Archive for the ‘Defining Moments’ Category

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!

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!

on dream machines…

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

 

18 in process

Right after my blog post about the rationalization of why I should not buy a mid-arm machine, I decided to buy one! Two things suddenly occurred to me.

One, the idea kept resurfacing¬†while I kept shoving it down, so maybe it was supposed to happen?! And two, that I could have a big machine¬†upstairs if I simply got rid of the futon sofa in the office/guest room. Seriously how often do we have guests?! Like almost never. So why was I reserving this entire wall for the almost never guest and so¬†the dog could snooze all day on¬†said sofa? Once that came to me I felt as though I had been given a tremendous gift…aka permission to break rules, as in every home must have a guest room?!

It was quite the process to prepare for the new machine. I had to get rid of the futon sofa, have new lighting put in, shop for a machine, buy a machine and get it set up. Now all that has happened and just today I finished stitching my 2nd piece on the mid-arm. I stitched the background for no. 18 in the series before designing anything on it. The next layer will be a giant oak tree which I figured would be best stitched, if the background was already done. The top layer will be hand-stitched so much work in store.

When I learned to drive at 15 my mother drove a Mercedes which in my mind was a dream machine. My entire adult life up until about 10 years ago I was obsessed with someday buying a Mercedes. What happened about ten years ago is my non-Mercedes¬†had to go into the shop for two¬†days. I was instantly aware that I never would want to drive a car that had to be taken out of town to be serviced. So at that point I decided I didn’t much care what kind of car I drove, as long as it ran, was clean, had hubcaps,¬†no dents and¬†wasn’t American made. I do have my standards after all!

Today while stitching away listening to Cajun music it struck me that this new Juki mid-arm is definitely my dream machine! It goes really fast, only needs oil, and is not American made!  Cross that one off the list!

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!

 

 

 

and they said it wouldn’t last…

Friday, January 27th, 2017

detail of screen-printing, vintage crochet and bridesmaid dress fabric

Yesterday I finished the wedding dress piece...hurrah! I started¬†Defining Moments 16: Marriage early last year¬†by dismantling my wedding¬†dress. Then I¬†screen-printed our vows to the dress fabric as well as some of the flannel lining. I hand-stitched a strip of lace from the dress, fused on bridesmaid dress fabric in squares of various sizes, free-motion stitched the entire background, hand-stitched a photo image of the happy couple walking down the aisle onto my headscarf, hand-stitched my great grandmother’s hand crocheted headscarf to the piece and then, drumroll hand-stitched the entire headscarf on top of the crocheted scarf to the then¬†5 layers of cloth. That last step took many weeks but was so worth it because I love how it all turned out.

My husband helped me carry it downstairs to photograph. When I asked him what he thought he said HUH!  Man of few words then, man of fewer, now 45+ years later!

It was so fulfilling to me to make this piece. Many on social media thought it criminal that I was tearing apart and painting my wedding dress while I queried, what am I to save it for?¬†My¬†mother who made it would’ve been honored to see what I did with it, I believe. And for me the screen-printing and stitching of the

detail of hand-stitching

vows was a bit of a renewal in itself.

Onward to #17…