Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Here it is the last day of the year, and I am still in a cheerful mood. The year is going out on a high of sorts, at least my mood is high. The sun made an appearance, weak through the thin clouds but sun all the same, brightening all rooms of the house. Thank goodness for lists, by the way. In the aftermath of the mostly pleasant distractions of the holiday, I could not think beyond one thing what it was I wanted to address as December's contribution to "the plan". I unearthed the list and...oh my. Quite a bit and not many days left. It was a happy discovery though, as "continue quilting on Masks" was one of the items, and I had not touched it all month. I picked it up as I watched a little tv this morning and it was like a treat.

Later, I continued yesterday's work on the 3 x 3 discharge piece (really gotta come up with a better name for it). Still puzzling how to flatten the circle centers (didn't like either attempt yesterday) and what else to do around the outside.

I've also returned to a thought which followed the making of Willow. I thought I'd done at least one sketch of a possible layout but couldn't find it. This is frustrating me a lot because the idea was very clear in my head, but I can't seem to make it happen on paper. I ran across something yesterday which gave me an idea for a border and did a rough sketch. Today, the thinking is progressing, curves coming to mind, and I spent a little time paging through a book for ideas.

I'm needing to get creative because of a shortage of fabric. When I got the fabric out that had sparked the idea, I instantly remembered why I'd set it aside for so long. That blue on the left is what I want as background for rectangles of the leaf batiks. But it is only 9 inches wide and not the full width of the cut anymore. The other fabrics are a few I pulled which are similar but not as perfect, and equally small in quantity. I'm trying to think of a way I might piece a background, and that is what led me to the thought of curves. Part of me mourns the inability to capture and execute the original idea, another part of me thinks that inability is leading to a more interesting design. So much for what I thought might be a quick quilt to throw together. But I like that my mind is working again, not blocked for solutions as it has been much of the year. All in all, it's been a delightful day.

So this is a different ending to the year than I often have. No rush to get the last stitches in something to say I finished it in 2011. No feeling of disappointment or failure because I did not do everything I thought to do. No "the year can't end soon enough" nor a "I don't want to see it go" - the year had its ups and downs but overall it was a good one, with lots of growth and healing, and ending in pleasant peace. I can't help but think the new year will only build on this, a slow and steady progression to more good things so I face it without qualms. I hope you are feeling the same sense of satisfaction and hope.

Can't wait to crack open the champagne and toast the New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cheerfulness a deterrent?

"Eggplant ala Albars"
12" x 12" Art Quilt
Gerrie Condon 2011

"Being cheerful is really no recipe to get down to work: nothing happens until paranoia, jealousy, competitiveness and guilt arrive."

Oh dear, could this be my problem this week? I had envisioned quiet, carefree days between Christmas and New Years in which to spend some quality time in the studio. But here it is Thursday already and I am just getting in there this afternoon to finish up that 4th Mountain Ash Berries postcard that I am keeping for myself, and pull fabric for a new art piece. I find I am still surrounded by a lovely bubble of warmth and love from the holiday preparations as well as cards, greetings and gifts from friends and family. In other words, I am very cheery as I write my thank you notes and go about the ordinary business of my life. Well, guilt does lie just around the corner, I feel it. But as for paranoia, jealousy and competitiveness, those don't factor into my creativity much anymore, nor when they do, do they really help in getting me "down to work." I don't subscribe to the angst philosophy of producing art. What may motivate most is admiration, not jealousy, which then makes me want to elevate my own work in response, but not in a competitive way.

Contributing to my glowing well-being is the little quilt above. I won it in a drawing on Gerrie Congdon's blog, and as if it were one more Christmas gift, it arrived just a few days before that holiday. It is one of several that she did for the Twelve by Twelve "eggplant" color challenge and it is lovely. Made from silk, it is quilted in a grid with various colors of thread. I love that effect and how the thread color plays tricks on the eye to make it believe the fabric underneath varies in color as well. I want to do more of this sort of thing myself in the new year.

But for now, off to cheerfully finish up my postcard...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Greetings of the season regardless of your beliefs. It's that warm fuzzy time of the year, and I hope that you are enjoying it in some way with the special people in your life, and also remembering those who have made past Christmases a sweet memory. I don't do much in the way of decorating anymore, finding I am quite satisfied with this little tree surrounded by the cards & presents that have been coming in. A bonus was waking this morning to softly falling snow. I was sure the weatherman said last night not to expect any until later in the day, and then not much, followed by snow/rain mix after dark. An ugly thought with people going out to services this evening - including me although I don't have far to go. Instead, this steady light snow has already left a couple of inches making it definitely feel like Christmas.

