Exploring life with needle and thread.
I have been thinking about writing this post for a while but I was worried I would sound whiny. However, the questions need to be asked. Please know that I really want to know what you think.
I am a teacher and an artist. I am equal parts teacher and artist. I love both aspects of my career but my teacher keeps feeling like a failure. I am not whining about a lack of students. I am already moving in new directions because of this sad trend. I do however, want to understand how you think.
Being a teacher in the mixed-media art/craft industry is not a piece of cake. Developing classes, experimenting with materials, writing articles and tutorials is exciting work for me and incredibly time consuming not to mention expensive. I often work for months to research, design and craft what I think is a great class. I unveil the class, put it up at a store or a retreat and while many say...oh that is so cool. Very few students sign up.
When enough people don't sign up for a class it has to be canceled. The people who did sign up are disappointed but two people can't support the effort of the teacher and a class with only two students lacks the dynamic energy that makes classes so much fun and deepen the learning experience. The store loses out as well. Those of you who have lost all of your local quilt shops or art stores know that lack of class attendance was part of their death knell.
When classes at retreats are canceled it can really wreak havoc with the event schedule and for students who have made travel arrangements which can't be refunded. A teacher at a retreat also has expenses and if she doesn't have enough students to cover her expenses and provide some income she simply can't travel to teach. At some events in the last year students have waited until the last minute to sign up for workshops and then get upset when they find the workshop was cancelled due to low enrollment. We feel like we can't win.
We teachers, store owners and event organizers talk about the 'why' all the time: not enough advertising? bad economy? boring classes? too much free stuff on YouTube? Do the classes look too hard? Do the classes look too easy?
The other think we teachers discuss is how do we create an income if students aren't taking classes? Many are looking at leaving the industry. The number of retreat swelled in numbers for a while which hurt attendance but now there are fewer retreats and still fewer students. These retreats can't stay in business if they don't have students.
What are we doing wrong?
Maybe we aren't doing anything wrong. Maybe you simply don't want classes anymore. Maybe you simply don't make the time for fun anymore? Maybe you are satisfied with what is available for free on-line. Maybe you are bored with me/us?
So, I am asking you.
Why do you take classes?
Why don't you take classes?
Why don't you attend retreats?
Why do you attend retreats?
Do you get enough information on-line?
Do you prefer on-line classes to real life classes?
Do you think classes are too expensive?
Happy New Year's Eve everyone!
I have spent part of the day reflecting on the last year and part of it running around after my grandsons! A great way to end the year if you ask me. One thing I did this year that was scary big was to face down my stash. It was crazy huge, it was everywhere, refusing to be contained to it's allotted shelf space and it was bogging me down!
I have been quilting seriously since about 1988. That is 26 years of stash building! I had kids flannels and prints, civil war reproduction, William Morris, Kaffe Fasset, florals, plaids and striped fabrics. There was also the healthy collection of Aboriginal, African, Japanese and Indonesian fabrics (new and vintage) that I had so carefully been curating.
Every year I set aside a day to go through my stash, get rid of stuff I won't use anymore and spend time re-organizing and folding it all. I find it satisfying to create order of the mess and it makes me happy to pet all my fabrics and think about new projects and possibilities. However, when I got ready to do that earlier this year I got this heavy sense of dread in the pit of my belly! I needed to do it because it was a mess, falling off the shelves and couldn't find anything but I found myself dreading the entire process this year.
I had a sit down with myself, a cup of tea and some cookies. Cookies always help when confronting any realities that I am avoiding. I am no longer a real quilter! I still love most of those fabrics but with the possible exception of some baby quilts for future grandchildren I had no desire to stitch bed quilts anymore...and even quilts for grandchildren is questionable! Wow! I was going to need a lot more cookies.
I allowed myself a short period of mourning the passing of this stage of my stitch journey and then got to work. I grabbed some bins and bags and stripped the shelves of all the commercial printed fabrics. I kept out about a dozen pieces of vintage ethnic fabrics but everything else went in the bins. A few times I was tempted to keep a delicious specimen in my favorite shade of chartreuse but after fondling them a few minutes I put them in the bins with a sigh and another cookie.
I called my good friend Cat to come by and pick up the piles of fabric goodness. I knew that she would put it all to good use making charity quilts and things for her guild annual auction. Suddenly I felt as if a huge weight was lifted. I had empty shelves! Well, at least they were empty for a few hours.:-) I quickly filled them up with all the stuff that was on the floor and needed a home.
It was hard to release all those years of collected possibilities and quilt dreams but giving up all those future quilts meant that I was free to make more art, open to new directions in my work and I could see even more possibility than before.
Now, I am not saying you should chuck out all your carefully curated fabric collections but you may want to set aside an afternoon to weed out that which no longer suits you. What is weighing you down? What is preventing you from stretching your creative muscles? Get rid of the fabrics, beliefs and assumptions that may be holding you back and getting in the way of seeing the wide vista of possiblities that 2015 will bring.
