Monday, October 31, 2005


I couldn't resist taking this picture of the delightful and creative Larkin van Horn as we power-shopped in the vendor mall at Houston early in the week. I didn't think those trimmings were meant to wear on one's head, but I must have been wrong. If a fashionista and Bernina Fashion Show designer like Larkin does it, it must be right! Typical of the spirit and fun we had this past week.

More class pictures

Jump-starting Your Next Quilt was another spontaneous workshop with only ONE rule: No thinking allowed - just do it! Did we have a good time? You bet! Here are Lynn Smith and Jennifer Hill (with Betty Ford in the background) working quickly and spontaneously to make a small piece based on something, I don't recall what. Below is Betty Ford, the poster child for laughter and fun! One of the exercises we did was to interpret (interpret, NOT imitate) a photograph of something I gave to them. To the left of Betty's hand is a picture of an escalator and on the other side, her very spare, architectural interpretation.Above, Clara Russo's prodigious output with some pieces that might develop into a series. There is Mary Jane Russell with her jump-started original pieces, below. And then, Lynn and her wonderfully abstract interpretation of the photo below it. This was a new way of working for Lynn and she discovered how liberating it is to be spontaneous and create original work. At the end of the afternoon, I handed everyone a piece of my own fabric, printed just a few days ago with dye and soy wax. I wanted to see what they would do with it. Unfortunately, I didn't get pix of all of the pieces, but these will give you the idea of the range and originality when people are forced to do the unexpected. Cool! They are all so different. #1 Clara # 2 Mary Jane #3 Pam Morris All in a creativity workshop's day! Their reward was to go shopping at the vendor displays. My reward was to put my feet up with a Starbuck's Frappachino (or however they spell it).

class fun in Houston!!

Exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, teaching at Houston was an experience! The morning I was demonstrating how to put text and images on fabric, who showed up but fellow blogger artists, Rian and Debra. How great to meet them and I wish I'd had more time to chat. But it was too hectic. Here we are! My "Surface Design with Found Objects" students had the most fun they've had since kindergarten and, in fact, played as though they WERE in kindergarten. Completely spontaneous screening and stamping led to such beautiful fabrics that I wished that they were mine. One finally was: Liz Berg and I did a little trade and I ended up with a luminous piece of her fabric. This is a different piece.
Here is Liz, clowning around with a syringe as she decorates her cloth.

Everyone in the workshop made beautiful fabric. I wish I had been able to get pictures of all of it. Here are some by Paula Pillow, who was stuck in Houston traffic and arrived late. She certainly made up for lost time!

And below, a detail from the lovely fabric that Anna Rodriguez screened. The layers of gold and the darker color that she added give a complexity to the piece that keeps it from being too 'pretty.' Like all of the pieces above, this was screen printed and stamped with original stencils and/or 'found' objects. The following day, I taught "Jump-starting Your Next Quilt" (aka Jump-starting the ART Quilt). Stay tuned for more pictures.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Houston exhibit surprises

It's Sunday and finally have a minute to breathe before the airport shuttle comes. I was so busy teaching that I had almost no time to shop. But I did have time to look at many of the quilt exhibits, which were quite spectacular. I loved looking at the Journal Quilts and was stunned to see both my name and my face included in two people's Journals. Mary McBride, director of the Atlantic Center for the Arts, made journal quilt portraits of a number of us who had taught there. Imagine my shock when I came upon THIS! After being amused by Mary's quilt, I came upon Anne Datko's journals and was quite moved to read the statement about this lovely quilt. It's so exciting to see the fabric people create in my workshops actually be used in artwork! Even more moving was Anne's piece that had been juried into Tactile Architecture. Fabric she made in the Printing with Found Objects workshop I gave at the Nimble Fingers Guild in Bethesda last Spring spoke eloqently in this gem of a piece. Anne, you should be so proud!

I generally don't take pictures of quilts and certainly wouldn't publish them on the Internet without the owner's permission. However, I will say that the Viking exhibit was a visual treat, as were all of the art quilt exhibits. I did notice that the pieces juried into both the Viking and other exhibits tended to be made in clear, bright, vivid colors. Hmmm...Well, I'll get this first report posted and get busy with the next one. Time to go catch the shuttle.

