Friday, February 27, 2009

Lucky 13

Loretta, of Pomegranatesandpaper (which I always perversely want to read as "pomegranate sandpaper") had a little giveaway on her blog, and I was picked as the winner by virtue of being the 13th comment left. Woo hoo! Now, what do you think of that old superstition about 13 being unlucky? Never has been for me. I met Ray on the 13th of the month. Friday the 13th. Of February—the day before Valentine's Day. That lucky combination happened again this year, by the way.

Anyway, back to the giveaway— It was a book she was giving away and I am always ready for something new to read. But when the box arrived this week there was so much more than a book inside. She had tucked in all kinds of pretty, sparkly, colorful stuff—exactly the kinds of things to embellish artworks or Valentines or whatever. You can see some of it if you look closely at the number 13 above. And then, wrapped in a generous piece of this gorgeous purple batik, the book.



What an unexpected treat! Thanks, Loretta.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Parallel lives

One of the things I have discovered through blogging is that we are all more alike than we are different, it seems. Sometimes I begin to believe in that old idea of two people living parallel lives. People who will never meet, separated by thousands of miles, yet their lives are identical. Well, no two lives are identical of course, but I am often startled to read something that someone writes that I, myself, could have written, often about some obscure detail of their life.

Last night I was blog-reading, in that way that we all (I think) do—following links from one blog to the next until I find myself reading about someone with whom I have no connection and can't quite remember how I even got there. Suddenly I was reading the blog entry of a woman, about my age, who lives on the opposite side of the continent from me. Posted at the top of the entry was a place setting of Dansk stoneware, in the same pattern, but different color, as the Dansk stoneware I have owned for nearly 40 years. She talked about a recent article in the Washington Post about how today's couples are much less likely to choose formal china and silver when they marry. She said she, herself, had made the choice not to choose china when she married many years ago. She called it her "early rebellion". She chose, instead, the Dansk stoneware pictured, and Dansk stainless flatware.

I remember that some of my relatives and mother's friends were confused and puzzled by my choice of stoneware and stainless instead of china and silver when I was married in 1970. I was not interested in china. Most of what I was familiar with was far too fussy for my tastes, but I was interested in good design and for me the Dansk Generation Mist Brown stoneware was the ultimate. To go with it we selected a stainless pattern called Bedford from Lauffer, a Dutch company. It had won many design awards and I loved, and still love, its elegant shape and perfect balance.

Most of my wedding gifts are long gone. Most of what I loved in 1970 are things I have moved on from, but I still love these dishes and flatware and smile at my beautiful table when I use them. I am a bit more careful than I used to be because both are now discontinued and replacements are incredibly expensive. For many years I saw my dishes in movies, on TV shows, in advertisements. For a long time a plate just like one of mine displayed a mound of Rice a Roni (the San Francisco treat!) on the package front.

Somewhere near Washington D.C. there is a woman who loves her old dishes and flatware, as I love my nearly identical ones. We chose them for the same reasons and both believed, in our youthful confidence that we were the exception to the rule. I guess we were, and I kind of love that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Trying a new product

Awhile back I was downtown with June Underwood and one of her missions was to drop into Art Media and buy some Golden Digital Ground. This was something I had barely heard mention of and was not even sure what it was supposed to do, but I ended up buying a bottle of it myself. This week I finally got around to trying it out.

There are three types and this one is transparent, for porous surfaces. Behind the bottle you can see a piece of the fabric I was using. The reason I got the transparent, rather than opaque ground was to see how it would work on an already patterned fabric. This fabric is not, by the way, pink. It is off-whites. I am experimenting with different camera settings and most of the photos I took today are Photoshop-resistent pink. Now I know what not to do.

I painted two coats of the ground on my fabric, letting it dry between coats. Although it says "gloss" on the bottle, on fabric it is not glossy and, in fact, does not change the appearance of the fabric in any way I could notice. It does, however, change the hand. It makes it very crispy, like a sheet of paper, which works nicely when you go to print it. I trimmed it to exactly 8.5 x 11 and ran it through the printer. Nice not to have to iron the fabric to a sheet of freezer paper. I printed a page of photos I took in Mexico that I had fiddled with in Photoshop to get a more water-color effect.

