Friday, August 31, 2012

The sweetness at the end of August

It always seems like we get to Labor Day and ask, "where has the summer gone...?" but I have no complaints. It has been a sweet summer with lots of memories. No complaints. Our family reunion trip in June was especially poignant. I will always remember the last evening's family dinner, sitting across the table from my cousin's smart, funny husband. His big smile and bigger laugh and funny stories are what I  remember, and his loving, wistful words about my uncle and aunt who were his in-laws. To our shock he died very suddenly a few weeks ago. What a gift that last evening in Montana was. We might not have gone to Montana. It was a last minute decision. But we went. I am grateful for that and the time I got to spend with my far-flung family. Now that most of us are in our fifties and sixties, we understand more deeply how compelling the bond of a shared childhood is and treasure our shared memories.

Cooler mornings, longer shadows, but summer isn't over yet. Grabbing a sweater now, to sit on the deck with a glass of wine in the evening. Soon the school buses will be lumbering down our little road, and our Sofi girl will be off to Kindergarten, but summer isn't over yet. Not quite. Not yet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blog Envy

While I have been dashing around this past week, without the use of the internet on my computer, I have been reading my email on my Kindle. There has been a discussion thread on the Quilt Art List called "Blog Envy" and it started out asking if you ever read blogs and see the work that other people are doing, or the awards they are getting or book deals, and feel like you are accomplishing nothing? It asked,

"Do you ever look at stuff someone else has made and think "wow! I wish I'd made that!", or read about someone's success, either artistically or in the business side of their art, and thought "damn, I could have done that - my work is that good, why don't I get the big rewards?"

And there were lots of answers about why or why not people feel this and lots of people confessed that they get down on themselves when they see what other people are able to do. This is a discussion that drives me nuts. This is an attitude that drives me nuts and this is what often makes me want to go to my studio, stop reading the internet and never associate with other artists again.

Since when is making art a competition? Well, maybe since people started competing for acceptance in shows or for prizes. But is that really why you do what you do? I don't think it is for most of us, and really I don't think that is the envy the discussion is about. It seemed to be more about wanting to be able to do what other people do. To have their lovely life and their wonderful work. This is so self-defeating and so unworthy of each of us. Most obvious, of course, is that no one really knows, least of all from looking at a blog, what another's life is like or how many failures you don't see on the way to the terrific piece that was posted. But what bothers me the most is that this kind of envy diminishes the person who you envy. It says, "I want what you have," without acknowledging what has gone into it. It supposes that the person is lucky or magically "talented"—not that they have worked, studied, put in the time, made the mistakes, embarrassed themselves, struggled, sacrificed and continue to do all these things that finally show in improving their work. It is not a compliment to be envied. It is not a compliment to be told you are lucky to be talented. It is a compliment to be admired for your dedication and hard work. I am tired of the idea of "talent." Study and practice and lots of both are what produce competency. Talent is a myth.

Thus endeth the sermon.

Now, about that piece at the top of the page. It's a piece called "Rockin' and Rollin'" that I made in 2000. I am thinking about entering it into the HFD Rhythm and Hues show, despite the fact that it is 12 years old and looks nothing like what I am currently making. I've always liked it. Nothing in the rules addresses how old or new the piece must be. I think it would fit the theme. Is that crazy??

Monday, August 27, 2012

Time to Ponder

Perhaps you noticed that I haven't posted here for the past 10 days. Something happened, still don't know exactly what, and I lost my internet connection on my computer that I store my photos on and write this blog on. At the same time we had house guests that arrived for the week and a trip to Seattle planned to see the King Tut exhibit and a camping weekend at the coast. Blogging did not happen. Today the internet is back. (Thank you, Ray.)

