Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Home Stretch

Running out of time to finish this up - I'd hoped to have the spring version of Palouse Hills join the fall version as a companion piece in my solo show which goes up on Monday. I'm definitely cutting it close.You haven't heard much from me because once I pulled the quilting paper off after completing the stitching, I was disappointed that the green thread did not pop more. I know why - it's that background fabric for one thing - and had to go back in to add more stitching in a few areas. Decided not to go the paint route but live with the more subdued nature - I'll definitely be revisiting these designs at which point different execution should make the end result match more closely what's in my head and make for stronger pieces.

Sometimes a border, or mat, or in this case it will be a separate mount acting as a border, can pull the whole thing together, or help colors stand out. I auditioned fabrics several different days, nothing really doing the trick. I finally brought the first Palouse Hills into the studio to see if that would help. After all, whatever I mounted this second one on should not fight with the first. Even though I'd considered using the same batik as in the fall version, even auditioned against it, I didn't think it was appropriate. Now that the stitching was all done and the edges turned under, I realized it was working as well, actually better, than anything else I had tried. I don't really have the luxury to ponder this longer, so I've made the mount of that batik. I have enough of the braid to go around the outside, or to go around the quilted part but not both as in the first version. I'm about to experiment with something else altogether and if that doesn't work, there's a plan b. Wish me luck.

Of course, this isn't the only thing I've been dealing with these past few weeks - would that it were. There was a small meltdown last week, followed by the reminder about balance and harmony. I've pretty much cleared the decks of non-quilting, non-exhibit priorities now so can really focus on all that needs to come together by Monday, which feels like a lot. Back to the studio...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In search of bright threads...

“Limitations are really good for you. They are a stimulant. If you were told to make a drawing of a tulip using five lines, or one using a hundred, you’d be more inventive with the five.”
Dang - it never crossed my mind, but THIS is what I should have been working on Saturday - laying down this green thread on St. Patrick's Day! I have to tell you, I'm struggling to find really bright green thread. My local sources are limited and I discovered my choices in cotton threads are similar to the choices in my fabric stash - mostly muted colors. The story would be different if I wanted to use rayon thread, but it simply is not suitable for this project. I did find a nice bright 50 wt Mettler, but not variegated and not as heavy as I'd hoped. I found the sulky 30 wt variegated that you see on the right at my Viking dealer, but once home it wasn't as yellow green and bright as I think I need. The rest of the threads are ones I had on hand - all fairly muted save one embroidery wt one. I need heavier thread and three values of spring greens, so I have been reduced to blending two threads through the needle. If I pair a variegated with a solid, a dark with a light, I may get the effect I want. Beats driving the 50 miles to the next nearest source of shops that may or may not have threads more what I think I'm looking for. I'm probably coming up with better options - well, at least more inventive ones. Isn't that what we quilters are supposed to excel at? And I'm back to relaxing, mindless stitching along pre-drawn lines and pulling thread tails to the back and tying them off - peaceful work.

By the way, that new rye bread recipe turned out fantastic - look at how well it raised, and the taste is out of this world! My usual recipe is actually a pumpernickel bread (not sure what differentiates the two) and the loaves usually turn out fairly flat and dense. Not as well suited to sandwich making as this new recipe - it's a keeper!

And another by the way - be sure to follow the link in the quotation at the top. You'll find more excerpts from the book as well as pictures of Hockney's art - worth the time to read.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Warning! Awards Ceremony Ahead...

My good friend and art quilter Sherrie over at Sherrie Loves Color has passed along to me the Liebster Blog Award, which is given to inspiring blogs with less than 200 followers. While I always hope to inspire with my posts, I sometimes wonder if I'm just blathering on to rolling eyes. Sherrie assures me I am not and her description of why I qualify for this award in her eyes simply makes me blush. Thank you Sherrie. I'd give the award right back to you if I could, but I must choose 5 new bloggers that have motivated and inspired me to pass it on to. The award's name, by the way, comes from the German word meaning "beloved, dearest or favorite".

