Friday, December 31, 2010

A new word for 2011

Happy New Years Eve! This time of year everyone on the QuiltArt list is choosing a word for the coming year. Last year I chose the word "Thrive." It seemed a little silly, but probably as good or better than New Years resolutions. Really, I know this word thing is kind of corny, but darned if that word "thrive" wasn't just the incentive I needed at the beginning of last year. I had so many things lined up ahead of me and my goal was to not just get through them, but to pace myself and enjoy all the work involved in some very nice things that were happening to me.

So I'm doing it again.

Like last year, I made a little, tiny banner to hang on my studio wall as a reminder. This year I struggled for a good word, that wasn't just too much. "Appreciate" sounds a little sweet, but I am thinking of the meanings including, but beyond, the obvious message of gratitude. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had in the past year and some of the good things that are in progress right now. Appreciate also means "to be fully conscious of; be aware of; detect:" which is an ongoing goal. That is the beginning of all art—awareness, seeing things as they are, things one might not normally notice. Being present. The other meaning of the word "appreciate" is to add value, so that is another ongoing goal. To be better at everything I do.

This is the year our 12 x 12 book will be published! This is the year, if everything comes together, I will get to Houston for the Quilt Festival and meet up with the other "Twelves." This is the year my studio will be built, or at least started. This is the year we will sell our old house! (keep your fingers crossed.)  2011 is looking good so far. I think I'm ready.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kindle Cover

Following up on my idea for using a screen print to make a cover for my new Kindle, I decided to see if I had what I needed without having to go shopping. I found a piece of fabric in my stash. It is a nylon, made for packs or purses—very heavy-duty, waterproof stuff. It seemed like it might be a good durable fabric for the cover and it just happened to be in a nice, rusty red that I love. Then I scavenged through my boxes of printing inks and tossed out several jars that had solidified. I found a greyed purple that seemed nice.

I set up my print station in the garage, for lack of a better work space. This is my screen printing setup:

It is a large board, lightly padded and covered with heavy plastic like you would make a tablecloth from. Years ago I chose this geometric print which is helpful in squaring things up on the board. A grid pattern is perfect, but I couldn't find such a thing at the time. Over the years, many, many prints have left ghost images on the board. At one end are a set of hinge clamps to hold the screen. You can see the little "kickstand" I mentioned in yesterday's post, holding the screen up off the print surface.

The first thing I did was determine where I needed to position the fabric for the print to end up where it needed to be. Then I put strips of masking tape at the corners, so I would know where to position the fabric. I planned to make several prints.

The next step was to print a test piece. I spread a nice thick line of ink across the top of the screen, then lowered the screen onto the fabric and pulled the ink across the screen with a squeegee. Here's the test print:

Looks pretty good. I adjusted the positioning slightly for the real prints. Then printed three prints on the red fabric.

Yuck. Two problems. First, there is not enough contrast between the ink color and the fabric color. I wanted the print subtle, but not this subtle. Second, the nylon fabric is not taking the ink well. It has a texture that is interfering with a smooth application of ink and I think the nature of the fabric is such that the ink is just not adhering well. I have the feeling it might scrape right off, even after it dries. Back to the drawing board.

I still like the idea of the sturdy fabric, but printing it won't work. I find a smooth cotton in a good match and decide I will print on it, then sew the prints to the nylon. I mix up a lighter shade of ink and print four prints on cotton.
So much better!

Here is the finished cover.

Here is the inside.

It was tempting to put a beautiful fabric on the inside, but I decided I did not want something that would scream at me in my peripheral vision as I was reading. Many of the covers that I saw online used these corner triangles to hold the Kindle in the cover, but made from the lining material. I hated the way that looked! So I was pleased with my idea of using a semi-sheer nylon fabric for the corners, which I think is fairly innocuous.

The kindle fits very snugly. In fact, it is a little tricky getting it under all four corners. But I guess this is good. I am pretty sure there is no way it will slip out. I made the cover so the front wraps to the back and closes with velcro. Here is the back.

All in all, I am quite pleased with how it turned out. I will have to use it for awhile, I think, to know if it works the way it needs to.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Might work...

I got a Kindle book reader for Christmas, from my very sweet daughter and son-in-law. It was totally unexpected, a complete surprise and probably my favorite gift! (sorry, other people in my life—your gifts were great too, but I am still stunned by the "perfectness" of the Kindle).

I have purchased a book ("The Calling," which Joanne was reading awhile back and intrigued me) and I have carried it around the house and tried it out in all the chairs and reading places and even took it to bed last night. Even though I had heard all these things, I was comparing it to a paper book—readable? Yes! The print is crisp and clear and much more like reading from paper than reading from a lighted screen. Easy to use? Yes! Obnoxious reflections? No! And it feels good in one's hand. Really, it does.

