Friday, July 23, 2021

Summer phone photos

 Suddenly it’s the middle of July! I have been loving the feeling of freedom that the summer brought, with fewer restrictions regarding COVID precautions. This last week has brought concerning news, though, about the more dangerous variant of the virus and rising rates of infection. It continues to astound me that there are still people refusing to take COVID seriously and those who who refuse the vaccine. Depressing to imagine that this pandemic will drag on and on, if this thinking continues. I’m sad and sorry for everyone living in those communities where it is surging and ever grateful that my friends and neighbors here in Western Oregon have had the wisdom to comply and vaccinate. Our vaccine rates are high and infection numbers are low. I hope that continues. 

One of the best things that has happened are outdoor, in-person get togethers. The photo is our art quilt group, High Fiber Diet, meeting together, for the first time in more than a year this week, in a lovely park. And another group I am part of met in another park the next day. Both were such joyous occasions!  And, why, I wonder, have we never thought to have our summer meetings outdoors?  A circle of camp chairs under a big, shady tree beats the heck out of a Sunday school room in a church or  community center meeting room. We will do it again next month. 

 I finished my piece called “Tower of Babel” and submitted it for the next High Fiber Diet exhibit called “Can You Hear It?” It represents the Biblical story that explains the origin of the many languages of the world. The background uses a required fabric that resembles sound waves, to which I have added the word “hello” in many different languages. 

My big project this summer is putting together a book for Oregon SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates). 21 Quilt artists from the Oregon chapter of SAQA were chosen from proposals, to create a piece of quilt art, that they would document from inspiration to completion in words and photos for a book. I was asked to design and lay out the book. I am also one of the 21 artists. It is exciting and challenging! I’ve spent most of July, so far, creating the overall layout, communicating with the artists and the editor, reviewing and choosing the first sets of photos, then resizing and tweaking them to place in the document. I loved my work in publications and have sometimes missed it since retiring, so this is fun!

The city of Portland has taken a beating this past year, both literally and figuratively, but it is recovering and still a great place. We haven’t left home much at all this past year, so trips into the city have been few, but we went in and across the river to one of Sofia’s soccer games a couple weeks ago and the city was beautiful and vibrant as ever. As we crossed the iconic Burnside Bridge I spotted this message on a building near the bridge, and it made me smile. I think we’re going to be OK!

So, to all my fellow wildcard, misfit and dabbler friends—I hope you are vaccinated and I hope you are having a great summer, or, at least, a better one than the last one…

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Sun printing tutorial

 I mentioned in my last post that I have been doing a lot of sun printing, and from that, and posts of my prints online in various venues, I’m getting quite a few questions, so rather than try to respond individually to each question I decided to post a how-to here. Before I begin I want to mention that I took a class with Betty Busby a couple years ago and part of that class dealt with her techniques used in sun printing, which vastly improved and added to what I already knew, so credit to her for some of what I’m doing here. 


This is the design I used.  I created it on my iPad, using the Procreate app. I saved it as a jpeg to use to make a stencil using my Silhouette cutting machine. You can use commercial stencils or homemade stencils. You can cut stencils from paper, all kinds of vinyl or plastic sheets, Tyvek, Mylar—endless possibilities. You can cut them by hand using little scissors or an Xacto knife or a cutting machine. In addition to stencils, you can use all kinds of objects  for sun printing, that lay flat and create interesting designs—leaves, ferns, string, coins, metal washers, rubber bands, paper clips, etc, etc.  

I cut my stencil from window cling vinyl (one of Betty Busby’s brilliant ideas) which produces very crisp, detailed prints and cuts beautifully by cutting machine.  Now I was ready to prepare the fabric. 


Here are my supplies—A flat surface for painting on; fabric, cut to size; a spray bottle filled with water; a container for water; a large paintbrush and paint. The fabric I use is cotton, mostly quilting cotton, but you can use almost any kind of fabric for this. Sun prints on silk are beautiful. I have successfully sun printed directly on T-shirts and canvas bags, as well. Any kind of acrylic based paints will work, as long as they are, or can be thinned down to a fairly liquid state. Some produce quite thin, pastel color when thinned with water. My favorite brand to use is Jaquard Dye na Flow paints, which are very liquid and do not need to be thinned, and produce rich, intense color. 

I spread the fabric on my painting surface, spray with water , then paint the entire surface, working quickly so it remains quite wet. I like using a basic color then mottling in some variations, but keeping it fairly consistent in value. 


I carefully layered the stencil on top of the wet paint, smoothing it out to get it laying as flat as possible, in close contact with the wet fabric. A big, dry paintbrush is helpful in getting it smooth.

Then I just let it sit in the sun until it was dry. The amount of light is really not what creates the design, so it is actually possible to do this in any kind of weather, but direct sun that dries the fabric quickly produces, in my experience, the clearest, crispest prints. 

