Thursday, May 31, 2012

While I was heavily involved in mind/body work with Thomas Crum, a favorite colleague of mine was Judy Ringer. She trained with us at Aiki Works, Inc. and the two of us have continued a natural friendship through the years. Judy now has a highly successful training company of her own and maintains a blog.

I always enjoy her posts and the latest post is one that I am sure we can all identify with - a difficult customer service call. Judy describes her process of starting to lose her patience (and center) and then having an aha moment where she regains her balance and the words flow to dissipate the unpleasantness of the call.

There were several inspirational quotes in Judy's post from the art of aikido, which we both study, and related material. I thought I would leave you with them and hope they will inspire you to check out Judy's tale:

All things change when we do.
– Kukei, Eighth-Century Zen Master

To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. 
To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.

– Morihei Ueshiba, O Sensei, Founder of Aikido

Aikido masters say that opposing an attack directly feeds it. You may stop the other person temporarily, but you don’t stop his or her intention to attack.

— Andy Bryner and Dawna Markova, Ph.D., An Unused Intelligenc

In The Dance of Connection, author Harriet Lerner writes that in difficult conversations the task is not to “be yourself” but to “choose your self.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In, out, and Beyond

Since my last post I have been out to Arizona for a wonderful family reunion and then basically hibernating while I have begun my next art quilt. But, along the way, some stories caught my attention and so I thought I would share  them along with my latest project.

A photo that my son took near Vail, CO is the inspiration for my current work. In the past few days, my impromptu design board has sat in our family room while my interpretation has slowly grown. I totally love this early stage of creating an art quilt. I use a piece of muslin as my blank canvas and then begin to 'draw' with fabric.
 I have been collecting a stash of subtle blue/grey/green fabrics for the past year without a specific purpose. In the past few weeks, I have been supplementing my stash with this photo in mind - creating an artist's palate. The point where I settle down and begin to actually create is exciting and intense. Slowly the piece begins to grow.
It makes little sense to the outside observer (my husband) at first, particularly since I began with one detailed portion of the piece.
But, finally, it reaches a stage where it becomes recognizable.
There is a certain sense of accomplishment in reaching this stage. There is much more to add - in fabric, thread painting, and quilting - but the basic foundation is set. Now my feverish pace slows a bit, while I contemplate the next steps, and also catch up on all the tasks that fell by the wayside while I started this piece towards reality.

As I out and about on Sunday, catching up on those errands that had fallen by the wayside, I found myself listening to a most fascinating  program on CNN. It was about Sarah Parcak, who CNN describes as following:   
Sarah Parcak has been dubbed the "real-life Indiana Jones," but she prefers to be called a "space archaeologist." From her lab at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Parcak analyzes infrared satellite imagery to map lost cities thought gone forever.
The program I was listening to was "What's Next" and features stories about forward-looking thinkers in the fields of tech, science and social change. Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosts the program and this past Sunday he was interviewing Sarah about her work. She uses satellite imagery to identify and study lost civilizations with a particular focus on Egypt. You can get a sense of what she does at this link. Eventually, the entire interview will be available there and it really is an fascinating story to listen to. Her enthusiasm for her work is contagious. She not only discovers historic sites but can monitor their condition - during the recent uprisings in Egypt, she was able to identify where looters were desecrating archaeological sites. Listening to her describe her process of 'exploration' and how she deals with an occupation where 'failure' is a common experience is an uplifting experience. 

A year or so ago, my husband and I got to take a tour of NASA's headquarters in Houston, TX. The space program has always been dear to my heart since I was in high school when we set out to put a man on the moon. That accomplishment soon after I graduated from college instilled in me the philosophy that nothing is impossible if you set a goal and work towards it. I was touched by my visit to NASA and the enthusiasm for space exploration of the workers there. I have watched with concern since then as the shuttle program ended and the future of space exploration has seemed so tenuous.

So, I took special pleasure this past week in following the launch of the unmanned SpaceX Dragon capsule – the first U.S. vessel to visit the space station since NASA’s shuttles retired last summer — and the first private spacecraft to ever attempt a delivery. 

SpaceX’s objective is to help stockpile the space station, joining Russia, Europe and Japan in resupply duties.  It is up there right now performing its task. Upon completion, it hopes to return to earth - it is the only supply ship designed to return to Earth with experiments and equipment. If all goes well, in three or four more years, the company run by the billionaire who cofounded PayPal, Elon Musk, hopes to be launching station astronauts.  SpaceX is the cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s strategy for NASA: turning over orbital flights to private business so the space agency can concentrate on destinations farther afield, like asteroids and Mars. I hope that it is successful so that future generations of young Americans can continue to be inspired by the wonders of space exploration.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Prayer Flag Project

A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in the Bhavana Project, begun by Linda Miller. My commitment was simple - to design a prayer flag for a series on the theme of Reflections on Peace. The flag was supplied and when it arrived, along with the others in the series,  I was delighted to see that blue/greens were the base. I have strong ties to my Irish heritage and those colors prompted me to immediately chose a celtic knot  - a symbol of peace - for the heart of my design. The script, Peace to all who enter here, flew into my mind and heart when I meditated on the theme. As a final touch, I embellished the flags with beads that symbolized tears of hope.

