My Flower Garden

Remember this quilt? That’s the one I made in class with Katie Pasquini Masopust. I pre-cut a few too many strips for that quilt.

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So I used the leftovers to make this simple quilt. I didn’t really enjoy making this quilt. But it will be a nice baby quilt for someone.

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I thought I had used up all the leftover strips with that quilt. One day I went out to clean up the studio a bit and opened a plastic bin. What??? More leftover strips? Well, I finally remembered that they were the smaller  strips (1 1/4 inch) and I had planned to put them in a ziplock bag to give to whomever wanted them.

I looked at them for a few minutes and thought–why not play around with them and see what I come up with.

This is a quilt I made a long time ago, and I really like it. It was the inspiration for how I decided to use these small strips, and how to construct the top.

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As I went along, I decided it would be like my own flower garden, that was constructed a bit at a time, fitting things together as we went along.

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I didn’t add any more strips to what I already had. I chose a few flower and leaf prints to add to the “garden.”

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When I quilted it, I used straight lines and pebbles for the “paths” in my garden. I just outlined the flower and leaf prints.

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This is my favorite of all three quilts that I made from those strips.

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What Makes an Artist?

Last week, as I reluctantly drove to my artist’s reception at Oak Hills church, I heard the news about one of the highest selling artworks at auction–a painting that sold for $110 MILLION DOLLARS. Unbelievably, the artist was only 21 years old when he painted it, and he died when he was 27 from a heroin overdose. As the newscaster described it, I was pretty sure that I would NOT like this piece of art. Primary colors, and a skull. Yuck. How does an artist become so famous? Is it just on the whim of another person, who likes the painting? Did the artist promote the daylights out of himself? Was he really talented? How does it happen?

At the reception, I enjoyed talking to my friend Teresa. I discussed how much I DON’T enjoy promoting myself. I did not want to “bother” anyone by asking them to come to the reception. Teresa said she had read a book that said most artists have to spend 50% of their time on promotion! (By the way, in the end, I very much enjoyed the artist’s reception. Not a lot of people came, but it was so fun to interact with people and hear what their reactions were to my quilts.)

When I got home I looked up the artist and the painting. Sure enough, I don’t like it. However, I do like the layers that are in it, and the complexity of it. And it was very interesting to read about the artist’s history–he was encouraged artistically from a very young age. He was always heavily involved in “the art scene.” It seems like his talent was noticed and appreciated from a very young age.

In general, I am more attracted to textile art. But even there, I don’t like all textile art. Here is a quilt that won $100,000 in Australia. I don’t like it either.

I know that I am attracted to certain colors and color combinations that I consider pretty. I appreciate handwork. I like circles and spirals. I like geometric compositions. There are lots of things I do like 🙂

I want to make it clear that just because I don’t like something, I am not denying its artistry. I am just musing over WHAT MAKES AN ARTIST? Its not always classical training, although that seems to help. I don’t think its always promotion, although for sure that helps. One thing that seems consistent for “successful” artists is that they are passionate about what they do, and they spend a great deal of their time working on their art.

In the end, I don’t think it will work to try to make art that you think is “artistic.” You have to make work that you yourself love, and that makes you happy. Why would you try to do otherwise?

P.S. Here are a few of the textile artists whose work I love:

The Memory Quilt

I finished piecing all the blocks for the memory quilt. I mis-calculated, so there are 12 repeat blocks. Otherwise, all of the blocks are made of a different center square. There are 156 blocks. The finished quilt will be 90″ X 97.5″. That is the biggest quilt I have made in a long time.

I sewed the blocks into panels either 4X4 or 3X4, and made them into quilt sandwiches. The idea is that it will be easier to embroider around each block in this smaller size. I steamed the layers together and then actually quilted at the seam lines and basted around the outer edge. And then I will sew them together into one big quilt–that quilt-as-you-go thing. I have never done this, but Katie PM does it quite often and demonstrated it at the class I took from her. It looked easy.

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I finished the embroidery on one panel. Only 144 blocks to go 🙂 It takes quite a bit of time to embroider around one block–usually an evening. This quilt might take a LONG time to completely finish!

