Support

May 30, 2016

About 4 or 5 years ago, I was coming to the realization that my work doesn’t necessarily fit in the quilt world, that there are shows I can get into, but there are also many that I can’t, because the imagery is too challenging or controversial or hell…it has boobs and a vulva and those things aren’t allowed. Because 50% of the population needs to have their parts hidden away? Well it’s not like there’s a bunch of art out there with penises on it, unless it’s the oh-so-acceptable sculptural types from the Renaissance. I was in a few quilt groups that ran on the art side of things, but I was looking for local groups, places where I felt less isolated and out there in the art world. I wasn’t in the San Diego art world at all.

So I started looking, and I found two groups that I’ve been a part of since then, one juried and one not, and between the two of them, I’ve been in about 10 shows in Southern California and beyond (one is traveling to Sweden next year), but more importantly, I’m growing this support group of people who know my work and support me and have no problems with fabric inhabiting the art world. I can have a conversation with almost anyone in either group, and I’m starting to find other opportunities because of belonging…my 2-person show in January absolutely came about because of my membership in one of the groups with the curator. I was just juried into another group and members from both groups voted for me…hence more opportunities to show work.

Being in local shows doesn’t seem like a big deal…I get work into shows all the time and it travels all over the world. But it is a big deal, because the local shows are where I meet people in person who are looking at the work and talking to me…giving me tangible support to keep making. Not that I will stop…not that I know HOW to stop. This drive does not slow down for exhaustion or my job or other obligations. I hear it in the back of my head all the time (Make Make Make). But now I have people I see at shows, people who have my back, people who talk to me about my work, their work, work in general. People who push me to do different work, like the 17-foot woman from last year and the nightstand I’ll be doing this year. This is all good.

We had an artists’ talk for my women’s art group yesterday at our show Feminism Now. Amusingly, someone actually did some mansplaining for us, telling us how the problems we think exist don’t any more. Say what? But it was a good discussion anyway. I got to hear a few artists talk about their work, artists I hadn’t heard from before. As our group grows, I’m finding it hard to make sure I can place name with face (we need to work on that as a group), but I do know the group serves to support female artists in a city that is known for ignoring or even censoring our presence. This discussion of what is a feminist, what is feminism NOW, and especially to us…it’s important and our group isn’t going to let it drop.

Here’s most of the women who were in the show (there’s a chunk of women who weren’t…it’s a big group now).

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Wirework outside the gallery…suspect Spenser Little at work…

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So most of my day was picking up work from being juried and spending time at the gallery for the talk and trying to get better pictures for an official group blogpost of the show…but I did eventually (after grading of course) come back and start tracing again…

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This piece is slow going, but it will be worth it. I’ve got about 3 hours in and I’m only on piece 220. The first 115 pieces were large and kind of convoluted, so they took longer to trace. Now I’m into the tiny pieces mostly, with some background stuff in there.

This is what it looks like from the back when I’m tracing…

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Except the light on the light table is on. But the numbers are all backwards, which takes some getting used to. I did the left thigh last night: a raccoon and some flowers and leaves. I stopped when I got to the owl, because it was 100 pieces (at least) and it was after midnight. I was tired. I stayed up another half hour to let my brain relax…don’t know if it worked, but I zonked out pretty fast. Good sign.

Apparently I have to trace the owl twice…although I think I will redraw him so he has all his parts first…because he’s missing some parts of his tail I think, and part of a wing. I could do that today as well.

I do have two more classes of the last unit to grade today, plus making new seating charts…very exciting stuff. And groceries and laundry. It’s nice to have an extra day for it though. It would have been hard to deal with going back to school today with everything I was trying to get done over the weekend. Trying to keep up with my job and live life and make art…it’s a lot, and I’m totally looking forward to a break in a few weeks with summer vacation (I’ll still be making art…just not trying to juggle the job in the middle of it). I’m looking forward to sitting out on the deck and relaxing with my sketchbook. I’m looking forward to having the time to reconnect with my art brain in a less stressful way. Also eating and peeing when I want…those are pluses. And fewer demands on my patience (only 2 kids instead of 155 and mine are adults, so hopefully that will help).


