editing within an inch of my life…

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…

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…

January 27th, 2019

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

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

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

before I came to my senses

after

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

Back to it…

scraps from cut bento blocks, artful on their own

on ‘adulting’….

January 20th, 2019

three rows (doubled) new bed quilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

leftover garden green blocks

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

I am over adulting…the millennials can keep it.

 

 

year end wisdom

December 31st, 2018

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

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

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

oooh that color!

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

 

new bed quilt…

December 18th, 2018

beginnings…

Last year about this time I admitted out loud that I should design a new queen bed quilt for our room. The previous one I made 15-16 years ago is terribly thin and faded, although we still snuggle under it with two blankets this time of year. I kind of thought that by saying it out loud that would spur on the design process. But oh nooooo! I pretty much dislike sewing according to a pattern or worse yet in a straight line. I mean so straight that the pieces have to line up so the thing looks as if my husband sewed it, and not me. Hmmm, now there’s a thought. I do have an extra machine.

I procrastinated on this project all year while making narrative art, the kind of work that gets me out of bed in the morning and drives me to sew more and more and more. OK, I will sew the bed quilt before winter’s end, I rationalized. I will do it this year. Maybe this summer, or well it is fall now, but I have a few more months.

bento block in jewel tones

I played around with different designs, mostly hating them all. Finally I decided I loved the bento box block so much that I would sew that, which ironically is the same as the quilt I am replacing. I will make it instead in jewel tones rather than garden tones.

Immediately after I cut 448 three x three squares hubs asks why I am not making it the same color scheme as what I am replacing? Second time it occurs to me that he should be sewing this! Plus if he were doing it, it would likely be finished by now! So I slowly started cutting pieces, amassing huge piles of fabric on my design table, making steady progress, when I had to wrap a large Christmas gift.

used a good portion of blue tape trying to remove glitter from design table

I never, and I mean never buy anything with glitter on it. I think I am flashy enough without glitter in my life. So imagine my shock when the roll of seemingly pastel wrapping paper turned out to be covered in glitter when I unwrapped it. (note to self: Why would they be selling pastel paper at Christmas time in the holiday wrapping section?)

Of course I did not even consider it could infest my entire work surface with sparkle farkle. In the meantime, my design table, myriads of masses of fabric, the floor, even the ironing board all have sparkle on them. It is everywhere!

The errant glitter alone, has become my sole motivation to finish piecing this bed quilt. Perhaps this work, rather than any narrative work, will absorb all the glitter in the room, then I can send it off to be quilted and transfer the glitter to their space. Of course it will have to be washed so it does not infest our bedroom with farkle, and then the sparkle will inhabit the washer, or maybe the dryer. I could take it to the laundromat, but then the farkle will be in the car. This stuff might only be good for creating world peace, although that would probably require a wand, and a bit of abracadabra!

Why do we even need sparkle? Are we not sparkly enough on our own?

 

a thank you card…

November 18th, 2018

along the Seine

Twenty years ago today my longtime employer died of brain cancer. For the previous 20 months I had been his primary caregiver, mostly I believe now because I had restored my battle-weary self worth working for him for 16 years. He was like the brother I never had and how could I abandon him in his time of need? Plus as the mother of a teen and wife of an independent thinker, I truly needed to feel important to someone. I also did not know what to do with my days without my addiction to work and serving others.

Many gifts came to me out of my sense of obligation to his care. Most were intangible. Slowly I shifted my focus to what really mattered. I noticed the little things in life, those which continue to capture my attention today as I walk. The lichen on the tree branches in the fog, the hundreds of varieties of roses that bloom many months of the year, not just in summer. The cracks in the sidewalk. None of the things that had  monopolized my days prior to his illness seemed to matter anymore. I always say cancer is the great prioritizer as one quickly learns what is important and what is not. Nothing to me was as important as accompanying my friend through his journey with cancer. It was my personal grieving process unfolding before my eyes.

I pretty much wore myself out taking care of him. People kept telling me to take care of myself, and I truly thought I was. I stopped going to the gym. I lost strength in my own aging body, put on 30 lbs, and grew my hair long. By the time he died, I was an exhausted, aging haggard woman. And how surprised I was to learn it would take me just as long as his illness, to recover from the experience.

I decided to take six months off to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Two months in, as I lay on the floor doing my morning stretches (where I often do my best thinking) it occurred to me that there was nothing I wanted badly enough to go back to work. In that moment I began on the path that has led me to where I am today. My father who had just retired himself, did not congratulate me on this spontaneous decision to retire at 50 but instead warned me that I better make sure I did not outlive my money.

