Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Agony of Defeat

Sometimes, life -- or a hockey stick, or a knitting needle -- hits you in the face.

I'm not going to meet my Knitting Olympics goal of finishing my Charlotte's Web shawl before the end of tonight's opening ceremonies. But that's okay. I'm just honored to have been on the team. And to have participated in these glorious ceremonies for the achievement of knitters worldwide.

I'm about 2/3 done with the shawl. It looks like a balled up mess, at this point, but I'm promised that it will be stunning when it's all blocked.

Today, I head down to my parents' house for a visit with them before we attend the funeral of a dear family friend tomorrow. So, I'll be quietly knitting tonight and thinking with admiration of all of the knitters who have gathered together in this valiant effort.

And I'm gonna start training for Vancouver right away.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Around the block brightly

A few months ago, I told you here about my Practical Design workshop assignment to use a particular traditional quilt block as the basis for a new design.

At the time, I fiddled with Electric Quilt 5 and designed several different blocks...but none thrilled me enough to want to rush to fabric to start sewing. I also decided to spend my time on my house quilt, so that's what I did.

But my next workshop is next week, and I decided that I wanted to complete this and see where the assignment takes me next. ( I suspect that future assignments will involve this base block, but who knows...) I rejected my previous designs, and instead did what I usually do: I picked fabric that I love, and started there.

And here's the exciting part: With my new birthday scanner, I was able to scan my actual fabric into EQ5 and then design the block to see what it would really look like! It was incredibly easy to scan and save the fabric swatch and then use it to plug it into my design.

And voila, here it is! My sewn block really does look just like this!

Wool Come Home

These knitting Olympics have been good for me.

First, I decided (at the absolute latest possible moment) to knit a lace shawl. I've never knit lace before, or a shawl, and in fact haven't knit a thing in years except plain old scarves from that fluffy yarn that doesn't show a mistake no matter what you do. Still, I jumped right in...and I've been having a grand time. And if all those holes aren't perfectly aligned when I block the thing, I'm not going to worry about it.

So, there I was in front of a big table of new, shiny, colorful knitting books at Beverly's yesterday with my friends Gerrie, Rita, Pat, and Janet. We'd gone out to lunch (crabcakes!) and were cruising. Beverly's is always good for cruising. There was a book that just lept into my hands, all scarves and shawls and pretty things... Janet passed me her 40% off coupon and I went for it. I'll finish that shawl one of these days (not Sunday, not in time for the closing ceremonies, I'm afraid, but one day) and I'll need something to do next.

On the way home, I stopped at my sister's house to say hi. As I drove up, I could see her sitting in her big comfy chair by the window, knitting. As we are often strangely in sync, I was not surprised to hear that she'd been at Beverly's earlier that day and couldn't resist some fun yarns for scarves.

I showed her my book, and we oohed and aahed over the patterns. Here we are, perimenopausal women who are hot more than cold, living in sunny California, and we're obsessed with knitting scarves. It's not about the scarves, it's the process, we agreed. (And, as Rita suggested back at Beverly's, we can always knit stuff and give it all away.)

"I'll be right back!" she announced, and dashed out of the room.

She returned with a large garbage bag that looked familiar.

"I've been saving this for you."

I knew what it was before I peered inside. It was yarn...piles of yarn I'd accumulated over 11 years of living and knitting in New Hampshire, when I was just 10 miles away from the most wonderful spinning, weaving, and yarn store I'd ever encountered. About a year ago, I did a major purge of stuff from my closets and garage, and my sister arrived and rummaged through the discard pile to see what I was giving up.

"You're getting rid of this yarn?" She looked at me with stark disbelief on her face.

"I'm not knitting anymore, so there's no point in keeping it around." I was in a ruthless mood.

Laura claimed it, stashed it in the back of HER closet...and returned it to me yesterday. She knew I'd want it again and regret getting rid of it. And she was right. I'm delighted to see it...and I'm itching to get at some lovely pink wool in there for the next scarf.

My sister knows me better than I know myself.

Now, back to knitting.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Queen of the Ring

I got a nasty email recently from someone whose blog I didn't add to the Artful Quilters blog ring. This blogger posted a new entry about once every 2 weeks, and I declined the blog because it wasn't updated frequently enough for the ring's rules. The blogger ended with some comment like, "So, do you think you're Queen of the Internet?"

It actually made me laugh. I sent a civil reply (such restraint!) but I've been grinning to myself each time I've performed some blog ring task lately. I don't get to be Queen of ANYthing in real life, so heck, I might as well claim the Queen of the Artful Quilters Blog Ring and be proud of it!

When I started the Artful Quilters blog ring, my goal was to connect blogging art quilters, and to provide an easy way for folks interested in art quilty blogs to find them. With a ring, if you find one, you've found a bunch. And we all know how fun cruising blog rings can be.

