Tuesday, November 30, 2010

View from my Studio...

Now you'd think this would be enough to keep me in the studio working. This is what I can look up and see from the sewing machine.

And this when working at the cutting table.

So why did I have such a hard time getting in there and staying in there today? It's not like I woke up thinking, darn, I HAVE to work in the studio today. No, I was excited that I had nothing else on the agenda today, and so could focus solely on getting lots done. But it didn't happen. No sooner did I turn on the machine than the phone rang and it was my brother calling to catch up. Then I let myself get sidetracked on the computer. Just as I was sitting down to lunch, a friend called. After that I decided I may as well shovel my way to the mailbox and do whatever other shoveling needed doing. Then a short walk in the snow to clear my head. NOW I should have no trouble devoting the rest of the day to sewing.

Here's what I was working on, was supposed to finish today, and maybe get started on more. These are my Harvest Moon postcards which are so simple and quick that it is embarrassing that I've dawdled on them. I pondered for days how best to construct them, how to get a nice smooth appliqued curve on that moon, how to avoid handwork but still have a finish I liked. And then the head smackin' "Duh!" moment when I realized this was just my mariner compass sewn into a frame on a smaller scale. I am so comfortable with that method, I can't believe it took me so long to think of it.

It was simple to make templates of freezer paper, drawing the arc with a compass, mark the sewing line and hash marks once they were ironed onto the fabric. It took no time to pin and sew that one seam. I decided not to add batting to these, so the top is layered with decor bond to stabilize it for the free motion stitching of the trees. Once that was done, I fused it onto the back which is also stabilized with decor bond.

And there is where I got stuck. I'm not sure I want to trim these to 4 x 6 and satin stitch around the outside. One will be framed for the upcoming mini exhibit, and I'm thinking I may want mat it, using the excess fabric to tape it in place. Of course, I don't know what color mat, or what frame I'm putting it in, and and and...well, you can see how I might start turning in circles not sure what to do next. So I just left them on the table, the finished dimensions chalked on. And then couldn't make myself do anything else, even though I have plenty to choose from. If I can get out of my driveway tomorrow, I'll head to Ben Franklin and see if I can get some ideas about matting.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Gift from a Friend

I've had this now for a few weeks, but have just loaded it up and gotten a picture of it. It's a belated birthday gift from friend Cindy, who has been making multiples of this handy fabric caddy. Personally, I think she's insane, what with TWO zippered pockets on the outside and all those little pockets lining the sides of the interior. All I can say is thank you so much, because I would not have the patience to make even one for myself!

I wasn't sure what I would fill it with, knowing most quilters would use it for scissors, rotary cutters, maybe rulers and the like. I already have a basket on my worktable for some of that, and a nice ruler caddy. But mostly, I have no room to set this in my sewing room, so cluttered am I. Instead, I thought of all the paint brushes and other painting tools I keep in the big measuring cup (which then becomes problematic when I want to use the cup for measuring). And the bottles of glue, medium and other odds and ends not actually paint (which I already have a container for). I definitely have room for something like this on the table where I use my paints, and once I started testing those pockets out, I knew I'd found the perfect use for it. Thanks again, Cindy, I love it!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's Very White Out There Today

This is what I woke up to this morning. Since about Wednesday, Mother Nature has been toying with us, giving as a few inches of fluffy snow here, a few there, nothing to get excited about. Yesterday afternoon the temps were on the cusp - so precipitation became more freezing rain than snow.

But the warnings were out for our area to get 7-10 inches of fresh snow by the end of the day and this time they were correct. When I made my way to the paperbox via snow shovel, I could see that our accumulation for the past week is well within about a foot. Just beautiful...if like me, you have nowhere to go.

I always run my photos through Core Paint Shop Pro for sizing and tweaking before putting them up on the blog. The program always saves your last setting on things like brightness/contrast, and the last thing I worked on apparently needed a lot of contrast adjustment. I was totally shocked when I used the adjustment to lighten up the top photo a tad and this is what flashed on the screen! Ooh my - do we love that texture or what? Can't you see that printed out as fabric? Doesn't this show how one goes from representational to abstraction? By increasing the brightness, there's even more fade of the white areas, more sketchiness of the black lines (click on the photo for larger view where the difference between the two photos is more visible and you may also see some tinges of red along the top). Giving me ideas...

