31 October 2007

York Street Cemetery Walking Tour

This is York Street Cemetery here in Plymouth, Michigan. I went on a walking tour of it tonight and Leann was right, its not creepy at all. I'm not sure if its because so many of the grave stones are missing or if its just a peaceful spot. The guide did tell us tonight that they aren't completely certain how many people are buried here because at one time it was "fashionable" to take the grave stones from the cemetery and put them in your garden. So a lot have been stolen. Which, to be honest, I think is quite rude.

But what is left there is fascinating to look at. There are several that have the most beautiful carvings on it. Which, the fact that they have lasted so long is amazing in and of itself. This cemetery dates back to the 1800s. In fact, the most "recent" date I could find on one was for 1914.

Here is one that I thought was particularly beautiful.

The inscriptions are just as interesting. If you want to know Emma's last name, you have to read farther down her stone to find the name of her husband. And it also states that she was "Aged: 30 years" at the time of her death.

Below is a detail of the hand carving on her stone:

Its really quite beautiful and in remarkably good shape. I'm not sure what type of stone it is but Emma's death is dated to the 1800s. So it certainly wears well!

And of course what good would a cemetery be without some overgrowth to add to the ambiance?

Below is a photo of one of the stones laying on the ground, there are several like these. I'm not really sure if they were standing at some point and then fell over or if they started out laying down. But the ones that are resting that way are sinking into the grass. Its a strong testament to how long they've been around.

I took more photos then this but didn't want to upload them all in one post. If you'd like to see more, you can visit my Flickr site. Flickr didn't let me load them in them in the order I would have liked but what can you do? Technology can be a pain sometimes.

I found the carvings so interesting that I'm going to try to locate more old graveyards. I know of one not too far away. It could become a new hobby...

I also got a most awesome shot for this week's Where I Stand Sunday post so be sure to check back to see it.

Happy Halloween!

I love today, Halloween is my favorite time of year. There are several reasons:
  • Daylight Savings time is over, which means I get to sleep for an extra hour.

  • The weather is cooling off but its still warm enough that I can get by with a sweater.

  • The year is winding down and it just feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel, particularly if its been a difficult twelve months.

  • Halloween = candy (and let's face it, you can't get gummy eyeballs any other time of the year so the candy alone is worth it)

I've chosen to celebrate this halloween by going on a cemetary tour this evening. Those of you who know me know that this takes a large amount of courage on my part. I am openly and admittedly a complete sissy when it comes to the subject of ghosts. (I believe in them completely and don't mind them being around - so long as I never have to see one or be touched by one.) So it makes sense that I would visit a cemetary on halloween, right?

Its an old cemetary, we're talking 1800s so the gravestones are really cool. Leann has been there and her photos are awesome so now I want to go see them. I like old gravestones, quit looking at me weird.

The catch is that you can't get into this cemetary unless you are on a walking tour with the Plymouth Historical Society. I missed the last one and when I saw that they were doing one for tonight, I figured I would pull up my big girl pants and go.

I think I'll be okay against the ghosts. There will be a large group of us, it will still be daylight when we are there and I've muttered some voodoo protection spells. Hopefully I don't get sucked into the ground or possesed by something evil...wish me luck!

28 October 2007

Where I Stand Sunday

Michigan is trading in summer for autumn. The weather is growing cold, its raining and the leaves have become victims of gravity. It won't be long before my blacktop driveway is covered in ice rather then spotted with leaves.

Welcome to my new little project: Where I Stand Sunday. I've long been admiring the photos people take when they go on trips of their feet standing on new soil, an interesting walkway, a special building.

And I got to thinking that we often give little thought to the ground that we tread on every day. So I've decided to start paying attention. Its keeping in line with what I said in my Blog Action Day post, "I plan to spend more time stopping and looking at nature around me. Its time we all spent more time living in our environment rather then just on top of it."

Each Sunday I will post a photo of someplace I stood. Beneath the photo will be an explanation of where I was standing and why I chose to take a photo of that particular spot. Odds are it won't be anywhere exotic but the point is to stop and really pay attention to where I live, where I spend my life standing.

I invite you to join me in doing this. I think you'll be surprised at how much you take for granted once you stop and look around at the places you spend each day of your life in. If you would like to join me in posting a photo (on your blog, on your photo site, on your website), leave me a comment on this post where I can find it and I will start a blogroll on my sidebar so other people can find you as well!

Have you fulfilled your yearly quota?

I have come to believe that spinners and knitters have a secret requirement: to convert non-knitters and non-spinners into obsessed lunatics over fleece and yarn. I believe they have to convert a certain number of people each year in order for them to maintain their status as spinners and knitters.

I've asked a couple of them about this and they laugh and say there is no such thing. But there is always a smirk on their faces so I think they are nothing but dirty liars.

I've been sucked into yet another type of fiber art. (Remember my fiber arts ADD issue? It doesn't appear to be improving.) I tell you, its like a freakin' tractor beam. And when you get down to it, I'm becoming enamored with some poor animals hair. (I like wool. Recite it with me: "Prrrrrrrreeeeetttttyyyyyy wool." Now give it a pat. That's it. Now back away, that one's mine...) Its kind of an odd thing.

And of course you'd think that I would make some effort to save myself. But nooooooooooo, I go to places like this.

Confused? Yeah, I kind of was too. Nothing says knitting like a side of firearms. But I swear, I went to the fiber expo. Here's a photo of it to prove it:

This was out in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was the First Annual Fiber Expo held at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds. And it was pretty cool. There were lots of yarn to drool over and I even got to make some new friends.