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One of the ideas I had was that these would be good projects to work on after I have my knee surgery in July. So I’m happy to have all 12 of these mini-quilts ready to go, waiting in my closet.

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I still love store-bought fabrics. Its just fabulous to find fabric that someone else designed, but that has your own color and design aesthetic all ready for you to use. Elephants were my favorite wild animal as a kid, and after I went to Africa, I collected quite a few elephant fabrics.

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You can see I am still using my same simple stitches in various combinations.

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So far this has been a completely enjoyable project. I loved going through my stash and cutting out squares of all the fabrics that I liked, and so many that held special memories for me.

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Of course, this is not the only project I am working on. I will try to catch you up on some of the other projects in the next week or two.

You’re Invited!

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The eighteen quilts in the What They Said series will be in a solo exhibit at the Art & Soul Gallery from May 14 through June 18! There will be an Artist’s Reception on Friday May 19, from 7 to 8:30 pm. I would love to see you there!

 

The Art & Soul Gallery is located in Oak Hills Church, 1100 Blue Ravine Road, Folsom, CA 95630

People often ask “how long did it take?” All quilters know this is a funny question. Here’s how long it took to make all eighteen of these quilts. First, I pieced all the little cross-cut squares on a self-retreat. I had no idea what I was going to do with them. I just had fun making them.

Then one day, and I don’t know how I got the idea, it occurred to me that I would like to do a series on how people responded to Jesus, and what they said. So I started going through the Gospels and taking notes in my journal. I knew right away that I wanted the words to be the main feature in these quilts.

And then one day it occurred to me that these little cross-cut blocks would be perfect to accent the words. So I looked at them, chose one for each of the responses, and sketched how they would be set in the small quilts. And then I pieced each small quilt. I used Kona Snow for the background of each. And I put the stack of pieced tops in the closet…

Then one day, when I had run out of anything to embroider, I got all the little tops out, and I made each one into a quilt sandwich. And I put them into the closet. But I started embroidering the words, one quilt at a time. I thought about what people were thinking and feeling when they said what they said, and I tried to include that in the embroidery, and later in the quilting.

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Finally, all the embroidery was complete, but they stayed in the closet for quite a while. And one day, when I was ready to quilt, I got them out and started quilting them one by one. I really enjoyed the quilting. In most of them I included little clues as to the setting.

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And then, of course, all eighteen quilts had to be finished. Ugh. I faced all of them, and by the end, I was pretty good at facing quilts 🙂

In the meantime, I ordered many cradled wood panels to mount the quilts on. I tried staining them, but did not like that look, so I painted them all black. I think it sets off the quilts nicely.

So…. the answer to the question “how long did it take?” is a mystery. I worked on them, on and off, over a two year period. I loved this process, and I am proud of these quilts. I hope that they inspire others to see scripture differently, and to think about their own response to Jesus.

If you are in the area, and are free next Friday, I’d love to see you!

 

Projects and Project Boxes

I am a multiple project type of gal. I like having multiple projects to work on. But sometimes I get carried away and the projects multiply faster than I can work on them. And that can be overwhelming. That’s when the project boxes come in handy. I can put some of the projects neatly away for a bit. They are all ready for when the mood strikes, but they are not laying around making me feel guilty for the way I choose to work.

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Recently I saw a tiny picture somewhere. It was just a simple quilt, a kind of a square in a square, and I thought, that would be a neat way to use my kantha stitching. It seemed to be a scrappy quilt, and the main square was large with the outer square being more of a frame (where I would embellish with kantha stitching.) Here, like this:

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So I went out and went through my stash, and had great fun cutting out hunks of all my favorite fabrics, and then carefully cutting them into 6 inch squares. I have enough to make each block a different fabric!

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As I cut the squares, I had great fun re-visiting old and new favorite fabrics. It occurred to me that this is a great idea for a memory quilt. So many memories are attached to my fabric–where I was when I bought it, who I was with, and sometimes even the quilts that I have made with the fabric.

