Like a Ninja

I appear to have misplaced my brain this morning. I can’t think. I can’t even direct thinking…like “why don’t you think about art? or school?” Nope. The brain is just like NOPE. Girlchild called last night about all this stuff piling up, and I was like, yeah. There’s too many things. That’s how you get overwhelmed…too much to calendar, or you calendar it and you keep having to move it, because you’re in the middle of doing one thing when the other one (or 5) pops up in your calendar. I just moved 4 things from last night to tonight, because I didn’t have time to get them done…and then I added a new thing. I’ll get caught up (or die) eventually, but at the moment, it does seem like I’m running around with my hair on fire. I’d like that to mellow out a bit please. If you’re taking requests, that is.

So here’s how it looks in real life…I don’t think I’ve ever been to a book signing. I mean, I feel like I have (wait, I know I went to a kid one with my own children)…but Jenny Lawson of Bloggess fame (and hopefully fortune) was coming to San Diego. I’ve been reading her blog for years and own the other two books. She’s funny. And deals with depression. Two of my favorite things, right? Anyway, what the hell, I wanted to hear her talk. So I drove up there, early, hoping to get a seat. Well. That didn’t happen, but it was OK. I did however grade in line, waiting to get in. Seriously. Because I don’t wait anywhere without something to do.

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I’m behind. I told you. But this is me on Google Classroom grading warmups while standing in line. Like you do.

She was awesome, as rambly and sarcastic and savage and funny in person as she is on her blog and in her books. I’m glad I went.

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I did not even try to wait hours in line for a signature. I’m good. I didn’t have that level of hardass fan in me. I was tired and I hadn’t eaten dinner and I still had shit to do last night. Besides, I totally forgot to bring a book. I could have had her sign my sketchbook, because I did have that (of course)…and she probably would have done that, since her current book is all the crazy drawings she did to fight through depression. Gee, I don’t know anything about that shit. But I couldn’t handle the number of people in there any more, so I drove home.

And did the stuff I can handle at the end of the day. I mean, sometimes I go out at night, but it’s usually with people I know really well by now. So that helps. I don’t have much energy left at the end of the day for dealing with things I don’t know. There has to be incentive, like cool art or something. Crazy authors. That shit.

I did the French knots on the left side, which will be the centers of flowers…they rambled down into cross stitches below to use up the last bit of thread.

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And then I quilted! Now that’s what I wanted to be doing. Not that I didn’t love listening to The Bloggess talk…but if she could have just shown up in my studio and talked to me while I sewed? That would have been awesome sauce.

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Even though I was tired, I had energy for the quilting. I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s there.

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Last night, it was mostly because I wanted to see her with the outlining. This is where stuff starts to pop.

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I stopped there because it was after midnight, but I didn’t want to. I just knew I had four more days of school to get through, so I needed to. Sleep is important, folks. Don’t forget that.

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I’ll definitely finish the outlining tonight…and make a good start on the background stuff, if I don’t just outright finish her. We’ll see. I have quilt class on Thursday, so it would be nice to get a binding on her so I can sew it down. And then start the next one. Like a ninja. An art ninja. I’m kind of a grading ninja too. That explains all the black I wear. In case you were wondering. Now before I have to leave, I’m going to do one of the five things I just moved on the calendar. Like a ninja.

Which Parent Will You Be?

Neck is still messed up. Call to chiropractor today. Same with the pool. Whatever. I survived yesterday with about 300 people saying or singing happy birthday to me. I think 6th period was the most melodic AND in tune. Fourth period was just screechy and although 8th period was a nice volume, they only knew three notes.

I sat through a union meeting and drew this…

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I have two drawings in my head that are Big Heads (way bigger than this…the sketchbook is probably 6×9″). Need to find time for that.

