Plugging Along

February 20th, 2011

Well, I had hoped to be far enough along on Friday afternoon that I could take the weekend off. My definition of “far enough”? The waterfall had to be glued on so it would have all weekend to cure. Sigh…..twas not to be.

I did get some done though. The dark fabric from the seat was folded around to the bottom of the chair so it was secure. Unfortunately, this meant I then had to paint it white because I was planning to cover the bottom of the seat with print outs of the actual score of “Water Music” and it was printed on silk chiffon from ColorPlus Fabrics (sadly, no longer in business due to mis-management) and was therefore, semi-transparent so the brown needed to be white. I had painted it Wednesday so it was ready to go on Thursday.

Naked chair bottom with brown fabric painted white. Ready for next layer.

First of the sheet music glued down with Mod Podge.

Then I put the chair up on the table and started fighting with glueing on the ivy. The glue I planned to use was not satisfactory so I ran out to Lowe’s and picked up two other kinds of glue that were supposed to be ok for fabric, plastic, etc. and the one was supposed to be virtually “instant.” Well, it wasn’t. And it didn’t like the plastic of the vines so I resorted to glueing some of the leaves down instead. That worked much better. As I was gluing them I realized that some of the white paint had bled onto the black of the legs as I was putting another coat of sealer on the legs so now I had to repaint that….meant I couldn’t finish the vines. But I did get some of the individual leaves glued on to the inner spindles on the top.

Glueing ivy on legs...

Glueing leaves on spindles...stones are also glued on.

As you can see, there are also small stones glued to the chair. PITA. I had purchased some glue that was for use with smooth objects. It was so darned thick I could barely squeeze it out of the tube. I finally gave up and poured the stones into a cup and then poured in the hard finish Mod Podge, mixed it up and then put the stones on. Of course, once they were on I had to quit for the day to let them set…..

Now, I need an opinion here. Here is a shot with a little frog….

Pool in place with little frog....the frog is not glued on. Still debating.

Is he too cutsy or do you think he works??

Friday was more sealing, etc. The stones were the last thing I did Friday.

Saturday I headed in to town. It was a great day for this as it was in the low 40’s F (4 C) so I could open windows. This was important as I was using an acetone based, fabric glue and did NOT want to be breathing the fumes. I had planned on being out of there by noon. Well, we know how my planning goes. I had stopped at the little hardware store in my town and purchased 2 “C” clamps because I was not going to sit and hold the waterfall in place as the glue took hold. Using those clamps and a piece of flat acrylic bar I had for hanging small quilts worked like a charm. I let each section I glued sit for 20 minutes before moving on to the next section. After I got the first part glued I decided to take a break and go down to my car for a smoke (yes, yes, I know….please, no lectures). This was to prove to be almost a disastrous decision.

I have my studio key and car clicker on a lanyard that I wear around my neck when I am at the studio. I keep the door to the studio locked when I am not in there because we are not in the best neighborhood. However, our building is locked after hours and on weekends and you need a clicker to get in. My clicker is on my other key ring that I had left in my purse in the studio. Ooops. So I’m thinking I’m royally screwed. There were very few people in the building. I knew there was a guy on my floor (the second) but he was in the new office sanding the floors. I had NO idea how to get his attention. I went to the entry door I always use and, yes, it was locked. Peeking in the window there was NO ONE in sight. Drat. I went around to the side door that goes into the stair well and, oh yeah! it was open! I climbed up the 2 flights only to remember the doors from the stairwell into the hall have the same lock. I started pounding on the door not really thinking anyone would hear. And then the miracle. Three women opened the door! I don’t know how they got into the building but they were trying to get to the MRC Studio on the 1st floor. I thanked them profusely and took them to the elevator and sent them down…..YES! I was back in my studio and back to work. I finished glueing on the waterfall and was out the door only an hour later than I had planned.

The chair with everything except the waterfall and the last of the vines in place.

Glueing on the waterfall

Waterfall completely glued with the pool in place. The pool is not glued down yet.

One last thing to do before I left. I glued the rest of the sheet music to the back of the waterfall.

Sheet music glued to back of chair center and edges of waterfall.

