Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Fine Week

Balancing lots of plates this week, but somehow everything seemed to keep spinning and there were a couple nice surprises in the mix.

These are my two entries for High Fiber Diet's "What's Blue to You?" exhibit. Could they be any more different? I got word this week that both were accepted.

Work continues on the 12x12 book and I think I will meet my self-imposed deadline. It is slow work, but it is coming together.

My lovely Sofia came for a studio day, following swim lessons on Thursday. We made headbands. The red one she is holding was our first try. It turned out OK, but the elastic on the back of her head is uncomfortable. So we came up with a better idea. The one she is wearing and the blue one she is holding turned out much better. I found a wide, softer elastic in my stash of stuff. She sewed long tubes of the fabric and we threaded the elastic through, gathering the fabric onto it, then sewed the ends together. Quick and easy. Good practice at sewing long straight seams and she pronounced them perfect—comfortable and cute. She fills my heart with joy, that girl.

I also got word this week that the segment for the online "Quilt Show" with Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson started airing this week. You may remember this post from over a year ago, when it was taped. Though it is a subscription blogcast service, they have made it available for me to allow my friends to watch it for free until August 3. Click on the icon to see it.

You will have to register as a user on the site, but it is free and innocuous.

I haven't had much studio time this week, but managed a couple hours this afternoon and did a couple quick little sewing machine "drawings." I just picked a few bits of foliage on my way to the studio and "drew" from the subjects spontaneously. Drawing, whether with a pen or a sewing machine always has such a more immediate, natural look if you don't plan or sketch it out ahead of time. Maybe if I keep making these little guys, I will build up confidence for such unplanned work on a larger scale

Can you believe we are into the last week of July? Grab summer while you can....

Have a good week.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Words and Pictures

I am currently immersed in a project that takes me back to my pre-retirement work as a graphic designer.  I am laying out a book, to be published by Blurb, of the second Twelve by Twelve set of challenges that we called the Colorplay series. Our first book was published by Lark Publishing and was a popular, commercial success. It told our story and showed our first challenge quilts and was a big, juicy, wonderful labor of love. This second book, which we are creating mostly for ourselves (though it will be available for purchase) is mostly photos of the little art quilts—mainly a record of our beloved second challenge.  It is, in a smaller, quieter way, another labor of love. We have been talking about it for quite awhile and I agreed to do the layout, but I always seemed to have something more urgent on my radar. But now, finally, I am deep into it, working several hours each day on it. 

Most graphic designers I know hate book and long document design. It isn't flashy, like advertising or hip and current, like web design. It can be tedious. But I love it. My former job was at a national non-profit and consisted mainly of producing informational brochures, books and newsletters. Words and pictures.  It sounds so simple, but the process of designing a book is an exercise in clear and elegant communication. Readability is the byword. Choosing typefaces and line spacing that reflect the spirit of the work and complement each other, creating a balanced and logical composition for each page and maintaining consistency and flow through the pages. Then visually scanning each page for spacing and flow, tweaking the type to eliminate awkward placement and inelegant alignments and odd gaps. Type, on the computer screen, is alive and willing to accept the designer's nudges and manipulations. And the trick, of course, is to make it look like it all just landed, beautifully, on the page, without anyone's help. 

I'm a little rusty, but it's all coming back to me!  If you need me, I'm at the computer...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Black Thread

I am loving this black thread work. I am using Sulky cotton in both 12 and 30 weights. I especially love the boldness of the 12 wt, but it is a little temperamental in the machine. The 30 weight is almost as bold and not a problem, so I did all the added plants and rocks with that one. I added the rocks and the big cactus and decided the shadows under the roofline and brick feature were not working, so I picked all that work out. Hate doing that. Ugh. But after finishing and trimming the edges I decided I was done. 

And then I decided it wasn't done. 

What you don't see in the photo are wrinkles in the white of the building. And evidence of the black thread shadows that I picked out. Subtle, but it bothered me. So today I added stitching to those unstitched areas of building and sky. It's better, and now truly finished.  It is small—about 11" x 14". I think I will mount it on stretched canvas. 

La Casa de Chela

I love getting a surprise in the mail. This book arrived out of the blue today. It is the catalog for the SAQA show, Redirecting the Ordinary. I will have a piece in this show. 