Then a quiet evening with pizza, Walking Dead, and my sofa companions, some more needy and some more verbal than others. Then I did the dishes and put the dishwasher stuff away, wrote an email to my union people about what happened at the meeting, moved a bookshelf (17 other pieces of furniture had to move first), and finished putting fabric away. While I was doing that, I remembered Amanda Palmer had posted on Facebook about a new song, a serious song, not a last-minute plinking of the ukelele (not that I mind those), and I scrolled through until I found it…listening to the song, I read the story behind it, which is sad, of course. But this part got me…photo of babe in suitcase while she tries to finish writing a song all night. Being an artist AND being a mom…two of the hardest jobs to juggle at the same time.

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And I like that…“you are either going to be the person who stayed up and wrote the song, or you’re going to be the person who went to bed and didn’t write the song.” I don’t care about the boring fucking parent side, but I guess I was always the one who stayed up and made the art. Who made it despite parenthood and divorce and all the other crap. I think that’s the artist’s drive, the one that woke me up around 2 AM with this vision of a drawing in my head. Anyway, the song is good…see link below for the story and the song. I read it while I listened, which I think is the best way to do it.

Amanda Palmer: Machete

So in the light of being that person, the one who stays up late to have her other artistic life, here’s what I did after 10 PM last night. First of all, the damn Wonder Under is being an asshole. Here are all the released pieces.

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So when I’m ironing, if a piece doesn’t have the web on it, I do this kindergarten-level pattern matching. It has a pointy bit here, it’s long and skinny there, and I try to match them up. If I can’t, I trace a new one. It is a rancid pain in the ass. It’s like an online intelligence test.

Here’s the first 100 laid out.

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I honestly didn’t get far, through the 50s and into the 60s I believe. Tiny little pieces and a tired little brain. But I started and that’s what matters. Now I have a plan for the next few nights. This is one of my favorite parts of the quiltmaking process, picking out the fabrics. The piece isn’t even colored in my brain. I just stare at the drawing and imagine it in a variety of colors as I’m picking stuff.

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It’s a little crazy actually. The background is on the left. The stuff I’ve used so far is on the right. This drawing is small enough that right now I have it just sitting on the ironing board. Easier to see what’s what, cuz that’s some tiny-ass pieces.

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I got to a stopping point and was trying to straighten other stuff up in the studio, when I realized I had a piece of dowel that would work for the SAQA auction piece I bought last year and hadn’t hung yet. I cut the dowel, stuck eyebolts in, and then realized it was REALLY tight. The sleeve was tight against the piece…making the dowel bulge out…

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It’s hard to see in this picture, but look on the left, where you can see the bulge of the dowel. I hate that. I always leave room in my sleeves so that won’t happen.

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So I ripped the bottom edge of the sleeve and repinned it.

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And then I’ll sew it down where it belongs. So I can hang it up with all the other art that needs to get hung up.

Wow. Tired. Sore. But looking forward to that late night tonight when I can hang with the fabric again.

Feverish…

Good morning. Ugh. Between my uterus speaking to me in the middle of the night and the dog needing to pee, I’m feeling like a new mom. Something’s waking me up every two hours and then won’t let me back to sleep. Otherwise, though, I was much better yesterday, after ditching the mind-bending opiates that weren’t kicking the pain. I was up more, ironing more, and resting when my body said it was time (going to get pet food kinda kicked my ass). And now I have stuff I can cut out as well, so I’m not wasting time (in my mind) when I’m just sitting on the couch. Progress!

I don’t do sick well. You might have noticed.

The night before, I managed to get all these flesh colors and pieces sorted out, but it wasn’t even all the way up the torso and I had to stop.

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In a previous quilt, I wouldn’t have stopped, but I really am listening to the body. Pushing it a bit, yes, but listening. Two and a half days on the couch were enough for me. Then I got up yesterday and sorted more…

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but as I went through and picked out what had to be flesh colors, I realized the figure on the left had almost 1100 pieces in it (it’s big) and about half those pieces (maybe more) weren’t flesh. They were heart or lungs or the vast number of bugs, mammals, and plants that I placed all over it. The spider and its web. The thistle. An entire rooted tree with birds nest. So. I started putting those in groups on the table by what it was…a pile of heart and blood vessels. One pile of clouds and lightning bolts and raindrops (5 raindrops are currently missing in action, documented on a post-it). A pile of hair, including the top of the head, the eyebrow, and the pubic hair.

