Thursday, December 27, 2018

Your comments always welcome!!


Somebody left a comment on this morning's post that gave me pause.

Anonymous wrote:  "I have tried many times to comment here but -- well, your settings do not allow me in -- I am giving it one more try."

First off, I am so glad that you managed to leave a comment this time!  Perseverance is a fine virtue and I am honored that you are such a faithful reader that you will try again, and especially honored that your post said you liked my idea, not that you hate my blog.

But second off, I don't understand why you have been having trouble in the past.  My settings are as open as I can get them:




















Perhaps it's a problem of how you use the comment interface.  Here's a step-by-step of how that works on a computer.

If you want to leave a comments, scroll down to the bottom of the post and click on the COMMENT text.  Sometimes it reads NO COMMENTS: and sometimes it reads 1 COMMENT: or whatever.

Type in your comment in the box that says "Enter your comment..."

For some lucky (?) people, Google already knows who you are and helpfully (?) has your name right there.  If you want your comment to post with that name, go ahead and hit Publish.

If you don't want to be identified that way, click on the down arrow next to your name and you will find two other choices:

You can be identified as Anonymous, or you can choose another name.  To do that, click on Name/URL:

Type in whatever name you wish in the top box, and leave the URL box blank.  (No, I have never tried to use the URL box and I don't know what would happen if I did.)

Hit Publish and you'll get a success message.

I hope you will keep reading my blog, whoever you are, and that you will be moved occasionally to leave a comment.  I love to hear from you all.

Thinking about daily art 3


Well, you know I'm going to nag you about daily art, because it's that time of year.  Although you can start a daily art project any time -- your birthday, the day after you retire, the fourth of July -- it's easy to do it on the first of the year.  That's when I always start mine, and it makes it so much easier to label and remember my projects.

I have found daily art so rewarding in the almost-two decades I've been doing it that I encourage all my art pals to try it.  The key to a successful project, I have found, it to make the rules fit your life.  For instance, if you like to go backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, don't choose a project that requires a sewing machine every day.  I've written a lot about how to set your rules -- you might want to read about that here and here.

But for those who are still skeptical about whether a daily art project is too daunting, too difficult, too scary, I have an idea for you.  I'm going to do this mini-project in 2019 in addition to my more rigorous daily art (which I'll write about soon), so we can work together!






















Like so many art projects, this one required a trip to the store.  I bought 450 tiny ziplock bags, 1.5 x 2 inches, just big enough to put a little something in each day.  And that's the plan: every day I will put a little something into a bag.  I will mark it with the date (haven't decided yet how to do this, but I suspect it will involve my other new toy, purchased last month, a six-digit rubber stamp).






















I can see how a project like this could involve more rules.  For instance, I could have to actually make the something (a little drawing? a little fabric doodad? a sculpey clay figure?).  Or I could have to find it on the street (thus forcing myself to take walks) or cut it out of the newspaper (a little photo? a memorable phrase?) or find it among my junk drawers, button boxes and random piles of stuff.  If I had bought the next-larger size of bag, 2 x 3 inches, it would open even more possibilities.

But for now I think I'll have very few rules and see what happens.

I invite you to join me in this adventure!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!


Since my daily art project this year has been maps, what else should I use in the Christmas ornaments?

Early in the year I made several daily arts with letters cut from maps pasted onto map backgrounds, experimenting with varying degrees of value contrast.  I liked the effect and thought it would work on a smaller scale for ornaments.























I cut up various maps and mounted them on small squares of mat bord, then cut initials from maps of different colors.  My early attempts were too low-contrast, so I mounted the initials on solid color paper, just enough to give a sharp outline.























On the back, I wrote the year with a brush and india ink.























As often happens, I got all the ornaments that needed to be mailed done in time, but lollygagged over those to be delivered in town.  I just finished the ones for Ken and me yesterday afternoon.  I rationalize my procrastination by saying that there is no more peaceful activity on Christmas Eve than to be in the studio, finishing up a task I love.

We don't exchange a lot of presents at Christmas time, thus sparing us the "joys" of crowded stores and traffic jams.  Instead I treasure the quiet time of making ornaments every year for a lot of special people.

I wish for every one of my friends, family and internet pals a happy Christmas and a very good year ahead.



Thursday, December 20, 2018

Thinking about daily art 2


I gave a gallery talk during my show in which I explained how I came to do daily art and how it has become such an important part of my art practice.  It's not just a fast morning warm-up to get me in the mood for my "real" art, or a sketchbook of preliminary ideas that may or may not get used.  To me, it is just as much "real" art as any quilt or collage or sculpture or hand stitching that might hang in a gallery, even though each day's bit may seem small.

