Bits and Pieces

April 29, 2016

I’m still plodding along on this drawing…it’s getting there. Last night, I was on a roll…I started by drawing grapes (because there aren’t enough tiny freakin’ pieces in this thing). Then I added the gecko above the hand and another tree by the giraffe to fill that empty space.

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Then I added the raccoon. Meanwhile, despite the late hour here and in Boston (AM hour really), girlchild and I had a discussion about whether raccoons are evil or not. They’re not. She says they are. Something about one that runs out in front of the van she drives for school.

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But it’s not often you see one in the same drawing as an ovary.

So I’m filling up the space, slowly. I need more ideas…

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My brain usually obliges. Give it time. It took about an hour last night to do what I did.

Before that, I had quilt class, so I started cutting out pieces for the smaller quilt I’m doing…

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On the left, that’s about 2 hours’ work. Doesn’t look like much, does it? It never does until it’s all ironed together. I’m kinda looking forward to that part…but I’m really tired right now, and I haven’t even started school. I’m not expecting a burst of energy tonight. We have an outdoors assembly today, so I need to remember sunscreen. Last weekend, I sat out in the late afternoon sun for about 20 minutes and got sunburnt. Me paleface. It didn’t even cross my mind that I might need sunscreen. I need skin that changes color with the sun, like those glasses do. So yeah, an hour in the sun for an assembly might kill me.

Anyway, looking forward to some Vitamin D. And cutting stuff out. And working on the drawing. She’s got 10 1/2 hours into her so far. Impressive. Lots of staring time though. I joked earlier this year about finishing a quilt every month in 2016, but then I blew it with the March finish by deciding three days later that it needed ink…on the 1st of April. So there was technically no March finish. Well there won’t be a late-April finish either. No way. But there should be a May finish. I guess that’s something to aim for. If I do this big one next, no way will it be done in June. I’ll aim for early July. Planning it out. Getting bits and pieces done each day.

Why Now?

April 28, 2016

Yesterday was interesting. I gave a test. I’ve given a few tests this year. I always give the kids a study guide (required) with all the test questions and then they can use an index card on the test, with anything they need on the card. I’ve had so much apathy this year, from kids and parents, that it’s truly been one of the most frustrating years for me ever. I’ve questioned everything I’ve done all year, and finally sort of gave up on them. I couldn’t persuade them to turn work in, to prepare for a test, to give a shit. Until today. And I swear, I did nothing different, but today, almost every single kid turned in a study guide, most of them complete. Almost every single kid had a card. It’s like lightning hit them and their brains lit up with “OH YEAH! That’s how you STUDENT!” I was boggled. I didn’t know whether to be ecstatic that they finally figured that shit out, or annoyed that it took them so long, or just fucking confused because WHY NOW? Why not all the other times? What was different?

I think I just input those grades and hope to heaven the test grades improved as well, and never think an entire year is a failure…know that it might happen in the 10th month of the year that they finally figure it out. This is the stuff that bugs the crap out of me when people talk about making teachers accountable. I did nothing different in the first few months of the year, then started noticing the failing trend, the inability to turn work in…and I tried to figure out how to make things work better, worked MY ass off, honestly, worried myself, stressed out, blamed myself, had a really hard year. I’m not sure anything I did made a difference. Or they just reacted to all my work so slowly that I couldn’t see it happening.

I’m boggled. Still. I hope their test scores match up with the work they did…because then they’ll see the connection.

I was exhausted when I got home though. I walked the room while they tested…you don’t think about walking all day, how tiring it is, until you get home and sit down. There were things I wanted to do, and I was just too tired. I finished up some grades on an assignment, input all the stuff from today, and then made dinner. Then I did seating charts, because it’s time to move them around again to try to deal with some behavior issues.

Next step in the artmaking process? Trimming fabric pieces or finishing the big drawing. I know I’m going to quilt class tonight, which is a good place to trim stuff, so I decided to try to fit a giraffe on the drawing instead, because it had been in my head since last week sometime.

