31 Jan

Wonderful Things

Here’s a couple of wonderful things that have graced our home this week.

First, This mixed media painting I purchased from Rachel Austin arrived. I saw her work on Whip Up and loved it’s whimsical-ness. I especially loved that the map on this one (and one other which had unfortunately for me, had been sold) was from my home town (well, same city, just cross-town).

Crenshaw by Rachel Austin

On a completely different note, have you ever seen the Citi-Bank commercial about identity theft where the teenager (in the identity of a hip young woman) explains how he’s going to use the stolen money to build a “girl robot” for the prom? TS&WGH and I roll on the floor laughing — sure that this will be our son when he grows up. Well, until yesterday, when it was our DAUGHTER who built the girl robot!

Box craft

30 Jan

This IS a question

OK, I have somewhat of an ethics question for you all. I am American and claim residence in, and pay taxes in, America. I also happen to currently (for the last 10 years) live in Germany, and am inspired by, and create my art in, Germany. So, I figured that I could enter quilt shows in the US and in Europe. But when the instructions expressly state that you must be a resident of the US to enter, am I bending the rules too far? Technically I AM a US resident since that’s where I pay my taxes and receive my insurance and other benefits, but I actually sleep at night in Germany. So, am I cheating someone else out of a spot in the show (that’s assuming my work would get accepted)? Am I unfairly taking advantage of the opportunities of both continents? Or, is having more options the silver lining in being uprooted every three years and living at the whim and mercy of the US Army? If an American living outside of America got into an American show, would you, as an American, begrudge her (or him)? Or conversely, if an American got into a European show, would you, as Europeans, resent her (or him)?

29 Jan

Decisions, decisions

I’ve been thinking again (if you were wondering what that burning smell was). I’m re-thinking whether or not to take the City & Guilds course, regardless of whether or not my man is here. In her comment, Dijanne flattered me by saying that I already have most of the skills they’d teach. And, at least for now, I seem to have some direction. So I’ve been thinking about (and emailing with Deborah about) my goals, and that “what would I gain?” question.

I’m very up in the air about this now. I thought I could benefit from the focus and new skills, but maybe Dijanne’s right that I have already done a lot of the things that are covered in the first level; although I think I’d probably benefit more from the diploma level. But (and there’s always a but) you can’t just skip to the diploma level without doing the lower levels first. So, would I gain enough from the discipline of the lower courses to merit the focus of the upper level?

Deborah suggested books like The Artist’s Way (which I vaguely remember trying to slog through years ago as a designer) as a way of finding curriculum or discipline. In many ways a book might be just as good as a class — and a lot cheaper. Of course, I haven’t finished working my way through the Color & Composition book I started almost two years ago, so having someone else pushing me would be a great bonus. I may be able to find something brick and mortar, but in German? and with flexible hours for a mom? Which brings me to the mentor option. I have been hoping that I would “click” with someone more established than I, and long, deep, intrigueing conversations about art would ensue. It hasn’t exactly happened yet, and I’m not sure if that’s because I haven’t pushed the issue, or because I just haven’t connected with the right person yet, or the time is just not ripe yet. It’s definitely not something I want to force. I feel a mentor/mentee relationship should be organic. Oh, I suck, I DO have a mentor of sorts — my “quilt mom” Gerrie. She is always there with encouragement and good ideas and resources, and the being a fine example of doing what you love. So maybe it’s a professional mentor I continue to seek. I also have three (overlapping) quilt groups that I meet with, and although I’ve met some wonderful friends through these groups, they are mostly traditional. My art quilts are certainly encouraged, but I’m not necessarily being challenged by anyone other than myself.

Right now, I seem to be hoping that a mentor or creative small group drops from the sky in front of me. I’m going to continue to explore this current village theme I’ve been working on, and maybe when I get stuck, revisit continuing education of some sort (maybe still C&G if it feels right). Of course, blogging fills some of my needs as well. Some connections have begun through blogging, and it definitely releases some of the vacuum I think I often work in :-) I’m throwing all this out there not necessarily for answers, but because it’s a subject I started a few posts ago and figured someone might be curious as to the status. Pretty much this is all rhetorical.

