Saturday, December 24, 2005
From near the equator
Emily and Cayo had to work for the first part of the week, so husband, Ray, son, Andy and I went to a resort in the Rain Forest called Arasha. On the bus, we passed the monument to the equator and our route crossed and recrossed the equator on our way. I wondered whether the equator exerts an influence on one--does your blood flow differently as you move between hemispheres? I am yet to be convinced that water goes down the drain in opposite directions north and south of the equator. But it seems somehow significant to cross that divide.
Arasha was luxurious and very beautiful. It is not the kind of place we usually go, but a special treat and our Christmas present to one another. I will post pictures later.
Back in Quito, we were able to visit the school where Emily teaches briefly. It always makes me very proud of her to see how she interacts with her students. The school is Colegio Americano, The American School, in Quito. Her students are mostly children of well-to-do Ecuadoreans who are being educated using the American system in English. These children will most likely grow up to be part of Ecuador´s power structure and one hopes they are learning well, but on that day they were like all squirrelly teenagers on the last day before Christmas break. Yesterday we fought the crowds at the mall and the superstore and today will prepare for Christmas.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Thirteen years ago we moved from Ashland, Oregon to Portland. In December, 1992 I went to my last meeting of Mountain Stars Quilt Guild and I won the Christmas tree blocks everyone had made. After I moved to Portland I decided to put them together using some nice red and white homespun I had saved when I closed my shop. It comes out every Christmas. It is very cozy for wrapping up in on Christmas morning and makes the sofa a great spot for a winter afternoon nap.
Each block is different fabric, made by a different member of the guild. Some of the fabrics are strange old fabrics, but altogether it is a charming quilt. I especially like this block that defied the rules--"plain muslin background fabric" by using a fabric printed with toys under the tree.
I quilted it with intentionally big, fat stitches, using a big needle and crochet thread. I was working on it at a guild work day here in Portland and an elderly member of the guild looked over my shoulder. She patted my shoulder comfortingly and said, "don't worry Honey. You just keep at it and your stitches will get smaller."
Had I not won those blocks I would never had made a quilt like this. I am always so happy that I have it every year when I get it out again.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
I am trying to maintain a Christmas-y spirit even though I am feeling a little panick-y at this point. I got email from my daughter today. I think she is getting excited to see us. She proposes that Sunday we help her and a friend/coworker put together gift baskets for their domestic help and some poor families. She is making arrangements for transportation and entertainment for us. I am looking forward to all that, but most of all I am looking forward to spending time with my daughter. I am thinking about speaking Spanish (poorly!) and taking pictures and eating Ecuadorean foods that I love and gasping and wheezing at that high altitude and browsing the markets. This is going to be great. Feliz navidad!
Friday, December 09, 2005
Simple Still Life: December's:Capture the Light
I decided to do this again this month. I liked the theme for December of "Capture the Light". It reminded me of a quote I have always liked and so I decided my entry would illustrate those words.
I took these pictures to start with:
I liked the second better than the first, but I liked the branches seen out the window in the first picture. I liked the second picture, but wasn't crazy about the reflection of the lamp in the window. I replaced the reflection with some of the branches from the first picture. I also loved the purple-y blue color of the outdoor view, so I intensified it a bit for the final version, then added the quote at the right side.
I copied this quote into a notebook many, many years ago, and I don't know who first said it or what it is from, but it seems perfect for this time of year.
Winter evening in Portland, Oregon. This will serve as my Christmas greeting to all of you. May your lives be filled with light even on the darkest days.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Small is beautiful (sometimes)
I had a strong immediate response, which was that a small format is every bit as legitimate as a large format. The two are different things. Small pieces require their own approach and are not simply miniaturized versions of something that should be large--at least when thoughtfully executed. I offer, as an example, this piece that I bought from Rosemary Claus Gray.
This piece is about 5" square. I love it and can't imagine it in any other size. It is the soul of simplicity, yet perfectly balanced with complex color and the beautiful layering of sheer fabrics.
On the other hand, I have to agree with Gabrielle that much of what is being done has no real composition, no real design. It looks like a swatch cut from a larger piece or a sample of multiple techniques. The fabric postcard craze is just that, though some lovely pieces are being made. Still a lot are the "swatch" variety or a hodgepodge of stamped and collaged images without much originality. I participated in one of the first rounds of fabric postcard exchange. I have to admit it was a lot of fun, but not something I wanted to do again. Making the postcards did not feel like doing "real art" and I approached it more as a design exercise.
Many people made one of a kind postcards for each person. I came up with one design and repeated it. When I was finished I was ready to go back to doing something more challenging.
