Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Changing design in mid quilt

Thirty years ago, my husband, Jeff, went to a conference about using Tex and MetaFont to design fonts.  (This was back before DOS, even.)  As part of the conference, there was a competition to design dingbats.  Those little things that separate chunks of text in a book.  He did a nice set of 10 of them and 15 years later when I bought a thermofax machine and started doing silkscreening as part of my fiber art, I realized I could do a quilt based around his dingbats.  Synchronistically, a bolt of fabric that looked like hand made paper came into the quilt store where I worked and the fabric collecting was on.  Since his dingbats were abstracted from traditional Japanese crests, I also started collecting fabric with kanji printing in addition to text fabrics.  And so we come to the last few years when I felt I had enough fabric and started sewing.

I started with a non-traditional takeoff of the Log Cabin block which turned out to look really choppy once I got 6 blocks done and laid them all out together (see below).  Since this quilt is intended for our bedroom and I like to keep the bedroom serene and relaxing, this didn't seem like the way to go.  Unfortunately, I had already sliced up all of several of my fabrics so I put the blocks away for a while and forgot about it.

In preparation for an annual sewing retreat, I got the project out again and gave it a hard look.  I'm going to start over and do the traditional Log Cabin blocks but with the larger rectangles as the start.  Next step was to pull fabric from my stash and separate it into dark & light piles.  I went with fabrics that had a japanese influence and tried to stick with a narrow color selection.  Unfortunately, this set of fabrics has lost the whole text idea.  That's when I realized I needed to go even further with the personal aspect of the design and add text to the lighter fabrics.  I brainstormed some ideas of what type of text and again, brought the personal relevance idea to bear.  What 20 quotes from influential books would we each like to add to the fabrics?  So that's where we are.  Making lists of books that have had a big influence on us and then picking out the text we want to represent that book.

I'm expecting these ideas to evolve further as I progress in making the 42 blocks that will be needed for the queen size quilt.  And I'll post about what I do and how it goes as I babystep my way to the final quilt.  So far, my book list includes The Hobbit (read to my 4th grade class by the teacher in 15 minute chunks and the book that started me reading science fiction), Leaves of Grass, a gift from a friend who said the part about the charge of the soul reminded him of me, Citizen of the Galaxy by Heinlein,  and Lord of the Rings.  That takes me up through the end of High School.  I suspect The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightment will be there too as well as Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching.

I mention the details of the book list because this is the kind of fun that book people enjoy:  What would be your 20 books?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adoring my awkwardness or how to be happy while failing at new stuff

I've spent time in the studio this last couple of weeks thanks to finding out what was causing my general fatigue and correcting it.  And normally, I would have great pictures to show.  But.  I'm experimenting and doing some very new to me things and I've had strong resistance to sharing pictures of what I'm doing.  Synchronistically, this blog post from Gretchen Schmelzer came out and she gave me some insight into why I'm struggling with this.

Here's a great quote:  "I’ll put it simply. Without letting yourself be awkward you won’t learn anything worth learning. When babies learn to walk they totter and wobble and fall and get up and for some reason we don’t call this awkward—we call it adorable. But this is the blueprint for learning everything. We totter and wobble and fall down and get up. And we need to see it as just as adore-able. We need to adore that awkward part of ourselves. We need to adore it more, or adore it at all. Awkwardness is the sign that you are actually doing something different. If everything is going smoothly, it’s a good bet that you aren’t changing anything or learning anything new."

Wow.  The rest of the blog goes into more detail but this was enough to have my internal struggle just go poof.  Of course it feels odd and awkward.  I'm doing some totally new stuff and I'm not even mediocre at it yet.