They seemed to be checking my hands for shearing scissors. Suspicous little buggers. I picked up two skeins of handspun yarn while I was there (wool yarn...see? My new furry friends had nothing to worry about..) and am looking forward to trying out a couple new patterns I've been admiring. I'm loving it and I know just who to blame for this new obsession...

I blame Leann for showing me I could make yarn with a drop spindle. I blame Sylvia for showing me how easy it is to knit and purl. I blame Kate for being the fiber goddess that she is and knitting dolls that she spins her own yarn for. Here's some of her dolls to prove my point about her goddess status:

And I blame every single knitter I've come across that says, "Oh, have you tried this yet?" which usually results in me getting twitchy with the realization that there is still so much for me to learn.

I have been focused on knitting scarves so far. Why only scarves you ask? That's pretty simple: because they don't care if you are fat or skinny. I can loose five pounds (or gain twenty) and the scarf will still fit. If I ever reach a point where I've gained so much weight that my scarves won't fit anymore, I'll know I'm in big trouble.

Plus there are about a billion scarf patterns out there that touch on about a trillion different techniques. The odds of me getting bored with scarves are slim.

Before you go trying to convince me that I should try knitting a sweater, let me assure you that I've already thought it through. If I spent a year knitting a sweater (I'm a slow knitter, give me a break, I'm just starting out here...) and it didn't fit because I'd gained or lost weight, I'd really resent that chunk of wool. I'd give it dirty looks every time I opened the closet. Which would probably drive me to the conclusion that I should just give it away at which point I would just give the dirty looks to the person who could wear it. Its not a pretty situation so I'm going to just head it off before it even happens.

I do admit that I am itching to learn how to knit socks and I have purchased lace yarn for a very pretty stole pattern. I had attempted to buy the lace yarn at a store and was met with resistance. The "helpful" woman there insisted (in a pretty condescending tone, she's obviously met her quota for the year) that since I was kind of new to knitting that I should practice on big yarn and leave the dainty yarn alone for now. I tried to explain to her that I'm a tatter so I'm not afraid of no stinkin' lace yarn. But she wasn't buying it - so neither did I. Instead I went on etsy and purchased this lovely yarn. I've started the stole and its slow going but it'll be beautiful when its done.

I'm reading books by the Yarn Harlot and tagging knitting books on my Wish List on Amazon.com and starting to wonder just how much fiber goodness I've been missing out on all these years. I'm feeling drunk with all the new learning possibilities. You win! I've been converted! I'll keep going! I'll learn new stuff, I'll pass it on! I'll admire knitting and spinning and weaving with a new found respect!

STOP! I BEG YOU! (But please don't try too hard, okay? I kind of like it...)

26 October 2007

What would you take?

So a couple of my co-workers today were discussing the fires in California this morning. I've been glued to the news since they started, I'm feeling really terrible about it. I think what floors me the most is that they believe some of the fires were started by arsonists. What buttheads. (I have stronger words but this a PG-13 blog so I will refrain.)

I just can't imagine the horror of being faced with something like this but knowing that someone started the whole mess deliberately? Some people are just not right.

The conversation here at work today turned toward the subject of "What would you take with you if you had to evacuate?" So I got to thinking about it. We're talking about material possessions for the purpose of this conversation. Past the obvious of humans, pets, important papers, photographs, etc...

I've been working on paring things down for some time. Mostly because I've had a really insane hectic life for the past few years that has generated a hideous backlog of junk that mocks me every chance it gets. But don't worry, I've purchased the trash bags and there will be no mercy, the carnage cleaning begins today after I get off work. In fact, I'm even taking half a day vacation to get a kick start on it. MUAHAHAHAHAH!!!

Sorry, got sidetracked there...back to the conversation at hand. So if you had already packed up all the important stuff and still had room to toss in some trivial items, what would you take, dear reader?

I had to think long and hard about it. I look around at the stuff I have and the first thing that comes to mind is: "This can all be replaced." But then I feel a small twinge and start to think that I would probably take at least these things if I could:

  • A couple completed art quilts. I tend to work small, I could roll them up and stuff them in a tote bag. These represent periods in my life and I can gauge my personal history in them so to me, they are almost as important as the family photographs.

  • My laptop and digital camera. Its got everything on there and again, its dinky so it too won't take up much space.

  • Some yarn and knitting needles. If I'm going somewhere where I know I will have to wait and be a nervous wreck while I wait to find out if fire has eaten my house and all my belongings, I'm going to keep my hands busy so that I dont' go completely insane. Its how I deal with stress.

  • A journal. Nothing like written therapy.

Other then that, I'd be willing to leave the rest of it behind. And that was a shocking realization to me but its true.

So now I'm wondering, what would you take?

My heart really does go out to all the people in California. My thoughts are with you all and I hope you are managing as well as you can. Be safe and be well. {{hugs}}

25 October 2007

My Favorite Girly Art

Not too long ago, I posted a message on the Quilt Art list and mentioned that I am a tatter and that I taught it for the three years that my store, Lost Arts Stitchery, was open.

I got tons of email about it, some excited, some nostalgic...and some asking me just how many tattoos I had and what did that have to do with fiber art? So I thought tonight, dear reader, I would talk to you about the fiber art that my friends say proves I am a girl: tatting.

Tatting is a form of lacemaking that dates back to the 1800s. I say it proves I am a girl because its incredibly dainty and delicate, which is not always the first type of fiber art I am attracted to. (Hey you...quit that snickering...) But I do like it a lot, its really interesting and there are seemingly endless applications for it.

(This is one of my favorite books from Dover. They have lots of tatting pattern books.)

