Friday, August 31, 2007

Silver threads . . .

I was interested in this story in the New York Times yesterday about how women feel about going gray as opposed to dyeing their hair. It is actually a review of a book called "Going Gray" by Anne Kreamer.

"At a time when more than half of American women ages 13 to 69 color their hair, Ms. Kreamer argues that hair dye is the great divide that separates those who are in denial about aging from those who embrace it. Dyed hair looks as artificial as a toupee, she concludes, whereas gray suggests candor."

Since I have been "going gray" for most of my life (my first gray hairs started appearing when I was 16) this is an issue I dealt with long ago and it was not hard to decide to let nature take its course and let it go gray. It seems that now that most of my babyboomer sisters are at that point in life it has become a hot subject. A month or so ago I answered a long questionaire about gray vs. dye for a Time magazine reporter. I have yet to see the story appear in the magazine, but it was obviously a topic worthy of some research.

I can't say I "embrace" aging, but my silver hair is less disturbing to me than many of the other symptoms of this maturity I have achieved. I get a lot of compliments on my hair—always have. Compliments are never a bad thing. But it was a little bit of a shock several years ago when I realized I was no longer "prematurely gray," but just plain old gray. Interestingly, I think of the current state of my hair as completely white. I was surprised to see this photo that June took of me several months ago when we went to a gallery show together. This is a view of myself I never see, so it was a surprise to realize that only the front view is white. (Thank goodness for that standup collar or you would see one of the symptoms of aging that does bother me.)

My gray hair is so much a part of who I am that I just have never considered dyeing it. I don't have a problem with anyone else dyeing their hair, but like Anne Kreamer points out, a lot of the time dyed hair looks very false and not very flattering. Friends say to me, "But you have good hair. It's thick and it is a nice silver-y color". Pshaw. I have seen beautiful white hair that is thin and wispy and makes the wearer look like a million bucks. It's in the cut and the style, not the color.

So here's to my sister Becky and my brother Steve and Jane Ann and Christine (who has already declared herself my "hair twin") and Meryl Streep as Amanda Priestly and Emmylou Harris and me and all you other gray-haired beauties. I think our time has come.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Almost finished

Like Gerrie, I am getting ready for High Fiber Diet's show at the Japanese Garden. It occurred to me that the little test piece I made a couple of weeks ago might actually be used for something, so I finished the edges and mounted it on an off-white background. I will hang it in the show.

The bamboo piece laying at the top will be the hanging rod. I figured out a way to attach the bamboo that I like. I drill a couple of holes through the bamboo rod and attach it to the piece using heavy thread and a bead on each side of the holes. Here's a little detail shot.

Gerrie is finishing several of her pieces this way too. She says on her blog she "stole" the idea from me. Feel free to steal this idea if you like it!

You may also be able to see in this detail that I quilted the background by stitching over a piece of cotton cord, actually cotton loom warp. I also finished the edges the same way. I rather like the way that turned out.

The Japanese garden show is a fun one to do because we usually sell quite well. The change of dates from July to September this year may make a difference. It will be interesting to see. The pavillion at the Garden is really a beautiful setting for our work and it is always so pleasant to work a shift sitting the show.

The problem I always have with this show is that I try to hang work that is compatible with the Japanese Garden and the Japanese aesthetic without trying to mimic Japanese art. I'm not Japanese. That isn't my culture. No one in our group is Japanese, but some of the work looks very much like Japanese art. I ponder this every year and come to no clear conclusions except that personally, I want my work to be my own and come from my own vision and my own life experience. If it works in this venue, then maybe that is just a reflection of my admiration for Asian art coming through.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Halfway through this week already

I got a nice surprise last week when this ribbon arrived in my mail. It is for my Anne Frank piece that is in the "She Made Her Mark, Too" exhibit. It was made by Jamie Fingal and has so much more character than the usual satin ribbons that are sometimes awarded by shows. I was, in fact, surprised that this show gave awards, ribbons, prizes.

