Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shirt picking—a trip to the bins

I have written about buying men's shirts for the fabric. I am still doing that, and though my resulting quilts are not yet where I want them to be, I still am intrigued by the shirt fabrics. I went out to do some "picking" today and thought I'd bring you along.

Usually I go to the Goodwill outlet store where you can buy clothing by the pound. I decided today to try another thrift shop because I am not so happy with the Goodwill organization since I learned that they pay their disabled employees far less than minimum wage, really exploiting their workers. I always thought donating to and shopping at Goodwill was a good thing and helped people with disabilities, but now I am questioning that. I found a couple of good shirts at the other thrift store, but paid much more than I would have at Goodwill.

The yellow one was a good find. It is in perfect condition and a size XL, which means it will yield a lot of usable fabric. I paid $7.50 for these two shirts.

Somewhat reluctantly I went on down the road to Goodwill. This is what they call their outlet store. Most people call it "the bins." This is where you find the donations either deemed not suitable for their regular stores, or goods that did not sell at the regular Goodwill stores. The place is a mess. Stuff is dumped willy-nilly into the big blue, rolling bins and it smells musty.

Customers, including me, dig through the piles looking for whatever they need. You never know what you will find. Today this beautifully beaded wedding gown was in the mix. It looked like it was in great condition and really quite lovely. It might have been in the bins because it could not be washed for sale in the regular Goodwill. My daughter once found a beautiful Scottish wool blazer at the bins. After it was cleaned it looked like it was brand new. She paid less than a dollar for it.

I look for men's shirts that are 100% cotton, in stripes or small plaids, and not badly worn. I am a bit squeamish,  I have to admit. Today I found one that was a good stripe, but the armpits were really badly stained. I know I could have cut around the stained part, but it grossed me out and I left it behind. I often see boxer shorts in good, cotton plaids and stripes, but ewwwwww! I don't touch them!  I take the shirts home and they go directly into the washing machine, set for the hottest wash temperature. Today, in addition to detergent, I added about a cup of white vinegar, which I thought might help cut through the fabric softener that I often smell on some of the shirts. They came out of the dryer looking especially nice and clean today and smelled, refreshingly, of nothing. I think the vinegar was a good idea.

I got all stripes today, which are my favorites. Seven shirts for $6.39.

Tonight, as I sit and watch TV I will start cutting up the shirts. It so reminds me of boning and fileting a fish! I save all the buttons and labels. I don't know why, but it is fun to see how many I am accumulating. I discovered there is a YouTube video that shows you how to filet a shirt. She is not as thorough as I am. I trim off all the seams and remove the pocket and sleeve plackets and open up the front seams. I have kept the bag of collars and cuffs and yokes that I cut off. I may use them eventually, but there is a lot of labor involved in harvesting very little fabric from those parts.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ignoring Black Friday, pretty much

Ugh. I am just not into a day of crazy, mad, insanely early morning shopping. I think there are folks who love the challenge of the hunt for a bargain, but I'm not one of them. I won't give you any kind of argument or claim a moral high ground because I didn't shop today. I just don't love crowds and shopping anyway, and this Black Friday business looks brutal—too brutal for my sensitive self! (snort) Besides, I was tired.

Thanksgiving was lovely and we ate well, though not obsessively, but despite a more low key menu—no stuffing, no sweet potatoes, no rolls and Emily made the pie, which was a major chore and far better than what I would have made—I was pooped by the end of the day. And then I couldn't sleep. "Too tired to sleep," is my explanation. Whatever that means. Still, I rolled myself out for a walk with Beth this morning, and maybe we both should have stayed home in bed. It was cold and wet and horrible and Beth stepped wrong on a wet pine cone, turned her ankle and fell hard on the pavement. We limped into Starbucks, soggy and defeated and Beth, bruised and bleeding. Eggnog chai lattes helped a little. I took a nap when I got home.

We are into the wet, yucky season. Beautiful fall has given way to dark, wet, slimy leaf fall.

It was nice not to cook today. Thanksgiving leftovers may be my favorite meal of the year. Our turkey was large and very good this year. After seeing photos of turkeys swathed in bacon on Facebook, we impulsively grabbed a package of bacon at Safeway and, about an hour before the turkey was done I laid bacon strips over it and finished cooking it.  The bacon made it beautifully crispy and delicious and probably the best gravy I have ever made. Neither the bird, nor the gravy tastes like bacon, just extra rich turkey. I did have a lot more fat than usual to skim off the top of the drippings. I know it sounds a little redneck, but it was delicious.

Rainy days make the studio feel very cozy, so I was happy to spend a few hours there this afternoon. Ray just installed a stronger router for our wireless connection, so I even have internet in the studio now.  Here is another section of the shirting quilt I am working on.

