Archive for the ‘crafts’ Category

52 Sparks – Week 4 – Aloneness

This was an interesting question this week: How do you feel when you are by yourself?

I spend a huge amount of time time by myself, usually working on something artistic. It seems like I have always been by myself growing up…and yet, you can never be by yourself when you have a good book. And that is still true.

But I never had a lot of friends. I am quite the introvert, so moving to something artistic just seemed a natural. I think my introversion became even stronger, given my position in a family of extroverts, coupled with emotional abuse. So I am accustomed to being by myself. My husband and I do most everything together – we are each other’s best friend. The fact that we can – and do – work at art together is a great plus for us.

I can remember my dad asking me how I was, one time when he came to visit. I said I was lonely. I did a lot of things by myself, and I could always read, but I think it was more a case of seeing friends with others of the opposite sex, and I would wonder what was wrong with me. I finally decided if I was going to be single, then it would not keep my from doing whatever I wanted to do.  Alone can be very good – I get a lot of work done on fiber pieces, a lot of planning. Especially with retirement. So when I do have “alone” time, I plan projects or lose myself in a good book.

So since I haven’t started something new, I decided to try a “whole cloth” quilt because of the class I’m taking on Craftsy with Cindy Needham. I had the really great stencil from about 12 years ago…..I finally found where I had “stored” it. I pulled a green piece with some interesting tonal print to see what would happen. Here’s the latest “in progress:”

Of course, most of the yellow marker has already rubbed off…….

Top Ten Tuesday – NEW Blogs!

Well, over the last two weeks, as I have been getting more heavily into marketing, I’;ve discovered a BUNCH of great new blogs. So here goes:

More Design Please – great ideas! I’m seeing some great ideas – would love to do some serious purchasing…..Love these lasercut lamps!

 Another blog called Observatory Mansions – an ongoing discovery of all that is visual yet more than just visual (from the site) –

Ball Droppings – hours of fun, and be sure to have the sound on! The picture does not do it justice!

Mood music at your fingertips….StereoMood – just a small piece of moods!

From StumbleUpon I found this interesting article  Amazingly Creative Drawing vs. Photography. My art taecher friends tell me this is similar to a drawing exercise they have students do in finishing a photography. In a class with Lyric Kinard, we needed to extend the color on a postcard – very interesting attention to details!

Loads of tutorials and DIY projects at Craft Gossip:

Another cool DIY blog – 20 Awesome Do It Yourself Projects

25 Spectacular Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen – I think I’ve seen two on this list, but the Netflix queue is going to be filling up. Interesting plots……The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one I’ve seen – A.MA.ZING. movie…..

Some pretty amazing paper sculpture – here’s Calvin’s Behance site.

While Banned Books Week has ended, I’m getting caught up with Letters of Note, and this is a marvelous letter by Pat Conroy concerning the banning of two of his books. Well stated, quite eloquent. If you don’t like a book, then don’t read it, but stay away from telling me what I can read myself.

Have a great week – let me know cool stuff that you find on line!

On the Road Again….

Well, it has been at least 10 years since we did any kind of demonstration of marbling on fabric.  Full-time teaching and the need for two of us really limited our ability to get out and work with guilds. Thanks to a faithful reader (hi, Kay!!), we were booked to do a presentation to the Sunflower quilters guild on the northwest of Tucson. I was especially excited because….it’s a school day and I was doing this DURING THE DAY….love it!

We’ve been planning for this for a couple of weeks. At one point we figured it was going to be at least two trips to the car, but with careful packing, it was only one for the trip across town.

The only thing not on this stack is the crate of quilts and a green grocery bag with fabric. We pack really well.

Kay had samples of fat quarters to build interest for our demo, and the ladies were wonderful. Hubby and I work really well off each other, and his humor comes out. We spent two hours, showing the marbling process, letting people marble fabrics, and showing a progression of quilts. I’ve found, since we started marbling, that too often people say, “what will you use it for?” or “what will you do with it?” To answer those questions, I always pack lots of quilts (both art quilts and more traditional ones) so that folks can see so many uses for the fabrics. Plus, it’s always fun for us to see where we’ve come as artists….and we love hearing all the “oooo’s”!

The crate of quilts, many of which are not available on the website or in the blog, because they are process quilts.

