So I’m Teaching Art…

The first day back I discover that I am teaching an exploratory arts class. Hmmmm. Interesting, since I have absolutely no official, formal training. By the end of the second day it looks like I have four preps, which my principal says can be two art classes. Fast forward to this past week to find out the counsellors aren’t even aware we have art classes. I’m supposed to be teaching something else entirely.

The decision-making and having to answer to dozens of people at the district office does have its drawabacks. I made some polite noise to get two art classes, each a quarter in length, and I can repeat the classes, so I won’t have additional courses to prepare for.

Which still leaves me having to prepare art classes. So I’m punting – no classroom or materials, but I did discover on Friday a room I could use and lots of hidden stuff in a closet. So I am going to see if I can get the kids to help set up the room. I have started with the basic elements of visual art, some sketching, and distinct assignments using the elements.

One thing that is working well is that I am scanning the work by the kids and then setting up slide shows so the kids can see the results of the assignments. I am hoping to teach something about doing a critique using this method.

Based on all the discussion, and personal experiences, concerning making kids feel positive in art class, I have been very careful about what I am saying to the kids, trying to be as positive as possible, letting them see that everyone sees something differently, and approaches it differently.

So for this week we are going to clean the new art room and work on perspective drawings. Next weekend I’ll worry about what comes next. For the perspective lesson I copied pictures from the net to include in my powerpoint. Hopefully this week I can get the cables I need to get internet into my classroom.

Aieeee – what a month!

Well, school has started, and I have had NO time to do anything even remotely related to my own art. Which is usually the way the year starts out, but I really, truly am tryng to set aside time for myself. I hit the ground running this year, being in a situation where decisions are dependent on the district office – if you look up “dysfunctional” in the dictionary, you will find my school district as a prime example.

I have spent every weekend working to get caught up on papers and do lesson plans for THREE preps – which is allowed by consensus, but it’s making me nuts. Today it took me three hours just to get the plans for the week sketched out and the official lesson plans written and emailed to three different people. One thing about being at a failing school is that everyone is watching you. I don’t mind that, but I would like the decision-making process simplified.

I did get to the zoo yesterday and enjoyed watching the polar bear swim back and forth, the rhinos wallow in the mud, and the otter’s antics. It was relaxing.


One of the things I did last year at the start of the calendar year was to try and do some sketching every day. I succeeded for about three months, and I learned quite a bit. First, I don’t do well trying to do large background scenes. Too much to concentrate on, and I would have trouble with proportions. Second, if I started with one particular line and worked from there, I could get a piece I was happy with. Third, my inner critic really liked the eraser. Fourth, people are still a long way away for me. And fifth, I could experiment with different pencils and edges – not all pencils are number twos, and pencils do some really cool things.

I used to do a lot of work as an adolescent with India ink and pens – the old-fashioned kind that you would need to load each time you did some strokes. Quite an unforgiving medium, yet one I really enjoyed – until I was told I didn’t have the talent to make it as an artist in New York. At 12, who knows what that really means?

So I was tentative with the pencils, and by the end of the three months, I was choosing subjects more easily, and erasing a lot less – and using the edge of the pencils for interesting effects. But mst of all I proved to myself that I really could “draw.” That was probably the point of the exercise for me, and I could see how much freer I got as I practiced. Could I have done a sketchbook any earlier? Maybe not, for I was still so bound by the image “having to look like something good.” Now that I’m older, I do it for myself. Maybe though the discipline of sketching every day would have helped me get to that spot earlier. I don’t know – I think I would have turned off to art even more.

Here is a rose in bloom, the basic with some shading. It occurred to me as I was beginning my Photoshop work that I could use my own sketches and add color, rather than actually working with colored pencils – which still put me off, unless I am doing something “poster-like.”

I worked with a small brush and some pink – kind of like the effect.

Added two more pinks to the mix. You can see just how tentative I am – this could use some practice, and I think I could get much better at applying color.

On Going Back to School…

There’s more trepidation than usual as summer draws to a close (yeah, the beginning of August, and “summer” is over….) for the start of the school year. Some of it is new school, some of it is lack of decision making, some of it is still having to move classrooms, and some of it is the loss of free time. As usual, I’ve noticed that I get more “artsy” productive as I begin to run out of free time, when I could have done so much more over the last 10 weeks. This has really become a habit, and it’s one that needs to change.