This will be trimmed on Monday and then sealed again. The back “stone” fabric will then be attached to the top, hiding the top of the waterfall. I have also made “boulders” out of fabric, stuffing them with polyester fiber fill and sealing them with Mod Podge. I brought them home with me so I could add layers of sealer over the weekend. They kind of look like boulders, or potatoes…..Anyway, they will be attached at the top to help hide the top of the waterfall and a couple where the waterfall joins the pool. Then just the rest of the ivy and the tree leaves at the top of the outer spindles and I’m done. Hopefully it will all be dry by Friday when the photographer comes….

Boulders/ potatoes.....

Charity Chair, Continued (“I Need my Head Examined”)

February 17th, 2011

Ok, so where was I? Oh yeah….remind me to NOT volunteer again! The annual piece for the Cheff Center Shindig ¬†is stressful enough and I have already started planning this year’s (it’s due the first Friday of Sept.).

I have made a LOT of progress. Not only on the chair itself but I succeeded in getting the photo shoot (which was originally supposed to be March 2nd) scheduled for the 25th instead of the 22nd. Hey, three days are three days! Unlike the other artists who are painting their chairs and then sealing, I have to put on fabric or ribbon and seal, then seal again then do next layer, seal again….all that sealing requires waiting for the sealer to dry. Today I spent a great deal of my time between coats sewing. Got the seat pad done. I had purchased a foam pad but it was too thick. Plan B- layer of thin batting and the water fabric, quilted with YLI “Brilliance” in white. The thread is a metallic, sort of. It is iridescent and, so cool, it GLOWS in the dark!! I haven’t been able to check that out yet as there is no place in the studio dark enough during daylight. The one layer of batting was a little too thin so I added a second then sandwiched the water fabric with the “dirt” fabric (one of the wonderful fabrics from the Stonehenge Collection) and finished the pad using Melody Johnson’s escape hatch finish .

I have quite a “to do” list for tomorrow. Hopefully I can get it all done by 4 so I don’t have to go in on Saturday. Lots of glueing and a little sewing.

Ok, here I will share more photos of the chair….

"Dirt" fabric in place on seat with first layer of Mod Podge

I had to get creative with positioning to seal the sides and bottom of seat. Trash can worked well.

“Pool” in place on seat of chair

Wider view of the chair with the "pool" where it will be affixed. Still need to get the waterfall in place.

New Project- How Do I get Myself into These Things??

