Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sigh . . .

More Japanese Lantern magic. Thanks Libbie!

"Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose"

John Singer Sargent

"The Lantern Bearers"

Maxfield Parrish

Don't we all need Japanese lanterns in our yards this summer? Just sayin' . . .

Waiting for this

There were days in December and January that even my imagination couldn't conjure up the feel and smell of a summer evening. While not technically summer, this evening feels like a beautiful summer night. Perhaps the first of the season that really delivers.

Last summer when the 12 x 12 theme was "illumination" my piece was Japanese Lanterns and I talked about imagining our new home, and how it might feel on a summer evening and I confess I have been obsessed with Japanese lanterns ever since.

A couple months ago, on a miserably rainy day I ran into a grocery store to pick up a few items and noticed several boxed up lanterns on the clearance table in the floral department. At half price, I bought two, wondering if they would provide the magic I was seeking. They are solar lights, and since I hung them a couple days ago this one seems to have "powered up" much better than the other. The glow is perfect—exactly what I hoped for. Hanging on the deck, I can see it from inside as well as outside.

I stepped outside a few minutes ago and could see the beautiful crescent moon through the trees, smell the grass and hear the frogs singing their nighttime song. Ahhh, summer. Maybe it really is here. I'm ready.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A quick trip

Last week Ray and I took a quick trip south to Roseburg, Oregon to see the High Fiber Diet Line Dance show at the Umpqua Valley Art Association. We stopped in Oakland, Oregon for lunch at Tolley's, which has been a favorite place for years. The little town of Oakland is very Historic and looks like it did in the 1800's. Tolleys is in a wonderful old building on the main street. On this visit we found the food only fair, the service not great and the news that the business is for sale. Now I see on their web site that they are planning to raffle it off. Sad. It seems a sign of the times.

I remember the first time we stopped at Tolly's, shortly after moving to Ashland, Oregon. Our kids were very small and we were on our way to Portland to take the train back to Idaho for Christmas. The food was so good and the restaurant was beautifully decorated for Chistmas. We still have a Christmas ornament purchased at Tolley's on that trip. They used to have antiques and gifts in this part of the building, which is now a bar.

Sitting outside on the sidewalk was this old trunk. I have one just like it at home.

After leaving Oakland, we went on to Roseburg and found the Art Association Gallery. I think the community building was once a school, turned into a bustling art center. The art gallery is beautiful and our work looked pretty great, I have to say!

left to right, work by Amy Hahn, Carol Heist, me, Laura Jennings and Zee Wilks

On the plexi screen left to right, work by Karen Miller, Mary Goodsen. On the back wall left of the screen two of my pieces, right of screen Mary Arnold, Shirley MacGregor and Amy Hahn

left to right, work by Georgia French, Mary Goodsen, Carol Heist and me

It was fun to read the comments in the guest book—all positive and the staff seemed very enthusiastic about our show. So nice to feel appreciated! The show runs through June 5. If you are going north or south through Oregon on I-5 stop in Roseburg. The gallery is just a few blocks off the interstate.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In today's mail

My copy of American Quilter containing an article I wrote.

It is about the fusing technique I use for my art quilts—my own invention, sort of.

I wrote a blog tutorial about the technique several years ago, which led to my being asked to write the magazine article. The folks who make the Liquid Thread product that I use were pretty happy when I published the blog tutorial and sent me a nice package of their products. They should be even happier to see the printed article. You can see there is a photo of their product included in the article.

The article includes a pattern page in case you'd like to make the little "Bird with Berry" piece that illustrates the article.

Pretty neat, huh?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Another chair

Several weeks ago I stopped at an estate sale and picked up this nice, heavy wooden outdoor chair.

We've been talking about making a little sitting area out front under one of the big, old trees and when I spotted this chair it looked like it would be great for reading in the shade with a nice glass of iced tea sitting on the wide armrest. The cushion looked pretty gnarly—the picture was taken after I soaked it in the laundry tub with a good dose of bleach to kill the mildew and then baked it in the sun for several days. The result was clean and cooty-free, but dated and boring, so I picked up a couple of yards of outdoor canvas and made a cover for the cushion. Snazzy, eh?

