Archive for the ‘desert’ Category

Introducing…”Sonoran Dreams”

I am, not as so focused on completing stuff on my weeks’ lists, since I realized I can’t be a slave to getting everything done and yet not get to the important stuff – art and writing.  What I realized is that I have to revise my “self-care” list to include a minimum of two hours on art-making each day – that’s what is truly important for me this year. Art during the day, writing at night – or some combination thereof….

This piece at the left is the companion to the bigger piece – my ever-present “pot quilt,” started some 15 years ago. I really like how this piece came out. Simple yet elegant, just like southwestern pottery. This is “Sonoran Dreams 2.” I also have a lot of the “pot” fabric left, as well as come of the original fabrics when I started this, so I see a small series coming along this year.

The pot quilt started initially because of the marbled fabric. As soon as it was out of the marbling tray, I knew I would make some southwestern pots. I started some (what has now become) improvisational piecing – just making it up as I went along. I had two panels done and together, and the pot in the above piece appliqued. I really liked how it looked all these years later. I was on to something at the time and didn’t realize it. Finishing it just fell together – all my sewing/quilting skills had really improved, and it was easy to pull it all together. In progress –

This is the very beginning from 15 years ago, just beginning the piecing, and at the time absolutely no idea how to quilt it beyond stippling.

It’s missing the bottom row, as originally it was going to have several more panels. I’ve moved away from wall hangings that just “hang” from a rod and have moved to mounting them on canvas. I saw no need to make this larger, and the extra pot would become its own piece.

The other side – oh, how I would do the lizard differently (and I will in some other wall hangings), but I do love the “rawness” of this one.

First I started with some straight-line quilting to make the triangles “pop.” I really like that effect, so I decided to do the top and bottom borders that way.

The pot with only outline quilting.

From here I did the gridlines in two places, as it reminded me of the stucco you see throughout the Southwest.

Originally I was going to quilt the lines in the pots but decided that would detract from the overall design, so I outlined the pots and stippled the background. A shiny rust thread used in the stucco, and invisible smoke thread in the stippling – I just wanted texture there.

Now there was the other side…couldn’t think exactly what I wanted to do for the longest time. Using invisible thread again, I outlined the lizard to make him stand out – did it twice (next time I’ll try a double needle – should be much smoother).

I outlined the pot and did the stippling in the background again. That just left edges – did a triangle motif in the medium brown and then attached some agates for emphasis. I LOVE my stash from the Tucson Gem Show – every year I would go with some specific types of stones in mind – mostly earth and water tones for future wall hangings.

You can see the agates on the right side, and there are bear fetishes across the top green strip.

Starting the grid lines on the companion piece.

And….ta-da…..”Sonoran Dreams”

Photography by Melanie Bishop


REALLY Good Photography!

Our photography has definitely improved over the years, but we still have issues. I reconnected with a friend from 25 years ago, and he came to photograph our pieces in the library show we had this past August. OMG – they are amazing. Bill Kneen, a Richmond, Vermont photographer, does pretty amazing work. (email me for his information) We’re going to use him for our major pieces. So here goes –  a really good look at a few:

Wetlands 1 – the color is so true, and the texture really shows through.

Wetlands 1

This is green cotton lame, and it’s been really hard to get the sheen that Bill achieved.

Endangered: Rainforest


Glorious true colors! So excited that this shows so well.

Rough Waters

This piece was really hard for us to photograph – looked washed out and not really a good sense of the desert – now it is!

Sonoran Desert

Bamboo Jungle – again, very true colors – you can see the dimension in the leaves.

Bamboo Jungle


Spring in the Desert


Spring has finally come to the desert. It was a very brown winter season, but I certainly know how fortunate we have been, compared to the rest of the country! Here are some pics from our latest trip to the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Color galore!





















































52 Sparks: Week 7 – What Do You Love?

I am still behind, but I am thinking all the time…….I love life! I love everything about it – the ups, the downs, the music, the art, nature – everything!I don’t think we always appreciate that simple fact. Even when we have down times, there still is so much beauty around us, we just need to find it – or even something as simple as taking the time to find the beauty. Ever since hubby and I were dating, one of our favorite things to do was take a ride along back roads and go exploring. We found lots of great things: a very small car ferry across the Potomac, a flooded Harper’s Ferry, National Geographic Headquarters, a small sugar shack, sand dunes, an uncovered hulk of a ship off the Diamond Shoals on the Outer Banks. We still go for drives, but it’s a little harder in the desert….not as many options! But one of our favorite spots is Saguaro National Park East, about 6 miles from our house. It’s pretty brown this time of year, and I am looking forward to the first signs of green. But we had snow this week, so there was still some around, and some decaying saguaro cacti, which had incredible texture to them.

