An Artist's Quest

craft

Slow stitch: a lesson in leisure

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For those of you who have followed for a while you know that I’m am a wandering artist. Trying this technique and then that teaching what I learn along the way. Sometimes I lament that I’m not a Monet type, you know, painting my metaphorical lily pond every day. But I’m really more of a Picasso (not the boorish, misogynist part), just when my audience knows what they like about my work I change it. Lately I’ve been doing more stitch in my mixed media work, you’ve seen that in my most recent posts. When I first started art quilting, I was all about the machine stitch…. don’t slow me down just get it done. But increasingly I’ve been drawn back to hand stitch. A participant in a workshop gave me some feedback that having a hand stitch option for a workshop would be attractive to some people, so I set about making some examples to satisfy that request. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it would be also attractive to me, that in sitting down with needle and thread in a comfy chair with a podcast or music or friends that I would find a quiet beauty in the doing. Something different than the feeling of accomplishment at finishing quickly…. sometimes in my life I have measured my success by how quickly and efficiently I could complete a piece of work or art to my satisfaction. The act of slow stitching does not check off that box. I let my stitches be improvisational and move where they want to go, sometimes sparse and sometimes dense, complicated or simple; each section of the piece tells me what it needs. Adding this leisure and slowness to my work has added a richness, a texture and a fullness that was not achieved by the machine and by speed. The hand at work is evident, the art was clearly held, nurtured into existence.

I hope you can find your leisure in the doing. Perhaps its baking something special to bring to a friend’s house or maybe taking time to prune the roses in your yard of faded blooms, maybe even slowing down your power walk to hear the birds and watch the breeze sway in the trees.

Whatever it is be well, take care.

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PS. I’m teaching a workshop about this Fabric Cut out technique in October – contact me if you want more information.

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California Tiger Salamander

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California Tiger Salamander, Endangered Species of Sonoma County -24×36″

A recent UN report warns that one million species are at risk of extinction. The landmark global assessment warns that the window is closing to safeguard biodiversity and a healthy planet. We might think this is a faraway problem. Polar bears, elephants, and tigers are glamorous and examples of animals in danger. But right here in my little neck of the woods, Sonoma County California, we have endangered species too. The ones here may not be as photogenic or charismatic but their place in the chain of species is no less significant. I am highlighting the endangered species in my area through my fabric art. So far, I completed the diminutive Myrtle’s Silverspot Butterfly and the pint-sized Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. I now add the slightly awkward but surprisingly cute California Tiger Salamander to the list of completed art pieces. This little critter is endangered because of habitat loss (the top reason for all on my Sonoma county list) and climate change issues as well since this amphibian is dependent on vernal pools created during the rainy season for reproduction –In short, if the rains are small there are no pools to reproduce in.

I am thoroughly enjoying my process. I decide on which animal to feature next, research on the internet about the critter, find resource photos and begin creating digital paintings of the animal using the photos I found in my research as my jumping off point (thanks this time to the very extensive CaliforniaHerps.com website for really great information and lots of photos too). Once I have the images completed, I print them out on cotton fabric. These images are the basis for the supporting fabrics I create for the rest of the art quilt. In this case I created gelli prints and marbled fabric in purples, blacks and contrasting gold. With my salamander images, info page and printed fabrics ready I begin the composition process.  I want all the endangered species art to connect with each other in size and format, but I want each one to have to colors and content that the animal itself dictate.

Now on to the next endangered species…. perhaps I’ll do the Red-legged frog or the Western Pond Turtle or the charming Western Snowy Plover is tempting…. I’ll let you know when I complete the next one!


Backyard Mandala

butterfly mandala

I’m on a bit of a new journey professionally. In the last year or so I have become more connected with the quilt guild world. They are an organized bunch and set aside time and money for speakers and teachers.  Now I’m doing a bit of travel in Northern California mostly, to share my talents and hopefully inspire others to try new things in fabric and surface design.  I have two lecture/trunk shows that I do; one is a surface design for fabric artists overview and the other is a deeper dive into designing your own fabric using photos taken with a smart phone. I’ll be sharing these techniques in Fort Bragg with the Ocean Wave Quilters and I felt like I needed another example for them to touch and see. To that end I started wandering around The grounds of The Bishop’s Ranch looking for inspiration (if you have been here you know that’s not hard to find). The lushness of the saucer-sized nasturtium leaves grabbed my attention first and and snapped a few close up photos. Then the bright and happy calendula flower beckoned next. The green and yellow orange spoke to me of bursting new life and an idea began to form. How about a mandala of spring life? The butterfly that had been fluttering around the edges confirmed my suspicion that I was on the right track and asked to be included in my design. I took my photos home played with them a bit in a few of my favorite photo manipulation apps then printed my designs right on my home printer within minutes I had my own fabric to begin designing my backyard mandala. Thankfully my son has a math brain and with a bit of calculating he easily helped me figure out the angle I needed to create an octagon. A lot of machine stitching later and some sore fingers from embroidery stitching through lots of layers I finished my ode to spring.

