Friday, March 30, 2012

Those tabs up there

Have you ever noticed those tabs at the top of this blog, just under the banner? Blogger added the ability to create "pages" awhile back and I have been slowly adding some content in separate pages. I just, this week, added the "resume" tab and the "current work" tab. Tonight I updated the "studio" tab with some more recent photos.

I don't have a web site, so this seems like a good alternative, but I wonder if anyone ever notices the tabs are there, and then if anyone ever looks at them. I am thinking of adding another tab that would contain some of the tutorial type posts from the blog. I am interested in your feedback. Are those tabs even noticed?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More on the road trip

After we checked out the studio and cabin where Jeri was staying during her residency, she took us on a little tour of the premises at Caldera.

We hiked, through the snow to Blue Lake. This is the only picture I took of Jeri, leading the way, with Ray close behind. She does not like having her photo taken.

What a beautiful little lake. We could see on the far side, how close the forest fires of a couple years ago had come to Caldera. Along the way we saw an arrangement of natural bits and objects made by one of the artists. It was covered by the recent snow, but slowly revealed itself as the snow melted.

 This is a fish ladder constructed to allow fish swimming upstream toward Blue Lake to bypass the small dam where power is generated by an old wooden water wheel.

We ended at the beautiful big Hearth Building where community gatherings. performances and weekly dinners take place.  Art is all around.

After a fun lunch in the little town of Sisters, we bid Jeri farewell and sent her back to her studio work. The drive home was as beautiful as the drive out. We love a good road trip and this was a good one. It is always good to have musical accompaniment on a road trip. The Decemberists set a good mood for the drive.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Perfect day for a road trip

Yesterday was a gorgeous day and Ray and I drove over to Central Oregon to visit our friend, Jeri Flom at the Caldera Conference Center near Sisters, Oregon. In the summer Caldera is an arts camp for children and young people. In the winter they offer month long artists residencies. Jeri is one of the resident artists for March. We were unable to attend the open house that was held on Saturday, so we decided to go for a visit yesterday.

It was about a three hour drive from Portland and a day that filled my heart with memories of bright, clear, sunny high desert winter days of my youth. The mountains glowed, the snow was dazzling, the sky was the bluest of blue. We found our way to Caldera, parked and entered the huge and beautiful Hearth building, which is the first thing you encounter. Out the back we followed the pathway to the studios.

We quickly found Jeri puttering away in her huge, light-filled studio.

Jeri's work is extremely painstaking, consisting of threads, blended and stitched heavily, creating a mat of shaded color and layered texture. She rented a van to transport her supplies and equipment to the studio. Her assortment of thread, alone, is mind-boggling.

Much of the work she is doing is experimenting with different thread combinations and creating small samples for future reference. These are sky samples using different threads and background materials.

More samples. Using a photo for inspiration.
At the right in the photo above is the start of a new piece. She was a little disappointed that she has not created more large work in her three weeks, so far. I was pretty impressed with all the samples. These will be reference material for her work for years to come.

The resident artists are each provided a large studio in which to work and a small A-frame cabin where they live for the month. Jeri's cabin was cozy, with a wood stove and view of the creek.

I was totally taken with everything I saw here. What a treat it would be to spend a month just taking in the beauty and creating. Tomorrow I will post more about the facility. To see more of Jeri's work and her thoughts on the residency experience, visit her blog here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Studio time

Worked on the campfire piece again today. This is the part I am excited about. It will either work, or it won't. My idea is to use all these little squares of fabric to create the fire, then do a lot of machine stitching in my crazy stitching technique to try to give the impression of flames that are partially transparent, partially not.

Keep in mind that I am not attempting to create realistic flames (or sky or ground, or trees!) What I am after is that impression of the way the flames dance and swirl into the sky. Still a long way to go.

Yesterday Ray and I decided to make a quick trip out to Ikea and get a futon to put in the studio loft. It will serve as extra seating up there and can be a place for overnight guests as well.

I think I could host our STASH group here. Certainly have guests. Wanna come for a visit?

Friday, March 23, 2012

More of this process

I started actually cutting fabric and working for real on the campfire piece. I find it works well to work from back to front, ie, starting with a background and moving forward. I started with a very simple background of strippy sky and ground, then added the basic campfire and some tree-ish shapes.

Too small, I think. The great thing about a campfire, both real and imagined, is that you can start small and make it bigger!

So this is a basis. Now comes the part that will make or break. The fire needs to become so much more. I have a vision in my head, but only trying a few things will tell me whether it will really work. Those stones around the fire look pretty flat, don't they? Need to think about that.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Snow

Last night as I was heading for bed I stopped to look out the front window and saw that the off-and-on rain-to-sleet-to-snow of yesterday had turned to real snow. It was falling softly and blanketing the daffodils and budding bushes out front. The sky was a lovely pink color. Enchanting.

