Saturday, February 28, 2009

Selecting Empowering Partnerships & Alliances

illustration from Anne Taintor "making smart people smile since 1985"

This eighth chapter of 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women (which I'm reading as part of the book blogging group, The Next Chapter) was probably the least helpful to me so far. I think that making this decision on whether to partner up with other or create and pursue alliances is something that might be in the future, but doesn't apply too much to me at the moment.

In the chapter there is a pretty extensive self-assessment to do around the issues of what kind of partner you are, your managing style, your collaboration style, etc. And after doing that, I've realized that being on my own with what I'm doing now is the right choice for me. At least for now.

But as the author, Gail McMeekin says "Working closely with others on a creative project expands the available net of ideas, skills and experience." I've absolutely found this to be true on the collaborative projects I've worked on in the past, and definitely recognize the value of this idea.

But on the other hand, my favorite quote from the chapter is "Your playing small serves no one." - Marianne Williamson.
So perhaps more thinking on this subject of expanding my notions of what I'm doing, and whether or not I need to involve more partners or alliances is achieving my goals.

As McMeekin says "In this age of the Internet, you don't have to work alone, unless you want to."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Consulting With Guides

Getting back into the swing of reading along in "12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women" with the book blogging group, Next Chapter. I'm a week behind, so there will be two posts in a row to catch me back up.

This seventh chapter is all about how to overcome the challenge of isolation and loneliness as an artist/creative, with all kinds of great questions to consider about the guidance you got as a child from your family, later in life from people outside your family and what works best for you and what you need in the future going forward.
I was lucky as a child to be so encouraged in my creativity by both of my parents. They were great examples of how to be creative in your own individual way that works for you. My grandparents and other relatives too were very inspirational by the many examples of throwing yourself into hobbies or creative pursuits to get through life and make it better as you go along.

As I went through life I think that I had some pretty good teachers and guides up and through the college years.
One of the most influential was a summer school teacher that I had where we did patchwork, between fourth and fifth grade. I don't remember much about her, but I do remember the freedom and "what happens if you did this or that" kind of spontaneity of approach to the subject she brought. That really stuck with me and informs my method of working to this day.

The first formal class I took in the quilting world was from Therese May, (a long time ago in 2000), another free-spirited creative teacher, with a similar "what-if" approach to learning to quilt spontaneously.

And more recently I took advantage of Gabrielle Swain's offer to pass on what she'd been learning about life/art coaching from Eric Maisel when she offered her Creative Sparks month to month mentoring last year. That was a really valuable experience for me, and I refer back to my notes and re-read her critiques and advice very frequently.

I find one of the most inspirational things for me is reading books written about or by creative women where they detail how they've figured this out for themselves. Some of these books would include
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes,
Twyla Tharps' great book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life
and although not all the essays are written by women the anthology edited by Rick Benzel,Inspiring Creativity: An Anthology of Powerful Insights and Practical Ideas to Guide You to Successful Creating
Those are just three that I can think of right off the top of my head out of the many books I've read over the last few years. Advisors or guides in book form are convenient for me, as I don't always feel up to having face-to-face interaction with people. This is just reality for me, so I'm really lucky that the internet exists with all those interesting and inspiring groups out there, just waiting for people to jump in and participate from whatever point they happen to be at.
In person groups are good too, in moderation I've found, otherwise they can turn into too much politic-y and time-sucky situations. The one I've stuck with and done the most with is CQFA. We only meet once every other month, so the time committment isn't too much, and I almost always come away inspired and renewed by interacting with these creative fiber-obsessed women.

In the book, there is a list of guidance options to consider and I found myself checking off all of them, as ones that I had pursued, already have, or want to continue with. So it seems that I've got this particular subject somewhat in hand (though not in control of course!).

My favorite quote from the chapter which I'll leave you with was from Helen Keller: "When indeed shall we learn that we are all related one to the other, that we are all members of one body?"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

View Through Rain

Phone was finally fixed today (hooray), so now I'm racing around online trying to catch up. It seems like more than a week went by for some reason. I was really discombobulated without having the lure of an online hour or two to get me through my morning studio time. Not that I have to make myself go be creative or else, but it was a routine that was working really well for me, and I felt adrift without that routine.

I replaced that with reading instead, and read a whole lot of books last week, including (finally!) Twilight, which I read in less than a day.

