Category Archives: Thinking out loud

Stepping Away

Paper Houndstooth


I’ve been plugging away at this security envelope apron for about two weeks now. It was awesome in my head, but as I’m progressing, it’s got so many mistakes in it and as I try to fix one it seems only to exacerbate another. It’s not as clean and flat as I’d like it either.

My biggest issue is that I know proficiency requires repetition and practice, yet I don’t really have the time for that. I wanted to create this for an exhibit in March and I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. I’d feel differently if this was going well and I was proud of the work, but I’m not. The worst part is that it is taking time away from other work that I know I can do, and do well, and that I need to do.

This morning was the decision point. I worked for a few hours and got more and more frustrated. So, I’m setting this aside and moving on to something else. I may or may not return to the weaving in time to participate in the exhibit. It’s disappointing, but I think realistic.

Entering Shows

Being the beginning of the year, and being that I’d like to enter some work into shows, I’ve made a list and it’s stressing me out until I wrap my head around it all.

Looking at several shows in which to enter art I’ve already made; based on size, date, and availability restrictions, here are my choices:

Fantastic Fibers — $12 per entry, no prizes, no catalog, but the work doesn’t have to be “quilty,” so I could enter The Other Woman, Be Strong, and Unravelling, which don’t fit the definition of a quilt and so far have only been seen in my Army Wife solo show.

Quilt Visions — Prizes, catalog, prestige, but the museum membership that allows one to enter adds up to $70. I could enter Zeitgeist and Suck it Up, which I love but together are not a “cohesive” entry.

Form Not Function — prizes, catalog, $30 entry for 3 pieces, widest date range and no size restrictions! Suck it Up, Absence II, Home Fires, Torn From the Roots, and Medallion for an Army Family are all contenders.

I have to pay to send any accepted work to and from all the shows, so I’m taking that as equal on all accounts. I’m thinking Form Not Function is a yes, sadly Quilt Visions is a no, and Fantastic Fibers is a maybe just because it gives some aprons a chance that they don’t get elsewhere.

If I don’t forget, I think I’ll enter Hale’aina into PAQA-South’s Art Quilt Whimsy show.

Zeitgeist is already accepted into Art Quilt Elements. Two aprons are on view at NIH, and I’m taking a selection of The Army Wife works to a spouses luncheon at Ft Eustis, and it looks like the whole show will go to North Carolina summer of 2015. So, I don’t need to worry about this stuff, just make sure that the right work is available at the right time. Oh, and have some Army Wife cards printed for sales and self-promotion.

Then there’s the work I need to make. I have three pieces, no four, in the works that I can’t share because they could be Quilt National entries. One piece was intended for SAQA’s regional exhibit Tarnish, but is too big, so now I’m working on another Tarnish piece. I’d like to knit a present for a February birthday (or two) so I should get cracking on those. I’ve agreed to do some test work too, which has a deadline and I’ve been invited to make pieces for an Art and Ecology show at McGuffey and a paper show also at McGuffey. I have ideas, but have not actually started. I wish my processes were quicker, and now that I’ve written this all out, it doesn’t seem quite as bad as I had anticipated, but then there’s the rest of life that happens too.

I’ve got some photos to post, but I need to step away from the computer, Hopefully the next post will be more colorful!

New Year

I went back to my New Year’s post of last year to see what I set out for 2013, and then wrote a bit about where each goal stands now.

• On my birthday [December 15th, 2012] I started making a daily self portrait, hoping to engender at least some self reflection, create a bridge between how I see myself in my head and how I look in the mirror, and give me an excuse to practice drawing and other media.
How’d that turn out? I lasted about three months and then got bored. It appears that the annual daily project is not for me.

• At the beginning of the new Mayan cycle (the day after the end of the world in American interpretation) I decided to start my own record of time. Each day, as early as I can get to it, I write what I hope to accomplish. Throughout the day, I list what I actually do.
This one, I actually AM still doing. As expected, it focuses my goals for each day. I don’t log the actual time spent on each task, so there’s no judgement about how much time I spend reading Facebook and how much time knitting — just a record that’s what I did on that day. I plan to keep up with this as I do find it helpful.

• I will definitely continue attending the life drawing sessions. In addition to that, I’m applying to become an Associate member at the Art Center.
Yup, this was a good plan too. I’m still loving the drawing sessions and attend nearly weekly. I was accepted into McGuffey Art Center and have had work in several shows there. The best thing about my relationship with McGuffey is that I was able to have the gallery show I’d been dreaming of in September.