What I didn't know was what managing the ring would be like over time. Really, it's fun and pretty darned easy. The hard part? All sorts of people apply to join the ring. And I have to figure out whether to put them on or not. Saying "yes" is easy. But saying "no" isn't.

I thought'd I'd take a bit of space here to explain how I approach the issue. And, by the way, this isn't intended as a message to get people to change their blogging habits. It's just an explanation of how I view the ring and what blogs are included, because I get inquiries about this.

When a blogger applies, I go and look at the blog. (Duh.) If a blog doesn't have more than 5 entries, I leave it on the "queue" and return to it some time later. I can't tell the direction of a new blog until there are at least 5 entries.

I read current and past entries. I look to see whether the blog is PRIMARILY about art quilting. I don't care about talent or skill level, to tell you the truth. I look for enthusiasm, mainly, and the sense that interest in contemporary or innovative or artful quilting techniques are what the blogger is exploring in his/her creative life.

When the ring was about 6 months old -- we had maybe 50 members then -- I polled all the members and asked for input about what they wanted the ring to be. Universally, the view was that the ring should be narrowly focused on art quilting. So, that perspective guides me as well.

I also look to see that the blog is updated at least once or twice a week. Some people don't want to update their blogs this frequently, and that's of course their choice ... but the regular updating is required in this ring. In my view, the ring is a lot more useful and interesting to use if it links you to new and fresh entries. I know that when I visit a blog and there isn't a new entry over a period of several visits, I'm less inclined to return. I want people to use the ring, and regular updating makes using the ring link more effective. I state the "regular updating" rule in the ring's rules, right up front in the application process, so I figure people know what they're getting into.

What do I decline? I do not include general websites, sales sites, or general art display sites. This is a blog ring, and I consider only online journals as appropriate for the ring.

I also get many applications from folks who are blogging about traditional quilting. Sometimes it feels like an awkward judgment call as to whether the focus is traditional or contemporary/innovative. I wholeheartedly believe that traditional quilts are artful, so my decision not to include them in the ring isn't any value judgment about their artistic merit. But because the focus of this ring is for blogs about contemporary, innovative, art quilting, the ring isn't for those blogs. And there are other rings for general quilting blogs and websites.

I get applications from bloggers who post primarily about knitting, or beading, or handbag making, or other crafts. They're fun to read, but they're not on topic here. There are art quilt blogs that have a lot of embellisment, dyeing, and other fiber-related info as well. And those get joined to the ring. Sometimes it's a judgment call.

Almost all of the ring members post a lot about non-quilting things: family, friends, events, pets, other creative activites...and of course, the occasional political rants. That's how we get to know each other (and those are some of the most interesting entries!). But when I get applications from blogs which are primarily family activities blogs with occasional quilt-related entries, I tend to decline them. Yes, we all go through phases where quilting gets less time in our lives than we'd like. Still, if a blogger approaches the ring, I'm looking to see that the blog is PRIMARILY related to art quilting.

I will admit that management of the ring is pretty low on my list of priorities. So blogs do sit on the queue for a while, especially when I'm on the fence about them. I keep watching to see whether they drift more toward art quilt related content or not, and then decide.

Also, from time to time I have some of the long-time ring members look at applicant blogs. It's useful to me to get a sense of how other art quilting bloggers view the ring and its focus.

Keeping an online journal is a strange mix of personal purpose and public communication. Your blog is for you and about you, so it should be what you want. And if a blog isn't right for this ring, that doesn't say ANYthing about the quality of the blog or the talent of the blogger. Rings aren't popularity or talent tests, or elite groups...They're just a convenient way of finding blogs with similarities.

I'm taking off my crown now, and I'm going to do some quilting.

Friday, February 17, 2006

If this is Friday...

I've been spending a lot of time in the car lately.

On Wednesday, I drove the 2+ hours each way to Folsom to do the workshop with Frieda Anderson.

Yesterday, Caroline and I drove to San Francisco (about a 90 minute drive each way) to visit the Exploratorium (a great hands-on science museum) and Chinatown. Caroline is home for so-called "ski week" and this outing was a specific request. I was especially proud of her for being so nice to the ladies in the shops in Chinatown. Being with an obviously non-Chinese mom, she attracts a lot of looks and questions from the shopkeepers, but she handled it pretty gracefully. I'm very pleased that she is so proud of her Chinese heritage. She chose a really beautiful Chinese dress in a frosty blue silk that looks gorgeous on her, which she will want to wear to every special event in the next few months, I know.

Today, I head back across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Mateo, a town on the other side of SF from here, to work in my sister''s booth with her at the Sew/Quilt Embroidery Festival. Laura designs gorgeous needlework patterrns and sells hand-dyed threads, and we'll have fun chatting with stitchers, demonstrating stitches, and otherwise enjoying the show. You can check out her wide variety of designs here, btw.

Then, tomorrow, all three of us head back to Sacramento to go to a party on a riverboat on the Sacramento River (ooh la la!). We'll stay overnight and return on Sunday afternoon.