I started looking at covers online. I think it needs a cover. I don't know how durable that screen is, but I don't want to take a chance that it will get scratched. Also, good, I think, if I am toting it around in my bag to have it cushioned a bit. There are plenty of options for purchasing a cover, but I am thinking I might just make one.

Pondering possible designs, I remembered the book covers I used to make to sell at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They were designed to fit the paperback versions of Shakespeare's plays sold there. I silk-screened a quote from Hamlet ("What do you read my Lord? Words, words, words.") on fabric that I sewed them from. They were an odd little item, something I would never use myself. Really, does anyone need a cloth cover for a paperback book? But I sold hundreds of them. I could barely keep up with the demand and grew so sick of them I finally quit making them. But it occurred to me that the screened quote might be kind of charming on my Kindle cover.

This morning Ray helped me locate the big box of old silkscreens out in the shed and I dug out the screen. It appears to be usable and amazingly, it is the perfect size to fit just right on a cover.  The design may look a bit longer than the Kindle, on the right, but it is an illusion. It is perfect. As if 29 years ago (my copyright mark is dated 1982) I could see into the future and know it would work for a yet-to-be-invented reading device. More likely the makers of the Kindle based its proportions on a standard paperback book size. Anyway, you will see it if it all works out. Even all these years later, I'm not sure I want to see that design again!

And a little about the screen, if you are interested. At the time I made this screen I was making other products for the Shakespeare Gift Shop—screened aprons, totebags, nightshirts and the book covers. I made permanent screens for each of the designs because I used them over and over. They needed to be sturdy, so I built them myself from 1x2 lumber, and stretched the special fabric (actually polyester, not silk) and used a photo emulsion technique for the screens, using sunlight or some strong lights I bought for that purpose. You can see, in the photo that I sealed the space between the wood frame and the fabric with paper tape that I varnished. This is the way it used to be done. Now I use duct tape. Much easier. This edge not only keeps the ink where you want it, it provides a place to put the ink, before spreading it with a squeegee across the screen. This screen even has a little "kickstand" for propping the inked screen up so it doesn't get ink on whatever it is laying on. I have probably 30 or 40 screens in different sizes that I haven't used for a long time, but I can't bear to get rid of them. You just never know. I might need one of them again sometime!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone.
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepards are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
—Howard Thurman "The Work of Christmas"

I hope you all had as nice a Christmas as we did. My daughter was sick, which was not such a good thing, but otherwise it was perfect. The gifts were perfect, the food was delicious, the children were sweet and excited and grateful. I could illustrate this post better if I had taken more and better pictures, but the few I took were not good, so you just get this little glimpse of the tree. The other pictures are in my head.

My friend, Muriel, sent me a book of wonderful quotes called, "A Grateful Heart." The words above are from the book. They seemed perfect for our dinner toast/blessing, and a reminder of what we should take from our celebrations and good feelings as we journey into a new year. My thanks to all of you who add so much to my life and for the music you make in my heart.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

I was in the kitchen this afternoon making bread and finishing up my rum balls and listening to the radio as I worked. There was a story on "The World" about a very strange Christmas tradition from Spain—an unusual figure that is part of their traditional manger scenes. I will let you go to their web site to get the whole story. It reminded me of the manger scenes we saw in Ecuador and I seemed to remember that I had taken a photo of at least one of them.

You can click on this picture to see details better.

We went to Ecuador for Christmas in 2005 the year our daughter was married and still living there. It was really a memorable Christmas and I put together a blog just about that trip that you can see here. But, back to the manger scenes—

It seems that every home and many businesses have one. This is not the small creche that you often see here, but often very large and elaborate setups. The one above was in a bakery. My son-in-law's family had a very elaborate one, that I guess I somehow failed to photograph. They are generally set up on a table and sometimes extend over several tables, which are first covered with moss. Then the basic ensemble of Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, Angel, Shepards and Wise Men take center stage.  Then, it seems, the family begins to collect more and more figures and props to add over the years. They often include hundreds of figures. More shepards, more angels for sure, but all kinds of small animals, including lions and bears and rabbits, and figures including such luminaries as Mickey Mouse, the Pope, Elvis, Darth Vader, Betty Boop, dollhouse figures, china figurines and whatever. They are pretty amazing! I do not recall seeing a figure like the one described in the radio story. I think Ecuadorans would be appalled by such a thing!

My little scene is from Ecuador, but nothing like the big ones seen in homes there. I think it is very sweet because the figures are clearly natives of Ecuador. You can tell by their clothing. And furthermore, Mary and Joseph are each wearing, and weaving, a Panama hat, the most famous products of the city of Cuenca where my son-in-law's family resides.

We are going to my daughter's house tonight for a Colombian soup that is a traditional Christmas dish in South America. I hope if you are celebrating, it is with family, or those you love. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

So much beautiful light...