I can't decide whether to leave the wood as is or paint it. Shiny black? Dark green? I saw some painted wood lawn chairs in the new Sunset magazine today. They looked pretty sharp.

I realize chairs are a continuing theme on this blog. Remember this—and this—and this—and this—and this—and this?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

33 years ago

I woke up early in labor on the morning of the 22nd. After a check at the hospital late in the morning we were told to go home and "walk". A soft rain was falling but we walked through our neighborhood, stopping to admire the May flowers and cut grass. The old houses, the cracked sidewalks, the bright green was clean and fragrant in the rain. When a contraction started I would stop and lean against a fence or sit for a moment on a retaining wall. Ray would watch the sky and hold my hand. We walked through a big and rambling store. At one point we saw friends who asked, "how's it going?" "I'm in labor—we're having a baby." Strangers turned and smiled. An old man gave me a thumb's up.

It was just after midnight, on the 23rd, when we knew it was really time, this time, and threw on clothes and drove through empty streets, wet with rain, to the hospital. That was the time before sonograms and knowing months in advance the gender. I had a beautiful 2-year-old son. I hoped fervently for a girl, but steeled myself and prepared myself to love another boy with all my heart. The Dr. had said, at my last visit "I think we have a nice big boy." In the delivery room the nurse listened to the heartbeat and said, "good and strong—it's a boy. I'm never wrong." And then my daughter was here, and I wept with joy. She didn't breathe at first, and the nurses whisked her away, but soon returned with the news that she was fine, just fine. And then I saw how very fine she was. Beautiful, in fact.

I've never accepted that old, oft-repeated pronouncement that you don't remember the pain of giving birth. For me, the memory is strong, even after all these years—of pain, of focus, of determination and intense effort and the knowledge of miraculous power and awesome responsibility. These are things you don't forget.

Today is my lovely daughter's birthday and we celebrate her life and all she has brought to us and to the world. And I have my own little celebration and remember.

And, Happy Birthday today to our nieces, Melissa and Jessica, both also born on May 23. Big day in our family!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Big Adventure

Yesterday was a big adventure. High Fiber Diet, the group that Gerrie and I belong to had a meeting planned in Philomath, Oregon, where Karen Miller (another member) currently has a show of her work hanging at the Historical Museum. We planned to see her show, then hold our regular meeting. As it happened, a QuiltArt friend, Sue Reno, is in Portland this week, and Gerrie invited her to go along with us. We have "known" Sue, who lives in Pennsylvania, via the internet for many years, but had never met face to face, so this was a special occasion!

We started out around noon and decided a drive through Oregon's wine country would give Sue a better view of Oregon than the freeway. We stopped at the Dundee Bistro for lunch, then headed south toward Philomath. I missed the first turn at McMinnville and soon figured out we were headed for the ocean, instead of Philomath, but a look at the map showed us that we were still fine and could take a different route through Dallas (Oregon, not Texas) and end up in Philomath. But something went wrong in Dallas and we ended up on a gravel road that wound around through the hinterlands, but eventually spit us out in Monmouth. Back to the map and back on course. We were only about 30 minutes late and Sue saw lots of Oregon in one afternoon!

Karen's work looked beautiful in the spacious museum gallery.

Sue, Gerrie and Karen

Karen uses the Japanese stencil cutting and printing technique called Katazome and her work is very beautiful and very distinctive. Her background as a professor of marine biology is evident in her special love of sea life as a subject for her work.

This mandala of sea creatures was one of my favorite pieces.

Diatoms! I recognized these right away, having just learned that the mystery sculptures I saw in April in downtown Portland were images of diatoms. Isn't it interesting when you learn something new, that you had never heard of before, suddenly it pops up again.

We had a good meeting, then all went into Corvallis for dinner before heading home. It was a much shorter trip back to Portland. I took the freeway.

It was a lovely day all the way around. So nice to spend a beautiful spring day with friends, old and new, see beautiful scenery, eat good food and view inspiring art. And I have saved the best for last. I have a souvenir that will always remind me of this very nice day. Sue gave me a lovely piece of her own artwork. It is sitting next to my computer where I can enjoy it until I find the right frame for it. I'm a lucky person!

