Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wrapping Up 2017

I've enjoyed the slower pace this last week of the year. I've been catching up on my reading - book, magazine, on-line, including other blogs and links saved for "when I have more time" - and doing the closest thing I do to binge watching tv series and movies recorded for when the regular network shows I follow go on hiatus.

There's also been more snow, which started Thursday and steadily continued through Saturday morning. It was mostly a light fluffy snow, and although my thoughtful neighbor with the snowblower kept at the accumulation with multiple passes, I managed to sneak in a shoveling of at least my side of the driveway once when about 4 inches had stacked up and the satellite dish needed cleaning out. When the snow's not heavy, I don't mind the exercise it gives me.

By Saturday afternoon, the temperatures soared above freezing and most everyone had their driveways cleared. Then that night, the temperatures plunged to 12 degrees Fahrenheit. But that brief bit of warming made it easier to clean up all that snow. I had no way of accurately measuring the total but I'm sure we got over a foot of new snow, and the snowbanks are getting pretty high.

While scrolling through my blog feedreader, I discovered a few posts I'd saved to share here. Every so often different bloggers I follow will voice uncertainty about continuing to blog. If that's you then this post, A Few Notes On Daily Blogging, on Austin Kleon's blog is for you. He had let his blogging slide for the quicker throw it up on Tumblr or Twitter or Instagram etc for a quick share. He decided to challenge himself to get back to regular blogging and explains the value of daily blogging. His take on all the various social media platforms vs the blog is similar to mine, and while our reasons for a media presence are much different, what we've discovered as value in the blog experience is much the same:
The idea started out from my anxiety about “stock and flow.” As Robin Sloan wrote seven years ago: flow is the feed (It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that reminds people you exist.”) and stock is the durable stuff (“It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.”)
Reading down his list of things he discovered as he got back to daily blogging, several had me nodding my head in agreement: "2) ...I could start to see all the connections between posts, the patterns, the idea planets I keep orbiting. Because it’s all in one place, hyperlinked together, I can see my own obsessions in a way that is much harder elsewhere." and "3) I had forgotten how wonderful blogging is as a mode of thinking... It’s also great to be able to go as long or as short as you want to go." (The same can be said for journaling.) Now, I'm not going to start blogging daily, and I'm not suggesting you do either unless it suits you, but if you do have a blog, I do encourage you to keep posting to it because, quick or lengthy, IT'S A GOOD THING!

Austin also speaks to what I've learned over the years in his blog post "Tidying up". 
"The best studio tidying is a kind of exploring — I’m re-discovering spaces as I sift through the objects that occupy them. The reason I tidy is not to clean, but to come into contact with something special that I’ve forgotten that I can now use. This is a slow, dreamy, ruminative, reminiscent form of tidying."
I don't think there's much I can do in my studio until I've done some tidying up (which will have to include cleaning). When I was looking for a third piece to add to my new ones in the fiber show, I ended up digging through a bin of work dating back years, looking for a specific piece. Haven't been through that bin for awhile and to be honest, I found myself surprised at what I ran across. When in doubt, actually LOOK at what you've created from beginning to current. I've done some really fine work over the years, and when I'm struggling with, disappointed in whatever I've immersed myself in at the moment, and convinced I am a hack and have never been anything but a hack my brain is too quick to agree. The hard evidence before me now said otherwise. Anyway, you can see by the photo, that physical search of mine resulted in quilts and the stuff stacked on top of the bin strewn over the ironing board, chairs and floor, and the table still shows signs of exhibit preparation. So tidy up I must do, as my first creative task of the new year.

And as I'm tidying up, I no doubt will discover that "The best thing about tidying is that it busies my hands and loosens up my mind so that a) I get unstuck with a new idea or I solve a problem in my head b) I come across something in the mess that leads to new work..." I've had both happen often, and I have some new ideas as well as old ones percolating in my brain as I look to the new year. I'll never get it all neat as a pin, and Austin maintains that is a good thing, as long as you can find your tools:
"Some of my favorite artists not only have messy studios, they have intentionally messy studios, because they understand that creativity is about connections, and connections are not made by siloing everything off into its own space. New ideas are formed by interesting juxtapositions, and interesting juxtapositions happen when things are out of place."
Yes, those accidental and out of place juxtapositions, especially of fabric, have often led me to lightbulb moments. Not that I'm in need of any new ideas right now. But I will not be surprised if some pop up in the process of getting the studio in working order again. Be sure and read the entire post - so many good things in it, more than I can cover here.

