21 Dec

Other Holiday Happenings

On 2. Advent, our neighbors have an annual party. This is a gathering of friends for good food and good company. We are honored to be included on the invitation list.

But what’s this?

Blow drying the charcoal

Against better judgment, N bought the cheap charcoal and it just wouldn’t heat through to make nice, glowing coals. K tired of fanning the fire manually and brought out the power tools.

Last year, too much Gl├╝hwein was drunk, and embarassing photos of me head-banging to Whitesnake now exist if one ever wanted to blackmail me. This year, I caught N playing air guitar, so we’re even.

Air guitar, twirled for extra white-man dancability

The kids’ activities use the end of the year to show off their accomplishments. So, two weeks ago, family members were treated to a show from the sports club. My kids’ tumbling/gymnastics group was part of the show.

They did a sort of dance through and over the benches. Katja has orange shorts, Zavi has white shoes. Directly behind Zavi’s head is his best friend. Another friend is behind Katja. Katja’s pal is behind Zavi’s best friend’s head.

Teo teo dance

They showed us what they could do on the trampoline and fake pommel horse too.

Katja jumping onto the horse

There was coffee and cake there too, and at the very end Nikolaus came and brought all the kids pencil cases and little reflectors to hang from their backpacks.

Last night Zavi had his annual guitar recital. Very casual — just Herr M’s students playing for the parents in a big room. No stage, mistakes allowed, fun half hour. The big kids with electric guitars played “We will Rock You” and Zavi was suitably inspired. He told Herr M at his lesson today that he wants to learn to play the song too. “No problem!” was the reply. I look forward to a year of Queen music at our house ­čÖé

20 Dec

Kim Family Auction

I have donated a wall hanging to the Kim Family Benefit Art and Craft Auction. The auction was created by the blogging dynasty of Gerrie and her daughters and is in response to the unfortunate death of James Kim. I was touched as I followed a corner of the blogging community (who knew the Kims personally) through their concern when the Kim family first went missing. It surprised me to find that TS&WGH was following the story as well, not through the crafty blog world as I was, but through the San Francisco tech world. The internet has indeed made our world smaller. Though our family has been fortunate, I know a little about the spectre of loosing one’s spouse unexpectedly and so I wanted to help Kati Kim and her daughters in whatever small way I could. Please check out the growing display of art and crafts and participate in the auction if it moves you.

Lisa explains it:
Welcome! We are happy to announce an online auction of fine art + craft to benefit the family of James Kim. Over 40 different artists have contributed auction items in a wide range of media. You’ll find paintings, prints, ceramics, soft toys, jewelery, paper goods, home decor and more. 100% of the auction proceeds will go to the Kim Family Fund. Bidding will begin January 3rd and end January 7th. Please check back here for a preview of the auction items in the coming weeks.

We want to thank the contributing artists and the online art and craft community for this opportunity to help the Kims.

Our best,
Lisa Congdon, Stephanie Barnes, and Gerrie Congdon

20 Dec

One more N├╝rnberg Post

Little N├╝rnberger bratwursts may be original to the city, but since N├╝rnberg is in Bavaria, we can’t forget the regional specialty, Wei├čwurst.

Bayrische Essen

And you can’t eat wei├čwurst without sweet mustard; and pretzels; and local beer — make that a special Christmas beer. (I haven’t mentioned before that practically every German brewery is a microbrewery have I? TS&WGH and I are totally screwed when we eventually go back to the US.)

This has practically nothing to do with wursts, but the last activity we enjoyed with our friends was an evening trip to the zoo for a “living cr├¬che.” We walked through the zoo at twilight. Those in the know brought their St. Martin’s Day lanterns to light the way. It was very magical looking.

Following the lanterns to the crêche

Once at our destination, the zoo had set up a cr├¬che near the petting area. Employees were dressed as Mary and Joseph and a shepherd. There were also two actual sheep and two donkeys wandering about. A priest was also in attendance, and with the help of a musical quartet, he told an animal-centric story about the Holy night. It was different than plain old church and the girls really liked the animals. I loved the way the donkeys and sheep wandered back and forth, nuzzling Joseph and the shepherd for whatever treats they had hidden in their coats. There was, of course, gl├╝hwein and bratwursts in br├Âtchen for humans with a little hunger or cold toes. The kids got to feed the donkeys carrots afterward too. And, everyone sang along with the classic Christmas songs.
Lebende Krippe at N├╝rnberger Tiergarten

Mary sits by the fire with “Jesus” in her lap, while the donkey has his back to us and the sheep crowd the shepherd for yummy things to eat.

20 Dec

On Value (though not nearly as exhaustive as in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about anything deeper than “which fest should I blog about today?” So, here I am, thinking again. Recently, Dijanne Cevaal vented about the lack of funding for quilt art exhibits and other shortcomings regarding the value of our work in our little corner of the art world. It reminded me of a somewhat similar valuation problem I encountered in the graphic design world ages ago.

