04 May 2016


Happy Wednesday, everyone!
And May the Fourth be with you, to my fellow nerds.

This week I finished the 2 commissioned portraits. I will not post them yet since they have not been delivered and/or approved by the client.  Right now I'm having a confidence issue, which is common right before I show a finished piece to a client.  My policy is that I always give the client the option of either accepting or rejecting the piece - if they accept it, they pay the balance and I give them the work.  If they reject it, I keep the piece and they owe me nothing further.

So right now is when the doubts start creeping into my mind.  I'm always afraid that THIS TIME will be the time the client hates the finish piece and refuses to take it.  It's a recurring nightmare. Most of the time I channel this fear into motivation to do my best work.  Other times I just lose a lot of sleep.  Sometimes both.

I deliver the pieces on Friday, so I will follow up with some photos and I'll let you know what the final decision from the client was.
Stay tuned!

27 April 2016

Update, new work

(Albert, 24"H x 40"W)
So here's where I'm at.  The Tattooed Dog, otherwise known as Albert.  Our most recent Viewpoints 9 challenge was called "Pick a Color, Any Color".  We were challenged to create a composition using only ONE hue from the color wheel, along with as much black, white and gray as we liked.

I chose yellow-orange as my one color. I like the way the warm organic-looking batik background brings out Albert's brown eyes and compliments his black and white printed coat. 
At the moment, Albert remains un-quilted. Normally I would not post an unfinished piece on Viewpoints 9 gallery day... especially since I am the one who wrote the current challenge.  HOWEVER.  Too many times, lately, I have rushed to get something done and ended up with "mmmeh" results. This time I am taking the time to do the job right, even though it means missing a deadline.
So, the current status of Tattooed Dog is limbo. I feel like it still needs more work before I bring it to the quilting stage.  The shapes on his back and body are still too large, the patterns too recognizable.  Right now the patterned fabrics (while interesting and cool) are getting too much attention. I want the piece to have more tension between the patterned fabrics and the realism of a portrait. I need to add more variety and smaller pieces to create a more believable sense of light and shadow on the dog.
But that will have to wait.  Right now (or actually, starting tomorrow) I gotta pivot back to the 2 commissioned portraits I have due in early May.  Those are my laser focus for the next week to 10 days.  After that, I'll finish Albert and get everything in place for my 2 day visit to First Dutchess Quilters.
After that I will be caught up. I think. Hopefully.

20 April 2016

Wassup Wednesday

Welcome, welcome, welcome!
Just time for a quick recap of the week.

I made some progress on the 2 kid portraits. One is now finished with phase 1 (all the fabric pieces are cut and placed. Phase 2 is the machine quilting). 
The other is about 1/2 way done with phase 1.

I had a wonderful visit with the Quilters' Connection quilt guild in Waltham, MA on Monday. The guild members were very friendly and asked some great questions.  They seemed interested in a future workshop, so we'll see how that goes.

Still coming up: a trip to First Dutchess Quilters Guild in Poughkeepsie, NY May 18 - 19.  For that visit, I'll be giving a lecture/trunk show centered around portrait quilts. Then on the 2nd day we'll be doing the Magnolia Kit workshop.

So what else is new?  This morning I took a 5K walk along the trail near my house. It was such a beautiful morning, and I've been spending so much time in the basement (studio), I decided to take my doctor's advice and get more outdoor exercise. I thought it would help to clear the creative cobwebs out of my head.

Maybe it worked! When I got back from my walk, I put aside the kid portrait commissions so I could get the Viewpoints 9 challenge piece started.  I'm starting to feel that ol' mojo coming back.  I'm having a lot of fun creating "Tattoo Dog - otherwise known as Albert".  More on that later.

In other fiber art news, I've started knitting. Learning to knit has been a goal of mine for the past few years.  And finally, on April 1st, Cindy Grisdela generously gave her time to the SAQA MakerSpace (an event I organized at the 2016 SAQA conference in Philadelphia) and she taught me to knit & purl.  Thank you Cindy!
When I got home from the conference, I used up the rest of the donated yarn remnant I brought home from the conference and learned a couple more things, like how to cast on and cast off, and how to un-knit mistakes, by watching YouTube videos. 

My first knitting project! I call it "Mouse Blanket"
 Here's a little detail showing one of my practice pieces.  I'm just doing different combos of K and P, seeing what kind of textures they create. 
I know it might seem counter-intuitive since I already have a lot of projects going on. But I think knitting might be a key to breaking out of my creative dull drums and getting back on track. Learning something new is a good way to engage a different part of the brain.

Here's one thing. My actual productive hours during the day are really only from about 10am - 2pm. Those are the times when I have excellent focus and can really get some detail work done in the studio.  After that, I pick up my son from school and my productivity starts to decline.  By dinnertime my attention is 10 different places and by evening, I can't be trusted around heavy machinery, sharp scissors and a hot iron.

