Saturday, August 28, 2010

Arts and Crafts on the Village Green


Most of the local towns are having end of the summer events. The arts and crafts show on our village green was full of good things to look at. The top picture was the very eye catching booth right at the entry from Main Street -- giant floral photos, very graphic, very decorative. I was fairly early so it was not too crowded and the artists and artisans had only just settled in and were in a chatty mood.

One of the first artists I talked to did "wrapped fish" prints, I've heard of this before and maybe saw an example at another such event. The art paper is literally wrapped around the real fish which has been painted. The paint prints on the paper which, says the artist, must then flatten. Then he sometimes also paints the paper with fabric dye sprayed on -- which can also be done before the fish printing. Sometimes he uses fancy papers such as a rosy colored one he said was Thai. They are also very graphic and beautiful.
Then I moved on to a man with a laminated newspaper article saying 4,455 mouse photos. Some where there and they were fascinating. He had found a tiny wild mouse in his home in Maine, and literally photographed it 4,455 times as it grew over several months. He says he did not make it a pet and he eventually released it to the wild [he lives in a wooded area]. He had written a children's book illustrated with photos of the mouse. A very fun project.

Then I came upon a fiber artist who made strongly graphic pictures of people, men in formal suits, women in long flowing gown, heads and hands were black cut outs, the clothing was braid or ribbon or pieces of fabric cut into narrow strips. He did not want any photos taken -- I really wanted to have a photo to remember just how he did his work. Well, it's partly in my mind's eye but I may never try to do it.
I love seeing jewelry that is hand made, it is always very expensive [and I understand that is fair] so I don't buy any. I like the ceramics and there were beautifully woven clothing as well as nice jackets and tee-shirts. Lots of photography, of course, and paintings often, in fact, usually nature ones. Graphic seems to be the byword. It is surely easier to sell than fine art and many of the people were very skillful. It was an enjoyable hour and I hope many local visitors will go and purchase things. Making art of any sort is not easy and nothing there was schlock; those people should make a living from what they love to do.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Beginning a new paper pieced quilt

Quiet end of summer -- is it the "dog days of August?" I don't quite know what that means. Anyway a feeling of quiet before everything gets a lot busier hit me this week. I started a book that's been on my "to read" shelf for maybe five years. And I'm enjoying it.

I pulled out a batch of paper piecing pages that I xeroxed so long ago I don't remember when it was. I decided to sew them and see what I get. This is what I've got so far. The choices were seat=of-the-pants, not planned. I was straightening stash and thought that I have a lot of blacks and I like quilts with black so why not use some? With what? I have a piece of white and black checkered fabric, the whites have delicate Japanese-like designs. Why not use them for the centers? They were the right size. With what? Something for contrast ... yellow and orange are beginning to pile up [but then so is red, blue, brown] ... Well, this is how it's going, seat-of-the-pants without a plan. Decided to make is more interesting to sew by alternating color arrangement. Obviously that turns into a kind of checkerboard. And now on the design wall, it looks like I"m making a Halloween quilt. I think Halloween is a silly commercial holiday that has lost any meaning it ever had [and once it had LOTS of meaning]. I really don't like black and orange in large dollops mixed together. What am I doing? Maybe it's good to be in touch with our "inner child" or "muse" but I'm not so sure. I should have give my color choices more thought.

I like this paper pieced twisted log cabin, easy to sew, interesting to look at. This particular twisted log cabin lends itself to a very different color arrangement and final look as well. I may do only a dozen this way, make a small wall quilt and then use the other dozen printed patterns the other way just for contrast ... maybe. I'll give it some thought, as I should have in the first place.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hurray for Rainy Days

The reliable sun has disappeared; the sky has been gray for three days with water drizzling, sprinkling, pouring out it as a relentless, gusty wind from up Canada way has pushed the clouds around and tossed the shrubs and young dogwood tree that I see out my window. I love the sun, love the three months of beautiful days I've been privileged to have this summer. The rain, however feels like a respite. It seems to be saying, stay in, quilt something, write some letters and a short story or two, read a fat book and some nice poetry, do the laundry, be solitary. And so I have.

Until this morning when I met with some of my writer friends and was given the gift of hearing more of Ingrid's memoir -- of being a young German prisoner of the Russians as they advanced to Berlin. It was a painful story, Wordsworthian in it's calm recollection after so many years, but even read in her gentle voice, dreadful as a sixteen year old was separated from family into unknown, fearful captivity. Then Patti treated us to her brand of wry humor and Elaine and her friend Joanne offered insights and feminist views. I read yesterday's writing as well and it was enjoyed.

