rocket tracking


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fortunate Food

  An odd title, don't you think? Perhaps a better one would be "Food for the New Year."  Every year's end, I start thinking about various cultures traditions for ensuring good luck in the new year.  Of course the first one which pops into my head is the southern tradition of eating collards and hoppin john.  I don't know why...perhaps it is because although I love most legumes...about the only one I can't abide eyed peas.  Their earthy taste puts me off, which always amuses me because I love beets, which also have an earthy taste.  In addition, of all the various greens, collards are my second to least favorite, kale being the other....for the same reason, unless you cook them to death, they tend to be a bit tough.

You might also be wondering why I don't have a photo to start this off....well...its because the photo I took wasn't very appealing.  You see, my husband, who at one point was a vegetarian, adores sausage.  Sausage of all sorts....and that was the one thing which could sway him to eat animal protein when I was dating him.  That was when we lived in, we live in western Ohio....and it is debatable as to whether or not we are southern Ohio or not... This particular part of terra firma has its roots planted deeply in Germany....which is why names like Huels, Schellenbarger, Miller, Schmiedebusch, and others are common.  Thus, my dear husband is in brat and wurst heaven.  The next town over has a pretty good little grocery store which has great meats....and Carlos discovered their home-made sausages...and brought home brats.

These are mild pork sausages.  Today he was getting ready to go to the store and he asked if I wanted anything....I told him to pick up some cabbage or short of that, sauerkraut.  He had a strange look on his face and he said "the butcher asked if I needed sauerkraut with it and told me where it was, just below the meat case."  I laughed,  you see the German tradition is to eat pork and kraut, or pork and cabbage...hence the brats.  I would have preferred to braise the brats in beer and cook it with red cabbage.

Since Carlos has been doing a lot of the grocery shopping as I often hurt too badly when walking on hard surfaces for any length of time, he made the choice.  He came in and looked at me and said "You wouldn't believe it!  There was a lady who was filling a huge tub with packages of sauerkraut and people were emptying it as fast as she could fill it up."  Evidently, he didn't pay any attention to the cultural lecture I gave him before shipping him out the door.

I cooked them with caramelized onions, apple, and the kraut...I didn't want to waste a beer on it...all we had was the really good stuff, and if I'm cooking, well, usually a commercial beer will do.  This meal, however, is classified as what I call a "white meal,"  one without greens and one which well, isn't very appetizing to look at, at least not in my book.  I think of all of my northern European ancestors who ate "white meals" as potatoes, sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables were what helped get them through the long winters.

One of the other memories I have is of the Cubans at the Cuban club devouring 12 seeded red grapes as fast as they could before the clock finished striking midnight, the Hispanic method of ensuring prosperity in the new year.  It stayed with me because of the contrast of the elegantly dressed ladies cramming the grapes in their mouths and gobbling them as fast as they could...

Of course, I had to laugh...Carlos bought shrimp and champagne, and a cherry pie for me.....but, he has sat down in the magic chair...a leather arm chair...and promptly fell asleep.  So, I'm here with you while he sleeps, and I'll shortly retire, long before the stroke of midnight.  I'll worry a bit about my daughter who is out with friends, and then fall asleep...hoping that this coming year will bring health, prosperity, and peace for all.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Comfort and Joy

I come from a singing family.  My father, mother, brother and sister all sang.  I remember nights of singing together, and of course filling the pews at the 11:00 pm Christmas Eve service.  On year, when I was visiting my sister who was then married and living in the upper peninsula of Michigan, all of us were together and of course sat in two pews all together.  We all read music and sang in parts.  When we were getting ready to leave, a man in front of us turned and told us we had beautiful voices and it was a pleasure to sit near us.

Christmas eve always meant going to church.  For our evening meal, we would eat potato soup, which was as close as my father would come to the traditional oyster stew my mother grew up with.  Then, there was the waiting until we would all pack up and go to the church service.  Sometimes afterward we would drive around looking at the Christmas lights.

When I was single and was in Middletown, Connecticut, if I was home, I would join my fellow choristers and sing the services there.  Later, when I was a member of the St. Andrew's Episcopal Church choir in Meriden,  it was a rigorous set of services with rather demanding music.  As one of 3 or 4 altos, depending on who was there, it was pretty important to be there.  Of course my penchant for getting strep throat annoyed our choir director to no end.  I can't think of any of the services I have attended through the years which didn't end the same way...the lighting of candles while we all sang "Silent Night."

Truth be family isn't too thrilled with potato soup...but they humored me tonight, largely because there wasn't much in the larder.  Since we've been living in Troy, we have been going to the 9:00 service.  It was as good as usual...and I must admit, it left me missing my brother, sister, and parents.  I'm lucky that all are still well as being lucky I am still alive myself.

Memories are funny things.  While they bring us comfort, there's also an element of sadness that these times have gone and only exist in our own heads.  For some memories it would be best to banish them far away, but our brains don't seem to let us do that easily.  It takes a lot of work.

So, since we've been covering joy....I thought it would be nice to consider what brings us comfort.  Needless to say, many of those things that bring us joy, comfort us as well.  The love of our pets, our families, and our friends.  Some comforts are physical, such as Sue's warm bath and warm blankets and I dare say a number of my friends said chocolate.

