Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Succumbed Again . . .

I have plenty enough to keep me occupied, but say "free 3 day workshop" with an artist I follow and try to learn more from on the subject of mixed media art journaling and collage, well, I can't help but sign up. Knowing how Laly Mille presents these workshops, I knew what I was getting myself into time wise and that with each workshop being recorded, I could watch the videos according to my schedule. And my weekend schedule was full of motorcycle racing! Thus I haven't gotten very far on doing the actual work, but I'm already finding this Abstract Color Challenge to be helpful. I figured if nothing else, sticking with her direction to choose just one color plus some neutrals to work with would help simplify things so I could focus on other things. As you can see from the photo, I chose pink, not because I find it difficult to work with or a color I don't particularly care for, but because, unlike my go to's of teal and rusts, I tend to stereotype it as suitable for girlish quilts, not "serious" work, and difficult to sell if used in an art quilt. Time to get over that and see what I can do with pink.

I was surprised at how very much mixed media supplies I own or have pulled from magazines that are pink. Lots more to work with than I thought I would have. But before doing any work on the small 5 x 5 inch pieces of watercolor paper that would make up the series we'd be working on, we were to fill out a questionnaire about color. No, not questions like what are the three primary colors or what do you mix together to get green. No, it was more assessing how we work with color in general, what are your favorite colors and why, and when and why do you try new color schemes or combinations? My answers inveritably hinged on my experience working with fabric, but also pointed out my stumbling around with paints and what colors to have in my collection. She also sent us this link to Color Meanings which had a lot of info new to me. You might enjoy checking out what your own color preferences mean.

Next was doing some journaling in pencil across our watercolor squares, where I addressed pink directly, admitting that I love seeing pink sunsets and of course pink flowers as well, so why not more pink in my art? Day two we could start choosing collage papers and as usually, I floundered. Such a tiny space! She said it was so we would not be intimidated but I found it intimidating anyway because I always have such big ideas and big pieces of collage designs and have difficulty cutting them up/down. I had to sleep on it. Doing my usual mulling before dropping off, I came up with an idea and plan and got it going the next day. Needing to give it more thought and watch more workshop videos, it has sat in what Laly calls "the awkward teenage phase". Oh, yeah, lots of awkwardness there but with her next steps suggestions, I can see how to get past it now.

In the meantime, the birches out back have given way to autumn and our cooler weather, as have other trees in the neighborhood. We are to get quite a bit of rain this week so spending time reading and working on the challenge and getting back to sewing should be easy to fit in (she says with a laugh). I leave you with Susan Gaylord's wish:

"May autumn's bounty sustain and comfort us as the days shorten and the light recedes."

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Weather Holds

A bit late posting about last week, but it was another lovely one weather wise with temps perfect for getting in a hike. To be honest, I've been a little afraid to get out on a "real" trail even though I'm fairly recovered from the back surgery of last July. Still some issues with stamina, still some occasional issues with pain and the fear that I will find myself far from the trailhead having run out of steam or hurting. But it has been 2 years since my last hike, and that September blog post ended saying there was one more trail at Pine Street Woods where I had been hiking to check out, but I never made it back. It's where I decided to head last week. I wasn't sure about the length of the trail but remembered that it was relatively short, dropping down from the parking lot into the trees. Soon I came to this marker giving me a choice: dive down the steep trail to the right, or continue down a more gentle slope to the left. I wasn't sure if this was a loop trail or two trails and opted for the easier looking path to the left.

There was a sign posted at the entry to the woods warning of high fire danger. We haven't had much rain over the summer and are in a bit of a drought as so much of the country is. So I was surprised to come upon a stand of cedars with soft branches of needles rather than brittle and dry ones. And also young cedars of a bright green like you'd expect in spring. So fresh and beautiful!


Just beyond the cedars, the trail switchbacked onto a flatter section, easy walking, still shaded by trees.

And then it headed up. This is looking back down where I'd just hiked up, at a switchback, and it's hard to tell from the photo how steep this section was.

There were short flatter sections as I headed up the hill, sure now that I was on a loop and would end up back at the trail marker. This was the steepest part.