It keeps raining, and I keep taking pictures of it, since that is what is going on.

These are from waiting in the car one recent evening, for my son to finish up his martial arts class.

I think the neon lights are really beautiful being spread out and combined in the rain. Especialy the purple cloud created from the red/blue OPEN sign.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No Phone

This Cake video of their song "No Phone" perfectly illustrates the current situation at home: No Phone!


No dial tone, thus no DSl. And no repair appointment until Tuesday next week. grrrrr.

Although I did see three AT&T trucks cruising around the neighborhood this afternoon, fingers crossed that they are fixing the problem right now this very minute. I have a feeling the outage is due to the recent mudslide which took down power poles and the phone lines with them. We didn't lose our phone service even though the power was out though. Just after a few very windy days. I bet they didn't re-hang the phone lines correctly. As a layperson guessing that is..

So if you're trying to call me, hopefully you have my cell number.

At least there is free wifi at the coffeeshop down in town which is where I'm posting from. Sitting here drinking expensive chai and watching the rushing river way down below.

Well, that is one way to lessen the interruptions at home and get some work done in the studio, I got a lot accomplished today. No internet, no interrupting phone calls, pretty cool. But more on that later, with pictures.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Carving Stones

I uncovered a project in process during the recent studio rearrangement which I was really happy to find. These are the runestones that I was making for myself a few years ago. I love using the tarot and other deck systems, but I wanted to have a go at using a tactile, stone based system.
The normal runes have never really done much for me, the symbols don't speak to me, and I usually don't like the stones or plastic faux stones that they're sold as these days.
So I decided to make my own. Using symbols that are personally meaningful and are instantly available for me to interpret. Yes, that is a smiley face on one of them!
These are all stones that I chose on a special trip to a local beach, with this project in mind. I carved each stone using my Dremel Motor Tool with a diamond point. It was easier on some of the stones that others as there are sandstone and granite (the two extremes in hardness!). But mostly it went pretty smoothly.
I then used a Zig Painty gold pen to fill in the mark to make the symbols easier to read.
I made a fabric liner for a small but sturdy basket and have them in there for now. I may make a reinforced, lined velvet bag for them at some point. So far they have been very useful for me and I'm glad that I came across them again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How I Spent My Holiday Weekend

This is what the road down our hill looked like yesterday. A couple big trees that had been perched up on the mountainside fell over in the big rain/wind storm, causing a small mudslide. No big deal, except, they of course fell into the power lines. Very big deal. The fire department and tree service people were there right away. But they couldn't do anything because the live wires were wrapped up and in and around the trees. Several hours went by before the power company showed up and got to work.
It was a problem because this is the only passable road down the hill for a few hundred folks that live up here. It is possible to walk down our little street to town, but you can't drive anymore. Dear husband had to walk down and up twice, once with the teenagers that were having a sleepover and needed to get home, and once to fill up the gas can for our generator. It was quite a social scene with more people than usual out of their houses (in the pouring rain) griping about the power company and scheming on how to get down off the mountain.
We had a LOT of time for reading and quiet, which was a nice way to spend the holiday.

Power didn't go back on until 1:30 am, which I know because of course we had left the bedroom overhead lights on. What a way to wake up. Nice to have the power back on.
Today we're having a ton of hail! And wind, which knocked the power out again for a few hours. Good time for a nap, so I took advantage.
Here is what the trampoline looks like. Wouldn't that be a cold and slippery jump?!

And I'm fascinated by the sizes and shapes and colors of the hail.

Well, that's why I didn't post yesterday!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Conquering Saboteurs

The sixth chapter, Conquering Saboteurs in 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women (book blogging along with the others at The Next Chapter), is pretty interesting. Saboteurs can be internal (all those critical, damaging voices) or external (people in your life who are against what you're trying to accomplish).
I think handling the external ones is pretty easy for me. Although I haven't encountered a lot of criticism for my work so far. Probably because I don't attend artist groups where they do critiques. And the judges comments that I've gotten on works from various shows have usually been helpful in some way or another. Even the ones that rankled ended up being useful. I tend to usually take everything very personally and deeply, but somehow, criticism about my work I'm able to handle (at least so far), because I can separate what is intended as useful, and what is not.

