Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Imperfect, Unsettled, Uncertain

Perhaps its the weather; perhaps it's my age (I'll be 65 in less than 3 months); perhaps its everything going on in the world...

Whatever it is, lately I've had a daily challenge to feel anything but emotionally and mentally unsettled.  Sometimes I just wanna do what I wanna do, even if it's nothing.

It didn't start with this, but one of the frustrations of late was the discovery that my first two pieces for 15 x 15 this year weren't quite the right size.  Even blocked, they were both a tad small.  In the photo below you can see edges of "Agnes Meets Jane" that are just within the bounds of an earlier piece -- "Back to the Garden" -- that is the right size.

And here's the same sort of photo of "Winter", in which the differences are a bit more obvious...


It's not as if I can't make something 'to size'.  Here's my piece for the 2017 SAQA Benefit Auction, for example, with is indeed 12" square:

Vincent Meets Mod/Improv (C) 2017
12" x 12"
Available at online auction in September.

Taken together with the fact that I've not been as excited about the 2017 project in the group, as I was with earlier themed challenges, and the fact that sometimes I want to work either larger or smaller from the get-go...and...well...I've decided to step out of the group.  There are other projects that are calling to me -- ones that are unlikely to be exhibited, even.  Ones that call for a 'when it's done' time frame, and more hand-stitching.  Ones that are more utilitarian, for charity.  Ones that aren't quilting at all but knitting and/or embroidery (I've just been commissioned to make a set of pillow shams, to make a twin-bed quilt, to bind another 'apple core' bed quilt and to make a knitted shawl).

And please...I've heard the platitudes about 'you're only as old as you feel'.  I don't feel old, physically -- but some days I am very weary within myself, indeed.

In Canada -- as I was explaining to a Dutch colleague recently -- 65 is rather a milestone, whether one wants it to be or not.  One becomes eligible for a government pension -- the "Old Age Security" pension (OAS or OAP for short) -- and there are distinct changes in expenses as well as in income.  For example, in some provinces, insurance premiums for some health insurance programs (like one I'm in) are waived at 65**, and other benefits increase in scope and value.  One truly becomes a "Senior" tangible as well as intangible ways.

And this seems to have sent me into a bit of a rebellion -- wanting a looser time-table, saying 'no' more often to requests for 'volunteering', while simultaneously wanting to be sure I'm still needed, still have a purpose.  Just without strings, without expectations, without demands.  I want to eat what I want, drink what I want, exercise only if and when I want...instead of doing what 'They' say I should do, what is good for me.

For a rule-following, nerdy, goody-two-shoes, this is quite a turn about!

And thus...unsettling.

I hope within the next few months I'll find my footing again -- or at the very least, learn to tread on this road that's 'under construction', full of bumps and holes and blind corners.

Right now, it's time for a jog.   Happy trails!

**And on that note...I was going out the door just now when I got a call from Alberta Blue Cross about this 'milestone birthday'...forms are on the way to me to register for the changes that will take place effective October 1...!!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Meanwhile, in the Sewdio...

SAQA Western Canada's first Regional Retreat has dominated my posts for the last few weeks -- when I've managed to post at all.  The paucity of posts arose from a variety of reasons, including the demands of yard and garden, as well as a late spring head cold (for which I mainly blame the unseasonably hot weather's triggering the automatic air conditioning to cool down the innards of my new car with a blast until the pre-set temp (19.5 C) was reached.  I now keep the AC off and roll down the windows instead!)

But I have been creating in the Sewdio -- really I have!  And here are some examples -- in addition to "Agnes Meets Judy", about which I've already posted.  :-)

First, two "birdie" commissions that arose from the Lacombe Art Show & Sale near the end of April:

Gather 'Round


Next, another commission of the quilty variety, but something completely different, and just a hair outside my comfort zone: binding an "Apple Core" quilt, which means bias binding around scalloped edges.  

The quilt is one of a couple owned by my client, who inherited them after her grandmother's death...about 40 years ago.  She'd kept them in a drawer, so they are in pristine condition.  She also told me that the pieces were made from fabric originally used in home sewing projects, such as house dresses, other dresses and aprons.  The fabric is clearly 1930's type:

See the irregular edge?

Though my client and I worked together to estimate the amount of fabric she'd need to buy for the binding she wanted (1/2" visible on both the front and the back), and though we used formulae found over the Internet at the turned out that the 1 metre she bought was more than enough!

A large puddle of home-made bias binding
next to my sewing table

The preparation of the binding -- which I did 'all-of-a-piece' using instructions from my trusty Quilter's Ultimate Visual Guide -- turned out to be the most intimidating part of the process.  Once it was finished, though, pinning it and applying it by machine -- mitred corners and all! -- was much easier than I thought it would be.