You may have noticed that my stitch buddy, Ruth Chandler has not been writing blog posts here on Textile Evolution. A few of you have asked if she is ok. No worries, Ruth is well and stitching up a storm! We get together as often as possible for stitching fun and experimentation!
Ruth has created her own space on the interwebs as she refines her stitch goals and re-defines her business goals. You can find Ruth at: Ruth Chandler Designs. Be sure to head over there to follow her blog.
Ruth is focusing on the things she loves: Shibori, indigo dyeing, modern hand stitch and clothing construction.
Looking to take a class with Ruth? She has some wonderful classes at Art and Soul in Portland OR in March 2015. Including Indigo/Shibori, Modern hand stitch and Boro.
For those of you in Colorado, Ruth also teaches at Blue Twig Studio in Colorado Sprigs.
I recently had the pleasure of creating a podcast with Mark Lipinski of the Slow Stitching Movement. Ruth Chandler and I ran into Mark on the sidewalk at the end of quilt market in November. Practically the first words out of my mouth were "I am so mad at you for coining the term 'Slow Stitching Movement' before we could!"
We spent the next 40 minutes taking up precious sidewalk space as the throngs left the convention center but we hardly noticed the annoyed looks because we were deep in conversation about a topic we are all passionate about: Slow Stitching!
Mark has create a great website for the Slow Stitching Movement to call home and you can find interesting blog posts as well as podcasts by your favorite stitchers!
Listen to my podcast.
Listen to Ruth's podcast.
Do you want to learn more about slow stitching? Join me in Portland OR March 8, 2015 for my class Stitch Meditations
I just returned from Art and Soul Retreat in Va Beach, VA. It was a great event and the weather at the beach could not have been more perfect! I only got one photo of all my classes!
These are some of my Mixed Media Mayhem students before the mayhem really got started. Our tables were covered with color and chaos by the end of the day...I am sure the hotel staff is still finding Angelina fibers and glitter in that room.
I was home for 2 days and then headed up to Ft. Collins, CO to teach 2 days of Visual Journaling with the Rocky Mountain Creative Quilters. We had a bit of fun and laughter while learning a ton of techniques and then putting them into play. We scraped, sprayed, stenciled and stamped paint. Glued, glittered and gilded, in addition to lacing, mangling, and distorting. We explored the journal magic of Misty Fuse and baby wipes. One among us earned the crown of 'fly queen'. I am just a tad tired so I will share some photos of the fun and head to bed! Tomorrow evening I get the pleasure of sharing my Thread Lecture with the rest of the Rocky Mountain Creative Quilters.
Some might call it a failure...I call it a temporary life pause.
Right after I wrote about the first 100 day challenge and decided to add another 100 day challenge for myself the highest of high weed pollen season hit. We have had a very wet summer and had a bountiful crop of weeds. For most folks, this simply means sneezing, nose blowing and itchy eyes. Annoying but life goes on right?
I have a mast cell disorder (MCAD for short). The A is for activation just in case you were wondering. This disorder is considered rare but I really just think it is very un-diagnosed. Testing has not been available for very long.
Basically, your mast cells are part of your immune system. They are found in every part of your body. Their job is to 'de-granulate' when there is a threat (real or not) and wipe it out by dumping a bunch of histamines into your system. The histamine takes down the offending invader. This all works great when it works properly but when things got out of whack they release too much histamine at once or they release histamine all the time and chaos happens.
That is when anaphylactic shock can show up....or as in my case you just feel like you have been run over by a truck. In addition to the sneezing, nose blowing and itchy eyes I get achy joints, yucky guts, crazy fatigue, brain fog and yes sometimes crabby too!
I have spent the last few weeks just getting done the things that must be done like prep for taping 3 sessions for Quilting Arts TV last week and getting ready to head to Virginia Beach, VA tomorrow to teach at Art and Soul. I am letting everything else wait until we get some serious cold weather to kill those weeds!
It can be really easy to beat oneself up when setbacks happen. I used to try to push through any problem and get things done no matter what but, have learned that pushing through isn't always the best thing to do especially when healing is involved.
Those of you who have asked about the Stitch Meditations they will be returning very soon (I really miss making them now) and I will also get back to drawing as well. It is getting better here and I could definitely tell the day the weed pollen count went from High to Moderate.
Hope you don't mind as I cheer on the arrival of cold and snow! :-)
Only 14 more weekends until Christmas! And of course before that we have Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and don't forget National Deviled Egg Day (Nov. 2)! So many holidays and so little time!
Quilting Arts Holiday issue is here to save the day for those of us who love to create gifts for those we treasure. I am excited to share three different projects with you in this issue! Below is a list of all the blog hop participant. Be sure to check out their blogs and read about their projects...you will be inspired!
