Friday, December 28, 2018

Tis The Season

Almost every year I make Christmas ornaments and, since I am still recovering from the marathon stitching event this summer,  I was looking for a design this year that wouldn't require a lot of handwork. As I was pondering this problem, there on my cutting table were some perle cotton leftover ends from my current project that had piled themselves into a pleasing entanglement. So I pulled out my bag of thread ends (yes, I save the ends) and began to experiment. And here is my first attempt:

I created a square from my hand-dyes and then piled thread onto a doubled piece of Mistyfuse and trimmed a bit of the excess off around the shape. Then I held the iron on it extra long, hoping the extra fusible would burn away and held my breath as I removed the parchment paper that protected my iron. Most of the extra fusible was gone and I was able to remove the few curled pieces left with tweezers. Then I peeled the shape off the backing and ironed it to the fabric square. I did tack the design down at a few points with invisible thread and, as a finish, added a bead as a focal point.

This is a little bigger, more complicated design but I worried that the fusible on the back would not be enough to hold the layers. So I tried adding a layer of fusible on top as well but again ironing it enough so that it was not visible on the top threads. It took several attempts but the fusible haze was finally gone and the top threads still were held together. This one was double sided as well.

I made several more, some to sell at the Open Studio weekend and some to give as family gifts--the reason I could not post this until after Christmas day since at least one of the recipients looks at this blog sometimes.

Merry Creative Christmas! And may we each find joy amid all the surprises the New Year will bring us!

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Old and the New

Due to the hard work of Alanna Nelson, a historical signature quilt inscribed with many names from Melrose, MA, is on display at the Beebe Estate in Melrose:

Image may contain: indoor

Surrounding the quilt and the research that gives background to those names on the quilt and their connections with current Melrose residents, Alanna envisioned an exhibit of contemporary fiber art. She enlisted the help of five other fiber artists/friends to create "Stitched Connections." Five of my pieces are in the show and here are some glimpses.

Thread stitched by Sue Colozzi

Collage by Agusta Agustsson

Two of my pieces (Influence and Once) below two of Valerie Maser-Flanagan's

My piece ('Tis a Gift) on left and piece by Sue Colozzi on right

Historic homes with all their fireplaces and woodwork and wainscoting are wonderful places to hang fiber art. And this post is a clear example of the serendipity nature of this portion of my life. If I had taken time to plan ahead I would have realized I needed photos for a blog post and taken long shots of some of the rooms and I would certainly have made sure I included work by the other artists as well ( Janis Doucette and Alanna Nelson). But the reception came at the end of a long week and a busy day and I am left with snippets rather than a fully illustrated post. Ah, well. Next time. . .

Linked with Off the Wall Fridays. Check out some other fiber art posts!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Experiment 2

The end of the summer found me playing with scrunching fabric without sewing it down to give my hands a bit of relief from the intense stitching of the Explorations piece. While I am happily back at work stitching two pieces I had begun early last year, I took some time to play with the new technique as well. The result is "Allusion,"

named for the joining of two seemingly unrelated things.

Originally I had planned to lay down a neutral gray background (I began with black on the first two pieces) and then add lots of color, but I liked the way the gray on the heavy texture was so evocative of rock, of stability, but weathered and changed by time that I decided to let that make its statement. I broke the textured background into two parts, which I also painted with several layers and the piece began to suggest the contrast of flow and connection that represents life. I added a circle for focus but also for the cycles of the seasons, the endless return. And to this piece I added stitching, not on the texture but to add texture to the open space--and to see how stitching and paint interact.

As I was figuring out how to wrap all this texture on a wrapped canvas, I began reading The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin, one of my favorite wise women. I had just declared the piece finished when I read these words LeGuin gives to the main character, Shevek: "So then time has two aspects. There is the arrow, the running river, without which there is no change, no progress, or direction, or creation. And there is the circle or the cycle, without which there is chaos, meaningless succession of instants, a world without clocks or season or promises."

Hope this early December week is going well for all of you!

Linking with Off the Wall Fridays!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Show and Tell--with a Bit of Selling

Last week I got to try to make pieces that were not created to go together look like some kind of coherent whole in a small space. Since my studio is not exactly accessible to hordes of visitors, I participated in the annual Amesbury Open Studio Tour by setting up work on three panels in City Hall along with twelve other artists, always a challenge to those of us who don't work in tight series that produce closely related work.