Then I came home and wrote some letters and made a couple of quilt squares wondering at myself when I realized that I, who do not care for Halloween, am making a black and orange quilt. Where did that impulse come from? My stash is large, it could have been blue and red, it could have been anything else.

And yes, I am reading a fat book. It was time to take out something that has been sitting in my to-be-read book case for several years. I'm enjoying it. Rainy weather suggests a fat book about an exotic place, in this case Kazakhstan -- a culture about which I know almost nothing, but I will know a smidgen more when I finish the book and that will be satisfying. Learning about unknown corners of the world increases empathy for all. Hurray for rainy days! They balance my life.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

More from the World Quilt Show

This bright quilt was called Woven Rainbow and was by Sharon Malachorski; it is typical of many quilts that depended on careful color choice. Color, of course, is every bit as important in quilts as any art. I've seen many quilts by less advanced quilters that are lovely but unexciting because the quilter has used a specific designer's line of fabrics that are produced specifically to match. This is a good way to learn about colors working together but is always less interesting than carefully chosen, and sometimes carefully dyed fabrics which have a subtlety not attainable from one manufacturer's specific line. Many quilts were made of home dyed fabrics in this show, but, in fact, fewer than I expected. The vast choices quilters now have in commercial fabrics allows them to build a stash and have much of what they need at hand. And of course they don't have to rely on local shops with the Internet's retail offerings.
As I wrote, there were not a lot of portrait quilts. This quilt is not exactly a portrait but a statement about mothers and children. If you enlarge the photo you can see the upper figure of a black woman is holding a white child, and the reflection is the reverse. The work is more impressionistic than realistic reinforcing the thoughtful nature of the piece which, in fact is called "Pondering" and is by Heidi Field-Alverez. I felt there were not a lot of quilts attempting to make social statements and was glad to see this one.

I'm sorry these are all the photos I took. I felt rushed and preferred to look instead of impatiently stand back waiting for a chance to get a photo when no one was standing between me and a quilt. I was happy in this show to see that the quilting, which sometimes was amazingly painstaking, was almost always in the service of the statement the quilter was making. I have seen many quilts over the last 4 or 5 years where I felt long arm, and also domestic free motion quilting was done simply because the techniques were available. I also saw a great deal of thread painting, some very expert, some over done. This seems to be a technique that has not found it's place among quilters yet.

Sadly venues where quilts can be seen to best advantage are hard to find. This show was in two different large convention rooms. In one the ceiling lighting was sufficient and even. In the somewhat smaller space the quilts were shown around the sides of the room and the center was given over to vendors but the lighting was adequate only in the center of the room. Many of the very best quilts were difficult to see. Quilts in the middle and vendors on the sides would have been far better. Unfortunately these were the choice world quilts that were hardest to see.

However, the Raddison was a comfortable choice in terms of amenities; we had good choices for lunch and comfortable seating which I found badly lacking in some venues I've been to -- these things are peripheral to a good show but with so much to see, short, pleasurable respites are very welcome. Happily parking was not problem. I hope New Hampshire will learn about adequate road signage. I joked that generally road signs are made by prisoners in state prisons and that if New Hampshire has few prisoners they can probably import some from Massachusetts.

Friday, August 20, 2010

World Quilt Show, Manchester, NH


The Mancusco "World Quilt Show" with nearly 50% from places other than the US, especially the English speaking parts of the world [Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand] but also Japan, Germany, one or two from Belgium is at the Raddison center in Manchester, New Hampshire this weekend. A traveling show it will go next to Palm Beach, Florida. It was so big -- about 400 quilts -- it took up two large exhibit halls. There were about 200 vendors also many of whom also showed wonderful quilts. Rachel and I planned this trip all summer, it's about 2 and a half hours -- or would be without being lost or having rush hour traffic. We wished we were staying overnight and could be leisurely about looking at the show.

I did not take enough photos; I was overwhelmed with size and knew we couldn't look at them to our satisfaction. The first one above is among the minority of light-hearted, amusing quilts. This is called "Which came first?" As with all the photos, you can enlarge it by clicking on it and enlarge it yet more by clicking on that one. This quilt was so large I couldn't get the borders -- there was a broken egg down in the lower right corner. The quilt was made by Anne Morrell Robinson and Grace Whiting. I didn't write down where they are from. Among fun quilts I didn't photograph was one of three ladies relaxing with glasses of wine after attending such a quilt show -- very cartoony; we came upon it about half an hour before the end and we totally related to their exhaustion. Another that was not meant to be satirical but was fun was a circus quilt where the artist had molded every face [10 or 12] of the performers in clay which was then painted appropriately - each was entirely unique.

