I’ll see you later!

Why do we make art? I’ve always had a creative drive. I’ve dabbled in multiple processes, but I’m usually drawn to textiles; sewing, crochet, knitting, embroidery and, of course, quilting. When I started quilting, I worked in a “traditional” style, piecing blocks together to make bed or lap quilts. What do you do with them? I  gave them to family and friends who I hoped would enjoy them. Eventually everyone I knew had something I made and I started to develop a stock pile.

Around this same time, I became frustrated with myself. I walked away from quilting and started to pursue mixed media art. You may have heard this story and my later decision to return to quilting using mixed media techniques (also known as surface design).

Well, that’s not the entire story. Around this same time, I also was involved with a small, local gallery where I sold some of my art. I realized, I could keep creating as much as I wanted and re-home it by selling it. I didn’t have to keep everything I made. If I don’t sell or exhibit my art, it stays locked in a room away from light, usually rolled up in a protective cloth bag. It’s safe and sound, but out of sight.

Art is meant to be seen. Storing it away forever, doesn’t make sense to me. I’d rather it be loved, appreciated and SEEN! That’s another reason why I sell my artwork. Of course, some pieces mean more to me than others and there is a part of me that’s sad to see them go. It’s like saying good-bye to an good friend, “I’ll see you later (maybe).” Sadly, sometimes life happens and you never see that friend again. Same is true with saying good-bye to your art. Some creatives never want to let go and keep everything they make. I’m not one of those people. It has to go, so I have room for new pieces.

So…why do I make art? Because I love the process and I love when someone loves my work enough to buy it. When I make art, it’s only meant to be mine for a short time. It really belongs to someone else who will see it in their home every day and who will smile when they see it, because they love it. It is my mission as an artist to find that special someone.

Yesterday, “Silenced” found that special place. Today it is in the home of someone I know who appreciates art, adores birds, and understands the plight of extinction. They love this art quilt and understand its deeper meaning without needing me to explain it. Today, I’m happy to say, “goodbye, I’ll see you later!”

This summer

My summer is turning out to be busier than expected. Isn’t that always the case? Creatively, I’m working on a couple commission pieces, but they’re not something I want to share right now. So today I decided to show you a piece I created a couple years ago. This sunflower and butterfly artquilt was created for a collaborative art challenge. I was given the choice of several photographs to recreate using my own artistic style. I chose a fabulous photo of a butterfly and I used it to draw a pattern for my thread-painted rendition. (To see the full quilt check out my gallery page or click here. Note: this quilt is available for sale)

I started by tracing the basic shapes onto black fabric (using transfer paper). Then, using my sewing machine, I filled in the shapes with coordinating colored thread. In the examples, you can see how I filled in the traced lines (click on image to see a larger view). This technique is commonly referred to as “thread painting.” When I was finished, the entire butterfly shape was filled with thread. I then cut it out of the black fabric and appliqued it to the sunflower quilt.

When people hear the term “thread painting,” there’s often confusion. They think I’m somehow painting the thread. Actually, I’m using the thread to paint! A better way to explain the technique is to call the technique “free-motion embroidery” using a sewing machine.

Most people are familiar with hand embroidery, where you stitch a design using needle and embroidery floss. Free-motion embroidery is basically the same thing using a sewing machine. Instead of moving the needle across the fabric, I’m freely moving the fabric under the machine’s needle.

Thread painting is something I really enjoy doing. I also enjoy teaching the technique. What are you working on this summer?

If you want to learn more about my classes or upcoming art exhibits, you can join my newsletter or follow me on Facebook.

 


See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
www.sacredthreadsquilts.com

May take me awhile

I’m still catching up on things and doing more “business” oriented tasks than artwork. Any creative work I’m doing I’m categorizing as exploration, experimentation, and/or slow stitching. This is a great way to stay creative when real production work isn’t happening. All you need is a little bit of down time to make progress.

Last year I started following a number of artists on Instagram who do slow stitching. I became instantly fascinated by this boro (reuse/mend) trend. I always hated hand stitching because I don’t have the patience to do it neatly. As, I looked at these creations my heart started craving it. My sewing skills started at an young age (under 10), when my mom encouraged me to do hand work; embroidery, crochet, hand sewing, etc. So this “new” vintage style really connects with me on a personal level. This stuff isn’t all that new to me.

They call it slow stitching because it’s just that…using your hands to sew, which, compared to a sewing machine, is a slow method. With the boro style sewing, you tend to use long running stitches to hold fabrics together. This type of stitching can really get you in a meditative/mindful state which is good for your mental health.

