Archive for the ‘new work’ Category

on intentions…

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Currents 25

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because to me they imply something needs fixing and one is bound to fail. Who needs that? I’ve spent the last 40 years shedding things that make me feel badly about myself. I need not conjure up new ones.

Instead I prefer intentions, or art goals. What would I like to accomplish in the approaching new year? And I write it down so at the end of the year I can see if I did it. For the most part, I do.

I don’t need to join a gym, or lose weight as I’ve been there, done that.¬†And I don’t want to do anything tangible every day for a year. I admire others who can do that, a collage a day, a stamp a day, a sketch a day, a stitched line, a novel page a day, whatever. To me, it is too much like homework or a job!

Besides I don’t think I really need more discipline. After all I am the one who set a goal of designing 25 large pieces in three years time and did it! So, yes I definitely need less structure and more fun!

I was thinking I might add a morning meditation as an intention, but that still feels a bit like a guilt trip. So maybe a mini intention, to work towards being mindful, say for 10-15 minutes each day. Of course this intention involves training others to either (a) join me or (b) not interrupt me to ask what I am doing, or if I am ok?! The answer to that takes me way out of mindfulness!

Perhaps the most manageable, the most reliable, the most possible intention of all is to do hand-work every night! As in what I did before the internet was born. To put down the iPad and the phone, and once again pick up needle/thread or needles/yarn and make something.

Ideally, it will serve several purposes; massage my creative gene, give me back that meditative time so challenging to maintain, and produce something. Way back in the last century before the internet, I knit almost every night. I have dozens of pairs of warm wooly socks that I still wear in winter, scarves for walking, a sweater or two and even a gorgeous wool coat. None of these would have happened if I had been solving a 300 pc puzzle online, or playing scrabble and mahjong against myself. And the bonus is I might go to sleep easier, not having to shut down my brain at night along with the devices.

So there you have it. My intentions for 2018 include staying grounded, retaining the muse and doing hand-work every night. I think I can handle that as they all tend to support each other. And if you see me prowling the internet some evening, don’t shame me. I feel bad enough about it already!

May 2018 be the year you figure out your best intentions, and follow through!

Happy New Year!

reflections on turning 70…

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

reflection of arch, st. louis, mo

As many know I offered a special inventory reduction sale of my work in honor of my turning 70. For what was supposed to be a 3-day event, I sold lots of early work to those who most loved it and wanted to live with it, or gift it to someone, who potentially will love it too!

It was one of the most gratifying things I have ever done. It was really validating that so many friends, other artists and complete strangers love my work and wanted it in their lives. And it was refreshing to cull some inventory from three closets and one cabinet in my home.

Before doing this, I pondered whether I would be devaluing the price of my work by selling for $70 ea? For me, the answer was simple. This one-time sale was about freeing up studio energy, which in turn clears my headspace and my willingness to share. It was not about money, not about art career goals, not about strategy. And that is probably why it all felt so good. It felt good for my work to be coveted. It felt good that people who might not otherwise be able to afford it, to own it. It felt good to prep older work to ship, to sign in thread those which had not been done before, to bid farewell to much loved colors, textures and designs. It was all a lovely and most gratifying experience.

So the first thing I learned since turning 70 was, if you want to do a quickie sale of your artwork, don’t announce it until the actual first day of the sale. I thought it prudent to put out advance notice a week ahead. I did not want to be processing orders on my birthday! The hits were fast and furious. I sold ten pieces in the first hour, a week ahead of time. By the time the official sale days arrived, there were only four pieces left!

Another thing I learned is there will always be people who want all my work for $70 ea, for which I got to practice saying NO. My favorite expression actually is …NO is a complete sentence!

For my birthday we went to a fabulous resort and spa on the Monterey Peninsula. We ate great food, indulged in a bit more wine & chocolate than usual, enjoyed the “Carol Cocktail” custom made by the bartender in honor of my big day, saw old friends, had a facial, revisited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and ate and slept like royalty!

