Monday, June 30, 2008

QSDS Report

There's something to be said for being in the right place at the right time in your life. My week at the Quilt Surface Design Symposium (QSDS) was everything I needed and more. I hardly know how to put it in to words. It was a learning experience on so many levels. I learned techniques and I learned about myself. I gained courage and insight, reconnected with my tribe, my art and my first love...fabric. (Although this first image is all paper, but I'll explain that later.)
The class was Crossing Borders with Els Van Baarle and Cherilyn Martin, her friend and colleague who is well known for her quilts which are richly embroidered often using fabric by Els. The class description appealed to me for obvious reasons: "Two materials, two teachers, two visions. The emphasis of this class is on an experimental approach to surface design working with both fabric and paper. Working with combinations of wax and paint, embellishment and stitchery."

2 pros (Els -l, Cherilyn-r), not always seeing eye to eyeThe bonus and unexpected benefit of having 2 teachers is getting feedback from 2 professionals. We teased them because they would sometimes contradict each other, but actually, isn't that the greatest lesson - that there is always more than one solution, and that art is individual and personal? It was also beneficial to have a non-American perspective. I spoke with Els about how location can effect an artists use of color and design. It was the simplicity with which Els makes such strong visual statements and her use of color that drew me to Els work, and the use of stitch that I wanted to learn from Cherilyn. Along the way I was also introduced to batik, dyeing and block printing as a means to create fabric that furthers a vision.

Of course you have to know what your vision is and what you are trying to convey. I went to class as a blank slate, holding in my mind the wisdom of Rilke, "If the angel deigns to come it will be because you have convinced her, not by tears but by your humble resolve to be always beginning; to be a beginner." I jumped right in, following the exercises that Els and Cherilyn asked of us. Begin with a line, one that describes your life journey or one found in a photograph from a journey. The life journey line I created was very descriptive of my present situation - one step forward, two steps back and looked something like this ~ ZZZZ ~ and I hate angles, so I quickly abandoned that line in favor of the one from a photograph I took in Italy. It's the red stitched line in the first photo and in the block print of the second photo.

I kept adding dye, paint and batik to that one piece of fabric (2nd photo) without much thought or plan in mind and then it dawned on a beginner, but don't forget what you know.

Once I realized that, I was able to create with confidence. I wanted simple, subtle, uncluttered work. The block print line was too large, too busy. The layering of color and pattern too chaotic for my vision. I would learn how to integrate scale, pattern and color, but not in a day or two. I could quickly absorb techniques, but the manipulation of them to further my vision would take time. I knew that, and I was not discouraged.

We were given an assignment mid-week. Using the fabric and papers we had created, we were asked to create either 3 small pieces or a sample book. I chose the 3 small pieces: one all fabric, one all paper and one a combination of the two. I asked if we were allowed to use commercial fabric in our pieces and was discouraged from doing so. After all, it was a class about creating your own fabric and that IS my goal from now on, but this one piece needed what I did not have time to make. I ended up using the commercial fabric and in my critique, Els said that it was very subtle and did not detract from the overall piece (below).

I was hesitant to add stitching to each piece. Hand-stitching is something that I have been wanting to incorporate into my work for years, but other than utilitarian stitches to hold the fabric in place, I wasn't sure how or where to begin. The all paper piece (top) was complex enough to support a bold stitch line, but I thought this piece called for delicate subtle stitches. I was right. Cherilyn agreed with me that the work had a simple, naive quality (what I was working for) and that the small utilitarian stitches were right for the piece, that embellishment was not called for. Again, the lesson was reinforced: to trust what I knew and to trust my vision.

My paper/fabric piece came together rather easily, using my dyed fabric and a batiked paper towel (the grid). But it really sang when I crowned it with the hand-dyed silk organza piece I traded for with Kathie Briggs a former student and now a classmate. Again, a simple red stitched line and some subtle anchoring stitches in the corners was all it needed.

We were to work on all three pieces simultaneously and have a common theme in the series. Mine turned out to be the square and the red stitched line.

