Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nature's Spire

This piece has finally made it off my design wall to completion.

It was inspired by some wooden shingles at a friend's condo in the Colorado mountains.

As it grew, it changed in orientation and sat on my design wall for many weeks.  I finally used some quilting with a double needle to finish it.  I am quite pleased with the result and have already started a second piece in the same genre.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blog Surfing Results

Spent some time yesterday surfing a bit...through blogs, not water. Thought I would share a few of my discoveries.

WeAllSew - This is not a new blog to me but this post was really interesting. A product called Fuse & Fleece by OESD that can be used for making things like coasters. I am sure that there are a myriad of quilters out there with random small blocks etc that could easily create some Christmas gift coasters with this. While it will be a bit before I can explore it, I can visualize a few uses.

Art From The Heart - In a totally different vein, here is a blog created about the killings in Tucson almost a year ago. To quote from their purpose, Art from the Heart is an online exhibit, complete with process descriptions, of art designed to bring attention to the growing problems of hatred and violence in the United States, as well as the need for peace and nonviolence on the planet. It has been maintained throughout 2011 and is a glimpse into art with a social responsibility theme.

The Art-O-Mat - Lisa Quitanna just wrote a blog piece on this idea. I had found it mentioned last week on someone else's blog (sorry I have forgotten whose) and looked for the company's blog. They have been in business for years. It is a creative use of old cigarette machines. I suspect that one doesn't earn much but I have read that artists do get referrals from their contributions. Wondering if Fuse & Fleece would be helpful in creating the small pieces.

Friday, November 25, 2011


It's the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S.A. We celebrated the holiday quietly, content with connecting with both of our children, taking a walk, and having a quiet dinner. My heart fills with gratitude for all that I have been blessed with. I feel this gratitude every day, not just on Thanksgiving. In celebration of the event, I went looking for some great quotes on gratitude.

Here are a few that I found:

When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears. - Anthony Robbins

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. - William Arthur Ward

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  - John Fitzgerald Kennedy

In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. - Brother David Steindl-Rast

I am grateful for what I am and have.
My thanksgiving is perpetual...
O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches.
No run on my bank can drain it
for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.
Henry David Thoreau

Thanks to everyone who reads my blog!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Exploring Curves and Gradations

I spent some time last weekend at the Museum of Modern Art enjoying their beautiful collection. It was my second visit this fall so I decided to choose a personal theme or 'filter' for observing the art works. I have found that this approach to browsing through a gallery that I am able to visit more than once is a good exercise. It encourages me to examine works that I might not spend much time on otherwise as perhaps the subject or the color is not of interest to me.

So, for this visit to the museum, I focused on how artists used curves and gradations in their work.

Here is a work by George de Chirico entitled The Serenity of the Scholar. (I apologize for the angle of the photo).
 This caught my eye because of the effective use of gradations in the pose of the hand on the cylinder...
 and in the glasses resting on the table.

Upside Down Ada by Alex Kata, painted in 1965, has some wonderful curves in it.

Upside Down Ada

 Notice the hair - both for the curves and the gradations....
and, of course, the curves that create those rivoting eyes.
It would be impossible to visit the museum and study curves without one of the most famous paintings housed at the museum - Van Gogh's Starry Night.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Exciting Exhibit

I spent my weekend in New York trying to get in as much inspirational museum and gallery visiting as possible. One delightful discovery was the Gary Snyder Gallery at 529 West 20th Street in Manhattan.  The gallery is in the same building as the Uncommon Threads exhibit at the Kathryn Markel Fine Arts Gallery which was also a must see on my list.

Gary is a fellow aikido instructor whose career off-the-mat is as an art collector. The new space is wonderful and the perfect place to view Richard Van Buren's works. The exhibition highlights Van Buren's works in thermoplastic and his first exhibitio in a New York gallery in almost ten years.

Eighteen sculptures are on view and are stunning. There is a magical, other-word quality to them as you wantder the gallery. A twenty-four foot floor piece dominanates while other works extend out from the walls. The colors are delicate, subtle, and mesmerizing. Van Buren adds touches of natural materials such as sea shells as he plays with combinations of organic and inorganic materials.

This really is a must-see exhibit. Hope you can view it!

Friday, November 18, 2011


This was such a fun project! The request was simple - a baby quilt for someone who is a marine biologist. I wanted it to be simple and an opportunity to work on skills. I designed the whole piece and had a great time coming up with colors for the fish.

I used wool batting for the first time. I had read in a recent Quilting Arts article that wool batting is easier to work with if you are not on a long arm. I found it much lighter and easier to move around for free motion quilting. 

As I wanted to keep a fair amount of loft in the quilt, I used a very simple quilting pattern of wavy lines for the ocean section. I also decided to leave the border unquilted. The dark green plant actually has a fair amount of contrast as it is quilted somewhat heavily with a light colored thread.

All in all I was totally delighted with my design and ease with which I could applique and quilt it. Hope the baby likes it too!
Close up of some fish.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Fun Project

I had a request for a baby quilt with a marine biology theme. It came at just the right moment so I decided to use the opportunity to fine tune some of my applique skills. I was able to quickly come up with a design that I thought would be cute and not take too long.

Of course, now well into the project, I appreciate that nothing designed from scratch is quick. Sure glad that I wasn't aiming for an intricate design or the baby might be 10 before I finish!

Here are some views of my process:

A basic ocean background and plan for fish, plants, etc:
 Marine life begins to appear:
 All set with a border (which is really green) and ready to applique in and then embellish and quilt:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In-home Study Opportunities!

