Friday, July 30, 2010

The object #11 A New Breed of Bird

Here is my new bird. A bit more sculptural, a bit less stuffed. I actually stuffed this one with wadded up plastic bags from the grocery store. Seemed like a good use for them, though there is talk here in Oregon of outlawing plastic grocery bags. Anyway, the bird did not need the polyfil stuffing to give him dimension, so he is lightly stuffed.

I think this is an idea worth pursuing and I have some thoughts about different kinds of materials.

The other day I went to visit my friend June and we walked down to Hawthorne Street, near her house, to have lunch. On our way we passed a small business that makes futons and there was a box of discarded wood blocks sitting out on the sidewalk—obviously scrap from their process, and presumably there for passersby to take if they wanted to. I picked up a couple nice rectangles, thinking they might make bases for the birds. None of my birds have had bases, but they all balance a bit precariously on their little wire legs. I sanded and painted one and attached the new bird. I think I like it. Makes it seem more like sculpture and less like a toy.

Here's another view.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This is what I pictured

When I began to imagine a little patio out in front, and when I was working away on the mosaic and when the rain filled up the hole and it was nothing but a mud patch and a pile of paving blocks, and then the tree fell and it seemed like we were never going to get that little patio built, I kept this picture in my mind. And it came true.

A beautiful evening in the garden. Chocolate fondue and strawberries. A fire. Marshmallows. S'mores. Moonlight, lamplight, firelight, candle light.

The first of many such evenings, I hope.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

3 dimensions

A few months ago I read about Anne Lemanski and her stitched paper sculptures in Fiberarts magazine. You can see a lot of it on her web site here. I have been fascinated by creating 3-dimensional stitched work for a long time. I have shown a lot of my stuffed birds on this blog. Years ago I made a whole series of stuffed animals. I looked at Anne Lemanski's work and loved the very precise seaming she creates to give dimension to her animals and wondered how one even begins to create something like that.

It seemed like I might be able to adapt the bird pattern I developed to this more engineered form. I started by cutting paper pieces and slashing and adding to the pieces in ways that took them from flat to dimensional.

Then I cut my paper model apart and made pattern pieces.

I transferred the pattern to stiff interfacing, fused to fabric, which I thought would give the pieces the flatness and stiffness I needed. They could be a little stiffer I think. I am still working on this prototype, but I like what is happening so far.

Ray dubbed it "Frankenstein Bird" because of the prominent stitching.

More to come . . .

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Yesterday morning I headed out to meet my friend for our morning walk and was feeling a little lazy and unmotivated and, well, just not that into the idea of the morning walk. When I arrived at our meeting place Paula emerged from her car with a sly grin and a look in her eye. "Terry, I just passed some great-looking garage sales on my way over here—think we ought to check them out?" Without a second thought we were off.

Three hours later and about $8.00 poorer, I headed home with my loot. Paula did pretty well, too.

My best purchases:

I love this basket, which, at $1.25, was my most expensive single purchase. It's a great shape and quite deep. It would hold two bottles of wine and some other things (a baguette and a chunk of cheese?)  nicely. It would be great for carrying books and/or magazines, and I like the design. You can carry it by the handle and because it is narrower than it is wide, it won't bang against your leg when you walk with it.

Old scissors for my collection. Very nice, old barber's shears and little bitty scissors (about 3" long) in a classic style and shape. $1.50 for the two of them. They will hang on the wall of my studio with the rest of the collection.

Wrought iron stand for my terra cotta bird bath bowl. At our old house the bowl sat on a tree stump. Since we moved it has been empty of water and leaning, upright, against a tree in the back yard. I don't know what the original purpose of the iron stand was, but it works perfectly for the bird bath. $1. (I am not kidding you!)

Also found a brand new (tags still on) red twill jacket, a "Madeline" hat for Sofia and some doll clothes. I washed the Sofia hat and dried it in the sun yesterday. She has been wearing it all day today. The rest is waiting to be washed.

I can't remember the last time I had this much fun for less than $10!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The object #10 4-leaf Clover

One of my talents is finding 4-leaf clovers. They are lucky, you know.

