Monday, December 29, 2008

Endings, Beginnings and Creative Freedom

Calendars are a way of marking time. It's the end of another year, which means it's the beginning of the next. Nothing ends without something else beginning. Seasons move from one to the next, rhythms and cycles of nature, day and night, and so forth.

So as this year comes to an end, I'm trying to look back at what I've accomplished this past year, and look forward to what I would like to do in the next. I didn't get some things done that I had hoped to in 2008, but I went in a different direction. After all, nothing in my plans is carved in stone. That's the beauty of setting my own goals. If I get distracted along the way, as I so frequently am, I just find myself moving in a different direction. Sometimes it's simply a distraction and I will eventually turn and find my way back, but other times, it's something new and exciting that I wasn't aware existed until I stumbled across it.

Creative freedom - to be able to move from one thing to another when the interest is there, or when something new is discovered, is such bliss.

I have an idea where I'd like to go in 2009, and I will head in that direction. There is no guarantee, I won't deviate from the path, however. I love that part of being an artist. There's always a surprise waiting.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Darkness and Quiet of Winter

Projects for Christmas are finished. Gifts are purchased, wrapped and shipped. I can finally relax and reflect.

There are more hours of darkness than light at this time of year. Snow blankets the ground and serves as an insulation for sound. In other words, it's dark and quiet. A good time for thinking, meditating, wondering. I think about the animals that hibernate through the winter months and at times, I wish I could do the same - when I'm cold and tired. Then I wonder about the order of nature - it's rhythm - pulse - cycles. Winter, in the dark and quiet, also holds the hope and expectation of warmth and growing things to come. Winter is a time to rest, to regain strength and build strong roots in order to emerge again in the light and warmth of Spring.

I would wish, with this holiday season upon us, that all of us could rest in the dark and quiet of winter. To reflect on the state of the world and all that has transpired in this last year. To find our own part in it, and to seek to be better persons in all that we do with hope for new opportunity and growth in the light of Spring.

Deep peace to all this holiday, with hopes for a brighter 2009.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sharks on the Wall

The sharks are finished and delivered. My customer was quite pleased, and so I am as well. I enjoyed this process. I will probably do more dye painting in the future.

It was a good learning experience to work with the thickening paste and the dyes, then to hoop it and work with the threads in the machine.

Now to focus on finishing other projects before Christmas. I do realize I'm running out of time, so I must get on with it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Does the Universe Breathe?

Watching the weather in Iowa is somewhat of a pasttime, but it's also necessary. Here in the heart of the US, we get weather extremes. It's also important for agriculture to know what's coming. Today, we're waiting for freezing rain and then snow, which is to begin this evening probably right around rush hour. We already have about four inches of snow left from the last one a week or so ago. Looks like this winter is going to be a bit like last year, where we had so much snow our driveway got narrower and narrower and the sides got higher and higher. In the heart of Iowa, winters aren't always the same. As a child I remember ice storms and skating down the middle of the streets. Then lots of snow. Then a period of relatively mild winters, some even warm days of 50 degrees (F) or more.

It's the sun spots, according to some scientists. When there is a great deal of solar activity, the earth gets warmer. The solar activity has been a great deal less this past year, according to these scientists, thus making winters more harsh. So what about global warming being caused by human pollution? I believe we have a hand in it, but I'm also coming to believe the universe has its seasons as well. Perhaps it's a little like breathing. On the inhale, fewer solar bursts. We may just want to watch out for the next exhale.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Today I'm preparing to host Thanksgiving dinner. As I bake pies, make cranberry sauce, and generally organize how things will run in the kitchen tomorrow, I am also thinking about all the things for which I am so thankful.

Tomorrow I will feed others, while giving thanks for all the ways they "feed" me. It's the least I can do.