I had to pass this post from Gloria Hansen's blog along - Artspark Winter Tutorial Bloghop. It is a series of 11 different tutorials that you can view. It began yesterday and continues through November 19.

I might argue with including 'Winter' in the title as it has been unseasonably warm here but it is a great opportunity to pick up some tips. 

Here is the complete list of tutorials as listed on Gloria's blog:
Hope you can take advantage!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


One of the pieces from last week's design wall is evolving into a finished piece. Here is a peek at the progress. The tentative title is Nature's Spire.

The quilting was absolutely fun and a bit of a meditative process. I am really pleased with the result. I used the Bernina stitch regulator and, as usual, it was great. Coincidentally, I picked up a new foot yesterday at a Bernina presentation at the Bobbin Case, the Leather Roller 55 that I suspect could also have have used and that I expect I will use quite a bit in the future for this sort of echo quilting.

Nature's Spire is now back on the design wall in my office for contemplation while I work at my computer. I am still undecided on the final shape of the piece so I haven't quilted the outside dark brown fabric yet. And, I am considering some ideas for embellishing. Yesterday while I was out and about, I picked up some beads and silk yarn to play with a bit.

For now, this piece will sit for a few days till I have a clearer focus. Will keep you posted. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Stress-Less Travel Tips

While I certainly don't fall into the same category of frequent flyer as those who fly about every week, no one would argue that I do travel more than the average American. I realized that over the years I have developed my own guidelines for taking some of the stress out of flying. So, I thought I would start a series of posts over the next few months on Stress-Less Travel.

Today's tip is take advantage of non-traditional airport services.

To get where I needed to go this past weekend (Boston) from my home (Rochester, NY area), I was forced to make a slightly ridiculous connection through Philadelphia for my return flight - there simply were no through flights from Boston to Rochester on Saturday. The trip was fairly important to me and driving was not an option so it meant a two hour layover in Philadelphia. Fortunately, Philadelphia has an awesome array of airport stores and restaurants and, as I looked about, I recognized two of my favorite ways to make use of my time when I am faced with extended layovers - massage and non-fast food meals.

Many U.S. airports now have convenient spas where you can get a quick neck and shoulder massage. In this day and age of carry-on luggage, we give our bodies a real workout lugging along our suitcases on wheels. These spas offer anything from 10 minute to 30 minute chair massages that are fairly reasonably priced. There are several companies with locations in major airports across the country:
  • XpresSpa is located in airports in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, Dallas, Orlando and several other sites. I have used their services at LaGuardia and now Philadelphia. What is exceptionally nice is that they will let you spend a few extra minutes in their ultra-sophisticated lounge chairs after your massage, if your schedule permits. Beats sitting at a gate for an hour any time.
  • Massage Bar is another chain that operates in Seattle, Washington Dulles, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Nashville, and Sacramento. I have used their services in both Seattle and Washington Dulles for years. They offer a frequent customer punch card that has no expiration date so you might even be able to earn a free massage.
Another tip that I have learned over the years is to take advantage of sit-down restaurants serving other than fast food. It is great when you are running for flights to grab one of the pre-packaged meals readily available in airports. I have eaten many a dinner sitting at my gate prior to boarding, or taken my Chicken Caesar Salad in plastic packaging on a plane when time was really short. But, if I have a longer layover, actually being served is really nice.
  • Vino Volo is my favorite sit-down airport restaurant. Billed as a wine bar, it serves really well prepared meals at surprisingly reasonable prices. If you wish a glass of wine, the selection is outstanding and varies from location to location and over time. I discovered one of the early Vino Volo's at Washington Dulles buried back in the C concourse near where many of the evening flights to Europe depart. It was filled with Europeans having a glass of wine before their flight. That was several years ago. Now, Vino Volo has expanded to a dozen airports around the U.S. and their venues are often open and look more like regular restaurants than bars.
In summary, some times long layovers are unavoidable (there are times when they are a good idea too but more on that in another tip).  Sitting at a gate for hours is unpleasant and uncomfortable. Wandering aimlessly is fatiguing. Taking advantage of the time to care for yourself through services such as massage or with a good meal sends you on your way relaxed and more likely to arrive at your destination less stressed.

Happy travels!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pieces of my Mind?

Here is what one of my design walls looks like at the moment:
The piece on the left isn't cut off, it just ends there. The one in the middle is some layers of fabric that I was playing with for fun, mimicking the rings in some woooden shingles I had taken a photo of. The other piece was from a dyeing class I took last summer. All three pieces captivate me in some way. What way? Well, I haven't quite figured that out. :)

Right now, you might say I am between major projects. I am casting around for something to get enthusiastic about. I decided that rather than being idle - not in my disposition by any means - that I would just sew some forms that interested me. I put them all up on my design wall two days ago so I could stare at them.

So, Wednesday night our monthly SAQA Visioning call involved a guided meditation by a guest leader, Virginia Kellog. She led us through a guided meditation on vision and goals. Much to my surprise, I began to see some themes from my meditation that related to the patterns on my design wall - much to do with layers. Where this will exactly all lead, I can't really say. I do think that the idea of just letting myself play with fabrics and designs without the pressure of creating a finished piece was productive for me. Perhaps both that play and the guided meditations reflect my subconscious leading me towards my next complete project.

Stay posted for the answer!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The woods are lovely dark and deep,
but  I have promises to keep
and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost

Walking up our hill today after a long run, I was struck by how beautiful our woods are this time of year and how fortunate I am to be able to appreciate them. Tonight I found Robert Frost's poem buried in some cards in my closet. In this day and age, it seems so many of us have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep. And yet, it is so important to stop, breathe, and just savor the moment. 

Hope you have a great day.