Summertime, Maplewood Street, Pocatello, Idaho. A long time ago. I would roll out of bed, pull on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, and slip my brown, calloused feet into a pair of rubber sandals and pad into the kitchen. I'd pour out a bowl of Grapenuts, splash a little milk over the top and crunch, crunch, crunch my way through it, sitting on the back steps of the little house where we lived. Already, I could hear the high-pitched trill of summertime insects and smell the July heat, cooking the grass and the pavement.

My summertime world was a threadbare quilt, spread across the grass, under a weeping willow tree alive with ants and earwigs. My dolls and books surrounded me as I lay on my back gazing up through the willow branches into the clear blue sky. I'd roll to the edge of the quilt, eye-level with the grass and patches of clover and, with utmost concentration, search through the grass for the elusive mutants with 4, sometimes even 5 or 6, leaves. Months later, in the dead of winter, I would find the lucky clovers, carefully pressed between the pages of my books and a tiny, imaginary scent of summer would waft up from the page.

I still find them occasionally, though not from that closeup vantage point. My eyes were trained, as a child, to spot the lucky clovers and I see them, as if spotlighted, standing out from the surrounding grass and clover. I still put them in books and sometimes find them months or years later. I've benefited from all that good luck for a lot of years.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Out in the yard

It seems like my fallback blog post is to take my camera out and wander around the yard until I see something interesting. I am falling back on those fallbacks lately because I am not doing a lot creatively at the moment. I am taking a break and focusing on other things. The other night at our High Fiber Diet meeting we were talking about creativity and Gerrie referenced a terrific blog post from Jane Dunnewold earlier this week. One of the things she mentioned is the importance of taking a break occasionally to renew your creative spirit.

You might remember me working on the mosaic for the garden last fall. Ray finally finished the little patio last week, where it forms the center. A place out front, under a big Douglas fir where we can sit, read, eat, contemplate. I love it and love that it almost looks like it has been there for a long time, though it still needs some planting around the edges. There will also be an outdoor fireplace adjacent to it.

While we have been focusing on the front garden, the back of the house has languished. The deck, where I had envisioned us spending a lot of time needed some kind of shelter from the sun. At dinnertime, when we could have enjoyed eating outside, the late day sun was so intense it was impossible, and so low in the sky that the umbrella was worthless. We planted bamboo to shade it, but it will be years until it is tall enough. Eventually part of our planned remodelling will probably include a cover for the deck, but that is a ways off as well. Last week, frustrated, I got online and found a canopy and promptly ordered it. It's a temporary measure, but not bad and makes it possible to sit outside in the afternoon and early evening.

It even lends a bit of a party atmosphere to the deck! Especially after I hung up my solar lanterns and an old windsock.

Summer is racing past us. I look forward to spending the rest of it outdoors as much as possible. I just bought this book this morning.

I think I'll get myself a cold drink and take it on out to the new patio. Ta!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One thousand

There are a thousand dots in my illustration. That is how many posts I have written on this blog as of today. 1000. It blows my mind. It has been nearly 5 years that I have been doing this, so that averages out at about 200 per year. I know a lot of bloggers write every single day. Some more than once a day, so my thousand isn't that big a deal in general terms, but it is a big deal to me.

I have been trying to think of something special to write or do or show to mark this thousandth post and I haven't been able to come up with anything. Some of the posts have been carefully written, some just photos, some silly somethings gleaned from the internet. Some I remember writing and knowing that I had learned something from myself, but mostly it has been a day to day kind of journal. Of these thousand posts, can I think of a favorite? Maybe. There was one I wrote in response to a post my fellow Twelve, Kirsten wrote. It was a writing exercise that comes from a poem by George Ella Lyons. I wrote this in February of 2008. That was almost halfway from the beginning to this point. It still expresses my feelings, so I am reprinting here.

I Am From . . .

I am from The Saturday Evening Post, from Grapenuts and the Postwar Baby Boom.

I am from Maplewood Street, Elm trees, sagebrush, the Portneuf River, hot, dry summers and bitter cold winters.