But for now, I think I'll just take a walk out in the real thing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Retropective Thanks

It's Thanksgiving Day here in America, and it has been a pretty quiet one for me. It's been snowing - maybe 4 inches of beautiful light snow to freshen up the view - and I am home from sharing dinner with some of my church family. My contribution was a batch of yams fixed up Chinese style - simmered with slices of ginger, drained, mashed and mixed with sugar. This year has been a wild ride for me, and any thankfulness I share today is basically because the ride seems to be slowing down, and I am becoming whole again.

But the wild ride is just beginning for the families of 29 miners trapped and presumed dead in a mine in New Zealand. I'm not seeing much news coverage of this here, only know about it because of my fellow blogger and art quilter Shirley Goodwin. She is requesting heart blocks which will be made into quilts for all the families, hopefully enough for each child to receive his or her own quilt. Such a generous heart that woman has. And since my dad worked in the mines most of his life, and my brothers also did their stints underground, all without major mishap but never without the womenfolk in fear of it, how could I not answer her request. I am so thankful that I did not have to go through what those 29 families are now experiencing.

So I am quickly making up some blocks - the ones here are ready for some stitching around the applique - and slipping them into the mail. If you would like to join me, contact Shirley through Facebook where she's posted the details or through her blog, Dyeing2Design.

Here's a link to one of the more recent news stories about the disaster.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back to work & Getting Ideas

After a bit of foot dragging, I'm back in the studio. Well, I justified the foot dragging as necessary clean-up of both house and studio, and catch-up with my documentation. But as fabric got put away, the work tabletop reappeared and photos got printed and attached to files, I felt that hesitation that sets in after a major project has been completed and it is unclear what direction to head next. There's a miniature exhibit coming up, so I'd been considering making some fabric postcards to frame and enter. I've been wanting to make more based on my photo of the moon reflecting off the lake as well as some with birch trees, so why was I hesitating - nothing scarily new here. Once I got my sketchbook out with my "pattern" and the fabrics, something clicked, and all hesitation vanished. Here I have started the "accidental landscape" layering of sky then mountain over my decor bond and batting base (click on the picture for a larger view). I don't know why I didn't think of it before, using the black batting - it solves the problem I had before of too much white showing around the edge, potentially peaking through the satin stitching around the outside. Fortuitous that while searching through the rubble still covering part of the work table, I ran across some strips trimmed off another quilt.

That afternoon, I picked up my August/September issue of Quilting Arts and read the interview with artist Jeanette Gilks. I was a little surprised, but greatly encouraged by what she said in response to the question "Tell us about your approach."

"There is a moment at the beginning of every new work when you feel inexperienced and terrified, like a child on its first day at school. You wonder if you know enough and whether or not the work will be good enough."

Oh, yeah - that is exactly how I'd felt earlier in the day, how I often feel when starting up a new work. She goes on:

"As the work evolves, though, and you begin to chat together, you make suggestions as the work tells you what it needs...Your intention and the intention of the artwork don't always synchronize; you need to negotiate all the time."

Again, this is what I experience. It's nice to know it's not just because I'm not as experienced or well-trained or educated as artists who have made a name for themselves.

I usually don't like repeating myself, duplicating previous designs. I've done variations, but even then, they are usually quite different from the original idea. But I love this image so much, love it when the time of year arrives when I can see this out my bedroom window, that making more little pieces of art nearly identical hasn't bothered me. It has been very enjoyable. In the process, it has reminded me of another moon picture I took for reference - a harvest moon rising over the trees. So once these moon-over-the-lake ones get satin stitched, I'll be trying out a harvest moon design as just sketched (again, you can click the picture for a larger view). And after that, I may revisit my strawberry moon idea. Oh, the joy of creative flow...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I haven't exactly been "fiscally responsible" lately. First it was these beautiful hand spun yarns from Connie Rose. (Yes, the ribbons indicate that they are award winning yarns!) There are a variety of fibers, all luscious and in the earth tones I'm drawn to. They are truly a splurge since I have no idea what I'll do with them. But that seems to be the way I've been buying yarn lately, single skeins of special yarns that have a special feel or a special look. They eventually find a home.