See that tiny little one of the stone head? (Again, not really this pink) I put that one on there to test. I cut part of it off and washed it rather vigorously, by hand, then dried it and compared to the unwashed part. It was pretty permanent—may have lost just a bit of color.

The prints were clear and the color good, though, of course affected by the underlying fabric color. The fabric remains crisp feeling, though not plastic-y or coated. It is easy to sew through and even needle or pins holes are pretty easily steamed out if you need to.

I made this little piece (7.5" x 9.5") to see what might be done with nice little photos on fabric. I think this stuff has some potential!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Longing for spring to come

These are days that make me really long for spring. These are days that make me want to be outside working on things. I've been thinking about projects we have planned for our new yard, and though I'm not the most enthusiastic gardener I love the results. At our old house we had such a beautiful yard. This one has a ways to go, but a lot of potential.

Several years ago I made concrete paving stones using a mold that I bought from a woman here in Portland who designs wonderful molds for garden stepping stones. I made enough to incorporate them into our expanded patio.

I'd like to make more to use here. I still have the mold for the fish block, but I want another design as well, so I went out to the garden center to see if they had the molds for sale. They didn't, but I couldn't get away without a few things.

I love primroses, so got a few and some other things, including a couple packets of seeds. I planted the planter that sits on the porch railing.

I bought this planter last spring because I thought it was pretty neat the way it straddles the porch railing and I thought if I planted it with nasturtiums they would pretty much cover it. They didn't and the thing is really kind of ugly, but I'm not giving up on it yet. Today I planted some vinca that hangs over the sides and I will look for some other things that are hang-y. I planted nasturtiums again that should come on as the primroses are finished blooming. I always like to have a bunch of stuff in pots on the porches.

The last time you saw this hen she looked pretty sad. I got rid of the nasty, dead geranium and gave her a primrose too.

Other parts of the yard are showing some signs of spring's approach too. The daffodils are pushing their way up through the dead leaves and grass. Someday I'd like our long driveway to be lined with masses of daffodils in the spring.

And I did find another mold at another shop this afternoon. These are the nicest I have seen. Most of the molds I have seen are very poor, cutesy designs. You can order them from the website if you can't find them in a store. This is the one I ended up buying. I thought it would go well with the fish.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Following the creek

Awhile back we discovered that if one follows the little creek that runs through our property down along our road it continues into the subdivision a few blocks away and there is a paved trail that follows it along. Driving through the subdivision you would never know the trail or creek was there. It winds through an area at the backs of houses, through a small hidden park, past tennis courts and flows, unseen, through culverts under the streets. In some places it widens into marshy ponds. You walk along high fences marking backyards at one side of the trail and wooded wildlife habitat on the other side. Lots to see along the way, especially on a nice sunny day like today.

mysterious thing laying in the grass

Oregon Grape, the Oregon State Flower

Red twig dogwood—I love these red branches

Canada goose

Blackberry

Yuck!

Deep thoughts

We are driving home from the grocery store and I'm humming. "Why have I had this song going through my head for days, and more disturbingly, why do I seem to know all the words?"

"What song?" he asks. So I begin to sing, "Cheer up, Sleepy Jean, Oh what can it mean to a daydream believer and a homecoming quee-ee-een?"

"Oh, stop singing! I don't want that thing in my head too!" But now I can't stop. "Oh, I could hide 'neath the wings of the bluebird as she sings...."

"So, who sang that?" I finally ask. "The Monkees? It's kinda' bubblegum."

"Totally bubblegum." he says.

"Well, not totally." I say, "I think of 'My Girl Lollipop' as more quintessential bubblegum."

He gives me a look, sighs, then slowly and patiently explains, "It's called bubblegum music because it is most enjoyed by very young adolescents who chew bubblegum, not because it is about bubblegum. Please don't sing anymore."

Then we laugh all the way home.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Assembly line

Thanks for all the input on the valentine color! You can probably see that I came up with the solution suggested by a couple of you and mounted the little crow print first on black, then on red. It was the perfect combination in my opinion. Also good because I had a package of red paper leftover from a previous valentine project and enough black as well. I also had a box of envelopes from a previous project too, so the valentines cost next to nothing to make this year, except that I had to go buy a new color cartridge for the printer to print the letters. Whew! Those cartridges are expensive. So now I am assembling, printing, addressing and will get them out the door in a day or two.