Next I had to trim the excess batting and backing, left behind by the long-armer when the top was quilted:

Then, more pinning and a few hours of quiet hand-stitching, et voila!

In addition to paying me, I'm rather hoping that my client will let me keep the trimmed backing and batting.  While the latter is rather 'poofy', the extra fabric could prove handy for backing future small projects -- especially minis!

As for that excess bias binding -- well, the client has another (slightly smaller) "Apple Core" that needs it, and "would [I] do the job?"  Sure!  After all, the tough part is behind me!

***   ***   ***

In the way of art work -- besides "Agnes Meets Judy" -- I've taken what I learned from Susan Purney Mark at the retreat and turned some samples into note cards:

I bought the blank cards eons ago, knowing someday I'd do something with them.  Now I've finished five using squares of the 'asemic writing' to which Susan introduced us as part of her 'mark-making' workshop, embellished with a touch of colour.  This week the clear plastic envelopes and labels I ordered especially for the back of each card arrived, meaning now I can go ahead and play some more with my fabric samples -- and make new ones. 

I plan to take a batch down the street to Gracie D's to offer them in her antiques/gifts/collectibles shop...and may take a few more to Different Strokes gallery in Olds when I drop in there in a couple of weeks.  I'm thinking that both Gracie and Deb might think they're a fit for their shops.

***   ***   ***

I'll leave you with "before" and "after" photos of the yard work that's kept me out of the sewdio for the past 10 days or so -- an aged rock garden that's in my front yard.  Grass had encroached more than ever this spring, and there was a great deal of winter kill of the flax and other perennial ground cover, so I decided it was time to dig that stuff out:

In the process I took out all of the rocks.  These are but a few...

Finally the bed was clean and ready for fresh planting!

And here it is...complete with topsoil to build up the "holes" left by the removal of sod, new plants -- including a few annuals (marigolds) just because, weed barrier (no more grass and dandelions etc.! -- I hope!), and fragrant bark chips...

Now that I've caught you up with my corner of the world, Gentle Readers, I'm off to the Edmonton Festival of Quilts...and linking up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

All is Revealed!

It's that time again: the 15 x 15 International Art Quilt Group Reveal is UP!

This year we are each working in a series based on a theme of our choosing -- a theme used in a prior year.

My chosen theme is "Time/Seasons" and I've been working my pieces out in abstract, mod/improv techniques.  Here's my latest offering:

Agnes Meets Judy in the Spring
(C) 2017

Here's a detail shot:

Agnes Meets Judy - Detail

Materials: self-dyed cotton fabric, commercial cotton and poly-cotton fabric, hand-dyed silk floss, cotton thread, 80-20 cotton/polyester batting.

Techniques: flip-and-stitch quilt-as-you-go by machine, big-stitch hand quilting.

For the story behind the title of the piece, I invite you to visit the post HERE.  Enjoy!

Linking this to WIP Wednesday on the Needle and Thread Network, because it's been a very long time since I've done that!  :-)

Have a great rest of the week...

Wine, Women and "Wow!" -- Part III

It's taken me by surprise that a full 2 weeks have passed since I posted Part II of this SAQA Western Canada Retreat synopsis...but there you are.  Between work at The Shop, a trip to Edmonton, three commissions to finish, the call of the yard and garden, and a spring head cold, I've had little time and even less energy to apply to writing...and this is a long post, for there's lots to cover.

Today's the perfect day, though, to be at my desk -- because the temp is climbing to 27 C (80.6 F) -- a July reading at the end of May! -- and I'm staying in with fans on and windows open.

Saturday, May 6 was the second full day of the retreat -- and its focus was creativity and play.

Judy Villet
One of our exercises!
Most of the morning featured a session on colour and design, guided by artist Judy Villet of New Westminster, B.C.  Fast-paced yet thorough, Judy packed a great deal of information into the short time she had with us -- including great exercises to test our abilities to discern tints, tones and shades.

You'll see below what I mean when I describe Judy's teaching style as dynamic: I tried four times to capture her...but she proved too quick for my wee point-and-click!  ;-)

The last of the morning was a presentation on photographing our quilts from SAQA WC Co-Rep (MB/SK), Valerie Wilson.  Now...I've already told you I use a "point-and-click" camera -- and that's the extent of my enthusiasm for the subject!  I've managed to take reasonable photos on which to base my landscape work, but for important submissions, I rely on the skills of my daughter, who has studied the subject, had photos published in calendars and books, and has had some success selling her work.