I found a picture that worked in the space and made the decision to have her standing in front of the rib she crosses over. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the others…maybe it will be a rib-by-rib decision.

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Then I had this small blankish area to the left of the giraffe, under the uterus. Tulips! Of course. I can’t really explain how things pop into my head as I’m staring at these blank spaces, but they do.

This is actually a pretty large space to fill…even with the ribs drawn in.

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It was after midnight by then, so I stopped. I’m not sure what to draw next. I have notes about bees and lizards and cactus, although I already put a prickly pear in. I already put in a cat…there’s always a cat. I always have birds too…I think the crane counts for that, although there might be more later. I’m debating a raccoon, after watching Guardians of the Galaxy while grading last night and staring at Rory from Furiously Happy for so many days. Probably putting a furiously happy raccoon in there won’t fit, but a real one might. I’ll think about it.

Turns out my Celebrating Silver quilt Awakening the Crone will be traveling to China, once again having a way better vacation than I ever do. The whole show will be at the 2016 8th Asia Quilt Festival in Shanghai, China, from September 21-23, 2016.

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I keep waiting for the organizers to email me and say all of them are going except mine, but that hasn’t happened yet. Cool beans.

Willy Nilly

April 27, 2016

So the good news is that I finished ironing all the pieces down onto fabric on the newest quilt. It’s not a huge piece, maybe 18×26″ or so. It’s from one of my smaller sketchbooks. It’s not FOR anything, no show, no deadline. Although it technically has no nudity in it, so that’s a plus for those weird little shows that want small pieces but can’t show boobies. After the last few demanding pieces, I wanted to do something just for me, something mellow, something easy, something that didn’t have a million hours attached to it. So it took about 5 hours and 45 minutes to pick out fabrics. Next I’ll start trimming them, probably at my quilt class on Thursday. I might work on the drawing tonight, try to get it done, since it’s probably the next one I’ll work on. That perennial debate between working on what I want to work on, and trying to make work that will get into shows. Everything has a theme and this one doesn’t fit many of them. That’s why I’m doing it though. Just a break from the artistic rat race.

So I had all these cactus spikes lined up in order for ironing…

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I had misnumbered some of them (I do this all the time), so there’s double numbers with letters to tell them apart, but in the long run, it’s cactus spikes. It doesn’t matter much. I actually used three different colors of spikes. Kinda crazy there.

Here’s the fabrics I used. Shit. I usually count them.

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64 fabrics for a piece that has about 400 pieces. I needed lots of variety in the greens because she has lots of different types of plants covering her, from cactus to vines to sunflowers.

Here’s the pile, ready to be cut out…

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It’s not a very big pile. I figure cutting them out will take less than 4 hours. I do remember that I’m missing part of her eyeballs. I had the Wonder Under pieces and then they disappeared. Probably on a fluffy cat butt somewhere.

I have two other smallish drawings like this that I copied and numbered. I thought I would work on them next, but I think looking at the time available (and yes, I am already thinking about summer projects…), I need to start on the big one next. I like to have at least one big project planned for summer, since I have more free time for long bouts of standing at an ironing board without having to work the whole day before I do that. I have a job that requires a lot of standing and walking. I hardly ever sit down. So walking all day and then standing all night is pretty tiring.

Last year I did it a little differently though. I had a piece I wanted to work on that I started in May or so and finished in late June…there was a show I wanted to enter. Ironically, it didn’t get in, but another piece did. Then I wanted to enter another show at the end of July, so I finished a smallish piece for that. It’s been gone since September, I think. Some of that was a shipping issue (not mine), but it won’t come back until late October this year, I think. Then I finally worked on the big monster piece for the summer, not starting until the end of July, which honestly, is right before school starts. This year, we have to go back August 15 (oh god, way too early). So the summer is really July. I didn’t finish that big piece until right before it was due, the end of October I think. Or was it September? Can’t remember. End of September. And I forgot the other giant Earth Mother I did last year, which I finished in April. It’s strange for me to finish a big piece during the Spring. It’s so crazy at school this time of year. But I had a deadline for that one as well.

