Sunday, December 5, 2010

Exploring Collage - check out Collagista!

I sometimes describe my art as fabric collage, and I've recently joined the NW Collage Society as I started working with paper & fabric in a smaller format while unable to sew this last few months. So, I've been exploring collage communities and opportunities on the web. I recently found Collagista!, a blog publication dedicated to collage. The blog gives the pdf link to download so there are lots of pretty pictures of collage work, and some explanatory text, all done in a more pleasing layout than a blog would normally allow. If you're interested in collage as an art form, I'd recommend checking it out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hummer in the snow, or why I'm thankful for warmth and light

It's a little bit early for a Thanksgiving post, but I'm going to take the day off from my computer tomorrow, and I just uploaded the pictures I've taken of Bob, the backyard hummingbird, over the past couple of days. We don't often get much snow here in the Seattle area, and the hummingbirds who winter over will get very protective of "their" feeders when we do. Bob decided to move even closer to the feeder than usual, and didn't move from his post even when I went out on the deck to take his picture. So I got some nice pictures and I also kept a close eye on the feeder so I could warm the solution back up when it started getting slushy.

Here's Bob, perched on a nearby maple tree, about 6 feet away from his feeder. You can see the white stuff below, and earlier, the evergreen in the background was covered with a very pretty layer of accumulated snow.

And here's a closeup of Bob, showing how fluffed up his feathers are to help him keep warm.

I suspect I'll be seeing Bob again tomorrow morning at 7 am. I've been bringing the feeder in at night so the sugar solution is nice and warm in the morning. And since the weather page I use said that sunrise was 7:30, I went out at 7 on Tuesday to put the feeder back. Bob was sitting on the metal hook that the feeder is usually suspended from, and he was not a happy camper that I was late bringing him his breakfast. This morning, he was there waiting again, and let me almost touch him before he backed off a bit while I put the feeder out. I'm going to miss living so close to the wildlife. It's been one of the things I've liked the best about this house. But I'm leaving the new owner some written guidelines for the hummingbird feeder so I hope she'll get as much enjoyment from the hummers as I have.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Bicycle made of wood, beauty and speed combined

I've always loved bicycling, and I'm really pleased at the new things happening in this field, such as electric bikes. Okay, my knees wearing out are the reason for that one. But, reading this article made me want to spend big bucks on a truly beautiful and powerful bike. There's a custom bike builder in Portland making bikes from hardwood. See the pictures and read the article here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Achieving Excellence

In my earlier post about my show entry system, there's a sheet on the wall next to the box with the file folders about "Achieving Excellence". I've gotten a request to share it. I did a google search using the phrase in the first sentence, and found the Harvard Business Review blog article I got it from. See the full article here. I just took out the six keys and printed that out for myself, but the full article has some interesting things in it about becoming what we practice. I find this relevant in all areas of my life, not just the studio.

Shows - entry tracking system

I'm being swamped with all the details of selling my house, and moving us to a new place, so my plans to blog about my perfect studio which will have to be dismantled are being chopped into smaller bits. Today, I'm going to talk about how I track shows I want to enter and make sure I don't miss the deadlines. My daughter, who has worked as a business manager/accountant for some artists in the Bellingham area, helped me set up the system and I have to say, it is working wonderfully for me. This year, one of my goals is to apply to at least one show a month, and with this system, I am doing well at organizing the show info, the dates and tracking how I'm doing with them.

Here's my little box, next to my computer, surrounded by the clutter on my desk. I have a three bin wall holder that I will put up in the new place, but this works for now. So, what's the magic? I use erasable labels on the file folders, that's the first step. When I hear about a show I'm interested in, I print out the prospectus, write the name of the show and the date I have to do something by on the label. Note: if the deadline is a receive by date, the date I write down is a week earlier so I'm taking action in time for it to get there. Then I put it in the box in chronological order. Usually, I'll write a little note on the first page of the prospectus saying which pieces I'm thinking of submitting. If I'm going to do a piece just for the show, I put a to-do item in my studio grasscatcher notebook (visible in the foreground on the desk). Then, once a week or so, I look at the next couple of weeks to see what deadlines are coming up, and I mentally plan out what I'm submitting. Once I hear back from the show, assuming I've been accepted, I erase the date on the file folder and put the ship date on it, then refile it in the box in the right place for the new date.

I'm not yet entered in so many things that I need a system to track which pieces are going where, but that's the next step. Right now, I use my inventory sheet, the long printed pages sticking up from the file folder box. It's a word document with a table, done as 8.5 x 14 size paper in landscape mode, with columns for Title, Date finished, ID#, Type of work, medium (I'm doing both paper and fabric nowadays), Height, Width, Price, Shows, Date photographed, and date posted to my webpage. For now, scanning down the Shows column is sufficient to make sure I don't double enter something. I pencil in a name on my hard copy when I submit it and do it in ink when a piece is accepted.