Did I say "prizes"? Yes, I also got a prize. It showed up unannounced several weeks ago. It is a wonderful little Japanese drawstring bag stuffed to the gills with rolled pieces of Japanese fabrics. I think I love the little bag even more than the fabric, though it is most welcome and will be used.

As much as I have bitched about this exhibit and competition (and my friends know that I have) I am a little humbled by such largesse.

Over the past couple of years my graphic design business has declined, intentionally on my part. I have not taken on any new clients and those I had have moved away or I have finished their projects or I have turned down jobs. I have been retiring a little bit at a time and thought this summer I was actually truly retired, but I got a call from a company I have worked for off and on for a number of years, doing layouts for technical manuals and materials and they had a brochure they needed, so I worked for a couple days last week and one day this week. For this particular client I work at their site as I have to coordinate with numerous people for technical drawings and text, etc. It was kind of nice to put on grownup clothes and "go to work" for a couple of days, but also nice to be finished. Retirement is hard to beat. The company is located in an area of industrial parks and buildings. You know the kind, I'm sure, where there are rows of steel buildings housing lots of small businesses you never knew existed. When I went to lunch the other day I noticed a SALE! sandwich board sitting next to the street, so I stopped to see what kind of business was having a sale. Turned out to be a company that imports furniture and accessories from Indonesia and, oh my, what wonderful things they had piled into a nondescript warehouse. I couldn't resist this big red platter. It is really heavy, and I think it looks great on my diningroom table, displaying, for now, my growing collection of "round things".

I think it doesn't pay to let me work. I seem to spend money as fast as I make it. Ray, on the other hand, is doing swell in our effort to get rid of stuff. Today he sold his drum set. I have mixed feelings. He has always had drums. He seemed very pleased to see them drive away with an earnest young drummer, and exceptionally pleased with the wad of cash he got in return.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Finished projects

That has a nice ring to it doesn't it?

Do you remember this little chest of drawers that I bought at a yard sale about a year ago? It sat on the front porch for a couple of months until the weather was really too wet and cold to work on it, so we moved it into the basement. I finally pulled it back outside a couple of weeks ago and sanded and painted it. I just moved it up to the guest room to replace the dresser that I gave to Emily a year ago. I think it is pretty cute. Want to come and visit me? Now there is a place for you to put your, uh, socks. You can also see my Amish wannabe quilt reflected in the mirror.

And here is my finished jewelry made with the silver pieces I created in the class I took last weekend. Hard to photograph. That's a pearl hanging on the end of the triangle. It's really pretty with a very slight pinkish cast to it, but it looks like nothing in the photo. You can see that I used the little squares that looked a bit like buttons to make a pair of earrings. They were made from the scraps that were left from the other pieces. Gerrie has a wonderful pair of earrings that I have admired (coveted) that have a silver square and a red bead. They were my inspiration for these.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Precious metal clay class

I took a class on Saturday to learn how to use precious metal clay to make silver jewelry. It was incredibly fun. Precious metal clay (PMC) is actual silver powder in a clay binder that allows you to form it much like fimo clay. Then it is fired at high temperature which burns the binder away and fuses the silver. There were 8 of us in the class and we each got 10 grams of PMC to work with, which was just enough to make 3 or 4 small pieces . Since this class was to learn the process, not a design class, we used rubber stamps and punches to create the designs. Here are all of the pieces ready to be fired.

I have always loved silver jewelry. It looks better on me than gold and I am very drawn to the handmade jewelry of South America and Mexico especially. Our visit to Taxco in February, especially seeing the Spratling Museum, really got me thinking about designing jewelry. I took a class at PCC last spring and learned a lot about traditional silversmithing. Coincidentally, when we went to Boise for my niece's graduation I met Barbara Bowling at Jess's graduation party. Barbara is a jewelry artist in Boise, who makes beautiful, beautiful things. She invited me to see her studio, which was really inspiring. Take a look at her work here. Beautiful, eh? So I have just been more and more fascinated with the idea of learning more.