A wonderful day to stop, take note, and give thanks for the wonders of this life and the gifts we have in each other.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

First Snow

It snowed today and left some on the ground. Not much, just a trace. The flakes were big and wet, and beautiful. I'm really not ready for winter yet, but I just couldn't help enjoying nature's beauty. The little unexpected surprises that come our way, especially on a day where we really didn't need to leave the house.

It's not yet 5:00 pm and the light is mostly gone. The darkness grows longer and the temperatures colder. Nature settles in to rest, and wait for spring.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Progress with Dye Painting

I'm making progress on this piece of the coleus leaves. If you scroll back a few posts, you'll see this piece in process. I have finished the thread painting and have added some borders, a little fabric paint (not dye) to the background to enhance it some and am considering whether I want to put any quilting in the border or not. At this point I'm leaning toward not doing any.

I was asked if I had cut the leaves out and appliqued them onto another background because they come over the borders. The answer to that question is yes and no. I slit the fabric around the bottom of the leaves, put some fusible on the back of the tips and after I had sewn the borders and squared everything, I fused the tips down and stitched around the raw edges. The rest of the background is the same fabric as the leaves.

This is the dye painting of the first shark. I have been commissioned to do two fabric paintings of great white sharks for someone. They will be painted with dye, then with thread, then stretched on stretchers like a regular painting. I was practicing with the coleus leaves because I'd never painted with dye before. I think it's really fun. We'll see how well the sharks turn out.

Questions about the process are welcome. I feel as if I'm learning so much just by doing them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Acceptance and Rejection for Shows

My collage, Wings II, has been accepted to a show in my city, called Greater Des Moines Exhibited 15. This is not a fiber or quilt show, so I'm feeling pretty excited. I really didn't know what to expect, as this is the first time I've ever tried entering. I thought it might have a chance as this is a framed piece and not "quilty". I love quilty, but fine arts shows apparently, don't.

It will be fun to see the variety of art and meet other local artists who work in other mediums.

My work called Mother of Us All, however, has been rejected from a show in Pidgeon Ford because of its content. I had been invited to be part of the Special Exhibit of Sacred Threads at the Mountain Quilt Festival in March of 2009. I received a very nice email yesterday saying they were unable to accept this quilt because Pigeon Ford is a very conservative and family friendly town and they weren't sure how it would be received. I really do understand their concerns. It's also a little exciting to think my work is really that controversial.

More Painting with Dye

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the International Quilt Festival in Houston a couple of weeks ago. I took a class from Hollis Chatelain on painting with dyes. The only thing I was doing differently was that I was mixing my dye with water first, then adding it to the print paste solution. I learned I can simply add the dye powder to the print paste and mix well. Works beautifully. The print paste solution should be about the consistency of maple syrup. It's nice because it keeps for awhile so I don't need to keep mixing it every time. The dye's in the print paste will keep for a few days as well as long as there's no soda ash in them. I dip my fabric in the soda ash solution, hang it up to dry and press with a cool iron. Then I can draw my image on the fabric lightly and begin to paint.

Back to the studio!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fall Has Fallen

Fall has fallen and winter's here! We went from 75 degrees on Tuesday to 39 degrees on Friday with lots of wind and rain and yes, snow! It's difficult to get my blood thickened when it changes so rapidly! But I do like winter. It's time to "hibernate" and find time to sew, cook warming foods, and enjoy the surprises of the weather. Might as well enjoy those surprises, because they're going to happen anyway.

It does seem like it was only yesterday that I was chipping ice from the bottom of the driveway, for weeks on end. Where did summer go?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Painting With Dye

I've been experimenting with painting with dye on fabric. This is a piece that is in process. I had a beautiful coleus plant this summer and decided to play with images of the leaves.

I mixed my print paste solution and then my dye. It was a little too runny, but it wasn't bleeding on the fabric, so I continued. When I had painted three leaves, I let it "cure" for 24 hours and then rinsed out the extra dye and washed in synthrapol. I was surprised that so much of the color had disappeared. I did go back in and paint more and it seemed to hold more of the dye.

