Friday, July 28, 2006

can this fabric be saved?

Remember the feature in Ladies' Home Journal of the 1950's & early 60's- "Can this Marriage be Saved?" Mostly, yes. After all, it was the era of Leave it to Beaver. But I digress... Tonight, continuing to clean house in an effort to figure out what I have here, I have come across some of the world's ugliest fabrics. Quite a few of them are now in the garbage bag - but a few of them are challenging enough for me to take to Lowell and see whether, in fact, they can be saved during my Surface Design Taster workshop. This yellow one is probably beyond help -- but perhaps this next one can be improved by somebody. It looks better in this picture than it really does, so you can imagine! It was commercial ugly fabric that I printed on and then discharged. It got uglier. The third piece is a nauseatingly sweet bubblegum pink salt-dyed piece that somebody must have foisted on me when I wasn't looking. Too ugly to even photograph. Busy weekend ahead and I am leaving for Lowell on Monday unless the stars line up wrong. In the meantime, I shall pick out some other losers and take 'em with me to see if they can be saved. We shall see. I don't think they can get worse.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

more studio time

I'm not cleaning up tonight. I've been printing again and had forgotten how much fun it was just to putter around to see what results. These may end up as samples for a class I am going to teach several months from now. Or not. Tomorrow, after I pay bills, I will decide whether to do more printing or to work on the design wall. In either case, I am working - and that's the important thing.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

oh, well

An afternoon and evening of printing and this is what the table looks like. But it feels heavenly and I promise, that dishpan full of dirty print equipment goes upstairs to the kitchen sink and gets washed. The rest of it has cleared off by the time I'm writing this. I've been screening with paints and thickened dyes, which I will continue to do tomorrow, after I do an errand or two in the morning. I'm working on teaching samples and perfecting some new ideas for one of my future workshops. Writing things down so I remember what I have done is a bit tedious and slows me down - but otherwise I will never remember anything. That horrible blue and lavender fabric is not one of my favorites - but it's perfect for printing. There was a discussion today on the QuiltArt list about hand-dyed fabrics and the prices they sell for. Lemme tell you - gorgeous hand-dyes are worth every penny. I know, because I can't make them - no matter how hard I try or how many instructions I follow. And art cloth (or whatever you want to call it) is so labor intensive that it is also worth what the artist is charging. Ask me how I know. This is the first layer of thickened dyes, with a little gold paint added. We'll see where it goes.

Meantime, I have finished for the day and am going upstairs to wash the stuff in the dishpan and get ready for the next round.

Monday, July 24, 2006

printing in layers

On the left, you see my answer to Karoda's request from yesterday that I describe my print table setup. Since a picture is worth a lot of words, here's a closeup of the sandwich. It's one of those brown banquet tables. The first layer is pink styrofoam insulation board. Layer #2 is a sheet of foam 1/2" thick. Layer #3, which isn't visible here, is a clear plastic dropcloth. Normalment, I cover all of this with a twin bed contour sheet and that's it. However, since I have been doing batik and the hot wax has a way of melting the plastic sheet, I recently added a layer of carpet padding between the plastic and the cotton sheet. If you are not using hot wax, this is not necessary: I managed very nicely for 10 years without the carpet padding. I also recently got tired of bending over the table and bought those bed raiser thingies at Bed, Bath,and Beyond. Now you know all my secrets and I can tell you about my afternoon on the deck. I was going to work downstairs in my cleaned-up print studio, but after umpteen days of raging cloudbursts and humidity, today was San Diego weather: too beautiful to work inside. My friend Rachel came over this afternoon and we worked with Thiox. I set up my trusty hot plate and enamel pot and we experimented. This is a before (top) and after of a piece I had dyed/batik'd and overdyed because I didn't like it. It seemed too dark, so I ripped off a piece and threw it into the thiox bath. Oops - in the blink of an eye, more color came out than I would have liked. What happened to all the purple? But I find it very interesting to see what happened.

There was a lot of ugly stuff that was not improved by dunking, but I can't show it to you. It is late and I spent so much time on a consultation call with Ms. Closet tonight that it is past my bedtime. The next 4 days, I need to be at that print table.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

after seven hours...

and two huge trash bags full of who-knows what: voilà! MS. CLOSET would be proud!! My husband exclaimed in amazement - but he really thinks I ought not to use the space so it will remain like this. Tomorrow, I will start fresh. Notice the shelf of dyes on the upper left. I did inventory, noting that I needed to order quite a few colors I have used up. And then I stacked them in colorways. Can you tell how pleased I am with myself? It may be temporary, but for the moment it looks more-or-less organized. We'll see what the rest of the week brings.