Knitting offers me a chance to work with my hands with NO pressure to deliver something great to anyone and under NO time limit. I can sit and relax but also feel like I'm being productive.  Even when I accidentally let the stitches fall off the needle and everything unraveled, it was kind of fun to pull it all apart and see the yarn there, waiting to become something new.  (Kind of like Legos!)

This is a nice way to quiet my mind toward the end of the day. Hey, it beats zoning out with Candy Crush... level 765 and counting!
Last week I bought a brand new skein of yarn to work with. I discovered that I really enjoy "seed stitch".  It builds into a lovely, bumpy texture like smooth pebbles that feel great in my hands. So there ya go, instant gratification.

I realize this post is kind of rambling on without much structure - kind of like my knitting projects right now. But who cares, it's a pleasant break from the deadlines, precision and structure of my current fiber work.
Anyway, I'm not trying to obsess over writing the perfect post.  I'm just gathering my thoughts for the week and holding myself accountable. And MAYBE something here resonates with another artist in the same creative boat.  If so, welcome to the boat! :-)

15 April 2016

Back on Track...ish

Oh boy, did I miss the deadline already?  OK, I forgot my own rule about the once a week posting.
Mistake acknowledged.  Moving on.

So how did it go this week?  The first ever Water Lily Workshop had a few wrinkles but we made it through and the students were great.  Based on the feedback I received during class, I came home and worked all day on the patterns, trying to make them easier to follow. 

Sometimes there's no way to know how students will see/approach the pattern until they try it in person.  The student feedback was really valuable, and they were good sports about being the test subjects.

On a more ego-boosting note, I received a nice note from Eileen of the CT Piecemakers Quilt Guild, whom I visited last month.  We did the Magnolia Kit workshop on March 15th, and yesterday Eileen reported that many of the students came back to their monthly membership meeting with finished quilts!  Yay!  The students went home and used what they learned in class, finished their quilts and were so HAPPY and proud of their work they wanted to share it with their fellow Piecemakers.  That makes me happy!

Finished quilt by Chris Snieckus. ^  Beautiful job, Chris!
Marcia Cohen shows off her finished magnolia quilt. Great job, Marcia!

On to the business of this week -  I'm sweating some deadlines. 
Monday I'm traveling to Massachusetts for a lecture/ trunk show at Quilter's Connection.
By April 27 I need to finish a monochromatic challenge for Viewpoints 9.  I have a clear idea of what I want to do, but I need to execute it soon.
By Mother's Day I have 2 commissions: one has 2 kids in the picture, the other has 3 kids.  These projects have inspired me to change the "rules" on commissions going forward.  For multiple faces in one composition, I am going to require at least 12"x 12"of area per face.  Trying to fit 3 faces in a 12x18 quilt is not ideal.  I like to capture the details and some of the personality of a person in my portraits, and I can't do that the way I want to when the face is super small. However, I will do my very very best to make these commissions beautiful and fun.
May 18-19 I'll be traveling to Poughkeepsie, NY to do a 2 day visit including the Magnolia Kit workshop.

So...  Lots of things and stuff to do.  I'm off to the studio!

06 April 2016

Things and Stuff

What's this blog supposed to be, anyway?
Good question. As you might have seen from the last sporadic posts, this blog has been like your across-the-street neighbor who you sometimes wave to on the way to work. You're friendly with each other but can't remember the last time you've had a conversation beyond this:

"How's it going?"
"Can't complain."
"Looks like it might snow."
"Yeah, we'll see."
"Take care now."
"You too."

So. I'm asking myself what is the purpose of this blog? If it's to post photos of my work every few weeks or months, I already have that on my website's gallery page. There are any number of apps to quickly post photos and announcements.  I realize that blogs are for story-telling, not just posting photos.
I've decided to change course and turn this directionless blog into a regular journal. I'll use it to share some kind of narrative about my artwork and the creative process. New rule: I will post something every week, regardless if I have actually completed anything.

To start things off, here's where I'm at.  I've been developing a workshop based on Water Lilies. When I say "develop", I mean I draw a bunch of sketches of water lilies, then I pick a few promising ones and move on to creating a pattern. The pattern needs to depict the complexity of this flower while using only 3 shades of color and one white fabric. After I work out a pattern I set about making the flowers out of fabric, timing myself to see how much we can get done during class.  I don't like leaving students with a UFO to take home! Once I have a handle on the quilt sample we will make during class, I write the step-by-step instructions that will be printed and included in each kit.