Monday, October 24, 2005

from Houston

A quickie before I fall into bed. Got here, got settled, and by the time I reached the convention center, Market was almost closing. Nevertheless, I was focused and managed to see everybody I needed to see and accomplish what I needed to do by the time they closed at 4:00. Happy hour at the hotel, then dinner with Larkin Van Horn and Laura Cater-Woods. Tomorrow, getting organized for teaching on Wed. morning -so I need to get a good night's sleep. After all the wine, I suppose I will. No pix today - nothing to see at the convention center and we can't get back onto the floor till Wed. night or Thurs. Nevertheless, I shall take my camera with me tomorrow to see if there are any interesting things I can find to shoot in Houston. Ack - I hear a rumor that the World Series starts here tomorrow night: right next door to the convention center.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I'm taking this one with me

Still haven't packed: wanted to get last night's pile of fabric and scarves done. Now that they are done, I am going to get on with it. There are some nice bits on this piece - which is completely done with found objects. The big round circle with the little circles in the middle is a big old rusty thing I found last summer lying in a junk pile outside the blacksmith's shop at Peters Valley. In fact, the smaller round circle is another rusty thing from the same pile. God knows what they are or were, but it doesn't matter. They are art supplies now. And this next little gizmo is part of a copper grid of some sort that my friend Marlene and I liberated from a construction site one day in London. We divided it up amongst her Colour Group but I don't know whether anybody else has used theirs yet. This piece is a couple of yards long. Some parts of it might need more work but I'm not sure. I think I'll throw it in the suitcase and add something while I am teaching Printing with Found Objects. I will have my laptop with me and will check in and report if I have a spare minute. In the meantime, I wish I had been able to steal this sign from Paris -- but at least I have the image.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

earl grey and ginger cookies

Reward for a day of hard work. This morning, flu shot at the health department. Afternoon, mostly paperwork. Dinner was tuna fish. Not TUNA, but tuna fish. The canned kind. I normally don't cook on weekends . Well, opening a can of tuna and adding onions, apples, walnuts, mayo and a little yogurt doesn't technically qualify as cooking, but I happen to dislike tuna fish. I love TUNA, however. Grilled rare, preferably brought to the table by a server. Alas, t'was not to be. It was so chilly and raining so hard that we opted to stay in. It is now midnight, eastern daylight savings time, and I am starving. To look at me you would not think I was starving -- but I am so desperate that I just finished the leftover tuna fish. The tea and ginger cookies are dessert.It's not quite like the patisserie window above or the midnight buffet on the cruise I've never taken, but it will do. At any rate, my evening activity made up for the boring paperwork. While Marty watched a rerun of Erin Brockovitch, I heated up the wax and got to work with my found objects & other items. <This is one piece of fabric that I printed randomly, crumpled up and sitting there till morning, when I will see what it looks like and maybe iron it. Yes, I know I need to pack, but I have to finish this. There is also a scarf lying there, as you might have noticed. I printed several of them tonight. Here are the rest of them, on the drying rack next to the table. I think I'll need to go back into those but maybe not tomorrow. As for tonight, I am off to get my beauty sleep. I'll give you a peek at any of the results tomorrow if I have them.

Friday, October 21, 2005

responses to comments

Pat Dolan made a couple of comments which I figured I might as well respond to: "discharge paste??? tell us more." Ah, discharge paste which I used on my faded black t-shirt. Jacquard makes it and you can buy it anywhere they sell dyes. You paint it on and then steam-iron it, using parchment paper or newspaper (if you are using wax). It smells absolutely vile when you are steaming it and you really should do it ouside and/or wear a darth vader mask. As you steam iron it, the color comes out, and you can control the way it looks by how long you iron it for. I did this on my kitchen table after I opened the entire sliding glass door to the deck and the front door. It still stank. Or stunk. Or smelled awful. But it worked. The alternative is Thiox, which you mix yourself and which smells just as bad - so don't bother. Another alternative is bleach, which will destroy your fiber unless you soak it in cold water and then anti-chlor which you purchase from ProChem or a similar product from Dharma, or a chlorine neutralizer from a swimming pool supply company. Do NOT even think about using bleach or a bleach pen without anti-chlor or your fabric will ultimately be in shreds. And no, vinegar is not a substitute. Anti-chlor is inexpensive and lasts forever because you use only about 1/2 tsp at a time. Off my soapbox, now. Most of my stained t-shirts are printed, either with thermofax screen images or gelatin plate prints or screened with found objects -- or a combination. The first time I dyed/screened a white shirt we had been to an Indian restaurant and I had gotten a yellow stain on it. Dyed the whole thing yellow and screened on it in purple and I was off and running. So, yes, I advise you all to do the same. What the hell - otherwise they'll be rags for washing the car. "Hey, move your dyeing studio upstairs, outside or to the garage and just keep on going! " As my late mother-in-law said, ''tell it to the marines." Hahahaha. Come visit me some time, Patty. Actually, I wash all my equipment out in the kitchen sink because my sink in the basement is in the guest bathroom and it is too dainty. OUTSIDE?? I live in a townhouse condo, so that would be my teensy deck, most of which is taken up with a gas grill. If I lived in a warm climate, maybe. And the garage? We have the smallest one-car garage on the planet and my husband's car lives there. So, if I am to become a famous fabric designer I will have to be single. My dear husband claims that he lives with 3 other people and they are all named Rayna. He also claims that he has 3 feet of space in the bedroom (not true, he has 2 feet of space). His work surface at night and on weekends is the kitchen table. But enough about this. On another subject...I guess I've joined the fabric postcard brigade. I was up till 2:am working on the 4"x6"s and I think I'm finally getting into it. I made a postcard for laura cater-woods' Art Doing Good auction and now I've made a few more. Not all the pix came out -- I have had this digital camera for a few years and still can't take good close-ups. But here are a few that did come out ok. I am taking these and a few others to Houston with me. But over this weekend, before I leave, I really need to put facings on a couple of other large pieces I may need for my solo exhibit, which I am hanging the day after I get back. Not the greatest timing, but what can I say? 11:15 p.m. and I have work to do.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Thursday and so forth

