Monday, January 1, 2018

Circles and Squares

Happy New Year Everyone! 

I feel like 2017 whizzed by. Personally, it was a better year then 2016, which had been a rather tough one. In comparison, 2017 was more like sailing calm waters, albeit with often cloudy skies. Those cloudy skies were what I saw when looking out into the larger picture of world events and knowing how those events effect us all. Anyone familiar with me knows how I feel politically so I will leave it at that... (what more can one say when one has spent a year voicing disbelief, and hurling profanities at the TV everyday as she watches the news unfold until her voice actually grew hoarse?) Sigh.

So about this post... I realized that I have a few end of 2017 projects that I haven't posted yet here on the old blog and wanted to share them with you. Two wall quilts, (one of them at the top of the post) and two punch-needle embroidered pillows to be specific. (I also have some more "Objects of Curiosity" items to share, but will do them in another post soon.)

Let's start with  the quilts... 

Here's that one pictured at the top. My guidelines as I set about making this were that
I wanted to work with small 9-patch blocks and I wanted everything to be hand cut. When I say hand cut, that could be with scissors or rotary-cutter, but no straight edge, no measuring, (outside of eye-balling it) no truing up... you get the point. The purpose is a desire to keep things more organic. It's an expansion on improv/no-pattern quilt making.

I selected these really pretty fabrics which I had in my stash for a few years. Oh yeah, 2017 was also about trying to use materials that I already had.... did great until the very last 2 weeks when I buckled while looking for curtain fabric. But I digress... I separated the fabrics into piles containing the ones that read as the darkest, the lightest and the middle of the road ones, and used those piles to make sure I had a good balance going on in each block.

Then I hand cut the squares and pieced them into the 9-patch blocks using slight curve piecing techniques following the hand cut lines of the fabric edges. Joined the completed blocks in the same manner. Finished by using my faced binding tutorial, but wanting to keep the wonkiness of the slightly curving boarder edges, I used 3" strips instead of 2" strips. This allowed me the extra leeway to cut into the strips where the curves were.

I wanted this quilt to be highly textured, so I machine quilted it with stippled stitching and machine washed and dried it for lots of crinkle texture. I wanted more hand-work to it so I added some horizontal and vertical rows of hand quilting. Trouble is they don't show up that well.

I decided to make another similar quilt, slightly larger, (22.5" x 27" to the 17.5" x 21.5" dimensions of the first one) and this time just did some vertical/horizontal machine stitching and then added more vertical/horizontal hand quilting, which is a favorite quilting style of mine...

(My apologies for the not so great photo here... different day and dimmer lighting conditions. I really do need to get a more professional photo set up. Hey... new 2018 goal!) When I have time I will re-shoot and hopefully get a sharper image as this one is really not up to snuff. Will also try to get some close-ups so you can see the quilting details. Not sure where my head was when I shot these quilt photos.

Okay... I have yammered on enough about the quilts. Now we move away from squares and venture into circles, and brighter colors.... and punch needle!

It has felt like ages since I did any punch needle embroidery and it was lots of fun to bring out the yarns and make a couple of little accent pillows to brighten things up a bit! I decided to keep playing with organic, free-form shapes and designs but added some circles into the mix.

And I really let my circular freak flag fly with this one...

I do wish though it wasn't so time-consuming making these though. Such a little pillow is this round one, (only 8") and it took 16 hours to punch! Didn't keep time on the first, but guessing similar time spent on it.

But I do like the orange... such a happy color! One of my favorites, I think, (if it's the right shade). And speaking of color... I think I need a constant mix of very earthy and muted, along with splashes of bright color in my life. Too much of one and I can go from calm to too down, too much of the other and I can go from happy to agitated. I really marvel at all the people I see on Instagram that seem to be able to stick with a color theme. Their feeds look so pretty and uniform. I feel like they are color purebreds and I am some sort of color mutt. But we are what we are and if I am a color mutt, so be it!

And on that odd note I will end this ramble of a post, saying goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018. May it bring peace, kindness and goodwill to all. May sanity and compassion reign. May creativity flourish. And may you and yours be blessed. xo

Monday, November 6, 2017

American Patchwork & Quilting Podcast with Pat Sloan

Had a wonderful time talking with Pat Sloan today on her American Patchwork and Quilting podcast! We talked a bit about Lancaster County, PA, machine and hand quilting and my first introduction to quilts. You can listen to it now via this link: or catch it sometime later after it gets posted here:…/quilting-podcast

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Objects of Curiosity: Exhibits B, C & D

Continuing on with my "Objects of Curiosity" series 
that began with my last post
Above are "Exhibits C & D" but I am getting ahead of myself, 
so let's start below with "Exhibit B"...

 Another bottle is Exhibit B.
This one is clear and rectangular though.

Vintage and thrifted.

Covered in cloth and stitch.

With those porthole openings to see in, 
(or out, depending on your size).

And now onto Exhibits C & D...

A found stick and river rock.
Also covered in cloth and stitch. 
(Because that is part of the purpose, yes?)
... In a hopes of making the ordinary not so ordinary.