I don’t know that I learned this so much as I re-acknowledged that I am not a spa person! Mostly I don’t like strangers asking me about my body parts, which always seems to happen in a spa. Sure it is unprofessional, but it happens and often, and I don’t like being put on the defensive when I am supposed to be there to relax!

It was a lovely spot, with all the amenities and yet I struggled to get out of the warming pool.¬†It was challenging to toddle around in men’s sandals which were way too wide for my long feet, which are way too long for the women’s sandals!¬†Just let me go barefoot already!¬†Just a weird combination of first world problems that annoyed me. So I re-learned, that I never have to go to a spa again!

And finally I learned that it is true, that by the time one hits this age we have definite likes and dislikes. We like our creature comforts. We like to sit on furniture made for tall folk and not have our knees dangling on the floor. We like to walk in shoes that fit. And we like to know when it is free day for tri-county residents at the aquarium, and not go on that day! You could say I am getting cranky, but in reality I am just getting smarter, one day at a time.

 

coming ’round the corner…

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

Defining Moments 23: The Aging Optimist

Today I photographed no. 23 in the Defining Moments series and put it up on my website. This piece, The Aging Optimist was another that sat in my head for weeks, figuring out how to design it. I had yet another roll of strips made of scraps from which I had started the series and I wanted to carry forth that same idea, although in the early work it referenced the Christian cross. On this piece I wanted it to represent the growing vine, the road traveled or any other metaphor for aging. I discovered though that the strip, already congested with many seams was not going to curve around and make a tight corner. So I cut it into sections, which almost resembles vertebrae and constructed my winding path from there.

strips that started the series

Now I am starting the text for no. 24. Again, all but done in my head, only to be done in real time and stitched. No. 25 is a true collaboration so no deadline stress! It will happen when it does. So there I am three plus years and 24 quilts later. A grand sense of accomplishment, indeed!

Throughout this project I have acquired both new skills and new equipment. The challenge remains to continue to create work that says something, tells a story, sparks conversation, gets people to think and put it out into the world. I do have my work cut out for me (haha)!

Meanwhile I have come up with a truly inspirational way to celebrate my 70th. Other than the spa day and dinner out, this is a way for me to spread the love and give back just a little bit. Stay tuned for the deets …

 

on deadlines…

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

scraps

Today while looking through birthday cards for all my favorite winter babies, I came across one with the grim reaper on it. Somehow it did not strike me as excessively funny.¬†Yet as one who is rapidly approaching a new decade, a BIG birthday (as if they are not all big) I didn’t find it particularly amusing. The punchline however was something about life having a deadline.

Which got me to thinking about the word deadline having the word dead as part of it. We never say I have a lifeline on Thursday unless of course we are anticipating some sort of help, escape or spa appointment. No we say I have a deadline on Thursday.

For me, the past 3.5 years of my art-making has been driven by a deadline. This self-imposed deadline is to finish the Defining Moments series by my 70th birthday. The idea of this partnership was each of us was to design and sew 25 big quilts before my December 2017 birthday. I am now designing #23 and where my partner in this project is, remains a mystery!

At least semi-annually my husband has said that I had put a big whambo (he has his own dialect) on myself in setting this deadline. I just brushed it off, half thinking he was right while the other half was driven to make it.

Because I keep great documentation of my work, I am able to share this exciting bit of trivia with you. For this series, in 2014 I made 4 pieces, 2015 was 5 pieces, 2016 was 6 pieces and year to date I have made 7.5 ! So clearly I function best with a deadline, grim reaper or not!

I did get a hitch in my deadline driven rhythm this week though when my wondrous dream machine had major tension problems. Hubs and I spent the better part of two days recording non-existent numbers & running the gamut from no tension to high tension on both top and bobbin. All this achieved was sheer frustration, an enormous waste of thread and several lovely samplers such as this. Finally I threw up the white flag, contacted the dealer, got his input and voila today finished stitching the background of no.23. I am back in business!

