Quilt Update!

So this is how the whole Attic Windows quilt is coming together: it will have a border with some log cabin and nine-patch blocks giving it a bit of a sampler feel, but that’s OK. Fell behind due to being on vacation for 2 weeks.

So that is 216 individual blocks! And….The digital antenna simply works at this location right now; it is not part of the design process:)

This quilt design wall is 80″ high. So there us room to compose a large quilt!

Gardening and Houseplants: Staying Grounded While Making Art

The world around us is abuzz with distractions that take us off our life path….and it can sure send you sideways. How to stay grounded?

Gardening and plants help me. And, in my work as a life coach, it helps my clients. I look out my kitchen window every morning to take stock of the plants in my yard….starting with the one on my windowsill:

 

I recently cleared out the summer tomatoes and put in winter vegetables: here’s a relaxing survey of seeds getting ready to sprout!

Here are the out-of-control end of season tomatoes and melons:

The last melon:

Below is a composting tub from a re-purposed city recycling container; these are AWESOME for making compost and are available at the Tucson Organic Gardeners, for more info click here.

Here are the seeds and potato starts–those were in my fridge all summer and they are already sprouting. Also, shallots!

Now waiting for seeds to sprout. Will update when I see signs of life.

 

 

Window Peeps

I will admit, it gets tedious piecing together these blocks; but making progress: here is an up close shot…..and then a wider angle, so you can see how many more I need to make to come close to a queen-size quilt top!

Art Quilt Progress and Literary Inspiration from Margaret Atwood and David Blight

Here are my completed Attic Windows blocks–so far; they are 4 1/2″ square:

This is my design wall in my studio: a framed board covered in cotton batting so fabric sticks to it. As you can see, I have a large area to fill up with 4 1/2″ blocks to make something close enough to a bedspread for a queen sized bed.

I really got side-tracked this month by the new Margaret Atwood novel The Testaments which was released September 10th; when I got my copy I could not put it down for a week. Many of you might know Margaret Atwood from her famous book, and now Hulu TV series The Handmaid’s Tale.

You might not know that her 1995 novel Alias Grace–which is AWESOME–is about a quilt-maker–and a murder mystery–and is full of allusions to traditional quilt block pattern names.

I started quilting in the mid-1990s, after I read Alias Grace. I wanted to be a writer, then; but after reading this book, I put down my pen and started sewing. I also recommend The Robber Bride. Oryx and Crake–not so much; I was depressed for a week after reading that one.

Moving on to another author…..David Blight. Now am listening to the 14-CD Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom while I sew. It is a gripping narrative and difficult to stop listening–it’s hard for me to think of another person who represents what I think of as the greatest American ever. My opinion, yes. I believe he was the most photographed person of the 19th century. But I have not fact-checked that; it’s from memory. When is the Frederick Douglass epic movie going to be made? It will need to be a multiple season HBO production with a budget higher than that for Game of Thrones.

Now I can’t use reading as an excuse!

Art Quilt Update

I’m assembling my Attic Windows quilt by machine piecing the square window shapes to the vertical window pane shape–see more in the video below! But first, here is what they look like once pressed:

Handicrafts can help us feel relaxed, even when machine enabled; it’s a great time while knitting, sewing, carving, woodworking to take in information, through conversation with others or through audio books and recordings.

I always feel I retain information better when I hear it while working on a project or while walking–maybe you do, too; experiment and see if it is true for you too!

Here is a snippet of my work Monday–with some explanation; but it’s just a minute! I have a lot of machine piecing ahead of me this week!

My mom had hip replacement surgery, is doing great! Delay in posting, though; I will be doing some live instagram quilting, to make up. Stay tuned!

Attic Windows: Quilt Block as Metaphor

I’m working on a new quilt, a traditional block pattern called Attic Windows. Below is  the general color palette:

Quilt Blocks are stable fabric structures; fabric can be re-purposed and re-used when it is re-assembled along it’s grain–and the grain lets you go vertical or horizontal. When put back together, scraps of woven fabric are best assembled along the grain, that is if you want something you can use for generations and also through in the washing machine. Reassembling on a diagonal creates a bias; which can be useful in it’s own way, for something with drape, but not for making a quilt for use.