I think that's enough philosophizing for this post. The clock is winding down to midnight, I have turkey enchiladas to make and bubbly to imbibe. 2017 is nearly over and put to bed. Goodnight, 2017. May 2018 be a kinder year to all.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Rooted In Fiber Exhibit - The Talk

My 3 offerings: Idaho Maple & Leaf Cluster VI & VII
Several things have kept me from reporting in about the Rooted In Fiber Exhibit opening reception, including the fact that I took not a single photo while there, probably a first for me. I did make it back to the bank last week to get a few pictures to go along with my report on how the artist talk went.

I was distracted by the cramped spacing of fiber art on this wall, many hung with pushpins (a story in itself). Work by Kim Powers & Cheryl Lipari on either side of mine.

Bear in mind that when I offered to do an artist talk, I merely meant to give a little background on my history working with fibers and needlework of all types that eventually led me to traditional quilting and then to art quilting. I just wanted to stand there and partly explain the pieces hanging in the exhibit and how I had arrived here in my creative journey, maybe point out the influences from my experiences prior to art quilting that crept into these three examples of my current work.

More of Kim Powers work with hand stitching and found objects

But then I was directed to the person organizing the talks, and she had a much different take on what she wanted them to be and cover. Whatever. I'd been feeling what I can only describe as a bit jaded after my initial excitement leading up to these exhibits. I couldn't really buy into what she was explaining, but I said I'd do the talk anyway. And she'd be sending me prompts, questions she hoped to be answered in a Q & A following my talk. Here is what I received:

The purpose of this series is to elevate the conversation about why art is important, a question to which all artists can give some sort of answer, and a question that is at the very core of why each of us makes art.
Because art targets the public at large (unless it doesn't), all of us must think about the kind of influence our work has on the world around us, which leads me into the concept that perhaps artists have a civic duty to engage the world as public speakers (our work speaks, but we can join in).
We looked at the work you have on display on your blog and we prepared a series of prompts/questions for you to use as guidance in your gallery talk. We want the talk to be more like a conversation, where the public will have ample chance to ask questions.

1. What is it about the nature of fabric that resonates with you.
2. What are the metaphors behind the kinds of mark making you use in your work, and how do you use those marks to build up your work?
3. Talk about the contemporary context in which your work thrives the most.

Oh dear. She thinks me a "real" artist (I have no art degree and am mostly self-educated and self-taught). And these are the wrong pieces to use as examples to address these questions, even if the questions actually apply to my art and the way I work. These pieces are more decorative art, especially the leaf cluster series, which I am only doing for my own pleasure and exploration. These have no deeper meaning attached, no metaphors lurking in mark making, what little of it there may be (although I have done pieces along the way that would be good examples). And frankly, I didn't have a clue how to answer that third question, and not even sure how much my art is thriving in any context. Luckily, the bulk of my talk answered the first question (a short version in my exhibit artist statement and more shared in my bio and artist statement pages on this blog), and I was quite honest about sharing what I've shared here about the other questions. At this point in my journey, I'm not concerned with how I fit in any part of the art world, only grateful that I have found a town with an organization that accepts what I do as art of sufficient quality to be a part of its frequent exhibits, and that those who come out for the receptions are art savvy and engage with me in thoughtful and helpful ways - also included in my talk. From the look on the faces of those gathered to listen, I think this last pleased them the most, and I was glad for a chance to express it.

A very striking piece by Terri Palmer

A "conversation" did not ensue, except for one woman who came up afterwards to look more closely and ask a few technical questions. When I asked if there were any questions, they indicated I'd covered it all well. And a POAC rep asked if I would write up something similar to what I'd said in my talk to be posted on their website. Considering I was speaking off the cuff with only a few notes jotted down, I'd say job well done.

Rawhide sculptures by Charlotte Campbell

So my question to you is, how do you feel about what was in the letter from POAC, and how would you answer those three questions if they were put to you? While you're mulling this, enjoy these last pictures from the exhibit by my art group friend, Meg. She is trying something a bit different with her individually constructed pieces that she previously grouped directly on the wall. Now the pieces are mixed and matched on, in this case, a fabric covered stretcher frame, or on a plain quilted background, free to extend beyond those boundaries. They are not permanently attached as you might be able to see from the shadows cast by dangling legs.

