Dec 31, 2013

2014... bring it on! I'm ready.

My quilt buddy recently labeled 2013 as "my year." I love that positive vibe... but I actually think that 2014 will truly be "The Year of Me Doing Exactly What I am Supposed to Be Doing."  More on that below.

But first, one last pic of the year - I finished quilting the dog part of my dog art quilt. Working on the background.

And this shows the back of the quilt. Loving it.

I have been blogging about this quilt for the past two months - so you can see more in my archives. More to come on the dog quilt journey.  Although you'll have to be patient... because 2014 is THE most exciting year ever!

You see, 2013 was a year of ups and downs - first, a big "up"... we moved back into the "city." Love that! But shortly thereafter ... my big fat corporate job was eliminated and I found myself dealing with the shock and awe (not to mention some anger) over it all. But then I got over it... and I eventually realized that that job was sucking all of the life out of me... and at the end of the day there wasn't much left for my family or my quilts... or me.

When all this unpleasantness started, my quilt buddy said to me... "in a few months you're going to be sending that company a thank you note." Seriously? I thought she was crazy. Turns out she was so right.

If you had a choice to re-invent yourself and focus on what you're passionate about and do what you love, do you know what that would be? For me, the answers came super quick... something like 2-by-4's "hittin' me upside the head" as we say here in Texas. {A 2-by-4, by the way for my international friends, is a thick board that is 2 inches by 4 inches.} Start a consulting business. Start a quilt blog. Be an art quilter. Sew everyday. Create original work. Be happy.

But the biggest... and most exciting of all of those ideas literally hit me all at once in a fully formed notion. Are you ready for it? Picture Kevin Costner hearing the voice in "Field of Dreams"... only instead of corn, it's me standing in a quilt studio : GO TO JAPAN AND WRITE A BOOK ABOUT QUILTS!

So, I'm going! In January! Just like that! I am making it happen.

Writing a book has been a dream of mine since I was 10. The fascination with Japan and Japanese art quilting has been growing for the past 5 or 6 years.  I have a contract with a publisher and this is really happening. I'm not able to share more details about the content of the book yet until things are more definitive and the date for publication has been set, etc.  But eventually, I promise full disclosure. I also hope to share parts of this journey with you... and eventually, I will be the author of a book that I hope will be appealing to quilters and art lovers everywhere.

Clearly, 2014 is going to be an awesome year. I'm free from the obligations of going to some office everyday. I work from home and quilt when I want.  I've built a successful business to support my passions... and I'm living the dream.

What's so interesting is after all those years in a corporate environment, where everything is done for and with a team, not to mention with the full support of administrative assistants and staff members, now I'm completely on my own. The professional things that I do will either fail or succeed wholly based on my own effort. And I can't wait.

Bring it on! I am so ready.

Dec 26, 2013

a thing of beauty for my sewing studio

This Christmas, my quilt buddy Amy G. delivered an unbelievably awesome gift. It's a gift that showcases her endless talent and creativity... and it also reminds me of how lucky I am to have such amazing friends!
Check out this beautiful tin box created especially to hold lace and other precious sewing goods. The top is covered with a wonderful newsprint fabric and decorated with a bird's nest and handmade vines with holly.
Handmade card spools covered with specialty papers ... even labeled in several languages... so cool.
And here's a photo of the box with my vintage laces and a variety of ribbons and tulle wrapped on some of the spools.
Best of all, inside the lid, my quilt buddy added some special touches: Third Floor Quilts spelled out in vintage Scrabble letters! I love it. Lucky me.  This is one truly beautiful Christmas gift! Thanks Amy G!

Jan 2014 Update: Here is the link to the tutorial on how to make the lace cards. This a beautiful blog - check it out.

Dec 21, 2013

my dog quilt, part four

Progress is being made... little by little. I've finally finished all the hand applique... including ripping out quite a few original selections and making some improvements. Let the quilting begin...

Close up of my Bernina BSR... doing a great job handling all the layers of applique!

I've been blogging about this quilt since the beginning of November. This is part four. If you want to see the whole process (and learn more about David Taylor), you can go back through the past few blog posts.

When I finish this quilt, I am going to post an update showing a series of photos from beginning to end.

But this might take a while...

I am machine quilting this one. Using Aurifil exclusively --- with only black, white and gray on the dog.

