Archive for the ‘new work’ Category

to Ireland and back…

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

through a bathroom window…

As part of my research for the Defining Moments series, I poked through my ancestry online. My DNA revealed all those Irish & Welsh ancestors added up to 67%, while the expected Russian came in at less than 25% (explain that to the 100% Russian great-grandparents!) So it seemed only fitting to make one more trek o’er the pond to see this glorious land from which they emigrated.

We booked our Ireland adventure last summer and decided on a Road Scholar program since we have had so many interesting trips with them stateside and in Canada. We booked Ireland at a Slower Pace, which several days in, became apparent was a misnomer! We walked nearly 42 miles in 14 days, in London and Ireland.

history through a window…

The timing could not have been more perfect. The spring death of my Defining Moments project partner, Marion Coleman, preceded by the 15 months battle for her life had left me exhausted, defeated, and grieving with a wounded muse. So many said to me, and I agreed, that there could not have been better timing for a change of scenery.

for that windblown look, visit Gougane Barra

the rock walls in Ireland just dazzled me…except really hard to sit on!

The trip was fantastic in every way. Great people, great hotels, fabulous food, interesting programs and texture galore. (some of which you see here). The first few days Marion stayed on my mind, but slowly I began to enjoy being in the moment. I came back physically exhausted, but rejuvenated by the change of scenery and pace; and a renewed connection to my ancestors.

i loved all the bright colored buildings!

Before I left I noted on my calendar to begin preparation of my Defining Moments quilts to ship to Visions Art Museum in San Diego for its inaugural exhibit. I did not want to attempt it until I felt my brain had arrived back in California. So yesterday I hauled all the quilts out and today began preparation, pressing, rolling, packaging, etc.

All of a sudden, I felt a HUGE rush of excitement for this upcoming show, with a big sense of accomplishment; that all my efforts these past five years are at last coming to fruition. Such joy, and then BAM, immediate sorrow.

Listening to music, tears welled up in me as my grief returned. How sad that Marion is not here to celebrate our exhibition together. I soon realized that this opening, could be for me a really sad event. My job for the coming month, to get myself to a place where I can celebrate my own sense of accomplishment as well as celebrate who she was, as she lives on through her work. She would not want it any other way.

The trip to Ireland was exactly what I needed, but also a reminder that grieving cannot be tamped down. It may be set aside temporarily, but the healthy thing is to ride it out. So my buddy, the muse and I are doing just that.

Footnote: I posted a lot of images on Instagram, rather than FB while traveling. You may see them (with permission!) here.

 

 

 

 

the loss of civility…

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

bloomin’ peony

Yesterday I was reminded why I quit the lecture circuit. I really enjoyed speaking to guilds and groups for the years I did it; until I didn’t. I remember exactly what group I spoke to when I decided to stop. I told people I was no longer giving lectures because of the wear & tear on my body. In reality it was the wear & tear on my nerves that did me in.

I was reminded yesterday as I bore witness to what happened to me, happening to another speaker. I was present to hear a 90 min lecture on trash & recycling, given by an employee of the garbage hauler. Her job is to educate communities and companies about sorting their trash, compost & recycling, to ease the demand on the public landfill, which is filling at an alarming rate.

The landfill was rapidly filling before the rash of wildfires and floods, where hundreds of homes were destroyed; and their contents dumped there. Since I have become obsessed with plastic in our oceans and on our beaches, I wanted to hear what this woman had to say.

She started by saying she would take questions after her presentation. She had not said two sentences when someone interrupted her with a question, then another, then another, then side conversations. She reminded the group of seniors that she would take questions after the presentation. She started in again. A guy interrupted asking if she really thought anyone was going to read this brochure of garbage policies? Then continued to rail her about how stupid it is for a corporation making millions of dollars to hope that educating people about garbage is just that, garbage.

And what about the Mexicans, another woman shouted. They don’t sort their trash, she said, adding she was not racist.

The speaker continued, slightly rattled. Another interruption, and another, and another. One woman pointed out that she could improve her presentation with a handout, to which the speaker told the woman she was holding the handout! It just went on and on and on.

I found myself getting upset by all the interruptions, and also by the speaker, unable to ‘control’ the room. My thoughts migrated from trash talk to anger over the lack of civility in the room. Perhaps a whip and a chair was necessary?

What really annoyed me was how do two generations (the “greatest” and the boomers) who were raised to be so friggin’ polite, courteous and considerate behave like a bunch of spoiled children in a public forum? Since when has a lecture become a public discussion group? A lot of the questions people peppered the speaker with were answered in her presentation, had they only listened.

Some might blame our current administration, which granted has done nothing to encourage public civility. But my last lecture was 7 years ago when this behavior first began to annoy me.