I am from the desert, the mountains, the sky. I am from the sound of trains in the night.

I am from singing in the car and laughing til we peed our pants, from Grandpa Ern ("you be Frank and I'll be Ernest") and Shelton earlobes and Howard hair.

I am from handmade is better than store bought.
From "never tolerate intolerance" and "life is grand if you don't weaken."
I am from the little Methodist church and the Carnegie Library and the Woolworth and the Okay Market.

I'm from a homestead in Colorado, a farm in Montana, the foot of the mountains in Idaho, from baked potatoes and cheese enchiladas.

From Jimmy who saw Betty for the first time and said, "There's the girl I'm going to marry" and Betty who thought she "might die" if she didn't marry him; and black and white TV and a succession of Ford Station wagons.

I am from Dad's darkroom and family photos and silver dollars. From fresh trout and starry nights, the smell of woodsmoke and wool blankets; the love of books and babies and card games and road trips and a good story.

I am from love that was demonstrated daily but never talked about. I am from family. 

My thanks to those of you who read and comment. I never realized that it would be so great to have this connection.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The object #9 Ho Tai

When I was growing up, we had in our house, a small carved wooden figure of a fat guy throwing his hands in the air and smiling broadly. He was only about 6" tall and moved from place to place, usually sitting on an end table in the living room. My mother called him "Ho Tai" and told me she and Dad had bought him on their honeymoon as he was purported to bring luck to a household. I'm sure he didn't cost much. Somewhere along the line our family Pekingese got hold of him and chewed off parts of his hands and feet, but Mom kept him around and he was a continuing presence in our home, battered though he was.

When Ray and I got married we were living in Boise and I loved to poke around in the antique stores and secondhand shops there. We were furnishing our first apartment and they were good sources of inexpensive, quirky things that I liked. One day I was browsing and stopped short. There, on a shelf, was my mother's Ho Tai figure. It had to be. I knew it as well as I knew my siblings. The hands and feet were damaged exactly as I remembered. I was stunned to see it there. How had it gotten there? It was priced for a few dollars and I quickly purchased it and took it home. A few weeks later my parents came from Pocatello for a visit. My mother soon spotted the little figure and she whirled around, confused and a lttle stern. "Why do you have my Ho Tai?" she demanded. I told her my story and then we were both confused. We both agreed it had to be hers, but it couldn't be. She was pretty sure hers was still at her house in Pocatello. Then she began to ponder all kinds of scenarios. Someone had lifted it from her house and it ended up in the secondhand shop. It had been accidentally included in some items donated to Goodwill. Neither of these seemed plausible however. When she got home she called me. Her Ho Tai was sitting in the same spot on a shelf in the living room where it had resided for years. Mine was its doppelganger. The next time I went to visit Mom and Dad I took my Ho Tai along and we put ours side by side. The differences were very, very slight. Even the damage was nearly identical. I suppose there are thousands of these little guys out there.

Ho Tai is the Japanese name for Budai, a Chinese Buddhist monk who lived in 10th century China. He is a beloved figure and sometimes called "the laughing Buddha" though that is a misnomer as he is not a representation of Buddha at all. Folklore says that rubbing his belly brings good luck. He makes me smile—for all kinds of reasons.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pretty Amazing

It has been a pretty amazing week in several ways. Maybe you don't remember, but the first 3 months of this year were incredibly busy and focused for me. I had obligations and I had deadlines and opportunities so I really put a lot of time in during those months. This week I am seeing some of the fruits of all that labor.

A couple days ago this little book arrived on my doorstep.

My quilt "What's left behind" was juried into a show called Beneath the Surface, which will first show at the International Quilt Festival in Long Beach later this month and in Houston in the fall. The organizers had a small book made which can be ordered directly from Blurb or purchased at the shows. Each quilt and artist has a nice 2 page spread in the book. (by the way—if you go to the Blurb site you can actually look through the whole book)

Yesterday the CD of season 6,  including my three segments, of Quilting Arts TV showed up on the doorstep.