Alas, my two days of bliss in the studio have come to a close. Tomorrow I have to take my mother to the eye doctor and over the weekend I really have to pack and do my final organizing for Houston; I leave early Monday morning. I used those wood stamps I should not have bought last night and they are worth every penny and every twinge of guilt. They are wonderful!! I dyed, soy waxed, ironed, and washed about 4 yards of fabric, a couple of scarves, and another shirt that needs one finishing touch before I post it. Here is the entire piece, followed by a detail shot. Clicking on them will give you a better look.
To tell you the truth, I had my doubts about how it would turn out -- but I am quite pleased. And for about 20 seconds I thought that maybe I should stop making quilts and just make fabric. But I don't like my basement well enough.
So here I am, feet up for another ten minutes -having a well-deserved rest until I have to get up and get on with managing my time. I was so busy today that I didn't have time to write down what I did every five seconds. On second thought, maybe I'll keep my feet up for the rest of the evening...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Wednesday and so forth

I am trying to look ashamed but I can't seem to manage it. I know I said I wasn't going to buy any more of them, but someone I know had a bazaar at her house tonight with a lot of - gulp - wooden stamps from Afganistan. Not official tjaps, since they are not copper, but I could not resist. I bought five of them and used them immediately on a couple of yards of fabric that are drying downstairs.
On the plus side: today was one of those rare 'gee, I really accomplished something' days. . Monday at the museum, I brought along my favorite Eileen Fisher black long-sleeved t-shirt that was no longer black. It was sort of faded to greenish black except for the greasy looking spots right in the front that remained black -- you know what I mean. So on Monday I used wax as a resist with discharge paste as a cover-up, and then today I painted a little dye onto the discharged area. The picture looks better than the actual shirt, but the shirt looks better than it did before Monday. And I will not be embarrassed to wear it. Or should I be?
I spent the morning doing paperwork, paying bills, and such. But I did take a walk to the bank -- applause please, for the WALK part. I normally take my car and stop on the way to umpteen other places, but this morning I didn't have any other place to go and it is only a five minute walk each way. I felt virtuous for about a half hour afterwards. Spent the afternoon mixing up a batch of dyes and working on some scarves that are now in the washing machine. I started them on Monday at the museum and finished them today. This is my favorite. Here is what it looked like on Monday. Tomorrow I am spending another day in the studio. Hooray!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I promised

Do we look like we're having fun? Here I am with Mary Manahan, who refused to have her picture taken until I bribed her by promising to appear in the frame. When we finally met today, I felt as though we were already good friends from all the blog conversation. And we did have a lot of things in common, didn't we, Mary?

We all had a great time and everybody walked away with plenty of new ideas and a feeling of freedom to do whatever they wanted without worrying about 'should' or 'shouldn't.'In one of the exericses, I gave everybody a piece of fabric I had printed and wanted to see what each of them could do with it. No two were ever remotely alike, as you can see below.The fabric I gave out was the green and purple, cut into 6 pieces, all of which were slightly different because I had hand-printed it. #1 is Marlene's piece. #2 is Judy 's, #3 is Mary's, #4 is Barbara's and #5 is Connie's. Janet hadn't finished hers so it isn't here.


There was lots more but since my feet hurt, I can't think straight enough to blog about it all. I must say, however, that I wore my splendid yellow Arche shoes today and they were pretty comfortable. I think they'll do for Houston.