Its used for all kinds of things. Doilies, edging on pillows, edging on cuffs, purses (both the whole thing as well as edging), tablecloths, bracelets, earrings, Christmas tree ornaments, decorations for handmade greeting cards, embellishments on crazy quilts (which is what I used it for) and probably way more then I could ever possibly think of.

And there are two ways to do it: using a shuttle or using a blunt tipped needle. Shuttle tatting is the traditional tool, which is what I use and teach. And I should mention that if you choose to do needle tatting, you need to buy multiple sizes of needles depending on the size of the yarn. With the shuttle, one size fits all.

This is a shuttle.

These are needles.

One woman who wrote to me after I posted to the Quilt Art list asked how she could go about learning it. I have to say that even with all I know about it, I read some of the books out there and feel like I've never picked up a shuttle before. So, in my opinion, shuttle tatting is really hard to learn from a book. Note that I said hard, not impossible.

However, I have been told that there is a really good book for learning needle tatting called Learn Needle Tatting-Step By Step by Barbara Foster. Many semi-homicidal wanna-be tatters have found redemption in needle tatting after trying to learn it on a shuttle. Plus this site, Handy Hands tatting, has online instruction about the technique. I've personally never done needle tatting but if you've not had an easy time learning shuttle tatting, you may want to give it a go. Plus if you have arthritis in your hands, I've also been told needle tatting is easier.

For those of you more like myself - determined to torture yourself into learning it the traditional way - there is help. Handy Hands also offers videos for shuttle tatters. I can't really endorse these because I've not seen them but I can tell you that in the three years of teaching people to tat, all my students caught on. This is clearly an art easier learned by seeing someone else do it.

But if you are on your own with no human to show you how to do it and determined to learn, you should know that there are about a billion resources on the web. Well, maybe not that many, I didn't count them all. But I did google "tatting" and about went cross eyed looking through all the hits.

This is one of my favorite sites for learning shuttle tatting. Its from Carrie Carlson and I think its exceptionally clearly written. Plus she has instructions for both left and right handed people, which is near impossible to find. (Oh, here's a good tip. I am right handed but successfully taught left handed people to tat many times. If you are left handed but your teacher is right handed, sit across the table from them. You'll be looking at a mirror image of their hands and its easier to pick up.)

Here's how I taught my class and what I recommend for beginners:

  • Keep in mind that tatting is all based on one stitch called The Double Stitch, which is nothing more then a set of two slip knots. Learn that and you are good to go. So stay calm and concentrate on conquering that stitch into submission.
  • I had my own instructions for my class but I can't locate them. I suggest printing out Carrie's instructions. They are good, trust me.
  • Start with big thread. The bigger the number, the smaller the thread. So start with a size 10 thread. Yeah, yeah, I know 80 is the bigger number but its dinky thread and you'll be cursing in no time flat.
  • Use two colors of thread, its easier to learn how to flip the knot. Carrie's instructions are easy to follow because she uses two colors to demonstrate what to do.
  • I like plastic shuttles, like these from Clover. They do make a somewhat annoying clicking sound when you are using them that always solicits dirty looks from my dog but hey, sometimes the loved ones have to suffer for our art. They'll get over it.
  • Start by learning the chain first. Your objective when you start is to learn the double stitch and the chain is easier to learn first. Then become a contortionist and learn the ring. (Which Carrie shows under her First Half of Stitch and Second Half of Stitch sections.)
  • Oh yeah...remember to breathe....and take breaks if you are feeling frustrated.
  • And PRACTICE. This is not an instant "I get it!" thing that only takes 30 seconds. And if you do get it right away (to which I congratulate you!!!) and there are other new tatters around you, you may want to consider celebrating on the inside for the moment. New tatters are sometimes disgruntled.
I would really encourage you to give it a try if you are interested in it. Too often people psyche themselves out into thinking its too hard. Its really not. Especially if you are a knitter or crocheter. I do those too and I'm tellin' ya, I'm not buying the "Tatting is too hard" when you already turn string/thread/yarn into various types of knots.

I'll help ya as much as I can if you get stuck. And definetly do an internet search for "tatting." There is TONS out there!!!

23 October 2007

Most excellent time wasters

Okay, I admit it...I like these silly little quiz things at Blogthings. And usually I do them, chuckle like an idiot and move on. Its one of those secret little addictions I have that are nothing more then fun time wasters.

But seeing how I adore the autumn and Halloween is my ultimate favorite time of year, I had to share with you the results from their new Halloween quizzes.

What kind of Candy am I?

They call you sticky fingers for a reason!

What is my Monster name?
Your Monster Profile

Blood Thirsty Butcher

You Feast On: Fried Twinkies

You Lurk Around In: Public Restrooms

You Especially Like to Torment: Priests

And one more: What is my pumpkin face?

You Are

A Classic Pumpkin Face

You would make a good pumpkin pie.

Go give it a go. Its a nice mind numbing way to spend fifteen minutes of your life. And let's face it, a little mind numbing is in order every once in a while...

21 October 2007

So you want to curate an exhibit?

I spent the weekend turning this:

into this:

If this doesn't excite you, then you are far too difficult to impress.

This is all the work from Breaking Traditions. I discovered a new love over the past couple of years: curating exhibits. It appeals to my obsessive Virgo personality (that I think is slightly dysfunctional because the rest of my life is never as organized as my exhibits are).

I love working with artists. I love getting to interact with their artwork on a personal level. Its very humbling to have someone mail you something that came from their creative soul, its like they are mailing you their first-born. (And no, don't start leaving babies on my doorstep. The quilts don't need to be fed and don't poop all over the place so I much prefer those, thank you very much.)