It was so dark when I got up to get ready to go walking this morning. "Ah yes," I thought, "tomorrow is the shortest day of the year." And it was raining. I think a lot about light this time of year and what it means to us. Not just illumination but how we feel. Several years ago I posted this quote and photo as my Christmas greeting. The quote was something I read many years ago and wrote in my sketchbook. I still am not certain who first said it. It may be a translation from the German poet, Wilhelm Raabe.

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice and we will celebrate the return of the light. I am always surprised at how soon I begin to notice that the days are getting longer. We live close to the 45th parallel north, which is halfway between the equator and the north pole, so the length of our days is probably about halfway between the consistency of the 12 hour periods of light and dark at the equator and the near total darkness of the north pole. We do, however, also live in a rainy climate, so often what sun we get is obscured by clouds. Our move to Portland happened one February and that winter was one of the darkest and most difficult of my life. For a long time we talked about moving back to Idaho where, even though it is cold and snows, the sun shines and the sky is blue many winter days. We were having a hard time with the dark winters here. But we are here to stay and I have made peace with the Portland winters. Even though the days are short, it is in the winter that I notice that incredible blue hour just before things get really dark. The light we create with electric lights and candles and a fire seem all the warmer and more welcoming because of the ambient darkness. When I arrive home to Christmas lights glowing along our roof line, it warms my heart.

When my daughter lived in Ecuador she lived very near the equator and  on our visits there we experienced the sun that rose promptly at 6 am and set promptly at 6 pm, year round. The climate and seasons never changed. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around. I think the changing seasons and the changes in the length of the light in a day has been a difficult transition for my Ecuadorean son-in-law. I hope he will adjust and adapt to the dark Northwest winters.

I just stepped outside to see if I could see the lunar eclipse tonight. It is raining and clouded over. The sky has a purply pink cast to it, but no moon visible. Oh well. Inside the fire is burning down in the fireplace. All those trees we lost last winter are providing some beautiful light this year.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas shopping and not

It is always kind of a last minute thing for me, despite the best of intentions, so here we were with Christmas a week away, discussing what to buy for whom. Quite a few years back Ray's and my siblings and we decided that we just didn't need to exhange much in the way of Christmas gifts and we would all prefer to donate to charities instead. We like Heifer International and the Food Banks, so this morning we did our online contributions, then we set out to find a few things. We were going to some friends' for dinner tonight and needed a bottle of wine to take along, so we decided to check out the new Whole Foods Store out in our neighborhood. Emily told me they call it "Whole Paycheck." Beautiful store, but holy smokes is it expensive! It was fun to wander around and see all the exotic foods and wares and we did find a bottle of wine.

How do you select wine? Do you go to tastings and keep a notebook listing the ones you like? Do you read the wine column in the newspaper, or subscribe to Gourmet magazines that have articles on new vintages and how to pair wine with food? I'm impressed with people who do that. Me, I have a much simpler criterion for buying a bottle of wine. I choose the one with the prettiest label. We were fortunate to find a beautiful label, er—lovely bottle of wine, in our price range at Whole Foods.

It looks good, doesn't it? I mean, just look at that label!

We found a few other items to buy at Whole Foods, but by and large I was a little aghast at the prices. A quick stop at Trader Joe's restored my sense of equilibrium. Those two stops kind of did us in, so we picked up tacos from one of the parking lot taco trucks on our way and went home.

One of my Christmas projects actually started last summer. No, actually it started about twelve years ago and finally is seeing fruition. After my Mom died in 1998, my sister, Becky, sister-in-law, Brenda, and I divided up her collection of recipes. You have to understand that my Mom was a very good cook. I mean very good. We didn't want those recipes to get away from us. Our plan was that we would each type up the recipes we took, my sister and SIL would email theirs to me and I would compile them into a book form. We all got busy with other things. We typed a few recipes, but mostly we didn't. I did create a template for the layout, however, and as I needed a recipe I would type it up into the template. This summer my brother's oldest daughter got married and it occurred to me that she would enjoy having some of her grandmother's and aunts' and her mother's best recipes, so I revived the idea with Becky and Brenda and they went to work sending me recipes. I decided to make the book so that it would be pages punched and put into a 3-ring binder (the half-page size) so we could continue to add to it over the years. The initial edition has over 100 recipes. The book I put together for Jessica was well-received and my own daughter and others wanted to know when they were going to get their copies! I promised them for Christmas, and today I finished them.

I was able to find small binders that one can slip a sheet of paper under a clear plastic cover to personalize the cover. I bought a variety of pretty printed papers at a scrapbooking supply store, so each has their own distinctive look. The pages inside are all the same. At one point I was considering designing cloth covers and sewing them. I'm glad I didn't do that. These look so clean and cheerful and can be easily wiped clean if need be. So now they all know what they are getting for Christmas, but it wasn't going to be a surprise anyway, although they might all be surprised that I actually followed through!