February 15th, 2011

I have to learn one of the most basic lessons every new recruit learns in the military- NEVER VOLUNTEER! What have I done now? Well, a call was put out for artists to decorate chairs to be auctioned off for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (KSO) and, like the idiot I am, I volunteered. Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy making my annual piece for the Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center. But I know when I commit to it that the deadline is the first Friday in September. I have MONTHS to come up with an idea, develop it and make the piece. We got the call on December 1st. We didn’t get the actual chairs until the first week of January and were given a deadline of February 28th. Ulp, I already had plans to be out of town January 31- February 4th….knocking out an entire week of work time. Ok, that still gave me a week at the end of January to come up with an idea and 3 weeks in February to get it done. So, brainstorming: I love classical music and have 4 favourite pieces. I was able to immediately rule out two pieces: Strauss’s “Death and Transfiguration”…..definitely too dark for an auction piece (I still plan to do a piece based on this….maybe this summer) and Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” which I see as a “Halloweeny” piece. Again, not quite appropriate for the goal of auctioning the chair off to raise funds. This left me with two options: Mussorgsky again with “Pictures at an Exhibition.” This piece was written for a dear friend of Mussorgsky’s, artist and architect¬†Viktor Hartmann. My idea was to print out on fabric, works of Hartmann’s and decoupage them on the chair and then add figures of people enjoying the exhibition as well as print outs of the actual sheet music. Simple, right? Well, it would have been except there are only about 12 pieces of Hartmann’s that have survived. Given that the images would have to be fairly small (the only large area on the chair is the seat) that would make for a pretty sparse exhibition. Ok, going with what was actually “Plan A.” As a teen in Hawai’i I attended an outdoor concert in Honolulu. The park was on the ocean and the music for the evening was Handel’s “Water Music.” To this day (almost 40 years later) when I hear that music I can feel the gentle breeze and smell the ocean just as if I was back in Hawai’i. I took this memory, and the memories of some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world (yes, in Hawai’i) and et voile! Yeah. Simple…..NOT. ¬†The chair has a center panel that is about 4″ wide at it’s widest point, but it’s scalloped. No problem. It’s perfect to have a waterfall cascading down. Now, how to make a waterfall in fabric. I wanted it dimensional. I went to work with all kinds of fabric and a photo of a waterfall. After multiple rejected attempts I finally came up with something I liked. So, I got the waterfall done. By the time I accomplished this I was off to Pittsburgh. I felt ok with this as the waterfall was the most labor intensive part…or so I thought. I had posted some photos of the chair (on Facebook) with the waterfall in place (sort of) and lamented that, while I had decided that the out two spindles would be trees (again, dimensional) I just didn’t know what to do with the two inner spindles. I have to extend my thanks to dear friend (and fellow displaced Nova Scotian) Louise Perrin who suggested vines….Perfect!! Now, the bad news. Originally the deadline was 28 Feb right? That was the date the photographer was to come to my gallery to take promo pics of all 12 chairs. Well, apparently he had to go out of town and informed the organizers that, if they wanted him to take the photos (and I’m not mentioning his name because he is an internationally known photographer and architect) the date would have to be changed… the 21st! An email was sent out (that I never saw) to that effect. Gee, let’s inconvenience 12 artists rather than find a different photographer. Worse, I was too sick the entire week after I got back from Pittsburgh to work. Fast-forward to the 14th…..Got the tree trunks done. Decided to go buy silk vines and leaves to complete the vine spindles and the trees rather than try to make them. Decided to also decorate the legs of the chair with vines….hey, I want to do the ENTIRE chair. Unfortunately I forgot to stop at JoAnn’s after the run to Michael’s for a seat cushion which will have “dirt” fabric (from the Stonehenge collection) on the bottom and this great water fabric I have on top. So, tomorrow it’s an early start so I can run to JoAnn’s for the cushion and drop off my Riccar vacuum for servicing (it’s due and the vacuum shop is on my way from JoAnn’s to the studio. Tomorrow I attach the waterfall, put the stone fabric on the back of the upper part of the chair back (there is already stone fabric on the front….the waterfall will appear to be coming up out of the rocks) and cover the seat with “dirt” fabric……to be continued (someday I’m going to figure out how to get the pics to line up where I want them…..)

Vine base done and tree trunks added

The naked chair from the back.

Naked chair from the front.

Vines in process

How to Hang (Fibre) Art

November 22nd, 2010

There’s been a big discussion on an art group about the “proper” way to hang our work in order to be taken seriously by the “universal Art Scene.” I won’t name names but the person who started the discussion, while I am sure she had good intentions basically hit us all over the head and told us we were all doing it wrong and, if we wanted to be taken seriously as artists as opposed to quilters, we needed to hang our work like “real” art….ie: stretch and/or frame it and use picture hanging hardware so that a single nail and hook will be all that is needed.

Ok. First, I don’t believe there is a set right or a wrong way to hang/display ANY art. Well, ok, if the display does not show the work to it’s best advantage, that would be the wrong way. However, I believe that Terry Barrett (formerly a professor of art at THE Ohio State and now at University of North Texas) has it right: once an artist puts his or her work “out there” for public consumption it no longer belongs to the artist. I would take that further to the owner of any piece of art having the right to display it any way they want….

That said, according to this person, we art quilters need to devise a “universal system” for hanging our work that can be understood by gallery owners, museum curators and the general (buying) public….

I contend that there is no “universal” way to hang fibre art. While a small piece may look better mounted on stretched canvas (as my piece, “Cinque Terra – Manarola” is), or mounted, matted and framed (as “Primordial Sea” is) or just stretched over stretcher bars (I haven’t made any pieces like this to submit here) to give it more presence or, as in the case of “Primordial Sea”, to give it support (the piece(s) are printed on a very light-weight antique silk kimono lining and the image is only 8 x 10) this method is not necessary for all small pieces nor would it work for larger pieces.

