My days have an interesting new rhythm to them as I pass my fifth year of retirement from teaching. With hubby’s surgery this winter, art was put on hold in favor of surviving each day of recovery. Now, though, every waking hour is filled with planning, creating, discussing, making, ironing, marketing. The hats change by the hour. I will admit, however, I do not miss the multitude of Sundays filled with grading papers and planning lessons over the 40 years of teaching.
Division of labor is taking a new turn. More of the online work of sales, mailings, and organization is going to hubby so I have time for significant creating and sewing. He is also creating on a more regular basis, as that is something in our partnership that he can do on his own – I get to do the clean-up while he admires the fabulous fabric he has created.
There are a lot of venues I need to handle, from pattern design to new website opportunities to all the sewing and finishing of art pieces. It can get very frustrating at times – at least once a day – as I want to take a break, but then I feel guilty that I’m not dealing with the myriad number of things. Actually I brought this on myself. Since we moved back to Vermont in May last year, we have been searching for marketing opportunities. Despite the time off for medical issues, we have been very successful at creating new opportunities for ourselves, and now we have a new problem – not enough artwork for all the opportunities.
I think the “day’s work” has an additional new meaning, aside from rhythm, as I am even more aware of a fixed income and the need to make funds last four to five weeks, depending on the fluctuating Social Security days. The “second Wednesday” can be anywhere from the 8th to the 14the of the month. This month is a perfect example – today is the 8th…SSI has to go 5 weeks.
Positivity seems to be my key to keeping anxiety attacks at bay. I send positive thoughts to the universe, write my monthly abundance checks, and plug away at the work. I understand art as a driving force, now that I have significant time unencumbered by the demands of the classroom. I create now because I want to, I have to….these pictures arrive in my mind and they need to be born and nurtured. I look at my calendar and smile at the blocks of unstructured time awaiting me and my machine.
What’s interesting is that I still feel guilty about taking time off to relax. When school was in session, I would be too exhausted to do anything for art, except in the summer months. Then it was two weeks to recover, a few weeks on vacation, and by the time I was in creative mode it was three weeks till school started again. I did some of my best work the first summer I didn’t have to work during the vacation, and I often think if I could have continued to create at that pace, I’d be further along in my art-making. It’s hard for me to take time to sit in a chair, enjoy the breezes, and read…or listen to music…or just be quietly by the water.
A friend went to teach in Vienna and at one of the professional development meetings the presenter gave everyone a 100 centimeter strip of paper. Take off the years on the lower end you have been alive. Tear off the years at the other end that represent average life expectancy. What you have remaining are your productive years. She wasn’t happy, as she was the oldest person in the group, and her strip of paper was pretty short. While it seems at times that 40 years of teaching has been forever, at the same time it seems like just yesterday I boarded a plane from Vermont to Maui and my first teaching job. Now I feel like I am just under 20 years to my goal, and I want to be as productive – as guilt-free with no regrets – as I can.
The other piece I’m seeing is that as the years dwindle down and the desire to create gets stronger and more unrelenting, the vision issues become major in my mind – and in reality. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the ‘what-ifs’, regardless of how hard I ry to stay occupied. When honest with myself, this is probably why I started writing again – the technology has improved so much that I will be able to do what I want with fiction without being able to see a keyboard.
I need every day to be productive…and I accept that that can mean I spent several hours enjoying a good book…or putting a computer jigsaw puzzle together…or walking the Charlotte Town Beach with my hubby – after sewing a fiber piece to canvas and adding a hanging system. My day’s work is enjoyable, exciting, and enviable.
This next piece I started when I lived on Nastar, which has to be 18 years ago – it was part of a Block of the Month project for our online customers. This was September/October, but when I finished it, it had a VERY noticeable bulge from bad ironing – in two separate places.
Took both borders off, made a new sandwich, and then sewed the borders back into place to hold the top for quilting. I did a lot of work with new patterns from Lori Kennedy and her Craftsy classes.
There are amazing motifs, and Lori’s technique of doodling them first works like a charm. Here are some pics of patterns:
Lori’s Twist, which I can finally understand how it’s done – parallel lines up and down and everything looks perfect. My bubbles and straight-line quilting. An example of quilting the marbled fabrics.