I said in the talk that I love the discipline and structure of these projects, and how they allow me to experiment and explore areas that I am unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. 

Daily art allows me to do things I'm afraid to do, while offering a high probability of success.  Even if I start out doing a mediocre job, the structure forces me to stick with it (I've never abandoned a daily art project in 18 years).  Even if today's rendition is pathetic, I can try it again tomorrow and the next day until I get a little better.  It's low risk, because I know every day is not going to be a masterpiece, so no big deal. And yet, the pathetic days are just as much a part of the "real" art as the occasional masterpieces.

In the six weeks since that talk, I have been amazed and gratified at how many people have told me they have resolved to do daily art themselves, and have already started on their projects.  Others have told me they plan to start at the first of the year.

Apparently this concept has struck a chord.  It's a way for very busy people to commit to making art without requiring huge chunks of time.  It's a way for people to take baby steps toward making their artwork more focused, more serious.  And most important, it's lots of fun!!

There are two weeks left until New Year, and that's plenty of time for you to think about whether a daily art project might be something you would enjoy. Think about your own life and what kind of a project would be doable.  Perhaps you can't commit to making a painting every day (although my fellow PYRO Gallery artist Claudia Hammer has done just that)  but you could probably commit to taking one striking photo every day or making one sketch of your daughter or your dog or your sewing machine.

(Buy a really small sketchbook if you're feeling hesitant!  This one is only 3.5 x 4.75 inches.  As the year wore on and I filled each sketchbook, my confidence grew and I bought the next one a little bit bigger.)

Again, if you're feeling hesitant, commit to the month of January rather than the whole year.  You may find that daily art isn't for you, or this particular project isn't for you, or it needs to be redefined to make it work, but give it a go.  And if you love it and stick with it, I guarantee your artistic life will take a new and gratifying turn.



Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Thinking about daily art 1


In mid-December I always spend time thinking about daily art, because I have to decide what my project will be for the coming year.  But this year I've been thinking a whole lot more, because I have just spent five weeks with my solo show about daily art on display, and since then I have been putting things away.

I spent several hours taking down the collages that had been pinned to boards on the wall,  putting them back into the file boxes and getting everything back into its proper order.

I had invited viewers to look at my four years of collage, and from the state of the cards, they took me at my word. It required much sorting and of course pausing now and then to reread the cards.


Although the task was tedious and time-consuming, it was also meditative and deeply satisfying.  In many cases, as I looked at an old collage I remembered exactly where I was that day, where I got the pictures, why I chose to combine them into that particular image.

While the show was up, one of the visitors said to me "This looks like a journal of your whole life!"  And he was right.  Looking back at the daily art, of whatever mode and medium, I can track vacations, art projects, walks, weather, orchestra and opera performances, museum visits, weddings and funerals and new babies, birthdays and anniversaries.

remembering a wedding

That's not why I do daily art, but it's a great side benefit.  Between the daily art and the home and work calendars I have religiously saved ever since we got married, I can reconstruct a lot of my life in detail.  If I require Senate confirmation for some future big government job, I will make Brett Kavanaugh look memory-impaired.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fabric collage -- out in public


In 2015 I did a collaborative art project with my dear friend Uta Lenk, who lives in Germany.  We each prepared six sets of fabric stuff -- one envelope to me, an identical envelope to her.  The envelopes contained three or four bits and pieces of fabric, lace, cord, maybe a button or bead, and miscellaneous things we found in our respective studios.  We exchanged the envelopes and then each month we made a fabric collage that had to use everything in the envelope plus whatever else we might want to add.  For coherence, I chose to stitch all my collages onto a neutral linen background, which in turn was stitches to the deep gray mat board.

We had fun doing the project, but on my part I would say that only four or five of the twelve rose to the level of art.  As with so many experiments in a new method or procedure, it takes a while to find your way.  But three of them seemed good enough to put in frames for the new show at PYRO Gallery.

Gold Star



Only one hitch -- Uta and I had made our collages to fit onto 8x12" mat board, and I couldn't find frames in that size.  So I got 9x12 frames and eked out the width with strips of colored paper. 

Pig Newton























If I were starting from scratch I'd prefer the mat board the same size as the frame, but the stripes do add a jaunty air, especially when all three collages are hung together.

By the way, I don't like to put fabric under glass, so I put the collages into the frames naked.  I know there are some drawbacks to this approach in that the work can get dusty, but I didn't want to pop for expensive shadowbox frames that would keep the glass forward off the 3-D collages.  I hope it works out well.

Slick Dude























If you'd like to see all our collages from that project, click here.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

A happy ending


I wrote on Thursday about my disappointing experience with the new SAQA book, and posted a similar message on the SAQA email list that evening.

