Thursday, October 30, 2014

Puzzle pieces


Here's today's progress on the Prado Bird. Fitting little puzzle pieces together. As I was working on this I was remembering all the broken tile mosaic work that we saw in Barcelona. From the tradition of exquisite Moorish tile in Spain, the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi used broken tiles to decorate his buildings and sculptural work. Here is part of the facade of his Casa Batllo.

The most incredible mosaics, though, were at Guell Park, a large park, designed by Gaudi. This big lizard greets you at the entrance.


The long serpentine bench was gloriously encrusted.

So as I was piecing together all those little bits of fabric it made me think of the craftsmen who carried out Gaudi's vision with all those little bits of tile. There is something incredibly satisfying about taking disparate pieces and working them into a whole. I felt a little kinship with those Gaudi craftsmen. You might remember the mosaic I made from broken tile for the center of our little patio. It's not Park Guell, but it's a start.

Bits and pieces. Scraps of fabric and broken tiles become birds and lizards and explosions of color. Pretty great when you think about it.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Getting Started

Have I ever mentioned how hard it is to start a new piece? There is a lot of contemplation that happens first, but then the actual process has to begin and drawing and cutting fabric and all that. I don't know why those first steps from concept to something material are so hard— so much like a leap into a cold lake— but they are. And, to extend that cold lake metaphor—once you've made the leap it all begins to feel increasingly more comfortable and soon the hesitation is forgotten and you are happily immersed.

The next High Fiber Diet theme requires that we use mostly neutral colors. Groooooooaan! I like my colors. I have some thoughts and plenty of inspiration from our trip, but I decided to make something small and neutral first just to get my eyes and brain into neutral gear.


The day we went to the Prado in Madrid I walked and walked that day. Coming out of the museum after nearly four hours of the most inspiring art, I sat myself down on the front steps of the museum and this little sparrow-ish bird lighted on the step below me and he looked like a painting. Or maybe everything looked like a painting just then. So today Prado Bird seemed like a good place to start exploring neutrals. I can see he is too fat, but I think my shirt plaids are sufficiently birdlike enough to work.


The stitching is helping to blend the fabrics.

So, I have begun. It's a good feeling.


The Prado


Friday, October 24, 2014

The "little old lady" syndrome


The worst part of aging is not what aging does to you, it is what younger people think it does to you. This is going to be kind of a rant. You have been warned.

A couple weeks ago I was volunteering, with a couple of other artists, at an art exhibit. I got talking to one of them, a woman probably ten or more years my junior, about her photography. She told me she was actually taking a lot of photos with her phone and editing them, using a photo app on her iPad. "Would you like me to show you how I do it?" she asked. Without waiting for an answer, she whipped out her iPad and proceeded to demonstrate photo editing, using an app called Snapseed. She showed me all this, as if I had never seen an iPad and wasn't aware that cameras no longer use film. She spoke slowly and precisely—so I could keep up, y'know. Irritating as this was, I kept quiet and followed along. " isn't that neat?!" she concluded. I agreed, and added that her app worked quite a lot like the Photogene app I use, but I was frustrated that I could not change the pixel size, with any precision, in Photogene and wondered if her app had a better resizing feature. I told her I need to resize my photos to use them most efficiently on my blog. "You have a blog?" she asked slowly. I could see something change in her face—perhaps she was actually seeing me for the first time. Perhaps she was no longer seeing a "little old lady" but a person with a reasonable grasp on technology and the modern world. We had a nice conversation then. (And no, as far as she knows, Snapseed isn't able to precisely resize photos either.)

I'm not a fool. Neither am I extraordinary. I am not telling you all this to brag about how smart and up-to-date I am—for an old lady. I am telling you that with a few exceptions ( which I'll get to—) my friends and I are pretty bright, capable and aware and know a hell of a lot more than even a lot of bright, capable and aware younger people might think. And, for what it's worth, I think we all get funnier and wiser as the years go by. I hate being treated like a little old lady. So generic. So boring. I started noticing it a long time ago. Somewhere around the age of fifty women become nearly invisible. It's not so much that we are treated badly as much as that we are ignored. And underestimated. And marginalized.

And it gets worse. We are being sabotaged from within.

I was at a meeting this week where we were told an absent member would join us via FaceTime. One of my contemporaries rolled her eyes and declared she had no idea what that meant, claiming she was "too old for all this new stuff!" Later in the meeting we were told about online resources and web site changes that were really useful to our group, to which this same woman gaily chuckled, "if you can find a young person to help you use it!" Tee hee. So I guess I can't blame people for thinking age makes it impossible to learn new things when people like this woman keep confirming it. But it isn't true. It is true that there are a few older people who haven't embraced technology, but it isn't because they are old and unable to learn. It is because they aren't interested, or haven't the need, or maybe just phobic about change, all of which are fine, but they use age as an excuse. And I wish they would stop it. They make us all look stupid.