This report would not be complete without mention of my fantastic roommate, Becky Heavner, a wonderful woman that long time friend and fiber artist Diane Herbort fixed me up with. Diane is also the QSDS historian and was a most entertaining addition to my first QSDS experience. Becky and I had a lot in common and kept finding more similarities throughout the week. She is a talented illustrator, sometime quilter and now embarking on a degree in landscape design. Mucho talent. My QSDS experience would not have been the same without her. I'll be back next June.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday June 17th

Come, sit a spell. The heat wave has broken and the breeze is gentle this morning on my front porch. Iced tea? The official start of summer is only a heartbeat away but if you have kids at home you know it really begins when school gets out. How do you define the beginning of summer? The solstice? the heat? the day you suddenly realize that the year is half over, or is half-completed? What does summer mean for you?

Today is the day to announce the winners for the giveaway. I am happy to do so, with so many this names to pick this time! Again, I have used my unbiased Random Number Generator ~ 1) Thien Kim, 2) Merf, 3) Sue Walen, 4) Cathy Wegner, 5) Arlene - AlteredbyMe. Congratulations! Please email me with your mailing address and I'll send a book your way.

Thanks to everyone who entered. I didn't get as many comments/entries as I had hoped, but I do know that almost 2000 readers stopped by over the past week. I read blogs too and must admit I rarely comment. It's like reading a book or perhaps more appropriately, a magazine or newspaper...and how many of us write letters to the editor! I think blog writers want comments so that they know they're not talking to themselves, or in the case of some of the more deep, heartfelt posts, that what they say has meaning. I also think that different bloggers attract different types of people. I myself am quiet. Deep but quiet, and I think a lot of my readers are too.

Other bloggers are more chatty, some more lively, hence they get chatty & lively readers who are more likely to comment. And then there's the whole Blogger thing and how hard it is to comment on a Blogger blog. (Psst - Typepad is in my future.) It's all very interesting to me, this blog phenomenon. I love it. As someone who considers themselves a writer, it's the perfect venue for me to write in the little bit of time I can scrape together. The public forum makes me stop and take the time to actually write, something that, at this point in my life I probably wouldn't stop to do. And the very act of writing sometimes leads to some very good writing.

On Sunday I leave for Columbus, Ohio, about a 7 hr drive from here, for the Quilt Surface Design Symposium. I have had a lot of time to plan for this week-long retreat, something very much needed in my life. It's been a hard 6 months and a week of nothing but me time will be the perfect way to start off the next 6 months, which I hope will turn out to be the year I planned - lots of studio time. So anyway, in the middle of gathering my supplies for my class, I had the thought to create a journal just for this trip, and to record my new vision/thoughts/ideas in art & fabric. While looking for an old book cover that would be just the right size for such a journal, I came across this sweet red book, More Pictures to Grow Up With. Along the spine, it also said A Studio Book. Perfect! I dismantled the book, used the covers and title page and that bit of spine that said "studio book" to create my own STUDIO BOOK. Covered simply in slightly stained canvas, a spine of goldenrod linen screen-printed with gesso and filled with Fabriano Artistico waterolor pages that were gessoed and lightly tinted with the palest golden and blue, I now have a new journal for my journey. My teacher Els Van Baarle said that the focus of our week will be on "Journey". I am ready. I showed you last week the palette of colors I will be working with over the next few months. The colors excite me. I am excited, like a kid going to camp.

No giveaways this week, since I will be gone next week. I have one week at home after "camp" and then we are off to the beach for 2 weeks, so I guess there won't be any giveaways for a while. But I hope you will still stop by, enjoy the shade of the front porch, have a tall glass of iced tea. You're always welcome.

Friday, June 13, 2008

To Paint or Not to Paint

Riley, Model in ReposeI found this drawing yesterday while cleaning out a closet. Did you know I could draw? Sometimes I have to remind myself. You may have assumed, because I use photos in my work, that I don't draw. Well you are right in a way. I can draw, but I don't draw because it just takes me too much time. I want/need a more instant result and gratification. Riley, Still Life with Lemons I know if I practiced daily that I would become faster, more sure of myself, develop a style

When I took all of my painting and drawing classes I was obsessed with realism and a classical style. My hero was Ken Marlow, a master of realism that I discovered at Hollis Taggart, a local DC gallery (now in NYC). He has the ability to suffuse a still life with such light, beauty, emotion and well, magic, that it still takes my breath away, makes me swoon. I once wrote to him asking what colors of paint he used,Ken Marlow, Crimson & Teal thinking that if I had the same ones, I too had a chance of someday painting such beauty. He was kind enough to answer, a handwritten letter I still keep for inspiration (before email).