This seems so simple now that I'm explaining it, but it's such a delight to feel completely on top of all of this. And it takes only a couple of minutes of my time to add a show to my entry list. I share this because it's made such a difference for me and I hope it can help some others get on top of the whole show submission cycle.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bicycles and infrastructure

I'm not surprised to hear that there's finally been a pedestrian killed in a bicycle/pedestrian accident. Multi-use trails, while fine when there aren't a lot of bicyclists, don't work well if there's heavy traffic. I found this out when living in Venice, CA in the 80's when rollerblading was so popular. (Small digression: I would try to ride my bike on the bike path, and fantasize about ways to get the attention of the headphone-wearing rollerbladers kicking their legs out and blocking the whole path and completely oblivious to all others around them. Grrr! ) Here's an interesting article about some options for increasing bicycle use and decreasing congestion and accidents.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Radioactive rabbit poop - too funny not to share

I suppose it's not really funny, but the mental image I get from reading this story - the people with detectors going around searching for the radioactive rabbit poop... Well, alright, I have a twisted sense of humor. Read the full story here.

I'll return to my more serious posts next time with pictures of my perfect studio that will have to be dismantled when we move.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Solar power & politics

I've taken a small break from the virtual vacation while I deal with negotiating the sale of our house. But this crossed my email desk today, and I thought it worth sharing as we head into voting time.

US Solar boom requires policy and money, not sunshine is the headline of the article. It discusses the climate needed to quickly grow alternative energy, and the role of government in accelerating the development of a new industry.

I particularly like this quote from the article:

Exhibit A for such a phenomenon is Germany. With about as much sunshine as Maine, the European nation became the world's solar stronghold through policies that rewarded homeowners, businesses, and farmers for generating their own electricity.

Click on the link above to read the whole thing.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Virtual Vacation: A day in Squamish

On Tuesday, we went to Squamish. We had planned that outing for Wednesday since that was the sunny day in the week's forecast, but the clouds changed their minds, so we did the same. I had a page from the web about birding the Squamish Estuary so we started at the location given there. I was wanting to take more heron pictures so I wanted to be close to the water. Unfortunately for me, the part of the trail closest to our parking space went through the marshy parts. The other bird on my wish list for this vacation was a Golden Eagle. I've never seen one, and they like rural mountainous areas so I had hopes. Instead, this was the first bird I saw.

Yes, that's right, it's a Turkey Vulture. I thought they'd all headed south by now, but this one was soaring overhead, keeping an eye on a Northern Harrier hunting below it. The Harrier was too fast for me to get a good shot but I ended up seeing one in two different locations so I got some nice looks.

It turned out to be a day for common birds. First, a couple of Stellar's Jays near where I saw the vulture, some ducks in the river, and multiple views of this little brown bird, most likely a savannah sparrow. I took his picture since I haven't been doing regular birdwalks so my ability to id sparrows is almost completely gone. Small digression: it turns out sparrows and gulls are two of the hardest categories of birds to id since they all mostly look alike with only small differences in color, streakiness or bill colors. In case you've ever wondered how any sane person could worry about which particular sparrow they're seeing, this is why - it's challenging, like doing the NYTimes crossword puzzle in ink.

After backtracking back to the car, we broke for lunch. We had a really nice meal at Parkside Restaurant, where the soup of the day was a fabulous bean soup with duck and turkey sausage. I barely had room for my bunless burger, but I managed. *burp* After lunch, we crossed the street behind the restaurant because I wanted some photos of the amazing rock face. Again, wires in the way, but still a wonderful view.

Next, we strolled the shops along Cleveland. We stopped first at a small chocolate shop for dessert, got directions to the appropriate place to buy a sketchbook (Garibaldi Graphics, which carries office supplies and has a really nice art supply corner in the back) and finished up with a stop at The Nature Nest which I wish we'd seen before we started birding. They not only had a map better than what I'd gotten off the web, but also had birding checklists for the Squamish Estuary, Whistler and the larger Squamish area including the Upper Howe Sound region.

We headed off to an area just northwest of downtown that looked promising for more water birds. It turned out to be right next to the high school and a skateboard park so it was an interesting walk through shady woods hopping with birds with the sounds of the skateboarders carrying from the park. I did get an unexpected life bird: a black-throated gray warbler. Being a warbler, she refused to hold still long enough for a picture, but I got lots of great looks, certainly enough to tell that the throat was white, which made it a girl.

This walk wasn't enough to satisfy my heron cravings, so armed with new maps, we returned to our previous parking spot and I walked the other way on the trails. I ended up down by the shipping area, where I was about to give up, when I saw a flock of geese and decided to give them a look. I saw them and a sentinel that made me think of a flock of sheep with a guarding dog. (Click on the picture to get a better view of the heron, altho he was looking straight at me so the head looks odd.)

Thus ended the birding part of the day with me being a very happy girl. We decided to try a restaurant named 21 Steps when we got back to Whistler. Just as at The Keg, the hostess was quite happy to escort me to the elevator so I didn't have to actually climb steps to get to dinner. They had a lovely menu, with a dinner special of an item from the Small Plates, a Big Plate and dessert for $35 so we went with that. Our meal was enlivened by a woman at a neighboring table jumping up and exclaiming "Look! There's a bear!" Yes, indeed there was, and he was walking down the pedestrian walkway in the Village. I was quite pleased to be on the second floor where I could view the bear and then enjoy my dinner in peace and quiet. The food was excellent, the service was too, and all in all, it was a great day.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Virtual Vacation: Chilliwack BC, heron sanctuary

We're back from our lovely vacation in British Columbia which I was unable to share in real-time as I forgot the cable for the camera. So, instead, I'll be doing a virtual vacation retroactively as I process the pictures. It makes it much easier to find things later if I take the time to put the keywords into Bridge, but it does take some time upfront. Adobe Bridge, however, makes it really easy as I can keyword all the photos from one day at a time, or any subset actually. But I digress...