(My all-time favorite New Yorker cartoon, BTW)

And if I had not posted my photo you probably wouldn't have known how old, or how young I am. And, to me it doesn't matter. How I look and how I communicate are unrelated. Isn't it ironic that technology and the internet may just be the best thing that has ever come along for leveling the field? Like the dog said, on the internet nobody knows you're a little old lady.

End of rant.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Back at it

The hard thing about taking a vacation is that it ends. Just. Like. That. Vacation is over and you are back to real life, which is all the more real, because things kind of piled up while you were gone.

I came back to two shows that needed my immediate attention. I had two pieces juried into the Beaverton Arts Mix, and had to deliver my work the day after we got home. It was a really good show, that lots of people came to see. My son-in-law, Carlos, had one of his paintings in the show too. Always great to have work in a Fine Arts show. Even though I didn't sell anything, I hope people are enjoying and learning about fiber art. People were interested and asked me a lot of questions. The show the next weekend was bad. Nice people, nice venue, no customers. I won't do that again.

Now I am getting ready for the Washington County Artists Open Studios this weekend. On Monday I got up at a really brutal hour and went to one of the other artist's studio for an early morning TV show feature about the tour. Here I am demonstrating and talking to "Joe on the go" from channel 12, about how I make my art.


We started at 5 am and went until about 8, with demos and interviews interspersed into the live morning news program. Who watches TV at that hour? Apparently quite a few people. Lots of people have told me they saw me.

Meanwhile, I have been writing a magazine article for a Dutch magazine, and cleaning and arranging my studio for the Open Studios.


I have hung as much work as I can and put small pieces out on tables.

I can demonstrate free-motion stitching on the same sample I used for the TV show, and show a small finished project, which is what I made for the magazine article. Nice to be able to make good use of these things! Can you tell by what I'm making that my head is still on vacation? And I still dream about Spain every night.



Friday, October 10, 2014


We took a day trip, from Lisbon to the town of Sintra one day. It was a short train ride from Lisbon. In the guidebooks it seems, always, to be described as the "romantic" town of Sintra, and it is certainly beautiful and charming.


There are three very interesting edifices to visit in Sintra, representing different periods of its long history. We started at the top of a large hill at the Pena Palace, built in the 18th century, by the then King Ferdinand. It is a colorful and extravagant place, filled to the brim with detail and whimsy and excess. There is a little sense of "Disney castle" about it and really a visual treat.




From there we wandered down the hill to the very romantic ruins of a Moorish Castle that dates back to the 7th or 8th century. Ray climbed up the many, many steps to the towers. I was tired. I watched from below.


Back down in the little town, we visited the National Palace, which was built in the 14th century and was used for many years as the summer palace. It is stately and grand and famed for the interesting and intricate ceilings.



This room is known as the "Swan Room". Each panel in the ceiling is a different swan painting. We loved Sintra and were exhausted at the end of the day. A lot of walking!

This the last of my place by place travelogue, but I took a lot of photos and you'll be seeing more in the coming weeks. We have been home for a week and a half now, but I still don't feel quite back into my old groove. Every night I dream about Spain. My internal clock has been slow to recover. Little by little my sleep cycle is getting back to Pacific time.

If I have one piece of advice regarding travel, it is simply, Go! See the world. And for heavens sake, don't be afraid. We travel on our own because we like doing it that way, but a lot of people love traveling with a tour. You are warned of pickpockets and scams and it is always wise to keep your wits about you, but we had no problems, other than the one caused by our own ignorance of the passport restrictions of some countries. Thanks for coming along. We had a grand adventure!


Monday, October 06, 2014

Lisbon highlights

As I mentioned, Lisbon was hard to wrap our minds around, so we sought out their local hop-on, hop-off tourist bus. We really found these a great way to get an overview of a city, with facts and lore via their recorded commentaries. On the day we took the bus we elected to hop off at the Gulbenkian Art Museum for a couple hours. This museum is really wonderful, with a great progression of art through the ages, in a beautiful, modern building. The collection is very manageable and doesn't just kill you getting through it. ( I love the Prado, but I'm telling you, you have to really figure out what you want to see. You could never manage the whole thing in one go.) The Gulbenkian has, however, some real treasures—Rembrandt and Rubens, Manet and Monet and a dazzling little collection of Lalique ornaments.


Back on the bus, we viewed more of the city and hopped off again in the historic Belem area at the Monastery of San Jeronimo, and the tomb of Vasco de Gama.


Back on the bus, we passed by the Belem tower, the Monument to the Age of Discovery, the Tagus River and the 25th of April bridge and nearby Corpus Christi statue.


Later we walked through the Baixa area, downtown, down to the river and back, enjoying street performers and lovely shops.

Lisbon is a very mixed bag of memories...

Incredible graffiti,


Whimsical details,


Chestnut vendors

Neighborhood churches with beautiful details,


Incredible food.

I think there is a lot to discover in Lisbon. We probably barely scratched the surface. I guess that means we need to go back someday...