Monday, December 28, 2015

A few of my favorite things. . .

This morning--in the studio for the first time in several days--I felt a deep gleam of joy. At least that is the word that comes closest to what I was feeling. Nothing extraordinary was happening: I was just matching perle cotton thread to the strip of fabric I was about to sew down. And even the color was not awe-inspiring--just a medium value gray that would by itself excite no one. But there it was--as I laid several tones of gray thread on the fabric, looking closely at each, I felt a physical sense of . . . joy.

It has been a strange December with new issues of concern arising every day within my circle of friends and family and broadening out to national and world events and personalities. It was looking like a bleak midwinter. And so this morning I sought balance, sought more things that brought me joy even amid the worry.

I noticed the mallards swimming in the pond below our yard and again these were not the showy wood ducks that raised their babies there this summer but just this everyday kind of duck. And I remembered how surprised and delighted I was a few days ago when, as I was watching the males circle around and upend themselves in the water, I could see their bright orange legs maneuvering under the water. Again that little glow spread through me.

Above the pond the sky was graying into a snow sky, suggesting that the predictions for our first snow of the season might be right, and I remembered the hushed feeling of anticipation, of joy?, that is always there as I watch the first three or four snowflakes of a snowstorm quietly fall--a scene I will miss tonight since the storm is due to start after 1 AM. It's a feeling I tried to capture in a little quilt I made a couple of years ago, called "Verge."

And there is joy when I settle into a book and realize I am in the hands of a master craftsman who knows how to tell a lively, meaningful tale. Later in the afternoon I began reading a Christmas present from my daughter--Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and there it was again. She began with the story of the poet Jack Gilbert, who wrote, "We must risk delight. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world." 

Coincidences also can bring me joy.

Peace and joy to us all this holiday season!

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Yesterday Tom and I walked Salisbury Beach with our very happy Goldendoodle, but the sea was not happy. It was a cloudy 4 PM and definitely moving on toward night up here in our part of New England. And the waves were as we had never seen them, although that can be said about most of our trips to the beach. But these waves were breaking with a loud boom right at the shoreline, and there was something a bit dangerous about them, not frightening, but enough to make all those ancient instincts take notice. The fact that we three were the only ones on the beach also hinted that perhaps we should not be there, that we were in forbidden territory or at least breaking a rule or two.

And I was aware of each of the elements of this scene and my reactions to them as Terra romped in front of us as we walked. The sea was as beautiful as it was dangerous, its shadowy blue gray stretching to the horizon where it met the lighter gray of the clouds. And where did the peace I felt come from? No absolute clarity here, just a complex, paradoxical mix of emotions and thoughts and images, like life.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Another new adventure

I seem to keep having lots of new experiences since I took on the biggest new experience and moved to Massachusetts. My latest adventure was participating in the Amesbury Open Studio Tour weekend. I didn't actually open my non-handicapped accessible studio but set up, with six other artists, in the public space part of the tour at the Town Hall.

My expectations were low, since I was warned that this was not the place to make big sales, but I decided to add some of my snow-dyed cottons and then made a few ornaments, both lower priced items than my artwork. 

Saturday dawned cold and blustery and, as I walked into town, I saw the first snowflakes of the season. It was not going to be the kind of day people wander from place to place. But at the end of the day even without the crowds of people passing through I considered it a success--I had met a number of interesting people, had taken another step in settling into this community, and had had several substantive conversations about art and about my particular kind of art. By the end of Sunday I had simply added more of the above and had sold enough ornaments and snow-dyes to more than recoup my entry fee. It was a worthwhile way to spend a November weekend!

Monday, November 9, 2015


Yesterday morning I walked into my studio and found myself inside a golden cube. A unique combination of morning sun and yellow maple leaves from the trees that filled the windows had lit up the room with a glow that even warmed the deepest recesses of my spirit.

What an amazing quilt this would make! But as I began to envision designs, that inner critic began to whisper that "yellow is not a popular color," and then took an even mercenary tone--"It wouldn't sell."

Where did that come from? I have been preparing for the town Open Studio Tour (another story) and have had to focus on pricing my artwork. I hadn't realized how that shift from making to selling could leave a residual shadow when I returned to making. But now I am aware of another aspect of this complicated undertaking called the creative process, and let's hope the Buddhists are right that awareness changes things.

And I will make that yellow, glowing quilt.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Day of Art

Sharing is part of the process that we call art, and today I got to share some of my art. Art as Quilt: Transitions in Contemporary Textile Media, a juried SAQA exhibitopened at the Fuller Craft Museum Oct. 3 and today was the opening reception. The museum itself is a work of art nestled in woods next to a large pond south of Boston, and the show was well lit and well hung with enough space between works to allow viewers to focus on each one.

