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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Update on Paper Shredding Fabric Design

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This is what I’ve got so far in my ambitious diaspora project. The size is roughly 58″x58″. The concentration camp image is almost done; above that is the Lincoln memorial image, you can see it in pencil barely, and I’m going to start filling that in today. I’m auditioning text for the other spaces, not sure where that will all go yet. Also, the conquistidor shape, a rubbing from my recent visit to Santa Fe, will factor in somehow, as will the national weather service hurricane symbol, which you can see to the left.

Here’s a close up:

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And here is the stack of color photocopies (I’ve spent close to $100 on these) which I’ll be ripping up and fitting into the piece, somehow. I recently shared with one of the women in my bi-weekly art quilt group that I was spending my time shredding paper in my art studio; she asked me if I felt like a hamster. Not a lot of fabric is designed by ripping up paper and taping it together! Next time I’ll post a photo of the paper debris on the floor. It’s impressive. But, not until the Lincoln memorial design element is complete.

Diaspora: A New Art Quilt Project

SAQA is the Studio Art Quilt Associates, a membership organization devoted to promoting and advancing the cause of the art quilt. I’ve been a member for about 3 years. They do a great job of sponsoring art quilt shows around the world.  There’s an October 31 deadline for a show in Washington, D.C, and the theme is diaspora. I’m thinking of entering a piece.

Diaspora is not the most uplifting theme, admittedly, but if you’ve read any of my recent posts and noticed the dearth of posts due to my dad’s death, well, you wouldn’t have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to figure I haven’t been in the most upbeat of moods lately. Add prolonged unemployment to the list of woes and perhaps it’s understandable how the theme might be attractive to me at this time.

When I think of Diaspora I think of the excellent and moving eponymous recording by Natacha Atlas. I’ve been listening to that recording while looking through images  I can use in an art quilt that expresses the themes of displacement and loss that inevitably occur to people who are forced or stolen from their homes, because without a home you are vulnerable to, among other things, violence, brutality, exploitation and death: as you can imagine, this is not an upbeat topic!

I have a photo of the end of the rail line at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which I took 20 years ago during a trip to Poland.  And I have a photo with a similar perspective line of the Lincoln memorial as seen from Arlington National Cemetery. I figure taking on both the Jewish diaspora and the African diaspora is a bold place to start. I mapped out an enlarged version of the Birkenau photo on paper to see how it looks:

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I started filling in the outline with torn up pieces of photocopies of the photo:

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Here’s a closer photo:

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Once I get to the Lincoln Memorial I’ll post more. But in the meantime, I have a lot of paper to rip up into tiny pieces. And once the collage is done, it will be transferred to silk.

New Paper and Silk Lamination Project: Wild Cotton

Last year, the year I didn’t blog, was hell.  But I did manage to take photos then with the idea I’d do art again one day. I took this photo at Sabino Canyon last October, during an unusual fall wildflower bloom. This is wild cotton, and for more info on the plant check out this helpful blog:

wild cotton photo for blog

I’ve blogged before about a very cool technique to make fabric, using color photocopies and transferring the pigment from the copy to fabric. It’s been ages since I’ve done any art, and the time finally is right, so since getting back from Santa Fe I’ve been working on this project. I took the above photo, along with a few others, and made photocopies which I then turned into a collage. Here is the roughly 18″ x 24″ collage outside ready to be laminated to silk. I like to work outside for this part of the process as it can be messy.

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I then pinned silk organza over the collage, and used some tape as well.

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I then screen-printed acrylic gel medium over silk-covered collage; and then I quickly rinsed off my screen and squeegee, as acrylic gel medium dries super fast. The collage dried in about 10 minutes in our hot summer sun. The next step is to remove all the paper, so that all is left is a lovely piece of silk—with a collage transferred on to it. I start the paper removal process manually; this is the piece looking at it from the back. You can see all the bits of masking tape used to adhere all the little pieces of photocopy paper together in the collage:

wild cotton paper lamination 4

Once I’ve pulled all the paper off I can by hand, the piece is soaked in cool water for about 10 minutes, and then I use a scrubber to gently remove the paper. Gently. I’ve scraped a hole in silk before so….be…..careful….when….scrubbing! And note the sieve. Personally, few things drive me nuttier than wet paper. It’s gummy and sticky. After a little bit of scrubbing, the fabric goes back in a tub of cool water for a rinse, and then is returned to the scrubbing table for more scrubbing. I pour all the used water through a sieve to strain out the paper and dispose of it properly. Never be tempted to dump any of this stuff down your sink. It will clog in a way you likely can’t imagine so don’t do it!

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This is the finished piece:

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I am inspired by how translucent this piece is, and it’s an impetus for me to use this technique for a piece I hope to finish in time to enter in a nationally juried show. More on that next time!

I spent a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico with my mom; we stayed at the vacation home of a good friend of mine. I graduated from the College of Santa Fe in 1990 and have many fond memories of the city.

This is the house:santa fe blog post 3

On the inside it was, of course, spectacular with real books and real art:

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And the views from the big windows were spectacular and went on forever. There was a massive thunderhead cell in the distance late one night and within it the lightning lit up mountains I know you’d never see in the daylight, they are that far away. This was a view to the north-east:

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And a view from the west:santa fe blog post 7

Clearly, this was a very inspiring landscape; luckily we arranged to be there for a week. We’d decided on having a quiet artist-type vacation, in which we’d actually make art, not just look at it or buy it (more common Santa Fe pursuits for tourists).  My mom attended a 3 day workshop about calligraphy, which was coincidentally offered the week we were there; she is a very talented calligrapher. I brought my easel and set up on the second-story balcony to draw this view (minus the truck):

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After 4 days, I completed this drawing (again, minus the truck). It’s 18″x24″ and turned out well. Which is good to say after all the effort. It was great to have a covered balcony where I could leave things undisturbed and work at my own pace.

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The house was right by Fort Marcy Park, which is one of the few bits of public space near the Plaza downtown. The views are the best in the small city. For example, this view of a small rain shower west of town:

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Our last evening there we found a kindly gentleman to take our photo. We look very relaxed. And how could we not? We had a completely relaxing and inspiring experience:

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Drawing Practice

I took out the charcoal today to practice drawing, something I haven’t done for a while. To actually make a drawing is almost a sculptural process of building up layers of marks made by charcoal, chamois, eraser and of course my impatient forefinger on paper.

I took a drawing class at the local community college 8 years ago and loved it. But I never did much more of it. Trying to keep up with fiber art and music was always challenging enough. During the recent few months, in which I’ve helped my mom after she broke her ankle, I quit my job and started my own business. And, it’s slow going, which means there’s more time for art. What I remember liking about drawing was the flow state I associated with the process. And a flow state seems an ideal place to come up with my next art quilt project,

I picked this view of my yard to draw:

060415 charcoal still life

And, this is what I’ve got so far:

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It’s almost done. A helpful way to get in the zone for the next project!