Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Memory of Summer

Here is the finished piece, A Memory of Summer, 16" x 23". When I posted it, this week, on Facebook, there were questions. I'll try to answer them here.

I'm pretty happy with this piece, especially my decision to change my mind about appliquéing those branches and instead, embroidering them directly on the pieced background. It worked well and did not take as long as I had feared. The branches were done freestyle—I just made them up as I went along, after studying some real branches and getting a feel for branch structure.

The bowl and the berries were embroidered on separate pieces of fabric, then appliquéd onto the background. I did it this way for a couple reasons. First I wanted them to really sit in front of the background, without being affected by the texture of the background and second, to incorporate an outline of darker fabric around these pieces.

The bowl was cut from white fabric, minimally attached with washable school glue to a dark gray fabric, then backed with tear away stabilizer. I used three shades of perle cotton to embroider the bowl, again in an unplanned way, shading inward from the edges.

This part was pretty labor intensive and done over many evenings in front of the TV. While I am pleased with the result, I'm not sure it was worth all the hours spent. I have some ideas for different, less intense, approaches to something similar.

This photo illustrates how I made the berries (rose hips?). The shapes, cut from fabric, were lightly glued to the gray background, backed with stabilizer, then embroidered over. I cut them out, with a gray margin around each, then stitched them in place on the branches.

This uses ideas I want to continue exploring. I was able to avoid, or work around, many of the problems I am still experiencing with my vision, except that my attempts at clean, accurate machine quilting of the background fell somewhat short of my usual proficiency. I need to rethink that part. Rather than being a stumbling block, I am finding a joy in discovering that I can still work at something I love, and rediscovering something I have always known—there is no one right way to do something.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Trial and error, moving forward

I am working on a new piece, using the same general scheme as my last—the pieced background with embroidered elements as foreground. In my last post I showed what I had started for this new one. I was embroidering branches that would be embroidered on a separate piece of fabric, then cut out and appliquéd to the background. I was doing it this way, rather than embroidering directly on the background to give it more dimension and in order to create the dark outline I so love. I spent hours and hours on those branches and then when I started appliquéing them on the pieced background they looked terrible.

They are thick, hairy and clunky. Not at all what I was envisioning. (You can also see, in this closeup that I am still having vision problems. Machine stitching is still so hard to see as I work...)

I remembered that on the previous piece I embroidered the roots directly on the background, so I tried a bit of that.

I think I like it much better! Will it work with the berries that I intend to add later?

Yes, I think so!

I am working in a new way that seems to accommodate my current visual limitations and I am enjoying the challenge! Maybe we all need to get thrown a little off balance occasionally in order to exercise our ability to adapt and find new ways of doing what we do and being who we are. That is really what life is, right? Two steps forward, one step back is still progress!

And sew it goes...

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My new piece for Cloth in Common

This is the piece I was talking about in my last post and now I can post it. It is my response to the second challenge for the new online group, Cloth in Common, that I joined. You can see and read about all the responses to the "touch" challenge on the group blog here. It is shaping up to be a good group!

I found this piece to be a real joy to work on and am working on another using traditional piecing and embroidery techniques. I will be posting some photos soon. Meanwhile, here is a shot of some of the embroidery I am doing for the new piece. I might have been overly ambitious about this part of it. It's going to take me awhile...

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Inner piece...

What with all this eye business, including two surgeries and a million appointments and tests and drops and fiddle-dee-dee, this has not been a very productive year artwise. I basically took the summer off. When I tried to to do a little sewing I found it harder than expected. I just was not seeing very well. I couldn't clearly focus on my sewing machine's needle. I was seeing two needles, unless I took my glasses off and got as close as possible to where the action was, just short of risking that I would accidentally sew through the end of my nose. Doing something like this made me cross-eyed, cranky and exhausted.

