Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Bit of a Slog

That's how it's been for me -- least-wise, in the sewdio -- since I touched base with you shortly after the 19th Annual Lacombe Art Show & Sale.

Thinking about this, I realize that there were a variety of things at play.

First, there's the "morning after" thing.  You know -- as in "the day after Christmas" or "the day after the wedding" or "the day after the grad party" other words, the day after whatever celebration you might name.  "The party's over" and life goes on as usual.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, get my drift.

The 2018 Lacombe Art Show was over.  The excitement of it all was over for another year.  Now what?

"Now what" for me this year is two-fold.  There's the Camrose Art Walk, which for me and my friend and colleague, Mary Wilton, will be July 23 through September 5, an exhibit of our "Inspired by Scotland" pieces -- but first there was this rather large piece I was determined to finish for a Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) Call for Entry that has a deadline of 9:59 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time on May 31.   Yep.  Tomorrow.

Enter the Second "Thing":  the Return of the Voices.  Those are the ones that start on you at the beginning of a major project and don't let up until it's either a) tossed aside in despair or b) FINISHED.

The prelude to this Call began long before the actual Entry opened (this is quite normal), so I've been pondering it a while.  Months, in fact.  Unique to this Call (at least, in my experience) is that those who are accepted have to include an Artist's Journal that documents the exploration of the theme, Season After Season.

The first entry in mine is dated January 7, 2018, but the pondering began long before.

In early December, in Advent, I attended a concert featuring British poet-priest, Malcolm Guite, and Canadian singer-song-writer, Steve Bell, both Christians who worship in the Anglican tradition.

I'd bought Malcolm's book, Sounding the Seasons -- and a CD of the same name that has him reading the poems aloud -- with some birthday gift $$ in the fall, and was following his lovely sonnets through the celebration of the church year.  In the photo above you can see on the right that I set up a journal to get me into the 'groove'.

The journal sat that way for a while -- till after Christmas and that first entry, when I began making notes about what I wanted to say in this piece.  I'd printed out an illustration of the liturgical year in colour:

I thought about doing the illustration as a Tree of Life -- which is an important multicultural/spiritual symbol...

Photo of a wonderful tree
on the edge of a property near
Cranna Lake, Lacombe, AB, Canada

I didn't use it...but I love that tree shape and it will likely appear in future work!

It took from the third week in January to the end of February to realize I'd been over-thinking the project (ever do that, any of you, Gentle Readers? 😉)

I began to move into production by selecting fabric strips in the colours of the liturgical calendar:

Yes, you see 'chunks' of fabrics there -- most fat quarters or at most, 1/2 metre (about 19" long, 42" wide).  The rest?  Strips and scraps.

I decided to create the piece in rectangular blocks using "string piecing".  Why?  My main source of paper for the blocks is the Red Deer phone book from a couple years back -- and they make beautiful blocks that are 6 1/2" W x 8 1/2" L.  The Call required the piece to be 30" x 72" (at minimum) -- 5 x 9 blocks.  Perfect!

I wanted to show the flow of "Season After Season" by running the colourful seasons together from top to bottom, beginning with Advent (once 'purple' but now 'blue'), moving into Lent (purple), Pentecost (red) and Ordinary Time (green) -- leaving the white (Christmas/Epiphany and Easter/Ascension) aside for the time being:

Example: blues into purples
Colours after colours on the design wall

Now...what about the white?  I wanted it to be balanced against the other colours...

This is where I get to the "given to me" part that occurs in much of my work.  I was "given" a "picture" in my mind (and heart) that was a star...and a cross, which I first drew out in my 'Artist's Journal'.  In fact, I had to draw it out more than once because the first time my "to scale" drawing had six blocks across, not five!

The Cruciform Star

I did this by creating the white string-pieced blocks and attaching them onto the back of the piece...and cutting away the front...

First cut...

Cut open and prepped for needle-turn applique

But then, as I moved further in...I found a spot (or two!) where some of the fray-friendly fabrics were coming apart at the seams! The "Voices" had taken another tack to stymie the process!  😉

How to fix?!  I used a light-weight fabric and MistyFuse (R) to patch it here...

And here...

Not once, but twice!

But can you tell (photo taken before layering, quilting and needle-turn applique)?

And so it went!

Eventually I got all those edges turned under and appliqued.  I quilted it very simply (I'm not a proponent of dense quilting, especially with the multiplicity of seams in string piecing).

