Sunday, December 18, 2011

Out with the old, in with the new, tossing the useless...

At last, my new computer is on the desk in my studio, full of all kinds of fun things like Photoshop Elements & a Bamboo tablet and several other things I wanted on my old computer before it croaked. Before I start learning about the new things I have a lot to do in setting up things I took for granted, like shortcuts on my toolbar and knowing where my files live. The fun stuff will have to wait until I get all that figured out. I wish this computer mumbo jumbo came more naturally to me!

I love this photo, it is of a bunch of stamps I made using fun foam. The look so good laid out like this, sort of quilt like. They look so good as is I'm going to hate to dirty them with ink!

Putting the new computer on my desk led to my clearing the whole thing off so I could clean it and set it all up "brand new". My studio is now a mess (who knew one could hide so much on one little desk???) and I am going to go through everything, being ruthless on what is allowed to continue sharing my space. Quilter + Collager + Assemblage Maker = Hoarder of Stuff (most commonly heard phrase "I don't know what I want it for but it's cool and I'll use it for something someday...). Well, I'm not going to ditch the really cool stuff, just have to re-define "cool", I guess.

I've already begun going through all the magazines & books that no longer interest me - it's amazing how fast they accumulate into very big, shelf-clogging piles. I'm taking a big bag of publications to my next Art Quilt meeting in hopes they will find new homes. I'm planning to do a lot of weeding out in 2012.

And, with the new computer comes the realization that my Lexmark All in One is a dinosaur that will have to be replaced. Too bad, we actually understand one another. Guess that's another new thing I'll have to learn about.

Here's to learning about new things, appreciating the old, and knowing when to get rid of that which no longer serves a purpose. The amazing elinor peace bailey once told me that keeping "stuff" in your studio that doesn't serve a purpose (or inspire you) just clogs the creative path. Here's to taking her good advice & clearing the way!

Monday, December 12, 2011

RIP Old Computer...

In case anyone noticed that I haven't posted for a while, my studio computer has bit the dust, is pushing up daisies, has gone to the big computer wasteland in the sky... I've been waiting for my husband to get my new computer set up and, of course, he has been pretty busy so I'm being patient. I'm finally going to have Photoshop Elements to play with.... my Wacom Tablet is going to be installed.... lots of other programs that I've been wanting to use but couldn't because my old computer was a T-Rex, just limping along without room to install new things.

So, I wait a little longer, hopeful that it will all be set up soon. I don't have any pictures loaded on my office computer & the scanner is plain B&W so this is a pretty boring looking post... I'm dreaming of all the things I will be able to do with the new computer & software :)

I have made several new things & have found some great new books that I'll write about after I get all set up. Until then, take a look at Pinterest at and sign up to follow me. It is a lot of fun & a wonderful resource for a million things that you can post & share. I'm still figuring it out and am enjoying all the things I'm finding along the way.

Happy Holidays everyone! Cheers, Gail

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fabric that is all my own....

Stenciling on fabric is a great way to build a stash of fabric that is uniquely yours. I use a lot of commercial fabrics but the ones I like most are the ones I've "made" myself using a variety of surface design techniques.

My last post was about using Pebeo Steacolor textile paints (which, I think act more as easy to use dyes) and sunshine to stencil designs on fabric. I wound up with a nice pile of fabrics to take to the next step, adding another layer of stencil design with acrylic paint.
I used Liquitex acrylic paints and their textile medium, mixing about equal parts of paint and medium. Using straight acrylic paint works also but the "hand" of the fabric is significantly changed by straight acrylic paint. I like using the textile medium because the paint is a little more transluscent and the hand of the fabric does not become stiff.

I use stencil brushes to apply the paint, tapping & swirling the paint through the stencil to get good detail. After dipping the brush in the paint, it is important to "tap off" most of the paint onto a paper towel. You should be using a semi-dry looking brush - too much paint leads to globs of paint seeping under the stencil and ruins the design. On some of the pieces, I used a nearly dry stencil brush with remnants of black paint to get the shaded effect.

Next, I plan to do a little discharging with bleach pen and maybe do a little stamping with some stamps I made using fun foam. After that, I'll be using the fabric to make some small quilts and a tote bag or two. I'll post some pictures of the finished fabrics next weekend and of the finished projects shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sunny Saturday Art-play

On a recent sunny Saturday, I set up a few tables in my backyard and brought a bunch of art supplies out to play... new stencils from The Crafter's Workshop, Pebeo Setacolor textile paints, sea salt, and a lot of mixing cups, sponge brushes & mixing sticks. I had several yards of PFD (prepared for dying) white fabric that I tore into 14" squares.

