Saturday, May 25, 2019

Making Mini-Quilts for Creative Minds Gallery

At my one-woman show last September, I included a number of small pieces that I called my potholder collection.  These are little quiltlets that allow me to experiment with materials, processes and compositions before committing to a larger quilt which can take months to make.  I don't finish all of my little practice pieces--a fair number end up in the trash.   The ones I do complete end up tacked on the wall of my studio as reference pieces in case I do make a larger version. I included several of these small pieces in my one-woman show with the idea they would to help explain how I work.

To my surprise, all of them sold.  A friend who bought a couple told me she could never afford to buy my larger works, but loved being able to have a couple small pieces for her collection.

I have several pieces hanging in Eastsound, Washington, at the Creative Minds Gallery.  Most of them are 3 feet by 4-feet-ish.  After a discussion with Janet, the gallery owner, I decided to make some smaller pieces and see if appealed to people.
From my evening bag series, around 2008 or so.
beaded and thread embroidery
Quite awhile  ago, I used to make evening bags and pillows featuring marine invertebrates.  I enjoyed making them, largely because I included things like beads, decorative threads, thread embroidery and other surface embellishments. So, I started working on a few small pieces--most around 12"x18" or less.  They've been selling just about as fast as I can make them, and just like the purses and pillows I used to make, they allow me to play with all the things I like--beads, paint, thread, yarns, and free-motion embroidery.  Best of all, if an idea doesn't work out, it's OK because I don't have a lot of time or money invested, so I just start again.

 I've made tube worms, bullkelp, strawberry anemones, star fish and octopuses.  I love finishing a piece in days rather than months and have lots of ideas for more small pieces.  Nevertheless, I do need to get back to two large pieces that having been hanging on my design walls so long that I fear they may be attached to the wall with cobwebs!!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Road Trip to Paducah

When my quilt, Signed, Sealed and Delivered was juried into the granddaddy of all quilt shows, the Spring Paducah Quilt Week Show, I decided I had to go to Kentucky.  This decision was prompted in no small part by the fact that my oldest and dearest friend, Phyllis, lives in Louisville.

Phyl and I went to high school in Ankara, Turkey, and though we've never lived anywhere near each other since graduating from high school, we have always stayed in touch, and gotten together periodically over the 50+ years since high school.  No matter how many years pass between our reunions, we are always able to pick right up, as though we'd never been apart.  It's the gift of a life-long friendship.

So, I flew into Louisville, and a day later, Phyllis and I hit the road down to Paducah.  It was about a four hour drive, mostly down the Western Kentucky Parkway.  Springtime in Kentucky is stunningly beautiful.  We talked and laughed as we drove past miles of rolling green hills, deciduous forests, red bud and dogwood trees in bloom, and fields of yellow golden rod.  Beautiful.

Phyllis, a retired school principal, and college professor, is also an accomplished painter.  Both of us were inspired and encourage to make art by our high school art teacher, Miss Cosper.  In a thousand ways she showed that making and appreciating art was for everybody--even a couple of sergeants' daughters.  So it seemed only fitting that a "Flat Stanley" style Miss Cosper accompany us on the trip to Paducah.  We thought of contacting Miss Cosper to let her know of her lasting influence on us, but doing the math, we figure she'd be over a hundred and probably no longer painting among us.  Why didn't we think of contacting her years ago???

The night before leaving Phyllis's house for Paducah I got an email from The American Quilter's Society saying I'd won a prize.  They didn't say what the prize was--I had to go to the award ceremony to find that out.  I was over the moon to just get into the Paducah show in the first place.  I certainly never expected to win a prize.  Whew.  Be still my heart.

So Tuesday night, before the main hoopla of the quilt show, Phyl and I went to the awards ceremony.  I assumed I had won an honorable mention at best.  We sat through the awarding of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place awards in 16 categories.  As the table was emptying of trophies,  I became quite convinced that I'd been inadvertently left off the honorable mention group which was announced at the start of the awards event without much fanfare.

But then Victoria Findlay Wolfe, the MC for the event, announce my name.  Yowser.  I'd won an award with a very long name:  The Brother Corporation's Best Wall Stationary Machine Workmanship Award.  It came with an engraved crystal vase, which was pretty cool, and a check for $3000, which was way cool!  Phyllis tried to take my picture as I went on stage to get my award, but apparently I ran up, grabbed my award and dashed off.  It's all a blur to me.