Here are the pieces just out of the kiln. They come out completely white.

Then you put them on a little rubber block and brush the white coating off with a little brass wire brush.

The brush gives them a nice soft, matte silver finish. If you want a shinier, more polished finish, you burnish them with this burnishing tool. I burnished the high points of the two stamped pieces. I left the two little square pieces with the brushed finish.

To get an antiqued look, we put pieces into liver of sulpher solution, which turns the piece dark. I put each of the stamped pieces into the chemical.

Then I polished them, removing the dark tarnish from everything except the impressed lines, so the designs show up better.

These are my finished pieces. When the clay is fired it shrinks about 10% as the binder burns out, and leaves almost pure silver. I put the stamp I used on the triangular piece in the photo so you can see what the shrinkage is. For reference, the finished triangle is about an inch on each side.

I am really pleased with these! I bought some findings and beads to finish these and I'll post photos when they are done.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Mountain Artisans Quilting Book

Today on the QuiltArt list someone mentioned finding this book listed as an "antique" book, which shocked her since it was published in 1973. She then joked that maybe her copy was worth $500, which then set off a flurry of excitement and misunderstanding when others thought their copies were suddenly very valuable! Not true. There are hundreds of used copies available on the internet. The lowest price I found was .73. Most are going for about $1.50. Then the resident list librarian clarified that "antiquarian" (not antique) books are just books that are now out of print, some valuable, some not.

This is the first quilt book I ever owned and I remember really loving this true story about a group of women in the mountains and hollows of West Virginia who formed a quilting cooperative and caught the attention of the fashion and decorating world. I was very taken with this photo of Sharon Rockefeller, then the young and attractive first lady of the state of West Virginia and a big supporter of the Mountain Artisans. She popularized the patchwork "hostess" skirts made by the artisans. I immediately made myself a floor-length patchwork skirt. I suppose it qualifies as the first quilt I ever made.
I have to tell you it was hard to walk in. It had no batting, but was lined and it beat against my legs, "whap, whap" as I walked and tended to grab at my ankles. It was warm, though. I remember wearing it one snowy Christmas day and feeling not only warm and cozy, but very chic!
Quite a few years went by after that before I made another quilt, but this book really put the idea of making quilts in my head.

Looking at the pictures now, it is hard to recapture my fascination. The fabrics in the picture above look dreadful to me. But this quilt, done all in solids still has a cheerful charm that I like.
And the quilt on the cover, made for Governor and Mrs. Rockefeller, is quite special. I think it could win prizes today. Remembering this book today and looking through it again brought back a lot of memories. It had a huge impact on me. Maybe that's why I have kept it all these years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Ray and I haven't been out to a movie for a long time. We rent a lot from Netflix, but there is something really nice about going out to a theatre. Especially to a matinee. They are cheaper for one thing, and I am usually more alert in the afternoon than the evening. I usually fall asleep when we watch a movie at night, even really good ones, then I have to cruise through the scene selections the next morning to pick up what I missed before we send it back. I hate telling you this as it makes me feel very dotty and elderly, however it's the sad truth. But I digress . . .

We went to see Once at the theatre this weekend. It is one of the most lovely, charming movies I have ever seen. I can't quite imagine anyone who would not find this movie to their liking. It is an Irish movie that takes place in modern day Dublin and it is a musical, but not the goofy Gene Kelly kind of musical. It is a movie about musicians and the music they make. Click on the link above and you will get a taste of the music and some info about the movie. I seldom buy movies, but I believe I will buy this movie when it comes out on DVD. It is the kind of movie that would be good to watch every so often, especially when you need a little cheer or a reminder that most people really are basically good and decent, which makes it sound very sappy, but honest, it's not.