And then I considered what to do with the flesh of the second figure. And decided one thing. Fell asleep Sunday night and decided another thing. Waffled over it all day yesterday (still don’t have a decision…honestly). So I stopped and started ironing the first one…

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And honestly, now that I’ve ironed one figure, the two lightest fabrics in the run? I don’t think there’s enough of them to cut out the second figure from the same fabrics. Which is OK. It’s not like I have a shortage of flesh-colored fabrics. I can replace the first two in the run or I can pick a whole ‘nother run for the second figure.

So at some point, I had a box full of stuff to cut out…

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And honestly I had overdone the physical, get out of the house and act like a normal human being stuff, so I sat down on the couch for almost two hours to recover, and cut stuff out…

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Then made dinner and put it in the oven and then sat down again…still running a fever on and off (it’s OK, it’s another acceptable symptom).

I could have ordered out. If I’d had more than 20 hours’ notice of the procedure, I would have cooked some stuff and frozen it before all this happened. Girlchild was at soccer practice last night. I could have pushed her to prep the meal, or even the boychild, but I didn’t have the energy. I had picked an easy meal on purpose. Plus leftovers. Because I’m not particularly hungry these days. I eat because I know I have to, but girlchild ran to the store yesterday because I expressed an interest in popcorn (of all things) and all we had was kettle corn (bleck) and a year-plus-out-of-date packet of the normal stuff. She ripped them out of my hands and came back ten minutes later and put it in the microwave and cooked it. Sounds silly, I know, but food. Right now? Yuck. I guess that’s the “poor appetite” symptom.

Then I managed more ironing of all the bits…here’s the pile of fabrics now…

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The iPad is for looking up things like ivy and wolves for approximate coloring. I do my research. The thermometer is there too…I keep taking my temp to confirm that it’s not a hot flash…it’s a FEVAH!

And here’s the new pile to be cut out…lots of little bits now…

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In fact, I have one whole box that is just the snake wrapped around her legs…it’s that many pieces…

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And another box that is just the giant bird above her hand…

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And here’s the rest of the stuff in or on her body that is not flesh…

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Well, except all the stuff in and on her legs (a moth, a wolf, some plants), because I did those yesterday.

Usually I know how many pieces I’ve finished, because I go in order. I have no freakin’ clue how many are done. I know I’ve done all the flesh pieces through 1100. And I’ve done some of the non-flesh-colored pieces on the way there. I did about 4 hours of picking and ironing fabrics yesterday, with almost 7 hours total into the fabric part. Probably there’s a good 14 more hours to go. I should be able to get that done this week.

I only spent about an hour and 15 minutes cutting pieces out yesterday, so there’s a lot more work on that section. That’s OK, though…I can sit down for that. So I’m stronger each day, but still definitely recovering.

So I ran into a post by someone who’s been on my blog-reading list for many years…Kate Kretz. She makes beautiful work that is sometimes challenging (for some, not me). Actually, I like the word ‘disturbing’. I don’t think that word is BAD. I think there are times we SHOULD be disturbed by what we see and read and even think. I believe artists SHOULD disturb. I think the first pieces I saw of hers were the mouth pieces done in hair embroidery, and that’s when I started following her blog (that’s 2006?).

Yesterday she wrote a post on shocking art that is right on. I’ve had a few people over the years accuse me of making work that shocks on purpose, that I’m TRYING to piss people off or upset them or whatever, and I try to explain that I’m really never thinking about the work in that way, and mostly people nod their heads, like SURE you’re not. But I’m really not. I draw from a place in my head where I don’t even consider my audience. I don’t care who they are or what they might think. They are so far away from my point of view that they might as well not exist. I don’t make art for y’all. I make it for me. Now once I’m making it, sure, I’m putting it out there and entering it into shows (and getting it rejected more times than not), but that’s the other part of the artist brain…trying to figure out where it fits, making sure it’s out there, that people eyeball it. The one I’m working on now? It’s not that controversial (I think), but someone’s panties will get in a twist about it, I’m sure, just like some of the other work I’ve made. Anyway…great article.