What’s left of the snow on the Rincon Mountains. The desert is so brown. You can make out the majestic saguaros at the bottom.

A more panoramic view, with a saguaro in the foreground.

Look at the texture!

Pretty serious thorns on this bush. The desert can look very deceiving!

New Work and Progress….

I have been participating in the Free Motion Challenge this year sponsored by SewCalGal, and it has done wonders for my quilting skills. Each month a different machine quilting instructor, and I now have a variety of patterns to use. Part of my goal for this second year of retirement is to complete some of the unfinished projects over the last few years. Now I feel like I have way more tools than just stippling. I am working on a quilt from Stripper’s Club of three years ago at my LQS (Quilter’s Market), and it is looking amazing. I anticipate being done by the end of the weekend, as the quilting really doesn’t take that long. I just need to take breaks every half hour or so since my neck and shoulders are tightening.

In spite of feeling pretty lethargic  over the last two months, I finished a small green color study, the June and July free motion lessons, completed the samples and wrote the pattern (which is now being tested by my new pattern testers), started work on my forest quilt, and completed a small piece called Desertscapes.

Desertscapes started as seven separate pieces that I knew would go together, but I wasn’t sure just how that would work. I just started with some free motion to accent the idea of geodes, as well as desert landscape. I loved the use of microstippling to mimic sand.

Here’s the finished piece, which already has a home. It looks so much better – and straighter – on the wall! Loved the way the marbled ribbon brought everything together.

Winter in the Desert, Part 2


Yup, we do things differently in the desert, especially in the winter. I remember my first teaching job on the island of Hawaii – after living in Vermont and going to college in upstate New York. I am used to snow…and Christmas in Hawaii was definitely different! The desert carries its own beauty – beyond the warm weather that makes January and February so wonderful.

We went to our favorite spot, the Tucson Botanical Gardens, last week on one of our warmer days – been a really cold (unusually so for so early). I had about 40 pictures on my phone, and I sent them to myself this morning, only to find that about half of them never came through as attachments….and of course I had deleted them already, so I guess I will just have to go back and take more…..But I missed the picture of the broken mosaic piece wreath – really quite unusual and different.

The Gardens suffered a huge freeze last November, as did the rest of Tucson. Last spring we began to see the effects of the freeze, but it was very obvious on this visit – I hadn’t been since the irises were in bloom last year. There are wide expanses of open area, as all the dead plants have been cleared, and replanting is underway. Also being added is a lot of rock from around southern Arizona, which is adding some additional texture to the gardens.

We stopped at the little cafe to see about coffee and hot cocoa, and to my delight one of my algebra students from The Art Institute was running the cafe – she’s a culinary student, and the soup was amazing!

Towards the back of the gardens is a nice restful little spot, with this wonderful fountain. It’s been cleared of a lot of cactus growth, so it’s looking kind of sparse – and you can see the neighbors.

This is the first we had seen this cactus – and believe me, the Gardens have many species. This is Texas Sunset – love the banding on the cactus.

Either the yucca or aloe family, love the color and texture –

Lots of cleared area, and yet still so serene. Notice the decorated tree.

Look at the naturala shine on the leaves, plus the glorious sunlight.

My most favorite fountain in the gardens.

Nad my favorite bench, the subject of a lot of digital images I’ve created.

An uncropped picture of my bench, with the remaining pomegranates left on the tree.

Love the little sprouts on the main trunk.

A lot of color in containers throughout the gardens.

Hand-painted tiles around the remaining cattle pool. The bench is of horseshoes.

No idea what it is, but I love it.

Another great example of color and texture in the containers.

I love this “living frame,” succulents all around.

Winter in the Desert

One of the great things about living in Arizona and the Sonoran Desert is the availability of national parks – almost in our backyards. All these pics are from Saguaro National Monument Eat, about 4 miles from where we live. Up above, you can see what passes for snow in Southern Arizona – almost like a ruler was drawn across the Santa Catalina Mountains, which most of us just call Mt. Lemon. The top of the mountain is about 9,000 feet – we headed up from the valley floor to about 5.500 to actually see some of the remaining snow.

You can also see in the picture how civilization is encroaching on the saguaros, those great sentinels of the Sonoran Desert. But this spot is pretty pristine.

The saguaro cactus is pretty amazing. It has to be 75 years old before it begins one of it’s arms, so these guys have been around quite a while. They have gorgeous white/yellow blossoms in the spring. Visiting the park in the spring is spectacular.

Winter rains are very early this year. Unfortunately you have to visit the park after the rain/snow, because the washes run with water and many times you can’t get across them safely. NOw turn around from the top picture and you have….

Such great texture!

Speaking of texture, some of our saguaros really took a hit because of last winter’s very unexpected – and very deep – freeze. Here’s what happens to those majestic cactus:

they will decay even further, till all you see are the interior spines. But, oh, the texture is amazing!