Our first day of vacation was spent visiting the Great Blue Heron Sanctuary in Chilliwack, BC. This is not actually on the way to Whistler (our final destination) from Bellevue, but how could I resist either the chance at multiple herons or the chance to visit a place named Chilliwack? So, off we went, east into the Fraser Valley. Mapquest dropped the directions in Chilliwack itself, so we ended up stopping at Fred's Fishing store where the owner was amazingly helpful and kind. Part of why we always enjoy visiting Canada. Once we found the heron place, we got no more than about 30 yards down the first trail when we spotted a heron right beside the bank. Since he was being fairly active, I settled down to take lots of photos, getting the first one of him from across the pond.

Then I was diverted by a green heron who flew across the pond when I walked too close to his fishing location near the trail while trying for a better angle on the big guy.

We continued on the closest trail, heading toward a bird blind where I hoped to see more herons without them being able to see me. The two in the closest pond weren't very happy about all my photo taking antics so I wanted to give them a break.

While on the trail, we noticed dozens of frogs leaping into ponds as we approached. Since I have a piece in mind with a heron hunting, I loved the idea of getting a picture of one of the frogs. I lucked out a bit later on the trail when a frog decided to hide in a large puddle in the middle of the path. I was able to sneak up right next to him and get this shot from almost directly overhead.

We found no other herons down that trail, so we backtracked, and the one great blue that I'd been stalking and photographing had moved into a marshy area to hide in the reeds, grasses, and such. I liked how he looked in there, his head looking snakelike so I bothered him a bit more and got this shot.

We walked a bit more down another trail but then some serious rain started so we decided it was time to move on to Whistler. I got lots of great shots of both herons, and two kinds of frogs, so it was definitely a worthwhile stop.

The drive to Whistler was very scenic. I was most impressed with looking off the coast toward the many islands, sticking up abruptly from the water into the clouds. It was difficult to get a shot that really showed this well because of the wires strung along poles along the road. But, I think this one gives some of the flavor.

Day one ended with dinner at The Keg in Whistler. For context, let me say that Jeff enjoys going out to restaurants so even though we don't ski or mountain bike, the two major activities in Whistler, we were looking forward to a week in a village where we could walk to dinner every night and eat at a different place every time. So, each day's blog post will end with a restaurant review. The Keg is one of our standby restaurants so we started with it after a day of traveling since we weren't up to being adventurous. We noted that the onion soup bowls in Canada were larger than our local Keg, and the wine list was different so I got to try a couple of different Okanagan red wines which were both quite tasty. All in all, an excellent first day of vacation.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Buy some SF, help with Gulf Relief

This in my inbox today, from one of the Seattle area authors involved in creating this. I think it's worth sharing, so feel free to pass it along to those you know who read Science Fiction.

Book View Café Publishes Benefit Anthology for Gulf Relief

Book View Café has launched their benefit anthology, BREAKING WAVES. All proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund of the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

The collection features over thirty stories by a wide range of best-selling and award-winning authors, including a previously-unpublished poem from Nebula and Hugo award-winner Ursula K. Le Guin, as well as a chapter from Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book The Sea Around Us. Authors contributing stories of environmental rescue and recovery include Vonda N. McIntyre, Judith Tarr, Deborah Ross, Sarah Monette, David D. Levine, David Gessner, and Lyda Morehouse among others. Tiffany Trent and Phyllis Irene Radford edited the collection.

The book is available in epub, pdf, mobi, and prc formats in the Book View Café bookstore ( and will be coming to the Kindle store soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tidal power in Snohomish - coming soon!

Today's email brought a link to this article about tidal power research in Snohomish County, just to the north of Seattle. Our federal dollars were important in funding the research, and will lead to power coming from the tides in 2012, if all goes as planned. I'll be interested in seeing how this goes. I think each area will have a better form of alternative energy depending on the local conditions. Hot and sunny, go solar. Lots of wind or tide, use that. I also think decentralized and multisource is a better way to go than a single giant electric grid, but that's a different post for another day. *smile*

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Birds & Wind Power - how to really tell how many birds are being killed

Okay, that's a provocative title on my blog post, but I'm seriously torn about this issue. I'm a birder, and I do bird themed art, so I care deeply about birds. I also think renewable energy sources are definitely the way to go. So, I've been following the various reports about birds and wind turbines quite closely. I was pleased to see the birdnote coverage about a local project and the new technology to not only tell how many birds are in the area, but potentially shut off the turbines when endangered species (specifically marbled murrelets) approach. See the birdnote short here (actually hear it, since it's a 2 minute radio bit) and follow the 'still more' link to read a more comprehensive article about it. F or those that care, wind turbines kill about 6500 birds a year in the USA while other common causes of bird deaths such as skyscrapers and cars kill several million. Just sayin'.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Going green: great news!

