Thursday, January 26, 2012

The New and Improved Art Quilting Studio

I have to confess that when Art Quilt Studios came out originally, I wasn't crazy about it.  I WANTED to like it.  I'm not sure if I saw all of those first issues, but I generally came away thinking that the publication's idea of art quilting was anything that had stitching on it, and that the editors had called upon their stable of collage artists, painters, and mixed media artists, given them bits of fabric and thread, and then published everything they made as "art."  And not that it wasn't cool and fun in a spontaneous sort of way ... but I was disappointed that the magazine didn't seem to have much range, or feature any of the beautiful, complex, art quilts that so many talented artists have been making for years.

So when I heard that the magazine had been revamped and was starting up again, I was eager to find a new issue.  I think I missed the first new issue, but I did stumble onto a Winter, 2012 issue recently.  The magazine will be issued twice a year, by the way -- in June and December.  You might be able to find the Winter issue still on magazine stands.  And I really, really liked this issue.  It looks like the editors figured out that their magazine needed more range of actual art quilters, and they really did put together a magazine that has a great and interesting assortment of art and articles.

There's great stuff in here, including:
     * an article by my friend Terri Stegmiller on getting a "painterly" look with fabric collage;
     * a piece by one of my favorite quilt artists, Valerie Goodwin, about using maps to inspire art quilts; 
     * a terrific piece by artist Eleanor McCain on pattern, proceses, and color relationships;
     * a profile of artist Mary Elmusa by Rice Freeman-Zachary;
     * a colorful piece on the "grout quilting" small quilts of Robin Ferrier;
     * an interview with British artist Bethann Ash;
and more.

Oh,and it has that wonderful, nice paper and rich feeling that Stampington uses in all of its publications. 

I really enjoyed looking at this magazine, and found a lot of inspiration and interest there.  I'm glad to see it back and improved, and I'm looking forward to future issues.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Google Reader, MY Way

I'm continuing in my mission to organize, and today I made a change that will be a happy improvement. I love it when a small thing can be a big, happy improvement.

I use Google Reader to read the blogs I follow. I know there are other blog aggregators out there, but I've gotten used to Google Reader and now especially love how it integrates to Flipboard so I can read my favorite blogs on my Ipad as if I'm flipping through magazine pages. All along, my blogs have been listed in Google Reader in alphabetical order. So, even though they are organized neatly by title, they are a big jumble in terms of content. I follow, from time to time, a variety of blogs -- art and food and home dec and quilting and drawing and special needs issues and parenting and political commentary and reading and just fun stuff. I've often wished I could sort the blogs by topic, so when I'm in the mood to cruise the home dec blogs, say, they'd all be together.

Well, turns out it's no big mystery. I queried Mr. Google himself and learned that Google Reader lets you create different folders and sort the blogs on your list into them -- so you can have daily reads in one folder, less frequent things in another. And you can do what I did, which was create separate folders by topic, and sort the blogs into the appropriate folders. So now my blogs are sorted, into folders like "Quilt Art" and "Photography" and "Books and Reading" and more.

We'll see how it all works once I check it on Flipboard, but I'm quite pleased. Who knew it was so easy?!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

One Word

One Word Project from Christine Sneddon on Vimeo.

One of the websites I visit frequently for inspiration and general pleasure is The Shutter Sisters.  It was started by several women obsessed by photography, and it features wonderful images, thoughtful words, and a mindful view of the world around us that I really appreciate.  There's a flickr group, and other great related sites to explore.  But one of my favorites is their "One Word Project", where they offer weekly prompts for photography that could really serve for any creative expression.

Chris Sneddon, one of the founding Shutter Sisters, put together a lovely video of photos that various members have taken to illustrate their chosen word for the month.  It's lovely, and inspirational, and it does remind you -- well, me, anyway-- that the power of stating an intention is a powerful thing.

So enjoy, and if you like what you see, pop on over to the site or the flickr group for more beautiful photos.  And happy weekend!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Out of the Inbox

What's that, you ask?  Look closely.  It's my email inbox and it's EMPTY.

