Archive for the ‘aging’ Category

lack of sleep…

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

screen-printed letters for #20

After several weeks of contemplative staring at the wall, I am hard at work on no. 20 in this Defining Moments series. This one is about the harried years and my biggest challenge again was figuring out how to depict it. Finally I decided on a screen-printed background, with imagery & letters overlaid describing that chaotic time.

I decided two sizes of letters would be good, so I traced and cut Helvetica 2″ and Helvetica 3″ letters. Essentially the letters spell the same words that are screen-printed onto the cloth. Before I cut I calculated how many of each letter I needed because to just do it any other way would be crazy. I have been working on the letters for several days now, and also stitched the background in preparation for the layering. Yesterday I cleared off my design table to lay out the stacks of letters in alpha order to begin the actual layering of words.

How I was able to function yesterday at all is a miracle. I had just 3.5 hours of interrupted sleep the night before, for reasons I need not go into here. When I got up, nearly the first thing I did was walk into a wall, for which my right arm and right knee are painful reminders this day. As the day went on my energy returned somewhat and thus developed the letter laying plan.

Only this morning when I woke up refreshed did I realize what a huge mistake I had made in stacking this enormous pile of letters onto half of the design table. I actually needed to trim and square the already stitched background (quilt) so I know exactly how far to the edges I can lay the letters. And where would I do such a procedure? On my design table of course! The same design table that is covered with stacks of letters.

So what did I do? I did what any self-respecting efficiency expert would do. I gingerly folded the quilt in half one direction and then the other and trimmed the edges on the remaining open half of the table. And of course it was nowhere near square so I had to gingerly lay it down several times. I got it done with only 5-6 letters flying to the floor. I saved so much time and so much more sanity by not removing the letters and then re-laying them down!

Never underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep!

more letters…

this and that…

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

collage of images on my print table cover…yummy!

I got into the pool the other day. So how is this earth shaking news?  I used to swim all the time, at least three days a week for nearly 20 years. Then in 2014-16 I had this inexplicable weird thing going on in my replaced right knee, where it would fill with blood, rendering me immobile and in great pain for days, and weeks on end. I actually noted that it happened 40 times in 52 weeks in 2015, which left me useless most of the year. I had several come to Jesus moments where I understood the message I was receiving was about surrendering control. I also became even more familiar with living with chronic pain, a subject I was certain I had previously mastered.

So what interrupted my swimming was when I got into the pool one day in 2015 and my trick knee froze, leaving me immobilized in the water. It took an act of Congress to get me out of the water, and fear of re-ocurrence prohibited me from entering the water again for nearly two years.

About three weeks ago on a lazy Sunday afternoon I walked through the fear. I drove to the pool, told the guy at the desk that I was re-entering the water after a long absence and could he keep an eye on me?! Sure he said mumbling something about old ladies. I gingerly lowered myself into the pool and after a few terrifying moments actually enjoyed it and stayed in for at least thirty minutes. The miracle was my body did not hurt the entire rest of that day. That was worth noting as my body always hurts. It is just what happens when you mess with Mother Nature. Parts hurt. Always.

Three weeks passed and I rationalized from one day to the next why I could not possibly go swimming that day. Finally on Thursday I went again. And again I had to walk through the fear to get into the water. It was immediately warm and comforting. As I moved through the water I was aware of my hurting parts. I was really aware of my knees until I decided this is probably how knee prostheses feel in the water. It had been so long I had truly forgotten. As I began to relax through backstroke (oh my shoulder!) and breaststroke (why did I leave my goggles at home?) and stretching and bending, something else happened. I began to forget all the scary reasons why I put off this lovely form of exercise!

I began to think about how swimming should be mandatory for every citizen. You must get into the water and float for at least 25 minutes every day! Think of how unstressed our population would be if everyone just got into the water and moved around.