So I'll be waiting to share photos of my studio work until I don't feel so awkward about it.  In the meantime, here's a photo of the warblers that graced my morning walk.  Not from my camera, as I didn't take it, but thanks to Cornell Ornithology Labs.  Tina and I had a 3 warbler morning with the Black-Throated Gray pictured below, an Orange-crowned, and a yellow-rumped.  They were all jumping around in a few trees giving us great views and a lovely walk.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Embracing imperfection

I've been struggling with getting back into the studio.  I've just ended 18 months of low grade infection which was repeatedly misdiagnosed but is now gone, gone, gone.  And I'm just not bouncing right back.  In addition to the physical challenges, there's about 16 months worth of accumulated chores & clutter that need my attention.  And my habits have fallen into utter disarray.  So, bless you, Lisa Call,  for today's blog post about embracing imperfection and leveraging a small, doable task into a path for a larger goal.  See her blog post here.   Because a big part of my problem is feeling like I can't do enough today so I don't do anything.  Baby steps are clearly called for here and I apparently really needed some outside voice to tell me that.

The second great thing today was a FB post about a Turkish artist, Garip Ay.  I am particularly inspired by his piece pictured below.  Not because I do portraits, but because I like the combination of the marbling color and flow with the realistic style painted image.  It just really speaks to me so now my brain is churning with small steps I can take to move toward experimenting with this idea using my style of marbling and my bird photo based sketches.

See more at

This is a particularly promising path for me as the marbling can be done in small bursts, very quickly.  This means I can do a bunch of marbling in less than an hour (assuming the marbling tray and inks are already set up) and still have time to do some other work experimenting with the bird photos.  And not need more than 2 hours a day to make significant progress.

However, recognizing my low energy right now, and my challenges, I am not going to set myself up to fail.  I'm shooting for once a week making new stuff in the studio and the rest of my studio time can be finishing up the amazingly depressing backlog.  So, we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Birds & Books, or how I'm spending my recovery

I'm now a couple weeks past some extensive oral surgery and still in the recovery phase.  I'm feeling good enough to do some birding but mostly I'm reading a lot.  Hence, birds & books.

Tina and I chased the Snowy Egret seen in Pierce county recently.  This was a first seen in Pierce county and a fairly rare bird for western Washington state.  We anticipated a long wait for it to show and possibly some wading through mudflats to get to a nice viewing position.  Boy, were we wrong!  We drove to the location, got out of the car, walked over to the fence and looked down on the marshy area and the Snowy flew by.  Excitement ensued.  We were trying to find where he'd landed when he flew back by again and perched on a snag in clear view.  It's a wonderful feeling to chase a bird and get it within the first 10 minutes.

We ended up walking to the end of the fence to get a better view which is where I got this photo.  It's not a great photo but does clearly show the black beak and yellow feet which distinguish the Snowy from a Great Egret.

Having gotten the chase bird, we then relaxed and enjoyed checking out the marsh for other birds.  Tina, also known as Ursula Vernon's crazy-birder-friend-Tina, is a masterbirder and gave me a brief lesson in distinguishing Vaux's Swifts from swallows.  Both were present in good numbers so that was fun, learning something that I'd forgotten over the last 4 years of barely birding.

Unfortunately, I'm still at a stage where after an outing, I'm completely wiped out for a day or two.  Which brings us to books.  Worldcon is coming up so I'm reading science fiction mostly and one of the authors I discovered from a reference meander while doing the Hugo voting reading is Kristine Katheryn Rusch.  I ended up reading the entire Retrieval Artist series and enjoyed it during my surgery week and the immediate recovery period.  It's more in the entertaining SF mode but does have some interesting ideas about legal systems if there really were multiple alien cultures out there.  How would we resolve our differences?  What about the cultural things where something humans considered trivial was a death penalty issue for them?  The series is set in a far distant future where corporations have only grown in power and deals with the background I've mention and how that impacts the individuals enforcing the laws.  Fun stuff.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Electric assist tricycle with a roof, sign me up!

