Friday, December 21, 2012

Two More BJP Blessings Finished - Family & Health

I finished November's and December's BJP pieces earlier this week and finally got them photographed today. All of my pieces this year are about blessings in my life.

Family (for November) is all about the blessing of a relatively close-knit family. We're not as close as sometimes I'd like, but we all like each other pretty well. My brother, Thom, and I lost our biological father in a car accident when I was 5 and Thom was 3. That could have been a disaster, but Mom met and married a wonderful man 2 years later, who soon became our new Papa. I'm fortunate to have always felt that he was my dad, that he loved me as much as he loved his own 3 children, my other 2 brothers and sister.

I don't really know what this piece says about family. Usually, by the time I finish a piece, the meanings have become obvious. Not so in this case. Anybody have any ideas?  It seems possible that the three buttons in the upper half represent my mom (the bird), my dad (the small blue-bordered button), and my step-dad (the square). Then, maybe the other 5 buttons represent me (well, that would be the rabbit, of course), and my 4 siblings. Whatever the significance/meaning, I do like the colors and the way it looks rich and inviting.

Health (for December) is all about the blessing of good health, with which I am unusually blessed.

I have no idea why I used chakra colors for this piece, or why I worked with a Goddess figure to represent health. I've never known much about chakra theory or particularly subscribed to other than Western treatments for health issues. Maybe this piece portends something for me in the future. If so, maybe this dear, healthy Goddess (along with her association with growing plants and a little kitty-energy) will continue the blessing of good health as I grow older.

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Because of working on my new book, I didn't get started on this year's BJP until June, my first piece for the year. I've done 7 pieces (June - December). Think I'll try to do double pieces for the first 5 months of 2013, so that in the end I will have 12 blessing pieces for this year... I do like them quite well.

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 Hope you all have a wonderful, magical, joyful Christmas. May the year ahead be just beadiful! Thanks for visiting today!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Home - Oct. BJP Finished

What does home mean to you?
A building, a place where you live?

If you ask a poet, "What is home?"
They might reply
"A home protects and nourishes the soul."

My home, the physical place where we live,
is a funky, crowded, owner-built, cabin-like place
on a fantastic rock-moss-tree chunk of land.
I love living here.

My home, the spiritual place surrounding my soul,
is safe and supportive.
I love living here.

Home is my place of belonging,
the key to creativity, the dragonfly of the moment,
the heart of love, the flowers of beauty, the tree of life,
the kitty of whimsy, the pathway to inner peace,
the amber of courage, and the rabbit of gentle grace.

The Bead Journal Project, for me this year, is a place to explore some of the blessings in my life. So far I have beaded Vision, Freedom, Hands, Nature, and now Home. They are small pieces, only the size of an artist's trading card - 2.5 inches wide x 3.5 inches high. To get the detail, I have to use mostly size 15 beads. Not a problem... I love those little guys!

Home has a lot of texture, and thus took quite a while to bead. I guess that's my excuse for being behind. I don't think I'll be finishing November's piece before the month is over. Ha... I haven't started it yet... except I know the blessing is Family.

>*<    >*<    >*<    >*<    >*<

Don't miss this... only one more month to see this fabulous exhibition of quilts made by men!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If At First You Don't Succeed.... BJP & Quilt Camp Disaster

Last weekend was Quilt Camp! Four  days to stitch, uninterrupted, meals provided, no chores... oh joy!

For the first couple of hours I worked on making hexie blocks for my Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt... fun, easy, known territory.

Charged, I got out my quilt top, the one pieced together with the 12 blocks I beaded for the Bead Journal Project in 2011. Each of the beaded Xs represents a relationship, a crossing of my pathway with the pathway of some other person or thing, especially one that was important to me during the month when I made the block.  Here's how it looks. For now, just note the blocks and the way they are assembled on the quilt top.

I had this idea of hand-quilting in diamond (or square-on-point) shapes to match the blocks. It wasn't easy. I worked for about 30 hours (2 whole days and into the wee hours of three nights) to do this quilting. The more I did, the less I liked it.

The idea of it is OK, I think... it ties all the blocks together, suggesting the interconnected pathways of my life. The whole quilt and the blocks look OK from a distance. But I'm pretty sure viewers would want to get close to see the beading. Looking at it closely, the hand-quilting starts to compete with the beading. Which to view? Which is important? Obviously, I wanted the beading to show, because that's the point (and the visual journey) of the quilt.

