My latest inspiration came from a hand lettered sign on an overpass on the Maine turnpike. It said "Never Stop Exploring." I have no idea what the context was for the sign or what it meant to whoever put it up, but it got my mind going.
Ever since I took a workshop on diary quilts from Susan Shie years ago, one of my favorite things is to stitch words into my art quilts. I start with a topic and see where it leads me. During the last open studios at Western Ave., a woman commented on a piece of mine in the hallway that it looked like I was just riffing as I stitched. I was delighted, because she captured exactly what I was doing, but I hadn't thought of it that way.
So here's my latest riff in progress.
I've been thinking about just what that phrase "never stop exploring" means in my life--learning new things, making new friends, trying new recipes. One of the things I admired most about my dad was his love of learning. At an age when many people retired, he learned to build Finnish masonry heaters and traveled the country building them for people who wanted to heat with wood without polluting the air. I definitely want to follow in his footsteps in this way. Creating this little quilt (12"x9") will help me think about just what that means.
I had very good intentions of doing a blog post first thing today, but (again) the day has gotten away from me. It has been too long though...and several important events have happened or are coming up. I'll start with what's coming up.
This Sunday afternoon, August 24, I will be participating in a "global cloth party" at the National Historical Park here in Lowell, Mass. This is the second of what is billed as an annual event. Last year's event, which I missed, focused on sharing Lowell's ethnic heritage. Representatives of the various cultures in the city brought in samples of traditional cloth and shared stories related to the cloth and cloth-making. This year artists in the are who work with fabric have been invited to participate. I'll have a table there with some of my jackets to let people see what I do with fabric. I thought it would be fun to bring some of my "fusion" jackets--like my Japanese style jackets made with African fabric. This one is made with an African tie-dyed damask.
I love to work with a wide variety of fabrics and to use them in unexpected ways. There are two African markets in downtown Lowell that sell Dutch fabrics that are made for the African market. I drive or walk by these stores regularly and my eye is always drawn to the fabric displays. The colors and patterns are bold and intense. Although they are well outside my comfort zone, they have been calling my name for a long time. When I won the prize for Creative Sewing at Sunapee this month, I decided that this fabric would be a good use for my prize money. The fabrics come in 6-yard lengths so I couldn't just dip my toes in the water here, I had to dive off the high board. I did just that this week and bought two pieces.
I had the best time studying all the different patterns and making my choices. I decided on two very different pieces. One is deep blue and olive with large stylized birds. The other has a white background with the typical crackled batik background and large pink/red hyacinth flowers. Now my mind is swimming with possibilities for what I will create with them. They are batiks so the "wrong" sides look almost as nice as the 'right" sides--the perfect thing for a jacket or vest with peek-a-boo holes...but perhaps I will get new inspiration on Sunday. I know the store owner is planning to be at the cloth party on Sunday, maybe I'll have a chance to chat with her some more. Who knows what the day will bring.
I am really hoping to use one of these fabrics in a creation for our Wearable Art Extravaganza on Saturday night October 4. More about that in my next post.
I have had more than my share of good news in the last few days. I have been so busy that it really didn't sink in until this morning when I was thinking about posting again.
My good fortune started Saturday night. Well actually it started on Friday, but i didn't become aware of that part until Monday night. I'll tell the news in the order I received it.
Saturday night was the opening reception for Dog Days of Summer - the current show at the Loading Dock Gallery in Lowell. During the reception, a woman came up to me to tell me how much she loved my piece, a triptych called Keep Watering that Garden. (I've written about it in this blog.) She said that she really wanted it, but her daughter had been telling her not to spend any more money. She was going to wait and think about it some more. She didn't think very long though. A little while later she came back to tell me she'd decided to buy it. She said she would have been just too disappointed if she came back at the end of the show and it was gone. I was so pleased. I still feel that happy glow when i think back about it. (If you click on the link for the show, that's my piece on the right behind the shot of the beautiful rose arrangement. FYI - the rose arrangement was created by Rufiya Blank.)
Monday night I got the second bit of good news when I saw a friend's Facebook post about winning the awards for Best in Seed Beads and Best in Jewelry in the Craftwear Exhibit at Sunapee. I was thrilled for her - and then she commented back, sharing the wealth by letting me know that I'd won an award on my jacket too. My happy dance was only beginning though. Another friend visited the exhibit that day and brought back the news that I'd won two awards on the jacket and sold another one. My cup runneth over. My jacket, Aurora, won the awards for Best in Fine Sewing and Best in Creative Sewing. Woo hoo!!!