I love bicycling and I am excited about electric vehicles as an alternative to a second car so this story from Treehuggers caught my eye.  Read their full article here.    I'm glad to see that the list of vendors on has one in Portland and one in Port Townsend so I can go try one out and see if it will meet my needs.  Since most of my trips in a car by myself are less than 10 miles, this would be almost perfect.    Check out someone test driving it in the video.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Giant suction cup for creating green energy

This week's email brought this article from Grist about a new way to create electricity from wind.  I guess it's appropriate that the giant toilet plungers will be used in water, eh?  Gotta love the picture!

I'm still a fan of small local networks of energy production rather than the big grid but that's not going to be the first step.  The first step is feeding into the big grid with cleaner, less expensive energy sources and this is a less destructive part of that.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Blog moving to new website - finished dragon pillow in blues

Today's blog post is on what will be my new website.  I'm in mid-transition so still points to the old website.  But the blog is now on the new website.  Here's the link:  Things are not finished yet so please hold the comments as I move everything around. Please update your saved links if you have them.  Eventually, my webpage name should take you right there.  *cross fingers*

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sunny day at Larsen Lake or why snags are important

Today's walk on the greenbelt was fabulous!  I remembered to put my heel lift in my shoe so my back was happier, the sun was out, the air was just slightly warmer than crisp, and the birds were showing off.  Before I made it out of the parking lot, there was a towhee calling from the tree next to my space.  After admiring him and his red eye, I glanced to the right and saw a Great Blue Heron on top of a snag.  They like to perch up high and preen in the sun and in the spring, the leaves aren't out enough yet to obscure them.

distance view

I headed to the trail with my phone in my pocket so I could take more shots like the one below.  This GBH was not at all nervous about all the people and dogs on the greenbelt today.  

closer view

I kept walking and got good views of some sapsuckers but they were flitting about, chasing each other so no photos of them today.  I'm glad to see they didn't abandon the greenbelt but just moved down the trail a bit to an area where there's more bird cover.

Since the pier is flooded right now, I instead headed for the trail that goes up the middle of the blueberry fields.  At the bend, there's a very tall snag that has been used multiple times as a nesting site by woodpeckers.  This morning, there was a flicker busy excavating a new hole.  He was also tolerant of me being on the trail so I got some nice shots of him going in and out of the hole.

Flicker making new hole

Unfortunately, my camera phone doesn't get enough detail on its own and I didn't bring the zoom lens for it.  So, no fabulous closeup for the flicker.  But you can see the holes above where the flicker is working.  They tend to start at the top and work down as that's how the snag dries out.  

And here's a shot showing how much more stump there is to be used.  I would estimate the flicker is about 30 feet up.  So this snag will be a woodpecker nesting site for years to come.  Also chickadees if I'm remembering things my expert birder friends have said about reuse of woodpecker holes by other birds.

Lots more room in the neighborhood

Definitely looking forward to getting out there with my camera real soon!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Watch another fiber artist in action

I'm down with the flu, again!, and thus have no work to share this week so here's a link to show what another (now local) fiber artist has done lately.  Carol Bryer Fallert-Gentry has documented Fossil Fantasy from idea to finished art piece here.  I'm looking forward to watching the whole thing as I feel up to it.

click for next image

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spring inspiration at Larsen Lake

I've been down this last week or so due to a root canal.  I was very low energy but still had enough for walks on the greenbelt when the weather was good.  And I am happy to confirm that spring is really here.  I get some of my best inspiration from these walks and here are a few of the photos I got using my phone.

tree budding out

Spring is my favorite time to go birding since the trees don't have leaves yet and the birds are not only in breeding plumage, but being more social and active.  I also appreciate it as the gray of winter fades away and the colors pop in the landscape.  Great example below...

blueberry field starting to bud
I only got a decent photo of one bird.  Such is the splendor of spring that I even get fond of mallards in this season.  

grazing in the grass

I hope everyone else is able to enjoy their local spring as it pops forth.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Vacation finale: Eagle checks me out