Then it was a stop at Bear Paw Quilting in Coeur d'Alene on my way home from having the car serviced. I've heard a lot about this shop, and it has gotten quite the press lately. While other quilt shops are going under or closing for other reasons at an alarming rate, this shop outgrew its original location in a small strip mall and built it's own bigger store next to a Fred Meyer. I've been here 4 years and had never checked it out, knowing darn well if it was as great as everyone said, I'd not get out unscathed. I couldn't pass up these two batiks, nor the chance to stock up on my favorite King Tut thread that I can no longer buy closer to home.

This beautiful seam ripper is another recent addition to my sewing room, but without taxing my pocketbook. It's a belated birthday gift from my brother who knows the guy who hand-makes them. It takes some of the sting out of "unsewing" errant stitching and adds a splash of color to the basket of scissors and such where it resides when not in use. Thanks!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Are "Happy Accidents" Art?

Somewhere along the line, I got the notion that I shouldn't take credit for an artistic result that was merely the product of chance and my ability to recognize a good thing when I saw it. I'm uncomfortable if I have not come up with the idea or technique myself. Then again, I've come to the conclusion that not everyone can recognize a happy accident for anything but an unwelcomed and frustrating deviation from an intent. Accidents are often how we learn, and a discerning eye critical for an artist.

I recently ran across another take on this issue, an exuberant one at that from the blog of Edward Winkleman - it's worth a read, especially if you have trouble letting go in the studio: What are you really doing in your studio (pt 1)

Part 2 is here - do not go into it lightly. It is lengthy and full of meat to chew on...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Sampling of the What If Exhibit

I promised quite awhile ago to give you a bit of a tour of POAC's What If exhibit, and at last, I've some pictures to share. Above are my two entries: "Lights of Las Vegas" and "Dance."

Across from mine are these paintings by Bill Klein. I overheard him explaining how he laid down masking tape to get the shapes.

Also across from me these lovely paintings by Catherine Isele.

These are digital art by Steve Wylie - a favorite of mine.

And these are art quilts by Marty Bowne.

This large unframed, unstretched canvas is a painting called "Fall is in the Air" by Stephen Scroggins. He explained to me that he sells quite a bit of work on the east coast and Europe, and his customers like the ease with which these large pieces of art can be transported and hung.

On this particular piece, he drizzled yarn over the surface and added more paint.

This is a photo on canvas called "Amber" by Staci Bailey.

For variety, Darlene Pfahl exhibited her exquisite jewelry.

And Rob Payne added his birch-trimmed mirror.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Thank You On Veteran's Day

I'm a bit late getting this up, but I do indeed appreciate the sacrifice our Veterans have made in the service of our country. Three of my four brothers served. This is my oldest brother Waine, who was a helicopter mechanic in the Air Force in the late 1950's.

Next in line, brother Joe, who served in the Army in the early 1960's. I don't recall exactly what he did, but I remember him being stationed at Fort Ord in California.

Max served six years in the Navy mostly working with computers I believe. Oddly enough, I can't find any pictures of him in uniform - how could that be? So you'll have to make do with this shot taken in 1968 shortly after he got out and the one of his ship.

The last brother in line is Bruce, and nothing left for him but the Marines. But no, he did not enlist in the Marines or any other branch of the service. I'm not totally sure why, short of him always saying he was a lover, not a fighter. The military's not for everyone. Can't resist adding this picture of him from I think the late 60's. Gosh, we were all so young and good looking back then...

Finally, this is my nephew Doug (Joe's son) who is making a bit of a career of the Army. He is currently in Iraq for his second (or possibly 3rd) tour there and really likes the army life.

Kudos to you all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Catching my eye

I go through stages where different shapes or textures or colors suddenly catch my attention. For a long time it was grids, and then more recently odd triangular shapes. About this time last year, I noticed my eye being drawn to a new shape, a new inspiration, basically the gentle arcing of fan shapes. I was seeing in the wings of various birds a possible new arrangement for my triangle shapes, although I haven't been able to work that out with any success yet.

