Saturday, July 30, 2011

It looks tiny!

Yesterday a crew showed up and spent all day building concrete forms for the studio/greenhouse. Yes, greenhouse. I think in my excitement I failed to mention that the structure will include my studio and a greenhouse for Ray. He refers to it as "the greenhouse." I refer to it as "the studio!"  Ha!

Anyway, it was pretty fascinating to watch them pull the components from a big flatbed truck and Lego together the forms. When they finished it looked small. Tiny, even. I was not worried. I have experienced this growing/shrinking phenomenon before when we have built buildings or added rooms. On paper it looks vast. The hole looked big. The forms look small. I expect the poured concrete will look a different size and so on until it is finished. The illusion was so striking, though, that Ray took his big tape measure out and measured. Yes, it is exactly the right size.

From another angle:

It is not a large studio, but I think it will be just right for me. I make small work. I don't do a lot of big space hogging stuff like dyeing or printing with a press. I do need storage space. There will be a small loft over the studio which will probably end up mostly as storage space.

The little bump out at the top right will be a small bathroom. It doesn't look big enough right now, but I know it will be! Here's a drawn on copy of the photo, which gives you an idea of what you are seeing here.

Ha! I don't know how illuminating that is. I know the loft is confusing. Imagine that it is floating above the studio with a stairway down the right side.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Room of One's Own

This morning at 8 am, I walked down to the creek, stood on the bridge and took this picture. The last time it will ever look like this.

Several hours later this was the scene.

And at the end of the day, like this.
Looking back from the street toward the house.

These were the first steps in the studio construction. It has been a long time coming. Nearly three years in a concrete sense, but much longer in other important ways.

Virginia Wolfe said, in order for a woman to write she must have her own money and a room of her own. The same I think if one is to do art of any kind. It is true that art can be made anywhere, and has been, but oh, so nice to have one's own dedicated space—and not just a cramped, dark little bedroom, which, by the way, I have always been happy to have. This seems really big to me. I know I will love having the space to work in, but I will also feel that what I do is deserving of the space.

Follow along here. I plan to bore you silly with all the gruesome details.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hopelessly sappy

I remember my children picking me bouquets of dandelions when they were little. I know I recognized how sweet that was, but I think I was also far too busy and hassled then to give the gesture my full attention. Today Sofia brought me this little bouquet of goatsbeard flowers, picked out in the weeds, and was so pleased when I put them in water.

Sometimes I think one of the best things about being a grandparent is reliving some of those sweet moments that small children provide, but with a greater appreciation of how quickly time passes and how rare those moments really are.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Point, Click, Quilt!

If you've been reading the quilting magazines at all over the past few years, I'm sure you've seen Susan Brubaker Knapp's quilts. Susan has a distinctive, representational style of art quilting that is crisp, bold and graphic. I love the clean, clarity of her work. C&T has just published her new book about quilts that are inspired by photos, which many of hers are. I just got a copy and had a chance to look through it. I am looking forward to reading it in depth, but I wanted to share my first impressions.

Using photos as the design inspirations for artwork is nothing new, and, honestly it is often the recipe for really awful, boring, poorly conceived work. Haven't we all seen those quilts that take a mediocre photo and slavishly reproduce every single detail, including the distracting telephone pole and the badly placed and sad looking tree? Ugh. These are the pieces that give this technique such a bad rep. Susan, on the other hand,  shows how a photo can be a starting point for something truly artful. She starts by providing a lot of solid suggestions for taking better photos from the outset. Then she talks about how to analyze the photo, select the most promising elements, improve the composition, if need be, and interpret it with fabric and stitch, using the strongest parts of the original photo and playing them up in the fabric work. Sometimes that involves leaving things out, sometimes adding something to improve the balance or the flow of the design and sometimes focusing in on a small selected part of a larger photo. The focus is on creating good design, not on simply recreating a scene. Just look at that beautiful cover piece and you can see that this is much more than a simple-minded "how to copy a photo" book. I think anyone who ever made a piece inspired by a favorite photo can learn something from this beautiful book. I did. And it is such a treat to see all Susan's beautiful examples.

I was really flattered when Susan asked to use one of my pieces in the "gallery" section of her book.

On the right hand side, is my "Baños" quilt and the two photographs that inspired it. Ray took the picture on the right, that has the figure of the old man in it, so he also has a photo credit in the book.