Listen to the Body

May 28, 2016

Ah the challenges of the end of the school year, and your college-aged kids coming home, and a puppy in the house, and all the things that need to be done. The puppy now has been neutered…although it was problematic. Poor guy had one undescended testicle…I wonder if that’s why he hadn’t been neutered yet…they were waiting or they realized it was more expensive to do? It’s done now. But he’s not a happy camper…

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He does have plenty of people around to love him and help him maneuver with the cone, although all he really wants to do is lick his butt, and he’ll have to wait 2 weeks for that joy. He mostly slept last night…a very different puppy to the one we normally have.

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We all went out to dinner at the Indian place…oh my golly, I forget how good that place is. I don’t go at all when the kids are gone, unfortunately (I should order takeaway)…and I usually get multiple meals out of one dinner. Yummy.

Then we came home and rallied around puppy for a while, until the kids went off to bed or room and I started tracing Wonder Under on the newest quilt…which currently is called Earth Mother 2016…I’m assuming I’ll come up with a better name eventually.

I didn’t get far in the numbers, because the whole bottom section is a giant half Earth and the pieces are pretty large.

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So I traced the entire Earth part and got partway around the edge of it until I thought it was pretty late…and I knew I had multiple places to be this morning, so I needed to sleep. I didn’t have the mental energy to do a lot else last night, even though I brought home a huge pile of grading for the three-day weekend. One of the things that sucks about being a teacher is that every single three-day weekend is during school and you end up grading through at least one of the days. Sundays are already trashed by lesson planning etc on a regular weekend, so it’s nice to have one extra day, because it means I will try to treat at least one day of the weekend as a real day off…no grading, no errands, no cleaning. Just relaxing and reading and hiking and hanging out. If that works.

But I do hope to get more tracing done on this over the weekend…around the grading and the artist drop-offs and pick-ups and artist talk and all the other stuff. And right this second? I need a nap. Sad but true. Massive headache plus tired. Not a good mix. Might be worth setting the timer for 20 minutes and putting a pillow over my head. Just a quickie. Listen to the body…it’s telling you something.


Big Numbers…

May 27, 2016

I stayed up late to finish numbering. I know you find that surprising. I really was going to stop at midnight, but I really really (notice the two reallys) wanted to know how many pieces she had. So I numbered…for a total of 2 hours and 33 minutes (not all last night, mind you)…and she has 1954 pieces. Not bad. Less than 2000. I guessed right. So now I can process that in my head…make sense of it. Everything will take longer than the last couple did. And I’m OK with that.

I like having summer quilt projects with big numbers…lots of pieces. It’s like books you really love…you want them to be big, thick tomes so they take up a huge amount of your brain and time to read. I like to have big hefty quilts that will take up a huge chunk of my summer creating time. It’s somehow easier. I used to only make big quilts in the summer, but now I just make year round.

I started numbering at the bottom and went to the top. I try to be logical, but I was tired last night, so when I start tracing and ironing stuff, you can remind me that I probably wasn’t as logical as I’d like to be. You can see how big it is here.

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I number in sections…one leg, the other leg, one arm, the other arm. The head is often last…some cactus there and an octopus.

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I try to make it easier when I can…number all the background pieces and then the stuff that lies on top of them…a bat, the tail of a snake.

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Midnight likes to lie on it while I’m numbering, until I poke her too many times and she gives up and goes somewhere else…stares at me balefully from the couch.

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Here’s one of the crazier sections, although, again, while I was drawing, I tried to make sure I could trace all the petals of those flowers as one piece…and the pine branch above it is a little nuts, but not as crazy as it could be.