Why is it so hard to do this? How long will I allow this old fear to hold me hostage? I don’t have the answer to it except to say that my new goal is at least once a week to get back into the water, as I still get my cardio in other ways. I imagine at some point the fear will just fade away, maybe even glom onto someone else who needs it more than I do.

start of DM 20..paint blobs as potential design elements

Apparently this aqua movement not only shifted the pain, but also my brain. I finally got started on #20! How to design it has left me frozen in inactivity since before I went to OH for the Quilt National opening. I had typed the story and so this morning I made the screen and painted the background cloth, plus several remnants that will also be used for lettering. I am still not 100% sure where it is leading me, but I work well with that kind of direction. I had a little problem with the paint leaving blobs on the cloth but immediately saw it not as crisis but as design element with which I can work.

peeling the onion, in reverse…

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Defining Moments 12: Motherhood, background under the needle

I have often heard it said that getting to know someone is like peeling an onion. My new style of working is more like peeling the onion, in reverse. It is a layering process.

Ever since I succumbed to the siren call of the mid-arm my whole style of designing has changed. Now, because I can, I stitch each piece in layers. First I piece the background and then quilt that. No more skies that start and stop at the edge of a building. Now the sky goes all the way across as a sky does. No more fused parts loosening up and dog-earring while stitching an entire piece. Now the machine appliqué parts are fused and then stitched, in their own time. It is so much easier and truly remarkable how much more professional the work looks doing it this way.

stitching text

I am currently wrapping up Defining Moments 19: Motherhood which has been a bear to create. It was a bear because I could not figure out what I wanted to say or how I wanted to say it.  I was reminded by my favorite aunt that motherhood for me was a challenge, and like all people, places or things that have challenged me in this life; they also have challenged me in the series. I was at a total loss for a design. I knew I needed to include Motherhood as a defining moment but oy, how? Finally I just sat down and started writing, free thinking if you will, just writing without editing. And what come out was remarkable.

free-writing, also screen the background

I wrote about how I never considered whether I wanted kids or not, because that is not what women in my generation did. We got married and had kids. It was the norm, it was expected. It’s what you did. Some might question how I could even admit that and yet I am here to tell you that my daughter, now grown, made¬†her own¬†decision not to have children, in her 20’s. When she told me, I thought what great courage and integrity it took to make that decision and do something about it. Perhaps her decision gave me permission to admit publicly I was uncertain if I should reproduce or not.

Another thing that came through the writing was my battle with postpartum depression. I struggled through it for many months and had never really spoken much of it, certainly not at that time. Those two issues alone make for a very strong piece about motherhood.

collage of daughter’s childhood images

Then I decided to then add something that personified the blessing that came to me through motherhood. So I made a collage on silk organza of some of the most wonderful photos of my daughter growing up. This adds the paradox of my motherhood experience; from all that worry and stress came this beautiful baby who grew into a woman of such integrity and conviction. She continues to be one of my greatest teachers, as I peel back the layers.

Happy Mothers Day!

on aging…

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

The end goal for finishing the Defining Moments series of 25 pieces is my 70th birthday. Since I am now working on no.19 one could surmise that 70 is approaching. Yes, indeed this is the year, should I be fortunate enough, to reach my 70th birthday. I find that prospect both exhilarating and daunting. Mostly I think a lot about how is this even possible? How can a young person like me be turning 70?! Ha. Twenty five years ago I was in the prime of my life at 44 and 25 years ahead I could be pushing 100, which in my family is entirely possible.

the key looking great past 70 is….hang out with older people!

Aging is both a blessing and a curse. I tend to focus on the blessing, keeping in mind my three dear friends who lost cancer battles and did not have the opportunity. I left two of them behind in my fifties and another two years ago.

I tend to keep my focus on my art and seeing light, color, texture, pattern and shape in everyday life. There is, especially today, so much I could be worrying about other than the next birthday. In fact too many things to worry about, any of which make the following post both shallow and immaterial.

Yet occasionally I am reminded by media, other people or even my own mirror that I am gaining seniority. The two most recent examples were a cashier at Trader Joes who spoke to me but never looked at my face. I was down there somewhere. The very next day the receptionist where I have my hair cut took my cash, made my next appointment and not once looked at me. Initially her rendering me invisible made me angry until my glass half full mindset thought how sad is it to be her and never look anyone in the eye, to never make a connection¬†with another human being. Perhaps it’s the¬†digital mindset.

