Thursday, May 29, 2008

Take It Further for May

Technically I have two more days in which to finish my postcard quilt for May's TIF challenge. I might make it. I pieced two potential tops today. It remains to be seen which one I'll end up using. Or whether I piece yet another one!

My original idea for this month's challenge (in terms of your artistic endeavors, "What do you call yourself and why?") involved intuitive piecing and reverse applique. In the last week or so it dawned on me that perhaps the reason I'd been avoiding work on this challenge was that reverse applique is not in my usual bag of tricks. I've done a minimal amount of it, and on this small scale what I'd planned was certainly do-able, but I wasn't looking forward to it. So then I thought, "Why am I not using the techniques I normally use?" I consider myself an artist; the way I execute my postcard quilt will demonstrate the kind of artist I am. Duh.

Postcard number one:

Postcard number two:

All I have to do is embellish one of them in a way that I feel gives the viewer a good idea of the kind of art I'm making nowadays!

Here's a shot of what part of my design wall looks like at the moment:

This picture shows only about half of the design space I have available. But you can see the postcards and my unfinished BJP journal quilts lined up across the bottom. After the postcards I started piecing a top for that blank bit of batting in the middle. That will become my journal page for April. I'm going to get that pieced and then concentrate on embellishing this lot (six of the seven pieces you see on the wall; the single heart on a purple ground is still an orphan block). I only have one place where I can either sit and bead or sit and use the sewing machine. There have been times when I've had both a piecing project and a beading project going at the same time but I've since learned that it works better to focus on one or the other at any given time. I lose fewer beads that way ;- )

By the way, in case you hadn't read about it elsewhere, Sharon B of In A Minute Ago has started a new community site for those who have any interest at all in things related to stitching or fiberwork. It's called Stitchin' Fingers. She set it up in part for those who don't maintain a blog of their own as a place to share their efforts with others and to interact with like-minded individuals. Subsets within the larger community are being formed for specific interests or activities like swaps and round robins. You can check it out here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

It was a noisy and chaotic weekend here in the Magpie's Nest. Most of my time was spent holding this little one and playing with her sister.

Her mom was busy in our garage, cleaning out years of accumulated papers and assorted junk for us. The surprise was that there was so little to take to the thrift shop. It was mostly paper, not even that much trash. 36 boxes of old school work, receipts, junk mail, catalogs, etc. Yikes!

I had visions of doing a blog post or two while DH was gone but apparently that was pure fantasy. I didn't even have the camera to get before and after pictures. That's okay though; I think I'd be too embarrassed to post them :- )

I certainly wasn't able to do any sewing. I was very aware that yesterday was Memorial Day but was too distracted to remember to put out our flag. I have deep respect for those who serve in our armed forces and the utmost compassion for the families of those who gave their lives in that service.

There are still a few boxes that I need to go through. My stuff, as opposed to papers generated by family members. It would be pretty cool if I could come up with some give-aways out of those boxes to celebrate my birthday next month. They are mostly stash items that I just never made room for when I moved into my current studio space. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Another Heart

Well, it's been a full week since my last post. What can I say? I've had several minor reactions to chemical exposures. Taken on their own, none of them would have been much more than a blip in my activities. But the cumulative effect seems to have taken a larger toll. There's been a lot of down time. And DH has left on a road trip, taking every camera we own with him. I made sure to get at least a few pictures I could use here before he left :- )

I have done a little more work on my wonky hearts but I'm not going to show you that yet. What I want to share today is this month's journal quilt. It's another heart, this time for the people of Burma and China.

It's 8.5" x 11" like all the other journal quilts I've been making. I used a silk damask for the heart and a batik and a hand dyed cotton for the background. The silk has a chrysanthemum design woven into it. There's a reference on Wikipedia that says in the Chinese culture white chrysanthemums are symbolic of lamentation. White is the color of mourning in Eastern cultures. I chose the background color to represent the Buddhist monks who have been in the backgound of both countries, providing both physical and spiritual support to the people.

At this point I don't have any specific ideas for embellishments. My first thought was clear or silvery seed beads to represent tears. We'll see.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wonky Hearts

I'm completely pooped today. Had to drive DH to the VW dealership to retrieve his car after having it serviced. That was before I even had breakfast. I'm one of those people who has to eat regularly and on time; I suspect skipping breakfast was a bad move. Oh well. It was unavoidable in this case. I may just have to lower my expectations for the day. {sigh}

I've been making some wonky free pieced hearts a la Tonya at Lazy Gal Quilting.

Yesterday I played around with setting them. Not a lot of options when there are only six!

