Monday, December 22, 2008

Falling Through the Cracks

Falling Through the Cracks
39" x 32"
 There is no perfect place for my son at school. He has Asperger's, which is a high-functioning form of autism. A regular classroom uses all his coping skills, just to be there, and attend to the overwhelming sensory input and social expectations. And the special education classes don't fit him either. So, it is no wonder that at times I feel like he is falling through the cracks of public school. Special education was created because we saw a need, we saw that kids were falling through the cracks and this was our solution. But is it working? Enter his new case worker. She is a blessing, a godsend. Hooray for the very unique and special individuals that take special care to try to catch these wonderful kids! This quilt is dedicated to her, a healing force in our family's life.

About the piece and how I made it: The top third of the quilt is a hand dye that I used for a rubbing of cracks in the street with Shiva paintsticks. The cracks are heavily machine quilted. The bottom portion was another hand dyed piece that was dyed on top of a piece of construction fencing that I found littering the driveway of my son's school. I was really amazed at how the dye migrated to the fencing and captured an image of it. The building is made from some of my batiked fabrics. The net is made from a produce bag. Copper wire is made into useful legs for our robin, and the handle for the net. Making a special appearance are some hand blown glass beads, beautiful little works of art by artist, Vickie Hallmark, who graciously donated them to my project. The buttons are the neurotypical kids, unique and special in their own right. They are sewn in rows to allude to abacuses. Ultimately, public schooling comes down to the numbers, counting kids and counting dollars decide what resources are available.
Here are some close-ups of Vickie's wonderful beads. Pardon my snapshots, they barely do them justice. If you want to see more of Vickie's work, click the link Fiber.Art.Glass.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Satin Stitch

Satin Stitch

Ever wonder how to satin stitch a tight circle? My king sized quilt, Little Cities, has about 1000 of these little half inch beauties. It was a bit obsessive, I will admit, but the more I made, the more I loved the way they looked with the other blocks. There were times I couldn't work on it. Not surprising, it can be a bit tedious. Perhaps that's an understatement.
Anyway, I have a new camera, and it has video. So I have made a little video to show how to make one of those little satin stitched circles. Check it out if you are curious.
You can also see the link at youtube:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Copper Swirls

Copper Swirls
I had this crazy idea, that I could put things under my fabric and add some dye, and I was hoping, really hoping, that the dye would somehow migrate to the object and capture an image of the object on the fabric. This is basically the same as sun printing with fabric paint. I have a large coil of household wire that I periodically strip to use the copper wire for art. That is where the copper swirls came from. My work bench is a glass table, and I didn't think the photo would show the copper very well on the glass, so for the purposes of the photo, I arranged them on top of the white fabric. For the purposes of dyeing, I put them under the cloth. I used soda ash soaked fabric.
Then, I got the fabric wet and tried my best to smooth out the air bubbles. I was not entirely successful because the copper swirls were not bent perfectly flat, and they are rather thick. Then I squirted dye all over the place. I think this piece had turquoise, blue, and fuscia. I really liked the result, and since this was my first experiment, I am envisioning many more experiments!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Yeah! It's finally my month!

Yeah! It's finally my month!
I've been waiting all year for it to be my turn in the IQA Award-Winning Quilts 2008 Calendar. I couldn't understand why they picked my quilt for December, but upon opening to the page it is obvious now, so much red and green, and this quilt is cheerful. Congrats Little Cities, another day in the sun!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Pretty colors!