One of my more recent slow-stitch projects is about complete. I used indigo fabrics and pearl cotton thread to assemble this little bag that’s a perfect size for a cell phone, keys and a small wallet. It would make a nice little purse, but it needs a strap.  I tried buying some nice cording, but I don’t have many options around here and couldn’t find much online. I did have some wool yarn that would look perfect as a strap and I have a lucet tool that makes a hand-braided cord. So I popped open a Youtube video this morning to learn how to work this simple tool and I’m ready to go. Stay tuned, this may take me awhile …

 


See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
www.sacredthreadsquilts.com

The “Sól” in you

This month I’m working on class prep. Creating new art is, sadly, low on my priority list. But, this gives me an opportunity to reminisce a little. It’s always good to look back every once in awhile so you can appreciate how far you’ve come.

I made this sunflower quilt, “Sól” about 7 years ago. When I see it, I feel like it was just last year. Time moves quickly.

The piece was made as a challenge. Photographs were collected from the local photo club and local artists selected one to re-create using their own inspiration. By design, “Sól” turned out very similar to the photo. The biggest exception is that I used textiles to create my 3-dimensional image.

This was a fun piece to create. The sepals (green parts) were fuzzy on the photo and I wanted to recreate a similar effect. I decided to use green felted wool and added some fuzzy white roving (wool) using needle felting. The petals of the sunflower where stitched on fabric, cut out and then sprayed with a fabric stiffener product. I let them dry so they would stay wrinkly (and a bit stiff) when I sewed them to the background.

I am still very happy with this final rendition. This piece is now in the private collection of a friend. He saw it during the show and had to have it. I’m honored to have participated in this challenge and to know the piece is cherished in my friend’s home. Some of my best art has been created by challenges like this. Have you ever participated in an art challenge? They can bring out the “Sól” in you!


See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
www.sacredthreadsquilts.com

Challenge yourself

I really do have a plan for this summer, but I’m experimenting a little too. I spent so much time last year creating new artwork, that my brain is kind of in a fog about what to make next. Part of my problem, I don’t have any external deadlines to drive me with a purpose. I’ve been muddling along a little bit and experimenting with some new techniques. It’s always a good idea to have creative play time when you’re feeling a little stuck.

I entered a call for entry last week for “Eye Contact: creating a connection.” It’s an art installation that will be part of the Sacred Threads exhibit July 11-28 in Herndon, VA. The call for entry asked to for a 23″ x 5″ art piece that features human eyes. This was a little bit of a stretch for me, but I had a photo of myself looking into a mirror and thought it would be an appropriate subject for this exhibit. When I saw myself in the mirror, I noticed the lights that framed the mirror reflected in my eyes making my pupils look square. It fascinated me, so I snapped a selfie and rendered it into this art quilt.

It is a bit different from what I normally do and that’s OK. In order to grow as an artist, you must continue to challenge yourself.

 


See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
www.sacredthreadsquilts.com

Act out a little more

SJSAI’ve been feeling uneasy lately. There’s a lot of changes happening these days, I sometimes feel disoriented. My problem is I’m not sure how to deal with the things that are bothering me. Life frequently is out of our control. Do you speak-up, act out, or just move on?

I was faced with some challenges growing up, but overall I can’t complain. My life has been generally good and I’ve never been without basic needs (food, water or shelter). I was recently reminded, not everyone is so fortunate.

In April, I was at the SAQA conference in San Jose, California. One of the presentations was given by members of the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA). The founder of SJSA is Sara Trail. Ironically, I was a technical editor for Sara’s first book she wrote when she was 13 (“Sew with Sara”). I felt immediately connected to Sara because I knew her from the book. As she spoke, I became even more connected by what she had to say.

Sara and the other presenters discussed their involvement in SJSA and how they empowered youth to express their concerns through textile art. These young people are living daily with social injustice that I never experienced. And, they are making quilt blocks and art quilts that visually tell the stories of what’s bothering them.

Many of these issues fire me up and that’s where I struggle on dealing with it all. Do I just move on and ignore it, speak-up and take the heat, or act out and become visible? What impresses me about SJSA is that the youth are acting out in a very creative and visible ways. Art has always been a method to make a statement.

During the meeting, I found out that SJSA was looking for experienced embroiders to stitch down the fabric pieces in the quilt  blocks the youth created. I volunteered and was quickly sent my first project (pictured here). Unfortunately, I didn’t receive the young person’s intended message, but I did see a powerful statement of strength. Through this inspiration, maybe it’s time act out a little more.

Gathering Moss

If you’ve been following me for awhile you know I’ve been pretty busy the past 1.5 years (probably longer than that). At the end of April, I completed the last of my “big” events for awhile. Things are settling down. I filmed 4 segments of Quilting Arts TV in early April, but those won’t air until this fall. I also have another article getting published, but that won’t come out until October. Today, I spent my day doing the final prep on some new classes I will be offering soon. Those will be scheduled for later this summer.

One of the things I’ve noticed about life, is we frequently put ourselves in positions where we are crazy busy planning and preparing for things. For example, over the past couple years,  I’ve been taking on a lot of art and career opportunities which take lots of time. However, once an exhibit is open, article is written, or tv show is filmed, there’s a down time. This happens in everyone’s life, there’s getting married, going on vacation, or finding a new job. After all the excitement and planning, the event is over and there’s that little bit of a let down where you wonder “what’s next.”