Today's email brought in a story about total energy use being down 5% in the US. And a big increase in alternative energy use. As the mother of a young man soon to join the Air Force, I can only applaud the actions that lead to less dependence on foreign oil. And as someone who believes we need to lighten our impact on the earth, it's also great news. So I share it. Read the full story here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

canvas mounting small collage, or what to do if I can't sew

The herniated disk is taking more time and therapy to heal, altho the shot in the spine helped a whole lot, so I still can't sew. Who knew that sewing was such a physically demanding thing to do? So, instead, I've been playing with paints and working on redoing my website. Putting some of the collages I did during my Fiber Arts class onto canvas lets me do both of these things at once. I'm having fun playing with the paints, and I've been pleasantly surprised at how well my color mixing skills have transferred from dyes to paints. So, here's some pictures of what I've been doing.

First, here's the collage I started with. I started with my favorite one. Normally, that would be a decision that would cause me problems since I'd not want to mess it up. However, since I didn't actually do anything to the paper collage until the last step of mounting it on the canvas, I decided to be brave and do the one I wanted done the most rather than one I was willing to lose if I messed up because it was the first time.

I did 2 canvases. The first one, I used the green, gold and purple from the collage, and I put a lot of movement into the colors. My daughter pointed out that there was so much movement going on in the collage itself that maybe it would show better with a calmer background. Once I put the collage on the canvas to see what I thought, I agreed with her.

So the second canvas was much calmer, and pretty much just the gold with some metallic highlights to pick up the metallic flecks in some of the papers. I think this is more successful and I went ahead and attached it to the canvas using gel medium. The picture is before the collage was trimmed and attached so it's an approximation altho a good one.

This is actually a mixed media painting at this point as there's no fabric on it anywhere and it's a canvas with paint and other stuff on it. A departure from my usual work, but really just a change in medium. The techniques I'm using can be transferred to working with fabric as this is also a good way to show a small fabric piece and sneak it into an art show rather than a quilt show. And I'm feeling really good about still getting work done while I deal with the medical issues. So, life is good in my house right now!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Green energy and the FHA - let's write letters!

When I was on vacation in 2008, I wrote about possible financing approaches for solar power on homes that was being discussed in Boulder, and already implemented in Berkeley. In the intervening 2 years, the idea has spread like wildfire to more than 20 states, but hit a roadbump recently with a FHFA ruling about mortgages in May. has the story here. Seems to me, this is the perfect place for a little citizen activism, like a letter, email or phone call. This is a wonderful approach to financing alternative power sources at the home level, and should be encouraged by our government. If you agree, let them know.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

More about bicycles & electric bikes

Today's email brought a link to an article about bicycling, electric bikes, and converting our society to one that is less reliant on fossil fuels. It's a quick read, and a good summary. Check it out here. I'm particularly pleased that he points out that Europe and China are already making this transition, and how the electric bicycle can help. My son loves his ebikes - he now has 2, one a folding one that is easy to transport but is not as powerful, and his "Big Blue", which zooms up our incredibly steep hill, only requiring a little bit of pedaling at the top. He has so much fun with them, and they're so incredibly frugal, that I was wanting to join in. Alas, between my knee surgery, and my herniated disk in my spine, it looks like I'll have to wait until later. Anyone out there over the age of 30 who is getting around by electric bike? How's that working for you?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Electric car support infrastructure coming to WA

Today's email brought a link to this article about electric car charging stations along I5 in Washington state. Read it here. There are several interesting points raised, particularly in the comments, although I can't help but think that I'd still prefer to have a hybrid car that could run on either fuel so my chances of not being able to recharge or refuel would be less. That's why I bought the Prius model we got, so we can do the aftermarket upgrade to a plug-in with additional battery capacity and still have the hybrid capability. It will be interesting to see how this all works out over the next few years.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Anne Bagby's Collage - DVD review

I'm not able to work in my studio very much right now due to back spasms and the resulting physical problems, so I'm spending a fair amount of time catching up on reading and watching some DVDs. My local library has a wonderful selection of art and technique dvds, and the one I watched most recently is Anne Bagby's Collage: Paper, Patterns & Glazing. Let me just say I'd give it 2 thumbs up as a summation.

I'm moving toward multimedia collage myself so I'm very interested in the subject matter. And I've been intrigued by the idea of transparency and layering in my fabric work for some time. So, I was predisposed to like this. In addition to covering material I'm interested in, I was particularly pleased that the dvd essentially watches Bagby create the beginnings of several pieces. I appreciated seeing her process, including the creation of her own papers and stamps, in all its messy details. I also appreciated that she talks us through her design decisions as she makes them in simple terms, not artspeak lingo, but in terms of focusing the viewer on the piece, what's the foreground or background, and ways to shift things with a quick layer of color.

In 90 minutes, there's a lot to watch and learn from. I'll be applying techniques and ideas for some time, even though my designs tend to be simpler. As Bagby says at one point, she's in the Too Much is Not Enough school which I am not, but that doesn't mean I can't learn from her and her process. I'd recommend this dvd to anyone interested in working in collage, either paper or fabric, as I think the techniques will translate well into either medium. I'd also recommend it to anyone interested in watching an artist in process while creating.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

UW Fiber Arts program - final piece, and some thoughts

Our show ( opened last week at the UW Towers, and I missed the opening because of continuing knee and back issues. While I am saddened at missing the party, I did enjoy the pictures posted on facebook by some of the other class members. I'm also looking forward to going to see the exhibit during the month of June sometime, as soon as my back and knee will allow. This is even more important as I didn't get a final picture taken of my piece and need to go take a picture, if only so I can add it to the webpage. Here's a shot of the piece in progress. James, my son, is holding it up, so it's a terribly traditional quilt picture complete with fingers at the edges and lots of background clutter.