So there’s the question. Do I work better with deadlines? Yeah probably. More efficiently anyway. So I guess I have to accept their existence. If I sucked at it, I might be able to ignore them and wander willy nilly through my artmaking process, but I’m deadline-oriented and it makes me get work done. So there we are. Try to pick deadlines that make sense with my work and not just make it for the theme. Make the stuff I would make anyway.

But instead of making right now (and I would like to be, trust me…know that I leave for work most days with art screeching at me to STAY STAY!), I need to work to pay the bills. Like most of us do…

Apparently I Have to Sleep at Night

April 26, 2016

A relief this morning…finding out all the financial aid documents have been processed. That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems that will come up down the road, like last year, but at least we got past that hurdle. It’s a fucking miracle. A massive relief as well. Now we wait.

It’s Reach Higher Day today, Michelle Obama’s program to encourage kids to go to college. At our school, if you ask them right now if they want to go to college, what they want to do, a lot of them say yes, and they want to be doctors and lawyers and other educated professions…and some of them make it, some of them get full scholarships for sports or academics. We get little blips of info from them as they become seniors in high school. But most of them get bogged down by life, grades, the lack of support…no one knows how to fill out these damn forms (they take persistence and a little crazy, honestly). So today we are supposed to wear a t-shirt from our college (oops. I don’t own one…but I have my kids’ shirts) to help kids realize that almost every adult around them at school is walking around with a college degree…or in my case, like three of them. There’s so little parent support for this year’s kids…and there are plenty that would do well in college and should go. I hope they figure it out.

I walked the dog yesterday…I love the post-work 3-miler we do. It’s incredibly relaxing, although then it’s hard to get up and make dinner. I have to plan so that gym and hiking nights have food already prepped for afterwards. Smart move, when I can pull it off.

I had grading to do as well…never-ending pile (except mostly it’s online, so it’s a virtual pile…harder to hold sway over you if you can’t physically see it). But I was in here ironing at about 9-something. I wanted to be done…but…apparently I have to sleep at night.

When Midnight does this (and she is always in the green drawer for some reason), I can’t get to about half of my green fabrics.

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The drawer she’s in and the drawer directly above her…if I were smart, I’d move the drawers around occasionally so I wasn’t always pulling out of the top drawer. Or yeah, I could chase her out.

Kitten is more well-behaved and picks the chair…when she’s not trying to climb up the window screen to get at the lizards that keep climbing all my windows.

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I ironed for a couple of hours…forgot to take any photos while ironing…but these are all the pieces I have left to do…not many.

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I think there’s some cactus and a sunflower or two in there. And then I’m done. Again, a small quilt for me.

I ironed for about 2 hours last night. There’s probably less than an half hour left in there. Here’s the pile of stuff ready to be trimmed.

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I have quilt class on Thursday, so now I have something I can work on there. That was part of my motivation to get in here instead of out there with the big drawing.

Here’s the growing pile of fabrics I used, completely disorganized.

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It was late and I didn’t feel like making it all nice. Sometimes sleep is a goal.

I forgot…I am still working on going through the pile of crap I pulled out of the studio and piled up in the boychild’s room. I know it doesn’t look better, but I threw out another pile of stuff and recycled some more.

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So it’s getting there. I’m a little afraid of that red box on the left…it’s chock full of I don’t know what. I emptied the yellow bin. I have lots of piles of stuff based on where it should be going. It was a little sad going through the school stuff, because I found out Friday for sure that most of what I have taught over the last 14 years is going away. So I have samples of stuff…and you just don’t know if you’ll ever teach that again, so in some ways, it would be a good time to just toss a lot of stuff, which I did when I went most digital anyway, but we do some stuff on paper still when it makes sense. So I was filing assignments I will probably never use again. Teaching body systems and cells and genetics has been what I love…and I will have to find a way to love the next batch of stuff.

