Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Busy August

There's been no sewing since the last post. I've been recovering from an oral surgery (I'm fine, really), entertaining guests and then this last weekend, attending my 40th high school reunion - oy vey. Tomorrow I board the train for a week with art quilting friends and a couple of former co-workers from my Tacoma days. So not much time for creativity. I was iffy about that class reunion, but through the magic of FaceBook, several of us had reconnected on-line (having no contact since the 10th reunion), so not as much awkwardness as might have been otherwise. In fact, we were so busy gabbing we forget to line everyone up for a group picture. This is just a small fraction of attendees, and we were joking that as usual, here was Gary and his harem. I really enjoyed talking with these classmates again, and it's always nice to go back to my hometown in such a beautiful setting.

We had a "mixer" Friday night at the Wallace Brewing Company, a micro brewery that was news to me (just over two years old). But I must admit, I really liked the Jackleg Cream Stout - very smooth for a dark beer. You can see from the business card that they are playing up the racy mining town reputation, but I did like their solution to the sluggish local economy. Turns out there's not only a connection to my class among the partners, but also a Sandpoint connection.

The buttons above the business card are two antler buttons I picked out at the Arts & Crafts fair on Saturday. The class reunions for an 11 year span were coupled with the annual Huckleberry Festival - it would appear, to make planning activities a bit easier. I opted out of most of the general activities, but did cruise the fair and then cruise the downtown. The central part was blocked off so food vendors and a stage for music entertainment could take over.

Most of the stores I knew while growing up are gone now, replaced by a multitude of antique stores and other tourist attractions. A few of the restaurants remain in one form or another. When I was in high school, Albi's Steak House was the nicest, fanciest place to eat in town, and where one took your prom date if you remembered to get reservations. It's still operating, but I was puzzled at what has moved in next to it.

Some of the 13 bars still remain as well. This one always intrigued me with it's sign and the fact that you had to go down those stairs to its basement location. It is named for the proprietor who's last name was Stein (and there was a Stein in my class), and the foam on the sign's stein had multiple little lights that flashed after dark. Love that sign and glad to see it still there.

Another period sign still intact is this advertisement for the motel that I believe was built in the 1960's. One of our classmates stayed there and reported nothing had changed - it was very retro. Again, we have the flashing little bulbs that sequence from bottom to top, exploding in the star and pointing the way to the motel. Don't ask about the little UFO thing sitting next to it - a more recent marketing ploy has labeled this town the center of the universe.

The historic railroad station no longer operates as one, but is a little museum with a gift shop. One of my classmate's father ran the station, and the family lived on the upper floor, which always fascinated me.

The town once had a 5 story hotel with an open cage elevator complete with human operator. They've made a nice little park on the corner it once occupied, and I was happy that they had saved this tiling that one walked over to enter the hotel's main doors which opened on the corner.

So some things remain the same, others have changed and if nothing else, you can always depend on the old buildings to sport some interesting details if you bother to look up, something I do these days. This building was not readily visible in my day, but now with other buildings gone, I see it has a very interesting facade which tells me it was built in 1916. Below are details from other buildings downtown.

Last but not least, what about this cool matching car and trailer?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Arts & Crafts Fair and Some Unfinished Business

This weekend was Sandpoint's annual Arts and Crafts fair where I not only tracked down one of my favorite potters of Klickitat Pottery, but also volunteered some time as a floater. Having done my share of vending at quilt shows and one outdoor Arts & Crafts show, I know how much work preparing and setting up is and how long the show days get, especially for the lone vendor with no friend or spouse to watch the booth when needing a break. One of the services POAC provides during this show is volunteers who will provide those breaks, and offer other help when needed. I must have "babysat" 8 or 10 booths in my 2 hour shift, and under my official status, had interesting chats with nearly every vendor. I felt this year's selection of vendors was particularly good, and should have come home with more business cards. Unlike POAC's art exhibits which focus on local artists, the Arts and Crafts Fair pulls artists from throughout the west. Here are a few websites to check out: Fire Creek Glass, Fluting From the Heart, Pottery Place Plus, Staci Schubert Custom Handcrafted Bags & Accessories.

On a personal note, I have finished my nephew's quilt, putting the last hand stitches in the binding this morning. I had hoped to get some pictures, especially because it was a nicely overcast day, but with overcast sometimes comes showers, and such was the case today. Well, I needed to steam it a bit anyway, so stay tuned - pictures to come. In the meantime, it is very good to have another piece of "unfinished business" finally crossed off the list.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Mixing Machine and Hand Quilting

If perchance you thought you heard a squeal of delight earlier today, it no doubt was just me, reveling in the fact that I have put the last of the quilting stitches in my nephew's quilt, although not without a little drama. The photo shows the center of the quilt, which I'd hand quilted around the interlocking motif and machine quilted curvy lines through the diamonds, stopping short of the plan yellow diamonds. I was sure that area between hand and machine quilting would need to be hand quilted, and while working on the other filler designs, had decided spirals would be the thing. So I boldly began by hand stitching with the blue thread used elsewhere...and it looked dreadful. Not to worry, I'll just do it in yellow thread so that it doesn't stand out so much. To my surprise, that looked dreadful as well.

