Friday, December 30, 2011

Quilts and Stories

This has been a really tough month for my family in terms of loss. The last two of my father's siblings died within two weeks of each other. I have traveled to both Memorial services and grieved with my cousins the loss of a father and uncle, my Uncle Bill, and then the loss of a mother and aunt, my Aunt Susie. Yesterday at Aunt Susie's service my cousin Ginger and I were reflecting on the thought that we are now the "elder" generation of our family. A woman said to us, "You are now the keepers of the stories," which I guess we are. And there are stories, which we loved hearing and love telling, about this family surviving the depression in the oil fields of Wyoming and the wilds of Montana.

Before I left, Ginger presented me with two old quilts that her mother had kept, and told me the story that went with them.


Our grandmother, the amazing Hazle, had pieced two quilt tops from a salesman's sample book of wool fabrics. One winter all five of her children ended up home sick, at the same time, with measles I think. She piled them all into bed together and when they started feeling better and bored with being sick, she gave them each a big needle and a ball of yarn and set them to work tying the quilts.


The quilt above is tied with gray yarn and the knots are secure and tight probably 80 years later.

The second quilt was tied with bright blue yarn and is a slightly different design, though some of the fabrics are the same, notably the light pink fabric.



These quilts are not beautiful and they are very old and very worn. Nothing a collector or museum would want, and not really useful as bed quilts. They are raggedy and heavy and scratchy. But there is that story about all the brothers and sisters helping to put together good, warm bedding for the family, probably having a good time in the process and a distraction from being sick. And they come from the hands of my grandmother and all my aunts and uncles and my Dad. I think there is a little soul in that cloth.

I hung one of them over the railing in my studio today. It will keep me company as I work my own cloth. The other will go to my daughter if she wants it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mote Pillo

On Christmas morning my son-in-law cooked mote pillo (mo-tay pee-yo), a diet staple from his native city of Cuenca, Ecuador, for breakfast. Mote Pillo is delicious and it occurred to me that it is an easy recipe that should be shared. Here is a link to the recipe.

photo taken from website http://laylita.com/recipes/2008/03/27/mote-pillo/

It is basically hominy and scrambled eggs. Besides breakfast, it is one of those kind of comfort foods that makes a quick, satisfying dinner as well. I have made it with diced bacon cooked in it. Probably not authentic, but very tasty. The hominy (mote) in Ecuador has much bigger kernels than what we buy in a can here, but the canned will do. You can skip the achiote if you don't have it. It adds mostly color.

As we were enjoying our breakfast and complimenting Cayo on his mote pillo, Ray reminded us of the occasion upon which mote pillo "saved our lives."

On our first trip to Ecuador, in 1999, Emily took us to visit Cajas National Park, high in the Andes near the city of Cuenca, where she was living. It is a beautiful place, with many lakes and very interesting wildlife and flora. However the altitude is just under 15,000 feet, which, to put it in perspective, is about 3,000 feet higher than the highest point in Oregon, the top of Mt. Hood. We took a taxi to the park and planned to call a return taxi after hiking around some lakes and having lunch in the restaurant. We were looking forward to trout, caught fresh from one of the lakes. The hike was glorious, but the altitude was doing a number on me. I really was suffering by the time we got back around to our starting point. Ray and Emily somewhat less so. Ray took this very unflattering photo of me, but it illustrates how I was feeling.


To our dismay we found that the restaurant had closed while we were hiking, not only leaving us without our anticipated lunch, but locked out of access to the telephone we needed to call our taxi. Emily assured us that buses came by frequently, so we waited at the side of the highway. And waited. And waited. Then we started walking, hoping a bus would come by that we could flag down. The highway followed the route of an old Incan road and we could see remnants of it along the way. By now my head was pounding, my chest hurt—breathing was extremely difficult—and I felt like I was going to throw up. But we walked. Slowly. Eventually we spotted a small, shabby looking roadside restaurant and decided we had to have something to eat and drink before we could go on. The door was open but the owner said he was out of food and closing for the day. We looked pitiful and explained our dilemma and he offered to cook up a plate of mote pillo for us to share. We fell on it like wild dogs and I swear it was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten, even washed down with a warm Coca Cola. Amazing how much better I felt. We had no more than finished our meager meal, all but licking the plate, when a bus came around the curve. We flagged it down and dragged ourselves on board. Saved, by a plate of mote pillo and a rattly old bus.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Day after Christmas