Now back to recovery…and artmaking…temp’s gone up a full degree since I started writing this. Sigh.

Hard

Today’s blog post is brought to you by R.E.M.

Every time I watch this video, listen to this song, it just kills me. Even if I’m in the best mood in the world, this song makes me cry. For some reason, I’m listening to R.E.M. today. Mood music. Maybe not the best choice…but it’s my choice.

Yeah, I know I’m getting better. It doesn’t feel better really, but I can feel shifting in something. Whatever that something is. That said, today was a throwback. I had an hour or so intermission in the evening with art and food and wine with a good friend, but it was sandwiched by Crying Act I And Crying Acts II and III. I don’t even know why. It’s not like I can pinpoint an event or a thought that warranted all those tears…they just happened.

The art was good, by the way…the new exhibit at Visions Art Museum is recent purchases by Del Thomas, a big collector in the art quilt world, and it is definitely worth seeing. There was a good variety of quilts, some truly beautiful works of art. It’s there through January 19. You can see some of the work on Del’s blog (link above in her name). I enjoyed seeing Charlotte Bird and Cathy Denton’s works about words that start with C as well. The intermission was appreciated.

Mr. Meditation tells me today to step away from the feeling as I identify with it. I step away from some pretty fucking overwhelming sadness and fall into the hole behind me of deep dark weeping. Nice. You could have warned me, man. Seriously. What am I aware of? Did you just ask me that? I’m aware of feeling like shit right now, Mr. Meditation. I’m sure there will be a positive outcome from the meditation in the long run, but today? Not so much. Today it is just sad.

I had goals today…I wanted to get grades done (it’s the end of the Trimester), so I would have the rest of the weekend free. I had to be up at 4:40 AM to take the girlchild somewhere, and when I got home, I went back to sleep. I was going to be all gung ho and go to the gym, but when I realized they weren’t even open, I was much more cavalier about the day. It’s not like I really had to BE anywhere. No one was waiting on me to be done with my stuff and be free. So I went back to sleep and Kitten tried to head butt me awake, but I put the pillow over my head, and then Calli (the dog) was whining, but I didn’t get up until she started farting…because that’s never a good sign.

It took me about 4 hours to get through all the grades, but I did it. Then I finally packed up the two quilts that are going to Poway…which should have been shipped already, but whatever…they’re not late yet.

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Dehair, label on one of them, cut a dowel and put in eyescrews, pack it all up, print labels, tape it up. Shipped it before I went to the gym. Then home and showered (the cold-water faucet is stripped…makes showers very exciting at the moment…plumber can’t come until Monday)…and off to VAM. I cried all the way there. Don’t know why. Really don’t. It just happened. I got it under control about 4 times, the last time while walking across the street to go in to the museum. Good thing…I know a lot of people in there.

Babygirl witnessed the grading…

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by sitting on the gradebook. It’s either there or she sits behind my neck on the chair, like an overly heavy scarf…with claws. That’s where she is now. It explains the crick in my neck.

When I got home from food and drink, which was a pleasant experience…it was nice…I ironed for a while. I really want this thing stitched down by the end of the weekend.

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I don’t know if that’s really possible, but I can try. I don’t have anything else important to do, well, except shopping and lesson planning and dealing with plumbing and pet food and kids and helping the boychild with college apps and probably saving the world if I get around to it. Did I mention housecleaning? No I did not. Someone still owes me a year of housecleaning. This would be a good time to have that. In the above picture, I’m ironing the eye and the face separate from the rest of the body. I actually lost the eyelid. It’s a big piece. Usually I lose small pieces. Who knows where it disappeared to.

Once I had all the pieces ready, I ironed the head onto the body.

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This piece is holding together pretty well as a single, large ironed piece, which means I keep having to move it around on the ironing sheets…they’re not big enough for the whole quilt. I finally pulled off the whole body so I could do the top part with the tree and the hair…

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Here’s the already-ironed bits (from the back).