And yet there are still those little reminders; the distraction while driving to barely avoid someone in the crosswalk (is it my eyes, am I going blind?), the ‘senior moment’ where I ponder is this normal aging or dementia like my¬†sister and my father before her? The dermatologist who with her tight face mentions that ‘unfortunately there is nothing available for YOUR old crepey skin and if there was I would be rich.’ Well bitch according to this ad there is something available and you missed the boat.

If only you had been smart enough to think of this, doc

…how to avoid wrinkles…NOT!

My father used to tell me, as a teenager, that I should be more concerned with what’s¬†inside than outside. (Was this before or after I was surgically altered to have a better appearance?! hmmm…good question!)¬†Still¬†we are bombarded with the media’s obsessional images of “beautiful” with¬†few¬†of the examples over 50; although¬†now 50 seems really young compared to 70! In reality the key to looking youthful is to hang around with really old people;¬†and it did not take me years of expensive education to figure that out.

And remember when flying….sit next to the window with the shade up and take copious photos of the glorious tapestry below. I’d rather be an interesting, visually stimulated old lady than a lifeless, wrinkle free digitized humanoid any day! And it is looking less likely that I will be a ‘nice’ old lady! And get off my lawn…

another defining moment…

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Defining Moments 18: Inner Growth

I just finished and photographed no. 17 and 18 in the series. With a total of 25 to do the light is at the end of tunnel, for which I have mixed emotions. This series like life has had its ups and downs!

I LOVED no. 18 start to finish and now I am staring down no. 19 which is about motherhood. While I have written the text the design remains elusive. So I will take some time to do other creative things and hope inspiration hits me upside the head when I am not thinking about it.

Most folks who have known me for less than 20 years do not know I was a hand-weaver and spinner in another life. It all started in 1974 right after we bought our home. I signed up for an adult ed class in silk screening, but was the only person to do so. Rather than refund my money they offered me another class, so I reluctantly chose weaving.

The teacher was fabulous. She was enthusiastic and supportive and had lots of ideas, both in books and experience. We wove on a piece of cardboard that we had wrapped with string for warp. I used a purchased¬†hand-spun as weft, as¬†I was not spinning my own yarn at that time. I wove an owl which was about 12″ long x 10″ wide. Hubs cut two wood circles which I colored¬†with black circles for the eyes. I was instantly hooked¬†so¬†he made me several frame looms and an inkle loom. Shortly thereafter I bought a four harness floor loom which took up most of my current¬†studio space and set out to weave yards and yards of fabric. Because I hate following recipes or patterns and am math-averse I seldom wove enough of any one cloth¬†to make anything. That is when I really started to patch fabric and¬†create garments from¬†my woven fabrics.

I like to say that I discovered I could buy fabric already woven when I gave up the loom for art quilts 18 years ago. I sold the loom and bought a much smaller Thermofax machine for creating printing screens. The remnants of my handwoven cloth have languished since waiting for divine inspiration. Along came this series and voila! My hand-weaving was definitely a defining moment in my life. I knew from the get-go just how I wanted to present that.

I decided to make leaves of the handwoven remnants, and some garments which I actually cut into! I also used some hand-knit scraps and nuno felting which I had done in a workshop years ago. I fused all the leaves back to back and with the exception of two¬†types. ¬†I whip-stitched the leaf centers and outside edges. The two exceptions were a tumbling blocks woven in 1/4″ ribbon and a twill woven from mylar strips. Both of those were so fragile that I machine stitched an edge of Clover fusible bias.

And I wanted the background fabric to be wide enough so a tree looked balanced and bright enough to pop all the handwoven colors. It was tempting to stop at 44″ wide so as to fit a shipping carton but it grew all the way out to 51″ wide, finished. The bottom, or ground on this piece is a fabulous piece of art cloth from a mentor,¬†Els Van Baarle.¬†¬†I do believe in supporting the arts, and other artists!

fused and stitched tree branches with leaves

In designing the piece I knew the best way to stitch it would be in layers. So I stitched the background first, then I fused on the tree branches and stitched those, both in and outside the lines for depth. Then I pinned on the leaves. My initial intention was to hand-stitch the leaves on, but I started with machine stitching the aforementioned special leaves. At that point I was thinking, oh this is too easy so I machine stitched all the leaves on! I stitched only down the center of each leaf which secured it but allowed for the awesome 3-D effect.

woven mylar vest

The tree seems an appropriate image for this piece. For through 25 years of weaving and knitting I grew so much as a person. I listened to a lot of Oprah while in the studio. I read a lot of self-help books and developed a sense of self worth for the first time. This tree is really represents the tree of MY life and my growth as a creative and as a woman.