I am really pleased to be a small part of such beautifully conceived and produced book. I think it will be a really useful and inspiring resource for many quilt artists.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Garden time

I think it is the height of the garden season here. I just love it when the flowers are all in bloom and the colors are so intense and the foliage so wild and lush. This is the front garden where there was only dry, parched grass a couple of years ago. Ray has worked his magic.

I can't resist taking photos when the garden is in bloom. I have finally figured out pretty well how to get the kind of flower photos I like—where the flower is in focus and the background is out of focus.

I love the energetic, wildness of Shasta daisies. The thing is they don't smell very good, so aren't great as cut flowers, even though I sometimes cut a bouquet just because they are so pretty. But the smell is—well, disgusting.

The crocosmia are all over the city and the red color and tall, graceful stems are spectacular. They are natives of South Aftrica and I only became aware of them about eight or so years ago. Have they always been around and I never noticed, or are they kind of new to this country? Well, whatever, I think they are incredibly beautiful. The hummingbirds adore them, too.

The lilies are always wondrous. These are one of the shorter variety with the beautiful, long graceful foliage. The taller varieties, bigger, more fragrant, with the smaller leaves will be blooming soon.

Last summer we hung this hay rack on the front of the house and I planted it with geraniums and some lobelia. It was a little sad. This year I planted impatiens and creeping jenny and it is beautiful.

We have finally gotten all the permits for the studio construction and are making plans with a builder. I am not believing this will finally happen. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's a Heart!

This is what we purchased at the Salem Art Fair. This is a piece by Linda Thorson of Seattle. These are cast using architectural detail concrete and can be hung outside or inside. I loved the detail and I always love hearts. Couldn't decide whether to put it inside or outside and finally decided to hang it inside where I can see it more often. I hung it next to the Goines poster. I like the way they speak to each other, both the color and how the heart shape echos the shape of the leaves in the poster. I think I need something else to hang with them. I'm sure I have something around here!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Art Fair

I love going to Art Fairs. Those entrepreneurial extravaganzas where artists have booths and try to sell their work. This is somehow quite different from a gallery show. It is row after row of those tent-like canopies with work that ranges from the whimsical to the tacky to the useful to the sublime. We went, with some friends, to the Salem Art Festival at Bush's Pasture in Salem, Oregon, the other evening.

I love this event. Not all of the art is to my taste, but I have such admiration for the artists who put together these great exhibits, work all year to have new work ready and spend long days answering questions and meeting the public. It reminds me how much fun it is to exhibit like this and the high you get from talking to people who like your work and what a thrill it is to sell work. Long ago I participated in some similar events. I think I should do it again, but I think of how much work I would have to make!

Some of the things that caught my eye:

This large silk-screen print of aspens was stunning! So crisp and graphic.
Lots of cleverness and quirkiness.

This is not a photo. It's a painting.. I am seldom impressed by hyper-realism, but I liked this work a lot.

Glass beetles.

I've never seen a pottery glaze like this.

After viewing the art we parked ourselves at a picnic table and enjoyed a drippy, messy, delectable pulled pork sandwich, an ice-cold beer and a really good live blues band. Hard to imagine a better summer evening with friends. 

Are you wondering if I bought anything? I did. I'll show you tomorrow.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The object #28 Money ball

Remember this? I told you I'd post a photo when I was finished with it. Here it is.

It is sitting near our front door in my succulent garden that is not quite as wonderful as I hoped, but maybe it's getting there. I think the "money ball" is a nice distraction from the scraggliness of the succulents.

I had seen a garden orb with pennies glued all over it and thought it was cool. Then I remembered the box full of foreign coins that we have been accumulating for the past 40 years. I finally thought of a use for them. I glued a bunch of them all over the concrete ball and when the glue had dried I grouted the whole thing. I have already had to reglue one coin that fell out, so I am hoping that was a fluke and is not going to be a problem. I am inordinately pleased with it, though. I can't stop looking at it. I think in 100 years one of my great grandchildren will take it to the Antiques Roadshow,* and though it will not be worth anything much, the expert will praise its quirkiness and sentimental value.

*yes, I think Antiques Roadshow will still be on TV (or whatever replaces TV) in 100 years. Because it may be the BEST TV SHOW, EVER!