Ian surprised me and said that people who keep smiling through adversity comfort him, and Chris said people who have open souls.  Those ARE a rarity and a joy as well when you find them.

I know that people all over the world do not have warm blankets, loving families, or many good memories.  I know that many do not have full bellies.  I do what I can, which seems dismally inadequate, but if we all did the same, then it would make a huge difference.

And so, my dear readers, I pray that this year will bring you comfort and joy in abundance.  May a light shine in your soul and bring you peace every day...not just during whatever holiday you observe at this time of year.  Merry Christmas.

P.S.  The Christmas ornament you see above presently hangs on my tree....and is one which we used when I was growing up probably from about 1963 least that's the earliest I remember it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

An Abundance of Joy!

 So, tonight I'm bringing you more thoughts on joy....maybe just for a moment, you can take a breath and enjoy these things.

Several of my friends said that their pets bring them joy....(of course, they can also bring consternation!).

One thing which brings me joy is home-made items...I love them.  This year, I was fortunate to receive two home-made Christmas cards.  I really appreciate the time that each of my friends put into making these.  The top one is from Joan Sterr, a member of the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network.
 This one is one Carol Magato, a gardening friend who lives across the way and has her own business making memory bears.

If you have been a reader for a while, you might recognize Joan's name as she makes delightful quilts and last year made me a clever Christmas card as well.  I wrote about it here. 

For me, lots of things bring me joy.  Sometimes I think I'm a tad simple because I laugh at so many things, and get pleasure from such small things.  Laughing is one of my favorite things to do...

Joy can come in the light in a barn, shining golden with fairy dust flitting through in the cracks.  The long light in the morning and just before sunset...sunlight breaking through dark, heavy clouds...making long beams that I used to think of as angel slides.

I find joy in learning, and in lecturing.  I find joy in my family...yes,  even my family of origin....or perhaps especially my family of origin.  Being with friends....quilting (especially hand piecing).  Sun on water, the sweetness of the Great Lakes.  Hoar frost.  Sandhill cranes flying south.  A warm bed.  Sugar cookies.  A dog's adoring eyes, and even a dog so that it obeys with hand signals.  The smell of leaves.  A baby's skin.  An old lady's wrinkled cheek.  A cat who loves you. A pastellito and a cup of coffee while sitting near the ocean.  Praying mantis in my garden.  A lily freshly opened.  Singing. A warm breeze.  Warm rain.  A huge moon.  The Milky Way as seen from the Upper Peninsula in Michigan or another place where light pollution isn't evident'.  Moonlight on the snow. .  Cut Bank Creek.  The colors turquoise, cobalt blue and scarlet.  When my daughter says I've made an awesome meal 

I have always loved the surge of power when I ride my road bike, and the rush when you're flying down a trail side on a mountain bike making decisions quickly.  At one time, I was indeed a bicycling speed merchant.
There's a lot that brings me joy.  For now, I'll leave you with what Joan wrote on the inside of her card.....and consider it applying to you as you read it.  

A Christmas Blessing

May your presents be tall,
And your troubles be small.
May you get all the blessings you need.
May your art fill your soul,
And fun play a role. 
May you have everything you need to succeed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Brooke Atherton: Controlled Burns and Winter Solstice

Tonight,  Brooke Atherton hosted a winter solstice program at the Yellowstone Art Museum (YAM)  in Billings, Montana.  I wrote about the event earlier this week.

Brooke has been an artist in residence at YAM for the last year.  As an artist in residence, she works in a studio and talks with visitors, often art groups and college art students.  Brooke uses all sorts of fabrics and found objects in her fiber art, heavily stitching and trapping objects and bits of fabric which in some cases she's altered by controlled burns and distortions.  She gathers a lot of her fabrics from various places, a lot of it salvaged.  She is prone to layering and burning or melting pieces away.

She has also been burning fibers by using a Japanese Shibori dying technique called "arashi", or pole wrapping.  In arashi shibori, fabric is wrapped diagonally around a pole, traditionally a polished wooden one, then bound with string and ultimately scrunched down once the string has been tightly wrapped around it.
 Here you can see how Brooke has applied this to her burning.  The fabric is bound as for traditional Shibori dyeing, but instead, she uses a gas or natural wood flame to scorch and burn the fibers.

The next photo shows what some of the pieces look like once the string has been cut and the lines are revealed.

Brooke had this to say of her methods:  " I love the way the fabrics capture directly the marks of a natural force, and it is, of course, insanely fun to do.  I use this a lot for borders—the strips of burned fabric are Misty Fused and stitched onto the edges of my canvases.  I put a lot of thought into how to end my work, how to transition from the work to a wall or floor, and this gives an interesting, soft line between one and the other (meaning the work and the wall). "

Many of Brooke's pieces are large installations which cascade down a wall, onto pillars before ultimately spilling onto the floor.

It was from describing her technique to these visitors that Brooke got the idea for having the winter solstice observance called "Ignite!"  Which was held tonight at 6:00 mountain time.  In many cultures, the longest night of the year is observed with bonfires.  Not only is the and warmth of the fires seen to drive evil and negative forces away, but also as a symbol of hope and the potential for rebirth.  It is, in the winter, an affirmation that the days will grow longer, spring will come, and the cycle will start all over again.