The last time I gave a lecture was in a college town to a group of quilters about photo editing. Everyone in the room was an expert on the subject and they interrupted me constantly. I began to question why they even came to hear me when they were all experts? I decided right there at the podium, that I was never going to do this again. And I blamed it predominantly on this being a college environment. Little did I know…

Yesterday I learned it is not just the millennials, it is pervasive in our society. Perhaps the old folks have lost their ability to communicate as much as the kids never learned it in the first place. We have lost our ability to communicate with civility. What a sad situation.

The conclusion I came to from yesterday’s meeting is I will continue to conserve, recycle and use as little plastic as possible. I will not become an activist though. It just makes me too angry. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days arguing in public with people who just don’t listen.

I’d rather go into a quiet room, turn on some music and make art.

 

catching up…

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

detail, Weathered Wood

I have lost all inspiration to make new work since Marion died…well actually before then. The muse slowed down earlier this year. Immediately after her death I was occupied with returning files and quilts to her family, and then started in on my own to-do list, which had grown to mammoth proportions.

I received the shipment of catalogs for our exhibit Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman, and put that up on my website. The 48 pg catalog will also be available at exhibit venues.

Earlier in the year I had finished and blocked two hand-stitched pieces, so I bought gallery-wrap canvas and mounted those to the frame. I have gotten quite skilled at using the electric stapler and the Phillips screwdriver. What I found most frustrating is the available sizes of wrapped canvas.

Reflections of the Seine

The local art supply store had a generous 16″ x 16″, but no 14″ x 14″ which I really wanted for my stitched pieces of morning walks. So I went to the big box chain and they had neither 14″ nor 16″ squares but they had lots of 11″ x 14″ rectangles. So I came home and googled it and basically learned that 14″ x 14″ does not exist but if I want to custom order it, I can do so for a mere $85 each.

catalog cover, Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman

I suppose I could make my own, but I am at that age where time is far more important than money; but not so much so that I am going to pay $85 for a canvas gallery wrap! As if framing hand-stitched work is not straying far enough from my usual work, making frames for such is pushing it just too far, as far as I am concerned. I am trying to use up my supplies, not add a whole lot more. Just like I decided not to ferment my own veggies, I don’t need another hobby.

So I got these done, documented and up on my website. I have finished 5-6 entries for upcoming exhibits, need to prep a piece to ship this week, and continue to whittle down the list.

Then perhaps… I will be so moved (or not) as to actually start the new series, which has been researched and waiting in the wings for a year now.

 

so many stories…

Friday, April 26th, 2019

Marion Coleman, and her fabulous hair

The last time I saw Marion was on February 6. After much negotiating there finally came a day that she felt well enough for me to see her. I was also there to pick up her quilts for our Defining Moments exhibit. That had been a very tough conversation to have, asking her to loan me her work for our exhibit. I finally just summoned up the courage and asked. She agreed that I should take responsibility for the work so I would not have to bother her family after she was gone. So that was the day I picked up her work.

She greeted me from the seat of her rolling office chair. She had already discovered that the medical grade wheelchair was not as mobile as her office chair. So she scooted around in that. She showed me the “mess” that was her studio, which to me looked like a genius resided there.

We looked at the quilts as she told me the story of each one. She said she needed me to photograph two pieces, as she had not had the energy to get them over to Sibila Savage, who had photographed her other work. We talked shop about our exhibit, potential venues I had not yet applied to, questions she needed to ask Dr. Mazloomi, the catalog etc. She even gave me a check to cover my expenses. The epitome of class, that one.

We talked for about an hour, holding hands, both well aware it was the last time we would meet. Finally, she said she needed to return to her bed, which I knew was my cue to go. I stood up to hug her goodbye, one last time and damn if I did not catch my earring in her hair! My very first thought was don’t touch the hair!

Early on in my friendship with Marion, I touched her hair. She didn’t say anything at the time, but I learned a few years later, you NEVER touch an African American woman’s hair! EVER. When I heard that I equated it to the tallgirl stuff.

I knew all too well about the intrusion of people telling me I am tall. Newsflash, I already know that!  Marion and I used to joke so much about that, how we as tallgirls were often seen just for our stature; and how so many clueless people think they need to tell us! We had heard it all. We came to own it, to refer to ourselves as strong, proud, aging, tallgirls. It was our right to do so. It is not anyone else’s, unless we give permission! So I came to see the caucasian’s persistent need to touch a black woman’s hair as a similar intrusive ritual. Just don’t… touch the hair!

So here I was entangled in her luxurious & soft mane. How fitting for our final dance! I had to remove my earring while bent over, trying not to drop my weight farther onto her frail body. Then I had to disentangle the earring from her hair. We both laughed through it. What a beautiful and quirky finale to our wonderful friendship!