Her moon that has been hanging on the ground floor of this same building since June, minor changes being regularly made, now has been paired with the tree house from her previously ongoing amazing tree project.

Meg Marchiando's Moon project

And then my camera battery died (dead batteries becoming a theme for me lately). So I will return to view the exhibit when I have more time and share more pieces of art from it in the new year. Don't forget that you can click on any photo for a larger view. There's lots of detail to see in most of them.

And for another take on what defines contemporary art and being an artist, check out Hilary's recent blog post with an excellent link on the subject at Living to work - Working to live

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Twas The Week Leading To Christmas

Who needs Starbucks when you can custom make your own eggnog lattes each day?

A young moose came to visit and hang out in the neighborhood.
Last minute gifts were wrapped for shipping.
Mother Nature decided we needed a big snow - 15 inches! Was pretty "exciting" driving to the post office in the midst of the storm to mail those packages.
 A few days later, the car battery gave up the ghost after 12 years - thank goodness for AAA service who quickly dispatched someone to give the battery a jump and for the Precision Tire people less than a mile down the road who could get me right in to replace it.
The house is tidied and a few decorations put out, including the annual Reed and Barton silver Christmas Cross I add to my collection each year.
Yes Virginia, people still DO sent hand-signed Christmas cards and letters via the postal service...
...including me, even though I was late getting to it and some are still winging their way to their destinations.
Wishing my readers a Merry Christmas and a safe and memorable holiday season!
Your continued interest in and comments on my creative journey and its ramblings is your much appreciated gift to me.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Shifting Gears

I've been so focused on the exhibits and the physical therapy that I am just this week addressing Christmas preparations. Not so my neighbors, including the one that shares the other half of my townhouse duplex and cleared snow for me. This is what their side looks like, and I wouldn't mind at all if they continued that string of lights across my garage as well!

They even hung a lighted garland over the spot where are trash bins sit.

Once the cards are written and a few decorations up, I'll be starting on a quilt for my god-daughter's baby girl born the day after Thanksgiving. I have an idea based on a quilt kit I saw in the AQS catalog. It uses a white background but I want to use up some of that lavender that wasn't lavender fabric I dyed up earlier this year. Studying the picture and taking some measurements, I think I have the dimensions of the block and its components figured out. Yes, I was still getting exhibit stuff ready but couldn't resist mocking up the block and its setting. It verified the change I thought I wanted to make. Of course, the strip colors are just random ones I picked. It will take some pulling from the stash to figure out what the color scheme will really be. I'm hoping not to make this too complicated so that I don't have to spend too much time getting it made. As my friend Michele noted in an email "The good thing about baby quilts is that they tend to work up fast -- much faster than a full-size bed quilt. That is -- unless you are my friend Sheila and you over-think things!" Exactly what I was thinking as I read along. When do I ever NOT over-think things? :-) Let's hope I can keep it simple and fast.

I'm hoping the turnout for tomorrow night's opening reception for the Rooted in Fiber exhibit is better attended than last Friday's opening reception for the Power of Renaissance exhibit. It was mostly the die-hard POAC supporters who showed up. I was surprised that there was not more art, and that art was only hung on the main floor. I did get several comments on Eisenberg Fountain's "commercial" appeal. I've always thought that, that it would look good hanging at a business, but these comments were also encouraging me to contact a local home decor designer because they could see it in someone's home as well. I may follow up with that after the exhibit is over. I also noticed a couple studying it close up, pointing at the stitching near the top that depicts the cascading water. I wish I'd gotten a chance to talk to them.

POAC is trying something new with the incorporation of  Artist Talks at the opening receptions. Here is Bonnie Shields talking about her evolution as an artist, showing some quite early pieces. I got brave and asked if they had anyone lined up for the winter exhibit, and they were quite eager to have me do it. So tomorrow night, I'll be talking about my work and answering some specific questions posed by the organizer of the talks. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Edge Finishes and Rooted In Fiber Exhibit

Leaf Cluster VII - Sheila Mahanke Barnes ©2017
While I was not as diligent keeping to a daily "stitchvember" practice as I was to a daily "Inktober" one, the personal challenge did keep me regularly in the studio to complete the chosen leaf clusters for the second December exhibit I am participating in. Besides today's looming deadline for dropping them off, I also knew I'd be losing studio time to physical therapy sessions starting around Thanksgiving. They've been taking about 2 hours out of my day, three days a week in an effort to clear up a nagging leg pain that is probably tendinitis. It's a little bit of a mystery as to how I injured myself and quite irritating that it is so slow to respond to treatment - definitely tiring of the 3 times a day icing that I've been doing since late September. At any rate, both Leaf Clusters got completed by the end of November/stitchvember, completed that is, except for readying them for framing.