I forgot to load my piece into the car when taking off for class, so Jeff and James did a quick photo and emailed it so I could present my piece that day. We were all showing our pieces so we collectively knew enough to answer questions and talk knowledgeably at the opening.

And now it's time for the big sigh of relief and accomplishment, and taking inventory of what I've learned. This was a fabulous class. I learned so much it's difficult to list it all. Most importantly, I learned to take myself seriously. I learned how to think about my art, the materials I use, and how to think about creating a piece to maximize its effectiveness. I'll be processing these lessons for quite some time to come but I look forward to my progress as I now feel confident I can deal with issues as they arise rather than feeling overwhelmed. It's a wonderful, exhilarating change that's coming and next up on my to-do list is redoing my webpage to reflect the changes I've already internalized. I'll keep blogging about this whole process as one of the things I've learned is how much I, and others, need the community of other artists to learn from. So, in a way, this blog is a way of paying it forward.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Class collaborative project, or doing art in public at Greenlake

My Fiber Arts Certificate course continues to be a fabulous learning experience. As we go into the final week before our exhibit opens (see for details), I'm focusing mostly on finishing the detail work on the piece I'll be exhibiting. But I promised to blog about what we're doing as we do it, so I want to show off our collaborative project. A group of six of us decided to do an interactive public art project for our collaborative group project. We decided on doing a group weaving project - creating a frame, bringing fabric strips and yarns, setting up tables at Greenlake Park near the hiking trail, and inviting anyone who walked by to participate. We split up the basic materials, scheduled slots for being at the tables, and assigned other tasks, such as creating the frame, or, my task, writing a blurb and creating a booklet for participants to sign. Here's the text that went on the sign, and on the back of the booklet:

"Community comes in many forms and is made up of each member contributing their own abilities, like color and texture from threads in a woven cloth. On May 15, 2010, we are creating an opportunity to symbolically create a cloth representing the community here at Greenlake. By selecting a fiber to weave into the cloth and using your own preferences as to how the fiber is inserted, you can help create the final cloth just as each of us creates the community by the way we participate in it. Please use the booklet provided to record your thoughts about community, this project or what your choice of fiber symbolizes to you."

The reason I mentioned community is that Lois, the creator of the frame, also took the initiative to go talk to the staff at the Community Center and arranged for display of the final piece after our class is finished.

We started out setting up on 2 tables, and having to create a sign to try and draw people in. This turned out to be somewhat unnecessary as people were curious about what we were doing and usually we had at least 1 or 2 people at all times, and sometimes were on the verge of having a line for people to participate.

Once we had things set up, and had started the weaving in a couple of directions, we were off and going.

We had a wide range of participants, of all ages, genders and backgrounds. And lots of interesting conversations with people. It was really clear that the people who stopped valued the opportunity to participate in creating art.

By the time my shift ended at noon, we had almost half the frame filled with materials.

I haven't yet seen the finished piece as I missed the most recent class due to the pinched nerve in my back, but I'm looking forward to the PowerPoint presentation next Tuesday when we present to the class. This was a good exercise in working in a group and gave us an excellent opportunity to do some publicity for our upcoming exhibit. I can certainly see doing something similar on a regular basis, although it's likely I'll pick a park a little closer to home.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guerilla Art (Fiber Art Program)

One of the assignments for my Fiber Art class was to do a site specific piece of public art. Since I walk at the greenbelt near Larsen Lake almost every day, I decided to do a piece for the pier at the lake. I selected pictures I've taken that represented each season, and a detail image to go along with the larger landscape picture. Then I put them together in a banner. I had originally intended to include a strip of green fabric representing the greenbelt, and silkscreened runners on the belt but once I got the images on the banner, I decided that additional layer would be too much.

I had some interesting conversations while carrying the banner from the library parking lot to the pier as it's about a half mile walk on the greenbelt. And I learned some things about creating art for a different presentation. I meant for the banner to hang over the lake but that didn't quite work out due to several problems. I got the angle wrong, the bamboo poles I used, to evoke fishing rods, weren't long enough, and I completely forgot about the predominant wind direction. If I'd gotten the angle and the rods right, the wind might not have been such an issue but as it was, I had to move the poles to a different hole in the railing so that the art was visible.

Lots of learning going on this quarter, that's for sure. And now that I have my new computer installed, and most of the things I need transferred or installed from the old one, I'm back in business and will be blogging about what's going on in the course at least once a week.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fiber Arts Certificate Program, second quarter wrapup

Despite having knee surgery in early February, I was still pretty productive in the second quarter of the Fiber Arts Certificate program. The focus for this quarter was concept driven art and how to produce it. We started out the quarter with an assignment to do 50 collages in one week. That was a tremendous learning experience, and I'm looking forward to being back in the studio and using the lessons I learned in daily practice. Right now, the knee is only allowing a couple of hours at a desk at a time, so I have to be patient. Not one of my best skills but I'm working on it.

To do those collages, I had to work smaller than I have before. This was an excellent exercise as it allowed me to try out variations visually rather than attempting to edit my ideas in my head. I learned that things don't look the way I expect them to and that my design ideas are greatly improved by trying them out visually.

