13 Aug

Mod Log Cabin Table Runner

Two years ago for Christmas I made table runners for many of our friends and family. Thursday and Friday I was able to free some projects from their plastic bags (the lice are all gone!!) and finish a table runner for a friend who is willing to trade handmade stationery products (yippee!).

Mod Log Table Runner

I’ve named this the Mod Log Table Runner. I’ve had instructions for it on my website for a while now, but when I decided to post this one, I also decided that it was time to tackle the larger project of making the tutorials I’ve shown on my blog and the website instructions into more professional-looking PDF files to download. This table runner is my own design, but wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to make it, so I don’t feel as if I’m giving away any proprietary trade secret of mine when I share the how-to. I’m just making it easier for everyone to have what I think is a cool and adaptable design. And I’m giving back to the generous craft-blogging community.
Now, when you click the “Patterns” tab on the blog or website you’ll go to a page where you can, hopefully, click to download the PDFs for this and two lovely hand bags. I’ve changed the links in the sidebar as well so that they also open the appropriate PDF.

I assume everyone will let me know if I’ve linked anything incorrectly, or if something doesn’t work.

12 Aug

Finally, some projects!

I’ve been jonesing to work on some projects and now our guests are gone and I told the kids to leave me alone for a day. I did a bunch of free motion quilting on a small top that came together rather quickly a few weeks ago. I’ve been laboring over just what and how to quilt it and finally decided today that I needed to just jump in and do SOMETHING.

Purple Houses WIP

Actually, this is the back, but it does show well my day’s work. I plan on adding hand quilting/embroidery as well, so it shouldn’t be so wavey in the end.

One of my Craft Day friends bought some great fabric that matches my dishes on a recent trip to Poland. Another friend organized a second purchase so we could all buy some. I decided to make table runner/place mats from mine. I made three of these that lay crosswise on the table to make six place settings:

Polish Pottery Table setting

And, finally, I bought myself a little present — just because. I rarely use my handy (cell phone) but since Kati had matching jewelry for it too, I decided I’d go for it.

Fliegenpilz Necklace and Handy Anhaenger

11 Aug

Art Quilts Lowell, World Quilt Show, Festival of Quilts 2007

I almost forgot: if anyone is in the area of Lowell, Massachusetts between now and October 28th (Kate’s mom, I know you’re lurking out there), you probably want to check out the Art Quilts Lowell 2007 exhibit. I have one new-ish piece hanging in the show: “Village Series #2.” And there’s lots of sure-to-be-wonderful pieces from artists far more renown than I. I can’t go see the show, but I’d love a report from anyone who can.

Next weekend the World Quilt Show starts it’s tour in Manchester, New Hampshire (“Traumwald” will be traveling with the German gang), and Festival of Quilts opens in Birmingham, England. I’d really, really love to hear how “Quiltstadt” and “Fliegenpilz II” look in the context of the show. I had hoped to make it to England in person, but it ended up being a bridge too far this year.

If you have a chance to see any of these shows, feel free to comment and fill me in on all the details! ­čÖé

09 Aug

child-directed learning

If I were a person who could stick to a routine, or could stand to be surrounded by kids all day every day, I could see the merits in homeschooling my kids. (I can’t, so I won’t, but we’ll speak hypothetically anyways.) Today was one of those days in which I could see so much potential for child-directed learning. I took the kids grocery shopping today — which is always an education. They are thankfully past the needing to nurse continuously baby stage, and the grabby-hands toddler stage, so I don’t mind dragging them along (what I do mind is having to go grocery shopping in general, but that’s another story).

Shopping is a great opportunity to brain-wash your kids. Mine are well on their way to being inocculated against the evils of advertising, impulse buys and the fallacies of Photoshop-ed photos. My son asked me what was the difference between the vegetarian refried beans and the fat-free ones, so we looked. Lesson 1: Fat- or sugar-free often mean chemical full. Lesson 1 1/2: savvy shoppers read labels — sometimes. I’d rather my kids ate real sugar than chemical substitutes. Same for fat. However, we saw that the bean ingredients were all recognizable foods and that the fat-free ones were merely lacking in the soybean oil of the veggie ones. Zavi suggested that we buy one can of each and do a taste test. His hypothesis: Fat free is healthier, but the beans with the oil will taste better. How can I say no to that science lesson (#2)?

