Friday, December 25, 2009

O Holy Night by Eve Brown-Waite

My friend, Eve Brown-Waite is a talented writer, with a sweet heart, and terrific sense of humor. I wanted to pass on the link to a post from Eve's blog. It's about a special experience, shared with her daughter, that doesn't come very often, but when it does, it lifts your heart and spirits. Here's the link Eve Brown-Waite.
Her book about being in the Peace Corps is also a great read.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Newgrange radio spot

The Irish radio station, RTE1 has a segment written by a tour guide at Newgrange that says just what I wish I could have said about Newgrange. The segment starts at about 48 minutes into it, and you can fast forward to that if you don't have time to listen to the whole thing. The writer, Vonna Groake, is a tour guide and really captures the magic and mystery of the place, and the people who built it.
Go to the site, and click on latest show. If you're reading this after Dec. 26th, you'll need to find the show from Dec. 20th. Here's the link: Newgrange by Vonna Groake.
With the solstice being just passed, it's a perfect way to celebrate that we are going into the light!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Touching 5000 years of life

I visited Bru na Boinne in County Meath, Ireland on Friday. It is the site of several Neolithic tombs, and I was able to go into Newgrange with a tour. It is the best known Irish passage tomb. Archeologists have dated it from 3,000 BC. Older than the pyramids and Stonehenge. It was designed so that on the Winter Solstice, the sun would come in through a small window box over the entry, down a long, very narrow passage way, and shine onto a Basin stone. The stone held the remains of people, and it is believed that they were the most revered in their community.
The stones have designs carved into them that have influenced art - for 5000 years. No one knows what the marks mean, but they are also found in other communities across Spain and Portugal.

Standing in the interior space of Newgrange, seeing the markings, the amazing corbeled central ceiling, and knowing that it was designed to have the sun line up perfectly for a few days of the year was very moving. I put my palms on many of the stones, and felt the same stones that people moved, 5,000 years ago, and touched by many since then. I thought of the desire we all have to be remembered in some way - by creating art, writing, changing society, or even through everyday kindnesses. The people who built this tomb had the same desire to create, to find meaning in their lives, a connection to the greater world through the path of the sun and seasons.

The urge to leave something of ourselves, to find meaning in our lives and world, is a difficult urge to satisfy. It was a powerful experience to be in the same room as 5,000 years of humanity.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Alliance for American Quilts

I was interviewed a while back by Karen Musgrave, for the Alliance for American Quilts, after the exhibit "President Obama: A Celebration in Art Quilts". My "Lift Every Voice and Sing" quilt is the subject of the interview.

The Alliance is saving quilters stories, so our history can be recorded.
My interview is only one of many, many interviews from a wide variety of people. Take a look at the Alliance for American Quilts, and if you'd like to be interviewed, contact them. We all have stories to tell.

Friday, November 27, 2009

trees and eyes

These "eyes" are from a tree in the neighborhood. I'm imagining them printed on fabric in all different sizes - they are so obviously tree knots, but seem so expressive. A possible future piece when I return to my studio.
Happy Thanksgiving to anyone reading this! I'm thankful for YOU.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Half a bike

The clouds were pouring over the mountains, and there was half a bike showing from the shed. The perspective was flattened due to the light. I like that it almost seems like it's a stage set. Made on the Dingle peninsula, Ireland.


Aren't those great shadows? I loved the shadows all lined up, looking scraggly. The photo was made in Howth, Ireland.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

leaf shapes

When I'm thinking of shapes to use in my work, I often end up thinking of the shapes of leaves. Sometimes I walk around my yard, other times I look thru my photo's to remind myself of the wonderful diversity in leaf and flower shapes. These are photo's of leaves that I took in the small yard in the apartment complex we're renting in Dublin. Between the colors and shapes, there are
so many options. My favorite leaf is the gingko - but I haven't seen one in Dublin. I'm looking forward to going home and seeing the gingko tree that we planted this summer. I keep some pressed gingko leaves in my studio - they're like a touchstone for me.

If anyone knows what the name of the plant in the first photo with the big white spray of flowers, please let me know! It's very striking - and may not grow in my yard at home, but I'd love to know what it is! Thanks in advance for any help.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fear and Ferris Wheels