But that hasn't stopped my eye from being attracted to additional photographs of wings. Some of the more interesting ones seem to be of the wing as drawn forward, not what my mind instinctively things of.

But the lovely easy drape of feathers along an extended wing is pure poetry and gives me insight as to where the women of the 1800's found inspiration for their elaborate feather quilting designs. Surely I will find my own way to incorporate these shapes.

I also noticed another part of a bird giving me that lovely fan shape, in a slightly more asymmetrical way - a crest.

These photos are from National Wildlife Magazine, where I also spotted this one of giant clams; I have scanned it next to some antique reproduction fabric from my stash. I've always known that these designs were supposedly based on clam shells, but they rather puzzled me. Not very much like the clam shells I was used to. But now that I have been introduced to the giant clam, boy do I see the connection!

Monday, November 08, 2010


We get so used to seeing things a certain way. Allowing a change in perspective can open up new avenues, exciting ones. When auditioning fabrics for "Willow" I pulled batiks that I'd had for a long time. The one above was marked 1998, and I'd never used the 1/2 yard length. As I considered it for my sky, I rued that there was so much light blue blotches - I was looking for something a little more medium blue and mottled. Maybe this was why I'd not found a use for it yet. Not until I considered how it would be quilted did I see those blotches as clouds - the perfect sky!

I've had this fabric for nearly as long - liked it enough to buy it in two colorways. I've used it several times, to represent grasses along water.

No doubt my seeing it as grass is influenced by, yes, this type of grass I see all the time.

But because my mind was on willows, when I pulled it from the stash and gave it a turn, well, don't those look like willow branches hanging down now? Truly never saw that before, and now it has sparked an idea for another willow quilt.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Opening Reception: Flora and Fauna of Northern Idaho

I must admit I'm a little stunned at the response to "Willow" at last night's opening reception for POAC's Flora and Fauna Of Northern Idaho exhibit at Panhandle State Bank. It got more than polite comments or that one person really taken with it. Many viewers verged on gushing over it, spending time pointing out to me all the things that worked well, what they liked about it. Oh my - several people called it a show stopper. One felt it was the best piece in the exhibit. I'm just happy that the things I hoped I was getting across actually did, like the branches swayed in a breeze. And it was especially fun to have a woman point out something I had not noticed: faces in the sky. It took me a bit to see what she was seeing, but by golly, she was right. Think cartoon clouds that are faces screwed up ready to blow a big wind.

Well, if mine really was a show stopper, it wasn't the only one. I didn't get many pictures as it would be better to go back during the day and take advantage of the natural light, but there were some spectacular photographs and paintings of wildflowers. The flash is really not helping here - this is a large and stunning piece.

And of course, moose and mountain lions were represented. I particularly like this cat.

No opening reception would be complete without good food and wine. And since it's Idaho, that big urn of punch has huckleberries in it. This is Carol Deaner who coordinates the exhibits at the bank. I affectionately refer to her as my handler - she does a great job of herding us sometimes unruly artists.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Another definition of art

From an article in the June 2010 issue of The Artist's Magazine, Rudolf Stussi talks about the fifth perspective, but I think his thoughts here apply to any work of art:

"Art is a subjective practice - not about reflecting the world, but rather restructuring the world through the experience and knowledge as well as the fantasy of the creator. Art is an effort to garner new insights and, most importantly, to transmit them. Not to mince words, art is communication, a process of inspiring others to take a new look at things they thought they knew. Therefore, on some levels, art must be accessible to others. Because my pictures have a recognizable subject matter, viewers find a connection, which then carries them through the more unfamiliar and bizarre aspects of the painting and leads them to new understanding or, perhaps even better, new mystification! In this unique way, the fifth perspective combines the power of observation with the freedom of the imagination."

I particularly like the part about garnering new insights and transmitting them. That is what I try to do.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

"Flora & Fauna of Northern Idaho" Exhibit

23" x 30" Art Quilt
Sheila Mahanke Barnes 2010

Here I am running right down to the wire again, but I am pleased to say "Willow" is finished and I am very happy with the results. (Click on any picture for a larger view.) It, plus "Willow Leaves II" and "January" will go up tomorrow at the Panhandle State Bank as part of POAC's invitational exhibit, "Flora & Fauna of Northern Idaho." The opening reception is this Friday, details at the end of this post for any of you able to attend.