I tried a lot of different thread combinations, including several beautiful variegated combos... but I couldn't control the color where I wanted it to be.  The dog is mostly all black and I have already gone through 3/4 of a spool of black thread. Using 50 wt. The quilting on this is very intense!  I'm quilting very close lines and for the parts that need to be infused with gray or white, I am leaving space in between the quilted black lines and coming back to add the other two colors. I am trying not to quilt lines on top of each other. I want just one pure line... that is the idea anyway.  The back of this quilt looks just awesome. I'll reveal that at the end!

This photo of the quilt on the machine shows my small space and my trusty Bernina!  I have the back of the quilt lifted up with clamps so I don't have the weight to push around. This helps immensely!  And this is especially useful since I am quilting in such a small space... I don't have much room at the back of my machine. But I find in life, as Tim Gunn would say you gotta "make it work."  I love my house and I love having my studio where it is... so I trade those things for having a larger space with a big sewing table.

It also helps that my area is custom built to my specs. And the husband even built a custom shelf to lower my Bernina so that the extended table is flush with the counter. Awesome! That also helps with the weight of the quilt by keeping it flat with the machine.

Here is a close up of one section.

Thanks for reading and going on this journey with me!

Stay tuned for more.

Happy holidays!

I am linking up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays. Check out all the great work there:

Dec 14, 2013

time to label - index card style

When I finish a quilt, it seems the last thing I want to do is take time to make a label for it. But I recently learned a great lesson... and that got me to work making these.
Before you laugh - I know these are not pretty! They are not even all that well made. But - keep reading. 
I have covered up names and other details - TMI for the internet!
The lesson I learned came a few weeks back when I followed my aunt into her attic to look at old quilts. What I discovered up there was enough quilts to do a large antique quilt show of quilts from 1900 - 1950's. No joke! The place is like a museum... and there was an astounding number of quilts up there. But the really cool thing was the way they were packaged and labeled. Each quilt was neatly folded, covered with a plastic bag and then placed in a box to protect it from dust. Even better, each quilt included an index card marking all of the pertinent information on it... the maker, dates, where it was purchased, or who it was made for, etc. It was very impressive.  Especially since a lot of these quilts were award winners from county fairs, or they were made especially for family members or special events.

After about 16 years of quilting, I have so many of my older (traditional style) quilts that the husband threatens that we will need to add on to the house to store them all! But only a few of these have labels. Some of them I made so long ago that I can't even remember the exact year I made them.

Now, I know that there are lots of great books and blog posts written about all the creative ways you can (and should) make labels. And maybe this is what's been holding me back... the pressure to make something good! I'm always ready to move on to the next project and don't want to expend creative energy on a label.

So I decided to pick up on the "quickie" index card idea. Here's the result. These are not pretty! They are not even that well made!  But they were quick to make, and because of that, I'm happy! I've made seven so far... New Year's resolution? Finish the other ___???! (that is not a typo! I don't even know how many I need to make!)

I wrote what I wanted the label to say on the computer and printed it out.  Then I used a light-box to copy it onto the cotton fabric using Micron archival pens. The archival pens won't bleed or fade, so the idea with these pens is that a generation or two from now, you'll still be able to read them (I hope).

Also, I very quickly stitched out a few of embroidery stitches available on my fancy Bernina. Since I mostly do free motion quilting, I rarely use all the available stitches. So this was kind of a test lab of stitches... again, not all that pretty (and I didn't rip out the mistakes, you'll notice). But the stitches added just a touch of interest.

I'll leave you with a close up of the 1940's vintage quilt that was given to me by my aunt! Because of the care she took to label it, I know who made this quilt, when it was made (1940), when she purchased it (1950s)... and then I added on the label that it was gifted to me in 2013!

And that is a story worth remembering!

Dec 11, 2013

my dog quilt, part three

And suddenly... a beautiful dog appeared on a bright lime green background.

One of the things I love most about doing applique work... is to me, the pieces of fabric are just pieces of fabric, nothing more... UNTIL they are sewn to their intended spot. Then suddenly the two pieces join and morph from just pieces of fabric to art.

Well, for the past several weeks this quilt top has been just a bunch of pieces. And now it has the beginnings of a piece of art. I am so thrilled.

Today's post is part three in my series! All of the hand applique (over 200 pieces!) is complete - except for the pupil in the eye.