Fire is also seen as a cleansing agent, and Brooke asked participants to write things that they wanted to put behind them, or bring things which were emblematic of things they wanted to end with them and to put them into the flames.  I sent her a small quilt with a crab...(indicating how much I want to get rid of the cancer in my body).

"Like a lot of fiber artists, I use candles and a soldering iron for other effects.  My doctor always asks me what I’ve been burning recently, and one time he disappeared for a few minutes.  He came back handed me something, and said he’d like to see what I did with it.  And in demos, you can always tell who the guys in the room are who have had vasectomies, because they start laughing when they see the cauterizing tool he gave me.  The materials I burn are mostly natural fibers—cotton, linen, silk, paper, but I’ve also had good results with Tyvek and polyesters.  The manufactured materials are dangerous to work with, though, and if I work with them I do it carefully, outside, and not over a full flame—just enough warmth to shape them, not burn them.  I cannot stress enough how dangerous these things are; our burn permit is for natural fibers only.  I am looking forward, if there is no wind, to using gunpowder."

Gunpowder....I would have liked to have seen that!

The various layers, combined with hand and machine stitches and bits of this and that give her pieces incredible complexity but is based on the simplest of elements.  To me, her pieces have a luminous quality and a voice which just sings....They are evocative of decay and yet have elements of growth and rebirth.

Brooke also has an amazing way with color.   Yes, I'm a Brooke Atherton groupie.  One of these days I hope to get back to Montana and maybe swing down and visit her, but Billings is a long way from Cut Bank.

I had hoped to participate in the event here in Ohio at the same time they were burning the things in that end, I prepared my own arashi pole....only to have it pouring down rain when I went to go outside and burn it.....So, mine will have to wait until tomorrow when the deluge I hope it will.

Brooke is the Studio Art Quilt Associate (SAQA) regional  representative for Montana and Idaho.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yet more Joy!

When queried about what brought them joy, many, if not most, of my friends responded that their husbands  or family brought them of my husband's relatives said this picture of the two of us....although, if it hadn't been for my recent battles with cancer (and my not so recent battles....) maybe he wouldn't have said this....never the less, it is an illustration for the point.

However, not everyone is lucky enough to have families which bring them joy....even so, we can certainly find joy in having friends.

My friend Chris had some very wise words to share..."waking up in the morning.  Every day has the potential to bring Joy in the most unexpected way.  Today, seeing my grandson's smiling face in the video chat on Facebook.  Yesterday: laughing with the women so important to my life."

Those women that Chris referenced is a group of us brought together by chance, through a common love of quilting.  We get together weekly to sew, and gab...and share lunch together.  We meet at the business office of one of our members, and we always have a good time.  Sometimes we even get some sewing done.

So, here's hoping you find some joy in waking up never know what wonders will unfold if you look for them.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Even More Joy!

So, I'm continuing with things that bring joy.  In my Facebook query, as you may have gathered from my two previous joy posts. 

 Iris Karp who is a delightful person as well as being the Queen of Mistyfuse named several of my favorites.  Iris wrote:   I don't always know.  But it is usually something simple, something small.  Maybe meeting a challenge or a problem solving, learning something, following through on almost anything; helping something to make something happen for someone else.  Many of my joyful moments center around cooking---it might be coming up with a new recipe or pulling together dinner from scratch and almost out of the air in under 20 minutes that['s good enough to be a "company" dinner.  Learning something that challenges me--could be anything from a new-to-me technique in an Adobe Creative Suite all the way to reading legal cases and learning how it all works.  Oh. . . and putting together from Ikea."

For those of you who know me "for real" will also know how much I love to laugh.  So, in the spirit of sharing, here's a rendition of Jingle Bells which made me laugh out loud as well as several of my FB friends.  This is my ex-next door neighbor and a friend with thanks to Michael Buble.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ignite! Winter Solstice Program

Last weekend, I got an email from Brooke Atherton telling me about a program she is doing and asking if I wanted to participate "from afar."

Brooke is a quilter I've "met" by chance...I saw one of her pieces at the NQA quilt show in Columbus and contacted her to review it here.  I love Brooke's work because it is very some ways its simple....but at the same time complex.  Here are a couple of pieces she has on line, completed for the Salvaged Threads show in 2009. Brooke is also the Yellowstone Art Museum artist-in-residence.

Brooke is hosting a special winter solstice program she's calling "Ignite!"  Using an outdoor firepit in the Visible Vault parking lot in Billings, Montana, Brooke is going to demonstrate the controlled charring of fabrics such as she uses in her own pieces... Participants are also invited to bring a small symbol of an event in their lives that they wish to put behind them, and those pieces will be consigned to the flames.

Winter solstice festivals marking the turning point between the decline into darkness and the return of the light have been part of human history for thousands of years.  The paradox between fire's beneficial and destructive properties have also marked human culture.