Granted I am not going to make the deadline, but I am so close that I am very pleased! This leaves me wondering what my next deadline will be?

stress inducer 101

inspiration in unexpected places…

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

doodle

Yesterday five women came to my studio to see what I do. This idea started over the course of a year when a long time friend from the local quilt guild said she wanted to be a ‘fly on the wall’ in my studio. Then another local friend of 40+ years mentioned that she too wanted to see my work and how I do it. Then a third wanted to see my work, and in turn invited two of her friends. It took the longest thread in the history of email to find a date that worked for all five people, as we of the retired tribe do love our travel!

I had some reservations as I am not big on being observed while working; just ask my husband! Nor do I much like doing Open Studios, which I have done once. I just want to make my work and essentially be left alone while doing so! Why else did my daughter hand-stitch a SCRAM sign for my studio door, years ago?!

The challenge for me was to figure out what parts of my process would be interesting to others, and how much time to allocate before my body would be unwilling to stand any longer. Finally I decided to demo the Thermofax screen-making process, the screen-printing process, stitching on the new love of my life, the Juki mid-arm, talk about digital fabric printing and lastly show some work that incorporated all of the above. I pulled about 8 or 9 pieces from my various series, and talked about each piece. I envisioned the visit lasting about two hours, with no refreshments, only art process.

It was delightful! There were lots of questions and photo taking and more questions.Two hours breezed by and my only physical complaint was minor voice strain. And the most unexpected thing happened. After they left I realized that I was so completely psyched about my own work! What greater inspiration to keep going?

Meanwhile…no. 22 in the Defining Moments series is finished, but not yet photographed. The second layer of paint was laid on the background of no. 23 during yesterday’s studio visit. The text for the overlay design is printed so this week I will get to batting & backing and get this puppy stitched, so that I can then design the piece. No. 24 has been rattling around in my head for weeks, and going through many configurations. After yesterday’s studio visit, it became abundantly clear exactly what I need to do, so this morning I trashed rendition #2 which was essentially creating way too much work for myself, and am now enthused about rendition #3!

I am now six weeks shy of the self-imposed deadline of 25 large pieces before my 70th birthday, but not the least bit worried. Rather I am excited about this huge endeavor I took on and have achieved. Stay tuned…

knowing when to stop…

Friday, August 4th, 2017

Defining Moments 20: The Harried Years, detail WIP

Knowing when to stop could apply to a lot of things in life. When to stop eating sugar, when to stop obsessing about your way too short haircut, when to stop expectations for others’ behavior, etc.

For me, in this moment knowing when to stop came last night as I laid yet one more layer on #20. This poor piece now has at least 6 layers of cloth and batt, with cotton and perle threads galore.

Decades ago when I was a weaver I had a mentor who said, if it looks incomplete, add more. I always have remembered that and have frequently put it to work. On the flip side is knowing when to stop. I have reached that point with this piece.

#20 is about the harried years, which for me were the 80’s and ’90’s when I was wife, mother, small business owner and employee in a medical office. I went swimming on my lunch hour, on the days that I was not driving my kid from daycare to preschool, then to elementary school, junior high and eventually high school. I was a ‘soccer Mom’ before soccer moms were cool! I was most often in my car, driving to work, to the grocery store, to the post office, to Brownies, 4-H, swim team, piano lessons, and so on. For the base of this piece I typed a list of words describing my life at that time, and screen printed the list to the cloth. I also screen-printed the same list to hand-dyed cloth to be used for lettering. On top of the background I layered the Brownie sash, a baby vintage ’79 t-shirt, an image of the cover of my favorite bedtime story (GoodNight Moon), the front of a hand-spun, handwoven baby bomber jacket I had created, the biz card from my yarn business, image of hubs and I in our respective hand-spun, hand-woven, sewn bomber jackets, a hand-stitched ‘how to’ book cover and pieces of a quilted pillow my grandmother had made for my daughter as newborn.