So this is my first 3-D quilt! And I am so happy with it. It is joyful, just exactly how I feel in my creative life. And it may just be the signature piece of the series!

the muse is keeping me awake…

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

handwoven cotton vest

Anyone who makes art knows how exasperating the muse can be. There are times when she has entirely left the brain, the building and the planet and try as we might we cannot ‘rouse her, no matter how disciplined or urgent the need may be. Then there are times when she is simply there, waiting but we don’t have the time. I have learned the hard way to never let this happen. When she is present, she must be noticed, she must be paid attention to and she must be fed. I can play digital mahjong when she is fallow.

And then there are the times when she is so present, she is dancing on the table, singing off key, shouting obscenities, anything to get my attention. Here I am. Pay attention to me dammit! And do it now, this instant, even if it is 3 am in the morning. 

For me that time is now. For the past three nights I have designed many pieces of work, in my mind’s eye while lying in bed between 3 and 6 am.

I am currently finishing the design of #17 of 25 of the current series; while no. 18, 19 and 20 are pacing outside the window. That is what it feels like, as I try to sleep but all I can do is consider construction, how will I execute that idea, should I try to hand stitch all those leaves, would it work if I tried to pillowcase them or would that be an exercise in futility? How big should I make that tree, what about the background? Do I have enough in my stash or should I buy more? What color way do I want to work in? How many leaves should I make? And the most anxiety producing question of all is when I finish the piece can I actually toss out the remaining handwoven remnants?

handwoven cotton-linen bag

This next piece is about my journey through hand-dyeing, hand-spinning and hand-weaving. It began when I was in my late 20’s and concluded at 50. In thirty years I wove all kinds of yardage and made garments, bags and scarves. I sold some, I gave a lot away and I sewed and wore some. Several¬†years ago, after I outgrew most of it¬†I gathered up a big pile¬†and shoved into a drawer in my studio, the famous someday drawer. Someday I will do something with this; until two years ago¬†I realized someday is here and I need to do something with it or get rid of it. So no. 18 is that something! I am excited at the prospect of the design I wish to create and yet still clearly in discussion with muse about how to actually achieve it, to communicate the idea without destroying the woven and knit cloth.

handwoven silk shirt

Ironically I am also experiencing the call of the spring cleaning genie which I am ignoring as best as I can. I don’t want to get sidetracked into tidying when I can actually be designing. And¬†I did the really big purge a year ago so how much can there be to sort through anyway? ¬†When no. 18 is complete I can depart with whatever remains of the handwoven cloth!

The essential ingredient in being able to let go of old and prized textiles, such as my wedding dress and now my handwoven is in creating something new and beautiful from them; essentially giving them new life. I need not drag around the remnants of old life for the rest of mine. It is quite liberating this art making!

 

 

 

it’s the little things…

Monday, December 19th, 2016

the image I wanted to stitch to cloth…just married (1971)

One of the things I most enjoy about this series work is I am continually challenged by how to convey my message or tell the story. The piece I have been working on (#16) these past weeks is about our marriage. A couple months ago I began the prep work by dismantling my wedding dress, which my mother had sewn from heavy cotton pique, lined with cotton flannel. This dress was so well constructed & sturdy, I could have gotten married in the Arctic in January, instead off spring in the Bay Area. After I took the dress apart, I made Thermofax screens of our vows from a fill-in-the-blank book gifted by the preacher.