I’m productive for a short spell, as I’m aware of running out of free time. Yet I can’t get myself started earlier, and I can’t sustain the impetus beyond the first week of school. Not good as an artist. I did get lots of loose ends done as we spiff up in time for holiday shopping, and yes, all of that was needed. But I’m still not making any concentrated new art.

At least I have figured this out and put it into writing – maybe that will help me move ahead.

I did do about an hour’s worth of quilting yesterday on the ice piece. The quilting is soothing, yet at the same time boring. I love quilting the chevron pattern, but I keep thinking about when it will be done and I can look at adding embellishments. It seems like I will be quilting that forever, and yet I can get a huge amount done in only 30 minutes. So again I need to change the mental mindset of what it will take to finish this piece. And I still need to finish the dress I started…….

This will be a hard year at school – there, I’ve said it. I am trying (somewhat successfully) to just let go of a lot of loose ends concerning the start of school – like no technology set up, computer not having internet, no books. But I kept telling myself that I can do this. I just finished “Good to Great” about businesses, and I am trying to see what I can do to implement those steps. I think I’m approaching a Level 5 leader, I know my hedgehog concept – the best possible learning environment, attitude, and skills to help all my kids succeed. I have looked at the Stockdale Paradox – I can do a great job with the kids, but the reality is the test schores are low and test scores are the focus this year.

Stay tuned….

On Marketing…

As I mentioned yesterday, I sent in a request in response to an offer of a free web critique, as a way of jump-startng more marbling and marketing efforts. I still have a huge business map taped to the back of the studio door, with lots of ideas on it, some of which will never happen, and some of which just need a push. We need to prepare for a demo we are giving in September, and this time we will not make the mistake of not bringing product with us to sell. And we will take pictures, have sign-up sheets, and all the other marketing pieces that need to be there to increase sales.

Part of each of the next three marbling sessions is to get materials ready to take to the demo – like scarves in preparation for holiday buying. But once again, we don’t want to just be making fabric – tough on us and lacks the creativity. When we were doing all those fat quarters for the fabric rep and the kaleidoscope guy, it was the same old routine and patterns, and we did not enjoy that. I have several pieces already backed and waiting for quilting that would make great art pieces. Just have to get to it.

And the whole idea behind the Photoshop classes is to get to a point where I am ready to create t-shirt designs. I did go online yesterday to search about creating a CD portfolio – and the site with the most amount of helpful info was the Apple site on a tutorial for iLife – which I have on my laptop. So I just need to sketch out what needs to be done and get it created. At least I know how to do a slideshow, as that seems to be the main feature. I updated the website, so all our credits and shows are current.

I have also been reading some stuff about publicizing blogs – since the two comments I have gotten on here have been spam. Have to find out about RSS feeds, and how to get other people to read this blog. Minor details… least I have a record of my work this year.

The other thing I was thinking about was my sketching – but more on that later.

Just so you know – we can marble on cross-stitch Aida cloth – didn’t want too many entries going by without pictures. This was for a special order over a year ago.

Bursts of creativity…

We are getting ready to marble in the big tray again this weekend, and we really seem to be gearing up to do some serious work. We were shopping for embellishments today, and considered trying to marble some other fabrics. But then we reminded ourselves we really don’t want to do mostly production – we want to start getting in to some serious art.

Hence the website makeover, correcting and adding little pieces. In fact, I signed up for a free critique by a creativity coach for the website.What seemed to be the kick in the pants we needed was a visit this weekend to our favorite gallery in Prescott, Van Gogh’s Ear. Our work would be marvelous in that gallery. We have plenty of pieces ready to go, from small to large, but I need to learn how to do a CD portfolio for submission. Lots of loose ends there.

And I have completed a HUGE number of loose ends over the last few days, as I get ready for the new school year. I want to be sure that I have time to myself for art. Today we bought some embellishments, and I want to continue to work at the three pieces that need finishing touches, plus the Berg piece. And I want to take the next course in Photoshop. I need to clean the studio table to get ready for the marbling tray, so there will be several days that I can’t sew – but I can work on my Mesa presentation, as well as some more math loose ends, so I can sew in a few days.

On Being a Web Nerd….