Nonetheless, though I was fully prepared to be bored by this session (reading my camera manual puts me to sleep)...Valerie surprised me, and I confess she left me with several nuggets to take home and try out.  Thanks, Val!  :-)

After lunch we broke into three groups that rotated through as many creative stations -- for some hand-on play.

Janet Scruggs taught us her "Scorched!" technique that uses lemon juice mixtures and a hot iron to produce interesting designs, whether applied over stencils, used to colour in shapes, applied over shibori-style folds or created free-form.  I'd been anxious to learn this ever since I'd seen examples of Janet's work using this technique at an exhibit in Calgary last year.

Janet Scruggs with
her piece, Petroglyphs

First I tried bundling, shibori-style:

 With mixed results...

Next, some painting.  
A picture was laid underneath and I 'traced' it with the solution:

And finally, my favourite: 
a thickened solution (using sodium alginate) with a stencil.  

To my delight, I made a type of Glasgow Rose!

Next, I moved to the session taught by Susan Purney Mark, on "mark-making".  She's posted a few times about this on her Facebook page...but here are some of my samples...

First, using black fabric paint with a 'wedge' (larger than the edge of a credit card but a credit card would work too):

1. Dip wedge in paint;
2. Apply edge to fabric;
3. Experiment - create blob;
4. Ignore blob!

Another 'wedge painting', using a
sweeping motion with the wedge. of my favourites...applying the paint to wet linen, with the wedge.  I love the softened edges and the irregularity of this.  I have lots of pieces of scrap linen off-cuts from embroidery, and plan to play some more with this!

And my other favourite: 'asemic writing' -- essentially meaningless shapes that appear to be writing but make no actual letters or sense -- using a fabric pen on a densely-woven cotton:

I've already cut up most of the piece of asemic writing that I created, and am applying it to card-stock...stay tuned for the reveal...

Last but not least was a session with Valerie Wilson on creating and using stamps.  Another one that filled me with years ago I'd taken a similar session and found that trying to carve a stamp was very hard on my hands, and not at all worth the effort.

Again...Valerie surprised me!  I managed to make three stamps, all of which I really like and may use in future (especially the larger one, in which I tried to emulate wavy grass).  So here are the results:

First, the grass stamp and the leaf -- the latter being made out of a small eraser:

Leaves and Grasses

Next, remember the mixed results I got with the 'scorched' shibori-style folding (above)?  Well...I took this piece and stamped over it with the third stamp, which I'd carved to emulate either ripples on water or bark on birch/aspen...and I think it makes a rather interesting textured piece, don't you?

 After expending all this creative energy, it was time for dinner -- followed by a wee bit o' hospitality (read: wine and cheese!) and fabric fondling at the home of Coleen Adderley, (now former) SAQA WC B.C. Co-Rep and Retreat Coordinator!

Coleen Adderley
We all bundled into the several vehicles available and were up, up and away (literally!  She lives on the side of a cliff!) to her home in Peachland, which is also home to her new business, Quilted Reflections.

On the way, Coleen indulged me for a short side-trip to the far end of Peachland, site of Antler Beach, Hardy Falls and the Edgewater Pines Trailer Court.  The latter was the home of my parents from 1978 through 1994...and the visit brought back many memories of visits there -- mainly in the summer -- with the kids.  The last visit we made was in the summer of 1993, and though a great deal has changed since then, it would appear that my parents' place is still there; I was certain I was able to pick it out as we drove slowly by.

Just a small sampling of what Coleen's shop offers

And the group had no trouble finding items to take home...

Coleen also place several examples of her work around the shop, including this beautiful surprise behind the entrance!

A great time was had by all, and the wine and conversation continued long into the evening, even after we'd returned to the lodge.

And on was home-time.  After breakfast there was a 'brain-storming' session about what is next for the Region, which, come July, will be bereft of SAQA Representatives unless people step up to the plate.  Ah, Gentle Readers, 'twere ever thus!  Organizations that thrive on volunteers are always on the look-out for folks with a passion to support their mission, at various levels...and SAQA is no different...

Here is where I wind up the story of our first-ever SAQA Western Canada Regional Retreat...with the hopes that the organization will continue to thrive in this part of the country, and the excitement of knowing that the first-ever International Conference to be held outside the U.S. will be in Toronto in 2020.  You can be I'm hoping to be on board!

Blessings...till next time...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Side Trip: "Statement Quilts"

In the last few years, I've found myself making more 'statement quilts' -- ones that speak to or about issues that I have on my mind and heart.  This morning, my SAQA colleague, Lyric Kinnard, shared a blog post written by a quilter named Jessica, who articulates very well why she and I and so many others from time to time feel compelled to create quilts that...make a statement.