In the cereal isle, I suggested that we try some less sugary products than we have been eating. Chex usually goes over pretty well, and science boy noticed that there was a recipe for snack mix on the back of the box. OK, I’ll bite — it will give us something to do on our rainy afternoon. We gathered the ingredients (making a few substitutions to suit our tastes) and when we got home I had Zavi read the recipe. He then pre-heated the oven, measured all the ingredients, stirred, put the pan in the oven, and monitored the progress. Lesson 3: Oven safety (really, how are our kids ever going to learn to cook for themselves if we don’t let them handle knives and use heat?).┬á Lesson 4: reading, measuring, and math (How many 1/4 teaspoons would you use to make the 3/4 teaspoons of garlic powder called for in the recipe? We don’t have Rice Chex, so how would you like to divide the required 3 cups by the Corn Chex and the Wheat Chex that we do have? He chose 1 cup Corn and 2 cups Wheat. Needless to say, the boy is ready to party and we had Chex mix for dinner. TS&WGH — expect party mix in your care package, not chocolate chip cookies.

Katja wrapped up our evening with a game of backgammon. I always forget what a great game it is. It’s accessible to beginners, but has lots of room to grow strategicly.┬á Zavi wanted to use the doubling cube, but as I can’t ever remember how to set up the board without checking the almighty internet, I wasn’t going to get into betting. Lessons 5 and 6: Basic Backgammon (right to left, top to bottom, left to right, counting) and Mama needs to bone up on the rules and use of the doubling cube.

On the way to bed, the kids chose Rolf Zukowski’s Christmas music to listen to (what-ever). Zavi informed us that his reading book from school had a summer song that was to be sung to the tune of Rolf’s “Winterkinder.” Lesson 7: Never turn down an opportunity for more reading, especially when it’s in German. He got his book and he and I sang “Sommerkinder” while Katja accompanied the original version.
I love days like this.

03 Aug

A Bit of Culture

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about a fest or other German adventures. We have been slackers and missed the Music Fest at the Volunteer Fire Department, and the Baked Fish Fest at the Angler’s Club. We did make it to the Garden Fest two weeks ago though, since it’s only two blocks away and I didn’t feel like cooking.

Gnomes could live here

Since many people live in apartments, they also lease gardens on the edge of town, often near the railroad tracks (I think these may be called allotments in the UK). I have no idea what they’re called in the US — they are separate lots, not spaces in one public garden). Near us is a group of gardens managed by the “Garden Friends” club. Each year they have a fest with yummy food and drink. The bonus is that you’re surrounded by gorgeous, well kept gardens. The kids played; the grownups ate.

I dragged the kids out for a bit of culture this evening. Well, I dragged Zavi. Katja practically dragged ME. We watched a production of “Pippi Longstocking in Taka Tuka Land” on Content.17’s Sommerwasserb├╝hne in Mannheim. Apparently Mannheim has a very lively arts program (which I need to take advantage of) and this summer they’ve built a stage on the water of a small canal near the port. It was a royal pain to find because although the directions I printed out had just a few turns, what it didn’t show well was the over and underpasses that branched off the turns and completely confused us. At one point we ended up on the wrong side of the river in Ludwigshafen. Oh well, the thing about these outdoor summer programs is that it’s not tragic if you’re a few minutes late. And the production was definitely worth the search!

Pippi und Pirate Blutsvente

We sat on temporary benches built on the banks of the canal and watched the story play out on a floating platform that stage hands turned to reveal three sets. The actors took advantage of the canal location with the pirate/island theme of the story. Arriving on the island, Pippi, Tommi and Annika jumped from their “airplane” on a bridge support above into the water near the stage. There was lots of use of a small rowboat as well to get from the island set to the pirate ship set.

Pippi Langstrumpf auf der Sommerwaserb├╝hne

Mille Maria Dalsgaard makes a perfectly sassy Pippi; and who doesn’t like a pack of pirates with their own “secret” song and dance? Even Zavi, who was trying to be too cool to enjoy the same thing as his little sister (who is gaga over Pippi) had to admit that the singing and splashing and high adventure on a spinning floating platform was pretty neat.

While we’re talking culture, I should probably also mention that a few weeks ago I joined Zavi’s class on a field trip to part of the annual SchlossFestSpiel at the castle here in Heidelberg. We saw an outdoor production of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and I have to say that it worked just perfectly in and about the ruins and retaining walls making up the back portion of the castle grounds. The young actors were pretty engaging too! (The school kids loved the show — boys and girls alike. Even though we got rained on.)
It’s impossible not to take advantage of opportunities like these when they are made so accessible and enticing.

03 Aug

The thing about blogging

My House Has Roots (Postcard)

The thing about blogging is that one tends to read others’ blogs as well. There’s so many interesting and provoking questions, opinions, inspiration, everything, out there. Lately all that information has inspired me to do a lot of lurking, and thinking. Thinking about what I’m doing. Thinking about why I’m doing it. Thinking about what I’d like to be doing.