Monday, October 17, 2005

feet up

Surface design is hard on the tootsies. After a day of waxing & dyeing (it sounds like a day at the beauty parlor) silk scarves in the museum studio today with my crit group, all I could do was flop into my chair, feet on the ottoman and laptop -- where else? Eventually I made dinner. And very eventually, Marty and I actually went out for a walk around the neighborhood. I couldn't bear to change out of my Birks, though. I meant to write about my day on Saturday but didn't have time over the weekend. The NJ State Council on the Arts in conjunction with Aljira Gallery in Newark, sponsored a day-long professional development workshop for artists. It was great! There were breakout groups on networking, on goal-setting, on financial issues, on presenting your slides, and on a bunch of other salient topics. For me, the key issue was TIME MANAGEMENT. You know how when you do Weight Watchers and have to write everything down, you see what your eating patterns are and you become more conscientious about what you eat? Well, same thing when you have to write down everything you do and how much time you spend on it. You see what your day looks like and then after two weeks of that, you decide what you are going to do about it. I've already had to note that this is the second time I'm sitting with the laptop and feet up today...and it probably won't be the last. I should write down how much time I spend ironing little bitsy pieces of fabric, which I am about to do YET AGAIN, and I might discover something worth changing. Or not. Tomorrow is a teaching day and my biggest treat will be meeting Mary Manahan, who is coming in from Pennsylvania to take the class. I'll be sure and take my camera. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 14, 2005

playing around

As a reward for all my work this week, I played a little bit with batik. Below is a remnant of one of Helene Davis' hand-dyed fabrics. Now, while it is subtle and gorgeous and complex and there are undoubtedly a lot of people who would kill for this piece and make something fabulous with it, it is not a colorway I use a lot of. In that case, I decided I could spare it for an experiment.


So, over a period of days I discharged, waxed, painted, waxed, and dyed. I used some household objects on the first round of discharge and later, one of the new tjaps I acquired recently. Then I painted all the leftover dyes I had lying around and here is the result. The light part is where I discharged.


So, all you other surface designers out there: what is it that compels us to take a perfectly beautiful piece of fabric and change it? Are we never satisfied?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

fabric land

This is the inside of a plastic box I've been filling with scraps to take to Houston. Odds and ends and bits and leftovers that I can't travel without, just in case the urge to make a little piece of something hits me. I'll finish filling it and take it to my Jump-starting the Art Quilt workshop so I can work along with my class. As I was ironing the scraps and tossing them into the box, I saw some combinations that would look great together and wanted to stop and put them on the design wall. But I didn't have time. There's nothing like going through the stash to make you see things you hadn't seen before...things that have been there all the time. Try it; I do it periodically and it always yields a new piece What's this?? Box #2. Almost full and almost ready to duct-tape closed. Then there is one more little bitsy box that probably won't even be full, but I have enough extra stuff that I will need it. It's the shipping back that gets to me. It is raining cats & dogs and has been horrendous all day. There is something comforting about being in on a day like this: my mother used to iron when it rained and when I came home from school, the kitchen smelled of warmth and steam. I think I love to iron because it gives me a sense of comfort. So, ironing all these fabrics today in a torrential downpour seemed appropriate. One more thing: I sat down at the machine late this afternoon and stitched this piece that's been sitting around waiting to be finished. The middle is a gelatin plate print, the green border is image transfer, and the outside is a piece of Helene Davis' fabric that some time ago I did something to, but I can't remember what. I'm too lazy to look back at my own archives to find out what I did. I will take it with me. Tonight I picked a get out of jail free card, so I will have to make a cup of English tea and decide what this wonderful gift entitles me to do.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

how old are you now?

When is a piece finished? During the current Quilt National exhibit, the best-of-show winner was removed from the show and the award given to another piece. This was because the winning quilt had apparently been made prior to the 'must be made AFTER..." date. The artist countered that while the quilt appeared to have been finished before that date, it was not actually finished because she added some new touches to the piece after the date. Hmmm... When do you consider a piece finished? If you add a few stitches and beads or thingies 2 years after you first complete a piece, does that make the quilt finished as of that date? If, a year later, you make major changes to a piece that substanatially change what it says, does that it finished as of THAT date? Food for thought - and for discussion. Is the quilt above a new quilt or an old quilt?

I believe that despite the fact that I made the first version (below and badly photographed) about 6 years ago and never exhibited it anywhere because I hated the shiny background; despite the fact that I totally took it apart, removed the quilting (and lost those wavy blue lines along the way) and despite the fact that I replaced the background with a newly batik'd piece of fabric in Sept '05- it remains a six-year old quilt.

What do you think?

chop chop (or tjap tjap)

One of the goodies that arrived the other day: a copper tjap that should be fun to use. It will probably be November before I have a minute to do so, however. But I promise that I am finished buying these things. Honestly. Really. Yesterday, we drove through an east coast rainstorm to Bethesda, MD so we could attend my stepson's 40th b.d. party. It took us nearly 6 hours to make a 4 hour trip. But worth it once we arrived. Fortunately, I brought along a couple of pieces that needed sleeves and I stitched them on while we sat on the highways. More when I get home.

soup weather in June and a little more

DISCLAIMER: Blogger is giving me grief tonight, which you will see by the varying sizes of the type. Ye p, soup weather and it's ...