Sunday, January 3, 2021

One Word to Guide Me for 2021

 I have been choosing one word to guide me in the new year since 2010. It is a practice that has become widespread in the creative spaces online. There are even e-courses to help you find and choose a word. Usually my one word comes spontaneously without much effort. I have a handmade altered card deck of inspiration words that I can flip through, and I have various lists of words saved, so it is easy for me to just look at all of this and see what word calls to me and rises to the surface.

My word for this year is dream. This is particularly fitting for me as dreaming does not come naturally to me. I plan, I organize, I make spreadsheets filled with goals and project status... my whole life has been goal driven. I attain one goal and I reach for the next goal. Often there have been multiple goals in mind. If a goal doesn't work out, I shift gears and change the goal. There is always a lot of self examination and self inquiry along the way. 

What I have come to realize is that I just don't want to do things the same way anymore. I want to do what makes me happy. Some planning and organizing is OK and will always be a part of me. But there are so many external influences that I have absorbed over the years that I need to let go of everything that is not me and honor my core self. I am letting myself dream and I am going after my dreams... they are my dreams after all and no one can take that away from me. To love and be loved is the greatest joy on earth.

My one word for 2010 through 2020:

  • 2020 cherish
  • 2019 hope
  • 2018 renew
  • 2017 believe
  • 2016 open
  • 2015 love
  • 2014 trust
  • 2013 grow
  • 2012 be
  • 2011 focus
  • 2010 create

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas is Coming!

I wanted to share some photos for the month of December. Christmas is coming and it is a time to make room in your heart for the peace of this season. I have not been able to do a lot this month because I have a pinched nerve in my right shoulder. I have spent a lot of time laying on a heating pad with my right arm immobilized. I think this was caused by too much sewing and a lack of good sewing posture. But it has affected everything that I do so I have had to greatly limit my activities and rest. It takes time to heal, something that is true for most things.

Here are my Christmas tree and Christmas creche. There is also an Advent bear calendar to the left of the Christmas tree. Each day a gold star is moved to a button in the tree as a way of counting down the days until Christmas.

Here is the small Christmas quilt I made to hang on my front door. I am isolating and couldn't go out and buy a pine wreath at a garden center, so I decided to improvise. This little quilt used the 4 center blocks of a large quilt I found on a blog, resized for my door. I had intended to make the large quilt too, but that will have to wait until next year, after my arm and shoulder heal.

I managed to do some baking even though my arm was pretty sore. Here are the banana breads and the peanut butter blossom cookies. Both of these treats are favorites of my son.

Here is the December Junk Journal I have been working on. it is inspired by a free class called Kasia's Advent Calendar at Everything Art and sign ups are located here. I am finding it very calming to work on this junk journal in small moments of time, glueing down little bits of this and that. 

To make the junk journal, I pulled various papers from my collage bin (old calendars, magazine pages, painted pages, scrapbook pages, ephemera, papers left over from other projects, etc.) and cut or tore the papers to fit inside of a discarded book cover (the book pages were removed). I laid the trimmed papers inside the book cover, folded everything in half, and tied it around the center with a ribbon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

New Art Quilt: Hope

 I have been trying to get motivated to start a new art quilt for a while now. I was not sure what I wanted to do or what I wanted the quilt to say. As a way to begin, I started a new sketchbook a few weeks ago to start gathering some ideas. I decided that I wanted to work small (2 feet and under per side) and I came up with some suggested dimensions. I would also like to work in a series and have the sizes coordinate somehow. I considered various construction methods such as freezer paper templates, freeform cutting, strip piecing. I had a pile of carefully chosen batik fabrics that I had previously pulled together with the intention of making a landscape quilt.

For this quilt, my original thought was to start with rays of light and dark emanating out from an orange half circle sun at the top. But I quickly realized that I didn't want the quilt to be representational, I wanted it to be abstract. And so I laid the strips out and moved them around until I liked the way that they flowed. I sewed the strips down to a 16" by 20" muslin foundation one at a time, checking placement and width as I went along.

Then I let the piece sit for a few days. For some reason, I was really drawn to the idea of using circles. My cardboard circle templates went missing, so I got out my compass and cut out new circle templates out of cardstock. My circles ranged in diameter from 2 inches to 6 inches in half inch increments. I used the cardstock circle templates to decide on placement of the fabric circles, arranging and rearranging until I was happy with the relative positioning and negative space. I like to work intuitively as this is what comes naturally to me.

