Wildflower Update

There’s a bad drought in southern Arizona now; I don’t think I’ve had more than half and inch of rain in my yard in over 6 months. So there’s no spring wildflowers in the desert; though here in my yard, since I water, it’s a different story.

The angel above was originally purchased when I thought I was going to bury Baxter’s ashes. However, I can’t quite bring myself to bury them. So, the ashes stay inside and the angel remains outside.

Here’s another view:

I lost a lot of time last week due to a crazy amount of migraines; so that cut into my art-making. Then my sewing machine was in the shop for the week. Then I popped something in my mid-back, making breathing a problem. BLAH. Then I started this short 2 day minor remodeling project in my home, involving, largely, replacing THIS hideous thing….

with a window, and my glum looking front door…..

with something more appropriately feng-shui.

Right now the father-son duo who are doing the work left a pile of tools in my livingroom and more stuff out on my patio. Tomorrow when I get home from work I’ll post updated photos! And then maybe I can get back to art. And get my sewing machine back!


I’m Thrown a Curve By a Fowl

I got home from work yesterday and let my dog out….and then the next instant I heard a huge flutter of wings, and then saw what looked like a turkey perched in my rose arbor. Too bad I didn’t have my camera!

It wasn’t a turkey, Bearbear–my dog–had flushed out a guinea fowl:

Bearbear seems to enjoy chasing it at times to make it run, but otherwise leaves it alone. I’m not sure if this is a male or female.

This morning it was roosting in a tree behind my backyard fence:

I put up signs in my neighborhood for a lost bird, but haven’t had any calls. I don’t really mind having this bird hang around, providing he/she isn’t real noisy….and from what I’ve read guinea fowl are FAMOUS for noise when they’re in a flock.

Apparently they’re good watch-birds; check them out squawking at a rattlesnake!

I’m going to call the Humane Society tomorrow to see if anyone is missing a bird. I have a feeling this one may stick around for a while. There’s lots to eat in my yard.

St. Patrick’s Machine Quilting: Not Exactly Green Beer

Well it’s St. Patrick’s Day and I’m NOT playing any fiddle tunes tonight. My tell-all of my experience in Tucson’s dysfunctional Irish music community will be coming up in a future post; right now, while it’s hard to tell in the photo below, I just quilted around all the poppies in this latest piece:

Here’s a close-up:

And here’s the back:

I think I’ll just stipple the border. Then try and frame it. The quilting line really brings out the shape of the flowers. I used my walking-foot, as free-motion–as I mentioned before–didn’t work on this surface, thus limiting what I can do with the quilting line. But I will be able to use the free-motion foot on the border, which is just plain cotton fabric, nothing laminated.

Art Quilts, Meet Power Tools

I want to try and frame some of my newer, smaller art quilts, given that they look painterly; and if I’m successful, maybe I’ll even try framing larger pieces! Given my DIY sensibilities (why buy it if you can make it), I priced out entry-level compound mitre-saws and picked one up at a local hardware store yesterday morning: this is the tool that allows one to cut wood at a 45 degree angle, what’s needed to make frames for art.

Power tools freak me out. My mother’s father was a very gifted carpenter, as are his sons; they built the church at a nearby monastery in St. David, AZ. You’d think some of the handiness would be passed on to me. Perhaps. Sadly, when I look at power tools what comes to mind isn’t carpentry but war and torture; I’m not trying to make this political, it’s just sadly a morbid train of thought I can’t stop thanks to our war in Iraq.

But, you know, I want to make frames for my art quilts. Dour thoughts aside, I really liked firing up my new saw and hacking away at some molding strips I got at a local lumberyard.

Here’s my first set of stretcher bars!

The plan is to stretch the poppy art quilt over the bars, staple, and then build a frame to go around the stretcher-bars. To that end, and thinking optimistically, I drilled 2 holes on the top and bottom bars, so that I can screw the stretcher bars to the frame I eventually build.

I’d like to thank Jerry, the Sixty Minute Artist; his blog post about building frames for his paintings gave me some good ideas. Thanks Jerry!

Machine Quilting Laminated Silk Fabric

OK. I think it’s going to take me some time to figure out how to successfully machine quilt the laminated silk fabric I’ve made recently.

Here’s the piece, I added the border yesterday. What you’re looking at is 2 layers of fabric, the somewhat stiff laminated silk on top of a piece of yellow-ish/orange fabric; you can kind of see that the black and white areas have a bit of a rosy glow, that’s the fabric underneath.

I then added a 3rd layer, the batting; this is the piece, wrong side up:

I plan on stretching this over stretcher-bars (so it will look a bit like a canvas), so I’m not quilting the whole top, and I’m leaving some fabric un-quilted on the side (the yellow fabric you see) so it will be easier to stretch and staple over the stretcher-bars.

I then put on a final layer of loosely woven muslin, over the backing, to make the quilt sandwich: 4 layers total.

Then I tried to quilt it.

Above, you can see that there is an OK quilting line along the green stem; I used the walking foot for that, and the stitches are OK. In the middle, you can see yellow-ish holes where I pulled out the thread: this is where I tried to stiple using the free-motion foot.  The thread kept breaking and it was driving me nuts; changing the needle, the tension, the thread did nothing. I think there are a) too many layers to free motion (next time I’ll skip the muslin backing so I just have 3 layers to quilt through, and b)the laminated fabric doesn’t have any “weave” so it’s kind of like quilting through a super tight-woven fabric like cotton sheeting, which is impossible. I did that once. Never again. It could also be my machine.

Anyway, since this fabric doesn’t have a “weave”, when I pulled out the stitches, holes were left behind.