The leaf that is in the embroidery hoop has been stitched with free motion on my machine. I intend to add more thread to create more depth and pattern on it. It's rather fun. We'll see how this finishes. I want to try painting some great white sharks with this technique for a commission I have so I hope it comes out the way I want.

Waiting for Harvest

Stalks of corn drying in the field are mostly broken, and the ears bend toward the earth rather than look toward the sky. They stand, waiting for harvest. The end of the growing cycle in the midwest. Autumn has arrived with the expectation of winter to come.

For me, Autumn is a time to reflect on the growth that has occurred during the spring and summer. Not just in my garden, but in my studio as well. How did I grow and change as an artist? What new ideas grew to maturity by my hands? What seeds might have been planted through the harvest of this year's crop that fell to the ground and will live under the snow until Spring? What ideas have yet to be brought to maturity through the cold and dark of Winter to emerge in the Spring with new growth? This time of gathering and storing is only fuel for the fire. I can't wait to see what the next season brings.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


This is one of my new pieces, called A Star is Born. I am fascinated with the infinite idea of space and stars and the constant creation of new stars, as well as the death of old ones. From the Hubbell telescope have come the most beautiful and awe-inspiring photos. It's from those that I have taken my inspiration for this piece.

"Skip" is my latest and has taken the longest to do. I have never done this type of applique before. I made this for my husband, who is the subject of the photo. As a boy and teen, he would cowboy on a ranch in Wyoming every summer. I think he's about 15 here. I painted some of the background, but most of it is applique' and the entire figure and truck are applique'. It was a great deal of fun, and I may try some other things with this method.

Friday, August 15, 2008

What is this Compulsion to Create Art?

I've often wondered what it is that compels some of us to create art. I know I share this feeling of the need to make art with other artists because I've discussed it with some of them. Some artists have written entire books about it, and I've read them.

It isn't just a desire. I find myself irritable and anxious when I go too long without sketching, stitching or painting. Sometimes just being in nature satisfies my need for creation, but eventually I need to put into visual form what so desperately wants to come out.

Sometimes its just to share what my mind's eye sees when it looks at nature. Sometimes it's a message that needs to be voiced, and sometimes it's simply a place to play and experiment with raw materials. But it is a need, a compulsion if you will, that calms an unexplained restlessness.

Do athletes feel a compulsion to run, or swim or throw? Is it the same with other fields of endeavor?

I'd love to hear from anyone on this.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I am so impressed with Apple. After spending approximately three weeks dealing with on again, off again problems, they just gave me a new computer! Brand new, out of the box. Took my old one back. "Old" because I only got it in December. Had no problems until just recently. I knew there was another reason I worked on a mac. So I am now able to upload photos and post to my blog again!

The photo is of a small piece titled, "Eddy". I began experimenting by stitching on paper. It's a rather heavy, rag paper with lots of plant matter still in it. It took stitch well, so I thought I'd add paint. Took that well, too. Then I stitched it to fabric and added a little more paint. Now I think I'll mat and frame it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

As The Crow Flies

Here it is! I finally am able to post a photo. I hope it's not a fluke. After two weeks of fighting with this stuff, it just worked. Now I'm thinking it wasn't my computer at all! Sigh. Well, here's the finished piece. I decided not to put a border on it and faced it instead. The gray around it is what I put behind it to photograph it. I'll probably put it on a black background for more formal photos.

Currently, I'm working on a pictorial quilt that is taken from a photo of my husband when he was a teenager and spending the summer as a cowboy on a ranch in Wyoming. I'll post some photos of it in progress as soon as there's something more visual to photograph. I'm also learning (experimenting) with discharge and thickening paste with dyes as I have two commission pieces to do that require my painting them before I stitch them.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Computer problems solved?

I have now rebuilt my computer twice. After doing an erase and install, I apparently re-imported the problem I was having when I imported my data. So, I erased the hard drive again and have been reinstalling all my programs. It appears to be working now. I still have to bring back most of my data, and I'll hope I don't bring the problem back with me again!