If you are looking for the perfect gift for your best creative buddy they will love this fabric collaged hand-bound book! It even has a zippered supply bag sewn in so they can carry their favorite pens, pencils and markers for sketching on the go.
Want to make super cute cards that don't break the bank? These fun holiday cards are great for using up all those pesky scraps and are easy enough and so fun that you can enlist the kids for help. You can easily adapt them to any holiday by simply changing the motif.
Need a gift for the fashionista in your life? These silk painted and wood block printed scarves are sure to delight them. You can choose block designs and colors that are perfect for their discerning tastes. Not to mention they are fun to make. You can find a great selection of wood blocks at Artistic Artifacts.
Would you like to win one of these scarves?
Leave me a comment below telling me what you like to make for your holiday celebrations for a chance to win the scarf of your choice from the photo in the magazine!
A little extra something:
If you have seen the previous issues of Quilting Arts Gifts, you know they usually have some delicious holiday treat recipes included. With all my food allergies and the Celiac constraints, I don't have any current recipes to contribute that would have mass appeal but in honor of National Deviled Egg day I have a great hint for super yummy deviled eggs! Replace the mayonnaise in your basic deviled egg recipe with mashed avocado and top with diced cooked bacon. They will be adored by all, have healthy fats and you will be the queen of the day!
Don't forget to visit the rest of the blogs in this Holiday Hop! And before you get stitching leave a comment below!
Friday, September 12, Vivika Hansen DeNegre, http://quiltingdaily.com/
Saturday, September 13, Lyric Kinard,http://lyrickinard.com/blog/
Sunday, September 14, Claude Larson,http://randomactsofpiece.blogspot.com/
Monday, September 15, Linda McLaughlin,http://notesfromstudiob.blogspot.com/ and Kathy Kerstetter, http://artndl.blogspot.com
Tuesday, September 16, Lori Miller, http://lorimillerdesigns.wordpress.com/
Wednesday, September 17, Melanie Testa,http://melanietesta.com/blog/, and Liz Kettle, http://www.textileevolution.com/index.php/our-journey
Thursday, September 18, Susan Brubaker Knapp, http://wwwbluemoonriver.blogspot.com/
Friday, September 19, Lisa Chin, http://somethingcleveraboutnothing.blogspot.com/
Saturday, September 20, Sarah Ann Smith,http://www.sarahannsmith.com/weblog
Sunday, September 21, Catherine Redford, http://catherineredford.com/
My work is hanging at Etui Fiber Arts in Larchmont, New York! The show is up until October 15 so there is plenty of time to add it to your must see list! Unfortunately, I am not able to visit myself so if you go take a photo of you there and send it to me!
If you have to rely on photos too you can see the show virtually on the 8 That Create blog!
Today is day 100 of my friend Deb Prewitt's 100 Days to 100% challenge! I took on the challenge of doing a stitch meditation every day. If you have been following along you know I didn't stitch every day and have not achieved my 100% goal. I did make great progress towards my goal of taking time to slow down and stitch or just be every day.
The progress is what is important more than the 100%.
I pushed through some layers of excuses along the way.
I discovered ways around some stumbling blocks like not having everything ready to go ahead of time. I created a stitch basket and box that have lots of bits and leftovers that I find when I clean my studio up. Now, I have lots of ingredients for my daily stitch at hand so I can just sit down and grab some things and stitch.
I did not beat myself up when I didn't meet the daily challenge. Life is about flexibility and forgiveness.
I did fall in love with the process of stitching small bits of things together. When I am not able to make the time to stitch I miss it! That means I am well on the way to making my stitch meditation practice a non-negotiable in my life.
On some of the days that I couldn't stitch I did use a traditional guided meditation. Yay for me!
Tomorrow starts another 100 days. I will continue my stitch meditations and will add another challenge to myself.
I think my new challenge will be a daily sketch. That will be challenging for me. Actually trying to do something every day consistantly..day in and day out...is the real challenge. :-)
Want to play along? What will you challenge yourself to do during the next 100 days? Eat better, walk more, create something, love more?
Leave a comment and share your goals.
Use the hastag #100daysto100% in your social media posts so we can cheer you on too.
I am in Vail CO this week on a business retreat with my mastermind group. I know....tough place to have to work! :-) I spent much of the day working on the deck with a beautiful wild flower tangled hillside as my view. We also have a stream out the front door. This week we will map out new programs, brainstorm ways we can better serve our students and clients, fine tune our goals and spend some time thinking about how we can change the world.
business planning tools for artists!
We are a group of 5 entrepreneurs who share an passion for the art and business. Our businesses are all different but they are held together by the thread of art. We are great friends who support each other 100% and we also hold each other accountable to keep moving forward toward our unique visions.
