Thursday, September 18, 2014

Up Close and Personal



The death of Joan Rivers recently made me think about how although I have never been a huge fan of her stand-up comedy, I came to see her in a whole different way after seeing the documentary about her, called "A Piece of Work."  There's something about seeing someone up close and personal, in the context of the pieces of his/her life, with a sense of her whole life story, that I find fascinating.  This movie made me appreciate what a hard working, ground-breaking performer she's been for all of her adult life.  Here's the official trailer for the movie.

And that made me think of some other biographical documentaries that I really enjoyed.  For much of my life, I've tended to watch fictional movies.  But over the last few years, I've been watching a lot of documentaries.  It's like reality tv, I guess. But better -- and perhaps far more real.  Anyway, here are a few other biographical documentaries I've really liked.  Are there ones you've loved?  Do share them with me in a comment!


Speaking of fabulously successful yet insecure performers, this documentary about Elaine Stritch -- "Shoot Me" -- is gripping and funny and poignant.  She's another performer I liked well enough, but came to see differently after seeing this film.  How frightened she was of aging and losing her memory, and how much she needed the adoration of fans. It was amazing to see how she'd be sore and sad in her dressing room, then the minute she hit the stage, she'd be erect and charming and with charisma just shining from her. The trailer's here.


Have you seen "20 Feet from Stardom"?  It won the Oscar for the best documentary film this past year.  It follows several long-time but not very well known (to the general public, anyway) back-up singers who've sung behind the big names in pop and rock music.  It's intriguing to meet these women whose voices we hear all of the time, on our CDs and on the radio, and to hear their stories as they talk about how it is that they are not at the front of the stage.  I loved this look at a side of the music industry I'd never really thought about. Here's the official trailer.


I can't remember how it was that I heard about the movie "Bill Cunningham New York" or why I watched it, but I really enjoyed this movie. Bill Cunningham is a fashion photographer for the New York Times who rides around NYC on his bicycle photographing what real people are wearing for his dedicate page "On the Street."  His view of fashion as something that is relevant for real people, as armor for coping with life, is thought-provoking. But it's his odd, quiet private life juxtaposed with the hugeness of his role in NY's fashion world that made this film so fascinating for me.  He's a guy you'd not look twice at if you passed him on the street -- and a look inside his life is truly entertaining and intriguing.  The trailer is here.  



Exit Through the Gift Shop is another film that has gotten a lot of press and acclaim over the last few years, and if you've not seen it it's really worth watching.  It looks at NY graffiti artist Banksy (well, doesn't "look at" him as his identity is not publicly known) -- how his graffiti has affected, changed, and mocked the art world.  It raises a lot of questions -- what is art, anyway?  who can say what is art and what isn't? -- and is thought provoking as well as wildly entertaining.  Trailer here.

I have so many more on my Netflix queue so I'll keep you posted if I watch any great ones. 


Monday, September 15, 2014

Yosemite

Nope, I"m not there right now.  I realized that I never showed you the photos I took there during my gold country trip in early August.  Sonora, where I was staying, is about a 90 minute drive from the Yosemite valley floor. So it's a reasonable day trip (if you don't take the Very Very Long and Windy way home, which we did. But that's a story for  another day.)

Anyway.  Here are some Yosemite photos. The thing about taking photos there, I find, is that is that it's all so breathtakingly beautiful and so perfectly Yosemite-ish that it's hard to take a picture that doesn't look like a bad imitation of something you've seen on a postcard or Ansel Adams poster.  I found that I wanted to take picture after picture there, as a way to bring all of that beauty home with me. Even the best photos don't do it justice.  But I'll show you anyway. 





 




































Thursday, September 11, 2014

So Many Pretty Quilts

Having finished a quilt last week, I am feeling the urge to start another one.  On the one hand, I have plenty of UFOs stacked up in my closet, and I really should tackle another.  On the other hand, I have scads and scads of fabric that needs to be used.  NEEDS to be, I tell you.

