Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What's on the Design Wall

It is so nice to have my design wall back! The auditioning of the arms for the bubble quilt will be so much easier working with it on the wall where I can step back and get a good look. And remember the mystery quilt? There I was with blocks done and nowhere to lay them out so I could complete the top. Now they are arranged with setting triangles and alternate squares ready to be sewn down off the wall. 

Waffling a bit on what I will tackle this week. It is very tempting to go ahead and sew the mystery quilt together - it's not a very large quilt and would pin up and quilt quickly, giving me an easy sense of accomplishment. It is also tempting to start the quilting on the half-square triangle quilt as it is now all basted and ready to go. But the bubble quilt is not all that far from completion either, is needed for the exhibit in July and is holding up progressing to the other bubble and circle ideas building up a head of steam. Yeah, I think maybe I need to concentrate on that this week.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Moving Back a Bit

You might think that after getting feedback from my art group, I'd dive right back into the bubble quilt, putting that input to good use. Instead, the half-square triangle quilt was calling out for attention, and I'm all about heeding the call this year, remember? This is not as odd a move as it looks on the surface. To be honest, that quilt taking up almost all of the design wall had started to irritate me. I turned countless times to put the bubble quilt up on the wall to work out one issue or another only to be confronted by that top. Where at first it was a comforting and colorful addition to the studio, now it was just a distraction and in the way. Time to get the backing pieced and the top layered, even if I just roll it up afterward to be quilt another day.

I'd spent a good deal of time deciding on a backing before I switched gears to the bubbles. I'd done an estimate of how much I needed if I seamed it horizontally, and I had plenty of the pink. So now that I am ready to cut it for that piecing, I am stunned to find there is nowhere near enough! I don't know how I managed to do that, but I did, so it was time to search for another length of fabric that would work with the pink and the top. I decided the fabric on the right would do fine. There were more calculations to make as I decided to now run my seams vertically and cut the panels different widths. Check and double check because the last thing I wanted was to cut and sew and not have the backing wide enough. Oh yeah, and both fabrics were a directional print so lets be sure we don't turn one the wrong way when we pin the panels for joining.

I can now tell you it was a total success and I moved on to layering. I'm trying a batting new to me, one I bought perhaps from Connecting Threads probably a few years ago. I like cotton batting, and for some quilts I like wool, but I also like the cotton blends. I'd not seen a cotton wool blend before so that is why I bought it. The packaging has no brand name on it, just a small piece of paper listing size, fiber content and care instructions. Once I opened it up, I was not impressed. The side I opted to have facing up is very nubby and not consistently so; on a lighter quilt I suspect these bumps would show through. 

On the other side the batting is full of trash - the bits and pieces of the plant that better batting cleans out. There even seems to be some seed leaching oil. This certainly isn't a betting I'd want to be hand quilting. The batting itself is fairly thin and flat - you'd never know there was wool in there so it must primarily be for warmth, not loft. Good thing this is a utility quilt or else I'd be rolling this back up and using something else. I'm interested to see how it quilts up and washes though. I've been fooled before by batting that worked differently than I would have thought. In another life, I would have quilted up a batting sample first. In this one, the whole dang quilt is going to be a sample. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Where There's a Void, Fill It

Well, that only took about 6 years. When I moved to Sandpoint that long ago, I was looking forward to joining a Fiber Art group, or any art group for that matter, that would provide peer review, networking, information exchange and a social outlet with like minded people. As artsy as Sandpoint is, with art exhibits and galleries galour, it never occurred to me that there would not be such a group; the only thing I could readily find was a traditional quilt guild and a FiberArt Guild focusing primarily on spinning, weaving and knitting - not really what I was looking for. The only time artists seemed to rub shoulders was at the POAC exhibit opening receptions. Even after I joined POAC's Visual Arts Committee, I failed to find the sort of monthly group I had in mind, even though it seemed to be something a lot of the area artists longed to be a part of.