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I even marked a couple things as embroidery or beads (the tips of butterfly antenna do not need to be cut out of fabric). Does it have a lot of pieces? Well, yeah, but that hasn’t worried me before. Last year’s big summer quilt had 1850 pieces in it, finished the drawing in mid-July and the whole quilt by the end of September, with that 17-foot woman done in the middle of it. Plus surgery, the start of school, and taking girlchild to college. So I did OK. It was 164 hours total. So tracing on this one will probably take about 22 hours…My goal is to be done with ALL the Wonder Under, tracing and trimming, by the time school gets out in three weeks. I think I can do that.

And yeah, I know a lot of people think I’m crazy for making quilts like this, using all the tiny pieces, but I like the process and how it looks in the end, so I am going to keep doing it this way. I do have more problems with my hands than I did when I was young, so I realize I might not always be able to do quilts with this level of detail in them, but until that happens, I’m going to take advantage of the hand years I have now.

OK. I’m actually a little excited about this quilt now. Next stage. Tracing is meditative. And I do have two more major drawings to do before the summer is out…


Over the Hump

May 26, 2016

The household is full. All kids have returned home. Boychild is even skinnier again. Says the new jeans from last summer (winter?) are falling off again. He goes to college and loses weight. Bizarre.

They were all in bed before me, though. The girlchild didn’t sleep well the night before and the boy, well it was 2 AM his time.

Me? I was in the mood to deal with the damn drawing. First I filled in the hole with passionflowers…

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They popped into my head because I was searching for vines and I remembered these at a friend’s house. I used to have one bush here but it died. In the drawing, I wrapped all around the last bit of the space. Total drawing time was about 13 hours. It took 33 minutes to fill in that last space, done yesterday afternoon instead of doing any grading. Or cleaning. It was a long day of frog dissections followed by a doctor’s appointment. I was tired. I needed to draw…

Girlchild on the couch, Midnight on my drawing. It’s OK…I’m not drawing where she’s sitting.

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But they are lying where I need to be standing.

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I tried to photograph the whole drawing, but it was dark by then…

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Wow, that’s a crappy picture. Sigh. I’m still not sure about the big empty space on the right, but I’m thinking about it as I number the piece. I may add something before I finish.

Yes, I started numbering. Because I wasn’t tired yet. Well, that’s not true. I was tired. I just wasn’t willing to stop yet…

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I didn’t number the whole thing though. I got to about the middle of the torso and piece 536. My rough guess is between 1500 and 2000 pieces. We’ll see how wrong I am…maybe I will finish tonight.

I’m glad I finally made it over the hump with this one and finished the drawing. It was kinda kicking my butt. I just got stuck and couldn’t get it done. I think it was more about all the other things I was trying to get done and worrying over, and then I’d get to the drawing and I was too tired to suss out how to finish it. I have two more drawings I need to get started on…both for November due dates, so it seems like plenty of time, but not for two. I could easily do this one and one more big one before November, but I’m not sure about a third. We’ll see.

But first, I have to go to that place that gives me a paycheck (give? I work my ass off for that). The last unit finishes today, and then we start human reproduction after the long weekend. That unit is kind of easy, although hard on the voice. At least I have their attention. This is one of the units I get to keep for next year…although it will be harder to teach it without all the body systems and genetics stuff before it that we usually teach. We’ll have to think about that.


Because It Was the Right Thing to Do

May 25, 2016

Well. May is kicking my ass. My artistic ass, that is. My tired ass. Again. I really thought after yesterday got revised (plans change…) that I could kick the graded assignment out, get it done super quick, and then finish the big drawing and start numbering it. That really was my plan. Except my dinner plans got changed, and I figured that out (hallelujah for the stash of leftovers I usually have), but then realized I hadn’t finished the boychild’s room. You know. The boychild who is coming home today. I mean, it’s not until 9 PM, but I have a chock-full day already and I’m tired…so I gave up and went in there and finished.

Because it was the right thing to do. I read all these stories about famous male artists in the past and how someone handled all their household stuff and they tell women you can’t be a REAL artist if you have children, and I hate that shit because I don’t believe in it. I’ve been a real artist for years AND had kids and they have just internalized the crazy mom sewing in the middle of the night as normal. Like the light table in the living room. We don’t notice it any more. It’s a work space.