Also making it feel like Christmas was the arrival of Mr. FedEx with this package. I instantly knew what waited within since I got a similar one for my birthday - chocolate covered strawberries. I lost no time doing as the box instructed...yum! In addition to the fruit, that's a very large chocolate wreath loaded with half a dozen different kinds of nuts. That's my kind of chocolate.

Lest this all be about me, I'm also taking time today to bake cookies for some last minute gifts and write a few checks to charitable causes. I had an unexpected number of art sales this year (the most recent just a few days ago) after a discouraging 3 years of none. It appeared that once I gave up on the idea that my work would sell in an economy where many struggled to meet their basic financial obligations, that letting go allowed it to happen - in its own time I'm thinking. Whatever the reason for my success this year, I am grateful for the patronage of not only a few friends, but also a total stranger. I'm not sure why I needed the validation of that total stranger more than validation from friends, but I thought I did. Further reflection makes me realize I should not discount the importance of anyone wishing to put forth money for my art, whether they know me or not. Perhaps that should be the most important validation of all, that coming from friends. At any rate, it reminded me that in the past I've always donated a percentage of my quilting income to charity, and I needed to figure out where to send this delightfully large sum of money. I'm thinking The Heifer Project may be just the thing - looking at shares of a llama that would provide wool and income to a Peruvian family and shares of a sheep that would provide wool & income to an Arizona family - fiber being a nice tie-in. May you too find a way to share whatever bit of abundance that has come to you this year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mountain Ash Snow Berries Fabric Postcards

I put the finishing touches on these around midnight last night. A last row of red stitching next to the satin stitched edges. (Click on photo for larger view.) They are now tucked in Christmas cards and on on their way...

Yes, I started with four, but that fourth one became a "prototype" of experimentation, trying to hit upon a thread color that pleased me. My meager collection of reds were all similar in value to each other and to the fabric they were to lie on. The rayon just didn't give the effect of berries that I had in mind, a dark brown was simply not right. If you look closely at mountain ash berries, you will see they are more orange then red, so I thought, aha! that orange polylite thread that has come in so handy lately will surely do the trick. But no, it too wasn't what I had in mind. (It's the lower three in the picture above and the center finished postcard in the top picture. You can see how it makes the red fabric look more orange than the same fabric stitched with reds.) I actually picked out the stitching on one semi-circle, no mean feat when you have double-stitched a circle with tiny stitches. It was a bad day at the office.

Then in conversation with a friend, two things happened. I was reminded of the technique of blending your own color by passing two different threads through the eye of the needle. And I remembered I had some red silk thread stashed away with my supplies for Baltimore Album blocks. There was a darker, almost reddish brown thread in there that on its own was too dark, but which toned down the red rayon just enough when paired with it to give more definition against the red fabric. (You can see in the previous pictures several of those blending trials with other thread colors.) The difference is subtle, but what I was looking for.

So what do you think? Is this a design idea worthy of further exploration in a larger format? I'm thinking yes. Got ideas or comments? Please share!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mountain Ash Berries

Priorities scolded "no", the muses encouraged "yes". You can see who won out. Just had an overwhelming urge to start playing with this idea inspired by the mountain ash berries covered with snow. Too often I put off moving ahead with something so long that I lose the idea. Not this time. Besides, it's on my list of goals for the month.

And now I'm off to the reception for "Cabin Fever."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

POAC Exhibit "Cabin Fever"

"Poppies & Peonies"
23" x 18" Art Quilt
Sheila Mahanke Barnes 2011

We hung the latest POAC exhibit yesterday, and yes, I got my quilt finished for it. "Poppies & Peonies" is my response to the theme of Cabin Fever - I always look forward to them blooming next to the house once winter is over and the weather warms again. On their face, they are not particularly tropical in nature, but using their orange and red palette in this piece does make me think a bit tropically.

Remember me saying I felt the need to work both larger and with more stitching? As I quilted away on the ferns in the background batik, I began thinking of this piece as my "return to stitch" - this is so much more heavily quilted than my other pieces this year. An unexpected (or perhaps just unremembered) advantage of such dense stitching is that it produced a very stable and flat piece once steamed. No stretching along the sides when I applied binding and couched that bit of yarn along the binding seam.