Pretty colors!
I was going to say, "yummy" but I think that one has already been taken. I love playing with color. On days that I get to dye fabric, I am jumping out of bed and running to the garage. This is my kids' zip line. I have sort of taken it over for my work, sadly they haven't really noticed.
Watch out, I did what I said I would NOT do. Is there anything cuter than a sleeping kitten?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea
 What do Greg Mortenson and Pamela Allen have in common? Probably nothing, but they got linked in my mind. I was reading this book, Three Cups of Tea, when I took Pamela Allen's class, Think Like an Artist back in May of this year. For me, the class was like a focused mini-retreat, as I got to create for 3 solid days, culminating with my self-portrait quilt that won a prize in Houston. This quilt was one of my unfinished quilts. Pamela-la-la-la gave each of us a scrap of fabric and told us to create a picture with it. I remember doing that in grade school, drawing a line and then trying to create a picture from it or with it. It's a fun exercise. We didn't stop to fuse, just cut and paste (yes, literally with glue). Quickly. I struggled, struggled with this quickly part. The absolute best thing that came out of the class for me was the astute realization of what my son feels like every single day in school, that everything was hard and moving way too fast. It seems my process is much slower. But I did want to finish this little piece.

I finally got to it this last week. I was trying to think of a name for it, that's when I decided to call it 3 cups....that's when a bell of recognition starting ringing in my head. I had no idea in May that the cups I placed on it had anything to do with Greg's book. This week I remembered that I had been reading it at the time I made this quilt. An especially appropriate timing, the week of Thanksgiving. What do I have to be thankful for? Well, lots of things, but especially people like Greg Mortenson who remind us that a single person can change the world and that you can fight hate with love. He inspired me, and really I only picked up the book because I thought it was a climbing adventure survival tale. It was so much more! I highly recommend it!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Superior Threads

Superior Threads
When I first started quilting, it was all by hand and I used a simple cotton thread. That was the old days. Now I still enjoy hand quilting, but the bulk of my work is definitely by machine. I can't use the same old thread I used to use. In fact there are so many threads available today, it is overwhelming to choose. And I have bought a number of skunky threads and you know which ones I am talking about. The ones that break no matter what kind of needle you use or what tension you set your machine for. The ones that look great on the spool, but not so great on your fabric. Yuck!

However, I haven't bought any of those stinkers from Superior Threads. All quality!! My favorites are King Tut and Bottom Line. I bought some new colors at the Quilt Festival in Houston a few weeks ago, and decided to play with them on this dyeing experiment. Really it was just an exercise to get the creativity juices flowing. I love the varigated threads that Superior makes. And let's not forget the bobbin! I use Bottom Line for almost all my bobbins now. It just seems to last forever, many bright colors available, and it also works GREAT as a top thread when you want very closely spaced quilting lines and fine lines. On this little quilt I used 5 varieties of King Tut, and Bottom Line for the bobbin.
 And while I am on my thread soapbox, I wish when we listed materials used on our quilt entries for quilt shows, that the organizers would put the threads on the quilt signage. We all notice the fabric, and for the most part, we can recognize it if we want to buy some. But the thread contributes so much to the final look of the quilt, and I don't know about you, but I can not tell recognize thread brands by looking. Maybe it's my ignorance, or the fact that my eyes are getting old, but I would LOVE to see what threads people are using on their quilts!!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Back from Houston with News to Share!

Back from Houston with News to Share!

Or How a Hotel Room Sold My Fabric Line....

I responded to a post on QuiltArt listserve for a room at the Hilton and somehow managed to actually get the room. As most of you know, this in itself is quite a stroke of luck. The room belonged to Morna Golletz of Professional Quilter Magazine, and she told me to come by and meet her during Quilt Market. Well, getting to Quilt Market was another whole set of obstacles, that I won't go into here, but let's just say that it involves a number of deadlines, creditials, and confusing childcare.....I digress.

Anyway, I told Morna why I was at Quilt Market and she so graciously and kindly offered to introduce me to a few people. That's how I met Kathy Miller of Michael Miller Fabrics. And I showed her my work, and then she bought it!! I was so excited by a such a positive response to my work, that I was in shock for days. This is a little sample of one of my designs for you. And though Morna's contact really helped me, she wasn't the only one. Pokey Bolton also introduced me to a few people at Robert Kaufman, and Laura Wasilowski and Frieda Anderson were introducing me to EVERYONE. One of my favorites turned out to be the actual Jane Sassaman with Westminster Fabrics. Really, everyone was so nice and so very helpful, I just have a BIG THANK YOU, and lots of good karma floating around.