Once it felt dry, I carefully peeled back the stencil to reveal the finished print. That’s all there is to it!

I like to iron the piece to be sure the paint is set, then the fabric is ready to use. The stencil can be used over and over for lots of prints in different colors.  

I find this technique so satisfying!  It is so very simple—no chemicals or special lights, basic, inexpensive supplies. And the resulting fabrics are uniquely yours. I hope you will try it and show me what you’ve done!


Friday, July 02, 2021

Summer Ode to Joy…


July arrived yesterday. Earlier this week we were sweating out (literally) the hottest temperatures we’ve ever experienced here, but July arrived yesterday bearing a cool breeze and an invitation to walk through the garden in comfort. This morning is lovely again and I sat with my coffee to catch up with the world by way of my iPad and clicked on a Facebook “memory” from a year ago. It was a music video I watched over and over last summer, and I realized I had tears in my eyes. It took me right back to 12 months ago and the surreality of the horror that was rapidly overtaking us. In the spring we knew we were in a pandemic and we’d have to hunker down for a few weeks—at worst, a couple months—and get past it. By July we knew it was bigger than anyone imagined and people were sickening and dying by the thousands. We were beginning to understand how truly horrifying it really was and I desperately craved moments of grace and beauty. So, for me, I followed the guidelines and then I distracted myself. I made art, I watched Netflix, I read, I listened to music and I watched that lovely video over and over, and through it all I kept reassuring myself that it would all be OK eventually. So summer rolls around again and here we are, getting much closer to being OK. We can exhale and find more joy today. 

Last summer I spent long days in my studio and one of my joys was cutting stencils and making sun printed fabric to use in my artwork. For a couple weeks I printed stripes in rich colors. They were like capturing sunshine in cloth. 

When the sun finally came back this spring I started thinking about getting out my paints and stencils for more sun prints. The past month has been pretty great. Here’s what I’ve done so far.

I’m finishing up a piece for our next High Fiber Diet exhibit “Can You Hear It?”  It is about the story of the Tower of Babel, and how the people of the world came to speak many languages. Here’s a sneak peek. 

My big project for this summer is designing and preparing a book for our Oregon region of SAQA. It will be a book following 21 selected artists in our region as they each plan, design and produce an art quilt, showing their work in photographs and writing about their process.  It’s a very exciting project! I am also one of the 21 artists, so I am also working on my piece at the same time. I’ve barely started. 

Never has summer felt more welcome than this one, despite its red hot start. Life is returning and though there are still challenges I feel like joy is more accessible. And that video? Still beautiful…

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The times we live in


We got our vaccines awhile ago and I felt like crying with gratitude with the first one. We are looking forward to being with friends, traveling and mostly just knowing that the bad dream that was 2020 is ending and everyone can, literally, breathe easier. Maybe. I thought everyone was eagerly awaiting the vaccine, but now that it’s here, that doesn’t seem to be universally true. It surprises me, but I guess it shouldn’t. I got into a little dispute with a family member a few days ago and it still has me shaking my head. “We need to respect all opinions about the vaccine,” she said, clearly in defense of her own decision not to be vaccinated. I agreed that I respect her right to an opinion, but I feel no obligation to respect that opinion, if it seems uninformed and selfish. I think the word “selfish” got to her. She unfriended me. I guess she didn’t respect my opinion. Oh well. 

I know I’m opinionated and maybe have too much to say sometimes, but, as Albert Einstein said, “Silence is complicity.” In my opinion, now is not a good time to be complicit, in this case, to lending support to the enemy (the virus) by agreeing that it’s fine to assist it in flourishing and evolving in new and even more dangerous ways and assuring that this AWFUL, STUPID, HORRIBLE, DEADLY PANDEMIC NEVER ENDS!  And that is how I feel about that! OK, glad I got that off my chest. Sorry if I alarmed you. 

So we, and all but the youngest in our immediate family, are vaccinated and feeling a degree of true freedom. Summer seems like a shiny prize waiting just over the horizon, after a year spent indoors. Yesterday I scouted outdoor locations for a July meeting of our local art quilt group after more than a year of Zooming. I am envisioning all of us, in lawn chairs, visiting and sharing our current projects in some lovely spot. Maybe this one...?

I mentioned, awhile back, how much I enjoyed the presentation by Austin Kleon that was part of our SAQA conference so I ordered his book. 

It is a small book, quick to read and filled with the kind of things we all should know, but maybe don’t, or maybe need to be reminded of. I loved it, then I laughed out loud when I got to this page, near the end.

Are you talking to me?  

OK, then.  I’m leaving the internet and going to the studio...

Monday, May 10, 2021

Why am I doing this?


