Monday, August 31, 2015

Entry woes

You might think that after somebody has entered 100 shows or so, it wouldn't be such a big deal.  But yet again, it's entry time and I'm struggling.

This time it's for Fiberart International, a very prestigious show that comes around every three years and attracts artists from all over the world.  I was fortunate to be juried into the show once before, in 2010.  The next one, in 2013, unfortunately had the same entry deadline, give or take a week or two, as Quilt National, and the three quilts I had so tediously finished for QN constituted my entire artistic output for the year.  So I had nothing to enter in Fiberart International that year.

So this time I was determined to have an entry, and it is centered around the knots I've been tying for several months.  The entry deadline is midnight tonight. I finished the last piece on Friday and this weekend did the photography -- that shouldn't be too hard when the art is only a few inches tall, should it?  No struggling with big design walls or wrestling huge quilts into position.

But too small can be just as challenging as too large!  My point-and-shoot camera, usually utterly reliable for extreme closeups, refused to focus itself on the knots for detail shots.  Here's what my beautiful sculptures were looking like in the photos: a blur.

Fortunately I have a good friend who saved my life by using his much nicer camera to shoot gorgeous photos this afternoon.

Now the last hurdle: what to call these pieces.  The first ones that I made were called "Specimen", a name I liked because it was indeterminate as to the nature of the things depicted.  Are they animal, vegetable or mineral?  I'm not sure, and the name left it ambiguous.

So the obvious name for the series I'm entering in Fiberart International, in which the knotted bodies are emanating from old wooden spools, would be "Spool Specimens."  Oops.  Too close to disastrous connotations.

I still have several hours to come up with a good name.  I'm thinking, I'm thinking....

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Good save!

Several years ago I participated in a kind of round robin quilt design project organized by Terry Jarrard-Dimond.  After she sewed the finished composition together, I asked her if I could have the leftovers, because I just love sewing leftovers into quilts, especially leftovers from other people's projects.  I always think that the energy those others put into their work carries over and gives my work a new aura that I wouldn't get entirely on my own.

I sewed those leftovers into two separate quilt tops (see them here) and eventually quilted and finished one of the tops (see it here).  But the second top languished.  It ended up in my workshop box, being shlepped around to workshops around the country so people could see the back side of my fine line piecing.

Here it is on the wall when I taught at the Crow Barn last fall.

My students wondered why I had never finished it, and we talked about its compositional failures as an object lesson.  I said I didn't think the top half really matched the bottom half, and I didn't have enough of the blue and gray leftovers to really give those colors an adequate presence in the quilt.  I said I loved the yellow area at the top -- and then I blurted out "I really should cut this into two pieces!"

You have probably had such an experience yourself, where you are surprised to hear what comes out of your own mouth, and later realize that it was true.

So as the workshop went on, I took my seam ripper and opened the quilt top into two pieces.  Earlier this year I got both of them quilted and finished.

Fine line piecing has always reminded me of aerial landscapes, and these have names to reflect that.  I don't know if I would try to exhibit them as a pair, but that's a possibility.

Left Coast, 2015

Flyover State, 2015

It's taken almost five years to progress from leftovers to finished art, but I'm happy with these.  I've always believed that if you wait long enough, and keep your work within view, it will tell you what it wants to become.  And that's what happened here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sign of the week

Now this is what I call clever design -- the sign is a part of what it's describing.  In the London Underground.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sneak peek 2

Here's another sneak peek at my new book, "Pattern-Free Quilts: Riffs on the Rail Fence Block," just published earlier this month.

Traditionally, rail fence blocks, like those of most quilt patterns, are square.  But they don't have to be...

You could use rectangles, triangles, trapezoids, rhombuses or hexagons instead of squares.  Any of these shapes will fit together neatly, or "tessellate," to cover the entire surface of the quilt.  Here are a few quick sketches of how you might divide these shapes with rails.

As you can see from the sketches, there are a myriad of possibilities for planning a quilt with block/shapes composed of several strips or rails.  That's the point: lots of possibilities, so the quilt you design won't be like anybody else's.

To buy the book, click on the thumbnail picture in the sidebar at right, or HERE.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Julian Bond

I was sorry to hear of the too-early death of Julian Bond, one of the most prominent civil rights leaders of the last century, who went from heading the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to serving in the Georgia Legislature for many years.

