Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is That Light at the End of the Tunnel?

I have been working on a "big quilt" for 3 years. Sometimes months go by and I don't touch it. Somehow, my studio makeover has inspired me to get it out, and leave it out, so that I can work on it daily.

My friend and teacher Martha Green says to "work your stack". This is an excellent piece of advice. If you work through the blocks for your piece in a stack, you can achieve a kind of continuity that's difficult to get any other way. At least it is difficult for my ADD brain. For example, as you work your stack, choose a particular thread, and go thru every block, stitching next certain pieces of fabric with that thread. Might even be the same stitch. As you continue to go through the stack over and over the quilt begins to take on its own character.

I have diligently "worked my stack" for three years. The blocks are mostly finished. A few days ago I decided that I was on my last pass through. As I work on each block, I complete it. I have left beads and silk ribbon embroidery for last, so this is what I am working on. Today, I am working specifically on beading, and is it fun! I love Nancy Eha's book, Bead Creative Like Crazy, and I meander through that every day to inspire me.

I am listening to music from the 40's today and remembering my Mom and Dad dancing to Glenn Miller in the living room when I was a little girl. I am beading up a storm and counting my blessings. Life is good today.

Monday, July 20, 2009

UFOs: A Special Kind of Crazy Quilters' Hell

The evidence is everywhere: the big quilt started three years ago, the crazy quilted clock, the bright colored wall hanging, a piece for my sister's birthday (last April), numerous ribbon flowers, origami flowers, yo-yo's, fabric books, postcards, atc's, class projects -- all unfinished!

Crazy quilts take time to make. From beginning to end, it takes me weeks, months, and sometimes years to complete a project. I don't know how to sit down and work on one project until it's finished. I get bored. I decide that I need a break from it in order to see it fresh the next time I work on it. So I put it away for a while. And then, I engage in dangerous, high risk behavior -- I start something else. Dangerous and high risk because Future Me is going to have to confront what the Past Me did to her. Poor Future Me is going to look at these projects hanging around from the Past Me and wonder what I was thinking. She's lost interest in these old projects and finishing them seems like a chore. But abandon them? Not a chance!

So here I sit, with literally dozens of unfinished works around me, and boiling over with ideas for new things to make. Present Me plans to finish up most of these UFO's before saddling Future Me with more. I am diligently working on finishing the blocks for the Big Quilt, about 90% complete. I am finishing this year's class projects from the CQS retreat earlier this month. Then I'll prioritize what's left.

Of course, finishing these projects has to be squeezed in between making Christmas gifts (it'll be here before you know it!) and the odd hostess gift or friend request.

You can find me in my studio.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Generation Gap

My son, who will soon be 21, is living a much different life than I would have chosen for him. And like most mothers everywhere I love him with all my heart and want the best for him. Which includes standing by him even when I completely disagree with him. I made this little piece to reflect my dilemma about one area of his life. You will have to see the image full size to understand. The words circled in gray stitching are his, the words circled in red stitching are mine.

This is quite a departure from my usual crazy quilting. And I am kind of scared to post it, for obvious reasons. I hope it touches some other mother or mothers who might need reminding, as I do from time to time, that we don't have to approve of our childrens' actions, we just have to keep loving them and encouraging them. It's hard, at least for me, to hold kindness and compassion in my heart when I am in pain. And this situation has been filled with pain for me.

Enough serious stuff! It's Saturday and my husband is working on the wiring in my studio so that I can finally start having Art Day with my friends next week! Anyone up for a trip to my house?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Studio Makeover Saga

I am moving my studio from one location to another and it feels like it is never going to end, although I can see progress every day. My helper Julia is wrapping something to be put away. (left) She is going back to college in August and I don't know what I am going to do without her.

And here are some shots from various locations in the main room, showing how much progress I have made from when it was a bare room painted dark turquoise. Never let your teenage children, especially boys, choose the color of their room.