Here are the rules for my 5 awardees for accepting and passing along this award:
  1. Link back to the person who gave it to you and thank them.
  2. Post the award to your blog.
  3. Give the award to 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers that you appreciate and value.
  4. Leave a comment on the 5 blogs to let them know they have been offered this award.
And who might these inspiring bloggers be? To be honest, I would not be following a blog if I did not find it inspiring, and if I find it inspiring, chances are it already has a plethora of followers. But of those who are like me and have fewer than 200 followers, I commend to you in no particular order the following:

MulticoloredPieces: I often discover a blog because the owner has left a comment on one of my posts. The least I can do when someone does that is to find out more about them. Just seeing MulticoloredPieces fascinating quilts would have drawn me in, but she also dabbles in beautiful mosaics while sharing the life of an American now living on a farm in Tunisia. She gives me a different perspective on so many levels and often jars me out of my normal way of thinking.

While I Was Waiting: Deborah on the other hand, provides a quiet refuge, a place of beauty and calm. Unlike me, her posts are always brief and often poetic, her work small and hand done. Her posts remind me of the value of simplicity, the beauty in the smallest hand-wrought endeavor.

Sweet Leaf Notebook: I've just started following Michele's blog. She is doing some grand experimenting with fabric dyeing. Her enthusiasm is palpable and this particular journey is reminding me how much I enjoyed dyeing years ago, how addictive it is and how much there is to learn about it. Even though I once had a fabric dyeing enterprise with a friend and so you'd think I'd know what there is to know about dyeing, Michele, through her own quest for enlightenment, is enlightening me as well. I don't actually know if she has fewer than 200 followers, but I suspect not.

Felicity's Philosophies and Other Curiosities: I have "known" Felicity through the internet for many years now, initially through an on-line quilting group and then through her blog. Most of her blogging these days has to do with her sketches and drawings - an art form she feels more comfortable with than textiles. I have dabbled enough in sketching to appreciate and be so inspired by her work. I am lucky enough to own a Felicity color pencil drawing - a rendition of my long-time canine companion she graciously offered to do for me after said canine had passed on. She had only a photograph to work from, yet she captured my dear pet perfectly. Felicity always inspires me to work a little harder, which I'm sure will puzzle her. With her sketches she opens a different world to me.

Bonnie Griffith's Pastel Dust
: Compared to most of my blogger friends, Bonnie lives relatively close to me and I fell in love with her work long before she had a blog, before I actually met her and we became friends. I think it is so important that we textile people connect with artists working in the traditional art mediums, and Bonnie bears that theory out. She works in pastels, capturing the sweeping landscapes of Eastern Washington, adjacent Oregon and Montana to perfection. She's great fun, full of information and has been so supportive of my own artistic efforts. Besides loving her work, I find her energy and enthusiasm for making art a real inspiration that often prods me to get off my duff! Follow her blog and she will take you on a journey that will make you wonder how she has time for a day job.

So there are my chosen 5 but thanks to all of you who blog and provide me with inspiration. The world's a smaller place because of you and I'm the richer for having found you all.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Dual Holiday!

Happy St. Patrick's Day - how are you celebrating? I've decided to try my hand at making some Reuben sandwiches a little later. I love Reubens but I've never made them at home. I do however bake bread, although I haven't for awhile, so decided to bake up some rye bread. I'm trying a recipe on the rye flour package which is different from what I usually make - it has onions added to the batter. This is the first rising which is promising. It has completed the second rising and is now baking, sending forth a wonderful aroma. The recipe was very detailed until it got to the part about forming loaves or rolls and what to put them on. After consulting several other recipes, I opted for a single round loaf in a cake pan which may have been a mistake. By the looks of that second rise, I probably should have made 2 round loaves on cookie sheets. Oh well - I'm sure it will taste just fine and work for my sandwiches.

And Happy National Quilting Day! The third Saturday in March is designated as such - what special quilting have you been doing today? Are you working on something green? ;-) When I belonged to a traditional quilt guild, I often organized a work day for my quilting sisters so we could work on charity quilts. Some years we ended up doing demos at the local mall. More commonly now I just sew at home and that is what I did today. Actually, I would have sat enjoying hand quilting on Masks today whether or not it was National Quilting Day. It is coming along nicely.