I have memories of beautiful snowfalls like this. They are very special. I remember being in Boston in 1969, working for my sorority, when a heavy snowfall brought the city to a halt. The streetcar that ran past the apartment where I was staying could not run. There were no cars on the streets. We sat in a second floor window and watched the snow softly fall past the streetlight. Suddenly the group of guys who lived in the apartment below were in the street throwing snowballs up at our window. We joined them in the street, building a snowman, laughing loudly and flinging ourselves, like little kids, into deep drifts of snow until we were exhausted. The lights came on in a little bar down the block, as the owner finally shoveled out the walks and doorway and we all encamped to the bar for beers and french fries, Motown on the jukebox and dart games. Crazy how vivid that memory is 40+ years later.

This morning the sun came out and the snow is melting in big, wet, ploppy globs falling from the trees and sliding down the roof.

Since my daughter's school is at a higher elevation than most of the city, there is still a lot of snow and icy roads, so school was cancelled for the day. A gift. Today is my granddaughter, Sofia's birthday and she gets to spend it with her Mom. They called this morning to tell me they were heading up Cooper Mountain to play in the snow. I wonder how many times in Sofia's life she will play in the snow on her spring birthday. I remember the one time it snowed on my birthday (April 5) when I was a child. It made it an extra special day.

Today is a good day. I am grateful for the gift of the snow, grateful that it is melting fast and causing few problems, and especially grateful for the little girl who made me a grandmother. She is a five-year-old best friend and sunshine on the darkest days.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thinking about fire

I am ready to start on something new. High Fiber Diet, the Art Quilt Group I belong to is having a show with the theme of the four elements: earth, air, water and fire. I want to make something for this show and as I think of these four elements it is fire that always seems the odd guy out to me, at least visually. The other three all suggest nature themes. Fire seems like it would be very harsh mixed with earthy, natural subjects and colors, though it is also a force of nature. So my initial resistance to the idea of fire has been wiggling itself around in my brain. I am trying to think of how to depict fire in a way that is not screaming red and orange. One of my first thoughts was a memory of visiting Yellowstone Park in the winter several years after massive wild fires destroyed thousands of acres of forest. We skied through large tracts of burned forest like this, except in winter it seemed even more stark, with the snow on the ground. While it would not address fire, it would be about the aftermath of fire.

Then I thought about campfires. How much I love campfires. I have such wonderful memories of campfires at the Girl Scout camp where I went for years, as a camper, and then worked at as a counselor. There is something hypnotic and magical about sitting around a blazing fire and listening to the hiss and crackle and watching those small explosions that send showers of sparks into the night sky to mingle with the stars. So difficult, I think, to capture that feeling and that sense of deep, rich warmth and light against a velvety dark sky.

I looked at photos. Google images is always a wealth of inspiration.

I started work on some sketches. So hard to draw fire without it looking like a cartoon. I need to think of an abstracted way to present the impression of fire. Not sure I can do it satisfactorily. I think I need to pull some fabrics and make some little samples. Black and white doesn't cut it.

Still, these little sketches do help me work out composition and one of the coolest tools is Photoshop. Just by scanning my drawing and using some of the distortion tools in Photoshop I think I am already honing in on a better composition.

Lots of work left to do before I even decide if this is a workable idea, but it is growing on me.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The nesting instinct

It is strong in me. As much as I say my studio is just a workplace—a place of utility—I keep zhoozhing it up. Prettifying. Cozifying. It is a curse. Or maybe a gift. Well, whatever. It makes me happy. I finally got the loft all organized and stuff stored in the under-the-roof storage space, which looked organized yet chaotic when I finished. I needed to get it out of sight.

When planning the space I was thinking there would be doors on those storage spaces, but doors seem so heavy and so demanding of space. I considered curtains, roll-up blinds, shoji screens and finally landed on something really simple. They are simple, white fabric panels, hung on hooks. I made the panels and put three grommets at the top of each.  When I want to get into storage I can simply push part of a panel aside, or unhook part or all of a panel depending on how much space I need to work with. I rather like the simplicity of it. There are six panels all together, extending down one entire wall of the loft.

Then I recovered the cushion on my old wicker rocker with some fabric I bought at an estate sale awhile back.

And I made a pillow for the back. (It needs one) The pillow was made from a tee shirt my daughter and son-in-law brought to me from Ecuador. I don't really wear tee shirts and this one was a touch snug anyway, but I loved the graphic design! It says, in Spanish, "my Quito has a huge sun and starry nights".

