Artist & Teacher

Posts tagged “community

Making Connections…


whole quilt

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.

close up multicards

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.

Begin Again


This is a large commission painting that I hung recently. (Thank you Beth for believing in me enough to set me loose on a painting for you!) Hanging this was all about beginning again and getting back t0 the business of doing what I love and of course that is what my father would want me to do.  48″x48″ commissioned by Beth MacLean for her office.

It is hard for me to begin again. My dad died just over two weeks ago and I have struggled to write a blog post, since my last passionate one nothing seems as important. The ordinariness of the past two weeks feels like an insult to the intensity of the previous month. The every-day-ness is a affront to the powerful love and the concentration of feeling that went before. But likewise (and in contradiction to what I just wrote) the ordinariness is comforting. The sun sets, the sun rises and a new day begins. Work needs doing, groceries need to be bought, the car needs service, the dog whines for a walk….. The truth is my father wouldn’t have it any other way. He was a doer, a hard worker, someone who got things done. And so my work continues and this blog that he was so devoted to continues. My dad was possibly the first person to read my blog each time I sent it out, and while he rarely commented publicly he almost always sent a text or an email of encouragement and praise. That’s what is hard now – my dad was one of my biggest fans – forever cheering me on. And now he’s not there. NO, that’s not true; his legacy in my veins is made of stronger stuff than that! I hear his encouragement still in my ear, in my heart. So I guess I better get back to work.

Thanks to all of you who sent your kind words and encouragement over the past two weeks, you have buoyed my spirit and I am grateful.


Because commissions can be scary, I painted 2 paintings so Beth could choose.  This one (similar but different) is now hanging in the Ranch dining-hall waiting for the the right home… maybe you? 48″x48″

Quilting in Community

Still Life with Peonies, 16″x20″
This is an iPad drawing transformed to art quilt, the image was printed out on fabric and free motion quilted this week  (thanks for doing the binding Janelle!)

Last Sunday I arrived back at the Ranch in the wee hours after a belated birthday trip to Chicago with my husband.  We loved the city.  We spent most of our time walking and exploring the wonder neighborhoods and the vast lakefront park a tootling down the river in a water taxi with the mighty city tower overhead on either side.  It was a wonderful adventure and lovely to spend time with just my husband and I, no agenda but to be together and enjoy our time together in a new and exciting city.  So when I noticed on the calendar that the Ranch Hands Quilt Gathering was happening starting Sunday I decided there was no way I could participate this time around after just being away.

Still Life with Oranges and Tulips 16″x 20″
Drawn on iPad then printed on fabric, with free motion quilting. This quilt is included in the Quilting Art Magazine online extras for the Oct/Nov issue

Now let me back up a little and explain what the Ranch Hands week is. I’ll start with what It’s not: it’s not a teaching week, no one stand up front and leads the group in learning a technique; it is not an exclusive group, you don’t have to be a part of a quilting guild or club, people come on there own or with friends from all over the Western states; and lastly the participants aren’t all quilting in the same way, there are art quilters, and traditional quilters, people working from kits, people are sewing on everything from Mocha brown Singer Sewing machines to bright shiny machines that would put the space station to shame.  While there is definitely no one star performer teaching a specific technique there is a lot of accumulated knowledge in that room.  With 45 quilters spread throughout the beautiful airy pavilion you can find the answer to just about any question and thread to match any fabric you might pull our of your stash.  So even though I was jet lagged and hassled by my boundless email inbox I couldn’t resist the allure of all that creative energy.  So I pick up my sewing machine and a couple of projects I’d started months ago and set up my shop in the north wing of the Swing pavilion surrounded and supported by millions of hours of accumulated knowledge about fabric and quilting.  When my 16 year old son saw me dragging my stuff across the acre of lawn from my studio to the pavilion he asked “can’t you just sew in your studio?”  I could, but where’s the fun in that… what would I learn?  So despite my time limitations and the need to run off for three hours a day to teach art to k-2nd graders in town, I choose to sew in community.  I am so glad I did.  Everyone there is working on their own thing, everyone there has something they want to accomplish but there is also this wonder sense of time slowing down, time to wander the isles of sewing machines with quilt design walls propped up against every wall, time to wander and watch, to talk and ask, to kibitz and praise.  When one person was vexed by tension troubles another person came by and helped resolve it, when one quilter was dissatisfied with her blocks on the design wall, other came to give feedback and helped move pieces around while she stood back and found the order she was looking for.  When I hand sewing the binding on my fourth small art quilt of the week and poked my finger raw needle finger once again a friend and long time hand quilter offered to finish the binding for me!  I gratefully handed it over.  All this and some much more could never have happen alone in my studio.  I am grateful for the opportunity to soak in such energy and goodwill and will return to my little studio renewed and inspired.

The Bishop’s Ranch is offering a Quilt Retreat in February 2013, form the 10-14th.  As with the quilting retreat I described this is a time for all levels and styles of quilters to bring ongoing projects or start new ones.  Everyone bring their own sewing machine and supplies, but community cutting tables, design walls, and ironing stations are set up to share.  Of course all around is the beauty of the Ranch outside every window, and lots of open space to wander and shake off the sewing machine shoulder hunch.  And don’t forget the most fabulous food you would ever want to eat.  Here is the link to the Ranch website I am going to be at this retreat it would be great if some of you were there too! Bishop’s Ranch Quilt Retreat

Janelle sewing the binding on my Still Life with Peonies panel for me, Thanks Janelle!

Me at my trusty old Bernina

Bursting and Buzzing

Well the trees are blooming and you know what that means? Bees.  There is a row of pink flowering trees (by Friday I promise to find out what they are) along the great lawn below a small grove of cedar trees here at The Bishop’s Ranch.  Once a year the three old trees put on a brief show.  I walk up that hill every day for a few weeks when the buds begin to show because I don’t want to miss the performance that these old gals have been rehearsing for years.  It is the same review in pink tutus with lilting crimson petals and sweet wafting scents that they put on every year.  But the final recital punctuated in pink when most of the blossoms have burst, before the green leaves shuffle them off the stage, is worth seeing every year.  This last time I walked up the great lawn these lovely ladies were in full song.  There was a faint harmony barely audible from my distance that drew me in for closer scrutiny.  The song was clear and strong and from this vantage point the trees came alive not just in shades of pink but with a busy little song that could only be one thing, bees.  The trees where abuzz with striped aviators, rising, resting and collecting with an industry that was in contradiction to the festive pink party atmosphere.  Many a sleek honeybee and stout bumbley bee were on the job, legs laden with pollen in a labor of instinct and (I like to think) love of community. And so I leave you this Monday with a hum of industry fused with the fuchsia of fancy, and this little poem:

The breeze, the trees, the honeybees –
All volunteers!
~Juliet Carinreap

That’s all for now, so until Friday let’s get busy making something sweet to share with our community and we might as well hum a little song while we’re at it!

Remember if you have any image you want me to post in Friday’s blog e-mail it to me at by Thursday.