Leaf Cluster VII - detail

Does anyone truly enjoy the edge finishing process? I know I never have, even though I know it is the final design decision one can make before the quilt is done. There's the squaring up process which can get off, and if adding a binding, crossing fingers that the edges will not be all wavy once it is stitched on. I can sometimes avoid the tedious hand-stitching to the back but if not, I have to keep checking the front to make sure I haven't allowed the needle to go all the way through, leaving a bit of thread showing where it doesn't belong. Satin stitching or some similar decorative machine method can end up uneven and stretching the edge into the dreaded wave. When I started putting smaller pieces into frames, I thought that would solve having to fuss over these raw unfinished edges, but I was wrong. I still end up having to do something with those edges before attaching the quilt to something somewhat rigid. Sometimes that has been a loose zigzag stitch (still having to be careful not to stretch those edges), sometimes that has been Fray Check, sometimes that has been wrapping the quilt over stretched canvas. Every thing I do makes me nervous until the quilt slips into the frame and looks perfect.

This nervousness came back to me as I embarked on framing these two pieces, and it dawned on me that my reticence to take that last step was actually fear that during the process I would irreparably damage the piece and I'd have nothing ready to take its place so close to deadline. I could easily place the ruler wrong, especially on Leaf Cluster VI, where I was dithering on exact placement of the cluster within the frame. But I had to start cutting, deciding to do things in a slightly different order than I usually do. I had the pane of glass from the frame so set that on the quilt and marked around it with a permanent pen. Then I applied Fray Check along that drawn line and let it dry before cutting. I've always found it tricky applying the Fray Check to the cut edge which never fails to have a few stray threads sticking out along it. Fray Checking first worked really well on this piece.

A strip of 1/2" Scor-Tape has been applied to the top of the illustration board

Now to attach it to illustration board which would keep it stiff inside the frame, a must since I would not be using that pane of glass or a mat to hold it in place. I've done this different ways too, including machine basting around the edge, using an acid-free glue of some kind (applying a thin line of it around the edges and a few lines through the middle to keep the center from sagging), but also trying a double-sided scrapbooking tape. The tape didn't always adhere well to the fabric, and glue is inherently messy, so I perked up when I started seeing a product called Scor-Tape being demoed in the videos on She often uses it to attach canvas to paper and warns that once it is down, there is no going back. It comes in a variety of widths and strikes me as a little expensive, but it is archival (which I've always been careful about) so when it was included in a store-wide discount, I ordered some up. I find it much easier to use than the scrapbooking tape I'd tried, and it appears to stick well to the felt backing of this quilt. I applied strips along the outside and across the middle which held the quilt in place just fine.

You can see that this is an inexpensive frame with no rabbet to speak of which is why I used the illustration board - easy to bend those metal strips over to hold the artwork in place. I did my usual of stamping my logo/initials and inking "label" details directly on the board. A business card with the rest of the exhibit-required information will be taped to the lower right corner.

Leaf Cluster VI - Sheila Mahanke Barnes ©2017

Add some eyelet screws and hanging wire and this one's ready to go! Leaf Cluster VII went through the same series of steps except it was Scor-Taped to foam core board because of the wider rabbet of the Nielsen Bainbridge metal frame it is placed in. Seriously, so slick once one gets over that fear of making a terrible gaffe during the process.

