new bed quilt…

December 18th, 2018

beginnings…

Last year about this time I admitted out loud that I should design a new queen bed quilt for our room. The previous one I made 15-16 years ago is terribly thin and faded, although we still snuggle under it with two blankets this time of year. I kind of thought that by saying it out loud that would spur on the design process. But oh nooooo!¬†I pretty much dislike sewing according to a pattern or worse yet in a straight line. I mean so straight that the pieces have to line up so the thing looks as if my husband sewed it, and not me. Hmmm, now there’s a thought. I do have an extra machine.

I procrastinated on this project all year while making narrative art, the kind of work that gets me out of bed in the morning and drives me to sew more and more and more. OK, I will sew the bed quilt before winter’s end, I rationalized. I will do it this year. Maybe this summer, or well it is fall now, but I have a few more months.

bento block in jewel tones

I played around with different designs, mostly hating them all. Finally I decided I loved the bento box block so much that I would sew that, which ironically is the same as the quilt I am replacing. I will make it instead in jewel tones rather than garden tones.

Immediately after I cut 448 three x three squares hubs asks why I am not making it the same color scheme as what I am replacing? Second time it occurs to me that he should be sewing this! Plus if he were doing it, it would likely be finished by now! So I slowly started cutting pieces, amassing huge piles of fabric on my design table, making steady progress, when I had to wrap a large Christmas gift.

used a good portion of blue tape trying to remove glitter from design table

I never, and I mean never buy anything with glitter on it. I think I am flashy enough without glitter in my life. So imagine my shock when the roll of seemingly pastel wrapping paper turned out to be covered in glitter when I unwrapped it. (note to self: Why would they be selling pastel paper at Christmas time in the holiday wrapping section?)

Of course I did not even consider it could infest my entire work surface with sparkle farkle. In the meantime, my design table, myriads of masses of fabric, the floor, even the ironing board all have sparkle on them. It is everywhere!

The errant glitter alone, has become my sole motivation to finish piecing this bed quilt. Perhaps this work, rather than any narrative work, will absorb all the glitter in the room, then I can send it off to be quilted and transfer the glitter to their space. Of course it will have to be washed so it does not infest our bedroom with farkle, and then the sparkle will inhabit the washer, or maybe the dryer. I could take it to the laundromat, but then the farkle will be in the car. This stuff might only be good for creating world peace, although that would probably require a wand, and a bit of abracadabra!

Why do we even need sparkle? Are we not sparkly enough on our own?

 

a thank you card…

November 18th, 2018

along the Seine

Twenty years ago today my longtime employer died of brain cancer. For the previous 20 months I had been his primary caregiver, mostly I believe now because I had restored my battle-weary self worth working for him for 16 years. He was like the brother I never had and how could I abandon him in his time of need? Plus as the mother of a teen and wife of an independent thinker, I truly needed to feel important to someone. I also did not know what to do with my days without my addiction to work and serving others.

Many gifts came to me out of my sense of obligation to his care. Most were intangible. Slowly I shifted my focus to what really mattered. I noticed the little things in life, those which continue to capture my attention today as I walk. The lichen on the tree branches in the fog, the hundreds of varieties of roses that bloom many months of the year, not just in summer. The cracks in the sidewalk. None of the things that had  monopolized my days prior to his illness seemed to matter anymore. I always say cancer is the great prioritizer as one quickly learns what is important and what is not. Nothing to me was as important as accompanying my friend through his journey with cancer. It was my personal grieving process unfolding before my eyes.

I pretty much wore myself out taking care of him. People kept telling me to take care of myself, and I truly thought I was. I stopped going to the gym. I lost strength in my own aging body, put on 30 lbs, and grew my hair long. By the time he died, I was an exhausted, aging haggard woman. And how surprised I was to learn it would take me just as long as his illness, to recover from the experience.

I decided to take six months off to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Two months in, as I lay on the floor doing my morning stretches (where I often do my best thinking) it occurred to me that there was nothing I wanted badly enough to go back to work. In that moment I began on the path that has led me to where I am today. My father who had just retired himself, did not congratulate me on this spontaneous decision to retire at 50 but instead warned me that I better make sure I did not outlive my money.