Lots of goings on...I'm having fun but am looking forward to next week when I can just stay home, too!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Look what I did yesterday...

I spent the day with Frieda Anderson!

A few weeks ago, I'd read on Frieda's blog that she was coming to Folsom, California to give a workshop to the guild there. Folsom is just over 2 hours away from me, and I immediately emailed the program chair to find out if there was any room for visitors. There were just two spots left, she said, so I quickly called my friend Pat who agreed to join me for the trek. So we signed up, and yesterday was the day.

I hope Frieda appreciates how much I wanted to meet her and participate in the workshop, because I don't get up at 5:40 am to see just ANYone. I pulled up at Pat's house at 7am to find her standing on the curb, also eager to get going. We planned time for a lot of traffic, but luckily didn't get much. We were in Folsom by 9:15, in time to stop for coffee and a scone before the workshop started.

My only shots of Frieda are action shots. In both, she's showing with her samples of how to do (or how NOT to do!) some important part of the fusing technique. She was friendly and gracious and very calm under pressure. She didn't flinch or get ruffled when various women in the room had problems with their bad Wonder Under. The Folsom guild ladies were also marveling how Frieda remained cool and collected when her projector threw a fit during her presentation to their guild the night before. They all loved her talk and were very impressed at how she seemed so unphased by that unfortunate glitch.

Frieda let each class member choose a pattern to work from to learn her approach to fusing. Both Pat and I chose Trilliums. This is Frieda's little quilt:

Of course, it was great to see her quilts in person. She had gorgeous hand-dyed fabric and she uses them well to create designs with a lot of contrast.

I was really glad Pat wanted to come, as she's never had "formal instruction" at fusing and she's been wanting to give it a focussed try. The bad news was that Pat had gotten a hunk of the bad Wonder Under.... Here she is peeling the bad paper off. The good news is that Pat didn't seem too phased by it, and for the rest of her project I shared my old, good W-U and she could see how easily worked when the product wasn't defective.

Here's a really blurry shot of how far I got by 4pm.

It was a very fun day. One exciting part was that I got to use the stunning pink thermos that Roger gave me to enjoy hot afternoon coffee.

Surprisingly, the traffic coming home wasn't too bad, and Pat and I stopped on the way to enjoy a leisurely dinner at a cute little Italian restaurant. I was home in time to put Caroline to bed, pat the dog, give Roger a kiss, and fall into bed myself.

Thanks, Frieda, for a fun day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Monday, February 13, 2006

Thoughts on the Design Wall

I was excited when I figured out a way to include a design wall in my tiny office. I bought two styrofoam insulation sheets, covered them with batting, and screwed them into the wall behind the door and over my file cabinet. It's not a huge space, but it allows me to see most of what I want to see on a decently large quilt.

You can see it here... the quilt is crunched up on the bottom right where files are sitting on my file cabinet. This top is about 54 by 54 here, so you get an idea of the size of the wall area.

But recently, I've become cautious about how I use the design wall. I quilt in bursts, time wise-- I don't work on one project days on end until it's done. Instead, I start something and usually work for every possible moment over a day or two, in that burst of early enthusiasm. But then work and family and other activities intervene, and I'm left to work on it at odd times in between. And, during those "off times," my current project sits up on the design wall.

I took a great workshop from Karen Stone some months ago (the Cinco de Mayo quilt with complex New York Beauty type blocks which take a while to make) and she mentioned in passing that she'll work on them, one block at a time, but she doesn't set them all up on her design wall. She stacks the blocks in a box, and then each time she works on the quilt, she has the fresh excitement of seeing the blocks again and being surprised at how she likes them.

Bing! Lightbulb moment for me! She's expressed something I hadn't even begun to articulate, but that I was starting to discover through experience... When I leave something up on the design wall for days or weeks, I stop seeing it with fresh eyes. It becomes less interesting to me. Originally, I thought that something up there would keep me thinking about it, even while I had to sit at my computer to do other work. And that's true, for a day or so. But beyond that, I'm finding, the thrill and the desire to move it forward wears off, somehow.

The quilt shown above is a good example of this. I've been working on adding a pieced border to these blocks, and I had about 2/3 of it done, pinned in sections to the wall. Then I had to switch gears to other deadline projects, and I found that I didn't get excited looking at it on the wall. I took it down and put it on the "finish this soon" shelf in my newly tidied closet...and now, not having seen these blocks for about 2 weeks, I'm excited about it just pulling up that picture for this entry.

So, nowadays I'm trying to be judicious about what is up on my wall and for how long. I'm working on my aerial view landscape, for example, but I'm not getting big chunks of time right now. So I'm keeping it rolled up on my sewing table where I can't see the front until I unroll it to start work anew.

Another thought about work in progress: I work in such weird stages, and on several things at once, that if I only showed things on the blog that were totally finished, I wouldn't have much quilt stuff to show. So, I've been posting things as I go...sometimes in progress in small increments, sometimes revealing it first when I get it to a presentable stage, like where the top is done, maybe.