This is the door to my studio, which has truly been my refuge during the pandemic. I have spent a lot of time out here this past year and I’ve done a lot of work and I’ve had a lot of time to think, and I’ve asked myself, several times “why am I doing this?”  Oddly, I think that’s a question most us don’t ask frequently enough and it’s an important question.  As I get older the answer changes. Honestly, I like to work. I see friends, who like me, retired from full time, paid jobs years ago and who spend their days puttering around their houses and gardens, reading, occasionally going out to play cards or visit friends. They seem content to do that, and good for them, but that’s not for me. I want to keep working and so the studio continues to call to me.  But lately I’m feeling the need to simplify my studio time. I’m suddenly wondering why I’m juggling so many projects at once. It’s become exhausting. Why am I doing that?

Right now I am a part of the Cloth in Common group. We produce a quilt, made to a theme, every two months on a set schedule. So that’s a repeating deadline. I belong to High Fiber Diet, a local group that meets monthly and puts together a themed exhibit once a year. I also show work at a local gallery and need to continue to produce work for that. And now I have been selected to produce a piece for a regional SAQA book and exhibit, and I am doing the design and layout of the book. Suddenly it’s more than enough. Why am I doing that? Maybe it’s an age issue, but I just don’t multi-task with the ease that I once did.

Behind that orange door today you will find my Cloth in Common piece under construction on my work table,

And my High Fiber Diet piece at my sewing machine. 

And I would be going back and forth, fretting about my progress and deadline for each. 

So, why am I doing all this? Well, I do just love making art—but less and less on a deadline, and less and less to a prescribed theme and size. I do love sharing my work, so I appreciate the opportunity to see it exhibited and published, but I don’t need the exposure. I’m not trying to sell my skills as a teacher or lecturer. I’m not writing a book and I’m not depending on sales to feed myself. I just love the making. So after asking myself that question I’ve decided that after this month’s reveal for Cloth in Common, which is the final one of the current “round,” that I will be leaving that group. It has been a great couple of years with a group of wonderful people, who have become friends I will continue to stay in contact with, but, from the beginning, it was stressful to keep up and I haven’t always done my best work in that context. I think that will relieve some of the stress I’ve been feeling and give me space to enjoy the other work I am doing, since Cloth in Common was so ever present as a looming deadline. It is with gratitude and affection, along with a sense of relief, that I made this decision. 

I’ll keep asking myself why I’m doing this thing that I don’t need to do. And since, at this stage of my life I have the luxury of not needing, I will continue to do what I want to do and what makes me happy.  Maybe this is a gift of the pandemic. 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Digital drawing

 I started drawing as a child and I have always thought of drawing as something fundamental to making art. Some people make drawings as their primary artwork and the beauty of their drawings is awe-inspiring. For me I mostly draw as a way of thinking and envisioning something. It’s a tool and a means toward another end. I remember my dad, who was a mechanical engineer, always had a mechanical pencil in his pocket and any time he was describing or explaining how something worked, he’d grab a notepad, or a scrap of paper and he’d draw a little picture of it. I think I learned from him, to do that. And I wish I had thought to keep some of those little drawings of his. They were great. 

So I draw. Always have. Pen or pencil to paper, mostly. Then, twenty something, or so, years ago I learned about drawing with a mouse on the computer using pixels or vectors and what a revelation! I still draw on paper, but I am also in love with digital drawing. It is so useful and so flexible! For awhile I was drawing very precise and detailed vector drawings, using Adobe Illustrator, and enlarging and printing actual size patterns to work from in making my art quilts. Now I take a more casual approach. I make sloppy drawings on my iPad, getting the basic composition, colors and proportions worked out on the small screen, where I can easily move things around, erase and redo elements, try out different colors and crop to a pleasing aspect. Then I enlarge it by hand, introducing more of my style and personal elements into the final work. This is hard to explain, but working, by hand, at the actual size makes me consider line and detail more thoughtfully. An example: here’s my digital sketch, working from my own photos, of the Basilica of Quito. 

Here’s the finished quilt

Nowadays I no longer use a mouse with my computer. I use an Apple Pencil with my iPad. There are a lots of good drawing apps available. I’ve used Sketch Club, a very good, inexpensive drawing app for a long time. Currently I’m really liking Procreate, more expensive, but more features.  If I have an idea for something I can make a quick sketch, save it and come back to it later to further develop, or sometimes not. Here’s one that I saved a while back. I think it has possibilities. I might get back to it again and I’ll know where to find it, unlike those little scraps of paper I used to sketch ideas on and lose...

I found a whole new use for digital drawing  when I bought a Silhouette cutting machine to use for my art quilts. I can make a digital drawing of the thing I want to cut, refine it digitally and then transfer it to the cutting software, scale it to the exact size I want and cut an exact replica of my drawing, retaining the variations in line and distinctive marks of my hand drawing. I cut fabric, mostly painted, non woven fabrics, that I can incorporate into the stitched work. 