LOVE the leaf motif – now I have several in my bag of tricks – way easier than it looks! New motif in the turquoise – an exaggerated swirl.
A better look at the orange peel (I know it as a cathedral windows variation) and the swirl.
Lessons learned –
- I want to be able to do what Judi Madsen does with the negative space and have one pattern rather than several, depending on the space.
- STILL love the colors in this quilt!
- Markers help cover up tension issues from a different color bobbin thread.
- The back doesn’t have to be all one color, especially if you’re having tension issues from two different weights of thread.
- Outside (final border) can be very simple.
Yup, two more pieces around for forever…..both needed complete revisions, as my skills have grown quite considerably. The first is a “cheater” cloth, very Southwest, which is why I bought it. Originally it had been quilted in the ditch, and while I loved the co.ors, the piece really didn’t speak to me……so I took it all apart.
And in the process I discovered a ,lot of stuff – pros and cons – about cheater cloth.
One, they are great for practicing free motion quilting. You can get right to the designs without having to worry about putting the whole thing together. I re-sandwiched the top and then studied it for quite a while for ideas.
Two, they can really tax your ability to work with fmq designs. In some of the smaller blocks, I used the same basic quilting motif and changed it up a bit in other blocks of the same design. Great way to practice!
Three, the store doesn’t always do a great job of cutting the panels. On closer examination, you can see where some borders show and some don’t. I really had to work the binding carefully so the piece would look even all around. Plus, the fraying from new usage, poor quality fabric, and age didn’t help at all.
Four, nice decisions about which type of thread to use. I stayed with Superior Art Studios and Rainbows – because I like the sparkle. I did use cotton King Tut because I wanted to experiment with thread painting for shadows, and I didn’t want it really obvious.
Five, I need to get a better photography set-up in our new place…….
Six, discovered I could cover a few binding mistakes with some markers….liking that!
View from the top – couldn’t adjust light like I wanted (really missing the garage set-up at this point). Look at the binding – see what I mean about borders?
Another view – the backgrounds of the actual pots are left unquilted….I was tempted, but I keep remembering Tim Gunn and “edit.” I didn’t want to detract from the “shading” I did on the pots…I was really happy with how that turned out.
Seven – straight-line outlining isn’t as easy with a free-motion foot…but it is great practice….
Lots of finishes going on of projects that have been around for a VERY long time! I had a productive weekend of finishing three, and next blog post should be about two more, as well as a new project undertaken.
First up – a Halloween quilt I pieced probably 15 years ago, when I was using McCalls Quilting and piecing lots of quilt tops. It didn’t really need much – cats’ eyes (variegated thread) and eyes for the ghost (small pieces of lava). I examined the machine quilting, back from when all I did was stippling – I was very happy with how it looked. I added free-motion words in the sky and then added binding. Really happy –
This small 8 x 8 was done YEARS ago in response to a challenge on the QuiltArt list. The theme was “brown,” and this was way back when I was still pretty literal and linear in putting work together. This is “Candy Box,” and I used a zigzag in variegated thread like you would see in the wrappers in a fancy candy box. Added the binding and much pleased with the finished table-topper.
This last piece was a remnant from about 10 years ago. I quilted the bubbles, but it still needed a focal point – so I quilted in some sea urchins…hence the name “Sea Urchins.” Another 8 x 8 stitched to canvas after quilting was finished.
For Sale: $125.00
A great weekend, more happening in the studio…..lots of upcoming opportunities!
Throughout all the stress of medical issues this winter and early spring, I resorted a lot to coloring at night – one BIG take-away from the coloring is that it controls my appetite….no small thing. But I’m learning something almost every piece I do. You can catch up with what I learned so far here.
So here are some pics – and lessons learned.
One of the things I’ve been playing with is amount of white space. You can see in the above that not everything is colored. Pus, I was trying to play around with oranges and color combinations, like mixing colors that are close together. I love the way the turquoise is accented. No point in doing the edges – I was concentrating on the center – which is an interesting move for me – to just let things “be” without having to “finish” everything.
Again with the reds, oranges, purples, but I decided to add an unexpected color – my fiber work tends to lack strong focal points – so I added the blue – makes the piece. I also rotated the scan because the “bottom” was too heavy when on the “top.”
Here’s where I figured I really need to spend some time with colored pencils, especially when I can do shading – which I love doing with regular pencil. And again the oranges and reds.