We meet once a month for a mastermind circle where we brainstorm solutions to problems, set goals, explore 'what ifs' and share updates on progress on our big goals. I have to add that we laugh a lot and are frequently totally silly.
So often people forget that art is a business as well as a passion and calling. If you neglect the business side of art it will be very difficult to see your vision become a reality. I know! I did that for years and I even have a business degree!
Fortunately, I had a friend who invited me to a business networking event a little over 3 years ago. I really didn't want to attend because I tend to be an introvert and thought I hated that sort of thing. But, my friend bought me a ticket for the monthly luncheon so I went out of loyalty and maybe a bit of curiosity. This event was held by eWoman Network in Colorado Springs; a chapter of the international networking organization that is focused on the way women do business. I never looked at my business the same way again.
Not long after I joined the organization I attended their annual conference in Dallas TX. We just got back from our third conference earlier this month and you may have seen my Facebook posts about it. The conference changed the way I looked at woman entrepreneurs and opened my eyes to bigger dreams and possibilities. I highly recommend looking for a chapter near you.
I hope I don't sound like a commercial for eWoman Network but I really love being part of this inspiring and energizing organization. :-)
This week I will be working on some new programs I will be launching next year that are aimed at bringing creativity and innovation into business culture for small to mid-sized companies. I will also be working on my Threads On-Line class. I hope to have the first of the three part series up by the end of September. The technological learning curve slowed us down from our intended start date last spring. Stay tuned for updates on when it goes live. If you have taken my Threads class live you will have instant access to the on-line version!
Some time will be spent looking through all my class lists to decide what other classes I want to add to to my new on-line classroom. Let me know if there is one that you have wanted to take but just can't get to where I am teaching. I will put it on the list. It takes a lot of planning and time to shoot videos for these on-line classes so I won't be traveling quite so much next year.
I won't bore you with all the rest of my to do list for this week! I will post some photos on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr of the stream and the flowers!
Don't worry that it will be all work and no fun. I will be doing my stitch meditation by the stream tomorrow and today, we took time out this evening to relax with a few heated rounds of Rummikub. After all the number crunching that went on today, it was too much thinking to bother to keep score during the game but I am sure that I won!
I am not very good at shouting my wins from the mountaintop but I have been encouraged to share my Teacher of the Year nomination here with you!
That old saying...it is a pleasure just to be nominated is so true. I am touched that students cared enough to take the time to seek out the process and then submit my name for consideration.
The taleneted Jacquie Gering won (check her out here) but all of us who were nominated were featured in the current issue of The Professional Quilter: the Business Journal for Serious Quilters. This publication is created by The International Association of Creative Arts Professionals. It is very worthwhile assocation for those of us in the industry.
Part of the nomination process included a very detailed questionairre about our teaching style and philosophies. That isn't something I generally verbalize so I really loved the process of explaining why I love teaching and explaining my teaching process. Because most of you won't have access to the Professional Quilter magazine, I thought you might like to read my answers so here they are. It is pretty long so you might want to grab a cup of tea.
a. What standards of workmanship do you require of your students? What do you do if they don’t attain them?
My classes focus more on creativity then precise traditional workmanship. I share my struggles with perfectionism and its stifling results. I also encourage excellence over perfection and challenge them to master the technical skills I teach.
b. How do you encourage creativity in your students?
I have a series of exercises I teach to help develop the creative muscles in my students. I continually ask ‘what if’ and openly experiment in classes. I know that opens myself up to failure in front of my students but that also shows them that failure can be a great option.
c. What accomplishments of your students make you proudest?
I am thrilled when students take a leap of faith and trust their intuition and voice. It may be a student being brave enough to learn how to adjust their bobbin tension or it may be them giving themselves permission to find value in and create their unique personal vision.
d. How do you encourage students’ further growth in quilting, beyond the formal class?
I encourage them to experiment and play. Growth comes from allowing mistakes, failures and open-ended time for experiments. Play time is so important. We get caught up in have to constantly be making something for a specific purpose but our greatest growth happens when we have unscripted recess time. I host a free on-line book study on www.TextileEvolution.com for the book Fabric Embellishing: the Basics and Beyond. The book is designed as a series of sampler pages or mini-quilts to experiment with techniques without a major project. It is all about playing and trying things out.
e. What makes you a good teacher?
There are quite a few things that go into being a good teacher. I think that my life learning experiences gained from raising special needs children gave me the skills to meet each student where they are and patiently bring them to the next level. My love of research and technical details helps me to analyze techniques and discover the best technique for the desired result helps me clearly relate that information to my students. I am a global thinker and that helps me to organize my classes by visualizing and thinking through problems, issues and timing.
2. Involvement in and contributions to the field of quiltmaking:
a. How long have you been teaching quilting? In what, if any, field do you specialize?
