Thursday, January 31, 2013


Having some fun with my bubble theme. Here is how all four shears read on the background fabric. From left to right: white, grey, lavendar and maroon.

I'm using Steam-a-Seam lite on the sheers. I've discovered that, particularly on synthetics like these, its tackiness isn't always enough to hold it in place until the fusing process. I get around this by applying a little heat while the backing paper is still attached. Then I can trace and cut without worrying that the fusible will pop off and it doesn't effect the tackiness of the exposed side. Here you can see I am drawing random-sized circles to fit these odd sizes of fusible. That circle template is so great to work with for this sort of thing because the sizes (which are many) change so incrementally. Just slide the template around until the right size circle appears.

The circles are not perfect - even using the trick of moving the fabric rather than the scissors, I failed to follow the lines perfectly, but I don't think it's a big deal. I found the cutting to be almost meditative so that when I got to the arranging, I wasn't so uptight about it. Yes, Virginia, I am having fun playing with my bubbles, and am pleased with how things are coming along. The painters tape, by the way, is a guide to keep the design within what I think the finished dimension will be. If this goes well, I may try it again with the same fabric in a larger size. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Blast from the Past

I don't often use construction paper but that doesn't mean I don't keep some on hand just in case. As I found the box holding some of my designing aids like freezer paper sheets and graph paper, I also found an envelop holding this pad of construction paper. Oh my! And check out that price point. Yes, I am a long-time hoarder, it cannot be denied!

Don't you love these color names? I suppose back in the late 60's or early 70's when this came out, you couldn't find the bright "happy" colors advertised here. Frankly, they don't seem so bright anymore, or perhaps they've faded over time. Anyway, I may play with them a bit as I flesh out another circle idea. Wonder if I still have any hippie clothes hidden away that I could don to get me in the mood?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

About to Bubble

I have a couple of ideas for small quilts that incorporate circles. The first I think I'll play with is circles as bubbles. I've pulled some sheers I think may give the look of bubbles.

I would have started on this last week, except I hadn't come across my circle template. I was pretty sure that the boxes left to crack open just held fabric or books or magazines, but since I keep this template in a flat bag with my compass and protractor, I convinced myself I must have slipped it in with the books.

I can be pretty dense at times. I suddenly realized last week why I was having so much trouble getting to work in the studio, and it wasn't just the missing circle template. The condition of that room had begun to make me feel claustrophobic and backed into a corner whenever I went in there. I'd stalled out on the unpacking and rearranging, I'd equally stalled out on moving forward on my two traditional quilt tops. And I couldn't get moving much on these new ideas for art quilts. It just wasn't an inviting place to work with so much of the set-up unresolved and boxes in the way. So once the fabric washing and ironing was over and I realized what was happening in my head, I spent several days organizing what was already lying around, and then tackled the boxes stacked around the room - major progress! Today I got my good sewing machine in place and tweaked the set-up on that side of the room, then got the second table up on risers, giving me a 60" wide surface for layering the triangle quilt top. I cut some squares from old mouse pads to slip into the indentation on the top of the risers - I'd discovered that the table legs slid around in there making the tables unstable. The soft grip of the mouse pad solved that problem and justified my hanging on to those mouse pads for so long - they nearly went into the Goodwill bag this last move.

And where did I find the circle template? Not in any of those boxes or piles I attended to. No, I'd packed it away in one of my sewing machine table drawers - obviously because I wanted it easily accessible, not buried in some box. I only came across it because I was looking for something else I thought was in that drawer. I continue to excel at outsmarting myself...but at least now, I can get to work on those bubbles.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reality Check

"One should be more concerned with the painting and what it needs than with reality. One needs to edit, design and arrange reality to make it into a painting. It's more important to mix colors to create a beautiful harmony in the painting than it is to match exactly the local color of a shirt."

Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco - The Artist's Magazine November 2011
I admit to falling prey to the pitfall of rendering too literally from reference material, but at least now I more often recognize the behavior earlier on in the design process. Still, there's a great temptation to think if that is what one is seeing in nature, or on the street or wherever the inspiration is coming from, then it must be right. We must always be open to "arranging reality."

I was reminded of this recently when viewing a rather spectacular piece which had an element that didn't feel quite right. I wondered if the artist deliberately chose the placement and color of that element or if it was simply true to reality. Maybe it would not have bothered someone else, but the fact that I was questioning it made me think perhaps it was a misstep of matching.