I have to admit that some of the “finishing” the boychild’s room included picking up a pile of papers that I’m not really sure where to put and just piling them back in the office. I will need to deal with the mountain to the left of the computer at some point. Just not today. There’s also some fabric I just piled up to be put away later. But he has a place to sleep. And it’s clean…some black cat had shed an entire cat-full of hair on his chair.

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So there. I achieved something. It just wasn’t artistic or part of my day job. The boychild will be happy about it though. So that counts.

I did go to Costco yesterday…I have been avoiding it, but the toilet paper issue was about to become, well, an issue. I don’t buy much at Costco, but TP and cat litter are the two things I will venture in there for, so with my plans shot to hell, I went there after the chiropractor. It’s usually less busy after 5 PM, so it’s quicker than a Saturday run.

But because I was in a mood, I bought these.

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Notice Midnight’s stare. Do I need more storage? Of course I do. I always do. But maybe not. Right now, I have a lot of my handsewing living in the plastic Rubbermaid boxes, but I use those to sort stuff too (you’d be floored by how many of those things I have, both here and at school). Anyway, it’s not particularly efficient for storage. I’m hoping these are better.

Perhaps I will spend the whole week after school gets out cleaning house and organizing shit. I’m notoriously flaky that week. Need to recover and all.

So the drawing itself is obviously not done and I wonder if I should start another smaller one that’s less stressful. I have this one…

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And this one…

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Sigh. No. I should finish the big one. Then one of these can happen in between this big one and the next big one. I finally wrote down all the deadlines I’m considering for the next 8 months on a post-it and put it by the computer so I could be reminded of my goals. Because my tired school brain keeps forgetting. Old-school paper style. There are 6 things on it. One of them is a collaboration and one is a small coloring book page, so not a whole quilt. The others…one is this big piece that I’ve been drawing since early April. Then potentially three more big ones. Insert laughing here. That ain’t happening. Granted the due dates go out to November, but two realistically. Or draw something smaller. Less complicated.

Anyway, in other news, I will be back at Gallery D in Barrio Logan on Sunday from 1-3 for the artists’ talk on the Feminism Now show, so if you’re interested in hearing from all the women who made the work, show up!

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Misfit…

May 24, 2016

I’m listening to this right now…

That word misfit. “All I had to do was be a voice to the story.” Telling the story can save your life. Funny that word misfit. I used the word “alienated” when I was living in Britain, because I so obviously didn’t belong, but honestly, there are times now, here in my own country, when I feel the same. Anyway. The art. It saves me.

Puppy was a barking beast Sunday night, so yesterday was full of my tired and student crazy. Some days you just wonder what’s going on in their heads. Classroom management is a moving target. Behaviors are awesome, and then they degrade into looney tunes.

So I was exhausted enough to nap briefly on the couch when I got home, with girlchild on the other couch, a cat on my chest, a dog perched on my hip. Then I managed to get my butt off the couch and take the big dog for a fast walk…she and I booked it around the 3 miles. Girlchild is still recovering from her existence, so I left puppy with her. Funny that one of the things I was looking forward to when I got home was the girlchild cooking, but I cooked last night. And then spent another hour trying to get the boychild’s room done…he comes home tomorrow. No, it’s still not done, but it will be. I’m close.

So what to do after that? Between projects…your brain just sort of flails a bit. Does a lot of “I don’t wanna” and “Don’t make me…” until I make it. I need this drawing to be done so I can go on to the next stage. An hour later…

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I added a homeless woman, a series of cocoons and butterflies of unknown origin, and poppies. The right side is probably done. I think I might have something on the left wrap around the column in the middle, but I haven’t figured that out yet. There’s a space above the butterfly that bugs me.