I found it interesting that this past week I listened to 2 different podcasts where they expressed the same thing.  One was an interview with super talented, Academy Award winner, Viola Davis (Sunday Sitdown with Willy Geist podcast). Viola spoke of the excitement of filming a movie/tv show. After winning the Oscar, she put the award on a shelf. Soon, she started coming down from the high and found herself asking … “Now What?” It was comforting to hear, I wasn’t alone.

It’s important for me to continue working toward the next thing…whatever that may be. Whether it’s a project I want to do or another way to professionally challenge myself, I have to keep striving for the next thing. If not, I begin to feel restless or bored. It’s like the saying “a rolling stone, gathers no moss.” The phrase implies the person who stays active will avoid stagnation (modern meaning). That’s me, alright! How about you? Are you gathering moss?

Doesn’t hurt to try

Boro stitching

Do you ever wonder what’s the point in trying?

Recently I had a conversation with someone who mentioned that she was exploring so many things that it felt like she had an attention deficit disorder. I wondered if there is anything really wrong with being attracted to new ideas and creative outlets. Do you have to stick with just one? What if you try something and you don’t like it? Is it a failure if you don’t want to continue with a project?

From a young age, I was exposed to all sorts of creative outlets. I loved the diversity of it all. Crochet, needlepoint and counted cross-stitch were big things in my life when I was a child. Loved them all! Then forget all that when I found knitting in my 20’s….my passion! Then in my 40’s, there was quilting…the traditional (piecing fabric blocks) kind. Oh boy! I was hooked…until I wasn’t. Seriously, I really hated it and ran away from it all. I was too much of a perfectionist. Those matchy-matchy seams drove me Cr@Zy!

So, then I moved on to mixed-media and started exploring polymer clay, stamp carving, surface design, paper mache, collage, needle felting, weaving, et.al. Was I going insane? No. Eventually all this creative play brought me to where I am today. I have things I started and will never finish. I frequently donate my unloved supplies to school art supply drives or charity-based thrift shops.

But hey…I’m still trying new things…I always will! Why? because I love the thrill of trying! And as an art quilter, every so often those old skills come in handy. I love having this overflowing toolbox of resources!

Currently I’m exploring boro stitching, which is a Japanese method of hand-stitching used to mend fabrics. I’ve always hated my hand stitching, but I’m allowing myself to embrace my imperfection. It’s such a meditative process to mindlessly run stitches through cloth. The finished results are so intriguing.

In trying new things, you’re figuring out what works for you (sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t). It’s OK, if you decide you don’t like to do something, then just let it go. If you hate it, toss it in the trash and donate the supplies to a friend or charity. Just remember, it doesn’t hurt to try.

Inspired to seize the day

I’ve been anticipating for this day for several months. It’s May 1. When I was a child, the teachers would get a construction paper basket placed on their classroom doorknob. Each May 1st, or May Day, flowers were left in the paper basket. I don’t hear much about May Day anymore. Maybe that’s because I live in the south and spring arrives earlier than in Illinois where I grew up.

However, it wasn’t May Day that I was anticipating. It was actually the end of April. I have been in overdrive for many months. As of this week, the crazy-busy is over. I traveled a lot this year; Florida, Bahamas, Ohio and just returned from California. Now it’s time to get focused…no major events to distract me for awhile. It’s time to attack that “to-do” list I started. Now I’m faced with being accountable only to myself. No outside sources to drag me down a rabbit hole. (Well, that’s the plan anyhow!)

While I was in California, I spent time with my beloved Aunt and with 200 like-minded creatives at the SAQA conference. Inspiration was all around me. I laughed, I cried, and I contemplated. It is amazing how much positive energy you can receive being with kindred spirits.

Now that I’m home I must find the inspiration within myself. It’s easy to get distracted by all the noise. It takes focus to find inspiration alongside the clutter of every day life. What inspires you? Have you ever thought about it?

I find inspiration on a day like today. It’s May 1st and spring is here. The sun is shining. My windows are open. It’s warm, but not too warm. I hear the birds out the window. And, feel the breeze in the air. Days like this make me feel at peace and inspired to seize the day.

Have you ever thought why?

I’ve been noticing lately that I tend to re-create certain themes. Over the past few years, I’ve created a number of pieces that contain butterflies, bees, birds and trees. For example, I’ve created art using this little koi fish at least three times.

Koi fish have a powerful life force which is demonstrated by their ability to swim upstream. In some cultures, koi are associated with good fortune, success, longevity, courage, ambition and perseverance. I like to think that there’s some underlying symbolism in what I do.  But, maybe there’s not. Maybe I just have fond memories of watching these fish swim. They have such a playful way of gliding through the water, interacting with each other. Whatever the reason, I enjoy finding new ways to use these fish in my art.

When you’re creating, do you find yourself attracted to certain designs or colors? Have you ever thought why?