Amidst the busy activities of the week and with no internet to distract me, I have had time to ponder the nasturtiums, and all the suggestions I got. I didn't ask for suggestions, but I enjoyed reading your ideas and thoughts on how you would "fix" my piece, or in some cases, your opinion that it was just fine as it was. No, really it wasn't. Something was off. But back to the suggestions. Many of you knew just what I was thinking—color seemed not exuberant enough, not enough movement, too contained by the pot. Some suggested that the pot was superfluous and the nasturtiums needed to be set free. These were all things I was thinking too. The thing about the pot was that it was part of my inspiration—this big, old terra cotta pot in my yard with nasturtiums spilling out of it, but Kristen said the magic word—"contained." Too contained. Suggestion for bigger slashes of paint was something I had already tried and found too garish for my taste. But I went back and added more of the foliage, flowers and some paint energy, letting those nasturtiums un-contain themselves more.

Just to remind you, this is how you last saw this.

It is finished. I have learned some things from this piece. Just thinking about it has given me some ideas that may not even be apparent in what I finally did to it, but they are things I will consider the next time around. For example I think it might have been an interesting idea to use less naturalistic color. A crazy background color like turquoise or purple might have made the nasturtiums feel jazzier and more energetic.

Or maybe not! The thing is I need to loosen up. I keep working on doing just that, but I keep falling back into my rut. I think my class with Elizabeth Barton is going to help. I need to see through some different eyes.

Tonight I was reading the latest art letter from Robert Genn and he quoted Elliott Eisner about art education:  "The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer."  That made me think of all the great suggestions I got about this piece. It gave me several different ideas on where to go with it. It could have been something entirely different. But no more suggestions please. I am finished with it and looking forward to moving on.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Down at the bottom of the garden with the fairies

A year ago my studio was coming together and I was beginning to imagine what it would be and how I would feel having my own space to work in. So wonderful. That is what it has been. My own space. For me, alone.

Yesterday Robert Genn, in his weekly newsletter, talked about studio spaces. In home, out of home, solitary and shared. He concluded by saying:

"My observation of folks who decide to hang out with others (I've never tried it) is that they end up with social venues where interpersonal aggravation sets in, interest flags and quality becomes intermittent. There may be exceptions, of course, and it's certainly something that might be tolerated once a year or so. But it's a great loss not to work down at the bottom of the garden with the fairies."

Ah yes. While I love having a visitor or two in my studio from time to time, what I really love is being there, down in the garden with the fairies, really alone. I know I am solitary by nature and I am happy working alone.

Today I fretted over the nasturtiums. I am not happy with it. I need a new point of view or new idea or something to kick my butt and move me forward. I'm a little stuck and the nasturtiums didn't prove to be the change I was looking for. I might work it a bit, or not.

I pulled fabric for a class I am taking next month with Elizabeth Barton. She suggests choosing a color scheme in a photo and bringing along fabrics that reflect that photo's colors. Seemed like a good way to start. I have a photo of a bunch of succulents wiith luscious color, that I might not have come up with by myself. I enjoyed finding possible fabric choices.

Wouldn't it be fun and challenging to take this bunch of colors and apply them to a subject entirely different from the succulent photo from which I drew them? This is, I think, what I need. To be be less literal and looser.

Then, for fun, I started cutting and fusing some bits of fabric. This may be as far as it goes, but I needed to clear the nasturtiums out of my head.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Last week I told you I was starting a piece that was going to have more painting on it than I normally do. I started with printed fabrics and put down a fused image of nasturtiums in a pot.

Then I started adding paint and then I stitched all over it.

 I added some pebbles around the base of the pot. They seemed to ground it a little better.

Then I painted more.

Then I trimmed it to size (26 x 33.5 inches) and finished the outer edge. It's bigger than you might think from the photo.

 Here's a detail.

I am too close to it right now to know what to think. It was fun to make. I'm not sure the paint really works.

I am thinking about entering it into a show with the theme of  "Rhythm and Hues." It was going to be dancing nasturtiums, but they don't seem very dance-y. I think there are hues, for sure. Do you think there is any rhythm in this?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Grandma Sewing

I finished Marco's quilt. Only a year late, but what he doesn't know won't hurt him. I really like it. I hope he will find it bright and sunny and warm and cuddly.