I don't think that has happened since I first set up my computer ages ago.  But it's the result of the organizing flurry I'm in these days.  I was largely motivated to search for an email strategy to help Roger, after I set up a new computer for him this past weekend and transferred over his files and installed programs and got it all up and running for him.  He's never found a good email management strategy, and as a result tends to keep everything. I mean, EVERYthing.  (I think I deleted over 500 Land's End ad emails.)  I've tended to file emails away in a file system that makes sense to me -- but still, I'd keep emails in my inbox as a reminder to DO something with them... and then they'd scroll off the screen as new emails came in, and next thing you know, I'd lost track of something.  Out of sight, out of mind, you know.

But somewhere recently I came across a reference to Inbox Zero.  It's a basic strategy developed by a guy named Merlin Mann, and it's about thinking of your email inbox as mail that needs to be PROCESSED, not mail that needs to be handled/answered right away.  It's brilliant.

You can read about it here in a series of articles, and you can watch Merlin's really great video explanation .  It's well worth the time, I assure you.  And it really does make you think about the difference between using your time the way YOU want to, and letting whatever lands in your email inbox control (or derail) your day.  So basically the idea is this:  to set up a few folders for sorting mail, with each folder named by the action required, which will be a VERB.  "Reply."  "Delegate."  "Defer." "Schedule."  That sort of thing.  Then you get stuff out of your inbox by deleting the stuff you don't need and putting the stuff that needs handling in one of the processing boxes. 

And then, you turn to those processing files as you have time.  "Reply" is probably the one that you'll do that same day.  The goal is not to have those files become enduring repositories for dead email either -- they're to remind you what needs doing so you can do it as soon as you can, but without taking time away from the immediate things or the other non-email things you need to do.

I'm feeling rather proud of myself.  From there, I went on to figure out (finally) how to sync all of my mail and my calendar and my to do list between my PC and my Ipad and my Iphone.  So even though I've still got piles of paper on my desk and an overflowing basket of laundry that needs folding, I'm feeling like one little corner of my world is a bit more organized today.

And that makes me happy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blogging: A conversation, or an announcement?

Someone on the QuiltArt list  recently asked about how to generate traffic to a blog.  I posted a response, and I thought I'd post it here because I'm interested what other people think.  Am I naive to think about blogging as part of conversation?  Or is that just me, liking blogs because I *feel* like I'm participating in a conversation when really what I'm mainly doing is reading someone else's half of the conversation?  I'd be interested to know what you think.

So here's my comment to the list:

In my view, blogging is all about networking.

I’ve been blogging for over seven years, and I run the Artful Quilters Blog ring, a ring that connects blogs about art and contemporary quilting.  Over that time and through my observation of a lot of blogs, I have a couple of thoughts about the world of blogging and how artists use them.  The main thing, to me, is that the appeal of most blogs is that they set up a sense of a relationship between the blogger and the reader.  That’s why a lot of people prefer reading blogs to trolling through visual websites – it’s far more personally, usually, and there’s a sense of communication with the blogger that’s akin to reading a letter from a friend.  And it’s that relationship aspect, however “virtual” or distant, that in my mind is at the heart of being really successful with a blog.  You have to think of it as a two-way communication, and your part of the communication isn’t just posting entries on a blog.  It’s about responding to comments that are made.  It’s about having some interest about who is reading your blog – not just in terms of statistics, but about who the individuals are.  It’s about taking the time to notice who comments and go look at their blogs and leave a comment there.  In my view, for all that blog readers want to read and experience your creative world vicariously, they want to see themselves in a conversation with you, even if you as the blogger are doing the bulk of the talking.  I’m not saying that a blogger has to strike up a personal, direct friendship with every reader.  But I think readers can spot quickly someone who is blogging as a marketing tool (however nicely done) and someone who is blogging to share and participate in conversations about the corner of the art world she occupies.  I suspect (this is pure hypothesis) that if for every blog entry you posted, you took the time to either reply to a comment from a previous commenter, or go leave a comment on someone else’s blog, you’d slowly build the reputation as a blogger who isn’t just advertising and marketing in a pretty way, but who is interested in engaging in a conversation. 