This insight led to my really grasping the point of working in a series. I'd heard others talking about series work, but hadn't really gotten the why of it before now. Now, I do. I can try out the variations, see what works best, and then do that in a bigger format. A big plus is that I get to feel incredibly productive and have smaller pieces that will sell at a more affordable price. I'm not seeing a downside here which is really nice.

The third big lesson is that thinking over what to do is futile. Do one, see if I like it, if not, do another idea. Experiment! I suppose this is what is meant by the phrase "make visual decisions visually". Spending a couple of hours going back and forth in my head turns out to be a waste of time. In the same time, I can do 2 or 3 variations in a small size and SEE which one comes closest to evoking the emotion I'm aiming for.

And fourth, I learned to have a clear concept underlying a piece and make sure that every part of the piece contributes to that. If not, toss it aside and let it wait for a piece that it does fit.

The other big part of this quarter was producing a clear philosophical artists statement. I found this to be very useful, especially the class we spent doing quick written feedback on our fellow classmates' statements. Having to put into words why I produce the work that I do was a good way to clarify the concepts that I want to focus on. I've written artist statements before, for pieces going out to exhibits, but this time was more productive because of the feedback from others and the questions raised by our teacher.

The last big lesson I learned is the usefulness of a regular critique group. Having a supportive and knowledgeable group to ask focused questions is a very useful way for me to get clear on the underlying conceptual basis for my work.

To sum up: an incredibly powerful quarter, and I only hope I can apply the lessons I've learned once I'm back in the studio full-time.

Friday, March 19, 2010

E-bikes at Best Buy? Coming soon...

Today's Sightline email led off with a link to the first in a 5 part series on electric bikes, and improving transportation efficiency with alternatives. I've only read the first 2, and this is a link to the second in the series. It talks about why people might choose electric bikes, and what's likely to happen this next year. My soon-to-be 20 year old son has been riding electric bikes as his major form of transportation since graduating high school. We got him a folding electric bike for graduation, and a more powerful (and more expensive) one last year. He rides both but prefers the more powerful one as we live on a really steep hill. If I hadn't had knee problems this year, I'd probably have already converted my regular bike to an e-bike and be using it for my shorter rides around the neighborhood, by which I mean 3-4 miles. I'm really jazzed that I'm not the only one excited about e-bikes so this series is something I wanted to share. I'll also take this opportunity to point out that even including the repair costs for the 2 accidents he's had (both very minor), all maintenance costs, and the costs of the bikes and all his riding gear, it's cost us way less for his transportation than it did for his older sister's car and it's maintenance and repairs. Less than half, to be more precise. Costs less, better for the planet, healthier for him. What's not to like?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Meditate like a Marine

Isn't that a great title? Today's email from contained that title and a link to the full article about measurable mood and memory enhancement from 12 minutes of meditation a day. (They called it mindfulness training, which is a somewhat clearer name, but it's the same thing.) Controlling mood is on my mind these days as my knee surgery recovery takes much longer than anticipated and I find myself struggling to maintain my emotional equilibrium. I'm okay with the loss of daily walks altho I miss them, but adding in an inability to sit at my work areas for more than 20 minutes, so it's very difficult to create, and I find I'm getting impatient easily. My Fiber Arts class for this quarter ended last night so I have a couple of weeks to focus on healing and maybe regain my sense of being centered and balanced.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

10 easy ways to help the planet (Yes! magazine)

Today's email brought a pointer to an article from yes! magazine about 10 easy ways to change your life and help the planet. It seems worth sharing. Read the whole detailed list here; some of the easy ones: eat your veggies (reduce meat consumption) , give up bottled water (we've switched to a seltzer bottle. Umbra at had a nice video today about various other ways to make your own bubbly water), and have dinner with friends. We're doing the last as a monthly game night which gives us all a chance to hang out, chat, play some games, and enjoy ourselves. This last is on my mind as I head off to knee surgery today, and realized I needed to send a reminder email. Yikes!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Light Electric Vehicles (LEVs) aka electric bikes

Today's email features a lengthy article about Light Electric Vehicles, a category designed to include both scooters and electric bicycles. It mostly focuses on the bikes, and the huge increase in popularity in Europe, but I found this quote compelling:

"...the average cost of owning, operating, maintaining, and driving a car comes out to 71 cents per mile for an average car driving an average of 10,000 miles per year. In contrast, it costs about 2.7 cents per mile to drive a LEV the same distance."

For those who go short commutes, it might make sense to switch, at least for the shorter trips. For more info, here's the link to the full article.

Friday, January 15, 2010

50 Collages, lessons learned

Class on Tuesday was very interesting. Few of the others in the class did all 50 of the collages, so I felt pretty good about my having "only" done 30. The other interesting thing I noticed is that my 50 were not as tightly related as most of the others. My theme, spiritual journey, is kind of a large one and I did a couple of different sub-themes. I also didn't have a particular palette. Obviously, my word for 201o (Focus) comes into play here too.

So, for the next class assignment, I've narrowed my theme significantly. For now, it's hummingbirds, but while I like the sketches I've done, I'm wanting the spiritual aspect to be there too, so I'm going to have to think about how to bring that back in. And I sorted through my fabric stash in my studio. I'm moving some of it downstairs, as it's not the right visual texture for my current work. If it's not in the studio, I won't be tempted to use it, and can more easily develop my own palette.