The layout I worked out on the floor at home --

did not translate exactly when I put it up on the panels, but most of it worked:

Since I had done this before, I set off Saturday morning confident that I knew what to expect--always  a bad sign when you think you know the future. The predicted sunny morning became cold, rainy, and windy and a problem with the heating system in City Hall made most of the day uncomfortable for those who braved the weather and downright unpleasant for those of us who had to stay there. By Saturday evening I was asking myself why I was doing this. But Sunday showed me why. The day was brisk but sunny and I ended up selling a few things and having a number of significant conversations about my art and about art and life in general.

Making art is often a solitary experience because, for me, quiet encourages creativity. But on Sunday I was seeing glimpses of threads  of connection as people reacted to my work, I was strengthening the threads that form the community I now call home even though it still feels new sometimes, and I was creating new threads in the community of artists that inspires and encourages me. Like the spider I watched last summer who was diligently and accurately creating her web, I was working on those webs that connect us all in so many ways. It feels good to measure the success of the weekend in terms of making instead of selling.

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

Linking with Off the Wall Friday.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Wandering a New Path

After a summer of intensive hand stitching I was ready for something new. As I caught up on my reading, I came across Sue Bleiweiss' article, "Faux Metal Fabric," in Quilting Arts. It involved lots of scrunching of fabric, something I love to do, and then lots of paint. Since I had two small wrapped canvasses sitting in my studio reminding me I needed to do something for the upcoming 8x8 show at the Newburyport Art Association, it would be a small investment in materials to see where this technique might lead me--and I would perhaps fulfill my commitment to have something to enter in the show.

Sue's instructions called for silk habotai, which I didn't have, but I did have some silk organza earmarked for some dyeing experiments but it might work for this. So I began scrunching and ironing the silk until it was pretty thoroughly wrinkled. I added Mistyfuse to two background cotton layers sufficiently large to wrap around the canvasses and then placed the scrunched silk on top and ironed once again. All that texture was looking good!

Sue then slathers lots of black paint on the surface. I found a bottle of black acrylic that I had "won" at the end of a Jane Dunnewold class and that I thought I would never use; it worked perfectly! Another round of ironing followed. Sue's next step covers the surface with several layers of metallic paint so that it flattens out and begins to look indeed like metal. I couldn't let go of all that haptic-ness so I left Sue's path entirely and struck out on my own. I began to envision the metallic paint not covering the surface but highlighting the texture. And all that black was leading me to a question about whether there was hope in all that darkness. So I began adding suggestions of colors here and there and highlighting it all with glints of gilt.

The finished two, now named Hope Regardless 2 & 3, referencing an earlier piece I made in 2016, are meant to hang together:

They also work as single pieces and were hung separately at the Newburyport Art Association. The lighting in these photos highlights the texture a bit more:

And not a single stitch on either of them! My hands thanked me.

Linked with Off the Wall Fridays--check out what's happening there!

Saturday, October 27, 2018


October has been a celebration of a long journey. Last March I was juried into the regional SAQA exhibit Explorations, which required that I create a 50 x 30" piece in my hand-stitched heavily textured technique, the largest piece I had ever attempted in that technique. By the end of May, the date of my last blog post, I was completely immersing myself in stitching in order to finish the piece by the August 1 deadline. I made it! and then managed to put together a lightning talk (another first for me) for the opening reception in October.

Explorations is now hanging at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA, and I am honored that "From the Stillness" is part of this very strong show.

And I could sing the praises of the show for many a paragraph but I would like to spend my brief blog time praising the art behind the show. The main curators of the exhibit, Nancy Turbitt and Allison Wilbur of SAQA, along with Pam Weeks, the curator of the NEQM, were the masterminds and the master artists, designing and organizing and then encouraging and reminding all the artists as the months passed and enabling each artist's space on the wall and in the extensive catalog to be consistent so the exhibit became a coherent whole and yet allowing the information about each artist to reflect her own unique style and contribution.

A panel outlining the highlights of each artist's process accompanies each piece. Dixie Walker and Jeanne Holtzman volunteered hours of their time, as did several other SAQA members, to make this show the success it is. The exhibit is as much a product of their creativity as their own fiber art is.

Twelve fiber artists comprise the current show that runs until December 30 and the works of twelve more will be exhibited in April. If you can't make it to the show itself, the 150 page catalog is available from Amazon under Explorations: Journeys in Creativity

And now on with the rest of my life.

Linking with Off the Wall Friday.

Friday, May 25, 2018

New Work

My latest piece, titled Enigma, is done!