OK. I’m running late…as always. But art tonight…finish ironing that batch and maybe go back to the drawing. We’ll see.

You Get What I Mean…

April 25, 2016

Whoa Nelly, this feels like Monday. Teachers get Sunday panic, and then we don’t sleep Sunday nights, and then Mondays are rough. Then again, I’m just not a morning person. Don’t talk to me until I have one full cup of tea inside me, whether it’s a 6:30-AM wakeup alarm or an 8:30 version (when I’m not in school). Something woke me up around 6 AM and I thought, Holy Crap, it can’t possibly be morning. I just fell asleep. You always know that’s a good start to a work day. Don’t feel like I slept last night. I even went to bed a bit early. Well. 15 minutes. And then I couldn’t fall asleep. Brain in a twizzle.

Twizzle is probably a bad word somewhere. Then again, everything is a bad word somewhere. Nope. It’s a move in ice dancing. A twizzle is a multirotational one-foot turn in figure skating. The twizzle is most commonly seen in ice dancing, where it appears in a number of compulsory dances and is a required element of step sequences in the short dance, original dance, and free dance. Ah there we are…also a word for a form of crystal meth. Then again, probably every weird-sounding word is a form of crystal meth somewhere.

I’m working my butt off every weekend, it seems…trying to get school stuff done, getting through art stuff, not even catching up with anything. We must be getting near the end of the school year. I thought I had 43 days of school left, but it turns out we’ve been back after break for three weeks, not two, so there are only 38 days left. That’s good. I was thinking 43 sounded long. But I also lost a whole week in there somewhere. That’s gotta be a problem.

I had a meeting with one of my art groups yesterday, so I had to finish a bunch of stuff Saturday to make sure I had food in the house and my school stuff was ready. It was a good meeting…long drive, but good news about upcoming shows. In fact, membership is coming up in October, so if you live in the Los Angeles/San Diego area and you’re a fiber artist, and you can commit to 4 Sundays a year, then joining California Fibers might be a good thing for you. I’ve picked up some great shows with this group; plus they bring a wide range of talents and information. There’s membership info on the website here. I’ve been in the group for a few years and enjoy it.

We have a presentation of sorts every meeting, and this time, two of the members had been to Guatemala to look at the textile collectives there, and they brought back some samples. If you’re on Facebook with me, you probably saw the detail of this…

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This is the bottom of a strip of fabric that would become one leg of men’s pants. Which is boggling in itself. This is machine-embroidered by a Guatemalan man who does it all freehand. Amazing stuff. He works out of books, looking at the pictures for ideas. There were other things, beautiful soft scarves and beading, but this thing blew me away.

Anyway. So that was yesterday. I was so efficient that when I got home, I realized I had a chunk of time, almost free time. Because it’s never really free, is it? I really should be grading stuff at all hours, never-ending. I needed to straighten up the studio a bit, put fabrics from the last quilt away before I started a new one. So I did that.

And then I started laying out Wonder Under pieces and I hung up my original drawing with all the numbers all over it.

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And I started picking fabrics. This is her hair. Blue is in.

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I was trying to figure out why all of a sudden, after two weeks, now I feel like doing this.

Here’s the flesh…really not much in this quilt. She’s sorta covered in stuff that’s not flesh.

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At the end of the night, I cover up the Wonder Under that’s still laid out so I don’t come back to it all over the place, some stuck to cat butts. The bin at the bottom is everything I’ve ironed so far, which is in the low 200s, I think. I believe the box to the right is all the 300s.

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It’s a small quilt. There’s not a lot of pieces in it. I spent about 2 hours and 40 minutes ironing and I’ve probably got another 2 to go and then I’m done.

Here’s all the fabrics I’ve used so far. There will be more color once I get into the bits on top of the flesh.