It has been a quiet day here today. Never left the house or studio all day. We had such a nice Christmas day, with our family. I feel very blessed. I could regale you with photos of a table piled high with food and candles and the good dishes, but you've seen plenty of those photos today. I know I have. Ray and I gave each other a new printer/scanner for our office. Not exciting or flashy, but oh, so nice to have.  When I got my new laptop this summer suddenly our perfectly functional inkjet printer and our scanner were obsolete. Wrong kind of connectors for the new equipment. Irritating and wasteful in my opinion. The new machine also faxes—or it would if we had a telephone line, which we don't. Why fax, anyway? I don't know why people are still faxing things. Scan, attach, email. Does this not accomplish the same thing? Anyway—I do like the new machine and it uses the kind of ink that can be printed on fabric and made permanent.

I got a little studio time this afternoon. I am working on the valentine-y piece, which I am making to submit to a themed show about ritual.  One of my rituals is making Valentines every year. I send them instead of Christmas cards. I am working on some ideas that include some of my usual techniques as well as trying some new ideas. Here's one:

I am adding some couched cording by machine. I found that I could not keep it under control if I just freely stitched over a cord that I was holding in place, so I tacked the cording in place with some clear, washable glue, then free-motioned a narrow zigzag stitch over it. I like the way it is working.

I have fused many hearts onto a neutral background and I want to fill in and give some continuity with some of the free stitching I have been experimenting with, so I made a little sample to try it out. I wasn't sure it would work on as large a piece as this will be.


There will be a lot of ground to cover with this busy little kind of pattern.  Too much? Maybe. I think I like the way this is becoming a piece that is strongly about fabric and pattern and stitching. Sometimes I think I get too far into painting and shading and manipulating in a way that doesn't do justice to my materials and craft. This is a direction I want to explore more fully.

P.S. I love your comments, but I am really getting tired of all the spam comments coming through, especially by essay writing services. Are others of you being inundated with this stuff?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve, Bright and Sunny

It was a beautiful day today, so somewhere between wrapping the last presents, prep work for tomorrow's dinner and Ray's dusting and window washing (nothing like a sunny day to point out these needs—) we decided a good walk was in order.

Since we moved to our present home, we drive, almost daily, past a large, densely wooded tract with a small sign labeled "Lowami Hart Woods Park."  I knew that the little creek that runs through our property disappears into that wood, and I have been interested in exploring some of the trails. Today seemed like the perfect day. We crossed "our" creek several times as we made our way deeper into the forest. Our little creek was widening as it traveled along through stands of tall Douglas fir.

The sounds of traffic disappeared, replaced by chirping birds and and water softly splashing against rocks. The pale winter sun filtered through the trees casting long shadows.

Snowberry

Oregon grape and salal.

Fresh air, exercise and the beauty of the forest was energizing. It was a perfect break in a busy day.

And now I am off to bed and looking forward to Christmas with my family. I wish you all a lovely day and the joy of Christmas present and memories of Christmas past to warm you.

Love, Terry

Friday, December 23, 2011

Feeling very sad tonight. My Aunt Susie passed away this afternoon. I wasn't prepared for this. Aunt Susie was a pistol!—beautiful, clever, vivacious and full of life. She was the adored baby of the Howard family, sister of my father and my Uncle Bill, who left us only a couple weeks ago. She had the kindest heart, the biggest smile, the most glorious laugh and a wicked sense of humor. Everyone loved Susie. The world is not as warm and bright and fun without her. I couldn't bear the agony she was suffering this past week, but I can hardly bear the thought of her gone from us.

All my aunts and uncles are gone now. I am now the oldest living member of that part of my family.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tacoma

I am a little embarrassed to even tell about the dumb-headed error we made regarding our quick trip to Tacoma this week. One of our goals was to visit the Glass Museum and another, The Tacoma Art Museum. We discovered when we arrived on Tuesday that both museums, indeed all the museums in Tacoma, close on both Monday and Tuesday during the winter months. What?? Impossible!—Sorry. Possible. My error. I know museums tend to be closed on Mondays. Tuesday didn't occur to me and I didn't check. So we threw ourselves into the Puget Sound and that was the last that was seen or heard of us  re-thought our strategy and had fun in spite of our poor planning.