Gwen Magee’s “Textile Arts Resource Guide” post on goals came at a perfect time for me. Making sure to “define for yourself what success looks like” is fantastic advice. This goes hand in hand with something a life coach (who I knew in high school) said, “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.” What it all comes down to is that what I’m doing has to work for me.

It dawned on me a few weeks ago that most of my best work was the work that I did with a particular purpose, or better yet, person, in mind. It allows me to focus my choices. It keeps my quality high as I want to give what the recipient deserves — and that’s always THE BEST. I am deeply inspired by Jude Hill’s work. Her wonderful creations are not for shows or competitions. They are for loved ones, and the personal connection shows. I strive to be as selfless, as dedicated to the process itself, as mindful in the messages and symbols, as dedicated to the pure enjoyment of it all as she (or at least her blog persona) is.

I want my work to have meaning. I’m still working on this. I don’t want to make big flashy political statements just to get attention, or portray heart wrenching situations. That’s not me, and I have no personal tragedy to work out through my art. But somewhere in the making should be a reflection of what’s really important to me. If I’m mindful enough, and work through the ideas enough, I should be able to create art that not only speaks to me and perhaps one intended recipient, but to a wider public as well. I think that my rooted houses are the beginning of this path.

I want to make quality work. (I find “quality” such a weird word to use since it always reminds me of the protagonist in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” who had a nervous breakdown while trying to define “quality.” But I digress.) I believe that even the best concepts mean nothing if they can’t be communicated well. To that end, as long as I’m using the medium of quilting, I want to be the best quilter I can be. To me, that means accurate piecing and regular quilting by hand or machine. I want to honor the fabric and the history of patchwork. I strive for good compositions, knowledge of color interactions, and appropriate use of materials. Just because a technique is new or yields interesting looking results doesn’t mean it’s applicable to my message. To this end, I’ve been honing my quilting technique with needle doodles, and some day I’ll find time to enrich myself by drawing more and going to see more art in galleries and museums. I’m trying to think about the decisions I make while creating so that they have some sort of meaning — even if it’s only meaningful to me.

I’ve started and rewritten this post several times as I try to figure out what it is I want to say. I could go off on soooooo many tangents, but they deserve their own posts when and if I figure them out. I’m also unsure if I have any right to say anything publicly about meaning and quality and skill and mindfulness. I consider myself an emerging artist/craftswoman and I know that there’s a lot that I don’t know. Back to the reading of blogs; the more I read the more often I learn about other points of view, or my own na├»vit├ę, or how far my skill level still has to go. And certainly this blog is not an erudite, deep-thinking, artspeak blog. So, take my presumptuousness with a grain of salt (and a few fun craft projects and cute kid pictures).

A little something for the grandparents

01 Aug

Art v. Craft

This seems to be a hot topic amongst fiber artists. It’s been debated for years and will continue ad infinitum, I’m sure. I’m not going to debate the issue or try to win anyone over to one side or the other, but I have given thought to where I stand — I’m alright with being on the side of Craft.

Why should a distinction between the two be a bad thing? Why is one assumed to be better than the other?

Quilt artists complain about not being taken seriously as artists, but are the complainers looking in the right places? I now subscribe to Fiber Arts and if one is to judge by the myriad ads for museum and gallery shows, it sure looks like fiber art is taken as seriously as painting, photography, or sculpture.

If not, then please explain the existence of The American Craft Museum in New York, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Design-Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Muse├ę des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, the Kunsthandwerk Museum in Frankfurt, or the large number of decorative arts housed in The Victoria & Albert in London? Are the museums and galleries which specialize in fine craft inferior to those specializing in fine art? What of indigenous or historical art? Couldn’t one say that King Tut’s tomb, Japanese fishing baskets, devotional artwork such as altar pieces from the Middle Ages or Renaissance, or African masks are craft — if craft is defined not by beauty (because both fine art and fine craft can be beautiful), but by utilitarianism? And let’s not forget the Bauhaus!!! If there was ever a devotion to craft that was it. And the Bauhaus movement is still taken very seriously as fine art.

What of the fine craftsman/woman who has apprenticed at the feet of a master craftsman/woman; who has honed their skills and imbued their work with passion and vision? That sounds a lot like the path of a fine artist. So why should we, as fiber artists, dismiss it as inferior? I would be proud to call myself a craftswoman. It would be an honor to hang a certificate of “Meisterschaft” on my wall to show off my accomplishment.

Besides, fine craftspeople usually have the reputation of being leaders in their field and their talent is well respected; whereas fine artists often have the reputation of being neurotic asses or petulant divas.