Meg & her Lightning Creek Exhibit entry
Then Meg found me a couple of years ago, new to the area and looking for the same sort of thing. The timing wasn't right for us to start such a group then, but we never forgot that this was something we wanted to do. We collected names & bided our time, waiting for our lives to settle and make room for such a commitment. Finally, that time has arrived!

Donna shares her travel journal sketchbook
We sent out e-mails inviting a select group of area artists to our first meeting last month. There are only 4 of us at the moment, but it is not numbers that count with a group like this. It is being of like mind in what we want from the group, and a commitment to attend regularly, share, push, and build trust that encourages honesty. Each of us is at a different point in our creative journeys and that makes for exciting and interesting interaction. Three of us live minutes from each other, but our fourth member, Donna, drives fifty-some miles to join us (her artsy town appears to be lacking in such a group as well).

Because we chose the third Monday of the month for our meeting date, it has twice fallen on a holiday observed by the public schools. Meg's daughter, Adelle, has been able to lurk around the edges of our meetings, and she has been a delight. Today, while we were flapping our jaws in "serious" artistic discussion, Adelle was actually getting some art made. Not interested in the working with fiber herself, she draws instead and has started posting some of her work at her own art blog: http://ravensknow.weebly.com/

I meant to take pictures last month, but as so often happens with a group like this, we got so engrossed in showing our work, asking questions and offering suggestions that I totally forgot. This month I had extra incentive to remember as one of our members, Robin, has flown south for a few months and we promised to keep her in the loop as much as we could. I'm already reaping the benefits of such a group - had I not had the meeting today, I don't think I would have pushed myself to get my latest bubble creation to this point. As you can see, the bubbles are showing up much better. My question for the group was about color choice for the arms. In the studio, I thought the fabric used in the narrow border too dark for them, but the group gave me good reasons for going with it, reasons that made sense.

Sketchbooks was a common theme this month. I shared the one I'm doing my Zentangles in, mostly because I wanted to share the tangle that I'll be using as the background quilting for the bubble piece. Donna shared sketchbooks using pen and watercolors and subjects not necessarily related to her quilting (although we all should know by now that drawing and sketching are exercises that make our design work better). Her current in process piece is large and not at a point where it can come off the design wall, so she brought a picture of it instead (on the left in the photo above).

And Meg had recently gotten back this little piece from a POAC exhibit themed "Journeys", the journey being from sketchbook drawing to fabric.
We lingered a long time today, finding so much to talk about. We know this will slow as we get to know each other better, but it is obvious we are savoring this time together to talk about our art. 

So, where there is a void, don't whine about the void existing...fill it! 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Good Vibrations

Often the colors we like best are the colors we most need in our lives and provide us with subtle vibrational help.
From DailyOm "Loving the Light: Color Therapy" by Madisyn Taylor
I've run across things about how color affects a person, and there are always questions about what your favorite color is, but this meditation from DailyOM put a slightly different twist on it. I've noticed that I do gravitate towards certain colors perhaps more consciously than I did in my younger years. According to Taylor, this attraction is not by chance and provides beneficial affects. There may be something tied to the fact that colors emit frequencies and so the benefits come through sympathetic resonance. She wraps up the meditation with the thought that "...we can modify our spaces, wardrobes and habits to ensure that we introduce the colors that speak to us most deeply in our everyday lives." (See full article here.) Yeah, I think we quilters already have a pretty good handle on that.

So with this in mind, I thought about my current favorite colors. Teal green has long been in my fabric stash...

...and increasingly in my closet. I think it has a soothing effect on me.

But oh, I rather like my coral too, sometimes shading to red, sometimes to rust.

And there it is in my closet too (although this pic has faded the color some). I feel more vibrant when I wear true coral, warm and cozy when I wear russets and rusts.

One favorite quilting color that is not much represented in my closet though is gold, rich wonderful gold. I do remember wearing it when I was in school - maybe because in junior high it was one of our school colors? Or maybe gold was more popular in the 60's and 70's than it is now. Or maybe I just don't look as good in it as I once did?  For whatever reason, it doesn't resonate anymore to wear, but I love working it into my quilts.