I am nearly finished, and as with the previous one, I like some things about it and not others. I am learning. Still too stiff, in my opinion and something is missing that I am thinking might be the dark outlines I have used for years in my work. I won't add them to this piece, but don't be surprised if they show up in the next one.

Sofia is spending the night tonight and she is sweetly sleeping as I type.  French toast in the morning. So I've made it through Black Friday relatively unscathed. I think my only purchase of the day was my therapeutic latte this morning, and our household is very rich tonight with Sofia's stories and silliness and sweetness. I may be ready to face the Christmas season now. Almost.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A long time ago...

A long time ago we got married. It was 42 years ago today and this is our anniversary and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. And I am thankful. Forty two years. It boggles my mind and when I think of it all it is a little like something I read about someone else and my memory is certainly mistaken about how beautiful things were and how there was always a soundtrack and unlikely as it seemed, things always worked out, though not necessarily in the ways we thought, or hoped, they would. But they worked out. We have stories to tell.

The wedding was OK and honestly not something I remember that much, but the party afterward was spectacular. Not spectacular in the sense of a live band and fancy decorations and catered food and fancy clothes, like spectacular wedding parties are these days. It was spectacular for the food that my Mom and her friends slaved over for days and the gallons of wine my Dad made for months beforehand and for all the friends and family and all the smiles and best wishes and all the laughs and music and fun. Ray and I had a hard time leaving the party.

Here is my car, in my parents' garage, decorated by our friends. Ray and I are inside, ready to set out on our new life, surrounded by all the people we love. There's my Mom and my sister. My uncle Bill, Gary and Monte and Leslie and Ray's brothers. My Dad was probably behind the camera. Many more were out of the camera's view. Ray's Mom and Dad are there somewhere. I remember so well the feeling of being torn between all I knew and loved and all that lay ahead. And this is what I feel most thankful for at this moment. All that love and support that has been there for 42 years and all the people that gave us the courage to know that our lives could be so good.

Tomorrow is our 42nd Thanksgiving together and Ray and I have much to be thankful for. We will spend it with our family. I hope you all have a wonderful day, with many blessings to count.

And for Thanksgiving, I refer you to last year's Thanksgiving post. It still says all I could possibly say.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Seattle day

Don't you just hate it when you have to spend time in Seattle? I mean, it is always dark and dreary and always, always raining, y'know?

Ha, ha! I think that is what most of the country thinks about Seattle (and Portland, too). The fact is that Seattle, when it is good, is nearly perfect. One of the best cities in the world, in my opinion. And since it is a mere 3 hour drive from here, I jump at the chance to spend some time there. When my friend Jeri invited me to go up to Seattle for the day to see the Women Artists From the Centre Pompidou exhibit at the Seattle Art Musum it sounded great. When our friend, Beth, decided to come along as well, it became an even better adventure. Turned out that, improbably, this day in mid-November was rain-free and as gorgeous a Seattle day as you could ask for.

The exhibit was super. Here are a few of my favorites of what we saw:

The very first piece in the exhibit was this wonderful portrait by Sonia DeLauney. It may have been my favorite thing, though it would be hard to choose.

The Blue Room, by Suzanne Valadon

A wall-sized sculpture by Louse Nevelson—be still my heart!

And a lot of wonderfully witty posters and banners from the Guerilla Girls, including this one:

This is but a small sampling. It is a great show. See it if you can!

On our way up to Seattle I finally got to visit a place I have heard of for years—Shipwreck Beads in Lacy, WA. I had heard it was fabulous. I had heard they have any kind of bead you would ever want. Still, I had a mental picture of a funky little beadshop in my brain. Not this.

or this (which is less than half of the sales floor):

They have it all, from plastic and glass to precious stones and precious metals. You have to know what you want when you shop in a place like this. Browsing would be an all-day event. I don't even know why I like beads so much. I don't use them in my artwork. That has just never worked for me, but they are so pretty! I bought this small collection for a necklace, that will be fun to make, but I will likely never wear it. Or maybe I'll surprise myself and become a necklace-wearer.

This is the sidewalk out front of Shipwreck Beads. I really did love this! In case it is not clear in the photo, all those bits of color are beads imbedded in the concrete.

We had such a good time. We had a perfect lunch at a small Thai restaurant near the Art Museum and picked up wonderfully spicy, exotic Chai tea lattes at a sweet little coffee shop near the museum for our ride home and we cracked each other up with funny stories all the way up and back and were exhausted from laughing by the time we rolled into Portland last night. I hate driving in downtown Seattle, but with two good navigators even that worked out well. I feel energized and refreshed. Thanks, dear Seattle. And bigger thanks to my two crazy good friends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

And so it goes, and so it goes...