As a seamstress since youth, and having spent my adult years as weaver, knitter, needle-pointer it only seemed natural to take classes in various forms of textile art and design. So I jumped in with both feet. One year I took eight classes at various retreats, which also sparked a love of travel. I never really considered being a professional artist. I was just dabbling and I just loved getting lost in my world of color and ‘play.’

I spent a few years distilling all I had learned until 2004 when I finally found my own voice and began the five year autobiographical project that became the Tall Girl Series. ¬†At that point my work began to evolve from ‘pretty’ abstract work to narrative.¬†The rest as they say is history.

Here I sit today paying homage. I have been ‘retired’ twenty years already! That is longer than I worked for the good doctor. I have felt many times in those 20 years immense gratitude to this man whose premature death enabled me to reinvent myself as an artist. Otherwise I would have likely sat in that front office chair, managing his practice, being his parking lot therapist, West Coast mother and surrogate sister, up until he retired which would probably have been when I was 60. For so many years I had longed to bail out of that job, but was enticed by the kid’s tuition paying salary and benefits.

The biggest benefit was unforeseen. The benefit of time. The benefit of finding and reinventing myself through right brain activity, not so much the left in which I had been programmed to function since childhood.

So I say today, of all days, thank you David. Thank you for allowing me the freedom to grow into the woman and artist I was destined to be. I am sorry that you had to die at 56 but I feel nothing but gratitude for the privilege of retirement at 50.

RIP.

 

resetting priorities…

October 18th, 2018

sailing out of NYC in a thunderstorm, at dusk

We recently returned from a fabulous two week vacation to New York, Montreal and points in between. It was exceptionally good timing as I had been pedal to the metal for months making art for new exhibits and causes. Before leaving I submitted entries to four fine art exhibits. The one I was most excited about was an environmental center where I had submitted new work constructed with plastic.

construction artwork, Boston

While bobbing around on the sea, I received in one day, three declines. Not one, but three, in one day! The next day the fourth delivered.

love me some reflections, Boston

Normally “rejections” do not upset me as I realize it is the price of playing the game. In other words, you cannot be rejected if you don’t enter! And because I was on vacation, and my brain on reset, I actually laughed at the irony of all the no thanks being delivered on the same day. The email from the environmental center stated that out of 100 entries, four were chosen…Vegas odds!

Ile Orleans, QC

One of the things I have learned from this gig is work that is ‘rejected’ by one panel of jurors is often selected by another. A perfect example is my work Culture of Fear which was submitted to an exhibit about gun violence.¬†It was declined so I entered it in Visions, in San Diego and it got in! Even better.

Very seldom do I speak of the ‘no thanks’ emails.¬†Maybe it is my years of being chosen last for the team, or because I have been on the juror end of things and know that not every piece of work is a good fit for a cohesive show. So I just don’t get wrapped around the axle about this sort of stuff. I know those who do, whining how they cannot understand why every venue does not take their work, life is not fair and so on. Whatever the reason, I¬†just keep on moving forward.

one of many gorgeous sunsets

Meanwhile, I am readying for an express trip to San Diego this weekend for the opening of Visions: Conversations 2018.

Oh and have I mentioned my work is on the header on the social marketing?! Win, win.

Visions 2018: Connections
Visions Art Museum, San Diego, CA

 

artivist at work…

September 8th, 2018

Plastic Ocean 4, stitched sky WIP

I have taken a little heat lately for my creative zest! I was going to say over-exuberance but that is really a judgment call. I seriously do not mind feeling over-exuberant about my work at all. I relish the time when the muse is in the house and ready to get at it. For I know the fallow time will come.

The creative muse is much like the aging gene. It is important to honor it, show it respect, celebrate and thrive within it, because in all likelihood it will not last forever! And as another artist recently said, the more we create, the more prolific we become. I can think of a whole lot of worse things than being prolifically creative!

That said, I continue to design work about the plastic garbage in the ocean. I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with my own consumption of plastic, which in reality is probably a good thing. After all, half of making any change is the acknowledgement of the problem. Several people have commented that my talking about this has engaged them to think about their own consumption. Just like my morning walk photo collages on social media inspire others to notice their surroundings when they are out walking. I love that!

