Tuesday, May 19, 2020

What I did on my Coronavirus vacation (so far...)

Here we are, well into our third month of staying at home, doing our best to avoid getting, and, or spreading the virus. Since we’ve never done this before, I think we’ve all had to figure out how to “do” quarantine. I am reading that everybody responds differently to such unusual situations. Some people have talked of being depressed, hopeless; some of my art friends are having trouble focusing, or feeling creatively dry. My initial feeling was restlessness and indecision about what changes to make and wondering how long this would all last. But meanwhile I had some projects in process to work on and I found spending time in my studio was a very welcome distraction from the onslaught of bad news coming in. I can spend time in my chair, in my house, catching up with online life and news, and I do, but I seem to make sense out of the senseless by having a project to work on and see through to completion. Perhaps that is just my lifelong habit and only now am I realizing it is also my way of pushing aside stress and worry and creating a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Clicking through my phone photos this morning illustrated to me just how hyper-productive I’ve been. 

What I’ve been doing...
  • Making art. I can’t show yet the quilt I made for the newest Cloth in Common challenge, but it is done and will be revealed at the end of this month. I also made a 12” square piece for the SAQA auction in September.  My latest everyday saint – St. Corona. She, of course, is wearing a mask, which is removable. I am grateful that I have a large stash of fabric and art supplies, because I am not out shopping for anything. By chance, I had purchased some tiny, but very strong magnets for another project and ended up not using them. They proved to be the perfect thing for making Corona’s mask magically removable.  

I also made a small portrait of my granddaughter for her March birthday.      

I made this bird, with a copper beak, to submit for a High Fiber Diet Show. I wonder if that will still happen. 

I finished a penny necklace I had started several months ago, for myself. 

  • Making clothes and mending, hemming and altering old clothes.
I’ve had the fabric and pattern for this top for more than a year. Finally made it. 

I bought the fabric for this jacket in Mexico in early March. I wonder when I’ll ever get to wear it. 

  • Connecting online. Meetings and get togethers on Zoom, sharing with groups on Facebook. I designed a Stay at Home craft project for my grandchildren. We worked together on FaceTime and they made little (3” x 3”x4”) collaged houses with an LED tea light inside to give their mother for Mothers Day.

I created a pattern and directions for this as pdf files. If you want a copy click here and send me your email address and I will send you copies—
  • Made masks. 
I wore this one on my outing to the eye clinic. Going out in the world is scary!

  • Cooking, cooking, cooking.  I think everybody is doing this! Rightly or wrongly, food is comfort!
An especially pretty bacon, spinach, cheese frittata 

Ray’s birthday cake. 

  • Painting the kitchen. I’ve had the paint samples for close to 2 years. We were going to do this. We kept putting it off and putting it off. This week we did it! The new golden color is so warm and inviting. 

I hung my New Mexican hearts up with the Mexican Skeleton on the newly painted wall. 

  • Cleaning and organizing. One thing leads to another. Painting the kitchen meant I wanted it put back together in a more organized way, which meant I needed to reorganize some cabinets where I could store things I no longer use frequently, and dispose of a lot stuff I no longer want or need. I’ve cleaned out drawers and closets and piled up clothes to donate. A search for a specific photo reminded me that I have never gotten back to my project of organizing 50 years worth of photos. 

And so it goes. I am looking forward to getting back to our normal life, but it doesn’t feel safe. I am alarmed by the anger and impatience of the noisy minority who are pushing to put aside all caution and endanger the slow progress that has been made. I hope I can relax and be patient and maybe slow myself down a little. We ponder a road trip to a place where we feel safe and at peace. Perhaps...  

When will we all feel truly secure again?  We do what we can do. I busy myself, you sleep more, or read more or pace the floor. I feel softer toward everyone—more forgiving, more tolerant. I feel that from nearly everyone. Will we, in hindsight, view this time as cursed or blessed? Will we come out of it bitter and grieving or somehow better than we were? I don’t know. In the midst of so much death and illness and anger and petty snarling, we are also seeing courage and generosity and kindness of a sort I’m not sure we’ve seen before. Are you as confused and conflicted and bewildered as I am? I know only one thing, for sure right now. That is that staying apart has brought us together. Stay safe...

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

100 Days

I just finished an online project called “100 Days of Creativity”. It’s a program of the Studio Art Quilts Associate’s (SAQA) that I am a member of. Members who want to participate simply upload a photo of something creative they have done that day to an online album. It is a great source of inspiration to look at daily and a little incentive to share our work in an informal way. I first participated last year and shared random images of what I was working on. For this round I decided to use the opportunity to explore decorative hand stitching/embroidery and created an irregular grid of 100 rectangles to fill a day at a time. I cut the grid from painted and fusible-backed non-woven fabric and fused it to a piece of natural linen. The grid is approximately 12” x 13.5” and each rectangle about the size of a large-ish postage stamp. I had saved a clear plastic, zippered case (I think a tablecloth came in it) that seemed just perfect to hold my threads, equipment  and the work in progress. 

I tried to try something different each day. I worked randomly, starting near the center and tried to be mindful of how that day’s cell (I had started to think of them as “cells”) related to the ones it was adjacent to, varying the weight and color for a balanced composition. 

Some cells took only 10 minutes or so to complete, some took an hour or more.  Some of them really made me happy. Some of them are pretty ugly. 

I rarely knew what I was going to do until I sat down to do it. Most were about trying different techniques or stitches. Some reflected something I had seen or done that day. We saw a beautiful exhibit of artfully arranged insects and beetles, which inspired a beetle. Later I added another beetle just for repeated motif, done in a different way. 

There are two hearts in the piece. The first was added on Valentines Day, the second in Mexico after a day of folk art with winged hearts. 

The candle was done on my birthday. 

Toward the end of February we went on vacation to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I took the project along and faithfully stitched a cell each night of our vacation. The tomato appeared after we took a cooking class. Other “Mexican” images of flowers and plants and color combinations are sprinkled through the work as well. 

On March 10 we returned to the US and the new world of the Corona virus. We have been at home since, where I continued to stitch a cell each night. I have not consciously made the pandemic the subject of my stitching, but it is there in the thread. The one cell that actually looks a bit like the virus was done early in the process, before the Corona virus was even on my radar. 

When I got down to the last day the only remaining empty cell just happened to be top row center and it seemed like it somehow needed to sum up the project, so I stitched my house, where so much of this was made under quarantine. It didn’t turn out very well—house, trees, sky—all too much for that tiny little space, but I know what it means and it stays. 

February 1 - May 10, 2020. 100 days in my life. I didn’t miss a day. I learned a lot about hand stitching, including some of what not to do. I watched it grow and I see those days in it. I feel emotional when I look at it and think about what those days have been—wonderful and awful, joyous and really sad.  It is an instant artifact and something to keep as a reminder of what a journey of 100 days can encompass. 

And now the back, because—sigh—because everyone wants to see the back.