Monday, January 31, 2011


I was able to finish up my tree quilt this past week. I am calling it, "You can see the stars." If you remember, the inspiration for the piece is a Persian proverb quoted in a report of Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute foundation – When it is dark, you can see the stars.

The fabric is hand-dyed and comes from Lisa Walton whom I am currently taking a beading class from. I am really pleased with the way the tree turned out and wish to acknowledge Anne Maundrell whose art works introduced me to the thread work approach to creating leaves.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Embroidery by Afghan Women

Somewhere in my web-browsing in the past few months, I came across a reference to a project involving embroidery created by village women in Afghanistan. The project is facilitated by an organization, begun by Pascale Goldenberg, and based in Germany.  Pascale receives small squares of embroidery from women in Laghmani, north of Kabul, and offers them for sale. A quick review of Pascale’s website,, suggested that these were amazingly intricate designs and, also, that it was easiest to arrange purchase if one were in Europe.

I filed away the info until a few weeks ago and then arranged to purchase a few squares and have them shipped to a B&B where I would be staying in France. Pascale was happy to ship to me in France and trust that I would send payment from France once I had received the squares.

All the logistics worked and I received three small rectangular pieces when I arrived in Paris. They are stunning. Each reminds me of what I might see in a Persian carpet. The small rectangles are each about 2” x 2 ½”. 

It is difficult to comprehend the artistry of the pieces from the photos. To give you a better idea, I have includes the reverse side of one of the pieces – it is hard to tell it is the back. 

I haven’t decided what I will do with these pieces yet, or if I will order some more. It is not impossible from the U.S., just a bit more red tape. For now, I am pleased with what I have received and knowing that in purchasing these miniature works of art, I am helping to support  a group of women who live in dire conditions.  

Hope you will take time to visit Pascale's site and learn more.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Tree Grows

My online beading class is progressing wonderfully. I was looking for technique instruction and inspiration and am highly pleased so far in both respects. We are in our third week of class. Our instructor, Lisa Walton, is a wonderful teacher and happy to tweak the course to meet our needs.

I was so enthused with the potential of the beading process that I quickly began a project I had in mind for several weeks. The idea for an art quilt came as I read an old Persian proverb, "When it is dark, you can see the stars," in the pages of a report from Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute. I immediately made a note of the quote for a future piece.

As I began to see the potential of beading for creating a star-filled sky, I immediately starting using some dyed fabric I had gotten from Lisa a few months ago to quickly construct a background.  Then, I built upon an idea for thread painting a tree from a blog, Anne's Creative Threads. Anne has created the most amazing series of African sunsets and details her process in her blog. I decided to try a similar thread painting approach using a tree I had photographed on a recent trip to Maui as a model for a silhouette. Everything flowed beautifully and, after some quick quilting, I am now ready to add some stars, using my beading technique.

  You will have to wait a bit more to see the finished piece!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Would Van Gogh Have Been a Quilter?

Strange thoughts pass through your mind, while sitting with a good glass of wine, over a beautifully prepared meal, after hours spent contemplating art in Paris museums.

It all began in the Musee D’Orsay as I noticed the variations in color in the backgrounds on a few of Van Gogh’s painting.  From there it was a small step to appreciate the curvilinear nature of his strokes with fresh eyes. Suddenly I was feeling a certain kinship with this genius as I am always drawn to curves in my quilting. …

Then, totally coincidentally, over dinner, I am reading a chapter in Alain de Botton’s book, The Art of Travel. (I have written more than once in this blog on the appeal of Mr. Botton’s choice of phrasing to me.) This time Alain is writing about Provence, France and the fifteen months Van Gogh spent there creating some of his many memorable works. Alain writes about Van Gogh’s interpretation of cypresses and olive trees. He juxtapositions a photo of a cypress with Cypresses (1889), then a photo of the site of the Van Gogh painting Olive Grove Orange Sky  (1889) with the actual painting. The ‘quilting lines’ jump out at me.

Why am I not surprised a while later, while web browsing, that I read that fellow SAQA artist, Kate Themel, is among 15 USA artists invited by Hiroko Matsuda of The Kagoshima Quilters Association in Kagoshima, Japan to take part in a challenge for next year’s show where artists are asked to draw inspiration from one of Vincent Van Gogh’s many “Sunflower Series” paintings.…………..

It all seems rather obvious to me now – in another time, when fiber art was not seen as ‘women’s work’, art quilts might have been a natural jump for the man who saw the circularity in nature and sought means to express it. Take a look again at some of Van Gogh’s works such as Starry Night. I bet you will start to see quilts too!

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's All Art

Here are two more pieces that I found at the Denver Art Museum that totally fascinated me. They weren't made of fabric but bore a relationship to quilts in a way.

I found this huge piece in the African art section. It is by El Anatsui who lives now in Nigeria. He found a bag of liquor bottle caps and took them back to his studio till he had the idea to pound them flat and stitch them together. (Note the relationship to quilting!)

El Anatsui was transforming metal from stiff to supple and using it as a medium for filling huge spaces sensually. He titled the piece, Rain has no father.

The other piece is equally fascinating. Here is the view from across the room.

