Thursday, December 29, 2011

Photo Doodle

Happy New Year!

Puddle Ice

Monday, December 19, 2011


About a month ago I was driven to the basement by the increasing noise on the ridge immediately across from our house, but I managed at least to get some dyeing done as I fumed and inveighed against our fate and the gas drilling companies who were changing our beautiful, quiet county. When the noise lessened enough for me to emerge and work again upstairs, I knew I had to set other projects aside and somehow put what I was feeling into fabric. So I did some sketches, pulled out my hand-dyes, and "Fracked" was born:
And yes, those seams on either side of the black line are not meant to line up. I wanted the presence of the trucks to be one of the issues this quilt dealt with and it just so happened that a motor grader and some dump trucks had been working recently on our road and there were lots of tire tracks in our driveway and in the soft soil on the roadsides so I could easily find a track to copy.  I finally settled on fused tulle for the tracks and it did just what I wanted. 
The quilt is now hanging in the VESTA show at the Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center and I have heard many comments from a number of people, most of them feeling that I was providing an image for their own feelings of frustration, dismay, even despair over the changes that are taking place here. But it is a complicated issue. We heat our home with natural gas, and I had always felt gas was one of the cleanest forms of energy, although I am finding that this particular form of extraction significantly lowers its cleanliness rating. And I certainly do not begrudge the elation of those residents who can stay in the place they love and make more than a subsistence wage or those farmers who can now afford to take a vacation or replace a leaking roof. 

And then there were the two women from Arkansas and Oklahoma (if I remember correctly) who were spouses of gas workers and who came to the opening reception and wanted to talk to me about my quilt. "But the gas workers are being very careful," they said, "and this area is still beautiful."  I tried to explain the changes I was seeing, things they might not notice if they were used to living in a more industrialized area, and the dangers we feared from a spill or a leak that would suddenly take away our drinking water or poison livestock or wildlife or the air pollution that would increase the likelihood of chronic or fatal diseases. And they spoke of their concerns of being ostracized. I felt we had a good talk because we were both honest about our views; I hope they felt the same way.

Actually, I had an easier time talking with them than with the woman who came up and said she appreciated the humor in my quilt. "Hmm," I said, "I hadn't thought of it that way."  "Well," she said," you could take the quilt either way--those tire tracks could be a good thing or a bad thing."  "Hmmm," I said.

And if you are still with me after this longish journey, thanks for the company!

The Shortest Day of the Year

A reminder to me today that Nature does not perform according to expectations like a well trained circus animal: a little snow was predicted for last night and I was going to combine a picture of that with one of Mary Oliver's insightful poems as a solstice post. But there was no snow and so I thought about a sunrise picture--too cloudy at sunrise. My last resort was to take my camera on my morning walk with Terra--too rainy to take the camera any further than the front porch.

So today we must find beauty in a puddle. . . .

and celebrate a cold December rain, the long darkness, and the coming light. Happy Solstice!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Challenge Finale

Earlier this week our local challenge group got together to share what each of us had made out of the "challenging" fabrics we had each been given two months ago. And here is what I came up with:

My main inspiration came from the flaming red hand-dye Louise had given me. Of course, the one hand-dye would be inspiring! The rest were all commercial prints, something I haven't used much of in a number of years. I spent many days contemplating those fabrics, but one morning after coming back from a yoga class, where we always end with what our teacher calls the flame mudra--palms of the hands pressed together in prayer position and then raised and held over our heads, I looked at the fabrics and realized I could use this image in quilt.  This is a meaningful pose for me, coming as it does after an hour of slowing down and focusing, and also reminds me of the flame hovering above the buddha's head on ancient statues.

I decided to try to create the flames with reverse applique and also to make the flames dark and the background red instead of the other way around. I made selective cuts from the Asian fabric that had a variety of gray patterns as well as some solid black areas and added some light gray of my own to create some value changes in the flames. I also decided to take a chance and make the flame off center by adding that strip of my own hand-dyed yellow down one side only.  Those pesky checks, which I thought I was going to have trouble using since they were too dominant as flames, became part of the border. So I ended up using all four of the fabrics given me, although the actual challenge only required us to use two.