I first started a web page around 1997. Seems like ancient times from this perspective. We had interviewed a “web designed” who wanted $3000 for the site. No way could we afford that. So I spent $100 and bought PageMill and taught myself. A rather steep learning curve, if I say so myself. That version went through several modifications. Then we added secure ordering – with encryption software for credit cards. How times have changed.

Eventually there came a point – probably about three years ago, when I knew I no longer wante to maintain the site and I wanted to change the look to a more professional site and not spend the time myself learning how to do it. Hence Saltwater Systems. Suzan gave our site a very professional look, and now I just do simple changes. Finally got a trial version of Contribute so I can add links and do revisions.

So I know enough to be dangerous – but then, we’ve been on line for 10 years. Probably even before some of the biggies. Maybe we need to have a ten-year sale…..

Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum

The last quilt museum I had been to was the New England Quilt Museum with my AP class, who moaned and groaned about having to see quilts, but then fell in love with the quilts. This was a small museum, with two exhibits – Star quilts, including one by Jan Krentz, a quilt artist, that was quite nice. The primary exhibit was the latest quilts by Ellen Anne Eddy – oh my….talk about goose bumps…..

I have been following her quilts for about 12 years now, ever since I first “met” her on the QuiltArt list. I really think she has been responsible for quilt artists beginning to do much more thread embellishment. There were 15 quilts there, each one breathtaking, when you examine all the details – dyed lace, beads, threads galore, Quite the visual feast. What was so exciting was the epiphany that I could do even more with the marbled fabric than I had been thinking about. Dean and I both kept saying, “Oh, we could use a blue thread here” and so on. There are two spots in the glacier piece with some significant white that I had been worried about, but now I am going to use some lace to add texture to that particular spot.

I ended up buying her first book, Thread Magic, republished again by Quilting Arts LLC. I can definitely see moving in some additional directions with our fabric – beyond the stones and beads that are relatively new.

Ellen’s website:

On Vacation…

This is the first tme in a lot of years we have been able to get out of town for an extended time and not have to worry about anything. We headed to Golden, Colorado to see all the great neices and nephews and had a great time with family. Two years ago we discovered the joys of audio books to get us through the same ole desert drive. Santa Fe is beautiful, as usual, but the drive north to Denver was full of traffic and construction. Pueblo and Colorado Springs have grown tremendously. But Golden seems to have retained much of the small time charm.

We went to the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum (more later), had lunch by the river, went swimming with the kiddos (I am no longer a water slide virgin, but was I sore….), toured the Coors plant (Always remember your ABC’s – Always buy cases, always buy cold, always buy Coors), and went up Lookout Mountain where Buffalo Bill Cody is buried. The view to the west is fabulous, as you begin to see the ruggedness of moving from the Foothills into the mountains themselves. It was a pretty overcast day, but still a great view.

How can I forget Tiny Town? We took the kiddos to this mini town just for kids – lots of large doll houses in the woods that are replicas of actual hstoric buildings. Gracie and Gavin had a ball crawling through them – Jake and Gabby just wanted to eat, so not real restful for their mommies!

This is an area definitely to explore again – lots of monuments along the Santa Fe Trail, lots of parks, and I would love to explore the areas of Colorado Springs again. We’ll definitely be heading back.

Glacier 3

I started doing a lot of the quilting last night. I wasn’t totally happy with one of the threads, so today I went to Joanne’s and bought the multi-blue Sulky I had pulled – I just didn’t have enough left from another project. This thread worked much better – I changed the tension a little and lengthened the stitch length. Everything started to smooth out, and the piece began to take on a lot of depth. Here’s a small section.

This will take a lot longer than I had originally thought, as I am quilting most of the lines. But I like how the piece is looking, with that amount of quilting. I don’t normally use the walking foot; in the past it really hasn’t seemed to help, but with the gentle curves in this piece, it has been a great help. I can handle the fabric more easily through the machine. It will be interesting to see how the various stones will work as we progress.

Glacier 2

There is something very satisfying about quilting marbled fabric, especially this pattern. This is a traditional chevron pattern, and it is the basis for many more complex patterns. I love the lines to this pattern, and they are very easily quilted – almost a zen-like feel with the sewing machine. Use the walking foot and then just quilt.

