Thursday, December 19, 2019

Old dog, new trick

 This last year has been a creative one for me.I took two great classes this year, both of which pushed me in a new direction. The first, with Betty Busby, led to the purchase of a Silhouette cutting machine, which is my favorite new toy and has been in pretty continuous use since June. The class I took in September, with Mary Hettsmansperger, introduced me to the great fun of working with copper, and after that introduction I bought myself a torch and tools and supplies and have been noodling around with them. I made copper earrings for my STASH friends, using what I’ve figured out. 

In addition to what I learned in the class, I peruse the internet,especially YouTube, which is just a trove of information and tips and tricks. Several days ago I was looking at copper jewelry videos and came upon something ASTOUNDING!—well, to me at least. People are out there making etched copper jewelry, using etching masks that they cut on their Silhouette cutting machines. Worlds collide! My two, current, most favorite things working together. I had to try this. The stuff I was seeing online was wonderful. But I knew nothing about etching copper, so onto YouTube I went and learned all about it and I got scared. It involves acid. Bad acid. I am not acquainted with acid, except for horrible stories about people being disfigured by having acid thrown on them, or gruesome stories about body parts dissolved in acid. And I never studied chemistry where I might have learned something about it. Somehow I managed to get through both high school and college without a chemistry class. So yesterday I screwed up my courage and went shopping for acid and chemical gloves from the hardware store and Pyrex containers from the thrift store and hydrogen peroxide from the drugstore and today I was ready to etch. 

I had cut a small snowflake, from adhesive backed vinyl, with my cutter and stuck it to a piece of copper sheet that I had prepared. I covered the back and edges with packing tape and made a tab of packing tape that I could use to lift my copper piece into and out of the acid bath. The snowflake sticker and tape would protect the copper where they were placed. The uncovered areas would be etched by the acid. A bucket of water and baking soda were standing by to neutralize the acid when it was done. Since I was going to need good ventilation, and it was raining outside, I worked in the greenhouse, with window and both doors open and fan on. 

I prepared the mixture of hydrogen peroxide and Muriatic acid in my glass bowl, then carefully lowered the copper piece into the acid mixture. 

Soon I could see bubbles forming on the surface and the acid mixture began to turn green. After about 25 minutes I pulled it out and dunked it into the soda and water to neutralize and stop the action. 

I dried it off, cleaned up all the etching stuff, and went to the studio where I painted it with ammonia and salt to give the etched area a little patina. When that dried I removed the tape and the snowflake vinyl, which did not come off easily. I used a pin to pick it off a chunk at a time. It is interesting. I expected the etched area to be a little rough, but it’s smooth and lower than the unetched places. 

Then I polished it with fine steel wool and I’m pretty pleased!

I’m looking forward to more! I’m excited and not so scared of acid anymore. I am an old dog, but I can still learn something new. And my little copper snowflake? I think I’ll put a pin back on it and pin it to my coat. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Rising Star—Me?

Forty-some years ago, while my children slept, late at night, I would spread my fabrics and sketchbooks out on my dining room table and work on the designs in my head, for ways to combine art and design and fabrics. I wasn’t quite sure where I was headed, but I had seen things others were doing that inspired me and though I had studied drawing and painting and printmaking, I knew that fabric was my medium. Little did I suspect how long I would follow that path or where it would lead. Then it was just my late night guilty indulgence that fitted in between children and family and daytime job and kept me feeling that my education had not been in vain and my creative side was still alive somewhere inside me.  

Early last spring I got a call from Becky Navarro, the head of special exhibits at the International Quilt Festival, inviting me to share a special exhibit with Maria Shell, a well-know quilt artist from Alaska and my fellow member of the Cloth in Common, International Art Quilt Group. We had been selected as “Rising Stars.” I was amazed and confused and very honored. Rising Star—me? It made me laugh! It has been a very long, slow rise if that is the case. And never have I thought of myself as a Star. Maybe a lifelong learner, maybe lucky, maybe persistent. I’m quiet and spend my days pretty much alone in my studio in the woods, and I’m 73 years old for goodness sake (!) but if they want to call me a rising star, I think I’ll take it.

So I arrived in Houston late on October 30th, shared a ride to my hotel with two quilters from Connecticut and checked into my hotel room, with a view of the stadium out my window, where the last game of the World Series was playing out down below. I texted this photo to my son, who I knew was watching the game on TV back in Oregon. 