I left white space with this, and I discontinued finishing the design – it was getting too busy. Here’s where I kept hearing Tim Gunn’s voice to “edit.” The yellow in here really glows.
This was playing around with oranges and blues – a combination I am starting to like a lot. Lots of white space, and I used the designs on the edges to play with color combinations. The lower right looked too much like a super-hero costume for me……
Christmas colors – meh. These were better than some I tried. The colors – for me – need to be true, but I am happier with mottled shades of reds and greens.
Interesting as I was working with what colors glowed – the yellows, but especially the purples in the center. I also discovered differences in black – flat and shiny, which I should know because of all the black fabrics out there. Overall a fun design, but it bugs me that the books consistently cut off complete designs.
Blues, reds, greens and white space. I am finding not everything needs to be colored. I find this quite pleasing.
Nice and lacy – I like incorporating some of the zentangle motifs when I feel there is too much white space.
The original dominant color here was going to be the pink-purple, but yellow won out. Interesting to me how that happens.
Really need to spend some time with colored pencils, but I SO like the intense color of markers. Like I said before, surprising for me, since they are so unforgiving.
I definitely can see some of the effects of the coloring in the most recent fiber work – more on that to follow.
This was a wonderful collaboration with dear friends. Dave wanted a present for his wife (our maid of honor many moons ago), and he came by to watch the marbling process. He had in mind something similar to one of our “stone” pattern pieces, so he went and bought about a half-yard of an unpolished white satin for us to experiment on. The top picture is the very beginning – good colors, a focal point, but oh, my, was it flat! This would be my chance to use wool batting, and the piece started to pop after only outlining three of the “rocks.”
If you look at the center right top of the next picture, you will notice some darker brown that is very lacy-looking – not a good marbled stone. However, the more I studied it, the more it looked like moss and lichen – I couldn’t have asked for something better. Serendipity.
Lots of little green specks throughout the piece, so that was more moss and lichen, and I used my “lichen” stitch, as I call it, to accent them.
By this point, I had a bird’s eye view of a southwest canyon, reminding me of Sedona and Oak Creek, so I knew I wanted to accent the creek throughout the piece. After lots of variegated threads I added seed beads in four shades of blues to pick up sparkles.
I played with a variety of fabrics for a border, and this is where Dave’s color sense really helped. He picked two fabrics I never would have thought of, and they worked perfectly. The only change I made was to thin the first border a little bit. And then the final reveal……
Yowza – we had such a great time hanging this show – first one in Vermont, and first we’ve hung on our own. Lots of great decisions – hubby and I are so in sync with our thoughts. In and out in an hour so as not to disturb the folks working there. A lot of moving around of items to balance the show. We’re discovering that wainscotting is common in New England, so many of our really long pieces don’t work as well. But – the whole office looks much softer with the fiber on the wall. We’ll adapt!
I was glad to see the Four Seasons played well together, since I was worried one was a different size. Not to worry, so I’m hoping I can go ahead and finish the pattern for the website. Ah, so many things to do!! Open studio is now the next item, end of May, so planning lots of marbling sessions for goodies. A couple new gift baskets if my wrist allows it – too much at Christmas and the ligament is still repairing itself.
Without further ado – some pics of “on the wall” at Unsworth Law Firm, Essex Junction, Vermont.
Since we’ve been back in Vermont I’ve been telling everyone I run into about our work, and we’ve had great response to everything. So much so we realized about 10 days ago nearly all our work either was committed to a show or would be by September, and we needed to get busy making new pieces – which has been an issue for hubby, as he is still recovering from major surgery and can’t stand for very long periods (guess who will be doing all the set-up and clean-up?).
Here’s our schedule – and people laugh when I say I’m always at the ready….
April – June small art show Double Vision at the Jericho Town Hall, Jericho, Vermont. Words and inspiration in art – we’re submitting “Pond.”
March-April Essex Art League at Phoenix Books independent bookstore in Essex, Vermont. “Bloomin’.”
April – June about 15 works of fiber and digital marbling on display at Unsworth Law in Essex Junction, Vermont.
May 27-28 Vermont Open Studios, sharing the home of artist Mary Jo Hill in Underhill, Vermont.
August solo show at Brownell Library in Essex Junction, Vermont of fiber and digital marbling.