Here are some short videos cutting the vertical and horizontal strips, as well as monologue about picky-piecing and design elements to consider when choosing fabrics for a traditional Attic Windows block:

 

 

The point on the end of the 5″ long strip is achieved by cutting off the bottom at a 45″ angle, creating a mitered corner, which takes 2″ off the cut side. The window is a 3-inch square. The block un-assembled is 5″ square.

The current color palette matches the colors on the last major quilted piece I managed to complete in the past 5 years, the Diaspora piece from 2015, a highlight below. It is my favorite color scheme, pastels and the tertiary part of the color wheel. Then, I remember intentionally trying to use bold and durable primary colors–to challenge myself to use a different palette–only to have the unintended consequence of a new design process reduce those bold colors to…..you guessed it……pastels:

It feels good to resume a forgotten, enjoyable activity; what we love often falls away as we deal with economic survival, toil, labor. I encourage anyone reading this to consider now what can be done to remedy this situation in your life. There must be something you love to do and are not doing. If, due to the pressures, duties and responsibilities of your personal life this fell away somewhere along the way–do not worry!  If you want to get back to it you can. When the time and space presents, take the first step, which is often simply cleaning out a space and making room and setting your intentions.

Through the process of trying different creative ways of doing things we re-create; we make form from the old in a new way. You can use your experiences of being not creative when you are creative again.

But life situations happen. Sometimes there are other things to do in the other rooms of your own personal house. We forget about the room where the stuff is that we get out and discover and remember about who we are/were/will be.  It’s like going up into the attic after a long hot summer. It’s all cobwebby and musty. But, a more usable space again.

In many shamanic traditions the hummingbird is revered for being able to do the impossible. This is especially true of the great wisdom traditions of the Andes–what we in the States think of as Peru. Get your hummingbird on for when your window to create appears! Because if this tiny creature can do the impossible….surely you can set aside an afternoon to tidy up you “attic” or whatever the equivalent is in your personal life, this so you can start to do again what you think or thought was impossible.

Back in the Mix: Return to Art Making After Professional Detours

It’s been a few years; to my readers, some going back to 2009, welcome back! There are photos at the bottom of this post featuring my new work!

Why the absence? A few big losses that took years to assimilate and the sad reality of economic survival–death and a series of bad jobs, to make it short.   The death of my father suddenly from a glioblastoma, the sudden death by heart attack of my best friend/astrology teacher of 20 years, the death of my dog Bearbear (more here)…sounds like a verse in a Hank Williams song.

Death is nothing I could plan for; but the jobs, those were my own doing.  One serious detour away from making art was working as a psychotherapist–I long had these crazy ideals about getting a license to be a therapist, and after you get an MSW the only way to do this is to work several years and accumulate enough supervised hours–100–to apply, and the only jobs that meet the state’s onerous requirements are  in community mental health or at the VA–these are the places that have a chronic shortage of psychotherapists, probably because they are so toxic and dysfunctional no one with any heart or soul can work there, you have to check those at the door.

This took me a few years to figure out;  I was not fully aware of what was going on in my environment as I was coping with settling my dad’s estate, which was really a non-estate if you know what I mean: a lot of time and effort settling nothing just to break even. And then my mom broke her ankle in a car crash 9 months after my dad’s death.  Anyone who has been through any grief/loss event knows that about which I speak: it’s a long fog and you just don’t catch all the details. Long story short: I had all kinds of ideals about getting a social work therapy license and then using my art-making skills–described in this blog since 2009–to help people creatively solve painful, intractable life problems. Artists solve problems all the time. In my mind’s eye I had an ideal I was working towards. Just needed, I thought, the 2 years work experience and the supervisor to sign off on the hours–then apply to the state licensing board. I had at this point been working for 10 years straight as an MSW for state government and as a medical social worker in a Nursery ICU. I felt confident, given my track record.

Was I wrong. I failed to imagine, with all of my future thoughts of rainbows and unicorns, the predatory, sociopathic social workers/psychologists who would also be there–they were the gatekeepers–the supervisors, the ones who signed the forms during the process of acquiring the 100 supervised work hours I needed. And I had made some enemies among the gatekeepers. I am not one to pick every hill to die on, quite the contrary. I usually see the hills and walk around them. Unfortunately in these environments there are some very lazy and very powerful predator type gatekeepers who have nothing to do but scout out prey and then sit and wait. I simply was not paying attention; or perhaps I’m blaming the victim–me. I did not see how I was being set up.  One  I was sitting in my social work supervisor’s office, getting what I thought was hour 97 of 100 and about ready  to submit my request to the state licensing board. Instead, I was told that I was administratively not quite measuring up; my work with individuals and families was not being questioned, it was in fact very good—-but my ability to complete every keystroke in the VA computer system was being questioned, and until that was resolved to my supervisor’s satisfaction–through some arbitrary metric– there would be no recommendation for licensure.