I had the opportunity to participate in an conference call with a SAQA region that is putting together their first regional show. They had specific questions and I answered them and it felt like a productive phone call. After I hung up the phone, I had a twitchy feeling - kind of like I'd left the house without any pants on. I realized that for everything I had told them, I hadn't even scratched the tip of the iceberg. I'd left out billions of tiny details and I kind of panicked.

So my plan was to do a write up of all the steps and email that to them so it would be like I was there helping them along. I started it three days ago...I'm up to eight pages...and I'm not done yet.

The honest to God truth is that as I wrote it, I started to really question my sanity. Why is this something that I love so dearly? Why do I feel like I've conquered the world when I plan and execute an exhibit? Its still not clear but I do know that if I would jump at the chance to do it for a living.

I do plan to finish my write up of what goes into it. I'd like to post it on my website so that others can reference it when they feel like giving curating a go. But I thought maybe I would post a few things (some of which are a little funny) here just to give you a taste of what is involved.

What Curating an Exhibit Isn't
(otherwise known as "The Delusions that need to be
Destroyed for New Curators" - and trust me, that included me when I first started)

  • Curating is not for the weak of heart. Planning and executing a successful exhibit usually takes around a year. If you try to do it in a tight time frame (like a couple months), you'll end up in a corner muttering to yourself. Don't do it, it won't work, take it from the rest of us who have been there and were crazy enough to try it. Keep that part of your sanity in tact.
  • If you don't have even a tiny touch of OCD, develop it for at least the course of the exhibit. You need to be hyper-organized. Spreadsheets are your best friend and you will begin giving your spreadsheet software little pet names like "honey-bunny" and "sally."
  • You will, at some point of the execution of the exhibit, begin to wonder if you are a sociological experiment for how much stress one human being can absorb before exploding. Just breathe and bravely soldier on, it will all work out in the end.
  • For the love of all things holy, label the boxes that come from UPS and FedEx with the name of the artist as soon as you unpack the artwork. The evil S.O.B.s at these shippers often only list their store as the return address. Unless the artists lives in the UPS or FedEx store, you will be playing "match-the-box-with-the-artwork" game because the artist's address may not even match the city in which it was mailed.
  • Be flexible. If something in your plan is not working out, don't dwell on it. Find another solution and move on. Quickly now, before the Schedule flattens like you like a bus.
Now that's just a taste of some of the stress, uh, I mean excitement. I can see you, you know. I see you with the scrunched up forehead and squinted eyes muttering, "She's clearly not right in the head. Why would I bother?" Here's why:

What Curating an Exhibit Is
(otherwise known as "Why the Heck I Do this to Myself")

  • Curating connects you to other artists in a way that no other activity can. How many exhibits have you been to and you've walked through them fairly quickly, only glancing at the work? When you handle and hang the artwork, you really look at it and get to know it first hand.
  • Its F U N. I know it didn't sound like it from the points above but it really is. Because when people send work in for your exhibit, they are telling you that they share your vision. They understand the exhibit's purpose and they want to join you in standing up and speaking with their art.
  • You really learn a lot about different styles of artwork. Its fascinating because it seems like you are looking at your chosen medium with a new set of eyeballs and you wouldn't believe just how endless the creativity of fiber artists is.
  • You learn about how you can improve your own artwork. I learned some really cool tips on packing my art quilts from seeing how others have done it. I know what type of hanging rods are easy to ship and which ones should be avoided. I also learned the things that I can do it make it easier for the shows I ship to.

I really do encourage everyone to give curating an exhibit a try if you think you would like to do it. But don't enter into it lightly. You are making a commitment in terms of your time and be prepared to do a substantial part of the labor if you aren't going solo on it, in which case you will do 99% of it yourself. If you agree to co-curate an exhibit, follow through and do the work, never expect the other person to do all the heavy lifting.

Also understand that you are making a commitment to the artists that are sending you their work. Tread carefully and respectfully of that fact. Because all artwork - whatever the style, the topic, the medium - is to be treated like it was your own when you curate.

Go on, give it a go. I'll be here to listen when you realize at 2am the night before hanging that you forgot to print up the labels for the work or spent an hour trying to figure out which box goes with which quilt. (I'm sure that it was shipped by FedEx or UPS, I tell you , they are out to get us.) Its all good.

18 October 2007

What can $25 do?

"Boundary Waters" photo by Virginia Spiegel

I'd like you to consider a question for me today, dear reader: What can you buy with $25?

Several things come to mind:

  • a new DVD movie
  • a yard of hand dyed fabric
  • a couple skeins of yarn
  • a nice meal at a restaurant
  • specialty coffee drinks for a week

NOW consider what $25 can do when its donated to the American Cancer Society:

  • Fund research for new treatments to not only extend but IMPROVE the quality of LIFE

  • Fund programs to HELP patients and their families COPE with the effects of cancer

  • Give HOPE to patients and families when they need it most to keep going

We've all heard these points before. We are so bombarded with requests for money from charities and companies wanting to us to buy their products that its easy to glaze over them. But go back and really read what that money can do. And imagine if you were the patient or the one supporting your mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, friend. Those items would help define your world and touch your life in a truly profound way.

And what's even more impressive about that small amount of money, is that we as artists have been handed a unique opportunity to not only donate it to help others, but to get something in return.