• Three of my The Army Wife aprons are still traveling with SAQA’s Beyond Comfort exhibitThe Other Woman has been included in the textile show Down to Sleep in the spring.
2013 was good for exhibits. Besides Beyond Comfort and Down to Sleep, there was my solo show at McGuffey, and pieces in their summer and holiday shows. Zeitgeist went to quilt shows in New Hampshire and California. Two aprons are currently hanging in a display case at the National Institutes for Health. And Twelve by Twelve traveled some more. I currently have nine pieces in McGuffey’s New Members show and Zeitgeist has been accepted into Art Quilt Elements in PA. I’m looking forward to more exhibit opportunities and projects in 2014. Yay!

• I’ve found (or maybe they found me) a lovely group of local textile artists called Fiber Transformed who I hope to spend more time with in 2013 sharing critiques and mutual support.
I’m still meeting monthly with these lovely ladies and have formed nice friendships.

I’ve also been invited to join 8 That Create, an evolving group of fiber artists who also encourage and support each other and show together. 
This has also been a nice opportunity to network with other artists. Right now it’s pretty low key, and that feels about right for me.

I post about once a month on the Sketchbook Challenge blog as a way to share my enthusiasm for drawing and keeping sketchbooks and to keep me on task actually using them!
Unfortunately, this project didn’t pan out for me. Instead of inspiring me to use my sketchbook more, I realized that it was kind of a chore and distracted me from the fiber art I really wanted to do. No fault of the group, it just wasn’t the path for me. As close as I can come to art journaling or sketchbook keeping is my working sketchbook with mostly written notes, and the weekly life drawing sessions. That seems to be enough, so I’m OK with the decision to drop out of The Sketchbook Challenge.

So, 2013 was a good year. OK, every year is a good year, and it’s nice that 2013 was no different. I’m happy with my decision to take the path towards being a studio artist. It won’t bring me fame or fortune, but it feels right. It probably sounds lame or un-aspirational, but right now, my plan for 2014 is to stay the course. I’ll keep on keeping’ on. Here’s to another year of making art and quilts (often the same thing), keeping on track with lists, and continuing the friendships and connections I’ve already established. )And plenty of social media, knitting, and general slacking too, I’m sure.)


Saying it out loud

The pucker quilt is boring and depressing now. I hate working on it because all the puckers just remind me of what a horrible quilter I am and how the quilt is now worthless (I know these things aren’t true, but this is what the quilt is telling me). I have redone so much of it and it’s just a practice quilt, so it’s not at all worth the time and effort I’ve invested in it. But still, I’d like to finish it so it can be donated and do some little bit of good in the world. Yet, it’s going slowly and is a black cloud over my head.

So I’m avoiding it by doing other boring things. I cleaned my desk, balanced the checkbook, paid some bills, and added some recent items to my “art business” accounting spreadsheet. I know it’s bad form to actually talk money and stuff, but this years’ numbers (and presumably most of my years’ numbers if I had bothered to pay as close attention as this year, and a good portion of everyone else’s numbers I’m guessing) are pretty sad. To date I have spent $3017 on art-related things. That’s mannequins for my show, new business cards, drawing pads and pencils, parking at venues, thread, batting, paying someone else to quilt Zeitgeist, mailing to shows, contest entry costs, etc. Granted, this year is probably a bit spendier than previous because of the quilting for hire and the gallery show investment, but if I’m going to continue showing my work in gallery settings, I know I can expect similar continued costs. On the other hand, I’ve sold some work, some catalogs, and won a prize at a local show, so that should balance things out a bit, right? Nope. I’ve made $338 this year. Yup. All that support the arts, buy handmade, value your work, art is necessary for society, you should do this for exposure, the exposure will lead to something, stuff is a lot of crap. We all know this. These numbers are no surprise. I’m lucky to have a spouse that supports our family so these numbers don’t matter to my day to day survival like they do for so many other artists. I’m just putting the numbers out there to make them more real. Because some days you just have to say it out loud.

Thoughts on Houston

As the big quilt show in Houston wraps up, I’ve been doing some post-show ruminating. No, I didn’t attend this year, or last, though I have been twice (2010 and 2011). I am recognizing a kind of love hate reaction to the show.

I love seeing everyone’s photos of the quilts and reporting from the wholesale-only market days. Kathy Mack and Team Pink Chalk always do a great job reporting each year’s trends from Market. This year, I especially enjoyed seeing Market and Festival glimpses from Facebook and Instagram friends, Victoria Findlay-Wolf, Cheryl Sleboda, Judy Coates-Perez, Jamie Fingal, and Kathy Nida who did a thoughtful review on her blog. While not at all like being there, it was definitely fun for the last two weeks to see what all the excitement is about and what quilts and fabrics people were responding to. It’s also worth checking out the big winners on the IQF page here.

