28 October 2016

New Work: HOME

Viewpoints 9 is starting our 4th cycle of challenges. Each artist will choose a word and the rest of us will interpret it into a finished piece of fiber art measuring 18"x 36". Our first word: HOME.
My studio is where I feel most at home. It's a place where I can dance around, sing, talk to myself, swear, drop things on the floor. I can express myself without worrying about having nice manners. I never need to dress up to spend a day in the studio. Blue jeans or pajamas, it's all good.

"Home Turf" is a depiction of the free-motion quilting foot on my sewing machine. It was made using cut up pieces of hand-dyed fabrics, layered together and stitched with free motion quilting.
Visit the V9 blog to read about this and all the challenge pieces in today's gallery

29 August 2016

New Work: Transformation

Ok, to start off.... obviously I did not follow through on the whole "post once a week" idea. I have to admit, there was not much happening in the studio to write about. Also, I'm really bad at remembering to post stuff.
BUT, when I actually finish a piece then I remember to post and then I realize how much time has gone by. So I'm letting go of that once per week posting idea. Yeah, it was a nice idea to be a disciplined blogger. But it's also important for me to be a disciplined artist in the studio, and to exercise every day, and to take care of other stuff. So...... I'm just gonna have to do the best I can.
In any case, I have some show and tell for ya! My latest Viewpoints 9 challenge:

For the re-use, repurpose, recycle challenge I went back about 10 years.  I was commissioned to create a quilt using several bags full of Hermés neckties.

The finished work, a full size bed quilt which I called "Nautilus" utilized all or part of every tie that was given to me. When it was done, the client was happy and really had no use of the leftover silks from all the ties I cut apart. They were so beautiful and so lovely to touch, I couldn't bear to part with them so I just set them aside for another day.

That day took a while to arrive, but I finally found a use for the left overs!

Using the last challenge as my inspiration, I began piecing together remnants of silk ties to form a curled up caterpillar. The spiral shape of the caterpillar seemed like a wonderful companion for the Nautilus, and a fitting image for transforming leftover materials into something different and new.

I used leftover black cotton fabric, which was the extra width cut from the backs of other quilts, to create the stripes and legs of the caterpillar. Finally I added texture and a few hints of details using free-motion quilting.

Technical details: silk and cotton fabrics, polyester and rayon threads
raw edge appliqué, free motion quilting

29 June 2016

Viewpoints 9 Reveal


For the Text Challenge, my goal was to create a composition that resembles a page torn out of my sketchbook.  Normally I do most of my pre-quilt "sketching" on paper, in my head and on the computer. 
But this time, a piece of white fabric was my paper and I used it to plan my next quilt. Whatever I would have done on paper or in my head, I worked it out on this fabric.
Using a ruler I first mapped out a rectangle in Fibonacci's golden ratio, then added a spiral with red marker.  

From there I sketched out my design (in this case a Monarch caterpillar in the beginning stages of forming a cocoon) first in pencil then later with sharpie marker. I mapped out the color schemes and labelled it here as I would do on a paper pattern. Then I went about choosing the fabrics.

All the while, I made notes to myself about what this image means to me personally - how the caterpillar in a cocoon reminds me of the creative "hibernation" I've been in lately. Maybe the state of being dormant can be used as an opportunity to transition into something fresh and new.
So this piece is really a  physical object representing my thought process.

This isn't technically a quilt by standard definition. Although I may add stabilizer to the back, I didn't want to quilt it with 3 layers. To me, finishing it as a quilt would make it too precious, too substantial and planned out. I really wanted to keep it looking like a thin sheet of paper; something I can add notes to anytime, or rest my coffee mug on, or cross things out and add new ideas etc.  Like the caterpillar, it's not a beautiful thing yet. But it has all the potential.

So. Another update.  I'm on vacation! I'll be outa here until July 21st, soaking up some extra sleep, sunshine and tiny cups of espresso along the seashore.

08 June 2016


Wait... did I miss one?  Sorry about that.
OK moving on. This week has been all about spring (summer) cleaning.  The house, I mean.  For too long my room and studio have been full of random furniture, toys, laundry and other items that were stalled there in the process of being assembled, cleaned, donated, moved to another room or simply landed there because there was nowhere else to put them.

I'm not sure if other artists go through these kinds of phases, but I've been in a creative slump for a while. One thing that is a definite stumbling block for me -- disorder and chaos in my environment. When things are disorganized in my house I feel like my brain is disorganized too. ...Or maybe it's the other way around? Could be when my brain is chaos my house ends up in chaos. 
Chicken vs. Egg, whatever.  The point is, I needed to take some steps to break out of the creative slump and get my head in the right place again.  So I decided to work on my immediate environment, hoping it would clear some space in my life and in my creative brain.