You've read posts from me before about Virginia Spiegel and the project she leads to support the American Cancer Society, Fiberart for a Cause. And you'll continue to read posts about it from me until I'm blue in the face. And here is why:

Virginia continues to put together fundraising efforts for the ACS with absolutely no compensation to herself . She does a tremendous amount of work coming up with new and exciting things to encourage us to donate. And when it comes right down to it, she's giving it away in order to gain donations. You've heard of paying it forward, right? Well, she has made it easy for all of us to exercise this by doing nothing more then clicking on a button and making a donation.

Virginia's latest fundraising effort is her e-book. Its truly a treat. It contains her essays and poems and photos. There is so much to read and she continues to add new items to it. When have you ever bought a book and had it updated with new content before?

I really encourage you to get her e-book. I've spent a lot of time reading each section and her writing really commands your attention and draws you into her life. The whole thing is very personal and inspirational and like nothing I've ever read before. The quality of photos and writing is outstanding.

"Wren" photo by Virginia Spiegel

I know I personally think nothing of buying a book for my fiber arts library for inspiration only and often pay far more then $25 for it. Virginia's e-book is doing double duty by speaking to us as a fellow artist and changing the lives of people who are battling cancer.

And if you still aren't sure you want to make the donation for the book, Virginia even has a sample chapter posted so you can check it out. I encourage you to give more then the $25 minimum donation she is asking for this treasure if you are able to. Not only are you receiving a beautiful piece of written work for it, you are helping to make the lives of cancer patients and their families a little bit better.

Now you tell me: what is better to spend $25 on?

17 October 2007

Uncontrollable cleaning urge

This is an important date to put down in your books, mark on your calendars or commit to memory. Mostly because when I get in this kind of mood, nothing is safe in the house.

My life has been so hectic for so long that I've had very little time to organize and keep things clean. I've now reached a point where I'd prefer to set it all on fire rather then look at it in their mocking piles any longer.

A while back I did a major overhaul of my studio when IKEA opened by my house. I admit now, openly and honestly, that I never completely finished it. So why have I decided that its time to make the final push?

Well, let me set the scene for you...

One week before the American Sewing Expo I was frantically working to meet my deadlines. Once again, no one's fault but my own for waiting too long. I was working on an assemblage doll and one of the main portions of it was the extremely long legs on it. I liked the distortion of this and really went at it.

I cut three legs out of dowels and was proud of myself that when I measured them (stop snickering, I do so own a tape measure and it has so seen the light of day) they were all the same length. I had decided to build the fourth leg out of little wood frames and small wood blocks.

I did all this and said doll appeared level. At least, it appeared level while sitting on my work table. I don't know what I was doing but I set it on the floor for some reason and my little friend promptly tilted to one side. The side where I had used the frames and blocks. I admit I was extremely unlady like and grumbling like a sailor.

And of course I was looking to blame everything/anyone but myself for this error. Heck, even the dog wasn't safe from accusations he couldn't have possibly committed. After all, he has no thumbs. I placed the doll back up on my work table and it was level again. Huh?

So either the house is completely crooked (which I'm pretty sure I don't walk slanted) or my work table was off. Oh yeah, upon closer inspection, I found a big bow in the middle of it. A leveler confirmed it and the sailor comments came out once again but I moved on because there were deadlines and no time to be concerned about anything else. Besides, I was in the middle of trying to whack off a couple wood blocks with a hammer, whimpering the whole time because I didn't want to knock the whole thing apart. (By the way, Weldbond is extremely strong glue. Ask me how I know....)

Now we are to the present. The majority of the heavy deadlines are done and the shipping out of the quilts from Breaking Traditions will be completed this weekend. Which leaves me time to turn my attentions elsewhere. Like back to that evil work table.

I have two tables in my studio and it turns out that both of them are bowed. They are now my enemy. I plan to turn them into dyeing tables and make them go live in the garage in between uses. Not polite, I know, but an artist has to be ruthless at times.

So I went to the IKEA website. Talk about more evil but in a totally good way. I want this table top, this legs and these little shelves:

I'd really like to finally get some kind of shelving up on the walls was well to display artwork and give the space a finished feel.

Luckily my friend Tom has agreed to come out and help with said activities which is good because they just released Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas as 3D back onto the big screen so we can go see that too. (I worship Tim Burton...drool...)

Ah yes, free time for me leads to much destruction in the house. But no worries, it all goes back together....eventually.

16 October 2007

Autumn Twilight

Autumn Twilight
Originally uploaded by rckrawczykjr
I just had to post this since Blog Action Day was just yesterday. This is a photo from my brother, Ralph's, Flickr page. He is an amazing photographer and this photo is so outstanding.

Its of Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan.


15 October 2007

Making art & laughing myself silly

I spent this past weekend at the Fabrications retreat in Lewiston, Michigan. It was my first time attending. I've heard rave reviews from other attendees and put it on my list of must go do this. This year I was able to do that and I already put down a deposit to return next year. (I'm signed up for a class with Fran Skiles and I can't wait!!!)

Its held at the Garland Resort, which is absolutely stunning. And its also Color Weekend in Michigan so there was lots of really gorgeous autumn colors all over the place. And did I take pictures of this? Nope. Which at first I kicked myself for but then realized its a testament to how much I enjoyed myself that I was living fully in the moment. (Its good reasoning, right? Work with me here...)

Pamela Allen's class

I've never taken an art quilt class. I chose to take Pamela Allen's class because before this weekend I was allergic to using more then one print in a quilt and seemingly completely incapable of using more then one fabric for the background of a quilt. Pamela fixed that.

We did several exercises on line and color and then the unfortunate incident with my attempts at free motion quilting. Let's just say that the machine will be visiting the doctor because this time it wasn't my fault. Quit looking at me that way, I swear it wasn't. (Mary was in the class with me and fixed the machine so there is proof, go ask her if you don't believe me.)