This is a very controlled palette for me. Normally I'm all over the place with colors. (Except now that I think about it, the last journal quilt was a very tight palette too. Hmmm.) These hearts (and their backgrounds) only use five different batiks. Nothing else seemed to want to be in this project! The downside is that I have very little left of a couple of the prints so I am limited in what I can do. It's hard not to run down to my LQS to see if there's something there I could use but I don't want a toxic reaction on top of this lethargy!

You know it's bad when even making the rounds of the blogs sounds like too much work. Might be a good day to pick up a familiar book...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Recent Acquisitions

Last week a few of my artist friends got together for our bi-monthly meeting. One of us will be away from home for several months. She spent some time cleaning out her studio in the process of getting ready for her extended absence and brought goodies to share with the rest of us. I came home with a shopping bag of fabric scraps and a small bag of beads (and a few things to pass on to DD). Saturday I spent time pressing and sorting the scraps to see exactly what I'd brought home. It was also an effective way to avoid beginning work on a new project.
;- )

I grabbed a lot of her brighter scraps. There are a few bigger chunks that didn't make it into the picture, and leftovers from some strip pieced blocks she'd made. It will be fun to use those as a starting point for a preemie quilt.

Also on the ironing board is the little plant DH brought home for me from church on Mother's Day. I was amazed to be able to pop it directly out of the plastic container it was grown in and into the painted terra cotta pot I had on hand. I didn't even have to add any more dirt!

I also went shopping last week. My local quilt shop was having an anniversary sale. Can't pass up one of those! Unfortunately, this was one of those times when nothing called to me very strongly. Don't get me wrong; I could happily have a yard of every fabric she has in the store. It's just that sometimes I walk in and one or more prints grab me by the eyeballs and won't let go. Other times, like last week, there's no one fabric that I had to have. I picked up a few pieces to replenish certain colors I have depleted in my stash lately, and then I found these folk art prints by Susan Winget for Benartex.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with these or whether they will even end up together in one project (although I can see them used together) but I have them just in case!

One other purchase I've made recently is this "experimental pack" from the Flights of Fancy Boutique. They carry unusual buttons and trims that are fun for people who like to make crazy quilts, dolls, etc. I'd seen these packets in the past but held off buying one. I sort of regret that now as I was not able to get the color I really wanted, but these blues and purples will still be a pleasure to work with. In this pack I have two silk carrier rods, silk roving, a sheet of silk tissue, an assortment of specialty threads and a coil of colored wire. I'm hoping that a time will come in the Take It Further challenges where I'll be able to put at least some of this to use. If not, I'll just have to create an opportunity!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bead Journal Project for March

Yes, now that it's May - and Mother's Day to boot - I have finished my journal quilt for the month of... March. Actually, it's been done for several days now. It just seemed appropriate to hold off showing you the final product until today. ;- )

This is "Mother Hen," completed:

A detail shot of the two chicks that have already flown the coop...

As well as a shot of the last one to leave the nest...

In my first post about this quilt I mentioned that I was in search of the perfect thing to use in the background areas to embellish and/or quilt the piece. I bought a skein of rayon floss that I thought I might blend with regular cotton floss, but I also bought beads. As you can see, I went with the beads. They are not the beads that I had in mind for the background but they are what the local bead shop had that would work. And actually, they work quite well. They are size 8 triangles in a gold/green colorway. The colors are perfect, and the triangles lay nicely on the surface of the quilt. They're just bigger than I wanted (I would have gone for size 10 if I'd had the option).

Overall I'm very happy with the way this turned out. When I first pulled the fabrics for this particular journal quilt I had no idea or plan to make yet another self portrait. There are just so many facets to any human being! I could probably continue to make self portrait quilts but frankly, I'm getting a little bored with myself. I would like to move on to other subject matter. To that end I have signed up for Sharon B's Studio Journal class through Class doesn't begin until the end of June so in the meantime I bought Robin Atkins' newest book to read and ponder and play in. I had to have DH make a slight alteration to the book's format however.

All the lovely full-color photographs just created too many fumes for my body to cope with. The sheet protectors don't seem to be a problem for me (!) so now I can put the pages in a used binder and be inspired any time I need it :- )

Ooo, the sun just came out! Woohoo! Time to grab my new book and go absorb some vitamin D.

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Back to Everyday Life

Our regional weather guy keeps saying there's been sunshine in the area but I sure haven't seen any lately. The sky outside my studio window always seems to be one shade of gray or another. Which is probably why I need these sunshine-yellow flowers on the back deck where I can seem them at meal times!

The temperatures are a little closer to what they're supposed to be for this time of year but the sunshine has a greater impact for me. I am grateful, however, that we have not suffered any tornadoes or cyclones or other natural (or man-made) disasters.

My friend C~ was over here the other day to show me a quilt she'd recently acquired, I think at an antique shop. Except that it's obviously not an antique. The 'boxes' are all made from a fabric I recognize but can't give you any details about because I don't remember where or when I've seen it before. The seller thought the centers of the boxes looked like prints from the 1970's.