Here are some of the other projects I am working on presently. And even more are in project boxes…

Here is the piece that I showed you bits of previously. I have to take long breaks with this one to figure out what I want to do next. So far, each time it seems like “adding more” is the best solution…

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I got out the ten little pieces that I intended for the “Characteristics of God” series. I am making them into sandwiches and embroidering the words on them.

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And in the evenings, this one seems to have taken preeminence, because it is so enjoyable to stitch on with that DMC Coton Floche thread. I choose one block to work on, and then choose the threads that I want to use. It usually takes an evening to stitch one block.

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Sharing My Work

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I love sharing my work with others. What I don’t love is paying $30-40 and having someone say “no thank you” with no explanation whatsoever. I don’t have a solution to this problem. But I think for $30-40, a short explanation of rejection should be included. Yes, I’ve heard all the explanations of why a piece might be rejected. I know that the more you enter your work, the higher the chance that it will eventually be accepted. But $30-40 is a lot of money. Children are dying of hunger and thirst every day, and I do mean this literally. It is something that concerns me. And selfishly spending $30-40 in the hopes that an unnamed stranger might like my work and accept it into their show is not something that I enjoy doing on a regular basis.

 

Here’s an interesting story about that. Last fall I entered a rug into the big rug hooking contest, Celebrations. One of my instructors felt that it had a very good chance of being accepted. A few weeks ago I realized that I had never heard from them pro or con. So I started investigating. And the question I asked was, “I would like to know if my rug was viewed.” Lo and behold, my $35 entry fee went through just fine. But the rug images never made it to the judges. Now, in all fairness, I have to give kudos to the woman I was corresponding with. She could have just brushed my concern aside. But she was honest, investigated what had happened, and was very apologetic about the whole situation.

 

Anyway, all that leaves me with still wanting to share my work with others. Recently, I showed a couple of the pieces in the “what they said” series to my pastor’s wife to see if there would be any interest in sharing them at my church. She was most enthusiastic, and I ended up displaying them for Easter weekend. I really loved sharing them with others. If anyone has a church that would like to have a display of any of my quilts, I would love to share them.

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Back story on these pieces. I always intended to mount them on cradled panel boards. I tried staining the boards, but I didn’t like that look. So I decided to paint them black. I was so careful. They were propped EVERYWHERE in my little wet studio (there are 18 pieces in this series!) I let them dry for several days, and then carefully brought them into my regular studio to mount the quilts on them. 10 of them had little bits of paint that chipped off! Back out to the studio for touch-ups. I shared a few of them with Teresa, the coordinator for the Oak Hills gallery, and she said they needed mounting hardware. Okay then. Ordered that from Amazon, and had a morning of adding little screws and wire to the back of each one. I kind of resented doing this, but I have to admit that it made hanging them extremely easy 🙂

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After sharing them with my church, Grace Fellowship, in Jackson for a few weeks, they will go to Oak Hills Church in Folsom, and will be there from May 14 through June 18. If any of you are in the area, there will be an artist’s reception on Friday, May 19, from 7pm to 8:30pm. I’d love to see you!

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Sewing Machines

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I have three sewing machines. My first machine, a Janome Memory Craft 6500 has been an excellent machine. I probably got it 15 years ago, and it is still a fine sewing machine. One day I complained to the mechanic at Meissner’s that it was a long way to bring my machine in for routine servicing. He took the time to show me how to care for my machine myself, and it has been many years since I have paid for a tune-up. I use my Janome almost every single day.

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And then one day, maybe 10 years ago, with all the talk of featherweights, I had to get my own Singer Featherweight. I was extremely lucky, because I bought it on eBay from someone who was not a sewer. It has worked most excellently for me, and has not needed any repairs. The thing I like the most about my featherweight is the certainty of each stitch. I am told this is partly because it only does one thing (straight stitch) and it has a single hole face plate. I finally remembered to ask at Meissner’s if they had a single hole face plate for my Janome. They did! I am excited to try it out. And I’m pretty sure I will break a few needles before I remember that I need to switch it out when I want to zig zag. I usually use my featherweight once a month when I get together with a few friends for a sewing day. But if I am sewing triangles or other more precise shapes, I will get my featherweight out to use at home.

