Monday, February 25, 2013

A Fascinating Exhibit at Metroplitan Museum of Art

This past Saturday I had a priviledge to see the Met's new exhibit, Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, which officially opens February 26. This is a most wonderful exhibit that one could spend hours viewing.

To quote from the Members Calendar description, a revealing look at the role of fashion in the works of Impressionists and their contemporaries.... It is an extensive exhibit with over 80 paintings that are viewed along with period costumes and fashion plates. It was absolutely wonderful to have actual costumes used in some of the paintings present.

Women in the Garden by Monet
 I have always loved the paintings of Monet, Manet and Renoir and never tire of viewing them.  This time, due to the nature of the exhibit, my attention was really drawn to how the artists achieved the incredibly realistic look of  fabric through paint on canvas. The subtleties of the layers of shading, along with the intricate detail, have always been there. I just never quite focused upon them.

The exhibit will continue until May 27. I hope that you will be in the New York City area this spring and able to view in person. There is also an extensive book on the exhibit available through the Met store after the exhibit opens.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Earlier in February, I wrote a post about funding need for a film on the Tentmakers of  Chareh El - a group of Egytians who make in credible appliqué hangings. I am delighted to report that the necessary funding has been raised!

Thank you if you helped in reaching the goal. If not, the fundraising will continue for another week and you can still contribute. Additional funds mean a higher quality product.

To learn more and contribute, here is the link:

Here is a sample of their work from their Facebook page:


Friday, February 22, 2013

And the Irish Cottage evolves....

Thought I would entertain you a bit with a glimpse at process. :)

The Irish cottage has definitely attracted my energy. It will be a long time in the production, particularly due to my travels, but one has to start somewhere.

This week I started working on fabric selection. You can see from the photo below that I do this in a very 'organized' way!
The shelves where I store my stash are over beyond the left of the photo. Basically I go through each cubby of fabric looking for possible candidates. There is actually some order in the seeming chaos. If you look closely you can discern the cottage walls and roof are on the ironing board, the sky/ocean are directly under it. The rest of the groupings on the floor begin to capture the various shades in the grasses and fields. The makings of a gravel road on the tip of the ironing board.

Having made the walk-in space of my stash collection difficult to navigate, I then moved towards honing down the groupings. This required that I get a little more specific on the range of various colors I will need.

I am still waiting for some larger prints of the photograph to arrive. For now, I worked with some tracing paper on an 8x10 print.

This really forces me to begin to study the print. I love the variations in color. Now I am challenged to really see how value differences contribute to the scene. I start to make lists for the various areas  how many levels of a particular color I will need. Slowly, I will begin to visualize how I might capture some of the feel of the cottage and land through fabric.

My next step will be to revisit the collection lying on my ironing board/floor and begin to hone it down. Then, I will visit a few of my favorite stores to see if there are any other potential candidates there. (How my stash inevitably gets built.) As I get closer to actually choosing fabrics, I will go online for areas where I just don't like what I have been able to find in my closet and stores.

While this 'honing down' is happening, hopefully, those photo enlargements will arrive and I will work on a full scale layout for the art quilt. Typically I work from a black and white print and blow it up at Staples to a full size layout of the quilt. That will eventually be transferred to a mlar overlay that I will use in construction. You can get a general sense of that process from this blog post I wrote from last September.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Luxury of Time

So I have been back out of town again since my last post – I wasn't fooling when I said that I was traveling a lot. However, Sunday I was home all day and declared 'play time.' That meant an afternoon of fooling around with fabric. What a luxury for me these days!

The end result of the afternoon, captured in this photo of part of my workspace, were four separate works-in-progress. Two images that I had printed by Red Dog Enterprises while I was away are up on my design wall while I decide how they will be transformed into art quilts. A third lies on my work table as I consider its next step. And, finally, over in that fourth quadrant of my workspace photo is a print of a photo I am also working with.

I am excited about where all four ideas will go but that fourth quadrant represents my next big fused art quilt. The photo holds a special meaning for me. It was taken by my cousin Stephen who returned last September once again to Louisburgh, Ireland where our grandmother was born. While there he visited the remains of an old cottage near Bunlough Point where the older sister of my grandmother lived many years ago.

Bunlough is a remote location today and was even more remote in the early 1900's when my grandmother was growing up in Louisburgh. Marriages were often arranged in those days. I have often been told the story that the arranged marriage of her older sister to the owner of that farm spurred my grandmother to arrange transport for herself to NY and then send for some of her younger sisters. So, you might say that cottage contributed significantly to my existence.