Catching up with the Twelve by Twelve reveal

I've been so intent on reporting on our trip that I failed to post about the July 12 Twelve by Twelve reveal. The color theme was gray. If you didn't catch the gray quilts earlier in the week you can still go to the blog and see them. You just need to keep scrolling down through the posts to see them all. Pretty interesting I think.

I was excited about working with gray, but when I got to it I had a hard time. I made one piece that seemed like a much better idea in my head than it turned out to be in fabric.

My idea had to do with the fact that gray is about a million different colors. There are purely neutral grays that are mixed from black and white, but there are also the grays that result when complementary colors are mixed in a way that neutralizes them. They always contain hints of the original colors. I went to my collection of solid color fabrics and pulled out 4 that appeared to be shades of gray. I used a little stamp I had carved to stamp a white design on each one. When the four "grays" sit side by side you clearly see that each, while gray, is also something else—pinkish, purplish, greenish. I called it "gray is relative."  I added some gray quilting in the background as well. It seemed weak.

Then I went in another direction entirely. I used the idea of visual color mixing and created my gray tones using only black and white in differing proportions.

I cut a paper "snowflake" to use as a pattern. The shadow was cut from solid black, then I laid a piece of gauzy cheesecloth over it. When you see it close up the cheesecloth is a tiny white grid pattern over the black. The other gray is black print on white paper—pages from Time magazine—torn into little pieces then glued to white fabric. I use diluted white glue to glue the paper down and then coat the whole thing with more diluted white glue. When dry the paper/fabric can be cut and sewn like regular fabric.

I was much happier with this piece, but I really missed using real color in this challenge. I think the other members of the group came up with some wonderful ideas as well and it was a really interesting challenge, but I have to say that the piece that was made by a blogger who follows along with the group was my favorite of all the gray pieces. Take a look at Joanne Suley's gray quilt. Isn't charming?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

And then there was Las Vegas

Homeward bound through Nevada toward Northern California and then into Oregon. Desert. It is hot and barren and then Las Vegas sort of shimmies out of the heat on the far horizon.

Las Vegas is nothing new to me. I have been here before. We find our hotel—the New York, New York Casino. One thing about Las Vegas—nice hotel rooms, in casinos, are plentiful and affordable. They count on taking your money down on the casino level to make up the difference. After dinner and a blessedly cold and tangy margarita, in one of the casino's restaurants, Ray suggests we go for a walk. We've been in the car all day. I am not thrilled with the idea of going outside into the heat, but I seem to remember that the Bellagio isn't that far down The Strip and we could walk down and catch a little spray from the dancing fountains out front. It is 6 pm and 102 degrees F outside.

The heat is oppressive. Don't talk to me about it being a "dry" heat. It is damned hot. The sidewalks are crowded with people, lots of them young folk, carrying beers or tall, bulbous plastic drink cups, sloshing with fruity alcoholic beverages. They take up the sidewalk with their careening and pawing. At every corner several hucksters flip cards at us, showing scantily clad women and advertising prostitution. These cards litter the sidewalks. The atmosphere is party! party!, but a little desperate. As Ray notes, old people come here to gamble, young people come to "hook up."

We discover that the sidewalk ends at one point and in order to continue up the street, you must take an escalator up to the second floor of a new casino, then another escalator down onto the casino floor and then out the other end where the sidewalk continues. As we are about to step onto the down escalator a beefy security guard, wearing a dark suit and ear piece, steps forward and confronts a young man just in front of us. "Put your shirt on!" he barks at the kid, who is wearing shorts, sandals and carrying a T-shirt. "It's wet," the kid protests. The guard gets right up in the kid's face, then chest bumps him a couple times, forcing him backward away from the escalator. "PUT YOUR GODDAMN SHIRT ON!" Ray and I step around this engagement and hotfoot it down the escalator. Outside we look at each other, wide-eyed. What the hell was that?! Oh yeah, I guess shirtless-ness offends the pristine standards of Las Vegas.