A couple of years ago he was the guest speaker on our cruise to the Amazon.  It was a privilege to spend a couple of hours with him in an intimate setting as he reminisced about his crusading days.

A couple of days later we were taking a bus excursion on the very hilly island of Grenada, driving way too close to the precipitous edge of narrow winding roads, when we saw this dog sleeping on a roof.  This has nothing to do with Julian Bond but it makes me smile.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sneak peek 1

Here's another sneak peek at my new book, "Pattern-Free Quilts: Riffs on the Rail Fence Block," just published earlier this month.

The traditional rail fence block consists of three or four parts -- call them strips, stripes, rails, whatever you like -- that make up a block.  Usually there's relatively high contrast between the colors of the rails.  Traditionally, when the quilt is assembled, every other block is given a quarter turn to make an overall checkerboard or weave structure.

Sometimes one of the rails is given a dominant color allowing you to deploy the blocks in patterns.  If one of the side rails steps forward because of high value contrast, you can get a zigzag pattern across the quilt.  Or, by arranging the blocks differently, you can get pinwheels.

If the middle rail steps forward because of value contrast, you'll get a different effect -- and over-and-under basketweave pattern.

As you can see from this brief excerpt, there are lots of design variations possible just using the traditional rail fence layout.  But this is just the start; next we're going to start changing the rails, the blocks and the way the blocks are assembled.

To buy the book, click on the thumbnail picture in the sidebar at right, or HERE.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Photo suite 190 -- Japanese supermarket

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Japan was a trip to the supermarket -- nothing fancy, like the food court at Takashimaya, the upscale department store I visited in Kyoto five years ago, just an ordinary grocery store in a small city in the hinterlands.  See more of my supermarket photos from Japan and Russia on my food blog, here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Mending project 6

I've been writing about the mending project at Kentucky Museum of Art + Craft, and promised to keep you posted about my ambivalent feelings.  On the one hand, I am delighted with the concept that mending can be art, and intrigued by being able to participate in a Work Of Art by an honest-to-pete Famous Artist.  On the other, I am disappointed that the project has never really gotten off the ground, and have my own suspicions about why it hasn't (in a nutshell, poor planning plus poor execution).

I've worked two shifts since almost a month off for various travels, and when I returned there weren't all that many more garments on the pile than when I left.  Remember, the project has been going since the last week in April!

One day I kept busy by sewing flowers onto the hems of girls' dresses, which is always fun because they are so easily impressed.  With one little girl we talked about how old you have to be to learn to sew (I told her I learned hand-stitching when I was about five, and sewing machine when I was seven) and she allowed that maybe she would try to do it when she got old enough.

The second day I was working during a poetry slam held in the downstairs gallery.  The museum representative spoke briefly to invite people to check out the art show while they were there, and specifically mentioned the mending.  At intermission, one young woman bounded up the stairs and plonked down in the chair, taking off her much-worn flannel shirt as she approached.  She explained that she had lost both wrist buttons some time ago and had sewed the cuffs shut, but hadn't done a very good job of it and could I re-fix them.

So during the second half of the event, I mended her cuffs while listening to poetry from below.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sign of the week

I guess everybody needs a mirror to check their coiffures before they dash off the subway and into the office.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book giveaway

Winner of the free copy of my new book is Penny Schine Gold.  Thanks to everybody who came, read, and commented!

Wedding jitters

Last weekend was great -- our son got married and a good time was had by all.  But on Wednesday night, as we all were getting packed to hit the road, the mood was a bit tense.  The groom called me up to say that he was mystified -- all four pockets on the new suit coat, just home from the store, were false!  (How long has it been since this man bought a new suit?)

No, they're just sewed shut, bring them over and I will apply the seam ripper.

It so happened that earlier that day I had applied the seam ripper to another new jacket for the father of the groom, so I thought I was all warmed up and ready to rip. But that garment was user-friendly -- the stitches holding the pockets shut were relatively long, sewed in contrast color thread, and came out easily.  This coat was apparently sewed by somebody in a bad mood, who set her stitch length to tiny and her tension to tight.

It's the bottom seam, between lining and suiting, right under my thumbnail, that has to be ripped.  But it took lots of pulling and probing and cussing to get that first stitch identified and cut.