I'll post the photo of the work I have been trying to post, once I import it back onto my computer. Hours and hours of time. Sigh, life was simpler before this technology, and now we can't live without it, I guess. Oh well, back to work!

Monday, July 28, 2008

I'm having problems uploading photos to my blog. I've been on the phone with tech support for my computer a couple of times, but still don't know what the problem is. I like blogs with PICTURES! 

Still, I've been working on sketches and drawings and thoughts about fabric and quilts. Sometimes I there's so much in my head, I can't get it down on paper fast enough. Then, the issue is trying to get it into fabric! Sometimes that's a problem. I don't always know how to translate what I see in my head to fabric. For some pieces takes years before I can create a piece, because I don't know the technique yet. I keep playing, however, and one day it happens.  So off I go to my studio to sketch, draw, and touch fabric.

I'll continue to work on the photo problem as well.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Thoughts

In Iowa, this has been a difficult summer. Too much rain and violent weather. The largest natural disaster ever experienced by the state. Several towns and cities were devastated by flood waters. 4000 people in Cedar Rapids alone, suffered moderate to severe damage to their homes. FEMA is in the process of moving in about 2000 trailer homes for "temporary shelter" for those who's homes were destroyed. The University of Iowa in Iowa City with more than $275,000,000 worth of damage at last tally and they're not finished yet. The entire town of Oakville is trying to decide whether to try to rebuild or move the town. Some will leave and try to start over elsewhere. The cleanup has just begun. Iowans are a strong and resilient people. When knocked down, we get back up and begin again. This time it's just going to take a little longer to put the pieces back together, and with a few more tears.

If anyone wants to help, they can donote to the National Red Cross Disaster Relief. They're here with many temporary shelters set up around the State, even though they ran out of money weeks ago. Click on the link

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rewards of Summer

In amongst the weeds that seem to make up my gardens, are the rewards for hanging in there through the winter. The Cuckoo-pint has bloomed. It's white flowers giving way to the green berries (very poisonous) which will become red later in the summer.

The daylilies are blooming with their golden heads and deep green foliage. I'm intrigued with the berries of the Cuckoo-pint and fascinated by the rich yellow of the petals of the lilies. There are other wonders in my garden as well, that brighten the landscape with pure color.

And even better, the hummingbirds are back! My favorite little friends that come to visit the feeders placed around the yard and deck. So much energy. So much excitement.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

AsThe Crow Flies

An old saying, as the crow flies. Implies a shorter distance from someplace to someplace, up and over. To take the road might mean a longer journey, but as human beings without wings, a necessary one. Besides, there's so much more to be seen and experienced when the road is taken. Isn't the journey the best part anyway?

My guild had a challenge in which we were to use two squares of fabric given to us along with a "named" traditional block. The block I was to use was "flying geese". I was given a piece of green and a piece of white. The only rule was to use the fabric on the front of the piece. It didn't have to be a large piece, but it had to be used. The dimensions couldn't be any larger than 20" on any side. Here is my unquilted and unbound top in answer to this challenge.

I pieced the curved seams from the top. I've combined techniques from folks like Laura Cater-Woods and Vikki Pignatelli and added a twist of my own, I believe. We learn things from others, and then at some point, we no longer look at our notes, and our samples from classes, but instead just do what seems to work for ourselves.

Now to finish this piece with stitch and binding.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Where Does the Time Go?

Wow, it's late June already! The focus has been on weather - so much water. Mostly in the Eastern part of the state, but some here. The flooding is devastating. Damage as bad as Hurricane Katrina - only here there's no name for the storm. Or better yet, the many severe storms that dumped anywhere from 2" to 10" at a time.

I've not been in my studio for several weeks now. I'm really anxious to get back there, but other needs have superseded my creative ones. For me, mostly family needs. We were spared from the flood waters. I think I will be able to get back to work in another week.