I couldn't resist posting this

Today, I am cleaning my downstairs print/dye studio. Do not ask. Took an e-mail break and found this tale of woe-scam. It's one of the better ones I've received - Read it and weep. LOL. Dear Friend, I know that this mail will come to you as a surprise but honestly I do not intend to surprise you. In introduction my name is Richard Uduku I write this letter in respect of my intention to transfer and invest the sum of US$18,000,000.00 in your company which I inherited from my Father who was a Politician and oil/Gold dealer from Guinea Bissau . But unfortunately he was shot dead by his political opponent during one of his business trip to Cote D Ivoire. I am now left with my only surviving mother who unfortunately has been critically ill since 2 months after the death of my father because of the shock of his late husband's death. And because of how my dad's political opponents has been trying to eliminate our entire family, I then had to run out of my country with my mum for our dear lives. The fund in question is now with the Financial Firm where it was deposited and all it's Documents are still intact with me. In view of this plight, I expect you to be trust worthy and kind enough to assist me ,I hereby agree to compensate your sincere and candid effort in this regard with 20% of the total fund and 5% for expenses,which may arise during the transaction.Whatever your decision is please contact me immediately through this email Best Regards.Richard U.F

Friday, July 21, 2006

a day off

l-r: Joanie, Martha, Mary Beth, Cathy, Linda, Rayna's purse. Finally, time to blog about yesterday's trip to Baltimore to see Linda Colsh, who is here visiting family. Linda lives in Brussels and gee whiz - what a treat - this is the second time in 7 months that we've seen her! Joanie SanChirico and I met at exit 4 on the NJ Turnpike (if you are from NJ, you always define where you live by the exit # on the Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway) and drove to Cathy Kleeman's house and then to a wonderful Wegman's where we met up with Martha Gilbert, Mary Beth Bellah, and Linda, and spent the rest of the day. Can you imagine spending a day in a supermarket? It was fabulous!! We bought lunch and found a private alcove upstairs, where we ate and then shared work, gossiped, did critique, and generally had a wonderful time. What a treat! Uh - here is the kind of picture you should never enter in a juried (or any other kind of) show. This is Cathy's latest piece, which is really wonderful if you can ignore Martha's legs at the bottom. I had charged my camera's battery but then discovered that my CF card was full and there is something wrong with the delete function on my camera. So, by the time I had deleted stuff, I had missed most of the action. Nevertheless, here is Joanie, looking very trendy and very happy to be healthy and out with friends and kindred spirits.

I know just how she feels. This was a true break for me, too. No doubt, she is probably enjoying looking at Martha's whimsical piece, which she made after having been at QSDS this past June. It made us all smile. .

The question is: is it necessary to have a 'big idea' before you make a piece of work? I personally do not think so. We each have our very individual styles and while some people know in advance what 'big idea' they are going to be exploring, others of us simply let the materials and the mood lead us in a direction. Either way, it's okay. Life is too short to worry about it.

Sorry I didn't get a picture of Linda's wonderful piece, Joanie's new work, or Mary Beth's amazing 3-d in progress. But you can catch everybody's work on their websites &/or blogs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

back to work

I think I have finished piecing something that has been on my wall for eons, so it was time to move on. I ran to K-mart and bought an enamel pot, set up my hotplate on the porch, got out my gas mask, and went to work with a thiox bath. Some pieces did not discharge, so I knew I would have to use bleach on them next time around. In the meantime, here is a hasty and unscientific experiment using two pieces of the identical cloth: the orange one was in bleach and greenish beige in thiox. Same thing, different fabric. The gold is bleach, the sage is thiox. That's probably all the experimenting I will be able to do. Tomorrow, Joanie and I are driving to Maryland to see Linda Colsh, who is here from Belgium visiting family. We'll also see Cathy Kleeman, Mary Beth Bellah, and Martha Gilbert. Yipeee - a mental health day. Leaving the house at crack of dawn, so I am turning in early tonight.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

it's that time again

Need I say more? Well, maybe. I remember the first time I did this to my studio, several Augusts ago. Everyone who knows me has heard that the place was so peaceful, all I could do was sit and stare into space. Of course, that's all i want to do now - but it is mostly from the exhaustion of filling a garbage bag with useless crap that was sitting around because I MIGHT, maybe, someday, use it. I have barely made a dent, but there is some progress. MS. CLOSET - where are you when I need you???? I've made a start. I would hardly call it an extreme makeover, but at least you can see the top of the table.

And I unearthed this photo which I had bought in Asheville and which was buried under STUFF. Aren't they lovely? Another happy couple.

On another note - before I went away, I was experimenting with wax again. I had this wonderful little corrugated shopping bag and I coated it (and the contents) in paint and beeswax. More or less a piece of encaustic sculpture.

