And yet more baby steps…

This week I managed to get some garden and art related chores done after work.  It’s fall here in Arizona and temps next week will be in the 80s!!! Time to start the winter garden. I turned over my raised beds and added some potting soil…

Here are my nicely turned over beds; these are home to parnsip, carrot, beet, kale and lettuce; the wire on top is to discourage the local stray cats from confusing my garden with a litter box.

Then later in the week I tackled the dreadful art-quilt-framing issue. Here are my cedar stretcher bars on the back side of the desert marigold piece….

And here’s the piece pulled over the stretcher bars and stapled to the back. I know, it doesn’t look straight, but it is; just a bad camera angle:

Late this afternoon, I measured the stretched piece and cut some poplar molding I have to make a frame; I then used my new mitre-trimmer to make the neatest 45-degree angle cuts:

Unfortunately, my very amateur woodworking skills have got me again, and this frame is going to be just about a quarter-inch too small all around:

So I’m going to have to get a more accurate ruler for measuring; at least it’s reasuring to see that the mitre-trimmer makes a huge difference in cutting wood for frames, check out this very smooth fit below! And that’s not even glued yet.

If I can just get the measurements just right I’ll be fine. Maybe when I do this again, I need to make the stretcher bars and frame at the same time, before I stretch the quilt. It seems that with the quilted fabric stapled over the piece, if I make the frame just 1/4 bigger all around, that frame should then  neatly fit around stretched quilt art.

That’s my plan at least!

Work Week Art Baby Steps

When you have a day job, and you’re an artist, it’s all about being disciplined in taking baby steps to get things done. It is so bleeping frustrating–because any artist would rather go full hog into the art making rather than having to hack away at something for just an hour–but progress does happen with daily measured steps.

So, this week I managed to staple and glue together some cedar stretcher bars for my (finally) completely machine quilted paper/silk lamination, I finished quilting this week during several episodes of the Daily Show. The bars will go UNDER the piece….

…and I’ll staple the 4-layer piece to the back.

Below, you can see the top layer (silk/paper fabric), the second layer (yellow cotton to add color in the background) and 2 layers of cotton flannel (the “batting”, I picked flannel because it will be exposed on the back and you can see the quilting lines on it nicely). I think I will trim the bottom layer of flannel to the exact dimensions of the stretcher bars so there will be less bulk when I staple around the corners.

Here’s the machine quilting up close; not always totally even, sometimes I forget to drop my feed dogs and my free-motion is bit uneven. I can’t believe I am that absent-minded, but I don’t think the quilting looks terrible as a result. I’m sure a quilt-show quilting judge would cringe….but for me, it’s OK. Plus, you can’t really pull out too many stitches on this type of work; once the top is needle-punched, the holes show.

Here’s the quilting on the back:

Also this week, my art quilting pal Mary Vaneckee came by with a 21 yard roll of 9 inch wide blue mesh fabric for making thermofax screens; I’ve blogged before (here)about the ancient thermal copier I found on craigslist, and I’m finally getting around to using it. We split the cost on the mesh; here’s my 30 feet, it’s blue, and it set me back $100. I better get some good screen printed fabric out it!

Anyway. Once the piece above is stapled to stretcher bars, I’ll pull out my newly acquired mitre trimmer and try making a simple frame.

That will likely be my next post!

Another Fantastic Asheville Trip

I just got back yesterday from my trip to Asheville where I hung out for 5 days with my absolutely fabulous fiddle pal Beanie Odell.

My first day there was warm and we headed out of town to a lovely trail along the French Broad river, where we hiked to a perfect swimming hole. Really. River swimming isn’t something I really get to do in Tucson; floating a bit with the current while watching the fish below in the very clear water was sublime.

Here’s a heron I saw on the way back:

We played a fair amount of tunes, and talked about tunes, and listened to tunes.  And there was lots of Boggle, the nerdy and addictive word game for those of us who don’t have the patience or brains for Scrabble. Beanie, as it turns out, is a Boggle champ and the best I could do was come within a ten point margin of her consistently super-high scores.

But a big chunk of time we spent listening to tunes while painting Beanie’s coffee table– she’d found a discarded antique pine table, and re-planed and sanded it, and drew (freehand!!) a symetrical paisely design on top. Beanie started to paint it before I arrived, and wasn’t happy with the colors she’d picked out. Here’s the table as we started to “audition” different color combinations to improve her design:

And here you can see the “new” red and green on the right (they are darker) versus the old colors, which are lighter:

Here’s Beanie doing the brown outline on the big paisley shapes; what a pro! Painting this thing, and mixing up the colors just right, took hours.  Good thing there was a nearly complete Irish fiddle digital archive in the house!

