Thursday, October 16, 2014

Autumn in the Berkshires

Sweet Brook farm llamas. They have great wool, maple syrup, eggs and things made from alpaca wool.

A visual treat of Autumn color on an overcast and drizzly day.

Looking down our street toward Williams College. The two points are the college chapel.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Around the world blog hop!

A blog hop is kind of a "tag, you're it" thing for bloggers. Except you get to be invited, and can decline.

I was invited to join the blog hop by Judy Warner. I can't remember how I met Judy, but we have become friends via our blogs, emails and a SAQA conference. Judy travels all over the world and her travels influence her art quilts. Take a look at her blog and website - and enjoy getting to know her and her work.

I've been enjoying the challenge of folding and dyeing a full yard of fabric and making it into a complete composition. "Begin Again", the piece that I just finished, was dyed a couple of times and then plexiglass circles were used to create different sized circles on the fabric. I did cut the piece into a 1/3 and 2/3 so they could both be dyed in the same dye bath, but without wrinkling the fabric to add more lines. Here's the result after 3 dye baths.
Photoshop Elements is a good software program to use to try out design ideas without cutting into fabric. It's a useful tool, especially when working with shibori dyed fabrics and you don't want to lose lines or shapes to cutting and then decide it was better with out the addition. Here are a couple of the ideas I tried out - 

I liked the lower one better because the addition of lines and the circle of a different size were more interesting. I used some thickened bleach to make the lines on the bottom and some circles around the piece. Adding the large circle didn't really add to the composition so I didn't do it in bleach. It needed some contrast so out came some black yarn.
The contrast really added some pop to it, but the yarn sitting on top of the dyed fabric seemed too different and didn't fit with the rest of the work. Out came the fabric paint!
Here it is painted, quilted, faced and photographed. the photo's are not of the quality for entering a juried exhibit - they are for my records. Here is a detail shot of the quilting. The thread is actually an olive green that is subtle, but contrasts very nicely with the dyed colors. This image doesn't do it justice.
This is the process I have come to use with most of my work. Sketching comes into play for machine quilting design, and occasionally to solve composition problems. Taking photo's along the way and looking at them on the computer or in a print is very helpful.

Working intuitively is a common practice and I think there are many other artists who work that way. It's a journey, a process, sometimes a struggle. When the work is finished, I'm usually finished with it too, and don't mind selling it, or sending it out to be admired in an exhibit. It's wonderful to hear that others react to my work, and the process gives me great satisfaction.

I have invited three people to join the blog hop, and they are all people who I really like as well as respect their work. On Monday, Oct. 13, they will post to their blogs, and tag other bloggers so please visit their blogs and make a note to check back next week.

Cheryl Rezendes is the author of Fabric Surface Design, a wonderful encyclopedia of surface design techniques. I often refer to her book for ideas of how to accomplish a look I want. Her delicate art quilts are posted on her blog and website -

Kate Themal is an award winning art quilter who does representative work with real feeling. Her work is meticulous as well as thoughtful. Her latest quilt is of her grandmother's sewing machine and it tells a story. She blogs at

Diane Wright is one of the friendliest art quilters I know. Her quilts reflect her vibrancy and world travels. She's so productive; I know I could learn from her! Check out Diane's blog and check back when she posts about her travels - she goes to interesting places.

Thanks for reading, and please leave a comment if you have time and the inclination. It's always good to hear from readers!


Monday, September 29, 2014

Mounting small work

Making small work is a good break from my usual work. Since the open studio tour I have been planning to do another show with a few other artists and wanted to create small work that is more affordable for people. I came across Melody Johnson's post about displaying small works and decided to try it out.

Here are a couple of my first pieces:

These cradle boards are 9" x 12" and were bought online from Cheap Joe's.

As per Melody Johnson's blog post, I bought Velcro "Wafer thin fasteners". They are peel and stick which makes them very easy to use. I stick them to each corner of the cradle board and remove the protective backing, then press the back of the quilt onto the sticky oval.
If you stick the oval to the cradle board first, leaving both pieces "velcroed" together, then you can press the quilt onto the back of the velcro and don't have to worry about lining them up. It's sticky so it sticks to the back of the quilt.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Last days of summer - reflections and sky!