How odd, isn't it, that the quilt that I just sold this weekend, Nasturtium Dance, was a catalyst for change for me. I have been thinking about this for a couple of days now. It was such a hard quilt to make and even when it was finished it did not feel satisfying. It just signified that the time had come to make some changes. At the time it felt really overworked and like I pushed it too far, yet when I saw it hanging, on Sunday, at the show in Tillamook, I could see why someone liked it. It had a lighter feel and a happy look that I had lost sight of when I was making it. It made me wonder if all my angst had been over nothing. But no, my heart has softened for that particular piece, but I still believe I need to find a new focus. As someone said, when an artist begins to bore herself it is time for a change.

I am really working hard on some new ideas. You know about my stripes and over dyed shirting fabrics and they are coming together in architectural motifs. I have always been drawn the whole idea of architecture—the built environment. I am especially intrigued by ancient architecture that stands as a reminder of the past and outlived the people who conceived it. It just occurred to me that I am using old clothing, that once was worn by people unknown to me, to create my impressions of old buildings, built by people lost, for the most part, to the past. I am struggling a bit, but learning a great deal as I go. What I have made so far is not as free and loose as I am hoping for, but it is a serious step toward simplifying and finding the essence of the forms. The small piece is finished. I will photograph it and post it soon. I am now working on a large piece that I have shown some bits of.

Here is a small section before I began to quilt it. My hope was that the quilting would help to soften and unify the disparate fabrics and hard lines.

Here it is with stitching added. I think it helps to pull it together and add the kind of texture that gives it a bit of patina.

The main thing is, though, that I am learning and having ideas for how I will make the next one different. There has been a lot of discussion on the internet lists about why one would create a series of related work. I think I am seeing exactly how that works. I am already working on the next one—on paper and in my head. Hopefully each will be better than the last.

I was so surprised to learn that some of my internet friends that I most identify with, are fans of Amanda Palmer, who I just discovered and wrote about in Saturday's post.  Jane Davila offered a link to one of  Amanda Palmer's blog posts, which is a work of beauty and wisdom and vast entertainment. If you've ever doubted yourself (who hasn't??) or been stung by others' expectations or disappointments, or just want to read something beautifully written, you might like this as much as I did.

I am going to Seattle tomorrow to see art and spend time with two favorite friends. Wish us a day without pouring rain—

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rhythm and Hues

Ray and I drove over to Tillamook, Oregon, near the coast, today for the artists' reception at the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center. It was the opening of our High Fiber Diet Show, Rhythm and Hues. It's about an hour and a half drive, over the coast range, from Portland to Tillamook and today it was gray and rainy all the way and pouring rain in Tillamook. And, honestly, the dreary, dark day just made our exhibit look all the better! It was so lovely to walk into all that warmth and color.

Elizabeth Bamberger, Mary Arnold and Bonnie Bucknam with Bonnie's 
gorgeous work on the stand at the left behind them. I would liked to have seen a background behind it that offered more contrast, but it was still stunning.

My piece, "Rockin' and Rollin'", Gerrie Congdon's "Crop Circles" and my "Nasturtium Dance."

Do you see the little red dot next to my nasturtiums? That means it sold! Woo hoo! I met the woman who bought it and she was charming—a weaver. In fact she is a retired professor who taught weaving at the University of Idaho for many years. The U of I is Ray's alma mater so they hit it off. She taught there when Ray was a student there, but as a math major, he never took a weaving class. They discussed the need for weavers to know a little math and how frequently they don't!

Chris Brown has been working on a series of fabric sculpture horses. This small one, sitting on a chair is quite striking and very whimsical.

If you are on the Oregon Coast any time between now and January 5, stop in and take a look at the exhibit, as well as the rest of the center.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Radio, studio, ukelele, etc....

Last week my friend Reva posted the video above on Facebook and said she had heard it on NPR. I did not hear it on NPR, which I listen too almost obsessively, but the song pleased me inordinantly and I loved its perversity and it made me think about my youthful occupation as a camp counselor and the red ukelele that was one of my camp counseling implements, or "wand of thunder" as the song says.

