Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Today is "Poem in Your Pocket " Day.

My poem is from Whitney Otto's book, How to Make an American Quilt.

'Young lovers seek perfection. Old lovers
learn the art of sewing shreds together and
of seeing beauty in a multiplicity of

You can read an old post about this quilt I made called "Old Lovers" here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A look at the Tree Project

Back in March, I posted about a leaf I had made for the Tree Project of the International Fiber Collaborative. I just received an email from Jennifer Marsh, who is in charge of the project. The installation was unveiled last weekend in Huntsville, Alabama. Here's a picture. You can click on it for a larger view.

The website for the Tree Project provides incredible documentation of the work. They photographed each leaf and included artist or group information. Below is the entry for my leaf. You can check the others out by clicking here.

Collaborative art isn't easy and Jennifer and her team have my highest admiration for putting together an amazing piece.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Anna's Sense and Sensibility quilt

This is my dear daughter, Anna. When we have more than a few days together, we will usually indulge in one of our favorite rituals--watching the Ang Lee film "Sense and Sensibility." In addition to the lovely story, we also adore the art direction in that film. Shortly after we had first seen it, I found a glimpse of the actual quilt that Jane Austen, her sister, Cassandra, and their mother made. I showed it to Anna who immediately said she wanted a quilt like that.

We had a wonderful time collecting fabrics for it and because I only had a picture of a little corner of the quilt, I had to devise a pattern for it. (After it was finished, I finally got a Xerox of a full view of the quilt from an Internet friend in the UK and discovered that what I thought were squares on point were really diamond shapes and that there was a flower basket center design!)

Our borders were very close to the original, though.

The back is flannel--two printed florals. A generous single size,
it graced her bed during her last two years of high school. On the label, dated
1997,I wished Anna a life that was a balance of sense and sensibility. Nearly twelve years since, I would say she has more than achieved that.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Porch quilting and prize winning

I've spent a large part of this gorgeous day on our wonderful screened porch quilting on "Mérida Remix." This porch is my refuge and since I'm a little blue today, it's the perfect spot for me. (We put Dan on a plane early this morning for California and his new job.) An email this morning from Amy, the Park City Girl, informed me that I had won one of the fantastic prizes in the Bloggers Quilt Festival! The folks at Fabric Supplies are sending me these gorgeous Neo Geo fabrics by Jackie Shapiro. You can check out all the winners on Amy's blog. Thanks Charlie and Lindsay at Fabric Supplies for the prize and, again, many thanks to Amy, for an amazing first annual festival.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spider-Man doll

When my son Dan was a little guy, he was crazy about Spidey on The Electric Company. Well, back then (early 1980's) there were very little merchandising. We managed to find a 4 inch action figure, but that was about it. As Christmas was approaching, I got the inspiration to make a stuffed Spider-Man doll. The action figure didn't have great detail, so I went to a comic book store and got a Spider-Man graphic novel that had a great front and back image of the now-famous red and blue web-covered suit and in particular, the black spider on the front...

and the red spider on the back. The webs and the spiders were done using stem and split stitches.

The doll body was made using a Vogue pattern, I believe. I cut the pieces out of muslin and then machine appliquéd the red and blue sections in place.

The eyes were also machine appliquéd. The embroidery was completed on each of the pieces and then the doll was assembled.

Spidey was well-loved and now enjoys a restful retirement.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Many thanks

To all of you who left comments on the post about "Danny's Left Arm," I thank you kindly. That you took the time to write down your thoughts touched me very deeply. Several people said that Dan's accident must have been very scary, and, in retrospect, it was terrifying. Whilst it was happening, I think we were all in shock. Luckily, our instincts were to take positive action rather than panic. I will always be very thankful that my Girl Scout first aid training just kicked right in. The main surgical nurse told me that keeping pressure on the wound kept Dan from losing so much blood. Of course, Jim's strategic driving got us to the hospital in record time, which was an equally big help.

Melissa S. mentioned The Story of the Root Children and I was so happy to have this book and several others by Sieglinde Schoen Smith brought to my attention by her comment. I collect children's books that feature quilts and I quickly ordered these. Information sharing is one of my favorite features of the Internet.

