Monday, November 30, 2009

Crossroads...A Work in Progress

I have no idea if the colors that Nancy Crow used in her quilts have specific meaning - my guess is that they do. Before choosing colors for my quilt, I gave some thought to the meaning of the word "Crossroads" and how that might guide me in the selection of colors for my quilt.

Like all good bookworms, I turned to my dictionary for a definition. Here's what I found: "Cross~road, A road that crosses another; the place where one road intersects with another; the point at which a fateful decision must be made."

So, I got to thinking about how one thing leads to another and how we all like to think that we are in charge of our lives but how it can all be changed in the blink of an eye by a tiny action like stopping for a cup of coffee or being late for work because you had to change your too-tight shoes.

Then there are the bigger things like where you grew up, who you spend time with and where you work. I thought of all the "big" things in my life and assigned colors to all of them - some based on the actual color (like my high school colors), others by using the first letter of a name (like lavender, chartreuse & lavender to represent my lifelong friends Lisa, Colleen & Louise). Coming up with colors to represent my parents was easy, my Mom had amazing blue eyes and my Dad has brown eyes, like me (my three siblings all have Mom's blue eyes).

I selected the fabrics based on the "thing" I was trying to depict, not taking any consideration of how I'm going to make all of this work together visually. After all, my life has been a patchwork - who knew that would all work together? But, somehow, it has, and it does.

Funny that I am working on this now, the week after Thanksgiving. Though my life is pretty ordinary, I feel so gifted. I was born to amazing parents and was raised in a fun, stable and loving home (where my father still lives). My sunny yellow bedroom was my favorite room in the house. I have three loving siblings who sometimes drive me nuts but who would always be by my side if I needed them - and I, by theirs. My three best friends from childhood still live close enough that we have dinner a few times a year and growing up with them in the charming town of Shrub Oak was a joy. I loved High School and that it helped me to accomplish my first career goal of becoming a professional florist (I later convinced my Mom to buy a flower shop, depicted by the green & raspberry slice of fabric). I later returned to Mercy College for my Accounting degree & fell in love with the best husband I could hope for who also brought three step-kids into my life, followed by five grandchildren. All of that has been converted into the colors I've used for the strips in my Crossroads quilt. It will be a challenge to make all the colors work together but, that's o.k., what's life without a few challenges?

Books I Love

If you are looking for books to put on your "wish list', here are a few I recommend... The first one is by artist Andy Goldsworthy, titled "A Collaboration With Nature". The artist uses materials found in nature to create fascinating sculptures - some that last only a short time, like those made of thin sheets of ice from a stream. The photography is beautiful and the concept is very inspiring - it will be fun to find opportunities to work with Mother Nature's art supplies!

Another book that I love is "Everyday Sacred" by Sue Bender. It was originally loaned to me by a friend who said she saw me in the pages, which made reading it even more intriguing for me. The book is about a bowl, seeing with new eyes, appreciation, and being open to the possibilities before us. It is a lovely book, one that I am now reading for the third time. I find the journey through the pages to be both comforting and energizing. I loved the book so much that I bought six of them to give as gifts. Buy it for yourself & put it in your stocking as a gift from Santa!
The third book on my little list is "Caffeine for the Creative Mind" by Stefan Mamaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield. "250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain" is the promise on the front cover - and true it is! The focus of the book leans towards more commercial artists but the exercises are worthwhile for any creative mind. Some of them are thought provoking, others are silly (like writing a jingle about a ball of lint). Some of my best ideas have come from surprising places and I'm sure that I'll eventually come up with something interesting through these exercises!
Time to go work on my "Crossroads' quilt... I've given it some thought and it's time to start pulling out the fabrics I'll use (translation: making another creative mess in my studio!)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Home Sweet Home

While I enjoy travelling, there is nothing I enjoy more than being HOME. Our house is a sweet ranch - peaceful and comfortable. We did a huge interior renovation before we moved in and my goal was to make it warm and cozy, like the inside of a cashmere glove. Between the cozy upstairs and my delicious studio, the hardest thing I do every day is leave to go to work! We have been home for the past four days and it has been wonderful! It is rare for us to be home so many days in a row without any demands on our time - we have to work on doing this more often...

I spent almost all four days in my studio, working on a book proposal and projects for a magazine article. I should have done my blog projects but I was on a roll with the other things and decided to stick with them. Unfortunately, I can't show you any of what I did since it is all for future publication!

At last count, I was four weeks behind on my weekly projects - I think this week brings me to five. I've picked out the books - here's the first one, Crossroads by Nancy Crow. I love the bold bands of colors in the quilts in this book. I recently ordered a yummy box full of hand-dyed fabrics from Cherrywood and they will be perfect to work with. I admire quilters who also dye their own fabrics, as Nancy Crow does. It is an art all unto itself!