Here is my page spread in the book. I confess I am always thrilled to see my work in print. And I have a special fondness for this piece. 

It has been a good day. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

And today...

The Portland SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) group met at my house. It was really hot here today, but pretty pleasant out in the yard this morning.

We had a great meeting. A few people stayed home because of the heat, but they missed out. It was quite comfortable in the shade and such a great group discussion today. I really like this group. 

After the SAQA crowd departed I got in an afternoon in the studio. Remember how my current work looked yesterday?  Today I began to add more detail, including part of the garden in front of the house. I fused flowers and leaves. 

The fused shapes are giving it more interest. I contined the the stitched "drawing" on top of the added fabric shapes. 

I like where it is going so far.  Not sure if the stitched shadow under the roofline and balcony really work, but I love the little tree and the bougavilla!

Someone asked about the technique. It is pretty straightforward. I am working from my own photo, starting with a rough sketch, then a simple blocking of color, by fusing fabrics. The fused top was layered with felt and a fabric backing, then free-motion stitched on the machine, using two weights of black cotton thread. I sketched in the main shapes with an eraseable pencil, but improvised most of the details. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What I am doing...

Aren't summer days supposed to be "lazy"? It's really kind of the opposite of lazy around here. This is one busy family. Ray is trying to retire, which means he is finishing up his current projects and/or handing over unfinished ones to others, while simultaneously dreaming up new ideas that he either will or won't be a part of. I get it. Being "retired" doesn't mean your brain quits working (well maybe for some people it does...).  As I told Ray tonight even though I retired from my paying job, art is my job now.  Sitting under a shady tree, with a book and a cold drink is what you do when you are nursing a broken leg, surely not a way of life. We are still finishing up painting and regrouping post remodeling, and helping with summer childcare, which we love, but keeps us busy too. 

Not enough studio time for me. But I am slowly moving forward with the sewing/drawing idea. I found a nice photo I took, in Ecuador, of my co-inlaw's country house, to work with. I started by fusing a few fabrics to a white fabric base. 

Today I started stitching. 

Kind of amazing how much just that little bit adds, isn't it?

Lots more to go. I will keep posting as I go. 

Our beach weekend was a wonderful break from the painting and remodeling mess. So much fun to see the kids on the beach. They loved it. 

We used the collection bags that Sofia made. 

Yes, Grandma's bag was the fullest. I just love those little flat rocks you can find only at the beach. I sew them onto art quilts. Sofia's was much fuller until her little brother stepped on it and turned her shell collection into shell gravel, which was pretty tragic. Marco's bag could not be found for this photo. When it was found it contained a piece of a bagel. He was only partially tuned into the program, but loved his bag all the same.  Great beach trip. 

Tomorrow I am hosting the local SAQA group for an outdoor meeting and studio tour. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014


I love summer. The light, the warmth, the flowers the smells of cut grass and hot pavement. Iced tea. Oh, yes, lots of iced tea. 

Thursday was a perfect summer day. The STASH group met at Gale's and we sat out in her beautiful yard with our iced tea and discussed (apparently) weighty matters. 

Then Reva brought out the T-shirt quilt she has been working on for months, and spread it on the lawn. 

You've seen T-shirt quilts, right? Usually someone's collection of shirts from all the marathons they have run, or the schools they have attended, etc.  Reva's should be called something like "my life in T-shirts." 

Here she points out some of her favorites.

Then it was time for lunch—we each brought a salad and Gerrie made fresh cherry clafoutis for dessert. We eat well. Always. 

After STASH I picked up Sofia for an abbreviated studio day, and we spent the afternoon sewing. Sofia made bags for us to take to the beach for gathering shells and rocks and other beach treasures. She designed and decorated, sewed a bag for herself, one for Marco and one for me. We all like to comb the beach for goodies. 

Gotta go—headed to the beach! Hope you are having a great summer...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Nights

The other night I was sitting right where I am sitting right now and turned, in my chairto see a raccoon less than three feet away, looking at me through the glass door. We made eye contact, then he turned and ambled off into the darkness. Ray had gone, about an hour before, out across the yard to the studio where we have been sleeping for the past few weeks during the remodeling of our bedroom. I would soon be heading out as soon as I brushed my teeth, washed my face and gathered my stuff, and now I knew that there was quite a large raccoon out there, probably between me and the studio. 

