Friday, January 29, 2010

The Muse Whispered

I have agreed to make a couple of quilts for traveling exhibitions. I have ideas but my muse is keeping the details to herself so I've been struggling. What to do? What to do? I can tell you that if you were one of my students, I would be able to walk you through this. Isn't it interesting what we can do for others? Anyway, I set aside the quilts that I have to make and did some deep breathing when suddenly I had an idea. It actually has the image  I was considering for one of the have to make quilts so I decided to make a 12-inch quilt. Here's my beginning. The background fabric is actually the back of a over-dyed fabric I purchased when I lived in Texas. It began life as a black and white poke-a-dot.  It's hand appliqued and hand embroidered. I'm happy! I'm hoping the flow of this piece will help me over come my struggle with the other quilts.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Las puntadas del alma

We have a name! My quilt group at the National Museum of Mexican Art has a name--The Stitches of the Soul/Las pantadas del alma. Everyone also got their heart block done for a group quilt we are creating. The energy and creativity levels are high. The food is incredible. I'm so excited to see the quilts they will be creating. I am blessed by knowing these women.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Before There was Writing

I have collected rocks most of my life. I can't explain it, they just speak to me. A couple of days ago I watched the Japanese movie Departures which is about Daigo, a cellist. Daigo's symphony shuts down so he is forced to return to the village where he was born. A typo in a want ad leads him to becoming an a.nakanshi or one who prepares the dead for burial. I know this all sounds depressing. In many ways, it is. However, it's a wonderful and moving movie. At one point, he takes his wife to the beach where he finds a small rock which he gives to her telling this story. Before there was writing, people would look for a rock that shows how they feel and present to a loved one. A smooth rock could show that the person is happy. I won't spoil the movie by sharing more. I did love the idea and the story. I wonder what my rocks say about me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stitching and Thinking

Thanks to everyone who wrote to ask me about my garden quilt. You  certainly make me feel supported, help keep me honest and on my creative path, and feeling less isolated (I'm such a homebody.). As you can see by the photo, I have been working. Yesterday was a little frustrating as I kept breaking needles (three in all). I find that all the stitching does cause me to think. I keep revisiting my encounter with my neighbor. What do I not see? And not just visually, what do I miss seeing about myself? I've had a couple of epiphanies lately (one quite painful) and I think this quilt has played a part. I have always found hand stitching to be a form of informative silent meditation so I remain thankful.

I also find it interesting that people keep asking me what my plans are for this piece, and how surprised they are when I tell them that I haven't a clue. It's the journey that I am enjoying. I'm not even sure how it is going to look in the end and to be honest, I like it that way.

On the cleaning front, yesterday I cleaned and reorganized my kitchen pantry. I bought Oxo air tight containers so hopefully I will never have another moth problem. This project made me gleeful.  I'm such a strongly visual person. The order and uniformity appeal to me.  My husband finds it humorous. It is definitely his influence that I now embrace order and uniformity. Probably not as much as he would like (he's a chemical engineer) but then again, he did marry me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Quilt Me a Story" Returns

After more than a year of travel, one of my quilts returned home on Friday. It was part of the 2008 Breaking Traditions Art Quilt exhibit With One Voice which raised $1,085 for the American Cancer Society.The amazing Lynn Krawczyk curates and organizes this annual exhibit (new theme each year). I do want to thank Lynn for all of her hard work and dedication. Ninety-three artists created 12 inch square quilts for With One Voice. The theme was based on- "From the next door neighbor who helped to shovel your walk, to the organizations built solely on the purpose of serving those in need, to famous individuals using their influence to do good." I choose to showcase Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories, the oral history project of the Alliance for American Quilts. It was interesting that the quilt was returned on the day that the AAQ announced my leaving the project after more than 10 years of volunteer service. Often when a quilt returns after being gone, I either can't believe I've made it, no longer like it or rejoice on its return. I'm happy to report that I still like this quilt and rejoicing in its return.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I woke to a world encased in a thin layer of ice. I found myself constantly looking out the window at the trees and the way the sun was playing with the ice. Outside I ran into a neighbor walking her dog so I asked if she was enjoy our winter wonderland and pointed to the trees. I was dumbfounded when she confessed that she hadn't noticed. Her goal was to walk the dog as quickly as possible and off she went. For a moment, I was sad. Joy is so much better shared. 