It is farther to the Bellagio than I remembered, but eventually we arrive. A crowd awaits the fountain show. Paramedics are attending to a young woman sitting on the sidewalk, looking ghastly and unwell. No one pays much attention. I keep glancing over, wondering if they will load her up and take her away. She does not look good. Soon the sprightly, and oddly anachronistic strains of "Singin' in the Rain" begin to play and the fountains come alive, shooting thousands of gallons of precious water into the air. In this heat I imagine that much of it evaporates the instant it makes contact with the hot, dry air. Then it's over and the crowd begins to disperse. Two showgirls, in full feathered regalia stroll past. The paramedics are still talking to the girl on the sidewalk as we head back toward our hotel.

Back in the room I feel a little sick from the heat. I take a cool shower, drink a bottle of water and view the city from the tinted hotel window. Unreal. Tomorrow we'll be out of here. Not a minute too soon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Grand Canyon—Oh yes, it is Grand!

A sensible person realizes, when viewing the Grand Canyon, that there is no need to take photos. They have all been taken. Many, many times. Just do a Google image search on "Grand Canyon" and you will see thousands and thousands of far better pictures than I could ever take.

And yet, after getting over just how really BIG it is and whew, I just never realized how damned BIG the darned thing is, your next reaction is to start taking pictures. And more pictures. Really, you just can't stop taking pictures, even though you know you already took that picture, and look, Ray is taking the same picture and man, that thing is BIG! And all the while you are realizing that seeing pictures just doesn't do justice.

At one point, we were walking along the rim trail and Ray pointed to the edge of the cliff said, "stand there and let me take your picture." I posed with the canyon in the background and I said, "this is where you say—'step back a little...a little more...a little more...'" Another couple walking past heard me and laughed and stopped and offered to take a picture of both of us. If I sent Christmas cards, this picture would be it. Then we kept walking and taking more pictures.


I have spared you the full Grand Canyon Suite. These are just a few of our pictures.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Santa Fe Galleries

Santa Fe is second only to NYC for number of art galleries—or at least that's what someone told us when we were there. They have a lot of wonderful galleries. Some are downtown, but most are on Canyon Road, which is simply blocks and blocks of art. Amazing. I was really interested in seeing the Jane Sauer gallery. It is one that I read about often in the art and fiber art magazines and one of the few galleries in the country that seems to really embrace fiber art, though that is not all she carries.

Here's me. Do I look happy? I was.

The main show was the work of Geoffrey Gorman. It was so clever and lively! I would have loved to been able to afford to buy one of his pieces. But which one? I would have had trouble choosing, though there was something about those rabbits...  See here.  I have long been a fan of Charla Khanna's dolls, though I had never seen one in the flesh before. I loved the one hanging in the gallery even more than I expected. It was larger than I had envisioned. These are dolls, not as toys, but as sculpture made to hang on the wall. They are amazing creatures! See here.   Here is a nice overview of other work in the gallery. It was a real treat.

We walked up and down Canyon Road and enjoyed all the wonderful public art. I was so enchanted by the whole scene that I almost forgot to take pictures, but Ray took lots. Enjoy this little stroll up Canyon Road—

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Taos and Chimayó

One day, while in Santa Fe, we decided to drive up to Taos. We took the high road through the Sangre de Christo mountains and stopped in the little town of Chimayó to see the Santuario de Chimayó, a Catholic Chapel built in 1816 on the site of a supposed miracle. It is now known as the "Lourdes of America" for its pit of holy dirt that pilgrims come for. It is thought to have healing powers. The adobe chapel is quite beautiful.

Nearby is a smaller, more modern chapel that is beautifully painted in a folk tradition.

As non-Catholics, Ray and I tend to scoff a bit at the idea of "holy dirt" and miracles in general, but there is always something so compelling to me about these beliefs and traditions and the beautiful art and architecture that they inspire.

The sun was shining brightly and the sky so blue it almost hurt to look at. A beautiful day! We continued up the road to the town of Taos, then a bit beyond to Taos Pueblo, the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. These buildings have been continuously inhabited for more than 1000 years.

We started at the little church of St. Jerome, where we met a young member of the community who led us on a walking tour of the pueblo.

The ruins of the old church of St. Jerome, destroyed in the War with Mexico by the U.S. Army in 1847. That church, the ruins still evident on the west side of the village, was first built in 1619. It was then destroyed in the Spanish Revolt of 1680 but soon rebuilt on the same site. St. Jerome is the patron saint of Taos Pueblo. 

What a beautiful place. What a beautiful day! I'll never forget it.