Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Done, Mostly

I don't usually get to do anything personal on the computer during the week, but I have two field visits in my region today and tomorrow, so I am at home rather than in the capitol and can finalize my August TIF.

I realized the side of the page with the writing on it was not working out the way I had planned.  The floral fabric had an ivory cast to it, so the fabric with the writing on it looked stark.  It didn't even blend well with the front of the page.  So I took to attempting a bit of quilting-in-the-ditch on the front of the page to soften up the white fabric on the back.  As you can see from the following photo, it certainly didn't help.

I wished at that point that I had spent the extra time copying the text onto the floral fabric as I had originally planned.  That way, I would have had a solid piece of fabric to back the page and I wouldn't have had to worry about how the quilting would affect it.  Since I wasn't about to rip the piece and give myself a do-over, I thought about adding some appliqued flowers from the floral fabric to soften the white area.

And it worked pretty well, so I stitched up the binding and added a couple of flowers and I'm done.

And for those of you who try desperately to read the text which is incorporated into projects like this, it says:  "I'll use this as my checklist - oh, and there'll be time to knit in the doctor's office.  Yeah - could be a very good day if there are no complications, medical or otherwise.  June 1, 2005 - This is one of those mornings when my chest feels tight and I am trying to do 2 things at once (and I'd do 3 if I could).  My mind is racing because I have to finish all my work today in 4 hours and then wind up packing at home, grab the suitcases and race for the airport.  JW wasn't feeling so good this morning, so I am not sure if he'll be driving us.  Throw that uncertainty into the mix and you have the makings for one hectic morning and early afternoon.  I feel numb.  I feel like I don't have anything ready psychologically for this trip.  I know I will be meeting with "Big Al" but I feel like I'll be confronted with a whole bunch of choices I'm not ready to make.  I'll have to pick hardware, lighting fixtures, floor coverings and paint colors and I'm not sure what I want for some of those things.  I feel like there aren't enough decorator magazines in the world to fully address my uncertainty right now.  Maybe it's because I'm changing..."  I selected the text because there were no embellishments on the page - I just wanted straight text.  And here's the front of the page.  All I need now are two grommets or eyelets to accommodate the binding posts.  Whew!  Still up to date and reasonably balanced!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

On the Wrong TIF Track

I went back to the capitol with all good intentions to think about my page-in-progress, but life happened.  My paid employment required some serious attention in the way of unpaid overtime (don't ever tell me government employees don't work hard!) and I had the good fortune to get into a fiber class conducted by Susan Lenz.  If you are unfamiliar with her work, she posts at (and I hope this link works for you because I am usually not motivated to provide this depth of detail, figuring that's what Google is for) http://artbysusanlenz.blogspot.com.

There are five of us in the class, which runs once a week for two hours over the next three weeks.  I have been a big fan of Susan's since 2007 when she participated in an open studio event and I dragged myself up to the capitol a day ahead of time to attend.  Her studio was at the top of my list of sites to see primarily because she listed Inaminuteago as a favorite Web site on her blog.  When the Columbia Museum of Art offered a class conducted by Susan, I jumped at the chance to learn some of her techniques.

Susan promised us we will all have a piece of our own art, matted and ready for framing at the end of the class.  She obviously is being very generous in what she calls art, at least as far as my attempts go.

In the first class on Wednesday night, Susan demonstrated the methods she uses to develop the foundation of a finished piece.  The demo took about 20 minutes, at which point she sent us to our tables to make as many foundation pieces as we could complete in the next 90 minutes in order to get a feel for the techniques.   Yikes!  She made it look so easy and it's really not because you have to think about color and line and texture and overall design and what you want to heap on top of the foundation and...

Well, here are my three foundation pieces.

This one was the first and turned out fairly well because I followed the demo to the letter.  But Susan told us we could mix up the order, so I did that on the last two pieces, which I think did not turn out as well as I had planned or as I had expected (and, yes, the photos should be rotated so that readers don't have to turn their heads at odd angles to view them properly, but I always seem to forget this step before I upload the images.)

I photographed this second piece so that you could see the underlying fabric and how the layering of fibers changes the overall appearance.  The little white dots on the black velvet are burn holes which will accommodate beads or other embellishments in the coming two weeks.

And the final photo shows what looks like a turtle, but started out in life as some paisley-printed velvet in the color palette of the strip to the right.  The underlying fabric was from an old stained tablecloth.

Today, I will find some beads and embroidery floss from my stash to continue work on the piece this coming Wednesday evening.  Susan is providing all the materials for the class, so this is probably not really necessary, but she has been so generous in allowing us to use materials from her own studio that I feel compelled to contribute something of my own to the finished piece.  Meanwhile, I will work on the TIF page if I can find the time.  It might take me an extra week or two this month but I wouldn't have missed Susan's class for anything.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Success - Sort Of

My original plan had been to fuse some contrasting flowered fabric to freezer paper and then copy some of my journal writing onto the fabric.  But I cheated.  I am running flat out with other projects and household chores and I didn't have time to play with this technique.  So, when I was in my local quilt shop on Saturday, I bought some pre-fused fabric that is specifically made to go through an ink jet copier.