Here are just of the few of the prototypes that got far enough to be made out of fabric, not counting the ones that were completely scrapped or dismantled and made into other things:

Each one of these represents a couple dozen drawings and a few hundred views of water lilies and water lotus flowers of all colors and types. Some of them looked good as sketches but turned out to be too complicated to tackle in a one day class, or too big, or too small, or they relied too much on free motion quilting to create the necessary details. 
I can't base it all on how I would make a water lily quilt by myself.  I need to think about how a dozen students can have fun, learn a new technique and create something to take home at the end of a 4-6 hour workshop.
Once I think I've REALLY got that down, then I go through the whole experience as if we're in class, from beginning to end. I create the pieces again, while timing myself and measuring the materials each student will need (freezer paper, glue, fabric).  By the time I get to teach this class, I will have already used up several of Carol Eaton's fabric kits.
If it sounds like I'm complaining, I probably am. But that's part of the creative process and I've decided to share whatever is happening each week.  Getting a new class off the ground is a lot of work, and it involves many futile attempts, missteps and restarts. I went through similar trials and errors developing the Magnolia Kit workshop, but over time all the kinks were worked out and now it's a joy to run that class. I'm sure the same will be true for this one. In the end, I'm confident that I've given my best effort to make these patterns easy to follow and fun to create.

My first workshop using the Water Lily patterns is Saturday (3 days from now). I hope the students don't mind being the "test subjects" for this new workshop.

06 January 2016

New Work: Tag, You're It!

Bless you, anyone who is still following my long-neglected blog! I’m sorry for the long time between posts.  It doesn't help that Windows Live Writer is having relationship issues with Blogger so I'm writing this post using the very user-unfriendly Blogger online tool, but that is no excuse.
To make up for my tardiness, I offer some light-hearted, colorful photos of my most recent work.  Up first is “Tag You’re It!” – my answer to the 3-Dimensional Challenge for Viewpoints 9.

It all started with this gorgeous hand-dyed fabric, which I’ve had in my studio for over a year.  It was made by Carol R. Eaton Designs, using some kind of magical dying technique involving snowballs, I think.  For some time I’ve wanted to use this fabric, but I really didn’t want to cut it up or cover it with objects or images.  So this month I decided to make the fabric an essential part of the composition.  The splashes of color remind me of airbrush or aerosol spray paint, which led me to thinking about graffiti and street art.

To answer the 3D challenge, I made a realistic-looking “spray can” (also the reflective element for my overall theme).  The shadow provides an illusion of perspective in a 3 dimensional space, as if the can is sitting on the ground near a spray-painted wall. The can was also stuffed and sewn so that it curves slightly out from the surface.

Technical details: Finished size 35”w x 40”h
Hand dyed and batik fabrics, hand-guided machine quilting, raw edge applique
Spray can was made with a remnant of a previous V9 quilt

Up next is a “sweet” Chocolate Lab, a commissioned pet portrait which was delivered over the holiday break.

Aw, look at that face! I love dogs….

Technical details: Finished size 15”w x 15”h
Hand dyed and batik fabrics, hand-guided machine quilting, raw edge applique
Attached to a 20”x 20” painted canvas, wired in the back for hanging

01 November 2015

New Work: Along the Lines of Jackson Pollock

For the latest Viewpoints 9 challenge, I was inspired by an American art movement, Abstract Expressionism, and one artist in particular: Jackson Pollock.

I took the information I gathered about Pollock (art history books, biographies, videos of the artist at work) and attempted to translate that sense of ACTION into fiber art.  While making the “Hummingbird” pieces in a previous challenge, I got a glimpse of that expressionist freedom and I felt compelled to push it further – and much MUCH larger.

I used yarns of different thicknesses that reminded me of the dripped-paint lines in Pollock’s work.  But once I started dripping the yarn onto the white canvas background, I stopped thinking about Pollock’s paintings or my own plans, or really much at all.  All I cared about was adding line after line after line, only occasionally wondering where the next scribble of color should go… until the field was nearly covered.

working Photo Oct 04, 1 17 12 PM Photo Oct 06, 9 31 39 AM Photo Oct 06, 9 37 08 AM

The results are.. whatever they are.  But what was more important to me was the creative process itself. My approach was a mix of intuition, freestyle gestures and controlled composition.

I LOVE the effect of layers of lines on top of each other, creating a web of scribbles that fill my field of vision. Strands pulled out of a piece of gold foil fabric are mixed in with the yarn, adding little bits of reflected light.  As I stand and look at the gestures and movement of the lines, I can retrace my steps and re-live the wonderful experience of making this piece. This type of work is so unlike me (or my usual style) and yet I feel very deeply, personally connected to it.



Technical details: Whole cloth white cotton background, various yarn, metallic and rayon threads, fusible web, acrylic tulle; hand-guided machine quilting
Finished size 40”H x 52”W