Here is the shirt before I cut into it. I cut both the front and back of the shirt and used both thicknesses to give the front of the pillow more opacity and body. The back and the piping are navy blue linen. I think it makes a fabulous pillow. And it reminds me of Quito—a very happy place for me. I have another tee shirt from Ecuador that will likely become a second pillow.

My reading corner needs a light of some kind and maybe a little table. I think I need a trip to Ikea.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"To sleep, perchance to dream..."

I have never been a good sleeper. My mother said I was a terrible baby who cried a lot and never slept. As a child I would be sent to bed at eight o'clock and lay awake for hours, hearing the television or my parents talking in the other room, then they would go off to bed and the house would be quiet and I would toss and turn and watch the moon out the window. At the other end, waking up was torture. I could sleep until noon given the chance.

I still find it so difficult to get to sleep. I always read until I am nodding off, dropping my book, etc.  Even then, once the lights go off I am often awake again, thrashing for an hour or more. Once asleep I never feel deeply asleep. I wake up periodically. I find 4:15 is an oddly common time to look at the clock. Sometimes I am too hot. Sometimes my mind is racing with ideas or worries, mostly irrational. Then I go to sleep and dream exhausting dreams. They usually involve travel or a big project where nothing is what I planned and luggage is lost or deadlines are looming and I have forgotten crucial details. Last night I was in charge of planning a wedding for a friend. Just as the ceremony was about to start I realized I had forgotten to decorate for the reception or order a cake. I spent frantic, frustrating hours, it seemed, running back and forth, baking and decorating a cake, losing my shoes, watching my car roll into a river and apologizing endlessly. At last I fought my way out of the dream and woke up with a headache and feeling in need of a nap. The start of daylight savings time last weekend seemed to double the impact of my sleep problems. I am so tired. So. Tired. I fall asleep in my chair or in front of the TV, but not in bed. Last night I took melatonin. It had no effect. Tonight I took a Benadryl, which I am beginning to feel. I hate to take pills, but I feel desperate.

The piece above is small quilt I made several years ago for the Journal Quilt project. Ray was working in Colorado. When I would go to Colorado I would sleep.  I would imagine the snow outside softly, quietly piling up around me as I fell into deep, satisfying sleep. I would sleep during the day and then fall into bed every night. It was crazy. All I wanted to do was sleep. I am a high altitude sleeper living near sea level. That's a theory...

So, here it is bedtime again. Off I go. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The red rug

I seem to have made it over some kind of hump and have really been making progress in getting the studio loft organized. It is getting kind of exciting now and I am anxious to get it done.

Awhile back my friends, Norm and Paula offered me a nice red rug that they were getting rid of. It had one problem—an unsightly worn spot. Not a hole. The rug was still basically viable, but it appears to be woven from jute that is wrapped in a red fiber, possibly wool. The red fiber had worn off in one area only, leaving the jute exposed. I considered painting the exposed jute red, but decided to see if I could repair it in a way with a bit more integrity. I found a yarn that is close to the color, but not perfect. You know, you can never really perfectly match these things. I took a big needle and started wrapping the yarn around the exposed areas.

Up close it is easy to see the repair, about half done here, but when you stand back it is barely noticeable.

It is the slightly darker area just below the center of the rug on the right side. I think it will be fine and add a nice bit of warmth to my "reading corner" in the loft.

I feel so smart and virtuous!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gotta get it together

So, the loft in the studio has been a mess since—forever. It has never not been a mess. When I moved all my stuff to the studio last fall everything that I did not know what to do with went to the loft. I have made a few feeble attempts at organizing and got it to this point. Sad, eh? That shelf unit sat unpainted for a couple of months. Getting it painted was progress.

It has been here for awhile. Today I spent a good two hours upstairs putting stuff in categories, then in containers, then on shelves. This is how it looks now.

I can see the difference, but I know to the untrained eye it still looks impossible. Really I am getting things done. I have those great storage spaces under the roof there and am trying to get most everything situated in that space, then I will hang fabric panels in front of it all. I have a vision. It will be neat and tidy and quite wonderful, actually. I just need to keep at it. Gah.

I keep finding things in all those bags and boxes and tubs. I found the little quilted banner from my long ago quilt shop, Scrap Peddlers of Ashland. I hung this at quilt shows where I was vending. It is quite faded, but I thought it needed a place of honor in the studio.

Chubby moth is hanging below it. Del asked about the size. This should give you an idea.

A good day

Today was a day to just get to some things. Get them taken care of.

