Tuesday, January 02, 2018

My word for the year




This is what I've been doing for a lot of years now. I choose a word to guide me for the new year. Then I make a tiny little banner to remind me. New Years Day is a good day for doing this.



Last year my word was "resist". I tried. I think we all tried and it was a year of resisting, but it's been a tough year in lots of ways and at the end of the year it feels like lots of things are broken. It's easy to forget that things broken can be mended. Physical things (like eyes healing following surgery), maybe even what seems a huge, ugly rip in the fabric of our society. So "mend" is a hope as much as an inspiration. Hasn't it been a hard, chaotic year? It was for me. Maybe mend follows resist. And I was recently reminded that there is a Japanese method of mending broken pottery called Kinsugi where the mended area is filled with gold, making it both beautiful and stronger than it was before. So I'm focusing on how we fix what's broken, how I can do my small part and how we bring strength and beauty to the healing/mending process.




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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 (https://www.oneamericaappeal.org/), 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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