During the week, I was casually trying to get a better shot of the eagles but they kept avoiding me when I had my phone in hand.  Morning walks with my bins, no problem, they'd stay in their tree and look down at me with that haughty eagle look.  But put my phone in my pocket and suddenly they all had to be somewhere else in a hurry.  That led to this shot of an eagle zooming out of range during the middle of the week.

white head and tail make it an eagle

On the last day of my Samish Island vacation, I went outside during a sunbreak to see an eagle off in the distance.  I grabbed my phone and went back out to see if I could get some kind of shot.  As I was focusing in on him, he decided to check me out too.  No white head, so he's a juvenile, or at least not more than a few years old.

circling overhead to see what I'm doing

And then the final, slightly closer in shot.  After which, he decided I wasn't waving a salmon in the air so he could leave.

Circling eagle takes off

I was glad to finally get an eagle shot but even happier to have had such close up views of so many different birds from the living room of the Beach House.  It was a great place for a quiet couple getaway with good food nearby and lots of fabulous scenery.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Vacation: low tide, less rain, more birds

A couple of days later, the weather finally cleared briefly.  We got some sun, the wind dropped off, and there was our official bird trip  sighting of a Great Blue Heron.   He was off in the distance on a piling having taken it over from the cormorants.  I could see him fairly well through the bins but without them, it requires knowledge of typical silhouettes to identify him.

Great Blue Heron

A few hours later, there was a large flock of surf scoters playing in the bay.  Also requires zooming in on the photo to see them.  It was great fun to watch them playing in the water.  They were flapping wings and dipping their heads and sometimes making runs at one another.  It's almost as much fun as watching the birds play in the wind.

black ducks, likely scoters

Five hours later, we hit a noticeably lower tide.  Same piling as with the GBH above.

5:30pm with fading light

I was experimenting with my phone camera and zoomed in on the seagulls pecking around in the exposed sand/mud.  I really kinda like this photo because it looks almost like a painting of the scene when you click on it and make it bigger.  I'm thinking of printing it on silk and coloring on it a bit.

Zoomed in phone camera

A nicely birdy day and an enjoyably sunny one too.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Virtual Vacation: eagles on Samish Island are camera shy

I'm back from a 10 day vacation, most of it spent on Samish Island just across Padilla Bay from Anacortes.  It was a nicely birdy vacation but most of the birds were a little camera shy, especially the eagles.    Here's a view of the bay from our cottage's living room.  You can see some of the raindrops on the glass.  And the shrub on the other side of the road was a favorite spot for the smaller birds.

Anacortes smokestacks behind large island

We arrived on Saturday, the 13th, in the late afternoon as a bit of stormy weather was coming in across the bay.  This was nice as the eagles and gulls were having fun riding the wind.  But the eagles and the weather meant I couldn't capture the fabulous moment of watching 4 eagles ride the wind just off our bit of coast.  I stepped out onto the deck and got this shot of one of the eagles going much higher in the distance.  The weather drove me back inside pretty quickly.

Zoom into left upper corner to see eagle

And here's when my phone camera insisted on focusing on the raindrops rather than the eagle.

Great shot of raindrops

If I were a more dedicated photographer, I'm sure I could have done much better.  As I'm a zen birder, I instead enjoyed the moment, watching the four eagles play in the wind and almost jostle each other to get the good spots.  It was a great beginning for our relaxing week away.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Gorilla Glue & a small studio hack

Gorilla Glue will hold anything to anything.  And look horrible while doing it.  But since I wanted to attach a wire hanger to the back of a small white board, appearance didn't matter.  Even in an artist's studio.  Here's the finished white board serving its purpose of reminding me what I'm supposed to do in the studio.  Because there's lots of shiny in there and I need help sometimes staying focused.

I've had this little board for a long while and the double sided sticky tape it came with didn't survive the first time I had to take it down and move it.  So I tried some other double sided tape and that only worked on a totally flat surface and even then it failed eventually and the board came tumbling down.  I then went to just propping it up against a wall.  That has its own aggravations, since it will fall over when I have both hands full of something sticky or wet and can't pick it up.  And often the writing gets smudged when it slides down.  Or whatever.