Lucky us. We had decided to stay at the Hotel Murano, named for the famous island of glass artisans near Venice, Italy. Tacoma's identity, you see, is all about glass art since native son Dale Chihuly became famous and built his Museum of Glass in Tacoma. The Hotel Murano took the theme and ran with it.

I took this photo of the front desk as Ray was checking us in.. Everything about the hotel is cool and beautiful.


Even the elevators are beautiful with fused glass panels similar to the one at the front desk.


The hotel is filled with art, mostly glass art, but in the lobby I spotted a screen print by a favorite artist, and another Washington native, Chuck Close.


In a large display case was this intricate piece by Italian artist, Lucio Bubacco.


A closer look shows that it includes figures blowing and forming glass over glass flames. Magical.


In the grand corridor and staircase leading the meeting rooms off the lobby is this installation of three glass "Viking Boats" by Danish artist, Vibeke Skov.


Each floor of the hotel  features a different glass artist, with an example of their work and photos of them at work in their studios lining the main hallway. Beautifully presented. We started at the top floor and walked down each hallway, viewing each display. Did we miss the glass museum? Maybe we did, but this was certainly a wonderful art viewing experience. Here is the piece featured on our floor—the first thing you see as you exit the elevator.

Fish Hanger #49, Hiroshi Yamano

Another that I loved. These are Danish, but made me think of the Japanese rice bowls I keep coming back to. So cold and lovely.

Nests, Tobias Mohl

And so much more than I am showing you. We spent hours wandering the hotel, looking at the art.

We walked through the theater district and the old downtown, across the Bridge of Glass and into the shops around the museums. A cold mist rose from the Sound and we headed back to the hotel for a drink and a card game.

Twilight view from our hotel room.


We walked down the street to the beautiful Thai Restaurant that my friends and I dined at last summer, when we were in Tacoma for the APWQ show at the convention center. We justified a sumptuous dinner and extravagant bottle of wine by reminding ourselves of the museum fees we had saved.

The next day, the Solstice dawned, with the sun rising from behind Mt. Rainier, seen out that same window.

The train trip home, along Puget Sound and the Columbia River was frosty and beautiful. We read and napped and arrived home ready to take on Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

In the Bleak Mid-Winter


  

Perhaps it isn't the bleak midwinter yet, given that winter doesn't even start for a couple more days, but it is bleak—dark in the mornings and dark in the afternoon. I am convinced that is why we love to festoon our homes with lights this time of year. Christmas, I suppose, has a lot to do with it, but really I think it is a primitive yearning for light that gives those seasonal decorations their ability to so fill our eyes and hearts with such sensual joy.


The lack of winter light is the one thing that I do not love about our home in Oregon. I remember snow-covered, bitterly cold days in Idaho when the sun would shine so intensely that the whole world sparkled like crystals. You could breathe in shards of light and ice that crackled in your lungs. Perhaps it was not so bracing as I remember, but on dark, foggy days I remember those brilliant winter days with clarity and longing. So I light candles and sit in front of the Christmas tree and absorb what light I can.

We are taking the train to Tacoma tomorrow for a short getaway. Good food and a visit to the Glass Museum. Tonight I learned that there is an exhibit of Mexican Folk Art at the Art Museum. Could not be better. Puget Sound, glass, Mexican art—should reflect enough light to get us by through the Solstice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It was a good day—mostly

Off I went, this morning, to the Columbia FiberArts Guild quarterly meeting, with a hot latte in hand and money in my purse. This lovely organization is one of the highlights of my life these days. There is a lot to be said for a group that meets only four times a year. Sort of makes it an occasion, you know? Today was our annual silent auction that funds the guild's outreach program which is teaching quilting to women in the local women's prison. It has been a wonderful program, giving imprisoned women an opportunity for fellowship while learning sewing skills and self-expression. The quilts these women make sometimes represent one of the first really creative, positive things they have ever done. I did not donate anything to this year's auction, so felt morally obligated to treat myself to something—only supporting the cause, you understand! Lucky for me my friend Georgia French had donated some lovely little pieces of stitched art. This one came home with me.


I also bought a small book of Japanese Samurai designs which are very inspiring.