Some months ago she asked me how many African American women I knew as well as I knew her? I said maybe 4-5. She said, no, I mean as well as you know me; who you can talk to just like you do me? She continued that she thought she knew far more white women than I knew black women. She was right, I agreed with that and it really made me feel sad. It’s not like I was closed off to meeting people of other races. I just maybe had not taken the time.

Going forward, I plan to make the time to learn other people’s stories. And I promise I won’t touch your hair, especially if you don’t tell me I am tall. I already know.

with gratitude…

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Tall Girlfriends, 36″ x 29″, 2017, by Marion Coleman

Yesterday my dear friend Marion Coleman died. While I have known the end was near for months, I have been unable to articulate my sorrow until now. Marion was my fourth close friend to fight and lose the vicious battle, that is cancer. The one thing I have learned, other than cancer sucks, is how important it is to gather the goodness each one brought into my life, and to cherish it. By carrying their richness, they live on, in my heart.

I met Marion in 2003 at a SAQA regional meeting. It was the first meeting for both of us, and in Sacramento which means we both had made an effort to be there. I thought to myself, who is that exquisite tall black woman?! She shared later she had spotted me that same day. I continued my observation for about a year, until I asked her to mentor me on my Tall Girl project. I knew it was going to be a difficult story to tell, and that I might need someone to prod me, and had witnessed her to be an articulate, smart, gifted, get-things-done woman!

She asked me to write a business plan to define my goals for the project. She was the calm voice of reason when I needed it; and instrumental in my finding the way through the jungle of my repressed stories. She encouraged me by saying how much my story would help others, and challenging me to always aim higher. As a result I was able to secure six venues for the exhibit, including the National Quilt Museum. We talked then about doing a collaborative project of our own. We, women of two very different worlds had a lot of similarities which needed airing and sharing. It is our job as elders to tell these stories she would say.

In 2014 we met over lunch in Berkeley to discuss the particulars of that project we had spoken of years earlier. The time was ripe to finally start. It was to be an autobiographical project examining the contrasts and parallels of our lives as two tall aging women; one African American, one Caucasian. She had grown up in the Jim Crow south and I, in her words, in an affluent white suburb of San Francisco. One would think we had nothing in common, and yet we shared an incredible number of similarities, both as kids and as adults. Meaty subject matter, this one!

We were both approaching our 7th decade, which brought its own unique set of challenges. Since she was a year older than I, we set my 70thas the deadline, which bought us another year! She chose our working title for the series, Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman. She said we needed to each design a solid 25 museum-size pieces. Sure, twenty-five large pieces in three years’ time… I can do that! (what? are you nuts?!) And so, we began.

Early on, I learned that we had very individual ways of working. I, of the spreadsheet tribe, mapped out all my ideas and designed the work in chronological order. She was deadline driven, and made the work as it came to her, in between other projects, designing public art, solo exhibits, curating Neighborhoods Coming Together, and mentoring youth. Some of her work went in and out of the series, and yet it all came together in the end. Because all of her work was narrative, it fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

People kept asking me… how many has she completed? Is she going to finish? What if she doesn’t get them done? And so on. I never lost faith. I just recognized she had a different style of working than I did, and that it would all sort out, as it did.

Defining Moments 25: Homage

Our 25th piece was to be a true collaboration and we tossed out all sorts of ideas via Skype. (We both disliked the 90 minute drive in traffic which stood between us.) When it became too painful for her to work, she was unable to finish the project, let alone our grand finale, #25. I designed my own #25 Homage, in honor of her, my friend, my mentor, my project partner. She told me the piece made her cry.

In the end she had stitched thirteen pieces and we still have a robust exhibit, which makes its debut in July at Visions Art Museum in San Diego for a 3-month run.  Even as she lay gravely ill, she graciously allowed me to take possession of her work so that our committed exhibits will still be seen.

catalog cover, Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman

In the last month I have been designing the catalog for our exhibit. I called her frequently with questions: details that if one were dying would not seem terribly important. Yet she was always so kind and patient, even thanking me for pulling it all together for our exhibit. How does one even wrap their head around that? It is just who she was, the epitome of grace and kindness. I just feel it so important that her work continues to be shown.

Marion was the most generous-of-spirit woman, and particularly artist, I have ever met. There is so much professional jealousy in this field (although how professional is it to be jealous?)  She believed when one succeeds, we all succeed. There is enough for everyone. She always shared calls for entry for exhibits, public art, grants, internships, fellowships, etc. She taught me so much as an artist, as a woman. I will always reach higher and push through the fear because of her.

She made me laugh when talking about grants though. She would say I should apply for this grant or that grant. I HATED the idea and would say, no, if I need money I will just go to the bank (a white privilege response if there was ever one). She would say…Girl, they are just giving away money and you need to get you some! Finally, I relented and applied for a couple of grants and actually got one! Oh, happy day. They were just giving it away, just like she said!!!