This guillotine is one of my favorite tools and makes it so much easier to do paper projects. This was something I claimed when we emptied my parents' house after their deaths. My dad used it to trim photos that he printed in his darkroom and I assumed that was what it was made for. Just recently my brother told me that it is not, in fact, a paper cutter, but a belt cutter, made for cutting rubber belt material. (For machinery, like conveyer belts, not to hold your pants up.) My dad was a mechanical engineer and owned a machine shop, which was probably what it was purchased for. I was incredulous. I googled "belt cutter" and sure enough, there it was. It is the best paper cutter I have ever used! You can cut a goodly stack of paper very accurately and easily, though not very large sheets of paper. Obviously, Dad had figured that out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine!



My valentines are not ready. As I have in the past, I made a small fabric piece that I will photocopy and send with my annual letter. Time got away from me, so they will be late. These valentines are what I do instead of Christmas cards. So, to those to whom I mail an actual card—it's coming. For everyone in blogland I send you this valentine greeting. I love you all!

Now, you can help me decide something. What color paper should I mount the print on?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Crazy hearts

Years ago when we lived in Ashland, Oregon, my friend Martha Lewis had a fabulous collection of crazy quilt hearts that she had made. She added to it every year and hung them all on a wall in her entryway every February. Martha was a fabulous seamstress and clever, witty woman. She made incredible dolls and had the most mind-blowing collections of ribbons and buttons and bits and bobs I have ever seen. Every so often she would invite several of us over to "play" and she'd teach us how to make something—a doll, or a needle case or a little sampler of embroidery stitches. One year she allowed me to display her crazy heart collection in my shop window for Valentine's day. When we were getting ready to move to Portland, some of my good friends had a little party for me and Martha gave me one of her fabulous hearts. That's it on the left above. I made the other two. Martha taught me how to make the spiderweb and the little spider on the middle one. I'm not a fan of crazy quilts, but I love these crazy hearts.

I am running far behind on my valentines for this year. They will be mailed late. Perhaps by tomorrow I will have a photo to post, at least.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Overalls

Here's what I made for Sofia this week.

Sorry, this is the best photo I could come up with. Black, fine-wale corduroy—hard to photograph. The legs have a cuff at the bottom. The picture on the pattern cover showed a poofier leg gathered onto the cuff. The reality was a leg barely bigger than the cuff, but, oh well, they look pretty cute anyway. I always liked overalls on little kids. They can wear them for a long time. Just move the buttons to make the thing longer and they don't fall down. The cuffs keep the legs from dragging if they are a little long. The other day Sofia had on a pair of embroidered denim jeans that were, admittedly adorable, but they kept drooping down around her hips. I later learned there is a piece of elastic inside the back of the waistband that you can adjust to make them fit tighter or looser around the waist and it had come entirely undone. Grandmas don't know about such new-fangled things. I like overalls.

Here's a closeup of the fabric—little embroidered tulips in bright colors on the black. Some people do not approve of dressing children in black. I think black looks good on everyone, especially with the addition of hot pink buttons. Here they are reflecting the light, but they are really pretty hot.

I made a lot of clothes for my children and I think saved a lot of money, while keeping them well-dressed. Something has happened since then. Children's clothing has gotten cheaper and fabric has gotten more expensive. I could probably have bought something comparable for less than the fabric cost for this, but it would not have had my special smoochy mojo sewn into it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winter is back—at some elevations

Crazy. I have been shuffling back and forth between the computer and the kitchen all morning and for a couple hours have seen flashing police lights out on the road. Lots of cars are turning around in my driveway. We've had a bit of snow overnight, but it's melting and not a big deal.

Right out front of my house there's a county sanding truck stopped and a couple of guys putting chains on it.

"What's going on?", I ask, nodding toward the police cars. "They've closed 175th (the road that goes up the hill). Buncha' cars off in the ditch up there."

Then it registers that they are putting chains on this sanding truck, headed up the hill the other direction, so I step out into the street to see where they are going.


While everything is wet and melt-y right here at my house, just up yonder it is snowy and icy. (It looked like this a couple of months ago) I never realized that such a small change in elevation makes such a difference. Not that the elevation is very impressive. There's a sign at the top of that hill that says "elevation 500 feet". Our relatives from Montana, last summer, laughed and thought it was a joke.

