Monday, October 31, 2011


This is how we used to do it in the "olden days." Homemade costumes, not so much dependent on the Disney Princess canon. I'm the limp-wristed Dutch girl in the center. The "Indians" (sorry, the term "Native American" had not yet been invented) were the twins next door and the small creature in front is, I think, my sister. I have no idea what she was supposed to be, but I can sure clearly remember what the inside of those rubber masks like she is wearing smelled like. We roamed the streets in hoards on Halloween evening, hitting every house, except for the Skinners', because they were scary people every day of the year. We climbed the hill and all those stairs up to the Hardys', because they gave out doughnuts. The old lady up the street handed out homemade popcorn balls wrapped in wax paper, but my mother made us throw them away when we got home because the woman's house smelled really bad. The rest was a jumble of cheap, sticky candy which we pigged out on. Not so much regard back then of regulating children's sugar intake.

I went to my granddaughter's daycare Halloween party today. Lots of Disney princesses and super heroes. Sofia was Belle. She looked adorable and so did her friends. One of the little boys who has recently been in big trouble at daycare for calling other kids names like "buttface" was some kind of super hero I'm not familiar with, but his spandex costume had built in muscles and an airbrushed design of muscle definition. The sight of this tiny little Schwarzenegger running around yelling "Trigger Treat!" was, frankly, hilarious. The little girls held hands and danced around, twirling their filmy skirts. They ate cheese sticks and apple slices and baby carrots.

We didn't have a single "trick or treat"er at our house. The holiday has changed a lot, but I am glad that little kids still have a chance, once a year, to wear a costume. That is, by far, the best part. Always was.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Working in the studio

It seems I haven't shown any work I've done in a long time. I am not completely moved from the old studio space to the new and for awhile it was impossible to work, with whatever it was I needed in the space where I wasn't. I have spent several days now working in the new studio and it is lovely. There is still a lot left to move and I should be doing that, but there are things I need to finish up.

Tonight I brought this piece back to the house to do some finish work on it after dinner. Now it is waiting on the table, by the door, to go back out to the studio. I discovered I didn't have any sharp scissors in the house and ended up using the kitchen shears to cut my thread. I can see that I will need to figure some logistical matters out.

Friday I spent a large part of the day in the studio working on some things that I can't really show just yet. It was raining steadily outside most of the day, but bright and warm inside. After working in silence the day before, I unearthed my old iPod and a pair of speakers and took them out to keep me company. Ray was banging away next door in the greenhouse and popped into the studio from time to time to see what I was up to. But for most of the day it was just me and Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell and the rest of the crew. We baptized the space with good music.

I know I need to clear out the old studio, but it feels kind of nice to do it in a slow, puttering way. I am organizing and sorting as I go. Perhaps a strategy, at this point, would be to work and move what I need as I need it. That would leave, I am sure, a lot in the old space. At some point it would be clear that it was what I would never need and out it could go! Not so sure I can sell this strategy to Ray, however. He has ideas for that abandoned studio space. I am leaving Thursday morning for Houston. I'll tackle the end of the move when I get home.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Other peoples' lives

One of the necessities of my life is having something to read. I love good books. I cannot fall asleep without reading for 20 or 30 minutes at night. I can't travel by air without a book into which I can escape. I always have a book going. I carry them around the house, hoping for a few minutes here or there.  My daughter and son-in-law gave me a Kindle for Christmas last year. I never knew I wanted one. But, oh, I love it. I discovered I could download a Kindle app for my phone and sync it to my Kindle. Now I can read my current book on my phone while waiting for the Novocaine to kick in at the dentist's office or standing in line at the Post Office.

Somehow this year I have been on a memoir jag. Other peoples' lives. Why are they so fascinating? I don't know, but they are. I started with last year's National Book Award winner, Just Kids by Patti Smith.

Patti Smith, the iconic songwriter/singer/poet was born the same year I was. She did what I would never have had the courage or confidence to do, though it was what all us art majors of the '60s talked about doing. And perhaps that is why I was so sucked into this beautiful book. She went to New York to become an artist. There she met Robert Mapplethorpe who would become first her lover and then lifelong friend. It was a connection that lasted until Mapplethorpe's death from AIDS, but the book is really about the early years when they were "just kids" living a Bohemian life, an artist's life among the likes of Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsburg. This was before they were all famous. But it is not just an account of famous names and big adventure. It is a journey of love and struggle and passionate ideals and deep sadness at times. Told by a poet, it is a story of a time that seems almost mythic. I loved this book. I did not want it to end.