I mixed up small batches of the textile paints & used the sponge brush to apply it to a square of fabric - sometimes using a solid color, other times adding splotches of another color or applying a couple of colors in stripes. I then placed the wet fabric on another table & placed a stencil on top, gently pressing the stencil to the wet, paint saturated fabric. After an hour or so, I lifted the stencil & moved the fabric to the shade. The result was a perfect outline of the stencil design with the positive space in the original paint color & the negative space lighter, from its exposure to the sun. I sometimes threw on some sea salt which creates a lovely mottled effect.

I spent the entire day mixing up colors and playing with the stencils. I've wound up with a nice pile of fabrics to use in my next steps, overpainting and bleaching. I'm going to work on that over the next few days, I'll post pictures of some of the finished fabrics.

Great news for anyone looking for The Crafter's Workshop stencils, they are now being sold at both Michael's and A.C. Moore! You can see the full line and some inspirational photos and ideas at . It is a wholesale company so you can't buy their products there but you will be able to find a list of where they are sold.

My next post will include pictures of the fabrics after I do some overpainting & bleaching. After that, I'll show you what I did with the fabrics!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How did April become July?

When last I posted, I had every intention of getting back to my studio & to blogging. About two weeks later, I had to have my neck surgery re-done & I went back into "recovery" mode, followed by a trip to Florida & a cruise - in short, I haven't been home enough to get any work done!

I have, at last, returned to my studio, and have begun work on a new series of small quilts. It will probably take me a few weeks before I finish what I have in mind but I promise to post some pictures when I do.

I recently spent the day with a dozen art quilt friends, new and old, sharing work, talking about processes, new directions, shows, books, and more. It was a delightful day that left me energized about focusing on my quilt work. Listening to those quilters helped me to realize that finding one's "voice" is a journey that has comfortable places along the way but that, eventually, one must move on, in search of a fresh voice. I also learned that even very established quilters struggle with new directions (Who knew? I thought they just woke up on the average Tuesday with a new brilliant direction).

I have been doing my share of floundering for a while, trying to find "meaning" in my work. I've finally realized that I need to do a lot more sewing and a lot less thinking - the rest will reveal itself, if I will just follow my instincts and make things that just look good to me.

Thank you, my Arty Party quilter friends. By sharing who you are you are helping me to find myself.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I have NOT fallen off the planet....

I'm baaaaack! Well, sort of. I haven't posted in months - this tax season was a BEAR! One of the things I really dislike about tax season is that the serious side of my brain takes over and my artsy playful side goes into hibernation. Well, tax season is finally over and I'm planning on getting back to my studio & the things that make my heart sing - like the hum of my sewing machine, sticky, paint covered fingers and all of the amazing things I've been stashing in my studio forever, waiting to "become" something wonderful.

For now, I'm in recovery mode. Tax season really beats the heck out of me. I'm not complaining, we are very blessed to have a vibrant & busy business (how else would I have money to buy fabric & paint???). It does, however, take a little "getting over". First we have to catch up on all the things we've been ignoring because they weren't urgent, then off for a week of R&R. I'm bringing my journal & a huge assortment of markers & pens. I'll draw, doodle & imagine to my hearts content, hopefully waking up my "creative core" and coming home with more ideas than I know what to do with.

For those who were following, my step-son, Scott, and his kidney donor sister-in-law, Leslie, are both doing GREAT. Such a beautiful story of selflessness. We are forever grateful for Leslie and for the medical team that took such great care of both Scott & Leslie.

Spring is my favorite time of year - I love watching the little specks of green leaf buds appear on barren branches and the sway of daffodils in the springtime breeze. My springtime wish is that my creative self finds a renewal, much like what I am seeing each day, as my grass grows greener and my gardens awaken.