P.S. In case you ever need to know—Philomath is pronounced "f-LO-muth". And we taught Sue to say "ORY-gun" not "oh-reh-GONE". Oregon place names can be challenging. Tualatin, anyone??

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The stepping stone project

You might remember back in March, Ray was pouring concrete stepping stones in molds. These were for a small paving project, which is progressing. This will be an extension to the sidewalk that comes up to the front porch. Eventually the front yard will be relandscaped, with no grass and mostly native plants. Pathways will come off this little paved area and wind down to the creek and around the side of the house.
This is how the project looked a couple days ago.

The stepping stones look very new and nearly white. They would age naturally over time, but I wanted to make them more subtle and bring out the designs, so I stained them with diluted acrylic paint. Little by little natural aging will replace the stain, but I think this will help the transition.

The bricks and stones are set on a base of sand and when everything is in place, they will get more sand swept across them to fill in the spaces between.

This morning Ray is working on final touches—a wood border to hold everything in place. Of course his faithful companion Gracie keeps an eye on the proceedings.

It looks quite like an arrow pointing out to the lawn right now, but I think when we get the landscaping and pathways in it will be a nice little bit of texture and interest right in front of the house.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rotate, repeat

I showed you the stamp that I carved this week and one way of using it for a repeating pattern. There is something pretty special about the structure of that design, in my opinion. A square with a diagonal line through it is one of my favorite design elements. It is very versatile. The piece I printed, rotating the design each time I printed created a secondary grid. Change the rotation pattern and you get rows of zigzags.

Print it, repeatedly, without rotating and you get a secondary pattern of diagonal lines.

This rotation creates a radiating medallion.

Eva asked if the design of the stamp is South American. No, it's my own design, but certainly the kind of thing you often see in Inca or Mayan design, or even African textiles. I was reminded of the patterns I saw in the wonderful anthropology museum in Mexico City a couple years ago. I even remarked in that post that some of them would make great rubber stamps. Hmmm—I think I need to follow up on that idea.

Amy asked what I stamped with. Fabric paint.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rubber stamp printing

I continue to fiddle around with different ways to print fabric. Carving stamps is still one of my favorites. You may remember that I had a bunch of my family members carving stamps at the cabin a couple years ago. I decided to carve one that I can use for a repeating pattern. Here it is drawn on the stamp carving material before I started to carve it.

I have several kinds of carving materials. I don't remember where I got this pink stuff, but I think it was pretty inexpensive and, as it turns out, isn't as good as some others. It is softer, which actually makes it harder to carve and get nice, crisp cuts. Imagine the difference between slicing soft mozzarella cheese and cutting a firmer cheese like Swiss. The mozzarella is bouncy and compresses instead of cutting. Similar problem with this material. But it worked for my purposes. I wouldn't use it for anything I wanted precise and detailed.

The tools I used included block cutting tools and an exacto knife, which was good for sharp corners. The black lines are the design that will print, so I carved out the areas between the black lines. When you cut, the v-shapes cutters work really nicely because you get a cut that slants away from the part that will print. This makes your stamp stronger than if the sides of those printing lines are cut straight down.

When I finished the cutting the stamp I "proofed" it using a stamp pad and a scrap of paper. My first stamp was the one at the bottom right. I could see that it needed to be cleaned up and some areas cut away a bit more. The final image is the one at the top left. It is rustic, but a pretty clean image.

You can use the stamp just as it is, or mount it on something. For repeating designs I like to mount the stamp on a square of clear plexiglas a little bigger than the image. You can then hold onto the plexi and keep fingers out of both the paint or ink and off the fabric you are printing. Because you can see through the plexi, you can position the design exactly where you want it.

Here is the first piece of fabric I printed with it. I love the secondary grid pattern that forms. When you print on fabric the images are never as sharp as on paper, but that is fine for me. I like the mottled texture and inconsistencies.