We have such a great crew at POAC. It made it a little less intimidating for my first time co-coordinating an exhibit. Still, with 37 artists submitting up to 3 pieces each, it takes about 5 hours to group and hang the art.

We've started asking artists to submit a framed artist bio or statement to hang with their art. Still, each piece of art gets its own hand-written gallery card. Karen & I were comparing notes as to which was worse - muscle cramps from wrestling large framed paintings up high or muscle cramps from filling out those cards.

Here's just a tiny sampling of the creative responses to our theme. I'll post better pictures later.

If you're in the area, please stop by - either for the reception tomorrow night or before the exhibit comes down in February. Details below:

“Cabin Fever” Exhibit opens December 16

The opening reception for the Pend Oreille Arts Council’s provocative new art exhibit will be Friday, December 16, from 5:30-7 p.m. in the POAC Gallery, in the Power House, 120 Lake Street in Sandpoint. Entitled Cabin Fever, the exhibit features exceptional new works from more than 30 of POAC’s member artists.

"Cabin Fever seemed the perfect theme for our exhibit that falls during the dead of winter,” says Sheila Barnes, one of the co-coordinators of Cabin Fever. “We envisioned our gallery creating a cozy respite, full of colorful art sweeping viewers away to exotic places or warm seasons. We all get cabin fever from time to time, and we all deal with it differently. We hope you will join us and see how our artists deal with it, escaping with them for awhile.”

The diversity of media and subject matter in this exhibit is extraordinary, and offers a great opportunity to enjoy a wonderful trip into some interesting perspectives, ideas, and beauty. Oil, acrylic, watercolor, photography, ceramics, jewelry, fiber and sculpture will be represented, and most of the work will be for sale to the public – just in time for the holidays! The reception is free and the public is encouraged to attend. Cabin Fever will remain on display through February 17, 2012.

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. POAC hosts performing arts events and visual arts events throughout the year. For more information, contact POAC at 263-6139, e-mail at, become a ‘Fan’ on Facebook, or visit the website at

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Part

At last, the part for my sewing machine has arrived and has now replaced the troublesome one above. Tomorrow, machine quilting can begin in earnest. It had better, as I have just under a week to finish Poppies & Peonies for the next exhibit. Who would think it would take over a month to get a simple part like this for a machine that is still in production?

My repairman was surprisingly indignant at the cost of this part. It's just a molded piece of plastic that slips over the end of the metal shaft that moves up and down, held in place by an Allen screw (top). It has a wee bit of metal wire to keep the thread from swinging wild and a smaller hole in the bottom to insert the needle, held by another screw (lower). If you look closely you can see how that lower screw broke off below the surface of this part, inaccessible and thus causing the purchase of the replacement part at $30. If I had not had an extra screw, that would have cost me another $7. Thank goodness, my repairman did not also tack on labor for switching the parts out.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Thankful for the Sun

Yes, the sun made an appearance today, taking the edge off an otherwise chill day. As I stood by the lake, soaking it in, I chanced to look up at the big willow, that sun lighting up its branches. So often, I see it only as a silhouette.

I'm guessing you gray naysayers like this juxtaposition of yellow better.

There was red too. I never remember the name of the bush that produces such a thick array of red berries each fall.

Out on the lake, the water was setting up interesting lines and angles, driven by the uneven bed below.

And up in the sky, the moon shared space with some clouds.

Couldn't help it - that jet trailing contrails looking all in the world like it was headed directly for the moon reminded me of scenes in old sci-fi movies.

Just when I thought I was done shooting pictures, I chanced to take one more look back as I passed by the willow tree. Framed within the branches was the moon, and I got some great shots using the zoom, even without a tripod. Some decidedly artsy ones below.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Playing Telephone

My cousin, Laura, sent me a little challenge, a box that is making the rounds in a game of Telephone. To be honest, this is not a game I played when young, except for once at a youth group where it totally fell flat. The idea is that whatever is whispered to the first person will become totally distorted by the time it is whispered to the last. In my case, it was faithfully repeated the entire way around, much to the consternation of the adult leading the activity. I've seen the quilter's version of telephone in one of the popular magazines, and frankly, I thought most of the participants took huge liberties in interpreting what was "whispered" to them. In many cases, I could not see the connection at all.