But now I'm thinking that it might be useful TO ME to not let myself show stuff until it's finished...So, as Melody says, the desire for the "a HA!" reveal moment will help push me to get it done. I apply that rule to my work for showing things at my art group and quilt guild.

I'll probably keep doing what I'm doing, posting along the way, because I like it so much when other artist bloggers do that. I love seeing the process.

Still, I'm thinking about this.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunshiney Sunday

While it's storming wildly on the east coast, here in Northern California the day was warm and sunny and astonishingly mild. Roger, Caroline and I decided to head to Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma to get out in the sunshine.

Cornerstone Gardens describes itself as "the first gallery style garden exhibit in the United States." Basically, it's a garden in which various well-known and innovative landscape architects set up exciting landscape scenes and installations which change regularly. I've been wanting to come here for ages.

I thought we'd all like it, and I was right. It's a great place to roam, especially with kids. This birdhouse shot is from an area called the Sonoma Children's Garden. The birdhouses are actually quite large, maybe 12 to 15 inches on each side...and on the ground was a barrel with corks for kids (and grown ups) to try throwing into the bird house openings.

I had a great time wandering around taking pictures.

This blue bubble tree is probably the garden's most famous piece. The balls are plastic ornaments, like Christmas ornaments.

This installation with red bamboo poles on a field of white gravel sprinkled gradually into black gravel was very striking. You could walk between the poles to follow a little path to a pond in the center.

Also on the premises is a shop with beautiful architectural salvage pieces (of the exquisitely shabby and expensive variety).

This pot was huge and gorgeous, just lying on its side.

Caroline was happy to pose and I got several photos of her I just love.

She loved being in this big birdhouse.

And don't you sometimes just feel like lounging on some big green bumps to think about life?

I even caught Roger looking photogenic!

We concluded our day with an Italian dinner at Roberto's, a traditional style place recommended by my friend Pat and her husband Len who is obsessed with good food...if HE liked it, I figured we would. They were right, and it was fabulous. We marveled at how a simple salad of fresh greens tossed with a sharp blue cheese dressing could taste so unusually delicious and fresh. Roger loved his spaghetti bolognese, and I was swooning over my premises-made gnocci with tomato cream sauce. Caroline, eating her usual favorite of spaghetti with butter and cheese, announced that she was getting gnocci next time.

We came home happy and well rested and very well fed.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

I couldn't resist...


You are Kara:
You're an underdog. You manage to stay in the game by remaining quiet and going un-noticed. Slow and steady wins the race for you, but if someone tries to screw you over, you'll snip their pee-pee off.

Which Project Runway 2 Designer Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Baby Charlotte

Hey, look! It's the beginning of a shawl!

Like a disciplined olympic athlete, I cast on as soon as the olympic ceremonies started last night. And then I pulled out, and cast on again. And again. And again. But on the 6th try, I got it right. I think. Right enough to keep going, anyway. No, actually, I'm pretty sure it's right. 99% sure and 1% hoping.

So...what did I think of the opening ceremonies you ask? Well, I didn't really see them. I HEARD them. I was counting stitches and watching my graph intently, only looking up at the end of a row to breathe a big sigh of relief. I loved that the Olympic flag carriers were important women from each continent, and was absolutely delighted to see Susan Sarandan there.

I was thinking about the funny concept of the Knitting Olympics -- can you believe that about 4000 people are participating in this, just through the Yarn Harlot's blog? It ballooned almost overnight, with cities developing "teams" and yarn stores giving discounts to people buying yarn for their K.O. projects!

Hmmm, maybe a quilt olympics would be an amusing spin off (we've got 4 years to plan, after all...) But it's no big feat to finish a quilt in 16 days. Puh-leeze. That's no challenge at all.

Some other odds and ends from yesterday:

If you like alternative/folky, mellow but happy music, check out Jack Johnson's songs on the soundtrack from the new Curious George movie. It's wonderful! I'm listening to it right now, and it's quite nice. This is music you could play in the car for your kids OR by yourself. (I've been known to find myself alone in the car, singing along with Barney, not realizing that I didn't have to play the dang CD once Caroline was out of the car...but that was a while ago. Now we're into Disney Girlz Rock...but that's another story.)

Roger and I joined a new health club yesterday. When I saw new, I don't mean new to us; I mean new from the ground up. It just opened in Healdsburg this month. The big attraction is the pool, which we'll use a lot as Caroline loves to swim, and the community pool has such frustratingly irregular hours. And of course, there are all the things like weight machines and pilates and yoga classes and such. Gee, I should have lot a few pounds just by joining, right?