When I worked as a graphic designer, the profession was banding together to fight “spec work.” This is where several design firms are approached to come up with ideas (the toughest and most creative part of the job) and then the client chooses, and ultimately pays for, the preffered design (and usually tries to incorporate an idea or two from the other designers). The practice of producing work on spec devalues the real work of the designers — which is the formation of ideas and concepts unique to the client’s needs — just as expecting to be able to publish quilts and articles or display work for free devalues our work as textile artists.

Case in point (though not the only offenders): as much as I love Quilting Arts magazine, and their dedication to showing us gorgeous fiber-related eye candy, I think that they have a hand in perpetuating the devaluation of quilt artists, or at least taking advantage of our desperation to get noticed. They come right out and say in their “Spotlight” feature that they don’t pay for submissions used, but if chosen, “you’ll be sure to receive much well-deserved recognition.” Now, if they were to send out one of their editorial staff to write a short article introducing an up and coming artist, don’t you think this staff member would be getting paid? Since I, as the artist, would be doing this staffer’s work of writing the article and producing the pictures, shouldn’t I get paid as well? I don’t know, but do the artists featured in periodicals like “Art in America” or “American Craft” submit their own articles just for the recognition alone or is there an editorial staff who write the articles? QA’s reader challenges are also without compensation other than the recognition. Their annual calendar contest is a little better, as the winning submissions receive compensation; however, that compensation is self serving as it is a gift certificate to Quilting Arts’ store.

What other artists pay for the privelege of having their work rejected from shows? Obviously, the shows need the entry fees to handle the costs of hanging, staffing, insuring, advertising, etc. What if the shows were handled more like temporary galleries where individuals or groups submitted proposals, but no money exchanged hands until the proposals were accepted? I’m just thinking out loud here.
Sharing patterns and techniques on the internet has it’s place too, and I’ve certainly availed myself of many free online downloads and tutorials. But, I know that if I want to get into anything proprietary, complicated, or in-depth, I’m going to need to pay for it — as well I should, given the creative and physical work it’s creator put into it. We as creators need to keep an eye on what we are willing to give away for free in the spirit of inspiration and cameraderie, and what we want to hold a little closer because of the work that went into it, or it’s value to us or our audience.

On a positive note, I know Karoda has talked about grants in the past, and I definitely think that this is an avenue more of us should pursue more often. I will certainly do some research if and when I feel like I have a meaty idea worthy of the kind of exploration a grant could fund. (Or as Dijanne has proven, a grant can help — though not always fully fund.)
I haven’t been in this line of work (quilt artist, textile assembler, whatever), very long, so I’m just learning the ins and outs. I don’t know what the big answer is, but I hope that more artists (including myself) continue to be more vocal about the value of their work so that those with the money and resources can learn to utilize it better. Hopefully as the art quilt profession matures, more artists will band together and demand recognition monetarily as well as publicly, which will add to the value of our work and prove that it is not just female “puttering.”

19 Dec

Waldschule Weihnachtsfest

BIG wooden star ornaments

But wait, there’s more! The Kindergarten in the forest by our friends’ house in N├╝rnberg also had a Christmas fest. This is not just a regular Kindergarten that is located in the forest; no, the kids actually spend the entire day outside in the woods, regardless of the weather. They have one building for their office, kitchen, toilets and a multi-purpose room or two for when the weather is just too harsh. It’s like an outdoor Waldorf school with it’s emphasis on exploration, imagination, environmentalism, and individualism.

You know you want to make these little wool kids!

The fest had a bonfire, apple roasting, delicious vegetarian pita pockets and soup to eat, crafts to buy, and lots of crafts to make. My kids were in crafty heaven!

Katja very methodically glued all different colors of tissue paper to her jar to make a lantern (Zavi chose a quick, all brown color scheme, which actually looks quite nice and warm when lit).

I think the most popular craft though, was the candle dipping. The kids got to dip white candles into four different cans of melted, colored wax. The yellow was really cool because it showed up even if it was dipped over a darker red or blue and changed the color like those magic markers. We have the greatest candles in our candle sticks now! Ooh, and this would make a great gift for grandparents–not that my kids’ grandparents are getting any (the packages are already in the mail).
Katja dipping candles

Kids will even eat whole wheat lebkuchen if they decorate it themselves!

Mmmmmmm, lebkuchen

19 Dec

Doll house Additions

If anyone was wondering, yes, I DID buy some things at the market. Although we didn’t go down every row, I did manage to spot a stall filled with miniatures out of the corner of my eye. The doll house living room has been missing a certain cosiness. Being that it’s a European house, I wanted a Kamin Ofen instead of a fireplace. I have no ida how these things work, but they are in all the older buildings, and there are many chic modern versions as well (you see ads for them on the stall doors in all the Autobahn rest stops). Anyhoo, I didn’t see what I had in mind, but the proprietess asked in her best English if she could help me. Doubtful, I explained in German that I wanted a square, tile covered oven. Oh yes, she did have one! But it was too big. Disapointed, I asked if she didn’t have one half the size. But yes, she did! I swear it looks just like the one at our favorite Brauhaus restaurant.