I knew this was going to happen; but I hoped that the quilting would go better. I pressed the fabric with some steam, under parchment paper, and at least the holes melted a bit and now aren’t so obvious:

Tomorrow I’ll quilt the rest of it, though I’m just using the walking-foot, which can outline shapes but nothing more. Free-motion is out. Until I figure out how to make it work.

Tomorrow I also plan to set up my new mitre-saw: power tools make me nervous, but I want to try and make frames for these pieces. When something is framed it immediately becomes more of any art object. Unfair, but, that’s just how it is.

Class at The Drawing Studio a Success In the End

Last night I went to the first “Intro to Professional Practices” class at The Drawing Studio. It was lots of fun; it’s a small, talented group with a good leader to keep things in line: that makes all the difference!

Last week I was incensed (read all about it here) when I showed up for the first night of class to learn it had been postponed….without me knowing about it.

The next day I wrote one of my terse complaint letters, complete with aggrieved tone, and demanded my money back. It went out in the mail that day. I got a call from Lynn at The Drawing Studio the day after that; she left a thoughtful voice mail which addressed, quite neatly, all of my concerns; she offered a complete refund. After hearing it I realized I no longer had an axe to grind.

I’m happy things seemed to have such a mature resolution. The class is great. I’ve already met some lovely folks.

Oh, Saguaros: Not Fade Away!

I had mixed results with the whole photocopy-collage-silk-fabric lamination thing.

Here are both collaged pieces pinned down under 100 silk organza. Yummy fabric.

After using a silkscreen to apply the gel medium, then drying, pressing, soaking and scrubbing the fabric, I was left with this faded disaster:

This is the fabric-side (as opposed to the paper-side) of the fabric. It’s so dim-looking,  I’m disappointed after all that glue-sticking. When I applied the gel medium on Saturday, the color photocopies in the collage were mostly just a few days old. I read in the book by Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan on the topic that it’s best to let color photocopies “cure” for at least a week for using them. Now I know why; I thought I was exempt from this recommendation. So, I think that’s one factor.  The photocopies I used in the more successful prickly pear piece in January were 2 months old.

The other issue is perhaps the subject matter itself. Saguaros aren’t generally a bright, vibrant green; they’re looking especially parched now due to the rainless winter here, but even after inches of rain, their green is still not bright, at least not consistently. Their color isn’t enough of a contrast with the black-and-white photo background.

The poppy piece fared a bit better, this is the “fabric-side”:

This is the “paper-side”: all the paper is scrubbed off, what you see is just pigment, but the color is brighter and I think the fractured effect is a bit stronger.

And this is the same side, on top of some dyed orange fabric, instead of the white above; this of course brightens things up and will likely be what I decide to use for the backing.

Next time I spend hours on a collage I’m using photocopies that are a month old for sure. Time to get thee to a photocopy shop now, so I can start another collage next month.

Third Silk and Paper Lamination Piece: Saguaros

I’m almost done with the last of 3 silk and paper lamination pieces: this one will be saguaros. I worked on it this week after work and then this morning. I’m still stunned that it takes so long to rip up paper, apply glue-stick and then adhere to paper; seems like it should be done in no time but NO…

I’m taking a break right now from finishing it, so tomorrow I can take both this one and the poppy one outside and screen-print on the acrylic gel medium. Tonight it’s me, a glue-stick, a stack of shredded paper on my ironing board, my dog and C-Span. Now that is commitment.

My pattern is based on this photograph; saguaros are themselves creatures of amusing and intriguing design, and when in a saguaro forest the interaction of their shapes never ever bores me:

The Drawing Studio: Unprofessional Start to “Profesional Practices” Class

I mailed a $165 check to The Drawing Studio last week, payment for a 6 week class called “Professional Practices” (scroll down to the “advanced” classes for dates/description). I thought it would be helpful and fun to learn skills to better promote my work.

I arrived at 6PM today with one other student. We couldn’t find our class. A helpful young woman told us she didn’t know about our class; she said our instructor had just left for the day, she offered to call her. We listened as she made the call, and when she was done she told us that the instructor had forgotten to email us that she had decided to delay the start of class for a week.

I really wish the instructor had at least the good sense to make up a sympathetic story. Fender bender OMG I can’t make it!! My dog got into some chocolate–we’re at the emergency vet!! My car broke down!! I’m sick and I meant to call but I’ve been throwing up all day SO sorry!!

It would be impossible and uncharitable to criticize a legitimate excuse. But to simply “forget” to contact us about a decision to “delay” class? Look, I have a job all day at a hospital. My free time is spent making art. I left home early because I knew I’d have to find parking downtown (I parallel parked between 2 giant cars). I made arrangements to get to class on time.

I guess I find this unprofessional and somewhat ironic behavior for an instructor teaching a class called….Professional Practices. If I’d gotten a phone call or email today while I was at work telling me there was going to be a last minute delay….fine. All my contact information was on my class registration.  Quite frankly, if I’d gotten home tonight and found a voice mail or email with a hasty apology….even that I’d shrug off as flaky Tucson behavior (this is SUCH a town of slackers) and I wouldn’t be writing this.

But, no.

I’m going to write and request a refund, though they say they won’t offer refunds 2 weeks prior to class starting. I’m asking anyway. Maybe The Drawing Studio is so successful they can do whatever they want. If so, I’m better off at home Wednesday nights with my dog.

Scott Wilson’s Wisconsin Unionbusting Move: A Daily Show Clip

Some of the best analysis of the news is, of course, on the Daily Show; last night was no exception, with this insightful and hilarious assessment of the current fight in Wisconsin to protect the rights of the working class.

Go Badgers! I wish I were in Madison. I’d easily picket at the state capitol. Arizona is, after all, a right-to-work state.