And I was right about where I would end up. But I'd only been on the trail for about 20 minutes which included pauses for pictures and looking around. Not feeling any pain anywhere and not ready to leave, I decided to take the trail in the opposite direction, only stopping to note the lush moss on the big rock (which again was a surprise because of the dry hot weather we'd had) and take the obligatory foot and walking stick photo to prove I was there. From the switchback, it was a long incline back to the trailhead, requiring a few pauses to catch my breath, but still only took about ten minutes to do the loop the reverse direction. I was thinking then that this was maybe only a half mile loop but I later found it on a map showing it to be .8 miles. A part of me could have done more, I even considered driving on up to the main lot of numerous trailheads but decided not to push my luck. It was a good test run of my post-op body.

I also stopped along a daily walk last week to sketch a row of new houses, but boy did it go off the rails. I started with the middle one of the three I planned to sketch, only to have it soon overtake the entire page. I also didn't take time to check the roof angles which I drew in first and after I sketched in the rest of the house, I could see how off they were. I had planned a second outing to add some color but the sketch is so confusing in its perspective, I may just let it go and either work on a new version straight on rather than at an angle or go back to my original idea of  working in the three houses on one page. I don't often interact with people when I'm urban sketching but this time, as I sat on my 3-legged stool hunched over my sketchbook, a car came around the corner and the driver slowed enough to ask if I was alright. What a puzzle! but after some thought it occurred to me that from the back I might have looked in distress. Guess I need to sit up straighter as I sketch!

Monday, September 11, 2023

Holding on to Summer

We have had such lovely weather this past week. The calendar may have flipped to September and the Labor Day weekend gave the traditional cool and rainy weather, now mother nature is willing to give us more summer-like weather before true fall sets in. I have a large trunk in my livingroom that I cover with a rotating display of my smaller quilts usually geared to the season and I am not yet ready to get out any with fall leaves or fall colors. But this one . . . I had just joined my first ever quilt guild, and people were showing off how their mystery quilts had come out. I was so taken with the design that I asked for the directions so I could make my own version. It called for many fabrics, much cutting of small pieces, and with everything cut and ready for sewing those stars with the log cabin centers, I took it to a weekend retreat. My good friend Judi kept saying to quit matching up fabrics, just grab without looking and sew together. I kept saying, that IS what I am doing but I can't have the same fabric showing up in the same place. Well, you know how that goes. But her chiding did make me get more random with sewing my blocks together, and I just love the way the quilt turned out. And for some reason, it does make me think of September and going back to school, with all that red fabric and even some strips of brick prints. My elementary and Junior High buildings were brick.

So with all that nice weather, I got a bee in my bonnet (not literally) and headed out to the library to pick up new reading material and then to City Beach to get my walk in. The sun was about to dip behind the mountain, the temps were in the 70's, there was a light breeze, and the sailboats were out! How perfect is that? I've been living minutes away from this gorgeous lake since 2006 and I still found myself asking that day, how in the heck did I end up here? Just very lucky.

This late in the day, this late in the season, there weren't many people but gulls were still hanging about. I always marvel at the way they often line up evening spaced apart.

And the geese . . . try as they may, those in charge of the beach area cannot rid it of geese and the mess they leave behind. So here they were again, and with my quirky sense of humor, I noted that they flagrantly disregarded the sign as well.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

A Little Sketching, A Little Heartbreak

To be honest, I didn't feel very good last week, and I kept making excuses for my tired achy body (like the change in the weather and a couple of vigorous yoga sessions) and a sudden runny nose (probably pollen), but there was no explaining away the sore throat that set in. I think I caught a cold! With all the Covid protocols and my general carefulness because of my auto-immune syndrome, it's been years since I've had a cold, but as I started feeling much better over the weekend, I decided that's just what I had. So not a lot done, but I did feel like going ahead with this simple 7 day sketch challenge. I have a habit of jotting things down that I see on the internet on small pieces of paper which quickly get buried, then magically reappear. That's what happened with this challenge which I decided I wanted to do because I had the perfect key and lock for the first drawing assignment. I had a good time with this one, some things drawn from actual items like the keys, some drawn from memory like the vases and veggies. Just something to do while recooperating in front of the TV. No sewing at all, or bookmaking either, in the studio.

All that's left of a beautiful antique quilt

Now for the heartbreak. This is really difficult for me to write about because of my love and reverence for antique quilts and how disturbed I get when I see them cut up to be made into clothing. A part of me understands that some quilts are indeed so heavily damaged and of little historical significance that finding a use for the undamaged parts can give them new life. But it still pains me when, as recently happened, I see a well known and respected member of the quilting community, someone I myself like and appreciate for her skills in creating traditional handquilted quilts as well as beautifully crafted machine quilted art quilts, getting excited about the prospects of cutting up an old quilt and making it into a jacket. The quilt, or what was left of it, was given to her by someone who did not know who had made it, but because of its poor condition (stained and torn and supposedly chewed on by a dog) decided to pass it along saying, "Do what you want with it."

