31 Dec

New Year’s Reflections

Yup, it’s that time of year again. I don’t do resolutions since I never keep them, but I do usually pause and take stock of what’s going well and not so well in my life. I’ve been mulling over the state of my quilt art since a week or so before Christmas. OK, I’ve been mulling a lot longer than that, but it really hit me hard then. That and Melody’s recent blog about taking your studio time seriously.

I have been frustrated trying to balance my duties as a wife/mother/housekeeper and my desire to be an artist. Anyone who’s creative knows you can’t just turn on the inspiration at a designated time, or expect to have resolved a problem, or explored an idea by the time the hands on the clock have moved a predetermined degree. This is my big problem. Some mornings, even though I have three hours to myself and I’ve already decided not to vacuum or clean toilets, the ideas or desire just aren’t there. Some days, I have the desire, but it’s noon and I have to pick up the kids, feed them lunch, taxi them to music class, etc. Some days, I’m ready to work in the morning, but I’m just not ready to stop at noon (yet I must). Weekends offer a little more flexibility for me, but my inner cynic swears these are getting sabotaged. OK, I’ll admit, I was PMS-y the week before Christmas which made me more sensitive to what was NOT working in our lives, and I’m feeling better now. Plus I talked to TS&WGH about it and he still purports to support my work.

A week before Christmas, I swore off art quilting. I decided it was wrong of me to persue something so selfish and self-serving when my family is still young and needy. I obviously had my priorities out of whack. So what did I do? I knitted a scarf (because I had nothing invested in it, I didn’t care if it ever got done or not, blah, blah, blah). I finished off the current Color & Composition exercises (you know, it would be a shame to just throw away those perfectly good pieces of fabric after I fused them and cut them and all, and I could fit an exercise in a three hour or less window). Eventually, the PMS passed and I realized that I can’t just stop creating! My mind fills with ideas and inspiration, and I am compelled to do something about it.

So, I have not packed up my boxes of fabric and sent them to the Salvation Army (or the German version thereof), nor have I burned my sketchbook. They are alive and well. I am still frustrated with the meager amount of time I can allot to my art, and I know I can’t do it all. The question remains though, what can I do? Only time will tell me the answer to that. I would love to say “Full steam ahead” on the idea of a show because I can’t imagine having another opportunity like this in a long, long time, but truthfully, that just may not be realistic. 2006 may be the year for me to learn patience and fortitude. Everything in it’s own time.

As they say here in Germany, Güte Rütsch im Neues Jahr (Good “slide” into the new year)! Cheers!

26 Dec

Color & Composition Revisited

Who’d a thunk it, but between a pre-Christmas movie and post Christmas bowling, I’ve had a bit of time for small projects. With the contour cut orchid as a warm-up, I decided to take Gerrie‘s advice and try again with veggies. I switched to smaller scissors and that made a difference, but I still prefer to draw with a pencil. I found myself wanting to look at the still life, and not at what I was cutting, and, really, that doesn’t work so well with scissors. I had the same problem with the quilting. It was closer to working with a pencil, but still hard to be as accurate as with a pencil even semi-blind, and a little scarier as I did want to make sure I didn’t sew over my fingers!

Still Life

Contour Quilting
Ouch, someone stepped on my artichoke and squashed it!

I am not sure I learned anything new revisiting this exercise with veggies, but the practice in itself was good. I actually started it while the family was at the movies and wasn’t thrilled with my artichoke shadow fabric choice. I found another and then the teeming hordes (or so it seemed) returned. I put the whole thing away ’till after bed-time and started over. Again, the practice in itself was good. I’m much happier with the fabrics now, and the shapes too. I still cut a lot of little pieces and wanted to cut more, but forced myself to simplify as part of understanding this technique.

Contour Cutting 2 with quilting

Contour Cutting 2 Abstract with quilting

As these are exercises, I didn’t really sweat over the finished product. I wanted to practice looking carefully at what I was drawing and translating that skill to the cutting and quilting. I went back to the orchid compositions and quilted those as well, just for practice and experimentation.

Contour Cutting 1 with quilting

Contour Cutting 1 Abstract with quilting

Obviously, some things I tried were more sucessful than others. I like the back and forth rectangle-y pattern and after doing three with that, I got brave and decided to try Mrs. Mel’s leafy version to emphasize the curve in the abstract composition with orchid pieces. My quilting is nowhere near Melody‘s grace and fluidity, but this is a great shape to practice beautiful curves on, and it seems a little more forgiving than traditional feathers. I’ll definitely be trying more of these.

25 Dec

Christmas Projects Unveiled

The festivities are over, paper is cleaned up, toys are constructed. It was wonderful, of course. The kids are at the perfect Christmas age. They love the count down, the cookies, the fests at school, and all the presents. It was all dino stuff for Zavi, ponies for Katja, geeky stuff for Art, and a definite art quilt theme for me. For the rest of our friends and family, I made these:

Dad's
For my dad, and his “Garage Ghastly” decor (as opposed to Shabby Chic). He lives in a teeny house with a ginormous garage.

