Saturday, October 12, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

After I wrote about my daily calligraphy, Helen sent a link to some beautiful embroidery by Olga Kovalenko, who starts with a calligraphed word and then executes it in stitching.  I can't tell from the detail shot what stitches she has used, but I would guess satin stitch for the long, smooth lines, maybe french knots for the little ink spatters.  The work is great -- I would be happy if I could simply do the calligraphy, let alone translate it into stitching!!

Olga Kovalenko, Uncertainty

I've finished piecing three small crossroads tops and have one quilted. Still experimenting in search of a way to display quilts in something other than the standard sleeve-and-rod format that I've been using for decades.  I'm going to wrap this batch around 14 x 14 canvases, staple them to the back, and see what that looks like.

Here's my favorite miniature of the week, beads made from air-drying clay, colored with whatever ink was left in the pen after several days of calligraphy:

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Calligraphy update -- book reports

Every time I finish reading a book I find a representative sample passage to copy as my daily calligraphy.  Not only does this give me something new and different to write, it is serving as my reading diary for the year.  I've always sort of admired this practice in other people but never kept track of the bazillions of books I have read myself.  So this is a new and surprisingly satisfying side benefit of my daily art.

For the first nine months of the year I can report that I have read 60 books: 40 were fiction, 19 were non-fiction, one was poetry (and I cheated -- I calligraphed poems from that book on several days).  I am chagrined to report that for at least four of the fiction books, I had no recollection of the plot as I looked back to write this post, even after reading the copied passage.

Some of the book passages were almost illegible, as I was practicing a compressed italic hand that dispensed with spaces between words and line-ending hyphens (illegible, but they looked pretty).  Or letting the letters splay every which way across the page.

Some were quite readable, as I was practicing my channeling-Julia-Warhola handwriting with lots of curlicues.

At least one was deliberately atmospheric, with wispy brush-drawn letters echoing the fog described in the passage.

If you'd like some recommendations, in the fiction department I especially liked "Fake Like Me" by Barbara Bourland, the best fiction I've ever read about artists and how they work.

Many more to recommend on the non-fiction side of the aisle.  "Educated" by Tara Westover is a memoir that some of my friends found hard to read but I had no such qualms, looking forward to the happy ending.  "White Rage" by Carol Anderson is a dense, scholarly and eye-popping look at how Americans have discriminated against blacks throughout our history.  "American Dialogue: The Founders and Us" by Joseph Ellis examines several key concepts behind the Constitution and how they play out in today's political theater.  "How to Disappear" by Akiko Busch is a collection of essays about privacy, memory, identity and mystery.

I look forward to the next three months of my reading diary, because of the calligraphy and because of the books themselves.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

On Tuesday I wrote about Carole Harris, a fiber artist from Detroit whose work I saw in Traverse City MI while visiting my sister a week ago.  Coincidentally, I was also corresponding with the program chair from a fiber art group in Detroit about teaching a workshop, and I mentioned in my email that I had seen the show and said "I wonder if you know her."

Got a response 20 minutes later that said "I was just at Carole's studio this afternoon!"  It's a small world.

Carole Harris, Against the Wall

Idaho Beauty left a comment: "Nice to know there's another quilter out there who picks stray threads off quilts."  I confess to doing that a lot, on other people's quilts and on my own.  When I was a guest on Quilting Arts TV several years ago, I was instructed by Pokey Bolton to not pick threads on camera, it was too distracting for the viewers.  Embarrassed to say that despite the warning I couldn't  help myself.

I've been piecing this week, more crossroads quilts with very fine lines.  Decided to get fancy and add a spot of blue to the one I'm working on.

Here's my favorite miniature of the week.  I wondered what would happen if I put ink onto the not-yet-dried-out clay (because my rule is no additions after midnight of the given day), and was pleased with the slightly blotchy surface that I found two days later.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The world's greatest healthcare system

Found an email inviting me to "Check-in online and save time!"

Was it a belated note from Delta Airlines from my trip last week?  No, it was from the orthopedic clinic, for my appointment.  "Why pre-register?" it asked, and replied that it would save time and give me more time to talk about my health.  (Not sure how that's going to work -- are they going to give me ten more minutes with the actual healthcare provider because I've obediently done my paperwork online?)

And what kind of paperwork are we talking about?  I just filled in a boatload of forms two weeks ago.

But I figured what the heck, and proceeded to check in.

Hmmm -- in order to verify who I am, I had to choose from six possible street addresses, one of them mine.  (This is kind of like proving that I'm not a robot by finding all the photos of bicycles...)