Then we went and test-drove two cars. Some of you will remember that MONTHS AND MONTHS ago, we were test driving cars to replace my aging SUV/family vehicle. We didn't find anything we truly loved, and we're hoping that in a year or two, there will be better hybrid options for cars that seat 6 people. (I have my quilty friends to consider for long field trips, after all.) And then Dave got a new car in July, and Melody's posts about how utterly happy he was with it made me think that Roger would be happier about a new car than I would. (I mean, I love my Bernina and my Juki...but a car? It's just a car.) So I proposed that we replace his similarly aging car, and then wait a year or two to replace mine.

Well, I have to assume that Roger is having as much fun with the shopping process as he would be having with the car itself, because he has been looking at cars, and reading about cars, and watching cars on the road, and researching cars, since July. (There is no way I could shop this long. I do research, and I comparison shop, but not making a decision would make me CRAZY. It HAS been making me crazy. Plus, I'd want the thing I was shopping for, sooner rather than later.)

Anyway. He had just settled on "the" car -- a Honda Accord -- when rainy season hit, and he took Gemma and Caroline to the dog park a few times. It quickly struck him that a 10 year old kid or two, a muddy dog, and a new sedan do not make for a happy new car owner.

So, he's been looking at small SUVs, hybrids, and wagons... cars that look and feel fun and sort of sporty, but where he could hold 3 kids in the back seat AND put Gemma in the "way back" for trips to the dog park. He's narrowed it down to the Toyota Rav4 and the Honda CRV, and we went out to drive them yesterday.

Me, I knew which I'd choose if it were my car to drive all the time. (The Rav4.) No question in my mind. I'm tall, and the CRV didn't have enough legroom for my comfort. But even though Roger is taller than I am, my height is in my legs and his isn't, I guess, so the leg thing didn't bother him at all. But Roger is mulling.

Me, I'll just go back to counting stitches in my knitting.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Let the Games Begin!

You may have noticed the new button on the right side of my blog, for the Knitting Olympics. The Yarn Harlot (aka famous knitter and author Stephanie McPhee) came up with the entertaining idea of having knitters start a project during the opening games of the winter Olympics with the goal of finishing it by the end of the closing ceremonies.

Cute, I thought. But just what I don't need is another project.

But then I happened upon Emily's blog entry about her Charlotte's Web shawl. She claims that it is easy.

Here it is, from the Koigu website. This is knitted with a hand-dyed, variegated merino wool, and you use 5 different skeins to get the color variation across the shawl.

Remember, Emily claimed it was easy. Next thing you know, I ordered a kit (all in reds!) as a birthday present to myself.

And then it occurred to me...I'm about to start it, and gee, it's the night of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

So, let's see what I can do in 16 days. I will be casting on beginning in about 3 minutes.

Easy, huh?!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

In and Out of the Box

I made all sorts of discoveries when I was cleaning my studio this past weekend. I came across this little assemblage box, which I really love.

I made this...gosh, probably 5 years ago. Inside the box is a small accordion book, made from an old bingo card and disk.

It's been sitting up on top of my bookshelves, and had tipped backwards, out of sight. So it was nice to rediscover it.

You all were SO nice about my artist books. Really, I so appreciated your comments. The world doesn't give much attention to artist books, so it's lovely to find people who appreciate them! I got many emails asking me about my book making experiences, how I started and why I stopped making them. I added a short comment, but I wanted to explain more.

Like many of us, I've pretty much always been fascinated with paper and fibers and color and pattern. Back in college -- at which point I had a great part time job in a fabric store -- a friend of mine gave me a rubber stamp of a bolt of fabric. And that led to an obsession with rubber stamps, which I proceeded to collect and use with wild abandon thereafter. For a time, I circulated a 'zine of rubber stamp art called "Yikes!" that was really fun...I'd throw out a theme and people would mail me their stamp art creations, on postcards, on that theme. And I'd lay them out and publish them. It made going to the mailbox a lot of fun.

And that led me to making books. After all, I needed to "contain" my stamp art somehow.

Around that time, we moved back to California and I became a full-time, stay-at-home mom. It was gratifying to be with Caroline at home, but I had a much harder adjustment than I expected I would.... I was in a new community, and the only people I met knew me as Caroline's mom or Roger's wife. It was disorienting, and I was surprised to discover that I had more self-esteem invested in my attorney and independent professional woman identity than I realized.

During this time, I was sliding slowly downhill into a depression and, as corny as it sounds, trying to find myself in my day to day life as wife and mother. Shereen LaPlantz's book Cover to Cover hadn't been out for very long, and a good friend of mine, Becky (a rubber stamping friend in Ohio) suggested that we work through it together and do the lessons and make books which we'd swap. Becky had had the amazing fortune to attend a workshop from Shereen in Florida through some book arts guild, and she couldn't rave enough about how fun and exciting and addictive it was. So, we started collecting supplies and making our novice books.

Somehow, around this time, I happened to find Shereen's address and phone number...and I just about fainted with excitement when I discovered that she was in my *same* area code! Shereen lived in Eureka, California, 4 hours north of me. I was on the phone to her in a shot, and immediately signed up to participate in a 3-year long book making workshop that would require me to travel to her studio twice a year over 3 years for long weekends, and do exercises and homework in between those studio weekends.

