That Was Easy

March 5, 2015

Well, if you have a shitty day at work, then it’s easy to come home (after watching a soccer game) and say to yourself that you are done with your job for the day. There was a brief moment of guilt when I considered that I really should grade tests or extra credit or something, but then my art brain took over and explained how I had already used up THIS much energy on work today, and I wasn’t required to use up any more…so move on, little doggie, and make you some art.

Then there was the question of which project to work on, but I’ve got the Ventura quilt on my mind, kicking me in the frontal lobe, Hey! Get me done! Put me on the priority list! You don’t need to clean the house! I’m more important! So I cut out little pieces of Wonder Under while sitting on the couch with the girlchild, watching the same episodes of House that I’ve seen three or four times…until I finished. Wait. I finished. That was easy. I wasn’t expecting to finish cutting them out last night. But I said about 2 1/2 hours and it was just under two. Six hours and 17 minutes total…so not that far off the other one.

And it wasn’t super late…so I set up for sorting…

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One bin for each 100 pieces…you know, it’s funny. I have this procedure now that I use with every quilt, and I don’t remember when or how I came up with it…I mean, at some point, I must have been sitting there with a few hundred pieces of Wonder Under (back in the day when I didn’t make quilts with over 2000 pieces?) and thought, how can I better organize this? It’s been so long, I don’t remember starting to do that. But now I have bins that are numbered, so I just go hunt down (in this case) bins 0-8 and lay them out and start…

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Believe it or not, this quilt isn’t that complicated, so it was less than an hour. It’s funny that a 900-piece quilt is one I consider pretty easy to do at this stage in my art career. It’s big, but not huge. The one I’m planning for over the summer…I think I will be saved by the size restriction on it. Otherwise, it would have a million pieces in it.

Anyway, I’m ready for the next stage…fabric choice! Except I don’t have a background picked out yet, and that’s what I don’t usually have in my stash. I don’t know if I have time today to get a background…probably not, because she’s only open to 5 PM and I have dance practice (don’t laugh. It’s a long story, mostly unbelievable if you know me well enough) until 4:30 or so. Huh. So tomorrow probably, after school. I could do that. I should probably measure the drawing, though, so I know how much to get.

Exciting! I like the fabric part. The studio/office is a bit of a mess though, so I’ll have to deal with that too.

And complicating my schedule, as always, is soccer. Girlchild’s high school team was in the CIF (state) semifinals last night…

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They started with this lineup that included the 9- and 10-year-old club players who hopefully will be future high-school players, which was cute. Apparently we were on TV too (local TV station).

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It was a tense game against a team we had tied against before…

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A very physical game…

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Like check out the legs…

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By the end of the second half, it was tied 1-1, and it stayed that way until the last 20 minutes of the game, when we got our second goal…

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And under the light of the full moon, managed to keep the lead. There was a lot of screaming. This is the first time they’ve made it this far, and the finals are Saturday night. Not my favorite way to spend Saturday night, and I will have to stitch right through it to reduce the stress. Seriously…these games can shorten your lifespan if you don’t do something else while the girls play.

Anyway. It’s the last game of the high-school season…not to take a deep breath or anything, because the first tournament of the second half of the club season is two weekends later. Oh well. My trimester grades will be done by Saturday night…and worst-case? Her team comes in 2nd. Not a bad finish. And hopefully I’ll get some fabric ironed this weekend too (don’t think about having to grade tests and unit packets).


This Is Not It

March 4, 2015

Nope. Not it. I mean, I drew it, but it was late and I was kinda tired and you can tell because the lines are all loosey goosey and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. So maybe this is a study for the final one.

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I mean, it’s not a bad drawing, and it certainly has fewer pieces than many of my quilts, and I know what I was trying to do, but it’s not it. It’s OK. I have the technology. I can draw a new one. The main idea is there. It’s not like I don’t do multiple versions of drawings on a regular basis, especially if it’s for a particular theme or show. Why wouldn’t I do a quick speedy draw…seriously, this took maybe 20 minutes, and most of that was trying to figure out the fingers around the wine glass…which I really like. I think that’s the only part I really like. No, that’s not true. There’s a fluidity of line in there that I like. So I’m not knocking it out. I’m not.