Hope you have found fun and safe ways to celebrate both of these Saturday holidays.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Some Pondering and Some Progress

There's a place on the lake here called Ponder Point. I may as well move there, if the last week or so is any indication. In fact, I've decided that I really do not have a design wall, that I don't use my wall for designing. What I have is a ponder wall. Ideas go up, works in progress that have hit a snag join them, things nearly done but waiting for me to make up my mind about quilting take up room there too while I ponder the next steps. Thanks to everyone who gave their opinion on my Shadow Grass piece. To stitch or not to stitch, I still haven't answered the question, still pondering the virtues of each. In the meantime, I've switched gears to something that is all about stitch - my purple seedhead idea. I truly thought this one would work up without a problem, but that attitude is probably what has jinxed it. It doesn't look so bad in the above picture, does it? I love the way the seeds turned out.

But step away and the stems disappear, and the purple does not pop off that green like I thought it would. It just looks kind of weird. I added the additional grass in the background to try to balance the design, but they too don't show up like I had hoped. I've tried numerous threads along the main grass stems - you can see that the outer ones have a very dark green along the outside that I do not like at all and that stitching is coming out. I've used prismacolor pencils which have helped but not solved the problem. And I really should have hooped it before stitching - the decor Bond stabilizing isn't really enough. I'd come to the conclusion that it wasn't worth trying to fix, just finish it out as a journal quilt. I've used journal quilts in the past to try new ideas and serve as future reference. They do not have to be perfect or even work to be valuable.

Well, no sooner had I decided that and started considering some purple batik as a little border than I noticed how my extra shadow grass panels which were shading more to purplish brown than black might help this ailing design. I'd already pulled some fabric I thought would work as background for them and was considering a different approach (with lots of stitch) than my other shadow grass idea. But that idea was not very well formed. By combining the two ideas, I think I may have jump-started something better than either one. Well, at least different. And so up onto the ponder wall the beginnings of this new idea have gone until I either have time to play with it more or my subconscious works it out and taps me on the shoulder.

Time to move on to the other quilt I want to finish by the end of the month - the Palouse Hills Spring Greens. When I sprang for a laptop last year, this was one of the ways I envisioned using it - in the studio so I had ready access to my reference photos without having to print them out or run from the studio at one end of the house to the office where the desktop computer resides at the other end of the house. I haven't really used it much that way until today, and boy, was it nice. Yes, I could have sat in the office, surrounded by its business clutter, pulled up this picture and sketched out my furrow lines. But it was much nicer and more relaxing to sit at my worktable in my studio, surrounded by all things related to making my quilts, and work out quilting lines from the photo on the screen right there.

I've traced the design onto Golden Threads Quilting Paper - I've managed to misplace my pad of tracing paper that I used before, but I probably should be using this anyway since I plan to lay it on top of the quilt and stitch through it. It may be a bit easier to remove since that is what it is designed for. I'm not sure if I'll use the same base fabric as on the first Palouse Hills or opt for a lighter colored linen. I'm pretty sure I don't have the right thread, so there will be some thread shopping in my near future. But at least the design is ready to go.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Nearly done

Better, much better today. No paralysis and no distractions, diversions. Just a productive day in the studio with good progress made. This photo is a bit of a cheat - the quilt is not mounted and framed yet but I wanted you to get the feel of how it will look with the matte silver-faced frame. It makes all the difference in those printed photo manipulations working on this background.

I decided to fuse Decor Bond to the back of the cotton sateen before trimming up the printed photos - if nothing else it gives good stability when satin stitching them down and eliminated any possibility of the bump of a seam line showing where it wasn't wanted. After treating the edges with a fray check product, I positioned each and glue-basted them in place. Oh, and before that I had ironed a Sulky stabilizer to the back. This is not a true satin stitch, but rather one of the programed decorative stitches on my machine that varies the width of the stitch as it goes along. It gives a more grass-like ragged finish which I like.

