Thursday, April 26, 2007

just dropping in to say hi

I spent the bulk of yesterday making kits for the Sew What class I am teaching in Chicago next week: copper sheet and mesh, mica, watercolor paper and more. For every teaching day there is almost one day of outside class preparation. For the 5 days I am teaching next week, add 5 days of class prep, 4 days of travel (to 2 locations), and at least a day or two to decompress and you can see how easily 5 days of teaching takes over 2 weeks. Over a year, that sure adds up to a lot!

It's all very left-brained too, itemizing, counting, making your lists and checking them twice (or 3 or 4 times). We had glorious weather the past few days (rain today, sadly) and I longed to be outdoors in the sun where the air was just the right temperature to wrap myself in. I remembered again how much of my time Down Under was spent out of doors. I felt so good, strong, alive. Part of it was the lack of routine and responsibility, but I know the key was being outdoors for most of the day.

I dream of driving back to Baltimore to explore and photo-
graph more angels. There is a wonderful sense of peace at a cemetery. Buddy asked if I felt any presence while I was walking the cemeteries. I was very involved in looking for and photographing angels, so I had to stop and think...the answer was no, I did not. There was a definite sense of peace and calm that day. He asked because he knows that I usually can feel the presence of a spirit. I have been in a lot of vacant houses when appraising real estate. Homes have vibes, that I know for sure. And some homes have bad vibes or an uneasiness - an unhappy presence. I am certainly no Alison Dubois (Medium, the TV show), but I am tuned in to my intuition. I don't see auras, but I can read people pretty well. Whoa, where is this going? How did I go from class kits to spirituality in just a few short paragraphs? I just love how that happens. I best get back to class prep before I spend the day going down the rabbit hole that is the internet, researching auras and how to see much to do, so little time.

Monday, April 23, 2007

More Chicago Photos

time to relax and visitThe Quiltart/
SAQA reception hosted by Karey Bresen-
han was wonderful as always. It's worth joining either of these great organizations just to be included in the fun. The time is a rare chance to sit down and actually talk to people in what can be a very hectic and hurried week or weekend. Here you see (l to r) Pokey (Patricia) Bolton Editor of Quilting Arts & Cloth Paper Scissors, Judy Murrah, VP of Education for Quilts, Inc, Cara Gulati, Karey, Vicki Mangum, (who treats any quilt you ever send in to Quilts, Inc with superior care and handling), and Judy, a collector of Amish Quilts. I now carry my camera everywhere, but still sometimes forget to use it, so this is the only reception photo I have, taken as I was leaving.

Virginia hard at work - or is it play?I was in the classroom everyday except Sunday when I finally got down on the show floor and did a stint in the Virtual Studio. Virginia Spiegel had already been there for three days and had quite a body of work to show for it. The Virtual Studio is a great concept sponsored by Quilting Arts. It was a chance for people at the show to not only see an artist at work but talk with them.

meeting up with a fellow artistShauna was one woman I got to speak with. She makes gorgeous stitched and mixed media purses. She asked some pretty deep questions about doing art for yourself vs. becoming a nationally know teacher/author/etc. The fact that I am taking next year off answered her question. I look at artists like Virginia and pine for the time and focus to create like she does. I am living my dream, but I forgot to leave any time for growing and my own artistic development in my dream. But that's a subject for next year.

who can resist the colorI met Collett Fenske in Houston. I was drawn in by her bright colors (that accent her red hair) and the fact that she overdyes some of my favorite fabrics - mattress ticking, dots, plaids and stripes. You cannot help but smile when you walk by her booth. Collett is always smiling too!

Here is work from my Saturday class. Everyone started out with the same mixed media materials: Lutradur, felt, transfers, paint, eggs and more, and produced exquisite individual work using their own fabrics and designs. There were 26 in my Mixed Media Art Quilt class but somehow I only ended up with these 9 photos. I am sorry that I don't have the names to go with the quilts. If you see your work here and want me to add your name, please email me. And speaking of email....hundreds of you have looked at this blog the past week, yet there are almost no comments - not that you have to, but it's always nice to know you're there. Nina said she could not leave a comment, that Blogger wouldn't allow it. Is anyone else having this problem?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Creating in Chicago

Click on any of the above photos to see the wonderful work my students and fellow artists did in the Story Fragments class at the Chicago Quilt Festivallast weekend. I had a wonderful 3 days of teaching there, or as I like to say, sharing what I know, because really, isn't that what teaching is? Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers and teachers. ~ Richard Bach.

In a classroom you are given the time, the mental (and sometimes physical space) and the materials to do what you already know. Creating is an intuitive act. I can teach you a technique, introduce you to materials and show you how to use them, but the act of creating must come from within.