The program for the meeting was Jean Hicks, from Seattle, a felter. Click on her name to see some of the most whimsical and astounding hats imaginable. She also does really thought provoking felt sculpture. Felting is not something I have ever had much interest in. To be very honest I think most of what I see is pretty dreadful—reminiscent of something the cat coughed up— but Jean Hick's work is sublime. And she was a good, very engaging speaker with great slides and samples to share. Toward the end of her lecture she passed out puffs of wool roving to everyone in attendance and had us roll it between our palms to create little felted wool balls, demonstrating the magical simplicity of the process. Excellent program.

When I got home I found that my copy of "The Best of Quilting Arts" book had arrived. It is a compilation of selected articles from several years of Quilting Arts magazine. My article about an edge finish for a small piece was included.



It was shaping up as a very good day, then Ray tried to cut his thumb off with a saw. OK, that's an exaggeration. He was trimming the trunk off the Christmas tree and the saw slipped, cutting the base of his thumb badly enough that it required some stitches. He's fine and came home from the urgent care clinic and finished the job on the tree, which is now standing in the living room awaiting lights and decorations.

Ho, ho, ho. It's always something.

Monday, December 12, 2011

And life goes on...

I made a quick decision Thursday, late, to fly to Boise on Saturday for my Uncle Bill's memorial service. His death hit me hard for several reasons. It seemed it took me a long time to appreciate him and that was a lesson in—well, I almost said how people change—but really I think in how age often reveals the real person. Under his bluster, which faded away as years went by, was a man who cared deeply about his family and friends, and in old age found ways to express it. He was my last uncle, the last, closest link to my father. The survivor and, though shaky and frail in recent years, clear-headed and still clearly the patriarch of the family. His daughters planned a remembrance both moving and true and filled with the humor he would have so enjoyed. My plans for the weekend were put aside and I am so very glad I went. I will catch up.

Meanwhile, here on the home front, I am getting quilts ready to show and working on the next. I continue to tweak the studio. The cutting table, which I located under the stairs, was not lighted well enough.  I thought we still had a hanging light I bought many years ago for my first studio space in our old laundry room. Ray unearthed it from the shed and after I cleaned it up, it looked almost new. It does the job perfectly.


And hearts. I think I am finally loosening up and getting to where I really wanted to be.


Friday, December 09, 2011

Little gifts in little boxes

Our STASH* group has a tradition of little gifts. When one of us goes on a trip or at Christmas or other occasions, we give each other little gifts. Nothing expensive, nothing much, but it has been fun to find nifty little, inexpensive items. When I was in Houston the vendor area there was overwhelming. It was so much visual overload that I could not even focus and didn't buy very much, but I came across a booth of tools that I spent a lot of time in. There I found the perfect gift for the STASH members. Finger lights!

It's a little light that straps to your finger with velcro. It looked like a great aid for hand-sewing. I got one for each of the STASH friends, and one for myself.  When I showed them to fellow Twelve, Diane, in Houston she noted that they were perfect little gifts—useful, but also a little bit funny!

Yesterday STASH met for lunch in downtown Portland—our annual holiday splurge. We went to a lovely Vietnamese restaurant and I took my little gifts to my friends. I made little boxes from recycled magazine pages and I think everyone liked them. Reva said the light was perfect for—chickens. She has urban chickens. I don't know where the light comes in, but if it makes her a better chicken wrangler that's a good thing!


Aren't the little boxes pretty? I finally found a good use for my copies of Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine. After subscribing to the magazine I found it just isn't my kind of thing, but it's full of pretty pictures. Want to know how to make these boxes? They are easy.

The ones I made are about 2.5" square and an inch and a half tall. You need to start with a square piece of paper. For this size I start with a 7" square. I choose a page with a nice image on it. The more image, the better, but if there is text toward the edges it ends up inside usually. So it isn't a problem—or the text can be part of the design. Don't be too picky about where the image is or how centered, etc. You never know how the final piece will look and it is usually better than you expected! The serendipity of it is part of its charm. You will need two sheets for a box, so choose two pages that coordinate, more or less.


One will be the top of the box. Trim that page to 7" square. The box bottom needs to be slightly smaller to fit inside the top, so trim that sheet to 6.75" square.  Find the center of the top, on the back side, by running your ruler from corner to corner diagonally and making a mark across the center. Mark it on the opposite diagonal so you have an X marking the center.


Fold each of the four corners into the center.


You will have new, smaller square. Fold one side into the center and crease it sharply. Open it back up, but be sure you can see the fold line. Repeat with the other three sides.