First thing I did was clean out the refrigerator. Ugh. Why do I let my refrig get so icky? Probably because I just hate the job of pulling everything out and deciding what is worth keeping. If you let it go long enough, there is little doubt! No photos. Count yourselves lucky.

Next I photographed my entry for the "Rituals" invitational.  This is "Friendship Ritual".

This commemorates my yearly ritual of designing, making and sending Valentines. I described the stitched pattern connecting all these hearts as a network of connection that becomes more important to me as the years go by. It is really about friendship and what it means in a life. This is the third year I have been invited to submit to the Dinner at Eight show. The previous entries have both been accepted. I hope this one is. It is, by far, my favorite of the three. I sent the entry off this afternoon.

Have you seen this blog? I am enchanted by Mr. Finch's moths. I keep thinking about them and today made myself a moth.

I purposely did not go back to look at Mr. Finch's moths and made myself come up with my own design. Kind of hilariously chubby and awkward compared to his elegant creatures. Anyway, I kind of like my porky little moth and I got it out of my system.

Like the moth that urged me to make it, I found a recipe online that has been nagging me. Senegalese peanut soup. I made it for dinner tonight. Very, very delicious. Mmmm. Warm and flavorful and spicy. So satisfying.

The recipe can be found here.

All right then. I had a good Saturday, and have tasty, leftover soup for yet another day.

Friday, March 09, 2012


In the evenings I sit and this is my view, TV on the right. Tonight out of nowhere Ray said, "I love our house." And  I agreed. Not for its size. Not, certainly, for its luxuriousness. It is definitely a work in progress. And it occurred to me that this is probably our last house. I hope to be here a long time. But still, a sobering thought. The journey of my life has led me here. It makes me think I might have considered things more carefully, but then I—we—(I include Ray in this) have always been a bit impulsive. We never planned to be here, in this spot, but I'm not sure there is anywhere else I would rather be. Today's sunshine has made things pretty much right in my world.

I have known for several weeks that there was something wrong with my sewing machine, but I have pushed it through, babying it and avoiding stressing it too much. Yesterday it lurched into a shuddering spasm, swallowed a big gulp of thread and then vomited it out. I cleaned it. I talked soothingly, but it continued to gulp thread instead of stitching, so it went off to the repair shop today.

I think of it as my "new" machine, though it has probably been ten years ago that I brought it home. I hope it can be repaired. I think it can, but they say it will be at least three weeks before the repairman, who is currently doing good works in New Mexico (repairing Hopi sewing machines?? I don't know...), will be back and make his way through the backlog to my machine. Meanwhile, I pulled out my old machine (which was my "new" machine for the twenty years prior to the purchase of the new "new" machine) and it seems to run OK. I will reacquaint myself with it. It is like changing cars. Everything is in the wrong place. Deadlines are looming, but this is a test. If all else fails there is the treadle. There is still money in the drawer.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Real people

Isn't this table beautiful? This was the STASH lunch at Suzy's house today and even more beautiful than this table were the faces and presence of my friends and their company was even more nourishing than this exceptional meal.

I needed the company of friends today. The past two days have been spent fending off a lot of online unpleasantness. I should know by now that words (mine) written in an online forum can be interpreted in amazing and completely unintended ways. I guess I should also know by now that, hidden behind the buffer of the internet, people (a couple of them, anyway) can be unaccountably vicious. Still, when it happens it is a whack at the back of the knees that just knocks the pins out from under you, and makes you feel like, well, crap. "Wow, if what I wrote got someone this upset there must be something wrong with me!"  "But wait—I didn't even write what she said I wrote. Oh, but she claims she knows what I meant. Huh? Is this a joke? Is this Junior High?" This is where a reality check is badly needed, and where friends and good food provide that.  Sitting around drinking coffee, sharing stories, showing projects, even laughing about my online woes. My stress melted away. And the sun was shining at last.

And that is only one of the reasons I love these women. Thanks for the soup, Suzy. It warmed me more than you will ever know.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Harry the squirrel

Sorry I didn't frame this photo too well—chopped your ears off, Harry. You are a handsome, if irksome, creature. Nice of you, though, to sit back for a few minutes and let the birds have a turn at the bird feeder. Did you hear me? Bird feeder.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The lovely sketchbook

I do a lot of drawing and am a great advocate for drawing. I know artists who don't draw. Artists who say they can't draw. Well, whatever. (They are wrong, but whatever.) Anyway, being a drawer, I guess I should have stacks of lovely sketchbooks filled with lots of lovely drawings. I do have a pile of sketchbooks, but they are filled with scribbles and failed ideas and half finished ideas and a few good drawings. This is a rare page. Finished drawing and no other scribbles on the page. Ivy in a pot.