As a seamstress since youth, and having spent my adult years as weaver, knitter, needle-pointer it only seemed natural to take classes in various forms of textile art and design. So I jumped in with both feet. One year I took eight classes at various retreats, which also sparked a love of travel. I never really considered being a professional artist. I was just dabbling and I just loved getting lost in my world of color and ‘play.’

I spent a few years distilling all I had learned until 2004 when I finally found my own voice and began the five year autobiographical project that became the Tall Girl Series.  At that point my work began to evolve from ‘pretty’ abstract work to narrative. The rest as they say is history.

Here I sit today paying homage. I have been ‘retired’ twenty years already! That is longer than I worked for the good doctor. I have felt many times in those 20 years immense gratitude to this man whose premature death enabled me to reinvent myself as an artist. Otherwise I would have likely sat in that front office chair, managing his practice, being his parking lot therapist, West Coast mother and surrogate sister, up until he retired which would probably have been when I was 60. For so many years I had longed to bail out of that job, but was enticed by the kid’s tuition paying salary and benefits.

The biggest benefit was unforeseen. The benefit of time. The benefit of finding and reinventing myself through right brain activity, not so much the left in which I had been programmed to function since childhood.

So I say today, of all days, thank you David. Thank you for allowing me the freedom to grow into the woman and artist I was destined to be. I am sorry that you had to die at 56 but I feel nothing but gratitude for the privilege of retirement at 50.

RIP.

 

resetting priorities…

October 18th, 2018

sailing out of NYC in a thunderstorm, at dusk

We recently returned from a fabulous two week vacation to New York, Montreal and points in between. It was exceptionally good timing as I had been pedal to the metal for months making art for new exhibits and causes. Before leaving I submitted entries to four fine art exhibits. The one I was most excited about was an environmental center where I had submitted new work constructed with plastic.

construction artwork, Boston

While bobbing around on the sea, I received in one day, three declines. Not one, but three, in one day! The next day the fourth delivered.

love me some reflections, Boston

Normally “rejections” do not upset me as I realize it is the price of playing the game. In other words, you cannot be rejected if you don’t enter! And because I was on vacation, and my brain on reset, I actually laughed at the irony of all the no thanks being delivered on the same day. The email from the environmental center stated that out of 100 entries, four were chosen…Vegas odds!

Ile Orleans, QC

One of the things I have learned from this gig is work that is ‘rejected’ by one panel of jurors is often selected by another. A perfect example is my work Culture of Fear which was submitted to an exhibit about gun violence. It was declined so I entered it in Visions, in San Diego and it got in! Even better.

Very seldom do I speak of the ‘no thanks’ emails. Maybe it is my years of being chosen last for the team, or because I have been on the juror end of things and know that not every piece of work is a good fit for a cohesive show. So I just don’t get wrapped around the axle about this sort of stuff. I know those who do, whining how they cannot understand why every venue does not take their work, life is not fair and so on. Whatever the reason, I just keep on moving forward.

one of many gorgeous sunsets

Meanwhile, I am readying for an express trip to San Diego this weekend for the opening of Visions: Conversations 2018.

Oh and have I mentioned my work is on the header on the social marketing?! Win, win.

Visions 2018: Connections
Visions Art Museum, San Diego, CA

 

artivist at work…

September 8th, 2018

Plastic Ocean 4, stitched sky WIP

I have taken a little heat lately for my creative zest! I was going to say over-exuberance but that is really a judgment call. I seriously do not mind feeling over-exuberant about my work at all. I relish the time when the muse is in the house and ready to get at it. For I know the fallow time will come.

The creative muse is much like the aging gene. It is important to honor it, show it respect, celebrate and thrive within it, because in all likelihood it will not last forever! And as another artist recently said, the more we create, the more prolific we become. I can think of a whole lot of worse things than being prolifically creative!

That said, I continue to design work about the plastic garbage in the ocean. I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with my own consumption of plastic, which in reality is probably a good thing. After all, half of making any change is the acknowledgement of the problem. Several people have commented that my talking about this has engaged them to think about their own consumption. Just like my morning walk photo collages on social media inspire others to notice their surroundings when they are out walking. I love that!

And I have also heard it said that I am starting a trend with this work. I find that rather humorous as I have never seen myself as a trendsetter! My kid is the trendsetter in this family.

Nearly 20 years ago when I began this phase of my life, otherwise known as retirement, my gut instinct was to make work that ‘said’ something. Someone then told me nobody wanted to see that! I let one person’s opinion lead me into years of making ‘pretty’ art quilts. Until…I began the Tall Girl Series!

