26 December 2008

Illustration Friday - clandestine

cotton fabric, cotton batting, cotton thread, found object paper and acrylic ink on 6" x 6" stretched canvas

Clandestine is such a fun word! This is my sub rosa raven, sneaking furtively along on his surreptitious business.

21 December 2008

Illustration Friday - voices

cotton fabric, bamboo batting, cotton thread, found object papers, mulberry paper and acrylic ink on 6" x 6" stretched canvas

Not actually sure if a bird song counts as a voice (and I *know* they don't follow sheet music), but that was the first thing that came to mind.

18 December 2008

Holiday meme

This holiday meme is going around and it's really kind of fun! Play along if you'd like.

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot chocolate. With whipped cream.

Does Santa wrap presents or set them under the tree?
Definitely wrapped. I love, love, love to wrap presents (see photo above). I collect odd bits and bobs all year to incorporate into gift wrapping, so there's quite a bit of recycling and repurposing involved. I have a gift wrapping supply closet - that's how serious I am about the topic.

Colored lights on tree or white?
White all the way. I love the way white lights look in trees outside too, but our trees are way too tall.

When do you put your decorations up?
Sometime around the middle of December and then they come down the first Wednesday after New Year's. We lost most of our decorations in a flood in our basement after Hurricane Wilma a few years ago and I haven't had time to replace them. That needs to be on next year's list of things to do - stockings, tree skirt, tree-topper...

What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Homemade mashed potatoes. We almost never eat potatoes but have rice at nearly every meal, so mashed potatoes are a treat.

When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
Wait, there's no Santa??? Honestly, I don't remember. I do know that as eldest child and the oldest-of-thirteen grandchildren I was in on the conspiracy early and worked hard to preserve the faith of the younger kids.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
With an artist's eye, of course! Colors and forms need to be balanced, etc etc. The majority of our ornaments are handmade and many are folkart from other countries and yet they all still play well together. The ones our daughter made are my favorites. No tinsel.

Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Hate it! When's spring?

Can you ice skate?
Totally. I took figure skating lessons for years. I can still do backwards crossovers, mohawks and swizzles, but it's been a while since I've attempted a choctaw, a sit spin or a jump of any kind! I also used to love the pick-up ice hockey games in the neighborhood.

Do you remember your favorite gift?
There's no one gift that stands out. Mostly, I cherish the handmade gifts and anything that shows that someone really "gets" me.

What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Spending time with family. Slowing down and enjoying a few days without deadlines. Getting to be a little lazy.

What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Chocolate cream pie. With whipped cream.

(there's a theme here, it's really all about the whipped cream...)

What is your favorite tradition?
We open gifts one at a time so everyone gets to see and appreciate the time and energy the gift-giver put into their choice. This is especially nice when the gifts are handmade.

Which do you prefer, Giving or Receiving?
Giving, without a doubt. And if I'm making something, I love spending time thinking about the recipient as I'm working. It imbues the gift with a lot of positive energy.

What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Yeah, I'm not really into Christmas music, much to my parents' chagrin. I usually try to put the Brian Setzer Orchestra on while decorating the tree, but that's about it.

Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Yum. It's the only time I eat anything peppermint flavored. Usually I don't like the taste - I don't even like peppermint toothpaste. Of course, I also eat candy corn at Halloween and marshmallow peeps for Easter, so maybe it's because it's a holiday thing.

Ever recycled a Christmas present?
Once or twice.

08 December 2008

Illustration Friday - similar

cotton fabric, bamboo batting, cotton thread, found object paper, mulberry paper, acrylic ink and acrylic paint on 6" x 6" stretched canvas

Hands can be similar in that we usually have two each, usually with five fingers each.

You can tell a lot about a person by their hands...

06 December 2008

Art Quilts at Play

Here's the big, exciting news! I've been living this project for the last 18 months and I can finally share. Elin Waterston and I have written a new book, Art Quilts at Play, for C&T Publishing, to be released in January 2009.

This new book is a perfect complement to our first book, Art Quilt Workbook, and covers a plethora of surface design techniques and special effects on fabric. The book is full of illustrated how-tos, many, many samples from the different processes and oodles of finished art. Once we've shown you how to create and alter some beautiful fabric, we give you scads of ideas of what to do with it, from challenges and trades to collaborations and more. Our first book was based on an in-depth, comprehensive class that we'd been teaching. This new one also draws on workshops plus the techniques we each use in our own art.

Over a year ago we asked a small number of very talented women in the art quilt and mixed-media world to contribute some pieces to our book and they very generously agreed. Their work enriches the material and shows you how different artists with different voices and different techniques approach the same themes or materials with exciting, original and unique results. We're so grateful to each of them for their contributions.