This misshapen piece is one I whipped up and sent out to Brooke today...for some reason, I was bound and determined to make a little quilt (this one is about 8" x 10").  I free cut the crab...but I was watching just the little piece I was working on while the remainder of it dangled in the air and I laughed to see that I really got off's warped, just like bones eaten by cancer get warped.  I quilted it with the words "cancer" in several places and then just quilted it over all...I was having fun with it, even though it isn't a piece of art...Obviously, I really want to put cancer behind me....if I can beat it back one more time...I'll be really happy.

The program is free to the public and will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 22, in the Visible Vault parking lot at 505 North 26th Street in Billings.  The program will take place whether it's snowing or not.  Wine and beer will be available for purchase.  The program will also take place in the Visible Vault Studio, but dress warmly for the outdoors.  Participants wishing to work with Brooke to make a symbolic item for the fire should plan to come to the Studio in advance, at 5 p.m.

I'm thinking that if you can't be there...maybe it would be fun to get some of your friends together and do the same....or even just write them on paper and let the new year be clean of regrets, pain, and other things which need to be put aside for happier living.

More Joy.....

More posts on things to bring you joy....This season can be so fraught with landmines....stresses from work, money (or lack of it), expectations which fall far shorter than what we had which can stress you or family which is far away...funny, it can be that they are either too close or too far...

However, I do think that there are a lot of things to focus on and be grateful for....sometimes if we focus on the little things, the things that bring us joy can help alleviate the stress and even if we aren't stressed or sad, they can bring a smile to your face. gift brought to you with the help of my friends started yesterday....and I'll continue to put in some until I run out or the year does.....Katie, my niece, listed Christmas lights on houses as bringing her joy, so I thought that this was a good image for this post...lights in darkness....

I'm blessed to have many friends who are able to say that their families bring them joy, as well as their husbands.  Sometimes, these were relationships which didn't work out so well the first time around....

Mollie wrote:  Singing and playing the flute at an orphanage, seeing a Japanese tsunami survivor smile after 8 months, simple things like sitting with my cats early in the morning when no one else is awake..feeling a cool breeze brush my face, the warm sun,breathing, just realizing what a gift every day is and treating it that way friends--real ones, and  most importantly the sweetness of knowing I'm loved by God.  Whew. . . joy is the life experience beyond myself! 

Well said.....

Barb noted some sweet ones:  snow on Christmas eve, children's laughter, a Christmas pagent presented by children....

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bringing you Joy

A while ago, my niece put up a query on Facebook.  "Tell me what you love."  She got 52 responses, most of which made me smile.

The end of the year is always busy.  All of the various holidays to be celebrated as well as the panic when you realize that the end of the year is nigh and there all these things you meant to do and never did.  I've been trying to weed out things....and frankly, after listing tons on eBay, etc., I'm just not in the mood to type.

So, I thought I would share with you things which bring Joy, and you can comment and tell me what brings you joy.  In the hustle bustle of the season, the bleakness of this time for many, I think we need to focus on joy, if only for just a few moments.  So, while I intend to get to that review I've been planning  of  Lesley Riley's Fabulous Fabric Art with Lutradur and Wendy Cotterilll's Lutradur and the New Fibers: Creating Mixed-Media Art with the New Spunbonded Materials  (which I have been thinking about since I purchased the book in January), I'm going to take a break and over the next couple of days, interspersed with the usual things I put here, I'm going  to share some of these joyful things.

To start with, Janean, one of my wonderful friends I have had since junior high said her joys are helping others and realizing what amazing friends, family and students she has.  She's right. While as we go through life, those friends may change, as we ourselves change, there are always those who are truly remarkable and even if that person has touch you for only a little while, thinking back can always bring you joy....and then there's the joy of reconnecting, which the internet is making all the more possible.

Katie, my neice,  shared this:  Common grace, a perfectly-turned phrase.  The way my bunny tips his head up for a scratch on the nose.  When my friends get tood news.  Cooking dinner with people I love. Travel plans.  Maps.  The scent of a house with the windows open. Good conversation.  Dogfish 90 Minute IPA. Christmas lights.  Winter light.  That there is something worth being joyful about every single day. 

So, leave a comment with your own joys...and I'll bring you more for tomorrow. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Move over Fairfield, Here Come the Batty Binders

I am fortunate to be able to quilt with several quilt guilds, but the local one in Troy is called the Batty Binders.  Last week was our Christmas gathering.  This year, which started in September, they have deemed "the year of giving."

These two tables, and the packages on the floor is what was brought to donate to the Battered Women's Shelter, the Homeless Shelter, the local Food Pantry, and the Animal Shelter.

While it may not look like much, you have to understand that only about 35 women brought all these items, and much of the items for the food pantry were personal hygiene products which don't come cheap.

In addition, there are more blankets for the homeless shelter and Project Linus which are not seen here, nor the 15 dog pillows which Gwen delivered to the animal shelter last week.  Several of these piles are actually pajamas...some of which were home made.  I'm working on finishing mine.  I was really pleased when they announced this as I had cut out three pairs of high quality flannel PJ bottoms for Meg last year before I realized that I had cut them too small.  The waste of all that fabric made me sick, but I didn't know what to do with I set them aside.  Now, I can finish them and get some t-shirts to go with them and someone will have some nice pjs from my error.