I am pretty proud of the still life with lemons & pomegranates I did so many years ago, proud enough to hang it in my living room. I gave up oil painting after Kelly was born. It took time and I didn't have any. I miss it. There is nothing like the smell of linseed oil to stimulate my desire. Once you've painted with oils, acrylics truly seem like the plastic that they are. I know the myriad of reasons for using them and of course it would make more sense, but oil is just so darn sensual.

Fabric? Paint? Realism? Abstract? These are the questions I ponder. Do both? Combine them? Focus, Lesley, focus.

And now a word from our sponsor, Riley Crawford. 4 months old this week. Her hair is not really that red, but she really is that cute.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Are You Reading Something Into This?

From your comments I've already received on my last post, if appears that some of you are under the impression that the fabric in the photos that I was talking about is part of the giveaway. No way, baby - that's mine, all mine. I'm not that crazy. It's what I set aside for a special project when I did the big fabric purge 2 weeks ago. Yes, many of you missed the chance at some of my stash because I only announced it to the people on my LaLasLand and Quilted Memories Yahoo groups and my fellow fabricaholics on the QuiltArt list. I did that for 2 reasons: 1)I wanted it to move out of here fast before I changed my mind, and 2)My list members always get first dibs on my art, or in this case, art supplies.

I am sorry for any confusion. This week's giveaway is for the books only. But if you're good, very, very good, perhaps there will be some fabric in your future.

When Fabric Talks, I Listen

This weeks giveaway has been expanded to allow for 5 winners. I'll choose 5 random numbers from the comments I get on this post between now and noon next Wednesday, June 17th. Sorry folks, you cannot choose which book you get, but rest assured, they are all chock full of copyright-free images. Send your friends! Yes, the more comments I get, the less your chances are to win but, here's an incentive. If I get comments from over 200 individuals on this post, I will offer bigger and better giveaway prizes in the future. Remember, I've got a LOT of cool art stuff to pass on! So spread the news, share the love, pay it forward...

As I was sorting through my fabric deciding what to keep, what to sell and what to give away, several pieces spoke to me. When fabric talks, I listen. I noticed a pattern to their speech as well. They spoke primarily in muted tones, nothing fancy, loud or overbearing. Their voices were quiet, even meek at times. Their stories were not colorful but were packed with inspiration. Alone, they didn't have much influence, but as a group they created a force so moving that I could not resist their call.

They collected in a corner, preferring to stay with their own kind and not mingle with the busy patterned fabrics, the flashy ones that turned everyones head when they walked by. You know the kind - all style on the outside but no substance on the inside. No, they kept to their own, knowing that this fabric artist would understand their small still voices. They had something the others did not - a quiet confidence that their future would amount to something, that they were being selected for a special purpose, one that they didn't quite yet understand but knew to be right and true.

And now they wait, quietly, yet full of anticipation, eager to be a part of the magic that will take place in a few weeks when the artist's hands are free again, when she can really, really listen to their small still voices. Listen closely, maybe you can hear them too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Playing Catch-Up

Oh where to begin. We lost our power last Wednesday, for a total of 36 hours, then had to wait until Monday am to get our Internet straightened out and back online. I didn't mind being incommunicado, I'm used to that when I teach/travel but it was interesting to be home and realize how dependant I was on it for the simplest of things. And of course my husband was unable to work at all which frustrated him (and his clients, I'm sure) no end. To top it off, our air conditioning went on the fritz and we have been in a huge heat wave, code red alert here in DC. Fortunately our long-time AC man came out Sunday morning and put us out of our misery. I can't remember if it was Saturday or Sunday morning that I awoke @ 6:30 am to this mist-filled morning, the rising sun casting a golden glow on the fog.

But now life is back to normal - both computers and AC humming (we do so love the quiet of a neighborhood without power, all velvety black and peaceful).

Last night was the girls night out we have been trying to schedule since the Sex & the City movie opened. FINALLY something happened in my favor after the rough week we had. Their computers said my debit card had expired but you could see the 2012 expiration date stamped right there on the card, so she just comped me 2 free passes! Hooray. It was nice to have the time with my daughters and DIL without the babies. Daddys did that duty.