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So what got me going? Well I have all these shows coming up now with no work that will fit. Four of them have themes, although the themes are not necessarily limiting, and two of the shows have the same theme. I didn’t like the theme though, until I let my brain play with it and I think I got there, but for two different shows, and at least one being juried, I might need more than one related piece. And then I need a smaller piece for another show. Waiting to hear on nudity or not for that one. All these deadlines are in the next year, but it’s potentially about making 4 large quilts and 1 smaller one.

Although I had a few hours of whiny crap in my head where I just wanted to make whatever I want, damn all the themes. It passed, though, because I’m fairly sure I can still make what I want, but force it to work for these shows. But I can’t sit around waiting any more, because there’s work to be done! Beyond just staring at that drawing every night.

So I’d better get my butt in gear. Because I want to make the Earth Mother one too, and does she fit with any of the themes? One…barely…by the skin of her teeth. Wait. Dammit. She doesn’t have teeth. You get what I mean.

My Work Travels More Than I Do

April 24, 2016

I always forget where my work is when it’s traveling…especially those that travel for years. It’s possible you saw two of my pieces if you were in Paducah this weekend for the AQS show. The SAQA People and Portraits exhibit has been touring for so long, I forget it’s still out there…but two of my pieces didn’t forget…I Was Not Wearing a Life Jacket

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When people ask me where I get my ideas, I often say from dreams (I don’t clarify that sometimes those are daydreams, not nightdreams or nightmares), and that sometimes things just wander in my brain for a while until they collide into a drawing. I drew the figure on the left and the one giving birth in my smaller sketchbook and then the Gulf oil spill happened and it ended up in this thing, along with a bunch of other weird shit. Let me tell you, this is where I wonder how Dali got into my dreams and why they haven’t packed me away in a nuthouse yet.

But yeah. That was a dream. The owl has an iPhone screen and is plugged in. Those are sisters by the way. And there’s about a thousand details. Along with an oil spill. The title? I was listening to the radio and someone said it. And that was the title.

I don’t always channel crazy when I draw. Honestly. Sometimes there’s other shit going on. This one, Fully Medicated

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I’m diabetic and have other health issues. Had them for a long time. I take a bunch of meds. Actually, I think I take more vitamins and supplements at the moment than meds, but that is always in flux. I worry about my liver and kidneys. They bear the brunt of that crap. Anyway. This is a really old piece. They both are. But they were both at Paducah this last weekend.

I have never been to Paducah. I’m not likely to go soon.

Where can you see my work in the future? Well go to the Current Shows tab above for one, but also…

There will be a piece at the Home Machine Quilting & Sewing Show, Salt Lake City, UT, May 5-7, 2016. I’m thinking it might scare some people, but whatever. This is part of the SAQA Oasis show, which was supposed to be at the Mancuso show in Palm Springs last October and then at Santa Clara PIQF…well, it will be there this year instead. So if you went looking for it last year, look again.

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There will be another piece at the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts, Oberlin, OH, opening May 15.

Two pieces will be at Gallery D, Barrio Logan, San Diego, CA, part of Feminism Now, opening May 14. By the way, there will be a catalog available for this show…bring $20!

One piece will be part of California Fibers: Eclectic Threads, Oceanside Museum of Art, Oceanside, CA, opening June 25.

Earth Stories has two pieces, at the Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, WV, Jun 25-Oct 2, 2016.


I actually talked about the issue that is the focus of this piece, saving the Earth by providing free birth control to any woman who wants it, no matter where they live, what religion they practice. If They Want It, they can have it. It was Earth Day Friday and I made my students write about how to save the Earth, and mostly they’re gonna recycle. Um. Well that ain’t gonna do it. It’s a step in the right direction, sure, but what will make a bigger difference? Population control by choice…I do teach human reproduction, so this is not far off what I teach. It made some of them think, start to ask questions…like how do we get more natural resources? They don’t think about how lucky most of them are. They have clean water and a roof over their head (most of them) and junk food whenever they want it. Some of my refugee students understand more. You can see it in their eyes. But many of them also come from a culture that does not allow birth control. I like to pop these little worms into their brains, make them think outside the box.