It all seemed a little surreal. 

I headed to the convention center the next morning where I was taken to our exhibit. My quilts had been shipped months before and were beautifully hung, with Maria’s in our exhibit. Here’s the view of the exhibits, from above. Our exhibit is somewhere out there in the middle. 

It was beautiful! Twenty three of my quilts. 

For the next three days I wandered through the vast center, viewing all the exhibits and periodically returning to our exhibit to visit with people who stopped to look and to give several scheduled gallery talks. Though the QuiltFestival is primarily a show, rather than a sale, quilts can be listed for sale. To my very great and pleasant surprise, 9 of my quilts were sold. I had the pleasure of meeting some of the new owners. 

This is the lady who purchased “The Moon is a Mirror”

And this man, who lives in Utah told me he he knew exactly where this scenery is 
and he purchased “Utah Train” as a gift for his wife. 

The annual International Quilt Festival is held every year in Houston, is the largest exhibit of quilts, both traditional and art quilts, in the world, and draws thousands of visitors from around the world each year. Part of the thrill for me was seeing old friends, meeting online friends going back twenty years, sometimes for the first time face to face, and meeting quilters and artists whose work I have long admired. Every time I entered or left the convention hall I stopped to admire the exquisite display of blue and white quilts hung in honor of the 45th, sapphire anniversary of International Quilt Festival. It was breathtaking and a tribute to the history of what began as “women’s work” of creating beauty in the useful objects of home and now encompasses both that sturdy tradition as well as its evolution into the realm of fine art. 

As I made my way around the exhibited work I marveled at the creativity, beauty, humor, heartfelt messages and all the glorious color. Making my way around the work presented by our professional organization, SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) I was enjoying, especially, the retrospective exhibit called “Layered and Stitched” when I came upon a quilt by my first art quilt hero, Jean Ray Laury, “Listen to Your Mother.”  It was her work, 40 years ago, that showed me what was possible for me. She is gone, but it warmed my heart, and almost made me cry, to see her cheerful, witty work lives on and still delights viewers at the biggest quilt show in the world.  I was proud to know my work was hanging alongside hers. 

The whole thing is now a very sweet memory—something I will be forever grateful for.  The people that put on this amazing show are the best of the best. Every detail is perfect and they are all the nicest, most efficient, most really, really good at their jobs people you will ever encounter. They did it. They made me feel like a Star. 

Thank you. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Returning to Italy

Yes, I did begin to blog about our trip to Italy in April and then months just got away from me, as they seem to do more and more, but I have returned and I’m remembering our first trip to Italy in 1972 and our return to Italy this year, 47 years later. 

In 1972 Ray and I had been married for less than two years and had little money but a burning desire to see Europe. Ray was teaching and I had accepted a teaching job for that fall, so that summer we were unencumbered, had saved as much as possible of our meager paychecks and we had a plan. We ordered a new Volkswagon Beetle, bright yellow, that we picked up at the factory in Germany and bought camping gear in Berlin. It was a grand summer, and by the time we got to Italy we were pretty skilled travelers. We were thrilled by Rome and Venice and  Pisa and Florence, so when we got to Milan  it seemed a bit drab by comparison. And it was raining. I clearly remember the grandeur of the cathedral in Milan and the fact that it was black. 

But it is not black. And probably never was. 

When we saw it again in April I couldn’t believe my memory could have been so faulty. I took to the internet and learned it was cleaned between our visits.  Old photos showed it dark and dirty, but not the black I remembered. Maybe it was the rain? Maybe it was my brain. Nevertheless, a magnificent piece of art and architecture. 

We were not camping this time, but staying in a modest, but quiet and comfortable Air BnB in a nice neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. 

Just down the street was a charming coffee bar near the train station and our short train ride into the center of Milan. 

Despite its ancient, grand architecture, Milan is a very modern city, the centers of business and innovative design. We were, coincidentally there during “Design Week” and got to enjoy some exciting special exhibits as we walked around the city. 

Store windows were filled with beautiful displays. 

This big public sculpture of a threaded needle (sorry, I cut off the top) pays honor to Milan’s fashion industry. 

I remembered the beautiful covered shopping gallery across from the cathedral from 47 years ago. It was filled with small shops. I bought a book in English on our first trip—“The Exorcist”—then scared myself silly reading it at night in our tent! There are no sweet little bookshops there now, only Designer showrooms. 