Layering batting on batting with 505 Basting Spray
outside on my back stoop. 

Now adding the top to the quilt sandwich

Simple quilting in the ditch and at right angles to it.

Then I began to second-guess myself.  The weekend of the Royal Wedding (for which I got up before 5 a.m. to watch - I'm a Canadian of Anglo heritage, after all!) I got this notion that perhaps a vine was in "You are the branches; I am the vine." (referring to John 15:15)

Ummmm...maybe not so much.

Clearing that off, I applied a narrow black border, as well as a label (which might have to be editted because it doesn't include my address, but I'll wait for the outcome first).

By this time it was Monday, May 28 and the Call for Entry deadline - May 31 -- was looming.

It took me some time to set up a spot in my home to photograph this piece, because I live in 1,050 square feet with skimpy wall space.  I am not a camera 'buff' -- I own a Canon Sure Shot that is undoubtedly smarter than I.  I usually rely on my talented daughter to photograph my work for important entries, but there was no time to do that this time around.

I wrote a friend and colleague for advice...but she was busy too (no surprise there!) and didn't get back to me for hours.

In the end, afraid that if I waited I'd lose my nerve, here's what I sent in:

Incarnation to Resurrection:
Reflections on the Colours of the Church Year
30" W x 72" L (C) 2018

Incarnation to Resurrection (Detail)

And from my Artist's Statement:
The full title of this piece is "Incarnation to Resurrection: Reflections on the Colours of the Church Year". Growing up in the Anglican (Episcopalian) Church, I've long been attracted to worshiping through the liturgical seasons, and was inspired by this theme of "Season After Season" to create a piece in the colours used to express them. I chose to use scraps in the appropriate colours and to create a 'cruciform star' as a symbol of the highest Christian holidays -- Christmas, Epiphany, Easter and Ascension. As one season flows into another, so do the colours of this quilt -- from blue in Advent, through purple (Lent) to red (Pentecost) and green (Ordinary Time). The diversity of fabrics reflects the varieties of worship expressions found in the Anglican tradition, while the black binding is for Christianity's most solemn day -- Good Friday.
I got back to my colleague and wrote, "Let the chips fall where they may".

Yesterday I worked in The Shop.  We're moving.  That's a story unto itself!

Today?  I cleaned house, and reset my mind for a new project.  I have five (5!) pieces to make for the above-mentioned Camrose Art Walk.

I start Friday.

Meanwhile, I'm linking this to WIP Wednesday over on The Needle and Thread Network, as well as Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday -- and wishing you all a lovely rest of the week!

P.S. If you follow the liturgical calendar...


Friday, May 11, 2018

Mother's Day Reflections...

Today's mail brought a most unusual and beautiful Mother's Day card from my son and daughter-in-law.  I've found out it's a "Red Sekura Tree" pop-up card from a company called .   I have it propped open on my buffet, where it will undoubtedly live for some time; it is so very lovely and artistically unusual.

Included with the card was a  gift I love to get any time -- a Starbucks gift card.  And with that, an effusive 'thank you'.  The latter never fails to bring me some measure of delight mingled with amusement, because while I don't doubt its sincerity, I find myself rather uncomfortable being on the receiving end of such adulation.  I don't know quite how to respond, or where to put the emotions so stirred up.

All of this got me to thinking about Mother's Day in general, remembering past plots entered into between my late husband and the kids when they were small, to make the day special for me -- and trying to remember what I did for and with my own mother to honour her on that day.

And that mental meandering took me to one of my favourite poems -- this one from former Poet Laureate of the United States, Billy Collins.

The Lanyard

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the 'L' section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard. 
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past.
A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard.
A gift for my mother. 
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard.
Or wear one, if that's what you did with them.
But that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand
again and again until I had made a boxy, red and white lanyard for my mother. 
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold facecloths on my forehead
then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim and I in turn presented her with a lanyard. 
'Here are thousands of meals' she said,
'and here is clothing and a good education.'
'And here is your lanyard,' I replied,
'which I made with a little help from a counselor.'
'Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth and two clear eyes to read the world.' she whispered.
'And here,' I said, 'is the lanyard I made at camp.' 
'And here,' I wish to say to her now,
'is a smaller gift. Not the archaic truth,
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless worthless thing I wove out of boredom
would be enough to make us even.'

