Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

After a three- or four-year hiatus, I was inspired this year to make ornaments again--but only a few and mostly for family members.  And because I limited the number I enjoyed making every one.

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas celebration is the journey of the Three Kings--three obviously intelligent human beings who find themselves wandering around after a star and who are driven by such curiosity that they can't send a servant or an annoying brother-in-law to check things out but have to see for themselves what is going on. So my inspiration began with the number three.

I then decided to use some of the hosta flower stems I had harvested in late fall. For some reason they had turned a beautiful mahogany color this year--or perhaps they do this every year for a brief time since the ones I neglected to harvest are now the usual faded tan color. And they turned out to be hollow!

Fabric was next and I rummaged through my drawer of African fabric that I love, but I have rarely had the courage to cut it or the project to use it in.  And now I had a project: a patterned background would be a perfect contrast for the plain stems. One of the cool things about African fabric is the damask-textured fabric they start with before they dye or batik it. (This shows up a little in the purple but not at all in the blue.)  The blue fabric came from a project, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, to give very poor women a skill by teaching them batik.  More of the fabric can be seen on the back of the ornament.

I made the fabric squares first with batting sandwiched in the middle.   Then came the tubes and beads.  And it was done!

Hope you have had much to celebrate this year!

Peace. . . .

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I planned to take a break from Christmas preparations today and write a blog post about one of several projects I have finished recently, but every time I sat down to write something I found myself thinking about the devastating events that took place in Connecticut.

When 9/11 happened I was working on a quilt that will forever be associated for me with that event and became a kind of affirmation in the face of evil.  Now I am working on a quilt with a light in darkness theme and at first I thought, Of course, this will be a way of working through this.  But the darkness of my quilt is rich and warm and full of mystery, not the jagged, cold, terrifying darkness of this event.

Unlike those parents and the families of the slain teachers whose world has been forever changed, we will all somehow absorb this shadow into our lives, along with all the other shadows we have experienced and we will continue on. Like moss covering a fallen tree, daily life will cover over the strong emotions we are all feeling right now.  But will we have learned anything?  Will we actually move from just emotion into action?  As a nation, we must consider two questions:

  • If Adam Lanza did not have semi-automatic weapons capable of spraying hundreds of bullets, how many of those children would still be alive? 
  • Do ordinary citizens need to own such weapons?  
Can we remember the violence that was the last image those children saw and hold on to the painful horror of it long enough to answer these questions?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Being Green

Our word theme for the most recent challenge for Art 1016 was "green."  I was going to choose the obvious and do another monochromatic quilt that I really enjoyed for the my local challenge group, but then I got to thinking about the "save the earth" kind of green and set out to make an earth friendly quilt.

The fabrics had to be recycled, of course, and what leaped to mind were pieces of silk from parts of Japanese kimonos I had bought several years ago, mainly sleeves.  A morning's search uncovered where I had stashed them away, after carefully taking out the hand stitching. One of them just happened to be green--a very complex green with a hint of dark shadowing and small regular dots that appeared and disappeared in different lights.  But even more important were the delicate leaves hand painted on the fabric with a surface sprinkling of tiny light green dashes.  I had discovered this fabric in the lining of one of the sleeves I bought, supposedly a bit of beauty that only the wearer would know about. I finally screwed up my courage to cut into this fabric and I began to lay out my challenge quilt:
Usually I use some kind of iron-on stabilizer when I work with silk, but this time in keeping with the green theme, I gave up the additional chemicals and electricity and worked only with the fabric. I love the way the silk drapes and flows anyway.  I also did all the piecing, appliqueing and quilting by hand, although I did cheat and use the machine to attach the facing since I was running out time and wanted a sturdier edge to the piece than my hand stitching would give it.

Although I love my hand-dyes, I have to say that working with fabrics with a history adds another dimension.  At one point when I was quilting the bottom right black square I noticed a tiny white mark on it and thought, Oh, no--the fabric has a flaw in it.  But it turned out to be a tiny white thread from the hand stitching someone else had done on this same piece of fabric.

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

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Today was the end of an exhausting week. A few days ago I and seven other members of Vesta, a group of professional artists and craftswomen, had set up our annual show at the local Gmeiner Art & Cultural Center. Last night began the opening, which continued all day today, coinciding with our annual town extravaganza called Dickens of a Christmas, when a good chunk of Main Street is closed to traffic and is taken over by vendors, strolling musicians and performers, and a gazillion tourists.

My stint at the Gmeiner means hours standing on my feet and eating way too many cookies but it also means seeing people I haven't seen in a long time, spending time with my fellow artists and artisans, answering questions about the pieces I have in the show, selling a piece or two, and engaging in some interesting conversations about art in the abstract and in the particular.

And now I am in that delicious state where I can do nothing more and nothing needs to be done.  Without guilt, I can choose to do or not do anything.  Of course, I can also choose to go to bed. . . .

And if you have chosen to read this entire piece, thanks for the company!