I did several pieces but these have got to be my favorite. I ended up kicking out three quilts in a little series I'm calling "Acid Peace." Here they are:

The images are taken from the peace jacket I made for the American Sewing Expo a couple weeks ago. The one on the right came first and had a very acid feel to it, hence the name of the series. (I may rework the middle one a little bit but I'm not sure yet.) The other two came about as wanting to play with the colors to provoke different emotions. Note the patterned fabric, note the not-so-flat background.

The ironic thing is that I've never done series type reproduction work before this class. Poor Pamela, I had to take her class to do something normal. Sorry about that one.

Pamela is an amazing teacher. Really really fun and she really makes you think about why you add what you do to your compositions. I got a lot out of her class and had a blast doing it. I would highly recommend her.

A Critique

I had the opportunity to have a critique of my work from Laura Cater-Woods. I admit that I was a little nervous about it but the curiosity of what someone had to say about my work that didn't know me in the least was too much and it won over any apprehension.

One of the things that's been bothering me lately with my work is a shift in styles. Below is Fragile I, which is the first of two quilts I recently made. Which to me look absolutely nothing like my usual style.

Laura looked at this quilt compared with my usual style and had some very constructive comments. The biggest thing I learned is that it is obvious that these are from me, they are constructed similarly and bear the same marks. But one focuses more on mood while the others focus more on the objects on the quilt.

I think I've got a split style. There is such a large part of me drawn to the more abstract like Fragile I & Fragile II but I enjoy the mixed media aspect of my usual style. She also helped me to understand my feelings toward working in a series. The quilts that are created based on my mixed media/embellishment style say all that they need to in one shot. While the quilts like Fragile leave a lot of space for interpretation and therefore cannot finish their conversation in one piece.

I'm digging the split style idea. And I thank Laura for helping me come to grips with it. I bought more square beads and some appropriate moody fabric from Cathy Arnett to continue the Fragile series.

Laura also teaches at the retreat and will be returning next year. Just from the brief interaction I had with her, I would highly recommend her to anyone looking for insight into their artwork. She's got a way of doing that with such ease that you don't know what hit you. But in a totally good way.

Laughing Myself Silly

I went to the retreat with Mary and we are good friends with Cathy Arnett, the organizer of the retreat. Unfortunately we don't see her that often but when we get together, it is complete mayhem. I think I laughed so much this past weekend it could have qualified as exercise.

This is a photo of the three of us at Bead Haven in Frankenmuth. Normally I would be irked that the photo is a little blurry but I think it is so appropriate for us that I went ahead and posted it. Why is it blurry? Because we were acting so stupid that the poor girl we wrangled into taking the photo couldn't stop laughing. (And the camera was set on the Kids & Pets setting to help with my issues of having unsteady hands. It was obviously a moot point here.)
From left to right: Mary, me and Cathy.

And to give you an even better understanding of just how we get, I will end this post with some pictures that Cathy took of us using the PhotoBooth program on her iMac. (A quick explanation for those of you not familiar with this program: There is a camera built into the computer and the program has different filters that distort the images like a fun house.) Be warned, they are not flattering but beyond funny....

Here I am doing a hulk impersenation:

And here is Cathy doing an impression of a Dementor on Mary:

You totally have to come next year....

P.S. Cathy will have the information up for next year's retreat shortly after the new year. I can't recommend it enough. It rocked in so many ways its hard to put into words.

Blog Action Day - Support the Environment!

Today is Blog Action Day. The intent of this post is to be one of millions focusing on the environment. By so many blogs posting on the same topic today, we hope to bring the environment to the forefront of people's thoughts. I'm posting a picture I took while in Lewiston, Michigan this past weekend.

Admittedly I am a city girl at heart. Born and raised in Detroit, I went through a mild culture shock when we moved into the suburbs a few years ago. And its shameful to say but I don't go up to Northern Michigan very often. Actually that's an understatement, I haven't been up north since I was a kid. (And we won't discuss how long ago that was so don't ask...)

Nine of us decided to go out on Saturday night after classes were over to a very popular local restaurant. Being the brilliant people we are, we didn't think to call ahead and make reservations so we had a little while to wait and went outside to kill time. This lake was such a surprise (to me at least ) when we walked around the back of the restaurant and found this. There were little steps going down to the water edge and a shallow strip of beach. I was completely in awe of the beauty.

And while admiring it, I was also struck by the irony that we (meaning humans) spend so much time destroying things like this. Things that were here long before we were and are basically just minding their own business. And things that with one glance, can wipe clean all the stress in your life and make you still for a few delicious moments.

I plan to spend more time stopping and looking at the nature around me. Its time we all spent more time living in our environment rather then just on top of it. Enjoy the photo, enjoy the day, and keep on standing up for the beauty of our world. Peace.

14 October 2007

My quilt is on the Skull-a-Day blog!

I'm back from Fabrications and I have many wonderful things to tell you but my brain is the equivalent of jell-o right now so I can't put too many words together into those things called...um...sentences. Yeah, that's it...

BUT while staring blankly at the 357 new emails in my inbox (and no, that was not a typo, there is still a connection from the brain for the typing), I realized I've gone through blog withdrawal.

Not only being able to prattle on to you all out there but also all the ones I like to read. So I started to bop around and my last stop was the Skull-a-Day blog. I think I've mentioned this one before. It makes me all warm and fuzzy to know that my obsession with skulls in a fairly normal activity. I collect them, I doodle them, I have them hanging around the house, I zero in on them in stores like a mosquito to a bug zapper. Not to mention the fact that the blog is one of the most creative things that I've seen. The guy running it makes a new skull everyday and he really works hard at finding it in everyday objects as well as making them from scratch. You should totally subscribe to it and then we can oooooohhhhh and aaaaaahhhhh together.