We had a great set-up in the recreation room.

What I discovered with this layout is that as Dean demonstrated some of the patterns , I held up the fat quarter with the particular pattern on it, and that way people got a much better look at a larger example.

Having eye candy is always a great idea….

Works in progress.

Some really high-tech supplies – left-over hospital pans for the rinse process.

What next? Well, we are going to start contacting local guilds in Arizona for demos, as we have all the handouts and  such prepared. At lunch we decided on a plan for a sampler so we can begin offering marbling classes at quilt shops. And…I’m going to start contacting friends around the country to see if we can “book” a couple of demos during the summer travel months. I’ll get information up on the blog and website as I get it finalized. You can always email us for more information.

A great day was had by all!

Work in Progress Wednesday

Well, lots of loose ends going round in my head. There are a lot of WIPs, from marketing to fiber projects. First up is my attempt to make some progress with Fine Art America. It occurred to me that rather than wait to get collections completed, I should start putting up a print at a time. Good thought. Turns out the program is not as intuitive as I figured it would be, based on all the great comments. One conclusion I have come to is that it looks like so many of my pieces that I thought were ready to go probably need to be redone, and I’m not sure I remember how I got to each and every layer.

I need to resize a lot of images, and I need to save them at a higher resolution. I am having trouble, for some reason, getting my sizing right for the program. This one to the left, for example, has been resized to an eight by eight, at 250 dpi, and it still doesn’t seem to want to show correctly on line. I also need to look at what I want for costs. The site isn’t completely clear about setting mark-ups.

There are also plug-ins to have your prints and a shopping cart on your Facebook page, as well as your website, which I would definitely like to do, but I think I need to wait until I can figure out how to get work consistently up on the site. After nearly two hours today and about the same amount of time yesterday, I put out a request for assistance on Twitter and Facebook. The site is classy, the work looks good, lots of people have given good feedback about the site, but I can’t seem to get a handle on it. This from the person who has pretty much taught herself everything she can do on the computer. So, yes, I’m frustrated……

I am nearly done zentangling my fake, flammable, plastic pumpkin from China. It looks spectacular. One more section of the pumpkin and then I will spray a fixative and enjoy.

I’m working on the fish quilt, as I want to have it done by the end of the weekend. And we are getting materials ready for the guild presentation next week. Earlier today we created an order form, made a list of everything we will be taking, did the handout for members of the guild, and sketched out what a class would cost, as it looks like we might be moving in that direction again. I also packed up the quilts we will be taking – mostly traditional patterns using marbled fabric, since this is a fairly new and traditional group of quilters. I want to show them my progression with using marbled fabric – from only putting it with blacks to mixing lots of colors. Makes me realize I need a picture of my purple quilt, which is quite colorful, with lots of marbled blocks.

It is so ironic that 10 years ago we used to do a lot of presentations but never looked at “selling” during them. Left a lot of money on the table, as one marketer said. This time we are going with lots of fat quarters and an order form. Maximizing our potential, I think it’s called….

Alum fabric tomorrow, marble on Friday, see what we still might need for gift baskets, and schedule marbling for next week if needed.

Wrote my abundance check today after the new moon. Being positive and thinking about lots of good things developing has really been awesome. The Laws of Abundance and Attraction really work!

A Lovely Little Quilt Show

On our latest retirement jaunt to our friends in Cornville with The Cabin at Grace Hollow, we attended the Cootonwood, AZ quilters’ show on that Saturday. Held at a local school, the show was hung well, had a couple of cool, fairly local vendors, and had some stunning quilts. I realized, as I worried about giving recognition to each of the quilters, that I would have trouble writing down the names and matching them with the quilts. It FINALLY occurred to me to take a pic of the quilt, and then a pic of the name tag. Voila! Now I easily had both. So enjoy the quilt show.

By Barbara Benson, a closer look at the fabrics revealed a print of desert saguaro that added extra texture to the design.

My favorite, by Pam Pawlek. I loved the stained glass effect, and I kept wondering what she used for the “leading.”

Also by Pam Pawlek. I LOVED the design, as well as all the earth tones.

I am not a cat person, but these guys were really cute, and I thought the quilting was very well done. This is by Mona Crum.

Whole cloth quilt by Joyce Cook, with some really nice trapunto, as well a yummy quilting.