I have been teaching since 2006. I specialize in thread…in all aspects of thread. I realized that thread is the unsung hero of the quilt industry. When you think about it, fabric without thread is simply a pile of fabric. It takes thread to turn it into something magical. The lack of understanding about thread and how to use your machine are the most common stumbling blocks to creative work. Once you understand all the nuances of threads and tension you become queen of your machine. You are in control.
b. Do you belong to any quilt groups? In what activities do you participate? Have you held any office?
I belong to Front Range Contemporary Quilters in Colorado. My travel schedule prohibits holding an officer position with FRCQ but I volunteer on the exhibit committee. I recently finished a 2 year stint as a SAQA regional co-rep for the Colorado, Wyoming and Utah area. That was a great experience and I learned a lot about hosting exhibits, jurying and curating. I am a current member of Surface Design Association.
c. In what other quilting areas are you involved (writing, judging, designing, etc.)? How do they relate to your teaching?
I am the author of three books to date: Fabric Embellishing; the Basics and Beyond, Threads; the Basics and Beyond and First Time Beading on Fabric. I have a needle guide book coming out this year as well. I love writing and have written numerous magazine articles. I find that writing makes me a better teacher. I really enjoy examining each step in a technique or process to distill it down to the easiest to follow process for the student and myself. I also love doing research and like to find every option available, test them and discover the ones that are the most time efficient, least costly, uses available materials and gives the most valuable to the student.
d. What do you feel is your greatest contribution to the field of quilting?
My book, Threads; the Basics and Beyond is my greatest contribution. It is focused on machine stitching but has a little hand stitching and beading thrown in for fun. This book is the ultimate guide to understanding thread, stabilizers, fusible webs, needles and ultimately your sewing machine. I spent 5 years focused exclusively on researching and learning about threads. I experimented with needles and stabilizers to understand how they affected stitching. I tried every thread I could get my hands on to discover what differences they may or may not have. I busted a bunch of thread myths and I found that all that technical knowledge allowed me to create whatever I could imagine. Threads: the Basics and Beyond is the culmination of all that research and is designed to take the beginner and experienced quilter to the next level in technical skills and creative expression.
e. What has quilting contributed to the quality of your life and to women and men in general?
Quilting and sewing are my personal grounding stones. I had very high levels of stress raising and homeschooling special needs children. Quilting, both the act of quilting and my quilt community were my saving grace, my support network and my distraction from a chaotic life. I am sure I would not be sane today if it weren’t for quilting in my life.
Quilting as an art form is just beginning to change the lives of society as a whole. I feel very strongly that textiles connect with people on a different level than say an oil painting. Textiles are more accessible, we understand textiles, and they evoke memories and emotions in and of themselves. I am excited about the possibilities of connection and communication our world will experience as textiles become more prominent in the traditional art world.
3. Professionalism, including personal code of ethics and serving as a role model:
a. Why do you teach?
I teach to change lives. My biggest teaching secret is that students think I am teaching stitching and quilting techniques and I am but I am also teaching them how to embrace and develop their creativity, honor and respect their own ideas and vision and how to practice self-care. It is sort of like sneaking spinach in the bacon cheese quiche.
b. How did you learn to teach? Do you have any degrees or certification?
I have always taught…never in a school system but any other way possible. I guess it is in my DNA. I learned my most valuable teaching skills homeschooling my children. That was an amazing experience. I learned patience, how to plan and guide experiential instruction and I learned a lot about how we humans learn, the different types of learning and about learning differences. In addition, each time I teach I become a better teacher. I fine tune timelines, techniques and wording in order to be as effective and inspiring as possible.
c. Who inspires you most as a teacher? Who inspires you most as a quilter?
I am continually inspired by my students. I teach them a technique, an attitude and open the door to possibility. What they do with it is always incredibly inspiring. I am also inspired by other teachers. I love to watch and learn how other teachers bring out the best in their students.
There are so many amazingly talented quilters and artists that I find personally inspiring I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to one. If I started the list it would go on and on like an Emmy awards speech.
d. What accomplishment in the last five years makes you proudest?
I am really proud of how far my artwork has come in the last 5 years but would have to say that being part of helping my sons become awesome men has been the thing that I am most proud of.
e. Where would you most like to improve?
I have two areas I would like to improve. The first is class content balance. I sometimes overwhelm students with information because I want to share everything I know. It is difficult for me to leave things out but I know it is better for the students to give them more manageable chunks of information.
Secondly, Iam always working to improve my marketing skills. That isn’t a glamorous answer I suppose but it is big part of the business.
f. What advice would you give others who want to teach quilting?
Teaching is a business. It is a fun business to be sure but it is still a business. Learn the business skills you need from day 1. They are just as important as classroom management, quilting and sewing skills. In addition, don’t sell yourself short. Just because it is fun doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid fairly.