Natalya Aikens
Woodie Anderson
Liz Berg
Gail Ellspermann
Janet Ghio
Rayna Gillman
Terry Grant
Kathryn Hunter
Andrea Jenkins
Jane LaFazio
Mati McDonough
Tricia McKellar
Kim Rae Nugent
Karen Stiehl Osborn
Virginia Spiegel
Beryl Taylor

A few of our students were also asked and graciously agreed to share their work with us. We are so thankful to them for their generosity (and in a couple of cases, their bravery as well!)

There will be a big release party, book signing and art quilt exhibition at the Country Quilter in Somers NY on Saturday, February 21st and we hope you can join us!

You can pre-order an autographed copy of the book now by contacting me. We're so pleased with the response to our first book and hope that you'll like this one just as much.

30 November 2008

Now open - come on in!

I've been talking about an Etsy store for just about three years now. I've finished some cool new jewelry and posted it here.

I'll be adding more items to the store as I finish them. I have plans for a variety of categories, including more jewelry, small mixed-media art and collages on paper. Stay tuned!

Another goal on my list for the year ticked off, woohoo.

27 November 2008

Artful Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving my sister and her family came for a day of fun, food and art.

While the turkey was cooking everyone got to work on a variety of projects. Some of us started with stamp carving and block printing. A quick how-to from me, a few samples, all the tools and supplies, and they were off!

Even the dog got into the act, supervising while Sam was cutting out pattern pieces for a pet bed.

Whitman is already an accomplished artist and was eager to try this kind of stamp making and block printing.

He kept his first stamp pretty simple (below) but quickly advanced to larger, much more detailed blocks (which I totally forgot to take pictures of before everything got packed into the car, but I was really impressed.)

Sage assured me that she had already done this in school and she knew exactly what she was going to carve.

Everything she carved, drew or made today had a heart on it, reflecting her loving nature (and the fact that she's six ::big smile::).

Sam was working on the pet bed and it's amazing that she managed to get that 1" sheet foam cut into the multitude of needed pieces with the dog and a small cousin underfoot.

Linda tried the stamp carving too and, again, I forgot to take a picture of the block she made. She came with fabric and a plan, worked quickly and secreted the results away. I have a feeling her prints may factor into some handmade holiday gifts...

But most of the day she was knitting these neat "muttons" (mittens without fingers) for a co-worker. Last year she made me a pair and I love them. They keep my always-cold hands toasty warm and I can still work with them on.

I managed to open my new soldering iron, but never actually used it. Sage and I made some jewelry, but decided to keep it simple with beads, findings and fabric. She even made up a song about her new necklace and performed it for all of us. Over and over and over again. I could sing it for you now, if you'd like - it's still stuck in my head!

It was a wonderful, warm, creative day with good food to eat and good people to enjoy it all with. I'm so thankful for my family.

25 November 2008


Last week Elin and I spent four hours sorting, boxing and packing up a bunch of stuff to ship out. The stack of boxes was taller than me!

A big announcement is coming soon...

24 November 2008


My friend Natalya tagged me again and now I have to come up with seven new random facts.

1. I never have nail polish on my fingernails and always have it on my toenails. Usually in weird colors like purple or blue or green.

2. I can raise my left eyebrow solo -- and I'll confess here that it wasn't a natural talent, I taught myself to do that. One of my friends in high school could arch an eyebrow and I thought it looked so sophisticated (and really, what teen wouldn't want to perfect disdain in a simple facial expression?) I practiced every night for six months by holding onto my right eyebrow while trying to raise my left until I could do it with no hands. It's amazing what you can do with time and patience...

3. I became a step-grandma in my twenties. (¡Hola Matias!)

4. I read 3-4 books a week.

5. I'm allergic to olives. The immediate response of every single doctor I've ever had to that information is "Then what do you put in your martinis?" (note: I don't even drink martinis)

6. I love disgustingly sweet kids' breakfast cereal - Cap'n Crunch, Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, etc - as a snack food. I know, gross.

7. I saved my sister's life.

If you're reading this and you want to play along, consider yourself tagged. Leave a comment so we can follow you and see your seven random facts!

19 November 2008

Natural Order

A mighty wind last week took down a paper wasp nest that was hanging high up in the tree next our front door. We hadn't even known it was there until the leaves fell.

The nest is vacant and I took some photos this morning before it completely disintegrated. It was about the size of a basketball and strangely, we had never noticed a problem with wasps although it must have housed quite a population when it was active.

The symmetry of the individual cells is amazing. The overall construction is astounding. I tried to salvage some of it to try to incorporate into an art piece but it was too fragile.