Lots of animals have made this cactus home, so it has quite a history.

This is part of the drive looking north but going around the eastern loop of the park. Ocotillo, prickly pear, and saguaros, all lining the drive like massive columns. When everything is in bloom, it’s pretty amazing.

Now go up Mt. Lemon to about 5,000 feet. You get to the Seven Cataracts lookout. You cna make out the snow in the upper right – we’re not high enough yet.

Turning to the right, if you’re lucky, the cataracts will have water in them. It’s happened twice for us in 17 years. If you follow that whole cavern, you can count the falls.

And if you turn to the left, you see the ridges of the mountain ranges beyond Tucson to the south. Tucson is nestled in between.

Nice way to spend an afternoon!

It All Started with the Yucca…..Wednesday Work in Progress

Albuquerque Outdoors -

This new piece has had an interesting origin…..we were in Cornville , AZ visiting friends, and our driver wanted to stop in the high desert and see about getting some yucca stalks for walking sticks. If you look at the picture, the stalks are what’s left after the gorgeous blooms are done. They are evidently extremely strong and hold a lot of weight. So we have two collected stalks in the car, and I’m thinking, hmmmmm – these could make interesting wall hanging “hangers.” Turns out we got as a gift two really strong, perfect-height-for-hiking sticks from another friend we were off to visit, so I decided to keep these two, one as a walking stick for me (I just need it for balance) and one for a potential hanger for a wall piece.

I was looking at it today, as I was kicking around another weaving piece. It would make a good “topper” for a new piece. I had in mind a set of seasons pieces, and then suddenly I got the thought to create the fabric and weave them all together for a year of seasons.

Here are two samples of some of the weavings I have done with marbled fabrics. The first is my very beginning one, Gaia 1: Interdependence. The second is  Gaia 3: Autumn.

All of a sudden the design was in my head, and I sketched it out, something I don’t normally do. Here it is:

Creating the fabric will take some time, and I know with other projects in the pipeline, I won’t get to this until mid-September. Hubby is the main marbler, so he will have his work cut out for him. I will need to also watch the proportions in this piece – ever mindful of Michael Kors and Nina Garcia from Project Runway…..

Stay tuned for progress. In the meantime, here’s a few stories for past weavings in the Gaia series.

Sunday Stories: Autumn

Sunday Stories: Gaia 2

Sunday Stories: Gaia 1

Photoshop Friday – Desert Botanicals


I haven’t done a lot lately with Photoshop Friday, and as I was thinking about it, I wanted to see the body of work I have completed that I call my Desert Botanicals series. I have been preparing cards for a November show and realized the images really looked good, so that prompted me to look at some of what I consider the “finished” ones.

Last spring was a gorgeous one in the desert, and the ocotillo were in full bloom. This was some “playing around” with a couple of gradients.

We had a blooming palo verde in our back yard, to which I added some background in a marbled fabric. Reminds me of a sunset.

This is some kind of orange succulent from the Desert Botanical Gardens with a grdient applied to it. I am really drawn to black and white.

This was one of my first “successful” manipulations of some succulents. I was just learning a few different tools and stumbled on this finished product. I do enjoy the “mysteries” in Photoshop.

This is my newest, and I’m not sure it’s a “done deal” yet. I love the small ginko tree at the gardens, and I played with the background with some brushes.

I love my garden bench. I have this in several iterations, this one with the fresco filter, for more of a “water color” effect.

This is also in several iterations. The blossom is from a pic hubby took about 5 years ago from some spring plants. That one bloom brings such depth to the piece.

This is another version – with a very different feel to it.

One of my favorites, of an aloe plant superimposed on the grate from one of the drainage areas in the Gardens. I added a “pattern” of marbled fabric to the grate.

Another favorite,  a composite of three different images, part of my playing around to make collages.

This is the one I actually printed – I LOVE that thistle leaf.

Another early one I really like. Even with all the filters, you still get the effect of cactus spines.

This is developing as a nice body of work. I am researching developing and printing these as a collection, even licensing them – one of the many things on my “to do” list. I interested in your comments – what do you like, what would you like to see more of, and any other suggestions.


Botanical Gardens – Part 2

Still lots of photos from Thursday’s trip to the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Plus some cool art the kids at school have done, and lots of great images from a bookbinder’s convention here in Tucson. All in good time…….To recap, I was looking for texture, color, interesting combinations, trying some new things for framing beyond centering items, and playing with my exposure settings. No color touch-ups.

Pineapple rooted and growing – I will need to try this.

I love the orange against all that green.

This is one of the more successful pictures of this fountain I have gotten – you can see the water dripping.

I love the variety of greens as you head up to the sky, with the first pomegranates.