Tomorrow we talk to an old friend about a show in the gallery she runs in Jericho, Vermont. We’re ordering cards to mark titles and prices, completing the inventory, researching insurance, getting hanging systems on every piece, getting new quotes on framing, and other loose ends. There are still two places I am waiting to hear back from – the Old Red Mill in Jericho for their gift shop, and Stitched, a quilt store in Shelburne for teaching classes – and more on my list to touch base about show.
Slow and steady definitely pays off – that, and having an area receptive to new and original art work.
Lots of free motion quilting in my future. Finished another fmq sample for classes, and I have a cheater cloth I want to experiment with. It is good to be so busy! There is a list of projects, and it’s not too detailed. I think I am done with the long-term lists. I want things that are do-able, along with increasing the commissions. Hubby is busy marbling – this quick tray will be silk flowers and leaves for upcoming gift baskets. End of the week will be more fats and new sampler sizes – will be introducing the new sampler in February’s newsletter.
The days are broken up with reading, writing, hand-stitching, machine-stitching, designing, web work, yoga, and taking a couple of new classes from Coursera – on the Middle East (fascinating, will be good for research) and Big History -even more fascinating. I am also contemplating how I can do more writing to get people thinking about this coming election and preparing to vote.
Plus there is marketing, and we both have been busy. The reception to our art since we returned to New England has been amazing. We were at the Essex Art League meeting last Thursday, and folks couldn’t believe the marbling. I still have leads from an earlier meeting to follow up on. That said, we made a list of what will go into the three-month show at an attorney’s office starting in April. We need to know what needs sleeves and hanging rods. The second list is for the digital marbling display in August. There are a number of pieces that need work digitally, as well as planning for framing, so a data base is on my list for this week. There are updates coming for the website, in progress as we speak. The blog needs pages tweaked and updated – that will take a bit longer. I plan to join the Surface Design Association this week, so I can begin to analyze upcoming gallery shows and see where fiber might fit. I have two gift shops to visit, one of which will take our things, given that hubby’s family settled the area. The other, who knows. We are budgeting for better frames for the digital work, as everything needs to be prepared for wire hanging. And I need to go through the smaller marbling pieces to see what can be finished for April.
It’s good to be so productive! Reminder – need to check on industrial felt for some of the larger works in my mind, as we need to plan for hanging as these unusual ones are created. Hopefully pics will be coming of some of our newest completions.
I received two “adult” coloring books for Christmas and have been enjoying myself immensely. Once I got past the old bugaboo about what this would be, I realized I could learn a lot about color theory from these pieces. And learn I did….
First, I discovered why I thought coloring was boring when I was younger. Sheesh, crayons and a picture. No challenge there. Just like I found Barbies incredibly boring. Plus I didn’t have great crayons – I lusted after big boxes – and I do have many colors of sharp pointed crayons now.
Second, I love symmetry and working with color within the symmetry. These pics have been perfect for that. I’m using markers – very unforgiving as a medium, but then so much of my earler work was pen and ink – even more unforgiving.
Third, I learned a lot about color. I like color. I like bright color. I need me my white space – a challenge on some of these designs. I need a variety of color items. Marker – yes, bought a bunch more. Also, love me my Pigma pens from my zentangle work.
Here are my discoveries – love being self-taught! The odd-numbered ones are from a book on zen coloring. The even-numbered ones from a book called Mendhi – very different in approach. I do them alternately – learning from each type and applying lessons learned from the one before it.
The amount of white space really through me. The colors are very saturated and I opted to leave nothing blank…but the two paths going through the design were way too white and off balance. So I took a few ideas from my zentangle work – aura and echoing, along with dots. Really like how it came out.
I opted to keep some spaces white for balance. I happened to see samples of the designs in the front of the book but didn’t use any of the examples. I’m enjoying making my own decisions, which in most cases work out for the end result. You’ll notice the same color families appearing in the designs. Added the dots to frame the design.
Left a lot of white space on this one. I have some solid sections separating the main designs, and this kind of threw me. I used a brown that was much darker than the surrounding colors, and it drew my eye immediately to it. Did not like that, and part could be my bias as the designer. So I attempted to spread out the brown throughout the whole design. Much happier with the overall effect.
