i got my mojo back…

January 27th, 2019

When we last left our heroine… after spending most of grey January attempting to make a replacement queen bed quilt, I decided I needed to play more. The first thing that came from that remarkable awakening was a complete change in direction!

So I ripped the blocks out of the rows and began anew, this time doing it my way! And incredibly, my mojo returned. Now I cannot wait to get into the studio and cut/paste this new abstract modern design for our quilt.

What all of this has reminded me is I am not the same person I was 20 years ago when I made the original quilt, which is now worn, thin and faded. Why go backwards? Why was I trying to force myself in a backwards direction? It reminded me of wisdom from my then 30-something daughter, when asked (not by me) if she would date an old boyfriend? She said why would I go backwards? 

before I came to my senses

after

Here are the before and the after. Clearly the after is so much more exciting, at least to me. And that is what matters, as I am the one who has to live with it. I can’t wait for that to happen!

Back to it…

scraps from cut bento blocks, artful on their own

on ‘adulting’….

January 20th, 2019

three rows (doubled) new bed quilt

As I forge on constructing a replacement quilt for our queen bed, I have been thinking about ‘adulting.’ I often wonder about words or expressions that suddenly take on meaning to¬†other generations. One of those is the word adulting, which I gather applies to any task one does that implies responsibility & discipline, which btw ‘spell check’ does not yet recognize, so how hip can it really be?!

I’ve lived entire life adulting! As a child I adulted my younger sisters to make sure they stayed out of trouble, danger, or fun. I adulted and got a meaningless job out of college because I knew not what I wanted, other than to not study! I adulted as a young married when I learned to budget and live within my means. I adulted as a mother and wife, as I worked two jobs, did endless chores and always placed creative opportunities for joy last on my to-do list.

With an early retirement, I tried adulting less. After all is that not what retirement is, a 2ndchildhood? A chance to play? When I first learned to dye and paint cloth, it was the first time ever I felt totally free of adulting. Hours would pass and all I felt was pure joy and play. Gratefully, that joy and zest has stayed with me for now 20 years of adulting-free creativity.

So along comes the bed quilt project. As our much-loved bed quilt has faded, ripped, and been repaired it became abundantly obvious to me, last year that I needed to replace it. I mulled over colorways and researched design. Initially I was jazzed by the modern quilts, i.e. minimalist. Just love them! Can I do it? How hard is it really for a gal who hates following directions? Doesn’t minimal mean easy?!¬†I asked those who have designed them. I saved many images of quilts I absolutely loved.

Alas time had come to stop thinking and start doing. When I wasn’t looking, my¬†adulting-self stepped in, put creativity in her corner and began to remake the same old design, but in a different color-way. It has been a battle of fits and starts since. Cranky much?

Last night it occurred to me that while I chose this new color palette I am not overjoyed with it! I love so much the garden colors of the old quilt I am replacing. This seems so loud (said me, never!)  In a moment of extreme madness or ingenuity, not sure which, it occurred to me that I could make the quilt reversible! I could make the back in blocks like the front, but in the green family instead of the purple family.

My mind began to tinker with design once more, as I was trying to drift off to sleep. Would I even consider making another 80 blocks for the back side, in garden greens? Will I ever finish this? 

This morning I had an epiphany! I could make the back as I had initially planned the front, to be minimalist. After all I have two remaining blocks from the original garden quilt. I could make just 7-8 more, sew them in a long stripe and then sew that to the backing fabric. Voila!

leftover garden green blocks

I may have at last hit upon the minimalist design I sought initially. It only took me 320 inner blocks, several bad movies, many sleepless nights, and lots of chocolate. If only my adulting had just stayed out of the equation in the first place, and let the muse play!

I am over adulting…the millennials can keep it.

 

 

year end wisdom

December 31st, 2018

At the end of each year I make a list of goals and intentions, primarily for my artwork. This year I also made another list, in Notes on my phone. This bonus list contained all the things I NEED to do in the new year, or if not then, when? It was a list of mostly digital items I have paid for but not utilized. The Yoga in the Chair for Aging Bodies class, the Sketchbook Skool class, the Craftsy class on perspective, 73 books on the Kindle, daily stair climbing, getting back to the agility exercises on Wii Fit, stuff like that. I felt quite pleased with myself that I recalled all these items to complete my list and then emailed it to myself. When it arrived in my inbox the pleasure of that memory had subsided and instead the list arrived with feelings of guilt & dread! Until I was reminded by my most beloved sage of wisdom, that perhaps making the list was all that needed to happen with it!

Wow, now isn’t that a concept! As I age and immerse myself in the wisdom of elder women, more and more I see that worry is a waste of time and guilt a waste of energy. What might have seemed really important to me at one time, no longer is. What might have seemed like something I should learn is really not something that is going to enhance my life, if I have to force myself to do it. Why clutter my days with stuff I really don’t want to do?

People often tell me what a prolific artist I am. My answer has always been that I love what I do. Granted I have slowed down in the past few years. In 2018 I made 7 pieces of art. In 2017 I made 10. In 2009 I made 29; of which many were small pieces. That being the year I finished the Tall Girl Series, likely opened the door to extreme creativity by unleashing repressed memory.

oooh that color!

It figures that this clarity comes on the heels of slogging through a bed quilt! All of 2018 I’ve thought about how I really should sew a replacement queen quilt for our bed. Now that the current one is falling apart, I finally decided December would be the time to do this. I cut out most of the pieces for the blocks and then nothing happened.

Yesterday hubs said, don’t worry, there is no rush for this bed quilt. But there is, as these blocks are clogging¬†up my creativity, my design table, my design wall.¬†¬†I am determined this will be the last I¬†really¬†don’t want to do this thing EVER. Or perhaps I am just being optimistic. After all, doesn’t each new year carry a dose of optimism?

So add to my 2019 list of ¬†intentions, stop paying for stuff I really don’t want to do! It is just as easy to not want to do something for free. Instead redirect the funds and energy to support someone who is passionate about their own pursuits, like perhaps our first female president!

Happy New Year!

 

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!