The green quilt is progressing, but I haven't taken any more pictures. I did make these three littles from some of the scraps.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Food, glorious, food

Do you remember that song from Oliver? It was sung by poor orphans who hadn't much food, but for me it was a celebration of good eating. I love to eat, and while I think I have always tried to eat healthy and with some discretion, the fact is that I am overweight. I have been thinking about this for months now. I am healthy, but my last Dr.'s visit revealed that things are changing. My cholesterol, still within safe limits, has increased. Blood sugar is high—not diabetic, but headed that direction.

So, how boring is this? I apologize, really. When I started writing this blog I said, in my first post, "Honestly, somebody just shoot me if I start talking about aches and pains, diets, religion or politics!)" So, at the risk of being shot, I am revealing that I joined Weight Watchers online this morning. I tell you this because I think if I go public I will be more likely to stick with it. Maybe if I have some support from others who are doing this it will be easier. So there it is.

I have been on a lot of diets in the past and to be quite honest my motivation was usually (maybe always) vanity. This time it is different. My health is motivating me. When I look at my precious granddaughter I realize that I want to be able to spend her childhood with her as an active, healthy grandmother, and to live to see her fulfill some of her dreams.

So here we go on a food, glorious food, adventure. I bought those gorgeous artichokes you see above at the Hillsdale Farmers market yesterday. They are a new variety, supposed to have bigger hearts and fatter leaves. I thought they were just beautiful to look at. According to Weight Watchers they are "free" and don't count as any points on my alotted total. Yes! But, of course, artichokes are best if dipped into something yummy. My favorite curry mayo definitely does add up in points. What about lemon juice with just a bit of melted butter? Hmmmm. I'm thinking. How about yoghurt with curry powder? Could that be good? Any ideas?

Saturday, August 18, 2007


The STASH group is reading Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit. In this month's chapter she talks about being a novice choreographer and not knowing how to begin. "So I stood up in the center of the room, took a deep breath, stamped my foot, and shouted 'Begin!'"
So today, after all the preparation and interruptions and fiddling around, I began on the green quilt. When I am using a human face in a piece that is where I always start. Years ago I read something Eleanor Peace Bailey wrote about dollmaking. She said she always starts by painting the face. "Then," she said, "you know who you're dealing with."
In yesterday's comments Reva asked, "so what color will the figure's hair be?" Here's the answer.
I also noted all your comments regarding my overstamped sample experiment. Del's comment that the stamping makes the piece look out of focus is exactly what was bothering me, along with the flattening of the value. It does something that I call "moosh" which is one of the things I dislike about the style of a lot of art quilts. I was going for subtle and mysterious and got moosh. Then Kristen's comment about wanting to see a little print fabric in there took me right back to my stash of prints. I pulled this bunch that I think I will be using.

I did do a little stamping of individual fabrics that I will probably mix in. I do love those prints and that is what I am seeing in this piece. I also dyed some purply browns to use for my base fabrics that become the dark lines that define the shapes.

How nice it has been to spend nearly the entire day working on this. It really has been a long time since I have been able to do that. The summer has been very full and I've been focusing on my family and travel and other things. It's OK. Sometimes I really rush into a piece and then later wish I had spent more time in the thinking and planning stages. I have given this one a lot of thought and really made the decisions and preliminary changes I sometimes skip over.

P.S. Look who's on June's blog today.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Catching up with those women

Summertime is always a hard time to get people together, what with travels and out-of-town-company and projects and the like, so it has been a bit of a challenge to schedule what are usually monthly get togethers with a couple of groups. Finally, this week things came together and the STASH group met yesterday at Beth's house and the Gerrie-June-Terry critique group got together here today. I have so been needing time with all these women!

Today's group was really low maintenance. Ray cleaned off the porch, we cleaned up the house a bit and we were in business. Everyone is watching their diets so refreshments were easy. Plums, recently picked off our tree, almonds and coffee.