It is backed with polar fleece, my favorite backing for a kid quilt. The fleece serves as both batting and backing. Marco loves kitties. One of his first words was "Mee-low" his version of what a cat says. I made him a kitty using the same yellow fleece. I made his whiskers out of that stretchy plastic stuff they make for stringing beads on. It is wiggly and soft.

Mr. Two-years-old-party-guy with his kitty. I think he likes it. Behind him you can see the car his parents got for him. Watch out!

Happy birthday, Sweetness.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Twelve reasons

So, after driving all those miles and seeing all those glorious California things, we arrived in Southern California for the purpose of attending the International Quilt Festival in Long Beach and viewing the 288 little quilts made by the twelve of us who comprise Twelve by Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge. Why would we do that? After all, it was essentially the same exhibit I went all the way to Houston to see just 8 months ago, and, in fact, it will be here in Portland in another month.

Twelve Reasons:

1. Because being part of the Twelve by Twelve group is one of the best things I've ever done. It is not on the same level as marrying Ray or having kids or things like that, but it is a pretty great thing and I feel extremely lucky and I like to keep that feeling going. I feel lucky when I see my photo with the other Twelves, introducing the exhibit:

2.  Because maybe seeing these quilts all together once isn't enough. I will never forget seeing them all together for the first time in Houston.  It took my breath away—literally. We all agreed that the grouping was greater than the sum of all its parts. All twelve of each of the themes grouped into their "mosaics" is stunning in ways I never anticipated.

3.  Because Ray didn't go to Houston. I wanted him to see them all together in this big, big show. That's him, above, looking at them. He loved them.

4.  Because it is thrilling to see how much the people enjoy seeing what we did and hearing our story.

5.  Because it was a chance to spend time with friends. With the exception of Gerrie, who I already knew, the other Twelves are now friends I would never have had were it not for the project. We stayed with Karen and Ted Rips who live in So. California. It was like being with lifelong friends. One evening we had a lively discussion about our upcoming "Maverick" theme, with our husbands adding a lot of ideas and more than a little humor to the conversation. I wish more of the Twelves had been able to be there. Here are Karen, Gerrie and me.

6.  Because Del Thomas has been our biggest supporter and generous sponsor. She lives in the area and would be viewing the quilts in person for the first time. I didn't want to miss that! Here she is with us.

7.  Because one thing sometimes leads to another, and it happened that Gerrie, Karen and I all had work accepted for another exhibit, called "Rituals" that was showing for the first time in Long Beach. Two other Twelves also have work in this show, Deborah Boschert and Diane Perin Hock. I do think that our experience with our project is leading all of us to other exciting opportunities and challenges. Close up photography was not permitted for the Rituals exhibit, and my long shot isn't great, but you can see better photos on the Dinner at Eight Artists web site.

8. Because I love a Road Trip.

9. Because it was an opportunity to see more of California.

10. Because I love to travel with Ray.

11. Because I may never have work in an IQF show again!

12.  But mostly because the time was right. It was time for one last celebration of this Twelve by Twelve experience. We have written our book, shown our quilts in the biggest venues around the world that exist. We have done something no other group has done and we have grown and flourished and remained friends and we will always be a part of each others' lives. We have done, so, SO much more than we ever dreamed of. Can I feel a little bit proud? I do. Lucky me. Lucky all of us.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mission Santa Barbara

I have already written about my love of old Spanish churches and missions so I needn't say more about that. We were in Santa Barbara on a cloudy, misty morning which accounts for the white skies in these photos, but the atmosphere made it even more haunting and peaceful. This mission is an odd architectural amalgam of Greek/Roman elements and typical Spanish Mission style, but it worked for me. I found it utterly beautiful and somber and filled with mystery and history.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Studio guests

This morning I had guests in my studio. Chela, mother of my son-in-law, Carlos, is visiting from Cuenca, Ecuador in South America. She and Sofia, our shared granddaughter, spent the morning in my studio. Chela is "mi consuegra," which means co-mother-in-law. I love that the Spanish language and culture recognizes a named relationship between the mothers (and fathers) of a married couple.

