Monday, April 23, 2012

Envelope Journal

Ideas pop into my head all the time. About a month ago the idea of creating a journal that wasn't for writing but storing things came to mind. I searched through books and online but couldn't find what I had envisioned so yesterday I decided to give it a go. I wanted lots of different ways and sizes for storage. I made a lot of mistakes but as I tell my students, you can either embrace the learning or try for perfection, but you can't do both. I decided to make 10 different storage units (7-1/4" x 5-1/4"). I also wanted to be able to include some embossed envelopes. I made the cover out of fabric and Timex. I thought I would share what I have accomplished so far. My next challenge will be sewing them into the cover. I also think I would like to add more embellishments. This has been a little stressful but very satisfying. So what do you think?
envelope holder with embossed envelope

back of envelope with small envelope attached

envelope that opens at the right

Fabric cover

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Holstee Manifesto

I stumbled upon a company, Holstee, and wanted to share. I have seen their manifesto pop up many times since I first saw it in the fall of 2009. It's available as a poster and a greeting card made of 50% elephant poo and 50% recycled paper. Who knew elephant poo could be used so beautifully! They have other items too. Most I love the story behind the company because I love that others have had success with positive intentions.

"We wrote a manifesto but we never wrote a business plan.

In the months leading up to the summer of 2009, Holstee was just a small side project. We had sold a hundred or so shirts, mostly to family and close friends looking to support us. Having just quit our jobs without a plan or idea of how we would spend our days, we were filled with a ton of raw energy, emotion, and ideas - a feeling that we never wanted to forget. So the first thing Holstee's three founders - Mike, Fabian and Dave - did was sit together on the steps of Union Square and write down exactly what was on their minds and the tips of their tongues. It wasn't about shirts and it wasn't about their old jobs. It was about what they wanted from life and how to create a company that breathes that passion into the world everyday. It was a reminder of what we live for. The result became known as the Holstee Manifesto.

A message that has since been shared over 500,000 times and viewed over 60 million times online. Years later it is encouraging and inspiring to see how many people the words of The Holstee Manifesto resonate with. Above all else, it has confirmed for us that with genuine positive intentions, anything is possible."

Check them out! I know my gift giving just got a whole lot easier. Oh, and I do want to add to their manifesto, "If you don't have enough time, get off your computer." I have done just that and it's amazing what I'm accomplishing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Isn't There Room for Everyone?

Nearly twenty years ago I decided to try and recreate in fiber an American bullfrog. Friends didn't get my quest for the perfect fabric. I entered it into my guild's show not because it was a great quilt but because it scared me. While I was volunteering at the show as a "white glove lady," a woman seeing the show turned the corner and upon seeing my quilt said quite loudly, "Well I guess they will let any piece of s--t in this show." The comment hurt. However, a friend who was also a white glove volunteer, quickly ran up to me and said, "I'll trip her and you can kick her on the way down." I will forever be indebted to her but it also made me more sensitive to what I say at quilt shows.

I have strong opinions. I can be as catty as the next person and probably better than most. However, I don't get it when it comes to creating quilts. Over the years, I have listened to so many people express the opinion that a "real" quilt can only be done by hand. Lately, people have been talking disparagingly about the Modern Quilt movement on the QuiltArt list. Other people feel that art quilts can only be made with hand dyed fabric making those who use commercially manufactured fabrics feel they need to justify their choice. Are these comment so that we can feel superior? How does this help the cause?

I have a cartoon in my studio by J.C. Duffy who creates the syndicated comic strip "The Fusco Brothers" and has written and had comics in The New Yorker. Anyway, in the comic a guy is talking to a woman in a bar and he says, "Actually, I went into the comics because I wanted to be a part of one of the three uniquely American art forms- the other two being jazz and quilting...I didn't have the ear for jazz, and I didn't have the stomach for the dog-eat-dog, back-stabbing rat race of quilting."