Lovely small quilt by Janet Kersh. Very interesting details.

Lots of fun materials used in this quilt – pieces of clothes and heirlooms – nice design and great quilting. By Janet Berry.

Another quilt by Janet Berry, very bright and geometric.

Amazing thread work by Faye Celmer.

I’ve seen the pattern for this braid quilt before, but each time I see it done in reds and blacks, I am drawn to it. By Connie Myers.

Another quilt by Connie Myers – lots of Bali Pops with a black background.

Soothing blue and white by Charlene Dockray, again with very nice quilting.

A great pieced and applique’d quilt, very colorful, by Bev Lawrence.

Another quilt by Bev Lawrence. Interesting use of color.

I’ve seen this pattern the last couple of shows I have been to, and I really like it, especially done in some “quieter” colors. This is by Barbara Chronister.

Thank you Cottonwood quilters for an enjoyable two hours!

Quilt, Sewing, and Gift Show

This weekend is the Tucson Sewing, Quilt, and Craft show, which has not been publicized much. I only know about it because I had a call from a vendor trying to sell me stuff, and I found out they would be here in town. Plus, the show is at an “expo” center that’s not in a great part of town, and entrance was around the back – and not well marked. That said, I enjoyed two things about the show. One, I could go on a SCHOOL DAY!!! I didn’t have to wait until the weekend. Two, I met some really cool people and saw some unusual gadgets that I really want…..that’s always a good sign….

The Handy Caddy – I don’t normally buy impulse items, but I could immediately see a use for not only organizing my sewing table, but also carrying my sketch materials with me a whole lot easier than dropping everything in the bottom of my purse. The bigger tote will hold my sketchpads and assorted material for trips.

Also of interest were these really cool custom quilt hangers. I could see using these to hang pieces of fiber art for a quilt show, from Summer Sky Creations. The owner is local to us (well, norht of Phoenix, as opposed to East Coast) and can do custom work.

There was another quilt hanging system that uses magnets that I thought was brillian – even better for hanging shows at a gallery, and no tools needed or holes in the wall. From Rom Woodworking (check under Miscellaneous) comes Magent-Ficent: “$35.00 – Magnet-Ficent(TM) Invisible Quilt Hanger A simple and versatile system for hanging your quilts without using push-pins, screws, nails, or levels!  Magnet-Ficent(TM) Invisible Quilt Hangers allow you to easily and securely support your quilt for display, yet it will appear to be floating very close to the wall with no means of support.  This hanging system uses a small mounting plate attached to your wall using removable adhesive strips. ” We saw it displayed and LOVED the idea.

PS – his wooden thread cabinets are gorgeous!

From VJ’s Creative Designs come additional quilt hangers, and they are also even more local to us – just south of Tucson. Gorgeous wood designs for hangers.

This is within the first hour, and we could already of spent lots of money. I did pass on the $300 iron (down to $200 as a show special). Loads of bells and whistles, but I really don’t need steam…..

Then we saw THE cutting system….on our wish list. From Sew EZ Quilting comes this QuiltCut2 Fabric Cutting System. We saw it demonstrated, and when we get a little busier, it will help us save a lot of time preparing fabric.

Love this! Then I saw some GLORIOUS patterns from Pacific Rim Quilt Company that would be gorgeous in marbled fabrics. I love this pattern:

So it was a wonderful 2 hours of browsing, shopping, and talking to vendors. Now I need to go get busy!!

Holiday Opportunity – Coupons

I need to think this through, and writing seems the best way for me to work out all the details and kinks. We are doing holiday gift baskets, and we are in the process of putting together the samples for photography. We did this a number of years ago and had a lot of success. The idea is to offer a basket of goodies, mostly marbled items. But…we would also like to include some coupons, and not just for us. We will have a coupon for 10 percent off anything in our Etsy store.

We are looking for others who would like to stick a coupon in our basket. Why? 1) You could make some sales. 2) Not a lot of work involved in this promotion – create the coupon and send us 10-15 copies. 3) This is a chance to move some goodies that could be strictly holiday promotions. 4) It gets your name out to potentially a different audience.