And I have also heard it said that I am starting a trend with this work. I find that rather humorous as I have never seen myself as a trendsetter! My kid is the trendsetter in this family.

Nearly 20 years ago when I began this phase of my life, otherwise known as retirement, my gut instinct was to make work that ‘said’ something. Someone then told me nobody wanted to see that! I let one person’s opinion lead me¬†into years of making ‘pretty’ art quilts. Until…I began the Tall Girl Series!

Plastic Ocean, WIP, 3-D

Now, nearly two decades later, I still feel this great calling for telling stories. Now, I don’t care if people don’t want to see it! That is their issue. Those who do, will, and might even think about how they too can enact change.

This works for me in so many ways because I can make my voice known without stressing my body, by marching down the street. I have after all become an artivist!

 

making art with plastic…

August 25th, 2018

Underwater Garden, detail; recycled plastic, pool noodles, toothpicks, newspaper bag

I have just finished designing three pieces of art embellished with plastic. They are Plastic Ocean 1, Plastic Ocean 2 and Underwater Garden. It has been a long and winding road that led me to the point where I felt it important to make a statement about the massive quantities of plastic in our oceans.

I have been an avid recycler for 30+ years. I just assumed if I were recycling it, good was coming of it; yet I was astonished when visiting other states that had different recycling standards, if at all. Or other counties just in the Bay Area. Some recycle styrofoam, some don’t. Some take food containers while others don’t. Huh?…Aren’t we all living on the same planet?

So I was just going along being a good consumer, recycling as much as I could, when it suddenly came to my attention that there is a whole lot of plastic floating out there in the ocean. At first I was thinking, OMG, that is not right but really not thinking about it much more than that.

Underwater Garden: berry basket liner, berry basket, credit card punch, floss treader

Then I began to see on social media, especially, more and more posts about ALL the plastic in the ocean. I befriended folks who are picking up trash on beaches world-wide. I learned about the fish choking on plastic, turtles with straws lodged in their nose, marine mammals caught in fishing nets & line. I saw videos of tidal waves of plastic churning worldwide, and kids playing in a surf of plastic debris. It was becoming more and more difficult to avoid thinking about it; the I am doing my part by recycling, this does not affect me school of thought. It began to dawn on me that with education this is quite possibly something humans can have an impact on in the world. So why not educate through art?!

Last winter I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and see these incredible sculptures by Sayaka Ganz . She designed huge installations just from plastic trash recovered from the oceans. I was intrigued by these works, and the mind that created them.

Sakaya Ganz’ plastic sculpture

Sakaya Ganz’ rescued plastic garbage sculpture

 

I began to think about my own work, and my own voice. Since I was wearing braces on my lower teeth and using a huge amount of plastic toothpicks to clean my teeth, I began to collect them. Someone actually said eeew! to me about using my used oral implements, but in reality isn’t all of this plastic debris eeew?!

I continued to collect whatever plastic I was using. I stopped buying food packaged in single use plastic, abandoning my favorite place to buy groceries when they could not say if or when they will replace this packaging. I wrote to all the major grocers in my area and asked that they stop using single use plastic. Some replied they are ‘working on it’ while others told me to tell the produce guy next time I am in the store…talk about passing the buck! ¬†

credit card ‘guitar picks’

So as my personal plastic collection was growing, I began to design elements for these quilts. I stitched, both by hand and machine the aforementioned dental picks to a water soluble fiber. I punched guitar picks out of a collection of expired credit cards, drivers licenses and hotel room keys. Then I hand stitched those to the water soluble fiber. I cut disks from remnants of pool noodles, which I use most often to ship my work. I culled the newspaper bags (don’t even get me started on why the newspaper has to be robed in plastic every day year round, or worse why do we still subscribe!)