I thank you for reading all the way to the end.... :-)
I am in Dallas Texas this week for the eWomen Network annual conference. I really enjoy this conference because it is all about women entrepreneurs and the unique way women do business. Sandra Yancy, the founder, has a different, more contemporary philosophy about doing business. Sandra's tag line is 'lift as you climb' which resonates with me and the way I live my life and run my classes, workshops and lectures. We can all reach higher and bring others along as we go.
We arrived early enough that we had some free time to head down to the Dallas Museum of Art. Did you know that the DMA is free every day! Is that not cool? I grew up just outside of Washington DC so I always thought museums were free. I had quite the shock when we moved to CO and they wanted me to pay to visit! What is so wonderful about free museums is that they are teaming with energy and life. We could not believe the number of children at the museum! It was wonderful and exciting to see so many people enjoying the art. The Dallas Museum of Art has made a big effort to make kids welcome with a large engaging and interactive area just for them.
How would our world be different if all museums were free??
We didn't have much time for our visit so we concentrated on just a couple exhibits. The first was modernist jewelry by Art Smith. His pieces were beautiful and made from the late 1940's to the 1970's. They are timeless pieces that resonate today as much as they did when they were first created. These two are a couple of my favorite pieces.
We spent most of our time in the Contemporary art hall. This exhibit ranged from abstract expressionism through the present in a large exhibit of post 1945 art. I love this period of art. It challenges me and makes me think. There were huge pieces, small pieces, assemblage, performance and even a textile piece. My favorites included the Rothko, Pollock and Jasper Johns pieces. I did have a lot of favorites though. :-)
Portrait and a Dream by Jackson Pollock
Orange, Red and Red by Mark Rothko...I never 'got' Rothko until I saw them in person. His work always inspires me. If you are ever in Houston you must go to the Rothko Chapel.
I completely forgot to write down the painter of this piece...doesn't Deb Prewitt look perfect in front of it? Very graphic! This piece has so much energy we both liked it.
Ivory Spirit by David Hammons. This piece is ethereal and strong at the same time. Unfortunately for me it was in the same gallery as a dual televised performance piece that was disturbing...intentionally so but it seemed so jarring. Perhaps that was the intention of the curator.
This piece, Slip Zone by Jack Whitten is my very favorite from the exhibit. The colors and texture, layers and implied aging and sense of history mesmerize me. It was very, very, very difficult not to touch it!!
I have been getting some questions about my daily stitch meditations so, I thought I would explain what I am doing, why I am doing and invite you to join me. I post them on my Facebook page, Pinterest, Instagram , Tumblr, and Twitter! I use the following hashtags: #100daysto100%, #tantalizingtextilewishes and #stitchmeditation
My word for the year is Intention. I want to improve my meditation and mindfullness skills as well as focus on working more strategically in my business. I occasionally practice traditional meditation and while I find it fulfilling,I have discovered that I like a meditation that involves keeping my hands busy while I let my mind clear. My goal is to use both types of meditation daily. It will take me a while to build up to that.
My friend, Deb Prewitt, wrote a blog post about 100 Days to 100% that resonated with me. I had been thinking about a new class based on small hand stitched textile collages and my intention to do something creative daily as well as increase my meditation skills. Thus, the Daily Stitch Meditations were born.
I don't always finish a piece in one day and I don't always stitch every day. This last week was crazy busy and I realized that while I had time to stitch I didn't have enough time to figure out what to stitch on. In order to avoid that in the future I created a Daily Stitch Kit with lots of odds and ends of fabrics, stabilizers, thread, papers...weird bits that I find in the studio when I clean up. Now, I have everything in a basket ready to go.
I invite you to stitch with me. It is relaxing, fun and you create a pile of beautiful bits to add to your work or frame. There are no rules! just stitch something. I usually stitch for about 20 minutes...some days less, some more. My stitch meditations range from ATC size (2.5" x3.5") to 4" x 4" but some are a little bigger. If you decide to stitch along use the hashtag #stitchmeditation so we can find them too!
I will be teaching these techniques and more in my class Tantalizing Textile wishes at Art and Soul in Portland OR 2015 .
What is the best machine sewing thread?
That is the most asked question during my classes and lectures. The answer of course is more complicated than just naming one thread company because it depends on what you are doing. But, what most people just want to know is what thread I use the most in my work.
I researched every brand of thread that I could get my hands on when I was writing Threads: the Basics and Beyond. I tested small batch hand-dyed threads, big name thread, no-name thread, new companies, old companies and designer brand threads. What I found was that there really isn’t any bad thread out there (with the sole exception of the 3 spools for $1 bin but no serious thread aficionado would even consider that stuff!)
When I reveal to them that I most often use Coats and Clark and Star brand I often get an audible gasp! Really? Coats and Clark? Not some fancy imported expensive thread? Yes, my go to thread brand is Coats and Clark. No, they don’t pay me to say that. I like all of their threads and use the Cotton Covered and Dual Duty fine and medium weight as my go to threads for piecing and general stitching. Plus, Coats has a huge array of colors and weights to choose from. I love the new Dual Duty heavy threads for hand stitching.