The thread is a Sulky Rayon Twist that's not being made anymore to my chagrin. This particular color combination is one of my favorites, perfect for this project, and I was afraid I might not have enough left to go round all three panels. You can see how close I came to using it all. Now I have to decide if I want to add any stitch. I am very tempted to just leave it as is, but my other option would be to stitch along some of the more prominent grass shadows. I've pulled out black, white and grey rayon thread - each panel needs a different color. I don't want to loose the fading effect from one to the other so the thread needs to match the shade of the shadow. What do you think? Stitch or stop?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Limited but a little progress

Oh, I gotta tell ya, I DO love my Epson Workforce 1100. It never ceases to amaze me how sharp and distinct the images printed on fabric are. In this case, I am using some treated fabric I took off June's hands as she divests herself of her textile holdings. Once upon a time she had a large format printer that could take 24" wide rolls of paper-backed fabric. My printer only takes up to 13" wide, and I can't mount a roll anyway, but I can sure custom cut from June's roll to fit my needs. It is so nice to have the fabric already adhered to paper so it feeds nicely through the printer. This is a cotton sateen - June originally thought it silk, then realized it wasn't, but I decided to go for it anyway. I'm glad I did. I expected it to be thin and slithery like cotton sateen I've gotten through quilt stores, but this is a bit heftier and very stable - probably because of it's coating to work with inkjet printers. Now all I have to do is decide which of the different versions I printed off to use, and whether I need to back it with anything to keep seam lines in the background from showing. And then how to arrange them. And sew them down. And what other stitching to do. It's been another busy and erratic week and I found myself totally paralyzed yesterday when I finally found time for the studio. Today got away from me as well. Tomorrow must be a really intense studio day. MUST!

One of the things diverting my attention from the studio this week was a trip out to the bank where I will be showing my work starting in April. This is one of POAC's ancillary galleries small enough to show one artist at a time. Yes, a solo show of sorts. I wish I had more new work for it, but I'm guessing most of the bank's clientele will not have seen some of my older work, and if they have, they may enjoy seeing it again. I took some reference photos and measurements and did a rough sketch of the layout so I can start figuring out what will go where, and just how many pieces I will need. The photographer who is showing there now has hung thirteen identically sized and framed pieces. Mine will look quite different because they will be all different sizes.

This is the first space customers see as they enter - a cubicle open to the windows fronting the branch. I've already identified a piece I can hang there that won't be effected by the amount of light it will get during its 10 week stay.

Opposite that wall there's a bit of space next to those front windows which is actually pretty protected from light. I have the option to hang something there as the photographer did. Unless it's a bright piece, people leaving probably would not notice something in that space.

There are two identical cubicles back of the first one with two adjacent walls for art. These are very protected from natural light and sun.

Across from these is the manager's "office" which is a much brighter space. Just the one wall and it doesn't get any direct sunlight.

This will be a challenge to pull together cohesive groupings, but I've already thought of some on the theme of Pairings: One thing leads to another.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

March Goals

Oh yeah, it's March already, isn't it? Just a month until my first exhibit deadlines and I have much to do still. However, I got some news about ArtWalk that may just give me a bit of a reprieve. I may only need one piece, and if that's true, I don't have to hold back a couple of pieces for ArtWalk as I had planned but instead can use them for these April exhibits. So now things seem a bit more manageable, although I still sense a bit of panic lurking on the fringes.

I've spent a few days reassessing things, and my path for March is pretty straight-forward: I need to finish three pieces and I know exactly which ones. I don't foresee any problem getting them done (although having said that will probably jinx me). First up will be to finish the shadow grass piece. Time to clear off the big printer which is too conveniently located next to my computer desk and thus ends up being a catch-all for all sorts of things I don't want to deal with or have too far away. I will be using it to print the photos of the shadows onto fabric which will then be arranged on my strip-pieced background. The stitching shouldn't take long, but I have yet to purchase the canvas that I'll be wrapping it over. Or maybe I'll just finish it out normally?

The Palouse piece was one I'd planned to hold for ArtWalk, but now I think I will use it in one of the April Exhibits. Quilt 2 will be its companion piece - a spring version. A few decisions yet to be made about base fabric and thread vs paint, but I anticipate it will go quickly as well.

And for the 3rd piece, I am determined to finally stitch out my purple seedhead idea. I've cut the background and fused Decor Bond to the back in preparation for the thread painting. I also finally got around to pulling some photos up on the computer to sketch from. I soon discovered why I was having so much trouble just sketching without a reference. There are things you see while sketching that you just don't notice otherwise. I had a totally different concept of how the seeds themselves were formed - I soon realized the actually stitching would take a much different form than I'd thought. Now I feel I can dive in with a bit more confidence.

