Wednesday, January 27, 2016

WIP Wednesday - Back to Reality

This year I have set a few goals for myself and am writing down weekly/monthly in my handy Quilter's Planner what I hope to accomplish and I have to say, it is helping me stay on top of things a little better.  (Okay okay, I realize it's only the first month of the year, but we have to celebrate every little step forward in the quest for organization - at least I do!)  The point is that one of the high items on the list is the quilt I am working on for my son, called Fly, Boy!  (Because he is at college studying to be an airline pilot/engineer).  I put it away to work on a much larger quilt and other projects in October or so, but I am determined to finish it in the next couple of months.  So that is one of my WIP's this week:

Of course it is a challenge, because somehow, even though all of the squares were drawn the same size, some of them have turned out not to be the same size as others (because I hand-drew them, I'm sure) and so I am having to throw some away and remake them AND I didn't know how much of each color material to get so I have to order more os almost all of the background colors. But I like a challenge.  I just hope this piece turns out to be worth all the time and effort (and $$$) I am spending on it.

Next is my art quilt based on a glass bowl I saw in an art catalog (see Monday's blog) on finding inspiration: 

 I am looking at it daily, waiting for quilting inspiration...the obvious matchstick lines may be the thing, but I am giving myself some time to decide if that is really how I want to go with it.

And last is a little fun project I am also making up as I go along, based on the amazing scenery at Sedona, Arizona.  It's going to be a table runner, and I have enough fabric to make two of them, so I will.  The colors are so amazing. and I want to make sure I capture the uneven-ness of the rocks and the hombre effect of the colors.  I'm starting with the lighter ones at the top and am putting the orange-y reds at the bottom.  When I started it, I was going to paper piece it, but then I decided to piece and quilt it at the same time, which is  a lot easier.  I'm pleased with it so far...

Going to have to figure out how to do the edges, because I don't want them even, I want them to look craggy, like layers.  I have some ideas of how to do it, but I'm not worrying about that until I get the thing all pieced.  

So that's what I'm jammin' on this week - will go and check out all of y'all's doings, too.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Finding Inspiration Any and Everywhere

I love looking at magazines, decorator's catalogs, rug websites and other catalogs I get in the mail, because I can get tons of inspiration from them.  I thought I would share the evolution of my latest from the inspiration to its current state, which is awaiting quilting inspiration. This piece which I'm right now calling (quite unoriginally) "Glass Bowl," actually inspired by an exquisite art bowl that I saw for sale in a magazine:

It's so delicate and lovely.  I knew I wanted to try to reinterpret it as a quilt.  I quickly made drawings, and it just so happened that I had the perfect (I believe) fabric for it which I had just gotten at the Houston Quilt Festival.   It is a line of fabric that is designed by artists, and I went gaga for it.  (Don't worry, not the meat-wearing kind of Gaga, more the over-the-top excited kind.)  It's called Sumi-e by Karen Kurka Jenson for Frond Fabrics.  You can pick them up over at Delve MIY - lots of cool stuff over there.

Here is the flimsy finished top.  It was rather challenging to get the thing sewn together (meaning it took about two to three tries to sew each side piece on to get it not to buckle too much when I sewed each successive piece on.  In the end as you can see from the photo, I  had to settle for less than perfect:

but luckily now that it is sandwiched, thank goodness it is much better. 

* I sure wish I was a better photographer because I used etched fabric for the lines that has a sparkle to it and I really think it adds a lot of fabulosity to the piece. I love the way the subtle colors and shades of the fabrics look kind of like the colors shining throughout the bowl. And I love that yellow in the center.  Such a rich color (also from Frond). Unfortunately  I can't get the white parts to sparkle for the camera, but in real life they absolutely shine. 

Now I have to figure out some quilting that will really enhance it.  Of course I could go with matchstick lines, but I'm waiting to see if something else hits me.  

So that's my inspiration story.  It can be found just anywhere.  For example, I have a photo of some interesting lights on the back of a truck, a rubber mat at an auto parts store, and a couple of rugs I think are pretty cool as well as a bunch of sketches that I'm sure are inspired by something I've seen although I can't necessarily point to it.  Such a gift from the universe to let it channel through me.  

So, what inspires you? 

And, Namaste, y'all.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why I Quilt and Other Musings on Art


Interesting discussion started by Amy Garro over at 13 Spools.  She tells us why she quilts, and adds an unfortunately familiar story of a teacher who basically took the joy out of drawing for her when she was in college. (FYI:  I'm having trouble linking to her site today but I'm gonna go ahead and publish and I'll add the button on here later, when I can get it.)

