Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Colors of Snow

After a couple of wimpy winters, we are back to the real thing--with a reasonable amount of snow and enough cold temperatures to keep it around for at least a bit.  I wasn't going to bore you with my snow dyeing adventures this year. My first round from a deep snow a couple of weeks ago yielded the usual results:

And then we had three or four inches last week and I almost didn't even try because the snow was very light and dry.  The first one I ironed was very nice but fairly monochromatic and I should have learned by now that I need contrast to get the best effects-and the blue I dripped by mistake on the bottom right side wasn't enough contrast:

The blue mixed with black was more exciting:

and then there was the jewel!
This has lots of the chrystally, petally texture that I associate with the most successful snow dyes and the colors are magical.  Unlike my usual technique, which involves pouring already mixed dye concentrate on the snow, this time I sprinkled dye powder on the snow.  Now there are problems with this because the  dangerous time when working with dyes is when they are in powder form--and sprinkling powder on the snow does tend to get more powder in the air than I like.  I may try using the two colors--sapphire blue and plum--in concentrate form and see if it is the colors and not the technique that produced these results.  Of course, the quality of the snow is another variable and that I will not be able to reproduce.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Venn Valentine

I have always loved Venn diagrams--those intersecting circles that we played with in math--perhaps because I could more easily find meaning in these connected graphics than in 2x + 3y = 10, and I have always wanted to use them in a quilt. This year when searching my visual inventory for an image for the mini-quilt I make for Tom each Valentine's Day, those Venn diagrams popped up.  What better image of intersecting lives where the place of intersection becomes even richer for the combination of two entities! And so I began to look for an interesting fabric for the background.

I had just about decided on a nice pale yellow green with the hint of vertical stripes that I had made while experimenting with folding fabric when I pulled out a piece whose personality pretty much overwhelmed that shy, retiring green. The energy in the piece was the result of pouring two different colors over a piece of fabric, a red purple of some kind and a cerulean-type blue on opposite ends of the container. As the two flowed into each other and combined, they produced some wild results. Parts of that fabric were never going to play nicely with other fabrics in a pieced quilt but they could make a great whole cloth. And besides, the turbulence of this fabric would be just another part of the symbolism, since our lives together have never been dull and we are facing a particularly challenging year of change.

So after much contemplation, I cut the fabric, opting for a 10 x 16" format, sandwiched it and began to quilt:

As I was halfway done, I had a twinge of worry since I often make quilts for Tom in greens, golds, and browns but it was too late to turn back.  Should have listened to that intuition.  My always supportive husband struggled to be enthusiastic when he first saw the quilt and finally admitted that he had trouble with the colors. I, on the other hand, love these colors. But I haven't entirely given up hope that this quilt will end up in the intersecting portion of those two spheres because he spent some time looking at it again today and decided he was beginning to like it.

And if our two spheres have intersected in the reading of this post, thanks for the company!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Beginning

What, you may ask, is this dirty, sorry-looking piece? It is my very first entry into the world of quilting! One of the perks of preparing to move and having to rummage through rarely disturbed spaces looking for things to recycle or throw away is that I sometimes find a little surprise. Sometimes that surprise is the body of some long dead insect but today, hidden all the way in the back corner of the cubby in our dresser was the little quilt top that I made so long ago (1979?) and then turned into a pillow--a pillow that was used for many years, as the stains and wear attest.

I made this top in a class at a quilt shop in Pittsburgh, where we were living at the time (I can't remember the name of the shop or the teacher), and it was both pieced and quilted by hand.

There was nothing complicated about it, but something about creating pattern with fabric and thread began to turn my world and my view of it in an entirely new direction.

And if you are still reading, thanks for the company on my little trip back in time!

Friday, February 1, 2013


I now have a clear excuse for not making major progress on my artistic journey this year. While visiting our children during Christmas, Tom and I bought a house. This, of course, was not a spur of the moment decision but the product of much discussion and soul searching and then six months of house hunting with several adventures along the way.

But now that a real house is in the picture, I am realizing all the physical and emotional energy this transition will take. We will be living in two places until Tom retires and then will move completely into the new house. We will be moving into a house we love and into an area we are excited about getting to know, but we are leaving a house we love and a place where we have put down deep roots.

And the two places are polar opposites.  We now live among mountains and farms in rural Pennsylvania on 24 acres.  We will be moving to a city setting north of Boston, where we are a ten-minute walk to downtown in a house with a tiny backyard--but it is a backyard full of trees that terraces down to a "pond" that is more like a small lake.  So we will have close neighbors on either side but only water in the back.

While I am telling you all this to explain why the amount of my posts and my work in general has not lived up to my expectations in the past couple of months, it also is a rather circuitous way to introduce a quilt I finished before Christmas.

Perhaps you might remember what I, for want of a real name, called the dotty quilt, begun after I had been working with lots of grays and blacks on a very structured piece and felt the need to just abandon myself to color for a while. So I made lots of somewhat circular shapes--didn't even want to force myself to make nicely rounded circles-- from a great variety of hand-dyes.

I finally put it up on my working wall last summer and decided to devote some time to making something out of it. As I played with arranging the dots, I began to visualize a more structured, more dense central section with perhaps only a few dots on the perimeter. For a while I even had the outer dots escaping or fleeing the over populated center.  But soon I began to see this quilt as a reflection of the choices Tom and I were making and the two sections became perhaps more balanced in my own attitude--as if the value of each is still being weighed.

The quilting as well emphasizes difference:
The quilt has developed other meanings for me as I have worked on it and I ended up christening it "Many/Few" to keep all those meanings as possibilities.

The dots are hand appliqued and the blue frame is hand couched.

And now my main New Year's resolution is to somehow keep experimenting with fabric, thread, dye, and paint while life descends into chaos.  Can she do it, ladies and gentlemen?  Stay tuned.

And if you are still reading, thanks for the company!