An Artist's Quest

fabric arts

The Art of the Problem

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I’m a problem solver. That’s who I am. If someone asks me if I can do something I usually say yes even if I don’t know how – yet…figuring it out is half the fun. For me art is like that. That’s why I’m forever trying out new mediums and materials, I want to figure it out and make it my own. When I have an idea to convey or a feeling to share I have to find a way to create it in physical, visual form. After my series of bird collages (see my last post), I was invigorated to set a new challenge.  I have decided to do a series of 24×36” fabric collages depicting endangered species of Sonoma County.  FUN! I have a new problem to solve. First, I had to do my research, make a list of endangered species in my area, then decide which to start with.  I chose the diminutive Mrytle’s Silverspot Butterfly found only on the Sonoma/Marin coast. I wanted my work to be informative but not completely literal and of course it has to be visually pleasing.  I also decided I only wanted to use fabrics that I have dyed, printed or stamped myself.  My butterfly subject helped me choose the color scheme.  Orange, rust and black from the butterfly and tans, and lavender and blue for the coastal bluff where they make their home.  I got to work marbling, stamping a dying fabric. For the butterfly images I used my iPad to create a digital watercolor that I printed out on cotton from my home printer. Once I had all my fabric, I began to lay out my composition. This is what I came up with.

I had so much fun with myself imposed problem I have started on my next subject – the very charming Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse – now I’m thinking green, grey, brown and blue thoughts while I puzzle over this next riddle. I promise to show you when I’m done.

I’m teaching several surface design and mixed media workshops in the coming weeks, check out my website to see if you can join it the fun! Upcoming creative workshops

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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

7. family art sale

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.


Feeling Scrappy

scrap·py –(ˈskrapē/)

adjective: scrappy – consisting of disorganized, untidy, or incomplete parts. Synonyms – feisty, tenacious, determined, persistent

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Table full of giveaway plaid and two of ten scrappy plaid, wonky circle blocks

This week I sat in with one of the many quilting groups that sets up shop at the Ranch. This group calls themselves “Ranch Hands” – they are an eclectic bunch of traditional, modern, and everything in between, quilters. Usually when I join in I’ll have a project I want to finish or a particular goal in mind but this week I didn’t have time or inclination to figure anything out so I just brought my sewing machine and some thread and decided to make something from the scrap table. For the non-quilters out there – quilters love their fabric, they buy it, store it, save it, use it then there is always some left over. Generally, not being a wasteful bunch, they don’t want to throw out their beautiful scraps, so they bring left over fabric in all sizes and place on the give away table. So the scrap table was my inspiration. Someone had brought an array of plaids. None of the swaths of plaid where larger than about 12 inches square– but there where a lot to choose from so I got busy picking my colors. In the mix there were just a few reds so that became the middle of my wonky, scrappy, blocks. I created 5 improvisational log cabin blocks using yellows and golds, and 5 more using greens all with a red square in the center. Once I had them all laid out I thought I should break from the plaid grid of the whole thing and put in some improvisational curves. The result was 10 squares part gold part green. Now a purpose emerged – I would put these all together in a long autumnal table runner. Going back the the scrap table I found strips of green with a circle print and they were already cut 3 inches wide! Onward I went backing, quilting and binding all from the bounty of the scrap table. My scrappy improv quilt fits the definition above: a bit disorganized and untidy but also wonderfully feisty and determined to become something from nothing. It was a pleasure to step away from a plan and just let inspiration rule the day. A good reminder that sometimes not knowing what you’re doing can lead you down an interesting path.

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Finished autumnal table runner


From Red to Black to Green

 

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From the Flames Comes Growth 24×36″ acrylic paint on linen and stitch

I was asked the the Journey Center in Santa Rosa to create a art quilt addressing the upcoming one year anniversary of the Sonoma County fires.  Lately I have been doing a lot of botanical printing on fabric so it seemed like a natural fit to use leaves as my central metaphor. For the piece I used leaves from trees native to the oak woodlands that burned and remain a scar on the physical and psychic landscape. My piece starts at the bottom in a gradation of color. Each row depicts another point in the fire and the aftermath. The bottom row shows the green leaves of Valley Oak, Black Walnut, and Bay Laurel engulfed in the red and orange of flames, the next row the leaves and surround are all flames each row a progression from leaf to flame to ash to leaf again.  If nothing else the fire have taught us that nature is persistent she does not give up easily the green shoots and leaves push up through the charred earth, scorched black trunks put forth new shoots. The human spirit is equally on display – a will to rebuild with a new deeper knowledge of the importance of home and community.

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Detail

My work and the work of many others will be on display at the Sonoma County Strong Quilt Show at the Journey Center1601 Fourth Street Santa Rosa, CA 95404. The opening is September 21st from 5:30-7:30 and the show runs til November 2nd.

 

 


Waiting for a Vision – but while your waiting get busy!

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I have a nice 5 page spread in the latest  Quilting Arts Magazine

I was talking to a dear friend this week who is on sabbatical for three months from her highly demanding work as an episcopal parish priest in a large parish on the east coast.  When I asked her what she was doing on her sabbatical she said jokingly but somewhat wistfully said “waiting for a vision”. She is ready for a change but not sure what or how or where. I know that feeling. We’ve all had it and always the question is what is the right next thing? I’ll tell you honestly I have never had a vision, I have never been totally clear of my next step, I have never been 100% confident that the path I’m on is the right one and yet I continue to wander on. I guess I’m comforted by the fact that every time a wander down an unknown path there is always another fork along the way. That this path I’ve chosen today has side paths and loops and other meanders.  That’s all to say I just keep walking, sometimes it feels like I’m totally in the dark but I keep walking – vision or no vision.

I know I’ve talked to you all before about my rejection therapy approach to career development but it’s worth repeating here. I set a goal to be rejected every day in big ways and small ways. Start with the small ways like in the grocery store parking lot instead of walking the cart to the rack ask the person who just drove up if they want it… that doesn’t seem like much because it isn’t the worst thing that happen if they say no thanks or look at me weird and I have to walk the cart to the rack. But that little rejection therapy session just got me ready to submit an article to magazine for publication I ask myself “what is the worst thing that can happen?” well the answer of course is nothing happens -literally nothing- they don’t publish my article and guess what if I don’t send in the article they can’t publish the thing I didn’t do…. you get the idea it’s a bit of a “just do it” mantra. No visions required – say yes to yourself even if you don’t know how it will work out. Wander down a path even if you can’t see around the next bend, there is something there – just keep moving!

Here are a few rejection therapy things that have I’ve got in the works: continued freelance writing for Quilting Arts and Cloth,Paper, Scissors Magazines. I have a wonderful 5 page spread in the latest issue of Quilting Arts and an another article coming out in the Fall. I’ll be teaching at Craft Napa again in 2019, I’m in conversation with the Quilting Company to develop an online series of courses for them. I’m opening a gallery with three other women in Sebastopol, teaching at quilt guilds and retreat centers on and on…. I just keep moving I’m looking forward to seeing what is around the next bend.