Each artist was asked to photographed the flags on display. I chose to photograph mine by a Peace Pole that greets visitors to our home. It felt like an appropriate setting. 

I was first introduced to the idea of a Peace Pole at the Windstar Foundation in Old Snowmass, CO.  Windstar, a foundation dedicated to a sustainable future, was founded in the 70’s by singer John Denver and Tom Crum, the fellow whom I worked with for the past 25 years.

Participating in this project has drawn together many wonderful memories for me and I deeply appreciate the opportunity I was given.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Adventures in Sewing Up a "Simple' Bag

Last week I took a class in making a simple bag that afforded me some valuable reminders in sewing and life. I should have known better. The class sounded like a fun way to spend an afternoon sewing with friends, that ended with an attractive bag for carrying stuff. The sample at the Bobbin Case was quite nice and the construction technique looked and sounded so simple. I very conveniently forgot my past frustrations with bag construction and the simple lesson that no matter how easy something looks, one rarely finishes a class project in the class.

Lesson One: 
Simple does not mean quick.

We started out with the opportunity to practice free motion quilting by assembling two yards of complementary fabric in a sandwich and quilting it. This was quite enjoyable as I do a lot of free motion quilting. The bag construction phase of the class started off smoothly enough. I got to practice making a feld seam which I had long forgotten. Then I looked at the clock. Oops. I began to realize that I just might not get the bag done in one afternoon. This should not have been a big deal but, of course, in true 'Judy fashion', I had brazenly sandwiched the class into a very busy week. I immediately began to feel pressure to finish the project now.

Lesson Two: 
Pacing is essential in life.

This self-imposed stress immediately began to take the fun out of the sewing. Fortunately, I had enough awareness to appreciate this and decide to just leave everything and return the next day to finish up. (The Bobbin Case staff was wonderfully understanding about this idea.)

Lesson Three: 
When in doubt, breathe and let go.

I returned the next day to 'finish up' my project. I fully expected to whip through the end of the construction and walk out in an hour. Ha! Things started out smoothly and then I got to the final step of attaching my handles. I looked at the strips I had prepared the day before and realized I needed to change my construction method. It was all downhill from there. Anything I tried did not work. Frustration was a polite way of describing my entire attitude towards those handles. Being surrounded by a group of sweet, caring ladies trying to help me only increased my frustration with myself. I realized how ridiculous I was being. I was as stressed out with the silly handles as I would get at times when I was 'working'. It was entirely due to my choice in how I was handling the situation. All the support I needed was right in front of me but there I was again putting pressure on myself to perform perfectly in an unrealistic time frame.

Lesson Four: 
If you keep repeating dysfunctional patterns, don't be surprised with the same results.

I took a few deep breaths, packed up my things, and went home to take care of things that needed to be done. Later that night, when I finally had some quiet time, I looked at my almost finished bag and then slowly cut and stitched a perfectly functional set of handles. As I got ready for bed, I set my finished bag where I could see it. It looked great. I realized every time I used it, it would be a great reminder of the power of choice.

Lesson Five: 
Our choices determine the quality of our lives.
Recognize dysfunctional patterns in your life and choose to change your responses.

The bag

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Quilt 2012 Challenge

I have been having great fun with Jeanne Simpson's Quilt 2012 Challenge. We are given a theme every Sunday and have the week to complete a 20" x 12" art quilt. Jeanne calls it a trolley challenge as you can choose to participate as much as you wish - a great idea for me with my travels.

This past week's theme was "Cinco de Mayo" and my contribution was appropriately colorful.

Be sure to check out the other submissions on Jeanne's site.

I am getting quite a nice collection of small art quilts from the challenge. Fortunately, they fit perfectly on a table in our foyer so I am switching them on and off and enjoying them as I pass by.

I am using the challenge as a vehicle to play with different techniques. It was suggested that we construct our quilts quickly, intuitively, and with an air of experimentation. I am really enjoying the freedom to experiment within the structure of a theme.

Anyone is invited to jump on the trolley and try a few weeks. Themes are posted on Sunday evening. Hope you will consider playing!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Quick Fun Quilt

I mentioned last week that I was determined to make another Comfort Quilt for our quilt guild this year. My goal was to use the embroidery side of my Bernina to quilt one.

I began with playing with a sample. Not to waste anything, I turned the sample into a simple bag:
The quilt pattern is one from the OESD series, Bold & Beautiful, created for Bernina. For my comfort quilt, I combined this flower pattern with a circular pattern in the series.
I created a very simple quilt top with wool batting that would not conflict with the quilting. I am finding wool batting delightfully lightweight for quilting on my Bernina - very simple to manoeuvre and equally easy for my embroidery component to move around. I also like the loft that it produces for a lap quilt.

Here is the front of the quilt:
I pieced a simple back as well.