Then I read Reading my Father by Alexandra Styron.

She is the daughter of William Styron, author of The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie's Choice among other books. One of the most honored authors of the 20th century, Styron was the victim of crippling, devastating depression and a difficult man to live with. His daughter says, “At times querulous and taciturn, cutting and remote, melancholy when he was sober and rageful when in his cups, he inspired fear and loathing in us a good deal more often than it feels comfortable to admit.”  After his death his daughter read through all his papers, writings, letters and book drafts in an effort to better understand her father. The resulting memoir is a fascinating insight into the literary world of the 1960's and a brutal, but ultimately loving and forgiving portrait of a complex man. Beautifully written. I liked this book very much.

I got caught up in reading food memoirs. I read all of Ruth Reichl's books, which are quite good, as well as Julia Child's My Life in France, which I quite enjoyed. Then I came across Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton.

This is a wonderful book! Gabrielle Hamilton is a beautiful writer and her story is tragic and funny and at times infuriating. This is why other peoples' lives are so fascinating—because they are, well, stranger than fiction, completely unexpected and painfully human.

Right now I am reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Not a memoir, but so far very engaging.

Have you read anything good lately?

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Drug of Choice

This is a fairly horrible photo, ruined by years in one of those photo albums with the sticky stripes that keep the photo from sliding around under the page's clear cover. Whoever it was that invented those deserves to have all their photos ruined. But that isn't what I wanted to talk about, nor is it why I posted the photo. This is me, on the left (my sister on the right) demonstrating card weaving at an art fair about 37 years ago. My infant son is sleeping on a blanket under my card table. Just out of sight is my display of batiks and woven belts that were for sale. My point is that I have been doing this for a long time. And I do it because it is addictive.

This past weekend I participated in the Washington County Open Studios tour and it was the same kind of rush I remember from so many similar events, maybe starting with the one pictured above.

I'm really not a big talker. I'm what people call "quiet." I've never been good at small talk or schmoozing. I am always a bit in awe of people who do that well. But at art fairs and shows and such, where I am showing my work, I love nothing more than talking to people about it and hearing what they have to say. They ask questions that I can answer and then their stories come out. They talk about grandmothers who made quilts, or the work they do, or what seeing art does for them. They tell me how it makes them feel. Sometimes they even buy a piece from me. If I'm not a great talker, I think I'm a good listener.

Yesterday I talked with a woman who, in her retirement from a highly technical job, learned to make huge fabric and paper mache puppets from a master puppet maker and the thrill she got doing it. I talked to a jewelry maker about her craft, and my partner in crime, Jeri, and I spent two days talking about our shared love of fabric and fiber and art and making. And compliments—which you always hear when you share your passion with people—they are like a chemical in the blood, infusing your spirit with a feeling of well-being and warmth. At the end of two days of this the body is weary, the feet are throbbing from standing on them for too long, but I'm on a high that I wouldn't trade for anything. Alcohol, drugs (not that I have any vast experience with them) have nothing on this. Addictive, I tell you.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Open Studio

Today was the first day of the Washington County Open Studios. I am showing my work in my friend, Jeri Flom's studio. When I had to sign up to do this it was not clear to us whether my own studio would be ready in time, so I opted to share Jeri's space, which turned out great. It is nice to be with someone else. You have someone to visit with while you wait for visitors, plus with two of you, you have a fuller, more interesting display of work for your guests to enjoy. It was a nice day. We met some nice people, we saw some good friends who stopped by to see what we had, visit a bit and lend support. We love that. Sales were sparse, but it was great to connect with art lovers and fellow artists.

I have a lot of small pieces on display. My work is on the right. Jeri's beautiful work is on the left. I think we compliment one another.

I have some of my larger pieces there as well. It all looks so good in Jeri's space, which is clean and bright and uncluttered. I hope to do this again next year in my own studio.

This is only year #2 of the Washington County Studio tour. I went as an observer last year and I was impressed. There are several Open Studio tours in the area, so we are up against some competition, but there are some interesting and very good artists in this area. We will be there again tomorrow (Sunday) and it is free, so if you are in the area, we'd love to see you. You can get directions and info here. And, if you need extra incentive, Jeri made brownies, with cinnamon and chipotle pepper. They will make you very happy you came to see us, even before you look at the art!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Light box

I moved my light box out to the studio yesterday and actually sat down and did some work.