Chela brought Sofia a doll she made for her that is a "Chola Cuencana" which means an indigenous woman of Cuenca, the city where Chela lives in Ecuador.

She is dressed in the native dress of the Indigenous people of that area, including the traditional Panama hats that are made, not in Panama, but right there in Cuenca. (they are called Panama hats because they were worn by the workers on the Panama canal) Somehow Sofia and Chela came to the conclusion that this lady needed a baby. That would require the resources of my studio.

Chela is a very accomplished seamstress. I have visited her studio in Ecuador. She sews for her own pleasure and also does production sewing of school uniforms to earn a little extra money. She quickly found the fabrics she needed in my stash and whipped out a baby doll in no time at all. Here she is stuffing the tiny body.

Meanwhile Sofia was busy weaving a potholder for her Abuela to take back to Ecuador.

I acted as support staff, fetching whatever was needed.

Here is the baby almost finished.

Chela wasn't very happy with the mouth. My fabric marker was a little too large to control very well. I had a bit of Ecuadorean fabric for the skirt. She added a lace-trimmed shirt as well.

Finished! As Chela was trying to decide about a head covering for the baby I remembered a tiny Panama hat that had been a decoration on the bag when Ray bought a hat in Ecuador years ago. I found it and it fit the baby perfectly!

Would you like to see where Chela lives? Cuenca is a World Heritage Site and the most beautiful city in Ecuador. We have been there a number of times and love it. It is a wonderful place. I found this charming video that will give you a little of its flavor. The background music is a song called, "Chola Cuencana"—like the doll. Click here:

Monday, August 06, 2012

A pause in the travelogue

I have more photos I want to blog about from our California trip, but I thought it might be good to talk a little about what I am working on right now.

Over the years I have used pastels and paints and colored pencils to add depth and richer color to the commercial prints I like to use. Lately I have been adding even more paint and while we were traveling I was thinking about that. I love the way my mind wanders while I'm driiving. I get some of my best (and not so good too) ideas in my car. I wondered it work for me to use even more paint, in a freer, more painterly way on top of my commercial prints, after they have been cut and fused in place. Before I left I made a small sample for a nasturtium piece I had in my mind. I wasn't very satisfied with it. It seemed pretty flat. So when I got home I added paint to it. Here is the result.

It still isn't great, but I liked what the paint added. It is there, but the fabric and the original prints still show through. So for the past two days I have been putting together a much larger piece and planning it with the idea of painting more into it after the initial fusing is done.

I think this will be an interesting experiment. I am looking forward to seeing if it works!

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Hearst Castle

I was curious about the Hearst Castle, though I did not know much about it, except that it was a huge house, built early in the 20th century, by William Randolph Hearst, somewhere along the California coast. It sounded interesting, but I also must admit I expected it to be some tasteless, glittery example of rich guy excess. Well, there is a touch (!) of excess involved, but I now must concede that it is beautiful and well worth the price of admission. If you are interested in the history and the celebrity parties and all that, it is all here. One of the aspects of the story that most fascinated me was the architect—Julia Morgan, who worked with Hearst on the design and building of the castle from 1919 to 1947. It was so unusual for a woman to be an architect at that time and she was brilliant.

The castle sits high on a hilltop, part of the Hearst family ranch that remains a working cattle ranch to this day. We purchased our tickets at the fancy visitor's center and boarded a bus to make the winding trip up to the castle for our tour.

As we disembarked from the bus and climbed the stairs to the large plaza area in the front of the house, the first thing that caught my attention was this rabbit tile, set into the bricks, just the beginning of many small, beautiful details found everywhere on the property.

The building was inspired by different European cathedrals with a grand central entrance and double towers.
Set designers for the Harry Potter movies studied the dining room as inspiration for the dining hall at Hogwarts.

The swimming pool.

The back side.

I chose just a few of my favorite photos. I took a lot more. Stunning views wherever you look.  I recommend a visit if you are in the area. The closest town is the very small town of San Simeon.