Here are six of my small embroidered quilts. They just arrived in Columbus, Ohio for the Small Works faculty show and sale at the Quilt Surface Design Symposium. I'm really looking forward to being there June 5-8 to teach a new 2-day workshop on Saturday and Sunday: "Layered Surface Design: The Hand-Made Stitch on Hand-Dyed Cloth." There are still a few spots in the class too!
Here's the QSDS website: www.qsds.com. Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about my class (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Here's a close-up of the newest mini quilt (upper right, above). It's called "Unfettered & Alive" and is hand embroidered cotton floss and hand-dyed pearl cotton on hand-painted cotton sateen. It's just over 8" wide and 7" high and is framed in a painted wood cigar box lid:
Members of the group have been stitching memories of their mothers, fathers, childhoods, and families. Many are stitched on vintage linens and handkerchiefs, and each has a distinct story to tell.
I've selected two of my cigar-box framed embroideries from the Fragments series I've been making. They are:
"Mother and Child"
If you're in the Madison area, be sure to stop by to see the show or to join us at one or both of the receptions!
Today is a perfect spring day in Madison, and days like this always make me feel more fully alive--the warmth of the air, abundant sunlight, and vast swaths of blue-violet scilla blooming all over my neighborhood simply make me happy. It's as if some part of me that wearied during the winter has been healed.
One of the activities that got me out of the house and enjoying some sunshine was delivering artwork. I delivered two of my bead embroidered quilts to a hospital and one piece of art to a private collector. "A Grotto for Spring" (below) and "Sun Salutation" (below that) were both recently purchased for the new U.W. Health at the American Center hospital under construction on the northeast side of Madison.
There's something very special about the process of delivering artwork to a new home.You live with artwork so intimately during the process of creation. Then, in the cases of these pieces, have the joy of living with them and exhibiting them for a time before they leave the nest for good. Packing them up to take to their permanent homes provides an opportunity to revisit memories of intention and process and to say a little farewell.
"A Grotto for Spring" (9" x 12"; above) was one of my first heavily embellished quilts. Hand-dyed fabrics were pieced and appliqued before I covered nearly the entire surface with hand stitched glass beads, silk threads, and hand-dyed cotton threads. As I developed the design and title, I remembered back to grottoes and even bathtub shrines I'd seen as a child, and I thought that surely the coming of spring deserved celebration and even adoration. Spring--with all of its colors, textures, and fragrances, as well as its associations with rejuvenation and vitality--is one of the annual treasures of the human experience. It seems to bring both humans and the plant world back to life.
"Sun Salutation" (9" x 11"; above) was created in celebration of the arrival of summer, the long hours of sunlight, and the privilege of experiencing those. I've found that practicing sun salutations, as a series of yoga postures, can be a wonderful way to greet each new day and the arrival of sun and light into our lives.
Together "A Grotto for Spring" and "Sun Salutation" celebrate life and light, warmth and rejuvenation. Certainly the act of creating them brought these things into my life as I stitched. One of the definitions of the Latin root for "medicine" is "the healing art." The new hospital will be filled with both literal and figurative healing arts. As all of the members of the hospital staff do their parts to provide care and healing, I believe that having the staff, patients, and their loved ones surrounded by art can also play a part in uplifting and healing.
As I think about these two small quilts hanging together in their new home, I say farewell with a little benediction:
* May you bring at least a little bit of life and light into your world.
* May you bring at least a little bit of warmth and rejuvenation to the people who see you.
* May the love and care that went into creating you radiate out to those around you.
* May you play your part well in the ongoing healing arts practiced at this place.
I spend most of my teaching time with students who come with some kind of background in handwork or crafts, and they often come to my classes to expand their repertoires of techniques or to build skills and confidence in fiber art design. I, too, have spent my life in crafts and handwork, and so I know I'm in my element in these types of teaching situations. But every once in a while it's great to mix things up a bit and work with non-traditional (for me) students.
Throughout my career these types of groups and settings have included making hand-painted art quilts with kindergarteners, teaching arts and crafts classes at a nursing home, and serving as a visiting artist to high school groups taking fiber art classes. Recently I had the fun opportunity of another non-traditional teaching day, this time with a book club.
Over the past about 10 years I've had the good fortune of being in a book club full of lovely ladies (both inside and out), several of whom have long admired a beaded necklace I made for myself.
It's a necklace I made as a sample for a Beads & Spiritual Practice class I teach, generally as part of a longer two- to five-day workshop. The necklace is strung in a long loop, and I devised a twisting and intertwining technique that makes it very easy to put on the necklace and keep it at a comfortable length. This type of necklace can be used as part of a spiritual practice as a prayer or meditation tool (like a rosary or mala) or simply worn decoratively.
After one of our book club members asked kindly but firmly for a time to get together to learn how to make this type of necklace, we set up a Book Club Bead Day and gathered at my home to make necklaces. We abbreviated the longer workshop into a fast-paced, one-day stringing and beaded bead-making class. Beads, thread, hands, and laughter were flying!
It was a wonderful day, and I was so impressed with what everyone accomplished both in our time together and while finishing up at home after class.