In the meantime, I continue to look for ways to help those who've lost everything in whatever small way I can.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Small Works

Spring is finally here. The daffodils are in bloom and so are the grape hyacinth. Butterflies are about and the weeds are growing rapidly! Lots of raking and pulling yet to do. Feels so good to have my hands in the earth. The cycle of life begins anew.

Birds are active and singing in the early morning hours. Calling out to one another in their spring mating dance. All but the cardinals, who have partners for life. I think there might be a few others that do, but I can't recall them right now. The winter birds have gone and most of the summer birds have arrived. Soon the Orioles and humming birds will be here. They're my favorites. The birds let me know when the seasons change much more than the weather. They seem to know just when to show up and when to leave.

I've been focusing on doing small works right now. I've begun a series of birds in a 4x6 size format. I've included the first two here, a cardinal and a chickadee. Watch my blog for more. The goldfinch is currently on the drawing board.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Is Spring Finally Here?

The snow has finally left the ground. The mounds of ice have melted and today we have rain. The daffodils are peeking through the mulch that has yet to be raked. Buds are on the trees and bushes. Winter birds are leaving or have left, and the summer crew is arriving. I don't expect any humming birds for another month yet, though. They seem to wait until there's enough foliage on the trees for camouflage. They are my favorite, so I am anxiously awaiting their arrival.

My quilt, African Dreams went for a respectable sum for the fund raiser. I am pleased with the outcome.

The show that was up for the past six weeks, has come down, and my art work is now back home. It seems some things have drawn to a close, and new things are not yet completed. I am working on several pieces, but they are not in any state to photograph yet.

Perhaps in the next week or so.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

New Work!

Here is a new one, just completed! It's called African Dreams.

This quilt will be donated for a fundraiser for an organization that assists our refugee population.

Our city, Des Moines, IA, has been bringing people here since the Vietnam war ended. Our refugee resettlement began with those who left Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and has continued through today resettling people from Bosnia, the Sudan and several other African countries. It's a wonderful mix of people and makes for an exceptionally nice experience in the summer at our downtown farmer's market where people sell all kinds of things, not just produce. The only rule, is that it has to be made or grown in Iowa!

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Where does inspiration come from? For each person it's different, but I would venture to guess there isn't a person who's truly alive that isn't moved at some level by the natural beauty of the landscape at times. Especially if they're in a place other than their usual surrounds. I think we tend to take what we see on a daily basis, for granted, or lose sight of the beauty close at hand.

This is/has been a long winter for those of us in the Northern Midwest and Northeastern US. It's been cold and snowy. More so than the last few years. After awhile it's difficult to see the beauty in yet again, more snow. But as I type this, that's exactly what I see outside my window. More snow. It's light today, not the heavy wet snow we've had the last couple of snows. It's not supposed to amount to much. Even so, another inch on the ice already on the walk and driveway isn't a pleasant thought. It makes spring seem so much further away.

The good news is, warmer weather will eventually come, and the ice will transform and become water. Water that flows down the streets and into the fields. Water that soaks into the ground with necessary moisture to feed the flowers and plants that will shoot through the last bits of snow and ice with the hope of more to come. Living in the Midwest offers a literal vision of the cycles of life: birth, death and rebirth, in the transformation of the landscape from one season to the next.

It's still pretty, the snow and frozen landscape. It's nature, doing what it does. Offering the hope of transformation. I find that very inspiring.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Art Show Hung

My daughter, a jeweler, and I hung a show yesterday at Scottish Rite Park, a retirement center in the heart of the city. I've uploaded some photos of how it looks. It's the first time I've seen many of my works all in one place on the walls. I included some drawings and paintings here. It wasn't until I had it hung and looked around that I could see my cross over from pastel and paint only, to fiber and paint. It was very interesting to see my "themes" as well. See what you think.

I seem to work on black often. I like the way color seems to pop on it.