These are some of the "lanyards" my kids made for me...decades ago.  I treasure each and every one.  I use the mat on the left under the iron on my ironing board in my studio.  I use the mat on the right as a pot-holder or candle mat on a regular basis.  The wee pots and the tiny clay dog are ensconced on bookshelves to decorate my home and delight me when I remember the small hands that made them.

My "lanyards"

I've often wondered over the years...considering what a non-maternal mother I I managed to have and help raise children.

Still, like so many who've been Doubting Parents over the centuries, I can't imagine life without mine.  

Love you, kids.

There is no question;
indeed, we are "even".

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Touching Base

It's been a couple of weeks since I've posted, I know, and this post is going to be short and sweet.

Booth 2018 

Booth 2018 - other side
The Lacombe Show drew good crowds of all ages, and was a lovely atmosphere in which to show my work.  There was much admiration and exclamation over all the artists' work...but nothing moved in the way of major sales until about four hours before the end of the show on Saturday afternoon. 

Then -- wow!  Not only was there a good crowd of viewers, but also, people started to buy.  In the end, it was a 'good' show for me...selling one large piece and several of my small, framed pieces. 

Two days later I was on the road to Edmonton to visit my daughter, taking the finished 'Random Rails' with me.  It looks great in the single guest room of her Air B&B...another happy client!  😊

The trip, in the main, was to enjoy the Christmas gift she'd given me -- tickets for the two of us to see "2 Cellos" at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.

Another "WOW!" -- beauty, poignancy, delicacy, humour -- combined with throbbing hard rock at HIGH volume!  You'd have to see it yourself to really get the 'gist' I'll just give you a taste from You of the pieces they played at the concert...

Needless to say, after all that excitement, I was glad to be quiet the next day...but I had another client to see, an older woman not on the Internet, with whom I'd been corresponding by mail and telephone since January, when she'd seen my work at the Deep Freeze Festival in Edmonton and became interested.

Now these two pieces have a new home:

Autumn Skies (C) 2017
Fused applique and quilting,
wrapped around stretched canvas,
12" W  x 4" L in floater frame

November Evening (C) 2017
Stitched directly on painted stretched canvas
12" W  x 4" L in floater frame

The rest of that week was filled with work at The Shop, taking some of my remaining pieces up to In.Spire! Yarn Boutique and Gift Gallery in Bashaw, and taking the car in for regular servicing and the swap out from winter to non-winter tires.

After that, I'll I've wanted to do was knit.

I'm working on a sweater for my daughter, a shawl for me, and most recently, a Murder Mystery Knit-Along (MMKAL) taking place on Ravelry. 

Stash Yarns ready for the MMKAL

I've had to curb my impulse to knit every waking moment, though, as I have five more pieces to create for the Camrose Art Walk -- and a deadline of mid-July -- as well as trying to pull together a large piece for a SAQA Call for Entry (which I know I've mentioned before).  I'm not sure if it will be finished in time.  Even if it's finished, it will have to be photographed, and it's too large to do here.  My daughter is willing to do that work, but it means coordinating a visit to her up in Edmonton...

So...we'll see.

Meanwhile, the Outdoor Studio is once again Open for The Season, and most of my yard work is done (raking, tidying the flower beds), so I can do the handwork on the above-mentioned Project in the sunshine on my bench...and that's where you'll find me this afternoon. 

Linking up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.  She's off on vacation, but the creativity continues...

Have a great rest of the weekend, everyone!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What a Difference a Frame Makes

I learned that from Lyric Kinard (and her course, "Picture it Framed")...and she was right...IF (and only if) you make your pieces to be mounted on stretched canvas or mount them on mat board or frame them in mats.

The look of it -- and the fact that it pretty much guarantees that (finally!) my small pieces won't be mistaken for place mats, dish cloths or cushion covers -- has me excited. So much so that I've been using the techniques for pretty much all of my new work thus far this year!

And today, I picked up the latest assortment...ALL of which will be available for purchase at the 19th Annual Lacombe Art Sale & Celebration of Creative Expression -- in the City of Lacombe on April 20 (1-8 p.m.) and Saturday (11 a.m. - 4 p.m).

Here's a selection to entice you to visit...if you're anywhere close to Central Alberta!

These three, inspired by photos taken by my friend, Bob, as mentioned in my last post:

After the Storm: Grenada
12" x 12"

Five Barns, Beiseker, AB
5" x 7"

Abandoned, Alaska
5" x 7"

And these mono-prints that I thought at first had failed...but they surprised me when I stitched them!