When you get closer, you see that it is a form created by joining rods of metal.

The work is called Quantum Cloud XXXIII and was created by Antony Gormley. The description that accompanied the piece said that Antony uses his own body for a base, striking a pose, and then having his students create a mold.

Both designs are powerful. The artists chose their media to make their statements. Isn't it fascinating the many ways in which we as people choose to express ourselves!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bark Cloth

One of the exhibits at the Denver Art Museum that I visited earlier this month that caught my eye included some samples of bark cloth. There were two examples from Samoa from the early 1900's.

The cloth is made from the soft inner bark of trees. The bark, in thin strips,are then beaten until the bark is soft, supple, and wider. These pieces are then joined together. The women then either drew upon them or stamped them. These really are similar to quilt tops, don't you think?

These examples were in the Oceanic Exhibit at the museum. I also found a cloak from the Maori culture in New Zealand from the late 1800's. It was was made out of feathers and flax and reminded me of quilt patterns.

Monday, January 17, 2011

And one more thing...

I already added one addendum to this mornng's blog post. Rather than totally confuse readers by updating the content again, I will just add this as a second post.

Besides my quilt art, many of you know that I also have worked with Tom Crum for many years. You can see in my twitter account that we sent out a Centering Hint this morning. It was an exceptionally good one, I think, so I thought I would highlight it's publication here was a special link.

Hope you enjoy it. There is also a place at the bottom of the hint where you can sign up to receive them directly. We send out about one every month to six weeks. They are all worth considering.

Have a great day!

Exploring Downtown Denver plus Framing Art Quilts

A number of quilt artists are planning to attend SAQA's Visioning Conference in Denver, CO next May 19-22 in Denver, CO. I had that very much in mind on my visit to downtown Denver earlier this month. The Conference is at The Brown Palace Hotel.

Here are some useful pieces of information to keep in mind as the conference approaches.
  • The Brown Palace Hotel is located on 17th St. One block away is the 16th St. Mall which stretches for 16 blocks and has a seemingly continuous free shuttle running its length. I never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a shuttle to transport me quickly from one end of the mall to the other. This opened up all sort of possibilities for restaurants and shopping. SAQA has arranged discount hotel rates at the Comfort Inn that is connected to the Brown Palace. However, if you are unable to stay there, there are many hotels located off the mall that are convenient, given the shuttle. I stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn on 17th St. and the staff was unusually helpful.
  • I would be remiss not to mention what quickly became my favorite restaurant that is located just off the mall. Rioja is highly rated and difficult to get reservations for, but very much worth the effort. Their website describes the cuisine as "featuring a menu inspired by Mediterranean ingredients and influenced by local and seasonal products." I was able to eat there twice - I had to go back a second time for more of their Apple Basil Soup. Both times it was a meal to remember and quite reasonably priced.
  • A good website for summary information on downtown Denver is which lays out clearly city transportation, shopping, and airport transportation.
I suspect that all of us who are attending the SAQA Conference will find more than enough to keep us busy!

One Last Thing on Framing Art Quilts

I was just web browsing and found this reference for simple frames with glass and without mats. Thought it might be of interest as it seems there are always on-going discussions of how to hang quilt art. I know some people like to use glass and some don't. If this is of interest to you, here is the link.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Snow's Here – How About Snow Dyeing?

    Well, I was finally home for a snowfall. The deck outside my office has over a foot of snow on it.

    All through our yard, plants, statues, and bird feeders have snow caps.

    Last summer's grass looks strikingly beautiful against the white backdrop.

    This all reminds me of snow-dyeing. I would love to get to some this winter. Of course, I am heading out of town again in a few days but the winter is still young.

    I did a search online and found a few blogs with both methods and ideas. Thought I would list them for everyone else. At least here in the States, the cable news was saying yesterday that only one mainland state has no snow cover - Florida. So, snow seems to be a pretty accessible quantity right now.

    Here is what I found:

    If you do try some dyeing, please let me know what works and doesn't. And, if you have any other great sources of info.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    The Denver Art Museum

    My visit to the Denver Art Museum was brief but inspiring. I visited the museum on a Saturday afternoon, the day before its massive King Tut Exhibit was closing and, as a result,  it was pretty mobbed. But, since I was interested in the rest of the museum, the crowds were really not a problem.

    I headed first for the floor that specifically had the words, Textile Art, in its description. Keeping in mind that there is another museum in downtown Denver, the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts, that I would assume has a good deal of textiles in it, I did not expect to find an abundance of quilt art in the Denver Art Museum. What I found was one room with some massive traditional quilts. The quilts were amazing in their artistry and the manner of display really took your breath away.

    When I think back on my visit to the Museum, one of the most outstanding points was perhaps the spaciousness of the exhibits. The Hamilton Building, which housed the King Tut exhibit, along with Western American and Modern and Contemporary art, is a unique titanium structure designed by architect Daniel Libeskind.
    Designed by Daniel Libeskind
    Another major building in the complex is a castle-like structure designed by Gio Ponti of Milan, Italy. As a result, the galleries for exhibits all allow for spacious displays which give the viewer perspective as well as the ability to get up close and appreciate individual works.