Creative Everyday 2010 has been talking about shadows which did influence my decision to put myself dancing in my garden. Couldn't help giving myself funky socks. By the way, I hand pieced the flying geese and over dyed them to get the green I wanted. It was one of those "nothing ventured, nothing gained" moments that paid off.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Honoring Spoon River

One of the favorite pieces of art in my garden is "Spoon River" so even though my bent spoons are covered with snow, I had to include them. The green fabric is linen. I do love linen. I hand appliqued the spoon. Working on this quilt has actually gotten me quite energized and helping me find a wonderful peace of mind. I'm also already planning my next quilt. If you would like to see a photo of Spoon River, just go to the posts marked "Garden Quilt." It was posted last year on May 9th.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thoughts on Winter, Slow Cloth, Garden Quilt

I struggle to not feel the downward pull of the short, gray winter days in Chicago. I had hoped this year would be different. Unfortunately, it hasn't. However, I am working which always gives me hope.

I have admired the Slow Cloth movement for some time. The idea of reusing textiles, layering, handwork, hand stitching and stories has always appealed to me. There was a time when I only hand pieced and hand quilted. For a while now I have moved toward handwork. On Tuesday, I posted a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Jude Hill. I admired Jude and her work and her interview is a great addition to the project. I hadn't intended to make a Slow Cloth quilt for my garden piece but her interview got me thinking. I'm going to give it a try and hope this honors the movement. The background is a piece of denim (approx. 17" x 18") from a friend's skirt that she cut up and the light blue fabric is a napkin my friend Elizabeth Cherry Own. She had used part of it and it reminds me of all the grasses I have in my garden. I'm also hoping that this will help me keep away the winter blues.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Family Behind the Window

I didn't know it at the time, my travel to Osh was life changing. More about this some other time.  When Kamila (dressed in red and the U.S. Embassy employee assigned to escort me) asked if I want to meet some artists, I did not hesitate to say "yes!" We traveled to a village outside of Osh to this couple's home (Sorry I have searched for my notes which I cannot find because I do not remember their names.And while I feel names are important, I'm not sure it is vital to this story.) on what could barely be called roads. I marveled that our town car did not break an axle.  A Texas rodeo was going to travel around Kyrgyzstan and Condalisa Rice had commissioned this couple to create Kyrgyz cowboy hats for the American cowboys to wear. I wanted one badly but there was none to be had.

The Kyrgyz people were once nomads and the horse is revered. I should also add that the Kyrgyz people feel that they have a close relationship with Native Americans. Many feel they are related and don't understand that there are actually more than 500 different tribes living in the U.S.

Anyway, the couple works closely together. They card the wool, create the felt by hand, cut felt into the pieces for hats then sews them together on treadle sewing machines. They did not speak English. To be honest, they had little interest in me and yet answered all my questions politely. I was fed as a guest of honor and blessed Allah for the meal as the couple was Muslim.  I did not get to meet their children because they were in school. Both of their faces lit up when they talked about their two children who also help with the family business. They took great pride in their work. I was told that they are known throughout their country as one of the best felt makers. They make their living for the most part by making traditional Kyrgyz hats for men. I'll share more soon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Backyard Inspired Quilt

Whenever I make statements like I did in my post about taking photos and not really needing them got me to thinking. Was this really true? And what could I do if I drew upon photos for inspiration? So I decided to take the photo of the Mexican photo and play with it. After an hour or so, I realized it was too limiting so I went back outside and took more photos. Viewing the added possibilities got me excited! The background for the blocks is an African brocade because the snow in my backyard is covered with animal (squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, cat) footprints and I like the texture. I used the cobalt blue linen I found because it was a nice contrast to the white brocade and it reminded me of the cold. It's just in the beginning stages and I'm having fun! I've also been dyeing wool for another project I've titled "Praying in the Rain." The basement studio is almost clean and organized. It's all good!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Release, Regain, Rejoice

The QuiltArt list has been discussing "the word" that best describes what people want to accomplish/focus on for the year. There have been some great words.  My friend Sherry Boram choose "edit" which I like a lot. Other words have been prioritize, do (popular), work, patience, dance, experiment, etc. Try as I might I cannot decide on just one word. I did come up with three--release, regain, rejoice. I'm calling them my "three r's."