After a little catch-up and discussion of whose work was rejected from which shows, whose work was accepted for which shows and who hasn't bothered to enter anything in more than a year (that would be me), we took turns showing a piece for critique. The presenter keeps quiet while the other two talk about the work. When they finish, the presenter can respond. It's a formula we like and works for us. We are kind, but honest, leaning probably a bit more toward praise than criticism. It is uncanny, to me, how Gerrie and June always seem to touch on exactly the issues I have been thinking about when they talk about my work. I think they find the same when we talk about their work as well.
I showed the drawing and the sample piece for the "green" piece and got such good insight from my friends. Not only the painting/stamping/value issue I talked about in the last post, but the relationship between the figure and the background, even what color the figure's hair should be! (and why) I always come away invigorated and eager to get back to work.
We went out to lunch following our critique and continued the discussion. When we started this group we decided we could bring sack lunches to eat after our discussion. At the first meeting we said, "Oh heck, why don't we just go out, this time?" Sack lunches never sounded that good after that. We are working our way through Portland's restaurants. It works well as we each live in a different part of the city. We can sample places we might not know about. Today we went to JoPa just down the road from my house. The lunch out has become an important part of our process. Did I say everyone was watching their diets . . .?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fiddlin' around

I am hoping to get started with the "green" quilt soon and I'm thinking of trying a little different approach, so I made a small sample today to try out some of my ideas. I usually use commercially printed, patterned fabrics, but decided to start with solids this time. Here is the start—fused solids with some paint and pastels added for dimension and variation in the color.

Same thing with stitching added.

Now, here's the new idea. I used some of the stamps I have made and bought and started stamping semi-transparent pattern over my fused piece.

Then I layered it and did some quilting.

The parts of this I like are that it does seem to add some depth and complexity. What I am not liking is that it had definitely flattened the value contrast.

Little more paint to try and punch up the value contrast.

I'm not sure I like what I did. I think I will have to let this percolate. I will take it to my small quilt group and my critique group this week and see what kind of feedback I get from them. What do you think? Did I turn it into mud?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Oh happy day!

The new IKEA store just opened in Portland. For nearly a year the big sign has been taunting us every time we'd drive to the airport. Finally the big, blue box has landed and our community has been blessed with the miracle that is IKEA.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Big freakin' chain store comes to town, kills local Mom and Pop businesses, mass consumerism brings out the worst in people, the furniture is made of particle board, blah, blah, blah, blah. Sorry, but when it comes to IKEA my social conscience takes a nap. It's IKEA! Woo hoo! I just love IKEA.
Hey, I've been feigning an interest in cultural events in Seattle for years, just for an excuse to visit the Seattle store at least once a year. Now we have our very own.
I helped Ray furnish an apartment for the consulting company he worked for several years ago. We spent an entire day at the Chicago IKEA store. When we finally checked out as the store was closing I had lost my notebook with all my important phone numbers and client hours in it, my eyes were spinning and my feet and back were screaming for mercy. I still love IKEA.
We have been to the new Portland IKEA twice in the past week. It has been packed with happy Portlanders. See, here's the thing. IKEA stuff is good. And cheap. And beautifully designed. One of the things I bought this week is that milk foamer you see above. It cost less than $2. It works better than the steamer on the espresso machine. And it looks cool. I got bar stools for Emily and Cayo's house. (Actually solid wood—not particle board) They were easy to put together and really sturdy, with a nifty hand hole in the seat so you can easily pick them up. The IKEA catalog came in today's paper. I read it before I read the newspaper.
I expect to find everything I will ever need for the rest of my life at IKEA. The meatballs are good, too.

Only a few more days left . . .

To vote for Sofi in the Evenflo baby contest! The voting ends 8-15. Click here to vote. C'mon, she is really cute, don't you think? And the college scholarship will come in handy, 'cause she's really smart too!
The Obnoxious Grandmother

Friday, August 10, 2007


It seems I always find something new to photograph on my morning walk along the Fanno Creek Trail. We have been noticing how much beautiful fruit is ripening along the trail right now. The squirrels are noticing too. Yesterday we narrowly missed being pelted by bits of plum and flying seeds as the squirrels feasted overhead. This guy paused just long enough to pose for a few seconds, then went careening off. I think the squirrels are drunk on the fruit.