So since we last talked, I completed my Ebay auctions of all my zines and sent off over 40 boxes of fabric from my stash. I am physically and mentally unburdened. Now to turn to the craft books. They are rather awkward to ship and tedious to sell online, so my first stop will be the secondhand bookstore. Perhaps I will make a list of them and if anyone wants one I can sell it to you. I also have almost a complete set of the first 4? years of Somerset Studio including their Premier issue. That's a lot of magazines and a lot of weight, but if any of you dear readers are interested, let me know. Media Mail rates are not too bad.

By a random number generator, THE WINNER OF PLAY ZINE IS: Evidence of an Artistic Life. Congratulations! Drop me an email with your name and address and I'll wisk it on it's way. There will be more giveaways. I'm still playing catch-up here and will have more photos and stuff tomorrow I hope.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Winner and Free PLAY

The winner of last week's giveaway of The Studio issue 16 is Nikki Wheeler. A random number generator was used to pick the winning entry number.

Stop pouting - you all have another chance now to win this Premier Issue of Play by Teesha Moore - 46 full color pages out of the private journals of pretty amazing artists - simply gorgeous. Post a comment by June 10th to be included in the drawing. And don't forget the zines offered on my Ebay auctions which end tomorrow!

The purge is going well. I unloaded about 40 boxes (priority mail size) of fabric from my stash this weekend through an impromptu announcement on my own yahoo groups (LaLasLand and Quilted Memories) as well as the larger QuiltArt list. The response just about equaled the amount of fabric I had to share with the world. It feels SO GOOD to be making this mental as well as physical space in my life. Of course there were many I have kept, and I still have a lot of fabric. It's like your closet. You wear the same clothes that you love over and over while others languish in the back of the closet. That's how it was with my fabric. Over the years, I now know my tastes and what I love to use. I know at some point I'll wish I had some pieces back, but it will force me to make new design decisions and head in different directions. I already have a pile of fabrics garnered from my stash begging to be worked with. I can't tell you now (because I don't really know yet), but it's going to be totally different from anything I have done before.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Guess Who's in the House

Claudine Hellmuth & hubby Paul LesterWe didn't even think we would see each other this year since I am not teaching, but my teaching roommate Claudine and her husband Paul, in town for a job interview, met us for dinner Saturday night and then stopped by the house. We fantasized about the fun we'd have if Paul gets the job and they move up here. So very cool. Claudine went to art school here in DC and would love to come back. Keep your fingers crossed! Good luck Paul.

Kelly with Riley and cool KathrynMy daughters keep saying I need to do a family blog entry. Now that all their friends read it, I guess they want more air time. This one was taken a week ago at my Dad's homecoming party. He was away for 6+ weeks at a VA Hospital Rehab center for the Blind. He is losing his eyesight at a rapid rate and for no reason any doctor can find. He has seen specialists all over DC & VA and then in CT. Nadda. So they taught him how to make the most of the sight he has. He has special talking and magnified computer equipment and a lot of special gadgets. He still works as Executive Director of the AXPOW (American Ex Prisoners of War (WWII) organization @ the age of 87 (as of June 6th), so he needs his sight for that, besides the obvious reasons. That and to see his great-granddaughters. I am happy to say he will be moving in with us this summer. An honor and a pleasure. I cannot wait.

puttin the baby to work earlyAnd here's why you don't let the grandfather babysit. Riley will be leaving us soon. Sam's internship is over in 3 weeks and our household will be babyless. It will be interesting to see how much I miss her. I LOVE my weekend time without her and look forward to being "on my own" again....but I do so love babies. She'll be 4 months old June 10. On June 22 Kathryn and Julia will be 2 and 1 respectively,and Emma will turn 10 on June 30. Emma with Julia, Kathryn running behindLots of birthdays this month.

I would have to say, this has been such a year of change for me - last summer to this one. Changes made, priorities rearranged. 2007 was the year of worldwide travel and 2008 is the year of being home. What my thoughts turn towards now is finding the balance, creating a life that gives me new horizons while tending to the miracles here at home. I often wonder, in a sort of chicken and egg paradox way- would this year have unfolded as it has if I had
not arranged to take the year off from teaching. How many things were moved into motion when I made that decision almost 2 years ago ~ a Butterfly effect sort of thing. But I'll never know. Life is lived forward but can only be understood backwards. So forward I go, child in hand, art in head, excited for the future of both.