This is just not it.

So when I don’t draw for a while (it’s been a month or so), my brain doesn’t forget how…it just needs to remember how to hold the pen and control it, to let the art brain have the pen, to let it go. (please don’t sing that damn song) I wasn’t able to really do that last night. Maybe tonight.

So once I’d purged that from my hand (brain?), I cut out more Wonder Under. I’m hoping to get to the ironing stage in the next few days, which means getting this done and ignoring the fact that it will take me an hour to sort all the damn pieces.

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I’ve been cutting for 4 1/2 hours. My guess would be another 2 1/2 to go? It’s a total guess, by the way. I could make an educated guess, based on previous quilts, but that would presume I am way more awake at the moment than I am. OK. Apparently I’m lame. The last bigger quilt I made, I spent about the same amount of time tracing pieces, but I was done trimming Wonder Under in just under 5 hours. Either that, or these pieces are more complicated. I could go for that…because all those overlapping leaves and freakin’ feathers take forever to trace? (but they’re easier to cut out)…I don’t know. Or I’m just slow.

If this thing is really going to take 80 hours to finish, I need to get going. I have 3 1/2 weeks to Spring Break…I need it ironed to fabric and trimmed by then. That’s about 25 hours of work. Yikes! There’s a soccer tournament in there too. I can do this though. I just need to work smart. And not get sick again. Speaking of working smart, I probably need to go to work as well…that whole teaching thang. It pays the bills so I can buy more fabric.


Poking at Me…

March 3, 2015

So apparently after mostly recovering from pneumonia (I’m still coughing on and off), exercise can kick your ass. I finally got back into it last night, and I needed a nap afterwards. This is proof of old age right there! It’s OK. It was a really long day already, and an occasional nap is not a bad thing. I can either nap in the late afternoon (OK, it was early evening), or I can stay up really late, or I can do both! Like last night.

It did mean I started dinner late and then I was working on grades, which went even later. I have five things that still need to go in the gradebook, but I’m not collecting two of them until tomorrow, and the other three will get handled on Friday. Luckily, they are not grading things…they are just calculations of stuff the kids are supposed to do all trimester, so it won’t take much time. I want to be done on Friday night. Seriously done. And I will be. I still need to grade makeup tests, which I hate doing, but whatever. And then on Wednesday, kids are handing in the last unit and taking a test, but those will go to the next trimester, because there’s no way I can grade them in time. I’m really trying to be organized!

I’m trying to be organized because the art…she calls me. I was reading entry forms on Saturday (trying to be organized again) and one blurb made an entire drawing just pop right into my head. That’s two that are residing up there. I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to get them on paper. I keep thinking about it, but it takes mental energy and space to do that, and I haven’t found that yet. Last night, after dinner and grades, I had choices about what to do next: trim the two cancer hands and put bindings on them? Ugh. Sounds like decision-making. Finish quilting the upholstery nude? Ugh. Sounds tiring. OK, then there’s only one thing left (besides drawing, which I had already dumped off the table, due to a lack of available brain power): cutting out Wonder Under for the Ventura piece…

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So that’s what I did. It was sufficiently brainless enough that I could handle it. Obviously, I had way more available brain power over the weekend (because I gave up on the grading?).

I also traced some stuff on freezer paper…

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This is the piece I’m not allowed to show. In fact, I don’t know when I’m allowed to show it…it’s not my pattern anyway. This is what I work on at soccer games at the moment. I really should be finishing all those birds I’ve been working on for the last two years, but I haven’t been in the mood. The more tense the game is, the less I can do complicated embroidery. Just stitching bits of wool together seems to be all I can handle.

In other news, the girlchild should start hearing back from colleges in the next 2-4 weeks. No stress here! Seriously, I’m not looking forward to it…we know she’ll get in to a few of them at least, but then how does she choose? Hard to know…wait on the financial aid stuff, I think. The boychild really only had two choices…so it made it much easier.

Meanwhile, those two drawings in my head are poking at me like small children…hungry to be released. Maybe I should find a way to get one of them started today…or tomorrow…she says, looking at her calendar and all the shit that is piled upon it (metaphorical, vague shit…not actual shit). It’s possible I am overextended. As usual.