Now that I have finished the hardest part, at least what I think will be the hardest part, I have pinned this on a board and set it across the room so I can get some distance and different perspective. I am studying all of the fabric choices and I already see several that need to change.  So I'll be spending the next week or so perfecting the individual pieces, ripping out some, and redoing a few.

Next step is to hand embroider the whiskers. And I might do a small bit of thread painting to add a few gray hairs in certain parts.

Then, eventually I will begin quilting it.  I can't wait. I'm not sure if I'll start this before Christmas... or let it sit. Probably won't be able to ignore it too long.

I'd love your thoughts and comments.

I am linking up with Freshly Pieced Wednesday WIP. And Friday with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday link up! Be sure to check out both of these blogs for lots of interesting art quilting.

Here is Nina Marie's link:

Dec 2, 2013

a quilt store a little closer to Heaven

It's rare to visit someplace today and still find something local.

But one thing us quilters can be thankful for (especially this time of year) is that the vast majority of quilt stores are still individually owned and operated... and that means they're truly 'local.'  Very few places can claim that these days... maybe a few restaurants and bars, and odd places like bike shops and boutiques. Outside of that, most of the retail world is more generic, run by corporate, big box stores.

Maybe that's why shopping for fabric is still so much fun. You never know exactly what you'll find!

At this particular quilt store... what you'll find is a setting that might make you feel, well, a little closer to Heaven!
Heavenly Treasures, Pawnee City, Nebraska
Heavenly Treasures calls itself the "best little quilt shop this side of Heaven" and you'll find this modest jewel in the former First Baptist Church in the small town of Pawnee City, Nebraska.

I love discovering and writing about quilt stores. My last blog post about an extraordinary and out of the way quilt store was a one-woman shop on the edge of Texas just a few miles from the border with Mexico.

Heavenly Treasures, on the other hand, is 'smack dab' near the center of America, and sits in a place that's about as fresh-faced and unexpected as they come.

Pawnee City is only a 90-minute drive from the International Quilt Studies Center & Museum in Lincoln. If you're ever visiting the area and want to see a bit of this corner of Nebraska, its well worth the trip.

The store still feels a lot like a church... you'll browse for fabrics underneath huge stained glass windows and the original high ceiling... and you'll find the ironing board sitting in a true place of honor: The Altar!

As the story goes... membership of the church was declining so the leadership wanted to sell the building. But rather than tear it down to build something modern, or worse let it decay from neglect, the new owners of this former church have re-purposed an old building and given it a whole new life. And judging from the slow but steady customer visits, it appears to have a bright future. 

The Heavenly Treasures ironing board has
found a place of honor, right there on the altar!

Heavenly Treasures is filled with wonderful quilt fabrics (these fabrics are the real deal! something for everyone... Stonehenge... Judy Rothermel... Kaufman batiks... lots of great Modas...etc.) and notions, plus a few other stitching goods, books, finished quilts, the list goes on.

Thank you Heavenly Treasures for serving Nebraskans... and for serving the rest of us who stop by every now and then for a divine shopping experience. 

Most of all, thank you for staying local!

Nov 29, 2013

my dog quilt, part two

Here's my second post about the progress of my dog quilt.

The only thing to report so far, is that there are way too many distractions in life. You know, having to stop working in order to eat... sleep... interact with humans... exercise... (okay, that last one is not really a distraction since I tend to let that slide!).

In spite of all these happy distractions, I'm making good progress. Although, I'm a bit hesitant to share at this point because you can't tell what the heck this is from the photos. Right now it kinds of looks like an explosion... or just something truly weird.

But if you're willing to stay tuned, there are two things I can promise. First, this journey will be several months long. Second, in the end this will be an extraordinary art quilt dog portrait (... a lot of adjectives there, I know, but when you spend this much time on something you get to add extra adjectives!).

So here's where I am today. This requires a bit of imagination --- try to visualize a side profile of a big black dog. Here you can see his collar, his ear, and the bottom part of his head and the beginning of a lower chin.

This dog quilt is an original pattern and when finished, it will include approximately 250 pieces of fabric - all hand appliqued. When I finish that process, I will hand embroider whiskers and then machine quilt the whole thing.
This photo is the portrait that the quilt is based on. 
Here is the applique finished so far, with the pattern (drawn on tracing paper) pinned over the top of the quilt top. (Photo looks fuzzy - that is the paper on top of the fabric.)