The hours and hours of work that went into many of the more elaborate quilts was staggering, one had 50,000 tiny crystals each hand applied and that was only the embellishment! In fact a great many of the quilts had a lot of glitz or bling, sparkling fabrics and additions. Often it was done very tastefully and truly added to the work. Very rarely did I feel embellishments were gratitutious.
< onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_jjrQOShQkdg/TG792dBE5bI/AAAAAAAADcY/Q-DkGsO0wyM/s1600/PICT0026.JPG"> This quilt is called "Reproduction Stained Glass" I suppose Rachel and I were especially drawn to it because her husband, Patrick, is a glass artisan. Unlike some of the art quilts that were made up of many small pieces, this seemed to make a decidedly strong artistic statement because of the black and gold outlines. In fact as I look at it now I realize the expression is much like work Patrick has done.

This afternoon Rachel and I agreed we had especially been thinking of a quilt that the maker said had been inspired by strings of colored pearls. I did not photograph it and wish I had. It use many round appliques but not directly relating to strings of pearls; it's colors were lovely and the design beautifully balanced.

I also didn't photograph any of the three-panel quilts of which there were several including one that was somewhat like a Japanese kimono which was mostly gold silk and had a beautifully done Chinese junk on the middle piece with organza sails that overlapped beautifully. I find three-panel art works very satisfying.
The final piece here [I'll show another couple tomorrow as well] is called Library/labyrinth, by Alicia Merrill of the UK. Below is a detail from it. The complexity of colors and surface treatment of the many pieces was restrained and yet powerful. It me it's a kind of artwork I could happily live with for a long, long time because there is much to discover in it. I would not grow tired of it, or bored [as is very apt to happen with my own quilts when they have been hanging for a few months -- I change them around]. I love when there is writing on parts of a quilt as on this one.
I have a couple more quilts to show tomorrow. This doesn't begin to give an idea of the variety and interest of the quilts in the show. I will write about trends I saw beyond what I've mentioned here. Among the specific grouping was a dozen or fifteen from UK all the traditional "grandmother's flower garden" hexagons on paper piecing. If one loves tradition and vintage it was surely a pleasure; for Rachel and I it had no excitement compared to the modern art quilts. There were very few traditional American quilt designs in this show. I enjoy lots of traditional quilts as I've written about the other two local shows I've seen this summer. But better still, I love the contemporary innovation, the movement toward artistic expression with new techniques, hand dyed fabrics and fascinating embellishment. It was such a feast for the eyes and so full of inspiring beauty as to be almost paralyzing.

In case I go off on other tangents tomorrow and forget, two bold pictorial quilts that I believe will appear in publications over the next several months were very different but equally strong. There was a large quilt showing Medea, looking crazed, driving a chariot as she escaped after her murderous rage -- it raced through clouds pulled by a very believable dragon. I don't know if the quilter had an older illustration in mind or if it was entirely original. Certainly the work was brilliantly realized. And the second one, which I have already seen in some publication, was a herd of cattle, close up, only a little less than life size rushing right at the viewer -- pure power and, again, brilliantly accomplished in fabric and stitching.

I will post more tomorrow. I wish I had far more photos and that I had been assigned by some paper or magazine to write a long revue of this show -- there was so much that was exciting.

Monday, August 16, 2010

talking with my fingers


Since the age of 16 my fingers have known the QWERTY keyboard and seem to use it without direct intervention from my brain. When I think about this I remember round about the same age my father asking me when I was practicing one of the showier pieces of piano music, "How do you know where the keys are when you don't look at them?" I said, "I just know." And I just know where the letters are on a QWERTY keyboard. I have probably typed an average of 4 hours a day since I was 16. A lot of typing.
I know moves have been afoot for a long time to replace the seeming nonsense of this arrangement which was designed in 1874 to alleviate the frequent pile up of stuck keys in the early typewriters when people began to be able to type faster than the old typewriter mechanism could respond. No problem of that today with computer keyboards.