It didn't look too bad on the lighter colored blocks.

But on the darker colored blocks, the quilting stitches were really distracting.

Sad to say, I didn't realize how bad it was until I was nearly complete (with only one block to go). When the light bulb finally came on, I realized I had to take it all out. All 30 hours of work.  OK, so what to do? How to quilt this thing?

Well, my quilt/beading buddy, Lunnette, happened to bring a HUGE stash of thread with her. Stitch-in-the-ditch with a matching color of thread! Still hand-quilted, but not something that shows much at all.  Now you can see the beading!

In the picture below, you can see I've re-quilted the top and right-hand blocks. Is this better?  Is it worth the time to re-do it?  I think so! (Only 10 blocks to go...)

Lessons learned:
  1. Pay more attention to gut feelings that something isn't working.
  2. Be ready to abandon a plan that isn't working.
  3. Trust that a better solution will come along.
  4. It's only time.
By the way, if you're interested in joining the 2013 Bead Journal Project, here's a link to information and registration!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Please Don't Miss This 5-Star Show!

From political to folk,
from traditional to way outside the box,
from peaceful to wild,
from beads to bicycle chain,
from whimsy to satire,
the current show at the La Conner Quilt Museum
has it all...
they're all created by men!

Forty-one incredible quilts, created by 15 highly-creative men from the USA, Holland, and Japan. I tell you, their quilts make me swoon, give me heart palpitations. The show runs until December 30. Please, don't miss it! The What-Where-When details are at the end of this post. Let's get to the quilts!

At the most out-of-the-box end of the scale is John Lefelhocz of Athens, OH, who uses the oddest materials to make quilts: sugar wrappers, match sticks, roof flashing, breakfast cereal, plastic bugs, and other assorted materials. If your mind says, "Impossible," take a look below.

Ms. Ing Links by John Lefelhocz, 59" x 35"
The pattern/design on this quilt is created by hundreds of painted bicycle-chain links sewn to the quilt top with beads. Do you get the humor of the title? (Hint: run the Ms. and Ing together.) All 5 of his exhibited quilts are examples of how much fun an artist can have mixing word-play and imagery. Each is a puzzle of wit, challenging the viewer to find all the jokes and meaning it contains.

Near the other end of the scale is David Taylor, of Steamboat Springs, CO, whose meticulously pieced and machine-quilted works are realistic without being "like a photograph." They are fiber and thread, yet somehow give us a good whiff of movement, dimensionality, and emotions found in real life.

Marmalade's First Snow by David Taylor, 47" x 35"

Marmalade's First Snow by David Taylor, detail

Up Up and Away by David Taylor, 42" x 52"

See what I mean by realistic, but not photographic? Can you feel the magic of looking up at a hot air balloon rising in the early morning air, and sense Marmalade's hesitation and intense curiosity about the snow? Wonderful!

Quilts by Shawn Quinlan, of Pittsburgh, PA, tell stories, calling attention to things that aren't quite right in the world around us, adding layers of humor and satire to the expected warmth of a fabric quilt. Being a tree-lover and a person who is a little ill-at-ease with Christmas, the quilt below really hits the mark with me. See the circular and carpenter's saws?

Homage to the Discarded Christmas Trees by Shawn Quinlan, 46" x 33"

Homage to the Discarded Christmas Trees by Shawn Quinlan, detail

Homage to the Discarded Christmas Trees by Shawn Quinlan, detail

Here's another of Shawn's quilts (4 in the show), one that expresses a number of complex thoughts about the political scene in our country's capitol. Check Shawn's website for revealing detail shots.

As My Daddy Always Told Me, "At Least the Democrats Will Throw You a Bone" by Shawn Quinlan, 48" x 29"

Next, let's look at two amazing works by Leslie Gabrielse, of the Netherlands, quilts that show just how expressive and painterly applique and hand stitched embellishments can be! Having spent 10 years of my life folk dancing, I am particularly drawn to the one below, the largest quilt in the show.

Portuguese Folkloric Dancers by Leslie Gabrielse, 118" x 92"

Portuguese Folkloric Dancers by Leslie Gabrielse, detail

Portuguese Folkloric Dancers by Leslie Gabrielse, detail
I am fascinated by the way his work reminds me of collage art, of layering papers, stamps, and paints. Of the four quilts by Leslie in the show, my second favorite is a portrait he did as a commission.