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They look a bit different. And there it is with the body ironed to the hair and the tree…

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With the body hanging off the edge of the ironing board. The roots that belong on the neck are sitting to the left, waiting to be ironed on.

All I have left is everything in the tree…which is about 130 pieces…not too bad, but not getting done tonight. Too tired. I’m almost 5 hours into the ironing. At least a couple of hours to go, if you count ironing down to the background.

It was after the ironing that I hit Crying Part III. That was meditation’s fault. Sigh. Obviously there’s a reason for all of it…I’m just not allowed to know what it is right now, except if you watch this TED video…

TED Talk Ash Beckham

There is no competition for who has it harder. There is just HARD. Coming out of any closet. I guess I’m out of the depression/grief closet. Sort of…because I do close the door again sometimes when I can’t deal any more, keep hiding in the closet. It’s easier to be on here and write about it than to talk about it in person. It’s easier to draw how I feel than to talk about it. I don’t know what that means in the long run, whether it will take me longer to get through the grief than it would someone who shares more than I do in person. I can’t really do anything but what I am doing, though, so it will take as long as it takes…and while it’s taking its time, it will be hard.

It’s Complicated. It’s Messy. It’s Me.

While tracing the crone tonight, I feel the brain anxiously scrabbling at me, trying to draw me in to its worry and pain, but I focus on each piece, drawing it as accurately as possible. I wonder how I would have drawn the crone if I had drawn her before all the bad happened. Would she look so worn, so world-weary? Would I have made her eyes so bagged and wrinkled? Would the cracks in her exterior have shown up? Is she a better piece of art (in progress), a more accurate depiction because of my own recent suffering?

I hate believing that artists have to suffer to make good art. I would like to think that our suffering often draws us (or drags us, as someone recently wrote me) toward creative endeavors as a way of dealing with…processing the pain. Then again, there must be artists who never suffer, right? I don’t know the answer to that.

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I am close to the end. I am on piece 1145. There are 80 more pieces to trace. Then it will be on to a different type of meditative act, that of cutting all those pieces apart. I might need to divert some time and energy to the cutting out of fabric pieces for the other piece, the one that needs to be done by the beginning of January, which is drawing closer. The time of year that I hate so much is also drawing closer, the holidays. No break from that this year.

Speaking of breaks, I realized I had been avoiding staying home on Saturday nights…that I had spent over 9 years going out every Saturday night, although usually just to movies and dinner, but money is tight and I spent my weekly budgeted allotment for entertainment on Thursday night, plus I have a lot going on this weekend, lots of stuff that has to get done, and I was feeling overwhelmed, especially since I didn’t do any real art stuff two nights running. And then I was trapped here for 4-plus hours because the oven has been seriously malfunctioning (again) and I was waiting for the fixit guy to show up…luckily, it was the same goofy guy from two years ago who put in the last known thermostat for my oven in the entire world (seriously), and he took it upon himself to MacGyver a solution…

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Yup. He didn’t have the right type of screwdriver to adjust the thermostat (long skinny tube with a tiny adjustable screw at the end of it), so he borrowed a wire coathanger from me and made one. Seriously. In my kitchen. And then he tutored me on how to use it and left it with me, and didn’t charge me for labor (I provided the metal). Worst-case, this will be a short-term fix and we’ll have to find some other ghetto option (he wanted to make sure I understood the after-market options would make my kitchen look ghetto…really? More ghetto than it already does?). Because the alternative is $1800-3000 that I don’t have to get a new one in that space. Or just build a fire in there, but that will upset the girlchild, and we don’t want that. Her dad’s oven is also on the fritz and he won’t get his fixed, so she can’t cook anywhere at the moment.

I did the grocery shopping on a Saturday night, like a loser. Yeah! I bought radishes. Exciting. I mailed my nephew’s birthday present, finally. I found incentive stickers for my classroom. These were all things that had been on my list. Tomorrow is my quarterly California Fibers’ meeting, as well as two soccer games, both of which I will miss due to the meeting. I have to plan for school and find my way to the gym.