In yesterday's NYTimes magazine columnist Virginia Heffernan wrote: "For 136 years...typing in English meant certain neurological associations. Words exist in our minds and on our tongues, but they also live in our hands and fingers. ...Who knows what qwerty has done to the language -- even to modes of thought -- by attaching meaning to certain constellations?" This question is fraught with implications ... do I think a certain way because my fingers type "the, and, for, what, where, how, who" and I don't know how many other words as one impulse, something that exists my fingers as spontaneously as the words exit my mounth?

The study of the mind has always interested me. This is another question among many, many that cross my mind often. Now, says Ms. Heffernan, keyboards are in flux, they are even in flux as they are being used and can reconfigure themselves without being told to do so by the user -- it's scary stuff to me. At my age, I am very set in my ways, I don't want to change. I recognize qwerty as a tool, only a tool but one that is an extension of my very self as Van Gogh's brushes and palette knives were an extension of his very being. My handwriting has become almost as deformed as Van Gogh's ear became. What a conundrum to contemplate.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Summer morning


8:00 A.M. is not so very early on a summer morning, and yet there was no one on this long expanse of beach ... just me and the gulls and sanderlings and a few crows. At my feet lay ,the morning's arrangements of [now] stilllifes -- that shortly before were not still as the waves arranged them: the succulent, squishy fat seaweed, the deepest green and occasional strands that for reasons I do not know, are pure white, random shells, mostly broken, some entangled. And randomly the horseshoe crab shells that are washing up daily this time of year -- a connection to the world of the dinosaurs.
In quiet joy and peace I followed that beach all the way to the end where, the day before, I walked silently past a woman who had brought her towel and was doing yoga. She deserved her peace and aloneness and I tried not to intrude. If there is such a thing as tidescape, and I believe there is and surely someone makes a habit of painting or photographing it, it is an ever changing phenomenon that holds my attention every day. The freshly expelled shells are subtly pink or blue or shades of brown running to chalky white. Everything glistens with wetness.

By the time I was returning I noticed on the far horizon sails of several boats as if a regatta were in progress. Closer to shore, where the turning tide offered a nearly smooth surface, I saw again the paddle boarding women I saw a few days ago -- serenely floating as they gently propelled themselves across the bay toward just a little in front of where the top photo was taken. Nearer to me many of the local gull flock were taking their morning rest on this jumble of rocks which are entirely covered by water when the tide is high. The only sounds were occasional gulls and crows.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Internet Addiction


A few months ago someone on a social site I frequent linked to the Owl Box site where barn owl, Molly, was hatching a clutch of eggs. The site was already very popular. A few or many minutes each day were consumed watching the little fluffy, rather ugly owlets and their undemonstrative mother. Then they fledged and I was able to break the habit. However -- she's had a second clutch. Two have hatched now and I'm watching again. Sometimes boredom sets in quickly when she's just sleeping, but sometimes the babies are very noisy. Sometimes her mate, McGee, brings "treats" for her and kiddies. This morning she was tearing up a rat -- and it wasn't easy work -- and feeding yucky bits to the babies. There are night lights as well as day time. A guy named Carlos is handling the site and trouble shooting.

This is real life -- in the raw. When something is happening it's fascinating. But like our lives, long periods are ho-hum and boring. The site has become popular enough to be on the NBC news and planning an expensive coffee table book with, as far as I can tell, spectacular pictures of both Molly and McGee and of little ones who all have names. Watch it by clicking here for live streams inside the nest box.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

More Quilt Show

"Spots Before Your Eyes" is the title of this quilt by Lynn Conroy. I took the picture of it and should have done a detail, because at each crossing of the narrow strips Lynn had used a dichroic glass button. If you click the picture here it will enlarge and then if you click the enlargement, again, it'll get even larger and you can see the buttons. I'm a major fan of dichroic glass and love the earrings I have made of it.
Dichroic glass is not only blue, as in this picture, although I think blue is my favorite color; it is in all the colors and very vividly. Lately it is used for many sorts of jewelry and also for buttons which can add a wonderful sparkle and richness to a sweater or jacket -- or a quilt.

A nice incident I only remembered a little later was when I had just looked at the only portrait quilt in the show, a wall hanging about 18x20 which showed a white haired woman. I admired it and had just turned to look at a quilt opposite it when I heard some comment like "You got my eyes right." I turned back and saw three women looking at the quilt. The short, white haired woman was the one in the portrait. I assumed one of the others was the quilter and probably her daughter. I'm sorry there was no way I could have got a photo of the woman looking at her own portrait.