Dinner with our friends was lovely. I am feeling the Christmas thing now! I got a lot done today.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The object #23 The Night Before Christmas

I am willing to bet that someone else reading this has this same book, old and long out of print as it is. I'm pretty sure my sister Becky has one. Anyone else?

I have had this book longer than I remember. It was given to me when I was very young, by my parents, and read and reread and reread for years and years. My copy has scribbles in it that I made when I must have been about 2 years old. The copyright date in the book is 1942, but I was born in 1946, so this one came sometime after that.

Before I knew to love wonderful illustration and quirky typefaces, I loved this book. The poem, of course, is well-known and has probably been illustrated hundreds of times in hundreds of ways. This, to me, is the only version that matters. I can hear my Dad reading it the moment I open the cover. I bring it out every Christmas. Is it only because it holds so much for me, or is this not a beautiful thing?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Music


At a holiday gathering last week everyone present was asked to introduce themselves and tell what their favorite Christmas song was. I was quite far around the circle, so I had some time to think. The first thing I thought of was all the really horrible Christmas songs that I totally hate, and then the ones that are so old and hackneyed and worn out that I just can't bear to hear them any more. Amazingly some of those were touted as people's favorites. To each his own, I guess. There are a few Christmas songs that I do truly love. I can't think of a song more glorious than "For Unto us a Child is Born" from the Messiah. Well sung, it really gives me goosebumps. But a Christmas song that I have lately become very fond of is the one above—"Good King Wenceslas". That's the one I said was my favorite. It was one I sang as a child and never understood. That is because, I think, no one ever sang all the verses, which tell a story of the Good King and his page setting out through a blizzard to deliver food and firewood to a poor family. When the page was overcome by the bitter cold, his master told him to walk in his footsteps and he found that there was heat coming from the earth that sustained him through the storm. It is the story and the message I love.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Those last two lines,"Ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing"—that's the good part. You have to get to the very end. And I actually found a picture of King Wenceslas

I know Christmas is all about the birth of Christ, and this carol isn't that, but I love this carol because it is a message for all time.

In a more contemporary vein, I think this song, below, is my favorite. Maybe it isn't even truly a Christmas song, but it has that melancholy Christmas feeling that rings so true to me. I think I've posted it here before.


Do you have a favorite Christmas song?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Looking for the spirit

It is beginning to look a little more festive around here. I took a deep breath and cut into the quilt and made it into a tree skirt and it is perfect. We are pushing ahead toward Christmas. It has been a particularly dark and dreary week. The rain has been relentless. Sofia and Emily and I are all recovering from crappy head colds and are barking like seals. Sofia and I both have congested ears and we spent today yelling "what??" at each other. But I think we are all getting better. Slowly.

We need to slow down. Next week Emily and Cayo's Christmas break starts. Good for all of us.

Mary and Joseph as Ecuadorean Panama hat makers.

It seems wrong that other peoples' sorrow is sometimes what it takes to make me feel lucky. The past month has been filled with tragedy for friends and acquaintances. It seems like it happens that way doesn't it? You float along for months, even years at a time and then suddenly one death after another in the circle of acquaintance. I hope it is over for awhile. I know—it's never over, but maybe for awhile? I'm ready for some good news. Meanwhile I am moved to look around at my own good news every day of good health and family and friends and still ache for the losses in my friends' lives. Christmas is a happy time, but always, it seems to me, a melancholy time as well. Who, among us, isn't reminded this time of year of childhood Christmases and people we miss? It is the darkest week of the year. It is no wonder we light up trees and candles. In a week the days will start getting longer. I am looking forward to that.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Experiment

I had an idea in the middle of the night. It involved the drawing of the pine cone that I posted yesterday. This morning I printed the scan of my drawing on a piece of drawing paper. It printed lighter than the deep black ink of my pens, because our laser printer, though it has a brand new toner cartridge, just doesn't want to print very dark. Because the image was only 72 ppi, which is fine for displaying on the web, but lower resolution than is optimal for printing, it printed a little pixel-y as well. The two things combined to make it look more like a pencil drawing than the ink drawing that it was. Interesting.

Then I colored it with my Inktense watercolor pencils and brushed on a little water to make the color bloom. It worked quite well, I think. I prefer the black and white version to the color, but this was a good thing to try out.

By the way, I love the Inktense pencils. They go on like a regular colored pencil, then you brush a little water across them and they dissolve and become more intense in color like watercolor. Then, the best part, for me, is that they dry permanent, even on fabric.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Making something happen

So, as I told you, I am babysitting a lot. Taking care of little kids is time-consuming, so for now I am not getting much done on the artistic front. That's OK, but  yesterday I felt like I had to sit down and do something. I got my sketchbook out and while Marco slept I drew a pine cone.