Seems like it’s a win-win situation for all of us. Postage, printing, and some design time. That’s all it takes. You get unexpected advertising as we promote our gift baskets, and this is something we will continue all year long. If you think you have something that you create that our customers would be interested in, be specific in your coupon – expiration date, amount of discount, what items, contact information, and anything else you think is important. Once the basket leaves us for its new home, it’s up the the recipient to deal directly with you, so be specific.

You’re getting a first shot at this coupon idea – I plan to advertise for coupons through the TAFA List, Art Marketing group on Linked In, and the Art Business group on Linked In. Plus…you get to advertise the gift basket if you would like – we’ll send you one of our coupons.

If you are interested, let me know in the Comments and I’ll send you more information. We’d like to have all coupons by October 31 so we can begin advance sales. Anything we’ve forgotten? Any questions? Just let me know.

What’s Available This Week….

  Another busy week, and a new marbling session tomorrow – back to creating lots of fat quarters, and I can’t wait. Lots of silk, ribbon, flowers, and FQ’s headed out of the tray in the next few weeks. We have so many loyal Ebay folks, and our Etsy store is beginning to attract a lot of visitors interested in larger pieces of fabric.

Cafe Press is becoming a place for showing our Digital Marbling (TN). The example below is a set of note cards, using the Grand Canyon as the subject. We took a basic piece of marbled fabric and scanned it. Then we worked within Photoshop  to create a really interesting layer to add mood to the primary image. The shot of the Grand Canyon fit the mood of this additional layer. Part of future plans is a gallery of Digital Marbling (TN), and I want to get back to my “Photoshop Fridays” of explaining how some of these prints come to be. The idea came about because some of the pieces of fabric were just too gorgeous to have only one life as a piece of fabric. This set of cards is available for this week; just click the link.

Ebay this week has hand-marbled silk. We LOVE marbling on silk, and now that we’re back to doing bigger pieces, we should have a lot more silk available. These are available till early Sunday morning.

In Etsy this week is another gorgeous piece of silk, a fat quarter with great movement and detail to the piece.

We are slowly building inventory, and we’ve got some ideas for the holidays, so we will keep you posted on what’s new and developing – marbled silk flowers and leaves, scarves, half yards…lots coming ahead. Got ideas? Let us know!

Revisiting China – Part 1

One of my projects as a result of our recent move is to sort and organize slides and pictures: one because of the need for the extra space, two to eliminate anything that still has smoke from our fire 20-plus years ago, and three to find a way to enjoy all these memories. Now that I have a home for “recycling” slide mounts and boxes, I am ready for this project. Slides are sorted into a slide box we had been given years ago and never used; there’s one drawer of China slides and a second drawer of personal slides. I’m starting on the China slides.

How to organize? One of the most impressive memories from this trip in 1978 (before normalization of relations with the US) was the visits to the schools, so that’s where I am starting. Some background: I was teaching middle school science at the time in Phoenix, Arizona, when I became involved with the US-China People’s Friendship Association, a group working to bring about normalization (the recognition of “Red China”) as a legitimate country. This has been a passion of mine for years, since early high school, and especially influenced by a book by William Lederer (senior moment – lost the name) about the “truth” about Chiang Kai-Shek. I won a number of debates in high school based on the strenghts of my pro arguments, which didn’t make me any more popular. Oh well, I WAS right.

In 1978 I was selected as one of 20 people from the western part of the United States to travel for 3 weeks in China. I had never been anywhere, and China was at the top of my travel list. I was in heaven! I was gone for nearly a month, have a full notebook of interviews and impressions, and probably well over a thousand slides (all of which are being weeded down to the best. Each place we visited (fron Guangchou – the “old” Canton” to Beijing) we were able to meet and ask questions. I was in charge of all the school stops, since I was the only teacher in the group. It was the most amazing adventure.Our first visit was an elementary school, and the playground looked suspiciously like the typical US school ground. Teachers were wandering around, organizing activities, like tug of war. Notice the blues and grays for colors, especially on the adults. We were there at the end of the Cultural Revolution; the Gang of Four had just been imprisoned. Bright colors were a “western” problem, and we had been asked in doing our packing to look at basic browns, blues, and grays for colors, pants, no dresses, to respect the Chinese. We only saw bright colors on the children, until we hit Tokyo on our way back – our senses were literally assaulted with color.