27 Jan

My Dream House

First, before I tantalize you with my new quilt, I have to share my purchases today. I went out to buy new camera batteries (so I could take slides of the new quilt) and decided to return empty crates of beer and water while I was out (I tend not to return or restock these because I can only carry the crates in the car, and I hate to drive to the grocery store since it’s only two blocks away). At the only media store open after 2:00 on a Saturday I also saw irons. Lovely irons with slippery plates and LOTS of steam! Needless to say, when the nice lady in the housewares aisle offered me a discount on a particular iron because it was the last one in stock, I felt compelled to buy it. (I have been using a sub-standard iron since I dropped and broke my last decent one.) Having been seduced by the shiny iron AND needing batteries and a lens cap, and a sporty armband for TS&WGH which holds his iPod, I ended up without much cash for groceries. I carefully counted my coins and bought only the bare essentials at the grocery store: 2 liters of milk, 6 eggs, a package of yeast, a crate of bubbly water, and a crate of beer. Life’s essentials, I tell ya!

I also joined SAQA today. I’m going to try it out as an “active” member for a year, and then see if I’ve gained enough from the membership to merit trying out for a “professional” membership.

OK, on to the good stuff. The association of German quilt guilds is having a big show in Berlin this summer and their competition theme “Dream Houses.” A friend of mine pointed me to the competition because of “Quiltstadt,” my house quilt made of cotton shopping bags. “Quiltstadt” is too big, and Gerrie’s quilt is too small, so I sat on the idea for a week or so. Then another friend said something and it sparked an idea.
I combined my son’s drawing of our house with painted roots and a pieced border to properly frame my “dream.” I particularly like that the pieced border is made entirely of scraps from the last year’s projects. My newly (since AQT in November) acquired skills with the tjanting tool were perfect for the houses, to which I also added pieced roofs and sky.
Dream House Quilt

Rather than re-invent the wheel, I used my parallel undulating line quilting for the “underground” part of the quilt. I like making some spaces for hand embroidery too. The darkest parts of the roots are an uneven satin stitch done with the machine through all three layers of the quilt.

Quilted Root Detail

The colored windows on the houses were done separately and then fused in place. I chose lime green for the houses because that’s the color my son chose for his drawing. The sky is a loose version of traditional fan quilting. I had a hard time with this because it’s teh kind of thing that I think you need to practice for about six months before you’re really good at it, and I was unwilling to set this quilt aside for that long. I’m also too impatient to quilt the same motif over and over until I can do it really well. So, after ripping it out four times, I decided to live with it as is, since the overall effect is what I was going for.
House detail

Here’s the back of the quilt, laying on the bed. I rather like the geometric border and the organic houses, with the parallel lines somewhere in between.
Dream House Quilt -- back

So now the self doubt sets in. I’m actually surprised it didn’t haunt me earlier. I’m considering adding more quilting to the brown border since the fabric is not perfectly smooth after blocking. With the dense quilting trend, it looks a little too spare, and my fan quilting, though nice in the big picture scheme of things, wouldn’t pass “quilt police” muster. Right now the brown border just has parallel lines the length of each side to emulate a frame. I’m not sure if I’d just add more lines, or if I’d go for some swirlies or something. I’ll live with it for a little while. In the mean time, I’ve taken photos and they will be off to the lab soon. And, I still have at least three weeks before the deadline.

23 Jan

More Good Things in the Mail

It started with Gerrie‘s post. Her friend Jeannie had sent her a package of goodies to share with her daughters. Of course, I wished I could join the “throw down” and fight for some of the goodies too. Turns out that Jeannie is a great sport and not only did she have more of the pink and grey city fabric, but she boxed up a bunch of other great stuff for me as well. (It’s also possible that she took pity on me and the pile of jersey house dresses I was gifted.)
Vintage Fabrics

Vintage fabrics and a flocked Fliegenpilz. What’s not to love?

Sparklies!

Can you believe she’s really parting with the Lonni Rossi ginko fabrics? They’ll definitely be happy at my house!

Jeannie's sun prints

Beads, cards, and sun printed fabrics — I’m giddy.

Hand dyes

And, some hand dyed fabrics. TS&WGH said I sounded like a five year old squealing over each bundle as I opened it. I just think it’s nice that I am so easily entertained. 😉 Speaking of five year olds, there were beads and stuff to string them on for the kids. Katja made off with them before I could get the camera out!

THANKS JEANNIE, you rock!

20 Jan

Look what the wind blew in

No doubt you’ve heard of the storm of the century which has swept through Europe. High winds upwards of 130 mph. Luckily, it wasn’t all that bad where we are, and no trucks or trees have been blown over in our neighborhood. We did batten down the hatches and I enjoyed one of those dark, bundle up and baste a quilt kind of mornings on Thursday. (Sorry Gerrie, yours wasn’t the one that got basted.) :-)Mmmmmm, latte.