For now, I'm off to do some imagining. Happy spring!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Unconditional Love & Sacrifice - Organ Donation

My Step-son, Scott Ellspermann, will undergo kidney transplant surgery this coming Thursday. His sister-in-law, Leslie Goss, is a match and has selflessly agreed to donate one of her kidneys to Scott. A friend of theirs wrote the post below - I can't improve on it so I copied it here:

Unconditional Love & Sacrifice
The Ellspermann family….AMAZING! Have missed them so much since their move to Wisconsin. Scott & Sherri were plugged into many aspects of First Farragut United Methodist Church…but had been doing great things with the Student Ministry. Scott was my all-star photographer (documenting events via PHOTOGRAPHS has not been the same since his departure) and a leader, and Sherri was a leader as well. Britney, now a Sophomore (CRAZY), was a big part of the ministry as well…and still is! She has flown down to Tennessee for every winter retreat since they left for Wisconsin. Spencer and Hunter were often hanging out at the church as mom and dad were doing things with me. They bring a TON of energy to the Ellspermann family! I pray that the family that I have one day can mirror the love for Christ and for each other that the Ellspermann’s live out!
The Goss Family! Barry and Leslie are mom and dad! They are both involved in a lot of different things at First Farragut. Barry is the treasurer here at the church and also a youth leader in the student ministry. Leslie sings in the choir and is also a leader with me. They are involved with almost every event put on here at the church, including playing Santa and Mrs. Claus @ our Breakfast with Santa morning in December! Brandon is a Senior at Hardin Valley here in Knoxville and works with the audio/visual ministry Sunday mornings. He is also VERY active in the youth group. Austin is a Freshman at Grace Christian Academy and is also VERY active in the youth group. I always ask Austin, even though I know the answer, “are you coming to youth group tonight?” “DUH MARK!….when am I not here?!”, is the response I always get. He’s right! Love those guys! Barry & Leslie are brother and sister! And Barry and Leslie’s mom Frankie and her husband George are still active and involved here at First Farragut! The family love and connection to FFUMC is powerful and real!
It wasn’t until the Ellspermann’s moved to Wisconsin that I found out about Scott needing a kidney. I began praying immediately! Our high school missions team was in New Richmond, Wisconsin this past summer on our way home from a summer missions trip to Urban Plunge in the Twin Cities. They were amazing hosts as some kids stayed inside and some stayed outside in a camper city that was set up in their back yard! We absolutely TOOK OVER their house. I kept apologizing for the mess and all the work they were having to do and Sherri kept asking me to let the group stay longer! I’ll never forget hugging Sherri and Scott as we left….Sherri and Britney were crying asking us to put them in the trunks of the cars to take them back to Knoxville! They are such a special family.
Word came out not long ago that the kidney transplant was being moved up as Scott’s numbers were in decline. Then came the amazing news. Scott’s sister-in-law Leslie would be his donor. WOW! When I announced this on a Sunday morning at the 11:00 service the entire sanctuary erupted in applause and cheers! It was a powerful moment. True love and sacrifice, just like that modeled to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is being lived out in its greatest form by Leslie Goss. An opportunity presented itself and she responded just as Jesus would by putting the well-being of another in front of herself. I remember being in tears when I heard the news. These families and their kids are so special to me personally. As a man of God in full-time student ministry, now in my 8th year, I have been blessed to have some very special relationships! I hold the Goss and Ellspermann family very close to my heart. Their love for Christ, for family, and for the local church are inspirational.
A few weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about these families. I went into my living room to pray. I had an overwhelming feeling that I was suppose to travel to Minnesota for the transplant surgery to support these families as one of their pastors. I pitched the idea to my lead Pastor and the rest is history. God made a way for me to make the trip, and early tomorrow morning I will board a flight for the Twin-Cities. Leslie is flying up today. Her husband Barry flies up tomorrow. The surgery will take place Thursday morning in Minneapolis. I am excited to serve these families, to pray with these families, and to be a part of this with them. I’m humbled that they are allowing me to be a part of this big event.
Please be praying for those of us who are still traveling up there. Pray for Leslie and Scott as they have final testing completed tomorrow in Minneapolis. Pray for the doctors to use their amazing skills on Thursday morning and to be empowered by the Holy Spirit! Pray for those who will be waiting for good news and for all those who consider Scott, Sherri, Barry, Leslie, Brandon, Austin, Britney, Hunter, and Spencer, to be family and friends. Thank God for these families and for how they have taught us all about unconditional love and sacrifice!
You can read updates here on my website @ and you can also check on the First Farragut United Methodist Church facebook page as well. I will make regular updates during the week and on surgery day! Thanks again for your prayers!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is it too early to dream of spring?

Week after week, snowstorm after snowstorm, my daffodil bulbs buried beneath mountains of snow... I love living in a "four season" part of the country but this winter has been brutal - and we're only halfway through it!
My favorite season is spring. I love watching the teeny bright green dots appear on the barren branches of trees and the tips of snowdrop leaves poking through the still cold ground. Every year we have dozens of daffodils added to our garden (they are the only spring bulb the deer don't eat) and I love watching them sway in the cool spring breeze.