Do you know what a light box, or light table is? Do you use one? It is one of my favorite tools.

They are used for a lot of things.  If you want to look at slides (remember slides?) closeup, you lay them out on a light table. Architects and engineers use them to create overlays of plans—or at least they used to before they used Auto-cad on their computers to draw their plans. I used one in a calligraphy class years ago. You could lay a sheet of paper with lines on it on the light surface, then a plain sheet over it that you wrote on, using the lines that showed through as a guide. I use mine to trace parts of a design onto fabric for fusing. Couldn't function without it. If you don't have one, you can tape your design to a bright window, tape the fabric over it and trace. A very nifty light table can be improvised if you have a table that opens up to accept a leaf. Just open it up as wide as you need, put a piece of glass over it spanning the opening in the table and set a small lamp on the floor underneath.

I got really lucky. I found this one at a yard sale many years ago, for a great price as I recall. It was from an engineering office. It is sitting on an old typewriter (remember those?) stand, just like this one. Goes nicely with the chair, I think. Yeah, I have a lot of old stuff.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tune in...

Today to hear my friend and fellow "Twelve," Gerrie Congdon, on Pat Sloan's internet radio program. She will be talking about the Twelve by Twelve project, book and our upcoming exhibit at the International Quilt Festival in Houston next month. Click next to the icon below at 4 pm Eastern time, or go back later to catch the recorded version.

My chair

When I showed my sewing setup yesterday two people commented on my chair. Gerrie said a lime green chair would set the room off nicely. Jackie predicted a new red chair in my future. Both good ideas. Ray looked at the whole thing in the studio and asked if I needed a new chair. He said my chair looked uncomfortable. Actually, this is THE BEST CHAIR IN THE WORLD. Really.

It was in my Dad's office and probably dates from the early '50s. It has the original orange Naugahyde upholstery, still in perfect condition. It is heavy and the wheels roll smoothly and you can adjust the height of the seat and the back support to whatever feels right for you. It is an excellent chair! I'm sure a snazzy, colorful new chair would look divine in my studio, but I can't imagine that my bum would feel as happy as it does on my old orange chair.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sewing table

Here is where I will be sewing. I put together a nice long table and then customized it to incorporate my sewing machine.

Ingredients and  tools:
  • 8' x 23" MDF board with white laminate from Home Depot
  • roll of iron-on laminate edging also from Home Depot
  • red Vika Amefors table support from IKEA
  • 4 white Vika Curry table legs from IKEA
  • saber saw to cut out a shape from the front of the table that my sewing machine will fit into
  • little Clover iron to attach laminate edging to table cut-out (a regular iron will work too, but the little one worked extra well)
  • my favorite sewing machine
  • little old table that I've had forever that is just the right height for the sewing machine

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How one thing leads to another...

Two things I know about myself:

1. I am frugal. To a fault sometimes.
2. I rely more on serendipity than careful planning. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it doesn't, but then it does.

When we removed the white cabinets from the kitchen several years ago, we carefully stowed them in the falling down shed out back because I thought they might have some use in the future studio. However, little by little Ray kept pulling them out of the shed and setting them up in the garage where they have made a very nifty work and storage area in the garage. But not much was left to choose from for the studio. Well, actually one thing was left—a corner unit with a lazy susan inside. Determined not to let a perfectly good, ugly and slightly battered monster thing go to waste I decided it could be the corner support for my sewing table, so Ray and I wrestled it out of the shed, over hill and dale and into the studio. It weighs about 10,000 pounds. Once in the studio I quickly realized that, duh, it was too tall for the sewing table. I thought Ray was going to cry when I told him. He had not only muscled the darn thing into the studio, he had lain on his back, with his head inside the cabinet, cursing and grunting and reattached the doors once it was inside. So it sat there.

I began to wonder if it might work as an island work area in the center of the studio. My friend Jeri and I brainstormed it and decided putting it on casters was the way to go. I then got Ray to cut a plywood top for it and planned to pad it and cover it with canvas for a printing and/or ironing surface. The canvas I had was an inch too narrow (of course) so I went off to the fabric store where I discovered ironing board fabric by the yard.

Ta da! The finished island/table/thing.