So here it is my turn and I can now see how easy it is to take a big leap. Above is what my cousin "whispered" to me. I thought all week about it, mostly sussing out the meaning of the quotation from Shakespeare. I'm not sure the casual observer can see the connection between her piece and mine, but in my mind, it is there. By the way, this is not a fiber specific challenge as participants are to respond on supplied 5-1/2" by 8" cardstock, but my cousin thought it might be interesting to add that dimension so sent it my way. I used bits and pieces of leftovers from the Strawberry Moon series and eyes I'd printed on TAP and transferred to fabric for use on Masks. Those eyes did not turn out at all as I'd envisioned so they were looking for a home. The poem is one I wrote earlier in the year. It's not great art but this was a nice little diversion today while I continue to wait for my sewing machine part to arrive.

Friday, December 02, 2011

December Goals

I get a big kick out of Austin Kleon's newspaper blackout horoscopes. Above is mine for December - something to think about and it makes me smile. You can see all of December's horoscopes here. As for what I think I'll really do in terms of "The Plan", looks like December will be more of the same in terms of goals - having to move a lot of November forward. Actually, I know that setting these goals won't necessarily result in everything on the list each month getting done. Life happens, priorities change, and one must always be open to following the muse who does not always like what's on the list. However, it is very helpful to me to have a basic framework, something I can go to on those days when I can't think what to do. And past experience tells me that by setting frequent goals, I'll be less likely to look back with regret and more likely to be able to work at a sane pace to complete work for events I want to be a part of. It's part organizer, part motivator. So at the risk of sounding redundant plus overly ambitious, here's what I hope to work on this month:
  1. Quilt and bind Poppies & Peonies for December exhibit
  2. Quilt 3x3 discharge piece. Possibly experiment with cutout and suspending plate
  3. Sketch full-size patterns for shadow grass & fall furrows
  4. Play with mountain ash berries idea (in postcard format)
  5. Work up abstract willow idea
  6. Work up free-motion stitched seed head idea
  7. Continue hand quilting on Masks

Thursday, December 01, 2011

November Wrap-up

November went more quickly than I expected, and I am still waiting for the part for my sewing machine. Thus, I have a somewhat legitimate excuse for not completing the average two-a-month quilts as set forth in The Plan. The back-ordered part is on its way now, I'm assured, so maybe by the weekend, I'll be quilting away on Poppies & Peonies, and then tackling the 3 x 3 discharge piece. As for the other items on my to-do list for November, there's really no excuse for not getting some of my new ideas sketched out. Guilt sent me to the computer yesterday to pull up some reference photos to get started on that. But instead, I got sucked in by my photo manipulation program. Not an altogether bad thing, as it turned out. What happened there got my mind thinking in a different direction, a bit "aha" in nature, and my simple idea for grass silhouettes could turn into a series.

Variations include negative images as well as reducing to 2 colors and kicking in a diffusion filter.

I also finally made some headway in manipulating photos of eyes into black and white images for use on Masks - these are my mother's eyes when she was in her 20's. Masks, but the way, has been the real winner in this saga of "life interrupted" by the machine waiting for a part. No way would I have put this much time into the hand quilting of it this far in advance of needing it done. Whereas I was a bit tentative in where to begin the stitching, I have finally gained some confidence in the "let it happen" nature of picking out the design left by the resist painting method.

I did get the sleeve on "Falling Leaves" and the rest of the inking done so it is ready for exhibit. But I don't really count that as a quilt done for November, as it was primarily finished in October and counts towards that month. I did not work up a quick version of "Southwest Fantasy" since the machine was down (lame excuse since I could have pulled fabric, cut shapes and generally gotten to a point of needing that machine), but I did do a color sketch of an idea rising out of the mountain ash berries topped with snow. Right now I'm just thinking fabric postcards to try out the idea - maybe it will go on the December list...after the November items left undone.

Ah December - I really don't have much hope for stellar productivity, although maybe I'll surprise myself. The holidays always bring major distractions, but perhaps I can stay ahead of it this year. Then again, I couldn't keep myself from starting this knitting project on Thanksgiving Day. I have fond memories of knitting during the holidays - something I could do when my presence was required in the family room. So naturally, Thanksgiving and Christmas brings the urge to the fore. In this case, I've wanted to start these fingerless gloves for months, and now's the time to be wearing them. I'm using a free pattern rated easy, but that I am finding a bit confusing. I was totally unaware of knitting in the round on anything but circular needles or a set of 4 double pointed needle. But this pattern calls for tiny #2's in a set of 5. I feel like I'm knitting on skewers. Oh wait - I essentially am! The yarn is a merino wool spun by internet friend Connie Rose and as you can see, it is a winner!