After designing and stitching two identical quilts, I began to hand-stitch the various plastic remnants on to it. I learned a few things. One, even using teflon sheets and pressing from the back, the heat will melt the plastic!  Two, plastic is really hard to sew through! Three, while hand-stitching is so meditative, hand-stitching around plastic is not. Four, while I never make work specific to a theme, my initial intention for this work shifted halfway through. I went a completely new direction, and crammed in one more piece to make a submission deadline, for an environmental center. If my work is chosen I will be making minimally 2-5 more pieces for the exhibit next year!

For these pieces I used the aforementioned newspaper bags, various other plastic bags, berry baskets, berry basket liners, toothpicks, pool noodles, food containers, credit cards, hotel room keys, drivers licenses, foil blister packs, nuno felt, paint and screen-printing.

All throughout construction, I did not allow myself to think about how to store this work, which essentially cannot be bent, or rolled. Or so I thought. Actually I was able to roll all three together around a cardboard tube, and then place in one bag. That was maybe the easiest part!

While I wait for the jury results, I am going to sort/purge my print studio, which is really overdue. And then start in on my next series about elder women….or possibly sew more plastic!

 

 

 

 

time flies…or not

July 30th, 2018

nurse sleeping on the job…

When last we left our heroine…A few days after my fabulous weekend jaunt to Alaska, I woke up with a bad foot. It was bad in the sense that it really hurt and I couldn’t bear weight. Other than that I knew nothing! I figured I had sprained it somehow, well actually thought I had twisted my heel. I blamed it on putting on knit shoes in a small space on a plane. About as good an excuse as any, really. So I rested, iced, tried to stay off it, figuring it was sprained. I did take a couple 1/2 mile walks which did not feel good at all.

Two weeks in, and not getting better, I contacted my orthopedic doctor, who was on vacation. When he returned he told me I needed to see a specialist, for which I needed a referral. So I contacted my primary and she ordered x-rays on her way out the door to her vacation. Note to self…schedule injuries for winter!

Long story short…6 weeks, three sets of X-rays, complete lab work-up, bone density test and two doctor visits later and I now have a healing stress fracture of my left heel. Theory is I did it in Alaska. Apparently walking 8 miles in 3 days in good shoes is not something the aging body actually wants to participate in. So I am still grounded from my morning walks, but doing cross training at the gym and minimal weight bearing, such as grocery shopping, cooking and maybe standing in the studio for 25 minutes at a time.

All of this down time allowed me to ponder the meaning of life, while 3 different people told me it was the Universe’s way of telling me to slow down. Actually it wasn’t. It was my foot’s way of saying don’t ever think of walking 8 miles in good shoes, in 3 days, ever again EVER!

first supper, post-tingrin

This concept of slowing down at 70 boggles the mind. I don’t have much time left! A friend told me that 20 years ago, so it is even more true today. My mind overflows with ideas for new work, which I figure keeps it stimulated. I fear if I slow down, I will grow fat, bored and boring.

So what I have done in the past six weeks is: finished curved piecing for two pieces on the plastic oceans, got my lower jaw braces off after 9 months (as in time flies) and indulged immediately in ribs and corn on the cob. And adopted a new mantra…

I have a young mind in an old body! It is astonishing how much better this makes me feel as I deal with another temporary setback. And it is true. I have a very active mind, for which I am both blessed & deeply grateful. Onward, one foot at a time.

ocean base

North to Alaska and back…

June 19th, 2018

AK mountains through clouds

Eleven days ago I flew to Anchorage, Alaska for the weekend! It really was a crazy idea but I have been known to fly over 2000 miles for a weekend before.

In fact this was my fourth such weekend trip in the past 4 years. Two were for art receptions both in OH, one to see a dying friend in ND and most recently this artist weekend in AK. What I have learned from these trips is while they are exhausting they are always so worth it. Although as soon as I got home this time, I was committed to jury a fiber exhibit, then caught a bad cold, so I am finally getting back to reality and to this post.

The reason I went to Alaska for the weekend was primarily to see Amy Meissner and her spectacular solo Inheritance Project at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.