A big thank-you is also in order for Park City Girl Amy. The Bloggers Quilt Festival was a huge hit as far as I am concerned. I found some wonderful new blogs and saw so many beautiful quilts from (at last count) 543 blogging quilters! Who knew there were that many of us?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dan

One of my favorite pictures of Dan. Taken by James Fisher, Crawfordsville, Indiana, 1981.

Happy birthday, buddy. Many, many joyous returns of the day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Our Florida wildlife adventures

When Dan and I drove to Florida last Saturday, we didn't know that our visit would be characterized by an abundance of wildlife. It began before we even arrived in St. Petersburg. We were driving through central Florida on Route 301 which has some fairly wild stretches and Dan ask if alligators ever came out on the road. I said that I thought they stuck pretty close to the water, but that there were canals along lots of the roads. Not a minute later, the van in front of us hit his brakes suddenly and I pulled into the left lane to avoid him as a small alligator scuttled across the highway right in front of our car!! Dan and I just looked at each other amazed.

The next morning, we took a walk with my dad along the bayou that runs into Tampa Bay. At the far side of the bayou, we were rewarded with a close look at five or six manatees enjoying the warm water of the shallow bayou.

We guessed that people must feed them because they surfaced as soon as they saw us rather than swimming away.

We also spotted these turtles enjoying the sun on a boat ramp.

On Tuesday, we drove over to Sawgrass Lake Park, part of the Pinellas County Park system. We had visited once before when Dan and Anna were small. A nicely carved sign warns visitors not to mess with the alligators because there is no fencing along the canal.

At the first observation platform, Dan spotted these baby alligators in the mud. One is on the far left and the other on the right. Look for the yellow striped tails.

This one wasn't as camera shy as this siblings.

Dan also spotted their mother who was right at the edge of the water looking very much like a log at first. Some big turtles swimming near the babies galvanized her into action, however, and we were able to get some pictures.

This beautiful egret watched us as we left the park.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My mother's garden

My mom will be 89 in June and is still an avid gardener. She doesn't weed much these days because it's tough for her to get up and down, but my dad is a champion weeder. Mom is one of those people who can grow anything and several years ago, a friend gave her an orchid and a love affair began. These are some of her orchids that were in bloom during our visit this week.

This one hangs right outside the garden room window.

We send Mom this one last year for her birthday.

Mom and Dad's neighbor grows orchids, too, and he gave her the start for this one.

The petals of this one are such a beautiful shape.

I had to show you Mom's rosemary, too. Can you believe the size of it?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More thoughts on creativity

Jaye over at started a Creativity Prompt Project several months ago. This is just the thing if you are feeling artist's block or if you're interested in analyzing your creative process. She liked the creativity questionnaire I completed several posts ago and added a link to it. Jaye has been offering a creativity prompt every Friday as encouragement and then asking for responses in the comments. Click over and see the first prompt and the responses.

Another mention on Dan's blog

Dan did a little post about his accident on his blog.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bloggers Quilt Festival: My quilt story

When I saw Park City GirlAmy's post about the first annual Bloggers Quilt Festival, I knew right away that the I had to share the story of my first art quilt, "Danny's Left Arm." Click on the button to check out the other festival blog posts.

The picture above is Dan with his arm still bandaged up, but much happier and painfree than he had been about ten days earlier. Saturday, April 16, 1988. It was one of those freak accidents. He had leaned on the window glass in his bedroom on the second floor. We had replaced the windows on the first floor, but not yet on the second. What we didn't know was that the glazing on the outside of his window had dried up and mostly fallen off except along the bottom of the glass. His weight caused the glass to break and when he fell, his arm was cut by a glass shard that remained in the bottom of the window. I was in the kitchen and heard the broken glass hit the porch roof, then I heard Anna call, "Mommy, come quick! There's blood." I yelled for Jim in his study and when I got to the top of the stairs, I could see that Dan was already in shock. He said, "Don't worry, Mom. It doesn't hurt." Blood went everywhere every time his heart beat, so I knew the artery was involved. Jim was right behind me getting to the top of the stairs. I grabbed a hand towel from the bathroom and twisted it around the wound and put pressure directly on it. Dan said, "I can't see." "Pick him up before he faints," I told Jim and we started down the stairs. Jim
got Dan and me in the van and then ran to grab Anna who was still in her pajamas and shoeless. I kept my hand right on the wound and kept the towel tight with the other. Luckily we were only about two miles from the hospital. When we arrived in the emergency room, the first nurse we saw said, "Who's hurt?" At that point, we realized we were all covered with blood. After emergency surgery, we learned that the glass had cut all the way to the bone, slicing right through the median nerve and the brachial artery. Amazingly, he hadn't lost enough blood to require a transfusion.

