Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Murder of Crows

A Tribute to Ana Miriam
How delightful it was to stumble upon these crow quilts when I dropped into a small bakery on Cliffe Avenue yesterday. All made by friend Jessie Schut, they are made with a gentle blend of seriousness and humour. Each one celebrates a different aspect of life, or a person, or a time. Jessie has been writing her blog - Crow Day One - for almost two years now. In it she continues to tell her stories and to reflect on life with the same wisdom glimpsed in these small works. I had seen photos of the crows on the website, but not in person until yesterday, and I was charmed. Jessie also enjoys playing with unusual fabrics, often with bits of bling, and is unafraid of using all sorts of embellishments. If you live anywhere near the Comox Valley, I would encourage you to drop into "Sweet Surprise" to see them for yourself. And if not, I hope you enjoy them vicariously via this blog.

Easter Morning Alleluia

Self Portrait at 65

Love Birds
Coming home after seeing Jessie's Crows, I was thinking about how important it is for those of us who work in fibre to get our finished pieces out there for the public to enjoy. How great that shops like Sweet Surprise are willing to act as a gallery for us. And how wonderful that Jessie was ready to share her creations. Thanks to you both.

Aesop's Crow

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Blue Birds and Indigo

Over the years I have collected all sorts of indigo prints. Some of these are African, some Japanese, some batiks, and there are even a few North American prints in there. From time to time I've sewn these together into blocks, using improvisational piecing. The centre blocks are all African indigo prints, most of them birds, I cut these into different sizes, and then surround them in strips of different widths, always ending up with a 12 1/2" square. The time finally came this month to put them all together into one quilt - a queen-sized quilt for my sister Sara - and to do it, I used that most traditional of settings - sashing with tiny squares. Making it has made me realize that improvisational piecing or improvisational quilting really is something that's on a continuum. This quilt is closer to a traditional quilt, with only a few characteristics moving it towards improvisation. Other pieces I've made have strips that are different widths along the length of them, or are cut out with scissors, and end up in blocks that are "wonky". But sometimes a more formal arrangement seems appropriate, as happened here. However one describes the process, it still had lots of variation to keep my interest going (I seem to get bored by making the same quilt block over and over again), and gave me great pleasure to make. Now on to something just a little more daring . . .

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"Mended" - An Exhibit of the Surface Design Association

I was very fortunate, this last week, to be able to see "Mended", at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver, where it is showing until May 15th. This is a travelling exhibit by members of the BC and Yukon Surface Design Association, and includes work by 25 textile artists, who share their stories inspired by their understanding of mending. I had seen a few photos of the pieces online, but nothing compares to being there in person, to standing before a specific work and allowing oneself to respond to what one sees. So moving to see the many different interpretations, and the high calibre of work of the artists. I've included photos of a few of my favorites.
Michelle Sirois-Silver - Extractions Series

Catherine Nicholls - Mend Your Ways

Susan Purney-Mark - Beg or Boro

Judy Alexander - Grandma's Magical Stories

Patt Wilson - Rehabilitating, Detail
I went away thinking about how important it is for people choosing to do their one creative work, to expose themselves to as many different artists as possible - work in all mediums. It enriches one's understanding and encourages me, at least, to keep trying - to pursue the myriad of ideas dancing around in my head - to push my own work in new directions and see where it takes me. It's one of the wise pieces of advice offered by Julia Cameron in her book - The Artist's Way - to visit art galleries and exhibits as often as one has the opportunity. She calls it "filling the well". As for me, I came away from it with my inner self whispering a soft "yes". Yes, this is what I want to do, more than anything else. Wonderful!

Saturday, April 25, 2015


February and March have passed in the blink of an eye, and turned out to be a time of reflection and evaluation for me. So here I am at the end of April, to let you know that I am still pursuing the creative life, and deciding where it might take me next. I've done some work narrowing down my options, because nothing freezes me up as limitless possibilities. I've decided to stick with piecing commercial and hand-dyed fabrics, to include more hand-stitching in my work, and to limit myself to specific subject areas. My daughter Emily refers to these as "enabling constraints". The wisdom is that by narrowing our focus, we are freer to move forward. I'm never ever at a loss for new ideas of what I could do, and am so easily distracted, that it helps to choose a direction and stick to it.

"Swiftsure" is  my most recently made work. A challenge was put forward by a small group of local fibre artists, to respond to the theme "Oceans". It was to measure 18" by 36", with either a horizontal or vertical orientation, and to incorporate blues and greens. I had been looking for an opportunity to try my hand at Anne Brauer-like narrow strip-piecing, and quickly decided to construct an ocean from gradated strips on greens and then blues, and of progressively darker values. I worked on 6" squares one at one time, and when they were all completed, joined them together in long rows. While I liked the result, I felt I wanted to include a focal area, and remembering watching the myriads of sails off Victoria in the annual Swiftsure race, designed a very simple sail shape and added numbers of these in progressively larger sizes to the background. 

Now I'm at work on smaller companion pieces, and I'll post these as I finish them. I'm still undecided as to whether or not challenges are right for me or not. Do they push beyond my usual boundaries to do better work? Or do they limit me to working on something that is unrelated to the direction I want to pursue? The jury is out on this question, but for now I'll continue to participate in these challenges, and see where they take me.

I anticipate this next year to be one of new discoveries. The paperwork that goes with closing a business in nearly finished now, and I have the time and skills and focus, and the dedicated studio space too, to concentrate on my own work. Quite a luxury! One for which I am very thankful.

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!