I have always enjoyed that story - my grandmother was a physically slight person - she weighed less than 100 pounds when I was a child - but she was a determined Irish lady who knew her own mind. As I grew up I got to spend a good deal of time with her and she influenced me greatly. I strongly suspect that she will be peering down at me with an amused look as I work on my interpretation of that cottage.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Squeezing in Some Quilting

Just got my Mileage Plus statement for last month and it had a little section on Fun Facts - pointed out that I had been to 8 United airports in January. What a great summary of 2013. In February I only expect to hit 7. But, I have been home for two and a half days so I decided to partake in SAQA's Santa Fe Spotlight.

All that was required was a 6x8 inch piece which would be matted and used in a silent auction at the April SAQA Expanding Horizons conference in Santa Fe. A prompt turn-around by Red Dog Enterprises on some digital printing meant that I was greeted by the base for a contribution when I arrived home on Sunday afternoon. It felt absolutely wonderful to be back quilting the piece on my machine on Monday and yesterday I sat peacefully adding some beadwork.

While I will leave the 'unveiling' for Santa Fe, here is a glimpse of a section of the work in an early stage when I was experimenting with what beads might add to the piece. I am calling it Vanishing Ice. I suspect it is my first in a series of pieces that will deal with the topic of melting Arctic ice. (Have I mentioned that my husband and I are complementing our trip to Antarctica with a journey to the other end of the globe to visit the Arctic later this year?)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Double tagged!

In the past week, I have been 'tagged' by two blogger friends of mine. Thank you, Kelly and Margaret! You can check out their blogs here:

Since I am on a self-imposed hiatus from my Bernina while I practice being a grandmother (going great!), I decided to pass on the honor to eleven deserving bloggers whom I follow. The rules for participating in this tag, while looking formidable at first, really weren't so bad once I chunked things over a few days - isn't that always the way!

The rules for participation:
1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.2. Answer the questions that the nominator set for you3. Create 11 questions for the people you nominate4. Choose 11 blogs with less than 200 followers and link them in your post.

So here it goes:

11 Random Things About Myself
  1. I have three Siberian Huskies.
  2. I have been practicing aikido for 27 years.
  3. I am really enjoying this season’s Downton Abbey.
  4. Favorite places: Hawaii & Paris but Kerala, India is also up there.
  5. I am never bored.
  6. I always look on life as an adventure and absolutely love traveling.
  7. Wish there were 10 more hours in each day.
  8. Am grateful beyond words for the life I have been blessed with.
  9. I follow current events avidly.
  10. Would love the Bills to have a winning season again.
  11. Love watching my granddaughter 
Answer the Nominator's Questions
I got off easy here as Margaret forgot to include questions so I only have 11 instead of 22. :)

Eleven Questions from Kelly:
1. Today is the last day of your life. How are you going to spend it?
Surrounded by family in a beautiful spot.
2. What traits in a person make you want to get to get to know them better?
Energetic, inquisitive, interested in world events, caring
3. Favorite artist:
John Denver
4. If regrets were flowers - would you have a field, a garden, a bouquet or a boutonnier?
A small bouquet
5. Scariest fear you have conquered:
Fear of flying
6. If you could go back to school - would you? And if so, what would you want to study?
Probably not but I would study design if I did.
7. What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
Electric pressure cooker - makes great soups quickly
8. Favorite food:
Anything vegetarian or Indian
9. Favorite actor:
Robert Redford
10. Your favorite way to "stop and smell the roses"
11. What country would you most like to visit?        
Would like to see Southeast Asia some day

Questions for my Nominees:
  1. What is your favorite color?
  2. If you could live anywhere in the world, what would you live?
  3. What was the last book you read?
  4. What kind of music do you like?
  5. Why do you have a blog?
  6. Would you rather travel by car, plane, train, or bus?
  7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  8. If you had a day free of responsibilities, what would be the first thing you would do?
  9. Do you prefer warm or cold weather?
  10. How often to do you watch TV?
  11. Have you any pets? 
And, here are my nominees. Please check out their blogs and consider following them:

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Tentmakers of Chareh El

Here is a worthy project that has come to my attention. I am adapting text here from a post by Jenny Bowker who has been involved with the project for quite awhile.