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And then a year ago, I got my Juki sit down long arm machine. I was in love with it, and then the motor malfunctioned. That really threw me for a loop. Even though Juki replaced the motor, you’re left with that niggling thought will it happen again? But now, after using it for about five months with no problems whatsoever, I am starting to relax again. I love the certainty of the stitches. I love that it is fairly easy to wind a bobbin and replace the bobbin (haha, after much practice 🙂 ) I love that there is only one place to oil before each bobbin change. And of course, I love the spaciousness of it. It is so much easier to work on than trying to stuff a big quilt under my Janome. I quilt on my Juki 3 or 4 days each week.

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All the pictures are of recent quilting I have done on the Juki.

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Scrappity Scrap

I like scrap quilts. For one thing, you feel like you are using up valuable leftover fabric. For another thing–ALL THE COLORS! Bits and pieces of favorite fabrics go through your hands as you piece them together.

Remember this? I had this top leftover from my first attempt at a kantha blanket. A friend is working hard at opening a home for recovering drug addicts. She asked if I would provide a couple of quilts. I thought this would be perfect, bright and cheery.

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As I quilted, I realized I could include some encouraging verses in the lighter squares.

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So I made another one.

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Quilted a little differently, but including a few verses in it as well.

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And then… I definitely over-estimated the number of strips I would need for my Katie PM class.  If I didn’t sew all those 1 1/4″ and 1 1/2″ strips together right away, I knew they would become very shreddy and would be headed for the dustbin. So I sewed them all together and decided a rail fence pattern would be just right.

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Remember all these cross-cut blocks? I really like making them. I used quite a few of them for small quilts at my Christmas boutique sale. But there were more left than I had remembered. You can see that I added a few other orphan blocks into it. You know, I love piecing blocks without measuring. But eventually they have to all fit together into a quilt. And that can be quite a chore. Its like doing a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing. Anyway, I did like this quilt when it was done, and wondered if it would be a good one for another kantha blanket.

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When I put the sandwich together, I used muslin for the backing and Hobbs 80/20 for the batting. (I normally use Quilter’s Dream cotton for my batting. I bought a big roll of the Hobbs with a Joann’s coupon for all the unquilted tops that I am working on finishing.)

I wrote a few posts ago about a new thread I found. Its DMC coton floche thread. Its supposed to be the same thickness as two strands of DMC embroidery thread. Anyway, I liked it very much. It has more of a mat finish than perle cotton, and is a bit thinner than a number 8. I thought it might be very nice for doing a kantha blanket. And then I found this on Etsy. This woman is very cleverly dividing the large hanks that the coton floche thread comes in, and selling them in multi-color packets. I ordered one in mostly soft neutral colors to do this quilt. Here’s the first square. I worried about there being a lot of seam lines to stitch through. But the Hobbs batting and the muslin, combined with this finer thread are making it a dream to stitch through.

Here’s the first block. I thought I might do this one block by block instead of straight line over the whole quilt.

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And that’s what’s going on in between the other projects I’ve written about!

Inspiration

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Inspiration? Where does it come from? And when do you know its right? What makes some art “good” and other art “no good?” Recently I’ve been working a lot on a whole cloth embroidered piece. I had a general idea when I started, and of course, that idea has gone through several transformations since I started. But at each stage, I have despaired at whether or not this is a “worthy” piece. Should I just give up? Or should I continue on? How do you know when its time to stop, or if the next step will be just what the piece needs?

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I was encouraged to read Denise Schmidt‘s words in the new book, Abstract and Geometric. She is a trained AND commercially successful artist. She said

Looking and seeing is the only way to know. If I am not happy with how a quilt looks, the only way past this is to uncover what is not working by trying other solutions. Anything that changes your perspective can be a tool that helps you see more clearly. It can sometimes be a challenge, and no one is immune to it, but it is part of the creative process. I wish I could say it gets easier, but somehow it is always the same. It is less painful if you give yourself over to it and accept that design is a process of trial and error, of getting out of your own way, and of knowing your tools.