Physicist David Bohm, in his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order, say that despite the apparent separateness of things, everything in the universe is a seamless extension of everything else. This doesn't mean that we are not unique individuals. Rather, we are like the separate whirlpools and eddies that form into a river, each distinct from every other, each whirling at a different, at a different angle--but all part of the same river.

So I would like to live in a world where everyone's creativity is embraced. You want to recreate Civil War quilts, go for it! You want to make art quilts with your own designs, go for it! Take classes, go for it! Study at home, go for it! And so on... I don't have to like it all but I do want it out there because in my mind, it's all good. It keeps the art of quiltmaking alive and we are all part of the same river. Now I'll get off my soapbox and go finish a quilt.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

To Act or Not to Act That Was the Question

I got a one star review on Amazon which was quite a shock especially after I read it. Here it is:

"Unfortunately, the readers of this book may believe Karen Maslow has diligently researched the history of the quilts contained in her book. As the family historian of one of the families who once possessed one of the quilts referenced in Maslow's book I have to disagree. Ms. Maslow references several on line postings I made about the family of the quilter, but never once contacted me. My email address is still associated with the posts so there is no excuse for the lack of contact. I am also in contact with the individual referenced who inherited the quilt Ms. Maslow writes about. Ms. Maslow never contacted the individual who is the former owner of the quilt.

Instead Ms. Maslow references a very distant relative who has no direct knowledge of the family and who has never corresponded with the individuals involved. The distant relative appears to have made up her own story about the family and its quilt. Ms. Maslow needs to do her own research and her own fact checking or the very least contact direct descendants and not depend upon distant relations who come up with a story to satisfy their own romantic views.

I bet our family's quilt is not the only one that has not been fact checked.

I urge Ms. Maslow not to perpetuate the myths contained in her book and to fact check every one of her stories with family members who know more about the individuals involved than a very distant relative, who is not a direct descendant. At the very least this should be done so that myths do not replace facts."

I consulted a couple of friends who advised me to "just let it go" and "these kind of things happen." Well, I tried to let it go. I knew there was a risk if I contacted the person, but the review bothered me on some many levels. First, the reviewer didn't even have my name correct. Next I wasn't convinced the person had actually read the book. I never referenced the reviewer's online postings about the quilt in my book nor could I find any.  In reality, I had debunked the story being told about the quilt in my book even though the present owner worried that I would upset family members. I do believe strongly we are all served when romanticized stories are replaced with facts and have dedicated my life to that end. I am thankful the reviewer used her real name because I was able to track her down and decided to call her because I was truly perplexed by her review. She was "shocked" that I had reached out to her. We had a pleasant conversations and she removed the bad review while on the phone. During our conversation, I was able to confirm that she had never read my book or the essay she was referencing in her review. She simply assumed because I had not talked with her, I had simply retold what was on the web about the quilt.  I never got an apology, but, then again, I wasn't expecting one either. I am glad I went with my gut and reached out to the reviewer. And once again, I am amazed at what people do and how having a dialogue can change everything.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Awakening from Winter's Darkness

Spring is one of my favorite seasons because, in part, it means the end of the unusually long Chicago winters.  The sun, longer days, and being able to play again in the dirt, all of these things make me feel alive. I am like a bear coming out of hibernation hungry for all that spring has to offer.

Since Marie's Art in the Cards  Revisioned theme for  for this month was "A Prayer Flag for Spring," I wanted to honor the theme by having my piece have a spiritual feel. I also love the idea of revisiting past ATCs and recreating them in fabric, but I also love that Marie gives us the freedom to do what we want! Who could ask for anything more? The quilts are 8.5" by 11" which also makes them easy to complete.

Anyway, I chose to recreate my "opposites" challenge ATC which I painted with fluid acrylic paints (second photo). I used both commercial and printed fabrics. The fabric dividing night (winter) from day (spring) is actually a photograph of heavy rain (our ATC challenge for this month) turned sideways. I created this piece using hand appliqued, machine piecing  and machine quilting.