You can probably imagine how (not) conducive this was to the creative process. Most saddening of all, was when I felt like it was really time to get back to work I was empty. No ideas, no excitement. I puttered away at a new take on an old idea, but the result left me feeling even more uninspired. Perhaps I was finished with art quilting. I could retire to knit, read, write, travel! I cleaned up the studio, opened my doors for my sixth (maybe last?) Open Studio Tour and wondered what was next.

Then one day I went out to the studio and began pulling fabrics out of my collection of solids until there was a stack that made me a little giddy with the color and I started cutting triangles—I've always had a thing about triangles—then making stacks of triangles that I began sewing randomly together. And it made me happy. Matching up two triangles and sewing a quarter inch seam didn't even require my eyes to work that well—I can do this in the dark—well, almost, although it's been years since I actually "pieced" a quilt in this traditional way.

The more triangles I sewed, the better I felt and I began to see actual possibilities for this to be something more than therapy! That night as I was drifting off to sleep I saw that it needed handwork, embroidery, another something I haven't done for years, something soft as counterpoint to the geometry of the triangles. And so I've come full circle, back to the basic skills I learned long ago. You will be seeing it soon. I think this small piece is leading me both backward and forward at the same time.

Maybe it's my new thing. Maybe not. But now I'm working up a stack of log cabin blocks and they are looking pretty great. My happy is back, for now anyway.

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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Thank You!

This morning I made this donation of all the money paid directly to me. In addition to this amount I received messages from an another seven people that they had donated directly to One America in response to my previous post. I figure we have, together, contributed right around $1000. Thank you all, so much for your support!

I am reading that power is slowly being restored to all three islands, roads are being cleared and medical supplies have arrived, but there are still many people missing or unaccounted for, all water still needs to be boiled and they have not been able to remove garbage and storm debris which is choking the system and posing health risks. I like to think we are able to do some small amount of good there.

I still have prints and you can continue to contribute—just go back to this post for the details.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

The US Virgin Islands

In 1992 Ray first went to the US Virgin Islands as a consultant, managing the implementation of a new student information system at the University of the Virgin Islands on the island of St. Thomas. Talk about a dream job! Well, it was actually hard work and not always a dream, but he fell in love with the place and the people, and when I was able to visit, so did I. After that initial job ended he stayed in touch and over the past 25 years he has returned numerous times for special projects at the university. We have made friends and shared in many memorable and beautiful adventures in that bit of paradise and have watched in horror as so much of it has been destroyed by Hurricanes this past month. Very alarming to me, has been the lack of attention the USVI has received from the news and the US government. I know—between hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and even that volcano in the South Pacific, it's hard to know who needs help first or most. Everyone needs it. Most of us can't do much, but each of us can do something.

When Ray made that first trip, in 1992, I made the quilt, above, as a gift for him. It is called "Red Roofs of Charlotte Amalie." Charlotte Amalie is the main town on St. Thomas, famous for the beautiful, old white, shuttered houses with their distinctive red roofs. It was the first art quilt I ever entered in a juried show and it won a prize! It's old now, but still one of my favorites. It was made with love and has a lot of meaning. Last week I had prints of the quilt made to offer to anyone who would like to make a donation to Hurricane relief for The US Virgin Islands. Today's email from a friend in St. Thomas paints a grim picture of widespread destruction and difficulty. He writes:

"I've been working to replace the roofs that were blown off the small detached apartment. I'm sort of re engineering it to make it stronger so it won't happen again in the next hurricane. Getting plywood and screws has been a challenge. Fortunately I already owned many tools or this would be even more daunting. I'm replying to this now because it's raining again and I had to stop working outside.

I believe about 10 percent of St Thomas has electricity. St John is zero percent and St Croix is similar to here. I think about half of St Thomas has cell coverage and none on St John. There is a curfew between 7pm and 5am here. Other islands are different. There are still power lines and other debris on the roadways making travel dangerous. There are no traffic signals and most traffic signs are gone. Home Depot isn't really open other than for some lumber because of damage. Cost U Less is closed, a Costco knock off. There are lines at the gas stations that are open. Lines at banks and ATMs. To acquire anything may take all day. Few places have a connection to run credit cards. This is a cash economy. It's very weird.