This was something I was both looking forward to and dreading. After I taped the show in March I told Pokey, the editor of Quilting Arts and hostess of the show, that I had stepped way outside my comfort zone. She laughed, but I was serious. The thing that was shocking was my total amnesia about what I had said on camera. I really had no sense of how it had gone. Had I grinned maniacally? (I tend to do that when I am ill at ease.) Had I hemmed and hawed—cleared my throat obsessively? Repeated myself? I really did not have a clue. And it has worried me since then. I have no experience with this. I watched it with some trepidation last night and I was relieved and pleased. I wasn't bad! It was nicely edited and I especially noticed that a lot of the time I was talking, the camera was focusing on the details of the project I was talking about and Pokey's reactions, so I was not as "on view" as I had feared. My voice sounded fine (though eerily like my sister's) and my hands did not shake in the closeups. You don't know how relieved I feel. Really.

Probably the most amazing part of the week happened yesterday, when I got, by email, the lazer proofs of the 12 x 12 book. It went to all the twelves for our final edits and looks like the book will look, minus the cover, which we have not seen yet. Can I say this? It is awesome! I could not tear myself away for two hours yesterday and each page was a revelation. It is the whole story. It is all the artwork. It is each of us in our own words and pictures. It is funny and touching and inspiring, even to those of us who lived it. It is one of the most satisfying things I have ever been associated with. Wish I could show you a peek. But I can't. Yet.

And last, and definitely least, I finished my dress to wear to my niece's wedding. It does its intended job of making the pretty shirt jacket look good. It fits and does not reveal parts best left unrevealed. That's all I needed.

I am thinking about wearing the coral necklace I bought in Ecuador with it. If you read yesterday's post you will recognize a variation of  my color scheme.

Now, if I am to attend the wedding, and wear the dress, my grandson needs to stick to the plan and not be born early. His due date is a month from today!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

There's this color...

 Or maybe group of related colors, that I am always drawn to.

Is it green, or is it blue, or is it greenish, blueish, grayish? Maybe dirty turquoise. Maybe a variety of teal, which it seems can be either green or blue. Celadon?  What do you call it?

While I am crazy about warm, rich colors, somehow this group of foggy, cool tones always seems to speak to me. And it always seems the perfect color to pair with my very favorite rich, earthy red.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Peak of the season

I think our flowers are at their best right now. I mean today! I walked outside this morning and found the lilies in bloom, and everything else looking wonderful. This area, pictured, is right in the middle of the front yard, where it used to be lawn. As Ray was digging up sod to make the pathways and the patio area, he piled it here to make a little hill. He covered the sod with layers of newspaper, then a thick layer of mulch and started planting things. He had brought a lot of starts and plants from our old garden. We bought some things. Friends swapped plants with us and a whole lot ended up right here. It is a blowsy, overgrown look that I love. That pile of sod and newspaper seems to be pretty fertile.

Lilies are favorites and they are putting on a show today.

Another one I have come to love are crocosmia. They are just starting to bloom. That red is so beautiful with those little pokes of yellow green.

I am feeling so much better today! I left the house for the first time in several days and enjoyed the sunshine and cool, lovely weather. I had enough energy to do a little grocery shopping, sweep and mop the floors and start on my teal linen dress. After saying I would not make a muslin for such a simple style, I ended up not only making a muslin but completely redrafting the bodice. I could tell from just pinning together the paper pattern how odd the fit was—gape-y neckline, too wide shoulders, yet tight through the bust. I am having a hard time picturing the body is was designed to fit. I hope my work yields something wearable.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The object # 8 Apostrophe catastrophe

What's wrong with this picture?