I printed not only the dress fabric but some of the flannel as well. Additionally, I had retained one bridesmaid dress which was also made by my mother. The wedding theme was based on my Russian heritage. The bridesmaids and I wore headscarves and their dresses were of a flimsy, but lined, cotton voile in a red/white/blue paisley print.

the headscarf upon which I wanted the image

The dresses were ‘granny’ style with a wide ruffle at the bottom. Initially I thought to incorporate the ruffle into the new piece but nothing about that spoke to me. I decided instead to fuse different size squares onto the now pieced wedding dress background. That gave¬†the entire piece a bit of a whimsical feel which certainly was not my intention, but worked!

I hand-stitched a piece of the dress lace vertically to the piece. Then I basted my great grandmother’s hand crocheted lace headscarf to the base and hand-stitched that down. Only in doing so did I find a few areas of disintegration that previously were invisible to the¬†eye.

My idea was to then layer and hand-stitch my headscarf on top; but something was missing. It didn’t¬†quite feel right as the¬†headscarf was a large triangle bound in trim and¬†essentially blank¬†in the middle. So I decided to hand-stitch¬†the image of hubs and I walking down the aisle onto the headscarf before I stitched it to the base.

the reverse showing the image printed to silk organza

That became my challenge. I didn’t want to trace it and potentially ruin the one and only priceless heirloom. I thought of several options but none seemed right, so I asked an¬†artist friend and a mentor for their opinions. And voila, from that came the solution. I printed the image onto silk organza which I pinned onto the back of the headscarf heirloom. Then I gingerly placed it into a hoop and stitched the image through to the headscarf. Only after I lost the light when the sun went down did I realize I could perfectly see the image from the reverse side, so I flipped it over and stitched from the reverse, remembering to knot accordingly. Ah success.

the finished stitching of the image onto the headscarf

In today’s morning light I cut away the printed organza on the back side and voila! I have exactly what I wanted.

It’s the little things that bring so much joy!¬†Onward to the next layer…

 

2nd layer showing part of GGM’s headscarf and bridesmaid fabric on top of screen printed dress…stay tuned!

 

out and about…

Saturday, July 30th, 2016
detail of stitching on  canvas

detail of stitching on canvas

Another month has zipped by…do we see a pattern here? I continue on my series which I am so loving. I worry a bit about what I will do when I finish it next year but then I chase that thought away. I will deal with that when I get there. In the meantime I am having such a great time.

I am currently doing some handwork on #12 which was an afterthought piece. And I have gathered the memorabilia and collectibles to begin #15 which is about meeting Mr. Right. I have some great things to work with including his Eagle Scout sash and uniform, which is another sacred garment to dismantle!

Last week I took a four day jaunt up to Portland to see good friends¬†and to take an art class at OCAC. Synchronistically both Franki¬†and I have been craving some hand-stitching so Radical Embroidery seemed to be just the ticket. It was a great class taught by Victoria May, and chock full of inspiration from the work of other hand-stitchers and our classmates. By the fourth day my stitching became very radical and I was enamored with stitching again. While I plan to complete my class samples eventually, I went straight to work on #12 when I got home. Details to follow…

Napa county salt pond,...looks like a Diekenborn

Napa county salt pond

In the meantime my work was selected for a future issue of Art Quilting Studio magazine so I need to prepare the text for that. And also had work chosen for the Boundaries exhibit at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. I went to the opening reception last night and was very intrigued by a photography exhibit on sexual abuse in one of the smaller¬†galleries within the center. It was crowded and I could not get close enough to read the statements, so when I went back today to give my spiel for the docents’ talk I went through the photography exhibit.

I was so moved. Here is another woman, another artist, speaking her truth, telling her-story which is by no means pretty. This was my first experience since going public with my own story, to read and observe another’s. Stephanie Hamilton-Oravetz¬†was there so I spoke to her and told her how meaningful her work was. Actually the photography was done by another, but she was the model, acting out her childhood¬†emotions for the sexual abuse she suffered. It was such profound & moving work. She and I agreed that so much healing came to us from telling our stories. And it reminded me again how every single one of us has a story. Yet¬†very few have the courage to speak it. To do so is extremely liberating. So I keep on…telling stories while I¬†observe my own¬†transformation¬†from visual artist to storyteller. It may just be what I’ve needed to be doing all along.