We had eight of us together for the day, which worked out perfectly given the size of my family's dining table!
Julie was only able to stay with us for a few hours, but she did a lovely job making a simple strung necklace before heading off to her children's sporting events:
I received some pictures of the necklaces that others finished either at our class or once students got home. Ambitious architect (and Book Club Bead Day coordinator) Manda made two necklaces that day!
Lynn had to leave a bit early, and everyone was impressed that she was able to complete her cubic-right-angle focal point beaded bead at home. I love how her necklace looks on her stone counter too!
Kristy was a real trooper when we realized that the bundle of fringe strings wouldn't fit through the hole in the heart bead she selected as her focal point, so she came up with a creative solution that still allowed her to add fringe:
Diane worked diligently in her gentle, quiet way and created a beautiful necklace too. I especially love how she handled her fringe:
I know I'm missing a few photos from the day, but I'm so pleased to be able to show what a group of students created in a day, especially when they came in with little or no experience with beads.
Here are two of the necklaces I've made that we used as references during the day:
In each of the necklaces we worked with sets of beads made of recycled glass from the Czech Republic. The beads are made with glass scraps and remnants from bead factories there. The seed beads are a mix of Japanese and Czech beads, and the focal points are a mix of stone and pressed-glass beads. Just above the fringe, my necklaces feature a pewter bead and a hand-made glass shell bead. Here's a close-up of my two necklaces:
We had so much fun that we may repeat the day for book club members who weren't able to attend as well as some who'd like to do it all again.
As I write this I've got Paul Simon's The 59th Street Bridge Song quietly floating through my mind: "Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the morning last..." Words of wisdom. The Slow Food movement picked up on this theme back in the 1990s, and journalist Carl Honore gave it a broader focus in his 2004 book In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed.
Quilter, designer, writer, blogger, and personality Mark Lipinski took this same theme to heart when he began The Slow Stitching Movement last year. It's wonderful to see someone with so much creativity and energy putting that toward uniting us Slow Stitchers. Mark and I had the opportunity to talk by phone recently, and we had a great time. Stay tuned for hearing me as one of the guest podcasters on The Slow Stitching Movement podcast.
Yesterday I also became the latest guest blogger on The Slow Stitching Movement site. You can read my post here:
For those of you who read my recent Turtle Time blog post, you'll find some connecting themes here. We could all learn a lot from turtles.
Here's to the coming spring and the joys of a slower, more deliberate way of art-making and life.
Writer and naturalist David Carroll,
in Self-Portrait with Turtles explains:
"In a blur of past and present,
drifting into the now,
I endeavored to shift into turtle time,
the time within time that is neither past nor present
but the ongoing now."
Slow stitching by hand
can bring us into "turtle time"--
the peacefulness, expansiveness, and presence
of the ongoing now.
If turtles could stitch, surely they'd stitch by hand.
Besides the difficulty of sitting upright at a sewing machine
with a rigid torso,
I don't think they'd like
the noise or speed.
Turtles seem to be in their element
moving slowly and quietly.
Perhaps they could be an emblem
for a contemplative, deliberate way of life.
Spending time in places where land and water meet
evokes a thoughtful mindset and pace.
Stitching by hand can do the same.
Taking one stitch at a time,
whether with embroidery thread or beads,
puts my mind in a meditative state
that slips outside of time
and floats in the beauty of materials,
the joy of creating with ones' hands,
and the abundance within turtle time.
Floating and grounded
I breathe in tranquility
at home by the sea.
I sure do.
The rhythm of waves
repeatedly reaching the shore
echoes the rhythm of relaxed breathing
and the rhythm of slow stitching.
Movements are deliberate and evenly spaced.
Nothing is superfluous.
Turtles in the sea ride currents and waves.
Turtles in mythology are islands
or the bearers of the Earth.
Congregating turtles are like archipelagos.
Gathering with others
to stitch by hand
in silence and in community
can be a source of relaxation, creation, and bonding.
Selecting the placement of each stitch
and each bead to be secured
puts ones' mind in a peaceful and focused place--
a place of creative and spiritual calm if not bliss.
Stitching in turtle time can be done on projects large and small.
The point is to relax,
to breathe slowly and peacefully,
and to join hands, mind, and materials
in a creative place of peace
in the ongoing now.
David Carroll wrote:
"...Like a turtle, I had endurance, not speed.
...the more slowly I moved,
the longer I kept still,
the more I would see."
"Solitude and silence intensified my seeing..."
As we stitch slowly and in silence,
we can begin to see life and the world as it is,
to clarify our own thoughts and beliefs.
Stitching in turtle time,
helps us move inward
while creating something
of outward beauty or function.
Going In to turtle time--
to mindful movement,
to slow stitching--
is a wonderful antidote
to flashing advertisements,
buzzing mobile phones,
the parts of the world
for our attention
and our resources.
In this type of slow movement
the running stitch
the walking stitch--
across our cloth.
On the path each day
I realize the journey
is my only home.
With each slow stitch
we can breathe, contemplate, and create.
We can perform a sort of
that brings equanimity to our minds
while creating with hands.
Moving in turtle time,
can be a dear friend--
a peaceful companion on our journey,
a way of both creating and renewing.