What we didn't know was that our local hospital should have stabilized Dan and put him in a helicopter to Indianapolis. Instead, a local surgeon thought he could operate. Poor Dan endured terrible pain from this surgery until we got him to the Hand Center in Indianapolis where he had a second, successful surgery that properly reconnected the median nerve.

I can't say enough good things about Dan's surgeon,Dr. James J. Creighton, Jr. and the Indiana Hand Center and our priest, Rev. John Eberman. Every person who works at the Hand Center was caring and compassionate and helped Dan to make a full recovery. Father John was with us at the hopsital before Dan had been in surgery an hour. He took me back home to change and get a clean shirt for Jim. First, though, he helped me clean up the broken glass and wash blood off the stairs and the hallway. He came to the hospital every day and drove Jim to meet us in Indianapolis the day I took Dan to the Hand Center the first time. It's also one of those times that it's great to live in a small community. People from our church, St. John's Episcopal, Dan's school, and from Wabash College sent cards, brought food, came to visit, and helped us all through a really tough time. My husband always calls me a Pollyanna, but I do try to find something positive in even the grimmest circumstances. The best thing to come out of this was our family solidarity. We realized at that moment when we almost lost Dan that nothing in the world was as important to us individually as being together. Even when the children were teenagers, we did everything together.

While Dan was still in the hospital, I started sketching with Judy Chicago's words pounding in my brain. “The spirit of art is always affirming, even when it deals with painful realities, for the act of making an image transforms that pain into something beautiful.” I had been making traditional quilts since 1975, but seeing the work of Nancy Crow and Judy Chicago's table runners for The Dinner Party, convinced me that needlework could be used to make art. I was taking my first art class at Purdue that semester, a drawing class, as a start toward becoming a quilt artist. I had a big self-portrait assignment due right after Dan's first surgery. I sat in his room while he slept fitfully, using the mirror on his closet door to do the portrait.

From the beginning, the sketches for the quilt included the major image of the arm. Once Dan was on the mend and back in school, I kept working on the drawings. Medical texts from the Wabash library provided information about suture stitches...

and microscopic images of nerve cells.

Finally, in the summer, I began. First I designed the nerve cell panels. By gradually changing the colors of embroidery floss as the nucleus radiated out, I got the color variations I wanted. Split stitch and stem stitch were used on this area.

The centers of the dendrites were French knots.

I drew around Anna's arm for the main image and decided it needed to have a three-dimensional quality. It has a layer of fleece and a back and was then appliquéd down to the red field. I string pieced velvets and brocades as well as cottons for their rich reds to create the field.

The phrases on the top and bottom of the quilt are from the surgical report of Dan's second surgery at the Hand Center. They are worked in stem stitch using a variegated Caron Collection Watercolors floss.

I hate marking a quilt, so I used the design of the sashing fabric as my guide in those areas.

The seams of the angled, piano keys borders provided a natural quilting line for the border and the area above and below.

Rather than binding this quilt the traditional way, it was bound to the back like Nancy Crow's quilts.

The label on the back reads in part," From the pain and ugliness of this terrible injury to my child, I was driven by grief, helplessness, and despair to recast this nightmare into something beautiful--to literally sew him back together." Here's a grown up Dan holding the quilt that bears his name.

Thanks, Dan!

A tip o' the hat to my son, Dan, for the nice mention on his blog about my post on the meditative quality of hand quilting.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring break update

Dan and I are back from Florida. I took lots of pictures, so while I'm getting things organized, I'll share "doorknob art" I made for my Dad when he had his 50th reunion at Purdue University.