So, fast forward a couple of days and I am in my studio, cutting fabric and listening to NPR, to my new favorite program, Q.  I came in a little late to the program and the first thing I heard was this incredible, weird, heartbreaking song. The Bed Song. I stopped cutting. I sat down and I listened and wondered who this person/band was. Turns out it is Amanda Palmer, the ukelele anthem woman. Who also turns out to be late of the Dresden Dolls, whose video Coin Operated Boy amazed me on YouTube a couple years ago. Now I finally know her name and I have spent a lot of time on YouTube watching and listening to her mesmerizing music. I know this music won't resonate with everyone. Maybe you won't be as captivated, but if you are you will enjoy a YouTube tour. I especially recommend her ukelele version of Radiohead's Creep, strange as that may sound. So there it is. This is what happens when you listen to NPR all day. Public Broadcasting—it's not just about Big Bird and I am grateful for it.

The radio, it powers me onward. Here is a peek at what I have been working on today.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Friday, finally

It has been one of those weeks when many small things all landed together to make it a big and busy week. Three meetings, family birthdays, a stint gallery sitting for the Visual Arts Showcase, childcare, and, of course, that election. (You probably heard about it.) There was so much shrillness around the election this time. Ranting, raving, crazy talk. Aren't you glad it's over? I sure am.

At last Friday came and I had nothing on my agenda. Sofia did not have school today, so I invited her to go with me to the Children's Museum and see the "Chagall for Children" exhibit. She is good company and never talks politics. We love the Children's' Museum so much we became "grandparent members." Since Sofia started Kindergarten we haven't been able to have as many museum dates.

As part of the Chagall exhibit the museum has set up a painting studio for the children.

Sofia has watched her Dad paint, so she feels quite comfortable with a brush. Look at that lovely, confident, fluid line.

I admire her economy of line and easy, graceful curves.

After we had hit all the favorite features of the Children's' Museum we went for a nice lunch at Burgerville, which is one of our favorites. (I really do love Burgerville—) All in all, a lovely end to a busy week.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Beaverton Visual Arts Showcase

Now that I live near Beaverton I decided I needed to check into its cultural resources, so I entered two pieces in the juried, annual Visual Arts Showcase. One was selected, which was pretty cool. About 80 pieces of art were juried in from more than 500 entries. The opening was last night.

I don't think there is a way to photograph a gallery opening in an original way. These photos look just like a million that I have seen on other artists' blogs—people standing around with wine glasses and little napkins, blocking your view of the art. But, really, trust me, it was nice! It is in the gallery at the Beaverton Library, which is a pretty great library.

My little piece was one of only three accepted fiber entries. Here is my piece, Verdant, in a nice prominant location as you enter. The little framed piece to the left is one of the other fiber pieces—a small felted work.

This piece is by my friend, Kathie Kerler and the third of the three fiber offerings.

It was too crowded to get very many good photos of the art, but there were some wonderful pieces there. If you are in the area I recommend dropping by to see the show. It will be hanging through November. I will be docenting on Wednesday afternoon.

Here is the standard photo of art patrons enjoying the reception. Recognize anyone? No, me neither.

Today was a quiet, exceptionally warm day here in Oregon. Nice to have that extra hour, eh? I spent it in the studio, where I got a good start on a new piece. Bigger than the last.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Huevos Rancheros

My son Andy's birthday was this week and after everyone checked their busy schedules it was decided that Saturday brunch was when our family could all get together and celebrate. This seemed to me the perfect opportunity to try out my new tortilla press, so I made Huevos Rancheros.

Making the tortillas was a piece of cake. Three ingredients: masa (corn flour that has been treated with lime), salt and water. Mix together until it is about the consistency of playdough, then divide into balls about the size of a pingpong ball. I started pressing between two sheets of waxed paper, but they stuck a little, so I switched to plastic freezer wrap and that worked like a charm.

I baked them on my cast iron griddle and then flipped them into a tortilla warmer to keep them warm. It all went really fast and I soon had 20-some tortillas.

For the huevos, I put three tortillas on each pre-warmed plate (they are smaller than the store-bought ones), spooned a little hot ranchero sauce (made from the last of our tomatoes) over the tortillas, topped with two fried eggs per plate, a blob of refried beans, a couple slices of avocado, a sprinkle of shredded cheese and more ranchero sauce. Served bacon on the side because everything is better with bacon. And by the way have you tried Trader Joe's applewood smoked, uncured bacon? It is really, really good!

Enjoyed by all! They were really delicious, if I may say so myself. I'll use a little more sauce the next time I make these. Happy Birthday, Andy. This could become our new birthday meal.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

I'm rich!

A box arrived in my mail this afternoon jammed tight with plaid, striped and checked fabrics. It was from my internet friend Jeannie Evans. Unbelievably generous.

Great stuff. I will have fun using it! Thank you, Jeannie. The internet is an amazing place.

I have been quilting the piece I have been working on.

I really like what happens when the quilting lines cross the fabric lines at different angles. You get that soft bumpety texture that just subtly disrupts the geometry of the woven stripes.