The next day, Phyllis and I went to the show itself.  Paducah is off the beaten trail for sure, but for any artist or quilter, it's well worth the trip to see this exhibit.  Phyllis had only seen traditional state-fair type quilts, and was pretty amazed by the artistry and workmanship on display in Paducah.

Though it didn't win best in show, our favorite quilt was  Ruby Wedding Anniversary by Harumi Asada Higashiura, pictured below.  It had everything--piecing, applique, surface embellishment, hand stitching, free-motion quilting, tons of detail and stunning colors.  It looked a hundred times better than this photo suggests.

Going to Paducah, and winning a prize was great, but sharing the whole experience with Phyllis was pure joy.  She's the sister I never had.  I could never have imagined all those years ago when we were smoking cigarettes in the girls' room that we'd still be dear friends all these years later.  I don't know if I'll ever have another quilt make it to Paducah, but I do know Phyllis and I plan to have many more adventures.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Call for Entries, Improve Your Quilt Bindings, and a Good Read

Here are Five Things that Caught my Attention this week:

1.  Sacred Threads Quilt show has plans for a special installation at their show this
summer.  The project is called Eye Contact.  They are asking artists to submit small quilts, 5-inches by 23-inches of human eyes looking at the viewer.  This is not juried; anyone can submit. Deadline is May 31, 2019.  For details go the Sacred Threads website.  Above is a piece from the Sacred Threads page, by Barbara Hollinger.  This exhibit may not be for the more paranoid among us.

2.  Another upcoming deadline is for the Lincoln Center 37th Annual New Legacies:Contemporary Art Quilts show.  (Yeesh, what a LONG title.). The deadline is May 20th, and the show is in Fort Collins, CO in July.  Here's the info.

3.  There are so many stellar quilts in quilt shows these days, that judges often look to the smallest technical skill to determine the winners.  Master quilter Sharon Schamber, who has accumulated a heap of first-place ribbons over the years, says bindings are one of those details judges carefully examine.  She offers this tutorial for creating the perfect binding.   Her instructions have certainly improved my bindings.

 4.  I loved Old in Art School by Nell Painter.  After retiring from a career as a highly regarded historian, Princeton professor, and author of numerous history books, Painter went to art school.  No, she didn't take some Continuing Ed. art courses to become a hobby painter.  She went to art school.  Full time--art school!!!  And if that wasn't enough, then she went to graduate school at the Rhode Island School of design. Whew.                                                               
Painter's background as a historian shines through as she discusses the works of artists past and present, and how they influenced her work and her thinking.  She asks several thought provoking questions--for example, what does it mean to be an artist, and who the hell gets to decide?  She had a vicious art school professor who told her she'd NEVER be an artist.  Cripes! What kind of ass does something like that? 

Painter tells the painful story of how race and age impacted her time in school, often leaving her alone and filled with self-doubt--nevertheless, she persisted and her story (and courage) is inspiring.  When I turned the last page I felt like I knew and loved Nell Painter. I wanted to call her up and say, "come on over for a cup of tea and tell me what mountains you are climbing today."

5.  This week I'm in Paducah at the AQS Spring Show.  More on that next week.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sewing and Mental Health

Here are 5 things that interested me this week:
1.  An article by Clare Hunter, author of Threads of Life: a History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle, in The Guardian.  She writes about the mental health benefits of sewing.  She describes a charitable project, called Fine Cell Work, which teaches inmates in prisons around the UK embroidery.  Their creations are sold online, earning them a little money, but the bigger benefit seems to be the peace and comfort their stitching afforts them.  I am a bit surprised by this claim, since I think things like a tangled threads, running out of bobbin, and threading a serger, seem to undo any serenity I might enjoy from sewing.

2.  Speaking of Clare Hunter, her recently publish book, Threads of Life, explores the social, emotional and political significant of sewing--which through the ages.  Sewing has largely a women's craft, and as such, not generally given the same status as art work produced by men.

3.  Healthline  weighs in on the mental benefits of not just sewing, but all handicrafts.  They credit hobbies and crafts with reducing depression and anxiety, improving mood, and creating a greater sense of well-being.  It doesn't seem to matter what the craft is--knitting, painting, sewing, cake decorating, photography, playing an instrument, or even coloring in a coloring book; it's all good.  Jeez, have we ever needed crafts more than now???

4.  An article in the Daily Mail claims that quilting improves your health even more than exercise!!!  Whoa.  Now there's a claim that grabs my attention.  I don't think I'll give up exercise, but when I occasional skip a workout to finish a piece, I won't feel so guilty!