Squirrels and chipmunks scamper across the yard in search of food as robins yank worms out of the soil.

One of the things I miss the most about the flower shop, and that I love the most about spring, is that earthy flowery scent. You know the one I mean, the sweetness of flowers mixed with musky soil and a fresh spring rain. When winter starts to get to me, I just have to close my eyes and I can conjure up that sweet aroma.

Flowering shrubs are a favorite of mine - sadly, they are a favorite food of the deer that inhabit our neighborhood. This winter's heavy snow means that the deer will be eating everything in sight, even the things they normally leave alone. I long for big azaleas and rhododendrons but know that it will be a losing battle.
Wildflowers and perennials peek out of the soil, soon to burst into bloom and the moss on the rocks becomes greener each day. My sweet lily of the valley fill my day with their heady scent as the japanese iris pop open next to forget-me-nots. Ahh, the joys of spring!
All things come to those who wait... so, I wait for winter to pass so I may enjoy the gifts of spring. Until then, I bundle up and head to work, thankful that tax season is during winter for me. A few pots of hothouse hyacinths will get me through the next cold weeks... no, it's not too soon to dream of spring!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Favorites from Festival

My sore feet were testament to the hours I spent walking the Houston Quilt Festival show floor, studying the hundreds of quilts on display. It takes several trips through the show to really absorb everything - the quality and range of work is amazing and there is something to be learned in every aisle.

This year's Best in Show quilt exhibited the most amazing quilting, black thread on a white background, a bold move as every mistake would show more clearly. The stitching was amazingly close together and there were countless stitch patterns on the quilt. I was fascinated at the quilter's mastery of stitching - her award was well deserved.
Quilting skills are like any other skill, it takes countless hours of practice and many "uglies" before mastery is achieved. I am in awe of quilters who have the amazing patience it takes to create a work with detailed applique or microscopic stitching, like the quilt above. The quilt show exhibits an enormous range of work and techniques, traditional and contemporary, painted, pieced, dyed, discharged, embellished, the list goes on.

Here are some more images of quilts (or pieces of quilts) that caught my eye. My apologies to the artists for not having their name, or the name of their work, I didn't take notes as I took photos.

The Lily of the Valley quilt was one of my favorite quilts in the show. Dozens of batiks were used to create a realistic image of one of my favorite flowers.

As an aside, I'll tell you why it's one of my favorites... First, who can resist the amazing scent of the Lily of the Valley? I have a small patch of them in my garden and many a morning, I pick one stem as I leave home to run errands. The scent fills my car as I go about my morning, just delicious! My Mother carried a bouquet of Lily of the Valley when she and my father got married, a match made in heaven, IMHO. When we were young girls, maybe only six and eight, my sister, Valerie, and I decided we would pick my Mother a bouquet of Lily of the Valley. We proceeded to pick every single stem of flowers in the garden, snipping them just below the last "bell", leaving no stem to go into a vase to drink up water - what did we know about picking flowers? Mom was gracious in accepting our gift, followed by a little lesson in how to pick flowers, with stems. I also love them because they are among the first flowers of spring - the best part being that they totally take care of themselves once established in a garden. Yummy flowers shown in a fabulous quilt.

This long and narrow quilt was another favorite. I loved the unusual shape the arts and crafts feel of the image and the color palette. Again, the artist used a wide variety of fabrics to create texture and depth. I adore this quilt and can only wish that I will someday be able to find the patience it takes to make a work with this kind of detail.

This parrot quilt was AMAZING. The feather texture was so realistic, countless tiny pieces of fabric and a mastery of color and light made this a quilt that I studied for a long time. Again, I long for the patience it takes to make a work like this!

Well, that's the end of my HQF highlights for today...

One of the things I like to do as I walk a quilt show is assess my own quilt skills. I walk around saying either "gee, I could have made that" or "holy mackeral, that's way over my ability". I usually fall somewhere in between, confident in my work but knowing that there is so much left to learn and so many people whose skills are far beyond my own. Mostly, what I leave with, is a sense of wonder over the countless ways that quilting has evolved, from a functional source of warmth to a work of art, and how the making of quilts has grown from hand stitched scraps to all of the amazing techinques that are now used. The sky is the limit with quilting, I can't wait to see what's next!