Tag Archives: creativity

Life Imitates Art.

deck view

View from the deck

Often we think that our quilting is just a hobby, but I’m here this week to tell you that it is more than that.  It is rehearsal for life.

Just the other day, I kiss my husband goodbye and send him off to the airport, then step outside on the back deck to breathe some fresh air, absorb some vitamin D, and appreciate the storm clouds building over the mountains.  I’m glad to see it’s going to rain because it’s pretty hot right now.  My bare feet are getting scorched on the hot planks.

A storm brewing

A storm brewing

I turn to go back inside and find that the slider has locked behind me.  After checking the windows and finding them all closed tight, I give a “you hoo” to my neighbors, but no one is there to hear.  This deck sits a mere 10-12 feet off the ground with no steps to get there.  Also, the spot with the least distance between deck and ground happens to be the place where we have stored some extra landscaping rocks, and a bucket where we put bags of dog poop until the trash man comes.  A sense of panic would like to rise up inside of me, but NO.

I stop and think, “What would Quilter’s do?”

deck drop

No good place to fall.

The answer: I must save myself.  I need to take stock of available resources and get creative: see what is in the stash, and find new uses for available items. I find chair cushions and drop them over the side on the spot that I determine is the best place to land. Unfortunately, cushions bounce.  I manage to create a ring of cushions that will soften my landing as I fall over after hitting the ground.  I climbed over the rail and hung from the lowest plank until I lost my grip.  Apparently, I too, bounce when dropped from the deck.  With some minor scrapes, a nasty gash on the ankle and a modest amount of swelling, I am earthbound once again.

Limping up to the front yard brings the new realization that I am still locked out of my own home.  We had installed a new garage door opener the day before, but didn’t get around to programming the keypad. Damn procrastination!!

Once again, thinking like a quilter, I knew that sometimes you have to rip things apart and put them back together. I can’t give further details on how exactly to break into my house, except to say that, that particular option no longer exists.

I’m going back to my studio where there is nothing to break but a needle and thread.

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Student Work

I’ve done a lot of traveling in the last couple of months: spoke to several guilds, attended quilt shows, and taught a workshop.  It IMG_4818has been  wonderful to meet and talk with people about their quilting and to share my techniques.  In between all of that I’m also hearing from people who have read  my book.  I love it when they send pictures of what they have accomplished.

Great work, Judy!

Great work, Judy!

 

 

 

 

One reader, Judy, sent me this photo of her with her friend Jane, and the thread-painted portrait she made of Jane.  I was pretty impressed.  Thanks for sharing.

 

 

Finally, here are photos of some of the ladies in my Thread-Painted Portrait workshop  at Quilter’s Station in Lee’s Summit, MO. What a delightful group.

First-time thread-painter, Janet. Go girl!!

First-time thread-painter, Janet. Go girl!!

Karen building on basic skills

Karen building on basic skills

Shirley was the speed demon

Shirley was the speed demon

 

 

Jane adding to an already extensive skill set.

Jane adding to an already extensive skill set.

Clara had thread-painted landscapes, now faces

Clara thread-painted landscapes, now faces

Barb drove hours to be with us--what energy.

Barb drove hours to be with us–what energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I’m preparing for a workshop and some lectures that I’ll be giving at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England in August. Will I see you there?

 

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A Horse of Course

I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but, as you might have guessed, progress did continue on the horseman.  In my race to finish it in time to submit to the Houston quilt competition, all available resources were diverted to making progress on this piece.  I did take some photos along the way and will share that progress with you in my next few blog posts.

Shiny and dull threads for this horse

Shiny and dull threads for this horse

This week, let’s focus on the stitching of the first horse.

I selected a variety of threads in the full value range.  This first horse is pretty dark, and if I think about what the horse would look like in real life, my thread choices would fall in the medium to dark range.  My analytical brain has to take over to pick the very lightest threads.  Because this horse is standing in water,  a selection of threads with dull and shiny finishes were chosen to differentiate between the wet and dry parts of the horse.

Often, stitching begins with the lightest threads, working toward the dark areas, but this time, I did the opposite. I can’t say why with certainty.  Perhaps it’s because the dark threads will complete most of the stitching and the lighter threads will add the finishing touches.  The first step is to make some broad, sweeping stitch lines to hold things in place.  That is followed by several passes, filling in more and more each time.

These photos show how the work progressed.