What about you? Do you wear what you quilt with? Do these colors speak deeply to you, give you benefits beyond simple eye appeal?    

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sick Leave

For the second time this winter, I've been attacked by the crud. And just when I was making some progress on my bubble theme. I didn't even have enough oomph until yesterday to take a picture of the progress I'd made before creativity came to a screeching halt. I'm really liking the way this one is coming together. I think I need to add a few more bubbles and then decide what color the arms will be - I'm considering a mauve something like this as well as something lighter, maybe even one of the sheers. I have enough of the background I used in the first experiment for narrow borders (left of panel) and may insert a thin piping of the mauve in the seam. There's also a navy batik wondering if it should be included - either piping or binding or both. See? Lots to think about and try but the brain is too addled from the fever & chills to make these sorts of decisions. I think the fever finally broke today, so maybe I can proceed with this over the weekend. I'd sure like to because I have yet another hand-dye set aside for another version.

My recuperative couch time has not been totally unproductive. Except for Sunday, I've been able to muster enough uprightness each day to do my daily Zentangle, although I haven't been able to achieve the same meditative state and am a bit unhappy with most of my efforts. This one is from before the bug struck and is done in Artist Trading Card size. It shows the tangle I mentioned that gave me a thought for how to quilt my bubble quilt: vertical wavy lines. That will really show on the teal hand-dye I'm using, making me wonder what thread I should use. Metallic? Rayon? Cotton? More or less matching the background for subtlety or mirroring the bubbles?

The rest of the time it has been dosing, catching up on recorded tv programs and reclining with the laptop to catch up on e-mails and blogs. As I've felt better, the library books have come out too. That David Hockney book has really inspired me and the Celtic Art one has me sure of my Celtic roots as so much of it incorporates faces peering out from the swirls if you give your imagination rein. The filling of space is not unlike those Zentangles too. And last night as I was trying to drop off to sleep, my mind got back to problem solving, thinking about these bubbles, that marbled fabric from Mary, the photos I want to use...I may be on the mend.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tagged for a Liebster...Twice!

Last week I had two bloggers tag me for the Liebster Award, first Wil's Art who I believe is in the Netherlands, and then Margie Quilts who is a fellow Idahoan. Click on their names to read how they responded to the tag and peruse their blogs/websites to get a feel for the kind of quilting they do. I received this award about a year ago but boy, have the parameters changed (see this post to compare). This time there are questions to answer and ask so I decided to do it again, combining Wil's and Margie's requests a bit.

Rules for Participation:
 1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
 2. Answer the questions that the nominator set for you.
 3. Create 11 questions for the people you nominate.
 4. Chose 11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers and link them in your post.

11 Random Things About Yourself:
 1. I've lived in multiple cities in 4 U.S. states, starting and ending with Idaho.
 2. Have no desire to travel to Hawaii but New Zealand is on the top of my out-of-the-US places I'd like to visit.
 3. I've been attending yoga classes for a little over 2 years and it has changed my life.
 4. With my distrust of technology, I find it amazing that I currently own a pc, laptop and Kindle Fire!
 5. Photography is nearly as important of a creative outlet as my quilting.
 6. I can't get on the chocoholic bandwagon.
 7. I still struggle with fear in the studio in spite of my artistic successes.
 8. I probably spend several hours a day reading magazines, fiction and non-fiction.
 9. Most of my furniture is Mission Style, and I love Art Deco and Art Nouveau.
10. Most of my skills are self-taught. I'm a die-hard reader of directions and manuals.
11. Friendships are extremely important to me.

Answers to Questions from nominators:
 1. If you could live somewhere else, where would that be? That's a tough one as I feel I'm right where I want to be. But I have occasionally thought it would be cool to live in an art deco style apartment building like Poirot in the tv series. And San Francisco has long been a favorite big city that I thought would be fun to live in for a brief amount of time.