Ok, why wouldn’t it work for larger pieces?¬† Well, there are a variety of reasons.¬† First there is the issue of weight.¬† A really large piece (say, Velda Newman’s wonderful “Zinnia” that is 87″ x 212″¬† would be impossible to mount on a frame permanently.¬† The weight would make it difficult to move and hang.¬† There is the issue of torquing or twisting of the framework (I had this happen to a lovely piece I have that is large but not nearly as large as Velda’s piece.¬† A friend who is a professional framer reinforced the framework and it has not twisted any more but it will no longer sit flat against the wall).¬† Then there is the issue of shipping.¬† It’s expensive enough to ship FedEx or UPS across the country to send a piece to a show or new owner.¬† I did a piece that was 3′ x 5.5′ that was easy to roll up.¬† It had to be shipped to Vail, CO from Michigan.¬† It was less than $50 but it would have been over $100 if I had shipped the hanging rod with it.¬† And it would have been much more, and required special packaging to ship it had it been mounted on a stretcher.

So, how would YOU display a large piece?¬† Say, 3′ square or larger?¬† And do you see a problem with hanging art quilts in the manner that is traditional for quilts and tapestries?

Here are some of the statements made that started this entire issue.¬† First, the subject line: Million dollar home owners don’t want to hang their Art with nails!!! To which I responded “so what the heck are you going to hang it with? (the response was less than polite).

Then: As Textile Artists, Art Quilters, Fiber Artists, etc, we must find other ways to hang our Art! It needs to be a recognized way of hanging Art, and
that doesn’t include hanging up anything with two nails on the wall. (
Hmmm, what is a “recognized” way to hang fibre art?¬† Well, take a look at tapestries….all the ones I have seen are hung on rods with at least two attachment points to the wall they are on).

Followed by: People know how their art is hanging, even if they don’t ‘see’ it. And they aren’t comfortable ‘knowing’ there are nails in their wall. Yes, a picture hanger includes a nail, but
that’s different: it looks reasonable when the Art is off the wall-it means an Art piece hangs there. Two nails, in their deepest mind, is what a shack dweller would use to hang up a poster or a magazine picture (
I’m no shack dweller.¬† I have MANY pieces, fibre and otherwise, hung using two nails and I’m here to tell you, no one I asked gives so much as a passing thought to how the art in their home is hung once it’s up).

Gallery owners, most Museums and virtually all Homeowners do Not know how to hang a quilt with a sleeve; they want a more ‘normal’ hanging system, and I agree
with them (
don’t know how many people she asked….I know several people, myself included, with gallery representation and most works are hung in this method, as are most of the works in private hands that I have seen- quite a few.¬† I can’t speak for museums….but I’m looking into it).¬† It’s been my experience that owners will hang it with the sleeve if you show them and/or give them written directions.

I read the above to my BFF who, by the way, owns a home worth WELL over a million dollars (and has a pretty healthy art collection).¬† Her response?¬† “Bullshit.¬† You hang art the way it looks and works best.”¬† Bingo.¬† And she’s not an artist.¬† More importantly, she’s a collector! As for homeowners worrying about multiple nails in their wall, she said “Who cares?¬† You aren’t looking at the nails, you’re looking at the art.¬† And a millionaire isn’t worried about the holes.¬† They can afford to have them patched when they move a piece of art.”

I have one more point: some pieces are made to hang freely.¬† I saw an installation where an artist printed images of wild mustangs on sheer fabric.¬† The pieces were hung from clear rods suspended from the ceiling.¬† The idea was you walked through the pieces, through the spirits of these wild mustangs who had been slaughtered for dog food.¬† I wish I could remember the artist’s name but it was a VERY powerful piece.¬† Would¬† it have been any less art if it was hung with a “wooden slat with hooks slid over nails in the wall”?¬† Would Velda Newman’s be?¬† How about Nancy Crow’s work?

Personally, I hang work the way that suits the piece best and that works best in my situation.  When I sell a piece I include written instructions as to how I would hang it with the caveat that it is entirely up to the owner as to how they want to hang it.

I will end with a photo of a piece I purchased this summer.¬† My feeble brain is having difficulty remembering the name of the artist….I love the piece and knew exactly where I had to hang it when I got it.¬† Hanging it was not easy.¬† My poor ex came over and used my 8′ ladder on the steps to the lower level of the house to hang it.¬† This piece is several layers of dyed, printed and painted sheer fabric that moves gently whenever there is a breeze.¬† It is attached to a Lucite dowel (glued, actually).¬† The dowel has holes drilled in either end with clear fishing line.¬† It is hung from, oh no, a nail!¬† How “shack dweller” of me.¬† But, frankly, I don’t see any other way to hang it that wouldn’t change the airy nature of the piece and thus totally ruin it in my eyes….By the way, to the naked eye, the fishing line and nail are invisible.

Just a short addendum: I have sent Velda Newman an email regarding how she hangs her work.¬† I’ll let you know.

Yeah, I’m Back

November 22nd, 2010

It’s been about 9 months since my last post and I have a lot of catching up to do….but that can wait. I am going to enter a new post after this.

Just be assured that I am fine. Health is good. I am just hurting right now because my BFF has been dragging me to her gym and I’m working with a personal trainer. Who knew stretches could make you hurt so much? But, it’s a good hurt and I am up for more….Eating healthier, exercising….now, if I can just quit smoking!!!

Snow Dyeing vs Ice Dyeing

February 13th, 2010

Ok, I know some people are thinking “what the heck is the difference?” Well, following directions posted by someone else (can’t remember who) I did the snow dyeing by soaking fabric in soda ash solution, wringing it out, putting it into containers, packing snow over it and squirting the dye on the snow. I then let the snow melt and washed out the fabric. While I liked it, I ended up with too much white. I suspect this occurred for the same reason you get a lot of white in Shibori when you use wet fabric (wet= more white, dry= more colour). So, I ended up with a lot of fabric that needs either over-dyeing or printing. With the Olympics on, I don’t want to spend the time in the dye studio where I do not have a TV so, I voted for over-dyeing but using ice dyeing. I also am adding some undyed fabric.

Ice dyeing- once again I presoaked the fabric in soda ash solution BUT, then I put the buckets of fabric outside to freeze. I only used two (5 gal.) buckets and am going to use blues in one and greens in the other. Tomorrow, after the fabric is frozen, I will bring the buckets in and pour the dye on. Then I let the buckets sit in the laundry room until they thaw (which will probably take at least all day). Then I wash the fabric the same as before- hot/hot in synthrapol; hot/hot with detergent and then hot/hot with no soap to do a final rinse- this one will include a “hold” so I can check for bleeding. I will keep doing this until there is no bleeding. Two colours I did not use (that I use virtually every time I dye) are fuchsia and turquoise- mainly because I don’t have them here. I left my dyes at my studio in Nova Scotia because I have a better dyeing set-up there. I had ordered a few dyes for Michigan to do deconstructed screen printing with but haven’t had time yet (I’ll get to that after the Olympics and my surgery). Today I ordered a few more to do some more dyeing. I am really in need of a back ground collecting that looks like ice for a couple of pieces I want to do to donate to a friends fundraiser this July so I will try the various blues and grays I have after the Olympics…..

I will post photos of all the fabric I have dyed this week after the weekend.

Back to my Olympic knitting.


Hard at Work- I’m on a Roll

February 4th, 2010

Yes, I really am. Getting a real studio in a building full of other artists and out of my home was the best thing I ever did. I have gotten so much done and I hate to leave at the end of the day. There have been times I have been tempted to stay late but, with it still getting dark early and the fact that we are not in the best neighborhood, I always leave before dark. I have considered taking my dog with me (rather protective German Shepherd) and I think I will next week. There’s plenty of room for him and other artists bring their dogs so, why not? I did take him one day and, when I took him for a walk, it was obvious that the colourful characters who hang out across the street at the Ministry for Community (who sit right out in the open smoking joints, dealing drugs, etc) were very leery of him. I have actually spoken to several of the “regulars” over there…one young man likes to sing and has a wonderful voice (he should have tried out for American Idol- I have no doubt he would have made it) and I encourage him on a regular basis.

Anyway, I have been working on two blocks for the “Dream Rocket” project; one 2’x2′ and one 4’x4′. The former is nearly done and the latter started out as one topic but it just wasn’t working for me. I needed to rework the background because the fabric I purchased was only 44″ wide. Upon reworking the background I came up with a topic that was completely different from the original but on a topic dear to my heart- world literacy. Anyway, here are some photos from the studio taken over the last 2 1/2 weeks.

Water Sprite

The detrius of creativity

What was on my design wall- I have since added more and taken water sprite down.

My 2' x 2' Dream Rocket quilt- Atlantic Canada- SAQA piece. Almost done.

