Friday, October 31, 2008

The lucky mailbox

My mailbox has been magical lately. I keep finding wonderful little treasures inside.

The first came last week. It is a small painting/collage from Jill Rumoshosky Werner. She had a contest on her blog to guess the name of an art installation she did for a show. I won! Isn't this a lovely thing?

The second came a couple days ago. This wonderful little ATC from Deborah Boschert, my fellow 12x12 artist.

I didn't have to win a contest or do anything to deserve this. Deborah knows I like crows and blackbirds and sent this to me out of simple friendship and goodness! And I really, really love it and send my heartfelt thanks!

As if that weren't enough, both artists included wonderful cards—frameable in themselves.

Am I lucky, or what?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fall color

Fall has been glorious here this year. Ray says I say that every year, but that's not true! Some years the rain starts early and the leaves just get slimy and brown. This year has been pretty dry and everything is so brilliant that in some areas the very air seems a warm pinky-red. I heard on the radio this morning that rain is expected later this week, so I took my camera along on my walk this morning to catch the color before it's gone. I especially love foggy mornings, like today, to soften the edges of everything.

When I got back home I had to stop to appreciate my own front yard. Our burning bush is living up to its name.

Our creek seems to be entirely dry right now—the first time I've seen it that way. Looking down the creek toward the conservation zone next to our house. I'm glad we moved out here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rent asunder

OK, that sounds a little dramatic. Make that "taken apart".

Thanks for all the opinions and suggestions. Lots of ideas. Really, all I was asking was whether you liked the leaves better with or without the background piece, but your suggestions were interesting and varied. I tried to picture each one in my mind and consider the virtues of each.

Maybe you'll be interested in what I decided to do and why.

I took it apart, which fortunately was not very difficult to do with the help of a nice sharp and pointy seam ripper. You can see one of my lazy secrets revealed. I did not quilt the center stripe all the way. I left the area that was hidden by the leaves unquilted. I did decide that there were three elements here that were not sufficiently related to make them work together. Furthermore, I believe, as the critiquer and many of you believe, that the leaves need to stand on their own. That square is pretty strong and even as I was making it that was the part I was really loving and knew that I was doing it a disservice to force it into compliance with a show requirement. It will be properly finished and perhaps framed. The other pieces will go into my boneyard and may be brought out for future projects and I will move on to rethink the green line show and what I will do for that. (I am actually already working on an idea that might incorporate the white background piece).

Now, a little philosophising—take it or leave it. I was interested in the ideas some of you offered. Several suggested adding things to the piece to "fix" it. That always seems to be the first impulse and I have found, almost always wrong. In this piece there was too much going on already and adding more would probably have made it worse. This was a piece that wanted to be simple and calm, not complex and active.

For the same reasons, I rejected a couple suggestions that I needed simply to break out of the symmetry of the composition. I agree that asymmetry is often more interesting, but symmetry has its place, especially in work that is intended to be quiet, contemplative and focused. As disparate as the elements were, I felt that a formally balanced composition that focused all movement toward the calm center was my best strategy for making everything work together. It wasn't enough.

I actually liked the idea of dyeing the background a darker color, but not as much as I finally liked removing it altogether. It may get dyed, or painted, for its next incarnation.

I think the lesson, that was reinforced for me, was that usually, if you are willing to listen, the work will tell you what it needs. But it is awfully hard, sometimes, to back down from a preconceived vision, even when it's flawed.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Yesterday was Oregon Critique group, held in Eugene. This is a group of fiber artists that meet twice a year and hire an artist from another medium to critique our work. It is always interesting to hear what they have to say and in most cases it is interesting to see that most of them have never looked at fiber art much and seem pleasantly surprised by what they are seeing from us.
Gerrie and I drove down to Eugene together and enjoyed the two hour trip to catch up with each other and take in the beautiful fall color. It was a glorious day.
One of the pieces I took for critique was the Laurel piece I showed parts of last week here on the blog.