Beaches and glaciers - water and ice.

Some of my daughter's work. Wish I had gotten some close ups. I might need to go back and take some.

Prismacolor and collage.

Monday, February 18, 2008

More Art Work

I'm working on some new pieces, but these are finished, so thought I'd post some photos of them. (While images of ice and water continue to float in my head.)

This one is called "In The Beginning". It is pieced and applique'd, painted and beaded. The detail shot is below this one. It's 34" x 39".

I guess I've been in the mood for hand work, as the next one is heavily beaded. It's called "Jeweled Garden". Both full and detail shots are below. This is a small one. It's only 11" x 9".

Friday, February 15, 2008

Courage and Imagination

I took this photo of the female Ruby Throated Hummingbird last fall. It was late in the season and it was cold. She had come to the feeder to start her morning and it just proved too much. She had to shut down, go into torpor to preserve her energy. I have become accustomed to seeing hummingbirds in torpor over the past many years. We've fed them every year for about 10 years now. I've seen them hang upside down on the feeders, eventually fall off and land on the ground. It makes them extremely vulnerable to predators. They are literally helpless. They also look very lifeless. To hold a hummingbird in your hands until they warm up is a wonder. They weigh nothing and then the wings begin to move and their eyes open and they are ready to go!

I am so much in awe of these small creatures. They swoop and chatter and dive at one another to "own" a feeder. One bird book describes them as "fearless and pugnacious". They must be. I wish I could allow myself to be as vulnerable as a hummingbird. Fearless, trusting enough in my own abilities to allow my imagination to soar.

Sometimes creativity comes in waves in small, rhythmic movements toward land from a vastness of ocean depths, and other times it comes crashing in on top of the rocks with a loud roar. The first is easy to become lulled into peaceful complacency. Rather like listening to the hum of the wings of my Ruby Throated friends when they come to the feeder one at a time. This is nice, but it's the wild crashing into and on top of, that's impossible to ignore. I need to be able to make enough noise to "own" my own feeder. There is no creativity without imagination. Imagination can have no reigns. It needs to be able to move into the unknown.

Monday, February 11, 2008

More on Ice

No sun to play off the snow today, and the clouds portend more snow.

I've been reading a book called The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto. He developed a way to photograph ice crystals as they form. He photographed them in different situations, such as with negative words and positive words. With the positive words, the crystals are beautifully formed, but with the negative ones, sometimes they are deformed and sometimes they don't form crystals at all. Love and gratitude form the most beautiful crystals.

This makes me wonder what effect anger and negativity have on the human body as we are 90% water when we are born and 70% water by the time we are adults.

It seems ice has much to tell us.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Colors of Snow

Yesterday, I said I liked the snow, but was ready for some color outside. Today the sun is shining on all the snow. As I look out my window, the shadows that stretch across the landscape appear gray/blue. There are different nuances to the whites, subtle differences in the way the light reflects and bounces off the surface. Mostly blues, but occasionally a slightly pink caste can be seen. The wonder and beauty is that it will shift and change as the day goes on and the sun moves from east to west. Shadows will deepen, colors will shift. Cameras don't always capture the tiny nuances of subtle change, but imagination can.

Today, I will watch the light on the snow and let my imagination go, as I finish other works that have deadlines attached, and finish the paper work. This evening will be time for sketching what I imagined today.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." - Romans 12:2

Thursday, February 7, 2008

February 7, 2008

It's been a very snowy winter so far. Just has a foot of snow yesterday. I don't care, I really like the stuff. I think it's pretty. That doesn't mean I'm not about ready for spring to enter. I'm ready to have some color outside again.

I've been working on a number of things. See if I can upload the photo of the one I just finished. It's called "Ice" until I can come up with a better title. I've been to Alaska six times. I've fallen in love with the landscape, icescape, lighting, wildlife, you name it. This was inspired by the glaciers. I think there are many more icy pieces to come.