Grasslands I
20" x 16"

Grasslands II
20" x 16"

Grasslands III
12" x 12"

There will be others to choose from too, so I hope some of you will be able to join me and all the artists and artisans at the Lacombe Memorial Centre for the 19th Annual Art Show & Sale!

Linking this to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday; this week she (like most of us in more northern parts right now!) is urging us to call Spring's bluff and rejoice in it any way -- snow, freezing rain and cold be-darned!  If you can't get into the garden, get into the studio and drum up something colourful! 😊

Thanks for reading -- and have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Thanks, Bob

The pre-Easter puttering paid off over this past weekend, giving me the boost I needed to try some new things, and put together four more pieces for the upcoming Lacombe Art Show & Sale.

Inspiration for three of them came from my friend Bob, whom I met in a prior life 😉.  I lived in Calgary then, and as an aspiring writer (long story) joined the Alexandra Writer's Society.  He was a member too, and both of us served on the organization's Board for a few years.  I was the librarian for the Society, and he...I think he was Chair or something important like that!

Now both of us write blogs -- and both make visual art: textiles for me, photography for him.

My first effort from his work was a mini, sold long ago -- so long ago that I had to dig the photo of it out of an old blog post; it wasn't in my files!

A Silvery Moon, An Orange Sky and Dhow

Friday's snowstorm found me in the studio with three of Bob's photos -- and one of my own -- in mind, digging through my books, working in my sketchbook.

This first one he took on a trip to Grenada -- and the aquas and blues seen through the skeleto of what must have been a home, once, simply captivated me.

I also knew I could get very caught up in the details of it, so I tried to break it down by printing it in black and white...

And then with an effect called "old photograph"...

In the end I took the colour photo, tracked a grid over it, and narrowed in on one section.  I did a colour study of that isolated bit, and then attempted to recreate it in a rather abstracted way. 

Grid and colour study with fabric scraps

I quilted it on a piece of white craft felt, stitching down the edges; it finished at 8" x 10", and added touches of water-colour pencil here and there as I felt called.  Then I secured it with matte gel medium to a 12" x 12" canvas that I'd painted to give it a 'tropical' feel.  I'll take it to be put in a floater frame later this week:

In light of all the hurricanes in that part of the world this past year,
I've titled it After the Storm: Grenada. 
Fabric collage, machine quilted on felt, painted;
 applied to 
stretched canvas. 
12" x 12" before framing

Can you tell which section I used?  Here's a hint:

I then moved on to something more "inside my box"...a pair of small canvases (5" x 7") that will be framed this week too.  Here's a photo of the prep of the backgrounds; both inspirational photos are of Alberta scenes that Bob took on drives around the countryside:

And here's one, finished and ready for framing...

I'm not sure of a title just yet...these are either old barns or grain bins near Beiseker, Alberta, taken on a wintry evening where faint pink hints of the Aurora in the starry sky added to the odd colouring of the snow on the ground.  "Beiseker Barns" just sounds too..."cute".  If anyone has an idea, just leave a comment -- with my thanks!

Inspired, I continued to play with paint, working finally on a piece of light-weight scrap canvas my framer gave me.  It had some discoloured spots, so I washed it, and in drying it, squeezed it, meaning that despite ironing (under a pressing cloth, on the side without gesso priming), it retained a bit of a 'crinkled' look.  I decided I liked that, as it gave an interesting texture to the painted surface. 

Un-stretched canvas, painted

You can see the inspirational photo at the top. I took it on my way to the studio of my long-arm quilter, Sylvia, who lives north-east of here just a wee bit.

Once it was painted, I put it under the needle, and added a bit more colour with water-colour pencils:

Then I found a mat for it -- thanks to some cast-offs recycling from my former water-colour teacher, Sharon Lynn Williams of Calgary, who went back to work in acrylics, oils and encaustic after several years of working in water-colour.

It's a good big mat (the canvas is 9" x 11") -- a double mat, in fact, and too me, it suits the piece down to the ground.  Before attaching it to the mat, I applied the piece to a slightly larger piece of mat board, again using mat gel medium.

I've decided, however, not to frame this one.  Whoever buys it can frame it the way they want to.  I just propped it in this stand for the photo:

End of the Road (C) 2018

All in all, it's been a good five or six days.  Today...taking it a bit easier, working on string blocks for that larger piece I've mentioned before, and which is still very much a work in progress.

It's snowing here (again!) today -- thick, fat flakes that melt on the pavement but pile up on the old snow and any icy patches that remain from earlier 'melts's, and there are plenty of those.