Many, many years ago we got this house sign as a Christmas gift from the realtor who sold us the house we were living in at the time. Her business card is still taped to the back with "Merry Christmas!" written across one corner. We planned to put it up, but I don't think we ever did. Nor did we put it on either of the two houses after that one. We planned to, but never got around to it. It traveled around with us in a box. Then Ray found it several months ago and nailed it up above the garage door. Funny how we had never noticed the totally wrong and unnecessary apostrophe until it was up on the wall. It really is such a nice, kind of funky, sign, but it just can never be right. Even if you wanted to interpret it as meaning "The Grants' house" the apostrophe is in the wrong place. If we chiseled the apostrophe off there would always be an awkward space and bad spot where it had been. So enjoy its lovely workmanship and puzzle over the sign maker's inept punctuation, because it is on its way to the trash. (We'd burn it ceremoniously, except that it seems to be finished with resin that would probably be a big problem if burned.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yes, I really was sick yesterday. Still am, but getting better. I have bronchitis and have been useless. I finished "The Girl Who Played with Fire." and am now looking forward to reading the final book in the series. I also enjoyed this parody of Larsson's writing.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Tea bags

This post is partly for my ever tolerant husband, who hasn't even asked why there is a saucer full of used teabags accumulating next to the sink.

I am saving them for the paper. Last fall I took a class from Laura Cater-Woods. She uses tea bag paper for collage. The paper from used tea bags is nicely stained and aged looking. Unfortunately we drink mostly herb tea and it does not add as much color as real tea, but it still has some charm. They are drying out in the saucer. I discovered that they are much easier to open and discard the used tea leaves when they are dry.

Today seemed like a good day to experiment a little, using some of my collected tea bag paper. I decided to build my collage on a piece of muslin so that I could layer and stitch it when I finished. It seemed like it might be a good idea to iron the muslin to a piece of freezer paper, which kept it nice and smooth and provided a work surface as well. I cut up some squares of paper from a magazine and began by gluing them to the muslin with acrylic medium.

For future reference, this background was far more detailed than it needed to be. After the paper was well soaked and down on the muslin I added some fabric shapes and glopped them on with more acrylic medium.

The last layer was tea bag paper, which is fairly transparent, but softens the edges and lightens everything a bit. (That is a stack of my tea bag paper sitting next to the collage)

I let it all dry out in the sun. Didn't take long today. Once it was dry I could see that those darker squares in the background were too dark, so I lightened them up using a white watercolor crayon. I removed the laminated muslin from the freezer paper and layered it with a piece of felt and backing fabric, then I did some stitching to define the beetle and add some detail.

This doesn't look like my work, does it? But kind of fun. I may try some more. As I said, I think the first layer can be pretty simple. The tea bag paper dulled the fabric more than it did the paper, so I added a little color on top. I need to think how to deal with that.  Stitching through all that was kind of a crazy ride—hard to control, but gives it a nice free sketchy look, I think.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Lots of sewing advice comments on yesterday's post! Yes, I was probably dumb not to have washed the red duck before I sewed the cushions. It did cross my mind and I just got impatient and trusting. Okay. I know better than that and yes, I will wash the teal linen before I cut into it. And check it for stains and other goobers. No, I will not make a muslin. I'm like Del. If I had to make a muslin before I made clothing I would never make clothing. It is a very simple, unstructured pattern and I will measure twice and cut once. I've made a lot of clothes and only made muslins a couple of times. I took a great pattern fitting and adjusting class in college and when I am patient and careful I do a pretty good job. I will be patient and careful. I will be patient and careful...

With all the rain we've had this spring, and now a little good sunshine, the flowers are pretty spectacular. Even here in our cluttered, "in progress" garden, there are spots of wonder and delight. We've never had a lot of luck growing lupines before, until this year. I just love these!

Last week I was out in the yard and a hummingbird darted past me, dipped, dove, hovered, checked out everything and was off—nothing here for him, I guess. So we dug out the hummingbird feeder, cleaned it up, made nectar and it waits for hummingbirds to find it, dripping gently in anticipation. (is there such a thing as a hummingbird feeder that doesn't drip? And I don't mean one of those plastic numbers...)

I have been waiting, anticipating, the time when I could finally enjoy the batik-shaded, solar lantern that I made months ago. It really is pretty and glow-y out there.