Now if I could only find another corrugated shopping bag, I could do a series. But I have never seen another one and no supplier on the Internet that I have found, has such an item. So it will have to remain one of a kind.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


happiness is...being home in my own cluttered studio. I don't have to do a thing tonight but sit here and look at the mess. I had forgotten that I'd rearranged my furniture in an attempt to give myself more space. Shall have to fine-tune it this week. Meantime, I notice that a few of the pieces pinned to the wall have lost their pins and fallen down. No matter. I am overjoyed to be here. Marty picked us up at the airport and eventually, we left my mother with Gloria, who has come to stay with her temporarily. My feet are up, coffee cup in hand, and despite the caffeine, I will sleep well tonight. My daughter Jessica, who has started her own blog, informs me that mine is boring. I don't mind a bit.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Does anybody know what these things are? I would say flamingos, but they don't seem big enough and I never see any standing on one foot. Suitcases are packed and we are ready to leave tomorrow morning to return the rental car and head for the Palm Beach airport, where they don't sell chewing gum but at least they have free wireless internet. Newark airport doesn't have free anything, but they do have a good Borders and they do sell gum. The only time I chew gum is on a flight -- except for the time when I gave up smoking. Then, I chewed so much my jaw hurt. But I digress. Anybody with a name for this flock of yard art, let's hear it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

today's headlines

Time for a little comic relief. In the local (and I mean LOCAL) rag here, the Outside the Neighborhood page contained the following stories from the outside world, edited here for space. Drunken thief enjoys sleep of he dead - at funeral home CANTON, New York - a man was charged with burglary and criminal mischief after he allegedly broke into a funeral home and fell asleep in a coffin... Would-be buglar caught pants down in house's chimney BRAWLEY, California - A man who got stuck in a home's chimney claimed he fell in when he climbed onto the roof to look at stars. But police saw things differently and arrested him for burglary. The man told them he got stuck near the bottom of the chimeny and removed his pants and waved them around to set off the home's motion detectors... Thief steals homeowner's front yard ADELANTO, California - It was a sod story for a Mojave Deset homewoner whose entire front yard - grass, bushes and sprinklers - was hauled away by a thief to a nearby residence... and the pièce de résistance... Armless man charged with reckless driving WELLINGTON, New Zealand - An armless man stopped for speeding was driving with one foot on the steering wheel and another on the pedals...has never had a driver's license..charged with driving in a manner likely to be dangerous to the public. What a world!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

as I sit here

... drinking my evening gin over ice with calamata olives (much better than the green ones) I'm looking out over the lake or lagoon or whatever it is that was in yesterday's sunset photo.The sky is about six shades of grey, the lake another, and even the lone palm is a dark neutral. There is a blessedly cool wind and it is raining. The mass of egrets, who were digging for worms in the grass this afternoon, have flown. And there is no photo I can take from here that will convey the scene accurately. There is a poignancy to this visit. My motherdoes not say it in so many words, but knows at some level that she will most likely not be back. It is the elephant in the room, too heartbreaking to contemplate. Even for me. The rain has stopped; so has the breeze. And I am going to retreat to the air conditioned interior with a book. Tomorrow will be another adventure.

Monday, July 10, 2006

environment as influence

It seems that people who live in tropical climates make art in brighter colors than those who don't. I remember Jette Clover saying she thought her work was so bright when she lived in Holland, but after she moved to Florida her blues were so vibrant that her earlier cloth looked grey in comparison. Fascinating how our surroundings inform our subconscious and as a result, our work. As I was uploading a few shots from my camera just now, I came across this rather fuzzy picture I shot through the screen as I sat on my mother's porch Saturday night at sunset.

The next shot, of fabric I printed yesterday, gave me rather a shock. Have you had that experience? I must admit it weirded me out.

On another subject, before I retire for the evening. My cousin sent me an e-mail with a link that is exactly what I needed today. You need it, too.

If you always thought you could paint like Jackson Pollack try this>>>> Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas Just remember to click your mouse now and then to change colors. This is FUN!! Enjoy it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

the scoop

Here's the scoop: this is a painting called Floating Woods, by a British artist named Gordon Onslow Ford . It is casein on paper on canvas, 42" x 65" painted in 1953. it is in the permanent collection of the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach and when I saw it on exhibit in early May. I would gladly have grabbed it and run for my life if I thought I could have gotten away with it.
To my dismay, the painting was not there last week -- although the others that had been in the exhibit were still hanging in the gallery. I had never heard of this artist before two months ago and I wonder why not. He died in 2003 at age 90 and was a surrealist in his early years. His style changed over the years; I happen to like his 1950's work the best.Were it a fiber piece, it would need no embellishment as far as I am concerned. Enough stitching to keep it together, but the surface speaks for itself. If this were textile instead of paper & canvas and paint, I doubt that the work would be part of the museum's permanent collection. This piece speaks to me the way it speaks to Claire, LizzieB, Teri, and others: I don't see chaos. I see order -- but order that has movement, life, and rhythm. To me, it is music. Focal point is the space between the lines -- although I must admit that I'm not big on analyzing focal point. The piece just FEELS right to me. It is a piece I wish I had done.