Idaho Maple - Sheila Mahanke Barnes ©2011

I'm allowed three pieces in the "Rooted in Fiber" exhibit so I spent Sunday afternoon looking through my documentation binders for older pieces that would fit the theme and look good with these two, then digging said quilts out of a storage bin. I decided on Idaho Maple which is a 2011 piece using one of the squares of fabric printed during a 2006 experiment with stamping using actual leaves (see this post). Remembering the brief series that I did with those leaf prints back then is what prompted me to try another series with a different type of leaf cut into a stamp. It seemed a nice connection to make. Here's the Artist Statement I devised:  

My love affair with fiber is rooted in my earliest memories, watching my mother and aunt sew at the machine and hand-embroider tea towels, running my fingers over the motifs on the fabric in a quilt made by my grandmother, delving into my mother’s supplies at a very early age for a scrap of fabric, floss and needle to crudely embroider a mother’s day greeting to her. Since then, I’ve tried just about every needle art and sewn many pieces of clothing before discovering my true creative outlet in quilting. With everything else, I mostly followed someone else’s design and directions. With quilting, I found myself easily making changes to patterns and eventually striking out on my own to execute  original designs.

I worked my way from traditional quilting to contemporary “wall quilts” incorporating patchwork blocks to “art quilts” made of fabric enhanced with surface design techniques such as dyes, paint and stamping, sometimes embellished with beads and specialty yarns, and increasingly more often presented in a frame. Underlying my creative journey has always been the love and feel of textiles and an appreciation of the long history of the needle arts.

"Rooted in Fiber" is just one part of this three-part exhibit. Come join us if you can!

"Works in Miniature, Rooted in Fiber, & Beyond Form"
12/15/17 - 03/16/18
This exhibit features three themes in one. "Works in Miniature" will feature miniature art pieces in 2D and 3D, no larger that 8" x 8". "Rooted in Fiber" will feature the many wonders of the fiber art world.  "Beyond Form" will feature a gathering of abstract works.
Please join us for a reception at the Sandpoint Center (former Columbia Bank building on the corner of Fifth Ave. & Church St.) Friday,  December 12th 5:30 - 7pm

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Power of Renaissance Exhibit

Liberating a quilt from under the bed - is it still in one piece?
Since I finished the quilting on the two latest leaf cluster quilts, I've been spending studio time prepping them for framing and dealing with exhibit paperwork. In my time exhibiting with POAC, I think this will be the first time I've had art in two simultaneous exhibits that open just a week apart. Luckily, for this exhibit that sees POAC's return to the Power House, I could pull a quilt from under the bed that hasn't seen the light of day for several years. It had the first drop-off deadline, so I interrupted my framing to tweak its Artist Statement to more closely fit the theme (Renaissance - rejuvenation, rebirth, revival), and unwrapped it from its plastic bag and protective sheet to make sure everything was still properly fused and holding together.

Eisenberg Fountain: The Healing Power of Water ©2015

I always liked the gallery space at the Power House and was sad when circumstances led to POAC finding a different office and gallery space. The businesses in the Power House have missed us though, and we've secured it for gallery space once again. I'm pleased that Eisenberg Fountain: The Healing Power of Water will be hanging there until March.

Click photo for readable size

I've seldom been able to bang out an Artist Statement quickly, and I spent particularly long on this one, partly because POAC is allowing us to fill an 8-1/2 inch x 5-1/2 inch space rather than a 3 x 5 inch one, and partly because I'd be printing it out myself so might be able to include a photo of the actual fountain. I ended up reducing the opacity of the fountain photo and superimposing my text over it and think it is still readable. With quilt checked and all paperwork filled out and collected, the only other thing I needed to do was be sure I was taking the right quilt to the right location!

Eisenberg Fountain was well received on its first outing at the Columbia Bank gallery, and it will be interesting to compare that to the response at tomorrow's opening reception. As always, if you are in the vincinity and can drop by, don't forget to say hi!

"The Power of Renaissance"  12/08/17 - 03/02/18
This will be POAC's first exhibit back at The Power House.  An exhibit celebrating a revival of art at The Power House, as well as, the artist's own personal revival or rebirth.
Please join us for a reception at The Power House on Friday, December 8th 5:30 - 7pm

Friday, December 01, 2017


I can't lie; I was disappointed that the design for the December spread in my pocket calendar was not more Christmassy. Where are the poinsettia blooms, the ivy and the holly leaves? So I made do with trying to color up the blooms with pointy petals to look a bit like poinsettias. Don't ask me what Christmas flower is purple though. I just thought it might be a good second color.

I thought this would be the last of the spreads to color in, but no. This is one of those calendars that gives you a few months into the next year, and they've included one more spread to color to ring in the New Year. I thought perhaps IT was supposed to be for December but the flowers in that one are even less about the holidays. But it looks like it will be fun to color in.