It required only three trips to the hardware store. One to get the casters, the second to get two more casters because that corner cutout made it tippy with only four casters and the third to find shorter staples for attaching the padding and fabric to the top. I know it's sort of weird, but I think it might be pretty useful. And, look, lazy susan storage inside.

I know I shouldn't have shown all this and just let you think I had this specially built for the space.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Technology and stuff

This morning I met Beth for our walk and we hurried along dodging rain and then the sun came out and miraculously the sky was blue. Alongside the trail this very large fungus, dripping from the recent rain, caught my eye and I screeched to a stop and pulled out my phone and took its picture. iPhone picture. Who knew such things would come to pass? And quite a good picture at that.

We knew about technology a long time ago. In 1968 HAL, the talking computer in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, was a vision from the future, but somehow we knew even then that technology was rapidly changing the world as we knew it. In the '70s my Dad, an engineer, bought a Texas Instruments calculator and put his slide rule away for good. Around the same time he bought a kit to build an Altair computer. I remember the first computer center that Ray worked in at Idaho State University. The computer was a room full of enormous machines. It has all been an amazing journey from my childhood until now, seeing what used to take days and days of human calculation become instantaneous. And yet, I sometimes think my phone amazes me as much as anything. In my pocket is a world. Information, education, email, entertainment, music, stories, and a camera. And, I nearly forgot—it's a phone.

For all the wonders of technology and how it has changed business and education and science, I think of how Steve Jobs saw that technology and somehow envisioned more human and personal uses for it—art and typography and graphics and animation and music on demand. Just think, a thousand recorded songs in the palm of your hand, a computer in your pocket. Technology in the service of our humanity. Who knew? I guess he did. Thank you, Mr. Jobs.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The back roads

It has been a nice, relaxing weekend, though this was the weekend of the Westside Quilters Guild Quilt Show. They asked me to be one of the featured artists and give a presentation on Saturday afternoon. They wanted a small exhibit of some of my work as well, so I drove over to Hillsboro, Oregon where the show was held late Friday afternoon to deliver and help hang my quilts.

Hillsboro is about 30 minutes from where I live. The direct route is the infamous TV Highway, but I like the back road that is slower, actually more direct from my house, and infinitely more scenic. It winds through farm country for most of the way and in the spring it is impossibly green. This time of year the colors are starting to change and the rolling hills and fields take on a soft, misty quality. Friday there was a gentle rain coming down.

When I went back on Saturday for my talk, the sun had come out and it was a perfect Autumn day.
My talk and slide show went well and I enjoyed the quilt show a lot. Unfortunately, after taking several scenic shots of my trip over to Hillsboro, the camera batteries were dead when I arrived and I got no photos of the show or my little display of quilts. 

I drove back to Hillsboro this afternoon to take down the quilts and bring them back home. Three trips to Hillsboro in as many days. Glad I had that back roads route. It was beautiful. This charming old tractor beats Scary Rabbit as a roadside attraction any day, in my book.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Moving into the studio

I haven't been moving things very quickly. I still have a lot to do to get it ready for all the stuff. The new studio has been an opportunity to think about what I need to work more comfortably and efficiently. Storage is important, especially for my fabric stash. I decided on a system from IKEA, using tubs that slide into a framework like drawers. I can pull them partway out or pull the whole tub out to rummage through as I look for the right fabrics to use. I think I'm going to like them.

Yesterday my friend Jeri came over and helped me sort my fabrics out of their old tubs and into the new ones. It was nice to have her company and help.

I was undecided about whether to roll or fold the individual pieces of fabric, so we did some of each and I will decide which works best for me. The idea is to have every piece visible from the top of the tub. This is actually most of my stash. I was surprised that it seemed to fit quite well. There will be some additional tubs that can sit on top of the whole unit.

The cupboards on either side of the tub system are old ones. I gave them a fresh coat of paint and I think they will work well for art supplies. I also think they will add some stability to the tub system. I spent much of today putting together the frames and another piece of furniture from IKEA. The IKEA stuff is quite marvelous in its ingenuity and the way the pieces go together. I am concocting a new, long sewing table from pieces and parts old and new. The red piece from IKEA will support one end of the table. Legs from IKEA the other end.

It has been gray and a little rainy off and on today as I puttered away in the studio, listening to NPR and Allen wrenching away at my IKEA stuff. I drug an outdoor chair in out of the rain when I needed a place to sit.