I've just read a sweet piece about a little boy who did not talk as quickly as his contemporaries and had a very worried mother. click here Looking at a quilt, not even a typical I Spy sort, seemed the trigger that inspired him to begin to speak.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Bayberry Quilters of Cape Cod Show


The Bayberry Quilters of Cape Cod is a large guild that meets mid-Cape, which I joined today when I went to see their show. A few years ago Rachel and I went to one of their shows and were quite underwhelmed. But today's show had many lovely quilts to look at, mostly contemporary pieced, quite a few older quilts were shown and quite a few were traditional usually with contemporary fabric. I was happy that long arm machine quilting was not as prominent as in some shows I've seen in the last few years. And there were a few hand quilted bed size quilts that were beautifully done. Yes, there were some art quilts but none I felt inclined to photograph.

In a way I call the blue quilt above an art quilt. It was my favorite and I'm driving myself a bit nuts trying to figure out my own handwriting to see who made it and I've miserably failed. I'm sorry because this is another Marian Rosenthal kaleidoscope quilt, possibly the prettiest, I've seen so far. I constantly learn how important the fabric choice is and that various things work, in this case a fabric that did not have a great deal of pattern and was only blue.
This quilt with the bright orange, which is less than a quarter the size of the blue one, is as bold and vibrant as the blue is serene. The piecing didn't photograph well. It is an askew log cabin and each black central square has a blue button on it. This is gy Julie Larivaire and I took the picture because this paper pieced pattern keeps appearing when I go through my stack of "someday" pictures and patterns. I would choose different fabrics, of course, I think this reminds me not to use something this brilliant.
There were several pretty batik quilts including this one by Kathryn Kacergis. I think it works very well. These batiks have been popular for quite a few years and, lovely as they are, they're beginning to seem to me ho-hum. Maybe that's only because I currently have a batik quilt on my bed which has dark and vibrant colors on one side and pastels on the other and I've been looking at it a little too long.

The guild did a very good job with the show. They had a very fine group of vendors, a caterer who offered good sandwiches for a good price [I always found awful food available at the various shows I've been to in New Jersey], and the quilts were displayed well. The venue, a technical school complex, is extremely easy to find. Two different doors were marked as entrances. As it happened I went out the one I had not come in and found myself facing a parking lot that my car was not in. It took me a bit to orient myself and find my car.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Writing in a void

Writers crave readers -- maybe only family, maybe a small group. Writers write to share something important they have experienced. When what they are sharing is an important part of their life which is ignored or treated negatively some are crushed into silence, other continue bravely and alone. I know a great deal about being ignored, about not writing well enough, not being "interesting" or "dramatic" or "exciting" enough for the gatekeepers -- editors or agents, or, as is often the case, their assistants who are probably over burdened, overworked and, although usually very bright recent college graduates, inexperienced in life, and ignorant of mature wisdom.

I'm not thinking primarily of my own experience today, however. I met with a group of writers this morning. One was a woman I had not met before but I had heard part of her story. The other was a Vietnam vet who has previously told me part of his story. The first woman is writing a memoir, originally with the hope only of leaving record for her children and grandchildren. She was a young teen toward the end of WWII, living in Pomerania [a part of Germany near the Polish border] when the Russians came through. They rounded up many girls and women, hundreds, she said, in a concentration camp in Poland from which they planned to send them into Russia mostly to be domestic workers. She has been working on her memoir for some eight years and read a portion of it which was dramatic, told clearly without sentimentality or reticence. She had previously been in a writing class and had read earlier portions of her work. After a few weeks another person in the class complained to the teacher [really a facilitator -- I know the person. He does not teach writing having been a science teacher.] The complaint was that the other student was tired of "hearing depressing material". The facilitator asked this women to bring only cheerful work to class. She was, of course, deeply hurt and simply dropped out of the class.

The Vietnam vet who is a skilled writer and has a book about his experiences in the war that he has not been able to sell, brought in a highly skilled long poem about a certain firestorm in which he could not stop watching a butterfly. He wove a dramatic incident with the movements of the butterfly, never preaching, juxtaposing human ignorance and death with the freedom of the butterfly. It was rhythmic, strongly worded with well crafted poetic lines. He said he had written other such poems and had never had anyone with whom to share them.

Much memoir writing is mundane in both subject and presentation but, I believe, especially for people like these two who clearly care about writing well and have struggled to hone their skill, their loneliness is sad and their perseverance is heroic.