Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Stitching

 

I have finally reached the point when I can begin stitching on this piece. Getting the top together was challenging and fun, but the top, alone, is a flimsy, lifeless thing, in need of texture and substance. Now the real work begins. I layer and pin baste, getting it ready to go under the needle. My machine is readied—cleaned, oiled and fitted with a sharp new needle.

 

A man, looking at my work one time, asked about the "special" machine I must use for quilting a piece. He speculated that it was some computer-driven wonder that one programs to "do all the work for you." I think he envisioned placing the layered fabric under the needle, pushing a button and walking away, leaving the machine to do its magic. Not even close. I use a heavy-duty, strictly mechanical (not digital) machine for quilting. It does nothing but straight stitch. It has an extra wide opening to accommodate the bulky fabric layers I push through it and it allows me to drop the feed dogs—those saw-toothy runners that ordinarily push the fabric in a forward motion. When the feed dogs are dropped and I use a free-motion foot, I can, with my non-computerized hands, guide the fabric forward, backward, side-to-side to create the paths and patterns the stitching takes. It is a bit like drawing by moving the paper under a stationary pencil.

The stitching is slow and laborious. Hard on one's back and shoulders, but, at the same time, meditative and rhythmic. I don't plan or mark the patterns I stitch ahead, so it become an ongoing improvisation, a conversation between the fabric and me about what the composition needs. It feels a little reckless and iffy to just make it up as I go, but also totally absorbing and the sense of time falls away. And when I finally stop, stretch my stiffened back and stand back from the work, I see that it is coming to life. That's what the stitching does.

 

I have many hours of this ahead of me.

 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Watching the volcano

 

In 1999 my, then, 22 year-old daughter Emily was teaching English in Ecuador and she and some friends decided to climb, with a guide, to the peak of Cotopaxi, the tallest active volcano in the world. That's her on the right, at the summit. I knew nothing about this caper until I got a phone call from her, excitedly proclaiming, "Mom, Dad, guess what I did this weekend!" Cotopaxi is just outside the Ecuadorean Capitol of Quito and is a spectacular sight on clear days. Emily and her family were in Ecuador earlier this month and she posted this photo from the Air B'nb in Quito where they were staying.

That's Cotopaxi poking up near the center of the photo. As you can imagine, she has a special feeling and fondness for the mountain.

When Ray and I visited Emily in Quito in 2004, she arranged for us to visit her mountain. We took a van up as far as the road goes and parked in a big, windswept parking lot. The plan was to hike, with our guides, up to the base camp, which was visible from the parking lot. The summit towers above the base camp. When I stepped out of the van I was hit with with a wave of dizziness and my heart began to pound as I struggled to get enough air in my lungs. One look and the guide said, " No. You can't go. You must wait in the van." I seem to be more sensitive to the altitude than the others. It took no convincing for me to wait in the van. I read. I drew in my sketchbook. I slept. I moved as little as possible. Here is the sketch I made, sitting on the van's back bumper. When I look at this sketch I can feel the cold and the fog and the buzzy light-headedness that overtook me.

Now Cotopaxi is erupting after nearly 140 years. So far it is sending plumes of ash into the air. No one knows quite what to expect. One of the fears is, of course, more violent and damaging eruption. Another is that it will become hot enough to melt the glacier that covers its peak, sending massive flooding into the valleys below.

 

I think of all the times I have heard on the news of a volcano erupting in some far off part of the world. It passes through one ear and out the other, without making an impact. Ho hum. But now it's a little more personal. I have been there. I have stood, very shakily, on that volcano. I will be watching. Want to watch along with me? http://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/2015/08/aftermath-of-cotopaxi-volcano-eruption-in-ecuador/#1

 

 

 

 

Monday, August 24, 2015

I thought I was done...

I really did, so I hung it up to look at for awhile and something kept nagging at me. Something else. It just needed something else, and I kept thinking I wish I had put just a spot of something red in there. It really seemed to be crying for just a little red—a roof, or??

And there was something else that just wasn't quite right. It didn't take long to make just some small changes and now I think it is done.

