Monday, December 15, 2014

Colorplay Quilts Come Home

 
 
My Twelve by Twelve Colorplay quilts arrived home this week, after a long period of traveling the world without me.  Most of you will remember that the Colorplay quilts were made as the second phase of the Twelve by Twelve art quilt challenge which started back in late 2007, when I and 11 other quilt artists decided to challenge each other with bi-monthly assigned topics, for which we'd each make a 12x12 inch art quilt.  After two years of the first round, we embarked on a second series of challenges where the themes were colors or color palettes.  The resulting 144 quilts have been off touring at various international quilt exhibits, and do they have stories to tell!

Gemma, the "Labikeet" quilt made for the "lorikeet color" challenge chosen by Brenda Smith, loved being on display in Belgium this past October.  Apparently the quilters in Belgium are not used to seeing such vividly colored dogs and were highly amused. 
 

My "Wistful Wisteria" quilt (made when Gerrie Congdon chose chartreuse as her color challenge)  had tales of the oohs and ahs it overheard while on display in Alsace, France this past September.  I also got a long, involved story Kiluea overheard about a scandal involving a french quilter, her new sewing machine, and the rabidly jealous old machine who was intent on sabotaging things in the studio. Those French sewing machines are hot-blooded, I guess.


The "Kiluea" quilt (made for the Kiluea-inspired challenge that Kristin LaFlamme chose when she was living in Hawaii) enjoyed seeing Michigan, Portland, Oregon, and Iowa back in the summer and fall of 2013.  Kiluea claims that she didn't find many volcanic friends in those areas but was surprised that Michigan in August was hotter than she expected. 


The "Birds Flying High" (made in response to Francoise Jamart's blue and white challenge) quilt loved seeing Australia and New Zealand in early 2013 and truly felt that they'd flown far, far from home.  Those birds continue to chatter among themselves in their newly-adopted Australian accents.  You'd think they'd have brought me a souvenir or two, wouldn't you?  But no.
 
 

My #2 Pencils (made in response to the "purple and yellow" challenge chosen by Karen Rips) are still blushing and swooning about meeting Chris Howell of Midsomer Quilting in Chilcompton, England. Chris is quite the charmer and his enthusiastic love of the 12x12 quilts has made him a favorite among my quilts.  I think a few of them wanted to stay there with him and his many quilting fans.  I expect they'll be sending off pining love letters now.


The "John Lennon's Spectacles" quilt (made for the "orange" challenge selected by Terry Grant), is most sentimental about its time touring the International Quilt Festival shows in Houston, TX, Cincinnati, OH, and Long Beach, CA.  It reports that it felt like a real star with the flocks of admiring quilters touring the full 12x12 exhibit of all 288 quilts, and was glad to have sunglasses with all of the paparazzi taking photos.  I think returning to my quiet house is going to be quite the let-down for this spoiled celebrity quilt.

And the others? They're not talking. 


Maybe they're tired and jetlagged. 

 
Or they're sulking about having to leave their Colorplay friends.


The "Spices" quilt seems to be in a particularly dark mood.


Perhaps it's depression, given that the bright lights of their glory days have come to an end.


You never know, I tell them.  And besides, I remind them of what amazing doors they opened for me and my dear 12x12 compatriots.  What a wonderful, wonderful life they've had.  Now, I think I need to find a place in my home where we can get reacquainted, just me and them.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Giving Thanks, and coffee























A few weeks ago, my friend Loretta (aka Mrs. Pom of Pomegranates and Paper) and I launched a new project that we call Drawing Together Coast to Coast.  We've been talking about how to spur ourselves to paint more regularly, and we decided that if we were doing it together, and publicly, we'd be motivated.  We're taking turns choosing themes and posting our sketches every Sunday.

This past week's theme, chosen by Loretta, was "giving thanks."  And as I seem to have become obsessed with Starbucks' Thanksgiving Blend coffee (I've been on the hunt for another box or two of the K-cups before they are gone), that's what popped into my mind.  And although it may seem like a strange representation of "giving thanks," it makes sense to me.  Because it's not really about the coffee.  It's about the pleasure I take, and the gratitude I feel, for the little rituals of every day that make me happy.