The choice of fabrics for each circle was another intuitive decision. For each circle I asked myself, "How does this fabric look against the fabrics in that position in the background?" There was a lot of back and forth, yes and no. There is also my feeling that colors should not match up perfectly and harmonize. There is more interest and vitality in a piece when there are some colors that are off or don't look right.

To create each circle, I placed two pieces of fabric together and used a pencil to mark the circle with the template, stitched along the marked line, cut a slit in the back side, turned right side out, and pressed. I did end up using an orange half circle up at the top. It wanted to be there. I am currently sewing the circles down with a slip stitch by hand and my finger is a little sore from all of the thicknesses. But I didn't want anything showing through from the background and I like the dimensionality this has created.

The name that comes to me for this quilt is Hope. We all need to hold hope in our hearts and hands, for a better day, for a better tomorrow, for whatever hope means for you. Bloom where you are planted.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Virtual Studio Tour

After receiving an invitation to rejoin SAQA, Studio Art Quilt Associates, website located here, in October, I thought it over and decided to rejoin. I had been a member four or five years ago and I had enjoyed their local programs very much. But life got in the way and I had to drop out. Two days after I rejoined in October, I was invited to a virtual weekend retreat by the Connecticut Chapter (SAQA is an international organization) and I ended up Zooming for about 18 hours over the three-day weekend. It was a lot of Zoom time but great fun! One of the activities was a virtual studio tour and it was so exciting to see everyone's art spaces. 

Here is my art space, in the finished basement level of my townhouse condo. The sewing area had been cleaned up the week before as I had just finished one project and was getting ready to start another one. The IKEA cube shelves on the right hold fabric, mostly sorted by color, and various other items such as my mother's button collection and a bin full of colorful yarn. The bookshelf on the left was from my daughter's dorm room at college and contains art supplies. The sewing machine is an older Bernina, model 1090 and it is still running great.

On the other side of the room there is a small computer nook with six tall IKEA bookcases, filled mostly with books (I love books) and family negatives from pre-digital camera days. I do have a small scanner, but have realized that trying to digitize all of that is a huge task, so I am content with searching by month and year (they are all labeled chronologically) for photos.

There is a small art table with a bulletin board above it, and my latest project is out on the art table. This project is from a free online mixed media art retreat with Laly Mille and it is still not finished but that's OK. I have a lot of different projects that I am working on and I tend to move from one project to the next, depending on what is inspiring me at the moment. I am a process person, not a product person. While I do finish projects, that is not my primary focus. My primary focus is expressing myself.

My new bottle of white gesso arrived recently (the one I had was almost solidified and did not flow well) and I will get back to this soon. I love to paint and cut things up and glue things down. Playing with mixed media is totally unplanned, spontaneous, and intuitive. I could never choose to focus on just one type of artwork... I want to do it all, whatever moves me in the moment. I am extremely creative and need to let that flow through me.

This is where I like to do a lot of my sewing, at the dining room table on the main level. My condo is small but it seems much larger to me because there are three levels and it is an open floor plan. It also means I am running up and down the stairs a lot, as no matter where I am working, I always seem to need something that is on a different level. The Singer Featherweight sewing machine was a real find at a quilt show a few years ago. The face plate was pretty scuffed up because it had been rescued from a barn, so the price was discounted (these are collector's items and can be expensive). The machine had been refurbished and was fine mechanically and I bought a reproduction case to go with it. I learned to sew on my mother's cabinet model Singer and my Featherweight reminds me of sewing on mom's machine.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Quilts Finished and Fall Ending

 I meant to post these photos about quilts finished and fall ending a few weeks ago, but didn't quite get to it. Time has been moving slowly and somehow these endings got away from me. I am always hesitant to reach an ending in my path, and yet endings always lead to new beginnings.

I thought that the fall foliage this year was subdued but beautiful and long lasting. We didn't have a hard frost until late October or early November, which is unusual. The trees are going through their usual cycle of quiet sleep, rebirth, and renewal just as they do every year. For me, the changes of four distinct seasons in nature are how I mark time.