So I was pleased to read an email message last night from Martha Sielman, SAQA executive director.  She wrote, "I have just confirmed with Schiffer that they do offer a discount for contributing artists.  If you are one of the artists with work in the book, you can place a one-time order for up to 25 copies at a 40% discount.  You just need to pay standard freight.  SAQA will email the artists on Monday to let them know about this discount offer."

Perhaps not the ideal solution, but definitely a good thing to do now.  I'm glad the SAQA leadership apparently was listening to the opinions of us members and observers who called them out for not giving artists the respect they/we deserve.

I hope the next time a big, important book comes out SAQA will do the right thing from the start.























Update:  An anonymous reader, who identified herself as one of the larger donors to the SAQA book project, left comments on my blog post yesterday suggesting that it was unreasonable for me to suggest that SAQA pay for rights to publish artists' work.  She wrote:  "There are 240 artists in this book.  240 x your suggestion of $50 for rights of usage? $12,000....  If you think everyone is entitled to a copy, either pony up $12,000 or join the SAQA board and start doing the work for the next compendium."

Actually, if we're doing arithmetic, according to Martha's email last night, Schiffer Publishing is willing to forgo $19.60 per copy (40% discount off $49 list price) up to 25 copies per artist!!  That adds up to $19.60 x 25 x 240 = $117,600!!  And this offer seems to have come about within 24 hours, so apparently it didn't require a whole lot of hardball negotiation.  I am amazed at this sum -- clearly there's more profit sloshing around in the publishing business than we had thought.  Or perhaps Schiffer doesn't want to kill the golden goose.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Crabby about SAQA


I feel guilty about being crabby twice in one week, especially when it's Christmas and I'm feeling generally cheerful and happy.

And I feel guilty about being crabby about SAQA, which just a few days ago did me the honor of including my refugee quilt people in its new exhibit, "Forced to Flee."

But I'm going to do it anyway.

Entropy -- in QN'15 and now in a new SAQA book

Almost two years ago I was invited to have a quilt included in a SAQA book "that compiles the significant art quilts and artists from the 1960's to today."  I sent off my images, signed the permission form, and forgot all about it.  This week I happened to search my email inbox for "SAQA" because I needed to confirm the info about the "Forced to Flee" show, and there at the top of the list was this very old email.  Hmmm -- did the book ever get made?

I went to the SAQA website and found that sure enough, it came out six weeks ago under the title "Art Quilts Unfolding" and is available for $49 through the SAQA store.

I was surprised (a) that I had not received an announcement that the book was published, and (b) that I had not been sent a copy.  I've had my work published in many different books and magazines and it is standard practice to send a complimentary copy, especially when the publisher did not pay anything for the rights.

I wrote the SAQA staffer in charge of the project and asked if copies were going to be sent to the artists, and the response was NO.























I don't know if this chintzy decision was made by the publisher, or by SAQA, or both in concert, but I think it was a bad one.

SAQA makes a LOT of money off its publications, which are made possible by the cooperation of us artists who graciously provide images, sit for interviews, lend our quilts to tour for years, and in the case of juried shows, pay entry fees.  Yes, it's a nice ego trip to see our quilts in a book, but since we've done our part for free, the least they could do is send us a copy.

There's always a lot of chatter and angst on the SAQA email list over copyright, with people in a flutter over how much they should be paid if their quilt is reproduced on a CD album cover or a fundraising brochure or the side of a barn.  Usually the consensus is "we deserve to be paid!!!"  "we are professional artists!!!"  "we shouldn't give our work away!!!"  "people should take art quilters seriously!!!!!"

Seems like the shoemaker's children when SAQA avails itself of free publication rights to its own artist/members' work and can't even send us a copy of the publication.

What do you think?

UPDATE:  After I complained to Martha Sielman, executive director of SAQA, I got this response:























Maybe when SAQA negotiated the deal with Schiffer Publishing they should have put free books into the agreement.  Just my two cents worth.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The refugees have a place to go


Good news for my refugee quilt people -- they have somewhere to go next spring!  They have been accepted into the SAQA "Forced to Flee" exhibit that will be shown at the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts in Melbourne FL in May, and with any luck will travel to other places.



My husband was sorry to hear that the show wouldn't be up during the winter, since he would love an excuse to go south in the cold weather.  Me too, since I hate going south in the warm weather.  Such first-world problems!  But refugees are happy to go anywhere, any time, if people will welcome them.





