Friday, November 25, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 11/25


Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

"Freedom from Want"
by Norman Rockwell
It is common place to diminish our own accomplishments while looking enviously and admiringly on other's achievements and accolades. It is only a small step from there to "why bother?" My mother's words spoken to me more frequently than I would like to admit, ring true, "comparisons are odious." I might rephrase that to comparisons are poisonous. 

We celebrated Thanksgiving at our home yesterday. I imagined others around the States doing the same. In my mind every home contained a Norman Rockwell perfect scene. Has there ever been a Thanksgiving feast to match or rival this one, from perfect turkey to conviviality? We chose to stay home versus travel 1,200 miles to be with family. We hosted another couple - she is vegan. We did the best we could and it was good enough. 

Each Friday, I type up my blog, share my own accomplishments, and link to several other blogs and Facebook groups. This gives me the opportunity to see what my fellow artists are up to. Wow, are they talented and so, so accomplished with international teaching circuits, multiple published books, and sharing which of the works have sold or won awards. It is so tempting to compare myself with these luminaries and feel lacking. 

I've started to piece the
background for Where
Have All the Flowers
Gone?
My goal is to
maintain a '60s feel.
This OpArt design is
a good beginning.
What truly matters? What do I have to be thankful for? Quite a bit, really. I will zip past health, family and friends, all of that is a given. What matters to me, is I get great satisfaction from the creative process and enjoy sharing my delight with others. One accomplishment I am very proud of is being selected as the Featured Artist on the online gallery, Light Space & Time. I believe I am the first fiber artist ever selected for this honor. 

One thing is clear, there would be no accomplishments if I didn't do the work. How fortunate doing the work is one of my favorite pastimes. Even with a shortened week I managed to do the following:

1)  Attach a sleeve to Siren's Song - Not Yet

2) Free motion quilting practice - None

3) Do some surface design work - Done

4) Complete the design for my next piece - Done

My day just doesn't feel complete unless
I take an hour or so to do some hand
embroidery. This week I had fun learning
the Alternate Chain Stitch. That is
the partially completed section to the
far right. It requires two different threads
through one needle. Since I opted to
use similar variegated threads it isn't always
easy to tell that the chain links are alternating.
You will just have to trust me.
5) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open. - Done

The choice to host a vegan for Thanksgiving presented a challenge. Part of me felt like tossing in the towel with a "not my problem" attitude. Instead of shutting down or ignoring the situation, I opted to go a recipe hunt. A delicious and surprising discovery were zucchini chips. These were deemed "better than potato chips" by my vegan friend. I agree. 

The holidays are looming and I have plans to travel some next week, so time in the studio will be precious. I will make time and when I get the spare minute this is what I plan to focus on:

1)  Attach a sleeve to Siren's Song

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Continue piecing Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

5) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.


I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 11/18




Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Normally I crop my images so
that my work looks squared up.
I'm so pleased with how nice
and straight the edges to Siren's
Song
are and how sharp the corners
I'm sharing what it looks like hanging
on my design wall.
I seem to be in a constant state of betwixt and between these days. I am never quite finished with one project before the next one begins. The overlap of the two has me in a constant state of multi-tasking. My artwork is caught in transition, too. Siren's Song is finished - well, sort of. I still need to do those last bits of attaching the sleeve, label and adding it to my website. While I complete those tasks I have started working on the design for my next piece, currently titled, Where Have All the Flowers Gone? The title, of course, is a reference to the peace anthem of the '60s written by Pete Seeger in collaboration with Joe Hickson. Perhaps the group that cemented this song in all of our brains (some of you reading this are probably hearing it in your head) is Peter, Paul and Mary. If all of this is meaningless though, you can hear their rendition here.

Multi-tasking is not my strength. Nevertheless I did make progress this week, as you can see:

1)  Face Siren's Song - Done

I don't think I have ever hand stitched a facing into place so quickly. This is quite a sizable quilt at 72" H x 56" W.

2) Free motion quilting practice - Oops, missed this.

This is a 10" H x 12" W detail from
Siren's Song showcasing the prairie
points and intricate, intense quilting. All
the fabric started as white PFD Kona cotton.
I dyed, painted, inked and used a glue
resist to achieve the various colors
and textures seen in this image.
3) Do some surface design work - Done

I did take several hours betwixt and between to sit down and continue practicing my hand stitching. It is always a treat. No wonder there is a slow stitch movement.
4) Settle on a design for my next piece - Started

The idea for my next quilt has been percolating in my head for months. I thought I had pretty much nailed down my idea, at least in my head, but something about it just wasn't sitting right with me. I'm not sure why Where Have All the Flowers Gone? popped into my head. It just did and the answer to the question, "gone to graveyards, every one" was the visual image I needed. I don't have enough sketched out yet. Maybe I can share something next week.
5) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

One more detail showing off the fabric
and quilting. 
I'm such a stickler for maintaining my routines as a way to achieve my goals and keep me from shutting down completely when they going gets tough, so much so that sometimes the routines themselves can be stifling. This past Tuesday, my yoga instructor called in sick and there was no substitute. Normally, I just plow forward and do yoga in the classroom often encouraging the other students to "share" facilitating the class with me. This time I opted to head home and go it alone. The first minute was torture, so were the next five and the five after that. In a rare, totally out of character choice, I didn't continue to push myself. Staying a slave to my routine was not helping me stay open, instead I was shutting down and becoming resentful. I opted to stay open by NOT doing what I planned and focused my attention elsewhere. 