There’s a difference in tone that, to my mind, is instantly detectable, between a blogger who blogs only to talk about herself and market herself, and a blogger who blogs to generate conversation and some level of communication flow.  I think it’s the latter type of blog that over the long run generates a bigger and more loyal following.

And here’s my other observation.  A lot of blog readers are people who have blogs themselves.  If they’re reading your blog, they’re also likely to be reading other blogs.  So being part of the blogging community can enhance interest in your blog.  Someone might see your comment on another blog and be intrigued enough to click on your name and find yours.  People will list your blog as one they read – and one way a lot of people end up getting to new blogs is by following the links from a blogger they trust.  Participation in a blog ring can help a lot too, because a reader who finds one blog on the ring can click and get to blogs on the same topic they hadn’t discovered.  You can find out about the Artful Quilters blog ring here, by the way: 

There’s a SAQA members’ ring.  There’s a quilting teacher ring.  All of those will add your blog to wider community and help people find you. 

So my main advice for how to get more people to read your blog?  Get out there and read other blogs.  Comment on other blogs.  And respond to those who comment on yours.  Think of it as a networking process.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Seven Years of Artful Quilt Blog Ringing!

I owe a lot to the Artful Quilters Blog Ring.  Back in January, 2005 -- yikes, SEVEN years ago now -- I'd just started blogging and was hunting around for other quilt-related blogs.  I founds scads of knitting blogs, thanks to a blog ring box I found somewhere along the way ... I learned immediately how finding one blog I liked allowed me to click a button and find a host of others.  There wasn't anything like that for art and contemporary quilting back then -- so, I jumped in and set up the Artful Quilters Blog Ring.  Over the last seven years, we've grown to over 150 blogs!  (When I think about it, enthusiasm, impulse, and naive ignorance have taken me to rather exciting places!)

Through the ring, I've made some wonderful friends.  I've learned great techniques, and I've gotten more inspiration than I'll ever be able to use up in my lifetime.  When I thought I'd enjoy a quilt challenge or two, I emailed some of the AQ bloggers, and we formed our Twelve by Twelve challenge group.  I'd never have predicted that that would lead to a book, international exhibits, and amazing travel opportunities. 

If you have a blog and are not on the ring, you are welcome to join!  Here is the information:

Artful Quilters Web Ring
This web ring is for quilt artists and contemporary quilt makers to share their blogs, exchange thoughts about the process of art quilting, and share other bits of life that swirl around (and get in the way of) quilt making.

Do you want to join us?  Here are the ring guidelines:

  1. The ring is intended for blogs that focus primarily on art and contemporary quilting.  While we enjoy traditional quilts, this ring is not for blogs about traditional quilting.  Your blog can be about other things, too; it's fun to read about what else you are doing in your life.  But if a reader finds your blog and can't tell that you make art or contemporary quilts, then this is not the ring for you.  As a rough guideline, your blog should have some quilt-related content once a month or more.  
  2. The blog needs to be regularly updated. Any blogs not updated at least once a month will be moved to the queue. If you have not updated in over three months your site will be moved to the inactive list. You are welcome to re-join the ring if /when you start posting again. I understand that real life can and does get in the way of blogging, so there is no judgment implied if your blog is moved.  It's just that people stop using the ring if they repeatedly travel to blogs with stale entries.
  3. You must include the ring code on the face page of your blog, so that visitors can surf to the blogs of other members more easily. After all, that's the whole point of this ring. At a minimum, the ring code must include a link to the ring's home and the Next and Previous links. Anyone who has not added the code to their site within two weeks of application will be removed from the ring. If you have trouble finding the current ring code, email me at dphock(at)comcast(dot)net and I will help you.
  4. This is NOT a commercial site.  This ring is not for commercial sites, general quilt-gallery websites, or other non-blog websites. If your blog is merely a listing of items for sale or advertisement for your shop, this blog ring is not for you. You are welcome to sell things on/through your blog, but for this ring, I ask that your blog have content which is largely non-commercial.
  5. You must have at least 5 entries on a new blog (some of which must be about art or contemporary quilting) in order to join. 
To submit your blog to the ring, click HERE.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Coming out of the dark