Me, Laura, Jan Wass, and Frieda going out to dinner Monday night.
But, that is not all, oh no, that is not all...
On Tuesday night, I found out that my little Self Portrait won a second place award. I think I have confidence in my work, and I was really pleased with this little piece, but still I was really surprised when it won a second place. Absolutely wonderful!! Here is a photo with me by my quilt along with the other winners. You can see Laura's 3rd place really fabulous little quilt, and the 1st place quilt by Cindy Richards.

Another juicy piece of news, which I have been savoring for a month, is that my quilt, Little Fish in a Big City, got accepted into Quilt National. Now this one, I have to pinch myself every morning to see if I am awake, because I am still having trouble believing it's real. I got the provisional acceptance. Then I filled out all the paperwork and sent the quilt in. And, then they listed my name on their website, so I guess it is real. Not wanting to spoil the surprise, I can tell you that it is sort of a cross between Little Cities and Sychronized Swimming. I can also tell you that it took over a year to make. I manipulated every fabric I used including, batik, bleach discharge, overdyeing of commercial fabrics; screen printing with thicked dyes; and batiking and dyeing my own designs. It was a fun project to work on and gratifying to watch it evolve to the point of completion. Here is a little thumbnail of it.

And now you might be thinking that this is plenty of good fortune for an entire lifetime, but really it just keeps going!

On a whim, I decided to try to get into a Make It University class, especially when I found out that Pokey Bolton was going to teach it. It was a Project Runway class with music from the 80's as our theme. I was fortunate enough to have friends take the class with me, Tanya Littman, Deborah Boschert, Leslie Jennison, and Jamie Fingal.

Here I am hanging out with Jamie while she is doing Open Studios. You have to visit Judy's blog to see photos of the Project Runway photos.

Judy Perez and Robbi Joy Eklow were the judges. We had to dance for extra goodies to use for our costumes. When she held up the black bra, I couldn't contain myself, as my dancing led me to kicking and swirling on top of my chair. Then we all got lp records to use. You may be thinking (as I did), how do you use a record to make something to wear? Well, Pokey had all the answers, with heat guns, paint, and glue, and other "stuff". We had such a good time. The required dancing for objects really helped keep us alert and on task for an end of the day workshop. But mostly, IT WAS FUN. If you want to see how I won the grand prize, you will have to go to Pokey's blog, or even Judy Perez's blog, they both have a video of all the craziness.

And though the workshop was plenty of fun all by itself, I didn't realize when I signed up that there would be prizes. My costume won the grand prize, and this is all the stuff I won:

3 books, Mixed Media self-portraits Inspiration and Techniques by Cate Prato, Mixed Mania Recipes for Delicious Mixed Media Creations by Debbi Crane and Cheryl Prater, The Quilting Arts Book Techniques and Inspiration for Creating One-of-a-Kind Quilts by Pokey Bolton; a new Stitch magazine, and the latest Quilting Arts Magazine,Quilting Arts TV Series 200, 6 jars of Lumiere fabric paint, one silk scarf with 3 bottles of dye, 2 jelly rolls of fabric from Moda, and one fat quarter pack from Clothworks!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Home at Last: The Flying Cat Boys have Landed

Home at Last: The Flying Cat Boys have Landed
I do believe these kittens have found a permanent home. No surprise really, it's mine. I had adopted 2 of them to a nice home, but it didn't work out and they brought the kittens back. I was so happy to see them! They have a different set of personalities as a foursome compared with a twosome, and although each is special, I like them best all together.