Plums are plentiful along the trail in several varieties.

There is an elderly couple that walks at the same time we do. The man said that he was told the origin of the fruit trees is related to the fact that our section of the trail runs along an old railroad right-of-way. The Red Electric Railroad was a commuter train that ran in the early part of the 20th century and the passengers would bring their lunches onboard and toss pits from fruit out the open windows. I wonder if that is true. It's a charming story and many of the fruit trees along the trail appear to be quite old. This mossy, old apple tree, with its gnarly apples seems like a relic of a bygone era for sure.

This one looks like a more modern variety.

Pear tree. This reminds me of that William Morris tapestry of pears.

The most ubiquitous fruit on the trail, indeed in the state of Oregon, are the blackberries that no one planted. They would cover every inch of soil between here and the Pacific Ocean if not controlled. The most beautiful grow just out of reach, with a vicious, thorny bramble between you and the luscious fruit.

I managed to reach a few, which went directly into my mouth. MMMMmmmm. They are so delicious.

In addition to the lovely edible fruits there are beautiful ornamental fruits. The Woody Nightshade is a jewel-like red, but quite poisonous.

Below are Cherry Laurel. One source I found on the internet said they are also poisonous to humans. Another source said they were not poison, but tasted "insipid". Either way, I think I'll pass. They are sure handsome though, aren't they?

And last I leave you with the Oregon State Flower, the Oregon Grape. Not really a grape at all, the leaves look quite a lot like holly and the berries are a lovely dusty blue-purple. They are edible, don't taste very good, but many parts of the plant are used medicinally.

All that color! It was inspiring today.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

One last vacation picture

I got my ENDLESSTHIS WAR bumper sticker from Gerrie months ago. She asked everyone she sent one to for a photo for her online protest. I finally saw my photo op while we were in Idaho. Here is my car, on the left, parked next to my daughter Emily's car, with their matching bumper stickers. Ironically, we are in Idaho, the most Republican state in the U.S., but I sense that support for the war has waned, even there.

Why am I so tired?

We got home from Idaho Sunday night and I feel like I still have not recovered from all the fun. That much fun, by the way, is actually a lot of hard work. Especially for our hosts, Steve and Brenda. Steve had to do all the prep work for the roofing job, load up shingles, etc. Brenda had to plan and buy food (and cook it). She always feeds us so well. I tried to contribute, but it was still a lot of work for Brenda. And I saw the laundry baskets full of used sheets and towels she took home from the cabin—lotta work. We really appreciate it! Someday we all ought to take a vacation somewhere where we are waited on hand and foot and we needn't lift a finger. I hear cruises are like that. Probably isn't going to happen. This is a crazy family that thinks putting a roof on the cabin is a vacation. This is what Ray and Steve did when they came off the roof. Work.

This is what Emily did for fun—made pies. You can see by the way she is holding her mouth that this requires concentration.

I took along the materials and tools to make rubber stamps. I wanted to make some for my own use and thought maybe the non-roofers would enjoy making a stamp as well. My niece Steffie made several. Emily, Jessica and Jamie also made stamps.

Here are some of our stamps. Below is a piece of fabric used to try out the stamps with fabric paint. Steffi's leaf was especially successful, I thought.

I made the ladybug stamp and stamped a onesie for Sofia. Emily made a stamp that reads "hecha in Ecuador" (made in Ecuador) and we stenciled an Ecuadorean flag on another onesie and stamped the "hecha in Ecuador" stamp on it.

So, now we are home and I am finally finishing up the laundry and still putting things away. I ran the car through a carwash this morning and vacuumed the travel crud out of it. It's 11 am and I'm ready for a nap. Does it take nearly a week to recover from a week's vacation? I must be getting old and don't bounce back as quickly. Sure was fun, though.