Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Just before Santa had to pack up his sleigh for tonight's journey, we were able to visit briefly with him at the North Pole. It's not so far away as you might think—if, of course, you have the right ticket. We went by train.

Santa was waiting, as we pulled into the North Pole station.

He boarded for a quick visit, and left each child wth a souvenir—a bell from his sleigh...

Have you heard his bells on your roof yet? Are you tucked in your bed? Close your eyes. Sleep well. And have a beautiful day tomorrow.


Friday, December 19, 2014

You know how I love tiles...

I have become an infrequent blogger. It's not because I am less committed, but maybe I have exhausted my supply of material. Sometimes I think I should recycle some of my old posts. Sometimes I waste my best thoughts on a quick FaceBook post. Then it doesn't seem worthwhile to revisit it as a blog post. I like keeping track of my artwork here. Right now I am not working on much and nothing I can really show, but I do have a lot of photos that are inspiring me. Maybe some of them will inspire you.

The subject is tile. If you've been following me for awhile you know I love it. (My kitchen might remind you of a Mexican restaurant) Spain and Portugal are the motherload of glorious tile. I took hundreds of photos of tile. The photo above is part of a building exterior in Lisbon, a city so in love with the material that they cover entire buildings with it—inside and out.

The history of tile in Spain and Portugal goes back centuries, starting with the Roman occupation of the region, but it takes its greatest influence from the Islamic tradition, brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the North African Moors in the 8th century. This was the origin of the marvelous geometric and foliage designs that make this tile so distinctive.

Doesn't this remind you of an Amish quilt? And the tiles above the "quilt" demonstrate one of my favorite characteristics of the tiles that are designed to create interlocking, secondary patterns when they are set in a grid— also reminiscent of traditional quilts.

The tile tradition continues to this day. This a map is in a plaza overlooking the city of Lisbon.

I like how the bit of pavement, above, seems to be scraps and pieces, and how the pedestal below was so badly mended.

These tiles are old, but clearly post-Moorish Spain. Islam discouraged the use of human or animal imagery in their art, lest it be considered idolatry.

I can't imagine a more beautiful way to adorn a city.

And a checkerboard tiled dome is the perfect topper for a palace or a garden shelter.

I took so many tile photos. These are just a few. When we were planning our trip I was surprised when several people asked, "why Spain?" I was pretty sure everyone harbored a longing to see Spain... Why? Well, history and food and Flamenco, and wine and olives and grandeur and music and Gaudi and Velasquez and tile!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Angels and other things

Again, Christmas justs pops up out of nowhere! One day it is late summer and then before you know it Christmas is upon us. Why the surprise every year? You would think I could have figured this all out by now. Suffice it to say, I am not a plan-ahead kind of person. My friend Jeri usually has her Christmas shopping done by Halloween, when I am just about to give up on summer and bring the hammock into the house. December comes and it is the wake-up call.

Our STASH group gathered for our annual Christmas lunch this week. It was especially joyful because Gale, who just had surgery on her hip, was able to join us. We, including Gale, had all been sure she would still be laid up for awhile. Beth was missing, but will soon be back from her time in the sun. We had Thai Food and exchanged little gifts and had a lot of stories and laughs. Afterward, a couple of us decided to check out the big Thrift store across the street and I made an amazing, if not slightly miraculous, find there.

To back up, a number of years ago I bought a terra cotta angel at a local gallery, to go with my collection of terra cotta Christmas ornaments. The angel was made in Guatamala and I loved her on sight. I have shown photos of her, over the years, on this blog. Here are some examples. In the thrift shop on Thursday I found another one. She looks like her little sister.

My original angel is on the right, holding a dove. The "new" one is on the left, holding a small harp. Their faces and hair are nearly identical and each has a bare foot peeking out from under her robe. Perhaps there are thousands of these angels out there, but these are not cast from a mold and I have never seen another. Each is handcrafted from clay and so similar I truly believe they were made by the same hand in Guatamala. Perhaps the smaller one was purchased from the same Portland gallery as mine and just recently was sent off to the thrift store. I'll never know, but I am happy that I found her. Now, I am beginning to feel a little Christmas spirit!

Between shopping trips I have been working on my quilt for the neutral color show with the theme Making Our Mark. Here is a little detail. I am using elements of a kind of stitching that keeps showing up in my work. It is a pattern that sort of grew out of the ether. I don't know if I dreamed it or invented it or unwittingly copied the idea from something, but it feels like my mark.

I am off to a holiday gathering this afternoon and will see friends old and new. Unexpected as Christmas seems to be every year, I find my way, eventually, into the heart of it, which is, of course, cherished friends and family. I hope you are finding the season too. Cheers!

Monday, December 08, 2014


So, now I have a "to do" list and, after a minor meltdown yesterday, am making my way through it. A few things to report on.


Virginia Spiegel again asked me to participate in her fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. I am happy she asked and so grateful for all the money Virginia has raised for cancer research. Too much Cancer in this world. This year has been a bad one—both my sister and sister-in-law have undergone brutal cancer treatment this year, with mixed results. My sister is doing well, my sister-in-law, not well. Cancer is a monster and I hate it.

Virginia has asked 100 fiber artists to donate a piece of art. On February 4, the first 100 people to make a donation of $100 will receive an artwork. Simple, and everyone wins! See the details here.