Because it never really was, was it? 
(Ordinary, that is.)


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Objects of Curiosity, Exhibit A

I'm starting a new project, one born out of curiosity and meant to give pause, along with a second glance and closer look, at ordinary objects that we typically pass by and take for granted. 

Some of these objects may be found in the home, and some may be found in nature. 

Many could be, and regularly are, discarded without thought. 

What intrigues me is that by simply incasing them in a bit of cloth and stitch, they all of a sudden become something special. They are no longer ordinary, nor expected. Their status is uplifted.
They now demand at least a second glance.

I am beginning this project by exploring bottles.
This first one shown here is simply called "Exhibit A".

I hope that as you view the various angles of this one bottle, now clothed in a second skin so to speak, that you stop a bit and reflect on really how remarkable it is, and was, even before I altered it. 
The beautiful curves, the symmetry, the deep amber color, the smooth and even lipped rim, 
it's ability to hold something... medicine, perfume, a flower...

Contemplate for a minute the fact that glass comes from sand...  how amazing is that?

And how smooth and cool to the touch it is, and that we can see through it, and that it reflects light, and that it shatters so easily and can cut...

It's always helpful to have something to reference size, and how suitable to use the humble penny, another object that has come to be a bit taken for granted, yet is still valuable in it's own way.

One more thing... in light of my last post I feel that I should mention the following:
I have no idea how this current project is visually inspired by my local surroundings, or if it is inspired by them at all. I could say that the stitching mimics the curvy twisty back roads that I often drive, but I don't think that was in my conscious nor sub-conscious at all. 

If anything, the work has to do with honoring that which we so easily discard, of wanting to shine a light on how amazing ordinary inventions are. How beautiful craftsmanship is. How temporary things are in our life. And that indeed is something that I see everyday in my surroundings, with those magnificent old barns falling into disrepair until one day they are gone. I think of the way they served and the memories they hold, and I think about the honor that the ordinary deserves.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Processing Inspiration - An Attempt at Explaining My Method

Anyone familiar with me knows that I get much of my inspiration from my local rural surroundings. I am endlessly drawn to the beautiful landscape and am completely in love with the amazing worn and weathered barns, so many of which are in a delicate process of decay.

But how exactly am I influenced? How does my inspiration get interpreted into what I make?

I wish I had an answer that I could easily document... such as sketchbooks full of drawings and diagrams. Color swatches carefully pasted in and margins filled with notations and arrows pointing back to those diagrams. I love when I see artists work that way to develop their ideas.

But that process has never worked for me. My process is much less defined. More ethereal I suppose.

I begin with lots of visual absorption. I just look, and look, and look at my surroundings. I soak it in. The shapes, the colors, the lines, the textures, the various details that make up the whole, and the mood... at least the mood that is evoked inside of myself. 

And I take lot's of photos. The photos help solidify the impression and mood of what I see into my consciousness, and I suppose subconscious, so it all feels like it is a part of my being. Sorry if that sounds spacey... I just don't know how else to put it.

And then I just let it come back out...

I hold the images in my mind, I feel the mood that it brings up in me, I stay open to all possibilities, and I start to work. 

Below, I will show 3 of my barn photos, (all of the same barn but each one different) and three projects that express how I am influenced by this sort of inspiration. We will start with this first photo below and the following work...

Ok, so above we have one of the typical, (and yet uniquely beautiful) Lancaster County old barns that thrill me so! I see all sorts of design inspiration here, but we will focus on four areas, Line, Color, Mood and Detail.

1) Lines. Specifically in this shot, how that upper seam line wraps around the barn, the bands of wood that create the Z shape on the open door, the rusted post and metal fence part, the lines of the window panes, and the short white lines that are the hinges to the closed doors.

2) Colors. Of course I notice the bright greens of the grass, but also the areas of rusty brown earth, the subtle yellow/gold along the edge under the first 2 windows, the soft brown-grays of the barn, the deep multi colors reflected in the glass window panes, the earthy brown tones of the rock walls, the jet black of the upper window where the glass is missing, and the soft blues of the sky.

3) Mood. Organic, primitive, rustic, comforting, archeological, curious, layered, soft, hard, earthy, aged, rural, poor, frayed, old, worn, weathered, hopeful, peaceful, loved, hopeful, strong, enduring. (Note that some of the moods evoked can seem opposing, such as soft and hard, that's ok. Life is multi-dimensional. I just pay attention to everything that wells up in me.)

4) Detail. The windows, the open doorless area, the rock walls, the soft fray of the grass and plant life, the chimney. 

Now below is an amulet that I made, (yup... barn to amulet) and hopefully you can see how some of this detail that I soak in has flowed back out into this tiniest example of work. Remember though, I don't try to interpret inspiration in any forced or direct way. It's all an interpretation, and that interpretation of the exact inspiration could change from day to day based on other things in my life. It's all a mix that plays off of everything else.

So here is the amulet. The idea behind it was to gather bits of objects that I have a tendency to collect and which give me comfort, (in this case shells, fabrics and beads) and then bundle them together someway. So I choose a fragment of a seashell found along the beach of Cape May, covered it with bits of shot cotton fabrics and stitching and adorned it with a few beads and a vintage brass charm. 