Over the years I’ve drawn, on paper, many pinecones—they are one of my favorite subjects. The first image is one of my pen and ink drawings from my sketchbook, then my digital interpretation of the drawing and finally the pinecone cut from fabric and sewn to a little banner I hung outside my studio. 

I am drawing more than ever, mostly on my iPad. I think about my dad, who loved computers and all technology and I know he would have loved all this. Here are some more examples of how I’m using my drawing tools these days. 

A new sketch, waiting for further inspiration....

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

I am not a hoarder


One thing leads to another. I’m sure you know this. Last week our furnace died. It was good news and bad news. I’ve been secretly wishing for this for years. The bad news, of course, is that new furnaces do not come cheap and replacing one is kind of a big deal in terms of workmen in the house, trucks in the driveway, doors off hinges, ladders into the attic, moving all the stuff nestled in around the old furnace in the storage/furnace closet and general disruption of the peace for most of a day. But now it is done and now we have AIR CONDITIONING as well as heat. The AC is what I’ve really been wishing for, when I was wishing for the old furnace’s demise. And now, for the first time in my life, I live in a house with central AC. 

So today I started organizing and putting back all the stuff that had shared the closet with the furnace. It  is where we keep mops and brooms and garbage bags and lightbulbs and rags and, sadly, stuff that doesn’t go anywhere else.  That last category becomes problematic and I found some forgotten treasures—two brand new timers for lights, new sponge mop heads...  I also threw away a garbage can full of stuff.  And I sorted through my huge stash of paper plates, plastic cups and cutlery and paper napkins. You know, how you buy that stuff for a party or cookout and then stash what you didn’t use—over and over and over....? It adds up. So that’s what is in those bags, above. I just posted those, to give away, on my Facebook “Buy Nothing” group. 

Do you know about “Buy Nothing”?  I discovered it a couple years ago and I love it. Do you have something usable to get rid of? Don’t give it to Goodwill, who are terrible people who exploit their underpaid disabled workers and pay themselves huge salaries-—don’t get me started— instead, give your good stuff directly to a neighbor who needs it—no strings attached.  Besides getting it out of your house you can feel good about where it’s going. In this year of pandemic, layoffs, illness and all of it, you wouldn’t believe how many people are in need. I read the sad stories in the “Buy Nothing” posts and I see the responses of empathy and generosity and simple neighborliness. So far I have given away a lot of stuff and received little, except for a renewed appreciation for how good and kind people can be. That’s actually a lot. ❤️

I cleaned out my closet awhile back, then I realized I was about to give away two good cotton, striped shirts. I need that fabric!  No need to go overboard on this purging business...

Hey! Somebody’s interested in my paper plates.....

Monday, April 26, 2021

Maybe I’m Back

 This last week was the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) online Conference. It was good in just so many ways that I’d have a hard time explaining, except to say everybody needs to find their people and hang out with them for a week, even if it’s online. So very good for the soul.  One of the best things among many good things was the keynote talk by artist/author Austin Kleon, who talked about his artwork and its quilt connection and about making art and about writing—all in such an upbeat, inspiring way that I wanted more. So this morning I went searching for his website and his blog and I was not disappointed. He’s been blogging about as long as I have, but he didn’t peter out like I did. He says:

“One little blog post is nothing on its own, but publish a thousand blog posts over a decade, and it turns into your life’s work. This blog has been my sketchbook, my studio, my gallery, my storefront, and my salon. Absolutely everything good that has happened in my career can be traced back in some way to this blog. My books, my art shows, my speaking gigs, some of my best friendships—they all exist because I have my own little piece of turf on the Internet.”

And that paragraph brought back everything I loved about my blog. It brought me so many friends and opportunities. I can’t even count them, but they include TV shows, writing for magazines, the whole 12 by 12 project, including the book, the exhibits, the wonderful people! My writing improved. My thinking changed. I grew. I changed. I found my voice.  I’m not sure why I got away from it. Austin Kleon also said something like, “people think you write a blog because you have something to say, but, really, you start a blog and find something to say.”  So true. When I was blogging regularly I was aware of the world in a way I hadn’t been. I was observant, watching for what Ray called “blog fodder” but also what delighted me in big or small ways. I miss that. Maybe I can get it back. Maybe I can’t...

And now, because I can never bear to publish a blog post without a picture, here’s a little drawing I made of myself. 

I know, it doesn’t really look like me, but that’s not important. I quickly traced over a photo, without lifting the pencil—all one continuous line. (To be accurate, it is a digital drawing, so it was an Apple Pencil—). It’s a good exercise in finding the important parts and leaving out the rest. Make of that idea what you will. Try it.