more letters…

Defining Moments 20: The Harried Years, detail How To book

Then I figured out how many of each letter I needed to spell out the words which I had previously screen-printed to the cloth. I decided not to use all the words of course as that would be too busy! First I cut Helvetica 2″ letters and fused and stitched those randomly, then I cut out Helvetica 3″ stenciled letters. I worried a bit about not having enough painted fabric for letters, so I painted more and continued to cut. In the end I had close to 50 extra letters! I laid the screen-printed stenciled letters on top of the printed background fabric and then hand-stitched each letter down, primarily to give it some contrast. The letters are fused but as we know that does not always hold into perpetuity. So I figured the hand-stitching added another layer of interest to this already busy piece. ¬†As I proceeded along I began to see quite clearly that it was next to impossible to read the lettering. There is not enough contrast between the painted background and the painted letters. I thought of my mentor long ago, just add more as I stitched along, for what seemed like forever, but was probably a month or so!

Defining Moments 20: The Harried Years, detail baby bomber jacket

Letters were all stitched and the piece went back up on the wall. Yep. Can’t read ’em! Oy vey, what to do now? Actually the first thing I did was start #21. I just needed an escape hatch from what was becoming a cumbersome piece.

Then I tried out pinning various widths of b/w strips under to the words to highlight them. That sort of worked but looked awful. So I ended up cutting little snippets of a curvy b/w stripe, fusing each one to a portion of each letter and then free-motion stitched them down. It actually made them slightly easier to read. Yet I knew I could not fathom putting one more thing on this piece! I knew it was time to stop.

The irony in all of this is the piece is about a harried time in my life. The piece is busy. Does harried not equal busy?! I think it works in some sort of bizarre way. When I have had a chance to photograph it in full, it will be up on my website but in the meantime these are just details.

After all… it is about the details!

 

busy is as busy does…

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

no. 20 under construction

It seems as if I have been working on #20 forever.  I have been hand stitching screen-printed letters as the final layer. In some places I am stitching through 4 or 5 layers of cloth, which does not make it any easier or faster for my tired old hands. But it is great listening to baseball work! And I am mostly liking the result.

My hesitation lies in the fact that this piece is extremely busy. That is it’s challenging to make out what it is all about which is really a bit ironic. Because it is about the harried years, the years I spent in my car driving to work, to swim on my lunch hour, and my kid to school, daycare, piano lessons, swim team, 4H, brownies. And of course buying groceries and all the household stuff of cooking, cleaning, sewing, etc etc etc.

So I am thinking if it is a bit busy it is literal. For now I am not dealing with the busy, just hand-stitching. When that layer is complete I will re-examine busy!

Meanwhile, I decided I should start designing #21 so that I can multitask once more. When I mentioned to someone I was going to do the next piece on loss, they said no I shouldn’t! I just thought that was their stuff because in reality loss is a part of life and I believe if done well really does enrich a life.

For example, had my long-time employer not died of cancer when I was 50, I might never have left a dead-end (no pun intended) job and became a textile artist! Sure I probably would have kept on sewing garments, and maybe dabbled in color in one way or another, but would I have taken a myriad of workshops and learned a collection of skill sets and had time to develop a portfolio, market my work, exhibit and travel? Probably not. So in a sense that particular loss shook me to my core but enabled me to reinvent myself!

So in this version of LOSS I am including those who I loved most dearly and how their taking leave, whether through death or simply walking away,  defined my life. It is interesting that in doing the writing and digging out the old photos, how much is stirred up again, even after all this time.

A lot of folks don’t want to think about loss or the inevitable; whereas I always want to understand, see between the lines, what does this mean, why now, why him, why her, to comprehend the big picture. I believe we are all here to learn something. I have a friend who thinks that is hooey. She says some people are just jerks and there is no ‘lesson.’