Oddly enough, before I even knew the painting above existed, I had made a piece early this year that I couldn't make work as a composition. I added vertical lines, much like the ones in the piece above: they looked like lollipop sticks. I turned the piece in all directions. Nada. Would embellishment have saved it? Bleccch. NO! It sat on my wall until I got sick of it and stitched it. But I have never been happy with it: it simply does not work. Potential? Maybe. But potential unrealized. Perhaps that is why Gordon Onslow Ford's piece stole my heart. So, someday I may un-stitch it and cut it apart. Till then, I have learned from it and need to move on.

but is it art?

There hs been some (not enough,as far as I am concerned) discussion about 'art' quilts and whether they are, in fact, good art.

This was generated by the exhibit of contemporary quilts at the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach, and one viewer's assessment of the work in the show. This viewer was not alone in his thought-provoking assessment. Art quilts are not necessarily good art any more than a painting is good art just because it is on canvas. The term 'art' quilts came about to distinguish them from quilts made from a traditional pattern -- or, in fact, from somebody else's pattern. In fact, the exhibit of the Shelburne quilts contained several original, delightful, quirky, amusing 'journal' pieces that would certainly fit today's definition of ART quilts. And they were beautifully executed - with workmakship I could not begin to imagine doing. Quite a few of them were two layers - not three; a number were NOT quilted, and at least one had hand AND machine stitching, done sometime in the 19th century. Juxtaposed with the Norton's beautiful collection of 20th century American art, the 'art' quilts, with a couple of exceptions, paled on every level. Part of the problem may have been that there was a theme; pieces made to a theme are a double-edged sword. When was the last time you saw a museum or gallery exhibit of paintings/works on paper/sculpture - etc. where the work was made for a particular theme? I don't mean an exhibit where the curator determines the theme and selects work from a broad range of sources that fits his/her vision of the exhibit's theme: I mean a juried show where the work submitted was specifically aimed at the theme, as so many 'art quilt' shows are. Yes, we are insular. Yes, many of us think that the more embellishment piled on, the better. And yes, too many of us are unaware of what is being done outside our medium. I maintain that the medium is meaningless unless the piece works visually. On the other hand, each medium has its own characteristic which either adds or detracts from the artist's intent. But that is another conversation.
In the meantime, please add your comments about the image below, which is the same as the one at the top of the post. Whether or not you like it, irrespective of whether it is cloth or a serigraph or a painting on canvas, does it work as art? Would stitching or embellishment add anything to improve it or would it only detract?

Let's talk.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

where did the week go?

Good grief, it's July 6th! Time has gotten away - it has been a highly stressful week and we won't be coming home till July 15th, so a long week stretches ahead of us. I actually printed some fabric today that I didn't hate, so that's progress. I started documenting the process with my camera but gave up halfway through and cut to the chase. Unfortunately, I don't have a sewing machine so I can't really do anything with these till I get home. And even then - who knows? I plan to print for a couple of hours a day but think I'll have to make a fabric run because no matter what you do, it looks better if the underlying fabric is decent. I still mean to get back to my art discussion, but if you are on the QuiltArt list, you need to read Carol Sinnereich's recent post. It echoes an almost identical conversation I had last week on the same subject. Either a piece works as art or it doesn't. The medium is irrelevant. N'est-ce pas?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

art on dial-up

View from the porch last night at sunset. MY sky in New Jersey doesn't look like this. And if Thomas Kinkade had painted this scene, it would be nauseating. Another photo I couldn't resist. I keep meaning to get to the art topic, but my brain has shut down after another day in paradise. Tune in tomorrow.

more from Fla.

Had a nice break yesterday. Jane Steinberg, who dyes gorgeous silks, and her friend Christine, picked me up and we went to see the quilts at the Norton Museum, followed by lunch in their café. Lunch, as you can see, was a work of art in itself. Antique quilts from the Shelburne Museum were on one side of the museum and we saw those first. While not all of them were to my taste (I prefer the graphics of pieced quilts to Baltimore Albums, for instance) - they were, on the whole, spectacular. And there were some wonderfully quirky, personal, funny, pictorial block quilts. No pictures. It was interesting to contrast these with the exhibit on the other side of the museum, Elements by the Front Range Contemporary Quilters. Sandra Woock, Lisa Call, Regina Benson, and a host of others had pieces in this themed exhibit, and the differences in interpretation were varied and striking. Lisa Call's pieces reminded me of what drew me to quilts in the first place. Again, no pix, but here is the article from the Palm Beach Post . More thoughts on art and art quilts when I come back. I am on dial-up and need to free up the phone line here.

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 ...