It's quilted in a simple undulating line. There are a few small holes in the backing, through which C~ has determined that the batting may be an 80-20 poly-cotton blend. I think she said she paid all of $35 for the quilt. Pretty good deal, I'd say!

I finished my journal quilt for March but haven't photographed it yet. That leaves three more journal quilts to complete for the Bead Journal Project this year. February's quilt needs to be embellished, April and May have to be pieced and embellished. I have an idea for my Take It Further postcard quilt for this month's challenge. We'll see whether that actually gets made or not. And that swap quilt I had to make a second one of? The blogger I was going to swap with has disappeared from the 'net! She hasn't updated her blog in over a month, nor has she responded to my emails to her. I'm a little worried. I hope nothing horrible has happened in her world. I'd sure like to show you what I made though!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Morning After

A good time was had by one and all at the Swashbuckler Soiree. I dare say some of us had a better time than others (wink wink!).

I instructed my first mate to make a list of some of the more interesting ports of call so we could give you the compass points. Unfortunately he had a little too much rum. I can't read his notes.

When he wakes up we'll get them sorted out and give you the co-ordinates so you can see the riches, read the history, and hear the tall tales for yourself (and there were some doozies!). Of course, it's not too late. You can still follow in our wake and experience it for yourself. I'm warnin' you though, it's a long and potentially treacherous voyage! (Although, now that I think about it, we didn't encounter any sea serpents...)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Pirate Vessel Bluebird Has Arrived

So the Bluebird sails out of The Magpie's Nest; get over it!

It took awhile to find the right map.

Then we had to find something to win over the honored guest...

No, wait. I meant this.

And a little something for the hostess.

Meanwhile, I'm keeping this for me!

See you later ladies!

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Swashbuckler Soiree

I was doing a little blog-hopping yesterday and found The Ribboned Crown where Donna is hostessing a Swashbuckler Soiree tomorrow.

She issued her invitation to one and all last month, and encouraged everyone to make something appropriate for the occasion. On such short notice I couldn't really commit to making anything but I do intend to participate. Can't resist them pirates! Especially this one. (And there was a rumor that he would be there!)
I have instructed my helmsman to sail the pirate vessel Bluebird down the coast and my crew to rummage in the holds to see what treasures we can bring to the party.

"More sail ye gobs! We don't want to be late!"

Take It Further for May

Every month I think the Take It Further challenge can't be any more challenging than the previous month. Every month Sharon proves me wrong! This month the concept challenge is "What do you call yourself and why?" (This is in terms of the creative activities you engage in, not the roles of wife or mother or other such.) Oy!

I call myself a textile artist and this is why: I got bored one summer when I was about 10 so my mother bought me a crewel embroidery kit to give me something to do. That was fun and turned out well, all things considered. Mom even framed it and displayed it on the fireplace mantel. I was floored to see it still there the last time I visited before Mom passed and Dad sold the house. After that it was latch hook rug kits and eventually needlepoint. Then I started designing my own patterns for latch hook. I joined a chapter of the Embroiderer's Guild of America after I married and experimented with other types of needlework like huck weaving and hardanger, etc.

When my children were little I was uncomfortable having needles and sharp embroidery scissors and expensive canvases and yarns out and about. It wasn't long before I was looking for some "safer" way to express my creativity however. I'd been curious about patchwork but wasn't willing to make cardboard templates or sew the patches together by hand. Well, I did trace templates and scissor cut a stack of 3 1/2" squares and made a few 9-patch blocks on my Singer Athena 2000. That got old fast though. Eventually I invested in one of the new rotary cutters and a mat and ruler. Woohoo! I was on my way to mastering another set of skills.

I went through my midlife crises in the '90's (that's 1990's, not 1890's, thank you very much!). After reading elinor peace bailey's book Mother Plays With Dolls I started making cloth dolls. I also worked my way through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. It was at this time that I became aware of the world of Art. And the debate about Art vs Craft. But my opinion about that issue is not the point of this epistle. My Dear Husband was instrumental in helping me to come to the conclusion that yes, in fact, I Am An Artist. We won't go into all the gory details but he finally convinced me of the truth of that statement. And now I am proud to be able to embrace it.

Because my artistic endeavors are so solidly grounded in the needlearts I use the term 'textile artist.' It distinguishes me from those who paint or sculpt. I have avoided the use of 'fiber artist' because people who knit or crochet or work with paper or reeds can also be considered fiber artists and I don't go there in my work. Everything I do is about creating new textile pieces or altering existing textiles. So I call myself a textile artist. Now, how do I show all that on a 4" x 6" postcard quilt?!