Next to the Belfast City Hall is a huge Ferris Wheel, and on Halloween, they had it lit up with fluorescent colors. It looked fabulous! After taking a few photo's with the almost full moon showing through the spokes, I asked my husband if he thought we should go on it. He was happy to do it so we walked around the block and bought the tickets.
It wasn't until we were in the slightly swinging cab that I told him I was terrified of ferris wheels. After 26 years of marriage, he knew I didn't like heights, but he didn't know how scared I was to go up in a Ferris Wheel. As we started going up, I had to fight the feelings of vomiting or know. I kept talking - about looking out instead of down, noting the landmarks and how pretty the city looked and how much higher we were than the City Hall building - which is pretty high! As we came back to the platform, I felt I could breathe again and was ready to get off and feel very proud of myself for facing my fear. Then...the wheel kept turning. The second time was almost as bad and I started worrying about them letting us off. I still felt sick to my stomach, and was only able to control my feelings by reminding myself that I did it once, and could do it the second time.
They ended up having us go around four times! Yes, it was a little easier by the fourth time. I can't say that I enjoyed it at all, but I did feel that I had done something that was very hard for me. There aren't many times when I have the option of doing something new, that is very difficult. Just a fact of age and experience. But I thought of how long it had been since I had done something that was a challenge for me. Doing something that fills you with anxiety and/or fear is a good thing to do on occasion. Challenging myself not to become complacent in my life, my art, or relationships is a way to be sure that I will spend each day knowing I am alive, growing and gaining new perspectives. It's just a Ferris Wheel to some people, but to me, it was an electric jolt!

The Knitting and Stitching Show was held at the RDS last weekend. I went on Thursday, and it was packed!There were loads of vendors, with the majority being related to embroidery. There were gallery type set ups with art quilters, and the most creative embroiderers. They had some of the Prize Winners from the Festival of Quilts Show in Birmingham, England.
I'm posting a few photo's of the art quilts: First is Pearl Essence, by Laura Kemshall. The award was for the Quilters Guild Challenge. It's a lovely portrait using hand dyes, discharged and painted fabric, with very elaborate machine stitching. Laura has captured this woman so well, and it is a very dramatic portrait.
The second photo is Pearls Are Not Always White, by Sheena Norquay. It is beige, and subtle pastels. The photo doesn't do it justice due to the lighting in the RDS, but you get the idea of the delicacy of the colors.
The next photo is the Prize winner for the Art Quilts category: Mother Earth, by Helen Godden of Australia. It looks like it was hand dyed/painted and discharge, with the composition planned in advance, and then thread was used to draw the details. A very striking image, that just glows off the wall!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I feel blessed to be an extremely visual person. It wasn't always easy in educational settings, because I always had to see and read something to understand it. But it's a great way to never be bored!

A sprained ankle has me taking it very slow, and limiting my use of a sewing machine. I needed to get out to feel the air and be a part of the world for a little while, and hoped that a short walk would encourage healing.

I took my pocket camera with me, and sure enough, found things to get me excited - visual candy!
Being a visual person, and artist, means that the world is always offering you stimulation. I love that I can compose in a camera, and then think about what I can do with the idea I grabbed out of my brief walk. The bark of a tree can be an idea for painting fabric, and then there's discharging to get the luminosity reflected from leaves. Or the lines of granite stones with green moss providing texture - could be done through piecing hand dyed fabric, or many possibilities to consider. Even when I'm procrastinating - and I'm really good at that, I know that all I have to do is walk out the door for more ideas, and energy.

It is a grey day in Dublin, so everything was very subtly lit. The photo of the shadows on the bridge was supposed to be uploaded for another posting about design, but got left behind. Love the lines across that bridge!

The stones made me think of the work of Jeanne Williamson, an Art Quilter. She uses Orange construction material and fabric, paint and stitching. Her work is dramatic, and graphically complex. Jeanne has a show opening soon in Providence, RI. I won't be able to go, but if you do, please, let me know!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lynn Kenny was the speaker at the Irish Patchwork Society meeting in Dublin, on Saturday. Lynn is a professional artist from Killaloe, in County Clare, Ireland. She uses paper, paint, fabric and stitching in a very distinct style.

Lynn has lots of birds in her work, but I admired her abstracts most of all. She starts with a page from a magazine or catalogue, adds some tissue paper, puts PVA glue over the whole thing, and when dry, adds acrylic paints. She then layers fabrics and threads which add depth and texture. She said that she never knows what will come through the tissue paper - sometimes faces, sometimes words, or partial objects, but she lets the piece lead her where it wants to go. I really liked the depth and complexity of her pieces. Take a look, and see if they inspire you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Finding design ideas

Traveling gives me so much inspiration because everything feels new. I'm using my camera as a sketchbook, and plan to use some of these photo's for inspiration when I get back to my studio.
The white Dahlia is a wonderful possibility for quilting a whole cloth quilt, or using the photo multiple times on a piece. The cabbage is gorgeous color. The shapes of the leaves, with all their different sizes and ruffled edges make it so voluptuous.

The shadows on the wooden bridge could be a design in black and white, or many colors - the lines and shapes are already an interesting place to start. Both the stone wall, and the rocks, are good possibilities for positive and negative shaped designs. They stand up as designs whichever way they are turned.
How does traveling inspire you?