Interesting lines with the stones.

My zen garden – one of my favorite spots in the whole garden.

Another shot of the zen garden.

Great leaf, lots of greens – and so big!

I really like the composition of this one – I’d like the purple to be stronger.

I love the light and shadow in this one.

Great lines…..

Spider plants

These look so velvety.

More fence throughout the garden.

I want to take the gate and work with it some more in a collage.

Let me know what you think – ideas, suggestions, improvements……….

Photo Friday – The Botanical Gardens

It is so good to be back doing some photography, some Photoshop, and just generally playing around. Hubby and I went for a two-hour stroll through the Tucson Botanical Gardens, since it now is mid-80’s, and you can be out and about and not feel like you’re burning up.

Took the camera and just looked at texture and framing. Color has not been adjusted at all. I did play around a bit with exposure…discovered that on the camera, so had to try it out.

It always amazes me that no matter how many times I go to the Botanical Gardens in Tucson, I always find something new.  Yes, it’s still comparatively green here in the desert, even in mid-October. Take a look, and let me know your favorites. What would you change, which ones do you like, what suggestions do you have for framing?

So what do you think?

Quilt is FINISHED!!!

It is so interesting to me that we can think in our minds that projects will take so much longer, and then we actually never get around to them, because we “don’t have the time.” That was the case with my Salmon Run entry and with Desert Heat. I kept thinking I was going to need more time than it actually took to complete the work the way I wanted it.

I made the commitment last night to finish Desert Heat – and I did! Binding and all, it’s now on our wall in our bedroom. What I particularly like about this quilt is a bunch of things:

* I used some of my first hand dyes, and you can’t really tell mine from the commercial ones.

* I experimented with a pattern and everything about it worked. I just started out sewing triangles because I wanted something mindless to do last summer.

* I learned that when sewing bunches of triangles like this, it is best to press the seams open for less bulk. That is probably the only thing I would do differently in remaking this quilt (I can see a “winter” quilt to change for the seasons…).

* I pulled colors based on how “hot” they seemed – turns out in the final analysis I did have a light, a medium, and a dark value without really thinking about it.

* The quilting worked perfectly – I only took out about 8 inches until I had the tension where I wanted it. I am getting much better with that – checking first before I sew a whole side….

* I love my new threads! I bought New Brytes in orange and yellow when I was at the School of Threadology with Superior Threads. I knew I wanted heat and bright – much like the desert in summer. I was given in my goodie bag a wonderful Rainbow of oranges, yellows, and greens that worked PERFECTLY in my border.

* Not once did I break any threads. I love the #90 titanium needles. And I LOVE Superior Threads!

* Perhaps the best thing abut quilting yesterday is that I think I am finally getting my quilting stitch length consistent. I have been going quite slowly with the machine quilting, so my stitches have been pretty large. I hesitated about going faster, as I can get clumps of thread if I move too slowly. Well, this time everything worked. I went faster and the stitches seemed to keep up with my movement of the quilt sandwich. So generally very pleased.

Here’s a close-up of the quilting. The center and first border have a very large stipple, as I wanted to try and get “the heat waves off the pavement” effect. It also helped to flatten all the triangle points. The quilting in the last border is a much tighter stipple, which seemed to make the quilt even “hotter.”

And now, the reveal (yup, too much HGTV….) –

So – anyone interested in a pattern? I am thinking of writing this up if there is interest.

I would love to hear thoughts about what you learn as you finish up quilts! We’re always learning – that’s what makes this so much fun.

Spring, Glorious Spring ! (with apologies to "Oliver")

All images copyrighted by Linda A. Moran, 2009

This is a shot of my new neighborhood, minus the wonderful cul-de-sacs, where spring is blooming furiously. This morning was one of those absolutely perfect days, Josh Groban on the CD, and all’s right with the world. Today, instead of concentrating on posture and breathing, I just wanted to walk for me and the music. Just glorious!

Ocotillo is spectacular this time of year. If we get enough winter rain, the trees get all fuzzy green, with great red blooms waving from the tops. Here’s a few shots – note how the green “fuzzies” just surround the branches.

The textures amidst all this flowering really are great. Rough ark, sturdy cactus, skinny branches, delicate blooms – certainly a very different spring than the East!

In our backyard is a slowly-blooming palo verde, with blossoms the most gorgeous true deep yellow. Depending on the light, the yellow is even deeper!

Desert Spring!

So after an hour of trying to figure out Picasa (the MAC beta version), I realized rather than more frustration, just add the photos the way I normally do….

The morning was glorious, took a long walk, walked every cul-de-sac, and gloried in a desert spring. I have so much more appreciation for the desert, living here this second time. Enjoy spring! These photos don’t even begin to do justice the the morning sites. Everything’s in bloom, there’s textures all around.

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