Amy Meissner at her Inheritance Project, Anchorage Museum

With a private artist’s walk & talk through the exhibit, I got to really look at the intricate details in each work, and it was fascinating! Amy’s Inheritance Project examines the “literal, physical and emotional work of women….using traditional skills and time.” She crowdsourced inherited textiles to create this profoundly moving and ongoing body of work. It was remarkable to witness how unexpected art supplies might transform grandma’s sofa arm doilies into 3-d objects suspended from the ceiling; as shown on the opening wall of her exhibit. The work dealt with formerly taboo subjects as post-partum depression, child-rearing, women’s inner battles, menopause, etc.

The War Room, detail, contains 2000 tapestry needles

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this work to me is one would never know the deeper meaning, unless one knew. I loved that. My work on similar subjects is so out there, in your face, or so I am told, whereas this work appeared to be “fun pieces with just beautiful stitching” as I overheard a museum docent say to a group she led through the space. The exhibit will be at the Anchorage Museum until late August, then travel to Juneau this winter and potentially beyond AK, in the future. I encourage all to see this stunning exhibit, given the opportunity!

detail, Breakup, Albedo Carpets by Marek Ranis, Anchorage Museum

In addition, we visited several other fantastic exhibits in the museum. I especially enjoyed carpets depicting the spring ‘breakup’ (of ice) in AK.

We indulged in incredible food, including the best king salmon I have ever eaten; met Beth Blankenship whose stitch-work I have long admired, met the fam, visited Amy’s studio and saw WIP; did some sightseeing along the exquisite Turnigan Arm region, including a potter’s studio, where I was dazzled by patterns including how he cut and stacked his wood for the kilns.

stacked wood in potter’s shed

I shared a hotel and the weekend with Judith Quinn-Garnett of Portland, who brought gifts for all, including the most fabulous Oregon-made chocolate ever! We all met at Quilt National 17 last year, where we had work on exhibit, and missed those others in our ‘quiet’ group who could not join us, in Anchorage.

Mt.Rainier, WA

When I fly, I try to reserve the window seat so I can photograph shapes, patterns, textures of the Earth below. Oftentimes, especially on an early morning flight, my seat mates are displeased at the wide open window screen. To me that is the price of admission! Although this was my third trip to AK, it was my maiden voyage flying into Anchorage.

descent into ANC, 8:30 pm

And wow, what a spectacular sight that was! From the snow-capped peaks poking through the clouds, to the snow-streaked like shibori mountainsides, to the clouds, and the midnight sun poking through, to the wetlands creating pattern on the ground, the view was absolutely stunning.

Coming home I did my usual hop the Cascades from Seattle, although I was certain, after 3 hours of sleep that Mt. Rainier was indeed Mt. St. Helens. That is until the pilot announced we were then right over Mt. St. Helens, some 20 mins after that sure sighting.

Mt. St. Helens

Blessed, I tell ya!

‘gun it granny…’

May 21st, 2018

After two weeks of delightful procrastination I finally got back to machine stitching my latest work today. Today I woke too weary to walk, after driving 235 miles in traffic yesterday. While walking may have been the best thing for me, I decided instead to pamper myself and stay home, do laundry (oh boy, now that’s pampering!) and stitch. Once I got started and the rhythm going, I changed colors 5 times and finished stitching the entire piece. Ah progress! It is actually just the foundation as now I will lay the design, the narrative, if you will, on top of the stitched base.

just how fast do you think you were going young lady?

Not long after I got into the swing of it a voice from the past visited….Chris Walberg and his gun it granny!¬†I was really zipping along or so I thought until I looked up at the speed meter and it read 50%. Well I think at 100% steam would have been rising from the machine!

When I was 15, I took drivers education as did all baby boomers. Because we were so populous there were 4 kids in every car in drivers ed. I was blessed to be relegated to a car with Chris Walberg. Undoubtedly it was because we both had last names that started with W-. Chris seemed to be my constant alphabetical companion in high school. So there I was driving some back road in Walnut Creek, and possibly a bit overly-cautious. I felt empowered, as if I was really now a grown-up, until Chris leaned over from the backseat, stuck his head between the instructor’s and mine, and snarled, gun it granny! Funny how that has stayed with me all these years. And it makes me wonder now, as I zip along at 70 in traffic on the freeway, if he is that guy slaloming between cars at 85?