It's still a thrill to see people stop and spend time looking at my work.

And here is Spun Gold, one of my textured pieces without viewers:

There were many pieces worthy of attention at this show. The curators wanted to show the diversity of contemporary textile work and the works captured that diversity. Unfortunately, I relied on my phone for the photographs so several were too blurry to use and I apologize for the quality of some of these that I am including:
Dawn Allen and one of her striking three-dimensional flowers, Poppy II

Janis Doucette and one of her lively deconstructed screen printed pieces, Out of the Blue

Sharyn Raiche's dimensional Nexus (She used webs and it doesn't look like Halloween at all!)

The Myth of Meditation, a lovely piece with lots of hand stitching by Sharon McCartney
A wall shot, beginning with the largest, Flotsam and Jetsam by Rosemary Hoffenberg, then  Windows of Orvietto by Linda Gallagher, and Flowing by Jeanne Marklin

Another wall shot that shows a portion of Vessel of Life by Janice Jones, Tune in Turn on Dropcloth #4 by Sandra Donabed in the middle, and Crevices #9 by Valerie Maser-Flanagan

And many more--there is a total of 35 pieces in the show. One of the curators from the museum, who gave a talk at our SAQA regional meeting before the reception distinguished between art and craft by describing craft as focusing in on itself, its techniques and materials, but art opens out and speaks to something beyond itself. You could feel that happening in this show.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Not for the Faint of Heart

Warning: if you have an automatic flight reaction when you see a spider, just skip this post. I admit that a spider crawling on the bedroom wall at night must be taken care of or it takes me a long time to get to sleep, but I am also fascinated by these many legged creatures many of which create those endlessly metaphoric webs.

We have been favored with the presence of several large garden spiders around the back of the house this year who have created astounding webs across the back door and the deck door (on the outside of each, by the way!). I had watched one yesterday morning wrap up a yellow jacket for a later meal and I silently thanked it for removing one of those annoying creatures. I checked out its progress after lunch and discovered another much smaller spider approaching it and assumed that somehow their webs had crossed until I really looked and the little spider was thrumming the web with its front feet and setting up some kind of vibration that made the web strands holding the larger one move in a similar rhythm.

This went on for more than ten minutes with the little guy inching forward and then jumping back, all the time playing the web strands. Was this a mating ritual? Finally he moved very close, almost touching her but every time she started moving her legs he would jump back. 

No longer strumming, he kept trying to get up close and personal, but at the same time realizing that there were some real risks involved in this activity.

This approach and retreat went on for about ten minutes more. Like many great novels, however, the outcome of this story is ambiguous. I needed a cup of tea and ran the few feet to the kitchen to turn on the tea kettle and when I returned the little spider was gone. Had she eaten him?  I thought at least a few legs would still be visible if this had happened. Tom, who had also gotten involved, found the little guy on the deck floor, still alive but looking rather dazed. Had she knocked him off the web? Bitten him? We will never know if he successfully passed on his genes or what caused his fall. Subsequent research did verify that I was witnessing a mating ritual and often the male does not survive the experience.

And what does this have to do with fiber art? First of all, these were beautiful creatures with all their striped legs and patterned abdomens. And this does motivate me even more to try to weave a web into my work, since it is such a strong metaphor for interconnectedness, but the problem is that I have to do in such a way that it does not look like a Halloween decoration. I'm still working on that. But it also reminds me how important it is to look around--"You can observe a lot by just watching," said the Yogi.

And just as a final note, here is some spider art created by a spider with a little help from the wind outside my dyeing studio door--under the deck:

The actual spider is in the center a little toward the top.

And, if you're still hanging in there, thanks for the company--and happy early Halloween!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Another MA First

What better way to spend a crisp fall day than creating some color--and that's what I and two other adventurous spirits did this week, as I introduced them to the art of dyeing. It was the first class I taught since our move to Massachusetts and a bit of an initiation for my basement dye studio, a perfect size for me and for me and a friend as I found out this summer, but I wanted to see if it would work with more. I had planned some patio work that would have given us all some more room but the coolness of the day kept us inside and we managed to negotiate the space without any toes being stepped on and only a couple of stray drops of color falling on the wrong place.

We were all exhausted but still smiling by the end of the day and they went home with a full five-step gradation in one color, rinsed, washed, and partially ironed and several containers each that would sit quietly overnight and reveal their delights the next day. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Graphically True

I am in the middle of an intriguing book.  Nick Sousanis, who calls himself a comics artist, has written a philosophical treatise in a comics format that links graphics and words, and thus the format itself becomes part of the subject matter, one of those mind-twisting connections I love.  As I read, I continually find myself saying---Whoa! That is really cool!--or making some equally erudite or perceptive comment.