Now I really must stop procrastinating and get busy creating Judy's Fabric Challenge quilt especially since so many people are creating incredible pieces of art! Wow! If you don't want to wait until May 1 when they are all revealed, check out Diane Dunder's truly amazing piece. You can see Kathy Schmidt's progress (she is using one of my favorite batiks) and Sara Kelly is looking for input. I can't wait to see what she does next! Hopefully the others will check in soon.

Tonight I spent the evening getting my studio back into order. It was really out of control. It gets that way when I'm focused and working. I don't want to take the time to put things away. So are you messy or tidy when you work? I know that the older I get the more I seem to need order. How about you?

Thursday, April 5, 2012


 This month's theme for Arts in the Cards exchange is rain. I got carried away and made two different sets. I began with rain drops (second photo) because I wanted to see what I could do with recreating motion with fabric. The entire time I was making them I kept thinking "April showers bring May flowers" so I decided to make a second set of cards.

Most of the time  I  don't enjoy making the same thing over and over again so I made my paper ATCs all different. Marie Johansen convinced me to purchase a Sizzix Big Shot, which reminds me of my pasta maker, because she always sends her ATCs in amazing embossed envelopes. I'm addicted! There's nothing like having another enabler in my life (said with humor and lots of love). By the way, I convinced her to purchase Martha Stewart's scoring board so it's working both ways. I can't wait to see the boxes and other wonderful things the highly talented Marie will make with it. Anyway, the Big Shot embosses paper beautifully so if you look closely at my ATCs you will see that the backgrounds are embossed. I'm all about background and words! I feel most successful when I have both. These were fun to make and I hope my fellow artists enjoy them as much I as enjoyed making them.There is something about creating little works of art (2.5" by 3.5") that always makes me happy and provides me with the incentive to stretch as an artist.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Work vs Play

My friend bonnie called me the other day and shared that after looking through the quilts on my blog that her definition of play was very different than mine. There was no judgement in her comment. It was simply an observation. This got me to thinking which I'll admit can at times be a dangerous thing. I often start by looking things up in the dictionary. The definition of play is "occupying or amuse oneself pleasantly with some recreation, game, exercise, etc." While the definition of work is "the application of mental or physical effort to a purpose: a task to be undertaken: the means for earning income." I know which one I would choose.  I'm not sure when I decided that I was going to approach life more playfully. I can tell you that I am happier.

I was out the other day fixing (clearing out leaves and putting the spoons pushed up by the frozen ground) Spoon River (photo) when my neighbor peeked over the fence and said, "That looks like too much work for me." Fixing Spoon River and "working" in my yard never feels like work to me. Yes, it's physical labor and yet, I love it. I even love mowing my lawn. For my husband, mowing the lawn is something that puts him in a foul mood. There is no joy in it for him and nothing I can say to him changes his mind so I mow and we're both happy. Personally I'd rather have the attitude of play with as many things in my life as I can. So what do you consider play and what do you consider work?

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I hate that so much of what I am creating I cannot share because of entry rules. Also my dad had another heart attack. We are waiting to hear what will happen next--more surgery or a pacemaker. He'll be 80 on May 5 and I'm throwing him a party.

I am so impressed with what Kathy Schmidt has done so far with Judy's Fabric Challenge. She used one of my favorite batiks and I love circles so be sure to check it out and leave a comment. She thought she wasn't playing by my rules and I think she is doing just fine. I am much more interested in people pushing themselves out of their comfort zone than anything with these challenges. And yes, I'll host another challenge when this one is completed on May 1 so check back.

Diane Dunder is done! But she is teasing us by not revealing it yet. You can see hints on her blog. Louise Baldel is also done but she doesn't have a blog and is moving so you'll have to wait until the reveal.

Now go play! I am.