Where some elements of the inspiration comes into play would be the soft muted and earthy colors of the whole piece. The fray of the cloth, (reminiscent of the fray of the grass). The open middle area, (that  pale green place on both the front and the back and reminiscent of the open door). The long scattered stitches, (reminiscent of the lines created by the hinges). The macrame cording, (made with a hand needle and thread) that is reminiscent of the window sashing as well as that seam line that wraps around the building. The glass beads, (reminding me of the colors found in those bottom windows). And the overall mood of something weathered, old, rustic, primitive, frayed, soft, hard, comforting, archeological, curious... you get the point. (I do wish I'd had rusty wire on hand, but you make do with what ya got.) I like to think though that this amulet could have been found hanging off of a bent nail inside the barn, or found tucked into one of the stone wall crevices.

Ok, so next we come to this photo of the same barn...

So again, we soak in the details and the mood... the soft muted colors, the barren yet warm feel, the juxtaposition  of that pale white wash against the dark of the weathered wood, the lines and stripes of the wood, the multi shaped squares and rectangles, the curving lines along the lefthand side of the barn as well as that slightly off-hinge door, the rural-ness of it, the oldness of it, the sense of hard-times it evokes. And look at those two small square boxes, sitting inside a larger box structure... they look out of place to me, especially that tan one... It looks like a filing box. What's in it I wonder?

And now below is a small wall quilt I recently stitched up that hopefully works as one possible interpretation. (Oh, but I believe there could be a thousand plus interpretations from this one image).

Do you see the juxtaposition of the pale against the dark? The soft muted colors? The various shaped squares and rectangles? The stripes? The soft curves of the shapes? The rural feel? The sense of oldness? The feeling of something utilitarian? The boxes inside of boxes? 

Now even though I am giving you these side by side examples of photo + work, I almost never actually reference my photos while working, As I don't want to get too literal in my interpretations, (and I will definitely get hung up there if I start looking at the photos while I work). I just try to hold the image(s) in my minds eye and the mood(s) in my heart and soul. 

After all of these years there are also some elements that I continue to explore and often will incorporate regardless of images I may be thinking of. One of those elements would be the windows, including the shapes, the reflections, and the visual energy that comes from the broken and missing window panes. Also, the cross shapes created by the window sashing. You can see it repeated over and over in many of my quilts, including the quilt shown above. 

Another element that I keep going back to is the curved lines of the plowed farm fields, which I express more often then not by doing various interpretations of Baptist fan quilting, again as shown in this quilt example. Here as I often do, I combine hand and machine quilting, which is a nod to living in Lancaster County where the modern technologically driven world co-exists with the beauty of the world of the Old Order Amish.

Now let's take a look at the last photo of this particular barn and the connected work...

As with the other photos I am drawn to the lines, the colors, the shapes and the mood... it feels mostly abandoned to me, yet it's also strong and commanding, much due to the close up shot as well as the   angle of the shot where you are looking ever so slightly up. Another thing that brings a mood of strength to this structure is the shape of the barn. The way the roof top angles out to meet the top sides of the building, which then angle inward... to me it looks like a mother, stern but loving, shoulders up, elbows out, with hands on hip.

My eye wants to go up to that window, yet for some reason keeps getting pulled down to that one little angled pole that seems to be bracing the left side door from flinging open. It reminds me that someone has been here, someone is connected to this otherwise desolate looking structure.

Below is a small mixed media piece I recently did titled "Homeward". Do you see the interpretation of inspiration? 

With this piece, I'm definitely influence by the desolate mood and the connections, in all their varied forms, that we feel to home, no matter how far removed we may be. The shape of the road that leads homeward is reminiscent to that simple pipe shape that symbolized the lone human connection in the photo and also of the missing section of the door that it keeps from flinging open. If you look slightly up past that shape in the mixed media piece and just to the right you can faintly see a shape reminiscent of the window shape. The home shape is really only half of the barn shape, but it's enough.

The photo below shows the 2nd and 3rd barn photos side by side with their respective works. Seeing it this way may help connect the image and work a bit more.

And that is about the best that I can explain/show my process. It's a bit of a challenge to show what is in one's head and heart and how it gets processed into the work... again, I rather envy those that can produce sketchbooks bursting at the seams, filled with their process, but I hope this post helped to illustrate my process in some small way.

And in truth, I think it boils down to a lot of absorbing, whatever interests you, and then just staying open to what comes out. I have found that there's no need to force it, or even fully understand it, let alone try to control it. Gravitate to what you love. Trust that whatever inspiration is needed is inside and will find a way out once you show up to do what it is that you feel called to do.

I'd love to know how you process your inspirations... please feel free to share in the comments.

And here's a bit of exciting news to share with you all...

will be one of Pat Sloan's guests on the American Patchwork and Quilting Podcast this upcoming Monday on September 25th! You can listen live, or catch it afterwards, just click on that link! Yay!

UPDATE: Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the podcast was unable to tape September 25th's show. I will be rescheduled to talk with Pat sometime in November, so stay tuned!