Light, bright, peaceful. I can hardly wait to start sewing out here.

Someone asked what the plaque above the door says.

You may remember when I bought it...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The roof tiles

Marie asked how I made the roof tiles for the Baños quilt. I must admit they are one of my favorite parts of this quilt! Back when I was making the quilt I blogged here and here about how I worked them out. I wanted them to have that varied color and handmade quality and grunginess that the real ones have.

Rooftops in Cuenca, Ecuador

Monday, October 03, 2011

I'm not that disheartened

Not so much that I would ignore the blog. Sorry if I gave the impression that I was retreating from all Internet endeavors. No, just not posting to lists full of nincompoops with a bone to pick. Let them argue over what they think is appropriate to discuss, then discuss it and then decide whose opinion was appropriate and whose wasn't and whether it is worse to post something crabby to the list or worse to object to someone else's crabby post and then dissect the meaning of the word "crabby" and so on and so on. You have probably all heard or read the old joke about how many listserv members it takes to screw in a light bulb. (See it here in case you missed it) It's funny because it hits so close to home. But YOU people here in the blogland section of the Internet— you are lovely people and just keep saying things that are just way too nice. So thanks, and please don't turn on me. I really couldn't deal with it.

Now for some good news. My quilt "Baños" was accepted for Art Quilts Year XVI: Something to Say at the Visions Art Gallery in Chandler, AZ. This is the first time I have submitted something for this show and I am really happy. It is a real art gallery show and I have heard such good things about it.

Baños is a town in Ecuador that is famous for its hot springs. If you have studied Spanish, you will recognize Baños as meaning "baths." It is a beautiful, touristy little town at the base of Tungurahua, an active volcano and it seems to get evacuated every few years when the volcano acts up. We spent several days there several years ago and I took a photo of an old house with a most amazing vine growing on it. The photo was the inspiration for the piece.

My day is always brightened by the presence of my grandchildren. Four-year-old Sofia is developing a pretty sharp sense of humor. We spent part of the day today reading "Knock, knock" jokes online. Our favorite, by far:

"knock, knock!"
"Who's there?"
"Tom Sawyer."
"Tom Sawyer who?"
"Tom Sawyer underwear!"

Feel free to use that joke. Trust me, it goes over really well with 4-year-olds even though they have no idea who Tom Sawyer was.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Going to Ground

The internet is a mixed blessing. I often wonder what my life would have been like if it had come along earlier. The internet—it works really well for me! I joined the cyber world in 1993 when I got an email account and discovered the online quilting world. I have established, for myself, a whole community of quilters and fiber artists that have meant the world to me. And it is a blessing that I can't even fathom sometimes.

And still, there are times when it gets too noisy for me and I have to pull back. It's not you, internet, it's me. I posted something on the QuiltArt list a week or so ago about how I missed some of the great interactions that seemed to happen in the early days of the list and how lately it seemed to be more about self-promotion and less about art talk and sharing of ideas. And it's true I think. Sometimes the Me, Me, Me of the messages and  competitive nature of a lot of the posts gets me down and I just want to back away for awhile, hide out and do my own work. I don't need to know what I should be doing. I just need to do what I do.

Anyway, just as I was feeling all this I got an email from someone who had read my post and wanted to take it on. She disagreed. About everything I said. And didn't I think this and didn't I think that?  And weren't there different paths to enlightenment (yes, she really said that) and so wasn't her opinion as good as mine and couldn't we all be artists in our own way and who needed an education or any discipline when we could just all be artists in whatever way works for us. And really, my post she was reacting to was just about missing the really good discussions we used to have and my observation that no one wanted to talk about how to improve and grow as an artist, or discuss someone else's art besides our own, seemingly not interested in serious art talk in favor of promoting one's new video or what show they were accepted for. Her email made me tired. And a little sad. I did my best to respond, assuring her that I wasn't picking on her, I was just expressing a viewpoint. And she responded again, with more questions and challenges, apparently in the belief that we now have a dialog going. Sigh.

So I retreat. I painted cabinets in the new studio. I actually started a new small piece in the old, chaotic and messy studio. But it felt good to fiddle with the fabric and work on this Steller's Jay.

So, if you don't see me on the internet, know I am in need of a little break, keeping my opinions to myself, and I am busy in the real world for a bit.