Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quilting with Cowboys

I have finished a quilt this week, but I can't show it to you.  And it involves this "Cowboy Hunk" fabric.  Nope, I'm not kidding -- but I can at least add that I didn't choose this stuff.  (If you must have some for yourself, you can find it on by searching "cowboy hunks."  I'm not kidding.  And you can even get it in different colorways.)

This coming week, I'll be off on my twice-yearly quilting retreat at the Bishop's Ranch.  A few years ago, we started doing a challenge for the spring retreat, and last April someone chose THIS cowboy fabric as the challenge fabric.  So our task was to use it in a quilt, any way we chose.  It took me a while to decide what I wanted to do, and I came up with an idea I love -- so I've been finishing that up and I'm delighted with it.  I can't wait for the reveal at the retreat, which will happen at the tail end of it all.

I'll show you the quilt when I'm back.

BUT I can say that I had some new and exciting adventures with my Bernina 830 which I am continuing to love.  I had a good experience sewing with monofilament thread on it, even sewing through fusibles with it which can be tricky on any machine.  I incorporated some lettering in the quilt which I machine embroidered, and figured out how to embroider a long sentence and make it all line up despite having to move the hoop.  So the whole thing was a fun experience, and isn't that what it's all about, after all?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Walk in the Sunshine

It's a beautiful day in Sacramento, where Miss C and I are visiting my friend Beth for the weekend.  We thought we'd take a walk on the abandoned railroad track path near Beth's house.

Beth's dog Emmy is sauntering along with us, enjoying the smells.

 I keep falling behind, because I'm enjoying the wildflowers.


...and enjoying photographing the flowers.  There are tons of California poppies around here.

Emmy wants to know if I'm coming.

So do Beth and Miss C.  Okay, okay, I'm coming!


I think they've had enough of the pictures.  I'm just doing my job as Mamarazzi, but I get the point.  

I'll go back to just enjoying a walk in the sunshine with my daughter, my best friend, and a very mellow dog.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Those Same Tricky Questions

In our homeschooled World History course, Miss C is learning about the Renaissance.  I ordered this DVD set, called "DaVinci and the Mysteries of the Renaissance" because it not only addressed the life of Leonardo Da Vinci, but also because it included several other videos on the arts and sciences of the time.  Today, we watched the video titled "The Artists."

And here's what struck me.  Looking at the art of the 14th and 15th centuries raises the same questions artists ask themselves today.  What is art?  How does culture impact art, and art reflect society?  If a patron enables an artist to make new work, what does the artist owe the patron?  To what extent would or should an artist vary his or her vision to please the audience?   It's really rather humbling to recognize that artists like Michelangelo and Da Vinci and Bruneleschi and Titian stumbled over these same issues.

If you can find The Artists video part of this series (check your library!), it's well worth watching.  There are lots of comments by current artists and art historians, talking about how artists of the period help us understand why art is important.  The video doesn't just address art history -- it addresses art's place in our lives regardless of the age in which we live.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

La la la, yak yak yak, yum yum yum

The wisteria is in bloom all over the neighborhood, so it must be spring! 

Today's an action-packed Sunday.  The Healdsburg Chorus is heading into our final concerts of the season, and this afternoon will be the busiest one, I think.  The music is so pretty  -- including Shenendoah, Once Upon a Time, some Gilbert and Sullivan, some silliness, and a rousing medley from Sound of Music which is so fun to sing and always gets the audience's toes tapping.  It's a shame to have to stop singing the songs just when we have gotten good at singing them!

Today is an auspicious birthday day -- Happy Birthday to my dad and my friend Pat! 

Various friends are coming into town for the chorus concert, and then we'll celebrate by a fun dinner out this evening. 

So that explains the title post -- it sums up the day.  Hope you have a beautiful Sunday ahead!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Leaf Dissection

Yesterday we revealed a new set of quilts over at the Twelve by Twelve blog.  The theme was "chartreuse," and this piece above was my contribution.  When I finished it, I was happy with it -- and yet, I have some ongoing ambivalence about it.

I think it comes down to my mixed feelings about using realistic images in my quilts.  There's obviously something that draws me in that direction -- my literal mind, surely, but also a real pleasure in seeing something real depicted in fabric and thread.  I love the work of artists like Marcia Stein and Velda Newman
It's a direction I've taken often in our 12x12 challenges. (Here, and here, and here, for example.)

And, when I think about it, I enjoy developing the skill to translate an image into fabric and thread.  I think it was my favorite part of working on this Wisteria piece, actually -- the process of really looking, and fine-tuning the values and contrasts, getting the highlights and shadows in there, finding and adding bits of subtle color. So all of that felt good and I really did have a grand time making this.

