paper, notes to myself, names of people I care about. Or maybe I'll use it to gather plums in the fall...

For such a small membership, it is amazing how much this little auction raised. Over $450 will be sent to the school in Ghana that we support. Merry Christmas, kids!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Not much sewing going on in the run-up to Christmas, but I did finish up these simple bookmarks from some odds and ends lying about. The two on the left were fabric trimmed off during a square-up and had Decor-Bond on the back. A little fused applique (leftovers from playing with the fabric postcard moon motifs), a little stitching with a heretofore untried pre-programed decorative stitch, a scrap of fabric fused to the back and some satin stitching around the edge turns throwaways into something usable. On the right are two essentially the same, one turned to the back, one to the front. I had narrow strips of Decor-Bond in a basket, a rectangle of black fabric I'd applied Shiva paintstik to by rubbing over a commercial rubbing plate - a test that was informative but left me wondering what I might do with the result. I remembered this wonderful border print (of which I have a lot) and there was a rectangle of it about the same size as the what-can-I-use-this-for fabric. The rectangles were big enough to get two bookmarks the width of the strip of Decor Bond. All I needed to do was satin stitch around the outside. I always feel so virtuous making use of these bits and pieces, especially since it is so hard for me to throw anything away and the bits and pieces just keep stacking up!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I about froze my behind off, but I wasn't about to miss this historic total eclipse of the moon if I could help it. Especially since I've been incorporating moons in so much of my recent work. The moon was positioned so I could recline on my front porch and watch the show. The clouds graciously thinned and eventually parted for an unobstructed view. I was glad I made the effort.

There was no information in my paper on this so I nearly missed it altogether. One shouldn't wait for the actual event before figuring out how to use a new camera in the dark. I was pretty thrilled that the first shot seemed to come out pretty good in spite of the thin cloud cover. Then I accidentally pressed a button that did something (still haven't figured it out in the light of day) and I couldn't get a good shot after that. And I got pretty tired of it then nagging me about the fact that I should be using a tripod! Yeah yeah, I know, but this is what you get with a slow shutter speed holding the camera unbraced. Eventually, I put the camera aside, cold hands in pockets, and enjoyed the show!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Solutions are Everywhere

I've always spread my net far and wide when it comes to topics of interest. My reading lists over the years can best be described as eclectic. I study all types and media of art, open my ears to all genre of music, remembering that whether or not I initially like it, there may be something for me to learn, take away from it. Go looking for an answer, and I will go to all the obvious places which may or may not provide a workable solution. But by keeping my eyes, and mind, open, I often stumble upon solutions in unlikely places.

Smithsonian Magazine is one of my favorites because of its wide range of topics and frequently inspiring photographs. I nearly flipped past this image from an illuminated manuscript circa 1130 a.d. without much thought - it certainly is not in a style or subject I would work in and the article that it accompanied had nothing to do with art or illuminated manuscripts, but was about the Vikings depicted in it. But my work this year with water themes perhaps caused my eye to take a second look at those fish. No matter whether you use paint, or fabric, or charcoal or pen, depicting an object underwater is tricky (as I discovered when working on Spring Runoff), depicting the movement of water less so but often predictable, especially for fiber artists. There's the ubiquitous meandering quilting line (like I've been using on my Moon over Pend Oreille series) and the "wave" partial spiral. By the time Willow was ready for quilting, I was definitely ready to find another way to make the water move. I'd seen it rippling and looking all in the world like a piece of shibori fabric, so I tried a type of cross hatching with stitch that was not as successful as I had hoped. But at least it wasn't meandering.

When I took a second look at the illumination, I thought this solution, the more or less parallel rippling lines over the fish and around the boats was quite brilliant. So simple and definitely got the message across. I may have to give it a go.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More "Miniatures at Large"

Artists aren't great rule followers, else they wouldn't be artists, I guess. Me, I've always been a stickler for following the rules and wonder where I fit in as an artist, being so basically uptight. I manage. This is a preface to showing the small work in POAC's "Miniatures at Large" exhibit. As you view these pictures, bear in mind that the criteria for the small pieces iss "no larger than 4 x 6 inches." And indeed, most of the small work stayed within these limits (not including the added inches of a frame) as do those displayed above.

But a few artists pushed the envelop, as in these oils by Suzanne Jewell. Radishes, Lemons & Shallots, and Winter Gourd are painted on 6 x 6 inch gallery canvases - so not much off the requirements.

And how do you categorize these stained glass snowflakes? You categorize them beautiful and hang them where they sparkle. They are by Patricia Barkley.

Another exception to the rule would be Julie Reinbold's oils, Autumn Peace I & II. The miniature inspired the larger version which although too small to fit the large category was something she wanted to display with the small one. Well, why not?'