Take a moment today to acknowledge the wonder of nature around you, Find some way to let it influence your day and allow creation to sing it’s sweet song in your ear.

I have creative mixed media classes coming to spark your artistic fire and fuel new ways to make and create go to my website to see more.


Allowing Failure to Lead You

I haven’t blogged in a while – I’ve gotten out of practice. The end of the year was busy with teaching and holiday’s and visitors. And the beginning of the year was busy with teaching and visitors and all the busy-ness of life. This past week I decided to create space for a making week. Not prepping for classes, not writing a magazine article, not preparing for a show – just making. For a long time now, I have felt that my creative endeavors are bifurcated. I have my paintings and mixed media work and I have my fabric work. My roots are deep into textiles and stitch but in the last 25 years my focus has been more on paint and collage. In the past 10 years I have been dipping more frequently into my fabric art persona connecting to the vast next work or quilters and quilt guilds. My one goal in my play date with my studio was to create something in the medium of fabric that is in the same voice as my paint/collage work.

To that end I set out sketching and planning. I dyed and printed, stitched and pieced, quilted and embroidered. After 4 days of this I stepped back and didn’t like it. I really didn’t like it. The scale was wrong the colors weren’t working, my heart sunk, my plan – kaput! I lay the three-foot by four-foot piece across my dining table and decided to sleep on it. In the morning it was clear to me that I needed to cut it all up and let go of my plan. I got out my ruler and rotary cutter and cut the piece up into 11×14 inch rectangles. I didn’t cherry pick, I just cut. All along I had planned to put wrens on my piece. I had already printed out my watercolor wrens onto cotton fabric and they told me they still wanted in on this piece. I pulled out two bins full of printed and stamped fabric from past adventures and let them talk to me. I started composing. Word from a psalm in that Sunday’s church service found their way in, a snippet of sheet music called out. A favorite rubber stamp I’d carved years ago of a bird in flight stated firmly it need to be included. My studio exploded – I worked furiously, with energy and joy and perhaps most importantly – no plan. I will say I am in love with these fabric collages. They feel like me. They feel like home, they feel real.

I am so glad I allowed myself to the space and time to create. I am so glad I allowed myself the space and time to fail. I am so glad I allowed myself the space and time to find contentment and my mature voice in this medium. Now my synapses are firing and tingling. What about natural dying? What about rust prints? What about a series on endangered species in Sonoma County? Oh the possibilities!

Take time for your own creative self. Let yourself fail, brood about it, then make something of it – remember that joy is meaningless without knowledge of struggle.

JUST GET OUT THERE AND MAKE YOUR ART


Making Connections…

 

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I Spy quilt made using 20 original stencils and gel plate print technique

Those of you who follow me know that I’ve got a million ideas and time for about 10 at a time. Some times my ideas are bigger than me and I don’t always reach out to make the connections I need to take an idea to another level. Because really there aren’t a whole lot of things we can do all by ourselves, and frankly, that’s a good thing. When we try to do things all on our own we don’t have the power of community, the power of family, the power of partnership – so things can only go so far. I’ve had this idea – well to be honest it’s not totally my idea – it’s an idea I’m borrowing and putting my own spin on.  It’s an idea that is all about connecting – connecting on so many levels… let me try to explain.

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Detail of quilt and matching cards

A few years ago I crossed the path of a woman making an “I Spy” quilt. Do you remember the game “I spy with my little eye”….? It started out as a game to pass the time especially on road trips, clues are given and the guessers guess until they get it right. So an “I Spy” quilt has blocks with different animals or object in each printed square of store bought fabric (Goggle it you’ll see some examples on Etsy). So the “I spy” game on a quilt is like the original but it’s a conversation piece for parent and child. It could also be a way to teach attachment parenting and build language skills (you might have guessed in another life I was preschool teacher).  So what if there could be a connection made between quilt guilds – who love to make quilts – and early childhood learning organizations for families in need?

I liked the quilt idea but I wanted the images to be more cohesive and original. So I created 20 silhouette stencils for a farm and garden theme quilt. Each block is a gelli print on cotton then stitched together. I had multiple prints of each block and my husband made the connection that a second matching game could happen. When I showed a friend she thought perhaps the words could be in Spanish (or I guess no words just instructions in multiple languages…might be better). What if I made this into a kit for quilt groups and friends to get together and print and make the quilts to share in their community? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful connection? These are my ideas – a few of millions – I think to really make this idea go anywhere I need to connect with all of you – any ideas? Do you have any connections? I spy with my little eye…. connections happening, wheels turning,  community in action…. let me know your thoughts.