Love this one! There were a lot of very skinny outlines throughout this, so I went for my black Pigma pen, which I discovered made everything very crisp. Yellow, purple, green, but I think the orange works well on the outside. Really like how this one developed.
Blues and oranges – shades of them. Have never really worked in this color family before and I like it. Depending on color placement, some of the oranges look red – interesting to me, although it shouldn’t be because we deal with that all the time in marbling. Some of the blues looked green. Overall, I am planning on doing a mandala quilt using some of these designs, as I really like how it all worked out. Great balance, and I LOVE the geometry of it all.
A lot of red Pigma pen outlining – nicely enhances the design. Greens and oranges, and even with the red, doesn’t look too holiday for me.
Again very saturated, primarily reds, yellows, and oranges. I didn’t want to leave the white space of the outlining – wasn’t sure I would like it. So I opted to go with a mosaic look, using black. I completed the center first and really thought I had made a mistake with that amount of black, but I am learning to make decisions as I go along and not worry about it partially done. I am very pleased with how it all came together.
Purples, yellows, and greens. Glad I had a variety of markers. I originally put an orange around the yellow center, and my eye kept getting drawn to it. Didn’t like that, so I thought I would see if I could add green over it – turned brown, and I wasn’t happy. However, the brown fades into the background and throws the eye outward in the design. Interesting lesson learned there.
Lots of new skills,lessons learned, and enjoyable hours – there are more coloring books in my future!
Most of my work on line these days seems to be research for book 2 of my Secession Wars series (website coming soon….). So the suggestions today might be a little more somber, but thought-provoking none-the-less.
An interesting look at the battle with Hasbro and Mattel over Disney princesses. I always found Barbie incredibly boring – she didn’t do anything – I’d rather read the Hardy Boys (Nancy Drew was too predictable and safe). But I gather marketing in this day and age is all about the brand. Interesting look at Princesses and young girls.
I am a huge fan of the Zinn Education Project – all those stories and facts we never learned in US history, especially appropo in today’s world. Today is yet another anniversary – of Wounded Knee – not one of the U.S.’ finest moments. More resources here.
More on Wounded Knee from the Smithsonian….
A friend of a friend of a friend…don’t ya just love those connections? When we visited Northern California, we stayed at a gorgeous cabin above Monterrey Bay and had a fabulous time with the guys overseeing the digs. Met Greg’s sister Randi in a round-about way, and she’s just published a novel. The Story: Deviation. As I look into self-publishing myself, it’s great to hear someone else’s story. Check her out!
Is it a fad or not? There’s much to-do about gluten. I’ve discovered that I am sensitive to gluten, so I try to keep it out of my diet, not always successfully. Here’s a take on famous paintings if the gluten were removed…….
Five Questions to Ask before Partnering with a Service Dog – interested in any readers who have had experience with service dogs for visually impaired.
Wonderful rant on Facebook today about making art. Seeing as I have just begun with my “adult” coloring book, I was interested in her thoughts about “correct” ways of making art, and how the various art police seem to rush in and take over. From Elizabeth Metz, via Tristan Robin Blakeman. LOVE her thoughts.
Yet another item I am checking out on the road to self-publishing – Smashwords. Anyone with experience with this?
Beautiful Earth Porn – how can anyone object to the title? Gorgeous eye candy…..
Have a great week!
I’m unearthing a lot of unfinished projects and pieces of fabrics that can be turned into small art quilts for Etsy, and I also came across a couple of digital pieces (like the above) that need reworking for an upcoming show. It is just amazing to me how productive I have been at getting new – and old – projects completed since we set up the new studio. Here’s pics of the new studio – taken right after we unpacked and stored, so things are cleaner than they are now after three weeks of solid work. Good north light, and lots of surface area.
Stored behind the door, along with mats and combs…..
This can be closed up for an air mattress on the floor for company.
Filled with fabrics and patterns and lots of other goodies….no longer used for clothes!
Sewing table for the last 15 years, lots of room to the left to support larger quilts….almost impossible to keep clean……
For the serger and decorative stitches on the Brother machine….
Happy as a clam, and now to the piece in progress….which is some leftover from another completed piece.
Thread choices –
Didn’t use the blue – too much contrast, and not what I liked – ended up pulling out all the threads…one advantage of not checking the tension – easier to pull out.