A Relatively Healthy Balance

March 2, 2015

I think I did an OK job this weekend of getting schoolwork done, but also feeding the art brain. There are only so many hours in the day, and stupid things like grocery shopping and laundry have to get done, but the remaining hours, they don’t all have to be about your job. I negotiated in my head…if I grade for the length of this TV show, then I will be able to work on art afterwards. That was Sunday. Saturday? Saturday I tried to grade, but got pissed off by some kid trying to cheat his way into a passing grade (because I’m an idiot and won’t catch him?), so I just stopped. I piled all the school stuff up, dumped my grading pens on top  of it, and walked the fuck away from it. Because when you get to the point that you’re angry about it, it doesn’t help anyone to be grading kids’ papers. And yeah, I’ll get a bunch of kids FREAKING out this morning because I didn’t update their grade (because they handed everything in late?), but I will just fix my laser glare upon them and they will instantly stop their whining.

Well, a girl can dream, can’t she?

So I made art. And it looks like I did a lot, but really, it was only about 4 1/2 hours over the whole weekend (that’s not really a lot for me).

I pinbasted the upholstered woman (wait, that’s a better title than what I’ve been using so far)…

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And then I panicked about actually quilting it. I bought some heavier thread for it, because I thought my regular quilting thread would sink into the upholstery too much, but I was worried about how my machine would handle it…so logically, I turned to something I knew I could do…the cancer hands. I outlined them first…

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Which was a piece of cake and took very little time, despite those psychotic, spiky little breast cancer cells…

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And then I was lucky to have a thread that worked with the background…seriously, I don’t have much of a thread stash…so I started doing the backgrounds as well.

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And before I knew it, they were both done and it was time to head off for my daughter’s CIF soccer game…

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They were first in their division, so they didn’t have to play earlier this week. Saturday they played in the quarterfinals…it was a tense game. I stitched a lot. I can’t show you any of it though because we’re not allowed to, which I find kind of irritating, but whatever. I do want designers to make money off their work, but we live in America, Land of We Think Everything Is Free for the Taking, so designers have to protect themselves. And then we’re back to the kid who was cheating in my class, the kid I have to deal with today, the kid who is going to deny it all.

ANYWAY. I stitched. They tied at the end, and you can’t tie, so they went into 15 minutes of overtime…all the while, it was supposed to rain on us, but it held off…

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And with 3 minutes and 20 seconds to go, we scored the winning goal. Pro: we’re going to the semifinals! Con: we’re going to the semifinals! More soccer. More cold bleachers. More tense game-watching (more stitching?). It started raining as soon as I got in the car (thank you for that reprieve).

Sunday, I finally took a deep breath (after grading for a proscribed amount of time) and threaded my machine with the heavy thread and went for it…and at first thought it was going to be a giant clusterfuck…

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The thread required many prayers to the Goddess of Unbroken Thread, although there are some interesting nests on the back of this quilt. I cleaned them up the best I could…I managed to get all the way around this beast before going to the parentals to cook dinner (girlchild was sick). Then I came back and miraculously had the right color of thread for the background…

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which was way easier to quilt, a relief honestly. No super-slow stitching to persuade the machine to go through many layers of upholstery, no swearing as the thread shredded in the needle. Here’s the back…

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I didn’t finish all the background quilting, because I remembered that going to sleep on a Sunday night at a reasonable hour makes the rest of the week easier to get through. I usually forget this by Wednesday or Thursday night, unfortunately.

So I’m hoping to trim and bind the two hands, plus finish quilting this one as well this week. I’ve also got a pile of Wonder Under to cut out (and grades for Trimester 2 to finish, but I almost have that under control). Perhaps I should thank that cheating kid for throwing my brain under the bus and forcing me to make art instead of finishing the grading. It all turned out OK, right? As long as I can stay on top of the rest of the grades this week…thanks to my teacher’s aide and my refusal to take any more makeup work, I should be fine.