 2. What is your favorite memory? That's tough too. One of my favorites is fishing along the streams in Montana with my dad - the fishing was more of an excuse to be out in nature than to catch something and I learned so much from my dad about nature, being observant. Loved the sound of the water, clamoring over the rocks, speculating about the history of the areas.

 3. What do you collect? Batiks! And it appears I am now a collector of my fiber friends' art.

 4. Which musician did you 'discover' the last year? Jack White

 5. Is there something you would do differently? And if so, what? Lots. Mostly things I was so stubborn about that left me apologizing to my husband after he died. I was such an idiot. He was so patient.

 6. Who is your favorite author? No one favorite. Enjoy Lee Child and Steve Hamilton at the moment.

 7. Which country do you want to visit again? Canada

 8. What is your weakness? Sleeping in

 9. What do you detest? People who are so set in their beliefs that they are not open information that might challenge them, thus you cannot have an interesting adult conversation with them.

10. What is your favorite art tool? Freezer paper

11. What is your favorite pet? Dogs hands down.


  1. What is your favorite food? Pacific Salmon. I also like a good Reuben Sandwich.
  2. Do you have any animals? Not at the moment but have always had dogs in my life.
  3. How long have you been a quilter/artist? Been quilting off and on since the '70s but have been art quilting for about 10 years I guess.
  4. What latitude do you live at? About 48 degrees N
  5. What is your favorite quilting style? Geometric/abstract
  6. How many times have you moved in the last 10 years? twice!
  7. Do you work at your art full time? Not really although I'm supposed to! I'm a part timer at best.
  8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? See above in response to same question from Wil
  9. Do you like noisy or quiet? definitely quiet
  10. Do you like to travel? Yes
  11. What gives you inspiration to your art? Primarily nature but I'm also influenced by antique quilts.

11 Questions for my Nominees:
 1. Why did you start quilting?
 2. What inspires you?
 3. Why do you blog?
 4. Do you have a favorite color?
 5. Who's your go-to person for advice?
 6. Are you a morning or a night person?
 7. Do you have a favorite season?
 8. Do you wish you lived somewhere else?
 9. Are you juggling family and/or a day job as well as your art?
10. If you looked out your window and saw that it was snowing, what would you do?
11. Do you have a favorite television show?

Blog Nominees:
Eleven is a lot of blogs to come up with and not all say how many followers they have but these would be ones I highly recommend. As Wil and Margie gave me the option to opt out, I too say if you don't want to participate, that's fine. I hope my readers will check you out though. Your blogs are a great source of inspiration for me.


Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Mid-Week Breather

Today had a little less stress attached to it (yes, getting back into regular studio routine and designing is stressing me out a bit). Before I can proceed with the Bubble Reboot, that teal hand-dye needed treating with Retayne - a quick check showed it was loaded with spent dye that the least bit of moisture would send bleeding where I didn't want it. Usually I do this in the machine when I have 2 or 3 yards of fabric to set, but I didn't have anything else to go with this half yard of fabric, so I did the 20 minute wash by hand while watching an Antiques Roadshow episode I'd recorded - enjoyable yet productive time. Later, this fabulous piece of marbling arrived in the mail from Mary Stori. It is one of several pieces she did with her fiber group during a day of experimentation, and she used a portion of it to create this lovely piece which was not without struggle. I blatantly announced I coveted the balance of the fabric. It vaguely reminded me of some of the real marble I saw in one of the Mayo Clinic buildings in Rochester. Never dreamed Mary would be so generous as to offer it to me, but she did. Thanks so much - not sure how I will use it yet but I am excited to discover a way to incorporate it in the new work I'm creating this spring.