I really admire those artists who keep gorgeous sketchbooks. They are works of art in themselves. Jane LaFazio, who is involved with the "Sketchbook Project" seems like the ultimate sketchbooker to me. Her sketchbook pages are beautiful and finished and I'm sure have beautiful covers. I have often thought I should keep better sketchbooks, but I never seem to get there. My sketches are not really for public consumption, but a means toward a different end. Honestly, I am going to share a little secret with you. Most of my drawings and sketches look like this:

This was a scrap of paper found on my desk today. Math below was something about flooring tiles and pixel resolution. Believe it or not, the little sketches were very useful—helped me figure out the viability of an idea I had. My purse is generally littered with little sketches on the backs of receipts or on napkins. The best, most useful are stuck in an accordian file thingie out in the studio. Most are thrown away. Please tell me I'm not the only one who works this way. It seems so messy and un-lovely.

On a different, but related note. My granddaughter also loves to draw. (She will be 5 in a couple of weeks) Last week she drew me an excellent blueberry muffin that I posted on Facebook. Today she gave me this little face that she had drawn and then painstakingly cut out. She said it was "an angry guy."

I'd give a lot to be able to draw a face that expressive. "It's how the eyebrows point down," she explained.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


I was planning a quiet day in the studio, then my friend, Paula called me. Our husbands had gone off, with Howard and friends, in search of the perfect burger. We were left to fend for ourselves. We decided to check out a very nice art show at the Southminster Presby church in Beaverton, then have a little lunch somewhere. The art show is a nice one, though I think I have become jaded. Lots of "nice" watercolors and what seemed like an inordinate amount of fused glass stuff, but still always good to see what people are doing. I was in the show a number of years ago and sold a couple pieces. I picked up the application for next year. Seems like the show is bigger and better. I am not in the market for big art but I couldn't resist this little bowl. Could you?

Then we had lunch at Cafe Yumm. Paula had not eaten there before It's an Oregon chain. Really good and different. Today was the first time I had been there on a Saturday. Holy smokes it was loud in there. Teenagers. Well, at least they were eating healthy stuff.

I scurried right out to the studio as soon as I got home. I have started work on my next 12 x 12 piece, which are now 12 x 20. The theme is "maps". Here's a little peek.  Can you figure out how this relates to maps?

I have been dividing my studio time this week between trying the organize the horror of the loft, where I just dumped everything from the old studio space, and doing some actual artwork downstairs. The loft is getting better. I am getting excited about the space now. Little by little it will get there, but I need to get rid of a ton of stuff.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Grants Pass—really?

When my kids were kids, we would often travel north from Ashland, Oregon where we lived, on I-5 to Eugene, or Portland or even Seattle. About 40 miles north of Ashland we would pass the small city of Grants Pass. Being Grants, ourselves, the kids once asked why the town was called Grants Pass. Ray responded that if you looked carefully, as we drove by, you could see that people had come out of their houses and directed their attention to the passing freeway, in order to see the Grants pass. Har, har, — get it? We were the "Grants" that were "pass"ing... OK, I know, very poor joke and the kids groaned unappreciatively. But the badness of the joke, then became the joke and it was repeated every time we drove past Grants Pass. And still is. And we still all groan.

According to the official web site of the city the name really came about this way:

How We Got Our Name
Grants Pass served as a stagecoach stop in the 1860's and became a rail head with the completion of the Oregon-California Railroad (now Southern Pacific) in 1884. The name was selected to honor General U.S. Grant's success at Vicksburg and the post office was established in 1865. Until after the turn of the century our name still retained the original spelling of Grant's Pass, using an apostrophe. 

But now, I learn, Grants Pass has achieved another distinction. A collectible plaid shirt has been created by the J. Crew Company and named the Grants Pass Plaid shirt.

It costs $100 and is described on the J. Crew web site thusly:
A new collection of old favorites, built using the foundations of traditional workwear, vintage military uniforms and classic outdoor gear as our guide. Named for Grants Pass, Oregon aka the coolest town you've never heard of, this plaid is based on a vintage shirt one of our designers picked up at a Pacific Northwest yard sale. Back east, our team reinterpreted the hardy, worn-to-the-mill flannel and gave it a modern color update, creating a limited edition original with all-American roots. Point collar. Camp pockets. A Collector's Item. Import. Machine wash.
I wonder why this makes me laugh so hard. Grants Pass is a charming little town, but hardly "the coolest town you've never heard of" and really, no one there would pay $100 for a plaid flannel shirt.