Thursday, August 31, 2006

what could be more cheerful than this

burgeoning forest of future avocado trees? They seem to have multiplied since we last saw this scene, and it makes me smile just to look at them. Happiness personified -- those little brown kernels, kept afloat by toothpicks. Can you tell I've been on a guacamole kick? All that vitamin E and good oils -- what could be bad? Yes, I know: the calories. But we'll ignore that part in favor of the potential greenery that is certain to appear if I talk to them enough. I think it is Thursday. This has been a week fraught with the angst of moving my mother into an assisted living facility: something she was not enthusiastic about. (This is something of an understatement.) No details necessary: suffice it to say that my avocado pits have provided me with a level of comfort in this zany end to a hellish year. The best part of today was this: I BAKED.

I celebrated this afternoon by baking rosemary pine nut biscotti, some of which I am now eating with a cuppa tea and lemon. I grew up on tea with lemon every night after dinner. Over the years, I have switched to drinking it 'au nature' -- but tonight, lemon. What would Freud say about THAT? As to the baking, my husband knows the significance of that: it is comfort, therapy, and pure happiness for me to bake. It rivals being in the studio -- with the additional pleasure of knowing the result will be good every time.

Earlier this week, I did seek comfort in the studio. I thought there should be something I could do to improve this piece of cotton I had batik'd last year and then discharged. It was okay, but not great. So I took half of it and went to work.

I like it better now: the wonderful warrior guy shows up better with the dark dyes. He was a gift from Helene when she was here visiting me in January and he makes me smile, too. Don't you think we need all the smiles we can get?

Gee, it is only 9:00. Seems later, but what do I know? I can get to work on the facing of the piece that is sitting on my table or I can make a phone call or two. On the other hand...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

bad dye job

Not my hair, although that needs refreshing, too. But that is another conversation. Today, batik in the downstairs studio to see whether I could improve on this BLAH piece of fabric. (well, what do you expect with dye stock that has been sitting around for eons?) I heated the wax and got to work with a wood stamp I had used only once before I went waltzing off to various parts of the country to teach. Along the way, I purchased the second stamp from a student in my class in Lowell. I coveted it and she decided that I needed it more than she did. Thank you, Corinne! I love it. Working with wood stamps can be labor intensive because they don't hold the heat as well as copper tjaps. They're good for one stamping and then you have to put them back in the wax for another good impression. Nonetheless, I stamped away with a few Afghan wood blocks and a kitchen implement and then painted my favorite indigo dye onto the cloth. It was a small piece, so it dried quickly. A definite improvement, wouldn't you say? Here is another piece of the same piece of cloth, painted with more than one color in the same layer.

I am taking a pile of blah fabric to Denver with me to see whether I can improve them when I use them for class demos. There is always hope.

In the meantime, I need to stitch on my piece some more tonight. It has rained all day and tonight, the windows are open, the air smells sweet, and I can hear the crickets: always a sound that I find comforting. Reminds me of sitting on the screened porch on a summer night when I was a teenager.

This reminds me of the hilarious article I read this week in the NY Times. It was about foods that remind you of your childhood and how almost everybody has a trigger food that brings back happy memories. But if you try to make somebody else's special memory food for yourself, it has no meaning, is not at all to your taste, and leaves you wondering what on earth they liked about it.

But when it comes to our own special memory foods, we usually spend our adult lives trying (mostly in vain) to recapture the taste. But it's not just the taste: it is the experience, emotions, and events connected with it. Proust had his madeleine...I spend my life trying to find the texture and sourdough taste of the Russian rye bread that every good Jewish bakery in Newark, NJ baked until the early '60s. Gone forever. What is yours?