Buy Handmade

I Took The Handmade Pledge! BuyHandmade.org

This year my whole family took the Buy Handmade Pledge. We put our own spin on it by adding some guidelines for each other:

1. Give something that you made.

2. Give something that someone else made. This lets us support other artists, irl and online.

3. Give something that helps you make things. We're all creative and artistic and a good tool or supply is always much appreciated.

4. Give something that goes with something handmade that you're giving. This one's a loophole, really, but you have to be creative to make it work. So, as an example, if you make an amazing case to put it in, you could give someone a hot new cd.

5. Books and games. Because it isn't Christmas without books and games. This is a total exemption. We're making up our rules, we can do that.

The decks are cleared in my schedule and I've started gathering supplies and tools to work on my projects (including a soldering iron, how intriguing) - plus cool stuff to sell as well, because I want to support other people's handmade pledge. Altruistic, aren't I?

And it's not even Thanksgiving yet... Whoa.

13 November 2008

Printmaking + quilting

selva primeval, 2008

I decided to put some of the fabric I printed with gelatin plates to good use so I made a small art quilt. I learned the gelatin-plate printing technique from Rayna Gillman and her new book. The butterfly is block-printed from a stamp I carved. The quilt also incorporates some printed mulberry paper and some found object paper.

I need to schedule time for another printing session, the resulting fabric is so unique and versatile, and the technique was pretty quick and easy.

11 November 2008

Oddly, my breakfast sent me a message

I've never gotten a text message from a piece of fruit before, but there's a first time for everything.


06 November 2008

A birdie followed me home

Actually several birdies...

I found this amazing beaded head-dress tucked in the far back corner of a little booth at Quilt Festival in Houston. It was hand made in Nigeria of thousands (tens of thousands?) of white glass beads over wire framework and stands about 24" tall. I saw it the second day of the show, looked at it closely, asked about it's price and reluctantly walked away, knowing it would be difficult to get home.

But I couldn't stop thinking about it. There was a second one, slightly smaller and in full color, but this one just spoke to me. It's covered with beaded birds and has a face on either side.

Just before the opening of the last day of the show I went to check to see if it was gone or if it was waiting for me.

I decided that if it was still there, then it was meant to come home with me.

Of course, I did get stopped at security in the airport - I can't imagine what it looked like on the x-ray machine. And I ended up with two laptops in my briefcase so I could fit the birds in my carry-on, you should see the blisters on my hands.

It was worth it.


It's a truly momentous day and hope is burning brightly in America. This election has been historic on so many levels and now has an historic outcome. We will remember this day and where we were and how we felt forever. We will pass the stories down to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

My husband is an immigrant to this country and became a citizen about ten years ago. This is only the third time he was eligible to vote for president. He looked at me on election night after the results, after the speeches and said "This is what America is about, anything is possible here".

One of his sisters called from Peru the next morning before 8 AM to tell us how excited she was and ask us how we were feeling. This election affects not only us in America but everyone around the world.

We have a dream and we have hope.

05 November 2008

Home at last!

Pixie's vigil at the front door has finally paid off and I've returned. Now on to a lot of catch-up at home and at work. It always takes a while to process all of the inspiration and energy gleaned from a big show and my head is spinning in so many directions right now.

The experience of meeting and spending time with other artists (most only known online prior to this visit) and surrounded by art (and art supplies) was exhilarating and mere thanks are not enough to Natalya for her invaluable presence, support and assistance.

31 October 2008

Quilt Festival

A belated post from Houston's Quilt Festival - I had nothing but problems with blogger while away, but I can finally post this one. I gave up even taking pictures after two frustrating days trying to upload photos.

A whirlwind couple of days have resulted in a complete switcheroo to our booth and now we have all of the art quilting goodies out.

We're directly across the aisle from Judy Gula's booth (Artistic Artifacts), where Liz Kettle and Laura Cater Woods are too. Look at all the pretty colors!

Diagonally across is the Make It U workshop area. Yesterday I taught an ink class there and had great fun, tomorrow I'll be teaching stampmaking and then demonstrating fish printing in the Open Studios area. Pokey had a couple of Make It U classes today. She's so enthusiastic and high-energy.

Terry White stopped by from her booth around the corner for a visit.

After the show closed Natalya and I headed across the street into the park for an outdoor meal overlooking a small lake. Looking back at the convention center we could see the lights and their reflection in the water. There was an outdoor concert to entertain us and we bopped along to a lot of great 80s songs. A lot of those songs took me right back to high school and my roller disco days - does anyone else remember that? How weird does that seem now? Rolling in circles around a rink for hours to (now cheesy) music under a disco ball. It was fun, it's just hard to explain the appeal now.