I partially agree in that I think some are here simply to do lunch. Thankfully that is not me!

 

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…

my Quilt National 17 experience…

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Defining Moments 12: NO Means NO

I have just returned from a quick weekend trip to OH for the opening of the 20th biennial exhibit of Quilt National. My work Defining Moments 12: NO Means NO was juried into this prestigious venue, one of 85 chosen from a pool of nearly 800 entries. My brain feels a bit like that spinning ball on a slow website…processing, processing.

Of the 85 works exhibited, six¬†were ‘quiet works’, i.e. those with¬†a message, whether it be social justice, women rights, politics, environment or disease. That¬†surprised me the most, that there were so few narrative works and¬†yet I felt gratitude that my¬†work was¬†selected and is being seen, and honored to be there as witness. Some folks, especially in the heartland, do not want to view¬†anything graphic ¬†or ‘controversial’ in quilts. As example my colleague Kathy Nida had a quilt yanked from an exhibit last year because a viewer thought she saw a penis in it and complained. There was no penis. Talk about censorship!

My work addresses the insidious problem of campus rape and more specifically my own experience, 50 years ago. In my work Defining Moments 12: NO Means NO,  I wrote the story of my 1967 campus rape and screen-printed it to white cloth to represent my lost virginity. I made a bias slash into the fabric to emphasize how this act of aggression disrupted my sense of personal safety and peace of mind. Then I added hand-stitching, starting with a freeing stitch at the top and increasing its intensity as my hand traveled down the work. This is where I really tapped into my anger over the assault and the shame that I had not reported it. The overall shape of the stitching reflects on the potential for pregnancy which thankfully did not happen.

I had to give two x 2 minute artist talks about the work. Although I have done a lot of public speaking, I was a tad nervous talking about such a personal subject to strangers. The compilation of talks will appear later on a Quilt National 17 DVD and also on You Tube. I will post a link when that becomes available.

me and my work on display at Quilt National 17The second talk was for the other artists and VIPs. Although I have done a lot of public speaking, I was nervous speaking about such a personal experience. Despite all the exposure from my Tall Girl Series I felt like carved open speaking publicly about this piece. And yet many thanked me for my courage.

One of the jurors was Nancy Crow, grande dame of the art quilt world. Eighteen pieces in this exhibit were derivative of her work. They were all bright, stunning, exquisite, abstract works of art. The many hours, days, weeks and years artists spent studying with her at the Crow Barn were quite¬†evident. They were large, hung perfectly flat, as if a sheet of paper and not draping cloth. The stitching was sheer perfection with¬†lines no more than 1/4″ apart. The remainder of the exhibit was¬†interesting work, some 3-D, and¬†beautifully constructed, well conceived ‘pretty’ quilts.

My favorite piece overall was that of Sue Benner. She designed a huge work of recycled clothing cuffs. Each cuff was the requisite three layers and they were stitched together by color groupings using tear away stabilizer and thread. It was just spectacular. One could see through it and it was just wonderful.

Sue Benner, QN 17, reverse side with pole accent

Undoubtedly, the best part of the weekend was real time meeting of so many colleagues I know from social media. To re-acquaint with artists I have met through SAQA, get to know artists who traveled from far off lands like Australia, Switzerland, Israel and Canada; make new friends, the networking, sharing; and especially meeting, sharing a car, hotel room and conversation with the dynamic rising star Amy Meissner from Alaska. It was pure pleasure to meet Judith Martin whose work has absolutely enthralled me for some time. She creates huge pieces, slowly and methodically hand stitching which are absolutely stunning.

I traveled three time zones and back in four days. I plan to rest up a bit and then on to #20 and more truth telling. This narrative work is tough at times but I do like the impact it makes when it goes out into the world. My work in Quilt National will exhibit at the Dairy Barn until September 4 and then will travel for two years.

Oh the places it will go!

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!