Working at a task while listening to tunes is a great way to get them in your head. We both managed to learn the 5 part jig Helvic Head as played by Fisherstreet on their 1991 recording Out in the Night.

Here’s the finished tabletop…

…and here we both are with our painting handiwork.

All it needs is a coat of shellac, and it will be ready for a circle of musicians and some good craic!

I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Asheville. I already miss having someone around who really gets the spirit of Irish music.

Miscellaneous Projects

I managed to get a few things done this past week. Like start quilting this paper/silk lamination piece so I can then try and build a frame for it; it’s not easy to see the quilting design, but, it’s there:

I also put up one of my pieces at my chiropractor’s office; I think it looks pretty cool, maybe someone will buy it!

And I finished moving all of my books into my art room, to free up my livingroom wall….

…so I could put up the Drug Blimp triptych from The Grasslands Bakery, which used to hang up behind the bar there:

My sister gave me the painting. It’s hard to believe she made this 20 years ago, when surveillance technology on the US/Mexico border consisted of blimps with cameras. Now there are drones that could fit in my old Mazda hatchback that do the same thing.

I’m off to Asheville, N.C. tomorrow for 5 days of what I hope will be excellent and most favorable fiddling conditions. My update when I return. 🙂


St. David, Arizona Tomato Terrace

St. David, Arizona is a little over an hour from Tucson; it’s a Mormon community with lots of water due to the San Pedro River. On the edge of town is a Catholic outpost, the Holy Trinity Monastery; the lovely small church (which you’ll see if you click the link) there was built by my grandfather, who’s buried there, and my 2 uncles, who still live in St. David.

One of those uncles, Christopher, lives across the street from the monastery in a rammed earth home he built, with a large solar array outside; next to his home is an irrigation ditch–these ditches are the  source of the southwestern myth of La Llorona–which he’s cultivated with fruit trees and a jungle of indeterminate tomato vines.

I paid a quick visit today, hoping for some tomatoes. Here’s just a small part of the elaborate vegetable terraces:

Above, a close-up of tomatillos, and below, lots of tomato vines, recently picked clean so I’d have a big bucket of tomatoes to take home!

I know this may not seem very significant to those of you who live in a milder climate, where you can garden, but in Arizona, this is a spectacular vegetable garden. Check out the watermelon and cantaloupe:

A fallen cottonwood trunk is a pedestrian bridge over the ditch:

Can’t wait for dinner tomorrow….which will be a giant Caprese salad!

Thermofax Blooper

I picked up an old thermal copier a while back; once artifacts lingering in old public school Audio-Visual closets–next to the overhead projectors–these things are now in high demand by fiber artists (they make silk screens) and tattoo artists (for design stencils):

I got mine on Craigslist for $200.

For a very clear and lucid explanation of how/why you’d want to use a thermofax for fiber art, read this blog post.

Anyway, my machine seems to work fine, and I just made my first silkscreen from a black and white photocopy, here it is:

Since this was just a sample, I made a quick “frame” with duct tape:

And here it is, outside with some fabric and dye paste; but when I made my first attempt at a print, all I got was a rectangular blob of dye paste on my fabric.

I won’t both showing you the blob. I think the problem is that my black and white copy from the copy shop isn’t toner-based. If you don’t use a carbon-based black-and-white original for the design, the thermal copier won’t be able to bind the image to the silkscreen mesh.

I’ll have to try again.

Post-Grasslands Adjustment

I’ve been very tired this week; last weekend–closing down the Grasslands–was exhausting. I’ve been busy moving stuff around my house to accommodate the art and dry-goods I took from the bakery.

For example, all my books were once on this wall…

…but I moved them to this corner to make room for the art my sister gave me, when the Grasslands closed, and which now needs a home.

Then, in what I hope is an exciting turn of events in my quest to make frames for my art–especially the new paper laminations I’m making, which I don’t think look great in a traditional quilt binding–I found a deal on Craigslist last Tuesday while I was just browsing. The ad had just been placed for this mitre trimmer….

which can be best thought of as a kind of paper-cutter for picture-frame-sized wood, as it trims already mitre-cut wood to a smooth finish, and…

…the same folks who had the cutter also had this picture joiner, which is a handy way to clamp and staple–with v-nails–the mitre-cut frame wood:

I’m going to give these a shot tomorrow I hope! Almost ready to get back into the art-making.