The quilting was fairly simple with an outlining stitch around the flames, and I wanted some texture on the yellow strip so I added some perle cotton in a different pattern from what I had used before.
This little quilt measures about 15" x 11 1/2" and just about used up all the four pieces of fabric.

And this week we got to ooh and aah over all the quilts.  The fabrics were all different, of course, and the styles were amazingly different as well: Peggy's fancy circles that enabled her to use her circle stitcher on her machine, Louise's meditative Asian-inspired piece that became an homage to her mother, who had just passed away;  Anya's successful venture into improvisational curves inspired by Gee's Bend; a clever barn by Nancy that will help her grandson learn to open various fasteners; Dori's frazzled and frayed circles whose raw edges represented her mood at this time of year.
Susan, our seventh member, had hung around her grandchildren too much and ended up sick, but you can read about her adventures with the challenge on her blog.

I would say our group is off to a great start, wouldn't you?  And if you are still with me, thanks for reading.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Art with a Friend

A month or so ago a friend who had just moved to the Syracuse area from Missouri invited me to come see her new home and go with her to the Art=Quilts=Art exhibit at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, an irresistible invitation. Now driving the two-plus hours toward Syracuse at this time of year is challenging (and the reason I never got to the show last year), and the weather did what it could to make me question my decision to go yesterday:
It had snowed a good part of the evening before, but I didn't see a single snowflake fall during my drive, just glorious landscapes as the snow highlighted the lines of trees on the mountains.

I often like to see art exhibits and particularly quilt exhibits by myself, moving at my own pace without having to worry about someone else looking surreptitiously at her watch as I stand contemplating a particular piece, but my afternoon with Mary Lou reminded me of the advantages of sharing this experience. Mary Lou is not a quilter and probably saw more art quilts yesterday than she had seen in the rest of her life, but she is a keen observer and does sew. She quickly caught on to my need to stand back and then move close to a work, even calling me over to see the tiny red stripe in what looked like white lines on black from a distance in one of Kathy Loomis' quilts. 

And we looked for patterns together and tried to figure out techniques and commented on things that drew us to a particular quilt. We noticed different things and it made for a most enjoyable afternoon. Of course we were surrounded by strong works of art that were capable of holding our attention and worthy of the time we spent with them. I could have spent much more time there but the sun was continuing to move across the sky and I did not want to drive my entire trip home in the dark.

So thank you to the weather gods for allowing me to slip between snow storms and thanks, Mary Lou, for your hospitality and companionship!

And if you are still with me, thanks for your company as well!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Even More Local Art

Every December VESTA, a group of local professional artists and craftswomen, gather some of the pieces they have been working on over the course of the year and create an exhibit at the Gmeiner, the local art & cultural center here. Its opening coincides with the town's big holiday festival, Dickens of a Christmas, when Main Street is closed to traffic and becomes wall-to-wall people ebbing and flowing around vendors set up on the sidewalks. I have no pictures of the crowd this year because I spent the whole day talking to visitors to the gallery.

We are an eclectic group as this shot of a corner of the gallery shows:
Here you see hand-dyed and hand-woven scarves by Ruth Ann Miller, baskets hand woven from willow Patty Dillman grows herself, aprons made by Barb Most with pockets made from old handkerchiefs and other linens or photographs from the thirties, cards designed and hand colored by Linda Hoerner (who also makes jewelry), a quilt or two, of course, and on the bench an in-progress lace project by Judie Mainus. 

Kathy Cummings painted, among other pieces, a three-part series in oil, cleverly depicting a little girl's coming-of-age through her shoes.
And Alyson Leach, who also works in oils, included several pieces from her Vanishing Landscapes series in the show:

My photos of Alice Mickey's beautiful clouds done in pastels that you can see on the back wall of the gallery  need a retake and will be added later.

And there was more: jewelry made from re-purposed elements by Ali Taylor, glass beads and jewelry by Kathy Riley and Jen Kuhn, who also makes felted art fabric from alpaca wool.

I think our diversity adds energy to this exhibit; it certainly adds it to our conversations when we get together.

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!