Another in my appreciating uncertainty series, it draws inspiration from the endless paths and nonpaths traceable in tree bark. The black silk is a commercial fabric but all the other cottons and silks are my own hand-dyes.

This is also another in my heavily textured series that is handstitched with perle cotton. It is 22 x 24".

Linked with Off the Wall Fridays!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Day

I awoke yesterday morning feeling punky in the stomach and punkier in the spirit. I have felt that the days are slipping through my fingers with little of substance getting done. This day looked to be another scattered collection of moments, betraying the scattered aspects of my mind. And so I began to record:

Brief strength training
Rinsed silk that I had dyed yesterday and put it in wash
Grabbed breakfast as I read the local paper
Rinsed silk final time and hung out to dry
Printed out a few Clarks Pond Watershed Association flyers to hang from doorknobs of new home                owners
Went to Newburyport Literary Festival: lecture by Stephen Greenblatt on newest book on the           
              Adam/Eve story
Watched Tom take part in Tai chi saber demonstration on waterfront
Ate less than spectacular lunch ( not good for the punky stomach) and spectacular scones from  
              bakery in Tannery
Listened to Ramie Targoff talk at Newburyport Art Association about her new biography of Vittoria                Colonna, an unknown to us but influential Renaissance woman, and saw Lit, a beautiful 
               exhibit by Sue Charles
Took silk off line and evaluated color
Discovered hostas coming up
Checked on peach tree with its first year of blossoms
Walked to town to sale at health food store
On way home met new owners of house around corner that we had been wanting to invite to join our                pond association
Talked to another neighbor who is going through a tough time
Helped Tom carry kayak down to pond
Walked Terra and met and talked for a while with owner of house around another corner who is
              usually walking unfriendly dogs so we don’t talk
Put out hummingbird feeder
Wished daughter and son-in-law a happy anniversary
Stitched on monster project while spaghetti cooked
Ate dinner
Answered emails while Tom did dishes
Stitched while watching The Post
Typed this list up
And the plan is to meditate, shower, read more of Ordinary Grace and then to sleep. . .  .

The list does not mention all the meaningful/meaningless exchanges that Tom and I shared nor does it mention the Great Heron on the pond that distracted me as I set up to do strength training and sent me searching for my camera so there are many unrecorded moments woven into this list. But perspective counts and laying out a day like this, observing this day changes perspective. Even though many things I planned to do did not happen, like raking the leaves off the bed in the side yard or clearing part of the pile of papers on my desk, the scattered aspects began to take on the look of a Christmas tree not filled with matching ornaments but full of a multiplicity of different ornaments each with its own story that made up a glittering, colorful whole. It was a day I lived not a day I wasted. My stomach and my spirit were much less punky at the end of it. And now let's see what this day brings.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Works of Art

One of the highlights of the past couple of years for me was my joining a new fiber arts critique group. There are seven of us (Betsy Abbott, Tarja Cockell, Sue Colozzi, Janis Doucette, Anne Kimball, Alanna Nelson, and me), who all live north of Boston about a half hour at most from each other, allowing us to meet once a month to talk about work we have brought and generally cheer each other on in our endeavors.

This month we took our very different styles and techniques and put them into a group exhibit, Art of the Stitch, at the Memorial Hall Library in Andover,  a beautiful old building that poses its own set of challenges for hanging artwork. Usually the artwork they hang is framed paintings by one artist, but after bringing in stacks of quilts and spending an afternoon trying to get the right balance and color flow we thought we had something that would work weaving between computer screens and exit signs--on a strong green wall. And after the library staff got the work up on the walls we were pleased. We had created another work of art from all our disparate pieces!

The photos I include require some imaginative connecting on the part of the viewer since there were few good vantage points to shoot from.

We also were able to fill a glass cabinet with smaller works and were surprised again with how well the works fit together:

On Tuesday we celebrate our work and our compatibility with an Artists Meet and Greet at the library. Seeing this exhibit in person (like seeing fiber art) is definitely preferable to seeing it in photos:


Linking with Off the Wall Friday!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Of Photos and Life

I found myself in the midst of a number of art-filled events this week but, since I forgot to take pictures, did they really happen? I have never been good at recording memorable events with a camera and this seems to have carried over into my art life, where artists are expected to record (and post) details of their work and accomplishments. And I too often fail at this.