Unflattening begins with demonstrating that, because of our binocular vision, we are primed from the very beginning to see things from more than one viewpoint and the implications of that are significant for us citizens of a complex world. But I am not going to follow that path. Instead, I will focus on an art connection he makes on the way to making another point.

We live in both mind and body, in our thoughts and in our senses, one obviously influencing the other. Conceiving a thought and perceiving an object are two different aspects of how we function but creating art joins these two in a dynamic way: the idea in our minds becomes visible and tangible (take note, fiber artists) as the work takes shape, and then we in turn are perceiving, looking at, touching what was once a concept only in our minds. As we work, we continually move back and forth between conception and perception. His explanation of this point is of course enhanced immeasurably with his clever graphics.

Perhaps this joining of the two aspects of our nature is one of the reasons we can lose ourselves so entirely when we are making art.

And if I haven't entirely lost you, thanks for the company!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Old Craft vs. Art Question

So is this gracefully spiraling piece by Joseph Walsh, Lillium III, art or craft?

Or what about Poros by Nathan Cravan, which is actually a window (those bits of light you see are actually the trees, lawn, sky outside--and this is not a great photo)?

And then there is arrythmia by Chung Im-Kima piece that suggests a quilt because it uses industrial felt that is made of blocks silk screened (with a pattern based on an electrocardiogram) and hand stitched together.

Those of us who are artists who work in fiber or who call ourselves art quilters have had to deal with the craft vs. art question for a long time, but some museums and art galleries are just now discovering it. My local big name art museum, the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, just opened an exhibit titled "Crafted: Objects in Flux," which seeks to demonstrate that "the distinctions between art, design, and craft are shifting and porous." I, of course, had to see it. And it was well worth braving the Boston traffic jams to spend some time with all of the above works, as well as many more, like the spiralling room created by panels of indigo-dyed fabric sewn together and framed by one wall filled with the indigo plants the artist grew to dye the fabrics.

This exhibit implies that the MFA is answering the question in favor of the label art, but the exhibit also suggests that such labels become meaningless in the large gray area between the two. Many of the items in the exhibit play with your perceptions so that you are forced to see the world just a bit differently and that is always a worthy experience. And several of the works were created using CAD programs and 3D printers, another direction artists are taking and the art world will have to get used to.

And, to be fair, the MFA already places such works as one of El Anatsui's magnificent metal quilts made from found materials in the contemporary art section, but still they maintain a contemporary crafts gallery that houses such gems as this little sculpture made of wood, Familiar Strangers by Betty Scarpino.

Unequivocally art, in my opinion. But that is the point, I guess: The use of the two terms is opinion and only becomes an issue when a particular piece or medium is excluded from a show simply because of the labeling process. 

It's a beautiful, thought-provoking exhibit and, if you're still reading, thanks for the company!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


I have been too busy living life to write about it but that element of reflecting upon events that is part of writing is also important. So I am beginning with a new resolve to post more often. And what a wonderful to event to start with: As a member of the Abstract Artists Group of New England, I have seven pieces in their annual show, Transcending Reality, at the Newburyport Art Association and feel honored to be part of this event because it is such a strong show. Here are some of the works:

Above on the end of the wall are two of  my pieces Arc, above, and Ballad, below, which is sold! But this gives you a sense of the some of the downstairs gallery space.

A beautiful piece by Cheryl Dyment

Another two small pieces of mine are in the bottom row--Etude and Lienage.

One of my scrunched technique pieces--Opening.

'Tis a Gift is center left

A wretched photo of World Without Many.

There were works by twenty artists and a total of 119 pieces in the show in many different media, oil, watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, wood sculpture, but I was still the only fiber artist. Our opening reception was an evening full of people and some great conversations explaining how my pieces came to be. This is my second show with AAGNE and I am very glad I have found this group.

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

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Learning New Tricks

I have used Photoshop Elements for a number of years. I knew the basics and always planned to do some tutorials to discover some of the many marvels that Photoshop could reveal but there was always something more important to be done. When Kathy Loomis, whose opinion I trust, sang the praises of the a Photoshop class for art quilters taught by the Pixeladies, I signed up before I had fully thought it all out. And I am so glad I did. I just finished the second week of lessons and I can do magic!

Here is an original photo, one that I had planned to delete because I couldn't get a good image of an amazing moon:

But those tree branches were still there:
It's still not a great photo but could be useful for something.