We always have show and tell....and this is a Christmas Tree skirt one of our members made...Gwen, in typical silliness, decided to model it for us....I think our Batty Binder's runway is certainly a challenge to the Fairfield Fashion Show....or maybe not....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cool Recycled fiber piece

My quilty friend and former neighbor in Meriden, Connecticut just sent me this really cute fiber pin.  The pink backing is just a piece of paper the pin was mounted on...the bird itself is made out of felted sweater wool and the zippers were recycled out of old stuff as well.

I look at designs like this and think  " did they come up with it?"  I don't think I'd ever think of something as clever as this.

Friday, December 9, 2011

And I thought this was Supposed to be Easy.....

Carillon, left side by Lisa Broberg Quintana, right side by  Sue DeSantis

Last week Thursday, Sue DeSantis, Carroll Schleppi and I went to David Lorenz' studio to take the photographs of the "slice" quilts we did for the Dayton Landmarks Project with the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network.  Ronnie Doyal took photographs of places in and around Dayton which are familiar landmarks.  We divided the photographs giving each quilter a portion of the photograph to interpret in cloth.

Most of them are finished.  Since we are waiting for three segments to be done, we decided that we would shoot them as individual slices and then Ronnie showed me how to merge them using Photoshop.  I have Photoshop Elements(PSE)  7 loaded on my computer, and had purchased PSE 9 in June but hadn't loaded it because I thought that this computer (c. 2003) was going to die at any still might...  I had Barbara Brundage's "Missing Manual" for PSE9 so I thought I was in pretty good shape.


For one thing, I spent hours trying to get PSE9 to load, chatted on line with Adobe techs, and finally called to find out why it wouldn't load.  According to the telephone guy, PSE9 has some incompatibility issues with PSE9.  So....back to figuring out layers, magic extraction tools, making a blank document and joining the segments....  I decided that I would do Sue DeSantis and my piece on the Carillon in Dayton as it only had 2 segments.  Sue had completed hers first, and I did mine second.  

Well....I don't like the job I did with PSE7....and I certainly don't like the 18 hours of time it took me to make the join...but I'm hoping that the next segment might work better...You'll notice that I matched the tops OK, but the bottom overlaps and I can't seem the grab that part and move it over..there's only so much that that little hand tool will do for me!

There's nothing so painful as banging ones head up against a desk trying to figure out the method while hearing all the other things I need to do snickering in the background.  Harumph.

Carillon, photograph which the above was based on, by Ronnie Doyal
You can find information on Carillon Park in Dayton  here.

Monday, December 5, 2011


I took this picture on October 21, 2011.  On the one hand, I was disgusted by the fact that the Christmas trees were up and available to purchase that early.   On the other hand, I was amused by the sign which hung merrily over them.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I wonder when they will grow up....

My daughter is home from college.  While she has picked up a part time job, she's bored.  So bored, she decorated the Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.

We were wondering when we set the tree up (an artificial one--a long story behind that as we always cut our own until 2007) if Lemmie at age 3 would have grown out of his habit of climbing up through the middle of the Christmas tree.

The answer is a resounding no.  Sometimes you're surprised as you walk by the tree and discover a grey head sticking out among the ornaments.  He's also managed to bend some of the branches as he weighs 12 pounds.

I'm also wondering if they have a special class in college which teaches freshmen to act as if their parents have no brains....and all of a sudden, she has become hyper critical of my housekeeping.  Although I dusted yesterday, she decided it wasn't good enough and plans to dust again tomorrow.  Sigh.  If only it weren't accompanied by attitude.  I think she's too old for coal and sticks in her stocking.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

On Line Quilting Courses and my experience with Pamela Allen

Back in July, I saw that Pamela Allen was offering an online quilting class.  Part of me wondered how in the world one could take an online quilting class, but then, since Pamela titled her class "Think Like an Artist" and said that it would be focusing on design, I thought that it should be fine.

I admire Pamela's work. Go to her website and look at some of her pieces.   I love the spontaneity, her use of color and texture.  I laugh at the almost cartoon-like abstraction that she uses.  Since Pamela doesn't teach in the United States and since I don't think I'm going to be making any trips to Canada soon, I decided I'd sign up.

After all....I was thinking we'd handle a lesson a week.  How hard could that be? I was getting my daughter ready to take to her freshman year at college, had to take her to orientation, and was still fatigued from chemo. But hey, it's quilting.  How hard could that be?

Ahem.  Well....I once again thought I was superwoman, only I seem to have misplaced my cape some where.
It was really hard.  In fact, it was so hard that I'm still behind one project, and haven't sewn down and quilted the others.

Pamela does a huge amount of work with her students.  We had a good group and several had had classes with Pamela before and so knew what to expect.  She showed us examples of what she's talking about, using her own work as examples as well as fine art pieces.  We critiqued.  Pamela critiqued and used photo editing to show us what she meant....and it was brilliant.

We were not to draw anything.  We were to free-cut our fabric and create our pieces.  The first work you see here is my self-portrait with our personal symbolism.  One of the things that Pamela reminded us about is not to make our pieces trite and, instead of holding a cat (I have I am an animal lover, not just cats), I'm holding a Dutch rabbit.....sort of a reference to cousin Maggie's dutch house bunny.  The swirl represents my mastectomy....and look at the plant at the side of the composition....can you tell what kind of houseplant it is?