On New Year's Eve, we took a walk up the hill on the trail behind our housing development, and I took this picture looking back at our housing development, nestled into the hills on the left up there.  And it feels like an appropriate illustration, because I've spent the last two months nestling in, focusing on home and family and inward, quiet things.  It's been a funny time -- pleasurable in lots of ways, but oddly inactive, too.  I've had little interest in creative pursuits -- so I've done very little in terms of art making.  Instead, I've been reading and looking (ooh, Pinterest!) and trying to sort out some goals after the whirlwind of creative inspiration from Festival of Quilts in England and the International Quilt Festival in Houston last year.  It's all swirling around in my head, and I'm chalking this quiet period up to an unavoidable need to let it all sift down into something that will come out in my creative voice eventually.

But I'm thinking that this inward time is coming to a close. I'm feeling the urge to get back to work on some art quilts in progress.  I've got images in my head that will make their way onto fabric.  It feels good to have creative energy stirring again.

Have you discovered Pinterest yet?  It's a rather fascinating (and yes, even addictive) site.  It's pure visual delight -- collections of images, sorted by other people who "pin" favorite images to their "boards" much the way someone would post a photo to an inspiration board or tear a magazine photo out to paste into an idea journal.  It's an invitation-based site -- that is, you have to have someone to invite you to join.  (Clever marketing, really.)  So if you'd like to check it out and have not been invited, leave a comment and your email and I'm happy to send an invite.  You'll have fun poking around there.

I'm going to go watch the Golden Globes now.  I so enjoy Ricky Gervais!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Being here, looking back

If you are like me, you are always wondering what it is you've been doing with all of your time. I always have the feeling that I've been busy, but apparently I lose track of what I've done rather easily.

And I feel that especially acutely right now, as 2011 has ended and I am heading into a new year. It's a good thing that my friend Terry posted a slideshow about her year in photos, because it reminded me of how much I enjoyed doing that last year.  Away I went to visit the Smilebox site for a reminder of how I did it, and then I spent a nice afternoon organizing my photos and remembering what it was I actually did in 2011.  

I had such a good time doing it (you can see the slide show below) that I wanted to urge you to go and give it a try.  Really.  If you keep a blog, you can scroll through your blog entries to remind yourself of what you were doing when.  If you use a digital camera and download pictures to your computer, you can probably filter your pictures by date so you can see a chronological progression of what you photographed. 

Mostly, though, I think the experiencing of looking back at the year as a whole and thinking about what you did, little things and big things, is a very uplifting one.  Maybe you didn't make many quilts (which is how I'm feeling about 2011) but I remembered I did some great traveling and soaked up a lot of inspiration. 

My current inner mantra involves just Enjoying the Moment.  But part of being in THIS moment can involve taking pleasure and satisfaction in the accomplishments of the past.  So really, go check that out.  And if you create one, let me know. I'd love to see it.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Greeting 2012 with Reindeer Antlers

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope you have had a wonderful holiday and are heading into the new year with excitement for the year ahead! 

We have started the post-holiday return to normal life around here, still savoring the lovely Christmas celebrations we shared with friends and family, and then a long visit with friends who came to visit from Maine for several days. We are still surrounded by holiday decor, and it'll stay up for a while yet.  We all find it cheerful and 'm not ready for the big job of taking it all down, anyway.  Our neighbors across the street decorate their yards to the hilt, and I am always amused by the Fu dogs wearing reindeer antlers that sit on their front porch. 
Our fridge is still full of the rich leftovers from holiday meals -- this morning I saw a bottle of champagne with 1/4 left in it, a few pieces of crab leftover from our New Year's Eve feast of cracked fresh crab, the pan-fried noodles we brought home from a dinner at Francis Ford Coppola's "Rustic" restaurant the other night ... and I didn't even venture into the breadbox which currently holds a still-large amount of holiday cookies.  Into the freezer those will go, I think, to save for a dreary January day.  I am craving simple food. 

So I am off to switch out another load of laundry, pop into the grocery store, drop some things off at the dry cleaners ... and maybe when those chores are done I can do my first sewing of 2012.  At some point before Christmas, I started chain piecing some simple blocks for a donation quilt, and they are still in progress under the needle!  Straight sewing will be just about my speed today.

Happy 2012, everyone!