When I am thread painting I pull out my large spools of Star variegated threads. Many of the variegated Star thread are designed by Terry White, thread painter extraordinaire. The color blends are fantastic for thread painting with smooth transitions of color that give a rich and luscious piece. The large spools ensure that I won’t run out half way through my project.
I found that most ‘thread’ problems were really spool problems, needle problems or tension problems. This is especially true with metallic threads. Fortunately, there are easy fixes for these problems.
I love that Coats and Clark and Star threads are not expensive because that means I can have a larger stash of yummy colors! It also means I have more money to spend on some of my favorite expensive hand-dyed threads for hand stitching and embellishing.
Final note: Threads: The Basics and Beyond will be back in stock later this summer. YIPPEE! I will let you know here and on Facebook!
I have been in Northern VA the last 10 days teaching at Artistic Artifacts and getting ready for spring quilt market in Pittsburgh this upcoming weekend. On Mother's Day, me, Ruth Chandler, Judy Gula and her sister's family all trekked into Washington DC to the Anacostia Community Museum and were treated to a unique and amazing exhibit.
The exhibit is titled Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence. Ubuhle means 'beauty' in the Xhosa and Zulu languages. We found both the beadwork and the women creating the art to truly be beautiful in every sense of the word. I know my photos barely capture the details so if you get to the DC area before Sept 21, 2014 be sure to put this on your list.
magnificent panels joined to create a wall size installation.
Ubuhle is a former sugar plantation that has been transformed into a center of independence for rural women where they can learn traditional beading skills to support themselves.
The beaded textiles are completed with simple Czech glass seed beads as whole cloth artworks. The artists call their pieces ndwango which translates loosely as rag or cloth. As is with the case with much textile art, these pieces take months complete and become imbued with the life joys and sorrows that each artist experiences in that time. You can feel their happiness and sadness as you soak in each beautiful piece.
The bull pieces were about 4' wide by 3' tall. We kept wondering how much each of these pieces weighed. Sorry about the blurry photos. The museum light was low and I didn't want to use a flash.
As a fun little bonus there was a listing of beading resources available for the public and my book: First Time Beading on Fabric was among them! Me at the Smithsonian!
I am inspired to pull out the beads and get to work! How about you?
Tonight my mind was expanded.
Preconceived beliefs were disbanded.
My world shifted.
In the space of two short hours I was guided to experience
Wow! All in the space of two hours...at an arts center?
In The Light was the final amazing poet of the evening.
Our last Friday event this month at Cottonwood Center for the Arts was a poetry event. An Open Mic Night of Performance Poetry to be specific. We routinely have poetry events. The local group Hear Here meets monthly on the third Friday. I usually work late in the studio that evening to welcome poets and their supporters into my studio to share my art. I rarely step out of the studio to hear the poetry readings and experience their art. I stay in my own little world stitching on the latest project.
On this night, the audience was light. Perhaps because it wasn't their usual night to meet; maybe it was the beautiful weather that kept them away. The art center director asked if we could come to fill in some seats so everyone would feel welcome and heard. I have been hand stitching on my installation for the Art in Storefronts piece so I grabbed some supplies and went in to support the poets and our arts center. I gave a party once where not one person showed up so I know how important it is to have people show up.
I am not a poet. I don't read poetry and I rarely even listen to music. They are things I just don't get. At least not in the traditional sense.
That changed tonight.
Attending a poetry reading to experience an artist bringing forth their soul in words is an entirely different animal. This is not at all like reading ancient poetry in school! This may sound silly but I wanted to hug each poet after they were done...I felt so connected with each of them in such a brief time. It was so unexpected.
Sometimes we get so caught up in what we have on our lists to do that we forget to seek out new experiences. It is only in opening the doors to possibility that we grow.
From now on you won't find me in my studio on the third Friday evening. I will be in the audience so come see me before or after.
Better yet, join me for an amazing experience!
My new book is finally out in bookstores! I have been waiting so long for this day that I was beginning to wonder if it would ever get here. :) You can probably guess that I am not a very patient person and this has been a long but in the end great wait.
So now what? I have been thinking that for a few months. Liz suggested Boro. What is that? It is Japanese indigo rags. I love the feel and the concept of using everything you have no matter how small and creating a beautiful piece of art.
Below is an example of my take on boro, notice I even used some of the stitches from my new book. :)
So now it is on to new and exciting things,
I totally love my job! This last weekend my studio mate, Cass Mullane and I had the honor and joy of teaching an Adduce class at Cottonwood Center for the Arts. The Adduce Foundation funds a community art education enhancement program. This amazing program is offered to qualifying high school arts students. Classes are free for the students and cover a wide array of media and techniques.