I've been doing my daily Zentangle® after lunch and was delighted to find today's lesson was about one-stroke patterns. I've struggled a bit with some of the patterns, actively disliking a few and thus not always benefiting from the meditative aspect of the discipline, but not today. I was so in my comfort zone drawing feathers - I mean "fluxes" - and stippling - oops, "amaze" - it was pure pleasure. Actually, I was so excited to see something I was familiar with that I got carried away with those fluxes and strung them into a "vine" which is covered in tomorrow's lesson. I didn't really get the hang of that other thing that looks more like an ear than anything. It's a "mooka" and to be fair, the examples look much more appealing than mine. Guess I should have spent more time practicing it before incorporating it. Have been wondering if I'd do a better job if I tried free-motion quilting it - I think it would make an interesting filler pattern.

And now I should get to the studio and start cutting bubbles. I have to say I don't quite know what to make of the "I don't see the problem" comments that showed up on the last post. I get your point about airiness and subdued being ok, but what I don't think is coming across in the photos is that effect (which I was going for) is totally lost - the bubbles really do not show up, just disappear unless viewed from very close or from an angle. The digital camera is doing its best to fix that for me, bless its heart. It doesn't reflect the reality (no pun intended). I guess you're going to have to trust me on this. I'm not chucking it yet, but I am going to try to improve upon it.   

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Bubble Reboot

Things aren't improving much on the original bubble front. After a bit of contemplation and study, I could see that the bubbles needed some kind of outlining to help define them, make them stand out. The green/purple metallic thread had the feel of iridescent bubbles but wasn't dark enough to do more than accent. Maybe quilting the background would make them "pop"; I settled on a blue rayon thread and horizontal lines stopping just short of the bubbles. That did less than the metallic thread. So I added a second round of navy stitching around each circle - you can see in the picture how the bubbles on the left and center barely show, the one in the foreground and toward the back surrounded by the navy now stand out better.

But not better enough. I'm realizing that those shiny sheers read differently flat on the table than on the wall, in natural daylight than under daylight bulbs. We still have a fading away problem that may not be fixable. In answer to Amanda's comment on the last post, yes, I am thinking a bit of paint judiciously applied may finally make my bubbles show, but at this point, I think I need to take the lessons learned and move on.

Here's a view of the back, bobbin threads not clipped where I moved from one area to the other to avoid having to pull up the bobbin thread at each new start. I'm wondering if vertical stitching would be better - one of the Zentangle patterns I've practiced has wavy vertical lines behind circles.

Part of my contemplation and study led me back to some pictures that inspired this idea, where I was reminded that bubbles are for the most part clear except where they are reflecting light. What defines them is very much dependent upon what they happen to be floating in front of and mirroring back. This particular shot also caught my attention because of the arms flung up which popped an idea into my head. I knew my bubble idea was lacking, needed some fleshing out. The idea of outstretched arms sending the bubbles on their way will help tell the story.

But not realistic arms and hands. What I see in my mind's eye is more cartoonish and for some reason I see them as reddish brown. Here's my first try at making a pattern of such arms and hands. 

My mind still sees something with skinnier longer arms and stubbier fingers, but this gives an idea of what I have in mind. Then it was time to start pulling fabric and laying scraps of my sheers sans fusible over them. This batik is less busy than the original bubble fabric, but I sensed it still would be problematic. And viewing this flat on the table with the overhead light shining down took me back to the problem of false readings once the fabric would go vertical.

So this morning I worked in the dark, sort of. I remembered an old value-checking trick of viewing your design with the lights off and shades pulled. Enough light to see what I was doing, draping the potential backgrounds over a small upright design board and double checking by looking through a Ruby Beholder. Because in the end, I realized this came back to value, which I chose to ignore in the first go round. With my original next to them for comparison, it was easy to see that these two candidates are not only less busy, but read a darker value, allowing the sheers to show.

This is what the Ruby Beholder does, reduces what you are looking at to an image of values only. Yup, I've got all the tools, and even the experience and know-how, if I just choose to remember to use them.

And, in my quest to break the habit of skipping important steps, the final test was to fuse the sheers to the actual fabric I hope to use. Looks like this will work, especially if I size the bubbles up a bit. That's another factor in how well a fabric may read against another. Let's not skimp on these bubbles.

