Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Beginnings of a Quilt

I've had an idea for a quilt I want to make for some time, in fact it's been percolating on the back burner for months. When I found some rather beautiful shot cottons at the New Zealand Quilt Symposium's merchant mall, I decided that the time has come to try it out. But it's always so much easier to imagine what I might make than to actually make it. (Possibilites and visions are cheap - doing the work takes guts and determination!) So I'm combing the bright solid cottons with greys in all values - greys are currently my favourite backdrop for brights - and started by making several bright blocks which included light-colored greys and then adding other blocks which shade all the way to medium and then dark grey. I'm making the blocks in columns, which will be joined so that there's a flow between them (I hope), which will ultimately be strengthened by the quilting lines. Being in the thick of this whole process has reminded me again that making original work is about risk-taking, about taking a concept and fleshing it out in fabric. And all the time, there are no guarantees that it's going to work. Maybe it will and maybe it won't. But like anything worthwhile, it's only by trying and with practice that it improves. And sometimes the reality is what you had in mind, and sometimes it takes on a life of its own and is even more successful than you'd imagined, and sometimes it's a complete flop. But there's nothing I'd rather be doing - this interacting with fabric, cutting a sewing and pressing, listening to what it wants to add next and deciding yes or no. It might be sometime before I can get back to this again, as we'll be on the move for the next three weeks, but I had promised to share some of my "works in progress", and this is one of them. How about you? What are you busy creating?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Change in Climate (Place, Focus, Activities, etc.)

A week ago today we arrived in New Zealand. I had promised myself I would post a blog before leaving, but it was not to be so, so here I am straddling two worlds as I bring you up to date on my quilting and life. I was determined to get my newest African Sunshine quilt top completed before we left, which may be why I didn't get the blog written. And it went in the post to my favourite machine-quilting friend - Arlene MacKenzie of On Point Quilting - the evening before we left. It's in a different setting than any earlier African Sunshine quilts, and I am excited to see how Arlene decides to quilt it. I give her total freedom in choosing both threads and
design. But that feels like lifetimes ago now, as I take in my first impressions of New Zealand. We were met at Auckland Airport by my daughter, Emily, and have driven down the length of the North Island to Palmerston North, where we will be spending the next two weeks. I've been so busy taking in new smells and sights, that creating anything new has been out of the question. It's time for what Julia Cameron refers to as "Filling up the Well". Noticing the smell of jasmine drifting on the evening air, listening to the cry of Tui birds in the tropical vegetation, picking a lemon for my ice drink right off the tree in the backyard, watching the sheep across
the road graze along the hills, and walking along a river and through a forest of new-to-me trees (I don't even know the names of most of them yet). Many well-known philosophers and artists have commented far more eloquently than I can on the importance of paying attention, of noticing the world around us, and it seems that being in a new place sharpens our powers of observation more than almost any other experience. It helps that we've found summer here too. Longer daylight hours and warm breezes and bare feet. Blissful. But I have brought some fabric with me, as well as my Traveller's Blanket, and so stitching of one sort or another will be part of this adventure too. Too soon to see what might emerge. I'll keep you posted . . .

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

A Chorus in Cathedral Grove

My entry in "Canadiana" - a Fibre Art Network Exhibit making its debut in New Zealand in January 2015

The present year is drawing to a close, and I am looking at the quilts I managed to complete this year and wishing there were more of them. "A Chorus in Cathedral Grove" was made for the Fibre Art Network show - "Canadiana" - that will debut at the New Zealand Quilt Symposium in Palmerston North in January 2015. Next week I will fly off to NZ myself, and help hang the show and be present to answer questions posed by Symposium attendees. I am so looking forward to this. Meanwhile I am looking at the New Year just barely approaching and wondering what it will hold. It is a year of great significance to me, as I reach one of those monumental birthdays that cause one to re-evaluate what one is doing and whether it's in sync with what one is passionate about. I have decided to take on a private challenge, to record the specifics of this year in small works, one a week. I will share some of the results of this with you here on my blog. I am determined to finish more of my unfinished projects in this year, but also to limit myself to working only on those things that are closest to my heart. I'll let you know how this goes. While my teaching days are behind me now, I am as immersed in fabric and in quilting as ever, and would like to share some of my journey with you. I hope that each and every one of you who connects with me here on my blog, that you too would find your own creative path in the coming year. May it be rich with new insights and new work. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Logan Lake and My Last Class