If you notice make-up on the children, it’s because many of them were going to be performing for us during our visit. We were treated to amazing displays of arts and athletics, and at the time China was not a player in sports on the world stage. We all know that has changed.

I was particularly taken by the blackboard at the end of the playground, with all the announcements. It was pristine; no damage, vandalism, or the like. One of the questions I asked at our first meeting with the teachers and administrators of the school was how they dealt with vandalism. I ws asked to rephrase the question, and then asked to define vandalism. The teachers looked at each other, not understanding the word…or the concept. The reply was “why would anyone want to destroy what they need?” Why indeed….

We saw all types of entertainment, from the little singers, singing songs of leading the good life according to Chairman Mao….

…to guymnastic displays of all ages. Look carefully at their equipment. Floors covered with skinny rugs, bare walls – nothing like we would expect for building athletes.

Some performances were more formal. This was a group of young ladies performing basic magic tricks for us, and they were very good. Stage presence was something I remarked upon at the time, and I still think it’s pretty amazing how poised they all were. I know how difficult it is to develop that in young children during theater.

This dance/song number talked about importance of water and work to develop a good cotton crop.

This is the classroom that sticks with me so many years later. Sixty students in the classroom, no textbooks in sight. If you look closely, you will see double-digit multiplication problems on the board. No paper visible among these second graders. Students would raise their hand with a solution they had worked out in their heads, be called upon, come to the front of the room, and respond. We don’t even begin teaching basic multiplication facts until third grade….

We had certificates made up of our trip before we left the United States. We brought along a Polaroid camera to take pictures of our hosts and the group, which would then be affixed to the certificate. This is still one of my prized possessions. (I’m second row on the left….)

The children crowded around us to watch the picture develop – absolute magic!

Shanghai, as well as most other cities, had what were called Children’s Palaces, a place for students to go after school for more activities. A good many of them were focused on the arts, but many others were practical. Here’s one of our group members playing – of all things – Chinese jump rope.

Lots of musical instruction, as well as impromptu concerts for us.

The needlearts are very strong in China at that time, especially needlepoint.

Lots of martial arts demonstrations….

…and every where we went we were sent off to applause. For so many people we were the first Westerners they had ever seen.

Ballet had been banned during the Cultural Revolution, so it was encouraging to see this, and then one evening a classical ballet performance.

This is going to be wonderful, retracing this amazing trip. I will be culling the best of the slides to put together in a photo book so that I can look at these images more often. I’ll post more as I proceed with this project…and a glimpse of a China just beginning to modernize and embrace capitalism.

Kinda Mellow….


It has been a very nice two weeks of vacation. I finished up my lesson plans last night, knowing full well if I didn’t I would hate myself today. So by 9 PM last night I had everything packed to go for Monday morning. A tradition for the last couple of years has been to have dinner with Ali so I don’t stew about going back to school. We didn’t do it this August because I thought I was okay, but I really missed our getting together for dinner.

I met with Yvonna today for breakfast. It is worse other places. We started teaming together almost 7 years ago in the sixth grade. We hit it off right away – two intellectual, smart women with the same approach to kids and teaching. We don’t see each other as often, so we always have lots to catch up on. Both of us are having a hard time coping with the changes in education and what we are being forced to do as a result of district demands. One thing I said to her, and again to Sam who is so depressed about going back, is that we have to remember at this time in education we have a mission to try and do what is right by our students, regardless of the roadblocks. This is a battle I am choosing to fight. Right now the most creative thing I can do is attempt to reach my kids despite teaching to a flawed test.

I took care of a lot of loose ends today, left over from my list-making on Thursday. I did very well. I have a huge list of loose ends for tomorrow and the rest of the week, but these are mostly so I don’t have to remember them and worry about forgetting and not having what I need for class. I ordered the 100 free postcards from VistaPrint – took me an hour to work through all the sizing and the problems with downloading. But – should be on the way in a couple of weeks. I chose the Cosmos piece, since it shows both the marbling and the digital manipulation.

I had a bit of an epiphany concerning my art classes, and I am going to dwell on this to get me through the remaining 92 days till summer. Maybe Fate decided it would be good for me to have art classes, as now I have a chance to feed children’s souls, beyond the testing situations. I have a chance to show them art, to explore ideas, to give them a taste of what they can do by following their artistic side.

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