Okay then. So the other day I decided to spend the whole day working on this piece (I usually work on machine work during the day, and only hand embroider in the evening.)

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I decided to see if there was a good movie to watch while I worked. I chose one called Imber’s Left Hand. SO inspirational! This was a well-known artist who got Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Early on, he lost the use of his right hand, and so he just switched to his left hand and continued to paint. Lou Gehrig’s disease slowly erodes the use of all of the muscles in your body, but Imber continued to paint until 3 days before his death. And as I watched, I saw the exact process that Denise had described–many times he would paint something, and decide that it just wasn’t working, and paint right over it.

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And there’s the rub, right? Our work, whether with machine or by hand, is painstakingly slow compared to other artist’s work. And its not so easy to wipe it out or do it over. Sometimes we just have to let it go, and start from scratch with new information about what works and what doesn’t.

So you might have noticed I am not showing you the entire piece. That is because I am so unsure of it, so wondering whether to give up or go on. The piece is on the design wall now, pondering the next step. And, encouraged by these other artists, I am going to go into the studio and let myself cut up more fabric and put it back together. I am going to try my next big idea, not knowing whether or not it will work or whether it will be considered art. I am going to accept that design is a process of trial and error.

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Good News

While I was at Empty Spools, I got an email that two of my quilts had been accepted into the Sacred Threads exhibit! I was very excited. But when I read which two had been accepted (I entered four,) I was surprised, and then a little sad. My Hallelujah! quilt, that I worked on for so long last year, was not one of the two accepted. And then, of course, I started to doubt myself. Its just a stupid quilt with a lot of words on it. It has no artistic merit.

Fortunately, I had the quilt with me, and so I rolled it out on the bed, and thought, I still like it! Who knows why some quilts are accepted, and others are not. I am glad about the two that were accepted, as they have rather limited possibilities, as fas as exhibition goes.

The Fire Quilt was accepted:

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“On a Wednesday in September 2015, the Butte Fire roared through our mountain community. Homes were destroyed, and many, including myself, were evacuated. Extremely dry conditions made it difficult to contain. After a few days, I came home to ash-filled air. The fire was still not contained, but my house was safe. On Sunday, I made my way to church. The church was closer to the fire, and the building was smoky. But the church was filled, and several families whose houses had burned to the ground were there. We worshipped together, culminating with the Doxology. It was such a moving experience, I wanted to commemorate it with a quilt.”

Close-up:

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And “His Kingdom Will Never End” was accepted:

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“The inspiration for this quilt came out of my frustration with some of my fellow Christians, who seem to forget that His kingdom will never end, and think that its up to them to “fight” to keep it going. Other people choose to ignore God and His kingdom. It does not matter. All around the world, His kingdom continues to appear and grow. HIS KINGDOM WILL NEVER END.”

Close-up:

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Some more good news! Do you remember when I entered a few of my quilts in Quilting in the Garden, held in September at one of my favorite nurseries?

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Well, when I picked up the quilts, the woman that coordinates the show told me how much she enjoyed my embroidered quilt, and asked if I ever taught. Now, I don’t want to teach all the time, but Alden Lane Nursery is one of my favorite places to visit, and I also have really enjoyed taking classes there. They do a quality job of coordinating the class, and it is a beautiful location, of course.

 

So, long story short, I am going to teach there in September, on the Friday before the quilt show. And, I am to be a guest artist, and will have a display of my quilts in their greenhouse. I am so excited about this. Its hard to think about anything besides embroidery on quilts…. which is one reason why I don’t want to teach all the time. There’s not enough time left for artistic endeavor. I was glad to read Judy Martin‘s thoughts on this. I felt validated in my thinking. But teaching once or twice a year is energizing. It challenges me to go one step further, thinking “what if?”

If you have been thinking about trying quilted embroidery, I hope you will join me at Alden Lane Nursery on Friday, September 22!

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