I want to continue releasing. The cleaning out of unnecessary things in my life is making me feel incredible! The energy in my home has changed. The feelings I have about myself are improving.

I want to regain my creativity and time for myself. At the end of the month, I will no longer be involved with the Alliance for American Quilts and its oral history project Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. I'm going to continue to say "no" when I don't want to do something. It gets easier and easier.

I want to rejoice in my accomplishments. I want to be happy.

I have been working to get to this place in my life for years. I try hard to embrace process and I have to say that I am feeling like I just might be getting to a finish line with some things. Life is good!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Once in a Blue Moon

Finished! When I was digging through my solid color fabrics, I found a wonderful cobalt blue linen so even though I had the moon in natural linen, I took it off and made him blue. The quilt is 12" by 12". I used a variety of hand dyed fabrics for the dots and yes, one batik print. It was a perfect day to curl up under a quilt on my couch and do handwork. Not high art but certainly high play. It also feels good to use a piece from the past, to simply slow down and create.

Photo Every Day

Kathy Loomis of Louisville, Kentucky has made some kind of art every day for the years. Some years it was fabric diary blocks, other years postcards, etc. This year she is taking a photo every day on her walks. This idea appealed to me so I committed to do the same thing. Unfortunately, Chicago is not as conducive to walking very far on a daily basis and yesterday was one of those days. We only made it to 8 degrees. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to take my photo. Thoughts of abandoning the idea fleeted through my mind until I realized that I had been spending a lot of time looking out the window at a piece of Mexican pottery that I have in my backyard and the way the snow had fallen on it so I ventured outside for photos. I took lots from different angles until my fingers just got too cold. While I have always drawn on walks and things that I see to feed my creativity, I've never thought of actually having a visual diary so I want to thank Kathy for bringing this idea to my attention. The next part may surprise you but I'm not sure I actually need the photographs but just like the window from Kyrgyzstan, it's nice to have and they can come in handy to illustrate a point. I don't plan to share my daily pictures here every day but I will if something speaks to me deeply. I do think doing something creative every day is important and I'm looking forward to this adventure.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Blue Moon, Faces, Feet and an Old UFO

Last night after finishing a doll, I became inspired to start a new quilt. It's interesting how it all came together. I love how inspiration strikes and this one might seem simple at first glance but when I thought about it actually had lots of steps to get me going.

In my cleaning efforts, I have rediscovered pieces that I have long forgotten what I was thinking about when they (the background) were created. This one is probably from the mid to late 1980's and I've had it out since "finding" it about a week ago. Don't know why I kept it. I'm not even sure why it was just hanging out in my studio.

I love circles and I had spent the day looking at my socks, smiling (they do make me happy and they keep my feet quite warm) and contemplating circles. Since I'm suppose to be thinking about "body," I have to say that my feet were part of the inspiration.

I spent New's Year Eve watching the full moon rise into the sky. It had been cloudy all day and I feared I would miss it so when the sky cleared (not one cloud), I was joyful. Such a great gift for the new year and I wanted to honor the gift in some way so this was one my mind.

The doll faces have been so much fun to make that I decided to use one for the moon. I'm doing everything by hand. I love hand work. I find it relaxes and centers me which are goals for 2010 so it seems fitting. I'm pleased that the two circles I appliqued last night after a long day are round! I plan to add more circles and hand quilt with embroidery thread the piece so this is going to take me a while. I'll share my progress. Nothing is really planned so it should be an interesting journey.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Celestial Bodies

I signed up with Creative Every Day  and this month's theme is "body." I wanted to start my year doing something fun. These dolls were inspired by a doll given to me by my friend Carol Esch many years ago. I love making the faces. This will be gifts and I want to make some that are a little funkier. The plan this year is to play in between making serious art. I feel so incredibly hopeful about this year. Can't explain it. It just feels good! I'm also continuing to clean and get rid of things. This also feels good. It brings a feeling of lightness to the house and it's helping me survive the long, gray Chicago winter days. Trying hard not to give in to the downward pull winter has on me.