I'm so much looking forward to teaching this three-day workshop at the beautiful, peaceful Woodland Ridge Retreat in northwest Wisconsin. I've designed this workshop for all levels of bead embroidery experience. Spaces are still available.
Picture cozy sleeping rooms, a beautifully equipped classroom with a fireplace, snowy woods right out our windows, delicious meals, and time to delve into the wonderful world of bead embroidery among other creatives who share common interests. :)
Feel free to contact me with any questions too! And bring your snowshoes or cross country skis along if you'd like--there will be time for that as well.
The new year always affects me in much the same way it does many other people--with thoughts of reorganizing spaces and posessions, hopes and plans for the coming year, and the enthusiasm of new beginnings. Our household is preparing for the addition of a puppy later this week (our first actual puppy but not our first dog), so we're also working to puppy-proof the house as much as possible.
One of my favorite spaces in the house we moved into last spring is My Own Little Corner of the mudroom--a happy space for felt making, eco printing, and eco dyeing. The mudroom is also the primary pass-through for what will be two dogs with large paws who love to be outside, so dirt and vegetable matter are very much at home here. (As you can see, the walls and wall color are works in progress, as is much of the house.)
My little corner has a nice view of the fenced portion of our yard, so I can make art there as well as watch the dogs play and be their door(wo)man. I've arranged nearly all of my felt-making, eco-printing, and eco-dyeing supplies in here along with gardening tools. There's a big bucket under the table full of rusty objects I've collected from railroad tracks over the years. A bin of clean, empty jars that once housed things like kalamata olives and marinated artichokes are eagerly awaiting new life housing leaves and berries and eco printing/dyeing bundles. I'm storing felt-making fibers elsewhere to keep them safer from unplanned encounters with dirt, dyes, and hungry insects.
This table (above) was such a lucky find. It's from the University of Wisconsin's SWAP Shop (Surplus With a Purpose) and it's an old chemistry lab table with a 2' x 5' solid soapstone top that I bought for $25. It weighs a ton and is great for both felt-making and hot pots used for eco printing and dyeing. I just love it.
The mudroom was added to the house in the late 1940s and isn't heated too well, but the radiator stays nice and toasty in cold months. I've found that the radiator top is a great place to steep dyes and keep my mordant solutions from crystalizing. The glass jars are, from left to right: cream of tartar solution for mordanting, alum solution for mordanting, catalpa seed pods steeping in a 3:1 water:white vinegar mix, and black walnuts steeping in the same water-vinegar solution. I've printed a lot with catalpa seed pods, and when I rediscovered a bunch I'd never used last fall, I decided to steep some to see what kind of dye I could get. They print a beatiful, warm, rusty-brown color on wool.
Here's what catalpa seed pods look like: 1) set on wool with red onion skins before steaming (the wool was previously bundled and dyed in turmeric); and 2) steamed into a different piece of eco printed wool:
Did I mention that my little messy-art-corner is right near the back door and the clothes line?... It's interesting to me the things that excite me in my 50s compared to the things that excited me in my 20s.
The clothes line got a LOT of good use this summer and fall. (I even occasionally used it for laundry.) You can see results above from dyeing with pokeweed berries, huckleberries, turmeric, hibiscus flowers, and a variety of other berries and leaves.
My next-door-neighborhor, when I mentioned to him that I hoped he didn't mind me collecting the dead-headed hibiscus flowers from his yard waste pile at the curb, promptly brought me a huge bag of spent hibiscus flowers from their back yard. (Eco dyeing and printing are great ways to get to know and interact with neighbors on a whole new level!)
The flowers he brought me were deep red and so beautiful in the pot. The dye liquid they produced was much more purple. After dyeing and rinsing, the wools range from soft, cool grey to deeper purple. I'm hanging onto them to check next summer and see how well the colors have stayed in place.
The clothes line will have to wait three or four months before I re-hang it. But I'm excited to use my little corner for some felt-making projects, experimenting with shibori and onion skin dyeing (you can see gallon jars of both yellow and red onion skins on my supply shelf, below), and watching our puppy and old dog remind me of the joys of winter and snow.
I'm also spending my art-making time during the winter months hand stitching several pieced art quilts I've made with some of my dyed and printed fabrics. They're great lap warmers, and I'm loving the way pearl cotton, silk embroidery floss, and subtle beads are looking on the wool fabrics.
Here's a little photo-composite peek at one of the quilts I'm stitching. It'll be about 5'w x 4'h when finished. The working title, which I always seem to need before I can really dive into a piece, and which very much helps shape the development of the quilt, is "After Autumn Rains." I purchased the hand-dyed blue wool, but all of the other fabrics began as white wool in my studio. The leaves all came from the clothes-line area of our yard. I collected the catalpa seed pods while walking one of our dogs. The tan background for the small maple leaves is the end-use of some unappealing gluten-free beer my husband tried and promptly (and understandably) rejected. The olive color came from a mix of goldenrod collected near home and a rusty piece of metal from some generous railroad right-of-way I wandered.
Here's wishing you a happy, healthy, creative little corner in your own world in 2015.