The critique-er is an artist, photographer and graphic designer. Quite an interesting and articulate guy. He was complimentary about many aspects of this piece, but his bottom line opinion was that the center square, of the laurel leaves, does not fit with, or need, the rest of the piece and should stand alone. I think he made a very good point and I am thinking about it and tending to agree. Of course if I remove it from the background it no longer meets the requirements for the "green line" show, but that is no reason to leave it as it is. I could remove it and design a new center for the background—sort of a bass ackwards approach to design, but an interesting challenge.

What do you think? Is it better without the background piece?

12" x 12"

Friday, October 24, 2008

The perfect pumpkin

The last time we went to the Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island Sofia was a barely noticeable bump on the front of her Mom. We thought she needed a better view of the place, so we all went back last Sunday. We got there pretty early, but there was already a crowd and it was misty and pretty chilly.

The corn maze seemed less difficult, or maybe we are just veterans.

Everyone stopped on the observation bridge for a picture, then I took another from the bridge to show how far the corn goes.

Sofia rode in the backpack for awhile, then switched to grandpa's shoulders. She had the perfect vantage point.

We considered taking the hayride out into the field to pick out pumpkins but it was cold and we were tired and we ran into a friend of Emily's who said most of the pumpkins in the field had started to rot, so we opted for the little market where we found, not only pumpkins, but squashes and fruit we couldn't resist. Sofia was quite pleased with these tiny pumpkins.

As we drove away from the famous pumpkin patch, cars were lined up down the road, across the bridge and down the highway. Glad we went early.

From blog to real life

It is always fun to meet someone whose blog you read. I have been reading Laura's blog for about a year and we've been trying to get together for several months. We finally met for lunch at the Oregon College of Art and Craft today and had a nice long visit. If you haven't read her blog, it is lovely—a mix of the personal, her art, her photos and her thoughtful observations on life and the world and what touches her. In person, she is just as thoughtful and hopeful and articulate as that blog persona would lead you to believe. Here we are.

She brought me a gift. This is a small blank book, handmade and bound by Laura. Isn't it beautiful? I will have to fill it with something wonderful. What?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I am working on a piece for a show that High Fiber Diet is having in April. The theme is "Line Dance" and the concept is that every piece in the show will have a lime green horizontal line running through it. It will be interesting to see if this uniting thread will really work.

I am starting with a section that is laurel leaves and berries. I found this great polka dot rubber stamp awhile back and stamped several greens for my laurel leaves. My drawing is under the fabrics.

Cutting and fusing leaves.

Leaves and berries all fused. It is at this point that I am always somewhat tempted to stop. The nice flat, graphic look is appealing, but no, I start painting and then stitching.

The leaves will combine with some of this—

And some of this—

More later.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The chickens

I have a house full of stuff. I really have tried to get rid of a lot, but it still leaves a lot. Not that it is all that great, mind you. Most of it is dusty old stuff that no one else would want. Sentimental, silly stuff. Like these chickens.

If you grew up in the '50s or '60s you've probably seen clones of this pair. Didn't every kitchen have a pair of chickens on that shelf next to the kitchen sink? My Mom made these. Well, she didn't exactly make them. She painted ceramic bisque chickens and had them fired. It was a thing women did back then. One evening a week she'd hurry us through dinner, kiss us good night and leave us in Dad's care while she went to "ceramics" with her girlfriends. It was very exciting to see what she'd been working on after it was fired and she could bring it home. There were a pair of Chinese girl and boy figurines who sat on a shelf, with their legs dangling over the edge that I thought were wonderfully exotic. There were a series of matching cigarette boxes and ashtray sets that were made as Christmas gifts for relatives. (Back then every coffee table had such a set sitting on it.) My sister has the wonderful Santa Claus that looks like the Santa that was in the ads for Coca Cola. Vases, lamps, pixies, creamers, sugar bowls—until the ceramics studio finally closed down.

Once when I was quite small I simply had to get my hands on those chickens and I climbed up on the kitchen counter to get a closer look. Of course I dropped the rooster and he broke. I can still feel the horror and guilt. Mom carefully glued him back together and the glue has held to this day. When I sorted through all my brickabrack I knew no one would ever love these chickens like I do, so they came to live in my new kitchen.