I myself have bad days and worse days. I try not to think about what all has happened. It's too overwhelming. I'm trying to focus on fixing the apartment to get it rented and then fix the leaks in my house and then find full employment to see where that leaves me. My boat is so damaged I can't even sail away.....

Life is hard here. Many have left with no intention of returning. The numbers of homeless, jobless and prospect less is astounding."

So, here's my deal, my small "something"—make a donation of $10, or more to hurricane relief specifically designated for the USVI, and I will send you a 5" x 7" print of "Red Roofs..." I am donating the cost of printing and mailing, so your entire donation will benefit the Islands. Here are three ways you can do this:

  1. Use this PayPal button for your donation to my PayPal account. I will transfer all proceeds to the One America Fund, established by our five living past US presidents, for hurricane relief to the US Virgin Islands. (Be sure you include your name and mailing address. )

  2. Make your donation directly to the One America Fund (, designating it for the Virgin Islands, then email me with your mailing address so I can send your print.
  3. Visit me in my studio during the Washington County Artists Open Studio Tour next weekend (October 21 & 22), see the original quilt on display, make a donation and take home your print.

Everything helps, Small donations add up. Maybe, between us, we can donate enough to restore at least one of those red roofs! It will be beautiful and safe again and I hope you will see it all for yourself someday. Thank you.

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Summer winding down

Coming toward the official end of summer and I'm feeling I'm due for some kind of a "reboot". My friend June has been taking a summer break from her artistic practice in a purposeful and declared way. I did not declare or intend, but seem to have taken the summer off from what passes for "work" as well. Not much to show on the fiber art front and the blog has been pretty pathetic. Sorry about that. Or maybe not sorry. It's been a pretty great summer.

Two weeks ago my post was "part 1" of my vacation photos, which kind of implied there would be a part 2. Well, I went back to look at what photos I had taken with grandkids at Universal Studios and Los Angeles, and found I had taken very few. That was because we were having too good a time! And I'm OK with that. The pictures are all in my head. I will tell you that I loved Universal Studios and I am not a fan of theme parks AT ALL. The Harry Potter portion of the park is truly spectacular and was such a thrill for Sofia, who has read and adored every single HP book, that the rest of us couldn't help seeing it through her eyes and feeling some magic there.

We had barely recovered from the big California adventure when we hit the road again. When Ray and I realized that the family cabin that my Dad built, and my brother now owns, was within the eclipse path of totality we decided that was a great excuse to head to Idaho, last week, for a visit with brother Steve and SIL, Brenda, and a trip to the cabin. Favorite people, favorite place.

This is where I feel most in the heart of my childhood memories and the spirit of my parents. Steve and Brenda have made it their own, while preserving its heart and soul.

It has been a summer of heat and smoke, flowers and gardens and fresh vegetables, kids and their new dog, dinners on the deck, friends, family, frogs singing in the night, and shouting, joyful kid-sounds ringing through the neighborhood.

There have been magic moments: a young wizard receives her wand; four old folks sit at the edge of a mountain lake and watch the shadow of the moon move across the sun, suddenly extinguishing its light, and briefly, the stars come out and a shout of joy goes up from around the lake.

Another summer almost done. Once kids go back to school I think I'll be ready to go back to work. I'm beginning to wonder where I'll start...

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Very Fun Vacation, part 1

Los Angeles. Just those two words strike fear in my heart. As Ray says, it's a love/hate thing. Love the many amazing things to see and do. Love the weather. Hate the freeways, traffic, confusion. Hate the weather. I thought I had "done" Southern California, with no need to return. I sort of cherished that idea. "I've been there, had a great time, seen a lot, survived the experience and never have to do that again." But then my daughter announced that at the end of their trip to Ecuador to visit family, they were considering a several-day layover in Los Angeles. Their kids had never been to any of the attractions. Wouldn't that be fun? So we had to agree it would be, and Ray and I made our plans to meet them there.