Five years ago, I asked her about her end goal for her art, and she said she wished to be recognized as a NEA Heritage Fellow. Well, talk about manifestation! Last September she was recognized as a 2018 NEA Heritage Fellow, one of NINE in the entire country. Beyond this extraordinary achievement, was the timing, when she was so gravely ill. She gathered together her nearest and dearest and flew to DC, and on to NY to accept this great honor, bestowed on her. It gave me such joy for her end goal to be met, and for her to live to experience it.

I haven’t spoken much publicly of her illness these past 15 months, out of respect. It was her story to tell. But, now, be prepared for shameless self-promotion of Defining Moments and the ongoing exhibition of the exquisite artwork of my dear friend, Marion Coleman. She lives on through her art.

My deepest sympathies to her kids Mel, Lisa, Eric and Tina; to her sister Sharon for taking such extraordinary care of her these past four months. And to her two grand-girls, siblings and stepmother. And to all the people whose lives she touched. She was loved and admired by so many.  How blessed we all were to know her.

She and Nyls are together again. RIP dear one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

editing within an inch of my life…

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

threads begging to be stitched

I recently received a request to be interviewed and featured on a blog titled Create Whimsy. I read the interviews of several colleagues and decided it was a good idea, so I have been answering the interview questions, then editing the file within an inch of my life.

I also needed to take some photos of my studio. With a southern exposure window there it is nearly impossible to get a good image in the daytime. I waited until evening, then noticed the shelves were messy, as if an artist had actually been working in there! So last night I spent tidying the shelves! Finally this afternoon I sent the whole shebang off. Who knew it would take me so long?!

got fabric?

What really came to me in the process of editing my interview was my personal battle of being seen vs. being unseen. When I was younger, much younger actually, I felt so unseen that I could not talk about myself enough. Some people might still think that is the case!

As I have matured and big brother has stepped into my life, I feel the need to be much more private. It may be an aging thing, but I am resistant to say too much about myself, online. So while I want to answer the questions appropriately and have the interview at least be interesting, I am not excited about laying it all out there. Decades ago I never would have thought this a possibility.

But then decades ago we did not have people be able to look into every detail of our lives. We did not have big brother buying groceries for us, as evidenced by the new credit card which only has to be waved near the machine. We did not have companies prodding we buy knee pads or sprain bandages as soon as we simply mention to our spouse that the treadmill stress test partially injured the soft tissue of the foot. I suppose if I examined it too closely, I would turn off all devices and pick up an abacus. Hey I eat like a cave-woman, why not be one?

One of the questions that tripped me up was what I have learned about myself from making my art? I’ve learned that I have the ability to change the narrative, to contemplate other ways of thinking, being, doing, speaking, reacting. And as a result of this effort, I learn more every day, about the world and my place in it. Yet how detailed did I want my response to be? I tweaked the answer to that question for a long time. All of this assumes though that anyone cares enough to even read the interview!

Meanwhile, I have been working away on all sorts of things. The dreaded big purple bed quilt went off to the quilter, and returned last week on the rainiest of rainy days. It now awaits a binding, which has been prepared, and will potentially be stitched on this weekend.

I also finished the catalog for the upcoming Defining Moments exhibit, and just received the 2nd proof in the mail. It is nearly soup, I believe, which is a relief as our first exhibit is coming along this summer.

I whipped out a fast piece on climate change that has been rolling around in my cranium for awhile, which I will show at a later date. I tossed and turned over the title for a new series, and think I have finally figured out a good name for that. Stay tuned.

Now that my studio shelves are clean, it’s time to mess them up a bit!

for my next number…

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Defining Moments catalog cover

Finally I have finished the dreaded replacement queen bed quilt and it’s off to be stitched.

So for my next creative endeavor, I am designing the catalog for Defining Moments, the joint project of Marion Coleman and I. Our first exhibit opens in July at Visions Art Museum in San Diego, so this is top of my to-do list.

I am using the same Blurb software with which I designed the Tall Girl Series book, but alas a decade has passed, software has been upgraded and I am ten years older! So far I have managed to find answers to all my questions and watched a couple You Tube videos to remind me how to do some PhotoShop tricks. All in all, it is fun but a huge time suck. Although I should take a break every hour, I am lucky if I do every 2-3 hours.

My biggest fear is if I fall too far down the left brain rabbit hole, will I find my way back to stitching, easy enough? I guess if that fear is realized I can always clean out the basement or start looking at fixtures for the bathroom remodel which is also on the list.

I don’t know what people are talking about that I should play more! Is this not play? Let’s put it this way. I am seldom bored.

Onward…

finished quilt top

finished quilt back…pesky blocks return

i got my mojo back…

Sunday, 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’….

Sunday, 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.

 

 

new bed quilt…

Tuesday, 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?