I was back at the fabric store again today helping my daughter select fabric to recover her rocking chair. It will be cute and bright and ready for the new baby.  Just a little more than a month away. We are all keeping busy .Waiting. Anticipating.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The other kind of sewing

Last month I cleaned up all the wooden outdoor furniture and stained it all a similar color. It was amazing to me how much better everything looked, so I decided to sew new cushion covers for the front porch glider. I bought some heavy cotton duck in my favorite dark, earthy red and whipped them up yesterday. It wasn't until I had finished them that I noticed a large stain on one, apparently on the fabric when I bought it. What a pain. I decided to wash it before spraying both cushions with Scotch Guard, in the hope that the stain would come out. When I started to hand wash the cover it turned the water deep red, so I decided I had better wash both. I did not want red dye rubbing off on our clothes from the cushions. I washed and dried both covers and then discovered they had shrunk. My simple project was getting more complicated by the minute. I managed to stuff the cushions inside, but they are tight. I am hoping that sitting on them will help to stretch the covers out a bit and the fit won't be quite so tight. The stain, by the way, only came partially out. But, if not perfect, at least that job is done and the glider looks better than it did.

You can tell those foam cushions are really squished into the new covers!

While at the fabric store getting the cushion fabric I also got some fabric to make a dress to wear to a wedding later this summer. I can't remember the last time I wore a dress! I have a lightweight linen shirt/jacket that I like and have had few opportunities to wear, so I bought some teal linen to make a sleeveless dress to go under it. I hope I have better luck with the dress than the cushions. If the dress fits me like the covers fit the cushions I'm not wearing it!

I feel like kind of a whiz at sewing my quilted artwork, but I think I may be losing my mojo for the practical kind of sewing.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The object #7 Door knob

 A couple of months ago our renters called to say that the door knob on the front door was broken. You may remember that when we moved a couple of years ago we were unable to sell our 1914 house. We have had it rented to four lovely young women since then. Anyway, the doorknob was "broken," whatever that meant. Worn out was what it meant, pretty much. You may be able to see that the hole through the square shaft has become far larger than it should be, through wear. There were other issues that I didn't thoroughly understand, but the bottom line was that it was not usable.

Now I can't say I was happy about this, but you know what? In some perverse way I was. I was happy that the door knob was broken. That doorknob has been there for 96 years. Every person who has lived in that house touched it, used it, probably every day that they lived there. I did. That piece of hardware feels so familiar in my hand that it is like a part of me. And the house that it represents will always be a part of me.

When we were looking for a house in Portland, we found one we loved and made an offer. Unfortunately another offer had come in just ahead of ours. It killled me. I don't know about you, but when I find a house that is right I claim it immediately. I know just where all my furniture will fit before the papers are even signed. I picture myself waking up in the morning and walking through the house to the kitchen and know that this is my place. So having that snatched away takes some readjusting and grieving before I can move on. We kept looking and found another great house and the same thing happened! Now I was really discouraged. Time went by and we looked at a few uninspiring houses, then one day the realtor called and said, "I saw a house today and thought about you. It doesn't have all the features you want, but somehow I think you just might like it." When we drove up in front of the house, before we even went inside, I knew it was our house.

We lived there for 17 years—longer than I have lived in any other house in my life. It really was the house I had always wanted. Not fancy. Not modern. But it had charm and it had history. It was a house people returned to. I met a man who grew up there. He was in Portland for a family reunion and drove by with his grandchildren to show them where he had grown up. I invited them to come inside and he told me a lot of stories about the house and how he had helped his Dad build the garage. Two years ago when it was for sale a woman who had lived there in the '80s nearly bought it from us. She came to see it twice. Her children are grown and she was divorcing. She said the happiest part of her life had been spent in that house. In the end she concluded it did not make sense for her to buy it for many of the same reasons we wanted to sell it. Lots of maintenance on old houses. Lots of stairs. More room than we needed. As much as I loved that house I was happy to leave and still hope to sell it soon to a family that will love it as all its previous owners surely have. And now I am happy to have a small souvenir of my time there. Think how many hands have grasped that door knob.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Purple and yellow

Today is reveal day for the 12 x 12 group. This round in our color/colour play series is Purple and Yellow. You will be amazed at how many ways these colors were used! Here's mine:

The details are on the 12 x 12 blog.