When I stopped today, I felt much better about where this is going and the time I've spent on it so far. When things go wrong, I sometimes catch an impatience surfacing and my mind jumps to other things I could be working on. I think I try to convince myself that maybe success lies elsewhere, but that only leads to a scatteredness, a jumping from one thing to the next in hopes of that magic quilt. bj parody asked if my joy in making art comes from process or product. I've always said it is the process I enjoy the most, but if that process doesn't result in a product I'm happy with at some point, i.e. success, pure experimentation and process won't carry the day. I'm still ruled a lot by the waste not want not mentality of my upbringing. It still bothers me to give up on a piece after investing time and fabric; I do not fail gracefully. But if I can gain something from a less than successful experiment, I can feel joy in that. It's the by-product of working in a series, keeping at an idea until it is refined into something really good. I'm just fighting the mind games right now while I get back into the habit of working regularly in the studio. Stop with the shortcuts, do the work, learn from the inevitable miss-steps, and grow. Success is on the horizon...   

Friday, February 01, 2013

Bubble Burst

Ok, you all suspected it, didn't you, but were too nice to say anything. I finished cutting and adding the sheer circles to that busy background, got a nice s-curve going with the darkest circles leading the eye, then fused them in place. They were faint to begin with, but once fused they all but disappeared. I didn't take into account the the fusible might be adding some opacity before the final heat turned it clear. I don't know if quilting is going to save it, or if I might try a little paint, but since I went into it as a trial piece, I'm trying hard to keep the disappointment from totally discouraging me. 

There's still lots I can learn from this even if ultimately it is not salvageable. But not today. I needed to get my mind off of it and decided diving into the Zentangle®* books I'd brought from the library might do the trick. One Zentangle A Day by Beckah Krahula is the real deal, not a quilter's or mixed media artist's take on the practice. I recognize both the philosophy of Zen and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain in the introduction and opened myself to follow the "directions" for what is set up as a 6-week course. My usual MO is to skip the stuff I think inconsequential and get right to the meat; who needs to practice or waste time developing a signature, for instance? Well. . .me. The signature didn't take long. This is something I played with years ago when I was doing a lot of counted cross-stitch and studying monograms. I liked the idea of overlapping and linking those two initials. Then came the exercise - really studying the steps and slowly executing them. Is this not like learning different free-motion designs? Yes, I don't like to study and practice those either.

When I say this is the real deal, I mean the book is very clear about Zentangle-specific supplies. I didn't know that there is a standard size of paper for creating a Zentangle - 3-1/2 x 3-1/2 inch tiles - and that the surface of the paper is quite different from what one might normally think to draw on. Here is where, for the moment, I am not adhering to the directions. I want to use the little notebook I had with me in Rochester, which is neither square nor having the type of surface of a true Zentangle tile. It is ok for the exercises (and this course also utilizes rectangular sketchbooks, artist trading cards and other sizes for "Zentangle inspired art" and mandalas) but I really should get something different for the tiles. Just like my machine quilting mentor who stressed that you do better work even when you're learning if you're working on a real quilt, this author emphasizes the importance of using the the best materials "...because your work is worth it, and it makes a difference in the quality of work you do. If you work on a piece of scrap paper, the paper has been deemed junk, so there is no concern about the quality of work done on the paper...When we pick up a piece of quality art paper, our senses are awakened...our attention is piqued...has been shifted from the world around us to the project before us. Because the paper has worth, our attention turns to focusing on creating each stroke and the piece of art before us." Is this not true as well of our best experiences during the process of designing and executing a quilt and the  supplies we use? 

These lessons take about 30 minutes and I have to say, it was 30 minutes well spent. I have already experienced the value of drawing or sketching, and I could feel the same positive things happening as I worked through this first lesson. If nothing else, the tension from the burst bubbles experience was gone as I made my last stroke and shading. So I will do my best to keep up the daily lessons. 

*The Zentangle® art form and method was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas and is copyrighted. Zentangle® is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.