In this last studio cleanup, I decided I wanted it on the wall and started trying to figure out how to hang it up.  The plastic frame rules out anything attached with screws like a sawtooth picture hanger.   And usually that would also rule out my usual picture wire also attached with screws.  But then I remembered Gorilla Glue.  I cut the piece of wire, bent the ends over the edges of the back of the board, taped it in place with the ever useful low adhesion tape, and then put on the Gorilla Glue to make it stay.  We'll see if it goes the distance but it's certainly working just fine for about a month now.

Glue puffs up on contact with moisture

As for the dragons, there is progress but I think we've already seen enough photos of the intermediate steps so the next photo will be the finished pillows.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Laughing Dragon: make it work!

This week I had too many projects going at once so I took some time to finish off the filing and slowed down a bit on the dragon.  Today I tried out some ideas for what I'm now calling the Laughing Dragon.  I wanted to add some color to the spirals being breathed out by the dragon and the earlier one with a color wash just was not at all what I had in mind.  Wanting to keep it airy and leave lots of the open space in the spirals, I tried out some color bubbles.  Nope.  So, time to leave it alone.  Next one I show here will be a finished piece instead of an experiment or a dead end.

Laughing dragon with color bubbles

On to the sewing phase of the projects.  And that means picking fabric for the back of the pillows.  Looking in my drawer of larger pieces, I didn't see the sorts of batik with spirals I wanted and thought I had.  Oops.  Must be in the sole remaining bag of fabric left to put away, I thought.  And yes, I was right.  So the rest of the studio time for the weekend will be in selecting fabric and putting away the last of the fabric clutter.

The last fabric to put away
Somewhere in this pile of fabric is some nice batik spirals in the right shades of blue and orange.  And fondling my fabric is always fun.  By the end of this next week, I plan to have 2 dragon pillows and at least one laughing dragon fabric collage finished.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fire breathing dragon or burping dragon?

You know how you get one of those songs in your head and only "It's a Small World" can chase it away but that leaves you with, well, Small World instead?  Well, once I did some trials of the swirly fire for the fire breathing dragon and thought "It looks like they're burping",  I was in the same state.  I just can't see it any other way.  

These 2 dragons have mouths aiming down so I paired them in the photo.  My primary goal for this set of pictures was to try out color combos with the swirly fire silkscreen.  I am not happy with the silkscreen but do like the color combinations with the different colors of the dragons.  I still have to paint the red dragons and will be trying out some shooting flames with the swirly on the fabric one.

Fire going down, paper on left, fabric on right

 These 2 dragons are flaming more upward or just out.  The red one on fabric has a bit more space between the mouth and the fireball so I have hopes that it will look different from the two paper ones.

paper on left, fabric on right, fire going level

 And I have a third paper one that I will working with first, trying out different flame styles.  That's really one of my meta lessons for this series.  I have to experiment one piece at a time, changing one thing at a time to get the best return on my effort.  Each piece has something to tell me and I may need to totally change direction after it so I need to focus on one at a time and learn from it.  I keep trying to jump ahead and be efficient and I know in my head that doesn't work but getting it integrated into my process is a different matter.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Orange dragon colors finalized - ready to paint on silk

While I liked the basic color combo of the warm colored dragon, I wanted to tweak the color choices a bit.  And I had two pieces of cotton with dragon outlines screened, one in red and one in black.  I know I already said the dragonflies looked much better with a black silkscreen, so this is a validation of that applied to warm colors.  And yup, it is still true.  Looks much better with the black outline.  I painted these two dragons with the same colors, actually at the same time.  The other conclusion is I really prefer working on the silk.  The paint flows much better and gives the watercolor effect that I like.

orange head rather than red, different red for body

The red outlining just kind of muddies the colors and looks less crisp.  So, give up that idea.  Clearly I was somewhat attached to the idea of using something in the same color family as the silkscreen color but this last experiment has convinced me to just let it go.