The piece above is another lesson involving personal symbolism.  This is my first attempt, what Pamela recieved.  I was amused, and sort of surprised, when one of the class members thought it was a salmon run (it's koi or goldfish pond).

This is the first bit that Pamela did to improve the composition....why I didn't think of using it as a landscape orientation which seems so obvious, I don't know.  I think it is because the brocade I used had the large gold strip along the side so when I was looking at the yardage I got mentally stuck in how it was "supposed". to go.

This is far preferable to my original work....but Pamela had no idea about the symbolism, and took out the small goose at the foot of the iris.

Obviously, a goose is part of my identity....I've been Michigoose a very long time on the web and of course my blog name and my Amazon store name both bear witness to this.
When I explained this, Pamela lifted a goose from one of her own works which was more monumental and dropped it into my scene.  Pretty cool, eh?

I hope to get back and finish these.   Was it worth it? In true Michiganese, "You betcha!"  In fact, I enjoyed it so much and felt that I learned a lot from it that I have signed up for another course, this time through Quilters University, this time with Elizabeth Barton whose work I also admire....However, I have all intentions of clearing my calendar and concentrating solely upon the class.  At least that's the goal.

I think I'll do some more work with Pamela's style...but I don't think I'll stick with it.  As much fun as it is, it is Pamela's style, and I have my own style.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Saturday, my neighbor came running over to the house to get me.  "Lisa! There's the great spider, and you've got to see it! Dave says you LOVE spiders."  Actually, I don't like them.  At all.  However, I'm tolerant of them because of the important job they do.  They do, however, make my skin crawl.  Too many eyes, too many teeth, too many legs...and HAIRY.  However, I do appreciate their fantastic colors and the wonderful webs.

This was the specimen that I was told I HAD to see.  It's an orb weaver, the ones which make the really cool, very large webs.  She is a common yellow garden spider, Argiope aurantia.  One of the characteristics of orb weavers is that they tend to hang in their webs head down.  

I was a little surprised to see this one this late in the year....Cool colors, cool long as it stays outside.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For Heaven's Sake...STOP THE CAR!!!!

One late September day, I drove past a pasture nearby and saw a glorious scene...this red Highland Cow laying in this pasture with the gorgeous periwinkle blooms of chickory and white daisies.  I thought to myself, " what a gorgeous shot! I'll get him on my way back."

Only, on the way back, he had moved inside the barn.  So, this time, when I saw the light striking off his wonderfully red, shaggy coat, I turned around and came back, parking on the side of the road to take the shot with my little point and shoot.  Since there were people in the house yard next to the field, I was hesitant to get too close to the fence or the beastie...and I haven't conquered Photoshop Elements yet so you see the line of the fencing through the shot.

I love to watch the light on things....especially the slanting rays of the early morning or late afternoon sun.  The white on these horses seemed to make them glow bluish.  The stuff in the front is teasle which long ago escaped from Colonist's gardens who raised it to raise the nap on woolen items.  Unfortunately, it is rather invaisive now.

So at any rate...please learn from my first error...stop...turn around...take the shot.  While the memory is gorgeous, it is easier to share with a photograph.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Artomat! A Novel Idea to Sell your Art

Sara Lynn Walsh's Artomat work

What would you do with an old cigarette vending machine?  At our last Miami Valley Art Quilt Network meeting, member Sara Lynn told of a surprising use.  Clark Whittington, an installation artist, took a defunct cigarette vending machine and fitted it with boxes to sell his artwork.  Originally intended as a temporary exhibition in a local cafe, the idea took off and Whittington started the Artomat organization.

Whittington gets artists to do small pieces of work which fit into a cardboard box he supplies.....the artist decorates the box and returns about 20 boxes with pieces of similar, but not identical work.  Whittington loads the vending machines, over 90 active machines, with the artwork.  Purchasers pay $5 and pull the knob to drop down their investment in a mini piece of art.  The artist receives half of the purchase price.  He calls his group "Artists in Cellophane."  Please go to the website to see examples of the vending machines and the types of things he does as well as the entire history.
Sara Lynn and the box provided to fill for the Art-o-mat

What a cool idea.  The machines are very retro looking and who doesn't like a grab bag? There's something that just makes you want to whip out your money and feed the machine so it can feed your soul.  

On the other hand, one wishes that the price could be a tad bit higher...The pieces of art are about the size of an artist trading card.  They must be 2 1/8" x 3 1/4" x 7/8" (54mm x 82mm x 21mm) in order to fit into the machine. I don't want to downgrade the art.

It is, a way to get your name out there...and it is a way to get people to take notice.  But, does it demean the art?  Does it give the concept that the pieces are just throw away?

On the other hand, it is just downright fun.  I think, if I can get my head above water, I'll submit some just because I love the concept, and I love the old vending machines.

Sara Lynn is leaving our group and will be going to Winston-Salem to work for Artists-in-Cellophane.  She's only been a member of MVAQN for about 2 years, maybe pushing three, but she's really fun and I love her funky ideas.  Winston-Salem is such an artistically rich place, I'm sure she'll have a great time.  I wish her well.  Sara Lynn has an Etsy shop, but at the moment she has had to close it while moving.  You can find it here, just check back occasionally to 
find out when she's open again. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

What I would have missed.....