I started this quilt during a four-day workshop with David Taylor at Art Quilt Tahoe in early November. During the class, David explained the best way to applique this type of work. As I listened, I thought, oh, that's nice David... but I have been doing hand applique for 15 years, so thank you very much, but I think I've got this covered! 

Well... isn't it painful to admit how wrong you were?  Yes, David I hope you read this. You were right. I was wrong.  Here's the deal.

Each piece of this applique is completely dependent on the piece next to it, so you cannot pick this quilt top up and take it to the couch and sit and applique it! Not even to watch football. Nope. The pieces just won't line up right... believe me I had to redo dozens of them. Here's why. If you get one piece just a little bit off from its precise position, by the time you start to add the other 250 pieces, instead of a replica of a dog, what you will end up with is a big abstract mess.  

So.... you have to do as David suggested and keep the entire quilt top flat stretched out on a table at all times so the pieces won't drift! And then you must hand applique it while it is sitting flat on the table. And no, fusible will not work - at least not for me. The pieces must be carefully placed and secured one meticulous stitch at a time, otherwise the points won't lay right under the overlay and the convex and concave lines won't line up properly.  Very tricky stuff here, but that is what will give it is beauty in the end, at least that is what I am hoping for. There is a chance of course that it will still end up a big mess! 

Below is an image from my first post about this project. This photo was taken while I was still forming the pieces (before the applique/sewing process) --- each piece is pinned on top of the pattern (and into a foam core board).

I'm loving working on this one. And if it weren't for the many distractions in life, and if my back would hold up from leaning over the table, and if my fingers didn't bleed from hours of hand applique, I'd work on this one 24/7!

In the meantime, I am linking up with Nina Marie's art quilt link up - Off the Wall Fridays. Check out all the other great work there.

I am also linking up with Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday.

Nov 26, 2013

i've been interviewed. no joke!

Remember Steve Martin's famous movie line... "I'm famous... I'm in the phone book!"

Well, I'm not famous, but I have been interviewed for a blog that's way better than the phone book!

Heather, a fellow blogger, has included me in her "Inside the Artists Studio" series.  Her blog features interviews with artists and photos of their creative spaces... and the interviews center on how they organize those spaces and their work.

A bit intimidating to apply the label of artist to myself... but nonetheless I'm thrilled to be included!  Here's the link - interview and photos:

Lots of other artists have been featured here... and there are some very cool spaces here, not to mention interesting humans. So spend some time reading and seeing.

Thanks Heather!

Nov 22, 2013

deep inside the quilt archives of Lincoln, Nebraska

I've always wanted to have one of those "Raiders of the Lost Ark" experiences.

No... not the one with the snakes... but the one at the very end of the movie where after all the excitement, the ark is finally, and some might add sadly, hauled off to be placed deep inside the bowels of a museum. The camera takes us past rows and rows of lonely treasures stored in nondescript crates and boxes...

Well, this week... I finally got to live my museum treasure-hunt moment!

My academic research (more on that below) allowed me access deep inside the bowels of the International Quilt Studies Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. Yet, rather than the sad and lonely final journey of the Lost Ark, my trek into the collection archive was lively, special and quite simply, fantastic!

International Quilt Studies Center & Museum, Lincoln, NE

Deep inside the collection archives of the International Quilt Studies Center, Lincoln, Neb.
I'm pursuing a Master's degree in Liberal Studies at Rice University and next year, I'll be writing my final thesis (Rice MLS refers to it as a capstone). My research is centered on historical quilts and their influence on the modern art quilt movement.

So, after months of intensive study and discovery, I finally made the trek to Lincoln and was given the priceless opportunity to see (and touch! with gloves, of course) specific quilts I've so far only seen in books. The most interesting part of this viewing was the chance to see the actual colors and the fabrics used in each quilt. Over the years, these quilts have been photographed and reproduced and printed many, many times, but not always with accurate color, and mostly without much photographic detail. So it was a surprise to discover that a few sections of some quilts that I thought were white, or pale colors based on the images in books, were actually detailed, and highly creative, printed fabrics. It was also very cool to be able to see the detail of the stitches up close, because as you study these tiny stitches, you can't help but think of the quilter as she sat and moved her needle up and down.  And this is especially poignant as some of the quilts I studied are well over 100 years old.