Three-dimensional items like sculptures were asked to be either under 6 inches or over 5 feet. Bonnie Shields' Pack It In - Pack It Out fit the bill.

But Gail Lyster's A Couple of Wise Guys falls outside either category. But what fun!

Dean McWilliams gorgeous metal dragonfly sculpture, When Times Were Good, while large, is not quite 5 feet, but is such a cool addition to the exhibit.

Another rule-bender was Lorna Lent-Sommers. Although she met the size limitations, she entered 6 pieces of miniature work rather than the "up to 3" stated in the paperwork. Each set of three, though, are quite different, so we will give her a pass. Not like her additional 3 were taking up space from another artist - rather they helped fill the walls.

Diana Moses Botkin also submitted more than three miniatures, these all oils. The top group are October Glow, Color on a grey Day and October Glow, all landscapes. The bottom are Key on Blue, Candies on Purple Jacquard, and Shell on Gold Paper.

Dawn entered these three delightful clay miniatures. She is also a writer so usually has text or at least a very expressive title that goes along with her work. These are Sing High Sing Low, Love Carry you Where'er You Go (top), Meet Your Dreams in the Mornin' (left) and Winter's Walk With Friends (right).

Then you have this great pottery by Daryl Baird. On the left are his Mountain Boxes, and on the right his Mugshots espresso cups. Now there's a way to start your morning...

I think the small format inspired many of the artists to create 3 pieces that could work separately or as a set - some were even priced that way, like Dorothy Modafferi's watercolor paintings of the local Monarch mountains. Each invokes a different season or time of day: Monarchs - Sunset, Monarchs, and Monarchs - First Snow.

Who could pick just one of Sarah Dickson's Pen miniatures, Solitude, Patience, and Peace?

These oils by Loi Eberle are all of a theme: Suntipped Mountain, Clouds Over Kootenai, and Sunlit Mountain.

As are these acrylics by Vicki Bleile - exquisitely rendered detail in this tiny format: Trash Talk, Bull Moose, and When I Grow Up.

And these Watercolors by Susan Dalby: Winter Flight, Head of the Bay, and Hay!

And these oil landscapes by Dalas Klein: Autumn Fields, Fisherman, and Ponderay.

The rest don't necessarily follow a theme, yet they still look like they belong together. These are acrylics by Robert Bissett: Spring Blooms, Nap Time, & Night Skater.

Watercolor miniatures by Karen Robinson: March of the Pairs, Fir Tree, & Bird Brain.

I particularly like these acrylics by Robens Napolitan: Trio, Night Owl, & Hoo, Me?

This case holds a variety of miniatures, from the pencil sketch Samson by Marguerite Suttmeier, two acrylic on porcelain pendants by Jessie Townsdin, three watercolor landscapes by Judy Pederson, and a silk ribbon fiber piece by Hermie Cline.

Here's a close-up of Hermie's Ribbon Delight.

Hope you enjoyed the tour. Remember that you can click on any picture for a larger view.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Peek at Miniatures at Large

I'm home from the opening reception of POAC's Miniatures at Large Exhibit - lots of fun and good food as usual, plus a sale for me! My Moon over Pend Oreille went to a friend who decided he just had to have it for his boat. I've been on that boat so have an idea of where it will hang - very cool and thanks! Above you can see the stair step way my three pieces are hung, following the angle of the staircase.

Here you can see the large piece that hangs next to it (Trinity by Stephen Scroggins) and get an idea of how well the juxtaposition of really small and really large art works. Everyone agreed it was much more dynamic than if it were all one size or the other. As for the way Trinity is hung, I got a chance to ask Steve if it was his idea since I knew he likes his large canvases unframed and unstretched. No, he said, but it IS 18 ft long and the gals got all excited about the idea, so he said sure. It reads differently, he feels, than if it were flat, but I think it is such an eye catcher this way - so unexpected as is his use of yarns on the surface.

These encaustic miniatures by Daris Judd are hung to the left of Trinity. As you can see by the red dots on the labels, they too have sold.

On down from there is another large work, Mudslingers by Tamara Taylor, done in acrylic. Just about life-size, these bears, a specialty of hers.

On the opposite wall is Flamenco by Maloarit, also acrylic.

Another large acrylic along that wall is Peacock Fantasy by Diana Schuppel.

A great acrylic abstract, Peonies by Mary Aldarete.

And I think this is the last of the really big pieces of art, and certainly the most pricey of the group at $22,000: Restoration, an oil painting by Stephen Schultz.

That's all for tonight. Tomorrow I'll post the rest of the small art..