So, that's what passes for excitement at my house this morning. Meanwhile the birds are busy at our bird buffet.

This pretty guy shows up on a regular basis. I thought he was a finch, but in checking my Western Birds book, I think he is, in fact, a Townsend's Warbler. I know—the slimy, dead geranium in the pot looks like hell. Victim of a hard winter.


I think this is a junco at the feeder. I built this bird feeder several years ago and went to some effort to find sheet copper for the roof. I envisioned it oxidizing to a nice coppery green, but it hasn't. Anyone know how to encourage that?

These tiny bush tits swarm the suet feeder, hanging just outside the front window. Sometimes it is so covered with little birds you can't see the feeder. Then they swoop away in a fluttery little mass.

I'm sewing something for Sofia. I had had visions of making all kinds of darling little ensembles for my grandchild, but sadly I haven't found as much time as I'd hoped. What I am making is turning out cute. I'll show you when I finish it!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Critique

Our small critique group met at my house yesterday. Big event that it was (not), it has already been covered extensively on both June and Gerrie's blogs. Deep in the February doldrums, I think any opportunity to get out of the house becomes fodder for the blogs!

I don't have a great setup for displaying art for critique. I propped one of my design boards against the fireplace and hoped that everything would be small. It wasn't.

Our process is to put up one work. The artist does not explain, nor even comment until the rest of us have had our say. Usually we contemplate, look up close, back away and look. Mary and Gerrie, here, are taking in June's painting. Gerrie emerged from deep concentration long enough to mutter, "are you taking a picture of my butt?" Sometimes, as in this case, we wonder if the piece works if you turn it upside down—or on its side. Hey, maybe it's even better that way!

Finally the artist has her turn to respond, explain, talk about what she was going for.


Gerrie brought her 12 x 12 "chair" piece. We had lots of ideas of other things she could have done and speculated how "this would have worked," or "what if . . .", but in the final analysis, it is beautiful just as it is.



Mary's work is always fun to see and even more fun to try to figure out before she gets her chance to explain what was on her mind. There is always a story, an idea and the clues are usually in the fabrics. Often her work has a political message.

This piece, the one that was too large for my design board, had no political implications and we all decided it was a map of some kind, with either a road or a river running through it. Bingo! It is Paris, made from French fabrics, purchased in Paris. The buttons represent famous places in Paris, the one on the island in the Seine is Notre Dame Cathedral. (I had said maybe it was the Rose Garden in the center of Portland's Ladd's Addition neighborhood—close?)

Here's my new piece, almost obscured by the contemplating butts, again.

June pushes us to think and asks provocative questions. She keeps us on the straight and narrow and doesn't allow us to veer from design analysis with technique comments or speculation ("do you think she glued those sequins on, or sewed them?") Here, she wonders aloud if my piece would "speak" to the other one if they were hung side by side.

It's a good exercise and good people. I find I get more out of a critique if I can show something in progress. I don't always agree with every idea that is presented, but I usually get something useful from the discussion. It is nice to be able to go back and work on the piece with that fresh perspective. We try to offer honest comments, without being brutal. We probably err on the side of being too nice, but we all know that. When the critique is finished we go out to lunch and leave our inner art critics behind.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Blood

When you donate blood they always slap this little sticker on you when you leave. I leave it there so that Ray will be nice to me. (ha!) As I've thought about it, it is probably there so that if you leave the bloodbank and faint on the sidewalk or in a store, someone will see that you have just given blood and respond accordingly. However that may be—

I have been giving blood pretty regularly for about 6 years now. Many years ago I gave blood several times and each time got dizzy and hot and felt icky, so I quit doing it. Six years ago I decided to try again and found that if I drink plenty of water beforehand I don't have that reaction. So I go. Because I can.

I read the long list of requirements for blood donation, because they make you read it each time, regardless of how many times you have donated. Then, as I wait for my name to be called I have a brief moment of panic, thinking about the large needle, and consider just quietly getting up and walking out the door, but I don't. I pick up a magazine from the display and take it into the donation area to distract myself. I like to find a New Yorker, which I don't often see and always has something good to read in it. I discovered awhile ago that if you start reading a New Yorker story, and don't finish it, you can always find it online later. Today I started reading this story and just finished it online this evening. It was an odd story, but I was attracted to the illustration.