The other truly special part about seeing these quilts up close and personal is the opportunity to see the backing. Many of the quilt backs can be just as interesting as the quilt top. Nowadays, we just buy extra-wide fabric (104 or 120 inches wide) to cover the entire back without a cut or a stitch needed - so handy. But these quilt backs have a great many pieces stitched together and therefore, the opportunity to see them helps shape the quilt's whole story.

The staff at IQSC was great to work with and I appreciated all the preparation on their part, as well as their guidance and time I was granted.  I also have to mention that the husband --- who also happens to be a professional photographer (and I must also point out the one who did most of the driving on the car trip) --- was also allowed to accompany me in the viewing area and he took these great pics.

For my thesis (and a semi-related book), I'll be writing about global art trends and challenge conventional notions that Western art, motifs and patterns influence the East by documenting more precisely how influence, commerce, and art, has traveled from the East to the West and vice versa for centuries.

Kim Taylor, left, Collections Manager with IQSC, and Teresa Wong, researcher,
studying historical quilts from the IQSC collection.
IQSC opened about five years ago on the campus of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.  The center specializes as hub of academic research for all things quilt related.  They store and archive many notable collections of historic quilts and they have several galleries for exhibition space open to the public.  They also have excellent online resources and photo databases available on their site that can be accessed by everyone.

Photo of the exhibition "Posing with Patchwork" on view at the
International Quilt Studies Center & Museum in Lincoln.
Right now, there is a very special exhibit called "Posing with Patchwork" featuring photographs from 1855-1955 with each photo featuring quilts in one way or another. Janet Finley guest curated this special show in collaboration with Marin Hanson, curator with IQSC. Walking through this gallery you can see poster-sized enlargements of some of the special photos placed alongside the actual historic quilt featured in the picture.

This photo shows a woman sewing a block featured in the quilt hanging next to it.
But if you can't make it to Lincoln, you can read more about these in Janet's wonderful book "Quilts in Everyday Life 1855-1955" which includes detailed description of the time and people shown in hundreds of photographs, as well as the quilts pictured in each setting.  (Her book is available on Amazon). This book is a great read not only for quilt lovers, but for anyone interested in our American history through photography.

Here's a picture of one my favorite quilts from a second exhibition on view. The exhibition features the work of a Nebraska man - an engineer - who one day was critical of the accuracy of the points (or perhaps the lack thereof) on a quilt his wife was making. As he criticized, his wife told him that if he thought he could do it better, he should do it himself!  hmmm... So, what may seem like a common exchange between two married people, began the unlikely journey of 50 years of quiltmaking for Ernest Haight where he perfected ways to strip piece and machine quilt. Very cool collection.

This is one of the quilts on display from the "Ernest Haight Half Century of Quiltmaking" on view inside galleries of the International Quilt Studies Center.

I hope this is the first of many museum moments to come!

Please leave me a comment.

Nov 15, 2013

picture of a picture of my dog... and his quilt

When I stated this blog, I vowed that I'd never post pictures of my dog or my kids!

Well, I am granting myself a concession for a picture of a picture of my dog - and the quilt that picture will eventually become.

I'm working on a pictorial applique of Chip, using David Taylor's pattern technique. The idea is to draw your own original pattern based on a photo. The lines of the pattern follow the bone structure and natural lines of the animal, not the animal's color.  The magic happens when you create the color with fabric... and then quilt the whole thing together.

It looks kind of weird right now (and the colors are probably off in the photo), but in a couple of months, all of these pieces will be appliqued down to a background fabric and I will quilt it with black, gray and white thread to recreate the smooth look of a dog's fur.  The fabrics underneath will be muted somewhat compared to what you see now, but they'll provide a rich foundation under the thread to create interest and texture.

"Chip" - a work in progress. Teresa Wong. 2013
There are over 200 individual pieces of fabric in this image so far. The finished piece will be roughly 40 inches square... and I'm about 3/4 of the way finished in creating the applique pieces. Although... that stat keeps changing as I take certain pieces off and redo them in a different fabric.

I am having a lot of fun with this puppy...!

The real puppy, Chip, is now 15 years old. He has slowed down immensely, but he is still a happy dog. All his gray hair is so much more interesting than when he was young and strong and all black dog!

More to come...

I am linking up with Nina Marie's online art quilt community. Check out all the amazing work.