I'm seriously thinking of curling up for a nap, but before I do, I'll link this to WIP Wednesday over at The Needle and Thread Network, and leave you with this photo of the third (of three) blocks for The Quilt Show's 2018 Block of the Month, which I also finished this past weekend.  Sometimes, after original work, my brain needs a break, so I go back to piecing.  Ahhhhh....

Have a great rest of the week, everyone! 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Puttering, Muttering and Painting

This week's been full of highs and lows -- blessedly mostly highs, but somehow the low points are the ones I dwell on.  Equally blessedly, I'm aware I'm not alone in that!

The puttering's part of that.  

I'm excited by fabric collage -- especially work by artists like Deborah Boschert and Louise O'Hara.  I long to be able to create light-hearted pieces of my own with the same spontaneity.

But...I'm not a very spontaneous person.  Just ask my kids.

I'm a planner.  A detail person, and a very good organizer and administrator.  I've made a living using those skills...but alas, they're not handy if one aspires to spontaneity.  😩

Anyway, I have this old, tattered quilt that's already been cut up for use in these pieces:

'Disintegration' I, II and III
Exhibited Online with the Artists of
Threads of Resistance

So...I wanted to do something with some of the remnants.  I cut up a bit into 4" squares, thinking I could stitch on them and combine them with other bits and bobs for a collage, mounted on canvas.

I did up one little piece with embroidery...cute, but not particularly artistic.  Sigh.

Next I tried putting two in a contemporary 12" x 12" piece, a la Deborah Boschert, thinking I might donate it to the SAQA Benefit Auction this year:

Chip Off the Old Block - (C) 2018

It's okay, I guess...but it lacks a certain 'spark'.  I didn't even bother to attach a sleeve -- just hung it up with other "samples".


Then there's muttering about what's been What's Been Going On in the World.  I've caught myself being caught up in Too Much News, and a longing for someone -- anyone -- especially in government -- to be caught doing something right, true, lovely, generous, quiet, helpful...and find myself becoming less of those things at the same time. 😟 I've caught myself ranting on FB -- and going back and removing the rant -- even when others affirmed what I'd written. 

How do I deal with that?  

I could build a wall around myself, my wee domain, and not let any bad news in...but then, how would I pray effectively for those outside my self-circumscribed "bubble"? 

So...I soldier on, and make the intention to observe, assess, perhaps share or articulate...but without a rant.  Try to be mindful, and catch myself before I get carried away.

So where are the highs?

I finished a baby sweater, except for the buttons.  It's adorable, and there's no one for whom it's intended, so it will likely end up in the Church's pre-Christmas Bazaar...

Just needs buttons!
Pattern: "Little Coffee Bean" by Elizabeth Smith
Yarn: Schachenmayr Nomotta 'Bravo' DK (discontinued)

I still have lots of that yarn in my stash, so I expect it will be turned into hats and mittens next.

I made two 8" x 8" pieces that I won't photograph till they're mounted and framed....Or at least, mounted.  I have to get the canvases tomorrow when I'm in Red Deer.

And I made two pieces that have been mounted on painted stretched canvas -- which I'll take to the framer on Wednesday.

Three of the four are from pieces of mono-printing I did on rusted or dyed synthetics, just lying around, waiting to be used.  I thought initially they were also "just samples", but the stitching brought them to life, and I really like them so far.

Grasslands I (C) 2018
Canvas: 16" W x 12" L

Grasslands II (C) 2018
Canvas: 16" W x 12" L

Grasslands I - detail

In the end, I've learned a few things from all this puttering, muttering and painting:
  1. "To thine own self be true" (Shakespeare, spoken by Polonius in Hamlet);
  2. "Be Margaret" (Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project); and
  3. Rants are exhausting; find a better way.

This coming week, my friend Mary and I will put our finishing touches on our collaborative application to exhibit in the 2018 Camrose Art Walk, and submit it.  I'll take three (!) quilt tops to Sylvia, my long-armer, to be quilted.  I'll have lunch with a good friend, work a couple of days at The Shop, enjoy Knit Night, and pick up the latest framed pieces, while dropping off the other new canvases, all in preparation for the Lacombe Art Show and Sale.

And I leave you with a link-up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday...with a wish for a Good Week ahead...

Remembering especially those who will be observing Holy Week and the lead up to Easter...while others are preparing for Passover, which begins Friday evening.

Blessings, all!