Last evening, I pulled the top UFO off of the stack -- a batch of kaleidoscope blocks I'd started piecing last spring but then life interrupted and it got set aside -- and in one evening I got the whole top pieced together.  (Photos to come once I've got it ironed!)  So I've moved that from "the UFO" pile to the "to be quilted" pile (they're different in my mind. And yes, I know it's not finished if it's not quilted.  But still.  It's my system and it's working for me. Ahem)  

So, with one totally finished quilt, and a finished quilt top under my belt (in the same week! Fanfare, please!), I figured that I was justified in choosing a new scrap quilt project to a) use up a bit of my fabric collection and b) prepare a good piecing project or two for my upcoming quilt retreat in early October.  I settled down in bed with my Ipad to look at the scrappy quilts I've pinned on Pinterest to get me thinking.  Oh my.  So many pretty quilts.  Which direction to go in?

Maybe scrappy equilateral triangles, like this one by Rita at Red Pepper Quilts.  She has the best, best sense of color and pattern and every time she posts a quilt on her blog, I want to make it.


Or maybe I should just start making half square triangles with my scraps -- there are so many great quilts to make with scrappy HST blocks, like this sort of thing:


Or maybe something a little bit more complex.... like this quilt, called "Ups and Downs," designed by Sarah Fielke of Material Obsessions fame... It's really just 4-patches alternating with a flying geese sort of block... but so interesting!


I keep stumbling into pictures of this quilt block, called Flowering Snowball, and I'm clearly drawn to it as I seem to have pinned various examples of this quilt.  So fresh, so scrappy.  It requires a particular template, but that'd be okay.  And maybe the curved piecing would be a good project for retreat sewing -- not boring but easy enough to combine with chatting and such.


And even thought I've made several flying geese quilts lately, I continue to be drawn to them.  So maybe it'd be fun to make another. (This pretty one is made by Rita at Red Pepper Quilts.) Cutting the geese parts with the Go Cutter makes it so, so easy and fast.


Oh!  And then I've been wanting to do this -- a charm quilt with Liberty of London squares interspersed with a low volume neutral.  This one, yep -- Rita again -- just takes my breath away.  I'll confess that I spent some time looking at buying charm squares of Liberty cotton but then I remembered that the point here was to use up fabric I have, not buy more.  Sigh.  So this will go on a back burner.


And take a look at this!  It's a quilt block design called "X and +" and seems to be based on a Japanese quilt that was displayed at a big quilt show and then published in a quilting magazine -- and so it's popping up in a lot of places online.  I love the jumble of color.  And it's an unusual block ... not difficult, just with some piecing of component parts. A very kind quilter named Amy Badskirt posted a tutorial on her blog on making this block, in case you're as smitten as I am.


Speaking of jumbles of color and pattern, I started thinking about the Kaffe Fassett quilts I've been wanting to make.  This (from his Quilt Romance book) would be fun and, I think, would look great with a scrappier, multicolored look.

Thinking of that quilt made me get up and go get the book off of my shelf.... and I found that I'd tagged the page with his "Ice Cream" quilt which is just strips of different widths sewn round each other.  (Here's someone else's version of it...)  There's no more than 1 yard of any of the fabrics required so it'd be a good stash quilt.


I fell asleep last night thinking of quilts, but didn't decide anything.  Clearly I just need to pick one and dive in.  But which one?  I'll be letting this percolate while I get some left-brain work done today.  Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Season for Geese


It is such a satisfying feeling to finish a quilt!  You might have noticed that it's not something I do every other week so it's cause for celebration!  Yesterday, I finished the polka dotted flying geese quilt I started a few months ago.  

This quilt resulted from a serindipitous moment in my studio.  Some years ago, I bought a bundle of fat quarters of polka dotted fabric at a quilt show, just because I love dots and they looked so luscious, all bundled together.  Like candy!  I kept the bundle on my shelf where I could see it, because it just made me so  happy to look at it.  And about 3 years ago, when I went to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England, I discovered Oak Shott cottons -- gorgeous shot-cotton fabric made in the UK.  I bought a small bundle of them too, a rainbow assortment.  And I had that on a different shelf in my sewing room.  

So a few months back, I was pulling fabrics for a project and happened to grab the polka dots off of the shelf in order to get a book behind them.  I did the same with the shot cottons.  So there they were, next to each other on my table, looking like they were meant to go together.  After a flurry of triangle cutting, here we are.