Circles, Squares & Triangles: The Shape of Things to Come is the title of the current show at the League of NH Craftsmen show in Concord, New Hampshire. I have two jackets in this show; so I attended the opening reception this past Friday night. As happy as I was to have both jackets I submitted displayed, I was even happier to see them prominently hung on the back wall clearly visible as you walk into the gallery. Several people commented on the display and I left the reception with a nice glow.
Here are a couple of pictures that give you the idea. (It was hard for me to photograph well with my little point-and-shoot since there were windows on either side.)
You can see a front view of Blue Skies & Rainbows on the League's July 2 Facebook post about the upcoming 81st Annual Craftsmen Fair. I will have jackets and Free Lace scarves in the CraftWear Exhibit there.
We spent the weekend in Lowell enjoying art-related activities. Sonja and I spent our 4th in the studio putting up shelves and reorganizing our new/old space. We didn't manage to get everything put back together yet, but at least the floor-to-ceiling piles of bins are gone and there was walking space for our Open Studios visitors on Saturday.
Saturday night was the opening reception for Sonja and Linda Dunn's show - Start Anywhere - in the Loading Dock gallery. The show looks spectacular and it was nice to visit with so many new and old friends. There are lots of great photos from the reception on the gallery's web site. Check them out and then come visit in person. The show is up through July 27. The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday.
We came back up to Maine Sunday morning and have been enjoying wonderful weather so far. (There's a severe thunderstorm watch for the next few hours, though.) This morning we rode another section of the Sebago to the Sea Trail. This time it was a nice paved section that follows an old railroad bed. We started from Shaw Park in Gorham and rode almost to Otter Ponds; stopping at the point where we'd have needed to fill out a permit to go on.
Highlights of the ride were seeing a small hawk flying down the trail ahead of me and crossing the bridge across the Presumpscot River. The hawk flew along for a long way, just about 3 feet above the ground, and then flew up into a tree near the trail. I actually managed to see it in the tree when I rode by. It was only about 10 feet from me. It was pretty exciting; I wobbled a bit but didn't fall off, luckily. I checked my bird book when I got home, but couldn't say for sure what it was - maybe a sharp-shinned hawk. Here are a few pictures I took along the way.
After we got back from our ride I laid out a new Free Lace scarf that will be my sewing project for tomorrow.
Earlier this week I finally finished a jacket that I felt I'd been working on forever. This was another garment from my "making yardage" project that I wrote about several weeks ago. I called this one "Out of the Box" for several reasons. It was the first fitted jacket that I've made in quite a long time and it is perhaps a more dramatic design that I typically do. At least when I started it, it seemed a bit "wild" to me, but when it was finished I was very pleased. I don't think you'd have to be very daring to wear this. What do you think? I couldn't believe I had enough scraps that went together well enough to make this. I'm so glad I saved them.
When you come to my studio to check it out, you'll have to notice the beautiful hand-made fused glass buttons from Penny Faich. Not only did the color work with this, but they even have triangles on them. I bought the buttons from Penny at least 2-3 years ago when we were vending together at a quilt show. I was so glad to finally have just the right project for them.
The jacket is a size medium, fully lined, and washable. Call or e-mail for purchase information.
No post last week - I spent almost all my time sorting, and hauling, and reorganizing. We are downsizing our studio - as of tomorrow we are down to half the space we've had for the last couple of years--back to what we started with. When we're all finished with the clean-out and arranging, it will be cozy and efficient, but in the meanwhile it's messy and some of the piles reach almost to the ceiling. Pretty scary.
I got nearly everything into the space by the end of last week, but the shelves that will organize all this stuff were being used elsewhere until now. So Friday morning we headed back to the lake for some R&R - well work too, but even work is relaxing here. We'll go back on the 4th for a "studio holiday"--putting up shelves and organizing to be ready for Open Studios and Sonja's show reception on Saturday.
Yesterday we did our first "real" ride on our new bikes. We rode the first leg of the "Sebago to the Sea" trail. We rode the section that starts at the south end of Sebago Lake. Part of it goes along a road, but much of it winds through the woods. It was beautiful, but perhaps rougher riding than we expected. It is a multi-use trail; no ATVs though - thankfully. A few places were more appropriate for hiking than biking - at least my style of biking. I haven't mastered jumping foot-high logs or weaving between large rocks and roots. Those sections were pretty short and the walk was welcome. We managed quite well though and the ride was a confidence-builder. Next time, though, we'll try a paved section.