So imagine my delight when I found my quilt, Vida, among the reader submissions in the second to last post. Woo-hoo! I am clearly easily amused, just go look at it and do a little "woo-hoo!" for me.

09 October 2007

Fiber Arts ADD

Not too long ago I purged my studio (but you wouldn’t know it to look at it now) of all the things that had been accumulating over the years. My primary goal was to clean out the stuff that I no longer do to make room for the stuff I do do.

I got the brilliant (note the sarcasm on that word) idea to just pull everything out of every box and every drawer and start to clean. The idea was to really make myself get rid of stuff so I could buy new organizers (translation: IKEA had just opened near my house and I was looking for any excuse to got shopping there) and really get my act together. Its been a while since I did the Big Clean and now still periodically go through mini cleaning rampages but even with the smaller scale cleans, I’m starting to see that its quite possible I have Fiber Arts ADD.

Now don’t be alarmed, its not a deadly condition. (Although the house and family do suffer a bit for the sake of my art but the family has to – they love me – and the house has no say in it so I’m not that concerned.) I seem to travel along from one type of fiber/needle art to another. I do stick around for a reasonable amount of time on each one (usually the minimum has been a year) but then I realize that when it comes to fiber/needle arts, there is just NO way you can limit yourself to one type of creation. It simply comes in too many forms.

So I sat down and wrote a list of all the types of fiber/needle arts that I’ve made my way through over the years. (And all it did was reinforce the ADD theory…) Here they are:

This one began my fiber art career. It should have been an early warning sign. You pretty much have to have a somewhat frantic attention span to do crazy quilting. The amount of things you have to learn for the embellishment side of it would keep anyone enthralled.

All types from three dimensional brazillian to just plain old flat chevron stitch with DMC perle cotton. This one is especially good for the attention deficient. There are endless types of threads to embroider with from cotton to silk to wool to rayon to blends. And let’s not get started on the silk ribbon embroidery – its an addiction that can’t be explained.

I truly believe that this is one of the most masochistic forms of needle arts on the planet. That’s not to say I don’t love it (which may say something about me), in fact I taught if for several years while I had my store and am still quite attracted to it. I'm a shuttle tatter, which is more traditionalist then needle tatting. You work for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours (you get the idea) and you end up with something 50mm big by the time you are done. The only other type of needle/fiber art that I think beats it is bobbin lace. Good Lord, those people possess a patience that rivals saints.

Well, to be honest, this was more of an attempt. This is the only one on the list that lasted – at the most – maybe a month or two. I got so frustrated by all the rules and the long drawn out patterns that I vividly remember standing over the trash can with some pitiful pieced blocks laughing hysterically as I snipped them into tiny bits. Needless to say, I was reluctant to repeat the experience for fear some kind of “happy” pill might be forced upon me.

This one had a somewhat similar outcome as the traditional quilting. But it wasn’t quite as maniacal. I struggled to paint realistic faces on the cloth dolls and in the end just produced freakish looking semi-human objects. Although Dooley dog was happy with all his new toys.

I’m still hooked on this one. No patterns. No rules. The possibilities are endless because now you are getting into hand dyeing fabric and using non-cotton materials on quilts. Add to that the fact that I don’t feel any art quilt I make should ever be 2-dimensional, and you gain the added fun of hunting down find objects to attach to your work.

When I discovered these, the heavens opened and the angels sang. (And no, I still don’t need medication.) There is a whole group of people out there like me that can’t do cloth dolls. Or should I say, have opted not to do cloth dolls. We still make freakish looking semi-human objects but the difference is that we mean to do this. And we are happy because at least it looks like what we want it to.

I like this one, still do a bit of it. I’ve got an absolutely gigantic granny square afghan working right now in autumn colors. And yes, I’m aware its autumn now. But I never specified autumn of which year. So I’m still good…

This one is kind of recent. I’ve dabbled in knitting (meaning I’ve made one scarf) and found it pleasant but lately I’ve been bitten by the Knitting Bug. Actually, it would probably be more accurate to say the Bug is gnawing off my head. I blame the Yarn Harlot. I’m obsessed by learning all I can and this thrills me to no end because it means that I can go visit all the yarn stores and instead of just petting the yarn, I can buy it and know what to do with it. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!

That’s the end of the list. Probably not that long compared to other people but I’ve only been at this for about seven years so I think I’ve become pretty skilled at bopping all over the place. I’ve got my eye on weaving and felting (shush up Leann, I know I’ve still not done anything with the little table top loom nor the roving) so its obvious the trend will continue.

I think its one of the joys and pitfalls of being a fiber/needle artist. There is so much to try out and not nearly enough time in the universe to do it.

If I could just stay home and continue to receive a paycheck, I’d get a lot more artwork done. I’ll let you all know if I ever figure out how to do that one….

08 October 2007

Pondering the UFO

Yes, I'm still around. I've had an allergy attack this past week that has turned me into a human booger factory. But thankfully the doctor gave me some stuff that has me feeling only half crummy so its back to business as usual...

I still have more photos of expo to post but I'll do those later, because I have a much deeper topic to ponder with you dear reader....the UFO.

No, not little silver saucers floating in space. You know what I mean, after all, if you are reading this then you are most likely an artist as well. And if you are like me, you have a well trained innocent expression whenever the topic comes up that says, "What? Me? I don't have any UFOs laying around." Nice try.