The internal saboteurs though are a bit harder to handle, but I have learned some good techniques to shut them up long enough to be able to get the work done. The ones that are strongest are preventing me from getting my work out into the world. This realization that I haven't conquered all of those internal saboteurs makes me say to myself: "Prepare to do battle!" It seems strange to have to prepare to battle a voice or impulse that is coming from one's own mind, but that's where the conflict is.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deep fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." - Marianne Williamson

The picture in this post is of one of my favorite quilts that I've made, As Above, So Below is made from various woven plaids and ikats and quilted with a very thick cotton perle.
Finally hanging where I always had envisioned it, above our bed.
It looks good against the biscuit colored wall.
No matter what anybody else ever said about it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

All You Need Is Love

L IMG_4823 v E
I hope today, Valentine's Day has been absolutely filled with LOVE for you.

Romantic Love
Filial Love
Maternal Love
Paternal Love
Familial Love
Platonic Love
Feline Love
hey, even and especially Self Love

My valentine and I are now off to dinner (kid-free too!), hopefully the road is open by now. If not, I guess we'll have to turn around and have something to eat at home. And hopefully the power stays on, as it has been iffy today with the stormy weather.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Paws That Refreshes

d'oh! Sorry 'bout that punny title.

Don't you love it when your cat is so deeply asleep that they don't wake up and you can take super close up pictures of their paws?
I do.
Usually Rexie wakes up or at least hides his paws from me, but this time he was sound out recovering from a wild and woolly night out in the rain.
This time he was so asleep that I was able to get to him before he clenched up his relaxed paw. I just love the look of it against the flannel quilt.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Holding Still

I'm participating in a group study using the book "Color and Composition for the Creative Quilter"
This is written by quilt artist Katie Pasquini Masopust and Brett Barker, a fine art painter and teacher. It makes for a different kind of how-to improve your quilt design book because of this partnership in presenting the information. Basic art concepts presented with the quilter in mind. Because it is such a different medium than drawing or painting, learning to make that connection with the basics can be hard to master.

This is what I've accomplished so far from the Contour Drawing chapter.

First step is to set up a still life, lit with a strong light from one side so that you get highlights and shadows. This particular one was rather pungent, what with the very ripe banana and spicy onion. I had to restrain myself from eating that fat little mandarin orange while I was still working with the still life setup.

A blind contour drawing, where you hold a paper above the one you are drawing on so that you can't see the drawing so far. This helps keep your eye on what you're actually drawing.
You really have to concentrate on the shapes and how they relate to one another.

A contour drawing (no shading), this time able to look at the paper.

Then using pre-fused fabric, doubled up , then you freehand cut the basic shapes out, no marking, just cut with the scissors.
Using one set of the shapes, you make a fabric still life. Fused straight down onto the backing fabric. I found that I cut most of the pieces too big and had to trim them down to fit onto the backing fabric size. Also, don't forget to remove the paper backing from the fused fabric before you cut, I made this mistake and then had to sit there and pick it off of each and every little fiddly piece.
Using the other set of shapes you create a composition that is pleasing to your eye. This is a diagonal composition (could you tell? hope so!)
Lastly looking at the still life, you free-motion stitch directly onto a white quilt sandwich (top, batting,backing). This is quite similar to the contour drawing. Except of course, you don't draw any guide lines or marks, you are just using the sewing machine to draw. It was easier than I thought it would be.
I was interested in how the reverse of the stitched still life looked.
Next chapter is Line and Shape, which I'll post about once I've actually done the exercises!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Roll With It Baby

Now that I've got that song playing in your head, just from reading the post title....
One of the fun things that happen when you completely rearrange your studio is you find projects that have fallen behind things and gotten lost. ahem. So I found the colored pencil roll in progress that I was making for myself (after making one last year for friend Jaye).
See that post for the tutorial up to this point. Basically I've only sewn together 24 1.5"x10" colored strips of fabric that vaguely match the colored pencils in a Prismacolor 24 set..
That colored strip section is about 22" long and 9.5" high before the next steps.

Here's the first step after you've got the colorful strips sewn together, baste on some flannel to the wrong side. You could also use a very thin quilt batting also.

Next choose a fabric that will be the pocket for the pencils, I chose a very stiff muslin and cut a piece about the same width and same length as the colorful strip base. Iron in half length-wise, baste onto the side and bottom of the colored strips section.