Lay it flat with the last side folds opened so you just see the crease lines.


 Using the fold lines as a guide, cut into two of the opposite sides, to the fold line, as indicated.


Open up the center sections of the sides you cut, fold the other two sides into a box shape, then fold the opened side sections over the folded ends to enclose them.


You can secure the four points in the center inside with a dab of glue or piece of tape, but I usually don't find that necessary. The folded points seem to sort of lock together.

To make the bottom half of the box just repeat these steps with the smaller sheet of paper.


Slip the smaller box into the larger one. Voila! You are finished.


You can vary the sizes depending on the size of your paper. Just be sure to make the bottom from a sheet that is approximately .25" smaller than the larger one. Available paper usually limits the size to fairly small boxes, but larger boxes can be made using pretty shopping bags or posters. The larger boxes should be made from heavier paper than magazine pages.


* STASH = Second Thursday At Somebody's House. There are currently six regular members— all fabric/textile artists/enthusiasts.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


 When I was a child my Uncle Bill seemed like such a grouchy guy—not so interested or comfortable with children (though he ended up with six of his own), and unlike his brother, my sweet and gentle father, Uncle Bill was gruff and blustery.  I mostly stayed out of his way for a lot of years. As I got older I started to see his softer side, his love for his grandchildren especially; his intelligence and humor; his generosity; and found a warm and loving uncle. I'm sure he mellowed with age, but my perceptions probably became more tolerant as well. He and Dad were business partners and our families were closely intertwined. When my Dad died no one took it harder than Uncle Bill. They had spent nearly every day of their lives together. As an adult I loved talking with him. He had always read something interesting or had a story to tell.

Four years ago family members contributed memories for a book to celebrate his 90th birthday. I sent this:

Dear Uncle Bill,
I am sorry I won’t be there to help you celebrate your 90th birthday, but I know you will have a lot of family surrounding you, who will make the most of this auspicious occasion.


I’d like to add a memory to your book—one of many, many. There were so many Christmas breakfasts and funny stories about General Sherman, the dog, but one time that stands out in my mind was the night you and Dad, and all the kids, slept out in your orchard to watch the meteor shower. 


You and Dad worked so hard, and such long hours back in those days, that it was rare for us kids to get to spend much time with either of you, much less both at the same time, but you two decided we should have a sleepover in the orchard. I think we cooked hamburgers and hot dogs and we kids played in your big yard and spent some time clearing apples off the grass to make a nice soft spot to sleep that night. Then, when it began to get dark, we spread our sleeping bags and settled in to watch the sky. It started slowly with a shooting star or two, then increased as the sky got darker. That was back when you could still really see a lot of stars (maybe you still can, from your orchard) and you and Dad pointed out the Milky Way and some of the constellations.


One of the kids asked a question about what it had been like when you and Dad were kids and you started telling stories. That night we heard all about life on the Huntley Project and how you could go out the bedroom window and over the fence and be at school in two minutes. We heard about building motorized vehicles using Grandma’s washing machine engine and rolling Dad down a hill inside a barrel and playing and finding buttons and bits near the Custer battlefield. We learned that when you went away to college you and Dad shared an overcoat, I think handed down from a relative, so only one of you could go out on a date in the winter—the one whose turn it was to wear the coat. I can’t even remember all the stories, or especially the details, but I remember the picture you painted of your early life. It sounded like such fun, such an adventure. I lay in the dark listening to you and Dad talk and laugh and I could picture you as boys.  We all drifted off to sleep with the stars still falling overhead. I woke up later and listened to the sounds of everyone sleeping and watched the stars for awhile, then went back to sleep, but I remember thinking, “I’m going to remember tonight.” And I have.


Have a wonderful birthday celebration!
With love,
Terry


He left us, last night in his sleep. He had a good life. Rest in peace, Uncle Bill.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Foggy

Not me. I'm not foggy—at least not today. But it has been foggy and cold here all day today. A good day to stay indoors and notice how delicate and soft the fog outdoors is.

The grandchildren were here today and we watched Ray fill the bird feeder with seeds and hang suet blocks for the birds. Lots of little birds fluttering about looking for something to eat.

All this through the windows today. I haven't left the house, not even to get the mail. Played "Go Fish," made Christmas candies with Sofia, sketched while the kids napped.

I think I have been over-thinking the heart design.

The fog never did lift today and I never left the house. OK by me.