I finally bought a piece of homosote to use for a design wall - making a quilt based on this book will be the perfect chance to put that to use!

The photos in this book show the works in progress, pinned to the design wall as Nancy worked out her quilts. Photos of her studio and peeks at her journal pages brings her process to life and makes this a very enjoyable book. I am excited about making a "Crossroads" quilt of my own - check back in a few days to see what I've done!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A productive weekend!

I got a lot done this weekend, including these two projects - the first from "Fabric Leftovers". I'm not a coffee drinker but I love the idea of coffee cup huggies so I made some for my step-daughter, Dawn, who loves coffee. These will add a little pizzazz to her morning!

My project from "Plush-O-Rama" turned out very cute - I've decided to call her "Cuddles" as she is super cuddly soft. In keeping with the idea of up-cycling sweaters in the book, I made her from a stretchy knit top that is probably the softest fabric ever!

Both projects were fun to make - the coffee cup cuffs were super easy to make - I simplified the method used in the book and basically did a stitch and flip method so that no top quilting was necessary. I can't even tell that I took fabric out of my scrap bin - my guess is that I have enough scraps left to make another ten thousand of these!

Two full days of studio time has been a lovely treat - I'm feeling so contented and satisfied after getting some projects made and organizing myself for some more.

Scraps are taking over!

Scraps of paper, scraps of fabric, scraps of ribbon, bits of this, bits of that... all sorted out in drawers, boxes and bins - some scraps are from projects I have made, others are scraps that I have actually BOUGHT! I used to love the scrap bin at The Country Quilter (I'm so glad I built up my stash before they closed!). Buying scraps gave me the ability to add hundreds of fabrics to my stash for very little cost. I'm also hooked on the scrap bags from Laura Murray - she overdyes vintage kimono fabric and her scrap bags are just delicious, and inexpensive.

As a collage artist, I also save endless scraps of paper. It has to be a pretty tiny piece of paper for me to throw it away! I've given up separating them by color and have resorted to just keeping them in the boxes that a case of soda comes in. That makes them easy to store, dig through, and makes for quick clean-up.

I've come to realize that I could make ten scrap projects a day for the rest of my life and never consume the scraps I already have! I came across the book "Fabric Leftovers" by D'Arcy-Jean Milne (C&T Publishing) and am going to play with my scraps today and make a project from this book.

Plush-O-Rama is another book I came across while cleaning up (by Linda Kopp, Lark Books). I love the sub-title "Curious Creatures for Immature Adults'. I'm going to see my granddaughter in Tennessee this week so I'm going to make something silly for her, based on the Plush-O-Rama spirit of kooky critters.

Finally, while putting things away, I found the book from last week's project in my scanner. I had scanned the cover but never posted it, so here it is. The book is "Layers" by Shari Carroll, North Light Books. There are a lot of projects in the book that would make great gifts and the techniques are clearly spelled out and inexpensive to make. Everyone loves collage gifts that include photos of family and friends and this book is full of ideas.

I better get busy! After doing these two projects I'll be almost back on schedule... I never imagined that it would be so hard to do just one project a week! I know, it doesn't really matter if I fall behind and, believe me, I'm not stressing over it. I would just like to stay on schedule so I am in the habit of making a project and blogging about it. Otherwise, it may wind up sort of like a gym membership - start out going every other day... then twice a week, then once a week, then once a month, then the gym bag rides around in the car gathering dust...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Catching up...

At last, studio time! October was a crazy-busy month without much studio time which meant that I'm behind on my book-a-week projects. I've gone back to my post for the week of October 17th & have done my projects from "Layers"... originally, I was going to do collage in a board book but then I finished a journal (woo hoo!) and re-discovered one I had started a while ago. Both had boring covers so I did them instead.

The first one is a big sketchbook, over an inch thick and about 8" x 10". It will take me a long time to fill all those pages! I used a combination of a catalog image, hand painted fabric and marbled papers on the cover - much better than the plain purple cover it had before! I also covered the binding and back and inside both covers. Somehow, it makes sketching more fun to have a creative cover on the book.

The second book was just a plain spiral bound book (this is the one I've finished working in). The photo on the cover is by Kelly Kilmer and is from one of her collage sheets, all photos of hands, that I love to work with.

After I finished the journal covers, I flipped back through the book of the week and pictures of a collaged clipboard caught my eye. I remembered seeing a clipboard in the garage & made that my next project. What fun that was! I'm going to use it for my ever-present list of projects I want to do. I usually write the list and proceed to lose it in the mess on my desk. Now I'll keep the list on my pretty clipboard & it will be easier to keep track of!
While I had all the papers and medium out, I decided to also decorate some cardboard tubes to hold my tool on my worktable. The tubes are from single-malt scotch - I have friends who save them for me. I cut them down to the right height and covered them with pretty papers. Here's hoping they will help me to keep my worktable more organized!