Having passed that test, I had to get a security code.  This required me to choose which phone I wanted to use, type in that number again, then pick up the phone to receive my code.  I typed that in on the next screen.

That got me to a slew of pages where I got to verify that everything I had told them two weeks ago was still true.  No, I still am not allergic to chicken.  Yes, I still use the Kroger pharmacy.  Etc.

But look at all the time I'm saving, doing it at home instead of in the office.

So tell me, why do I still have to arrive 15 minutes before my appointment time????

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Fiber art in Traverse City

I spent last week with my sister in Traverse City MI and was delighted to discover that a new exhibit of fiber art has just opened at the Dennos Museum Center, the work of Detroit quilter Carole Harris, made over a time span from the early 90s to just this year.  I have never seen Harris's work in any of the usual art/quilt show venues, and was happy to discover her!

As is true of so many of us, her work has changed a lot in three decades, from piecing that would win the quilt police seal of approval to a much looser fabric collage approach featuring distressed fabrics, rust and other stains, holes, frayed edges, improvisational hand stitching, fabrics of greatly differing weights and textures, the whole atmospheric variety of fiber-not-on-best-behavior.

Carole Harris, The Sun's Gon' Shine In My Backdoor Someday, 1993

Oh, those fabulous 90s jeweltones!  Oh, that black!  Oh those hanging cord/fringe/doodads!  Oh that kimono form!  I seem to recall a whole lot of quilts from that era using that same recipe, although most of them not as good as these. 

But look at what she's doing now:

Carole Harris, Who Knows Where the Time Goes, 2018 (details below)

Or this one:

Carole Harris, Things Gone, 2019 (details below)

Most of her recent works are densely quilted, both by hand and machine, and as a result don't hang flat against the wall (check out those shadows at the bottom).  But other, smaller pieces with less stitching are framed under glass, a very different look.  A few of these featured handmade joomchi paper, whose variable texture and gorgeous holes fit very nicely with Harris's esthetic of celebrating time and memory.

Carole Harris, Timeworn, 2018 (detail below)

The show is beautifully displayed, but I have one complaint: nobody went around with a roll of masking tape after the quilts went up on the wall to remove the stray threads and bits of lint.  I confess I picked off a lot of them, and hope that Harris isn't mad at me.  I would like for somebody to do the same for me if my quilts were put out in public without that important last once-over.

The show continues at the Dennos through December 29; if you find yourself anywhere north of Midland with an afternoon to spare, make a detour!! 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

What a wonderful week of art I've had!  I went to northern Michigan to visit my sister and since I am still laid up with the broken ankle, I mainly sat at the table and did art while other people occasionally brought me food and drink.  So my foot feels a whole lot better with so little walking and standing.

The week was mainly spent in parallel play. 

My sister is still winding up chores and paperwork from her husband's death, so she spent a lot of time on the phone with insurance companies while I did hand stitching.  Very companionable for both of us; just having somebody else in the room when you're performing a solitary task is so good!  We talked while she was on hold, stopped talking when one of us needed to concentrate.  One day I did a lot of her piled-up mending while she cleaned up the sewing room; much more talking this time.  And when I worked on my daily calligraphy she brought out her sketchbook and tried out the same techniques.

mended: pirate costume, two pairs of shorts, yoga pants, blouse, hanging clothes hamper, nylon tote bag
Speaking of calligraphy, Gail left a comment that maybe I could resurrect my broken crow-quill pen by putting a new grip on the old handle.  I wish -- but I think I'm better off buying a new pen and, as Susan suggested in her comment: "maybe some broken type, some frayed fabric, a broken quill pen, a new piece of art!"  If I have to futz around and make stuff with old broken things, I'd much rather end up with art than with a repair that I'd probably screw up anyway.

Gail commented earlier in the week, "I wonder if there isn't some obscure law that requires substitutes for the full spelling of some words on book covers?  You know, like the 7 forbidden words on TV that George Carlin had a whole routine about."  Short answer to that: no there isn't.  Government "shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...."

Yes, it's possible that a book could be considered obscene by the local police, under the famous definition articulated by Justice Potter Stewart in 1964: "I know it when I see it."  Language on broadcast TV is still regulated by the FCC, but standards are looser than they used to be, and cable and satellite TV have even fewer rules.  (If this topic interests you, here's a long but readable and up-to-date article from TV Guide -- click here for the link.  I recommend despite the hackneyed asterisked title.) 

Anyhow, here's my favorite miniature of the week: