Saturday, October 30, 2010

End of Autumn

For about ten days I've been saying to myself, This is the peak! There were eye popping displays of orange, red, gold. I was driving, I didn't have my camera. I looked hard and I remember them. That was the best I could do. Couldn't have stopped on a busy highway or street to jump out of car so I just memorized. There were sudden strokes of color -- no wide vistas because wide vistas exist here only as seascapes, we are relatively flat, there are no long views. Today I went for a walk and I'm satisfied that I got this picture of red and yellow. It was windy, other shots were blurry because I could not find a quiet moment when leaves weren't in motion. Of course many are falling, tops of trees, especially are denuded. Soon the entire tree will be and we will have winter's landscape.
I don't know what this grassy plant is called, it's an ornamental grass as tall as I am. Parts of it's fronds are going to a star shaped seed head, other parts haven't matured that much yet. It is very graceful, especially in the wind.
This was dawn this morning with Xes in the sky. I glanced out just before the horizontal line got it's shot of pink. By the time I could find where I put the camera, it had gone from seashell pink to almost shocking pink. And soon it was gone -- in the time it took to pour coffee from the pot into the cup and go back to the table by the sliding glass door. Everything is rushing to disappear, to remind us that growing things are emphemeral.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hazzards of Quilting

It's not nice of me, but then I'm old enough to have outgrown the need to always be a "nice girl" although there are residues, like a twinge of guilt at posting this picture although I took it with the thought of posting it.

I do not know any of the women in this picture. They are all quilters who are examining a table full of art quilts that Louisa Smith talked about. At the Empire Quilters Guild, and now at the Bayberry Quilters Guild I am comforted, in a selfish way, because so many of the women are weighty -- and it shows up most obviously across the broad beam as in this picture. Quilting is definitely not aerobic exercise. It is sedentary and the sitting body, especially after the mid-40s begins to spread. Some of us spread mostly across the butt and others mostly in front. I'm a front loader myself and it distresses me. I haven't worn a tucked in blouse in ages and I wish I could.

I'm sure the girth wherever it accumulates is more complex than merely having to do with quilting. Of course, some women are slender, a lot is genetic and comes from individual metabolisms. Nevertheless, being among women who have substantial bodies comforts me in a purely selfish way. I compare my relative slenderness with such as these women and go home feeling a little lighter on my feet -- an illusion that fades rapidly. So I make a real effort to take my walks and keep my calories reasonable. It certainly won't make me a better quilter but it may help me to be able to quilt for more years of my life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Louisa L. Smith, "stripper" quilter

Anyone who still harbors the notion that quilts are demure little old lady things should go to a quilt show today or look at the work of the many teaching art quilters. Louisa L. Smith spoke and did a trunk show at the Bayberry Quilters' meeting yesterday with her jaw dropping, brilliant quilts. As Louisa announced immediately, "I'm a stripper." And she is teaching others to be strippers too with several book and many teaching gigs, usually at big quilt shows.

To her "stripper" means she sews strips of fabric together and thus makes a "new" fabric from which she cuts the shapes, often curvy, that she then sews into these stunningly colorful and intricate quilts. She not only sews the basic quilt but then embellishes and appliques extensively to get even more complexity. We've all heard the comment from nonquilters [usually attributed to befuddled husbands] about buying perfectly good fabric, then cutting it into little pieces and sewing it together again -- which sounds to many people like the epitome of pointlessness. But we know that if you want to make art of that fabric [which may in its own right already be graphic art of a high degree], it has to be cut up and reassembled. Which is just what Louisa does. I loved seeing her quilts although I was distressed at her penchant for using [as she admitted] cheap plaid fabrics for the backs of many. I deeply understand using cheap fabric for the backs [I always do] but the plaid contrasted with the wonderful top work just didn't work for me.
Louisa is a practiced and good speaker with a slide show of reasonable length and a trunk show of some of her very many quilts which have been shown all over the US, some have traveled for years. I'm sorry this photo of Louisa speaking is dark, I was too far back in a big room with my inadequate camera. The quilt that is being held up as she speaks would have made anyone proud but it was one of the simplest that she showed, as can be seen by comparing it to the others here.
This picture with lighting bad because of my camera angle, nevertheless shows the brilliance of the color which here, as in some others of her quilts is attained by using dupioni silk, one of the most lustrous materials to be found, not easy to work with, but obviously, Louisa handles it expertly.

I have seen jackets made using this piecing technique, in fact the guild president wore a jacket she had make this way and it was lovely. That tempts me somewhat more than a full size quilt. I do like bright colors but I have seen so many quilts lately that virtually vibrate with color and design that I feel more like retreating to something a little less "in your face."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Louise Bourgeois, The Fabric Works

Louise Bourgeois, the artist who died early this year at the age of 98, was mainly a sculptor. Her work is in many major museums in the US and Europe. Currently a posthumous show in Paris displays "The Fabric Works" which appeals to me as a quilter and as someone who has enjoyed her work for many years.
Ms. Bourgeois saved clothing, linens, table clothes, and other such fabrics that interested her and used them to make art probably through the last quarter of her life. She did not make quilts, they seemed not to be on her radar, but the large piece at the top of this post is very, very quilt-like in design. A great many of her pieces, like the other two here are suggestive of spider webs. For those who are interested you can Google Louise Bourgeois Fabric Works and reach several site with pictures and essays. She was a fascinating artist.
The spider web motif fits right in with a fascination she had for spiders in her sculpture, sometimes making very huge, black ironwork spiders to stand scarily in public places. One of the most effective I've seen is a spider maybe 3 or 4 feet tall which is displayed at the Dia-Beacon [New York] Gallery. This is a big display in a converted Nabisco cracker/cookie factory that I recommend to anyone who is interested in contemporary art. It is in the Hudson River town of Beacon about 60 miles north of NYC. The topmost gallery which is a bit like an attic room is the home to one of her menacing spiders. It rocks one a bit after the huge Richard Serra sculptures on the lowest level and the chrome sculptures, the all white paintings, the string sculptures and Richard Chamberlin's crushed auto parts sculptures. Bourgeois is an artist those who are interested in fiber art and quilts should read about.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dawn Clouds, Day Clouds

Summer was so very beautiful this year, I miss it like an enchanting house guest who had to leave and who I know I won't see again for many months. The sun is shining but chilly, gusty breezes are scattering autumn leaves. I have to change my daily habits as I change my wardrobe. I do not dislike autumn or winter but I don't want them to visit me yet. I do not believe I have ever so consciously enjoyed summer as I did this year, that is part of my feeling, it was an active enjoyment. I think in other years I have more passively accepted the sunny days, the hot days, the nights when the windows are open and I'm happy for the breezes that blow in.

It is time for a mental adjustment to enjoy putting on jackets, wrapping my neck in a scarf, pulling on gloves. I like dressing that way. I like the times that are foggy even if they are chill and damp. I like snow too, more than many people do. Perhaps my intensity of feeling this year has a deeper more metaphorical meaning although I am healthy and do not feel at all slowed by age. In fact, over the last few weeks I've met many other women 'round about my age who are vibrant and interesting and I enjoy the times we share at a class or having lunch. A couple of them have such very beautiful smiles. Perhaps it's just an awareness of change.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October journal quilt

For October I did a very simple journal quilt. Although trees and birds are my theme for the years, the birds this month are confined to a beige-on-white print that is the back of this quilt, the birds are beige silhouetes. Their role is merely token.

The tree fabric is one I've had a long time and love. I outline quilted all the major tree trunks and then I fancy cut and fused on the falling leaves. We will suspend disbelief for the time being since we have birch trees and the leaves are from maples and oaks -- I'll assume they are near-by and a breeze has wafted them here. Perhaps I was a bit lazy but I enjoy this simple little quilt.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Overlapping Worlds

Most of us live in several worlds at once; fortunately, most of us can partition them off and keep in touch with the one we recognize as "reality". I was thinking about that at breakfast as I contemplated yesterday's alternate worlds. Most people, I think, have televisions and often live in the world of their favorite shows, but only for a brief while and frequently interrupted by both advertisements and "reality" of phone calls or family. I do not have a TV so I live in the somewhat more intense world of books, music and occasional movies all of which I think are more involving than the taken-for-granted TV. [That is a conjecture and may not be true for some people.]

Yesterday I discovered an opera by Franz Schubert, Alfonso and Estrella. I hadn't known Schubert whose music I love. The opera was never performed in Schubert's brief lifetime. [He died a 31] and for good reason. It has a stiff and silly fairy tale and, unlike most serious operas, ends with rivals acting nobly and everyone happy whereas most such operas would have one being killed and a long death scene. The production done at the time of Schubert's 300th anniversary celebrations in Vienna has perhaps the most awkward stage direction I've seen outside of high school auditoriums. However the music was mostly Schubertian lieder with Thomas Hampson in magnificent voice. For 2 hours in the afternoon I was in a strange world of enjoyment and intellectual befuddlement.

In a totally different place and time, I spent the evening reading the last 100 pages of a novel called The Raven by Peter Landesmann set on the Maine coast in the world of lobstermen. The time was mainly 1941 -- an insular and difficult world of watery death. The Raven was a pleasure ship that went down with 41 people aboard [based on fact] and no explanation for what happened. The book gives us many of the people and solves, eventually, most of the riddle [fictionally only]. Intensely written and engrossing.

I marvel how easy it is to move between a silly story of warring kings and young lovers to the dour, fog shrouded Atlantic and all the while go about the odds and ends of daily life. It's certainly an interesting life. Later today I will contemplate my to-read shelf and begin another adventure into some other world, meanwhile, in a couple of hours I will sit in a room with 25 or so contemporaries and talk about Mark Doty who has created a world in poetry I partly know but look forward to knowing through his eyes. At a later point today, I will go into a world of my own making as I work on what I am writing. As Kurt Vonnegut said, "and so it goes."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is Autumn Peaking?

My understanding is that Cape Cod, because of its geography and the lack of large stands of deciduous trees, doesn't have the grand autumn color for which much of New England is famous. Usually the Columbus Day week-end is prime leaf-peeping tourist time. I'm told that this past weekend wasn't jaw droppingly beautiful as sometimes happens. The weather is always the if-fy factor. I tend to appreciate what I get. The drive to Newport Wednesday was along highways lined with soft gold and slightly orangy trees, subdued color but subtle and lovely on a blue sky day. That is most of the autumn color I'm going to have to enjoy this year, I think. The photo above is from my walk last weekend with the dog around a little pond, really just this one tree was bright -- all the lovelier for being the one beauty at the ball.
This photo is the marsh grasses turning gold, an old gold similar to ripe wheat. Eventually it will weaken and be beaten down by storm winds. Last night some of those winds howled as rain slapped at the windows. Either the rain, or perhaps some hail it carried with it, beat fiercely enough to set off a car alarm with it's flashing lights and beeping sound [thank heavens not the horn honking of some alarms]. I was awake a while after it subsided -- I enjoy a rain storm when I'm warm and comfy in bed. I carried an umbrella around with me today but didn't need to open it although the sky remained gray and a gentler, but somewhat chilly wind continued. The season is changing, the sky is full of flying clouds. I have no complainta; the summer was wonderful, and I know that lovely Indian summer days will probably come along before winter gets a toe hold.

Years ago a playwright colleague in a group I belonged to wrote a highly neurotic character who complained about everything and made life hell for her spouse who explained her problems as "Lillian doesn't like weather." No one else seemed to find that line as funny as I did. To hate weather seemed to me to hate the world we all live in, it's like hating air or water or sky or nature. Absurd. I love weather.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Moth quilt

"Moths on the Screen" is what I've called this from the first idea. I wanted to give the sense one gets sometimes of a summer evening when it seems a flock of moths are trying to come in to the lighted interior. There are 15 moths [one is repeated]. They now hang in the living room above my spinet piano. They've come inside and found their alcove. This includes several new to me quilting techniques
The squares that make up the background were placed on gridded [2 inch square] fusable backing and then sewn. I like this backing very much since I'd never manage to get my squares so regular if sewing in rows or segments. I used a full 42x42 inch section of the gridded interfacing. When sewn it's much closer to 36x36, because the seams, of course, made the squares 1-1/2 inch. Obviously, I have used many different dark fabrics, blacks, browns, blues, greens, purples. The gray with gold border is a piece of West African fabric I purchased some years ago.
I wanted the moths to be three dimensional. They are but that is not obvious in the photos. I fused the fabric on which I had traced the moths to heavy weight interfacing, then backed it with a medium weight polyester batting and a black backing. I sewed the wing lines and other lines from the pattern defining the bodies and wing folds and gained dimension from the batting. Then I drew, colored and even finger painted [with stamp pad ink] for the designs. The designs were only suggested in the pattern I had so I looked most of the moths up in the Internet and colored them with some approximation of their actual coloring. The large moths were cut out of various off white and beige color-on-color fabrics. I dyed a couple of them lighter ones with coffee. The smaller moths are cut out of more colorful batiks. If I were doing it again, I think I would use more batiks. When I attached them to the background I sewed only along one of the inside, upper wing lines. They are stiff enough to stand away from the background a bit.

I don't repeat myself so I won't do it again but I may make a bright one with butterflies and a color-wash of floral patterns for the background ... "may" being the important word. I have other projects started already and a couple UFOs need to be finished. So another insect-y quilt won't be in the works anytime soon.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Dogs Get Lonely Too

Molly, who's a dog, and I have had some nice walks already. Rachel and family are away for a long weekend and I'm "dog sitting", in a sense since I'm home, only two blocks away, and drop in twice a day to take Molly out -- twice now to the beach and twice, no, three times, for walks in the neighborhood. She loves to walk, she loves to be off leash and run -- although she's getting old and stamina fades quicker than it used to. In dog years she's older than I am; I don't mind walking at her pace when she's enjoying the scents under bushes and on mailbox posts. She has a world in some ways richer than mine, at least olifactorily [did I just make up that word?]. Our walks are fairly long, it's beautiful weather and I enjoy them too.

I feel sad when I take her back to the house and say good-bye. "See you bright and early in the morning." I'm happy the cat chooses to stay in with Molly. The cat's getting older too but does spend the day outdoors usually. I'm sure Molly is lonely in that empty house. Once I would have shrugged and said, "but she's a dog." Can't argue there, but one can argue with the premise that loneliness is okay to impose on an animal that probably 80% of the time has a human on the premises. Well, but ... I have much to do at my home and animals are forbidden. If they weren't I'd bring her here. I may be getting softer hearted these days. Not a bad thing really.

Photo above taken following days when Molly and I walked in the woods, early in the morning when the shadows were too dark for a good portrait of Molly. Being a shepherd mix, during this walk where I was often behind her on the trail and out of sight, she regularly stopped to check that I was coming along as I should be before trotting on ahead to reconnoiter the path. Who's taking care of who?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Revisiting the Monarchs

I thought I would revisit my Monarch quilt which has for some months been at a new home where it is well taken care of by a butterfly lover. I think there were 17 monarchs, of several designs, some small and some fairly large -- the small were approximately the size of actual monarchs. They were made of two or more fabrics, they were very time consuming. And then they were appliqued to the quilt. The quilt is about 52x40. When I finished it I said "never again."
So why am I doing moths now? Because all those delicate winged insects are beautiful and fascinating and although they will be less true to actual coloring than were the monarchs, they are a pleasure to make. I figured out how to attach them to the background this morning. My sewing machine was not being very cooperative but I'll fiddle with it and I hope will make it work decently. I do believe I can finish that quilt over the coming weekend. Then it will be hung in the living room as it's just right size to go above my little spinet piano. I like to live with something I've just created for a while ... until the next new creation comes along.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Work in Progress

About five years ago I had a butterfly binge. I actually don't like applique, I don't have time for it and my old sewing machine doesn't like it either. But I had a book of butterfly patterns and made many postcards and then a largish wall quilt with migrating monarchs. A year or so later I found this book with other patterns that are for both butterflies and moths with several quilt suggestions as well. It's been languishing in my "some day" -- well I can't say pile as the potential projects are scattered among m quilt stuff. I have also had some of that gridded fusible backing that is marked in two inch squares.

I have made a backing for what I'm already calling "moths at evening". The two inch squares are all sorts of dark colors but, from a distance in living room ambient light sort of blend into that time of night when everything outdoors is loosing color and moths come to the screen because of the interior light. The moths in the book have no indications of their true markings so I've Googled many of them, but I'm also using some batiks and patterned fabrics and have decided against going for verisimilitude. As I'm making some dozen or fifteen moths I'm getting experimental with color. I'm only picturing one moth which is not among the most inventive. This is probably going to move along slowly. Optimist that I am, I think I'd like to do another with the two inch square backgrounds in a colorwash garden effect and bright colored butterflies ... I wonder if that will take another five years.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Memory of a Super-crush

Tony Curtis died yesterday. A couple of days ago I read a review of Jamie Lee Curtis [his daughter with Janet Leigh] in a new movie and, as before, saw bits of both father and mother in her face. I passed beyond the cowboy age when I loved Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the evening I saw Prince of Bagdad, one of Tony Curtis's first movies. Perhaps I was 11 or 12. Of course it was a romantic swashbuckler, absolutely perfect for my age and utterly exotic to a Midwestern farm girl. "Tall, dark and handsome" was a formula back then and he WAS! Perfect, absolutely perfect.

I never met a man near my own age -- I mean NEVER -- who had that physical perfection. Of course I grew up and began to understand other actors were wonderful in their ways but I had to get much older before I was enthralled by either Jimmy Dean or Marlon Brando. My access to movies was far more limited than that of urban girls, I did not see most of Curtis's movies, but during that most impressionable period I could and did collect the movie magazines and gazed at his photographs. So long ago ...