I can still remember the excitement of that first workshop weekend. Partly, I will admit, it was the unusual experience of leaving Roger and Caroline (age 3 or so at the time) for a long weekend for nothing but creative fun. The workshop had 12 women in it, all really interesting women with different backgrounds, from all over the country. Shereen's workshop -- an entire floor of her house -- was astonishing and overwhelming. She had cabinets and drawers full of fantastic artist books, some by her, most by other artists, and she encouraged to look through the drawers and handle the books whenever we wanted. She had a whole room full of bookshelves, all of which were filled with books about paper arts and calligraphy and book history and art in general.

And then there was Shereen herself, a lovely, down-to-earth woman with a lot of creative talent, great business sense and a good practical mind, and a wonderful sense of humor.

I made this flower structure on one of those weekends, I believe.

So, for three years I made books and books and books, all different structures and using all different materials. I'd found a new identity: artist. And I loved it. After each workshop weekend (which were heavenly oases of creative bliss) we'd come away with assignments, one of which was a challenge to make an edition of books on some theme or topic. It was always so fun when we returned, 6 months later, and spent the first evening of our workshop trading our books and talking about our processes.

Here's one of my exchange books. called "The Dilemma of the Modern Woman." (Sorry for the fuzzy photos... ) It was presented in a box, which looked like this when opened.

The inside book was a star accordion, and each "page" was a paper-doll, so it stood up to look like this:

Each paper doll reflected a dilemma, with conflicting thoughts on each side of each paper doll. One was "I want to stay home and bake cookies," with "I want to travel the world" on the other side. Another was "My idols are my mother, Donna Reed, and Martha Stewart" opposing "My idols are Hilary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Gloria Steinem."

I actually sold quite a few of those books. I think it struck quite a chord in women of my age.

Toward the end of the three-year period, Shereen, a breast cancer survivor over many years, learned that her cancer had returned and had metastacized in her spine. Her cheer and resiliency was a true marvel, and she continued to teach as much as her health allowed. I went up to Eureka to visit her a few times, and during one of them, I helped her look at slides of artist books for possible inclusion in the book she was working on then, The Art and Craft of Handmade Books. I'll always remember this afternoon with her...we had a great time looking at slides and talking about what made which book successful or not, and why. I learned so much that afternoon.

I was teaching artist book classes at a local art store and through a few other sources, which was fun. I'd never taught anything artistic before, and I was astonished -- in a good way -- at how creative people were -- but also astonished in a shocked and horrified way at how much, um ATTENTION some people needed. I will NEVER forget the day I was teaching a japanese bound book, and I had my dremel drill mounted on a small drill press for students to use to drill holes in the book board and pages... and I turned around JUST IN TIME to stop a woman from trying to put her NEEDLE under the drill... "to make the hole bigger so she could thread it more easily." I kid you not.

Anyway. I was especially exited when I was invited to teach a series of artist book classes at a big art conference. I worked so hard to plan the workshops (knowing I'd be teaching teachers) and making samples to show how the structures I was teaching could be was a great time and I had lots of fun and I even came home having made a profit.

But once I got home...I was pooped. I just didn't feel like making any books. I figured I was burned out and I just needed to give myself time to get re-energized. But somehow, that feeling never came back. The thought of gearing up to set up new workshops at the art store sounded like drudgery. And meanwhile, I'd volunteered to help make a raffle quilt for Caroline's preschool, and that led me back into a fabric store where I discovered that cotton print fabrics were a lot more interesting than the little calico prints I'd started quilting with in the 1970's. Freddy Moran's House book was brand new, and seeing how she took nontraditional fabrics to put her own twist on traditional quilt structures just thrilled me.

After that, plain old paper seemed so...well, flat.

And I haven't looked back. It was a wonderful chapter in my life...I gained a lot of knowledge, made some great friends, and maybe most importantly, started thinking of myself as an artist. That was a huge thing. Shereen died in 2003, and I miss her tremendously. She had a profound affect on me, and I think about her all the time.

But now I'm wary about mixing my passion and my need to earn income. Luckily, I have work I enjoy that pays well, and I can keep my quilt art just "for me."

And as for the books, I pull them out from time to time and enjoy them. I have fun sharing them with friends, and I always marvel at what amazing works of engineering and creativity they are.


If you don't have enough quilting conversation and inspiration around you, you can now download it right to your Ipod or MP3 player to take along with you. How cool is that?!

Alex Anderson has started a new podcast -- a downloadable audio program -- called Quilting Connection. You can listen to it by just playing it on your computer while you listen, or you can download it to listen on a portable device later. It's pretty new, with only 2 episodes so far. In episode #1, Alex talks about the demise of Simply Quilts and now the podcast is where she's going instead. For those of us who are comforted by regular visits with Alex to learn about the lastest quilt techniques, tips, and tools, this is welcome news.