I admit to having a lot of misgivings as I worked through this design idea, most of them concerning technical execution. (See these posts: It Begins, Playing to Your Strengths, Stitch Stitch Stitching, Unstuck) But once I got past that, I inevitably bumped up against how I would finish off the quilt. From the beginning, I felt it would have some kind of a border, but because of the intense quilting, adding a traditional border with little or no quilting after the fact would be challenging if not impossible to pull off. Yet something was needed to give the quilt stability if nothing else. Once the quilted top was blocked, I could see I just had to square it up and figure out how to make an edge finish work. Here is how it looked on my design wall while I pondered my options.

I amused myself with imagined discussion with the art quilters I know who often suggest no border or binding at all, just turning the edge to the back with a facing.
I had gone from questioning how good the quilt itself looked to really liking it, so I could imagine it free and unrestrained on the gallery wall. So while I admit it was one option I considered, I was worried that it would not be enough to give a clean, unwavering edge to the piece. Would I have to add stabilizer to the facing? Would I need to fuse another fabric over the back?

Then I remembered a mounting method I developed for use on smaller quilts and realized this was the solution provided I could find the right fabric. As I auditioned various ones, I was totally amazed at what the batik I ended up using did to elevate my quilt from ordinary to special, at least in my eyes. It created an additional feel of mountains and lakes while bringing the eye's attention to the real story.

The mount is simply your front and back fabric stabilized with Decor Bond fusible interfacing, sewn wrong sides together around the outside and then turned inside out. The quilted top is then center on it and stitched in place. To cover the raw edges on this quilt, I couched decorative threads over them: the dark brown perle cotton used to extend the branches in the quilt, an Oliver Twist hand-dyed perle cotton and a chenille thread from the same group of Oliver Twist decorative threads. I loosely twisted the three threads together as I stitched them down with a wide zigzag using invisible thread. You can see more specific instructions for this type of finishing option on this post.

This is the largest quilt I've used this mounting method on, and although it was a little tricky to keep things square, once in place, the overall effect is exactly what I hoped for, it hangs very nice and flat. Yeah!!!

And here are the particulars on the exhibit and opening reception:

POAC & Panhandle State Bank PRESENT:
"Flora & Fauna of North Idaho"

Nov. 5, 2010 - Feb. 24, 2011

Opening Reception

Friday, Nov. 5 2010
5:30 - 7:00 pm

In the Atrium of Panhandle State Bank

Free and open to the public

POAC’s “Out and About”
Art Reception

The Pend Oreille Arts Council and Panhandle State Bank extend an invitation to everyone to attend the opening of Flora & Fauna of North Idaho, an exhibition featuring more than 20 local POAC member artists. The artist reception will be held on Friday, November 5 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm, in the Atrium of the Panhandle State Bank at 4th and Church Streets in Sandpoint, Idaho.

The “Out and About” program exhibits original art at various locations around Sandpoint. Kim Queen, Executive Director of POAC said, “We have long been known for our gallery in the Power House building on Lake Street, with unique, themed exhibits and exciting opening receptions to meet the artists. However, the Power House isn’t the only place to savor the artistic flavor of North Idaho. We have been working diligently out in the community, to bring art to the places where you are, “Out and About”, every day.”

“Out and About” displays art at seven different local locations. It is bringing art to our residents and, at the same time, introducing some great artists to the community. In addition to the Panhandle State Bank, the other locations are Northern Lights, Starbucks, Bonner General Hospital, University of Idaho Extension Services, Taylor-Parker Motor Company, and Spokane Teachers Credit Union. These exhibits will be changing every 3 months, throughout the year. Kim invites everyone to stop by any and all locations, view the art, and thank the businesses for being involved in “Out & About”.

The Pend Oreille Arts Council exists to facilitate and present the finest quality experiences in the arts for the people of the Sandpoint area and beyond. For more information on “Out & About” locations and artists represented, contact POAC at 263-6139, by e-mail at poac@sandpoint.net, visit the website at www.artinsandpoint.org, or become a Fan on Facebook.

This exhibit will be on display through Feb. 24, 2011.