I think this stamp will have a lot of uses.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

STASH booklet

A couple years ago I blogged about the little yearbooks that I make for our STASH (Some Thursday At Somebody's House) group. I just finished this year's book and will take them to our meeting tomorrow. It actually goes into 2010, but I decided to identify it as 2009.

I just love this little booklet, that is made from a single sheet of letter size paper. The finished, folded size is about 2.75" x 4.25"—just the right size to fit into a wallet or pocket or inside purse pocket. It lists the dates and places for our meetings for the next year on one page. Names, addresses and contact info of our members on two of the pages and this year I added a page with everyone's birthdays listed. There are actually still two blank pages that could be used if our group should grow larger.

I have a template for this little book in both Publisher and Adobe InDesign. If you'd like it, email me and I will send it to you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why'd you buy those letters?

Awhile back—months ago I think, Sandy Donabed mentioned on her blog that she had bought a box of chipboard letters at TJMaxx and was thinking about using them for sun printing. I had seen the same box of letters at our TJ and carried them around the store for awhile, trying to figure out why I needed them. I didn't buy them, but then Sandy mentioned that great idea and I went right back and bought them in two sizes. And I finally got around to trying them out today.

I painted a piece of fabric with fabric paints. Setacolor paints advertise themselves as being "sun paints" but really any kind of fabric paint, probably any kind of acrylic paint for that matter, will work the same.

While the fabric was still quite wet, I placed the cardboard letters on it and sprinkled it with salt. The salt makes a nice speckled texture on the fabric.

Then I carried the whole shebang outside and put it to dry in the sun. The sun is not magic and doesn't really create the image. It happens because the part of the fabric that is not covered with something dries faster than what is covered and as it dries it wicks the wet paint out from under the covered areas, leaving them lighter. I do find that the images are sharper when it dries quickly, though, so a nice sunny day works best for me.

That board it is on is my fabric painting board. I've been using it for years. Long ago it had a sheet cake delivered from a bakery on it. I wiped the frosting off it and took it home. You just never know when the perfect thing is going to show up in your life!

Once it is dry, remove the letters and shake off all the salt.

I don't know what I'm going to do with this. So, why did I make it?


Sunday, May 10, 2009

What I like to see

My son, my daughter, my granddaughter—after dinner, on my deck. Andy reads to his niece. Emily watches and listens. I carry dishes inside. I'm lucky to have them so close to me. I know that, and when I feel that I feel a twinge of guilt about what my parents missed by our having moved hundreds of miles from them. But I think of what my mother said. "No matter how far away you go, I am with you in my heart and mind." And she was.

My children are adults with their own complicated lives. I feel no less a mother, however. The job has changed. Really, it's not so much a job as a state of mind. I think of all I have learned by being a mother, mostly about the nature of love and just how wide and deep it can be. I think I'm a better person for having had children—a different person than I would have been, for certain.

Happy Mothers' Day to everyone who is or has or had a mother.

Friday, May 08, 2009

And yet again

It is so useful take pictures of your work and really look at them. I think when you look at the actual piece you tend to see what your vision was and not necessarily the reality. The flaws reveal themselves in photographs.

After I posted that last picture I realized that there was just too, too much going on there. That red-ish strip at the top just leapt off the screen. The plaid—naw, not so good today. Surgery was called for. Stat. I whacked it down to a near square, just about 8" and finished the edges. I like this so much better. Better photo too.

And so it goes—

Let's try that again—

No comments on my "Marionberries". Hmmm. When I looked at the post this morning I thought, "what an awful photo!" That's what happens when I decide to take a picture at night with ambient lighting. I don't usually use my flash, preferring to use available light, but clearly what was available wasn't very good. I took the piece outside this morning and took another shot.

Much better, I think. More accurate anyway. Here's the old one:

What was I thinking?

Well, maybe you still have nothing to say about this piece. Was it a mistake to make those berries so much bigger than life? Do they look, instead, like bloated bunches of grapes? And the plaid. That was quite unplanned, but as I was pulling possible backings out of my stash I came upon the plaid and when I piled things up I sort of liked a bit of it sticking out around the outside. It seemed to finish it, but I was dubious. That plaid dates back to my short-lived, late '80s "country cottage" phase.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

It's the berries

Larger than life marionberries. This was today's project. It's small—about the size of a sheet of paper. I feel like working on small things. Short attention span.