Thanksgiving is next week and we are hosting a very small gathering. Whether the gathering is for 4, 10 or more, the work is fairly similar. There won't be much time to work in my studio, but I will find a way there and when I do I have a plan to keep the forward momentum going.

1)  Attach a sleeve to Siren's Song

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Complete the design for my next piece

5) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 11/11




Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

I am very fortunate to have a husband who
supports my quilting efforts with actions.
This morning, before he headed off to work,
the two of us squared up and trimmed
Siren's Song
What does an artist do when the unimaginable happens? I refer to our president elect, being Donald Trump. No matter whether you voted for or against him, if you reside in the US or routed for or against him if you don't, the outcome grabbed you in the gut. Toni Morrison's wisdom can direct us, she said, "This is the time artists go to work." This is precisely what I did on November 9th, I continued to make art.

Detail of Siren's Song before trimming.
If you have no words - make art. If quilt art is your medium and you want that art seen there is a call for entry I recommend. The deadline to enter Textile Posters: Communication and Commentary  is January 31, 2017. This call does require a very specific size, 48" high x 32" wide, it should pay homage to the poster genre, and you must be a member of SAQA to enter.  The accepted work will be premiere at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, in November 2017. There it will be seen by 50,000 IQF attendees. After Houston the exhibit will travel for several more years. 

In a spirit of disclosure, I am SAQA's Chair of the Exhibition Committee. The committee works hard to bring a variety of exhibition opportunities to our members, who currently number 3,400 from around the globe. Over the years SAQA's exhibitions have started to include more tightly themed exhibits, often looking at current global and social issues. Since we start working on theme for an exhibition as much as 2.5 years before it is seen at its opening venue, I feel that the fates were in our favor, providing a very timely opportunity.

Detail of Siren's Song after trimming.
All entries are blind juried. Textile Posters will be juried by Joseph Lupo, a print maker and university teacher with a focus on posters. He is not a SAQA member. Because SAQA's exhibits are juried blind even the members of the Exhibition Committee may enter. My chances are as good as anyone else of getting an acceptance. So, am I working on my poster quilt? Actually, I started it yesterday. Just playing around with the background. The idea is something I have been tossing around in my head and actually tested a bit in my Art on the iPad class. However, as you can see, my focus has remained on finishing Siren's Song first. 

1)  Continue quilting Siren's Song - Done!

Not only did I continue quilting Siren's Song, I finished quilting Siren's Song. Yeah! 

I finished filling in the yellow segment with
scroll stitch and moved on to outlining
several other segments. 
2) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

Siren's Song has allowed me to multi-task for many weeks now. :)

3) Do some surface design work - Done!

I've made good progress with my hand stitching. I can comfortably stitch 4 different stitches. In other words I don't have to keep checking my cheat sheet to figure out where to stick the needle next or even how to turn a corner, start the next thread or finish the last one.
4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open. 


Boy, was I tempted to shut down when I woke up to the news on November 9th. Instead, I treated the day like any other day. It began with my husband and I taking our usual 5K morning walk. This gave us the opportunity to share our fears and hopes in the aftermath of the election. Then it was on to the routine of the day. When times are unsettling having a plan and/or routine can provide a way to stay open and keep moving.

What will I be moving on to next week? The usual array of ongoing projects and new projects.

1)  Face Siren's Song

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Settle on a design for my next piece
5) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.


I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 11/04



This is the back side of Siren's Song.
I designed the fabric myself using the
photograph which the abstracted
front side is based on. Part of the
fun of designing fabric using
www.spoonflower.com is figuring
out which style of repeat best suits the
fabric. There is one seam running
vertically down the center. The other
repeats naturally occur in the yardage.
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

A portion of my twice weekly yoga class is spent on balancing poses. My teacher reminded us to accept the imbalance in the balancing poses this week. This is not a new directive, but for the first time I was struck by universality of the suggestion. How often have I and others whined about the imbalance in our life? Far too often. 

During October my studio plans and the demands of my job as Chair of SAQA's Exhibition Committee were in direct conflict. It was as though I was trying to balance on a round rock, covered with muscles and seaweed, pummeled by ocean waves. Everything I tried to do to stay on that rock was useless. What if instead I let go, perhaps fell into the ocean and enjoyed being buoyed up by the salt water, floating on the surface and letting the ocean take me where it would? Perhaps I would land on a tropical island.