Stitching horse 0

Stitching horse 1

Stitching horse 2

stitching horse 3

While working up close, it’s hard to fully appreciate what is happening.  I have to rely on

Reference photo on the computer

Reference photo on the computer

what I know should work as I’m stitching.  I also keep my laptop near by with a reference photo on display.  It is always such a treat to step back and look at the work and be able to appreciate that it has come together as planned.  Sometimes, it’s even better, like the stitching along the neck of this horse.  That’s when I smile, pat myself on the back, and say, “Lea, you’ve done well.  You should have some chocolate.”

After a cup of tea and a few Thin Mint cookies, I had to admit that I was not thrilled with the nose.  More on that next week…

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See Me on The Quilt Show

I recently taped an episode of TheQuiltShow.com with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.  Subscribers to that website got to see that episode last week.  Many thanks to those of you that sent kind words through email and Facebook.

sitting talking

Photo by Gregory Case

Now, I can share a link to that show with the rest of you. Click on the link here and you can watch too.

Watch The Show

This link will work until May 11, so make a cup of tea and sit back to enjoy.

Let me know what you think Also, for those of you that subscribe to The Quilt Show, I have a new series of lessons in the “Classroom” section of the website.  This course is on “Contemporary Batik”  If you’ve ever wanted to try batik, but were afraid of the mess, check out this class.  It will be FUN, and EASY!! http://thequiltshow.com/learn/classrooms FTI: you have to be a subscriber to the website to access this class.

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The Tangled Web

I’ve managed to get the first two panels of my 4 Horsemen triptych fused together and have come to terms with the reality that I will not get the 3rd panel finished in time for my May deadline. I will make the 3rd panel—someday—maybe in the summer.

Before I can begin stitching, I must to do some planning and prep work now if the three panels are to fit together later. Toward that end, iI want to make sure that each panel works individually AND in concert with each other.

Panels side by side

Panels side by side

Here is the process:

  1. Lay the panels side by side. (Panel 3 is just a large sheet of muslin)
  1. Mark the corner points and 1/3 marks along each side.
  1. Run a line of string string between each of these key points.

In doing this, I can accurately place lines of the riverbank, foothills, mountains, and place the final riders in just the right position. Additionally, this web of string creates a grid for identifying key lines and points of intersection within the piece.

Here is my dilemma: the whole thing is way to large to fit on my design wall. The best I can do is clear the floor in my family room and lay out the panels. Unable to pin into the hardwood floors, I’m left to lay the string on the floor and they won’t stay put.  They are continually shifting as I move things around under them.  Eventually, I do get a sense of how things are laying out.

I see some good things going on in the right panel:

Lines o the right panel

Lines o the right panel

  • A diagonal goes down the face, hits the shoulder, belt buckle, then follows the line of the tail
  • Another diagonal follows the line of the neck, a crease in the blanket, and the shadow of the back haunch.
  • The lower horizontal connects the reins, rifle, and blanket fold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the center panel:

Lines on the center panel

Lines on the center panel

  • A diagonal connects the hand, a stripe of the blanket, a line of rope, and then runs down the back leg
  • Another connects the eyes, bottom of the rope and follows the tail.
  • The lower horizontal runs along the belly of the horse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the left panel:

Lines on the left panel

Lines on the left panel

  • I place the horses in the center between the horizontal strings
  • Diagonals from the upper left corner will fall along the head and back of the horse and also connect the nose, chest and stirrup.
  • I also sketch in lines for the background so that it will all come together in the end.

 

Doing this on the floor stinks! Every time I move something, I have to reposition the strings.   To make things worse, my trusty companion, Coco, has her own ideas about the placement of these strings.   I love her, but I REALLY don’t appreciate her design sensibilities.

Coco tries to help

Coco tries to help

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Does This Butt Look Big??

Too much off the edge

Too much off the edge

While fussing over the second horseman and I find a couple of problems with the composition.  I’m irritated by the horse’s back end hanging off the right side of the composition.  It seems to be too much.

Because I have already finished the background, extending it could be a problem.  Can it be done without creating a distinct line down the panel that is obvious and distracting??

 

 

horse butt after

Extending the water

I’ve got to try.  At this point, I think the key to the expansion project is to break up the vertical line.  As I add to each component of the background, I’ve got to stagger the additions of fabric.  The water is the largest area and most obvious, but I can camouflage that line with ripples.  Here is what I have at the end.  Let’s hope stitching hides the rest.

Try to ignore those black lines on the second photo.  I’ll explain them another day.