I stepped out, locking the door to the house behind me and stood waiting for the motion sensor light to acknowledge me and a few minutes longer to allow all critters to retreat to the undergrowth.  In those quiet moments I breathed in the scents of jasmine and fir and lilies and listened to frogs and crickets and the rustle of leaves high in the trees and forgot, for the moment, about the raccoon. It's a short walk down the path, over the bridge and into the studio. Ray leaves the porch light on for me. Still, I feel alert to danger, or at least, unpleasant surprises. Anything could happen in the time it takes to make my way from porch to porch. 

The usually so familiar path feels unfamiliar and a little menacing in the dark. My own shadow looms. Still, the night sky, moon, stars and passing cars up on the road as I approach the studio are reassuring and once inside all is well. 

Ray told me the last night we spent in the studio he encountered a possum coming out from under the studio porch who, upon seeing Ray, headed back under the porch. Ray flushed him from under the porch with the garden hose and chased him off. But he, and the raccoon, and who knows who else are out there. And while I have suspected as much, now I know. It has been an illuminating few weeks traversing the nighttime yard. Beautiful, peaceful, fragrant and still—and alive out there. 

Killer slug waiting in the dark....

Good night house. I made it.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Digital Drawing Day - July

When I think of July I think of the flowers and the color. This started as a drawing of the red crocosmia  in our front garden. It is one of my favorite summer flowers and it really brings the hummingbirds to the yard.  More than the flowers themselves I was going for an "impression" of the colorful depths of a July garden and got what I wanted by applying one of the Glaze App effects to my drawing. 

iPad, Sketch Club app, Glaze app

I think this is my last regular Digital Drawing Day post, at least for now. I will continue to work with the digital apps and will post if I discover something really good, or make something I especially like, but for now I won't push to post something every Sunday. Thanks for your comments and interest, or polite tolerance, as the case might be...

Friday, July 04, 2014

One of my greatest achievements is not being perfect

I spent the day painting walls today. It is such a tedious, boring job. But it requires so little of your brain, that it does give you time to let your mind wander. I thought about the color I was painting a lot. Wondering if it was actually the "perfect" color. It isn't, but it's close enough. For me, choosing that color was exasperating in ways I didn't expect.  I used to choose paint colors for a living. You would think it would be second nature. I knew I wanted a yellow shade and decided early in the process that I would choose a fabric for our new bedroom window's curtains first and work from there. Here's the fabric.

Looks easy, doesn't it? I carried a little swatch of it to the paint store and started pulling swatches. Only then could I see that this yellow has the tiniest hint of green in it. None of the paint swatches had that same subtle hint of green. I finally chose what seemed the closest. I brought the paint home and in my house the swatch looked drab—brownish yuck. I swiped a bit onto the wall. Mustard, baby poop, harvest gold. I took a deep breath, reminded myself that context is everything and I was painting this over hated baby blue that was casting its icy spell over what I hoped was going to be a change to mellow yellow sunshine, and I worked on. 

Once the blue was gone the yellow showed its true character. It is good! And once I could see that, I remembered what I learned from my brief career in interior design. Perfection is a myth and its pursuit is a tyranny. I remembered customers and clients, unhappy people, who suffered over matching unmatchable colors and fretted over microscopic flaws in a wood finish or a small wrinkle in upholstery or the height of a lamp, all of which made me know that was not a world I could ever live in. Perfect rooms and flawless surfaces were not for me and, really, what a superficial and pointless way to spend one's life and gifts.  Not that I have anything against a pretty room—it just isn't worth obsessing over. 

So, as I painted I did not worry about the little sheet rock imperfections, or the slightly wobbly line where the wall color meets the white ceiling. It will soon be filled with our much-loved, but far from pristine accumulations of furniture and art and god-knows-what and our messy habits of shoes under the bed, and piles of books and magazines, and Kleenex boxes and phone chargers and too many pillows. Martha doesn't live here. It's a place to relax, rest and enjoy and It's all coming together in a perfectly imperfect, and warm mellow yellow way.