Plastic Ocean, WIP, 3-D

Now, nearly two decades later, I still feel this great calling for telling stories. Now, I don’t care if people don’t want to see it! That is their issue. Those who do, will, and might even think about how they too can enact change.

This works for me in so many ways because I can make my voice known without stressing my body, by marching down the street. I have after all become an artivist!

 

making art with plastic…

August 25th, 2018

Underwater Garden, detail; recycled plastic, pool noodles, toothpicks, newspaper bag

I have just finished designing three pieces of art embellished with plastic. They are Plastic Ocean 1, Plastic Ocean 2 and Underwater Garden. It has been a long and winding road that led me to the point where I felt it important to make a statement about the massive quantities of plastic in our oceans.

I have been an avid recycler for 30+ years. I just assumed if I were recycling it, good was coming of it; yet I was astonished when visiting other states that had different recycling standards, if at all. Or other counties just in the Bay Area. Some recycle styrofoam, some don’t. Some take food containers while others don’t. Huh?…Aren’t we all living on the same planet?

So I was just going along being a good consumer, recycling as much as I could, when it suddenly came to my attention that there is a whole lot of plastic floating out there in the ocean. At first I was thinking, OMG, that is not right but really not thinking about it much more than that.

Underwater Garden: berry basket liner, berry basket, credit card punch, floss treader

Then I began to see on social media, especially, more and more posts about ALL the plastic in the ocean. I befriended folks who are picking up trash on beaches world-wide. I learned about the fish choking on plastic, turtles with straws lodged in their nose, marine mammals caught in fishing nets & line. I saw videos of tidal waves of plastic churning worldwide, and kids playing in a surf of plastic debris. It was becoming more and more difficult to avoid thinking about it; the I am doing my part by recycling, this does not affect me school of thought. It began to dawn on me that with education this is quite possibly something humans can have an impact on in the world. So why not educate through art?!

Last winter I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and see these incredible sculptures by Sayaka Ganz . She designed huge installations just from plastic trash recovered from the oceans. I was intrigued by these works, and the mind that created them.

Sakaya Ganz’ plastic sculpture

Sakaya Ganz’ rescued plastic garbage sculpture

 

I began to think about my own work, and my own voice. Since I was wearing braces on my lower teeth and using a huge amount of plastic toothpicks to clean my teeth, I began to collect them. Someone actually said eeew! to me about using my used oral implements, but in reality isn’t all of this plastic debris eeew?!

I continued to collect whatever plastic I was using. I stopped buying food packaged in single use plastic, abandoning my favorite place to buy groceries when they could not say if or when they will replace this packaging. I wrote to all the major grocers in my area and asked that they stop using single use plastic. Some replied they are ‘working on it’ while others told me to tell the produce guy next time I am in the store…talk about passing the buck!  

credit card ‘guitar picks’

So as my personal plastic collection was growing, I began to design elements for these quilts. I stitched, both by hand and machine the aforementioned dental picks to a water soluble fiber. I punched guitar picks out of a collection of expired credit cards, drivers licenses and hotel room keys. Then I hand stitched those to the water soluble fiber. I cut disks from remnants of pool noodles, which I use most often to ship my work. I culled the newspaper bags (don’t even get me started on why the newspaper has to be robed in plastic every day year round, or worse why do we still subscribe!)

After designing and stitching two identical quilts, I began to hand-stitch the various plastic remnants on to it. I learned a few things. One, even using teflon sheets and pressing from the back, the heat will melt the plastic!  Two, plastic is really hard to sew through! Three, while hand-stitching is so meditative, hand-stitching around plastic is not. Four, while I never make work specific to a theme, my initial intention for this work shifted halfway through. I went a completely new direction, and crammed in one more piece to make a submission deadline, for an environmental center. If my work is chosen I will be making minimally 2-5 more pieces for the exhibit next year!

For these pieces I used the aforementioned newspaper bags, various other plastic bags, berry baskets, berry basket liners, toothpicks, pool noodles, food containers, credit cards, hotel room keys, drivers licenses, foil blister packs, nuno felt, paint and screen-printing.

All throughout construction, I did not allow myself to think about how to store this work, which essentially cannot be bent, or rolled. Or so I thought. Actually I was able to roll all three together around a cardboard tube, and then place in one bag. That was maybe the easiest part!

While I wait for the jury results, I am going to sort/purge my print studio, which is really overdue. And then start in on my next series about elder women….or possibly sew more plastic!