Breast cancer awareness month is over.  Pink items are now on clearance, Dannon yogurt lids have either been turned in or thrown away.  Still...for those of us who live it either as patients or as friends, family and caregivers, it is with us.

As part of their effort to get the word out, promote breast cancer awareness in October and to convince the Super Committee to leave the funds intact for research in cancer, the American Cancer Society was asking people to tell what they would have missed had drugs and treatment not been available.  

If I hadn't had the care I had when I was diagnosed in 1994, I would have missed:
My daughter's first steps; and her first day at pre-school.  I would have missed teaching her in Baby-swim at the YMCA.

If I hadn't had 9 24-hour infusions of Taxol in 1998 after the stage IV diagnosis in Dec.1997, I would have missed my daughter's first day of kindergarten, Brownies, girl scouts, and working as a substitute teacher and with the PTO.  I wouldn't have been able to move back to the midwest, make quilts, give lectures, help out at my church and sing in the choir and watch my daughter run in cross country from grade 7 through her senior year.

If I didn't have the new drugs available as of May, 2010, I would have missed my daughter's senior year, graduation from high school and her first year of college, my niece's wedding, my other niece's getting her doctorate.  

Oh...there's lot of stuff in between...sunlight on the water, walks with the Siberian husky who adopted us, lots of laughs and projects with my various quilting guilds....warm chocolate chip cookies, the women of the Noble Circle project.....

The danger remains.  The U. S. Government funds research, often in areas that pharmaceutical companies won't because there are too few people who get a particular illness, or that perhaps it won't be profitable.  This isn't just for cancer, but many other illnesses and problems which assail us.  About 2% of the Federal budget goes for this.  How much are you willing to cut here?  Who do you want to tell that there's no more funds to try to find a cure or preventative for whatever illness? Take a look at the whole pie of the spending here.

Again...I don't know what the answer is in this prickly problem...but I certainly hope that someone comes up with something for me fast that works....At 51, I've lived 17 years with cancer being part of my life....I'd like to be able to add "watching my daughter graduate from college, seeing her married (if that happens), and maybe grandchildren (long way down the road and certainly not a given)....not to mention I'd like to go to Spain, and to Ireland and Sweden....and see many more sunrises and sunsets, and stars twinkling in the heavens.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Garden surprises, Garden regrets

I have been a grumpy gardener lately.  Partly because I have had this pile of mulched leaves sitting across the street thumbing its nose at me.  You see, I have really heavy soil and my neighbors have silver maple trees which shed a lot of leaves.  They have a yard service which mows the leaves up, chopping them, and then they drop it out on the street curb to wait for the township to come and vacuum them up and take them away.

When they mow, they get little pieces of grass in it, and this combination of finely chopped leaves, with some green grass makes perfect compost.  This perfect compost, when dug into my heavy clay soil, lightens the soil as well as provides me with mulch to keep down weeds.  In previous years, when I didn't have trouble with my hip or was in chemotherapy, I would take my trusty lawn tractor with my wagon and scoop it all up...dumping it on my vegetable garden.   This year, I've had to sit and look at it and desire is great, but my pain is greater.

My garden always has a few surprises.  This one is pretty amusing.  I took this shot just the other day.  We've had some substantial freezes, more than just a killing frost.  However, this petunia plant has managed to survive.  Look on the bottom right.  See that thing which looks like a shard of glass? It's a piece of ice I dumped out of a bucket.
This is my little patch of black mondo grass (Ohiopogon planiscapus...which I usually just call Ohiopogon (O-hi-op-o-gone).  My neighbors, both pretty good gardeners, always comment on how good mine look (when it has been weeded) and how it mystifies them that mine is able to survive.  You see, it is hardy only to zone 6a, and for the most part, I'm on the very edge, more like 5b. However, I hold a secret.  The secret is in microclimates.

Near the black mondo grass and the petunia (which is across from the mondo grass) is my fish pond.  You see it stripped for the winter here.  While not terribly large, it is pretty deep and holds I think about 2,000 gallons.  Water, particularly running water, maintains heat.  The stones around the pond also retain heat.  The direction here is south.

In addition to the pond and the retaining wall, you can see the concrete paver walkway...which also absorbs and retains the southern sun's heat.
And finally, the  6' high fence keeps the drying and cold western winds slightly at bay.  To the right of all of this is the house, which also retains heat.

Part of the trick to gardening is knowing what zone you're in and knowing what parts of your garden has little micro-climates which are warmer, or colder than the surrounding area. This knowledge allows you to grow things which others can't....and it makes you look like a green thumbed wizard when in reality you're just observant.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Realism, abstraction and blessings on Hollis Chatelain

A while ago, the SAQA and Quiltart message boards were buzzing with the discussion of what is art and if abstract was better than realism.  I always cringe at this...especially when some people take the stance that the only "REAL ART" is ABSTRACT.  (usually being touted by someone with a bullhorn standing on a soapbox).  