The trail end on Sebago is lovely. The view is spectacular with the lake and the mountains in the distance. The shore is sandy with intermittent large rocks. It is a nice place for swimming and a picnic.
Today is a work day - I've got a jacket to finish up and some free lace scarves to start, but my view while I'm working is pretty similar to the middle picture above, so it's a joy to be here and I love what I'm doing. What more could I ask for?
My entry for the Loading Dock Gallery's August juried show - The Dog Days of Summer - is coming along well. In my last post I shared the centerpiece of the triptych I'm working on and the origins of the piece. The photos above share the left and right portions of the triptych.
The right section is embellished with hand couching. I've done herringbone stitches over hand-dyed 5400 rayon threads from Stef Francis. These rayon threads can be dicey to work with as they are very slippery and they unravel very easily, but the color and sheen they add are well worth the trouble to me. I often use them in machine couching, anchoring the ends with tight satin stitches. This time I tried the technique of threading them through a fat needle so I could plunge the ends through the fabric to anchor them on the back of the piece. They will not hold a knot, so I used the couching thread to do several overcast stitches to hold the ends to the backing felt. That seemed to work pretty well.
The left section I'm embellishing with seed beads in a pattern to echo the couching on the right section. it has been quite a while since I've done any beading. It feels good to get back to it again. I found I had several colors in my bead stash that went very well with the fabric colors in this. I hope to finish this beading today so that I can work on mounting the pieces when i get back to the studio tomorrow.
Here's another installment in my "keep me going" series--this process of creating yardage from my scrap bin. As I was working on this batch of green scraps, my mind wandered as usual. I was thinking about a couple of things that came together in this project. I noticed that many of the scraps I was using included a lot of brown and that I'd need to pay attention to how I put things together so that my final piece would read more green than brown.
The other thing I was thinking about was the upcoming juried show at the Loading Dock Gallery and what I was going to submit. The theme of the show is Dog Days of Summer. I've been stumped about that for a while, but a phrase that popped into my mind while I was doing this piecing helped me figure it out.
The green/brown balance in my piece brought to mind the way the grass in fields and lawns often turns to brown in August if the summer is dry. This thought gave me the idea to turn this particular fabric into a piece called "Keep Watering that Garden." It will be the center panel of a triptych. The other two panels will use smaller creations from the same fabrics.
The piece is about how you have to keep working at things, even just a little, even when it's hard, or you're hot and tired. This central panel includes embroidered words--my musings as I put this together. The other two will be embellished differently.
After a bit of a rocky start to the day (couldn't take a shower at the Y after my water fitness class), things totally turned around for me. At this juncture I'm walking on air.
Even the lack of showers couldn't keep me down for long because my plan for the morning was to go to Nashua Sew and Vac to buy a new sewing machine. It would be my first new machine since 1971, so I was very excited. I have been using borrowed machines for the last several years. Recently I decided that I really should break down and invest in my own machine. I stopped there last week to see what they had and what it might cost for what I would need. I made a tentative decision on one then, but didn't have the time that day to actually purchase it. Today was my day to go back.
I had a little time between my exercise class and when the store opened, so I stopped at Michael's to buy canvases for the next wall art project I have in mind. It turned out that the only multi-pack of the one size I wanted had a damaged canvas in it. The little hole didn't render the canvas unusable for my purposes, but still I thought I should see if maybe they'd discount it a bit. I hoped for maybe 20% off since it was just 1 of 6 canvases that had a problem. Boy was I glad that I asked - they gave me 70% off. Needless to say I was delighted, but I didn't realize that it was a good omen for the day.
My luck got even better when I went to Nashua Sew and Vac. I discovered that since I went in last week, they had started a new promotion that meant I got a $200 "shopping spree" when I purchased the machine I wanted. I immediately ordered a new Sew Steady table for it and still have money left to spend. I know it will burn a hole in my pocket and I'll be quite ready to spend it when I go back to pick up the table. I can't believe my luck. I wonder what else will happen today.
For right now, I can't wait to set up my new machine and start sewing. First though I need to cut out my next project, so I need to remind myself to have patience...
Ann M. Lee