Friday, August 25, 2006

I should be sewing

My friend Helene claims it is procrastination: I say I have never heard the word. But somehow, I have been sidetracked, sideswiped, and sidelined this week by a few crises. To offset the craziness, I dyed some fabric today. Mostly, it came out like mud: I am a terrible dyer and this is why I print. Nonetheless, I got a couple of interesting results with clamping, one of which is at left. Speaking of fabric, I have been cutting some of my hand-printed fabrics into bite-size morsels and am offering them for sale on my website. You can see them here. As more become available, I'll post them. Tomorrow promises to be another busy day - but if I am lucky, I can make some time in the morning to stitch. Tonight, I'm done.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

tonight I shall stitch

Hand stitch: something I rarely do. But this piece calls for it in certain spots, so I have gotten out the embroidery thread and been complementing the machine stitches with those others. I have cleaned off my table, yet again. And downstairs, I dyed a few odds and ends of fabric to see what would happen. (what did I THINK would happen?)

The rest of my life might just be falling into place, but I am not holding my breath yet. I have made a dent in packing a carton of supplies for teaching next month in Denver, and hope to finish tomorrow, after my brother and nephew have left for their home in Pittsburgh. It was good having them here for a couple of days.

I did a printing experiment this afternnoon that worked just great and I'm looking forward to experimenting more with it so I can teach it the next time I am doing a multi-day workshop that has all the supplies at hand. Discovering something new is the BEST! And passing it along when I teach is even better. When I get some results worth posting, I will do so. In the meantime, it's back to hand stitching.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

but enough about me

In the interest of consistent bloggness, it would be nice if I had something quirky and fun to post every day, but I haven't. Alas, I am missing the gene that might enable me to invent entertaining stories, just so I can blog. So, here is the list of recent mundane activity in Studio 78.

Watching avocado pits germinate. There isn't a lot to say about this, except that avocado trees have never been my greatest success. I keep trying, however. When I was in Fla. in July, my mother informed me that the huge avocado tree outside her building came from a pit she planted. What makes me think the same thing will happen in New Jersey?

Teaching contracts and supply lists. Finally, a morning of paperwork, snail mail and e-mail, taking care of business. Shall I tell you about my dream where I showed up to teach and had forgotten to bring my fabrics, printing supplies, handouts, and lesson plans?

Sorting thread. This is a dreadful job, but somebody has to do it. Here is the real motivator -- a gorgeous thread cabinet my friend Audrey gave to me when she moved recently out to the Hamptons. I've filled the top drawer with old spools of Star Thread I found in the drawers of my beautiful 1924 Singer treadle machine. Thank you, Audrey. I think of you every time I am in my studio.

Gelatin printing. Yesterday morning, with Josh (7) and Ben (almost 6). They loved it and made great leaf prints, not only on their t-shirts, but on the kitchen table and elsewhere. I kept my camera out of harm's way, so no pictures. But you can imagine. Fortunately, it was not MY job to give them a bath last night. Soy wax & paint. All by myself, all afternoon today. Samples; none of which pleased me. But I suppose that will change with time. It shouldn't take you brilliant readers too long to figure out what I used for stamping those round wax shapes onto the cloth.

Sewing down facing. We rented an oddball, warmhearted Argentine film that gave me an excuse to sit still for a while and sew. Here is the back of the piece: a failed experiment with wax and discharge paste that ended up exactly where it belongs. I will return to it as soon as I finish my blog break, which should be soon.Reading the Art Quilt Reviews Blog which, you may have noticed, I have added as a link on my sidebar. So far, I am delighted to have such a resource. The reviewers are treating the exhibits are ART and reviewing them on that basis, which is as it should be. They also seem to be objective rather than 'la di da, aren't we wonderful?' -- a phenomenon we see all too often in some quilt magazine reviews. So, GO THERE. Contribute. Write a review of an exhibit you have seen. Festival of Quilts, anyone?

Back to work on the facing and then I'm done for the day.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

when I'm thirsty...