Empty containers are a good thing! I have been purging fabric I will never use, duplicates of everything -- how many seam rippers does one person need? -- and junk I've just plain hoarded for years. It's all going to freecycle so someone else can deal with it. I like to think it might help someone; it's helping me to set it free. Now the challenge is to set the empty containers free.

I finally got my cutting table cleared off enough to get out some projects to work on. I get kind of crazy when I want to make art and have to deal with a great big mess to even find a spot to work in.

I'll post more photos when it is lookin' good!

Mary Anne's Floral Portrait Class

I have used my Embellisher for a couple of years and have mostly made small abstract designs. Mary Anne Griffin offered a class project which was much more realistic than intuitive and it was a great challenge for me. Using beautiful wools, velvets, and silks provided in our kit, we all set about "pounding" fabric. And what a racket! Embellishers are not quiet!

(Photo above shows Mary Anne demonstrating a technique to the class.)

Mary Anne is such a good communicator and teacher that it was easy to follow her instructions to make the portrait. She even provided complete instructions, including photos on a cd that was part of our kit.

I made good progress on my Floral Portrait in class, but just got tired and pooped out. It was the last day of the retreat and I had partied too hard. (I wish!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lisa Caryl's Fantasea Block Class

I took Lisa Caryl's Fantasea Block class at the CQS Retreat, and I am so happy with my block. Lisa provided a generous and exceptional kit, and I have enjoyed using every bit of it; there's still plenty left over for other projects. I took the photo with my iPhone so it isn't the best but you can see how it's coming along. I'll post more as I get closer to finishing it.

At the bottom of the block you can see a dark background. This is fused Angelina that Lisa provided. We glommed and mashed and textured so it's the perfect background for the bottom of the sea. It is a dark blue/black/green color and unfortunately I don't know the specific Angelina name for it.

The orange bit at the bottom is bead coral, formed by stringing a couple of inches of beads, then turning around a stop bead at the top. Go back through a few beads, skip a bead, and repeat. Pull it snug and it bunches up like branched coral. Mine is sagging a bit, but I will add some more and hook them together and it will be fine.

This looks like one for encrustation! Or should I say "encrustacean"?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

International Crazy Quilters Guild yahoo group

To participate in a discussion of the formation of the International Crazy Quilters Guild, join this list. I am not trying to set myself up as an authority, or even a leader. A number of people think it's time that we had a member organization with an international reach.

Tiffany Windows in Topeka, KS

On my way to the retreat, I spent the night in Topeka, KS. Quite by accident, I discovered the Tiffany windows at the First Presbyterian Church.

The ten picture windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany himself are simply breathtaking. Tiffany visited Topeka and even chose the color of the church walls to complement the windows.

The photos on the web link above cannot possibly do the windows justice. Seeing them in the setting of the church, with the sun shining through them was truly a spiritual experience.

The largest window rises high above the ground level of the church and depicts Jesus floating in a blue sky surrounded by angels, with people below. It is spectacular. By comparison, the side windows are merely incredibly beautiful!

If you are ever near Topeka, be sure to visit the First Presbyterian Church.

I had never heard of these windows and I just live a few hundred miles away in Oklahoma. We have so little to entertain us in this part of the country I thought I knew about everything! I wonder what else I am missing?

Meeting of Nancy Kirk and volunteers

Now this was an interesting event, which has lots of people stirred up!

Nancy Kirk, who started the Crazy Quilt Society in the late 90's and has continued to run it as a non-profit organziation, invited "serious" volunteers to attend a lunch meeting to talk about the future of the CQ Society.

She explained that she no longer wishes to be involved in the running of the Society, and she introduced Karen Snyder Downs as her chosen replacement. This was quite a surprise because Karen is unknown in the CQS, at least to many of the people at the meeting.

Nancy explained to the group that the CQS is operated as a 501 c 3 non-profit organization. If you want to learn more about 501 c 3's, you can read about them on Wikipedia. She recommended that the group not start a new organization, but leave the CQS as is, under the umbrella of the Quilt Heritage Foundation. Nancy also reported to the group that the organization owes her about $11,000 due to years when there were losses.