Did I mention that there were four pockets on this coat?  I pulled and probed and cussed for a long time -- and then -- KLONG.  I realized that on one of the pockets I had ripped the wrong seam, the one holding the top of the pocket bag to the body of the coat.

I had to painstakingly re-stitch the seam by hand, trying to take tiny firm stitches that would withstand the long-term stress of a loaded pocket.  Fortunately the holes from the original seam were prominent enough that I could tell exactly where to stitch.

When the seam was finally closed back I had that adrenaline poisoning that you get after a near-death experience.  And I had to wonder -- how do ordinary schlunks without seam rippers buy suits these days?  What if they rip the wrong seam and don't have mothers who can stitch it up again?  And what if all of the above occurs in a hotel room the morning of the wedding?  Perhaps that's why the occasional groom doesn't show up as expected.

And continuing that train of thought, why don't they sew pockets shut with red thread, and why don't they use chain stitch so you could just pull a thread end and open the seam without using sharp implements?  But that would be too easy.

P.S.  All's well that ends well.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Signs of the week

I've ridden public transportation in many of the great cities of the world, and as a visitor, have spent lots of time checking out the information displays.  You don't want to miss your stop or end up on the wrong train, so systems that tell you what's ahead are much appreciated.

Although Paris and London, my two most recent great-city-transportation experiences, have good maps and markings, I have to give points to Tokyo for their in-car displays.  These are all digital, appearing in sequence on a screen above each door.

First of all, they number the stations on the line, a useful practice I don't believe I've ever seen elsewhere.  Here we are nearing the end, approaching Inaricho station G-17.  We'll be there in one minute; three minutes to the next, and five minutes to the last.

The display toggles between Japanese and English.

The doors open on this side.

We're in car 3, which is going to stop just a bit before the exit, so we'll turn right when we hit the platform.

It'll take some doing to louse up this train ride.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

London museum report 7 -- National Gallery / the old masters

The National Gallery has seven Rembrandts and two Vermeers (and the very next day I got to see a third Vermeer across town) so you can get your quotient of Really Great Art in a few minutes.  That is, unless you plonk yourself down to commune with Rembrandt himself in one of the self-portraits. I do that whenever possible -- heaven is a museum with a bench in front of your favorite painting.  And I particularly love looking into the eyes of the artist himself, which happens so many times with Rembrandt; maybe he was too cheap to hire models.  Here he is as a young stud, quite satisfied with himself, as he had every right to be.

Rembrandt, Self Portrait at the Age of 34, 1640

Here's his girlfriend, looking quite alluring in a bra-less fur outfit and nice jewelry.

Rembrandt, Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels, 1654-6

Rembrandt, An Elderly Man as Saint Paul, 1659

Both the Vermeers feature a virginal, the early harpsichord popular in the late Renaissance.  The instrument came in a case and was placed on a table. Apparently it didn't matter whether you stood or sat, or whether the keys were high or low relative to your body; all that technique would come later.

Vermeer, A Young Woman seated at a Virginal, ~1670-2

Vermeer, A Young Woman standing at a Virginal, ~1670-2

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Kicking the puppy

Several people commented about my "marketing strategy" -- buy my book or I'll kick this puppy.  So far no death threats have come my way, but it occurred to me that many of my readers may not get the joke.  I was referring back to a famous moment in journalism when the National Lampoon ran this cover:

"If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog."  It was pretty cheeky for 1973, widely known and celebrated in journalistic circles, and has proved to have considerable staying power.  Other magazine editors glommed onto the concept and tweaked it:

2007: "If You Don't Buy This Magazine, Dick Cheney Will Shoot You in the Face"

2015:  Greek prime minister Alex Tsipras, "Send Money or I'll Shoot"

2009:  didn't even bother to change the headline, except to substitute "shoot" for "kill"

2011:  the image alone makes some people remember the original caption, so it's useful for editorial cartoonists to depict blackmail situations.

For everybody who was a journalist, or a journalism aficionado, in the 70s, the meme has a great deal of staying power and requires no explanation.  My nostalgia overwhelmed my common sense, which should have reminded me that not everybody was a journalism aficionado in the 70s.  And animal lovers should note that I threatened only to kick the puppy, not shoot it.

I still want you to buy the book.