It's coming downstairs in the morning and having the coffee maker on and ready, thanks to the handy timer.  It's popping a little pod in and having good coffee with the push of a single button.  It's the insulated mug that I've used every morning for years now, because I love how it keeps coffee hot for so long and I can linger and sip without the coffee going tepid. It's sitting in the living room and reading email and blogs while I wake up.  It's my sweet dog Gemma at my feet, gnawing on her morning chewy.  It's how good it feels to connect with friends (even if it's via email or blogs or facebook) and see what everyone is up to.

I could go on and on.  But you get the idea.  I'm sure you have your own morning rituals that help you start the day with pops of pleasure.  Wanna share what yours are?  Do tell in a comment!

And if you want to follow my bicoastal sketching adventure with Loretta (she's in New York, I'm in California) pop on over to the page.  You can "like" it and even follow so you are notified when new posts are added.  





Friday, November 21, 2014

Rain!


It's been raining!   After our long drought here in Northern California, the rain is so welcome!  Yesterday I was waiting in the car before C finished her class, and I was enjoying the patter of rain on the car so much. I had the perfect cozy time, reading and watching the rain.  Here's hoping we get more today!



Thursday, November 13, 2014

An Autumn Mood


I can't remember where I came across the concept of "mood boards."  I'm not sure where the name comes from, but the concept of collages of images to portray a feeling or a look or a color palette isn't new.  Professional artists, designers, and decorators have been using them forever.

But a few years back I came across the Moodboard app for the Ipad, and I've had fun creating digital mood boards.  I create them for various reasons -- to get myself psyched for something, to try to hone down on a look or a feeling I want from something I'm working on -- or for no reason at all, just because it's fun to put images together.  It's like putting things up on a digital bulletin board to get a look that makes me happy.

(My sister just emailed to tell me that she likes an app called Moldiv better than Moodboard.  I've not tried it yet but I'm going to.)

But only recently did I think about using Photoshop to make them.  I can see it's another one of those addictive things.  Like Pinterest, making mood boards allows you to assemble images that just make you happy.  I love that.

Here's my latest, celebrating things I like in autumn.


If you're interested in playing with making digital mood boards yourself, here are a few resources:

 https://vivalaviolette.com/create-a-digital-moodboard/

 http://www.creatively-driven.com/the-art-of-the-mood-board/

 http://www.creativebloq.com/graphic-design/16-great-tools-creating-mood-boards-91412793

And you can see all different ones by searching "mood board" (or "moodboard", people seem to spell it both ways) on Pinterest.

Are you in the mood to try one now?  Har har.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

An Occidental Saturday

























This morning I headed out to the small town of Occidental, which is a little funky Sonoma County town.  Its main street is about 2 blocks long, and densely forested hills rise up on either side so the town feels like it's nestled into a cozy little valley. It's famous for two old Italian restaurants, which sprang up to feed the many Italian immigrants from SF and the bay area who came up to fish in the Russian River and hunt. I was there to meet up with the North Bay Urban Sketchers, and we had a perfect day for sketching outside -- it was warm and sunny with a bit of fall in the air.

You can see that I settled down to sketch a beautiful old church, up against the hillside.  But before I selected my sketching subject, I walked around for a bit with my camera, so here are some other scenes from my Occidental day:













 


Thursday, October 23, 2014

The ideal sewing machine

























     I've been participating in Danny Gregory's online "Sketchbook Skool" over the last year or so, as a way of learning more about sketching, trying new things, and keeping myself sketching.  (I highly recommend it -- the inspiration is fabulous!  You can check it out here.)  This week's lessons are taught by Mattias Adolfsson, a Swedish illustrator whose drawings come largely from his imagination and are filled with whimsy.  One of our assignments for the week was to draw something that "enhanced reality" -- took something from the world around it and let our imaginations run wild.

   Well, I started thinking about my sewing machine.  I have a great one.  (Actually, I have several but let's just skip over that, shall we?)  And I started thinking about what I wish it did, and I was off an running.  Although I had other things I should have been doing (um, work?!) I had to stop and get this sketch down.

  So here you have it.  And if a sewing machine company comes out with a machine with an extending and collapsing throat (would that be perfect?) remember -- you saw it here first.