My constant goal of a healthy balance between all the parts of my life…the art brain always wants more than it gets. I don’t blame it…it certainly is the first to suffer when there’s an issue like illness. But I feel pretty good about what I got done this weekend, so I think I’ll just hold on to that feeling for a while…until I need to motivate myself past the next big step.


Wonder Under Dreaming

February 28, 2015

Wonder Under dreaming…ten hours and 37 minutes of tracing Wonder Under, around 900 pieces (I didn’t number all of them, shockingly). I did the whole thing under the influence of pneumonia and rib-rattling coughing…starting February 17 and ending last night. I was obviously well and truly ill from the 19th through the 22nd, because nothing happened.

Here’s all but one yard, which I had already cut out…

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So about 5 yards…most of it is the old stuff. One and a half yards is the new stuff, so I will apparently be performing a scientific experiment comparing the old to new on this quilt. I love that. (not really.)

I only have a little over 2 hours into the trimming of the Wonder Under though. I guess that’s this week.

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It’s progress. I realized last night though that I needed one of the recycled pieces done (DONE) by April 1. Huh. That’s a month away. I can do that. I have one top ready to be sandwiched; I could do that today. And I bought some heavier black thread for the upholstery fabrics to quilt the outlining. Yes, I went to JoAnns. Hate that place. But I had a coupon. And otherwise, I have to buy Wonder Under online and ship it here. That’s expensivo. So I do the deed. I pull my numbered ticket and I stand there for-fucking-ever, waiting to tell them I want the whole bolt anyway, so they don’t have to cut anything, but I still have to wait in the fucking line. And then I go wait in the other long nasty line where they put all that crap on both sides of you, candy and shitty packages of socks and beads for Mardi Gras, just like at Michaels, and I think to myself, I hate this place, but I still go there, because it is what it is. Sales are more important than how shitty the store feels, I guess.

Then there’s this drawing that is fully realized in my head. My brain drew the whole damn fucking thing yesterday as I was driving to school. And I want to find the time and space (because you need mental space to draw) to get it out of my head, vomit it out onto the paper, but I have grading to do and I’m tired and still sick and kinda irritated today, which isn’t anyone’s fault, well except maybe the financial aid departments of all the colleges to which the girlchild applied, because why do you y’all have to be such giant pains in the ass? I mean really. This stuff makes my head hurt.

I entered another art exhibit last night. I didn’t think I’d have anything that would work for this show, even though the title and description are right up my alley…the size restrictions were part of the problem, and the rest of it is that so much of the recent stuff is already out traveling. But I found three that would work and went for it. Because why not? And then looked further out, the next 6+ months of big shows, and realized I needed to quit my stupid daytime job so I could make all the art I wanted to make.

Yeah. That’s not happening. I did ream my students yesterday for asking for MORE time to turn in late work. I said I wanted to have time with my daughter where I wasn’t grading papers. That I wanted to be able to sleep at night. That I wanted to go to her game this Saturday. That I was spending hours every night grading all their makeup work. That I was working way harder than they were. I’m done. Seriously. No more. This happens every year. There’s four weeks until Spring Break and the kids are mentally on vacation and I’m about to start the hardest unit of the year and I’m done. Another parent blows me off when their kid is doing nothing? Man. I just want to bring that kid home and feed him some real food and talk science to him, because he gets it, and then maybe after a year or so of my holding him accountable, maybe he’ll be the student he could be if he had someone around who gave a shit. And that’s what I told him yesterday when he said mom didn’t care: “You have 4 teachers right now who care, but we need you to care too. If you don’t care, we’re not going to waste our time. So you decide. Let me know.” And that’s the truth. He has that right now and it makes him alternately angry and full of hope, and he doesn’t know what to do with any of that. Neither do I, honestly. Neither do I.

That’s the reality of being a teacher. Dear politicians, y’all don’t know shit.

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Calli. Such a doofus.

Yeah, so maybe I should make some art today and fuck the school crap. Because it’s messing with my head right now. I’m so frustrated with excuses and the reality of what I can get kids to do and the parents. I just can’t face it. I tried last night. I tried this morning. Better off losing myself in that Wonder Under dream…that place where I don’t have to think about what happens tomorrow or in April or this summer. Just cutting little pieces of fusible web out to make another scary Nida picture.