25 October 2008

Reporting in from Quilt Market in Houston

I'm in Houston for the next ten days for International Quilt Market (wholesale only) and Quilt Festival (retail!) Last night was the C&T Publishing Authors' Dinner and it was great. I gave a little talk about using the internet to market your books and promote yourself and I hung out with a lot of other authors and some of the wonderful people at C&T. I took this picture while I was waiting for the bus to take me to the hotel where the dinner was held. The architecture of the buildings in downtown Houston is interesting. I didn't realize that the other hotel was only about a block from my hotel until after the dinner when I walked back with a couple of other authors. Could have saved myself a thirty minute bus ride on the way there if I had but known. Oh brother!

We have a booth at both shows, but with completely different stuff at each. At Market we show the books and patterns that we publish through our shop, The Country Quilter. We have four new patterns for this Market and we're also running around the show looking for wonderful new things to carry in our store. Tomorrow I'll be in C&T's booth for a little while signing books and chatting with customers. Next Tuesday we disassemble this booth and reassemble as Flourish! with all of our art quilting goodies and supplies.

I have a new pattern out, Market Bag, that's a really generous size for shopping. It's completely lined and has a medium to heavy interfacing inside to make it strong and give it some body. I'm going to make a slew of these when I get home for my own grocery shopping and to give as gifts. So much prettier than the bags with store logos that I'm currently using!

The highlight of my day today was meeting Jay McCarroll, the winner of the first season of Project Runway, who has two new lines of fabric out with Free Spirit Fabrics. He's completely adorable and his fabric line is fresh and funky.

My least favorite part of today was the two hours I spent in the ER waiting for a tetanus shot after a staple gun accident at the show. Oof. The medics at the show told me I was the fourth (!) person that day who had stapled themselves and the hospital people told me I was the fifth (!) quilter in to see them today. The other quilters were at the hospital for less exotic reasons, mostly falls, at least mine was more creative, though hardly unique, lol.

15 October 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty

Today is October 15, Blog Action Day against Poverty.

My husband grew up in Peru in a middle class family of artists and teachers. We were fortunate enough to have lived there for a while and to have visited there a number of times. The day-to-day existence of too many of Peru's citizens includes grinding poverty. The children leave the strongest impression on me. What must it be like to live in a house made of materials scrounged from the streets? Not to know if there will be enough food for the day? Not to know if the future holds anything better?

Peru is a beautiful country with a rich cultural history. The extremes between the haves and have-nots is striking and so much more obvious than it is here in the states. There it is not uncommon to see families living in houses made of cardboard, tin and homemade adobe right next to exclusive gated communities, patrolled by watchmen, with fancy, imported cars in every driveway. 53% of the population lives below the poverty line, 10% earn less than $1 a day. Many people have migrated to the cities hoping for jobs and this has exacerbated the problem.

Oxfam International is one organization that is making a difference, in Peru and in many countries around the world. They are working to improve health care and education, encourage free trade, and develop sustainable agriculture in over 100 countries. Poverty is a global problem and it needs a global solution. We all need to help, from the local level on up. There are many organizations in each of our communities that need our support. There are many people working on this problem and they need our help. I'll be working harder to do my part.

14 October 2008

Are you registered??

Make sure you are registered to vote. Here in the states, we're facing the most historically important election of our time.

12 October 2008

Illustration Friday - strings

cotton fabric, bamboo batting, cotton thread, found object paper, acrylic ink and acrylic paint on 6" x 6" stretched canvas

The starling picked up a bundle of string somewhere on his travels. Perhaps he was hanging around my studio?

Quilting Arts Workshop

Last March I was invited to go to Stow, MA to tape a workshop for Quilting Arts. The taping was held in a big, beautiful barn at the Bolton family alpaca farm. The paddock was full of baby alpaca, called cria. Aren't they sweet?

In the workshop, I show you how to make a One-Page Book out of fabric, using a wide variety of mixed media techniques, including stampmaking, antiquing, water soluble wax pastels and image transfers. This book is pretty cool because each page is the size of an Artist Trading Card and it's a lot of fun to work with a theme. My theme was insects, quel surprise!

Also taping their own workshops the same day was the inestimable Leslie Riley

And my intrepid co-author, Elin Waterston

(Which reminds me - a BIG announcement is coming soon. Stay tuned!)

I received a preview copy of my workshop yesterday and boy, did I pack a lot of info into 51 minutes! The workshop is available as a download or a dvd from Quilting Arts. Here's a preview:

Quilting Arts has quite a few workshops available and they all look so tempting! What a great way to learn a new technique without leaving home. No need to pack up and schlep all of your stuff anywhere, instead bring a teacher home with you for a personal lesson, then pause and re-play any part of it to your heart's content. What a fantastic idea - the folks at Quilting Arts are brilliant.