  You can click on the image to see my "wish" items which I've installed on this machine.  I'll leave it to the engineers to figure out how to do it.  The hard part is coming up with the idea, right?
        *   An expanding throat size to accommodate quilting massive quilts
        *   No bobbin; load a spool of thread for the lower thread instead (this doesn't seem like it'd be that hard to design, does it?
        *   Beverage dispenser (don't bother me with the pesky facts like this would need a water line, how would you clean it, etc.)  I'm telling you, my ideal machine would dispense iced tea in the summer, pumpkin spiced lattes in the fall, eggnog lattes in December... Basically, a direct line to Starbucks.
       *   Neck and shoulder massages while you sew
       *   A friendly lint bunny inside to eat all of the lint and fuzz so the inside never needs cleaning.  Hm, maybe there should be an Oil bunny, too.
       *   A device on the machine that will press/steam the seam as it leaves the foot so you don' have to press.  And as long as we're imagining, let's imagine that it presses it as you desire, automatically.  IT JUST KNOWS.  Open seam?  Pressed to the dark fabric?  Whatever.  It'll just do it.
      * And while we're talking steam, how about having some of it waft toward you for automatic facials?  Sew and reduce wrinkles at the same time.

      And then the buttons to configure -- A few of the ones I'd have on my ideal machine:
       * Prepare meals for you
       * Allow you to dictate, send and receive emails and text messages.  Or not, if you want to be left alone.
       * Play your audio of choice -- music from XM radio, your Itunes library, audio books, podcasts...
  
I've added more.  And I left one button blank.  What would you add?  My friend Sarah suggested "clean house" which I think would be perfect.  Or perhaps a button for instant fabric delivery?



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

They put a spell on me

 I'm usually big on holidays, but Halloween has never been one of my favorites.  I don't like to be scared for one thing, so I think as a kid I didn't like the spooky part of the holiday.  I also had a general suspicion of people on costumes as a kid, so that was another strike against it.

Still, I like the friendlier sorts of Halloween decorations, and back when Miss C was little I scoutd out some rather cute Halloween fabrics and made two -- yes, TWO  Halloween quilts which I've enjoyed having out in the Octobers since then.

Here's one -- wonky Halloween houses.  (Sorry for the blurry photo -- it's old.)


I made this at a retreat, and I remember that a friend gave me some pieces of a witch fabric so I could add a few witches to the scary neighborhood:


 
Here's the other, a wonky log cabin with strippy scraps: 


A few weeks ago, I was pulling stuff out of my quilt closet for a few UFOs I planned to finish while at a quilt retreat, and I came across the box of Halloween fabric left from those quilts.  I thought I'd bundle them up and bring them to the retreat to put on the give-away table as I figured that it was unlikely I'd be making any more Halloween quilts.  And then I started looking through the batch of fabric.  Gosh, I'd forgotten bow cute a lot of them were.  little candy corns on a bright blue background.  Dancing skeletons on an orange background.  Black and white ghosts all mushed together.  Green eyes on purple background... and those black cats on the orange...



You can guess what happened next, right?  I started planning a scrappy Halloween quilt and I spent the first day of the retreat cutting and piecing it.  And it makes me smile.  I put together triangles so they look like Halloween flags, as you can see from the peak abovve.

I'm just about to start machine quilting, and as it's small, that won't take long.


Funny how fabric can cast a spell and make you do something you didn't plan on doing!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

With sisters like that...

 
I will admit that I've always had a sense of discomfort about college sororities.  I know it's not based on much personal experience, but as I approached my college years, I viewed sororities as groups of girls that banded together to promote their eliteness, to exclude girls who weren't "good enough," to meet boys, and to have parties.  That impression wasn't dispelled by the one sorority information meeting I went to when I was a senior in high school and shopping for colleges.  One after another, bouncy, Barbie-pretty girls stood up to describe the reasons to join a sorority.  Making friends, having fun parties, having a great social life on the weekends. One girl went on at some length about the wonderful file of past student-written essays and term papers that many sororities maintained, so that its members could "share" them when work was due.  She was beaming, talking about this wonderful resource.  And I was thinking, "Isn't that called... um, CHEATING?"  That meeting didn't improve my view of sororities.