They are one of my favorite motifs and they are kind of hard to draw. When I was in Seattle a couple weeks ago I bought two new permanent drawing pens. One has a brush tip and one a fine tip. I used both here. I have not done much drawing in a long time and I felt really rusty. I need to do more of this. I know there are fabric artists, especially, who feel no need to draw, but I strongly believe drawing is the basis for everything. Discipline. Drawing trains your eye and teaches you about composition, proportion, value, line—well, like I said, it is everything. It is a fine thing to make beautiful drawings, but even if your drawing looks like a monkey did it, drawing is building skill and your observational powers.

There is a new online project starting the first of the year called the Sketchbook Project. It is a blog with a group of artists who will be posting challenge ideas and posting their sketchbook entries. I think I'm going to follow along. I need a little push to do more drawing. I looked at the blog and got a little scared when I saw a video about materials, including sparkly paints and glitter and glue and sequin waste and fluffy stuff. Not me. I hope it is mostly about drawing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The giving of gifts

I am not posting much here these days it seems. I am doing a lot of babysitting of my grandchildren right now. My daughter has gone back to work after her maternity leave and not all of her childcare arrangements are in place yet, so until the Christmas break I have one or both kids 5 days a week.Some days Ray is here to help, some days not. I am glad to be able to do it and really enjoy having them here.

Yesterday Ray took over the childcare duties and I met the STASH group for our annual Holiday lunch. For the past couple of years we have chosen someplace fun and different to go for lunch. Kind of a splurge. We decided this year to go to the Portland City Grill, a restaurant on the 30th floor of Portland's tallest building, the US Bank Tower, known as "Big Pink."   The famous view from the restaurant windows was totally white on our rainy, foggy day, but we had a grand time!

I have probably said this before, but I will say again how much I love this group of women. We have such a good time together. We have never, in the group, discussed giving of gifts within the group, but over the years certain customs have developed. When one of us travels, she often brings a little gift to everyone in the group. But only if we happen onto the perfect little gift. It isn't expected. It isn't mandatory. But boy is it fun. I have brought little zippered coin purses, made from handwoven textiles from Ecuador and tin ornaments from Mexico. Recently Beth brought us all tote bags with Bayeux tapestry images on them from her trip to France where she saw the tapestry. The holiday lunch has never officially been a gift-giving occasion, but in recent years gifts have appeared. Last year Linda managed to amaze and amuse us all with gifts of the P-Mate, a disposable, ummmmm, urinal for women. A hard act to follow, but no one is trying to outdo anyone. If we haven't run across something small and just right we come empty-handed and know that it's fine and we'll find something another time. It is really such a better idea than the obligatory kind of gifting that has you desperately buying 6 Starbucks cards just so you have something to give.

I was at Art Media awhile back and saw some beautiful little pocket-sized notepads with handmade paper covers from Nepal. Each was different. They had the exact number I needed for the group. Here is one of them.

Reva passed out tiny, heavy wrapped packets. Each contained a little cast iron frog or dragonfly.

This is just about exactly the same size as the real frogs I occasionally see in our yard.

Gale brought us beautiful frosted pine cones. She knows we all seem to have a thing for pine cones.

Beth brought tins of hot chocolate mix. She also knows what we like.

I felt so happy going home with my little treasures.

Last night I went to another Christmas party where we exchanged "white elephant" gifts. I got a "Bunco Babe" T-shirt just like this one. Not feeling the love so much. (I've never even played Bunco)

One of these days I am going to have to start Christmas shopping in earnest. The giving of gifts is such fun when you find, and can afford, just the right gift. I just hope I can find those right gifts, and I hope they are not at the mall, but some of them might be. —groan—  How's your shopping going?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Small things

Yesterday we went, with our son-in-law and granddaughter, to cut a Christmas tree. That, for me, is one of the pleasures of living in Oregon, where more Christmas trees are grown than any other state. You can go out to a nearby Christmas tree farm, tramp around through the acres of trees, choose your perfect tree and cut it on the spot. Sometimes you are tramping through rain, or snow, and usually mud. Yesterday was sunny and dry. Perfect. The photo that I took of Sofia and Ray I think really captured Sofia's delight with the whole experience.

It was a lot of fun and it got me thinking about the things I remember about Christmases past.

Do you remember opening specific gifts on Christmas morning? Things that you really wanted and asked Santa for? Oddly, I don't. Oh, I know I got them, but I just don't remember opening specific gifts. Once, I was a young mother, desperately trying to find the toy my daughter wanted and was what every child wanted that year. It was sold out everywhere and I was beside myself.  My mother was sympathetic. She said, "do you remember when your sled didn't arrive in time for Christmas?"  It seems sleds were a hot item that year, sold out of all the stores and was back-ordered from the Sears catalog. Mine didn't arrive in time for Christmas. Mom said she felt horrible. She said it was her worst Christmas ever. She said I cried, even though Santa left a note explaining that his sleigh was too full to include my sled and it would be arriving via UPS in the next few days. Santa was very apologetic. It broke her heart. It haunted her for years. I don't remember it. At all. This trauma left nary a dent in my memory. All I remember is that I had a sled for most of my childhood that I loved and used until it was rusty and splintery.