This fear of being too literal is holding me up a bit at the moment. I have several photographs taken in Rochester that I want to work with. Because I was there, saw everything beyond the edge of the photograph, I know there is a danger of a certain understanding of the image that would not carry over, might produce some head scratching. There's also the danger that I will convince myself, consciously or subconsciously, that the photo is the perfect composition, thus should not even be cropped let alone edited. I mustn't become so attached to the image and experience that I am unwilling to see any weakness that might arise during the transfer from reality to fabric. In fact, I'd be willing to say one needs to edit, design and arrange reality to make it better than reality. The only question is, am I up to the task?

A reality that needs rearranging.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Advantage of Libraries With Stacks

On my way to find this...

I found these...

I don't care how clever Amazon is, thinking it knows what books to suggest based on previous buying history or searches, it rarely takes me off in a new direction, just offers up more of the same. My reading list, compiled from recommendations and reviews from many sources, covers a wide range of genres and interests. While scanning titles in the library stacks (or a book store), I can stumble upon something I didn't know existed let alone thought I'd be interested in. I can't seem to have the same experience searching titles on line. Computer searches are great if I know exactly what I'm looking for, but give me a wander through the stacks any day for that unexpected moment of discovery that leads to checking out so many more books than I intended.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Unexpected Snag

I've been asked by a good friend if I'd donate a small piece of art to the Empty Bowls Silent Auction fundraiser for Feed My People Food Bank of Eau Claire, WI. I lived in Eau Claire before moving back to Idaho so I am happy to take part. I've been encouraged to include a lengthier "item description" (i.e. info about me as well as the art) than the donation form leaves room for, plus a business card. Oh yeah, have not updated my cards or letterhead since the move, so decided to take a few minutes to do that this afternoon. Gremlins have been at work in my computer apparently. The font I've used on these items for years no longer exists in the files, so I spent more time than I wanted choosing new fonts. I could have gone for a whole new look, but instead, tried to match as closely as possible the original look. I know that heading on the letterhead was done with some kind of script font; I couldn't find any script on the list so had to settle for italicizing (copy on top). Not happy but it will do for now. As long as I was at it, I also updated the labels I sometimes print for the back of my quilts. As for the artist statement I was going to print on letterhead to go with my donation - well, I ran out of time to mess with it today.

I think I'm done washing smelly fabric. As I sorted through what was left on the dryer into loads, I found that most of them now smell fine. Two small loads was all I had to wash and iron today, preceded by folding and filing the batches washed and ironed the last few days. I've started a "water" wall as I've run across batiks I think might work in this water-themed series I've got on my mind. Most of the blue fabrics came from Cathie who passed along her "scraps" to me last year. No, these aren't all to go in one quilt, in case you were questioning my sanity or good taste. In fact, one is for an idea having nothing to do with water, but like my water theme, came out of my time in Rochester. Anyway, it is good to have these ideas up on the design wall, encouraging me to keep clearing the decks so I can start on one of them. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

It's the Eye Again

We've had some gloriously sunny days lately which the "cursed" eye has delighted in. It spotted the way the sunlight angled through the trees behind my townhouse, saying "here's a solution to that tissue paper sunprint that's been bugging you for so long." Most of the time I notice a tree trunk lit up by the sun and only a thin sliver along one side in shadow. This day, the bulk of the trunk was in shadow and the sunny part a small accent. I couldn't believe how it gave me ideas of how to fix this piece of cloth I didn't want to just cut up.

The eye has also been observing the sunsets from the upstairs office. I love this room in the afternoon, so full of light and so often the perfect viewing place for a colorful departure to the day. I've always noticed the sky a particular shade of blue in January, but lately the eye has pointed out that near the horizon, that blue has turned a shade of teal green. Not sure what I'm going to do with that bit of information, only know I have that color in my stash.

Speaking of my stash, I really have been avoiding the inevitable, that all those lovely batiks of mine needed a run through the washer, followed by ironing. Now, I don't mind that part at all. It's more the folding and putting away that slows me down. Anyway, I got to more of it over the weekend and was reminded that there are often silver linings in tasks you wish you didn't have to do. To my surprise, I found myself staring at several fabrics that should make perfect backgrounds for several new ideas I've been stuck on, precisely because I couldn't think what the backgrounds should be. I don't think I would have considered any of these had I just been flipping through the folded stack of batiks. I think it was a combination of seeing these fabrics in their entirety and, through the somewhat monotonous process of pressing, the releasing of the right brain to make the connection. Thank you eye; thank you right brain. I'll try to be more positive about chores like this in the future.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Reminder List

I've been a little under the weather this week, so although I did resume washing of the smelly fabric over the weekend, I've not done much else since then. Stuff on the computer has been about all I could muster between long stretches on the couch. Rather than feeling bad about that, I realized I was indulging in at least one of the things on my Reminders list. And that made me think I should share the fact that the reminder list has more on it than art-making things. Terry Grant wrote a great post about this "January thing" we tend to do and how so much of it is geared around becoming more efficient. She offers a different model which I so agree with. Truly, we need to get our heads out of the "creating art 24/7" mindset and understand that a well-rounded life that includes things that on the surface sound counter-productive and mere diversions are just the things we need to propel the art part.