Monday, December 3, 2018

My new dumb smartphone


Lo these many years, I have put it off getting a smartphone.  Always figured I could get along just fine with my landline at home, my Kindle on the road and my dumbphone ready to provide voice service as needed.  But my dumbphone contract expired and rather than re-up for two years I decided to bite the bullet.

My children enabled me through this process and the day after Thanksgiving my new phone arrived in the mail, part of a bundled deal with Google Fi, a relatively new concept advertised as "seamless wireless."  My guys use this service and love it -- cheap and good.

I always thought getting a smartphone was going to be expensive, and the last ten days have done nothing to disabuse me, except it has been expensive in time rather than money.  Seems that when we sat down to activate the phone I made a terrible error -- I asked it to transfer over my old dumbphone  number, because many of my family members know it.  But apparently when I tried to look up what my account number was, I found and entered the wrong number.  Bad move.

The system wouldn't allow me to transfer.  After trying again a few times I gave up and called Google to tell them to give me a new number.  This required 90 minutes on the phone, one hour in queue, a half-hour talking to Christian, who gave me a guilt trip for not knowing my account number, but he would graciously do what it took to back that info out of the system and generate a new number.  And so he did, or so he said. When will I learn what it is?  It may even happen while we're still on the phone, but if not, then very soon.

Good thing I did not hold my breath, and 30 hours later I got back on the phone.  This time it took one hour in queue and more than an hour with Cheryl, who again did the guilt trip and chewed me out for being crabby "before I have even had a chance to start to help you!!!"  She told me that Christian shouldn't have promised me a new number because the bad vibes were still there.  She went to three higher levels of management approval before getting the system to generate a new number (she knew it did, because she saw it flash by, but too fast for her to write it down).  But because it was late in the day it would take 24 hours for me to get activated.

Good thing I did not hold my breath, and 43 hours later I got back on the phone.  This time only a half hour in queue, but well over an hour with Sean, who at least spared me the guilt trip.  He put me on hold several times while he went to confer with higher levels.  He informed me several times that the intervention had begun!!  Finally he told me they were about to get me set up, and I would be notified by email "sometime before midnight."

An hour later, my phone made strange noises at me and I tried to make a phone call.  It worked!!!  I called my landline and it rang!!!  But I still didn't know what my phone number is, since my landline is just as dumb as my old dumbphone.  And I'm still waiting for the notification email that I was promised, not to mention a response to the email I sent them three days ago to complain.

Later I called my son and he read off my phone number from his phone, so now I know it.

It only took seven hours of my life to get it activated.  During my many hours on hold I have discovered that Google is apparently saving money on background music as well as on adequate staffing for the help lines.  While you're in queue you get several different tracks, but after you've been "helped" and get put on hold, it's the same damn three minutes of music over and over and over.  I calculate I have heard those three minutes about 50 times in the last four days.  And it's not even particularly good music.

If you're contemplating signing up with Google Fi you may want to avoid transferring your old phone number.  And go to the bathroom before you place your call to customer "service."




Friday, November 30, 2018

Carol and Leigh -- are you there?


Send me an email to  artwithaneedle@gmail.com  and I'll send you an ornament!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Ornaments -- still slogging away


I've been in the studio every day since Thanksgiving working on the ornaments.  Happy to report that after I spilled a glass of water all over my mat board, it dried without a trace.  I had a false start on the hanging apparatus -- made a handful with wire and then decided to use cord instead.

didn't like these hangers (sorry, no peeking)
cut them off
this is better
Now it's just a production line, cutting and pasting and punching and knotting. I have been amusing myself while working by watching the entire season of Dancing With the Stars, recorded through the fall but not touched until last week.  I have always felt confident that in the end one of the best dancers would win, despite the stubborn persistence of Bristol Palin or her awkward counterparts each season, whose fans vote them in the running long, long past their sell-by date.  But this year I am getting a bad feeling.

And for my own stubborn fans, if Carol and Leigh will send me your addresses, you'll be getting an ornament too!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Frustration over Christmas / thankful at Thanksgiving


Later this year than ever in the past, I have started grappling with the specifics of my Christmas ornaments.  I've had the general idea for the ornaments for several weeks, but in the flurry of activity of teaching, getting a solo show launched, and being sick for a week, I haven't actually sat down to work on them until Tuesday.  And it was a frustrating day.

First off, I couldn't buy mat board in any of the colors I had in mind, such as pale sage green, pale gray or pale yellow.  Settled for a gold, which is perfectly lovely, but not what I had in mind.  Couldn't decide which kind of glue to use -- YES! paste or glue stick.  Neither of them called out "Use me!!" Made a bunch of each one and waited to let them dry properly.