We spent our last day in Milan wandering through the Monumental Cemetary. We missed that back in ‘72 and were glad we found it this time. Incredibly moving and beautiful. And, like our long ago time in Milan, it was raining. 

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Last month we went to Italy...

We take a “big” trip almost every year. For several years now we’ve gone with organized tours, which have been wonderful, but this year we decided to revert to our old way of traveling on our own. Our first trip together was a summer in Europe in 1972, when we bought a Volkswagen Beetle in Germany and drove it around Europe.  It was a great trip, despite our being young and naive and making some mistakes. We had our copy of “Europe on $5 a Day,” our car, a tent and a sleeping bag. We survived, had a wonderful time and came home with our appetites whetted for seeing more of the world.

One of our favorite places in 1972 was Italy, so 47 years later, it seemed like it was time to return.  We would revisit a couple of favorite cities and explore some new ones.

From recent trips we’ve learned that flying from Oregon to Europe in one continuous go is brutal, especially for old people, so it seemed prudent to break it up. Maybe a day in New York, coming and going would help. (It did!). When I learned, months ago, that the Brooklyn Museum would be hosting the exhibit of Frida Kahlo’s work, historic photos, clothing and other artifacts at the same time we were to be there it seemed like it was all meant to be. I am such a fan! So we booked a hotel in Brooklyn near the museum and arrived on a crisp spring day.

Brooklyn was lovely. We walked around, enjoying the charming neighborhoods, then found the museum, where we waited for our ticket time in the vast lobby.

The Frida exhibit was wonderful! Photography was not allowed inside the exhibit until until the very end where you could take a photo with Frida, so I will just direct you to the Brooklyn Museum page about the exhibit, which gives a good overview here

We left the museum, found a late lunch, retrieved our luggage from our hotel then headed to the airport for our overnight flight to Milan. 

Goodbye Brooklyn! Goodbye Frida! Our visit was short, but oh, so sweet...

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Everybody has one...

An opinion? A belly button? No—a website! And now I have mine.

This was a New Year’s resolution, to finally build an online home for my stuff. It was probably good that I waited so long because it is finally easy. I tried creating a site years ago and gave up—way too fiddly, but the modern website builders are really user friendly. What I did wait years too long for, however, was to buy a domain name, using just my name. All the other Terry Grants in the world had snapped up the easy ones, like (international stunt driver!) and even some slightly more obscure ways of using the name. Disappointed, but not surprised. Over coffee, one morning, my husband, son and I brainstormed and Ray suggested “terrygrantastic”. It was available, and thus my new identity was born— I hope that’s memorable enough. 

Check me out!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Here we go again...

Copyright. Intellectual property theft. My work is mine, not yours. Why is all of this so hard to understand? Someone made a copy of my campfire quilt, above, and posted it on her blog and on Instagram and even entered it into a contest, all without my knowledge or permission. I won’t reveal her name or show you her copy. I’m not out to shame her or embarrass her here, but rather to just continue to help spread the word that, common though this practice is, it is unacceptable. I truly think that most of the people who copy the work of artists are not doing it for malicious reasons. They are well-meaning people who would be shocked at the idea that they have committed a theft. But the theft of intellectual property is theft in the same way shop-lifting, pirating movies and plagiarizing are theft. It is illegal and it is unethical. They will protest “but I gave you credit” or “I’m not trying to make money off of it.” And, yes, this copier said both, though the mention of where she got this image was buried pretty deep, but that’s not the point. The point is I did not give her permission to use my work. 

“What’s the harm?” you might ask. Maybe I seem petty, getting upset over such a small thing. After all there are artists who have been ripped off in far more harmful ways. Paula Nadelstern, for example, had her original designs ripped off by a big carpet manufacturer and used on carpeting in a large Houston hotel. She sued, and won.  So the possibility of such brazen theft that financially benefits the thief is one harm. The other, I see, is that the small-time copier may not gain financially, but she gains in reputation and credibility for a skill she doesn’t have. When I discovered the copy posted on Instagram, there were complimentary comments, praising her imagination and skill.  It hurts, a little, to see that. It was tempting to leave my own comment, but I didn’t. And the real harm is that if people aren’t called out for this, it goes on and on and grows ever more common.  I am far from the only person this happens to. In my online communications with other fabric artists I read about it ALL THE TIME and everyone hates it. 