Or the other bathtub drawing. Yeah. Odalisque in Bloody Bathtub. Awesome name. Won’t ever get into a show. Whatever.


Artistic Meditation

February 26, 2015

I realize photo-wise this and the next stage are remarkably boring. Miles and miles of Wonder Under…although hey! I bought a new bolt of WU yesterday and it feels really different. You have to realize I’ve been using Wonder Under to make quilts since 1999. Or maybe 2001. Had to go look at the quilt list…I did start making art quilts in 1999, but I wasn’t a Wonder Under user until 2001. Most of my earliest quilts, I cut out the fabric and just lay it down on the background and pinned the fuck out of it. Stabbed myself a million times too, which is pretty damn stupid. But that’s how Joan Colvin showed me how to do it (and that’s how she did it too, and her quilts are beautiful).

Anyway, so here’s the miles…

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I’m on the 4th yard, but had to start a 5th one because one of the pieces was too big to fit on the 4th piece…so probably around 5 yards of pieces. I was trying to keep the detail to a minimum (ha!) so I would be able to finish it in time, so there are some honking big pieces. I think, “oh cool, I’m gonna use up some of my stash!” but I know that it really doesn’t. I rarely run out of a fabric…I might get down to the tiny pieces that can really only be used for little things, but if you think about how much fabric I have (well, you probably don’t think about that, but I do), it’s really just a drop in the bucket. Kathy York was making a stashbuster quilt here, and made some comment about how it barely used any of her stash up, and it was only one color, and it was a huge quilt, and I’m like…YEAH! But we have to use it to justify buying more, right? York buys fabric for specific projects, too, so she is a much better person than I am. I buy fabric because I need it in my palette. I really do think of the stash as this huge palette from which to paint my quilts. And you always need more colors.

Anyway, my special fabric psychosis aside, there are some stash-busting pieces in this drawing, where I’ll need huge chunks of gray or white, and then blue, and some foxy red, which doesn’t mean a red that makes you look foxy, but a red that’s the color of a fox.

I traced about 200 pieces last night before I stopped. I really wanted to just keep going, but that would have been close to an allnighter, I think, another 2 1/2 hours and it was already midnight. I do still have to get healthy and teach and function like a semi-normal human being. Apparently.

And then the NEXT step will be cutting all those pieces out, which is another batch of boring pictures. The fabric-choosing…now there’s the pictures y’all will enjoy, because you get to see my stash and what I’m currently watching on Netflix. Always exciting.

But the thing is, even though the pictures are boring, this is sometimes one of my favorite parts of making the quilt. Tracing all those pieces out, standing at my light table, it’s really meditative. I have the TV on and I’m half-listening and maybe a quarter-watching, and I’m looking for each piece (sometimes it takes me a while to find them if I didn’t number particularly logically), and then I’m evaluating each piece for whether it needs an overlap to go under the pieces next to it, and then I’m looking to see if it continues underneath to another section at all, and it’s this place in my brain that’s like a big soft pillow. All the other shit just wanders off, looking for a bar where it can start a fight, and my brain just settles down, takes a deep breath, and does its work. Analyzing, drawing, going on to the next piece. And the next one. And the next one. And really nothing gets in the way of that, except when the tea gets cold (take break to walk to the microwave…should take regular breaks anyway), or when I need to pee (see breaks), or when the show ends and I have to pick the next one or fastforward through commercials. It’s peaceful. It’s relaxing. It’s a weird-ass form of meditation. The Wonder Under Meditation.

I always feel so much better after tracing. Fabric-choosing is kind of the same way. They use a part of my brain that pushes everything else out, which is why I lose track of time when I’m doing it. When I finally thought to look at the task-measuring app I was using last night, I had been working for over 2 hours. Just working. Just tracing. No way I could do that with grading without getting all antsy and irritated. Even quilting irritates me (mostly because thread is breaking or because it’s so much more physical).