Then you get to choose the fabric you want on the outside of the roll and a ribbon that you want to have to tie it up. I chose a wide purple ribbon an then added some black/white small ribbon on top. The length of the ribbon is about 37", a bit longer would work fine too.
Cut out a piece of the outside fabric you've chose, the same size of the colored strips section and right sides together, sew, leaving a spot on the end to turn it rightside out. Don't forget to baste the ribbon tie on before sewing this seam.

After you've turned everything right-side out and pressed top-stitch around the edge.

Now you stitch on each seam between the colors all the way down to the bottom of the pocket. Instead of sewing each one all in a row, I split it up into 1/4ths to distribute the fullness a bit. One seam in the middle, then another several rows over, another the other direction. Then fill in the rows you've skipped. If you don't stitch it this way, it might end up messy down at the final seam...Or maybe that is just because I don't pin enough when I sew!
Look at all those colors, all laid out and ready to use. Looking at this picture makes me want to go sketch in my sketchbook *right now*.

And here it is all rolled up and ready to go in my sketch bag.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mischief (and Mess) Managed

Well, here are the pictures of the studio after being completely rearranged, just in one day. Boy was I ever pooped! But I was glad that it was done, and I really like the feel of the room so much more now. Before, my back was to the door when I was at my worktable, and that is never a good thing, whether you believe in Feng Shui or not.
This first picture shows my main work area. The area behind my blue chair is a door-free closet space that has stacks of plastic boxes filled with fabric. And what do you know, they are all accessible now, because all the stuff that was in front of them is now across the room, which you can see in this next picture:

Here is most of the rest of the room, click the picture so you can read the labels I added. There are still several large boxes to sort through, but they aren't in danger of falling on anyone now which is an improvement.

Here is my thread organizer, finally up on the wall again. Now it feels like a studio. And there is my Cerridwen below the thread, stirring up her pot of creativity, my organizer full of rulers, behind that is a great creative calendar ArtPlay that Lunaea put together again this year (if you like collage check it out), above the calendar is Flora, who always watches over me to make sure I'm having fun, and above her is Mary in a metal shrine.

So, that is my big start on making my mark on this room, zing, shazam, this is now my studio!
I feel tons better about art making already, and have been very productive in the days since the rearrangement. What is that book title, "Move your stuff, change your life?", seems to be true, who knew?!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Taking My Lumps

After I shared the manipulated fabric experiment last week, I decided I wanted to try and use this now very 3D fabric surface in a 2D quilt. So I thought to keep it coherent and complete, I'd just use the silk skirt fabric that the lining fabric came from as the base for the quilt. Turns out it makes a very effective base to play off of with its graphic undulating lines and interesting use of space. And I really like the idea of this complete recycling of a silk skirt! (except the zipper, which on second thought, I should use on the back for the label...

The first picture shows how I originally had the whole shebang pinned together before attempting the sewing part.

Here is how it looks after quilting and re-arranging and folded and stretching and tucking and trimming. I used invisible thread on the 3D fabric, and black rayon on the background.

Not sure if there are still to be beads in and amongst the lumpy bits as was my original thought. I think I'll try beading a section and see how it looks to me. There are some swaths of fabric not currently quilted through, so they need some type of anchoring otherwise they'll pooch out too much after hanging for any amount of time. (learned this by personal experience, oh yes I have!).

The title of this finally came to me: Taking My Lumps
and the size is: 31 x 37"
Let's call this Quilt #2 of 2009!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Committing to Self-Focus

This fifth chapter in 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin that I'm reading with other book bloggers (see The Next Chapter) is a really crucial one, with issues that I've been dealing with for the last 15 years of being a mother.

As the author states:" Self-focus is a critical skill for women who want to create . Without it you cannot induldge in your inspirations and devote the time necessary for innovation."

I still find the pull and tug of caretaking vs. creativity very challenging and am simultaneously looking forward to and dreading the time when it is just my husband I'm "responsible for". It is so hard to ever feel like I'm doing any of my roles well-enough, good-enough or honestly even minimally. All of it is in tension, all the time, which is stressful in a very different way than being stressed over working outside the home at a 9-5 job like I used to have. That stress was more manageable, it was something I could see as separate from me, it was mostly over and done with when I left work to come home. But this stress is all day, every day, the only true respite is when I go away for a short break without family. All those caretaking demands are there 24/7 like it or not, and the ability, reason, and strength to say NO sometimes, when I need to be creative isn't always available to me.