I read all the comments, and I was so saddened to hear how many people have gone through the same kind of experiences. I wanted to respond to each one of them myself, and I did, to a few. Because that's just not right.  Nobody owns creativity or art.  No matter what.  I know there seems to be a system set up where "experts" say why and how things are done, but the truth is that none of that is true unless we believe it.  And I just don't.  Art is creativity expressed, and while I don't personally love the way everyone expresses their creativity, that doesn't mean it's not good or right.  It simply means it doesn't speak to my aesthetic.  I actually find it laughable that someone listens to what anyone else says about a piece of art.  Now, I'm not saying that we can't learn from each other's experience and even their expertise (because if you do something long enough, you DO know how to do what you do).  Of course we can.  I just object to someone trying to tell someone else that their art isn't "done right."  It's coming from the creative universe, so whatever it is, it's done right.

 I know it's hard for each of us to distance ourselves from what appeals to us personally, and I think that's okay, too.  We don't have to love it all.  But we certainly don't need to be negative about it to the point that we actively discourage someone from letting creativity come through her in whatever way it chooses.  If what appears to be dog doo stuck on a blank white canvas don't excite me (but silly strange animals and dots do!) but you think it is beautiful and it makes you happy to look at it, that's totally fine with me.  Pay the artist as much as you think it's worth. There are a lot of people in this world and all of us, though connected, have different viewpoints and that's what makes life interesting.  I say, Vive la difference!

The second part of the discussion is about why I quilt, the question Amy poses to the rest of us in her blog.  Unlike Amy, I have no training in art whatsoever.  I did want to take an art class in high school, but my mom told me that art wasn't for people who are going to college (one of the few mis-steps she made as a parent, in my opinion).  But being a pleaser by nature, I let it go at the time.  In college, even though I was an education major in school, there was not one art class in my curriculum.  As a former teacher, I find it difficult to believe this, because creativity and art played such a huge role in my teaching career, both in art and non-art ways.  But I didn't recognize it or even think about it for a long time, to be honest.  At the time, I was just doing my thing.  I didn't realize how big a role creativity played in it.  Looking back now, I see that creativity was overwhelmingly part of being an effective teacher.  And I reveled in it - sometimes I couldn't believe I was actually getting paid to do something so wonderful!  That's how much I loved it.  (Until standardized stupidity  came along and took that all away. But that's for another day, another blog, another discussion...that could last for days!)

It wasn't until I had my son that I felt a strong (irresistable) pull to create what I'm gonna label "art."  It started when my friend Claudia found these amazing watercolor bugs that she hung in her childrens' bedrooms.  I was so enchanted by them.  But when Claudia remarked that they were quite expensive, but well, we couldn't possibly make them ourselves, I distinctly remember thinking to myself "Wait a minute - why not?"  That very day, I could not rest until I went to the art store and bought heavy watercolor paper and watercolors.  I literally could not wait to get started on them, even though I had never painted a thing in my life.  And an obsession was born.  I painted first, bugs in the style of the ones I had seen.  

Here are some of my very first attempts - can't believe they are 16 years old!  Wow, time flies. Heh Heh.

Then I went to lizards.  Then more bugs, crazy, colorful, un-natural ones that made me so very happy.  I had a bunch of them crawling on my classroom walls, even.  I became so obsessed with them in the next couple of years that my three year old son was heard to say "I liked it better when Mommy didn't paint."  (Nothing like good old mother guilt to put a damper on art...but it is good to keep it in perspective...)  

The main thing that strikes me here as I write is how completely overwhelming was the urge to create welling up in me - a drive emerged that I truly did not know existed in me...until it happened with a vengeance and I was forever changed.

When we moved to Texas from California in 2001 I was still on the painting kick, with a little writing also emerging.  Both of these continue to a lesser extent.  The most recent things I've been painting have been farm animals like these:

 and dots like these (I woke up in the middle of the night a few years ago and absolutely HAD to paint the dot paintings!).


However, it's quilting that dominates my creativity at the moment (a fifteen-year "moment")  My excellent mother had taken up quilting about  twelve years before and I admit it never interested me in the least, except to receive them as a gift from her.  Until. Those simple, colorful flannel rag quilts that were all the rage back then - I simply HAD to make one.  My mother, naturally, was thrilled to help.  With her encouragement, and cheerleading I made that one easy quilt and would you believed that's all it took to get me completely hooked?  Mother was also obsessed, so she was a serious enabler.  She shared everything she had with me and taught me everything she knew.  Then she really sealed the deal by taking me to the Houston Quilt Festival.  I will never forget my first one.  It opened up an entire new world for me, and I would never be the same.  

I can't say I regret it, even though it may seem crazy.   After fifteen years of quilting, I feel more like the real me than I ever have before.  I don't teach school anymore so now all my creativity goes into creating, making.  I can't wait to get up in the morning and get going on my art (although real life still interferes, but that's also another lesson I had to learn - balance - and another discussion as well)  

I have yet to take one art class, however.  I'm not necessarily proud of this fact, by the way.  I want to, really I do. In fact, I think I'm going to add it to my list of goals for this year.  But one thing holds me back - there is such freedom in the way that I create now.  I call myself an experimental artist, and I just figure out a way to do whatever comes into my mind.   I don't follow any rules because I don't know them and it's So. Darn. Awesome!  Because, you see, being a rule follower and pleaser is (or at least it used to be) my nature, so I'm scared if I learn the rules, I might be compelled to follow them and it might not be a good thing. 