Several people expressed a desire to volunteer to see that the Society continues, but no plans were made at the meeting for further collaboration.

After the meeting, various questions began to rear their heads, and those will have to be addressed before much forward movement can begin.

  • Is there a paper trail supporting the Society's indebtedness to Nancy? Most of the people that I heard from want to do the right thing and compensate her for at least part of her loss, but no one has ever seen the Society's books.
  • What do the Society's by-laws say about the board of directors? Right now Nancy is the only person on the board.
  • What do the Society's by-laws say about election of officers? Does a board of one have the authority to appoint a new director, or does an election have to occur?
  • What happens to the scholarship money? Is it held in an escrow account from year to year or is it used for the Society's operating expenses?
  • These are just some of the areas that need to be cleared up.
This is a tough time for the CQS. I like and respect Nancy, and I am grateful to her for keeping the CQS going for at least 12 years. Some of these questions and actions that might arise from the answers may not be everyone's liking. I hope we can have good will towards each other and toward the Society, keeping in mind that we all have the same goal: to keep the Society alive and growing!

Omaha Classes

I took three classes: Jay Rich, texturizing silk; Lisa Caryl, fantasea wall hanging; Mary Anne Griffin, needlefelted floral portrait.

(Click the link above to "classes" to see photos and class descriptions.)

The less said about the first class, the better. Not a good experience.

Lisa and Mary Anne are both talented, well-organized teachers with great communication skills. The provided clear instructions and demonstrations. Both provided excellent kits that were a great value. The classes were relaxed and fun, and we covered lots of ground. I felt like I took away a great deal of new information that I could apply to my crazy quilting when I got home.

In Lisa's class we created an undersea-themed wall hanging. Lisa included lovely blue/green pieced blocks in her kit, as well as beautiful yarns, charms, threads, silk ribbon, and so on for embellishing. The pieced block was wonderful because I could just jump into the fun part -- embellishing -- without stopped to piece a blocks. I didn't get my block quite finished in class, but I will finish it soon and frame it in a shadow box with some small shells.

Mary Anne's class was supplied with brand new BabyLock 12-needle Embellishers for us to work on. Mary Anne, designed a Floral Portrait, created on the Embellisher. You can see her recent machine embroidery Fleur-de-Lace designs at She took us through the steps of using the embellisher to "pound" fabrics together to make our own versions of the Floral Portrait, including wonderful raised flowers made from silk carrier rods. Her generous kit even included Swarovski crystals for the flower centers and border.

I always have a great time at the retreat and this year was no exception. A big thank you to Nancy Kirk and the many volunteers who make it possible.

I've been away.

From blogging, that is. Life just sort of gave me a little more than I could handle. Now I am back, and excited about making art again. Just returned from the Crazy Quilt Society Retreat in Omaha and I am full of inspiration. I'll report on my classes, tell you about the honest-to-goodness real stained glass windows at the First Presbyterian Church in Topeka KS (discovered on the way to Omaha), and talk about an interesting event at the Retreat.

My roommate was Cathy Kizerian, Crazy by Design. She had fabulous laces, appliques, trims, and fabric packs for sale. I sold some beads, charms, embossed velvet, hand dyed buttons. It was my first venture into retail, and I learned what the customers liked and didn't like. Some of the hand dyed appliques that I made just weren't popular so now I have a rather large supply of them for my own work. :-)

But right now, I have to switch to work mode and get caught up on what happened at my day job while I was gone.

Donna (Boo Rae)

PS I am moving studios! From my little building to a part of the house that we have converted into a studio, with another room off the studio for my office. I love being in the house, the view is just as good as it was from the other studio, and I have much more room. Right now it is in chaos, and I am going to work hard this week to whip it into shape so I can get to work. Pix to follow.