Here is my donation piece, "Night Windows"


In other news, part of our High Fiber Diet exhibit, "What's Blue toYou" is currently hanging at the Portland International Airport in the B concourse. It will be there until May, so if you find yourself at PDX check it out! Last week the artists were invited to view the exhibit. We had to be escorted through a side door to avoid security. We were thrilled with how it was hung and the signage.


Mine is the first one after the sign.

And here's my final thing to share.


I got a new phone and needed a new case for it. I found this business online that will put any photo you want on their case. I really love the way it turned out with my Valentine Ritual quilt.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving week

The beginning of the crazy season. I am trying to be calm and organized, which is such a struggle for me— the organized part. I never developed the habit of list-making. I think that would help. I seem to have gotten myself involved in so many things that require many hours on the computer and/or returning things or mailing things to various locations. After I finish up what I have promised, can I resign from some of this? I hope so. I feel a New Year's resolution coming on...

Thanksgiving, the day, was lovely. My daughter hosted the festivities, so we had a quiet day that did not involve cleaning and table-setting and managing refrigerator real estate. I needed only to cook my contributions to the dinner and get myself and food into the car for the 5-minute drive to Emily's! Mid- day, between cooking tasks, Ray and I went for a nice walk in the forested area not far from our house. The day was sunny and warm enough and the yellow leaves were like bursts of sunlight in the depth of the woods.

This is the same creek that runs through our yard, about a mile downstream from us. It is at least twice as wide here as at our house–more in some places.

The forest is still and moist and green and fragrant with fir and earth. I can feel the tension drain away with every step.

Last week I started knitting.

For years I resisted it, telling my knitting friends that I did not need another vice. This week I changed my mind. It seemed like something I could do, despite a bad knitting experience as a Girl Scout 60 years ago. I had forgotten everything I learned making those hideous slippers all those years ago, so I was starting from scratch. But as I got into it I think some ancient sense memory began to kick in. The rhythm of it seemed to come back to me.


My first knitted project was this hot pad. It is not as good in person as it looks here, but not too bad. The embroidered snowflake looks really uneven, but if you tilt your head at a 45 degree angle you will see it at the angle from which I was working it. Better, right? Now I am knitting some mittens for myself. I love seeing it grow into a recognizable shape, and I love how the color changes as I knit this yarn. I would much rather be doing this than working at my computer.

I have also started a large quilt for the High Fiber Diet Neutrals show. The actual theme is "Making our Mark". Some peeks at its beginnings.



Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving.

PS - I found this photo online that looks like the slipper pattern we used in Girl Scouts, except that mine ended up being about 18 inches long. See why I had that 60 year antipathy for knitting?



Monday, November 24, 2014

Working from Photos

There has been a recent discussion on the Quiltart list about creating artwork from photos, both one's own and photos from other people. What started this discussion were some of the prizewinners from this year's Houston Quilt Show that were obviously copied from photos. This piece was taken very directly from Dorothea Lange's photo of the migrant mother, from the dustbowl era. The quilt artist did not violate any copyright since the photo is in the public domain, but nevertheless, many of us were surprised that it was awarded a prize in a category for original artwork. Similarly, this piece is a very faithful copy of a painting. The quilt artist obtained permission from the painter to copy the painting. Googling found the original painting and it is a detail for detail copy.  In our online discussion no one is questioning the artists' legal rights to use other artists' works as their source material, but many, including myself, are disappointed that these copies were first, accepted in categories that clearly called for original work and second, that they won awards.

Artists may, of course, do whatever the law allows them to do in regards to where they find their images, but one has to wonder why one artist chooses to copy the work of another. (and that includes someone else's photo) I find it hard to think I would get a lot of satisfaction out of that kind of work. Yes, copying of master works is a popular exercise for art students, but it is understood that this is an exercise and not your personal work.

So--what about photos? Working with photos is common in the art quilt world. Some quilt artists actually print a photo on fabric and then stitch right over it. Some painstakingly copy a beautiful photo, detail by detail. Some use a photo as a starting point and abstract and rethink the composition. For me, I use my own photos, never anyone else's, and sometimes I follow the composition fairly closely and sometimes I use only the parts I want to emphasize and that work as part of my own vision. Here are a couple of recent works, drawn from photos taken on our Spain trip.

This one is a fairly straightforward interpretation of the photo I took on the steps of the Prado.

The second is this small piece, depicting pomegranates, as they grow on a tree.

An abstracted image, using this photo of a pomegranate tree I took at the Alhambra as reference.

Would I try to render a photograph as realistically as possible in fabric? No. I don't see the point in that. That image already exists as a photograph and unless I can bring something new and personal to it I don't know why I would want to simply copy it. The bird, above, is close, I know, but I still feel I have brought something new, at least to me, to it.  Or maybe not.

As far as the discussion about the unoriginal/original quilt pieces in Houston, there was no agreement. Some folks think the fact that they were so skillfully copied is reason enough to give them a prize! Others of us are shaking our heads and thinking this represents a low point in any efforts to bring attention and respect to our art form. It is always, I guess, in any medium, the case that hobbyists and serious artists mingle and no one, not even the artists, knows which is which until these kinds of discussions come up.  I once saw an awfully cleverly reproduced painting of the Last Supper at the State Fair. It had a blue ribbon on it. Sigh....