I chomp on ice. The smaller the pieces, the better. What I hate about refrigerator ice cubes is that they are always too big to chomp on. Enter my newest appliance: the Lightning Ice Cube Breaker. O happiness! This wonderful, low-tech invention from the 1930's operates this way: throw ice cubes into the silver part and turn the handle. Voilà -- chompable ice. No noise, no muss, no fuss. $5 at a recent yard sale. I have a similar appliance that chops nuts, but this is better. I picked Marty up at the airport late this afternoon and missed the turn to the Spanish restaurant, so we stopped and brought home a pizza: THIN crust, eggplant and fresh garlic - none of that garlic powder stuff. Yum. But now I am thirsty. Hence, the glass to your left. I bet you thought this was going to be about art. Yes and no. I have this small piece on my wall and it's ready for me to sew the facing down. It's about 24" h x 18" w and it made itself last night. It pretty much indicates how I have been feeling for the past few days. I am going to take it to my Rorschach reader tomorrow to hear what he says. This is almost as good as a tea leaf reader. Its name eludes me, but I know what it is about.

While I was waiting for Marty to arrive from San Diego, I sat and read Espresso Tales, which is Alexander McCall Smith's sequel to 44 Scotland St. I was giggling aloud and looking around to make sure nobody was paying attention. I am going to cheer myself up by going back to the book: I can't put it down and I don't want to finish it.

Some pictures are up on the art quilt review blog so you'll have a better idea of what is what in the Lowell reviews. And speaking of blogs, I am so happy that Gabrielle is done with her August Angst and is back to writing.

I'm off to run the ice chopper again...

Friday, August 11, 2006

with heavy heart

Friday, Aug 11: I mourn the loss of Hilary Fletcher, guiding angel of Quilt National, who died this morning. Those of you who knew her, knew how special she was; brave, funny, warm, loving, and bright. Saturday, Aug 12: Unable to get myself out of the funk from yesterday, I have spent the day wandering aimlessly and then cleaning up my studio = yet again. It is less about cleaning the space than about clearing the head and healing the heart... So, speaking of healing the heart -- I am now the owner (as soon as the show is over and it comes to my house) of one of Sonji Hunt's wonderful bundles juried into Small Works II in Ayer Lofts in Lowell. I went to the opening last weekend and I have to say that the show was uniformly good. There were some wonderful little pieces that should really have been mounted: they were just lost without having something behind them. Sonji's bundle piece lightened my spirits immediately and I knew that I had to have it. Wrote a check on the spot!. I can't wait till it arrives. Art Reviews: There's a new blog that you have to read if you are interested in what's going on in the art quilt world. It is just getting up and running - no pix yet, but hopefully, there will be photos. I think it is about copyright and permission from the artists to post their images. It is about time we had a site that took fiber art seriously and reviewed it as art. This site is a work in progress - but check it out. In the meantime: Yesterday, I was downstairs doing gelatin plate printing for a project, trying to make fabric that was cheerful. Instead, this. (detail below)

Not what I had in mind, but obviously, that is irrelevant. Once again, the work makes itself.

Amazing what a martini and Alexander McCall Smith's "Espresso Tales" will do for one's mood. My husband is in San Diego on business, eating well. I shall do the same tonight: 2" thick veal chops grilled and another martini. I have decided that living alone is ok for about 3 days. After that, it's not my cuppa tea.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

are we having fun yet?

Marlene Cohen, Corni Forster, me, Laura C-W-- and I think this was BEFORE dinner and drinks, so you can imagine! Friday night, Marlene had just arrived, and we had not all been together for a couple of years. Can it be?

I always find Lowell a photographic goldmine - but don't always have my camera ready. Aside from the Owl Diner, there is another diner straight out of the 1930's that sits across the street from the Brush Gallery. I could never get a straight-on shot for one reason or another, but this is the best I could do. I love this place and am always afraid it will be gone and replaced by a McDonald's.

Another shot I couldn't resist. Any guesses?