11, 12 and new…

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

I recall my grandmother at about my current age telling my 20 yr old self that time passes more quickly the older one gets. At the time I just thought, well, she’s old. Now I get it and I see it everywhere, like on laundry day. Is it really 12 days since I last did laundry? On the Wii Fit, what? 5 days since I last used it? Or today, as the second month of the New Year draws¬†to a close and I haven’t blogged for a month?

What I have been doing this past month is working on the collaborative series, doing Arts Guild board biz/lead communicator for our big fundraiser, and searching for a new rescue pup.

Defining Moments #11 in process

Defining Moments #11 in process

I am now stitching #11 which I hope will be the last piece I ever do about my surgeries. I thought long and hard about how I wanted to make a profound yet simple statement and I am thrilled to say that has been accomplished. What also feels like closure to the tale is the backing fabric is from the early Tall Girl Series art cloth I designed. I plan to use more fabrics from that series for the facings and sleeve as well. As number 12 is percolating in my brain I am thinking a lot about hand-writing the stories to cloth rather than printing them. With a total of 25 to do, coming up almost to the halfway point is very gratifying!

In the meantime my exemplary skills as a volunteer were heralded in the latest issue of the SAQA Journal. And I have been worker bee extraordinaire for the annual Arts Guild off Sonoma REPO show. This is a very quirky show comprised of donated artwork made of minimally 70% recycled materials. Over seventy artists are donating work. The show is up March 5-26 . Check the website for details.

Keeping Up Appearances #11, vintage cotton tablecloth

Keeping Up Appearances #11, vintage cotton tablecloth

I am submitting two pieces of the Keeping Up Appearances series; #11 and #12 to REPO. ¬†KUA #11¬†is a dye-painted screen-printed vintage 50’s cotton tablecloth. When viewed close-up the stencil printing of that era is apparent through the surface design. In addition KUA #12 was also dye-painted and screen-printed with etiquette text on mid-century pink and red monogrammed linen dinner napkins.

Finally, ever since we lost our old dog Millie last summer I have been perusing rescue sites. We rescued/then ¬†surrendered a jack russell mix last fall. It was heartbreaking and I was pretty sure then I was finished with rescuing dogs. As defiant I was in my resolve I continued to search and last weekend cast a wider net finding exactly what I was looking for…a terrier mix that was neither pittie nor chihuahua. So this week we went to Monterey and adopted this wire haired sweet girl we have named Mopsy.

Mopsy

Mopsy

And so we begin anew…she is already in training to be my ever faithful studio companion!

on proportion…

Friday, December 18th, 2015
church pew

church pew

The muse is in residence these days while the brain is trying to interfere with ‘maybe now would be a good time to clean out the basement’ or ‘ let’s start the final purge in the living room today.’

The first is illogical and the second impractical. Who wants to spend time in a basement in December? And since I already purged the entire house, I have more than enough tax deductible donations for this year anyway.

One should never ever ignore the muse when she is thriving! So now ‘we’¬†are designing number ten. That in of itself is exciting, meaning I am nearly to the half-way point in the series. I continue to love and be inspired by this meaningful narrative work.

While I was gifted with an innate sense of color I was behind the door when perspective was handed out. Well that is not entirely true. I have keen perspective on human interaction and social behavior, but am ‘blind’ when it comes to seeing proportion and perspective when I design my work. I have taken numerous classes in perspective, which have taught me at least where to start but it is as if that part of my brain is asleep. So that is where my in-house critic comes in handy!

It has not always been this way. I have been designing textile art¬†for over a decade now and initially ¬†resented the in-house critic’s comments about proportion and perspective. Eventually or as my mother used to say…too soon old, too late smart I figured out it is not criticism as the word critique might imply but rather an enormous aid to a skill I simply don’t possess.

Since I don’t see perspective it’s a challenge to draw a cartoon for¬†my¬†work. So I googled church pews to get a picture from which to start. Even so my first construction of the pews did not look like rows of seats but rather lines on fabric. In stepped my helper and mentioned the pews go all the way to the floor (duh!), so after a bit of repositioning, voila! church pews. He also helped me with the building. And I plan to engage his point of view later today with another aspect.¬†We make such a good team but then¬†I already knew that!

country club

country club