I do remember decorating the Christmas tree(s). The lights went on first and the tinsel last. The tinsel had to be smoothed and hung one strand at a time, so each strand hung straight. When the tree was done Mom made hot chocolate and we turned off all the lights in the house, except for the tree and sat on the couch and admired the tree and drank our hot chocolate and listened to Christmas carols on the radio. That was the official beginning of the Christmas season at our house. When I was 11 and had to wear glasses for the first time, my Mom said, "Oh, you are so lucky! Just wait until you see the Christmas tree without your glasses!" She was right. My myopic view of the blurry Christmas tree was magical. I still like to take off my glasses to look at the tree.

I remember hanging our stockings up on the bookcase, because the house we lived in didn't have a fireplace. We actually hung one of our own socks, or borrowed one of Dad's when we figured out our little socks didn't hold much. Then one year my grandmother sent us all big felt socks, with our names on them. She had made one for each grandchild and decorated them with sequins and  beads and felt cut-outs. I still hang mine up. It doesn't look too bad for being more than 50 years old.

This week I finally made a Christmas sock for Sofia. I have intended to do that since she was born.

I hope she likes it. I wonder if she will still hang it up and think about me 60 years from now.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Birds in January

I know you are all mighty busy right now. It's the holiday season and it's all fun, fun, fun for the next few weeks. And then it's going to be January. Remember January? The first part is usually pretty good. New year, new habits, housecleaning, mental housecleaning, all that. Toward the middle of the month the weather is usually pretty crummy and you start feeling antsy and a little trapped. By the end of the month things may be getting a little desperate—as in "get me out of this house!"

Such a deal I have for you.

Come and take my first-ever, all day, bird-making workshop! Thursday, January 27.

It will be held in conjunction with the "Stitches in Bloom" quilt show at the Oregon Garden in Silverton, Oregon. You can find all the information here.

The Oregon Garden is about 35 minutes south of Portland. If you want, you can stay at the beautiful new hotel right at the garden. You can tour the Gordon House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oregon, also right there at the garden. You can see the extensive gardens, though admittedly not at their peak in the middle of January, still beautiful in their structure and planning. It is quite a marvelous place! You can enjoy a beautiful quilt show And—you can hang out with me for a day and we will have fun with fabric and wire and such.

I will also be doing a lecture/demo about my fusing techniques on Saturday, as part of the quilt show.

The Stitches in Bloom show is only a few years old, but has developed a reputation for wonderful quilts in a beautiful setting. Last year our High Fiber Diet "Line Dance" show was a special exhibit. This year our "Birds Eye View" show will be there. This year's featured artist is Marsha McCloskey, maker of those incredible feathered star quilts, fabric designer extraordinaire and one of the nicest people ever! She will be doing a 1-day workshop as well. This is the first year that the show has incorporated workshop days, and I don't think a lot of people know about them, so I am hoping the word will get out.

I am really looking forward to this! I hope some of you will come. Bring your friends. And besides, what better way to beat the January doldrums?

Thursday, December 02, 2010


December always comes as a big surprise to me. I know it is denial on my part. I am never ready for Christmas. I don't even start thinking about it until at least December 1. People around my neighborhood have had Christmas lights up for a week now. I pulled this out of a trunk yesterday. It is the only item that is remotely Christmas-y that is currently visible in my house.

It is a pieced and quilted table covering that I made about 20 years ago. It has been folded up in the trunk for most of those twenty years. I made it when I owned a quilt shop to use at Christmas time. It covered one of those little round pressed wood tables and hung to the floor. Pretty, but never useful after that. I think I'm going to make it into a tree skirt. I will cut a circle out of the middle, cut up one of those corner angles, bind it and probably sew some velcro along the edge. It has occurred to me before to do this, but then I would look at all those little diamonds that I pieced to make this thing and I hated the idea of cutting into it. What was I saving it for? Beats me. I think it is time to turn it into something useful. Then I suppose we will need to consider getting a tree.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


A week or so ago Rayna Gillman wrote a blog post with the same title as this one. There has been a lot of discussions of "derivative" work on some of the art quilt discussions groups we both belong to.Derivative is not considered a good thing, but the question is always whether one artist is purposely attempting to make her work look like someone else's, or it just naturally, innocently happens sometimes. Most of us are making work that is new to us. Work that we have worked through in our heads and has meaning to us. Sometimes there are startling coincidences where very similar work springs from completely different sources. Rayna showed a piece of hers and one of Karen Rips, made 3000 miles apart, totally independent from one another, that, nevertheless, exhibit very similar elements. The paranoid among us might scream "copy!" but most of us know that it is just coincidental and happens fairly often. Kind of interesting when it does.  Rayna suggested an exhibit of  "Synchronicity" artworks. That would be fun to see, I think.