    Gallery in the Asian Collection
    I found myself fascinated with intricate designs and rich colors where ever I wandered.

    An Iranian earthenware dish from the 900s

    A section of a wooden palace facade from the Swat Valley in Pakistan from 1835. 
    Wandering through the museum for the short amount of time that I had only whet my appetite for more exploration of art in Denver when I return in May for the SAQA Vision Conference!

    Extra Note on Giveaway
    I was taking a few minutes to just browse some of the blogs that I follow and just have to mention that Jane Sassaman is giving away a copy of Noriko Endo's new book, Confetti Landscape on her blog. Noriko's work looks amazing. Check it out if you have time!

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    On the Road Again.....

    I have just spent the last five days in Colorado. I realized from my schedule that there was little likelihood of much time to explore art galleries and museums. I will be back here in May for the SAQA Visioning Conference so I knew I would have another chance. I did pick up a guide to Denver which lists many intriguing neighborhoods, art galleries and museums to see. I was able to get over to the Denver Art Museum for a quick look. I had a description of the museum that mentioned it was filled with paintings by Monet, Picasso, and Matisse, but I never found them. I will just have to go back and search some more! The floor plan of the museum that you get with your ticket is not very elaborate. I did find a number of exhibits that intrigued me and I will be sharing them in the next week or so. Also, some tips on downtown Denver that might be of interest for May.

    While I was in Denver, I flew over to Aspen for about five hours. I still can't quite believe that I did that but I have worked for about twenty-five years with a really great couple who live there. They couldn't come to me, so we decided I should come to them if weather allowed. and Friday dawned sunny and clear. My flight was almost on time. As our plane approached Roaring Fork Valley where Aspen is located, I felt my spirit smile. The view of the mountains is breath-taking. I started making some quick sketches for future quilts as my camera was not handy. On the way back, despite dirty plane windows, I was able to snap a few shots to help me remember the scene.

    I have to mention that my book of choice for this trip was another by Alain de Botton. (In a previous post I reported on another of Alain's books, A Week at the Airport) This time I am reading The Art of Travel. It was an excellent choice. In the opening chapters, Alain so correctly observes that the problem that often happens when we are traveling is that we bring along ourselves. Get that? If, for example, we are looking at a brochure of a wonderful vacation spot, we leave out in fantasizing that when we take the trip, we are likely to not leave our cares, worries, relationship troubles, at home. They will accompany us and color our experience. It might not live up to the brochure!

    What a great thought to read as I glided into Aspen - a place of great beauty. My challenge to myself was to be self aware of my weak points and leave my 'baggage' behind as I deplaned and to present the best version of myself possible. A few deep breaths helped me to center and as a result, I had a wonderful visit with my friends.

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    A Touch of Spring!

    With the temperatures freezing in many parts of the country, it is important to remember that all things pass and warmer times are ahead.

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    It's a New Year!

    The holidays have past and the new year stretches before us. Take a moment and ask:

    What would I like my life to look like in January 2012? What role will quilting/art play in my life? What will I have created in 2011?

    Then, map out a plan to make that vision a reality. It will only happen if you create it. Conflict with our vision is inevitable in the coming year, probably when you least expect it. But, if we are clear on our vision, the bumps in the road will only be speed bumps, slowing us down perhaps, but never altering our general direction.

    Tom Crum, author of Magic of Conflict, has a saying:

    True Power is Energy Flowing Freely Towards a Purpose

    May 2011 be the best year ever!

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    My Favorite French Sewing Things

    The Needle - A Noble Product!

    So begins the Bohin website. With an attitude like that, you would expect some spectacular needles - and they are. I am not sure how I wound up with a package of Bohin Appliquer needles in my possession but I noticed more and more that when I had some hand sewing, I was searching for my Bohins. Then I noticed that a marking pencil that I had picked up at a local quilt store because of it's unique design worked really well for my needs -- and it was made by Bohin. Hmmm. I decided to learn more about the company.

    It says right on the needle packaging that the needles are made in France. The website relates that the company is located on the Risle river in Normandy, France and has been in business for over 170 years. The building it is housed in is registered as an historic building and the machinery used is engineered and designed on the premises.  Bohin actually began as a toy manufacturer but shifted to  needles and pins in 1868. The company has kept up with times, modernizing as needed, and winning an environmental award for purifying the water it used in its nickel plating operations so completely. To quote the company description of the factory: This old mill on the edge of the Risle river has been preserved through continuous use.  It has evolved through time whilst maintaining its original character and architecture. Everywhere on the Bohin website you find words like quality, exacting, precision. That certainly is true of the needles that I have. They are delicate but strong. I find it fascinating that something as simple as a needle can create a good feeling for a person, but it is true.

    The marking pen looks like a ballpoint pen. It comes with refills in multi-colors. The tip is fine and easily marks fabric and as easily erases or washes out. The 'pens' actually have erasers on their tops. I like the precise marking that I can make with them without having to stop and sharpen pencil tips as I do with most marking pencils.

    Bohin has been selling its notions in the U.S. since 1997. I can't find a catalog for the U.S. but the needles and pens are available in selected stores and through the internet. They are worth a try if you have access.