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Just the Right Face

Too much shadow.

Too much shadow.

The second figure has come together, but I don’t like the face.  Even though it is turned away from the viewer, it is still important to get it right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hair and face distinguished.

Hair and face distinguished.

First, I don’t like that the head is a solid black shape as it creates too much shadow.  Replacing part of that black shape with brown helps to distinguish the hair from the face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

reference tools

reference tools

With that done, my attention now turns to the line of the profile. To make it accurate I  refer back to a drawing I did for my book showing the correct placement of features.  I hang it next to my fused image. BONUS: the drawing happens to be almost the same size as face of my rider.  Using a ruler I hang in front of the fused face, I place pins to mark important benchmarks: top and bottom of the head, bridge of the nose, bottom of the nose.

 

 

 

 

From there, I make some nips and tucks and put the best face forward.

Now its right!

Now its right!

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Sharing Student Successes

The reward of being a teacher is to experience the success of one’s students.  In recent weeks, I’ve been sent photos of finished work from several students.  Some of these photos have come from other states and other continents.  The magic of the internet is that it bridges great distances.  Below, please enjoy some of the work that others have done using my lessons on fused appliqué.

Work by Paula Tuaño, Bayberry Quilters of Cape Cod (disregard the dates in the corners of the photos.)

Asleep in the Car

Asleep in the Car

Three Bums from South Ferry flophouses,  Battery Park, NYC 1941

Three Bums from South Ferry flophouses,
Battery Park, NYC 1941

Work by Joan Musick, Colorado Springs

Oscar

Oscar

detail of Oscar

detail of Oscar

Work by Marie Glover, Yeelanna, South Australia

title unknown

title unknown

 

Portrait Quilt by Marie Glover,

Portrait Quilt by Marie Glover,

Thanks for sharing, ladies.

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Embracing Limitations

I shake.  Most notably, my hands shake.   Some days are worse than others.  I have a condition called “Essential Tremor”. The diagnosis came back in the 90’s and after trying a couple of medications with side effects that were worse than the condition, I’ve resigned myself to live with it.

My photo of nephew Jake at his commissioning ceremony.

My photo of nephew Jake at his commissioning ceremony.

The condition has been both a curse and a blessing in my art. The tremor makes it difficult for me to take good photos.  I have a new camera that has an anti-shake feature, but some days, it’s just not enough.  I like to work from my own photos so that I don’t have to worry about copyright issues, but am finding that increasingly difficult.  This is a contributing factor to my working from historical photos.

stitching oops!

stitching oops!

Another reality is that I have difficulty sewing a straight line when stitching with my longarm machine.  If you ever see my work on a traditional quilt design, you would not be impressed.  The up side is that it led me to thread painting.  My style of free-motion stitching doesn’t rely on the same kind of precision.  When it is necessary to be precise with details, I must slow down.  Sometimes, I make one stitch at a time: needle up, needle down, needle up, needle down. Sometimes, I despair, wondering what will happen to my art if and when the conditions becomes worse.

I just found an inspiring TED talk by an artist with a similar condition.  It applies to anyone on a creative journey and I want to share it with you. Phil Hansen TED talk

 

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Judging a Book by its Cover

Panning CoverAfter working on my new book all summer: sewing samples, photographing the stages, and explaining it all with text, it came time to design the cover.  I thought that using a photo of my work, “Panning for Gold” would be great since it has won a couple of awards this year.  That’s when I discovered the benefits of having a great editor and designer looking out for me.

It was pointed out to me that the cover I proposed was drab in color and portrayed an old, poor man, working hard in an icy mountain stream–No joy there!!  I was also forced to consider how the cover would look on a website where it would appear only a few inches high.  Details are lost, and colors blend together.  A cover has to work at full size and in miniature.

Another consideration is how the book will be displayed in a shop.  Often books are stacked on shelves that allow only the top 2 inches of the book to be seen.  This means that those top 2 inches are prime real-estate.

Finally, I didn’t want to add a subtitle.  Sometimes those seem to go on forever.  I like short and sweet.  Again, my team showed the value of using this opportunity to further define my book topic for those who are not familiar with my work.

I can’t say enough good things about Janice Brewster, editor, and Karen Sulmonetti, designer.  They are The Creative Girlfriends.  If you are thinking about writing a book, click on their link and get started.

With all of this in mind, it was back to the drawing board, and sewing machine, for a new and improved cover.  Here is what we came up with:

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