There's another one, called Quilting Stash, hosted by Annie Smith. She chats about various quilty things -- quilt shops and her experiences going to them, workshops, all sorts of things. I've only listened to one episode so far, but I found Annie pleasant to listen to, and the podcast seemed like listening to a friend chat about her most recent quilt adventures.

Both of these are general quilt stuff, not focused on art quilts. (Gee, anyone want to start up an Art Quilt Podcast? MELODY?! GABRIELLE?!) But they're entertaining. Today, I was doing some slow and rather dull satin stitching on a project, and it was fun to listen to these while doing that tedious work.

And if you have Itunes software on your computer, you can subscribe to both podcasts for free, so the newest episodes are automatically downloaded to your computer when they're available.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

From a past life

When I was cleaning out my office this past weekend, I came across a disk of photos of some of the artist books I've made.

Artist books occupy that same area in the world of bookbinding that art quilts occupy in the quilt world. For those engaged in that arena, it's vast and interesting and valuable because each piece is a work of art. The pieces are exhibited in galleries and sold as art. But there's the traditional view, too, where folks who haven't been exposed to this art form are puzzled. "THAT'S a book?!" I heard that again and again. I came around to saying I made sculptural book art, or paper art sculptures... trying different phrases to help people understand what I did.

Anyway. I used to make artist books and exhibit them and sell them and teach book-making workshops. And I thought I'd share a few pictures of books I made back then:

"City" is a pop-out sort of structure, so that as you open the book, the city unfolds toward you. The cover is made from pages of a telphone books.

I love cityscapes and silhouettes. Here's a 3-layer accordion book, called "Sunrise."

I also used to teach tunnel book workshops. A tunnel book is one where the book accordions toward you to show an inner world...sort of like a collapsible panorama Easter egg!

Here's one called "To the Bridge" which shows the Golden Gate Bridge and SF skyline.

I wish I had a picture of this book's a mailbox, with a red flag that says "The Mailbox is a Museum"... here's a shot of the inside tunnel.

I used to teach classes in various sewn bindings, too. Here are some sample books with a sewn tape binding. These make great journals.

And, with all my paper scraps, I started making paper quilts that folded up into little boxes.
You can probably guess that it wasn't long after this that I got back into quilting!

If you're interested in learning more about making books, I can highly recommend a book called Cover to Cover, by my dear friend and mentor Shereen LaPlantz. It's beautiful to look at, has clear instructions, and will give you tons and tons if ideas.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

In which one thing leads to another...

My sister gave me this wonderful book for my birthday last week, and I've spent a lot of enjoyable time pouring over it. The book shows the creative work spaces of some interesting and talented women, many of whom I've admired for ages: Claudine Hellmuth, Freddy Moran, Leslie Riley, Wendy Addison, and more. It's a very fun book, with all sorts of different spaces: large studios, attics, professional offices. It has reminded me that clutter and a big assortment of "stuff" just goes along with the territory of being creative (which has made me feel better about my big collection of "stuff") but it also reminded me that it isn't that hard to organize it and keep it reasonably tidy.

So, with those inspirational images in mind, I've been looking around my tiny, cluttered studio/office with dissatisfaction. Yes, I remind myself, I'm lucky to have a room of my own to contain my creative activities in, where I can retreat and close the door and play whatever music I want. Still, it's been a mess, and this weekend I decided to tackle it and make it look, well, a bit tidy.

First, I tackled the fabric half of the closet, and folded and organized. My hand-dyed fabrics are all together now.

I cleaned off the CD shelf and moved things around, so now the CDs and stereo are tidy and accessible.

And once I got the cds off of an upper shelf, I was able to sort out the book shelves where I was no longer able to cram in one more book...and that meant that I'd made room to put all my beloved Japanese quilting magazines together...with room to add more.

My big wall of shelves is still sort of jumbly, but it's a happy and reasonably neat jumble now. By the way, see that funny sculptural thing hanging on the wall over the TV, between the shelf and that big daisy? That's a woman, made my Caroline when she was 5 in a garden art class...Her body is an old computer motherboard. I debated moving her (to the garden, even, maybe...) but I just like her too much so for now she stays with me.

The desk area is still fairly cluttery, but it's a lot better than it was. I've got a big pile of paperwork to sort and file, and a case of computer disks that I want to go through and transfer stuff off of so I can get rid of them... but heck, it's an improvement.

I did get creative and make a magnetic board for the wall. I'd found these great magnets, made from reproduction Bingo tiles... so I got a piece of galvanized tin from the hardware store and now I have this on the wall over my desk:

Even my sewing area is tidy!

Most amazingly, the other side of the closet -- which before this weekend was the repository for EVERYTHING ELSE -- is now decently organized, so I have room for tubs with "projects in progress" (you know, so they don't have to be piled on the floor or on the sewing table under another project in progress) , scraps, and other important stuff.

