Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Weaver

I finally finished my piece that depicts an Ecuadorean weaver.

Last week Rayna showed her process on a piece she was working on and suggested that others talk about and show some of the process of putting a piece of art together. So I will try to retrace some of the steps involved in this piece.

I have a number of photos of weavers from Otavalo in Ecuador that I have taken over the years. Here are a couple.

I made a sketch based roughly on the photo on the right. I decided I did not want her to look photographic or quite so specific.

I had been looking at a book my son-in-law gave me of paintings by an Ecuadorean artist named Eduardo Kingman and I liked the strength and simplicity of his work.

I did another sketch of a simpler, more iconic face and knew that was more the direction I wanted to go.

Tomorrow I will talk more about getting the image to cloth.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I'm bad . . .

and insensitive and ungrateful. My good friend, Anonymous, reminded me that on Sunday before my "other stuff" entry, I had gone to her house and enjoyed both her great company and that of Mr. Anonymous and a truly great dinner—not chopped liver by a long shot! Well, in my feeble defense, I was thinking of my week starting on Monday, so when I declared my blood donation the social event of my week, that did not include the great dinner that I was counting in the previous week.

Ummmmm—I'm not sure I'm making this better. I think I need to go get some help pulling this foot out of my mouth.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

All the other stuff

There are a few things that are really important to me—my family and friends and being able to be creative. And then there's all the other stuff. Some of it is good and some of it is tolerable and very little is really bad and most of it is what supports the really important things.

This week has been all about the other stuff. My husband is working out of town, my walking partner is out of town and I haven't heard from my kids. It's just me and the cat and we actually don't like each other very much.
Time to be creative?—not so much. This is where I have spent the vast majority of my time this week.

I have a job I have never talked about on this blog. It is a halftime job that I do from home. I am the administrative assistant for the Oregon State Chapter of P.E.O. which is an organization that raises money for and awards millions of dollars in scholarships for women. It is, in my opinion, a really wonderful organization. My job is mostly bookkeeping. It is hard for me. I struggle with accounting and the responsibility of handling large sums of money can be stressful. But I think it is something worthwhile and it supports my art quilt habit.

Housework is not something I enjoy, but I also get disgusted when things get gnarly. This little cabinet above the stove had become a nightmare. It had some really ancient stuff up there, including a bottle of white vinegar that had turned brown and 20 year old tea bags. I took a break from my computer and cleaned it out. I threw a bunch of stuff away, scrubbed it all out and organized things nicely. Teas on one side of the big vent thing-y, and oils and vinegars on the other side. Nice, huh? I even put new shelf liners in and things don't stick anymore.

I also gave blood this week. I have been working so hard that it actually felt like an outing to drive across town to the Red Cross. I did not give blood for years because I had a problem with feeling dizzy and icky when I did. A few years ago I decided to try it again and I think the secret is either getting older, taking care not to watch the needle go in or drinking lots of water, all of which I always try to do (except the getting older—that takes care of itself). No problems now. I am healthy and can give blood, which some people can't. They always need it, so I feel like it's the least I can do. I had a good phlebotomist who was quick and accurate. It was really not very busy so she did not have another victim, err client, and we visited about shoes. She admired mine and we talked about what a good deal I had gotten at Nordstrom Rack and how hard it is to find comfy shoes. Then a wizened, hunched little old man in a Red Cross baseball cap served me orange juice and a Krispee Kreme donut and we visited about the Olympics. This is really sad that this was THE social event of my week.

Ray gets home tomorrow night, Beth is home so we can start walking again and my good friends from Ashland are coming this weekend. Next week should count as "good stuff". I've paid my dues with the "other stuff" this week.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A pattern emerges

San Juan Puerto Rico is such a beautiful place—the sky is this amazing shade of blue, the sea is deep turquoise, the old buildings are wonderful colors of ochre and stone and sun-faded pastels. The day we walked all over Old San Juan I was on visual overload and couldn't take pictures fast enough. Suddenly, late in the morning I began to see a pattern emerging—windows, doorways, structures all with a graceful arch. I will henceforth think of it as the "shape" of old San Juan.

Ever since then I have been thinking about archways and curved domes. Do you notice, sometimes, that a shape, a color, some element that has been all around you forever, suddenly inhabits your head in a way as if you were discovering it for the first time? Arches. I'm seeing arches everywhere.

The top photo is the entrance to the city of San Juan museum and you see that inside are a series of arched doorways. The top of this arched entrance was filled with a beautiful metal grill in a design like the rays of a rising or setting sun.

The city of San Juan is nothing if not fortified. Two huge forts built by the Spanish and a massive sea wall guarded the coastline from pirates and foreign invaders. All along the sea walls and the forts are these lovely little guard houses that you see in the second picture.