Original 4' x 4' Dream Rocket Quilt was to be on Magnatism and Nikoli Tesla.

Piecing a background out of 3 fabrics to get a large enough piece. Putting the original images on this just didn't feel right.

Still using original drawing for size but it suddenly struck me to do images of space and a book for literacy.

Working title now "Reach for the Stars"

Now have the original piece covered. Good place to stop for the day. Will piece it all together Monday and start the stars.

As you can see, the colours in the last image are a little washed out. I am shooting with my pocket camera. Saving the big camera for when my new lights come.

Patrick (who was my assistant in Kerr Grabowski's class last August) loves the new studio.

Partick has two new friends, compliments of "Squirrel Mama" on Etsy; Max and Marc-Andre.

No studio time tomorrow as I am having a biopsy at 10 am. I figure to use the weekend to heal as I imagine I will be a little sore and I don’t think sewing and wrestling all that fabric around after having my left breast sliced open in several spots would be much fun. So, I will skip my normal Saturday at the studio and stay home and watch my Penguins play (get well soon Max but don’t rush it). And Sunday I will be saying “Who Dat?” as I cheer for the Saints while abusing my diet by eating meatballs, chicken wings and drinking some fine Canadian beer!

Sorry about the sideways pics.  I thought I had fixed them but apparently not.  All I can think of is to delete them and reload them but I am just too tired to do it right now.

New Studio

January 17th, 2010

I managed to spend about 15 hours in the studio this week. Did a little more organizing and cleaning and got a lot of quilting done on one piece. Thursday I got the design work done for one of my Dream Rocket project quilts and today I got the main pieces cut out after putting fusible on the fabric. I could not find my MistyFuse so resorted to using some old WonderUnder in the small packages. I have no idea how old it is but I haven’t bought WonderUnder in anything other than bolts in years. Of course AFTER I finished fusing I managed to find the MistyFuse when I opened a box that said it was a dog-waterer. D’uh, the dog waterer is at home! But the pieces are pinned to the background and ready to be fused down. Then I just have to quilt and bind the piece. Good thing it’s a 2′ x 2′ piece and not the 4′ x 4′ piece I want to do also. Sunday is my day to stay at home so Monday I will get most of the piece done and start on the 4 x 4 piece. I also took Kaiser to the studio with me today (which is why I was digging out the waterer….he ended up having to drink out of a cup) and he seemed to enjoy the space. I opened up the futon so he could lay on it but he would only do so when I encouraged him. He spent most of the day on one of my small area rugs. All-in-all it was a good day.

So, now I am writing this and getting ready to go back to hand work.

Oh, and that lovely scarf I was working on actually got finished by Christmas (after I had to unknit it 3 times) but I didn’t get it to the giftee until after because he went on a road trip to Florida right after Christmas. I DID get it to him in time for him to have it for a road trip to Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver where I am sure he needed it.

Au revoir for now.

Some Photos

December 23rd, 2009

Finally got a new card reader last night so here are some pictures (finally).

The scarf I have been working on for WEEKS!ly).

My Roommate

Isn't he Cute?

Stopping by for Lunch

Standing in the doorw



Huge window

New Studio



Looking at the design wall


Another shot of the design wall

So, I am sitting on the lanai, enjoying the sun. It’s the warmest it’s been since I got here but it sure is windy!!! My sister, our friend Maureen and the kids are all going to go to the Ocean Club and I am heading back over next door (Kathryn and I are staying at a neighbor’s condo) to wrap Christmas gifts.

More photos later!

Florida For the Holidays

December 22nd, 2009

Celebrated Yule/Solstice last night and I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas with my family but I wish my own kids were here.¬† The weather here has been cool and mostly cloudy but it’s supposed to go up to 75 today.

I thought I had the card reader for my little Panasonic camera in my travel camera case but no such luck.¬† Which means it is in my little camera case back in Michigan.¬† So, what the heck, I’ll go get another one.¬† Why not?¬† I have 2 iPods (one just up and died for no apparent reason), and 2 Kindles (lost one- or thought I had- it was in the camera case which I hadn’t opened since going back to Michigan from Nova Scotia) so one Kindle will be a Christmas gift.

Any way, I will post some studio shots once I get the card reader…..