Having a real fear of appearing selfish is something I can admit to honestly. Because women are most definitely not supposed to be selfish. I cringe inwardly whenever I am confronted with this by my family, when they express the feeling that I'm not there enough for them. Because they are right, I'm not sometimes! The worst thing is knowing that they do not value the time and space and results of my creativity as much as I value theirs. I don't know, that is probably just the way it is between parents and kids but it still bothers me greatly. And it makes it easier to be self-focused!

"Only when one is connected to one's inner core is one connected to others. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be re-found through solitude." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Here's to Solitude then. And learning to say No to doing things we don't truly want to do.

This picture says it all to me. You can't see it in the small version, but there is a sticker that says NO in black and white on the pole. It is such a stark reminder, on this solitary pole, against the enormous demanding sky. Plainly stated: NO .

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Why can't I stop playing this game? I have my own patchwork to actually do in real life! But mine does not use all these complicated shapes and strange fabric patterns, nor does it "click".
Or watching this cat on YouTube?
I have my own silly cats to watch, but this online one is so no-fuss, no-muss and much funnier than my cats are.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Queen's Reign

Seems like it is time for another on-going project.
Here's the front cover of my altered board book for a round-robin collaboration project with some of the artists of Traveler's Hart.

If you are participating in this group, and don't want to see my project until it arrives in your mailbox, then





This former children's board book about dinosaurs was sanded down, and the cover and back was heavily coated with gesso. After that dried I painted with several different purples and metallics. It looks much different in person than in this picture. Metallics are so hard to photograph well.
I honestly was stuck for a theme for my book, so I took out a bag of game tiles and pulled out a handful telling myself that if I could spell something with the random letters then that would be the theme. And what do you know, I pulled out Qu E N S, close enough I thought.

The wavy stuff that the letters are set on is part of a former gift box that I thought was really cool and threw into a collage box, figuring I'd use it eventually. I just love the texture and dimensionality of it. I painted it in yellow and gold and I love how it pops against the purple of the cover. The letters are surrounded with a glittery glue, and I bet you can't guess what the queenly, crown-ish points are...
They are a former 5-pointed kid's plastic Sheriff star which I cracked apart with pliers, plastic shards were flying all over the place. Another good reason to wear glasses.

This is the page I did, using a postcard showing the Queen AS Country, aka Sovereignty. One of my favorite themes in literature, fantasy stories and history. There are also metallic papers, and old, but not quite vintage Canadian queen stamps.

This is the sign-in page which was painted with the same purples and a bit more gold, and gold-leafing too. A library pocket was also painted, and set on top of some silver paper. A strip of checked silk is on the bottom.

Included to "sign-in" on are 7 Queen cards from my growing collection of unusable decks of cards. Somehow with teenagers, this collection seems to be steadily growing, hmmmm. Well, they are useful for collage, right?
I thought I'd sign-in to my own book, so on the back of I glued some gold-stamped hand-made paper, with a magazine picture of a tarot card, the Queen of Coins from The Golden Tarot.

The reverse of the card, which I roughed-up with purple paints, and gold leafing, another Canadian queen stamp.
Can't wait to see what the other artists come up with on the subject of Queen...But that will be many months down the road. But, the good thing is I get to work on six books that will be cycling through my hands.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Getting Ready to Make a Mess

One of the many things I completed at the CQFA weekend retreat. Well, not completed really. The top is done. The quilting is not. So it is getting added to the To Be Quilted Pile, which is threatening to topple over at this point, there are so many things in it! Guess I better invested in a roll of batting and get it done. Quick! Before it warms up to much to want to be surrounding myself with fluffy batting and lots of layers.

But first I have to rearrange my studio furniture so that I have the room. Right now the way things are arranged, there isn't enough space for a larger quilt to move around easily. I think I've got it figured out, made a floorplan and measured several times. Finally today I think I actually feel well enough to accomplish it. This isn't something one wants to attempt when there is a question on whether it will actually get finished!

That reminds me, I better take some before pictures so I can show you how my workspace changes for the better.