The third picture is a window inside Fort Cristobal, which shows how thick the walls are.

The next picture is a structure covering the entrance to a spiral stairway within the fort.

Next, doorway and window and arched ceiling inside Fort Cristobal.

Smallish structures along the walls atop the fort were for guns and cannons.

And, finally, my favorite of my arch pictures. That is Ray emerging from an arched passageway inside Fort Cristobol. Ahead, of course, you see another arch, but also notice the arch-shaped shadows in the walkway between.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A closer look at that St. Thomas quilt

After I posted the picture of my "Red Roofs of Charlotte Amalie" quilt yesterday I realized what a bad picture it is and I really wanted to show it better. I just re-photo'ed it with the digital camera and you can see it here. The other picture was on my very out of date web site and it was pre-digital camera. It was a photo that I scanned and thought quite acceptable at the time. Such primitive technology!

It has been fourteen years since I made that quilt, but I still remember how much fun I had making it. There are a couple of quilt-y puns incorporated. The island is pieced in the traditional clamshell pattern and the water is pieced from half-square triangles as they are used in the ocean waves pattern. Get it?—clamshells and ocean waves? The border is constructed to look like a window frame with geckos crawling on the wall. And the blue in the water is shaded from turquoise to deep blue just as the Caribbean looks around the island.

Here are a couple of details.

Everything was pieced, except the buildings, which were hand appliqued over the pieced background. This was either before I discovered fusing or before I thought fusing was acceptable! The little triangle fishes, however, look remarkably like the little yellow fish that we saw while snorkeling.

I thought I was quite clever to quilt the arched windows into some of the buildings. The red roofs were made from several different shades of red, just as the real red roofs of Charlotte Amalie are varying shades of red.

I entered this quilt in a show in Montana and won a cash prize—the first I ever won for a quilt. It hung in Ray's office at Portland Community College for years and I got a lot of compliments on it.

Thanks for indulging this little trip down memory lane.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Be sure to check out the latest entry on our Ecuador Blog about a visit to a weaving studio.

Caribbean Blue

I don't think I ever mentioned the reason I was traveling last week. Ray is working in the US Virgin Islands for two weeks out of each month. He has been doing this since October and will continue to do so through April. (He does IT consulting for colleges and universities—he is working for the University of the Virgin Islands right now) So poor Terry is home alone in Portland two weeks a month and decided that I ought to at least get a trip out of this deal and what better time than February to escape Portland rain. So first, several days in Puerto Rico, then to St. Thomas for a couple of days.

Ray worked in the V.I. for several months about 14 years ago, so I had been there. It hasn't changed a lot since then. There are probably a few more fancy resorts, the cruise ships in the harbor are even more enormous than ever and the abandoned cars are gone from along the roadsides. A friend was telling me that St. Thomas got some kind of grant (EPA maybe?) to remove thousands of abandoned cars from the island and there are now stiff penalties for abandoning cars. As you might imagine, disposal of a nonfunctional automobile is a problem on a small island. I have to admit there was something rather charming about seeing a rusted out VW van engulfed in flowering vines with chickens living in it. Above is a "photoquilt" of some images of St. Thomas.

To bring this all back to the subject of fabric art, below is the quilt I made for Ray after our first visit to St. Thomas in '92. It was one of my first totally "art" quilts and is titled "Red Roofs of Charlotte Amalie"

I got home alone to Portland late last night. The shuttle driver, that took me to my car, said snow was expected, but today it is sunny and clear. The cat was happy to see me. It is quiet/lonesome in the house. Ray is back at work in the V.I.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

How should I know where we are? I've never been here before

After our wonderful day in San Juan we rented a car and took off toward the Puerto Rican rain forest called El Yunque. Ray drove, I navigated. This arrangement is not necessarily effective. Ray has a terrible sense of direction but loves maps and understands them and believes that if one has a map in hand you cannot get lost. For me maps are frustrating and a last resort when intuition fails. I am also right-left challenged so I give confusing directions and am likely to point right and say "turn left." I'm not a good navigator.

My directions did get us to the rain forest, however, and we had a very nice day exploring the visitors' center and hiking a bit.

The dark areas you see on the pillars throughout the visitors' center were pieces of mossy sod with an orchid growing out of each one.

I was a little disappointed not to see more wildlife, but the flowers and huge stands of bamboo and giant ferns and exotic trees strung with Tarzan vines were awesome.

We left the rain forest and headed for the town of Fajardo where we had a reservation for the night. I got us only slightly lost, but figured out where I had gone wrong on the map fairly quickly and we eventually found the hotel, which miraculously had a good little Mexican restaurant and excellent margaritas. Lunch earlier had been truly grisly--Puerto Rican Chinese food made from gray, stringy chicken (???--I couldn't help but remember the roadkill iguanas we'd seen earlier, gag)--so something tasty and nourishing was high on our list of basic needs at that point.