Getting a quilt to be absolutely square in a photo for an exhibit entry form can be so frustrating but now I can do it:

And there is much more to come.  While the lessons (4 a week) do require a bit of work, it is not overwhelming and their clear explanations make it easy to make progress. I used to guess and try something but was not sure why it worked and whether I could ever repeat what I had done. Now I have added some great tools to my collection!

If you get a chance, take their classes--unless of course you are among the many who already know their way around PSE.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

My Favorite Color

I haven't posted one of these in a while and usually I would post it with no words. But I had to comment on this one. One of the parks (Maudslay State Park) around here is the site of an old estate--the house is gone but the acres of grounds still feature paths that wind through hundreds of rhododendron and azalea bushes. I missed their blooming entirely last year because we had just moved and almost forgot this year. Yesterday I could have been working on this project I must get done but instead I opted for a lovely walk with Terra and Tom. Many of the blossoms were well past their prime but there was still plenty of beauty and intense color. My attempt to squeeze one more thing into an already crowded day was a success, although the stitching never got done.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Feeling Good!

One of the things I have treated myself to for a number of years is a massage every month or two. My hands, wrists, and shoulders that do so much concentrated work are particularly appreciative. The move from PA meant that I lost a massage therapist who knew exactly what I needed, but I was lucky on my first try here. Michelle took care of an aching wrist for me on the first massage and I needed to look no further.

Two weeks ago before she started to work her magic, she completely surprised me by asking if I would want to hang one or two of my quilts in her office--a beautiful space in one of the many old renovated mills around here that has a ceiling that goes up two floors in places, creating all sorts of nooks and crannies and tall white walls. She had not been in this space long and was still figuring out how to decorate it. I went home, looked at the quilts I had available and decided that I could do this. About a week later we arranged for me to bring in several pieces to see what would fit and what she liked. The quilts all looked magnificent on those white walls and she decided on four: a large piece, a medium one, and two small.

I finally gave up trying to photograph the fourth, the edge of which you can see in the above photo, since the window light kept dominating the picture. I was able to put labels with each piece, explaining a bit about them and including a price, and I also hung a brief bio under the largest piece, Unexpected. No sunshine hits these. What a great venue for textiles! I smile every time I walk past this building.

Hope you are smiling over some good news as well! Thanks for the company!

Thursday, April 9, 2015


I got to see how long it took to get to Manchester, NH, yesterday very early in the morning for an 8 AM class with Wen Redmond. I have admired her for a number of years since she is fearless in her experimentation that has produced some memorable work and has amassed a great of knowledge about a number of techniques. Yesterday was a class on using thermofax screens. I have used these in a couple of classes and felt that they would be a useful tool in my quest for more texture and depth in some of my pieces, but didn't know much about the process.
Wen at work
In 2 1/2 hours Wen answered my questions. I now know what kind of images work for this process and how to prepare a photo or make a drawing that I can use. I also know an inexpensive way to frame the screens using duct tape, and I know about various squeegees that work for small screens, the kinds of paint needed, various clever ways of printing images, and what is needed or not needed to set the images.

And I came away with four small screens that will be eminently useful and some sample fabrics printed from two of them:

The first is from a photograph of ice in a puddle.

It was the perfect class--gave me the information I needed and didn't leave me with a large unfinished project or oodles of samples that I will never use--well worth the fifty minute drive, particularly since the once forecast sleet and freezing rain did not happen. And I got to meet Wen, a person worth knowing!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Beginnings--and Endings

It's spring by the calendar but we are being reminded that just because we humans decide something should happen, nature may not always cooperate. Huge piles of snow from our record breaking storms are covering the beds where crocus and daffodils should be poking up. But I decided to manipulate nature a bit by bringing in some forsythia branches, and my attempts at human control did work this time:  the first blooms obediently appeared by March 20.

Our magnolias had been brutalized by ice falling off the roof, much to my dismay. I tried the same trick with them, and the broken branches gave us a brief glimpse of the beauty that might have been.

And I welcomed spring with a new project--making some tiny pieces, about 9" x 5" that, unlike the other projects I am working on,  I can finish quickly and perhaps sell. On the first day of spring I began happily to stitch down the shapes that I had played with the day before until I like the way they looked. Confidence goeth before a disaster. Here is what it looked like after two hours of sewing with a little over half the shapes sewn down:

The horizontal stitching was fighting with the vertical.  I thought for a while that more vertical stitching would help but this piece was just never going to create an integrated whole. And so it becomes another piece in the learning from experience pile. And I will begin again.

And, if you have found me, after my hiatus from blogging, thanks for the company.