Mom's
For my mom and step dad, for their new Craftsman house in Eugene.

Anne's
For my sister-in-law and her fiance. I love the reindeer fabric for the border; I hope they do too.

Betsy's
For my other sister-in-law who loves blue. Bonus that it coordinates with her Abby quilt.

Nick's
For my brother-in-law and his wife. As you may see, I did a bunch of these Seminole Table Runners from Atkinson Designs. Such an easy pattern; so much fun to see the variations with different fabrics. I did a bunch of these, for my mother-in-law, and several more friends and neighbors — all in similar Christmassy colors.

G/W's
For our friends with Scandinavian chic.

Griff's
For our superfantastic neighbors.

P's
For our other great neighbors, with an orange living room and Ton Schulten prints.

B/W's
For our friends with an adobe house.

There’s one more I’d like to post, but forgot to photograph. So, sister-dear, could you send me a pic when you get home? :-)

So that’s what I’ve been working on the last few months, practicing my machine quilting. I love the table runner format: small and practical, easy to finish, and fun to do!

22 Dec

Great Mail Day!

I rarely check my regular mailbox because all I get is german junk mail. Today I did check and looky what I got!

Postcard from Helen

It’s a yummy purpley, shimmery, postcard from Helen. It’s got plenty of little bits to look at, and lovely colors. Thank you Helen!

Then, TS&WGH brought home our mail from the Army Post Office box. There were more goodies!! I received Bundle Study #51, which I purchased from Sonji:

Bundle Study #51

It’s as textural and lovely in person as it is on her web site. maybe even more so. The extra bonus was a suprise Fun Fabric Kit in the package as well. Thank you, thank you Sonji! I will have lots of fun with this! It’s got Sonji-painted fabric, fibers, beads and beach glass. Way cool!

Fun Fabric Kit

18 Dec

Too Many Little Pieces

Somehow I finally managed to do the contour cutting and stitching exercises from Color and Composition. Although I started working on the first one while the kids were out of the house, it went way slower than I had hoped and then I got sidetracked and/or interupted no less than a million times after they got home. I almost gave up alltogether, but couldn’t bear to throw out all those tiny fused pieces I had already cut.

Contour Cutting Realistic

As I had started these exercises with an orchid plant, I figured I’d continue, even though I now have fruit and veg in the house. I loved drawing orchid contours, but cutting them was not nearly as fun. Looking back, I should have simplified much more, but it was really hard to know when to stop cutting all those little nuances of light and shadow. I also had a hard time cutting as I wanted/needed to turn my fabric as I was cutting, but I couldn’t turn my subject matter to match the orientation. When I finally get around to doing the contour stitching, I am looking forward to the machine behaving more like my pencil and less like my scissors. I have noticed that in the last three weeks, the orchid has rotated and sprouted more buds. Yea orchid!

Contour Cutting Abstract

After being frustrated with my inability to concentrate on the orchids, I kinda rushed through this one just to be done with it all. I probably could have worked longer to get a more interesting compostition, but I was overwhelmed by moving around all those little pieces. I saw a bamboo garden in the moonlight with birds in flight and falling petals emerge but was not willing to do anything to make it more absract. I could go do the contour stitching, but I will wait until tomorow or Tuesday when I may be fresher and less frustrated. On the up side, I took a quick browse by Karoda, Gerrie, and Mary M’s sites and see that I’m not the only one working slower on the exercises this week.

15 Dec

Katja’s Big Day

Tuesday was a big day for the future Divine Miss K. Her Kindergarten class had their Christmas party, complete with punch and cookies the kids made themselves. Of course they had a presentation as well. First, all the kids sang a few holiday songs and lit the Advent Wreath’s candles:

Weihnacht Singkreis

Then they performed a short Pageant, or Krippen Spiel. Their story had kids dressed up as Mary and Joseph, with a baby doll for the christ child. A little girl played the star who led all the animals (adorably outfitted kids with furry ears, rooster crown and beak, bull horns, etc.) to the manger. The star couldn’t talk directly to the animals, but she could finally speak to a tiny flower (the youngest little girl in the group, in a fancy dress, of course) and they went together to the christ child and presented a Weihnachtstern (poinsettia) and Christrose (Christmas rose). The rest of the kids were the “orchestra”, providing sound effects. Katja was part of the star’s magical noise.

Then, Katja got to recite one of the stories they learned; and she did it all by herself! I am particularly honored because they could have chosen one of the older kids who will be going into first grade next year (an honor in itself) or even a native speaker of German, but the teachers chose Katja! She is, of course, the loudest and most outspoken of all the kids in her group, so that may have had something to do with it. She recited her lines perfectly. We are all so proud of her!