Our next assignment is to do a diptych on the theme as we're developing it. I've picked the phrase "Joy & Comport" as a working title. I wanted a vague background, impressionistic in style, so I did my preliminary sketches (size 9"x12") using watercolor pencils and then did some experimenting with adding a wash to blend them. I like the effect, and I'm looking forward to experimenting with the pencils on fabric in the future. For now, I'm working with the hand-dyed silk I have on hand, except for the piece I need for the sky which I will be painting today.

The class assignment is for at least 14" on each side in size. I've set myself a personal goal of producing 6 sq. ft. of art per week. So, in line with that goal, my fabric version of the sketches will each be 18"x24". We'll see if I can actually finish them in a week. I'll just keep telling myself my new mantras: Focus, Use what you have, experiment. ( These are the things I've gotten from the class so far.)

At the very least, I should have the fabric tops done by class but I really believe I stand a good chance of having the complete pieces, or at least 75% of them, finished by next Tuesday. Whatever happens, it will be a grand experiment!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

50 Collages, day 4

I took Sunday off, how traditional. I was back to work on the collages yesterday, and got 7 done. I also had a couple of epiphanies about my work process, and I'm mulling over how to change things. I'll be talking about the changes when they're done, I expect. I find I have a hard time doing more than 5 - 7 collages in a day, given the restriction on each of them being different. When I did fabric postcards for an exchange, I did small collage like things, but did variations on a theme in sets of 5. That I could do really fast! This has been a very fruitful and productive assignment, in both work produced and insights achieved. I'll be talking about what I learned tomorrow when I wrap up with things I produce today.

Yesterday's work yielded these 2 among others.

Number 24 came about because I was reflecting on how literal I can be in my thinking. Then I looked down at my work table, saw the remaining pile of dancer figures already cut out, and the image just popped into my head. This one was almost instantaneous which was a nice break from the slogging I felt I'd been doing all afternoon. I was good until the fifth one for the day, then I started slowing down, overthinking, and generally having to push to keep going.

This one, #25, is the visual sketch for a piece I'm doing for an online challenge. I wanted to try out the TAP paper (Transfer Artist Paper) which worked great on transferring the hummingbird images from my computer to the fabric background. I also wanted to try the composition which has been sitting in my head for a bit. I find I really like doing the visual sketch. I had tried doing a pencil sketch, but I need the color and the texture that comes from the fabrics I use to really evaluate the idea. The word theme for the challenge is Comfort.

In addition, I want to share #14 which was the one I used ExtravOrganza on for the first time. Given that I'm sharing the experiment with TAP, I thought I'd include my other experiment.
I like the transparency of the globe that I printed using Extravorganza and I expect I'll be using it in the future, unless I actually get around to the image transfer experimentation I have on my want-to-try list.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

50 collages, day 3

Yesterday was less productive, but I had anticipated that which is why I tried to get off to a big start. Not only did I have a morning appt, but I slept poorly so I was brainfogged. However, I got in 3 hours of solid work, producing 5 more (total so far is 18) collages. In addition, I had some insights about my work process and how to integrate this collage process into it, and got some prep work done. Here's a couple of the ones I did yesterday. They're getting more sketch like as I go along but that's okay, these are conceptual sketches, reminders/tryouts of the ideas, and I'm now to doing one in 20 to 30 minutes max. I foresee this being what I do in my sketchbook when I have an idea, and want to see if it's worth developing.

This was #17 in the collages. The idea was to visually present walking a maze. I like the strong graphic imagery, and think this one might work really well on a larger scale, where I could stick in lots more detail in the walls of the maze. I intended for the green fabric to imply one of those garden hedge mazes and that would give me lots of room for birds in the hedges, etc.

This next one was the last one I did yesterday. The hummingbird theme is a strong one, but it's not as prevalent as it might seem based on the pictures I'm posting here. I'd estimate the hummingbirds only show up in no more than a third of the total so far.

I originally laid this one out on the peltex which is 8.5 x 11", and then when I realized I was using paper, I switched to the 9 x 12 watercolor paper for the base. This led to there being more leafy stuff at the bottom. I'm contemplating cutting some of it off. On the other hand, I kind of like the slightly topheavy feel. I'll set it aside and think about it later, I suppose.

Going to bed early did not solve the sleep problem, which is probably related to the beginning of tree pollen season, so I anticipate today will also be low on the collage count. So, I'll be catching up on my accumulated email, doing some miscellaneous stray studio tasks, and tidying my work area so I can go big tomorrow. Realistically, I'm hoping for a total over 35; I think I've already benefitted tremendously from doing this exercise so I'll be happy with whatever happens from this point on.

As part of my relaxed day, I put one of today's collages into jigspot as an experiment. I've been meaning to do this but haven't gotten around to it. Here's the link to it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

50 collages, day 2

Well, I did it. 10 collages yesterday in 7 hours, for an average of about 40 minutes each. The last few were in about half an hour so I should be just burning through them today, assuming I don't fall over from the effort. *grin* Only 37 more to go...