So I decided when I got back from the grocery store that the best thing I could do for myself tonight was to just slowly experience the evening…do things I wanted to do, and maybe some I needed to (I wrapped all the UK Xmas gifts while he was calibrating the oven…they need to ship out soon)…

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I knew I needed to prep the last three month’s of Sue Spargo’s birds to take with me on the trip to Houston (lots of hours on planes). I kind of stopped working on them when I almost burnt the house down with the August package. Whoops. But I need to get going on them. I don’t really NEED to. It would just make me feel better, and they’re easy to work on when traveling, unlike some of the stuff I’m working on at the moment. So I took a few minutes and did that…

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I ate. I made dessert. I didn’t eat enough today, so it was OK to eat dessert (I ate real food too, don’t panic). I exercised (I cried during that because of the book I’m reading while on the bike). I meditated (cried during that too, but that’s OK and normal). It’s been a sad day, week…full of loss and realizations and things that are just hard to process…like a bad British pub meal sitting heavy in your gut. Either direction it goes, it’s going to hurt. Cry it out. That’s all I do. Once you’ve cried it all out, though, there’s a quiet sense of peace. It’s not happy, it’s not joyful…it’s just quiet. And some of the sadness is just gone for a while. It’s not overwhelming any more.

I also spent a lot of time petting cats (and dog) today.

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That one sat on my lap for a while and I spent some concerted effort smoothing its fur and scratching its head. It was very appreciative.

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That one asked for attention, rubbing around my ankles until I petted it…coming up near me while I was tracing and head-butting me until I paid her attention. Kitten is waiting for me to come to bed so she can curl up next to me and vigorously clean her nether regions, and then wake me up at my school-alarm-clock time, which is too early for a weekend wakeup, not that she cares. Close attention paid to the fur-creatures seems to soothe me for a moment. Plus they don’t care if I’m crying. Midnight will even help by cleaning my face for me. She often sits by me while I’m meditating, if I’m in the living room. She cleans herself to the sound of the meditative guy on my app. If I’m in my office, it’s Babygirl who’s listening, perched on the back of my chair, behind my neck.

I wonder what they think about my meditation. Or my crying. The food giver is sad. We love the food giver. She pets us. We must sit close to the food giver and purr on her (shades of Margaret Atwood’s Crakers). Then she will give us more pets and more food. And it will be good.

I got this huge long spam comment on my blog the other day…it was all like this…

Your {story-telling|writing|humoristic} style is {awesome|witty},
keep {doing what you’re doing|up the good work|it up}!|
I {simply|just} {could not|couldn’t} {leave|depart|go away} your {site|web site|website}
{prior to|before} suggesting that I {really|extremely|actually} {enjoyed|loved} {the standard|the usual}
{information|info} {a person|an individual} {supply|provide} {for your|on your|in your|to your} {visitors|guests}?
Is {going to|gonna} be {back|again} {frequently|regularly|incessantly|steadily|ceaselessly|often|continuously} {in order
to|to} {check up on|check out|inspect|investigate cross-check} new posts|
{I wanted|I needed|I want to|I need to} to thank you for this {great|excellent|fantastic|wonderful|good|very
good} read!! I {definitely|certainly|absolutely} {enjoyed|loved} every {little bit
of|bit of} it. {I have|I’ve got|I have got} you {bookmarked|book marked|book-marked|saved as a favorite} {to check out|to look
at} new {stuff you|things you} post…|

Like I could choose the words I really wanted to read and come up with my own message. I was amused. It’s almost like poetry. Love poetry of a sort. OK. Not.