Artists work hard. A piece like the one above requires weeks in planning, experimenting, making design decisions, discarding what’s not working, picking out tight little stitches and redoing sections. There was a lot of invention in that piece. It was a lengthy process. The woman who made the copy wrote that hers was made in less than a week. I had already done the hard part. I’ve never made another one like it and probably never will. I have no desire to see other versions or copies. It is one of a kind, which is kind of what art is. I’m proud of it. It might be one of the best things I’ve ever made. I sold it to a woman who truly loves it, which is the highest compliment I could get. Does this help you understand how I feel about it and how I feel about seeing a poorly executed copy?

So, I say, if you really, really want to copy someone else’s work, really think about what you are doing, then if you just can’t help yourself, make that copy and hang it in your bedroom, but don’t show it to anyone else. Don’t enter it in a show, don’t enter it in a contest and, for goodness sake, don’t post it all over the internet with your own contact name and information watermarked prominently on the photo. Just DON’T.  

Sue Siefkin pointed me to this brilliant chart  explaining intellectual property theft, designed by Ginger Davis Allman.  It covers it pretty well. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Taking Care of Business

This is what I’ve been feverishly working on these past three weeks. It is my submission for the Oregon SAQA exhibit, “The Edge.”  It is called “At Home at the Edge of the Continent” and my interpretation of my Oregon experience of “the edge”. I decided to take a chance on another 3-dimensional piece and had a lot of fun figuring out how to make a 15” tall wing chair. Lots of false starts and horrible messes ended up in the trash along the way. Two sets of legs were failures, before I finally made these paper mache ones. 

I haven’t had great success with this Regional SAQA show. My last two submissions didn’t make it, but I’m trying again.  I completed the online submission today. I realize that, for whatever reason, this particular show seems to favor dramatic, abstract work, so I might, once again, be too far out of step here, but it was what I wanted to do, and it makes me smile. It’s a tribute to my pioneer forebears, who came by wagon and by ship, to find a home out here on the edge, and my own journey to Oregon so many years later. 

So, one deadline down and one to go. Then on to some “unbound” projects!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019


For the past 11 years I have chosen a word for the year rather than making any rash resolutions. This year I thought long and hard and had a hard time finding a word that suited my current state of mind, my hopes and intentions for the near future and how I was feeling about myself and my work. My words have mostly related to the kind of art I was wanting to make in the coming year. Honestly, my thinking lately has been more about the things, related to my work, that I don’t want to do. Here’s the thing—I spend a lot, really most, of my art making creating work for specific exhibits that tell me a theme to follow and a size the work must be. In addition, there’s a deadline, of course. I am bound by the parameters set forth. Bound. While it’s always a thrill to be asked or chosen, I am feeling itchy to do something different, of my own choosing, maybe altogether new. 

I’m signed up for two exciting classes this year. Where might those lead? I have ideas I want to try. I have different expectations than I did 10 years ago. I want the freedom to follow an unknown, meandering path. I’m older and slower, but still engaged and no longer feel the drive to do more, more, more; become famous; win prizes and recognition; travel in lofty circles. While I will probably be responding to the call of the big exhibits, it will take much more to tempt me in. I am loving the idea of small, experimental, local and community-oriented. I long for a space of time unbound by rules about sizes and conforming to themes and meeting deadlines, and packaging and mailing requirements. And so, the word is UNBOUND. My little banner of declaration hangs on my studio wall with all those more ambitious words of past years. 

So, how to accomplish this “unbinding” process? One of my last acts of 2018 was to turn down an invitation to submit work to an impressive-sounding national exhibit. The people organizing it are terrific. The theme is intriguing. I’m sure it will be excellent. It was pretty tempting, but the size requirement for the piece is so big I knew it would dominate a huge chunk of time and energy, and I would have all those rules and restrictions— my new mindset took over and I said “no” without regret. The same day, I bought a book about a printmaking technique I’m eager to try, so “yes” to learning something new and having the time to experiment!

Another plus to fewer big exhibit projects is that most of them prohibit sharing ones work-in-progress online, which has frustrated me. I hope to be blogging more about what I’m currently on, so check in from time to time and see what I’m up to!

Happy New Year all! I am hoping, fervently, that this coming year will be one of hope and renewal.