The Fuschia of Ireland

In Ireland, the Fuschia plant is a shrub. The flower looks like the hanging fuschia flower plants we buy and try to baby through the summer. In Ireland, the plant is a shrub, that needs to be pruned back every year, or it can grow to 10 feet! I'm posting a photo of the flower, the shrub, and a hedge of fuschia's. In the landscape photo from the Dingle Peninsula, there is a couple walking along a path with a row of red plants - they are actually a hedge of fuschia's. They just glow in the sunlight.
Ireland has a mild climate and is in the Zones 7-10 according to Wikipedia. It's a great place to garden, or visit gardens.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The colors in the photographs of the mosaic don't show the depth of color as I experienced them.
Might have been having an out of body experience, but if so, it was with 100 other people!

I've been thinking about why these mosaics are such masterpieces, and at this point, I think it is because of their depth of color and complexity of design. The whole composition is so richly textured and patterned that they are a feast for the eyes. I've been looking at other artists work to see if I can get a better understanding of how to accomplish this level of richness (someday in the future). Pamela Allen, an art quilter, does similarly beautiful and interesting work, with lots of detail and embellishment. Nancy Crow, uses a rich palette of color as well, and many of her art quilts glow as the mosaics do. Lino Tagliapietra is an Italian glass blower who also has complex shapes, designs, and very rich color in his pieces. All are masters, creating masterpieces, and it is the richness of their work that is teaching me what raises their work from the GOOD to the GREAT.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ravenna, Italy Mosaics

I recently visited Ravenna, Italy, where there are masterpieces of mosaics from the 4th century and up. They were a real surprise to me because they were so fresh in design, color and lines. Many are from the Byzantine age, so they are completely full of texture. There are 8 World Heritage sites in the city of Ravenna, with 6 of them being sites that are decorated in mosaics. It was a very inspiring visit, and reinforces the thought that nothing is new in Art. The density of color and complexity of design exemplify the more is more concept. The glass pieces are 1 cm. and smaller!

The photo showing the 3 floors and ceiling is from S. Vitale, the best known of the mosaic sites. The glass pieces that make up the mosaics are placed at slightly different angles, so they catch the light, and are very reflective, even after 1500 years.
Gold was often used for it's reflective quality, but doesn't
show up well in the photo's. You'll just have to go!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Just Be - guest blogger Morna McEver Golletz

A portion of a recent e-zine - The Professional Quilter - resonated with me. I've received the magazine for about 5 years, and always learn from it. This recent message was a different one, and something I wanted to pass on.
"When I go to my local yoga studio, Follow Your Heart Yoga in Germantown, Md., I see a tile hanging by the door. It says Just Be! I've seen it for years now and never really gave it a lot of thought. What does it mean to "just be"? On one level it means to be present in the moment, without distraction, still. And, that's probably what we're supposed to consider when we see the tile and begin our practice in the studio. But who is it that you want to be?

I don't know if you are familiar with the Be-Do-Have principle. I think I first heard of it years ago, probably on a Tony Robbins audio program. It got a lot of play recently with the movie The Secret and the Law of Attraction principle. Early on most of us learn that if we do whatever, we will have whatever and then we'll be whatever. That's DO-HAVE-BE; it really should be BE-DO-HAVE. You first need to figure out what kind of person you want to be. Being is how you create the life that you want.

This past Sunday my husband and I went to church in Connecticut, and, in her sermon, the deacon asked, "Who Are You?" Most of us say, "I'm a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a quilter, a writer, a cook, etc." But who are we really and who do we want to be? It can take some listening to figure it out.

Spend some time thinking about who you are and who you want to be. For me, I want to be a person of integrity, filled with joy and gratitude. I want to be generous and open and spirited. Since I know the person I want to be, it makes it easier for me to do things in accord with that. My actions are based on who I want to "be" and what a person of that "being" would do.

So, who do you want to be? You need to listen to your inner voice to find out. And, to do that you need to Just Be!

Here are two quotes on being that I like:

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
e.e. cummings

I think of life itself now as a wonderful play that I've written for myself, and so my purpose is to have the utmost fun playing my part.
Shirley MacLaine"

Morna McEver Golletz is the editor and publisher of The Professional Quilter, a business journal for serious quilters. You can learn more about Morna and The Professional Quilter at You can also sign up for her free e-zine filled with tips, tools and techniques to grow your quilt business.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

tie-dyed scarves

Dyeing scarves is like playing with color. I scrunch, tie, clamp, twist or just put them in a baggie and squeeze. Mixing colors and seeing how the different effects end up is always a surprise and delight. Before delivering the scarves to the gift shop that sells them, I photograph them and enjoy the photo's too. Here's a few from recent dyeing.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ochre/Blue at the Brush Art Gallery in Lowell, MA

The Brush Art Gallery opening reception is Saturday night, August 8, from 3-5 pm. The juried exhibition was organized by Eileen Byrne, and jurors are Sylvia Einstein and Judy Becker. This is the first time I have entered this exhibition, and I am looking forward to being a part of the opening. I feel that I get a good pat on the back when I attend an opening reception, and hear positive comments on my work. There's lots to do this weekend in Lowell, so come if you want to see the latest in art quilts, as well as traditional quilts. Let's hope the weather holds out.