Ironically, a portion of my day today was spent preparing and mailing off my Fine Focus entry. This exhibit consists of pieces that are all 12" or less on any given side. That may be one reason that Gabriells' discussion pushed my buttons the way it did!
Monday, December 05, 2005
I liked the graphic quality of these bare branches with the nest high in the top.
We haven't seen the "dachshund ladies" for awhile. They are fair weather walkers. They say the dogs get too muddy when it is rainy and wet out. But they were out today and the dogs seemed to be happy to be walking again. We always stop to chat and pet the dogs. The black one, Sabrina, knows us and if she sees us coming up behind them she stops dead in her tracks and refuses to move until we have caught up and given her a proper greeting and pats and cooing. The other two are Renee and Fritzi. The three ladies look more alike than the dogs do.
I love this part of the path where the trees form a solid arch overhead. That is Beth at the side of the path. The two walkers up ahead are "regulars". They nod pleasantly when they pass, but aren't as friendly as Beth and I are. We have been walking for nearly three years now and we know a few of the people by name and most of the dogs by name.
The walk ends at Starbucks. We usually sit outside, even in chilly weather. Everyone asks us about our earmuffs. They are "Ear Bags". They have no band. They each have a plastic form inside that pops open so you can fit your ear inside, then pops back to fit snugly. They are nice and warm. Mine are black, Beth's are red. I think REI owes us a commission, we have sent so many people out there to buy them.
Friday, December 02, 2005
So I rummaged around my sewing stash for inspiration. I found a ball of cotton rug warp and a crochet hook, so I sat in front of Survivor and The Apprentice last night and crocheted a little sweater for my cell phone.
My husband will be amused, I imagine. We have snickered about those hats people crochet for rolls of toilet paper and refer to them as "toilet paper cozies". I'm seeing a resemblance here.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
World AIDS day
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
When I was 17 I got contact lenses. (cue the Hallelujah chorus) I loved my contact lenses for 42 years. Loved them. Loved them.
About 10 years ago, give or take, I found that to read I needed a little pair of those reading glasses in addition to my contact lenses. As the years went by I needed stronger and stronger reading glasses. Finally, by last year, it got to the point that I couldn't read the caller ID on my phone without the little reading glasses. I couldn't dial my cell phone without them. I couldn't read my watch without the friggin' reading glasses. In addition, the contacts were starting to bother me and feel scratchy and itchy and dry.
I went to see my eye doctor who commiserated. He told me about bifocal options for contact lenses, none of which he thought would work very well for me. He said, he himself was also facing the prospect of giving up his contact lenses for glasses and he said it was painful, because "we baby boomers really love our contact lenses." We nodded sadly at one another. When he looked in my eyes he said I really did need to give my eyes a break from contacts. They were suffering a little "erosion" from the lenses. (Erosion? eeek!)
I thought I would try those all clear, no frame glasses, but when I tried them on the effect was just too schoolmarmish. The technician said, "You need a little color, Hon." She was pushing a metallic blue pair with a rhinestone at each corner, but I wasn't feeling it. Finally I spotted this purply little pair and asked to try them on. "Oh, those are sassy!" she said. Sassy it was.
I'm resigned. I've had them for awhile now and I can see pretty well, even my watch and cell phone. The graduated lenses were hard to adjust to and I think the peripheral vision sucks and when I look in the mirror it is still a shock. Getting old is not cool. I probably need to replace my picture up there at the right hand corner of the blog. That's the old contact lens me. Here's the new glasses me.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Cranberry/walnut candies--mmmmm, don't those sound good? I thought so. I've never made them before, but it sounded like a nice Oregon kind of candy treat to take to South America.
Here they are "jelling". When they are nice and firm they will be cut into squares and rolled in powdered sugar.
Next came rum balls. These are easy and I've made them before lots of times. Ray brought this bottle of rum back from St. Thomas last week. He's doing a consulting job there. He'll be surprised to see that I've been hitting the bottle pretty hard in his absence.
Rum balls on the right, cranberry candies cut and powdered on the left.
Next up were peanut butter balls, my sister-in-law, Brenda's yummy recipe. I've made these before too. Mine aren't as pretty as Brenda's, but they taste good. I can't quite get the hang of making beautiful dipped chocolates. Mine are a little lumpy looking.