You don't have to guess about this one -- it was my batik-with-paints demo piece. I coveted the wooden batik stamp that one of my students was using and now I own it! Yum. As IF I need another one...
This is probably enough for tonight. I took my mother to the doctor in NY and then visited my uncle in the hospital in NJ. Tonight, my feet are happy to be up and I am going to turn on my classical music and read. I just bought Alexander McCall Smith's newest book - Espresso Tales - and am going to make myself a cup to go with the title. Then I will be in the studio working for the next 4 days. But that doesn't start till tomorrow.

lost sleep & found friends

I seem to be viewing the week in a rather disorganized manner, but it is probably a result of my still being fuzzy-headed from lack of sleep. At 3:am last Tuesday, the fire alarm in the hotel started ringing and didn't stop. Trudged down 5 flights and out into 100 degree heat/humidity while they tried to figure out how to turn the alarm off and inspected the building. After they finally finished, we trudged back up because a cast of thousands was waiting for the elevators. At 5:am - it happened again. So much for Tuesday night. Tues and Wed. I audited Laura C-W's 'Idea to Image' workshop, which was a huge success with all the participants. Thursday and Friday, she sat through my 'Surface Design Taster' workshop and even played a bit at one point! Here she is, screening with found objects - in this case, leaves.Donna Johnson's alder leaf prints were almost larger than life and would be spectacular on paper, as well. In addition to screening, we did batik. Leslee came all the way from Las Vegas to take the workshop and this piece was so successful I had to take a photo! In fact, I could fill a page with all the beautiful fabrics that came out of this workshop. To be continued...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Last full day in Lowell. Marlene Cohen and I spent a lovely day -- first, breakfast at the Owl Diner. Then, we revisited yesterday's exhibits to see them when there were not hordes of people around. We also went to see the Quilt National segment that was at the Textile Museum: we agreed with the Boston Globe critic. QN did not hold up, with one or two exceptions as far as we were concerned. This is especially true because the Textile Museum had painted the walls in primary colors and displayed the work on those walls. Yeccch. Imagine Elizabeth Brimelow's transparent work hung on a BRIGHT BLUE wall. I had seen QN '05 in Ohio and there were some head-scratchers there. But seeing only one segment of the exhibit only served to emphasize the question "WHY???" about some of the entries. And it also emphasized the importance of displaying the artwork properly! The same could be said of the work at the Whistler. There were more pieces than could be comfortably displayed with enough space between them. Here is Marlene with her triptich. You can see that the next work is fairly close to it.

Art Quilts New England/New York at the Brush Gallery was better: there was more room between the pieces, but still not enough. Nevertheless, it was a strong show.

Off to bed to catch up on my lost sleep from the week: if I remember, I'll tell you tomorrow what that was about.

Friday, August 04, 2006

more Lowell

Last night, Laura Cater-Woods and I went to the opening of the Ayer Lofts exhibit, which I must say, was a terrific show. Here is the glamorous and talented Elizabeth Poole, who was there - and it was great to see her. She posed in front of her piece, which of course, precludes your seeing what it really looks like. But I think it shows up on the left of this photo of the two Lauras: Laura c-w and Laura Gawlinski, a hugely talented artist and delightful person. Earlier in the day, I taught day one of the two-day Surface Design Taster at Friends Fabric Art and we had such a good time! More later. I am off to have breakfast and start the day.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Lowell

It's Thursday. I have been here since late Monday afternoon and have not had good enough Internet access to post. Tuesday and Wednesday I sat through Laura cater-woods' Idea to Image workshop, sort of auditing and doing my own thing while I listened/watched her in action. great class! Today and tomorrow, I'm teaching my own class: Surface Design Taster, which is covering a number of ways for putting your own marks on cloth -- or paper. What a fun group! BLOGGER is not cooperating tonight in terms of uploading photos, so I am giving up and going to sleep. Polite language precludes me from discussing the Internet access at this Doubletree Hotel in Lowell. We shall see what happens tomorrow.