Sample of Tentmakers Work
The Tentmakers are a group of men in Cairo who make spectacular applique. Nowadays most of what they make is intended for the walls of houses or on beds, but in Pharaonic, early Islamic, and Ottoman times it was intended for the inside walls of tents. With canvas behind it which formed the
outside wall, the rich appliqué glowed with light on it, and was intended to amaze visitors to a leader's tent. Did you know that Cairo was originally called Fustat - which means the big tent? In pharaonic times the tents were appliqued leather, now all the work is cotton.

You can read more text about them here:

You can see a short video made by Bonnie McCaffrey for Luana Rubin here:

And a longer one made by Bonnie as one of her wonderful vidcasts here:

And if you go to Jenny's Pinterest board on the Tentmakers you will see a lot of current work - and some that is much older and also some of the truly old tents so you can see how they were used.

Jenny also suggests Kim Beamish's Facebook page for a film that he is creating - he is constantly putting up new images, and there is a lot lot of historical input as well.

The art of the Tentmakers has been slowly dying. Big pieces of cheap, badly registered, printed fabric made in China have poured into Cairo and people buy this rather that the real appliquéd pieces. On top of that disaster - tourism has stopped with unrest for the last two years. Without the work sold in to exhibitions that Jenny has been arranging in other countries the Tentmakers would all be gone by now - instead - stitchers who left are coming back and young ones are learning again. Much progress has been made but the work of the tentmakers is still hardly documented at all. There is not one piece in the Cairo Museum or even in the Cairo textile museum. The best article is in the Uncoverings magazine and there are no books. Older stitchers are dying and no history has been written.

Kim Beamish is an Australian friend of Jenny's who is making a film about the Tentmakers in these difficult times. Of Kim, Jenny writes:
He has given most of five days a week for the last seven months - or more. He has paid his own way to shows in England, and has had to pay for three more that have not even happened yet in France and two in America. He has become part of the street and the men are used to him and his camera. He has two young children and a wife who works in the Australian Embassy in Cairo. They have to pay a nanny so that he is free to film. He is, like I was, a trailing spouse. He did not choose to live the 'cocktail parties and bridge' life, but has chosen to go out on a limb to tell a very moving and necessary story. I know that at the moment he is on the bones of his behind financially and simply cannot afford anything else.
The movie of the Tentmakers will not be made without funding for the essentials - the long and boring stages when the filming is done and the hard work starts. Editing, top level translation and the rest has to be done by experts and paid for.
 Here is a link if you would like to help support the film:

Note that if you use PayPal it will ask you to preauthorise. It sounds odd but it simply means that when the total is reached the money will then be taken from people's accounts. No funding will be released for the film if the total funding is not raised - that is how Pozible works.

Jenny closed her post as follows:
I am hoping a lot of people will have read this far and be willing now to help us. PLEASE send this on to as wide an audience as you can reach. The moment the total is reached the project will be assured. Until then it looks as if it might be dead in the water.
Thank you
Jenny Bowker
Book - Pack and Follow -
Website and Blog -

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pause for Inspiration

Life is a never ending journey filled with twists and turns. For me, these few weeks are a wonderful episode of discovery and joy as I get to spend time with a newly adopted grandchild. It has meant a pause in my ability to stitch as I am across the country from my Bernina but, there are still moments for creativity and inspiration.

One luxury of this respite has been the time to explore some of the many sites that constantly flow through my inbox with tantalizing options for further viewing. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is constantly tempting me as they offer members some wonderful online viewing options for their exhibitions. This year they have created a series called 82nd and Fifth, where they are presenting weekly clips by museum curators on how works have inspired them. I would encourage everyone to subscribe - you don't have to be a member for this series. The clips are only two or three minutes long - a real asset if you are looking for quick shots of inspiration!

As an example: in one episode, Nadine Orenstein discusses the 1653 work by Rembrandt, Christ Crucified between the Two  Thieves: The Three Crosses.  For Ms. Orenstein, "a great work of art goes beyond the image that it is depicting." This particular work is one of Ms. Orenstein's favorite and she knows it intimately.

In her brief vignette she discusses Rembrandt's use of simple lines to show emotion and his uncanny ability to use light and shadows to captivate the viewer. Bruce Schwartz's very effective photography dramatizes what Ms. Orenstein is summarizing in a little over two minutes. You really need his close up photography to catch what Ms. Orenstein has discovered. Simply looking at a jpg of the entire image doesn't do it.

I hope you can find the time to enjoy their exchange. Their vignette will send you off for the day with some new thoughts on how to view people and perhaps portray emotion in your own works!