Here are the chocolate peanut butter balls. The rum balls are safely nestled in that big tin on the left and those things in the back, well those are the cranberry candies. You know how you're not supposed to make candy when the weather is humid? This is Oregon, folks. This is November in Oregon. You don't have many choices. The cranberry candies don't seem to want to dry. They wept through the powdered sugar. They formed sticky puddles on the wax paper. I now have them suspended on racks trying to circulate a little air. I hope they dry out so I can try another dousing of powdered sugar. My mother used to make heavenly divinity. It's impossible to make that in Oregon. Fudge is iffy. I'm going to try some sugared walnuts next, but I might wait for a break in the weather.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Sunday, November 27, 2005
The most famous quilt I never made
I have never been nearly as successful as either of them, but I have made the same discovery that the "business" of art/quilting is not the same as, and often conflicts with, the making of art. I've owned a quilt shop, I've designed patterns, I've taught, I've been a sales rep for a fabric company. I'm happy not to be doing any of those things at this point in my life.
During that period of desperately trying to make a little money to justify my total devotion to fabric and sewing and art, I designed a baby quilt to submit to Quiltmaker magazine. I'm sure you've all seen the ads for their ongoing quilt design "contests". I approached it in a very calculated way. I looked at a bunch of past issues of the magazine and I asked myself what the readers were looking for. My answers all added up to a quilt, the likes of which I had never made, but I was game for giving it a shot. My criteria were:
- It had to be easy and fast to make
- It had to be "cute" and have a cute name
- It should include both piecing, but not too much piecing, and applique, but nice big easy-to-stitch applique shapes.
- Bears or bunnies--everyone loves bears and bunnies
This may sound cynical. It was not, but it was business, not art. The nice thing about the Quiltmaker contest is that you didn't have to actually make the quilt, you just had to come up with the design. My design for "Peek-a-b00 Bears" was accepted and appeared in the May/June 1996 issue. I was paid $100.
To this day I have never made this quilt, but for years I saw a version at nearly every quilt show I attended. People sent me photos of their quilts made from the pattern. People told me how much they looooooved that pattern. A Google search this morning turned up several being sold on a web site (yikes--questionable color choices!) and one that won third prize in a Twin Falls, Idaho quilt show. (Of course none give me design credit--oh well) Several years ago Quiltmaker sent out an advertising mailer to probably every quilter in the US. The center spread of the mailer was Peek-a-boo Bears along with a miniscule picture of me with very big hair. It was on their web site for years. It has been a very popular pattern. Go figure.
I'm not complaining. Really. I'm happy that people like it. But it does nag at me that this pattern may be my quilting legacy. To date it is, by far, the most famous quilt I never made.
Postscript: Apparently some people thought I was saying I was embarrassed by or ashamed of having designed this baby quilt. Not so! I still get a little thrill seeing it in print and seeing that people just keep making this quilt. Caity's comment about having made the quilt blew me away! But I still think it is a little ironic that it may always be the quilt that I am best known for, when it doesn't really reflect the work that means the most to me.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Fine Focus '06
This is the only thing I have entered this year. Last year I entered a lot of shows and was only accepted into one. That gets discouraging, even though reading other blogs and the QuiltArt list lets me know that it happens to everyone. Still, I always feel this little internal crisis when the rejection letter arrives. "Why do I even tryyyyy?" goes my internal wail. Externally I say, "well, you win a few, you lose a few..." and smile bravely. My artist friends and I commiserate. My friend, June Underwood, refers to her Quilt National entry fees as "charitable donations"--except this year she got in to Quilt National. Wow. I was thrilled for her and it wasn't even bittersweet, because I didn't even enter. (And because I really like June and I really liked her QN piece and she deserved it.)
Last year my entries for APNQ didn't get in. I had gotten into the prior one, so that was a tough rejection. It was made worse when I went to the show and saw what I felt were very unworthy pieces that had been accepted. (In fairness I have to say that there were also some amazing, good pieces too) But, there were two literally identical quilts made in the same class, from kits, by two different people that were in that show. And there were quilts made from commercial patterns entered as "art quilts" in that show. Humpf. Will I enter again? Yes, probably. Hope springs eternal...
So, why do we put ourselves through this? Besides the emotional cost, and the time involved, it is expensive to have slides made, pay entry fees, etc. Probably we do it because it feels so damn good when you get into a really good show. And Fine Focus is a really good show. And my piece can currently be seen on their web site--scroll to the bottom of the page.
Yes, I am very happy.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
And it's red! -- cranberry salad
My Thanksgiving menu changes a little from time to time, (I'm trying a new sweet potato recipe this year) but the one absolute constant is the cranberry salad. I know Jello salads are passe and I'm not really fond of most of them anyway, but in this recipe the Jello is just there to hold the fruit together. My mother always made this and I really love both the tart-sweet tang and the fact that it is so beautiful--it looks like sparkling jewels. It is so refreshing with all the heavy Thanksgiving dishes and is the perfect accompaniment to a turkey sandwich on the day after Thanksgiving. I always make it the day before Thanksgiving.