Looking for mom & dad in 1940 Census
That for me was part of the point of my list. I need to be reminded that it is ok to, say, knit in the evening rather than applique, or read a novel over lunch rather than a quilting magazine, or as I did the other evening, get totally sucked into the website. Yes, Genealogy research was the third thing on my list (I've dabbled off & on with my dad's side of the family & have wanted to organize the documents and photos I have for years), right after adding gallery pages to the blog (hard to sell on line as I'd like without a place to direct potential customers) and updating my cafepress site (I made no changes nor promoted it in 2012 and still managed some sales in December). Then came involvement in an art group (after two years of talk, another textile artist and I are finally getting the group off the ground this month). Only then did I start jotting down things directly related to making art as well as heeding the call of some traditional quilt projects and oh, yeah, taking time to try fabric bowls and follow up on the handbag and tote ideas stored in a bin. As in the last couple of years, it looks like I really want to address unfinished business in all facets of my life, and not out of guilt, but truly out of a calling, and have some fun too. 

I want to find that sweet spot of balance and harmony that was to be my guiding principle of last year, pulling in my many interests (they did not all get on the reminder list, just the ones I sensed I'd forget) and seeing that no one thing over-monopolizes my days. There should be room for just about everything, even if it is just in small doses. With perseverance as my resolution word, I'm on my way.

My lovely niece could not have said it better in her note that arrived shortly after the new year; she summarized perfectly my hopes for the year. I extend the sentiment to my dear readers as well:

"May 2013 be a year of much art, love, inspiration and travel."

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Not Goals

Judy Hopkins Mystery Quilt Step 3
I'm not doing the whole "goals" thing this year; it might be another disruptive year and setting goals only feels like a way to set myself up for frustration, disappointment and failure somewhere down the road. Setting goals feels too rigid (although I'm well aware that goals can be revised as needed), too confining, a recipe for disaster in my present state. I have an overwhelming sense that I must do better at "heeding the call" as it arises rather than try to map out a plan. Too often I have pushed something I really wanted to work on to the bottom of a priority list. This year, I will strive not only to be more in tune with desires as they arise, but also to tamp down the guilt and misplaced sense of duty that in the past has kept me from acting on those desires.
Judy Hopkins Mystery Quilt Step 4

And so I am still working on "non-art" quilts, completing a set of blocks for this mystery quilt. It has occurred to me over the last few days that this probably is not the best use of my time right now; nevertheless, that is where the pull, the call has been, and so I have heeded it. I've become acutely aware that I've let my charity quilting that was once so important to me lapse. And besides, the repetitive nature of this work free of many decisions is letting the right side of my brain do its work uninhibited by my more critical, practical and negative left brain. It is sending out messages now and then about the art quilting I'll be getting back to soon, putting together scattered ideas into coherent plans, presenting solutions to what the left brain was sure were insurmountable problems.

I think it also sent out a message that even if I didn't set goals, it wouldn't be a bad idea to at least jot down a few things that have been on my mind to do. At first, I didn't know quite what to call this list; certainly not a list of goals or even a "to do" list. I tried "framework" and "focus" and "directions", all with question marks after them, all applicable but not quite hitting the mark. But I had to get something on paper before I forgot completely the sorts of things I thought I might play with, accomplish, really needed to attend to. I paused in my piecing, wrote two things down and blanked out. Well, it's a start, I thought, and continued with my sewing. As you can see, it wasn't long until I remembered other things, continuing this pattern of sewing and writing and sewing and writing until I filled a page and a half.  Not goals, just something to refer to on those occasions when I'm standing there, blanking again, wondering what it was I thought I wanted to do.
Judy Hopkins Mystery Quilt Step 5

It wasn't until yesterday that it hit me what my list should be called...reminders! For that is exactly how I intend to use it. It will be a guide of sorts, but mostly it will hold in place those things that call to me that I can't get to right away, free up my brain to attend to the call in front of me, and remind me what the next call might be when all I hear is silence.
Judy Hopkins Mystery Quilt "Relatively Speaking" copyright 1997

Here is the stack of 17 blocks for the Judy Hopkins "Relatively Speaking" mystery quilt (copyright 1997!) along with the last step showing the final layout. To be honest, this is not the most interesting mystery quilt pattern I've seen and I'm not that crazy about the block itself, which she calls Grandmother's Choice. Poor Grandma, I'm thinking, if among all the wonderful quilt blocks, this was her choice, placed in a rather uninspired set to boot.

