Friday, November 26, 2010


On Monday VESTA, the artists' group I belong to, sets up its annual month-long exhibit at the local art and cultural center, and so I am busy with preparations, the non-creative part of being an artist.  I don't have that many pieces in the show--just nine smallish wall hangings and quite a few doodle squares, but the number of things that must be done seems to keep multiplying.

Yesterday I discovered one piece without a hanging sleeve and another without a sewn-on label.  Then there are the hanging tags for all the doodle squares that must be made and attached and, after I decide what to put on each wall label for the bigger pieces, including a price for those I am selling, I need to print them and cut them up.   I am, of course, still binding a couple of doodle squares. And I want to photograph all the pieces just in case any of them goes home with a new owner.  And the list goes on.  I haven't even mentioned the time spent helping to set up the show.

There is a certain amount of excitement to all this.  The exhibit opens the weekend of our local Dickens of a Christmas celebration, when three blocks of Main Street are closed off and hordes of tourists as well as current and former residents descend upon our small town. The art center is at the edge of all this activity but still benefits from the increased numbers of people.

Since sales are far from guaranteed, money is definitely not the force that drives me to put in the hours of preparation.  So why do I do it?  Perhaps a strong case of egotism, a desire for attention?  Always a possibility, but I can think of many far easier ways to get attention.  And since I usually have to take a couple of deep breaths before I even show my work at the guild meeting, I am not sure I am that intent on trying to grab center stage.  But, although I am not usually trying to convey a message, there is a certain amount of communication involved in my quilts, perhaps of the beyond-verbal variety (or sub-verbal, if you prefer), and that happens more easily if someone actually sees them.  So an exhibit like this with all the time it takes can be a natural part of the creative process--at least as I am looking at it today.  Now back to sewing on that sleeve.

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

Monday, November 22, 2010


I have been working regularly on two projects, but by the beginning of last week I realized I was dragging.  On my way toward the stairs to my workroom, I would notice the computer and check e-mail, even though I had done that less than half an hour before.  I even spent one morning getting a window open and washing the accumulated dust and spiderwebs off a storm window that hadn't been cleaned in--well, let's just say a long time.

I'm liking where these projects are going so I was certainly not ready to abandon them, but I kept thinking about the most flamboyantly colored and most unstructured of those art quilts I had seen at the Packwood House, and these were far from what I was working on.  One section of one of the projects--that one I am working on now--involves lots of little pieces in various shades of gray, and I had worked with a lot of gray this summer in my chickadee quilt.  While the other project was more free form in conception, the execution of it requires some concentration and detail work. I needed some color and some freedom!

So I went in search of a good background--a deep purple hand-dye seemed appropriate, put it up on my working wall and then started cutting out variously colored roundish shapes.

I have no idea where exactly this dotty piece is going at this point, but I smile every time I pass it, and I am not only back to working on my other two projects as well, I am working on them with enthusiasm.  It's amazing what a little color will do.  By Friday I even had to force myself to take a break to vacuum and finish putting a meal together in preparation for dinner guests that evening.

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Something Old Something New

No, it's not a wedding, but I got to satisfy my love of art quilts and antique quilts this week.  On Monday I attended another session of a quilt study group I have joined, hosted by the Packwood House Museum in Lewisburg, PA, about an hour and a half from where I live.  The Packwood House has acquired a growing collection of old quilts, many from the nineteenth century and most probably from Pennsylvania.  At the study sessions several old quilts are brought out, spread on a prepared table and we talk about the pattern, color, stitching, binding, batting (if we can see any), possible age, and anything else that seems appropriate.

This week we began with a peek at a dazzling pieced silk quilt from possibly the 1840s--too fragile now to even take out of its box.  Then we got a good look at a crazy quilt from around the 1890s and this was a beauty.  The range of fabrics kept us busy for a long time.  My favorite was an ombre that shaded from almost white through a pink to a darker red but also moved from flat weave to a fuzzy weave that looked almost like fake fur.  Didn't know there was fabric like that at that time.   There were tiny paintings on pieces, embroidered silhouettes and animals, initials to wonder about.  And of course, the traditional spider for good luck.  This quilter was taking no chances because, as one of our leaders warned us, the quilt was "crawling with spiders."

Then on to a patriotic quilt of appliqued tan eagles around a red medallion center--not a very striking quilt until one of the leaders reminded us that the tan was probably green, which, because of the fugitive nature of the dye had lost its blue component and turned tan over time, and this was actually a traditional red and green quilt.  And so the afternoon went.

In the morning I had gotten to feed the other part of my artistic soul.  The museum was featuring an exhibit (click on Artists Series) of art quilts from two local art quilters, Paula Swett and Cathy Stechschulte, as well as part of a small travelling exhibit from Studio Art Quilt Associates, and I arrived early to spend some time with these quilts before the meeting.  Paula Swett plays with line, color, and quilting stitch to create glowing masterpieces.  I particularly like the piece she made from a vinyl tablecloth that had for years protected her table as she painted.  She cut it into strips, wove them together and then sewed them into a totally abstract piece complete with pearl cotton quilting that demands your attention.   Cathy creates layers on cloth with dyes and silk screens and thermofax that look three dimensional from a distance.

I have no photographs to show for my day in Lewisburg since photos were not allowed.  I could have taken a  photo of the outside of the museum, but I didn't think of that (probably just got a D- in blogging school for that oversight).  But the whole point of that day, of my driving for three hours, is that virtual reality has its limits.  Looking at a picture of a very old quilt is just not in the same category as standing over it, touching (albeit with white gloves) this fabric that a quilter worked on 150 years ago, or spending time looking for the place where she joined the cording that she used instead of binding.  And a photograph can never replace being in the presence of fabric art where you can see how moving closer or further back changes what you see in the piece or how the light changes the texture of the piece as you change your position.

All of this is not a startling new discovery on my part.  In fact, it's probably been said so much it's become a  cliche, but it doesn't hurt to reexamine the cliche, particularly in a world where people are equating online access to information with knowledge and, even worse, with wisdom.  Sometimes you just have to be there--and spend some time there.

And if you are still spending time reading this, thanks for the company.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


It's raining in northcentral Pennsylvania--one of those cold, constant November rains.
And while I am not motivated to take the dog on her long walk of the afternoon, I have been motivated to quilt.  My husband teases that my studio is actually our whole house, which is not exactly true, but, when I think about it, every room except for his study and the guest room has been the site of some quilt-related activity--and even the guest room is a great place to store quilts when it's not in danger of being used.  

Today, since one of my projects involves a lot of hand sewing of bias strips, I am seizing the opportunity to work in one of my favorite spots: a bay window that takes up one wall of our dining room.
Years ago we picked up an old rocking chair that ended up in that window.  It has gotten older and uglier over the years, but fits the space perfectly and circles on its base so that you can turn to face the room or to look out at the valley and fields outside.  It is also perfect for handwork.

In the summer the angle of the sun is such that it doesn't heat up this area, and it is the next best thing to being outside to sit here and work with both windows open on either end.  One of the things my aging eyes love about this spot is the light, and, even though my quilts are a bit different from theirs, I feel connected with all those generations of women who quilted with natural light.  

These windows face south, however, so in the fall and winter, they do their job of heating the house as the sun moves further and further into the dining room.  You can have too much of a good thing, and the sunny days become too hot and glaring to work in this space.  It's one of those paradoxes that I need light to follow the marking lines but too much light obscures rather than reveals.

Today the light is perfect, and I am enjoying sitting quietly with Terra, as I slowly move this quilt along.  So I will return to my work, and, if you are still with me, thanks for the company.