I was finally able to see what was going on. I quit immediately. And I am now a life coach; for the past 1 1/2years I’ve been working in this capacity, and I’ve had some success! It’s such a relief, after so much negativity. I use all my training as a [psychotherapist….but I use my powers for light. Defense against the dark arts folks. I feel much more effective in my new capacity.

Now for the art: here is a photo of me and my mom at our recent art show in Benson, Arizona at the local community college. We had a mother daughter show. My mom cuts paper; I rip it. Behind us you can see her lovely paper cuts.

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This is a close up of an unfinished paper cut that design-wise just didn’t make the cut, just to give you an idea:

 

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Meanwhile I rip paper, in this case, photocopies of my own photographs:
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Then through an elaborate process I transfer the paper collage on to silk organza; that’s been described elsewhere in this blog:
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Here are 2 of my finished pieces for the show: the first is 40″x30″; the next one is 18″x24″: both are silk/paper collages mounted on wood panels and framed.
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And here is a shot of these pieces from a distance–it’s just a community college, but a lovely venue with a big lobby and lots of natural light:

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So that is a lengthy update; but on the bright side, I’m now making art. One thing I learned in my training with the Veterans as a psychotherapist, our brains can make habits up way too easily. In 2 months we can have a habit down and it can be hard to change. Not making art has been a habit. Such a relief to have that changing.

Diaspora Update

I have lots of great photos to share about the last 4 weeks of my work on the diaspora art quilt project. My camera battery charger disappeared midway through September, causing a delay in photographing my progress. It’s been great to have the time to dedicate to the project. Tomorrow I start a full-time job, less time to quilt, so It’s a good thing I’ve gotten most of it done.

This is what the piece looks like with the silk laminated collage basted onto the cotton sateen hand-stamped with the hurricane-symbol shapes; at this point, I’ve started cutting away at the top using reverse applique to create depth, and at the very top you can see a white hurricane-symbol shape cut out of paper, placed there to see if it would be a good location for reverse applique.

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Here is a reverse applique shape cut out of the 2-layer quilt top; each of the applique shapes features a photo of New Orleans post-Katrina, and this photo features a banner suspended from a building, it reads “until we all come home”:

100315 blog 1Once I cut out 14 reverse appliques like the one above, each one needed to be couched with colored yarn to cover up the seam. Here’s the same applique, now couched with yarn I dyed:

100315 blog 4I used the shapes cut out from the top to create a spiral pattern on the back of the quilt:

100315 blog 5And once the backing was done, I spent 2 arduous days basting the top and the back together with wool batting in the middle; once basted, I started quilting, and this is the result so far: I think you’ll agree that the quilting line really makes the collage “pop” out. I’m really pleased with the results so far!

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Diaspora Project Collage Process: 3 weeks of shredding

083115 collage 1Well, this is what my sewing room looked like for most of August as I ripped up about $100 worth of color photocopies and stuck them together in a roughly 72″ x 72″ square.

083115 collage 2 Here is collage as it was starting to come together….

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…and here it is with the silk organza draped over it. The silk was getting ready to be screen-printed with the meteorological hurricane symbol, and I put stickers in a spiral on the silk so I’d know where to print. The theme of this piece is diaspora, and I’m using the images of a storm as both a metaphor of the diaspora experience, and as a literal example of diaspora, because I’ll be referencing Katrina and New Orleans later in the process of this piece.

083115 collage 7So here is the finished collage….for the most part…..

083115 collage 8…and this is a close up.

 

083115 collage 4With the collage finished, I cut out hurricane symbol shapes and stuck them on the silk organza in a spiral, storm shape and then took the fabric outside to the patio where I could make a mess screen-printing the fabric.

083115 collage 5 Then, the silk was draped over the collage on my dining room table, and I screen-printed acrylic gel medium over the whole thing to transfer the collage to the silk.

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And here is the collage stuck to the silk drying and heat-setting out in the hot Arizona summer sun. How did it turn out? Well, I’ll post again soon.

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