The phlebotomist that took my blood today told me that before I came in this morning, she had taken blood from an 85 year-old man who told her that this would complete 20 gallons of blood he had donated and with that he was quitting. He told her that he regretted not having gone into a profession that helped people and that is why he started donating blood. He said he wished late in his life that he had become a policeman or firefighter and could have saved peoples' lives. She said he had probably saved many more lives with his blood donations than any single firefighter ever had. I liked that story. I was glad I hadn't walked out when I had the chance.

So, be nice to me. I gave blood today!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sunny Tuesday

It has been such a nice sunny day today and, for the first time in a long time, I have been able to spend most of the day working on my newest quilt. This is another for the green line show and uses the little 2" blocks I showed the other day. I am happy with the way it is progressing, but I had one unpleasant surprise. I discovered that the dark browny-green fabric I used for the top section seems to be a polyester blend. Ugh. I grabbed it at Jo-Ann's the other day because it was just the color I wanted. It was in the quilting department so I assumed it was 100% cotton, without checking the label. As I was quilting that area I became suspicious. Polyester gets unpleasantly poofy when quilted and doesn't sink as nicely into the stitching as cotton. I did a burn test and confirmed my suspicions. It is really too late to change it out easily, so I think I will live with it and learn my lesson about reading labels. I am really loving those greens though. Makes me think of spring.

There has been a way-too-long conversation about Jo-Ann's fabrics going on the QuiltArt list. It seems they made a decision to not sell a quilt magazine with racy quilts in it. Such silliness, but really Jo-Ann's is a silly, junky store. I'll probably go back because it is convenient, but I hate the place and should support the nice local stores instead. Polyester in the quilting department—that's just wrong.

A friend of my son posted this little video on Facebook. It is an amusing ode to my favorite store and though not filmed at my local Trader Joe's, which does not sell liquor, it all looks very familiar, right down to the too small parking lot.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Cheap decor and the view out the window

I have wanted something in front of our living room window ever since we moved in. Nothing that would take a lot of space, but some extra seating might be good and something in me can't leave an empty space unfilled. Many, many years ago I discovered unfinished furniture as a way of filling in those empty spaces without spending a lot of money. I am not talking about the cheapo pine deacon's benches and wobbly, spindly little tables, but nicely designed furniture made from good wood. There's a great store here in Portland that I have bought several pieces from over the years. Last week I found just the right sized bench there. It is a hardwood and very sturdily built. I brought it home and stained and finished it, and made a couple little cushions. I'm pretty happy with it.

Last week I glanced out that front window and saw this beautiful cat perched on the porch railing.

I hadn't seen him around, but he obviously belongs to someone, probably one of the neighbors. He looked so much like our old, beloved cat, Oliver. And what do you suppose he was gazing at so intently?

A cute little bird at the suet feeder.

There's always something going on outside that front window. Now I can sit on my little bench and get a better view.

Chairs

Here is my 12 x 12 "chair" piece. The story about these little childrens' chairs is posted with my piece on the 12 x 12 blog. What I was most interested in with this piece was trying out my idea of using a very limited pallette and using mostly neutrals. Some of the viewers commented on the 12 x 12 blog that it seemed "melancholy" or expressed "loss". That was not my intention, but I was going for a somewhat nostalgic look, sort of like old photos or engravings. I wonder if the subject matter seems to call for a more cheery color scheme, or if the story I wrote about the chairs led to the melancholy conclusion. It is endlessly fascinating to read/hear what impressions people get from one's artwork.
I hope you've checked out the chair pieces on the 12 x 12 blog. As always, they are wonderful. I feel so fortunate to be part of this group.

Making little thingies


I want to make another piece for the High Fiber Diet green line show and I also want to do more with my 2" block scheme. I've been making more of the little guys in a more limited palette. This is such a change from the more representational work I have been doing. It feels good to do something that is more free form. I think I want to explore this idea further. The little pieces are very fun to make. I am using bits and scraps and each one is a little composition unto itself. Sometimes the shape of a scrap will be the starting point for the the composition, sometimes something just suggests itself. Sometimes I make one that is really boring to look at, but when I group it with the others it finds it's own voice.
Later today (I am writing this just after midnight) the 12 x 12 "Chair" theme quilts will be revealed on the 12 x 12 blog. Tell me what you think of mine. It is also a bit of a change for me. I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the 12s have done.