I should just finish it up quickly per pattern instructions, but I could not help wondering if I wouldn't like it better if the blocks were set on point. Years ago I'd been advised that almost any block becomes more interesting if set on point and once I turned the stack of blocks, I could see how much better I liked it. This sent me to my Electric Quilt software program to play with block and border sets and this is the one I like the best. It will mean I'll have 2 blocks left over and I'll have to figure the dimensions of the setting triangles. I'm not sure I have enough blue fabric to make that border, but I'm really called to make these adjustments. There's not much worse in my book than finishing up a quilt you aren't that crazy about, even if it is for charity. Left brain is encouraging me to set it aside and decide all this later but as I've mentioned before, I'm really trying to break that habit of procrastination. I think I'd better decide today whether to finish the top per instructions or go my own way, even though it will take more time and effort, and then get right to finishing it. Yeah, that decision may be a no-brainer.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

It's a Curse...

Yes, sometimes I think this creative eye of mine is a curse. I can't seem to do much of anything without it noticing something interesting going on. In this case, it wanted to deflect me from my work on the computer by focusing on an ever-changing reflection along the edge of the monitor. I'd opened the vertical blinds on the window behind the computer station, and it was the slats slowly waving back and forth being reflected and distorted by that shiny black plastic edge. That's fine and well, I guess, that my eye would say, hey look! And take some pics too. But then it refuses to follow up by even hinting how I might use what it's just made me take notice of. It's a curse, I say!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

It's 2013

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."
Hans Hoffman

I cracked open another box in the studio and was faced with a stack of papers I'd not had time to sort through before moving. Story of my life: good intentions but always delaying the inevitable to a future date. The future is catching up with me and so rather than follow the usual impulse to shove said papers back into the box, I sorted through them. The above quotation was the only one of 3 pages of similar inspirational quotations printed from the internet that still resonated. We are constantly encouraged to simplify these days, but this particular perspective made the case in a way that made sense to me. Something I can apply to my material holdings as well as my actual art designs. A wagging finger as I continue to settle into my new studio.

I'd love to report that I hit the ground running on New Year's Day, studio set up, goals lined out, new projects in process. Instead, I was still pondering and rearranging and bring forth even more things to be put away. And I finally moved out of the denial phase about a portion of my stash I thought unaffected by the smells in my old house. Actually, they are not musty or mildewy, but they are anything but fresh. I think the real culprit is how tightly I had them packed into baskets, no way for air to circulate, cautionary tale here.  So with the new year, the washing and ironing has begun.

Here's the state of the studio on January 1. I pulled that 5 drawer unit out of the closet to replace a lower unit that now stacks with like units on the outer wall, placed my irons and spray bottles atop it, shifted the ironing board a bit and now have a much better pressing station. I'll have to work on what's in those drawers but for now, the goal is to get all stash storage on the same side of the room. That meant some bins in the closet on the left got shuffled into the right closet and bins I'd rarely crack open moved into their place on the left. The fabric on the worktable is the first of the smelly ones now washed and dried. The floral is from a skirt I'd made for myself I don't know how many years ago, but too pretty of a print not to think it could go in a quilt. Ditto for the blue fabric, which has cranes. Now I'm thinking they might be good fodder for fabric bowls. Under them is a turkey red bought specifically for a reproduction of an Amish quilt along with some Amish black. I still think I'd like to make that quilt, but for now, that fabric is folded ready to go in a big bin. Ok, so I still don't have a good handle on this simplify thing, but at the moment, none of this seems unnecessary to me.

So this is how I ended 2012 - not rushing to complete one last quilt to add to the year's tally, nor tallying my accomplishments at all, not making big plans for the new creative year, not even considering a new resolution word to guide me in 2013, just still trying to get my feet back under me and making slow but sure progress towards settling into the new space with all the old baggage, good and bad.

One of the things I unearthed last week was fabric set aside for a mystery quilt. It was muslin along with just two pieces of fabric bought early on in my "seriously getting into quilting" phase before I understood the difference in fabric quality. Once I did learn that it was printed on a lower quality griege goods, I thought putting it into this mystery quilt would be a good way to use it, the quilt probably destined for charity. But of course, that put it pretty low on the priority list and it was one of those things pushed to the back of the closet. Well, it had picked up a little smell too, and something made me vow to at least cut the pieces for the top once the fabric was washed, not just file it back in the closet. So in fact, I DID start something on January 1st, yet another traditional quilt, but again, it all seems a part of getting me back into creating. Something reassuring about wielding the ruler and rotary cutter to cut those precise squares and triangles. And as all this has been going on, I realized a very good resolution word for the year would be perseverance. I think that needs to be the driving force to keep me on track and from getting overwhelmed. It's what got me through most of 2012.