So, again not much artwork was happening inside the studio.  I did however manage to make some progress on my Viewpoints 9 challenge.

I'm intrigued by the idea of balance and order, or at least recognizable pattern appearing out of apparent chaos.  I've been looking at the Fibonacci number series, phi, the Golden Ratio.

My goal is to create a composition that resembles a page torn out of my sketchbook.  Sketch drawings, notes, fabric swatches, along those lines.  Normally I do most of my pre-quilt "sketching" in my head or on Paintshop software.  So this piece will be a physical object representing my thought process. Taking disjointed, chaotic thoughts and organizing them into a coherent vision.

25 May 2016


So another week has flown by.  Seems like time moves faster as the weather gets nicer.  Or is that just because I'm more tempted to be outside and spend less time in the studio?

Quick recap of the week:
The Lecture/ Trunk Show/ Workshop visit to First Dutchess Quilters was a pleasure. The guild members are friendly and open, and the people I had in class were great.

As you can see, most of the students completed the class project before heading home. Some of them plan to expand their Magnolia designs with additional flowers and branches.  One student wasted NO time and completed her quilt a few days later (see below for Karen Abramson's quilt).

I was so happy to see the wide range of colors - both in the flowers and the backgrounds. Seeing these little environments come to life is what makes the class fresh and fun for me, even after years of doing the Magnolia workshop. Thanks Carol R Eaton Designs!



And here is Karen Abramson's finished quilt (image below).  She added a lovely double-border in coordinating fabrics.  Nicely done!
I always feel good when I see students showing off their finished work. The last thing I want is to send them home with an unfinished project to linger in the "someday I'll get to that" pile.

Ok, other news... I did a lot of yard work this week. The kind of stuff that takes a lot of effort but doesn't really get you to a WOW photo. Weeding, tearing up grass, planting and digging/transporting other plants and power washing the stone patio. Maintenance stuff.  But at least it was a nice opportunity to use power tools and spend time outside with my sister and my son :-)

Once again I have knitting progress but no quilting.  My mom warned me that knitting can be addictive. But do I listen???

All right, back to the studio! Next week my goal is to have at least the beginning of my Viewpoints 9 TEXT challenge on the design board.  Stay tuned :-)

17 May 2016

Not Quite Wednesday

I figured I'd post something today since I will be traveling to Poughkeepsie, NY (First Dutchess Quilters Guild) tomorrow to do a Lecture and Trunk show, followed by an all day workshop on Thursday.

I'm packing up all the "people" quilts I have on hand. The lecture will be about my approach to portraits in fiber art.  Also being loaded into the car: 12 sets of printed instructions for the Magnolia Kit class, freezer paper, glue sticks, sharpie markers, scissors, iron, ironing board and my design wall.  Do I have everything...???  I hope so!

This weekend I purchased the gorgeous fabric kits from my buddy and fabric guru Carol R. Eaton.  I'm so excited to see what the class does with their wonderful color palettes!

I don't have any quilt-related updates to post since completing the 2 Mothers Day commissions, but I did make some progress on a knitting project. Recently I learned how to do cables, so I thought I'd try my hand at Celtic-knots. Here's how far I've gotten so far:

Hope you're doing something fun and creative as well. Have a lovely week! :-)

09 May 2016

Mother's Day commissions

Whew!  Okay so all went well with the commissioned portraits.  The client was thrilled with them and gave them to her daughters for Mother's Day.  Today she sent me a glowing report from her daughters as well.
So here they are, the Sunshine Sisters:

(I absolutely LOVED working on the girls' gorgeous curly hair )
And the Giggling Trio:

(I'm a sucker for kids who wear glasses)

Each portrait had its own style and sense of place but I hope they both show a loving connection between siblings. I love the way baby brother and older sister are holding hands (Giggling Trio, finished size 14"x 20"), and the way older sister hugs her younger sister (Sunshine Sisters, finished size 14"x 16").  

Creating a 14x20 composition featuring 3 faces was a challenge, not to mention adding hands, clothing, glasses.  Working in such a small scale (baby brother's head is only about 3" diameter), my top priority was to capture the kids' features and a little of their personality using minimal shapes and lines.  I figured if the grandmother and parents could recognize their precious children in these portraits, they would be happy. 

I'm so relieved the client loved them!  Whew!

These portraits were a great learning experience for me.  It's always good to push yourself beyond your comfort zone as an artist.  With that said: in the future I'm going to set a minimum size for portraits, especially ones with multiple people in them. Not that I'm unhappy with these. I like the way they came out. But it's a lot more difficult to cut and sew really tiny pieces. I prefer a little more room to work, so I can really capture the smaller details.

Okay, I'm going to take a SHORT break from quilting. Regroup. Clean up the disaster area otherwise known as my studio. Then move on to the next project.

Check back soon! :-)


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

Spray Paint and Chocolate

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