Finished project, available in Etsy. I needed to simplify the design – got caught up in following the patterns, so I ended up leaving the bottom corner free of stitching, so it looks like everything is approaching from the northwest.
Serged edges, mounted on wrapped canvas, 12 x 16 inches. Moving right along!!
So I have unearthed a bunch of UFOs in going through one of the containers in the studio. One is up on Facebook, free to a good home for the cost of postage. A couple of them, I need suggestions for what I can do for the quilting. Plus, if you recognize that you made the item, please let me know so I can credit you – it’s been a long time since they were sent to us.
Here’s the first.
This was done for us as a way to use marbled fabric in a traditional block. Now I need suggestions on the quilting. I want to use it as a sampler in my fmq classes. I was thinking of outlining the blue marbling for the waves and then doing something with partial circles around the sunrise/sunset….Ideas?
Here’s number two.
This is reverse applique, and I can treat it as a Hawaiian block with outlining, but I’m wondering if there is something else. All suggestions welcome!!
So after looking at the last table runner, I decided last minute to do a small table-topper for the son of a good friend – the one who is getting the table runner. Since he is in a doctoral program in marine biology, I decided to finally use the small lighthouse batik squares I had gotten maybe 10 years ago. First thing I discovered – Keepsake Quilting, not your finest cutting…..all the “squares were different rectangular sizes, which made squaring them off a bit difficult (especially since I didn’t do that first step – only the second step). And only a few of the nine lighthouses actually were straight……
I kept wondering how I would quilt this, since the focus would be the lighthouses. I chose a border fabric that reminded me of Cape Cod cottages, so them the focal point was the lighthouse and the “sea-side-y” shingles. All I did was quilt in the ditch – anything else would have detracted from the design. Three hours later I was done – from layout to quilting to binding. Part of me was feeling guilty for the lack of fancy quilting, but hey, the piece didn’t need it, and I’m not sure the recipient would have appreciated the extra work. I like it and that’s what matters – it can go on the wall in an office or across a desk or small table. So lesson here – not everything needs to be complex to look good (and…..check the “squares” before starting)…..
This last quilt commission (which Susan is no doubt getting plenty of use in chilly Tucson, and we have our quilt off the bed, as it’s too warm here in Vermont….) was a challenge for me to fill space with quilting design. I LOVED how it came out, and as usual I learned a few things on it. So when I started this new table runner for a friend for Christmas (left-over pieces from a Judy Niemeyer pattern) I wanted to do an overall quilting pattern that was very organic and would unite all the blocks.
Big lesson – just because you can quilt it, doesn’t mean you should….which harkens back to Road to California in 2012. First time at a big quilt show, and hubby and I kept commenting on the amount of free motion quilting showing up. Some quilts didn’t seem to need that much quilting, and on some the quilting really enhanced the work. This was also when I began taking free motion seriously, and in the last three years I am now teaching basic machine quilting.
But with this table runner, I realized to late (to rip out half the runner) that I had too much quilting. Here’s my table runner that was on the table when our friends came to dinner.
The block pattern is obvious, and at this point I was stumped as to how to quilt it – I ended up using invisible thread with wide circles. Ehh. So I wanted to do something different with this one.
You can see the meandering quilting – I really just played with curved line to offset the sharpness of the design.
You can see here that the quilting design when up close takes over and dominates the pattern. This is where hubby quoted Tim Gunn (yes, too much Project Runway in our house,……): Edit, edit, edit. Yup – bigger curved lines and no leaves or stones.
Like I said before, way too late to take all those stitches out. However……when looked at from certain angles, all you see is the pattern. At other angles the quilting is predominant. And, ultimately I like them both.
Before I actually started the quilting, I was subbing one day and had time on my hands, so I was watching one of my Craftsy classes on machine quilting big projects on a small machine (and my Bernina 108 doesn’t get much smaller….). Spray-basting the WHOLE quilt. Nothing will move. I’m trying this, and lo and behold it worked WONDERFULLY.
The spacing could be better, but NO TUCKS! Well, three little ones that actually ironed out. That’s the way I’m going from now on. My fingers will appreciate no more safety pins – this time a year ago it took hubby and me four hours to pin-baste a queen quilt…..
So more lessons learned, and another commission in the works for March. I am having SO MUCH FUN!!!