The next day we headed out in search of historic ruins of a rum distillery and a history and art museum as we circled back toward San Juan. We made wrong turns. We found cows and chickens. I cursed the stupid map. Ray lost patience. We saw many country roads and small villages, but no distillery ruins and no museums. We did see this interesting ruin of an old house right at the edge of the ocean at one point when we stopped to ask directions. It's the only picture I took all day. By the time we dropped off the rental car we were both quite grumpy.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Guess where I am

I am not in rainy old Portland. I am in a beautiful, sunny city, rich in history and culture. I am still in the United States, but it feels like a foreign country.

Here's a hint. This beautiful place was discovered by Chrisopher Columbus and settled by Ponce de Leon. It was claimed by Spain (see Queen Isabella below) and obtained by the US as a result of the Spanish American war.

OK, by now you have probably figured out that I am in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We arrived last night and spent today walking all over old San Juan. The buildings are painted wonderful colors and the flowers and plants are amazing and the sky is the most incredible blue and the ocean is that unreal Carribean blue. It is good to be here.

We are staying in a Hotel that was a convent 300 years ago. It is quite lovely. Tomorrow we are going to drive out to a rain forest.

P.S. My feet really hurt.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I am all ready to start putting my Valentines together. I have done this for years. I originally started sending Valentines and a yearly letter because things were just so hectic around Christmas that I was not getting Christmas cards made and sent as I used to. Now it seems like the Valentine is also a big rush to finish and mail in time.

I had my hearts printed at Kinko's on card stock and sat and cut them out in front of the TV the other night. Ray wrote most of the letter and I dropped in photos of Emily's wedding—our biggest event of the past year. I have printed mailing labels and have red envelopes to send them in. I have printed my message and cut out the two shades of red paper to the correct size. Now it is a matter of gluing, folding and stuffing.

We are leaving for a short trip early in the morning. Maybe I can work on Valentines on the plane. Maybe not.

Even though I end up rushed every year, the Valentines are something I really enjoy doing. As I address each one I think about the person it is going to and usually write a little note in the margins of the printed letter. In most cases they go to friends we haven't seen for a long time and to family. I think about what these people mean in my life and how years can go by between visits, but I cherish that slender thread that continues to connect us. I found a quote that I considered using on the Valentine or in the letter. I didn't use it, but it does express the way I feel, so I will share it here.

"A good friend is a connection to life—a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world."
- Lois Wyse

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Remember this?

I have shown this piece in various stages including here and here. Progress has been slow simply because I have been sidetracked by other things. I have been quilting on it, however, and have finished the background and started on the figure.

I kept the figure separate from the background until I was finished quilting the background, because I wanted the background pretty heavily quilted and I knew it would draw the piece up considerably and I did not want the figure distorted by this. Now I am quilting the figure through all layers, leaving the outside edges of the figure unattached until the end.

I have lain awake thinking about how to go about quilting the face. I have seen other quilted faces that I didn't like and not too many I have liked, so I am making this up. I do not want a lot of quilting lines in her face, but I felt it needed some quilting and that quilting in the areas that recede would even help to define the contours of the face. I finally chose to use the quilting almost like shading with a pencil. I chose a dull purple color for that part. It may be too purple. I haven't decided. From a distance the purple is good—adds a little life to the shadows. Up close it is a little disconcertingly purple. But that seems to work for the Impressionists so I am withholding judgement until it is more finished. (I think I can tone the purple down somewhat with some transparent paint or pastels, so I won't be picking out all that quilting!)

Here's a closeup of the quilting on the face.

I was interested to read Melody Johnson's comments on working from drawings and designing quilts as opposed to working spontaneously. (February 3 entry) This piece was obviously carefully designed before I began, but there are still plenty of surprises and decisions to be made all along the way.

If you would like to see photos of the weaving and people of Otavalo, Ecuador, that inspired this piece, check out the current entries on our Ecuador blog www.noqinecuador.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Here's my heart

So this is the new heart. It is a bit of a departure and that is a good thing. The colors are similar to the clunky heart that I wrote about yesterday, but actually a little more subdued. I seem to like these more complex colors much better than crayon brights. The dark border is not black, as it may look, but a very dark, dark blue.

I haven't done handwork on a quilt in a long time, but I keep seeing that seed stitch being used. Deborah uses it so well! But I wanted to make it my own, so I experimented with a double seed stitch. I have spent a couple of evenings stitching on this and I like it. This piece feels so much better than clunky heart. I feel like it has some life and movement and it was a lot more fun to work on.