I read this blog from start to finish…I think she liked one of my posts and I read one of hers, and then I read the rest. It’s not a lot, but it’s an interesting read. Things like that always make me question my OWN depression though…we always wonder if we have the right to be depressed, doesn’t someone else have it worse? I know people who have actually SAID that to me (not this time around), but I write them off pretty quickly. There’s a lack of understanding there. I think most people around me are trying to be understanding and supportive, and I don’t give many guidelines on how to do that, because I honestly don’t know…and yes, dear counselor, I’m pushing people the fuck away because it’s people that hurt me and I don’t want to be hurt. Everything I do is self-protective and based on years of practice in protecting myself, but there hasn’t been a lot of experience I’ve had with not needing that protection. It’s not my self-protective behaviors that caused this. They certainly didn’t help, but they weren’t the source of the problem. The source was not in me. My issues…well, I’ll get to them. When I can handle everything else, then I will get to them, and I will peel off the armor again, maybe, a little, and honestly…if you want to see the fucking armor peeled off, look at my art. There it is. It’s all hanging out and in the open…this is probably why I find it so hard to STAND next to my art and explain it. Because that IS the deep core, the inside, the painful emotional part. And you want me to own it? (I do own it…I just don’t want to explain it to you. You look at it. You get something out of it. You react to it. I put it out there. Don’t make me explain it.).

One of the things I like about the Fifty2Letters blog is that she posts art, really interesting art, as part of every post. And she writes well. And her story is compelling.

Reading other people’s stories…ideally it helps us suss out our own? My story…it’s complicated. It’s messy. It’s me.

Elizabeth Barton: Inspired to Design

I was recently asked to review Elizabeth Barton’s new book Inspired to Design. I’ve been reading Barton’s blog for a long time, and have enjoyed her focus on looking at quilt art the same way we look at other types of art, with a critical eye for composition, balance, value, and color. So much quilt art ignores the fundamentals of good art. Her discussions make you think about what you’re making, why you’re making it, and how you can make it better by improving the viewer’s experience. In her introduction, she emphasizes making quilts that come from your own inspiration and voice, but that are still well-designed and planned. This book is great for the quilt artist who hasn’t done a lot of designing on their own, or who feels like they need some support or direction to make their quilts more successful on a regular basis. As she says, “After you’ve had a lot of experience with looking and designing…many of the steps and things you have to watch out for become more automatic.” Whenever someone complains about how easy I or any other artist makes it look, I remind them I’ve been practicing drawing for 40+ years and quilt art for 20+ years. It takes time and practice. Barton emphasizes this in her book, but also provides lots of assistance in how to complete the practice.

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Barton teaches workshops, and believe it or not, just based on how impressed I am by her blog, I considered taking one of the online classes. She suggests there are 7 steps to successful art quilts.

In Step 1, Inspirations and Design Sketches, Barton helps artists figure out how to collect inspiration, and from there, move into designing techniques of cropping, rearranging, working with shapes, and repeating elements. There are many pictures of Barton’s work as examples and exercises to help you find your inspiration. Step 2–Size, Shape, and Structure–helps you decide how big to make a piece and how the structure of the piece’s design will affect the finished artwork’s effect. In Step 3, Depth and Space, Barton discusses making your 2-dimensional piece have depth, using a variety of techniques. She touches on perspective, as well, which can be an issue for those who never made it through art school (here is where I admit that I am an art major who never had to learn perspective).

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(Echoes in the Memory, one of Barton’s pieces that illustrates her use of color and value to move your eye from foreground to background)

Step 4, Value, discusses fabric dying, as well as making sure your piece has at least three levels of value. Value is also reviewed in Step 5, Color, making sure that the hues have lights, mediums, and darks. Barton uses color in amazing ways in her quilts, and this section covers all the types of color schemes, as well as providing some exercises for encouraging quilt artists to branch out and experiment with color. Step 6, Evaluating Designs, might be the most important section of the book. She suggests making many designs, so you can pick the best ones. She sets out steps for evaluating your work, making sure that your design is strong before you start messing with fabric, and reminding us to have a good reason for ignoring any of the principles of successful design. It’s OK to break the rules, as long as you are aware of them in the first place.