All the demands of my job melted away this week and I had my first 3 full days in the studio week in months. Nirvana! Not exactly a balanced life, but certainly a life I embraced fully and relished greatly. 

What did I do with this gift of studio time? I devoted 100% of it to stitching, both free motion quilting and hand stitching, as you can see.

1)  Continue quilting Siren's Song - Done

A detail from the back side of Siren's Song.
If you click on the image (or any image in
the post) you should be able to see an enlarged
image. Each pebble is approximately a
quarter inch in diameter. 
I set a goal of running through 2 bobbins worth of fine thread daily. That was all I managed the first two days. I snuck in a bonus few hours on a non studio day emptying approximately half a bobbin's worth of thread. On the third and final studio day of the week, I finished the half bobbin, plus two more bobbins worth of thread. This just may be a personal best. Yes, I am crazy enough to compete against myself.

2) Free motion quilting practice - Done

3) Do some surface design work - Done

I'm finely getting the hang of hand stitching, even trying new stitches and developing their rhythm quickly. I'm enjoying myself so much I just may have to make hand stitching a daily habit.
4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

There are tasks that must be done that I dread doing. The longer I procrastinate the more Herculean they feel. One of these is writing a monthly report to SAQA's Board about the latest happenings in the Exhibition Committee. I could spend hours with a therapist going over why this report is difficult for me. One way I stay open is promising myself I only have to take one step. That step can be as simple as sitting down at the computer and looking over the previous report or writing a list of what happened last month. The first step is always the hardest, it is the act of showing up. Once there the report nearly writes itself.

There will be difficult tasks to attend to amidst imbalance in my life next week. Even so, I know I will make time to be in my studio. When I do I will continue to work on the following:

1)  Continue quilting Siren's Song

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 10/28

Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

I spent time in the studio whenever life didn't have other plans for me last week. It wasn't the balance of studio/other life ratio I would have chosen. The reality is I made choices in the past which impact what life throws at me in the present. Would I make different choices if I could rewind the clock? Probably not. Even during the toughest, most exasperating, overwhelmed moments I am able to see the positive points of my choices. I have also learned that self care is not selfish, it is essential. 

Here is a list of some of the self care habits I have adopted over the years:

1) I apply scented body cream generously after each shower. Scents sooth me and the rich body cream keeps my skin from feeling itchy.

Hand stitching is could be added
to my list of things I do for self care.
The ring of Hungarian Braided Chain
Stitch is complete.
2) I begin each day with a combination gratitude journal and morning pages. This reminds me just how fortunate I am and frequently reveals solutions to complex problems.

3) I exercise regularly. What I do varies by the day and the season. Most weeks I spend 45 minutes or more doing some sort of exercise every single day.

4) I indulge my love of computer games. The focus they require quiets my churning brain. 

5) I dress comfortably, but with care. 

6) I end my day with a book. There is always one on my nightstand - although now it resides on my iPad. 

I practice other self care habits, as well. I am especially aware of them and vigilant about maintaining them during the difficult times. They are lifeboat. They give me the strength, courage and energy to make it through trying times.

When I could, and even some times when I felt I couldn't, I headed to the studio to attend to the following:

1)  Continue quilting Siren's Song - Done!

I have moved on to creating locks of hair with
Stem Stitch. 
This is where I spent most of my time. I made significant progress, but there is still another week or so of quilting to do.

2) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

3) Do some surface design work - Done!

I finished the Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch circle on my sampler. Now I am trying my hand at Stem Stitch. I thought this would be easy since it was a staple of my teen years, when I did needlepoint and embroidery. Seems I forgot it. Fortunately, this stitch is straightforward so it didn't take long to have it feel natural again.



4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open. - Done!

My daughter gave me a coupon for the Escape Room as a birthday gift months ago. I convinced friends to accompany me and my husband. It was very tempting to let the coupon elapse or give it away. There is something about being locked in a room and having to solve clues to get out that both intrigued me and unsettled me. I stayed open and gave it a try. You won't get an endorsement from me, or the others in the room. We did OK - nothing stellar and didn't make it through all the clues. You are only given an hour. What I hadn't known and probably best that I didn't, was that 80% of the people who had done "our" room were also unsuccessful. I had assumed that the ratio would be the reverse - that the majority could succeed and it was more a question of how long it took you to get out.

I approach each new week with the same positive attitude. Just because I had less studio time than I anticipated this week, doesn't mean I won't be back to my more typical three full days in the studio next week. No matter how much time I have, my focus is the same. I will plan on doing the following:

1)  Continue quilting Siren's Song

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.