I finished my Gypsy Wife quilt top, pattern by designer Jen Kingwell, website located here, and it needs to be quilted, along with a pile of quilt tops I have completed in the past year. I enjoy piecing more than quilting. There are a large number of different blocks in this nontraditional, asymmetrical sampler and they go together like a puzzle. It was so much fun to select different fabrics that had meaning to me and work on this project! It is a display piece, too small for a bed and too large to hang on the wall in my condo. I might want to look for one of those wooden ladder quilt racks that some people use to display folded quilts.

I also finished a colorful baby quilt to donate to a local women's center. Studies have been done and babies like bright colors. I like to give back where I can and have a long history of making quilts for others. This type of project is often part of the mission statement of a quilt guild. Quilters donate quilts to neonatal units, cancer centers, camps for seriously ill children (Hole in the Wall Gang Camp located here), hospice centers, battered women's shelters, children in need (Project Linus located here), and many other worthwhile causes. When there is a need, quilters are there.

There is an occasional warm day, but for the most part it gets cold this time of year. People do more things indoors at this time of year, especially when winter arrives, but it is still nice to bundle up and go outside. The wind and cold air can wake you up if you are feeling sleepy, making you feel more alive and less like a couch potato. And you can enjoy a hot cup of cocoa or herbal tea when you get back home. Every day is a gift and I am thankful for each day, and each hour, and each moment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Rumi by the Sea

 I wanted to share a small booklet I have been working on the past month. It is called Rumi by the Sea and pairs my photos of Mercy by the Sea in Madison, Connecticut with selected English translation quotes by Rumi, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, 13th century Persian poet. I discovered Rumi in an art journaling class about 10 years ago and fell in love with his poetry and wisdom. The feelings his words bring out for me are similar to the feelings I have when I visit Mercy by the Sea. For me there is a calmness and a feeling of oneness with the universe, that we are all one.

I started with four 9 inch by 12 inch sheets of watercolor paper and painted each sheet with watercolor paints, one side at a time. After everything was dry, I spattered watercolor paint on each page and let that dry. I chose photos from a recent visit, the October sun low in the sky giving a special quality of light that happens this time of year in Connecticut and the northeast. The quotes are from my Rumi books and can also be found online. There are many quotation sites that list common quotes. There are different translations and I have heard that some are better than others, but I don't know how to determine this and am respectfully using what is available to me.

I arranged the photos and quotes on each page and used gluestick to place them on the page. I punched 6 holes down the center with an awl before I started painting, two at the top, two at the center, and two at the bottom, with each set of holes 1 inch apart. When I was finished painting and glueing, I folded the pages in half and burnished the fold with a plastic bone folder (you can use the back of a large spoon). I sewed the booklet together with yarn and a large-eyed blunt needle. This is a simple bookbinding technique and it is easy to do. If you don't have an awl you can use a large nail or needle to make the holes. It feels good to hold a small booklet in your hands that you made yourself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

October and Colors of Fall Artwork

 October brings the colors of fall and artwork infused with those colors. The blue sky is more saturated and the leaves turn both brilliant and muted shades of red, yellow, orange, and purple mixed with green. There is a feeling of change in the air, of letting go, and of new beginnings.

This is a time to swirl paint around freely and see where that takes you. This is a time to make butternut squash soup, beef stew with potatoes and carrots, a crock pot full of chili, and apple crisp. This is a time to find peace and comfort by leaning into shorter days and longer nights.

I light a candle at dinner each night, to give thanks and gratitude for my day, the people in my life, and the comforts of home. The placemats are adaptations of the Seaside and Lucky Charm patterns from the Journey2Nebula quilt along located here.

These hexies (hexagon shapes) are a relaxing handwork project for those times when I want to take a break from the sewing machine. They bring me back to a simpler time when women who came before me stitched something from nothing out of scraps. My mother had an Aunt Mary who came to visit her family every summer, cut out the good parts from worn clothes for quilts, and returned the following summer each year with a finished quilt. These are known as scrap quilts or found quilts. Most of my fabric collection is in small amounts (fat quarters) to give my quilts the variety and texture of a scrap quilt. Some of the colors in a scrap quilt may not go together, but taken as a whole, a scrap quilt sparkles.

There is something about circular shapes and random shapes that seem to move that intrigues me. I like to draw geometric shapes and I use geometric shapes in most of my quilt designs. When I paint I tend to be more freeform in expression and let things flow. It is all one and comes from the wellspring inside of me.