On Thursday the fiber art critique group I belong to got together to lay out a show we will be having in April at the Memorial Hall Library in Andover, MA. Trying to coordinate the work of seven very different artists and fit it the space we had was a challenge but we managed to come up with what looks like a great show in less than three hours. It won't actually be hung until Mar. 3 so we'll see how our vision transfers into real life. But I took no photos so you will just have to imagine the many, many quilted pieces that ranged from the quiet tones of eco prints to the bright purples and oranges on an octopus laid out at various points in the library as we shifted pieces and suggested changes and gradually reached consensus.

Thursday evening I saw many of the same people at the artists reception at a new gallery in Malden, MA, called appropriately The Gallery. The show, curated by Janice Doucette, was an invitational called Land & Nature Scapes that brought together the work of 12 fiber artists in a beautiful new space. I, of course, took no pictures. But here is a photo of the piece I entered in the show, Forest Geometry.

I did get some support for my lack of photo-taking from an article published recently that suggests that we do not remember the events we take photos of as well as unphotographed events. So I can tell myself I was immersed in the experience  and photos would have changed that. And I did indeed enjoy catching up with fellow artists I had not seen in many months, meeting some new people, and looking at the inspiring work on the gallery walls. And, since good art attracts more good art, we were treated to a surprise concert by Northbound, an a capella group who sing Scandinavian music in amazingly tight harmonies. Top that off with a memorable meal at a local Ethiopian restaurant and that was one good day!

Hope your week has been good whether you photograph it or not!

I am linking (a bit late) with Off the Wall Fridays.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Tree Love

Yesterday morning I woke up to this scene outside my studio window:

After four years of living in New England, I now know what many of the varied weather events are that the term nor'easter covers. This one involved lots of very wet snow that broke tree branches and pulled down power lines. The branches of that elm tree in the middle of this picture are dangerously drooping but the fates were with us. We lost a good-sized magnolia in the front yard but no major limbs from our big trees and our power didn't even flicker. 

All this tree focus is a good introduction to my annual Valentine project. This year Tom received a little 10 x 9" quilt from me, inspired by the crossing limbs of a Norway maple and a slippery elm in our backyard. 

I have learned from experience that I need to plan these out so that they are small enough that I can get them done in a brief slice of time borrowed from the other projects I am working on but they have to be in a semi-finished state by Feb. 14.  This one still does not have the facing sewed down in the back and needs a sleeve and label but I was pleased with myself for getting it as far along as it is this year.

If you are still reading, thanks for the company and I hope winter is dealing kindly with you.

I am linking with Off the Wall Friday. Check it out!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Bugs Again

As soon as I made a definite decision to put my insect project (see this post for details) on hold for a while, this critter walked across my windowsill.

It's a Western Conifer Seed Bug and has become a common sight in our houses in the wintertime. As its name implies, its home should be in the western US but since the nineties it has been making itself at home in the eastern states, where I live. It is just looking for a warm place to be, as we all are doing, but this is a bug (and he is a true bug) I find very hard to like. Its revenge on anyone trying to crush it--or even move it outside--is an unforgettable smell. And it makes little difference that it didn't make it into the Stink Bug family but is classed with the Coreidae or leaf-footed bugs.   

Because insects are few in number in February, I carefully moved this guy into a magnifying jar without setting off a stink bomb and for the first time really looked at it. And there on its back was a beautiful glyph-like marking on its brown wing covers. So I took some time out from my bigger project to capture it in fabric, a simple reminder of the value of looking closely. 

And now back to this--

Linked with Off the Wall Fridays!

Friday, January 26, 2018


I could blame it on the several snowfalls that changed the view outside my studio window into a world I have seen so many times before but yet always looks new, always brings out that little breath stop of surprise. Just as no two snowflakes are identical, no two snowfalls are ever quite the same.

Or I could blame it on the ice that followed as I walked the dog with cleats on my boots and horror stories of falls friends or friends of friends have taken echoing in my mind.

But more of the blame for not writing a post rests on the nature of the series I am working on right now. I am well into three pieces using my heavily textured, hand-stitched technique.  I am making progress but I do slow art and I'm not sure anyone wants to read: "Finished ten rows of stitching and added three gradations of gray and a medium turquoise to the piece," even though I thought the week a magnificent success.

In lieu of writing about what I am actually doing as I focus on getting something done for a deadline,
I will include a photo of something that I'm putting on hold for a while--one of my insect blocks (see here if you don't remember this project). This five-inch square, patterned on the compound eye of a butterfly, which is made up of 12,000 to 17,000 photoreceptors or "eyes," was one I began last spring. But I did add the final few French knots this week.

So welcome to 2018, and, if you are still reading, thanks for the company!

Linked with Off the Wall Fridays