Since I've been not feeling so hot and entertaining myself by laying on the sofa with Dooley watching bad T.V., I've had the pleasant opportunity to stare at all the half finished projects laying around the house that need attention. Unfinished Objects (UFOs) get no respect, it seems.

In my defense, much of what currently has UFO status is due to a lack of time, not enthusiasm. But if I creep out of the denial that often leads me to pretend I have no UFOs in the house, I have to admit that a lot of the times its that I just get seduced by a new project and abandon whatever I am working on.

What's even more odd is that a lot of the time I drop something when its almost completely done. I'm done with it emotionally so it doesn't get done physically. And then I start to resent it so it really doesn't get finished.

I suppose its a universal problem among artists. Maybe we should start a 12-step program to deal with it. But then if everything was done, we'd be buried underneath tons of art with no hope of escaping. Oh good, that means I shouldn't finish those up....onto new projects....

05 October 2007

Fiberart for a Cause

Linocut by Virgnia Spiegel
I've done a few posts about Fiberart for a Cause but to be honest, I simply can't say enough good things about it. Its a project that I find extremely inspiring for a number of reasons.

First of all, I've experienced first hand how cancer can impact a loved one's life and the effects on the family. My father passed last year from cancer and it was clear that the advancements in the types of treatments he could have helped him to be with us for a longer time. How could I not be grateful for that?

Secondly, FFAC has shown a generosity that just makes my heart melt. Donations from fiber artists around the world, Virginia Spiegel's tireless efforts that just don't seem to end and the willingness of people who have never met each other to give away their art for a worthy cause.

I loved the postcard project that Virginia coordinated for FFAC. And I'm equally awed now by the e-book that she is releasing to continue the project.

Virginia puts out a newsletter that I've subscribed to for some time, I just love it. The e-book she is releasing is a compilation of this newsletter and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy!!

The release date for the e-book is coming up soon: Monday October 8. It is available for a minimum donation of $25 to the American Cancer Society. That's right, all of the money donated goes to the ACS, Virginia doesn't get one single penny from it. I urge you to donate more then the $25 when you order your copy, every little bit helps offer hope to patients and families.

Here is the press release Virginia is putting out about the e-book, I hope you will support her in her absolutely outstanding efforts that she puts forth for ACS and everyone affected by cancer:

From Virginia's press release:

"My eBook "Art, Nature, Creativity, Life" will be released on Monday, October 8 with all proceeds going directly to the American Cancer Society through Fiberart For A Cause.

"Art, Nature, Creativity, Life" is an expanded version of the best of my e-newsletters. There are 19 chapters stuffed with essays, art, photos, annotated book recommendations, and poetry.

Make a cup of tea, settle into your favorite chair and wander through the issues at your leisure. You can spend ten minutes and be refreshed or spend several hours enjoying art, nature, poetry, photography and my take on the life of an artist. Enjoy and be inspired.

My goal is to raise $30,000 to join the more than $130,000 that Fiberart For A Cause has already raised for the American Cancer Society."

04 October 2007

Cloth As Canvas Exhibit

This is "Cloth As Canvas", an exhibit from expo put together and showcasing wearable art from members of Running With Scissors. We are a local group of fiber artists that meet once a month in Livonia, MI on the last wednesday of the month at Scrappy Chic. Please join us if you are interested in meeting like minded artists! We are comprised of art quilters, art doll creators, knitters, weavers, costumers and every other kind of fiber art there is!

Below are individual shots of each garment that was in the exhibit. A very special thanks to Sidney for the amazing job she did on the stands for the exhibit. THANKS SID!!!

Felted Fairy Jacket Ruth Miller

Climbing the Vine Sidney Inch

Initially Speaking Johanna Mills

Seanchan Royal Kate Lebowsky

Voodoo Cape Leann Meixner

Everything and Anything Jackie Lams

Serene Cloud Jacket Barb Darnell

Graffiti Wisdom Lynn Krawczyk

Felted Fantasy Jacket Mary Geldhof

Business Bling Patrice Smith

Perception Joan Potter Thomas

Check back for more exhibit photos in the next post! :)

03 October 2007

Exploring Art Dolls exhibit

Here is another exhibit from the American Sewing Expo from a group that I belong to. It is called "Exploring Art Dolls" and consists of dolls from the Looking Glass Dolls group. We are an art doll group that meets in Livonia. If you think you might be interested in joining us, we are at Scrappy Chic beginning at 6:30pm on the third Wednesday of each month and are happy to welcome new members all the time!

If you click on each picture it will enlarge. Below are group shots of the dolls and their titles as well as the artists (listed below each photo). Enjoy!

And check back soon as there are more exhibit photos to come!!

(left to right) Green Fairy, Purple Fairy & Mermaid Kate Carras ; Woodland Fairy Sara Melton Keller

(left to right) Zucca Shelly Lampshire ; Kingsley Shelly Lampshire ; Mother Nature's Son Emily Smith; Pinky Ruth Miller

(left to right) Mawu Carolynne White ; Spoolie Girl Vivian Lonetto ; Inside/Out Lynn Krawczyk

(left to right) Mind Your P's & Q's Vivian Lonetto ; Frances, Autumn Star Lenea Howe ; Woman of the Wood Emily Smith

Vi Carious Lenea Howe

Roberta, Hugh & Dawn Leann Meixner

(left to right) Lovey Carolynne White ; Granny Ruth Miller ; Elfie Misty Ruth Miller ; Gilda Shelly Lampshire

(left to right) Helen, the Witch Watcher Lenea Howe ; Dream Catcher Joan Potter Thomas ; Funny Peggy Thomas