 On the other hand, I have always believed that learning is a good thing, and I know I have much to learn, always....Too, I'm not sure anyone like that dumb professor or all the BAD teachers people talked about could convince me at this point that the way I do things is wrong at this point.  Being an art outsider has allowed me to develop a kind of thick-skinned confidence that I'm not sure can be taken away as easily as it used to be.   I think there is more to be gained than lost, in this instance.

But does that answer the question of why I quilt (as opposed to other art forms, that is)? No, and I don't know if I can truly answer that question.  I quilt because I love it and I find endless inspiration in it.  I am a maker, and I feel the creativity coming through me, driving me.  I can't honestly say why quilting is the overwhelming pull, though I do love the endless possibilities in a piece of fabric.  Too, there is a practical side to quilting that also appeals to me - a warmth that comes even from a wall-hanging made of cloth.  I also love the community, and it sort of feels wide-open to me.  And while the practical side of it has been around for hundreds of years, it's still sort of emerging as an art form; there aren't too many critics or rules, and the quilting community is so full of generous, lovely, TALENTED people.  

And not to diss men (I love them too) but quilting is female-dominated, which makes it unusual, too, especially as an art form.  Here is one place where the men can't tell us what to and not to do.  Because women created this art form.  Yeah.  I'm gonna boldly say it.  I'm not saying men can't or shouldn't quilt, I'm just saying' is all.  Women created quilting.  (You go, girls!)

So that's my long-winded response.  I hope you guys will pardon me for it, but this passion runs to the very core of my being, what can I say?   And I promise to listen and read all of your reasons for why you quilt, too.  Not because I have to, but because it's fascinating and fun, and we can all learn from each other, and being connected - well I CAN say for certain that THAT'S a truly beautiful thing.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Reflections of 2015

As rule, I'm not usually one for looking backwards.  This leads to a decided lack of sentimentality on my part.  And although I think about things as they happen, I rarely go back and reflect on what has happened, say at the beginning of the year.  I'm not sure why,  Maybe I'm just not very deep.  But change is good and also unavoidable, so with that in mind, I'm going to take the journey backwards to see what has transpired in my creative life in 2015.

So yeah, last year was, creatively speaking, a great year.  I think I'm going in all sorts of new directions creatively that I like.  I'll share some of my favorite finishes with you here, although you've probably seen most of them if you read my blog regularly.

1. Decipher This - I really love this piece.  It had no plan whatsoever, came about from pure play, and I LOVE the way it turned out. Up there with all time faves for certain. 

2. Soicles - This one also was a "play" piece.  I was inspired from a print I saw in a magazine.  I can't believe how many ideas come from random encounters!  At the moment, it too feels like one of my all time favorites, but who can ever choose favorites, right?

3.  Turkey Leaves - This came about from a trip to the local fabric store with a friend.  I rarely make seasonal pieces, but these fabrics and colors called to me so I bought a bunch of fat quarters.  What to do with fat quarters...not my favorite precut.  I love the background of map fabric and the framing, if I do say so myself, really makes the piece special.  If that darn orange didn't have pumpkins in it, I would have left it up a lot longer...

4.  Magnetism - I can't help it, I really love this piece.  To me it combines traditionalist quilting with a modern  minimalist vibe.  I love the pluses in the middle, and I feel it is some of my best FMQing ever - as far as design, idea, and even execution.  I think it's also special to me because it is an example of realizing after I had completely quilted three squares that the design wasn't right AT ALL and I patiently, without any negativity or frustration, picked out the stitches.  Luckily as I was doing it I got the magnet idea, which was SO RIGHT.  And I also learned making this piece that simple doesn't necessarily mean easy.  

5.  Drops of Jupiter - This is a seriously minimalist design.  I love the funky fabrics, and I love that the idea came from my friend Amy's son Aaron.  He had a drawing he showed me and it really tickled my fancy...Of course I turned it into circles, because well - I love circles, and if I do say so, this is a seriously cool quilt.   I'm thinking of a different version of it, actually...but more on that later.

This year I branched out into other things, too, and they were so much fun.  I made potholders





And bags and purses, which are becoming obsessions at the moment...


Okay, this if fun, looking back at makes from this year, you guys are right.  It's amazing how quickly I forget all the pieces I worked really hard on.  I can't say for certain, (without going back and counting, which I don't feel like doing) but I think I made about 18 full quilts, give or take a few, 15 purses/bags, and 10 or twelve minis or potholders.  That's a pretty productive year!  Woo hoo - Happy 2015!

Next post will be about plans for 2016. Maybe...