Anyway, I had another idea for a bathtub drawing (a series!)…I think I’ve done two drawings so far, but only one really deserves to be a quilt, and now I have a third one in my head, and it’s really not pretty, but whatever…

This was the first one, and she’s still headless…

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I actually like it now that I’m looking at it, but I would finish it much differently now than when I first drew it. Which is fine, because I’d enlarge it and THEN add the head. Only the top head. The bottom head is supposed to be gone. These are of course inspired by Kahlo’s bathtub painting…which I know I posted on here, but now cannot find. What the Water Gave Me, 1938…

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And then the one I really want to do…

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It’s next on the list…some day. But now there’s another one. In my head. And you aren’t going to like it. But it needs to get out.

But drawing is another form of meditation, one I hope to rediscover someday soon…really. It’s been long enough.


I Made Art…

February 24, 2015

Hey. I made art. I know. It’s exciting. No really, it is. Being sick sucks. Being sick and being an artist really sucks, because you still have to do laundry and cook and go to work…it’s the art that suffers. And it’s the stuff that keeps you sane, so then you get less sane. And you’re already sick, so that’s already a less-sane zone. Not good.

So last night was an artmaking clusterfuck, but I did better today. I sat at school a lot instead of my typical nine miles of wandering the classroom. I didn’t do another 12-hour workday. I actually remembered to eat breakfast, even though I still am not getting hungry like a normal person.

All I’m doing is tracing Wonder Under though…most boring pictures in the world…

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But here’s the deal…I’m about 550 pieces in, so more than halfway. Only 350 to go. And I’ve been tracing for close to 7 hours, so I figure I’ve got another 4 at the most to go. So maybe by Friday night? It’s possible. I might be able to do it.

I did realize that this thing has about a million feathers…seriously, I’ve traced hundreds of feather pieces so far. There’s at least three birds, maybe more…the wings are good for filling in weird spaces. Plus birds are cool. Next, I’m tracing a cat. Can’t have a quilt without a cat in it. It doesn’t have feathers though.

See, I’m looking at Spring Break, which is now less than 5 weeks away, and my plan was to have this one ironed onto fabric and trimmed by Spring Break. PLUS, have the other recycled one at that stage too, if not further along. No, I’m not crazy…why do you ask? If you don’t make goals, you’ll never get anywhere. I don’t mind having goals that I don’t quite meet…I’ll be close (unless I get pneumonia again…remind me to get the damn shot next year).

To that end, I sat on the floor on Sunday (in my delirium yesterday, I totally forgot I had done this) and sorted blue fabrics.

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Blue was the biggest pile. I sorted them by fabric pattern…Mariah had all these long strips and weird triangles and squares of all sizes (she pieces quilts), so sometimes all I have is a bunch of 2″ squares…but I could piece those and use them as one piece, like I did with the other one. I still have a bunch of other color piles in there, but for some reason, the blue was the scariest. (It was the biggest, by far.) So I started with it. Only 10 more piles to go. Ha! Once I’ve cut out the other quilt, these will go into my regular stash to be used for a million more quilts…so that’s cool. She has some fabrics I have but in different colorways, and lots of fabrics I just wouldn’t buy, because I’m not making the same types of quilts that she is, but that’s a good thing. It stretches me…stretches my palette. I should let other people buy me fabric to make me work harder sometimes.

It’s good to do this. It gives me a place to bury my work frustration. As we near the end of the trimester, kids are panicking and trying to beg for grades. But if you blow off the entire trimester until three days before I close the gradebook? Um? There’s nothing you can do. I’m irritated by the whole process, and they know it.

And here’s how I know I’m really getting better…I had ideas for drawings today…lots of them. None of them are pretty, of course. Lots of stuff about being an old woman (I know, I’m not really old, but my body is being a brat and I wish it would lay off)…I need to find time to spend with my sketchbook and a nice black pen. It’s calling to me…the skritch scratch of the pen on the paper surface. The smear when it’s not quite dry. The look of the line, not quite not wobbly. I do love being an artist. I mean, it’s hard to be one and be everything else you have to be, but the fulfillment and satisfaction I get from making a piece, even from just completing a drawing…it’s amazing. It brings me peace. It calms the anger inside me. It curls up around me when I fall asleep. It soothes me when I’m sad. It makes me feel more…or maybe because I feel more, I am an artist…hard to say. Anyway. It’s a good thing.


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