Karlee Abbott, by Leslie Gabrielse
While we're on the subject of portraits, how do you like this portrait of President Obama by Michael Cummings of New York, NY?

President Obama by Michael Cummings, 50" x 72"
Of this quilt, Michael says, "I wanted to play with his racial makeup....his father was black and mother white...that dictated my choice of colors in construction of the quilt. After that choice, I wanted to have some thought-provoking statements by famous people...statements that addressed issues in our society related to both democracy and racism. Issues that are alive and well today and that President Obama has to encounter as leader of our country." Of course, because of Micheal's excellent visual-communication skills, I knew all that, just from looking at the quilt.

Here's another one by Michael, this time a portrait of a place, obviously one familiar to him.

Mecklenburg County, NC by Michael Cummings, 72" x 96"

Mecklenburg County, NC by Michael Cummings, detail

My brother, Thom Atkins, found himself in very good company in this show, and his four beaded quilts add a wonderful contrasting element, a sparkle, to the mix. The two quilts below are my favorites among the four of his pieces included in the show.

The Man in the Window by Thom Atkins, 30" x 34"

The Ravens of Angel's Crest by Thom Atkins, 35" x 51"

Eight other quilt artists, who happen to be men, join those mentioned above, adding their own unique process and style to the mix. The whole, to my mind, is a luscious salad, its flavors delightfully complex and memorable.

But before I get to the show info, remember the teaser photo at the beginning of the post? That picture is a detail from the most jaw-dropping quilt I have ever seen. I mean EVER. And that includes all the thousands of quilts I've seen while teaching at various quilt festivals. It is THE most incredible quilt I've seen in my whole life. This isn't the greatest picture, but please click on it to see it full-sized.

Flow of the Seasons by Shingo Nakano, 87" x 80"

Shingo Nakano, of Japan, cut out over 16,000 little hexagon shapes from hundreds of different fabrics and hand-stitched them together to make double-ringed flower shapes. Arranging the pieced flowers so their colors suggested the flow of the seasons, he then hand-stitched them all together. Each hexagon is about as big as your thumbnail. Hand-quilting around each petal, completes this masterpiece of hand work.

Flow of the Seasons by Shingo Nakano, Summer-Fall

Flow of the Seasons by Shingo Nakano, Winter-Spring
If you follow my blog, you know I've been working on a hexie quilt (see here). Having already spent hundreds of hours on it, I can almost imagine the time, measured in years, it took to make this quilt. But the beautiful hand-work is not its only virtue. The fabrics and arrangement of colors send me into a place of inner calm, of beauty, of spiritual fulfillment. Thank you, Shingo Nakano for allowing us this glimpse into your inner world. If you like this quilt, wait until you go to La Conner. There are two hexie quilts by Nakano in the show! The second is even larger, with about 18,000 hexies. While you are there, take your time to study these two quilts; you won't see anything to compare for a long, long time.

What: Material Men: Innovation and the Art of Quilt Making
When: October 11 - December 30, 2012
Where: La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum in La Conner, WA
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm; Monday & Tuesday by appointment
Exhibit Curators: Geoff Hamada and Kathleen Kok

Link to further exhibit information
Link to museum website

Have I been clear enough? Go see this show! Make time; find the moola; just do it!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nature - Bead Journal Project for September

Nature (detail) - BJP for September
This year's Bead Journal Project (for me) is all about blessings, the things in life that make it special and worth while, the things that give me great pleasure. Because of writing a soon-to-be-released book (see side bar on right), I didn't get started until June. I decided to skip the first five months for now, do the remaining pieces on a month-to-month schedule, and catch up with the start of the year later. Each piece is 2.5" x 3.5", the size of an Artist Trading Card.

Nature (detail) - BJP for September
For September the blessing is Nature. What a blessing it is to have trees, rocks, birds, leaves, flowers, beaches, and all the miracles of nature to enchant our senses! There's so much to nature that my project box was stuffed, chuck-a-block, with beads and accents that I thought maybe I'd use.

Nature - BJP for September
Turns out it's more simple than I thought it might be, showcasing only a few of the things in my box. Maybe that's as it should be... I don't really know. The tree is a twig from one of our Madrona trees, which I sanded on the back side so it would lie flat on the fabric. The pebble is from our garden. A pair of mother-of-pearl birds, one on a little fragment of driftwood from South Beach and one on the branch, complete the picture. (Click on picture to see more detail.)

batik fabric, ready to bead
For this year's Bead Journal Project, I decided to return to solid beading, rather than allowing the fabric(s) to show as I have for the past few years. So far, that's how it's been. But, this one is different. The fabric is so lush and so right for the theme of the piece, I had to let it show, rather than beading the background sky.