Cass and I were thrilled to present the very first textiles class for the foundation. We weren't sure what to expect and we were totally blown away by the talent and enthusiasm of the students. It was amazing to watch them jump into a totally new medium and start exploring with no fear or trepidation. They each brought their unique voice and style to textiles with fantastic results. Best of all they loved it!
Part of the program is an art show in May. I can't show you their final pieces (except for the little peek in the last photo) until then but I have a few photos from the class to tide you over.
me showing one student's work with a simple comb
Cass consulting with a student
Wooden printing block and textures tell a story...Wow
As many of you know I spent most of January on the Big Island of Hawaii visiting family. I know, it sounds tough but we do what we have to do right?
It was a difficult time for me because I saw my father for the first time in 2 years. He has advanced Parkinson's disease and if any of you are familiar with it, you know that it starts to rob you of all your physical, and eventually your mental abilities. It was very hard to see a man I remember as so big and strong relegated to a wheel chair and having so much difficulty doing the most simple everyday things. That said, it was a sweet time for me, we had a few days of just the 2 of us and many days of remembering the time my sisters and brother and I had growing up in Japan.
So on to facing your fears. My sister Mary is 3 years younger than me and we were each others best friend growing up. As you can imagine we did push each other in ways only sisters can. :) Mary always wanted to live on a farm and she has finally realized that dream. It is not my dream, I am allergic to nearly everything with fur. :/
Mary has bees. Two bee hives that she got so that her coffee trees would be pollinated. I don't particularly like bees, they are fine as long as they leave me alone. I do love honey. So what do I do on the second day I am there? Go out to the bee hives to gather honey. Why you ask? Because Mary says, and I quote "I guess you are too afraid to come out and help me gather the honey from my hives" The gauntlet was laid down and I replied "sure, what do I have to do?" So in 80 degree weather I am putting on more clothes than I wear in Colorado in the winter, starting with the ugliest, dirtiest, brown men's shoes I have ever seen.
Here is how you dress for honey gathering. Heavy socks, pull on the bee gathering suit, pull the legs down under your feet, put on the ugly shoes, pull the (did I mention a thick suit in 80 degree weather?) one piece jumpsuit thing up, zip it up and we are ready to hike out to the hives. Oh I forgot to mention the gloves, they are very thick and come up to your elbows. Mary asks, you ok? I want to hit her. We get to the hives and we get to put on these lovely head dresses. They look like a pith helmet that big game hunters used in Africa but with a lovely netting that zips to the suit. Ready to gather honey. I have sweat dripping in my eyes but can't wipe it off because of the netting, it just runs into my eyes and burns. I am beginning to hear the bees and of course all I can think of is those horror stories of people attacked by bees. I have my epi-pens in my back pocket. Let's go.
Next I am instructed on how to keep the smoke pot going. I have decided as the bees are buzzing around us that I will make sure the smoke keeps coming! I am getting nervous, the bees are getting quite loud and really don't like us stealing all their hard work. It wasn't as bad as I thought but let me tell you, I kept that smoke coming! I knew the smoke calmed them so I made sure they had lots to calm them!!!! Mary pulled all the frames out one at a time and as needed placed new frames in the hive for the bees to begin all over again.
All told it took about an hour. I can now say I gathered honey from a hive. I faced that fear and came through it pretty much intact and no bee stings, (Mary got two) I can honestly say it was not too bad. I still don't want to do this every 2 weeks. I did have to take a shower to get all that smoke smell off of me though. :)
Sometimes it takes a little bit of prodding from those we love to push us past our fears. think of the experience I would have missed. I am glad Mary pushed me and I will never look at honey on a shelf in the store quite the same way again!
I have two cures for Winter in today's blog!
I am teaching at Art and Soul just out side of Kansas City in just a few weeks (March 19-23) and I had a request to add a textile journal book class. We put up a class I have taught previously but some students had requested more of a usable journal. I love making books and so I was able (used this as an excuse) to spend some this week creating a new fabric Journal.
Is that not awesome? I just love how it feels in my hands. I think I am going to have to make more of these.
Want to join me in Kansas City? There is still room in most of my classes. I can't think of a better way to get away from winter then to hang out in a beautiful resort making art and making friends with people who love making art.
Students will get to choose between these two styles of fabric books...or maybe we will make up something new! You never know what interesting things we are going to create in my classroom.
Speaking of making art in beautiful resorts...
There is still room in my Mexico Travelogue Art Adventure. April 13-19, 2014.
Did you see my newest video? My son is helping me join the vlog (video blog) world. Nagging might be a better word than helping...he wants to come with me on these trips as my videographer. Anyway, I did a fun really short video and I had a blast making it. Suscribe to my YouTube channel to see the latest ones...I have a studio tour premiering this week!