So today, pedal to the metal at 50%… Chris Walberg, this one’s for you!

this baby stitches through 6 layers like a dream

on plastic and awareness…

May 9th, 2018

With an early morning orthodontist appointment that sent me running as soon as my feet hit the floor, I have yet to slow down. I have 90 mins between appointments when I thought I would stitch, but alas here I am doing a blog post. I should¬†be meditating which would make everything fall into place…ah¬†meditation guilt!

What got me thinking about a blog post was an errand to the superstore to stock up on things like dishwasher soap and shampoo. Normally I avoid the chain supermarkets but sometimes one has to just stock up. While there I got a huge size of gallon ziplock bags. I also picked up a box of hand wipes. As soon as I was home and unpacking I got so disturbed with myself that out of habit I bought these things.

You see in the past year I have become educated as to the glut of plastic garbage that floats out to sea, drifting aimlessly in a stew of other forgotten necessities; strangling fish, killing coral, and what remains often ends up on the beaches of beautiful places we all hope to visit one day. I believe I am more upset about this than any other chaos or disaster affecting our planet, probably because if we each did more than our part we might be able to affect change. So what am I doing about it?!

As most of us who have done any work on ourselves know, half of the problem is awareness. Once we are aware of something that needs to be changed, or a bad habit to be broken, that is half the battle. So I wonder why when I am so outraged do I continue to buy the products that offend? I justify it by saying, well I recycle, but isn’t the problem with the product itself and not with the conscientious recycler? Isn’t the problem that these kinds of single use plastics are being made in the first place? Isn’t the problem that so many people are throwing their trash on the streets rather than in a garbage can two feet away? What ever happened to simple human decency? Well that is a subject for another day.

So note to self. Stop buying the offending products, even if I do recycle. Why contribute to the problem? And you might wonder WTH this has to do with art making? Well, a lot! Since I finished the Defining Moments series I am between projects. I am designing a number of narrative pieces because it turns out I do have an opinion, on a lot of different subjects!

For the past couple of weeks I have been doing battle royale with a new piece of work about the masses moving out of California to other states. Last year 46,000 more left, than came in. Mostly people leave because it is so expensive to live here, but in my research of 6 friends moving out of state, all but one initially came from somewhere else. Only one native has left. Yes we are a hearty lot!

Today the initial layers are ready for the needle. It has been a duel between the work and me, with lots of cloth bias with which to contend. More than once I have wanted to pitch it in the trash. It still has trash (er, recycle) potential but I am hoping the needle will make it behave.

OK, ok…now I will meditate! Only because I no longer have time to stitch!

 

completion…

April 17th, 2018

my FRIEND Marion Coleman (image from Earth Stories exhibit)

A little over three years ago I began a project with my good friend and mentor Marion Coleman. We set a goal of each creating 25 large pieces before my 70th birthday, which was then three years in the future. We chose my 70th as hers was a year earlier so that gave us more time! We gave it a working title of Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming a Woman. Our plan was to explore personal, cultural, historical and social issues that formed us into the women and friends we are today. What made this project unique and meaty is that I am Caucasian and was raised in an affluent white suburb and she is African American raised in the segregated South. We hardly had anything in common, one would think and yet as very young girls we were already separate but equal.

Just as I was rounding the corner on my 24th piece in the series Marion got a nasty diagnosis which has halted her work on the project, diverting her attention rightly so to her health.

As I tried to wrap my head around this news I decided to make my final piece as a homage to her, my friend, which is titled Defining Moments 25: Homage. Not only are we rocking it as aging tall girl-friends, but she was my mentor for the Tall Girl Series, has always been so generous with sharing art biz, is one of the kindest women I know, an incredible storyteller, and very accomplished artist, both in the public and private sectors.

MENTOR

I gathered images of her person, her CV, artist statement, some of the pieces she created for this series. I digitally printed all to cotton sateen and pieced together with African fabrics. Only when it came to the photography of this final piece did I realize I basically made a textile of copyrighted material! You see we each own the copyright to our own work. So if you don’t tell her, I won’t.

I now feel completion with the Defining Moments series. I am still planning to tell stories as that is what I most enjoy, and have a few ideas in the queue. Stay tuned.