Ray and I arrived two days ahead of the family, so we could do some of our favorite things first. We spent a day at the Getty Museum—in my opinion the very best reason to go to LA and risk life and limb on the freeway. Without a lot of explanation, let me just say it is a museum experience like nothing else, combining natural beauty, architectural genius and great art. The featured exhibits were in celebration of David Hockney's 80th birthday, and were perfection, but did not allow photography.

That evening we met Karen and Ted Rips for dinner and had a great visit! It was, in all, a wonderful day.

The next day we headed down to Olivera Street, where Los Angeles was born. We toured the oldest house in Los Angeles, browsed the Mexican wares in the shops and market and enjoyed an overpriced, but tasty lunch. When in Los Angeles one must go to Olivera Street. It never changes.

Then—a return to someplace very special.

Many years ago I read a story about a man, Simon Rodia, who, over many years, built fantastical structures and mosaics of found objects and broken crockery, in his humble garden in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. In the early '80s, we took our kids to Disneyland and I persuaded Ray to help me find the Watts Towers, as they had come to be known. We drove through a sketchy area of LA, guided by a paper map, with our two small children, and found it—one of the most magical things I had ever seen. I have thought about it for all these years, so on our recent trip we returned to see it again. It has not lost its magic. (For more information go to

My heart was happy. My California to-do list complete. Tomorrow the family arrives and Phase 2 of our California adventure begins!

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Summertime, little things

Aren't summer mornings the best? Before I'm even awake, I can hear the sprinklers' "sh-sh-sh-sh" and am aware of a little, fragrant breeze coming through the window screen and ruffling the bedroom curtains. Such a better way to wake up than to dim grey skies and rain. Awwwww

I'm having a lazy summer. Knitting, puttering, finishing projects and working on little things. My eye is nearly healed, but my vision isn't great. I'll need a new glasses prescription once the second eye surgery is done and healed and in the meantime it's hard to focus, especially for long periods of stitching. I'm practicing patience—never one of my stronger assets. Here's a bigger, little piece.

It's about 13"x15". Small pieces that are unframed run the risk of looking like placemats or hotpads, so I'm always looking for ways to give hem a little more presence. This one has a dowel with a wire hanger. The two littler chairs, below, have wire hangers.

I've had fun bending wire and concocting these hangers, but I'm still not sure I like them. What do you think? Hokey? Too rustic? Art is all an experiment...

Last week we went to California and met up with our grandchildren and their parents. I think my next post will be called "The Very Fun California Adventure and We Lived to Tell the Tale". I have photos to go through. Stay tuned...

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Guiding Principles revisited

Today my Facebook "Memories" brought up a blog post I made four years ago and in rereading it, I found I still like the advice I gave myself back then. I had been struggling with this piece.

Actually it doesn't look that bad to me now, but back then the blue house in the foreground was just not working for me and I had overworked it to the point of having lost any sense of freshness and spontaneity. After all that and some anxious anticipation, I did what I knew had to be done.

I have not regretted that decision, and the real value was in defining for myself, my artistic values. They still work for me. So I am glad to share them once again, and again, reiterate that you may disagree, but perhaps in agreeing or disagreeing you will discover what your personal guides are.

So—the post from 2013....

Guiding Principles

I am cutting it off. The only logical solution, really.

Thanks for all the input and comments. Some of you got what I was after, some did not. The more I looked at it, the more I realized the basic flaw in the blue house part of the composition was that the blue house was just too dominant, too big and too much of a distraction from what were my favorite parts of the piece. Suggestions for adding things like vines and paint and layers of stuff were well-intentioned, but those things would not solve the underlying problem, and would probably only make it worse. I appreciate those of you who said to cut it off. I knew that was the best route to take and it was nice to hear support for that. The suggestion to put it aside and deal with it later was sound. I had already done that. This was the "later."