Celebrating Silver has one piece, at the America Quilts Expo, Des Moines, IA, May 26-28, 2016.

And that’s just the next few months. You can see why I forget where they all are. I’m curious how they do at these smaller quilt and home sewing shows. I suspect it’s eye-opening for a few people. I’m applying to a new art group that has regular exhibitions, and as I was putting the application materials together, I realized that my work is not necessarily pretty and low-key. It’s kinda in your face and challenging. I’m OK with that, and I guess I accept that it might mean there will be a violent anti-sentiment in any group to which I apply. I appreciate the groups I’m in for only giving me a modicum of shit about that. Really, it’s kind of a joke because I often don’t have work available for smaller-sized shows and/or those that restrict nudity (worded as “family friendly”).

Wait. I’m not family friendly? Because we don’t want kids or families to know about what’s inside the body? Or because we don’t want them to know that women sometimes get sad or pissed off about stuff?

It’s OK. I get it. I don’t even get particularly irritated about it. I do absolutely feel like there should be a prominent place for art that’s not pretty, for art that makes you stop and think. For art that slaps you around a bit sometimes. I guess that’s my role. To make that.

A Sparkly Clean Brain

April 22, 2016

First of all, I wrote this before school today. Most of it. And then chaos. Because that’s how it rolls at the moment. Brain overload. So it’s still sitting here when I get home and there’s no title on it and I don’t even know how I didn’t get this done. So here it is…

The plus is that financial aid is notionally done, except for one form that needs to be uploaded (just did that. Before I did this.). The minus is the hours I spent last night dealing with it. Still. Again. And thinking I would have to call girlchild’s financial aid department this morning and beg for forgiveness. The minus is the probably 5 years of my life that I will lose at the end due to financial aid forms and dealing with my ex over those. The plus is the kids are in college and someday will have to change my diapers and feed me applesauce with a bib on, but they will have college educations and will be able to afford the really good bibs and diapers.

Or not. Honestly, I don’t care at the moment. I want them to have a job that fulfills them. And I can’t say that mine doesn’t, because it often does, but right now it also tires me out. It wears me down. It makes me want to eat ice cream and drink wine (not a good combo on so many levels). I wrote two versions of a test last night and graded a bunch of stuff. Some kids are taking it seriously, figuring out that they need to step up their game. Some of them? Yeah. Whatever. And their parents too. I feel sorry for some of them, because I think if someone at home were paying attention, they would be doing better, and I do the best I can with those, but they are often the neediest and not in a good way. It’s like puppies. They’re cute when they’re playing and when they’re asleep, but they bite like motherfuckers. And pee on everything. And chew up your favorite stuff.

I don’t really teach puppies.

So I didn’t finish all the financial aid and grading until 11:09 PM. And I was half dead on my feet by then, tired and irritable and weepy and shit. But I had a random idea to fill in the arm between the crane and the octopus, and I thought I could probably do that…so I did…

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Oh yeah. That’s kelp. It fit nicely. I also pencil drew in a ribcage and a bellybutton, but I haven’t decided whether stuff will go behind the ribs or around them, and I was way too damn tired to draw any more after that. I looked at a lot of pictures of giraffes, but that’s as far as I got. And Damn, they have lots of spots. I keep picking spotted animals.

I’m pretty sure I won’t get anything done tonight. And this weekend is already busy. It’s OK, because there’s no rush on this drawing. I’m just doing it because it was in my head and it helps me calm my brain down, wind down at the end of the day. It’s meditative. It’s like the spin cycle on the washer…flips out all the bad stuff down the drain and leaves a sparkly clean brain for sleep. Well. Sort of. Better than it was anyway.


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