Bouyed by our find, Katja and I then proceeded to fill our basket with all the acoutrements an oven needs. I chose the iron because I liked it’s little stand, and the Krug with matching R├Âmers just seemed so German. (Well, at least the ceramic store that we used to visit along the Kannenb├Ąckerstra├če or “Pottery Road” had an oven with handmade tiles and lots of the traditional blue and grey salt-ware in the same style as my green Krug.) Katja insisted that we get a kitty and I had to indulge her because, of course, kitties always find the warmest spot in the house. Ours is cleaning herself on top of the oven.

We couldn’t pass up cute kitchen stuff either, and there was plenty to choose from. Katja chose the “leather” rucksack for our little girl, Zavi picked out some wooden Br├Âtchen (in the red and white plate on the table), and I added the two posters advertising chocolate.

I think the doll house is looking pretty nice now.

18 Dec

We interupt the Christmas program…

…for a crafty interlude.

When we went to the Heidelberg Weihnachtsmarkt I forgot to get a gift for the little girl we visited in N├╝rnberg. I decided that instead of going out shopping again, I would just make her a softie. After the great success of the freebie Bitty Booties pattern, I decided I would give the Wee Wonderfuls freebie a try. The bonus was that I could make a bunny for my niece as long as I was at it, AND use the reject quilt as fabric.

Wee Bunnies front

I know I’m probably the last one on the block to make these (just wait till next year, when I finally get around to making Stephanie’s cone trees!), but they are really cute, and a breeze to make. Check out the raggy tail I added to the gift bunny. The other one has baby-proof felt eyes and no tail.
Wee bunnies back view

There’s plenty more quilt left to chop up, so my niece won’t get her bunny until I make a few more coordinating goodies, but our wee five year-old hostess loved hers and she and Katja played bunny mommies all weekend.

18 Dec

Come With Me to Another Christmas Market

If you are not completely sick of my “vacation photos,” I have another Christmas Market to share. We went to N├╝rnberg this weekend. N├╝rnberg is home to probably the largest and most famous Christkindlesmarkt in Germany. Their Gl├╝hwein is bottled and sold nationwide at Christmastime. They are also home, year round, to little grilled sausages that fit perfectly in br├Âtchen (fist sized breads).Br├Âtchen, N├╝rnberger bratwurste, und Sauerkraut

Oh, I can’t forget that round, glazed lebkuchen are also ubiquitous here (kinda puts my Heidelberg photo to shame):

Lebkuchen, lebkuchen, and more lebkuchen.

The artisan’s area had a little bakery where we could watch them make lebkuchen:

If this isn't the image of Xmas...

The kids, of course, had their eyes on the Playmobil stall:

...then maybe this is!

These little Zwetschenm├Ąnnlein were everywhere. Apparently this is an “art form” unique to the N├╝rnberg area. I think one of my grandmothers would have liked these little figures made of dried fruits and nuts — they would go well with macram├ę plant hangers and crocheted tissue box covers.
walnut heads, prune-like limbs, bodies made of ?

Obscene amounts of people visit the N├╝rnberg Christkindlesmarkt every year. It is very, very crowded. But, like Las Vegas, it is a place one needs to experience at least once. We thought it silly to visit friends in N├╝rnberg near Christmastime and NOT go to the market.
the crowds
The nice thing about going primarily to visit friends, is that when we felt overwhelmed, we could go back to our host’s house without feeling guilty.

This isn't even ALL of the market!

This fountain is a good meeting place as it is visible from anywhere in the huge marketplace.

Schoner Brunnen

From the website igougo: “The wrought iron work around the fountain dates from 1587. Apart from its artistic beauty it also has one of the symbols of Nuremberg–the apprentice ring. This ring is a moveable large gold colored ring seemingly without seam. According to legend an apprentice worked it into the fence without his masters approval but all were amazed that it could be done without a seam. Locals turn the ring once for good luck–most tourists do it three times just to be sure!”

Everyone seems to come to the market. The day we went, there were groups of student clubs with matching hats everywhere. I’m guessing these guys were alumni! And, based on military tradition of designating multiples with oak leaf clusters, I’m guessing that the varying numbers and styles of the leaves on the older guys’ hats represent personal, or club, milestones.

Club members

The older clubs had fancy dress and flags (and by older, I mean going back at least 3 centuries!).

Another creche for Gerrie and Debra. I loved the use of the natural curve in the wood for the shelter. The artisan’s area had a lovely display of a dozen or so different creches.

OK, if you’re still hanging in there, go fortify yourself with some lebkuchen and gl├╝hwein and I’ll be back later with either a craft update, or the other things we did in N├╝rnberg, or possibly kid antics.