Teardrops are quilted into the wide sashing. Hearts form buds.

As you might imagine, this quilter's many followers on Facebook gleefully backed her thoughts to repurpose the good parts as a jacket (I could envision them high fiveing in their enthusiasm), while I commented, "You are breaking my heart. Please don't do this." Well, that brought down the wrath of her followers, all but one who said she would do what I had said when challenged with if not that, then what: study it, gently mend what could be mended, and store it to lovingly preserve it. There were multiple cries of "her quilt, her decision!", and "the quiltmaker would be so pleased to see her quilt be "saved" this way". Well, maybe, but I think she also might be horrified to see what had become of her quilt she had so carefully made, probably for a special occasion or gift. And I feared that this current owner of the quilt was becoming a terrible role model, setting off a new round of antique quilts being cut up. Sure enough, when the finished jacket was posted, several people commented that wow, they were going to get those old quilts out of the closet, or ask for grandma's quilts back so they could turn them into clothes. I shuddered.

Quilting from the back

This particular quilter is very gracious though, and instead of piling on me like her fans, she offered to send me what was left of the quilt so I could study it and perhaps figure out a way of preserving the remnants and I gratefully accepted. Then in a lengthy e-mail, she explained her reasoning which included "This quilt was so heavily damaged – and not particularly well made or well designed, or of historical value, in my opinion – that I didn’t have too many qualms. . . To me, repurposing old quilts as coats or pillows is not disrespect. When I wear this jacket, it will be to honor the maker, to bring attention to the beauty of old quilts (even the tattered ones), and to give the quilt new life. . ." She also noted that she is the caretaker of many family quilts dating back to her great grandmother. With only seeing the small portion of the quilt she shared in a photo on her posting, I could only take her word for it about it, and decided that she had a point about this not being a family heirloom and pretty much discarded but for her interest in it. I'd know more when I received the part she did not use.

And when it arrived, I was stunned that she would call this not particularly well made. The applique is well-done to my eye, and while the quilting is not dense with tiny stitches, it is well-thought-out to fill the spaces around the applique (I believe there is quite a bit of clam shell used) with even, if not close, stitches. Even the binding looks perfectly applied. Granted, the design itself lacks the sophistication of many of this kind of quilt with the heaviness of the sash or vine border, but the coxcomb flowers and leaves with the distinctive split down the center are beautifully done. I believe this is a quilt from 1850-1860 when this design was popular, and the use of green fabric achieved by overdyeing yellow with blue, or vise versa was common. Some of the new aniline dyes produced a more colorfast product and the overdyeing process often resulted in some greens fading to blue overtime, as may be the case on this quilt. But newer theories and research have posited that there may have been a fad of using blue for stems and leaves instead of green. (I have such a quilt in my collection.) I'll have to take a closer look at the applique to see if I can spot any green lurking where the fabric is turned under. I can't get a good sense of the layout of the whole quilt from this small section, nor how large it originally was, and while the green and blue fabric appear to have held up quite well, the red floral is very worn and faded everywhere. To turn this into a wearable seemed a bad idea to me from the outset and even more so now that I had the quilt in hand. Too old for it to hold up under the abuse a jacket would give it.

But it was out of my hands, the jacket made and proudly shown off, again to the rave reviews and delight of her followers. I'd decided to reserve my feelings about the outcome until I saw how she had used the quilt, thinking that with her knowledge and expertise, she might indeed make a beautiful showpiece of the good parts of the quilt. Instead, I was appalled at the result. I realize that it is tricky to place pattern pieces to best advantage, but in my opinion, this is awful and ugly, no homage to the original maker.

I think it would have been much better had she figured out how to get the coxcombs on the front and the sashing/vine on the back. Oh my heart is thoroughly broken over this. I just have to feel lucky that I now have a piece of this quilt, which I will study and notate and add to my collection of antiques. Every old quilt adds a little bit to our knowledge of the history of quilting. Every single one, whether amateurish or masterful deserves our inquisitive respect. In my opinion, this quilt did not receive the respect it deserved. Perhaps you have a different opinion. I'd be happy to hear it.