Mom used to grind up the fruit and nuts in a food grinder. I use the Cuisinart. Here's the recipe:
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Rarely Honest Mike's
Mike has everything in large quantities and it is quite organized as far as having like things together. Need a rolling pin? Or salt and pepper shakers?
Here's Mike--or at least that's what the nametag says.
Ray found a cool set of ceramic Moroccan bongo drums. I added to my old scissor collection.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Guess what my favorite color is
P.S. Oops. Correction. I guess I have made art without red in it after all. Silly me. Of course I have. Sometimes I get carried away and I exaggerate--a little.
But, art with red in it is better...
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Comments, questions and answers
So, now you know I just loved the comments about the Ecuadorean woman quilt. To answer Allison's question--right now the piece measures 24" by 40". I'm sure by the time it is quilted and trimmed it will be a couple inches smaller in each dimension. The woman is slightly smaller than life size. (Actually, as I think about it, most Ecuadoreans are smaller than my concept of lifesize, so maybe she's lifesize after all.) Mary, the folds in the shawl are painted and I am thrilled that you had to ask!
Friday, November 18, 2005
On another note...
I belong to a womens' organization called P.E.O. Its purpose is to raise money for scholarships for women, but it has its social and educational aspects as well. In my chapter of 39 women, four have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the last year and a half. Four! Three of the four are younger than I. I just heard yesterday about the most recent diagnosis. Keep a good thought for my friend, Pattie, who will have surgery next Wednesday, and make sure your mammogram is up to date. Take care of yourselves. OK?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
My original plan was to put another weaving behind her on the right of the first one, so essentially the background was all patterned. After I got the first weaving mostly done, I decided more pattern would be too much. So I tried this fabric that I painted, which looks a bit like a stuccoed wall. It is not fused down--just trying it out.
At this point it is helpful to open the image in Photoshop and work on some ideas.
I added to the figure and knocked back the stucco fabric a bit. It could still be too much pattern in that background. Maybe a flatter piece.
I'm kind of liking this plainer background. I don't know. I think I'll have to sleep on it. Opinions?
Sunday, November 13, 2005
We have a maple tree just outside our 2nd floor bedroom window. We love the way it shades the house in the summer and we love the way it loses its leaves allowing the sun to warm the house in the winter. (On those rare occasions when the sun shines) But most of all we love watching the show every fall as it changes color. I took the picture above on September 23 just as the leaves were beginning to get some tinges of red along their edges.
A week later, September 30, there was noticeable color change.
By October 16 the tree was pretty glorious. For several weeks every October it's a little like having a huge colorful painting in the room. When I spruced up this room several years ago I chose the mottled green wallpaper, in part, to provide a nice backdrop for the yearly show. (It would be even better without the air-conditioner, wouldn't it?)
Today the leaves are gone completely from the tree, but now the view includes the sky and the hills across the way. (Downtown Portland is just on the other side of those hills) The leaves, now a wet, but still lovely, mat underfoot, are waiting to be raked up and hauled away.
I don't think I'd ever like to live in a place where the seasons don't change, appealing as a warmer climate might be. I'd miss the drama.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Isn't the Internet Amazing?
If you click on the logo it will take you to Katherine's web site. She wanted the look and feel of the green valleys of Vermont. I think she especially liked the tree. It was fun working with her and I feel like I have both a client and a new friend, but we've never met and likely never will. We live about as far apart as we possibly could and still live in the same country.
Isn't the internet amazing?
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Baby quilt finished
I quilted around the little squares in the 9-patches--worked so long that my "pedal" leg got achy and twitchy. Thank goodness for TV--machine quilting is boring. Notice my little scissors. I really love these little scissors for clipping threads. They are fly-tying scissors called "Dr. Slicks". They have finely serrated edges that really grab little threads and a slightly curved blade making it less likely that you will nip into your quilt while trimming little threads. They are an excellent tool. (and quite pretty) They are made for men's hands, I think, and have nice big round loops for your fingers. I bought them in a fishing store.
Here I am sewing on the binding by machine. It is much faster than by hand and I think it is stronger for utility-type quilts. I use a narrow, long-ish zigzag and it hardly shows. Notice how artfully I have cropped these pictures so you can't see the surrounding mess that is my sewing space.
And here is the finished quilt. I have flipped back the corner so you can see the backing. You can't tell, but it has little, bitty Dutch boys and girls with bunnies and birds. Very '30s, and I think the baby will, at some point, probably like those little figures. One of the yellow fabrics on the top has equally bitty dogs chasing balls--little hidden surprises. That's for the baby. For the Mom I tried to coordinate the colors with the Pottery Barn linens and accessories she chose--I hope she didn't buy the Pottery Barn quilt.