I’ve been doing a lot of quilting with the stone, freeform, and chevron patterns, although the Pele piece on our website is much more complex. Quilting the nonpariel and wave patterns really take some thinking and some very slow free motion to get the stitching accurate. I need to set some more pieces with those patterns.

As I was quilting last night (to John Denver’s greatest hits – good quilting music), I was thinking about the decisions in this piece. I used the light gray about every three inches to hold the fabric in place. The stitches pretty much disappeared. I used the darker gray to accent the black in the piece. Then I started with the variegated rayon, and those stitches really popped. I may decide to actually stretch this piece and frame it when done, so that there aren’t any ripples in the fabric.

Once again I found myself judging the piece based on some beginnng quilting lines. Nothing fantastic yet, but I have just begun. So I need to put the critic to bed and out of my mind.

Glacier 1

I have decided to document this new piece that I am working on. I have had the fabric for almost two years. It came about as a result of an online group of partners, Sarah and Karen. We were looking at mythology, and I had some ideas for a piece that would be very wintery, in looking at the seasons. This piece came out very icy, and I knew it would make a great glacier or iceberg. But that was as far as it went. It has been in my mind as a piece for the Cordova Fish Follies show, and I was trying for it this year – never made the deadline.

In the meantime I was collecting possible stones for the piece. At the gem show I found some aquamarine that I thought would work well to accent the berg. Then two rows later was some amazing craquelated quartz, and I bought two strands, all for this piece.

Today I finally found the piece – hidden in a drawer of “never sell” pieces. And the background is a piece I bought three years ago for something totally different. So here goes – the iceberg fabric.

The backing fabric –

And the threads – there are four potentials, two variegated and two that are some shiny shades of grays. It will be interesting for me to decide which thread goes where – usually I have one thread for the whole piece.

Suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Adding to a Piece of Art…..

I finshed a piece almost two years ago – a piece I called Low Tide. I was pleased with it to begin with, but the more I looked at it, the more I felt it was missing something. The original is a piece of linen that was marbled in a traditional stone pattern. i used a multicolored silky thread to do the quilting, emphasizing the rocks you would see at low tide. Then I found some really wonderful yarn that looked like foam, and so I sewed that along the piece and that brightened it up – but it still wasn’t enough.

Over the nearly two years I looked for beads and found some multicolored stones that reminded me of shell pieces. I knew they were destined to go on the piece. When I finally started to rework the piece this summer, I found I had a great set of small blue beads that would be perfect. And then I realized I wanted some glitter to reflect the “sunlight” on the water. I have this great glitter in two colors that worked perfectly. Now I am really pleased with the piece. Within the month I will get these new versions up on the website.

On Celebrating Birthdays….

So yesterday was another birthday. Rather a lowkey day, with an absolutely wonderful dinner at Bazil’s with Alison. Veal to die for! Spent three hours at dinner, a very enjoyable time.

I remember my 21st birthday. I was working at a horse camp in Vermont, and I was thinking that when I was 21 everything would change overnight. I guess we all learn the hard truth that nothing really changes over the years. Other memorable birthdays: my 18th when my dad took me out and bought me my first official drink – in New York the drinking age was 18. My 25th when the Bush got me a dozen red roses. My 40th on a cruise boat across the Chesapeake to an incredible crab house. My 50th, when I had my first ever birthday party.

I don’t particularly celebrate. Alison made me an incredible necklace from some stones I had gotten at the gem show. And I had on the perfect blouse to show it off.
Also a bracelet from the stones I got in Chinatown in LA – Alison made the bracelet so much more incredible that it originally was. Dean and I will do some birthday shopping when we are in Denver in a week.

Today’s Batch of Fabrics

The fabric from today is just so gorgeous, I had to do some playing around with it! The blues ocean piece you see is a good half-yard in length, and this is just a small crop of a really cool spot. The levels helped bring out the white that is in the piece. This is a very watery, ocean effect, which Patty wanted to remind her of a special spot along the coast in California.

This is the piece with more of a blue cast, thanks to a photo filter. Much more watery, deeper ocean with sunlight on it.

This is the copper gradient, with the dissolve effect just slightly added. A forest, with just a light snowfall?

I embossed this first, and then looked at manipulating the colors – to me it reminds me of Folklorico dancers twirling around and around.

Again, this one reminds me of dancers enjoying themselves .

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