Canada Weeps:
 A Response to the 2016 Election in the U.S.A.

(C) 2016

Jessica calls her pieces 'political quilts', whereas not all of my 'statements' have been strictly related to I prefer the wider 'statement quilts' description.

Make Do and Mend:
A Response to Cuts in Funding for the Arts
in Alberta
(C) 2011

Sometimes my 'statements' are related to the expressed through my Christian faith...

I Was Hungry
(C) 2012
(Matthew 25: 25-40)

Sometimes inspired by music that was, in turn, inspired by Scripture or spiritual teachings:

Back to the Garden (C) 2013
Inspired by the lyrics of
Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock"

Always Be Humble and Kind (C) 2016
Inspired by the lyrics of
"Humble and Kind" by Lori McKenna

Most of these have been small pieces (12" x 12" or 15" x 15" for example), but more recently I've worked in a larger way, creating this triptych (or series)...

Disintegration I: Attention
Disintegration II: Acknowledgment
Disintegration III: Optimism
(C) 2017
Inspired by Dr. P.M. Forni's book
Choosing Civility: The Twenty-fiveRules of Considerate Conduct

And, of course, this project...

Mark on the Body
Opening Reception, October, 2016

In some small way, I hope that the statements I make in my quilts will inspire thought, prayer, or some form of personal action that incorporates quiet resolve, humility, kindness and hope.

As Joni wrote...

We are stardust; we are golden...
and we've got to get ourselves back to the Garden.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wine, Women and "Wow!" - Part II

On Friday, May 5, our first SAQA Western Canada Regional Retreat got into full swing.  The topic of the day was that of the overall retreat: "Out of the Studio, Into the Wider World".

First up, yours truly and my colleague, Valerie Wilson of Winnipeg (Regional Co-Rep, MB/SK), spoke about our experiences showing in galleries in and around our respective locales -- Valerie, from the urban perspective, and me, from the rural perspective.  I'd been concerned that we might be travelling over familiar ground for many, but in the end, over all, I think it was well received.

The next part of the morning featured Certified Appraiser, Dawn Hunt of Canmore, a SAQA Associate Member, speaking about how quilts are valued, why valuing one's quilts -- whether traditional, vintage, antique or more contemporary studio art.  She did an analysis of the prices asked by members who'd volunteered this information prior to the Retreat, and shared a detailed spread-sheet thereof with all of us.  It's in tiny print so I've yet to read it in depth, but her synopsis of the data was that "...prices were all over the map" -- which is the conclusion SAQA Board Member (then Co-Rep, Atlantic Canada) Chris Nielsen, drew when looking at the price list for the My Corner of the World exhibit last year -- and which was one impetus for our having this topic at our retreat in the first place.  :-)

After lunch (all this food for thought requires fuel!), artist and teacher Susan Purney Mark of B.C. took to the floor for a discussion about using Social Media more effectively to get our work into the public eye.  Many artists appear to be reticent about diving into various avenues of Social Media -- especially Facebook -- for fear of inability to control how one and one's work is viewed, shared and used.  Susan gave examples of blogging, Facebook use and connections between one form of media and another, with tips and tricks on how to use them most effectively, and to our best advantage -- safely and securely.

Susan gave us a short list of "Points to Ponder" which, it seems to me, are valuable whether specifically related to using Social Media for our artwork -- or for entering the "exhibit fray" altogether.  I list her questions below with what I think of as parallel questions with respect to exhibiting at all (in italics).

  • Why do you want to be involved? (Why do you want to exhibit your work?)
  • How will you be (or are you now) posting/writing? (How are you showing your work now? Are you showing, selling or both?)
  • Where will you interact? (Which platforms for Social Media?) (Where will you exhibit? What type of venue?)
  • When are you interacting? (What's your time commitment?) (Ditto.)
  • What is do you want to say? (Content) (What is your artistic voice? What types of pieces do you produce?)

After all this stimulating and thought-provoking discussion, it was time to unwind!  Despite the heavy rain, about half of us piled into a shuttle van to take a 3-stop winery tour.  First up: Quail's Gate, where the detailed tour took us from overlooking the vineyards to viewing the vats and learning the process, to tasting a variety of finished products -- all under in the hands of the capable, informative and charming Guillaume.  It was a challenge to choose what we wanted to bring home with us!

From there we travelled to both Mt. Boucherie and Mission Hill wineries for more sampling, and purchasing.

Mmmmmm.....and here I'll leave you....Part III to come!

Photo credit: Quail's Gate Winery