I went on to a college that was relatively new, had no residential sororities on campus, and perhaps because of the time period or college location, sororities and fraternities were considered pretty uncool.  So that was that.

But since then, I've assumed -- or maybe hoped -- that the role sororities play in the lives of college women has evolved.  The days of viewing women as merely decorative helpmates are behind us, aren't they?  And the idea that women go to college mainly to find a husband -- that is surely outdated.  Isn't it?  I've assumed that sororities had evolved to focus on emphasizing qualities like leadership, accomplishment, teamwork, community, and diversity.

So I was genuinely shocked this week when I learned from a friend that her daughter -- a striking, intelligent, confident young woman of Chinese heritage, was told by an officer in her sorority that she wasn't "pretty enough" to meet the new rush recruits.  Appalled doesn't even begin to describe my reaction.  The girl's mother -- herself an alumna of that same sorority -- is incensed and expressing her reaction up the sorority's chain of leadership.  Not surprisingly, the young woman is embarrassed and doesn't want to make a big deal out of it.  Her take on it?  The sorority just wants to make sure that it is represented well to prospective members, and it's no big deal.  She apparently doesn't question the message that she's not good enough to represent her sorority.

But I can't stop thinking about it.  That could have been my daughter.  That could have been any of our daughters.  For any girl, that's unacceptable.  It's Mean Girl behavior, even more dangerous because it's disguised in a sweet-smelling package of "sisterhood."

It breaks my heart to think of that young woman and how devastating a message like that must be to her self-esteem, her belief that she belongs, her view of those women as her "sisters." The message that you're not "pretty enough" to meet other people is a deeply damaging and demeaning message.

I think what's troubling me more, though, is that a message like that can be so deeply embedded in an institution like a sorority, so that its members -- even in 2014 -- accept it as valid and not worthy of serious objection.  I can't stand the thought that those young women are internalizing that belief, because it's the sisterhood they trust -- the very "sisters" who are supposed to "have each other's backs" for life -- telling them that they're not good enough for ANY reason, let alone for how they look.  And what girl (yes, these are girls, not fully formed, experienced women) can stand up to that sort of crippling message?  In that setting, belonging and being a good group member means being quiet, accepting, pushing down one's own hurt, not making a fuss. That's how women learn to accept the devaluing of their worth and the diminishment of their feelings.  It's an especially insidious and powerful lesson when it comes from the people those girls trust and want to emulate.  

So the words-- yes, those were harsh and stupid and hurtful and just wrong. But it's the big message -- that it's okay for a group of young women in an academic setting to be valued, and to value each other, by their appearance -- that is shocking and damaging.  I'd like to think that this young woman will realize that a group that expresses its values like that isn't worthy of her.  I'd like to think that she knows that she's already too good for a group that places a girl's physical appearance above all of her other characteristics.   But I don't know what she'll do.  The mother who's complaining -- Will she be heard as expressing legitimate concerns about what the sorority's values are? Or will she be viewed as an over-protective mother angry because her daughter was deemed unsuitable?  I don't know what she will be able to do, either.

I'd like to see that young woman and her mother go public. I'd like to see that girl quit the sorority and tell the world why.  I'd like her to make video for Youtube about her experience. I'd like it to go viral, and I'd like to see her on the Today Show talking about why sororities that give messages like this have no place in today's world.  I'd like to see women rise up to support her, and I'd like to see the leaders of that particular sorority publicly apologize and pledge to work with its members to eradicate harmful messages like that.

I don't know if any of those things will happen, either.  But I can write this.

 As women, we get the message that "we're not good enough" all of the time.  We're told, through deeds if not words, that we're not worth the same pay as men who do the very same work we do.  We are too emotional.  We're not capable of leading a nation nation or a business.  We're bombarded with messages all of the time that how we look is at least as important, if not more, than how smart we are or how well we communicate or how effective we are in our work.