Most days, the dog gets to run around a beautiful field in town. It always gives me a sense of the seasons - the sky, air and colors all change every 4 months or so. The play of light on the grass and mountains, the shadows of the trees and clouds, the wide openness of the view make me feel so blessed to be able to experience this beauty every day.

The lily pond is the the Clark Art Institute and it always calls to me when I walk their grounds or visit the museum. Yes, we all think of Monet when we see lily ponds. Enjoy the scenery!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Open Studios tour

A few local artists in town organized a Williamstown Open Studios Tour. We gathered nine artists who were interested in participating and sent out press releases, printed flyers, and set up a FaceBook page.  We let all our friends and family know through email - and then set about cleaning our studio's. It's like knowing you have company coming - a good excuse to clean. We should do a tour twice a year just to have an excuse to clean the studio!

There are no before photo's so it will be hard to tell, but the studio is neater and cleaner than it was two days before the tour. With balloons on the mail box, doors of the studio and house it looked festive. There were cookies, water, grapes, trail mix and lemonade on tables but few people helped themselves to the snacks and drinks.
The studio - 20' x 20' former 2 stall barn.

Entering the studio...
It's interesting to answer questions and see what strikes people. Most asked about the design process and the construction of the studio. There were a few samples of small work that they could touch, and a large piece of dyed fabric. It seemed hard for them to visualize that all of my work and fabric started as white and then was dyed. Next time I'll have some fabric in the process of being dyed to demonstrate the technique. Here are some photo's of the way the studio was set up:
Fiber Now magazine open to a page that featured my "Circus Time" quilt and my resume.

Cookies, samples of small work, postcards and business cards, and small pieces for touching and showing techniques.

My wall of fabric, cutting table and drawers full of tools.

Hand dyed scarves for sale -

Office area

Sewing table, ironing station and thread cabinet

By the end of the day, I looked around and realized how overwhelming the studio might be to someone who isn't as visually oriented. The walls have family photo's, inspiration photo's, samples of techniques and small pieces of work on them. I can see most of my tools - fabric, paint, brushes, stabilizers, etc. Someone else could set it up very differently - but it's working for me so far.

Next post will show how displayed work in the house. It seemed helpful for people to see how the work looks in a living room. Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Photo's that take you other places

Steve McCurry is a photojournalist who I have admired for many years. His images are always impeccably composed, and he uses light to the fullest extent possible. He recently posted about how where you are born influences your life. Using photo's and quotes, the importance of place is shown to be paramount in our lives. It is a good reminder of how fickle fate can be. For those of us born into a family who always had enough, it's a good reminder that many don't have that fate.

Please take a look at his blog post and give yourself a thoughtful few minutes. If you're a photographer, you will also be in awe at his skill. Let me know what you think if you have time. His post made me want to travel to so many places, and reminds me to be thankful for my family and for being born into one that always had enough of everything to sustain us.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Abstraction, Reality and Feeling

"Nothing is less real than realism...Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things." Georgia O'Keefe

Georgia O'Keefe is a favorite artist of mine - as much for her work as for her struggle to be able to do the work. Her life was not easy. Her flowers and landscapes represent how she feels about them. She was a friend of Arthur Dove, who shared her goal . O'Keefe wrote that she wanted to paint how she felt about flowers. Agnes Martin also wrote about making art about feelings as have other artists.

I thought I was going to begin a series about the way birds make me feel. The coloration of feathers, beak, eyes and feet are so full of variety and beauty that they bring a sense of awe. An Audubon book of birds shows the different species but can't bring the quick intake of breathe when you observe a bird in it's natural habitat and feel total wonder at the very fact of it!

I have made one quilt about the Magpie, a common bird in Ireland. They are white and black with markings like tuxedo jackets. When they lift off to fly, you see that their open black wings are iridescent. It was a wonderful treat for me every time I was close enough to see their wings.

I'm not sure if this quilt is successful. I'd appreciate any critiques. 

The quilt below is titled "Magpie". It is made with Shibori pole wrapped fabric. 
I have shown it to a few people whose judgement I value, and there has not been an "Ah!" One instructor recommended cutting it to the composition below. What do you think?