I have also decided to keep them indoors. Too many friends and families with horror stories and vet bills have influenced my decision. I am still not sure if it's a good one or not, but it just is. I can tell you that 4 kittens and two litter boxes is a lot to clean up after. I thought as indoor cats, they should have a kitty garden (shows how much I know about cats!). So, I arranged this lovely corner with potted plants from my deck and a big climbing kitty condo. It lasted 2 days. They completely destroyed the plants, dug the dirt out, and started using the dirt for....well...a litter box. It wasn't pretty. Let me just say this, if you have kittens, it is a good idea to have a well functioning vacuum cleaner.

They are settling in well. They are no longer afraid of my 100 pound Weimeramer. They don't quite understand why she gets to go outside and they don't. They no longer mind being sniffed by the dog and play freely in her presence. The only real danger is being stepped on as she is old and not quite as coordinated as she once was. She tolerates the kittens quite well, which is more than I would probably do with 4 new pesky siblings with claws....

And though I love the kittens, it is unlikely that I will continue to blog about them. I really started the blog for quilts, not kittens. They got to make an appearance, because I thought it would help find them homes. Well, they've got one now. But if you are still interested, email me, and I will write you back.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Batik Pillow

Batik Pillow
My daughter has been experimenting with my wax pot. I don't let her play with the dyes, though I probably should. Instead, she applies the wax and then directs me and tells me where to put the colors. I usually give her a choice of 3 or 4 to use. She made one big piece, whole cloth, but not quite big enough for a pillow. So she picked the solid fuschia for the edges, and asked me to make the pillow for her. She asked for the "eel" to be put on the front. I added the quilting to help the eel stand out a bit more. Here's the close up.
Here's the whole pillow on my IKEA couch. (She picked the couch cover for that too!, I didn't mind though, it looks great in my purple studio)

And finally the back of the pillow. My first time making a pillow with a button closure. I had to learn how to make buttonholes with my new sewing machine (by that I mean it is 6 years old). I really like the designs on the back of her pillow. We were surprised when the raspberry dye totally disappeared into a neutral (I think the dye was too old, duh!). But we just added more wax and overdyed again. It is interesting!
Next, these are the fabrics I have been making with my wax pot and dyes. I am super happy with this collection and plan on starting a new quilt as soon as possible.

Until then, a quick one day project to get me started again. This simple tote looks great and is so bright, you can find it in the dark! Also a first, I had never made a tote before, nor a lining. For this tote I quilted the front and back and the strap. I made a lining in a bright color so that it is easy to see my cell phone. And added a small pocket to the inside. I had never made a lining before either, and found it easier than I expected. A lot of firsts, and now I have a new bag to carry! Fun!! p.s. these fabrics were all made with found objects. I'll fill you in more in a post in Nov.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Self Portrait '08

Self Portrait '08
22" x 17"
 Serendipity strikes! I started this little quilt in Pamela Allen's class this last May. It was a real stretch for me to make a quilt without drawing it first. Uncomfortable. I am not sure I will always choose to work this way, but it does have some real advantages. I am startled by the way it totally captured the essence of the moment for me. It was a crazy, hectic day. And, although this quilt does not look like me, it does show exactly how I was feeling. How does that work???
And though you will see this quilt in Houston this year, it is unlikely you will see the back, so I had to show it to you here.

I found a pool filter on the curb, at least I think that is what it was.... a big round, ribbed rubber gasket looking thingy. Perfect! I grabbed it and tried making prints with it. I found it cumbersome to use and ultimately did not like any of the prints I made with it. Which is why I took it to Pamela's class. I planned to use it for the back of something, because I didn't mind risking it. Imagine my surprise when I quilted this and then flipped it over and found another image on the back, totally unexpected!! I think it looks like an afro, but my friend, Marcia Kaylakie, says it looks like a madonna image. She said to use a see-through fabric for the hanging tube so that more of the image would show. So, I replaced the cobalt blue hanging tube with white organza.
Embellishments include: copper wire, lots of fish beads, coffee beads, shells, flower buttons, spiral beads, a big button, an itunes gift card cut into the shape of an ipod. And as an added bonus, it was really fun to work with some of my own batiked fabrics!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Garden Girl and Kite Boy

Garden Girl and Kite Boy
36" x 36"

This quilt is about ambivalence. One hand holds on tight while the other cuts loose (literally with the scissors). The result? Your heart feels completely yanked! Even though mixed emotions are a pretty common experience, it doesn't make them any easier to deal with.