Nature (displayed on stand) - BJP for September
I display my BJP pieces on miniature, wooden easels. The back of each piece is "lined" with Ultrasuede Light, which is attached to the fabric with a single-bead edge-stitch.

Home (in progress) - BJP for October
October will be about the blessing of Home.  This is what I've done so far. I hope to get it finished in the next week, to be on schedule for November.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Anne Bagby & Lynne Perrella - Clown Workshop

It was my over-the-top-LUCKY day when I learned Anne Bagby and Lynne Perrella were coming to my island (little, remote San Juan Island) to teach a 4-day workshop! Their theme was clowns... they would alternate teaching, two days each.

I've taken classes from both of them previously (at Art Fest), learning much of what I know about painting with acrylics and collage from them. I've incorporated painted, decorative papers into all of my beaded books. Above all, I owe to them the techniques of layering and glazing.

I want to write more posts about the workshop, which just finished yesterday, and show some of the teachers' and other students' work. But for today, I'm just going to show my own work.

Day 1

Anne taught some methods for drawing faces, and how to alter a picture of a face (perhaps taken from a magazine) to suggest a clown's face. We used white oil markers to make the faces white. I had two types. The whiter face was done with a Sharpie marker. Some of the other students used color pencils to shade the faces and make them look realistic. Since I've never even attempted to draw a face, I just stuck to outlines this time. But I envied the more realistic look.

Clown with Beard
Using painted 5x7 canvases, we collaged papers over the surface as a background for our "clowns." On other canvases, we simply sponged paint on the surface to give it a more complex look.

Lee and Madeline
We cut a "lump" out of painted papers from our stash (or Anne's stash) for the body, and used matte medium to attach it to the canvas.

Clown with Red Hat
Finally we added the face. To complete the pictures some students added ephemera, such as lace, buttons, etc. to make them more clown-like.

 I chose to keep them simple, but did glaze most of them to soften the look.

Day 2

Lynne taught how to work with a toner-copy of a photograph, how to make it our own using her new favorite medium, Portfolio brand water soluble oil pastels (24-colors). She showed us how to cut stencils and masks to enable coloring in certain areas and to make lines like the shoulders on my painting below.

Alfred Tomkin
Using gel medium we attached our pastel-worked faces on 8 x 10 canvas boards, which in my case, were pre-painted. Lynne showed us how to collage papers and work with paint and/or pastel layers to integrate the faces with the background. Since my face images were face only (no neck, shoulder, or body), I had to create those parts with paint and pastels.

Lilly Tomkin
The images I used were family photos - my great grandmother, Lilly Tomkin, and great grandfather, Alfred Tomkin. I never knew them, but always loved these pictures of them. I just couldn't make them into clownish, clowns. So I just suggested the clown idea with colors and the use of the diamonds (harlequin) motif, while trying to preserve the dignified portrait look.

 Day 3

Anne taught four different methods for creating masks and stencils of figures. She also taught us how to make complex papers, which are collages of various painted papers, used then as a single sheet of painted paper. Her work using these methods is phenomenal (as you'll see in a future post), but I struggled hugely this day.

Cab Calloway
We were supposed to do four figures. I only did one. His face is one I drew on day 1... again, I wished I knew how to shade the features. One student was using water soluble pencils to shade her work, and the results were stunning.

A problem for me was that I couldn't find a way to relate, personally, to the faces and figures, to care about them, to find meaning in doing them. This one, for example, didn't have meaning for me until last evening when I showed it to my husband. He said it reminded him of the musician, Cab Calloway. OK... now I like it better.

Day 4

Lynne worked with us to pull it all together... everything we learned in the previous three days. The project was to make a vertical or horizontal panel with several faces.

What fun it was to turn a photo of my husband, our Siamese cat, and my grandmother into a painted-collaged piece! I call it "Directors," because these are three influences that in different ways direct my life journey. The night before, I re-read favorite chapters in one of my favorite books, "Improv Wisdom," by Patricia Ryan Madson. Brilliant! It really freed me to have fun, to play, to let go of "doing it right." I love the results!

More pictures from the class soon. Don't forget, you can click on Lilly and Alfred (day 2) to enlarge and see more details.