At the same time, I have a sort of "So what?" reaction.  Perhaps the more realistic a piece is, the less appealing it is -- after all, why recreate a photograph when you have the photograph?  In some ways -- aside from the technical aspects -- creating the most realistic interpretation may be the easiest route.  Abstraction of an image -- capturing a sense of the image as well as the emotional tone and energy -- is a lot harder.  It's what I love love love in the work of Sue Benner and Patty Hawkins. Ah, well, it's clear I've got a long way to go if that's what I'm aiming for.  And, I suppose that's the question:  what AM I aiming for?

In any event, that's not a question I can answer today.  Instead, I'll show you a bit about how the wisteria leaves piece developed. I started with this base, hand-dyed green fabric fused to the lavender base.

From there, I started thread-sketching.  I discovered that what looks good up close may look too bland from a distance.  I'd add what seemed a dramatically contrasting thread -- say, red -- and then I'd step back and it would almost disappear.  At one point, thinking I was nearing the end, I got to this point:

But when it was up on my wall for a bit, it just didn't have the punch of the original photo.

Too little contrast, too many medium to light values.  Too much of the same color of green.  So I went back in with more thread, and a bit of shading with my beloved Neocolor II crayons, to darken things up.

I suppose I could have fiddled with this for a lot longer, adding some blue here, some yellow there.  But it was time to stop. 

I'm going to try to make myself head in a more abstract direction next time.  Oh, heck, it's all about having fun, right?  So I'll do whatever appeals at the moment. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chartreuse, Revealed!

Over on the Twelve by Twelve blog, we're revealing our chartreuse-inspired quilts today!  Head on over to see how I used this photo as my inspiration, and to see what everyone else did, too!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ten Cents!

If you haven't tried a) watching one of Interweave/Quilting Arts' video workshops, or b) downloading a digital workshop to watch from your computer's hard drive, then TODAY is the day.

Interweave is offering two digital download videos for TEN CENTS each.  That's two hour-long workshops for twenty cents! 

One if the video pictured above, Lyric Kinard's "sampler platter" of surface design techniques.  The other is Malka Dubrawsky's video workshop called "Shape Shifting: Using Shibori to Mimic Pieced and Appliqued Designs". 

I've seen Malka's shibori workshop and it's great instruction.  I've just downloaded Lyric's on surface design and will look forward to watching that one.  It's really easy to download these... and practically instantaneous.  C'mon, it's twenty cents.  You won't be sorry. 

(I'm not affiliated with QA or Interweave, just a big fan of the dvd workshop and delighted at getting anything for ten cents!)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Before Your Very Ears

Go grab a beverage and head on over to Annie Smith's Quilting Stash website. Her newest podcast features an interview me and Helen Conway! We sat down with Annie last October, at PIQF, to talk about 12x12, our book, and Helen's first visit to PIQF.

If you hurry, you might be in time to leave a comment on Annie's blog and win a copy of Twelve by Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge, too!

(By the way, it's easy to subscribe to Annie's podcasts for free via Itunes.  Search "Quilting Stash" and it'll pop right up.)  Thank you, Annie, for sharing this interview with Helen and me with your listeners!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

And now I wait...

I had an unexpectedly open morning, so I took the opportunity to play a bit with something I've been wanting to do.  I've been laying out masking tape on fabric ...

and I've stencilled in color using Shiva Painstiks.  This has not only been fun and relaxing -- it's also been feasible with minimal input from the left hand, which is still surprisingly sore.

I was thinking how much fun I'd have machine quilting when all of the color was added, but then I started thinking about how these paintstiks have to cure ... so I looked it up.  And they are supposed to cure for 3 to 5 days! 

Darn.  So much for an instant gratification sort of project.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Music in the Air

When I looked out the bedroom window yesterday morning, I found this music note floating in the sky. 

Amazing, isn't it?  I think it's a sign. 

Our Healdsburg Chorus concerts start tonight and we are performing a few times between now and April 18.  Our first concert is at a local Salvation Army rehab facility where the audience, although literally captive, is always enthusiastic. 

Friday, April 01, 2011

One Hand Clapping

Well, my plans for the end of the week took an abrupt turn.  On Wednesday afternoon I set out with Gemma (our lab/weimeraner mix) for a long walk, and when we were on our way home, two chihuahuas came yapping and charging across the street at us, Gemma got excited and in the process of trying to control her, I got tangled in her leash and fell over.  I did that instinctive thing of putting my hand out to break my fall -- and as a result, I have a VERY sore left hand, wrist and arm.

Luckily, nothing was broken -- I'm just a bit sore.  I'm discovering how limiting it is to not be able to grip my thumb to my forefinger!  (In fact, my friend who had thumb surgery tells me that doctors consider a hand to be 90% disabled if the thumb is hurt.) I'm told I'll be back to normal in a few days.

Anyway.  So much for the plans of starting a new art quilt and loading the car with boxes for the Salvation Army.  I did, at least, get to sit quietly and refine my sketches for the piece in my head. 

Today I'm off to have lunch with a friend.  I think I can manage my fork one-handed.