This quilt is exhibiting NOW at the Austin Area Quilt Guild Show. I also just found out that it has been accepted to Art Quilts XIII: Lucky Break in Chandler Arizona. I am thrilled!!

This quilt also features a number of my hand dyed batiks. I had so much fun making them and getting to use them in this quilt. I also have an unusual found object, the kite string holder. I found it in Cleveland OH at a park (where I was simultaneously loosing my cell phone, nope never found it again). I was there for taping for Quilting Arts TV.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

To Sketch or Not to Sketch?

To Sketch or Not to Sketch?
I started making art quilts by drawing everything first. Then I would carefully transfer the pattern to freezer paper, or some other technique, and effectively duplicate my design in fabric. Then I tried NOT sketching first. It was scary! I mean really frightening to me. Without even trying, a picture of what I would be creating would just visualize in my head. I worked with the fabrics in a raw form, cutting and placing until the composition was just right, or even good enough. Yikes! Letting go of perfectionism is not for the faint of heart. Now I alternate between the two. I decided that different artists have different processes and it is important to honor my own process. If I feel compelled to draw my idea first, there must be a reason to it, and that's okay. Or sometimes, I will just be sketching and an idea forms from the shapes I've drawn, and then I decide to make it into a quilt. The most surprising thing to me has been the art I made without drawing first, it always comes out much better than I expected.
Full size quilt block, 16" x 16", the quilt varies slightly from the sketch below, but incorporates many of the same elements

3" x 3"
For the next example, there are slight differences. The jay's tail was placed lower to allow more room for the quilting motif, "Take these broken wings and learn to fly." This sketch was full size.

No sketch was made prior to making this quilt. This is a close up of my new quilt, Garden Girl and Kite Boy. I'll post the full view later. It will be at the Austin Area Quilt Guild Show,Sept 26-28.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Flying Cat Boys

The Flying Cat Boys Kitten UPdate: (you did get the pun, yes?) The boys are still looking for a permanent home. They are inquisitive, playful, cute, adorable, affectionate, and hungry little lions. Their little cat spirits fill our home with love and chaos.
Pumpkin and Garfield seeking just the right cuddle spot. Me? Happy to be of assistance in this matter.
Smokey Joe finds comfort in the nook of an arm, this time it's mine.
Vanilla Bean has discovered the guinea pigs favorite cardboard tube....maybe he was a guinea pig in a previous life?
Vanilla Bean and Garfield asleep in a deep well of pillows (forming the sides), and a soft yellow blanket. The flash woke Garfield up, sorry baby!
Pumpkin falls for a mermaid.
Pumpkin and Lamby...together at last!
See, this really is quilt related! They are sleeping, ever so gently on my quilt. How cute is that?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Quilting Arts TV

Quilting Arts TV
I just returned from Cleveland, OH where I was taping an episode for Quilting Arts TV. The experience was fabulous! The entire crew at KS Productions made it so easy, even for a novice like me. They had plenty of space to get all my materials set up. We got to hang out in the green room and watch the other segments as they were being taped. This really helped me know what to expect. And though in television land, time is money, I never felt rushed or nervous, though I expected to be both. Did I mention there was always food available? Pokey Bolton was an amazing host. She made it so easy for me to talk about my project. And I had a great time meeting some of the other guests who were being taped the same day, including Laura Wasilowski, Joel Dewberry, and Lyric Kinard, all wonderful and inspiring artists!
Laura showing some of her fabulous hand-dyed fabric in the green room.