It's like Dorothy and her ruby slippers - "you had the power with you all along," Glinda says. One interpretation of the ruby slippers is that they represent the "inner spark" within all of us. Dorothy and her trio of travelling friends were looking outside of themselves for answers. All wanted tangible evidence of the thing they sought-a brain, a heart, courage. But the proof was in the doing. The same thing applies in a classroom - you learn by doing. A teacher stands guard and prevents your inner critic from taking over. That's it! I'm Glinda the Good Witch, watching over you on your journey, keeping the bad witch at bay and reminding you that you have had the power within you all along.

More Chicago photos coming this week.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

It's Ballmer, Hon

trompe l'oeil wall"Baltimoreans live in “Ballmer, Merlin” off the coast of the “Chest Peak ” bay, not too far from the capital “Nap Lis.” When they are thirsty, they want some “wooder” or “Natie Bow.” Their baseball team are the “O-reos” and when they want to go to the beach they go “Downey Owe Shin” ~ from

I am basically a city girl, being so close to Washington, DC. Maybe I know my city too well, maybe it's just not large enough, or maybe it's too clean, stuffy, or renovated/rebuilt in the name of progress. I love Baltimore. It is beautiful, exciting, full of wonder and has surprises a doll house?at every turn. See those dolls on the transom? What is the story behind that? Voodoo? talisman, or just a playful touch? I made my husband turn around so I could take a photo. It was one of those neighborhoods where the home values and the safety decrease block by block as you get further away from the park. Truly urban and trendy.

And the park - I still have photos from Patterson Park to show you ~
a row of rowhousesa picture of a picture-taker
the city falls to the southchildren in the park

rusted sidewalkAs we were leaving the park, my husband commented that he bet that at any point on earth one could compose a good picture. I stopped in my tracks and took this one of the sidewalk just to prove his/my point. I captured another photographer taking close-ups of the tulips, the view from this high point in the city and the quintessential row of Baltimore rowhouses. Rowhouses have stoops, and the Ballmer stoop is famous in it's own way. Why there is even a Stoop Storytelling group.

The thing I find interesting about Ballmer stoops is that they are often not attached in any way to the house. Story goes that in the 1700s, early 1800s, Italian craftsmen did a lot of the marble work on many Baltimore buildings. Ships coming from Europe needed ballast, so they would bring over big slabs of marble. It was cheap so they used it to make steps for working class houses. I love to see the indentations worn into the marble where people stepped in and out of their homes day after day. I noticed many new stoops on this trip, heavy 2 steppers pushed up against the rowhouse wall. It now seems strange to me that I did not take a stoop photo.

pretty in pinkThe other photos I did not take were of boarded up rowhouses It somehow felt like I would be invading her privacy or exposing this magical city's shame. This is a poor city, as many are. But some of this urban blight is about to change. Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland have been buying up whole blocks of rowhouses that they will tear down to build science + technology research parks. They will change the face of the city but also bring much needed employment opportunities and spur development on the city's east side.stone church
The city is also home to many, many churches and hospitals and has a strong Catholic history. A look at the street map shows many Saint this and Saint that - churches, schools, hospitals.

As I mentioned before in my Down Under travel writing, that trip changed the way I see the world. I think my eyes were opened wider when I was in New Zealand and Australia. It's a blessing to come back home and experience the familiar through these new eyes of mine.

Baltimore Cemetery Angels

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Grandmother Moment

Today Julia is 7 months old - that's 7 months in utero and I was invited to go to the sonogram today. She's right on schedule size-wise and weighs 3 lbs 12 oz. Don't ask me how they figure that out, but if she gains the usual 1/2 lb/week from here on out, she will weigh as much as her mother did when she was born 28 years ago tomorrow - 7 lb 11oz. Her face is smushed up against the wall, but see that little hand resting upon her cheek? That's how her mother, Sara, sleeps. If all goes according to plan, I'll be in the delivery room too.

Charm City

Thinking with the best of themInspired by Rodin's
"The Thinker", I've been doing a lot of thinking this week. Well trying to at least. That's one of the reasons I am taking next year off from teaching. Right now the life I lead leaves me no time to think. And I used to love doing it. You know, the quiet, deep-thoughts, planning time, musing on what you've read, day-dreaming, contemplating life kind of thinking.

Of course I do think ~ all the time in fact. But it's always thinking about class prep, travel, which thing to do when to increase my multi-tasking productivity. Thinking, with a capital T cannot be done while multi-tasking.

sometimes we feel like newlywedsSpeaking of thinking, my husband dreamed up the ideal day for us to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. He has recently been doing a lot of appraisals in Baltimore, about an hours drive north. In between appointments he noses around and then comes home and tells me about his day. My remark is often, "I'd love to do that." So last weekend while I was teaching in Chicago, he told me he had the day all planned out for us. Now this was really a first, he planned the day, not me. The planning was the best gift, whether we ended up going or not. Knowing that he planned this day for me, for us, made my heart sing. After doing 2 appraisals, we went to lunch at Gertrude's, a restaurant in the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). Just looking at the menu gave me chills of delight. Lunch was followed by a quick stroll through the museum because I was eager to move on to the highlight of the day ~ visiting two cemeteries. Yes, cemeteries. Cemeteries filled with angels, the statuary kind (and possibly a few ethereal ones). I'll save the angels and the photos I took for another post because I want to give you the highlights of the first half of the outing.