So, just as I was thinking about these things and they were being discussed online, what should I see, but this piece my friend Gerrie Congdon made for her sketchbook project.

And what did it remind me of? Well, this piece that I made at least 6 years ago for the Journal quilt project.

Did Gerrie copy my work? Absolutely not! She may never have even seen my piece. I think I made it before she lived here. Gerrie's piece is called "Fissure". Mine is "Cracked Ice". I am sure we are not the only people who have found something lovely about the random lines created by cracking ice, dried mud, fractured earth. And we won't be the last. Normally the work we do could not be more different, but this once our observations and inclinations coincided. It's bound to happen. And, actually, kind of a reminder that we are all more alike than we are different.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Better photo

Last night I posted my finished "NW Vibes" piece. I was in a little bit of a hurry, took a quick photo and slapped it up. I was thinking about how much better the piece would look if the photo were better. I took another photo today, because I do like to have good photos of all my work. Here's the new photo:

You can click on it to see it larger.

Here's the photo I took last night:

It is a better representation of the color and it is nicely straightened and smoothed.. We are always told when we enter shows that bad photography can result in good quilts not being accepted. I think that's true.

I do not have a particularly fancy camera, but I take most of my photos for show entries. I have lights that I can use if I am photographing my work indoors, but my preference is to photograph them outdoors in natural light. I think the colors are truer. Today was my favorite kind of day for photographing outside. It was a cloudy day, but not dark. An overcast sky diffuses the light nicely. Direct sunlight washes the color out. Too cloudy and the photos turn out too dark. We have a lot of "white sky" days here in Portland. They are perfect.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


"When it rains I make my own sunshine"

Remember the mooshy rainy background I was working on for the High Fiber Diet "Northwest Vibes" show? I finished the piece today. Some pieces go together fairly uneventfully. This one did not. One of the requirements for this show was size. The outside measurement (all 4 sides added together) has to be at least 100". I knew that, and then I forgot that and made the background too small when I decided I wanted it to be a narrow horizontal. Fortunately I figured out a way to add to the width and it is not noticeable.

Then I made the forground elements, laid them on the background, and decided they too, were too small.

So I redid all of that. Doing that was actually good. It gave me an opportunity to rethink the color a bit and make it a little warmer and richer for more contrast to the rainy background. It also seemed like that white elipse that was the inside of the mug was where my eye kept going, so I changed that too. A relatively small change that, I think, made a big difference. I need to take a better photo to submit, I see. The photo is a little too dark and the sides of this piece are really straight. Really.

So, I still don't know for sure what the heck a "vibe" is, but if the Northwest has its own vibe I think rain must be part of it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thank you

Thanksgiving always makes me sentimental and nostalgic and I get a little mushy around the edges, so I was already in a mood. Then this afternoon I was working in my studio and turned on my little TV set to keep me company and Oprah was having a show about thanking people for kindnesses and making a difference in one's life. It was touching and she closed by saying, " call up someone who deserves your thanks and tell them thank you. It will make both your days." There are plenty of people I could call and thank, but for some reason the first person that came to mind was my high school art teacher, Lorna Obermayr.

Look how cute she was. This photo is from my 1963 HS yearbook. She had style—a bit Bohemian. I think her hair was in a bun in this photo, but it was usually in a single braid down her back and she wore hoop earrings and peasant blouses and sandals. Most of our teachers were far more prim than that in those Mad Men, Jackie Kennedy times. Mrs. OB, as we called her, was excited and passionate about art and I couldn't wait for her class each day. She was funny and intelligent and articulate and made us all feel like artists as she pointed out the best parts of our work in a way that made me feel like she was learning as much from us as we were from her.

Once she gave us a big assignment. A painting. I don't remember the instructions, but it was the culmination of several weeks of color study. Then she sat with each student to evaluate their work. When I sat down for my evaluation she looked at me earnestly and said, "You misunderstood the assignment and you have done this all wrong, BUT—I love what you did and that is why I didn't stop you. I wanted to see where you would go with this."  Then she told me everything she liked about the piece and why, and what I probably learned in doing it. Then she explained, again, what I was supposed to have done, gave me another week to do it and gave me extra credit for the incorrect piece. As I walked away, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, she said, "you are really a very good artist."

She left our High School before my senior year and took a job at the university where her husband was on the art faculty. She eventually became the chair of the art department. She was a gifted writer as well as artist and beloved teacher. She wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper—her observations about the university, the town, arts events, interesting people. She would have been a blogger in another time, I am certain. After I left Pocatello, my mother would clip her columns from the paper and send them to me. They were just the bit of hometown news that I craved. I heard that she and her husband divorced. A surprise to me.