I had a couple of comments on Facebook that brought it to my attention that I forgot to mention the size. I started out using 9"x12" watercolor paper as a base. Spiral Dance was cut down to a square, 9x9. Then, because of the curling factor for the paper and because I'm scanning them in to show them here, I cut peltex to 8.5 x 11 size. So, they're roughly the size of a piece of paper.

I did 10 and then laid them out on the floor to see them all at once. This was instructive because I could see visually how my thoughts had run. Since this was something the instructor had mentioned in particular, it was nice to have it happening so early.

These two, selected from the day's production, deal with an image that I was already wrestling with to turn into a larger wallhanging. It's very useful to play with the composition in this smaller format and I'm looking forward to seeing if the design that works in the small can scale to a larger piece well.

I don't think I've told the story about the hummingbird we feed, or one of them, going into the garage and trying to fly through the window in the back. He didn't smash himself, he just kept buzzing at it. I had to run an errand, and he was still there when I got back, so I went to get the feeder and held it hanging from my finger to try and get him to turn around so he could see the open door. He ended up landing on my hand to rest which was an amazing sensation. That experience has deepened my fascination with hummingbirds, and is leading to a whole series of pieces so I tried out one of the ideas for this collage.

This was #10, done after the above one. I finished the first one, and I'd printed out some smaller globes to use, and thought about fingertips, smaller globes, that led to multiple hummingbirds, et voila!

More tomorrow!

Friday, January 8, 2010

50 Collages in one week, Yikes!

My new Fiber Arts instructor gave us our first assignment: make 50 collages on a single theme in one week. This will be an interesting learning experience, for sure. Class is next Tuesday evening, and I have 3 done so far. I spent one day brainstorming, so I have a huge list of ideas to explore, and assembling materials from various nooks and shelves around the house. The first 2 took over 3 hours to make; the third took one hour. I set a timer on myself on the third one so I could keep it to an hour. Today, I aim for 10 collages, and less than 45 minutes each. We'll see how we do. I need to let go of doing a finished piece, and do a compositional sketch or I'll never make it to the total number. And as he explained, the idea is to experiment and see our own conceptual connections so it is important to do the whole 50 (plus or minus a couple...). Somehow, I still feel like I've been pushed off a cliff and am trying to learn to fly as I go down.

My theme is Spiritual Journey and here's the first 3 collages. I particularly like #2. These are all a combination of fabric and paper glued or fused to watercolor paper. I'm thinking of using peltex as it's a bit stiffer for the ones with mostly fabric. The watercolor paper is curling on the boat one.

The first one is from an idea that's been simmering for a while, based on a song, Sailing a Blue Boat.

Second one is Spiral Dance, probably #1. I expect more along this path in the next few days.

And this one is based on the Solstice Stocking I did for a friend a couple of years ago. It worked better as the stocking, I think, altho I like the idea and think it would work better with more detail.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monthly Games playing day, or doing more but buying less

I spent a chunk of time on New Year's Day playing Mah Jong with my daughter and a couple of friends. It's been a year since we played together, and we all remarked on how nice it was. I had talked with another group of friends the night before about doing regular board game playing get togethers and we picked a day, and set a time. So I suggested the same thing to my Mah Jong buddies and we did the same. I now have a monthly day playing games of some sort and I expect it to grow as interested friends get added to the notification list. So I noted with interest an article from the NY Times about people buying less, and doing more interactive things with friends. Yup, me too. The article can be found here. I must admit I've always had a tendency to prefer simpler pleasures and have never spent $1000/month on designer clothes. (Okay, $100/month on books maybe...)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Fiber Arts Certificate Program, First quarter wrapup

Now that I've had a little time over the holidays to digest how the first quarter of the Fiber Arts Certificate Program went, and I've uploaded the photos of our last assignment, I'm ready to share.

It's been a challenging quarter. Our instructor's intent was to shake things up for us and she certainly succeeded for me. We only had 2 major assignments so the work we did wasn't primarily creating things but was instead questioning our assumptions, and giving us a broader perspective.

Our final assignment was to do a bigger than life size self-portrait of one persona or aspect of ourselves. I got tangled in the "bigger than lfe size" part of it, and feel my own piece was a major belly flop. A fabulous learning experience however. I was attempting to portray the emotional impact of having a hummingbird land on my hand - an experience that delighted, and astonished me. I also got caught up in the mechanics of doing the shadows and shading, not to mention some serious trouble getting the photo to start from. (That was also part of the assignment.) So, my piece was incomplete when it was time to present. It wasn't until after the class discussion that I realized I didn't need the bottom 2/3rds of the piece. I'm now working on tightening the focus, and doing this again because I do want to do a piece about this experience.

Several of the other members of the class did wonderful interpretations. Here's one of the ones I particularly liked. Roberta captured her love of swimming and water so well visually, at least in my opinion.

I think we've all learned a lot. I know I have. Most of my lessons have to do with my own process, and how I need to tighten my focus, do a bit more planning of the intent of a piece before leaping in and working. I have to balance that with the fact that once I'm in the flow of working on it, I work intuitively and need to not push myself into a box to meet some requirements. The other big thing I'm taking away is to use what I have to make it work while staying focused on the intent and the goal.

Now to see how we all do on applying these lessons to creating work this next quarter. We were warned that the next instructor pushes us to do lots of work; to the point of requiring 50 collages in one week at one point. Yikes! This will be another, and different challenge.