Earlier this fall I drove to Logan Lake in the interior of BC, not far from Kamloops. It was a gloriously sunny weekend, and I had the pleasure of spending the time with most of the members of the Logan Lake Quilters' Guild. Little did I know that this would be my last class, but what a wonderful last class it was. I was teaching The Joys of Improvisation - what had quickly become one of my favourite classes. I love the way each person's quilt is so distinctive - how when given a few simple techniques and guidelines, it then becomes a conversation between the fabric and the individual as to what comes next. The photos here are evidence of that. Aren't they wonderful!   It wasn't very long after I got home that I ended up in hospital, and was told I'd had a heart attack. It turns out that I haven't, and that is great news, but I do have a lung condition which limits how much I'm able to do, and which has emphasized for me that taking care of my health has to become a priority. I had already decided to close my business - Kitambaa Designs - but now have now decided to retire from teaching as well. I have had a terrific time these last eight years, but it's time to step aside and to spend more time creating my own work. Already I've made great progress on a commission quilt that I never quite seemed to get to, and I've been able to work on two new pieces for local upcoming textile art shows. I work at a slower pace than before, and retire for a wee nap in the afternoon on most days, but I'm happy as can be giving voice to some of the ideas that have been dancing around my head for the last months and years. I'll be posting some of the results to this blog, so stay tuned. And in the meantime, a big thank you to all those who have sent me get well wishes over the last weeks. I am alive and well and doing what I love. What more could I ask for?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Best Laid Plans

Today was the day that Joan and I were scheduled to leave Comox and fly to Uganda, where we were to hold a workshop for the women we've been working with for the last 6 years. But unfortunately our plans have had to be cancelled, due to various health issues, mine and Joan's. So I'm thinking about these marvellous women today, hoping that they are doing OK, "somehow by all means". I know they will be disappointed, and I can't make any future promises. Too soon for that. But we have placed another order for various items they make and will do "our level best" to sell these and the stock that we have on hand, in order to give them some income. We will be making appearances at Christmas craft fairs on Vancouver Island in the coming weeks - in Courtenay, in Victoria and in Campbell River - to sell their wares, and hope that any of you who are around will visit our booth. For all of you who have supported both the Bitengye ladies and Recheal's Clinic - a huge thank-you. More details on the latter will be coming soon, but for now I just wanted to let you know that we've met and exceeded our fund-raising goal, and building of the clinic and planning for its management will soon be underway. Others of you have supported students at Alice's school, and she is presently in the process of choosing these young women. And for all of you who have been encouragers, thank you too. For now I'll be posting more about my quilting journey on my blog, than news of our friends in Uganda, so stay tuned. And happy quilting everyone!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thinking About Uganda

In less than a month, Joan and I will be returning to Uganda once more. It's almost 6 years since our first workshop there, working with the women who are the Bitengye Designers. And they have been a huge part of our time there. But then there are all these other people we've met along the way. Lots of children and many old grannies too. And somehow they've become a part of us. They're no longer facts or figures, they're real people with real stories, of how they live and how they triumph in spite of all manner of difficulty. This has had a profound impact on us. Look at this woman with her arms crossed across her chest. She's a survivor. She hasn't let the world defeat her - you can see it in her face. And these children observing their elders. They're on their way from fetching clean water from a tap stand, and looking at other children nearby who are attending school. School may not be for them, but they'll get by. They'll make it. They're just working out how it's done. Other children, even younger than the first, take up their place in the order of things - minding goats, transporting bricks, hauling bananas. They have a job
to do and they'll do it well, with skill and with dignity. They won't let it defeat them. They too will survive. A gathering of women harvests beans. Another harvests sorghum. There is laughter as they work, there is a sense of purpose and also a sense of strength that comes from them. Young and old, they have something to teach us, of endurance and joy in the midst of hardship, and most of all, of hope for the future. I am so full of admiration for these people, and have learned so much from them. I am delighted I will get to spend time with them once more.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Journal Page Exchange

Right now I'm in Edmonton, at the annual retreat of the Fibre Art Network. We're an 80+ member strong cooperative of fibre artists from western Canada, looking for ways to encourage one another in our growth as artists, as well as in finding ways to promote fibre art in our part of the world. Good to be spending time with like-minded individuals - sharing information and planning for upcoming shows. So wonderful to see the work done by each other on this yearly basis, as we're largely working away on our own most of the time, in the solitary way that artists do. The gathering began yesterday, with an exchange of "Journal Pages". I made the one at the top, which will be going home with Thelma, while I am now the proud owner of one of Terry Aske's pieces of art - a still life in vibrant colours. There are a number of activities planned for the 4 days we're together, but I often think that it's the informal conversations that mean the most to me at these events. Someone tells me about her struggle to find studio time and we wonder together why it is so hard for us to carve this time out from the rest of our lives. At the dinner table last night we talked about how difficult it is for us to say those few words that define our very being, "I am an artist". And we commiserate on the ways we balance family life with making art. Often there's not a whole lot of support at home for what we do, but still it's what we want to do, what we have to do. And somehow through this time together, we gain a little more strength in our conviction that it's important. We bolster one another up in some sort of sisterhood. And this is a good thing, indeed.