Purdue's colors are old gold and black. I ironed freezer paper to fabric and sent it through my printer to make the back.

More on our Florida adventures to follow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Creativity Questionnaire

Once a month, the Carolina Mixed Media Artists Guild blog does an interview with one of their members. I like the questions they ask and thought they might serve as a good model for one of my posts.

1. What inspires you to create? I have spent many years analyzing my creative process by writing morning pages. While strong emotion often triggers the birth of a work, the fallow period that precedes the birth is a time when I gather images by going to museums, looking at art books, and observing nature. Reading, conversations, and memories often provide the germ of an idea as well.

2. When did you decide to pursue art or did art pursue you? My first artistic devotion was to the theatre, but I have always loved art museums, and enjoyed drawing and making things. As my sewing skills improved in college, I took up decorative embroidery and eventually quilting. Thanks to Judy Chicago's monumentally important work, The Dinner Party, I realized that the needlearts could indeed be used to create art.

3. If you weren't an artist, what would you be? My "Clark Kent" identity is teacher librarian at a middle school.

4. What other jobs have you had which have aided you on your artistic path? At my 25th college reunion, the class historian said I'd had the most jobs of anyone in my class. Here is a partial list--box office worker, assistant in the bursar's office at Boston University, internal office team at the Kelly Services offices in Columbus, Ohio, Boston, Massachusetts, and New York, NY, typist at the Countryside Commission in London, actress, choreographer, preschool teacher, teacher substitute, behavior education counselor at Nutri-Systems, library assistant, teacher librarian. All these different jobs helped me to become flexible, a fast learner, a good listener, a careful observer of people, and a collaborator (team player always sounds a little rah-rah to me!). When one is an artist, but must do "civilian" jobs to make ends meet, one either becomes bitter about this need or finds a way to bring the creative life to the "civilian" job. I think I've gotten very good at this.

5. At the art supply store, which section do you gravitate to first? Usually, it's the colors--pencils, paints, paper. I also love marking instruments of all kinds--pens, pencils, markers.

6. What new technique or art form would you like to learn? do you have plans to do so? I've always wanted to learn to throw pottery. My good friend, Penelope recently got a potter's wheel and it looks like wonderful fun from her pictures and descriptions. No plans in the near future, but some day...

7. If you could do anything, and knew you could not fail, what would you choose to do? That's easy. I'd star in a new Stephen Sondheim musical on Broadway--oh, better yet--in the West End!

Playing Arkadina in The Notebook of Trigorin at Wabash College. Photo by Dr. John Zimmerman.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The meditative quality of hand quilting

Currently, I'm quilting a small wall piece called "Mérida Remix." I hand quilt all my work because I like the look of hand quilting better than machine quilting and because of the almost meditative state into which it puts me. This feels like the work I was born to do. In his Winter, 1997 article, "On Zen Work," for Turning Wheel, the Journal of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Norman Fischer says just that,"Work is something deep and dignified—it's what we are born to do and what we feel most fulfilled in doing...Work as meditation happens when the work you are doing is very simple and repetitive... "

When I sit down in the living room and take up my hoop and quilting needle, my husband will often say, "Why don't you relax?" His work is of the mind and necessitates hours hunched over the computer or dealing with personnel issues in the office. No wonder he must flee his study and office to watch an old movie or listen to music to find relief. I often wish he could find the calm I realize in these familiar movements of needle and thread through cloth. My mind is quiet, my breathing is regular, and I'm sure my heart rate and blood pressure drop. Norman Fischer again: "When you can enter into this timing and flow with it[the work], you can work very efficiently and at the same time be very relaxed."

The piecing together of fabric has long been a Buddhist tradition.  Monks would slowly make the Buddha's Robe (worn to take bodhisattva vows) by collecting scraps of material that were sewn together in a rice field design and eventually made into robes. Sewing the Buddha's Robe is a strong tradition in the Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi American lineage. Click over to the Buddha's Robe is Sewn site for more information. You have to hold to your heart a religion that reveres patchwork and sewing.