I do a lot of realistic quilts.  I like realism but I also appreciate abstract and do work in abstract from time to time (viz the piece at left...which is actually abstracted realism and something which I am basing a more abstracted piece upon).  Not all realistic pieces speak to me, but then not all abstract pieces speak to me either.

Sherrie Spangler recently did a couple of blog posts about abstract work and tried to answer those who say they "just don't get abstract."  You can see it here.

I must say...I'm a little flummoxed.  If abstraction is appealing to people because of the pretty colors, nice texture, etc., such as what Sherrie shows, then why can't a pretty picture, be it a landscape, or a portrait or a still life be considered in the same vein?  Why do people have to throw clods of dirt at the opposite camp? 

Perhaps part of it is that often the imagery used can be the point of being trite.  Maybe it is that there's a lot of mediocre art which tends to make us feel that the pieces are vapid.  I liked Kathy Loomis's comment on my other blog post on the subject. "I wish we would spend less time arguing about "is this art?" and more time arguing about "is this any good?"

I have to admit, something which makes a piece stand out, whether it is representational or not is what the artwork SAYS.  Recently, at the SAQA parlor meeting in Columbus, one of the members showed a piece which was pretty, looked traditional, and was made out of untraditional materials.  When you first looked at it you thought "Oh, pretty."  Then when she said what she used, my initial response was "What a curator's nightmare! How will this hold up?"  Then, she told us why she used what she did....and it made a moving piece which had so much more depth than being just the pretty, traditional looking quilt that it first appeared.
Hollis Chatelain, World of the Taureg

When I first started thinking about writing something on this, I contacted several well known art quilters and asked them if I could have permission to talk about their work on my blog.  Hollis Chatelain was the only one to respond.  

Hollis' work represents what I'm thinking about here on many levels.  Her images are beautiful and particularly well crafted.  On the surface, you appreciate them, but then when you look at them more closely, you are drawn in and you realize that there is so much more to them than what you first saw.

Hollis often works from images she dreams.  Then sketches them and does the painting with thickened dyes on whole cloth before quilting them.  Her images bring forth a world consciousness and speaks to us all if we would have the ears and eyes to take it in.  Hopefully, we do and take away something which makes us think, and better yet, act.

Hollis Chatelain "Blue Men."
"Blue Men" and "The World of the Taureg" pay homage to the Taureg whose lifestyle is rapidly changing in response to the African droughts which are killing their herds.  These nomads are being forced by the climactic issues to give up their traditional lives.

Hollis often works in a limited palette.  I didn't ask to use her more famous pieces (although her Taureg series is very recognizable) .  The Ecuadorian Girls is quite different in the exuberant colors and because she based it on photographs.  Here is her artist statement as taken from her gallery on this piece:  Our daughter studied in Ecuador for five months last year.  She volunteered to teach English in a small village in the Andes mountains.  We visited her and went to that village where I photographed the children.  I was so struck by how old the girls looked and the responsibility that is put upon them at such a young age that I created this piece in their honor.  These girls are all under fifteen years of age.  This piece is composed of four photographs I combined." 

While she based it on photographs she took, and she does use a lot of thread work, this piece is far from "paint by numbers" quilting and gives us all something to aspire to. 

Hollis Chatelain, "Ecuadorian Girls."
Hollis' work "Innocence" which won the Viewer's Choice award at Houston in 2010 is one which from a distance is an attractive portrait quilt.  When you view it closely, you realize all the statement is in the quilting. 

While working in series and "finding your voice" is important to art quilters, sometimes I think that these same characteristics can easily become a rut.   Given that Hollis does abstract works in addition to nature based pieces, I think she'll continue to inspire us and make us think.  

I believe that the world is a better place for having Hollis Chatelain in it.  Certainly, the art and quilt world is far richer because of her.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Autumns Last Glory

Parrotia persica (Persian Ironwood)
 Today was a windy, but Indian summery day.  It is probably the last as 70 degrees isn't normal here at this time of year.  In fact, there were tornado warnings.  This wonderful blue sky shortly later gave way to glowering clouds.

Being that it was such a nice day, I took a quick stroll around the garden to see what colors were left.  Parrotia persica, or commonly called the Persian Ironwood is a really great tree with wonderfully colored leaves.  The dull brown leaves in the back are the same tree as the yellow and red here, but they were older and suffered from the drought we had in the summer.

This tree has grown well in the 6 years I've had it in, although it is still not old enough to show the wonderful exfoliating bark.  Some day.....

Until then, I'll be happy with this.  One caveat though, some green caterpillar thought they'd munch down on this tree this summer...quite a nuisance, although some sort of parasite managed to kill off most of the munchers.

Parrotia, another view.

The other day, I showed you a shot of my winterberry (Ilex vertilcillata) with the gold leaves on it.  They blew off, and you can see the wonderful red least until the birds decide that they are ready for eating.
Ilex verticillata "sparkleberry"

Ilex verticillata sparkleberry overall.

I think in the spring, this will have to be moved.  I planted a  peach tree whip next to it which has taken off.

Spirea "Mellow yellow" also called "Ogon" I think

Some other great color remains on my spirea.  Once this gets big, it has arching branches with small white flowers.  The leaves in the spring and summer are a yellow green.

Itea "Little Henry"