My Life is a Wagon Wheel

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Huginn & Muninn mixed media on wood panel 24×48″

My life is a wagon wheel. What? A wagon wheel? Now hear me out. Those of you who have followed me for a while know, I am an artistic nomad – mixed media, encaustic, collage, painting, fabric art, quilting, clothing design. Sometimes I wish I could just stick with one thing. Maybe if I stuck with one thing, I would get really good at it, right? Focus for heaven’s sake! Find my inner Monet and paint a lily pond or hay stack over and over. I guess it’s obvious I’m no Monet, but I do love to make and create. If I don’t have a creative outlet, I’m a bear to live with, just ask my family. So here is my wheel analogy. Creativity, creative forces (perhaps God even?) is the center of the wheel. I am on the outer rim and each spoke of the wheel is a way in. I have to think and problem solve and imagine and create my way to the center. So each endeavor gives me another slice of my creative center, each attempt gets me closer to the whole or at least I’m betting on it working that way because that is who I am. Even if sometimes it is crazy making to juggle all these balls maybe one day one of those balls will plop down on my head and say “concentrate on me, go down my spoke only” but until then I will keep rolling on my wagon wheel theory of life.

This is a way to show you some of the things I’ve been working on – you may have noticed that I’m not walking down the blogging spoke of the wheel as often as I used to, here are a few reasons why.

Teaching:

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 workshop making icons for All Souls day at Incarnation Church in Santa Rosa

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2 day workshop creating Guardian Angels at The Bishop’s Ranch.

Writing:

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My latest article in Quilting Arts Magazine on creating fabric by the yard from small mono prints. Purchase magazine

Making: (see ravens at top of article)

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Mother Bear mixed media collage on canvas panel 11×14″

5.Home is where the heart is small

Art quilt part of a challenge donation put out by Quilting Arts magazine to give as gifts to homeless folks transitioning to permanent housing. 14×14″

Entrepreneurial endeavors:

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My work at Gallery 300 at The Barlow in Sebastopol CA

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Me, my print maker son Ivan, and blacksmith husband Jack at our Family Art Sale at The Bishop’s Ranch

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My line of Cashmere and Modal Scarves go to my website to see detail pictures and to purchase – Website

WOW- that’s a lot even for me! I’m always looking for new places to teach and share my creative energy so if you have any ideas for me let me know. Soon I’ll catch you up on my workshops in 2019.


Guardian Angels

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Gaia- Mother of Life, Protectress of the Planet

When time are tough the tough get creative. A couple of weeks ago, if you could sift through all the other craziness, there was a Global Climate Action Summit held in San Francisco. This by all reports was a serious, inclusive, transformative, creative event. It was a powerful reminder that we can act even if our government isn’t. California Gov. Jerry Brown stood out as a leader in this realm as our federal government chooses to put its head in the sand. The summit was held despite our current governing body. The Summits success as a creative energizing force was an inspirational that when things aren’t going our way it’s not time to give up it’s time to get creative.

Lately I’ve been creating Guardian Angels and Spirit Guide “icons”. Some are serious others silly, some meditative others magical and some a mix of all. Yesterday I completed my Guardian of the Earth – Gaia. I was inspired by the Global Climate Action Summit to get in my studio and create this icon. A protective mother at once soft and strong. She holds the earth like a precious child, a fragile, delicate being. A reminder that we should all treat this planet, our island home, like a grandmother treats a crying baby.

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Some of my “icons” are more playful like my Floppsie Patron Saint to Productivity and Multitasking. As the oldest child of four (Floppsie, Moppsie, Cottontail and of course Peter) she has always had to take on responsibility in the family. She knows how to get things done and never procrastinates!

This next “icon” was once again inspired by current events. I created Whiskers Guardian Angel to migrants, refugees and all without claws this summer. She is a cheeky reminder that everyone deserves protecting most importantly the weak and the weary.

Whiskers Gaurdian Angel,-small file- Protector of migrants, refugees and those without claws

This week’s events are still sifting down – the repercussions still settling in. I’m not sure what kind of guardian angel can speak to what’s happening right now but I’m pretty sure she’ll be strong and brave, she might have some fangs and claws at the ready and I’m pretty sure she’ll be wearing her pink pussy hat!

I’m teaching a two-day workshop on creating your own “Gaurdian Angels, Goddessess and Spirit Guides” at The Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg CA. The workshop is November 3-4, 2018. Go to The Bishop’s Ranch website to see a full description and sign up!