Yesterday and today, I worked on a few framing projects. Wonderful D at the Arts & Crafts shop steered me to this inspired framing for one of my little pieces from AQT.
Village Series, #3

You can’t tell from the picture, but the pale yellow mat floats a half inch above the deep navy background mat. The quilt is held on with velcro, and there’s no glass to get between the viewer and all the layers.

It still needs a title. I’m thinking that I have a village series forming here with tjanting drawings, and house stamps. This could be “Village Series, #3” or….

17 Jan

I actually bought NEW fabric today

Yes, you heard it right. I who pledged NOT to buy brand new fabrics, just bought 3 yards of it today. This is the second lapse since my proclamation five months ago. In my defense, it was for all the right reasons. The first lapse was in October when I decided to re-do my sister’s baby quilt and HAD to use the same toile-ish flannel backing fabric as I did in the first attempt.

The bunnies are recycled from the first quilt -- that's the flannel

Today’s lapse was for my current project. I looked through my stash for an appropriate fabric, but the chocolate corduroy was too dark, the flowers on the medium blue were too distracting, the mocha was nice, but too plain. I over-dyed it, but then it was too dark. I sprayed it with bleach, but then it just wasn’t right. Besides, now it was too thin, since it wasn’t high quality fabric to begin with. I didn’t want to piece a border from the smaller bits of fabric in my stash because the inner border was already very pieced and the outer one needs to be plainer.

Too floral, too ughh, too dark
So, you see, I HAD to go buy the right fabric.

Ahh, much better!

Of course, while I was there, I also bought four fat quarters to make a class sample with (for a basic quilting series I have in mind). I’m calling that one a business write-off. 😉

I’m stocked up on rotary blades and batting, and a bit of paper for the kids’ photo albums now too, so I won’t need to leave the house for the rest of the week!

17 Jan

What Would A Sane Person Do?

I usually try to keep the messy, complain-y, personal stuff off my blog (OK, except for the stuff about life being a major distraction from art-making); but I think this can be filed under the “I’m only human” category, and I bet a lot of people can relate to this predicament.

I read about City & Guilds’ Patchwork diploma probably in late 2005 but TS&WGH and I decided I should wait to enroll because we didn’t know if we’d be moving in summer ’06 and we didn’t think I should take a long break just as I started the program. By the time we knew we’d be stable for two more years, I had the opportunity to have a solo show which I couldn’t pass up. Obviously, that took all of my free time last year. Last spring, while I was preparing for the show, TS&WGH took the opportunity to take a career building (and boredom curing) course in the US which would take him away from our home for almost five months. I could have canceled the show at that point, but I don’t admit defeat easily, or gracefully. By the time I had been a single parent for a few months and was overwhelmed, it was too late to cancel (thanks to my deep sense of loyalty). I made it; finished enough quilts to fill the gallery and the show is getting a good reception from it’s visitors. All is well that ends well.

So what does this have to do with City & Guilds? It’s the new year, I don’t have any pressing deadlines, I’ve made my class outline for the course in Halle I’ve been invited to teach, I’ve carefully chosen possible dates for the class based on TS&WGH’s long weekends so he can be Mr. Mom, my computer is backed up, and I’ve outsourced the rebuilding of my website. I am ready to tackle some “professional development,” namely the City & Guilds Patchwork diploma course (a two to four year endeavor if I go all the way).

As Murphy’s Law would have it, TS&WGH is now looking at the possiblity of a six month deployment starting in the next month or so. He really has to take it because, not only is it a career building opportunity, but it shields him a little longer from a 12 month deployment to a much more dangerous place. Of course, the one long weekend before he would leave is the one weekend that doesn’t seem to work so well for the shop in Halle. I could insist that the class be held in February and maybe not have a great turnout, or I could work with the shop and have the class in March, but impose on my neighbors to take care of my kids for the three days I would be gone. *UPDATE* My neighbor said she will watch the kids if need be!!! I heart her!
Which then brings me back to City & Guilds. I’m wondering if starting the course now would be too much while I’m a single parent, even though it is self-paced. Of course, if I wait until he gets back in late fall, we’d be facing that non-productive holiday time, and then a possible move in the summer of ’08 which brings us back to where I started with the prospect of a course hiatus just as I get it going.

So, I wonder, what would a sane person do? Would a sane person hold on to his or her desires and make it work despite the odds, or be realistic and put off non-essential activities until a better time when there’s more support for the day to day stuff? Is there ever a better time? It certainly seems like there isn’t one in my life. The only constant I’ve found since “we” joined the Army is change and uncertainty.