One week down, a few more to go... I'm off to pick out another book to work from!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Digging out

Doing these blog projects has been fun but working in so many different kinds of media means that I've been pulling out all kinds of things! My studio looks like a tornado came through it so I've spent much of today straightening it up and putting things away. I've only scratched the surface - here's hoping a couple of evenings will do the trick. The fun part is finding things that I forgot about - the not fun part is realizing that I need either more space or less stuff!

When I last posted, I was telling you about the Monothon printing session I was going to in Connecticut....

I had never done any artist level monotype work before - I had done monoprinting on fabric and a little screenprinting but nothing that required multiple layers of prints or lining up the registration. What a learning curve! I made a couple of mistakes at the beginning - one was using oil based inks instead of water based (at the insistance of the person "helping' me), and, two, trying to make a print based on a drawing I had done. I now know that I would have been better off just rolling ink on the plate & doing a "subtractive" print where you wipe away areas of ink. Instead, I was doing the "additive" type of printing where I was applying paint to the plate.

The woman helping me was very patient, more patient than me, I'm afraid! After a while, we set aside my first project and I just did prints with dried leaves. I did wind up with a print that was deemed "good enough" to be put into the silent auction fund raiser - here's hoping it sells! I forgot to take a picture of it, however.

I'm sharing some photos of the prints I made but they aren't going to stay this way... my plan is to do a wash over the prints to tone them down and then cut them up and rearrange them into a collage. I want to try and make something out of them!

The facility is really beautiful - interesting architecture and plenty of room to work in well equipped space. If you are a printmaker, this is definitely the place to be! I will be returning to the center in late January when Inge and I start a six week course in a variety of printing techniques.

All in all, my Monothon experience was interesting but not the success I had hoped for. Really my own fault in the end, I should have taken a class before going instead of assuming that I would pick it up quickly like I usually do. Would I do it again? I think so, but now I know what to expect and I know more about the materials and the process. For now, however, I'm going to stick to what I know!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Too tempting to resist...

All week long I was dreaming of two totally quiet days in my studio, catching up on projects and enjoying some time for me... then, on Friday, a friend/client stopped by the office and asked me to join her on a visit to the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, CT ( It's a place I've always wanted to visit and, even more tempting, we were going to be allowed to visit a class in progress by the master printmaker, Ron Pokrasso. Well, that offer was too good to pass up!

So, Inge and I headed to CCP. Inge knows every back road between here and Norwalk, I think, and we enjoyed a fabulous ride through the countryside. The autumn leaves were beautiful, most especially a lovely low growing shrub (the name escapes me) with leaves ranging from deep burgundy to all shades of pink to almost white - they were everywhere!

Once at CCP, I got to meet Inge's friend, Grace, who I believe is the Director, and Ron Pokrasso, who graciously allowed us to observe the goings on in his class. I've never done any printmaking and it was interesting to see what is involved.

Another temptation that I could not resist (I am such a pushover!) was signing up for the CCP event called "Monothon". It is an annual event with printmakers from beginners to expert signing up fo six hour sessions during which they crank out as many prints as they want. I've always wanted to participate but was intimidated by my complete lack of printmaking knowledge. Well, my little excursion with Inge has gotten me over that... we are signed up - our session is Tuesday from 1:30-7:30. They even feed us lunch and dinner! Even better, CCP provides a Master printmaker to do the printing and an assistant to clean up and fetch supplies. Monothon-ists get to just concentrate on their work.

In keeping with the purpose of my blog, I have taken out my book on Monotype and will be doing some cramming before Tuesday. The book title is "Monotype, Mediums and Methods for Painterly Printmaking" by Julia Ayres (Watson-Guptill). I'll post photos of my work later in the week - I'm really looking forward to this!

Back to my excursion... after we were done at CCP, Inge took me to the Silvermine Center for the Arts, which was nearby. They have a large, bright gallery exhibiting many more examples of monoprints and a good number of encaustic paintings. The grounds were beautiful, I see it as being a peaceful and lovely place to take classes.

I had a great time with Inge, she is such an interesting person with great knowledge of art, books, architecture, local history, plants and trees. I've known her for about twenty-five years (she used to be my landlady) but this is the first time I got to really appreciate her. It will be fun to share a studio with her for the Monothon!

I arrived home, abandoned all the projects I was going to work on, and took out my sketchbook to start planning for the Monothon. Markers and pastels were spread on the desk and I enjoyed several hours of drawing and planning. It was lovely.

Today was spent at the office, helping Steve, who is heading out of town on a hunting trip on Tuesday. I wouldn't have had much fun in my studio thinking of him sweating over getting things done before he leaves town. It was a productive day and he really appreciated my being there.

I remain several weeks behind on my weekly blog projects but, for now, that's just the way it goes... the purpose of "Bookworm 52" was primarily to get my creative butt moving, not being married to a schedule. I'll catch up, after the Monothon!