5.  And here's what I've been working on this week:

Harkening back to the days I made purses and pillows with marine invertebrates, I made some small pieces--around 10x15-ish--featuring marine critters.  These will go to Creative Minds Gallery tomorrow.  I like having some small, affordable pieces, and making things like this gives me a place to try new ideas and play around a bit without the huge risk or expense of a large piece.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Snippets of this and that.

I have such a hard time keeping this blog rolling, as evidenced by the fits and starts of my postings.  I've decided to take a page out of Austin Kleon's book, and instead of struggling to write a long, somewhat cogent article, just patch together random snippets.  Austin publishes a weekly newsletter of 10 things that might interest his readers.  He's an over-achiever.  I'm not.  I'm going to post FIVE things I'm interesting in, that more or less relate to quilting, art quilting, and/or being an artist, and then I'll have another cup of coffee.

So here are this week's snippets:

 1.  If you're in or around San Jose, California in the next 3 months stop in at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles to see the H2OH! show organized by SAQA (Studio Art Quilters Association.)  You can see details from some of the pieces here.  The show runs from April 20 to July 14, 2019.  

2.  Are you trying to make a living, or even part of a living from your art?  Then you need this book by Lisa Congdon.  Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building your Career as an Artist.  The book has lots of practical advice on how to start your art biz, a few pep talks about snapping out of the mindset that artists need to be poor and long suffering, and interviews with artists who are making a living with their art.  Though Art, Inc. has been out about five years, it is extremely relevant.

3.  As long as I'm promoting books for artistic types, and stealing a format from Austin Kleon, I should mention his book.  Actually, series of books.  Steal Like an Artist was Kleon's first book, followed by Show your Work! and recently, Keep Going.  

Keep Going was just released, and Kleon is out on a book promoting tour.  Check his schedule to see if he'll be at a book store, brew pub, or library near you.

4.  This is a sad story about a phenominal work of art languishing in a closet.  Around the year 2000 nearly 60 artisans came together to create a tapestry the exact height and length of the Bayeux Tapistry (28 inches high by 108 feet long), and using the same materials--linen and wool yarn. The tapestry depicts the history of Vancouver, Washington.  It is believed to be the only project of its kind in the country.  Unfortunately, after briefly being displayed at a few venues, it has languished in a closet for many years, unable to find a permanent home.  It is worth your time to take a couple minutes to watch this video showing the entire length of the work.

5.  And lastly, here's what I am working on this week:
I've been thrashing in the wilderness trying to figure out how to make the random thicket of twigs and branches you see as you look back into a forest.  I tried stitching, painting, and drawing with permanent ink and markers, but none of them pleased me.  Finally, I happened upon, and stole,  a process from Bobbie Baugh. (Theft seems to be a recurring theme this week.).  Baugh uses wheat paste resist and acrylic paints to create amazing textures in her work.  I knew it was just what I needed to make the background of my Hoh rain forest of giant trees on the Olympic Peninsula.
This piece is a long way from being finished, but now that I have a background and some tree trunks in place, I'm unstuck and able to move forward!!
That's it for this week.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Sketchbook Project

For years I've toyed with the idea of joining the Sketchbook Project,  but figured I'd just procrastinate and never complete the book or return it on time.  I'm not a great sketcher, and performance anxiety would likely keep me from even starting.

But then, my daughter gave me the Sketchbook Project Sketchbook for Christmas.  Well darn!  I can't let my kid down, so even though I'm pressing up against the deadline, actually completed the book.  I picked a theme, got out my colored pencils and ink pens and cranked out some sketches--some good, like the lion's mane jelly fish, and some not so great.  But there it is.  Finished.  It's going to the post office today.

It's spring.  It's the beginning of gardening season...I wish I'd got out the nail brush and scrubbed up my garden-grubby hands before making this video!! 

Going to Paducah

I'm so please that my quilt of the Deer Harbor Post Office has been chosen for the AQS Paducah spring show.  It's been packed up and shipped.

I'm always pleased when a piece is juried into a show, but the Paducah show is extra sweet, because Phyllis, my best friend from high school, lives in Louisville.  We went to high school over 50 years ago in Ankara, Turkey--an interesting place and a bonding experience!!  We've stayed in touch all these years, and every few years get together in some interesting place.  This time, we're going to do a road trip to Paducah.

I have a tiny little quilt in the permanent collection at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, so we might be able to see it...or not.  Mostly it'll be fun to spend time with Phyllis with a few quilts thrown in!