Here's the journal page copied onto the prepared muslin.  Wow!  Too easy.  I am thinking I could make my own fabric designs.  For a quilter, this would be heaven, especially if you wanted to work photos or special designs into a quilt.  Now I want to try the freezer paper technique more than ever.

In any case, now that I have the journal page on plain fabric, I am rethinking my design for this part of the project.  Maybe on my drive back to the capitol tonight, I'll come up with something I'd like to try.  

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Balance Represented in Fabric

Inspiration of a sort hit on late Sunday afternoon just before I was to leave for the capitol.  I thought that if balance in my life was generated by walks in the garden, writing morning pages, working with fiber and textiles, and reading, then I ought to be incorporating those activities into this month's challenge, even if I was reluctant to share my morning pages.

So I quickly went through my limited but growing fabric stash and came up with some flowery English country garden cottons specifically designed by Moda for quilting projects.  I have just completed my first quilt - a 4-patch - and I wanted to try working with tiny blocks.   I cut and stitched with abandon, not really caring if the points met or the blocks were perfectly square or the seams lined up.  I slapped on a border of some scrap fabric, and lo!  the front of the page.  Here's the result of wanting it done, not perfect:

I decided to work some text of my morning pages into the back of the page.  Here's the wrong side of the Moda fabric that coordinates with the 1 inch squares on the quilted side:

And here's the right side:

I'll use the wrong side of the fabric to print the journal text.  I understand there is a technique for this that requires the temporary fusion of the fabric to freezer paper.  You then run the fused fabric through an ink jet printer.  I've never tried this before, but I'm game.  So, that is the next step in the project.

Here's a photo of the two sides of the page with the binding fabric that will frame the piece when it is finished.

For the back of the page, I've selected part of a journal entry I wrote as I was planning my move from New England to the Carolinas.  It deals with stress, taking one thing at a time, dealing with the unexpected, and making the day come out just right in the end.  I think it sums up the way I see balance in my life - more like serenely coping with the day as it unfolds, less like controlling the outcome through scheduling or planning, even though I do try to plan some things.  Here's the text that will be imprinted on the fabric if I can get the technique to work.  If not, I'll have to figure out if it is worth $10 to have the photo store downtown do the printing for me.  The proprietor does this for quilters in our area but will use a prepared fabric sheet instead of my selected fabric.

And for those of you who are trying to squinty-read the text, I promise to provide the words in 12-point Times New Roman if I can get this TIF challenge to come out the way I envision it. 

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Interpreting Balance

Given this month's balance theme, I thought of a couple of design possibilities for another page in my fabric book.  The fact that I can come up with a few different ideas in the course of 30 minutes must mean I'm making progress in translating a concept to a fiber project.  But I will confess right now that all of my ideas seem trivial:  a  scale; a yin-yang symbol; a seesaw.  See?  Trivial, easy.

Which all got me to thinking about how I measure balance in my life.   Am I in balance if every day ends up as planned?  Fat chance!  If I end a month feeling like my life has been satisfactorily split among family, paid employment, friends, education, relaxation and free time, then is my life in balance?  Maybe.   Am I closer to being balanced at the end of a year, decade or quarter century?  How do I measure balance in my life?  And how would I express it in a fiber project if I could define it?

One way I balance my emotions and my schedule is to write morning pages (see Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" and my personal favorite, "The Sound of Paper.")    But my morning pages are so personal that I am not sure I want to work them into an art project of any kind.

Another way I balance my creative life is to read something inspirational every day.  Right now, it's "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch and Anne Lamott's "Plan B."  The chapters are short enough that I can read for a few minutes and then think about the message as I drive to work or make dinner.

And I walk in the State House gardens almost every day to regain balance after a busy morning at my desk.  South Carolina has one of the most beautiful public gardens, with winding paths and gorgeous monuments.  Even when the temperature is 103 F during these dog days, I try to get out and walk in the gardens every lunch hour if only for 20 minutes or so.

So I guess I do certain activities to put balance back in my life.  I have my daily list of must-do's and the only option is to add additional activities that give meaning to the have-to's on the list.  Hmm.  Looks like I am making myself busier in order to achieve balance.  I wonder what Henry David Thoreau would say.

All this philosophizing still doesn't help me define what I am going to do for this month's TIF challenge.   I am truly drawing a creative blank at the moment, so I guess I need to walk away and fold some laundry or do some weeding.  Maybe the inspiration goddess will swoop down and wave her magic wand over my head while I'm busy with one of the must-do's.