I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 10/21


Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Do you find yourself tongue-tied when asked questions about what you do? I know I do. Why? Perhaps it is because there are so many different ways to answer the same question and how to choose the right response for the one inquiring can be tricky. 

Siren's Song is coming along
nicely. I've quilted most of the
light and blue background sections.
Now I am finishing up the mid value
greens. Such a large quilt,
72" H x 56" W, intensely quilted
does take many hours and multiple
spools of thread.
One question that has me stumped no matter what answer I give is, "How long does it take you to make a quilt?" Here are some possible answers:

1) The snarky response: As long as it takes.

2) The precise answer: 295 hours 33 minutes and 26 seconds. OK, that might be  snarky, too, but it is fairly close to how long it will take me to make Siren's Song. It will be my primary project for close to 20 weeks. I do wonder if anyone asking the question really wants to know the exact time it takes.

3) The honest answer, which can also sound a bit rude: A lifetime. Each quilt made teaches me something that I can choose to bring forward into the next one. 

4) What has just occurred to me that I might try out the next time: However, long it takes, it is worth it to me. Every minute, even when I am struggling, is a joy.

This week I got to spend many solid blocks of hours free motion quilting Siren's Song. Yes, it was a joyful week:

1)  Continue quilting Siren's Song - Done!

2) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

This is a detail from this week's progress.
Reminder, if you right click on the image a new
window should open and you will see an
enlarged version of the image. Much
easier to see the quilting that way. :)
3) Do some surface design work - Done!

I continue to do a little hand stitching most days. My Hungarian Braided Chain stitch is finally becoming second nature.
4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open. - Done!

My old hiking shoes were perfect. They provided just the right amount of support. There was plenty of room for my toes to feel comfortable. My heels stayed firmly in place. No riding up and down resulting in dreaded blisters. However, I had literally worn them into the ground. The tread was nearly non existent, and with a rubber sole they can't be resoled. Still I wore them. Looking for replacements, but never finding the right ones. Several weeks ago I bought replacement hiking shoes. Did I wear them? No, I shut down, fearful of actually walking in them. What if they didn't work out? Today, I took the plunge. I did my usual 5K tour of the neighborhood. No blisters. 

I'm looking forward to continuing the joy with more of the same next week:

1)  Continue quilting Siren's Song

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.


I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 10/14



Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

I've had a Tale of Two Cities kind of week. In other words "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." There was even a moment when I had to dig deep and be my best self by fessing up to a mistake. I was unaware I made it more than a year back. It has produced  some very uncomfortable results. So, the conclusion, of the book, "It is a far, far better thing I do" is ringing true, too. One would think with all this drama that I would have had very little studio time. That was not the case.
In hind sight, I should have quilted this
before sewing it into the quilt. Sigh. 

1)  Continue quilting Siren's Song - Done!

I'm not sure how many hours I logged quilting Siren's Song, yesterday was pure joy. I finished quilting the water portion of the sunset picture. The bronze metallic thread was the perfect choice to capture the sunset reflection in the water. Even better it only broke once. Metallic thread is known for being very, make that VERY fussy. My tricks, a big eye needle and Sewer's Aid applied to the spool. It is also when FMQ practice pays dividends. The quilting motion must be fluid in order not to apply any torque to the thread.

Once I finished quilting the image I could return to quilting the background. I quilted for hours. The repetitive rhythm of doodling circles was just the relaxation I needed.

2) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

Once again Siren's Song fulfilled this obligation. :)

3) Do some surface design work - Done!

The Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch is
running along the top border. The other
stitch is the Palestrina Stitch done on the
right with 2 strands of floss and on the left
with #8 pearl cotton. Clearly, a thicker thread
is essential for thread work to show.
I'm not getting nearly the amount of hand stitching done that I would like to. Thanks to one of my blog followers, who brought the Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch to my attention, I gave that a whirl. Mary Corbet has posted many short video's each demonstrating a different embroidery stitch. I stumbled upon one last week when I wanted a link for my blog. This had several people writing me on how after viewing the link, they checked out her goldmine of videos. Do watch Mary's videos if you want to add hand stitching to your lexicon.

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open. - Done!

My mistake was very upsetting to me. I hold myself to such high standards, especially when what I do impacts others, that I just wanted to escape by shutting down, or wishing the problem away. Instead I faced it head on and admitted that I was human. I didn't try to cover it up or point the finger at someone else. Instead I apologized. Was it cathartic? No. Did it solve the problem? No. Have I moved on, maybe just a little. What I can do is look myself in the mirror and know that I did the right thing.

One way I work through emotional upset is through my art. There is something about the creative process that is very healing. Fortunately, I am at the perfect point in my work where the decisions have been made and the work left to do stress relieving versus stress provoking. 

The plan for next week is the same as this week. I'm looking forward to indulging in more rejuvenating studio time, focused on the following.

1)  Continue quilting Siren's Song

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.