Please leave me a comment. I love reading your feedback. Thanks!

Nov 14, 2013

what's an art quilt... and why do you need all that fabric?

Here goes a long (and possibly highfalutin) post. Apologies in advance.

I timidly tell a few people now that I'm an art quilter... that's a fancy way of saying I no longer make traditional pieced quilts, or bedspreads (actually, I never did make bedspreads- they're just too damn big).

But a wise quilter friend recently asked me, what exactly is an art quilt? That question got me to thinking... if she doesn't know, maybe lots of people don't know. So, should I dare try to be so presumptuous as to answer this? Will all the "real" art quilters and artists scorn my attempts to explain? Who knows. Who cares. So, here it goes...

To me, the question of whether a quilt is a traditional quilt or an art quilt boils down to one very loose definition: originality.

If your quilt is original, then it is an art quilt. If you think you are making art, then you're an artist.

Pretty simple, actually.

Doesn't take a rocket scientist... nor does it take any validation from anyone other than yourself. That's whats so great about life. You get to decide who you are.

But I think we can apply a bit more analysis here... so just hang on.

Other than originality, there are a couple of academic factors that separate traditional quilts from art quilts. The obvious one being that art quilts are intended to hang on the wall as art.

The second (also kinda obvious) factor is whether the quilter is using a commercial pattern or if she is relying on a traditional patterned block - one that has been passed down through the generations - versus something she created yesterday. Art quilts typically do not incorporate pieced blocks, and their patterns are original.

The third factor can often be the fabric. Since an art quilter typically creates her own design, to do that you need fabric that is neutral in value, but has color. (I know that may not make sense... stick with me here). Think of the fabric as paint. If you want to make a flower of your own design, not cut out a flower from a pre-printed flower fabric, you need material you can manipulate into your own form, shape and color. You need fabrics created specially for art quilts!

What's an art quilt fabric, you might ask?  These two types of fabric are the same in a lot of ways, high quality cottons, silks, wool and other fibers, but the art quilt fabrics do not have pre-printed designs. There are certainly no hard and fast rules here, but typically if an art quilter is making her own flower, a fabric with flowers printed on it would distract from her design, so she needs fabrics that she can blend and manipulate to make her own awesome flower. Unless of course she doesn't. See, that's what makes art so great.

Art quilt fabrics tend to be hand dyed or have a marbled effect, (or have a commercial print that mimics a marbled or hand dyed look), or they have a simple gradient color scale spread over the fabric, or are they are batiks, etc. The reason these are necessary is because fabrics with pre-printed designs are typically comprised of positive and negative color values. Art quilt fabrics, however, deal in a variation of texture and colors... one blending into another (no positive / negative value).

Art quilts can also be painted with actual paint or thread, and can also incorporate unconventional materials and fibers.

For my journey to keep moving forward, this of course this means I need to buy more art fabric! First problem is finding these little jewels, and affording them (hey, hand dyed fabrics are not cheap). By the way, as far as problems go, this is a really good one to have, because there are so many solutions.  I found a lot of options are the recent International Quilt Festival, Houston a couple weeks ago. This year was my 16th consecutive year of attending. And each year I happily traipse around (and through the crowds) with my best quilt buddy Amy G. The silk, cheesecloth and dyed burlap pictured below are from a booth/store called Fiber on a Whim - these ladies were knowledgeable, pleasant and awesome.

For the other 11 1/2 months of the year... there's always the online option. And just when you think you've been everywhere on the internet... you make a new discovery (with the help of friends pointing you there, of course).

The treasure trove I just found has the odd, but descriptive name of "thousands of bolts... and only one nut"

Their concept is simple, but good.  Carry thousands of bolts, sell only by the yard, ship those orders fast! --- think Zappos fast! --- and best of all, organize the fabric by color.

I've never been paid to give any endorsement, by the way. When I find something new, something incredibly useful, and something that totally fits my needs, AND has amazing customer service... well, it just doesn't get any better that that. So I wanted to share. Ordered these on Sunday. They arrived on my doorstep Wednesday!

Now to wrap up here... I can't sign off without one last picture from the beautiful sunset at Lake Tahoe.  As I said my goodbyes after five days at Art Quilt Tahoe last Friday... I started to believe that I too can be... will be... an art quilter. That, and oh, I need more fabric.