Wish me luck - making these quilts isn't the only thing on my agenda this month. I'm really going to have to focus on that balance and harmony thing.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

POAC Student Art Show

It's been a crazy busy week, partly because of my involvement with POAC's Visual Arts Committee. We annually mount a student art show that includes 5 public and private schools in the area. It's the biggest show we hang, and this year was perhaps the biggest yet with a total of about 300 individual pieces of art. Much of the art is only matted and so attached to the wall with pushpins as in the photo above. I don't know how many pushpins I pushed in, many resisting my efforts, but after 5 hours, I was pretty beaten up. Thumbs and arms still hurting 4 days later, but we all agree, this is so worth doing for the kids. I've picked a few of my favorites to share here, and if you'd like to see more, you can view them on POAC's Facebook page here. I'm not sure why the piece above captivated me so - I'm tempted to say it is my favorite, yet I can't imagine actually having it on the wall anywhere in my house. It's done with water soluble pencil.

POAC does not keep any money from sales at this exhibit - it all goes back to the kids and the schools' art programs. However, a lot of the art is not for sale which I surely can understand. What is for sale is often $25 or less, so very affordable. Still, I was thwarted at every turn as I found pieces I liked like the pottery bowl above only to see NFS on the card.

Here's one the was for sale, but I was not quick enough to get my dibs in. Another volunteer and I were sorting through a stack of paintings and we both gasped as this acrylic was revealed. Neither of us can pinpoint exactly what it is that is so compelling to us, but she managed to spit out, "I'm buying this" almost before she quit gasping.

I would have settled for the scene on the upper right instead, but yes, NFS. I first spotted it as I looked up from the main floor to where it hung on the mezzanine level. From that distance, it stood out from everything else on that wall. It only got better as I got closer. The painting on the lower left is similar (and for sale) but it doesn't have the same impact for me.

I was impressed at several paintings whose colors were so bright and thus really eye catching - no mean feat when dozens of pieces of art end up stacked over and around each other on a wall - or perhaps worse yet, ending up below windows at foot level. This was one of them.

This is an oil, also so very bright and making you think it must be a photograph until you get right on top of it.

There were quite a few 3 dimensional or multi-media works. One of the teachers must have been encouraging students to work with shards of broken glass or mirrors. This triptych is a particularly good use of that, the fireworks being the pieces of mirror.

And finally, here is a small wire sculpture that was another one of those very compelling pieces. There's melted aluminum foil along one side and the gentle "s" curve design creates perfect balance for the piece.

The opening reception was last night (see photos here), and one of the great joys of putting on this show is watching the young artists' excitement as they find their artwork, then drag friends and family over to see. And what about the proud and supportive parents - I love seeing their response too. To add to the excitement, our new mayor attended and announced that she was buying 10 pieces (with her own money) to hang in her office for a year, and then they will be auctioned off to raise money for charity. She too had trouble with the NSF, picking two that she hopes she can convince those students to part with.

And now it's time to get back to my own art.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Completing the Background Piecing

It was great to get the positive feedback on my foray into a looser kind of strip piecing. I was feeling pretty good about my fabric choices and general look anyway, but it's always nice hearing that others agree. So here is my completed background. You might be able to see some faint chalk marks I added - I have squared this up large enough to be wrapped over a 1-1/2" deep canvas so the chalk delineates the top of the canvas, 16 x 20.

Remember me saying that because of some of the colors I decided to add, I thought this background might not work for my shadow grass idea? To my surprise, my paper printouts look quite good on it I think.

And also a bit of a surprise, these fabrics look to work for a background for these leaf prints. I had envisioned such a pieced background for them but had different colors in mind. I still have some strips left and more fabric I can cut, so I may make up similar backgrounds to fit 10 x 10 canvases. I may want to make the strips skinnier so as not to overpower the small size of the leaves. Even on the big piece, I went back and restitched some of the strips with a wider seam allowance to make them narrower - those that verged on 1-1/2 inches made too big of a statement. Ones closer to 1 inch seem to work better.