Less is more. Really it is. I keep forgetting, I guess. So I am making myself a list of rules—no, I won't call them rules. They are "guiding principles." You can ignore them in your own work, or argue with them if you like, but I think defining my own principles is a good way to remember what I already really knew.

1. Composition is the first and most important element. Once you are well into a piece it is hard to change the composition. Spend the time at the beginning to work it out and save yourself some grief later. Composition, composition, composition.

2. Color is important, value is even more important. Exciting art has deep darks and sparkling lights. Too often we are bogged down in the middle tones and that is the way to boring work.

3. Be true to your materials. Fabric art should look like fabric. Paint should look like paint. Paper should look like paper, etc. etc. Fabric cannot do all that paint can do. Paint cannot do what fabric does. Let the materials speak and listen.

4. Doing more is usually not the answer. Less is more. Simple is good. No amount of paint, glitz, buttons, beads, embroidery will fix a bad design. Embellishment should be part of a plan, not a band-aid.

5. Know your strengths and work with them. Just because other people love to make grand, immense work, doesn't mean I have to. Smaller and more focused is my place of greater strength. Large is not my best way of working.

6. Be authentic. Let your own style evolve by paying attention to what works best for you, what feels most honest and the feedback you get from trusted colleagues. Being inspired by the work of others helps you define yourself, but copying others just masks your own voice. Know the difference.

7. Filter what you hear from others. Advice is nice, but consider the source. Praise is lovely, but realize that most of your friends tell you what you want to hear. Questions are often more illuminating than answers.

8. Don't let the work become too precious. Always be willing to throw something away that isn't working. Or cut it up. Or give to the cat to sleep on. Some things are just practice. Not everything needs to see the light of day. But before you do any of these things analyze it and learn from it.

9. Base your analysis in sound practice. Go back to the elements and principles of design and ignore the theories of the proponents of "winging it."

10. Don't be lazy. "Good enough" is lazy if you can work a little harder and actually make it better. Do it right.

This is a start. I'm sure I will remember or discover others. Maybe I need to print them and post them in my studio. Do you have rules or guiding principles you try to incorporate into your work? I'd love to hear about them.

Posted by Terry Grant at 3:23 PM, July 14, 2013

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Saturday, July 01, 2017

What's in, what's out

I am getting 2 quilts ready to submit, for consideration, to our next High Fiber Diet show, and 2 more for the Beaverton Art Mix show, and have been juried in and out of 3 more shows in the past couple of weeks. It's a nerve-racking season! Getting in is great, not getting in is kind of lousy and demoralizing despite the reasons and the rational knowledge of the odds.

First the good news. "Luna Moth" will be in the Dinner@8 show called Personal Iconography which will debut at International Quilt Festival in Houston in November. I'm very happy. I chose an image that could show off the kinds of elements that have become my own personal marks and stamp—my overdyed shirt fabrics, my doodle stitching, dark outlines and painted elements.

Not making the cut were my entry for Threads of Resistance, called "Stronger Together", which was my comment on immigration and my sincere belief that our country's diversity and foundation in immigration is what makes us strong and open and tolerant as a culture and as individuals. Honestly, I am not satisfied with the faces, and there were hundreds of entries for a limited number of slots, so I can't be too upset. I'm glad I made it and wish I were happier with it.

And my entry for Oregon SAQA's Bridge exhibit, called "Build that Bridge". Okay, I knew from the outset that this was really a long shot! While the call allowed for 3-dimensional work, I was pretty sure this would be seen more as a doll than a figurative sculpture. Then, too, I was really pushing the Bridge theme. Love is a bridge? Maybe. So, why did I go this route? Because this was what I was wanting to make at the time. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. No regrets. Still, I would have been really happy to have her as part of that show!

So, one out of three isn't bad, and Luna Moth is the one I would have chosen if I thought only one of them would make it.

Now back to the next round of entries...

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