Camas Prairie finished and now I'm on to something new.

What a busy summer it has been. Beth and I haven't gotten a lot of walking in, but had a good walk this morning. Our favorite walk has thrived in our absence.

The Beavers and ducks have well and truly taken over a section of our paved walking path, which has been under water long enough now that wetland foliage has begun to grow up along the new shoreline and the dog walkers have worn a new path uphill from where the old one disappears into the water.

We've yet to see a beaver, but there is plenty of evidence that they are there, busily designing thir new habitat.

 

Beaverton. I guess there's a reason they named the town that.

 

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Some make it, some don't...

This has been a busy summer of preparing work for submission to one show or project or another. Submitting is always fussy and time-consuming and, at least for me, somewhat stressful. For one thing when you make something targeted at a particular show, with requirements and themes and such there is the anxiety of meeting all those requirements and making sure you haven't forgotten something key, like the prescribed size or how to prepare the rod pocket on the back, and of course you are second-guessing yourself all the way to the moment you actually proffer your submission.  "Will this really communicate the theme?,  Is this piece going to be so far out it just won't mix with any of the other entries? Will the juror be one of those that only likes one style, or hates words on art, or thinks commercial fabrics are unacceptable, or, or, or is this just horrible and stupid????" Rejection is hard to take, but it's part of the program. At the SAQA Conference this spring, Maria Shell, one of the speakers said she feels she is doing well if she has a 50% acceptance rate. I latched onto that number and, by her standard I have done OK this summer.

First the accepted:

The Rhythm of Rain

A Sense of Summer

Both of these pieces will be part of the High Fiber Diet "Making our Mark" show, which had the requirement of at least 75% neutral color and the inclusion of a common mark which will be hidden or in plain site in all included pieces. I was so happy with both of these pieces that I would have been  very disappointed if they were not chosen. Each really does express my take on mark-making and a cool, clean neutral color space.

The not accepted (I can't bring myself to use the word "rejected"):

Anne, Patron Saint of Grandmothers

This was a submission for a publishing project and a bit of a shot in the dark. I wasn't entirely sure it met the criteria and it was constructed in haste to meet the deadline. It's fine. I'm fine. It is small and will be good for other shows and/or sales.

"We are such stuff..."

My submission for the Oregon SAQA Show and frustrating in a variety of ways.  I made this specifically for this submission to the theme "Blending poetry and fiber" and stepped quite a bit out of my box here. It is a little bit of tribute to the artwork of Corita Kent and my years at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I hated making it. It was a total bitch to put together and stitch. Maybe that alone cursed it. It looks nothing like my other work, but I still have some fondness for it. I struggled physically and mentally with this one. I hoped it would find a place in the show, but never had a good feeling for that happening. From what I saw of what others were working on this seemed too graphic, too word-y, too......much. And I failed to have my piece accepted for the last Oregon SAQA show, so that is looming in my mind as a nut I have to crack! (Is that really a reason to make art? I don't think so.)

Right now I am working on things with no particular show or requirement in mind and it is such a pleasure! And I will be thinking about what succeeded and what didn't and especially the fact that what I really loved and engaged in was successful and the ones that I was less engaged with were not. There is a lesson there, if I can figure out how to make use of it.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

My Mom

 

Betty Jo van Valkinburg Howard, age 5

Today would have been my mother's 90th birthday and I am missing her today. I always thought we would someday celebrate her 90th with a big party, which she would have loved. My sister would have made her a Bacardi Rum cake. Mmmmm. She came from a line of strong pioneer women, so this wasn't an unreasonable expectation. But not to be. She and my Dad both passed away, five months apart 17 years ago.

I could tell you about her many accomplishments, and they were many,— or what a great Mom she was—and she was, or about how she overcame a difficult childhood, but what I was thinking about this morning in the shower was how funny she could be. And I remembered a particular day.