By the way, it was at this point that I hit that inevitable stage during any massive cleaning process where I was overwhelmed by the piles of stuff that had come OUT of the closet and needed to go, well, SOMEWHERE... I was tired and I wanted to cry. But I persevered... Okay, now there's a pile of stuff in the garage to go to the Salvation Army, and a bag of fabric and such to go to the guild's sale pile...But it's out of my closet!

Oh! Notice that next to the closet is my quilt postcard gallery -- most of which were made by Gerrie. And look, a new one arrived as a birthday greeting to be added to the collection!

I'm tired but rather pleased. Now I'll just sit and look at it ... I'll mess it back up tomorrow!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Living Vicariously

Sorry, I'm not here today. I'm visiting the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival, courtesy of the World of Vicarious Blog Travel.

Wanna come with me? Check this out!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The view from above

Here's a shot of my newest project in the works.

I had this idea in the middle of the night one night to use the aerial view of a landscape as the starting point for a quilt. This is based on an aerial view of my town, Healdsburg. That's the Russian River you see curving off there. Or, my artistic take on it, anyway.

I've done a few layers of fabrics to work with reverse applique. It's all sewn together, and now I'm satin stitching the edges, which is slow going because of all the tight curvy places. But I'm having fun with this and I'm liking how it's turning out so far.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

These are rant-worthy times...

Is anyone else appalled that Cindy Sheehan was ejected from the congressional chamber where Bush was to give his State of the Union address, because she was wearing a t-shirt that said "2245 Dead. How many more?" And meanwhile, Laura Bush provided a guest seat to a GERMAN SHEPHERD?

I guess dogs aren' t too likely to criticize the president.

I understand that the basis for her expulsion was a rule that prohibits "demonstrating" or "protesting" in the house chamber. Query whether the silent exhibition of a shirt that states a fact -- or even a specific political position -- is "demonstrating" or "protesting." Indeed, wouldn't a congressional chamber be an appropriate place for silent, non-disruptive communication like that? I'm sure that these very issues will be discussed as Sheehan challenges her arrest from that night. (Just so you know, the republican senator's wife who was also invited to leave for wearing a shirt that said "Support our troops!" was NOT arrested or charged with any crime. Sheehan was.)

It's important to note that the U.S. Supreme Court has specifically decided that slogans on t-shirts are speech protected by the First Amendment. Read Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971) some time. In that case, the Court struck down the conviction of a man who had worn a t-shirt that said "F--K the Draft" in a county courthouse. In the Court's opinion, Justice Harlan wrote:

"The constitutional right of free expression is powerful medicine in a society as diverse and populous as ours. It is designed and intended to remove governmental restraints from the arena of public discussion, putting the decision as to what views shall be voiced largely into the hands of each of us, in the hope that use of such freedom will ultimately produce a more capable citizenry and more perfect polity and in the belief that no other approach would comport with the premise of individual dignity and choice upon which our political system rests. ... To many, the immediate consequence of this freedom may often appear to be only verbal tumult, discord, and even offensive utterance. These are, however, within established limits, in truth necessary side effects of the broader enduring values which the process of open debate permits us to achieve. That the air may at times seem filled with verbal cacophony is, in this sense not a sign of weakness but of strength. We cannot lose sight of the fact that, in what otherwise might seem a trifling and annoying instance of individual distasteful abuse of a privilege, these fundamental societal values are truly implicated. That is why '(w)holly neutral futilities * * * come under the protection of free speech as fully as do Keats' poems or Donne's sermons,' and why 'so long as the means are peaceful, the communication need not meet standards of acceptability.' ... Indeed, as Mr. Justice Frankfurter has said, '(o)ne of the prerogatives of American citizenship is the right to criticize public men and measures--and that means not only informed and responsible criticism but the freedom to speak foolishly and without moderation.' "

Bush's claims that he is protecting democracy around the world sure ring false when he is so dramatically damaging it here at home.

The Day After

Thank you, thank you, thank you-- to all of you who sent lovely cheery birthday wishes to me. It was really fun to hear from you and I appreciate your happy wishes very much.

I had a great day.

How could you not with this smiley kid hanging around ready to grant my every birthday wish?!

These lovely tulips -- my favorite -- arrived from my mom and dad. This struck me as especially cool, as I had written "I like tulips better than roses" for my list of 49 things and then didn't include that one. But I do.

Look at these fun goodies that I received from friends who know my color taste well!

Roger surprised me with this umbrella, which I had noticed and admired for its bright whimsy when we went to see Cirque du Soleil in December.

And the other special present I get to choose myself: a flatbed scanner! I've not had a scanner for the last few years, and Roger knows that I've been wanting one. (It's a bit of an etch-a-sketch for him, too, as I suspect he'll find it handy as well.)

And of course, there was celebrating with cake, which Gemma enjoyed too!

Thanks again, everyone!