Nov 5, 2013

art quilting in Lake Tahoe

Ten months ago I signed up for an art quilt workshop in Lake Tahoe - and now I'm finally here.

Here's a picture taken just after sunrise... a beautiful, cold clear day.  The view is just stunning.

But here's the real reason I am here.

Every once in a while I see a quilt that is truly unforgettable. This is one of those quilts.

It's called "Maynard" and the artist is David Taylor. I first saw Maynard at the Houston International Quilt Festival about five years ago and it stopped me in my tracks. This quilt is seven feet tall and you cannot fully appreciate it from photographs --- but all that white snow is incredibly rich in color. And of course the other unforgettable detail is the dog's position - his butt to the viewer.

The dog reminds me a bit of the opening sequence in Downton Abbey... if you'll recall, there is a shot of the dog approaching the house ... with the camera following along behind his rear end. Same view, similar dog, minus the snow and fence. But I digress...

When I saw this quilt I had to learn more. The following year my quilt buddy Amy G. and I signed up for David's class at the Houston Quilt Fest. It was a great opportunity to learn from David, but the class was so short that we didn't really have the time to learn this technique of depicting images so artfully into textiles in just one day.

Eventually, I saw that David was teaching a four-day class at Art Quilt Tahoe, and here I am.

There are about 100 quilters gathered here this week to study with about a dozen artists... all of whom are working in very different styles.  Having four whole days to study with one artist really allows you the time to learn their technique in-depth.

David Taylor's work is best described as vividly realistic appliqué - mostly of birds or animals.  We're learning to make our own pattern working from a photo as a model.  This is not to say we are copying photos printed on fabric - that would be way too easy and would have a totally different look. This technique uses a photo as a model, much the way a painter would paint a portrait from a person or photo. These art quilts truly mimic paintings, but the color is achieved through mixing and layering textiles instead of paint.

Each work of art will have hundreds of individual pieces of fabric when we're done. Each piece will be hand appliquéd and eventually, I will add thread painting, hand embroidery and then machine quilt mine.

If you have not seen David's work, go to his website:

His art quilts are amazing, plus he is a lot of fun to spend time with.

I'll be posting more on the piece I am making as I get farther along... right now it is a bit of a mess.

More to come from South Lake Tahoe! Here is a picture of the dining hall and some of the amazing quilts lining the room.

Oct 29, 2013

we are $ew worth it

Sam Hunter is trying to start a movement. (Kinda like Tom's, but think hands, not feet).

Sam wants to educate the world about the value of handmade goods - a movement she's calling "We are $ew worth it!" The whole goal is to share what goes into making a handmade good (via time and materials) and by doing so, hopefully improve the value of that good.

I get asked all the time if I ever sell my work. The answer is yes, maybe. I've put some of my quilts on Etsy, but none have sold and I don't have any expectations that they will ever sell. And that's okay, actually. You never asked me to make it - and therefore you owe me nothing. You are not responsible for my art.

Selling art has never been easy. So many great artists throughout time suffered dearly during their lifetimes, never making a cent, and that dynamic is not going to change anytime soon. But we can always try.

When it comes to quilts as art, (whether they hang on the wall or sit the bed), people think, oh I can make that, or I can get something like it at one of the big box stores for a fraction of the price. Yes, you can. People do it everyday. Go for it.

But a few of us bring decades of expertise and talent, and spend hours and hours on our quilts, and we'd like to pursue selling quilts as art. So, how do we put a value on a piece of art? What's it worth?

Sam's movement offers a solution.

I recently heard Sam speak at the Bad Ass Quilters Society event. She shared her formula for pricing the quilts we make by hand in our homes (it can be applied to others arts as well).  It is a basic time and materials formula with special consideration for quilts, fabric and the years of experience each sewer brings to a project. Sam's post last year went viral... not a surprise.

I'll recap, but you can read Sam's original post here.

1. First: cost of materials... and people, this means ALL the materials, please! For example, a typical 48 x 60 inch quilt has ~$72.00 worth of fabric (and that is fairly conservative). If you use a lot of specialty fabrics, and layer on applique, which most art quilters do, then you will invest considerably more in fabrics. The thread I use averages between $9.00-$15.00 a spool, and I use lots of thread in each quilt. Yes, I can buy it cheaper, but I want the best quality material for the job, because I care about the end product.  Then you have needles (several for each project), batting, embellishment, adhesives, stabilizers, embroidery floss, etc. A sewing machine to make the thing... and you do NOT want to know how much my sewing machine cost! But hey, without it I would not be able to produce the art quilts that I am making. Then there are a myriad of other tools, which are completely not optional to make the thing. You can go on and on...  Add up those bits.