I look at the winners each year, and am always in awe of the craftsmanship in these pieces. The style or subject matter is not always my cup of tea, but I can never disregard the passion, skill, and care taken in creating the most oft seen quilts at the show each year. I could get discouraged that my own quilting is not so perfect or that my pieces are not so small, or that my appliqué not so meticulous. However, seeing these quilts tends instead to be a push for me to constantly improve my work. I may not see my work fitting in a venue like IQF Houston, but it keeps me striving to make sure that it’s not for lack of craftsmanship. I love a good traditional bed quilt (especially a scrappy one), and I appreciate good craftsmanship and intent, so for any poo-pooing I may do of predictable subject matter, or styles that have jumped the shark, overall, I am far more inspired by what I see from Houston than not. In fact, I spent all morning warming up my machine quilting skills on a pair of scrap quilts, just to remind myself to be mindful and meticulous (as much as I can be), because when it comes time to quilt that piece with 900-something 2-inch squares, I want to do it and it’s concept justice.

So what’s the hate side of the equation? It’s the part where I see all the fabric designs from Market, and promotions like the video from Cotton and Steel, and lovely young women being entrepreneurial and passionate, and pro-active about what they want to be doing, be it fabric design, pattern design, online shops, teaching, inspiring, whatever. That always makes me feel like a lazy bum. Granted, designing fabrics and sewing patterns is not my thing or my strength; so while I may be jealous that these people are achieving their goals, I don’t actually want to be in their shoes. But what their stories do is make me ask myself where I want to be in five years. What are MY goals? And that question always stumps me. It’s hard, and I never put in the effort to figure it out. My go-to excuse is that I don’t even know where I’ll be living in five years, but in our interconnected, online world, that shouldn’t matter.

I feel like I may have made some baby steps this year. When I left Hawai’i, I told myself that in our new locale I would try to connect more with the local arts community. I wanted to do life drawing again, and I felt like my Army Wife series was just about ready to share. Now, 15 months later, I actually accomplished all these things, and there’s still forward momentum. So, where to take it next? What fabulous, exciting, Houston-worthy, goal do I want to set my sights on? I’m not sure just yet. I’m excited about a new series of work with social commentary, and I want Michelle Obama to see my Army Wife show, and I’d love to sell a piece or two to a serious collector, but are these actual goals that I have control over? That I can shape into something ongoing? I don’t know. But I’ll use the general excitement of what I’m seeing around me to keep pushing me to consider the possibilities.

Small Civil Disobedience

On October 2nd, at the start of the US partial government shutdown, I posted this on my Facebook page:

My two ideas for artworks today:
1. Death Shroud for Democracy. Think Shroud of Turin, but on an American flag
2. A performance piece where I take a flag to the Capitol and slowly disassemble it with my seam ripper.

Then I sat and stewed for a week. I couldn’t shake the ideas. I realized that they could even be merged together. The next week I realized they even fit a potential exhibit opportunity. And it dawned on me that my dad and I had already planned a trip to DC.

So, I decided to take a flag with me on our trip and to stop at the Capitol at some point and disassemble it as a metaphor for Congress disassembling democracy (or maybe their actions were metaphor for what I would be doing). I had trepidations, because one can be fined and/or imprisoned for desecrating the American flag, but I kept telling myself that no one would even notice me, and if they did, my concept was strong and my protest peaceful.

Wouldn’t you know it, by the time we wore ourselves out walking through barrier after barrier to see the monuments around the National Mall, Congress had actually made some progress and looked set to pass a Continuing Resolution to the budget and to raise the Debt Ceiling, both without ransom. I felt like the wind let out of my sails. It was a lame protest if progress was being made, no matter how brief.



Disassembly 4 sm

US politics are still terribly dysfunctional, and I still believe that our elected representatives are tearing apart the system. I still think that America’s reputation is stained. So, I sat on a lesser populated part of the Capitol lawn, and faced my back to the Capitol Police in the far distance (the pictures wouldn’t have worked if I faced the other direction anyway).


Disassembly 1 sm

I removed a red and a white stripe from the flag and picked the stitches out of several embroidered stars. It was slow going and I was still a bit nervous and feeling bad that I was doing this on the eve of the end of the shutdown.


Disassembly 3 sm

We sat there barely an hour, but I knew I couldn’t finish disassembling the whole flag in the remainder of the day. So, photos taken, and not wishing to attract attention, we packed up the pieces and returned to the world as tourists.