I did a lot of doodling to figure out how to machine quilt this.  I wanted to knock back the spaces between the geese, so you can see I landed on some straight line quilting.  And it turned out that the geese triangles were too bumpy without any internal quilting so I did an internal triangle in each one.  Once I block this it'll be nice and flat.  (So I suppose it's not TOTALLY done.  Blocking and the label.  Still, I'm calling it done.)  

There are big multicolored polka dots on the back, and I was happy that my local favorite quilt shop had Kaffe Fassett shot cotton in just the persimmon color I wanted for the binding.  

Now, on to the next project!

 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pure Joy

A little girl experiences rain for the first time. It's the best.

Friday, August 29, 2014

These days



Watching:  Last Tango in Halifax - a lovely BBC show about two widowed older folks who meet again and decide to marry. And Sherlock

Eating:  Juicy white peaches.  Poached salmon.  Lots of basil.

Reading:  Incessantly. The best of recent novels:

     The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney.  A mysterious school for the rehabilitation of abused dogs -- or is it for the rehabilitation of the people who come there? 

     Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes by Betsy Woodman - the first in a series about a Scottish woman in India, along the lines of the Alexander McCall Smith "Ladies Detective Agency" series.

     11/22/63, Stephen King's non-horror time travel novel about a man who tries to go back in time to stop the assassination of JFK.

    The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna von Praag.  A house for women who need a bit of a breather while they figure things out, along with some magic realism.  Charming.

Creating:  Lots of sketches.  (See here.)  Jumbly journals.  (See here.)  And getting ready to quilt a quilt that has been waiting far too long.

What have you been up to?  Read any good books lately?







Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Vacation Sketching

My friend Pat today asked if I sketched while I was away.  Of course I did!  I did quite a mix -- some on site, some from photos I'd taken earlier in the day when I was back at the rental cottage in air-conditioned comfort, and some I drew in ink on site and then painted later.  Wanna see what I did?

First, a page about Sonora. I sketched mostly from photos I took, as it was BLAZING hot and humid. 


 Next day was Columbia, the restored gold mining village.  My sister and I sat and painted on site, on a bench in the shade. So this was wholly done en plein air, as they say.  We had the stage coach going by regularly (wonderful to hear the clip-clop of horses' hooves as we sketched) and we were near a musician playing the banjo and harmonica and singing period songs. Perfect!


In Columbia we had lunch at the tea house there.  While waiting for our food (gulping iced tea thirstily, it was so hot!) we started sketching and then food arrived.  So this was fast, colors aren't to my liking (too pale, no contrast) but I did it fast and left it as is.  



Next day was Yosemite, and I sketched two of these bits while there, and two at home.
 
  We spent an hour at the fancy old lodge-style hotel in Yosemite, the Ahwahnee Hotel, and did a bit of sketching in the lounge while we rested and cooled off.  What a gorgeous hotel with lots of accessible public areas.  I drew this on site and then I added color from photos the next day at home.

:


We were staying at a very charming rental cottage (you can rent it yourself here) and there was a totally adorable pink victorian farmhouse across the street.  So one day I sat and sketched that:

 Then we took a day to explore the little gold rush towns of Murphy's and Angels Camp.  Angels Camp is the setting of "The Jumping Frog of Calavaras County" by Mark Twain, so there's a lot of frog stuff there.  They still have a frog jumping contest every May, and all down the sidewalk there were brass plaques for each year's winner. 



 I remembered Murphys as tiny and sleepy, but it's become a big wine-tasting town, with many of the old storefronts turned into tasting rooms.  Still, it was quite charming and I loved the hotel in the center of town.


There you have it!  I have more I want to do from the bazillion photos I took, too.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Columbia

Shall we continue our California Gold Country tour?  Columbia is a little gold rush town, and also a historic state park. I was there as a kid, and it was kind of amazing to see that so little had changed.  Except the staff/reenactors were often seen fiddling with their smart phones.  Sigh.  But it's very charming and we were there on a Wednesday morning when there were few people about.  So, let's take a look.








































 

Shhhh -- I think it's a ghost cat!