Katja Reciting

After the school party, we went to some friends’ house to celebrate Saint Lucia’s day. Saint Lucia is the bringer of light and her day is celebrated gleefully in Sweden. All the girls at the celebration get to dress up as Lucia or her helpers. Katja remembered doing this last year and couldn’t wait to put on her dress and crown of candles (Zavi, our son was really hoping we’d light the real candles on her head!). Our friends’ daughter, Ella was also old enough this year to participate:

Katja as Lucia

Ella as Lucia

12 Dec

Happy Birthday to Me!

I wasn’t going to blog about this, but I’m being pressured by my family, and I expect that they are the majority of my audience :-)

Sundays are usually my day to work in my sewing room as TS&WGH takes the kids to Sunday school, church and then usually to lunch. That gives me a good 3, if not 4, hours alone. When they get home, he usually entertains the kids and may even make dinner, so I really have no responsibility, except to my art, on Sundays. Yesterday he suggested that we go to the Brauhaus for dinner. it’s within walking distance and we frequent it often, so it sounded like a perfectly reasonable plan. On the way there I saw a small group of people asking a passerby for directions. I looked more closely, and one person was my friend Silke! I was suprised to see her as she lives almost an hour away. She had her teenage daughter and two exchange students in tow, so she said they had been in Heidelberg that day and were now checking out more local sights, like the home of Boris Becker (did you know Boris Becker is from Leimen, the town we live in?). We invited them to join us for a drink (they declined dinner) and off we went to the restaurant. The proprietess of the restaurant pointed us towards the back room. We were a bit too big of a group for their regular dining room, but there’s an ante room we usually go to. But we weren’t pointed to the ante room. She said they were waiting, and I got a horrible feeling that she was sending us to the back just because we were Americans, and we were about to crash an army unit’s official “office party.” I pondered they for a moment and it was then that I finally realized what I was walking into! Needless to say, the large dining room was filled with my friends and neighbors. Some we have know only a short period (to include a traveling blogger TS&WGH met and enticed to come) and some we have known for almost a decade. Not bad for someone who moves every two to three years on average. Also not bad, was the fact that we had not only the obvious speakers of English and German, but also Swedish, French and Swiss-German. I am happy to report that most of my guests can speak at least two of the above languages. (I think it just adds to the intriguing-factor of a gathering.)

We had a wonderful dinner, and neighbor Katrin organized a puppet show by the kids. Her son made a house façade and a the rest of the kids poked sock puppets through the windows and sang my favorite German Christmas song (Kling Glöckchen, Klingelingeling; sorry, no link as the only free download I could find was aweful). It was the cutest thing you’ve ever seen!

I got a bunch of quilting related gifts (they are such good friends, and so clued in!), such as shiny variegated thread, a new foot for my machine that makes fringey loops, a subscription to Patchwork Professional (this looks good), and lots of books. I got Fusing Fun by Laura Wasilowski, Fast Fun & Easy Fabric Boxes by C&T, and Quilts der Meisterklasse! You might recognize the English version, but nooooo, my friends decided I needed a real challenge and bought it for me in German (thanks Susanne, Michaela and Katrin!) Anyways, it’s a great book and I know I will spend hours pouring over it.

I wanted to take a picture of the gift with the thread, foot and book because it was wrapped so German. Unfortunately, our camera died, and the cat ate the curly ribbon, so you’ll just have to imagine. Close your eyes and picture a foil covered cardboard square. Now, stand up a colorful book and prop a foil covered box behind it. Artfully arrange five spools of thread and a sewing machine foot in front of the book. Set this arrangement on a large square or clear cellophane printed with silver flowers; gather up the cellophane and tie at the top with no less than two colors of curly ribbon. (You have another tying option here that is often used with baskets of flowers: roll the cellophane across the top, parallel to your work surface. Tie one corner with curly ribbon to make a sort of “ear,” drape the ribbon artfully on the center, and tie the other corner to make another “ear.”)

Thank you every one for the thoughtful gifts, and most especially, thanks for coming to my party! And for those reading from afar, I hope that you are surrounded by wonderful friends as I am.

10 Dec

Weihnachtmarkt

Weihnachtmarkt, Bad Wimpfen

We had a cold but sunny day today and so off we went to the Christmas market in Bad Wimpfen. (For all of you laughing about Bad, it means bath, and usually indicates a place with nice views, spa hotels and clean air. Not so bad after all!) We have heard about this one for years, and it certainly lived up to expectations. Rather than being all clumped in one platz, this market meandered about the old town. It was a lovely adventure seeing what was around each corner. There was a great variety in the food and the shopping. TS&WGH took lots of pictures of curious buildings, like this one dressed up a la Hansel & Gretel:

Gingerbread fachwerk

We ate at the stall in front; the kids had wurst and the grownups had potato wedges with tzaziki sauce. Speaking of kids, there was entertainment for them as well:

X on carousel
K on carousel

By the way, Katja is a jaguar today.

And, of course, there was shopping for me. I’m the one with the green purse:

Kristin shopping

Here’s what I bought. When you take the “wand” out of the frog’s mouth and run it over the ridges on it’s back, it makes a great croaking sound. A good stocking stuffer, I thought:

Frog instrument