My Mom died ten years ago this month, just five months after Dad. She really was my best friend. She was only 20 when I was born and she said we grew up together, especially in the first few years before my sister and brother came along. We flew kites in the field across the street from the rental house where we lived and we played with my dolls and we painted pictures. She gave the three of us children the kind of ideal childhood she had not had for herself. When I started college she resumed her college education, given up years before when she got married. We were in classes together, but many people didn't know she was my mother because she promised me she would do her best not to intrude on my college experience. She loved school and graduated with honors. She took a job as the Executive Director of the Pocatello YWCA and, in that position, established an art center and the first battered women's shelter in the state. Both continue to operate to this day.

I am sad that she won't know Sofia. She adored babies and would have approved of Sofia's feistiness and outgoing personality. I strive to be the kind of grandmother she was. I sure miss her. The chickens are a poor substitute.

Me and Mom, probably saying, "look at Daddy and smile!"

P.S. This is post # 601. Wow.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Moving Day

Our old house has not sold, the housing market is in the toilet and we have decided our best option is to rent the house for a year or two and hope the economy picks up in the meantime. Today we moved the rest of our stuff to our new house.

Bright and early this morning the guys from Thunder Movers, Noah and Keith, backed this big old truck down our little lane and started carrying stuff out the door. Thunder Movers, by the way, is owned and operated by a woman named Dottie Thunder—what a great name! They had rave reviews on Angie's List.

I can't say enough about these guys. Nothing damaged, nothing broken, nothing lost. They were fast, efficient and careful. They started by shrink wrapping all my furniture.

The last item loaded was the piano. I remember, well, moving that piano into the house fifteen years ago. It required about 4 men, a lot of pain, grunting and nail biting to get it up the stairs and into the house. Noah and Keith used a dolly and body harnesses and barely broke a sweat.

The first stop was Emily and Cayo's where the piano will now live. Emily learned to play the piano on this piano and we promised it to her years ago. Do you think Sofia will learn to play? She was pretty excited to see it arrive.

Tonight there are a lot of boxes piled around the new house, but there is furniture in the living room and it is beginning to feel even more like home.

Perhaps best of all, the guest bed that we have been sleeping on has been banished to the garage, wrapped in plastic, to be stored away for now, and our own bed is waiting for us. I can't tell you how much I have missed my wonderful bed! I can hardly wait. I plan to sleep for a very long time.

Nighty night—

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I was sitting at my sewing machine and my cell phone rang. It was Ray, which was odd because he had just walked by my door and said he would be working in the yard. "Quick, go look out the window" he said, very quietly. I hurried to the hall window and saw three deer standing out at the edge of the lawn. Ray was a few yards away, standing very still with his cell phone at his ear.

Two trotted up onto the lawn and I moved to the livingroom window for a better view.

They stood at alert for several minutes, then turned and scampered down and across the creek and disappeared into the woods.

We have seen them here several times. This was the first time my camera was handy. I've mentioned seeing deer in the yard to several people, who invariably roll their eyes and say something along the lines of, "oh, no—they'll ruin your garden" or "eat your roses." We had deer in our yard years ago when we lived in Ashland and I never minded them. In fact I loved them. One Christmas Eve we had been at our neighbors' and were leaving to walk home. As we came out the door there was a beautiful buck with a large set of antlers standing under a street light in the middle of the street, very still. Snow was softly falling all around. It was magical.

The area where we live was very rural until a few years ago and now there are wooded areas, but mostly subdivisions with fanciful names (Summercrest and Stonemist Estates and Hyland Hills—blehh). There were probably once a lot of deer living around here. If I were a deer I would feel entitled to be here. For me, it seems like a privilege to be able to see something so beautiful here in my own yard. For the record, the roses in the picture above are unscathed, but I wouldn't mind sacrificing a few to keep the deer coming back.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day

Today I am joining thousands of bloggers, for the 2nd Blog Action Day, to write about the subject of poverty.
I can't begin to advise anyone about their responsibilities. I feel helpless and inadequate when faced with the kind of poverty that exists in this world. Famine, AIDS and government failure have contributed to a situation in the continent of Africa, in so many countries, that I can't even imagine. The fact that more than 9 million children die each year from treatable and preventable causes is stunning. Nine million. Children. Each as precious as mine or yours.
I am grateful to people like Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates and Jimmy Carter and so many others who have pledged their energy and, more importantly, their money to a promise to eradicate poverty. I joined ONE, the organization that is dedicated to raising awareness and keeping the issues of world poverty before our government leaders. I keep a link to their web site in my sidebar. You can see what they are doing and sign a petition if you like.