Red outline 

And for reference, here's the original color tryout on paper with the black outline.  I mention the color differences under the redo photo above:  body color a different, more orangy red, and I did the head in mostly the upper wing color rather than the body color so the expression is easier to read.  The one below is not bad for the first try but not what I really wanted.

first try with red colors on paper

And I'm now at the end of the month of experiments.  I haven't even made it into dye trials but it was very productive in narrowing my materials and helping me focus my work in a particular style and subject matter.  Winged things on silk, that's what I'll be doing this next month.  As for the dragons, I will be getting the fire-breathing part done next and then the backgrounds.  More trial and error fun!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Electric car or hybrid? Choices are growing!

I've been tracking electric vehicles for a while now so I'm really pleased to see the announcement from Tesla that a new Model III will hit the $35000 and be available in 2017 or sooner.  Since my husband has been mentally deliberating on what kind of EV to get to replace his current almost too old car this is good news at our house.

From Tesla announcement

But which is better right now, plug-in hybrid or electric?  Here's a good article analyzing the choices (click here) and best of all, the article has an example from a total cost over 5 years calculator, Edmunds True Cost to Own Calculator.  I'll be running the numbers on the choices altho my inclination is to stick with the hybrids until charging stations are more common.  This calculator makes it easier to see the benefits of going electric because the maintenance costs can really shift the total cost to own over the 5 years so I'll have to play with it a bit.  I have to admit I love the idea of having a car that doesn't run on gas and saves me money.   My idea of a win/win scenario.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

3 different color variations for dragons

On Monday, I painted.  I did 4 different dragons with 3 different color combinations.  I painted the first 3 on paper:  the red & blue combos that I want to do for gifts (and need to finish this week, eep!) and a purple/teal/silver combo for a FB friend who did one of those quizzes that said her fantasy creature was a dragon.  I asked what color of a dragon would she be and voila! got my third color combo to try.

Lesley's dragon

I'll probably do this one again with a bluer and lighter purple for the body.  This is just too much like grape juice for me.  The silver is actually a metallic paint which really doesn't photograph well.

Here are the two paper versions of the red & blue combos. The reddish one came out fine.  Not so for the blue one.  The blue one was done with transparent paint on the body and front of the wing and opaque teal for the feathery edge in the middle of the wing.  I messed up the color on the right wing, and wanted to try my transparent teal instead of the opaque one to increase the contrast.  

So next I did the blue one again on fabric.  Here's both of them in one shot to show the differences.

fabric one at top of photo

I like the changes in the paint colors on the fabric one but ended up overworking it by trying to fix some unevenness in the body with a water wash after I finished painting.  Let this be a lesson in the dangers of overworking...  I will probably attempt to save it by adding paler blue sky background and see if I can blend the bleeding into that.

Good colors but bleeding resulted from overworking

Overall I'm liking the results and enjoying the process.  The artistic sweet spot would be totally achieved except I started having back spasms this morning.  More painting will have to wait until tomorrow when I will use my posture alert tool to see if I can keep from stressing my back.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dragon color sketch in red/orange/yellow

Friday I got the dragon silkscreens made and on Saturday I printed outlines in both black and red on 3 cotton pieces then did the same on sketchpad paper so I could try different color variations on the paper before doing them on the fabric.  Then I had to wait for them to dry.  Which meant painting didn't begin until this morning.   Here's the dragon screened on paper with a sample of the colors I was trying out for the red/orange/yellow version.

And here's the first paper color trial.  I narrowed the colors to 5 total but only used 3 in this first pass.  The other two colors are for shadows and blending.  I wasn't careful about my brush work since this was a try of the colors themselves and the details aren't as important for that.

First try of colors

I like the combination and I'm sure some more shadows and highlights will make it fabulous.  I'm also counting on blending being easier to do on the fabric than on the sketchpad paper.  Tomorrow will bring multiple dragons in different colors on paper and fabric.  Fun times in my studio!