We went to visit an elderly woman—sort of an obligation, but a lovely person, who was so happy to see us. She regaled us with stories about her children and served us cheesecake, which she had made, with the help of her housekeeper. On the way home Mom said she was so glad we had gone and how good it had been to visit with this woman. "And the cheesecake was good!" I added. Mom got a funny look and said, "yesssss, but my piece had a chicken bone in it." I was incredulous. Seriously? Mom continued, " it was almost the last bite on my plate, and it had a little chicken bone in it. I didn't know what to do, so I stuck it in my pocket." and she dug into her pocket and pulled out the little bone wadded up in a Kleenex. We stared in silence at the tiny bone and then we started to laugh. And we laughed until tears ran down our faces. Then Mom would pull herself together and mutter, "not funny" then we would erupt all over again, howling and snorting with laughter. It said something about who my Mom was. She was too kind to embarrass her friend by mentioning her gross discovery, or to even leave the evidence on the plate, but she wasn't above finding the humor in the situation and enjoying a good laugh.

So, on what would have been her 90th birthday I am not going to dwell on sadness, but rather be grateful to her for showing me, over and over, that you can't take yourself too seriously. She never did. Happy Birthday, Mom.

 

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Carlos and Me

It is kind of a funny story how my son-in-law, Carlos, and I came to be exhibiting our artwork together at City Hall. Carlos, who is from Ecuador, is a wonderful painter. Last fall I urged him to submit some paintings online to be juried for a city-sponsored art exhibit that I was also applying to. When he described the submission process it sounded unfamiliar to me, so we looked online together. Turns out he had misunderstood and instead submitted to the city's "art in public places" program. A second try got him the right exhibit submission form and we both had work accepted. But he also got an email from the city arts coordinator telling him his application for the "public places" program had been accepted and they'd like to show his work at City Hall this summer! Since he had only a few paintings to show, the coordinator suggested they combine his work with another compatible artist— did he know of anyone? He did. Me. We decided my pieces that depict Ecuadorean and Mexican architecture would nicely complement his work of similar subjects. It's not a big show, but it looks really nice in the foyer of the Beaverton City Hall building.

 

As a result of the show, we were the subject of a nice story in the little local newspaper.

 

Their reporter and photographer came to my studio and spent more than an hour asking questions and taking photos. I especially like the photo, below, of us laughing. I really like my son-in-law, and I think that shows in that photo.

 

In the course of our interview, Carlos said something that really pleased me. The reporter asked, "why do you make art?" I often hear the question and cringe a little at the pompous-sounding answers that often come out of artists' mouths—"because I must..." Because it is what I was born to do..." etc. Carlos said, " it makes me feel alive". Exactly.

 

Our small show is at The Beaverton City Hall through the end of August.

You can read the interview here:http://www.pamplinmedia.com/bvt/17-features/268227-142258-inlaws-terry-grant-and-carlos-molina-both-have-distinct-artistic-styles

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sprechen sie Deutsch?

 

This arrived in the mail last week. It is my quilt, "Red Umbrellas" on the cover of a German quilting magazine. I was surprised and pretty excited! Inside is a translated reprint of the article I wrote for the Dutch magazine several months ago. Here's what it looks like in the German magazine.

 

Crazy. Stuff happens— I'm not sure how. Well, it's the Internet is what it is. An editor sees something on a blog or a web site and contacts me or you or whoever posts it and proposes an article, then someone else sees the article and proposes something else and without ever meeting, documents and photos and discussions and translations take place and there it is. It's all so easy. Remember when it was all so hard? Maybe you don't. Maybe that was before your time. Not mine. I remember. I repeat—crazy.

And here's something else. Do you know about Through our Hands—an online fiber arts magazine, coming out of the UK? It is the creation of Laura Kemshall and Annabel Rainbow, two wonderful British artists. I loved it from the first issue. It is simply beautiful. And then they asked me to write for them, which pretty much blew my mind. I have just finished my third essay for the magazine, which will be in the next issue. (it comes out quarterly). Here is the cover of the last issue.

 

Click here if you are interested in taking a look.

So, gosh, I am feeling very worldly and international, all without leaving the comfort of my little woodsy, Oregon home.

Crazy.