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(Cement Works, used in the book to illustrate Step 7)

The last step, Step 7: Putting It All Together, helps the artist get from sketch to actual piece, with plenty of tips to keep your eye on design throughout the construction of the quilt. She suggests stepping back and looking at the piece with a critical eye throughout the entire process. It’s never too late to fix a design issue. This section is very thorough and is full of tips for best getting from sketch to finished piece, including how best to baste the layers of a quilt and how to remove needle holes if you have to rip out machine quilting.

Although this book may seem unnecessary for someone with an art degree, there were plenty of interesting tips and reminders for even the more seasoned of us, and the addition of many photos of Barton’s work makes it a worthy purchase. For those who might need direction or support, this book is an excellent source, especially with Barton’s numerous suggestions for evaluating your work’s success. The book is due to release May 1 and is well worth it for the art sensibilities and design specifics. You can find Barton’s work on her website, here.

Art Quilt Portfolio: People and Portraits, Review and Giveaway

I love that I get books to review…it’s even better when it’s a book I already own, so I can give away the extra. I got an artist copy of the Art Quilt Portfolio: People and Portraits, but I also received a review copy, so if you want it, just comment to that effect and I’ll draw names next Friday, April 5, and mail it out to you.

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I did read this book cover to cover. It’s my favorite kind of book, full of a good variety of artists and pictures, with nice big pictures of the art, and insights into what the artists think about their work and their process. Yes, I am one of the featured artists, but if I didn’t like the book, I wouldn’t be giving a positive review.

Martha Sielman did a great job tailoring the questions to the specific work of the artists and providing us with some people we’ve all heard of and some who were merely blips on my radar (and even some I’d never heard of, which just means I’m not listening hard enough).

The profiled artists include Joan Sowada, Bodil Gardner, Maria Elkins, Colette Berends, Pat Kumicich, Sherry Davis Kleinman, Cheryl Dineen Ferrin, Yoshiko Kurihara, Lora Rocke, Margot Lovinger, Ulva Ugerup, Viola Burley Leak, Margene Gloria May, Lori Lupe Pelish, Sonia Bardella, Leni Wiener, Mary Pal, Jenny Bowker, myself, Pam RuBert, and Carol Goddu. Each featured artist had about 6 quilts pictured on 6 pages. I liked that each artist covered topics that were specific to their work and lives. In trying to answer interview questions in the past, I know that trying to answer wide-open and vague questions is difficult. Sielman definitely did her homework before sending out questions to the artists, and you can clearly hear the artist’s voice in each section.

There is a wide variety of work here, from the more realistic work done by Bardella, Elkins, and Rocke; to the more abstract pieces of Pelish, Burley Leak, and May; into the whimsical and expressive work of RuBert, Ugerup and Gardner; to Pal, Dineen Ferrin, and Bowker’s intriguing and revealing portraits of particular people. I was fascinated by Kurihara, Berends, and Goddu’s use of fabrics, although they don’t work in a similar fashion at all. I have been lucky to have been following the work of Lovinger for years, and Wiener’s blog is a great background to how she creates her work. Sowada and Davis Kleinman’s work have been on my radar for a good long time, and Kumicich is a recent find, as she is one of the artists in the I’m Not Crazy exhibit I curated.

I would suggest reading Elizabeth Barton’s review as well…she makes an interesting comparison between this volume and the Nature volume of Art Quilt Portfolio. She brings up a point that I also noticed, that there is no contact information in each artist’s section, and even the information at the back is fairly sparse. Although I know how to Google, it would be nice to have that information, even if half of it were out of date by publication…maybe that is why they leave it out.

I mentioned when I reviewed the Nature volume that I liked the galleries of other artists, but they seemed to make more sense in the Nature volume. There were logical topics. I suggested that for the People and Portraits, coming up with gallery titles that were relevant and yet were a means to gather work together would be difficult, and I was apparently right about that. I’m not sure I see the connections in some of the galleries…it might be OK to just not title them. I did enjoy the variety of other artists working with the figure, especially artists whose work I had not seen before. I think that is one of the great strengths of this type of book, in that it is not predictable, that the artists we might expect to see profiled here were not necessarily the artists chosen.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Sielman comes up with next. Again, if you want my copy, comment…