There's an art to mixing hand and machine quilting. Not only do they cause different rates of shrinkage, but the lines themselves look so different - one hard and visible, the other broken and softer. With care, they can work well together as long as their differences are kept in mind. After a little contemplation, I could see that machine quilting the spirals made more visual sense. Once again with boldness, I threaded up the machine with the blue thread and free-motion quilted the spirals. I'm surprised that I like it so well, but I think if nothing else, it's speaking the same language as the quilting in the adjacent diamonds, is much less disruptive to the eye since the hand stitching around the motif shows so little. So done done done with the quilting,

And not a stitch too soon. This is all I have left of the Oliver Twist hand-dyed thread. It is lovely thread but the disadvantage is that you can rarely buy individual spools. This is the third spool of it that has gone into this quilt - the first from the usual 5 pack of coordinated colors, the other two from the "two of a kind" pack that gives you one spool of thread and a variety of coordinated cotton and rayon specialty threads. I have found uses for some of those specialty threads, but I surely did not need more of them. Fortunately, three spools were enough.

So now it's on to trimming and binding and creating a label. I've tracked the days spent working on this over the past 11 years, so I will be going back through my records and adding up the days. I think I kept track of the actual hours spent on the hand quilting - I hope so. I know a lot of hours have gone into this quilt and I'm curious to find out just how ambitious a project I devised for myself.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Trip to City Beach

We are having a string of, in my opinion, perfect summer days: temps into the 80's, cooling breezes off the lake, overnight temps dropping into the 40's so the house cools off for easy slumber. Although I can park myself around the side of the house and view the lake, this afternoon I craved less solitude while I enjoyed the nice weather and worked on my newspaper blackout obits (view this week's offerings here). So I packed up a bag with the Sunday obituaries, a sketchbook, a magazine and a book, grabbed a lawn chair and headed for city beach.

Yes, I left the camera at home because I really need to sketch, and I haven't for a long time. As I looked for a good spot to set up my chair, I noticed a gull perched on top of a street lamp. One of the reasons I don't sketch more is that I convince myself there's nothing I'm that interested in spending my time on. Yes, I know this is a lame excuse. And I sometimes try to tell myself there's nothing more to sketch down at the park. I've already sketched sailboats on the water, a sunbather reading a book, gulls lined up along the log boom, one of the park benches. So sketch your sandals, if nothing else, and I suppose I would have had I not looked up and seen that gull.

One of the things that has fascinated me for a long time is that special perspective one gets looking up at an object. It's not as easy to capture in 2-dimensions as I thought it would be. This would be a good opportunity to give it a go.

Let me tell you, it's not so easy getting angles right when you have to crane your neck then look down at your sketchpad rather than the usual set-up of having your subject in nearly the same plane as where you are drawing. Yes, I was too self conscious to hold the pad up to compare. If I had not told you the perspective, would you have known?

I didn't spend a great deal of time on the gull, although he sat in relatively the same position for adequate lengths of time. What a ham. Just as I decided I'd done enough on the lamp post and maybe should tweak the bird a bit, he was gone. Ok, I'll take the hint. Enough time spent on this exercise.

I never got to the book or the magazine - I wasn't sure how long I'd stay or what I'd feel like doing once there and the obits were done so I brought plenty of diversions. Sometimes it's just enough to enjoy the view and draw interest and energy from the variety of people who take advantage of this free setting - from teenagers congregating to parents with young children to all sorts just reading or walking, having a picnic or taking a dip in the lake. I often forget that our area draws tourists from all over the world, especially in the summer, but was reminded today as I listened in on conversations in heavily accented English, German and Chinese or Korean. Seriously, who would think this little Podunk berg in Northern Idaho could pull such a crowd?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Eye Magnet

I steal that title from an article by Greg Albert in the October 2010 issue of The Artist's Magazine. It critiques a painting by Ruth S. Bodycott, noting both strengths and suggestions for improvement, noting "A good composition can always be improved..."

But it's not the ways to improve that I want to share today. It is his simple definition of two principles of composition: focal point and center of interest. I know I've run across these before, but this brought a sudden clarity to my mind.

"A focal point attracts the eye; a center of interest attracts the mind."

Isn't that wonderful? And it gets to the core of my design struggles, especially when I work abstractly. I may manage a lovely composition complete with focal point, but am I doing anything with the composition to titillate the viewer's mind? A pretty picture is not enough. And I take this one step further. Is my use of fabric and stitch creating an attraction for the mind as well?

Albert also talks about asymmetry as used in this painting as effective - the face being off-center with a slant throwing the eyes off alignment with the horizontal. I could not help but remember the suggestion of the teacher in the first quilting class I took. Arranging blocks on a design wall, she noted, "A quilt is always more interesting when the blocks are set on point." Any degree of off kilter automatically adds tension and thus interest.

For an online and more detailed discussion, follow this link. To view the painting referenced here, "Dots, Stripes & Baby", follow this link.