We are buying fewer Christmas gifts these days and, instead, donating money to charities that help to feed people. One of my favorites is Heifer International. From their web site you can choose animals to be sent to families in developing countries, that will help them to sustain themselves. My gifts, in the past, have been chickens. I like the idea that the chickens can provide eggs for nourishment and good, old chicken poop to help people grow gardens to feed their children. It's a small thing, but it's something.
Click on the Blog Action Day logo below for other resources and ways to help.
“If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”
-Mother Teresa-

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Gerrie!

I don't think I'm giving away any secrets if I tell you that my friend, Gerrie is 70 today! She is the youngest 70-year-old that I know.

She is unique among my friends in that I first "met" her, through her blog, when she was living in California. Then she moved to Portland and we met in real life for the first time and became good friends in the "real" world. Since her move to Portland we have had some great fun together as members of several art quilt groups and get togethers with our families.

She celebrated her birthday last weekend with a family weekend—I'm sure they had a great time, but they didn't invite all the rest of us! So our STASH group celebrated Gerrie's birthday on Thursday with our regular meeting, followed by lunch at the Oregon College of Art and Craft. I gave Gerrie the orange lily she is holding above. I've had the vase/pot for months. When I first saw it I knew it was made for Gerrie, lover of all things lime green! I'd planned to fill it with cut flowers, but when I saw that wild orange lily—well, what can I say?

The STASH group gave her this beautiful book of creches from around the world. She owns some amazing and wonderful creches. We thought she'd love the book.

Thanks for leading the way, Gerrie! You're teaching the rest of us how cool 70 will be!

For more birthday fun:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The new walking trail

Since moving it is not as convenient to walk on the part of the Fanno Creek trail that Beth and I have walked for the past 5 years, so we have been exploring alternative walking trails. There hasn't been much walking done in the last month. Beth has been out of town a lot and also hurt her foot and was told by her Dr. not to walk for awhile. Last week, as her foot was finally getting close to healed, she tripped on something in her sandals and tore her toenail off! (Ewwwwww! doesn't that give you the willies??) Finally, today she was ready for a short walk.

We found a different section of the Fanno Creek Trail, closer to my new house, that we can access from a Starbucks (this is a very important criterion for our walking location!) in a business park area. We discovered that just behind the office buildings where you access the trail, there is a large pond and wetland area that is very beautiful.

On the far side of the pond we spotted a large white bird, that I think is an egret standing on a little island.

Soon he spread his huge wings and flew off. He was gone only a few moments when this great blue heron took his place on the same spot.

There were ducks swimming as well. What a peaceful scene.

Beth's foot was hurting, so we headed back for our coffee and came upon this charming little cottage just at the edge of the office park.

We learned that it is the Fanno Farmhouse, the first house built by European/American settlers in Washington County in 1859. It is now owned by the Parks and Recreation Department and can be rented for meetings or events. There is a lovely gazebo in the back—perfect for weddings.

So our walk included both nature appreciation and local history. Walking is so great. I have driven through this area a gagillion times and never knew about either the pond or the Fanno Farmhouse. Who knows what we'll find once Beth's foot is back to normal.

Another crow

This one is kind of fancy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Crow

So you know I have a fondness for crows/blackbirds/ravens. And you remember the little stuffed birds I was making. I adapted my bird pattern and made a crow. It is a bit bigger than the little birds, but not as large as a real crow.

I like how he looks sitting on the old clock. I think he will be my Halloween decor. Don't witches traditionally have a raven sitting on their shoulder?