My "Letter from Mexico" collage sold the first day of the Collage Mania auction, which made me feel good. Since I didn't get my act together to make more than one piece it was nice that it sold at the higher price. The fundraiser made $17,000 for the American Cancer Association. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Fiberarts for a Cause

Today is the first day of Virginia Spiegel's "Collage Mania" online event. It is an opportunity to buy a wonderful piece of collage art and benefit the American Cancer Society. With similar events, Virginia has raised more than $170,000 for cancer research over the past few years. Every cent that is donated for the purchase of a piece of art goes to the ACS. There are no operating expenses, no mailing expenses—everything is donated. I have really felt great about contributing to her events over the past few years.

This is my collage, "Letter from Mexico" that I donated this year. You can see all the donated pieces here. Mine is on page 20. All pieces are either 8"x10" or mounted on something that size. Today each piece sells for $80. Tomorrow the price drops to $40.

The piece is dedicated to my parents, who were each victims of cancer. It also celebrates a wonderful trip to Mexico. It seems ironic to me that it is the piece I donated just now as Mexico is struggling with so many problems. So many times this winter I have awakened to rain, snow, cold and thought "I wish I was in Mexico!" Well, not recently, but I do hope to return some day.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Another rainy day

We were doing some landlord things at our old house today and drove home in the darnedest rainstorm. It was the kind where you had to turn your car wipers on as fast as they would go—that setting that you almost never use—and I could still barely see the road. We got home to find our creek swollen higher and wider than we've ever seen it.

Ray just planted some of our nice native plant finds on the creek banks. They may be goners.

I put up some shelves in my sewing room yesterday and celebrated by making a small piece, using the trillium photo I took a couple weeks ago as inspiration.

It was fun to do and went together quickly. I have been thinking about small images used in a more abstract setting. I think the trillium might be a little wimpy and overpowered.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Treasures from the sea

I'll bet a majority of people have a little stash of stuff they've picked up on a beach somewhere in their house—especially if they live anywhere near the ocean. My sea treasures reside in this glass jar in my bathroom. (The speckled glass ball you see in there actually has nothing to do with the ocean. It was made from Mt. St. Helen's ash, but it seemed to fit with the ocean stuff.)

Last week when I was at the beach with the STASH group we took a walk on the beach, and as I always do, I picked up rocks and stuck them in my pocket. We didn't see any shells or sand dollars this time. My jar contains shells from many beaches, but mostly the Oregon coast.

I grew up in Idaho, but my grandparents lived in Oregon and our trips to visit them usually included a trip to the beach. Some of these shells date back to those trips.

Back in those days it was still possible to find the green glass floats from Japanese fishing nets that washed up on the beach. My grandparents had a bunch of them. The large one in the picture was one my mother had. I don't know if she found it or bought it. You could buy them in the gift shops along the coast for pretty cheap. The small one is one that I found with my grandfather. To this day I don't know if he planted it for me to find, or if we really found one that had just washed in. It is rather unusual in that it has a little bit of water inside it. It is a mystery how it got there and it is still there after probably 50 years. The starfish (or sea stars as they are now called) were gathered from the beach on one of our trips. You could do that back then. Nowadays it is illegal to remove them from Oregon beaches if they are alive. I still remember how bad they smelled in the car on the trip home. They slowly lost all their color. I think one was purple and one a coral color originally.

I don't remember where the two little seahorses came from. I suspect they were a childhood purchase from one of the Oregon giftshops on a summer trip.

For years I picked up beach glass. This is a handful of my collection. I love the frosty look, cool colors and smoothed off edges, even though I know it is essentially litter. I continue to look for it, but I haven't found a single piece in quite a few years now. I think I found most of this on the southern Oregon coast when we lived in southern Oregon. Maybe there is something different about the northern coast and beach glass. Or maybe it is reflection of the fact that most of our soft drinks are now in cans or plastic bottles. I miss it. Finding a piece was truly like finding a little gem among the rocks and debris. Is there still beach glass out there, somewhere?