Thread Nest sm

Back in the hotel, I disassembled the rest of the stripes. Now I will move on to the next phase of the project, which is creating the Death Shroud. I still feel like that aspect is valid. Majority rule and idealistic Democracy is ill. I have hope that it can heal, but not in the near future. So, this project will continue in the background for a while and when it’s done I will share it’s next incarnation.


Flag pieces sm


Channel Stitching


I quilted the channels on this scrap quilt using my home machine. It looks just fine, and is more than adequate for a utilitarian quilt, but I can see every wobble and change in stitch length.

Triple Stitching


On this one, I tried three lines close together and then a larger space between to make radiating spokes. I like the look of the spokes, but again, the lines most definitely show the hand of the quilter.

I greatly admire those who can do smooth and accurate quilting on their home machines, and those who can cover an entire quilt with regular, lyrical loops, squiggles, whorls, and flowers. I just can’t seem to do it. Admittedly, I think a lot of the super good home quilting is done on much smaller pieces than I try to wrangle through my machine, but there are some really talented people out there.

I’m also seeing a lot more work done on long arm machines (and even sent Zeitgeist out to a long armer because that’s what the quilt really wanted). Long arm machines can do things not possible on home machines, and now that many are computerized, the accuracy of the patterns is amazing.

While sitting at my machine unsuccessfully trying to make my stitches as even as possible, I got to thinking. Not long ago, free motion quilting on a home machine completely changed the way we thought about how the surface of a quilt should look. Quilting became denser, patterns became more complex, and now accuracy has increased. I kind of feel like there’s no way my work on my home machine will ever compare side by side, so why bother? I had the urge to swing the pendulum back all the way, and return to the comfort of big hand stitches.


Hand Stitching


I wonder if I am alone, or if there will be a new movement of hand quilting to complement, not compete with, amazing machine quilting. I look forward to seeing both extremes.

On Procrastination and Stickiness

(Doesn’t really have anything to do with this post, but she is pretending to work. Montpelier Station, VA)

I’ve been noticing some patterns in my work habits.

Work moves quickly and smoothly if I have a pretty clear vision of what I want to create and the process by which I’ll create it. For example, the sun prints. I know the basic look I want to achieve and I’m pretty sure some type of sun print is the way to get it. I don’t quite know which paint or dye will work best, but that’s a minor detail that I’m happy to work out with tests of each one. So that is moving along well.

Work also moves forward if I am motivated to make progress, and I can see evidence of it, even if it’s incremental. For example, the apron with all the french knot stars. That was slow going, but I was liking what I was creating and was motivated to continue working until it was done rather that set it aside to make quicker progress on something else. Removing the quilting from the Suck it Up quilt was kind of the same. It was tedious, but I could see progress and wanted to get all the layers separated so that I could move on to the next phase.

Then there are the projects I am stuck on. If I can’t wrap my head around some aspect of a project, I can’t seem to move forward. Or, if I know something needs to be done, but I don’t like doing that thing, then I’ll seriously procrastinate. I’m supposed to be creating a logo for my husband’s and two neighbors’ home brew project (which should be totally exciting!) but I need to scan a drawing and I’ve been avoiding trying to figure out the scanner because it didn’t work last time I tried. With no quilting to take out this morning, and still waiting on blue dye and detergent, I decided to finally try scanning. Wouldn’t you know, we’ve bought a new scanner/printer/copier since I last tried to scan, and it worked perfect on the first try! Why did I wait so long? I’m also dragging my heels on the Marriage Equality quilt project because I don’t use WordPress and Headway often enough to be comfortable with the interface, and web development makes me want to pull my hair out. It also reminds me that I have behind the scenes housecleaning I should do on my website and I don’t feel like I know enough about how all that stuff works to actually do the job so I just go straight into avoidance mode.

Sometimes, though, working on one thing will shake something else loose. I needed to update and order a few portfolio books of my Army Wife series for my upcoming show, and then make a promotional postcard, and get new business cards while I was at it. As long as I had my designer hat on, I decided to do some minor changes to my SIL’s quilt guild’s logo, which I had been avoiding because I wasn’t sure if I could even open the files (and there were quite a few of them of different types). Turns out all I needed was that kick in the pants because I was able to easily open and update all the files. Whew, one project done and out of the way. The portfolio update took longer than I expected, like most projects, but it’s in Apple’s hands now. Business cards are uploaded, and I’m waiting on a logo from the Art Center to finish my postcards. I like it when I can move past the procrastination and accomplish something.

Maybe now I’ll work on that beer logo (unless my Retayne arrives and I can get back to Suck it Up).