And once that’s done, I’ll spend an hour (at least) numbering it. That’s probably not happening tonight. But maybe. Today is the start of frog dissections, so it’s two long hard exhausting days. I’ll be glad when it’s over. I love showing the kids the parts and how they all fit together, but the managing of all the stuff and getting through the whole lab with enough time left over for clean up makes it a difficult day.

But the good news is that I’m close to getting the next project started…although I’m half debating doing another smaller one. No. NO. You are going to do the big hard heavy one and then you will feel better about getting the next one on the list done, and maybe you’ll have time for a small one in between. Seriously, this project is daunting. It feels huge. Except it probably isn’t any more huge than the big one I did last year. So whatever. Just do it.


I Especially Need…

May 23, 2016

I had plans for art yesterday, but in the end, my job and life got in the way. I let myself be OK with that because part of life was picking up the girlchild from the airport and another part was taking a long walk with small beastie…he can do three miles, in case you were wondering…he wasn’t exactly sure he could do it about 2/3’s of the way through it, but he did it. Although it had zero effect on his rampant hyperness.

I have to say, although he’s cute and all (everyone says it), he can be a handful. This morning, he finally was calm enough to come near Kitten without hissing and growling occurring. But even then, they are at an uneasy standoff.

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Hopefully with some more people in the house, this will get easier, because I’m pretty low on sleep right now with Mr. Barkypants getting his fluff in a huff every time a bird chirps or an animal wanders past my house (it’s a fairly frequent occurrence). And for me to say I’m low on sleep is something…since I don’t get much in the first place.

Girlchild is asleep down the hall, although apparently she’s driving me to work because we’re down to one car. She’s been out of school for a week and a half, but flew to my brother’s house so she could see her cousins, who alternately charmed her and annoyed the crap out of her (as all good cousins do). Tree climbing was one of the things she did…here she is upside down in a photo she liked, but I edited for her, on the fly, on the phone (yes, I know you can do better, but compared to what it used to look like, I thought this was pretty good).

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Looks fun. I should try it some day.

So although I’m (as the girlchild says) a little salty that no art was made, there were good reasons for it. Although I graded and cooked dinner from scratch, so the first? Eh. It rules my life while I’m in school. The second? Good job.

It’s hard to explain to people what being a teacher is like on a regular basis while we’re in school when they just see your long “vacations” (we work through many of them or go to professional development, and summer is unpaid, so that’s not a vacation). Understand that there isn’t a single day when I don’t work…and I don’t get paid for those hours, any more than I get paid for the hours I do almost every single day after I get home from work. And even though I thought I was doing a bang-up job this year saving enough money to get through the summer, one big car issue just kicked my ass on that, much as it did last year…my cushion is now gone. Or it will be as soon as I pay that credit card bill. I do this every year, try to survive the summer. I don’t go on vacations anywhere. During the school year, we can’t take off for more than a few days without causing a ruckus. Every year, I have to rethink my plan for food and peeing during the day, as they move my prep period almost every single year. I’ve had 2nd, 3rd, 7th, and 8th, and this next year, it will be 4th with lunch following directly. Which sucks for a diabetic. It means I’ll have to remember to eat during class, and I can already tell you, I don’t remember that shit.

Anyway. As I get closer to my time off for the summer, for the time I need to recharge from a very difficult year, a year where the kids took months longer than usual to finally figure out the consequences of not turning work in (and some still haven’t figured that out), my brain is getting excited…not just for the mostly uninterrupted artmaking time, but also for being able to pee when I need to, for being able to have lunch out (things teachers can’t do), for being able to run errands during the week because the stores are still open, for not feeling physically and mentally drained by a particularly hard day…or week even. For getting my Sundays back! No lesson planning, no parent email, no updating the website(s) we use for school. No dragging grading with me to my parents’ house for dinner.

I’ve done other jobs. I know the difference. I deserve my unpaid leave in summer. Without it, you would have very few people returning to a mostly thankless job each Fall. Of course, we do it for the kids…not the money…not the time off. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need a break. I especially need a break.

Eighteen days and counting.


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