Thank goodness that there are so many people all over the world fighting those messages.  Thank goodness there are adults who tell and show the girls in their lives that they are "good enough" because they are just who they are, that their uniqueness makes them beautiful and important.  Because if any college sorority is teaching young women the sorts of values demonstrated by this incident, we're all going to need to fight a whole lot harder.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Company of Friends


I've written here before about the quilt retreat I attend several times of year, at a beautiful retreat center here in Sonoma County called Bishop's Ranch.  I go with a group of 40-45 women, most from Northern California, and many who've been coming for quite a few years.  You might remember that quilt up there -- it's one I did a few years ago for a Ranch Hands' challenge which required us to incorporate that hunky cowboy in a quilt.  I used photos I'd taken during many of the show-and-tells, to celebrate the women at the retreat that I have come to know and love.

I was just there for another 4 day retreat, and as usual, it was fun and productive and inspiring and filled with laughter.  And, as I always do during these retreats, I ended up thinking a  lot about how enriched I feel from being part of that community of women.  We're all different ages, and we've had an enormous variety of life experiences.  But we come together to create and share and laugh, and it feels satisfying and joyful in an important way. 

In past years, I've taken a lot of photos.  But nowadays, I try to stay in the moment and just enjoy what is happening without trying to record it via my camera.  So all of those moments of intimate sharing, of raucous laughter, of silly joking and delirious punning --even the awe-filled moments sitting outside in the evenings watching the harvest moon float up into the sky -- they're in my head and my heart.  I don't need photographs.

When I first started coming to these retreats years ago, I appreciated them for the concentrated chunks of time to get projects done, and for the inspiration and education I got from working around other quilters.  But over time, the quilting part feels secondary to me.  Now, what's most important to me about these retreats is the pleasure and fulfillment of spending time with these friends.  We talk freely about our lives, our families, our experiences as we grow older.  I feel like I'm part of a tribe, and there's a lot of tribal wisdom that gets shared over fabric and pins and glasses of wine. 

And of course, I always end up thinking about the long tradition of women making quilts together, and I love feeling that in our modern way, in a big room with our fancy electronic sewing machines and enough electronics to challenge even the best-supplied electrical system, we're carrying on that tradition.  We take little bits of fabric and turn them into something bigger and prettier, just as we take the bits of our lives and share them to weave a strong and beautifully colored fabric. 

If you are one of the Ranch Hands and are reading this, please know how much you mean to me! 

Do you have a community with whom you share your creative endeavors? Or with whom you can laugh and be silly? 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Because curly food tastes better


Yep, I'm still off quilting on my retreat.  But in the meantime, I have to ask you: do you have a spiralizer?

If not, you're going to want one.

Trust me.  I'm a middle of the road sort of vegetable eater.  I like a lot of vegetables and managed quite comfortably as a vegetarian for a lot years in my 20's and 30's.  But let me tell you - this little gadget makes vegetables downright fun.

And heck, we could all use a bit more fun in our meals, don't you think?

I honestly don't remember how I became aware of the new fad of turning vegetable into beautifully long noodles and ribbons.  But I do remember standing in a fancy kitchen store a few months ago, looking at the various options and wondering which was best.  I went home empty-handed, but did some research online to try to figure out which was best.  And, based on that, I ordered a free-standing model by Paderno that was reasonably priced and got good user reviews.  It's the very one pictured above.

And gosh, it's been fun.  I think I've used it almost every day since I got it.  I started by spiralizing (ooh, I just love even saying "spiralizing") cucumbers into lovely curls that made a great refreshing salad with a few sprinkles of rice vinegar and a teaspoon or two of chopped peanuts.  Since then, I've moved onto spiralizing (there it is again!) zucchini and carrots.  Turning zucchini into spaghetti-like strands is my current obsession.  Delicious with peanut sauce and some diced chicken thrown in.  And, with a hot red sauce on top, you'd think you were eating actual spaghetti.

I'm still having fun with the basics, but I've been reading "Inspiralized," a blog devoted to uses of spiralized food, and there are some wonderful ideas there.  (Today's featured recipe there is "Cheddar Rosemary Spiralized Potato Pancakes.  Oh my.  Excuse me if I'm drooling.) And look here, there's spiralled cinnamon-sugar apples.  A perfect little taste of fall -- apple pie with out the pie part.  Go google 'spiralizer' on Pinterest and you'll come up with a bunch more recipes too.

I'm kind of astonished that this gadget really does work as well as various blogs and websites and ads say it does.