This afternoon I googled her name to see if I could find her. I knew she had moved to Canada some years ago. Today I learned that she died last year. It seems she is sorely missed and her memory has been honored by an exhibit of her work and the purchase of one of her works by the British Columbia city where she made her home. In an online newspaper there was a recent article saying that her studio was for sale.

So how would I thank her if I could? Not for anything heroic or dramatic that she did—she didn't save my life, like some of the people on Oprah—but for being such an inspiring teacher. She did no more for me than she did for any other student, but she showed me, and helped me believe, that being an artist was not a silly or impractical desire. She treated her students as if we were artists. She gave us the great gift of taking us seriously. And she found something beautiful or joyful or funny to point out every day. Once I won a statewide contest to design a poster. There was a ceremony and dinner held in Northern Idaho at a resort and part of my reward was to attend, along with my art teacher, to receive my $100 prize. Mrs.OB and I flew on the governor's plane, attended the dinner and spent the night at the resort, then flew home again the next day. She acted as if we were old pals off on a crazy adventure and we giggled together at the pomp and the fancy clothes and speculated about meeting the governor and whether we should call him Mister Governor or just Governor, or maybe (snicker, snicker) your majesty! I think she had as much fun as I did and I was awfully glad to have her along. She charmed everyone we met.

I spent a year as an art teacher in a Junior High school. I thought about Mrs. Obermayr a lot. I wondered how she stayed so upbeat and where she found her ease in dealing with teenagers. She loved teaching as I never could. I was lucky to have good teachers and several exceptional teachers in my school experience. Mrs. OB was the best.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Around and about in Seattle, continued

When I left off, Becky was just getting off the ferry in Seattle. We made our way down the waterfront area to our favorite lunch. It is a place where you get smoked fish and chips. We don't know the name. It just opens up to the sidewalk and you take your lunch inside to a picnic table to eat. We have been going here for lunch for close to forty years now and it is still as good as ever. I've mentioned it here before. A trip to Seattle would not be complete without a stop. Here's my lunch and my sister's lunch and my sister. I like the smoked halibut. Becky prefers the smoked salmon.

Then we walked up the long flight of stairs from the waterfront up to the Seattle Art Museum. The Hammering Man sculpture out front has an arm that moves up and down. He hammers from morning til night.

Inside there were a series of white Chevys hanging from the ceiling, seemingly careening around with lights shooting out of them, an installation by Cai Guo-Qiang.

We headed directly for the Picasso exhibit. The SAM website describes it: " The exhibition presents iconic works from virtually every phase of Picasso’s legendary career, documenting the full range of his unceasing inventiveness and prodigious creative process. Drawn from the collection of the Musée National Picasso in Paris—the largest and most important repository of the artist’s work in the world—the exhibition features more than 150 extraordinary paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs." It is, in fact, Picasso's own collection of his own work. And it was grand!

Photos were not permitted within the exhibit, but I found these photos on the web, of some of my favorite pieces.

 Probably my very favorite was this one of the dancing couple.

 Do you find this amusing or morbid? I kind of loved it.

 What can I say about this bronze goat? He was life sized and totally fabulous.

There was something for everyone in this exhibit—etchings and photos and drawings and paintings. Classical style and blue period and cubism and harlequins and sculpture. We saw several groups of schoolchildren touring with docents from the museum. It was great to eavesdrop on their comments. Kids seem to totally "get" Picasso. They respond to his humor and drama and storytelling and don't worry much about style or what Picasso was thinking. That lady in the painting has three eyes?—"Cool!"

After walking all over Seattle and then through the museum we were exhausted. We bid Becky farewell and headed back to the hotel. After a "feets up" rest and a quick dinner we hit the street again and walked several blocks to Jazz Alley to hear the wonderful Taj Mahal Trio.

 Our table was right next to the stage and it was a great show. Took the picture with my phone. A near perfect day.

The next morning we took a walk up Pike Street before heading for the train home. I found an art supply store and bought a sketchbook and a couple pens. I was inspired by Picasso! On the train I doodled some Picasso-esque shapes and lines. The motion of the train transferred itself into the lines, giving them a quivery quality.

 I tried an extemporaneous face a la Picasso. It didn't turn out so great, but a little boy, about 4 came by and stopped to watch me draw. He was obviously bored with the train trip and keeping his Dad busy trying to entertain him. He would run through the cars, then come back to see me draw again for awhile.

 The section of the trip from Tacoma to Olympia runs right along the Puget Sound and is always beautiful. As the train passed under the Tacoma Narrows bridge, the sun was setting.

It was a great trip and perfect way to celebrate our anniversary.