The last time I made ornaments using mat board I had a terrible time getting a hole punched through for the hanging cord.  I think I ended up using my industrial-strength hole punch and really leaning on it, which worked but gave me holes a lot bigger than I had wanted.  After that experience I purchased a set of heavy-duty paper punches which are supposed to drill neat little holes in three different sizes.  I forgot all about them, until miraculously a couple of days ago I came across them in a drawer while looking for something else.  Wow!  Serendipity!  Synchronicity!

So Tuesday I whipped out my new punches, found the right size, followed the directions and whapped them two or three times with hammer blows -- and the punch went through about half of the mat board.  Whapped some more with very little result.  Rooted around in a drawer and found a hole punch about the same size, which got me through the remaining layers, but "about the same size" also means "messy around the edges."  Futzed around with the punch for a while and got it a bit neater.























Wednesday was a slightly better day.  I figured out how to make the punch work better -- the very low-tech solution of positioning the board directly over the table leg so the table doesn't bend away from the blade when hit.  On the other hand, Wednesday was when I spilled a glass of water over my large uncut mat board.  Two steps forward, one step back.

I worked for a while on Wednesday while thinking about the issues yet to be resolved.  What size?  I had cut some two-inch squares and they seemed too small.  Then I cut some three-inch squares and they seemed too big.  Maybe two-and-a-half inches?  Maybe I need to incorporate paint into this process.  Beads?  Wire?  Linoleum printing?  If I didn't have to produce Thanksgiving dinner for nine people I could sit down and make a lot of progress today.

But let's be positive.  I am thankful that I have eight wonderful people to produce Thanksgiving dinner for.  I am thankful that I have 48 dear friends and family to make Christmas ornaments for.  I am thankful that my greatest worry this week has to do with paper punches instead of anything more serious.

As I do every year, I'd love to add one or two of my blog readers to the ornament list.  Leave a comment before Monday midnight and you might be the winner this year.  Trust me, by the time you get your ornament in the mail I will have figured out how to do it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Crabby about pockets -- amen!


One of my art pals sent me links to a bunch of articles about pockets -- namely, rants about how the pockets in women's clothing are always much smaller than those in men's clothing.  I read them all and found myself getting madder the more I read.  Because they are so right!!

Read the best ones here, and here.

Fortunately those of us who know how to sew can remedy the situation.  I can't count the number of readymade garments that I have augmented with better pockets, or pattern-made garments that I have improved with more pockets.  Among my greatest hits was a pair of pants that I cut off to knee-length, then used the cut-off fabric to put huge cargo pockets on both thighs.

In my closet right now are a pair of jeans with the shallowest pockets I've seen in ages. 

I added five inches in length to the right-hand one just before I embarked on a trip (but never got around to doing the same with the other one).



And a suede-like shirt that had no pockets at all!  What were they thinking!!  Even if you carry a handbag, which I don't, where do you put a Kleenex or a Chapstick?

Fortunately the shirt had a horizontal seam right about where the top of a pocket should fall.  I opened the seam, added a big pocket in a matching batik palette, made a button loop out of the batik and used the extra button from the little plastic envelope.

Hah!  Outsmarted the product police!


Friday, November 16, 2018

Workshop report 3


One of my students has already finished the piece begun in the Loose Threads workshop last month.  Linda Bohlen sent this photo of her little quilt, "Snow on the Mountain." 























She thought the diagonal lines looked like a mountain range, and added some hand stitching to make a dusting of snow on the peak.

It's always nice when you like a workshop piece enough to take it home and finish it!  And even nicer when it comes out looking great.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Workshop report 2


Here's another workshop piece from Loose Threads that started as large-to-small -- one piece of fabric, sliced and restitched with a very skinny line of fabric between the two halves -- and then turned into small-to-large on the second day.  The very densely pieced small-to-large areas, because they can incorporate different colors in different combinations, add a lot of pizzazz!

after the first day


making a bunch of small-to-large strips and modules


adding them to the large-to-small composition

And she's not done yet!!  I'm waiting to see how this all turns out.



Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Workshop report 1


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about leading a workshop for Loose Threads, a small group of fiber artists in Evansville IN.  When I teach fine-line piecing I like to spent the first day slicing up large pieces of fabric and piecing them back together with very skinny "mortar" lines.  The longer you work on something, the more lines will appear and the more complex the composition.  You can also turn the pieces upside down or add a second color before you sew it back together.

midafternoon

after working late into the evening


midafternoon





















late 

The second day we worked with a different method of construction: starting with small modules or strips and building them up into larger expanses.  Some people stuck with their first-day compositions and made them even more complex with new modules.






















second day afternoon

The moral of this story, I guess, is that when the schedule says it's time to stop and move on to another task, sometimes it isn't.