Tuesday, February 22, 2022

We made a book!


It was almost two years ago that I got an email from Amanda Snavely, asking if I would be interested in being the graphic designer for a book project that the Oregon region of Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) was beginning to plan. Yes, I would! Very soon I was meeting with the committee to discuss how we could bring Amanda’s vision to fruition. I am a member of SAQA and active with the local group and knew that we held an exhibition of juried work from artists within our Oregon region every two years. In the midst of a pandemic there were many questions about the feasibility and practicability of setting up venues for in-person shows, so Amanda had the idea for a book of juried work instead. The committee liked the idea and reasoned that if the pandemic slowed sufficiently in the coming year we could also plan some in-person showings of the pieces in the book. We secured a respected juror, Holly Brackmann, and invited Oregon SAQA members to submit proposals for completing a fiber art piece within a 6-month time period, taking photos and documenting the process in words, all of which would be put together in a book.   21 artists, including myself, were selected for the project. 

I was very excited about the opportunity to design the book, but a bit apprehensive as well. It has been quite a few years since I retired from my graphic design career and things change pretty rapidly. I would be using newer software and more modern technology. I was rusty, but this was the kind of job that I love most of all. I hadn’t started out as a graphic designer but after getting a college degree in art, and dabbling at any kind of job that had a creative element, I decided to go back to school and actually learn how to become a graphic designer. To my great surprise, I fell in love with typography and publications. Unlike my younger fellow students who had their sights set on jobs in advertising or illustration, I was hoping for something that would have me working with publishing. I was lucky enough to go to work for a National non-profit and spent my years there producing magazines, booklets and even books, until I retired. I loved my work and enjoyed doing work that was important to people, but I always thought I would love to design a book that was about art and ideas and could be something beautiful in itself. 

Once the SAQA book artists were chosen, the editor, Sharon Carvalho, and I started working out a plan and timeline and means of communicating with the artists. It was complicated, but everyone remained flexible and we ended up with a pretty smooth process in the end. It was a lot of work! There are 400 photos in the book, every one of which I had to deal with individually, resizing, tweaking color, brightness, resolution and contrast, then placing in a logical sequence that followed the text. Meanwhile Sharon was working with text, editing for word counts and style and spelling and grammar and readability and all the things that would make the content flow as a seamless set of stories. Yes, lots of work, but each time I saw that someone had added new photos to our Dropbox I got excited all over again!  The artists were really embracing the challenge of telling the stories and showing the progress and decisions, and sometimes difficulties, of the work they were making. And—Sharon and I were both selected artists, so we were making our own fiber art and documenting it at the same time. 

The final step was photographing the final pieces. We wanted these photos to be very good and very consistent, so we were able to hire professional photographer, Kayley Hoddick to photograph each piece. It was the final finishing touch! The printed book is now available on Amazon. The title is Emergence: Fiber Art from Concept to Stitch. I’m really proud of it. 

Here is my quilt for the book:

Photo by Kayley Hoddick

It is called Stories in the Cloth. I use a lot of recycled fabric, primarily men’s shirts, in my work. I like to think they have stories associated with them that I will never know. This piece is my way of expressing that thought. Below is a closeup detail. 

Photo by Kayley Hoddick

Thursday, January 13, 2022

At a loss for words


Happy New Year, I guess. It’s hard to imagine, at this point, what this year will bring and frankly I don’t have the mental energy to put on my optimistic face and conjure thoughts of “better times ahead” or other such positive thoughts. I’m not feeling especially pessimistic, just deeply uncertain and resigned to taking 2022 a day at a time. For more than 10 years I have made a small ritual of choosing a word for the New Year. This started in an online group I belonged to and I liked the idea of an aspirational word, rather than resolutions to aspire to. I chose my word, then made a tiny banner to hang on my studio wall as a reminder. Here are some from recent years.

Oh, how na├»ve I was to choose “hope” for 2021, considering how hopeless I was feeling by the end. I pondered an appropriate word for for 2022 and nothing was right. Who can even plan? Giving it an upbeat word seems like dare. Giving it a pessimistic word is too depressing. I think 2022 will have to earn its own word and maybe I’ll figure out by December. Maybe not. Maybe 2022 will be the indefinable year that we just group in with 20 and 21 as “those awful pandemic years” when we look back at it. 

My “almost word” for 2022 is “alignment.”  This quote resonated:

When the basis for your actions is inner alignment with the present moment, your 
actions become empowered by the intelligence of life itself.
-Elkhart Tolle

I think a key to getting through all this is that alignment with the present moment—doing what needs to be done when there is danger, finding joy when the opportunity arises, being fully engaged in the present and resisting the urge to live in the past or the future. But that’s our job, not an inspiring word of the year. So here we go into a New Year, What'ya got for us 2022?  What's your word?

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.