2. Other half is time. I see art quilts selling at prices that I know means those artists are working for about .25 cents an hour. This is not an exaggeration!  Sam's formula is a good one - check it out. She is striving for us to get to $20 / hour. Emphasis on the striving.... Yippee.

Again, all of this is not your problem and I am not laying blame at all. There is no need for blame - it is what it is.

$ew Worth It! is not about getting more money, because in reality that is not going to happen.

Rather, it is a movement to disclose what goes into a handmade good. We put it out there, and then you can decide the value.

Years ago, when we were on a vacation... we walked by a group of artists painting outside and selling their work to tourists.  I wanted to purchase this lovely little water color. While I was looking, a lady came up and asked the artist if he would take $5 for the painting. The asking price was $12. He said yes and put the money in his pocket. No smile. No thrill there. Just a sale.  Seriously, $5 for an original painting? I choose the one I wanted and handed him $15. I smiled and started to walk away. He stopped me and said thank you in a way that I know he meant it and that was good enough for me. That $15 dollar painting is one of my favorites - and the reason has nothing to do with price. If I can spend $15 on a hamburger and drink, I can certainly invest the same on an original work of art that will make me happy for years to come.

What's it worth? To me, it's worth plenty.

Thanks for reading. Go to Sam's blog. Share this with others if you are so inclined.

We are "$ew Worth It!"

Oct 24, 2013

Calder inspired wall hanging

There's this list of great works of art from famous artists that keeps rattling around in my head... certain paintings, tapestries, tiles, mosaics, whatever... things I've seen in person that have just stuck with me over the years.

The list clogs my brain with ideas... and one day... I will reinterpret the list into art quilts.

Today, I can check one of those images off my list!

I've just finished an Alexander Calder inspired art quilt and I'm so happy with the way it turned out.

The husband and I photographed it today in front of the Calder sculpture near the entrance to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Calder's sculpture is called 'The Crab' and its a Houston icon for sure... and to me, the spindly, sprawling red legs of his sculpture fit so well with the swirls in this wall hanging.

(that's me crouching down behind the quilt)

I find Calder's art so inspiring. The bright colors and simple imagery are both instantly recognizable and memorable. There's just something happy about them all. Calder made a whole series of textiles in the 1960-70's... and as I shared in my last post, quilt historian Barbara Brackman posted information about his textiles on her blog a year ago. Barbara blogs regularly about quilts and the history of textiles... pretty interesting stuff.

When I step back and look at this, I can truly appreciate all the talent that Calder brought to this design. A great artist can take what seems so simple, some might say ordinary, and make it extraordinary--- and they do this with the perfect mix of balance, color, motion and emotion!

Years ago, I watched an accomplished artist paint a floral still life in water color, and after about 30 minutes she had an amazing work of art. When I told her I couldn't believe she could do that in just 30 minutes, she said: "yes, 30 years and 30 minutes."  Well said, for sure, and those words have stuck with me for years.

I don't know how long it took Calder to make his great textiles, but nonetheless... it's fun to take really good design like this - especially one that has stood the test of time - and bring it to life in my own way.

The background is black Kona cotton, and the designs swirls are appliqued on with fabrics from my collection.  I was so thrilled to find Aurifil thread to machine quilt this that matched the fabrics exactly!  That way I can see the intricate quilting stitches, but they blend in perfectly! I used Aurifil black (lots of it!), plus 4644, 2260, 2132 and 2311. 

I intend to put this wall hanging on my Etsy site as well... even though it will be hard to part with.

But I gotta make room for the next one... both in my house and in my head. 

One checked off the list. Lots more to add. The possibilities are endless  ...   I'm thinking of doing a Matisse next!

I live for comments! Please take a moment to fill in the box and comment. Thanks.

I am linking up with the blogger's quilt festival by Amy's Creative Side. Check out all the many blogs from her site.  Look for my entry in the Quilt Photography and Wall Hanging categories!


I am also linking up to Nina Marie's art quilt link up. So many cool art quilts there.