quilt inspirationOne one of the things Buddy wanted to share with me from his previous BMA outing were the 5th century Antioch Mosaics from southern Turkey. They graced the very ground they walked on before the city was destroyed by earthquakes in 526-28 AD. ancient birdThey are in almost perfect condition. I have saturated the colors in this photo so they appear as new, but all of the mosaics still retain remarkably good color as this little birdie shows.

rustd fabricAlso on exhibit in the textile gallery were Japanese fabrics from the NUNO Corporation, "one of Japan’s most influential and innovative textile producers. NUNO fabrics are known for the unconventional materials and processes used in their creation, linking traditional textile techniques with state-of-the art manufacturing technologies." Being familiar with nuno felt, I now know that nuno means fabric in Japanese. Here is an example of a beautiful rusted fabric on display. They use the same method we quilters do - mixing fabric with vinegar, nails, manhole covers, barbed wire etc - anything that will rust.

Patterson Park Pagoda, Baltimoe MDThis Baltimore day began at Patterson Park, where Buddy once climbed to the top of this pagoda. Unfortunately for me it is only open on Sunday and it was Wednesday. The park is situated on one of the high points of the city, so the panoramic views were still pretty amazing even if I wasn't standing at the top of the pagoda. "On Hampstead Hill, the ridge where the Pagoda now stands, Baltimoreans rallied on September 12, 1814 to protect the city from the threat of a British invasion. Urban myth suggests that from this vantage point the glow from the fire at the Capitol and the White House could be seen as the opposition marched through the nation’s capital." (That must have been a pretty big fire!) "Built in 1892, the octagonal, sixty foot high, four-story observation tower was known as the Pagoda because of its oriental architectural appearance. But the design was intended to reflect the bold Victorian style of the day."

Patterson Park fountainAs I sit writing this today, it is warm and sunny here in DC. Wednesday was a cold, windy and very cloudy day in Charm City. I always thought Baltimore's nickname went waaaay back, but the phrase "Charm City" first appeared in 1975 in a series of advertisements in the Baltimore Evening Sun. The ads were designed to inspire Baltimore residents to visit attractions normally frequented by tourists. Advertising executives may have thought the nickname up, but it has stuck. And on this day, the city (and a certain someone) was certainly charming me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dreaming of Pienza

Dreaming of Pienza
Originally uploaded by lrileyart.
I have an extra hour before I have to leave for the airport and off to the Chicago snow, so I'm on FLICKR again - this time searching for Pienza, Italy photos and dreaming of warm sun. ~ Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Something to Ponder

Here is something to ponder while I am away. Why am I collecting photos of rust you may ask. I've been playing with FLICKR. What a source of inspiration! It's too early to tell you anything, but you'll find out what I'm up to some day in the future.

I am headed to the Chicago Quilt Festival tomorrow, and so is snow. Wish me luck that my plane can land tomorrow.

I have a couple of trips scheduled in May, back to Chicago for quilt guild classes and Art & Soul in both Virginia and ITALY! All of those classes are full, but there is still room in my July class at Idyllwild Art Center in the mountains of Southern California. It's a beautiful and inspirational place to take a class, so check it out. Remember, I won't be teaching next year, so if you've ever wanted to take a class with me, now's the time. (hint, hint)

Monday, April 02, 2007

In Answer to Your Questions

my travelling shoesTwo things keep popping up - the shoes and the camera. I wore those shoes every single day (except to the opera). I have since read that you should always take 2 pairs on a trip and alternate, but these were so comfortable and I never had a problem. They are by El Naturalista. I heard about them from Katie Kendrick and bought them without even trying them on. My sister wasn't so lucky. She tried them on and they just didn't fit her right. They are European sizing and no half-sizes. I wear a 7.5 US and bought the 37. They fit perfectly. I just ordered another style in 37 and they were too small. I got mine at Zappos. I plan to wear them all over Italy this May.

Nikon CoolpixThe other question is what camera do I use. I shot all of those photos with the Nikon Coolpix L3. It's lightweight and small. I need a lightweight camera that I can truly slip into a pocket otherwise I will never carry one. My only complaint is that I wish it had a stabilizer to keep things in focus better. A lot of my shots were out of focus. Nina's camera had the sharper focus, but mine did better in low-light or night situations. Will there ever be a perfect camera?

the WHOLE Riley clan circa 2003On a personal front, my son finally sold his house in Massachusetts and will finally be moving his family (my 3 granddaughters) back down here. My parents are moving into an independent living facility this weekend. Lots of moving (or shifting, as they say in NZ). Lots of changes, new stories to unfold, memories to make. And speaking of memories. I am in the middle of making a quilted fabric book with some of my NZ photos. I'll show you a peek next time.