Sunday, July 26, 2015

Studio Story: The Transition From "Old" to "New"

This is the first of several posts about the remodeling project of my studio.

First, let me just say how fortunate I am to have a dedicated space in my home for my work.  When we moved into this house almost 18 years (gasp!) ago I was able to claim the second master suite on the main level of the house.  The space was part of a large addition to the house by the original owners, added to accommodate their elderly parents.
The space is close to 800 square feet.  This is actually a larger space than our own bedroom suite.  It had two sinks, two long deep closets, a huge (crazy) double bath tub and a shower stall.  All great if you are using it as a bedroom but some of it was less-than-optimum if you are an artist who needs a wet studio area.
For many years I was hesitant to alter the space:  a) we can't afford to change it, b) what if we ever want to sell the house?  Who would buy it with a studio space?, c) if I could change the space, what would I actually want to do to it?, d) refer to a.  Welp.
Last year I began to serious consider the studio needs and look at the long-term picture.  I feel certain they will have to take me out of this house "feet first":  I'm not going anywhere.  This house meets our needs really well and most of our daily activities (unless our kids are visiting) occur on the main floor.  We like it here!
So I worked with my architect and began to plan the changes I want in the studio.

We pounded most of this out, I hired a contractor, and started the process of sorting, packing, and preparing to move out of the studio.  Every. Single. Tiny. Thing. had to be relocated.  Most of you have never been in my studio but trust me when I tell you that I had a LOT of stuff.  Way too much stuff.  Ugh!

My rule was that every single item, no matter how small, had to be looked at and sorted into one of three categories:  It would be part of my first of two studio sales, it would be stored at our warehouse, or it would be moved upstairs into my temporary studio space.

Here is one of the "mid-sort" scenes from the interior of the studio.

Here is another view.  Things kept getting worse and worse before they turned the corner.

Here is some of the artwork that I offered for sale...

Extra fabric, notions...

More fabric, yarn....

I even had a bunch of  books (see the shelf?), old patterns and block of the month kits,
and a bunch of crazy miscellaneous stuff.

I invited members of the two guilds I am a member of in for 3 days of studio sale.  I asked shoppers to make a "love offering" which I will roll back to each guild.  Everyone wins.  And almost everything found a new home.  Happy.

The day after the end of the sale the movers arrived:
They moved one of my big stainless shelves, my work table, sewing table, and many boxes of fabric

Then they moved my studio couch and many boxes over to the warehouse.

I'm happy because I labeled the boxes and most are stored on one of my stainless shelving units.
I can easily find things if I need them during the construction period.

I used the remaining days between the sale and the onset of the construction to finish cleaning out the studio space.....
both closets were finally empty.  It became very clear to me as I worked that I 
would shove things in here that I couldn't bring myself to let go of.  So, I had to do it all
at once.  I sorted my children's artwork into 3 groups, and moved each package to their rooms.
I have to let them decide what to do with it; it was time for me to pass these things on to them.
Same with many things that once belonged to my late sister and mother.  It was very bittersweet
and difficult.  Somehow, the time was right for me to finally let these things go.  I kept a few things
but much of it needed to go to someone else to be used.  And, you know what?  
I feel good about doing it.


...and totally empty
 hallway leading into the studio....

Oh goodbye horrible hot Hollywood dressing room style lights.
I won't miss you.

Goodbye long skinny cave-like closets with narrow doors and shelves.

and goodbye way-too-narrow door leading into the bathroom area (future wet work area).

Goodbye double width jacuzzi tub.  You take up too much room and I will not miss you.

And so it begins.

I hope you will follow along.  I am interested in knowing about your own workspaces and how you have modified them over time.  How do you deal with all your "stuff"?  How often do you go through it (if you do) and reconfigure your supplies?  It is clear to me that I need to do this as a regular practice.  When I move back into the space I have to do the same process in reverse:  every thing must be looked at.  Does it need to come back in?  Do I need multiples of said item?  Does it have relevance to the work I am doing now?  These are the questions I must ask.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"Not Fade Away 2015: Sharing Quilt Stories In The Digital Age"

I'm sharing the press release for the upcoming event, "Not Fade Away":  Sharing Quilt Stories In The Digital Age".  I'll be offering a labeling workshop (times two!) with Michele Muska and would love to see you there!  And to sweeten the deal:  "Sacred Threads", which debuts on July 10th at the same location as the conference, will be open for attendees to visit!

Read on......

Quilt history isn't over. Every time a new quilt is made, another chapter of quilt history is written -- or at least it should be. The nonprofit Quilt Alliance teaches quiltmakers, quilt collectors and quilt lovers everywhere how to record history as it happens.

This summer, the Alliance will conduct its second conference on the oral history of quilts, full of up-to-the-minute techniques and inspiring projects. Not Fade Away: Sharing Quilt Stories in the Digital Age will be held on Saturday, July 18 in Herndon, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. The conference, sponsored by, Sacred Threads and the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, will feature lectures, workshops, networking opportunities and more. 

Attendees from our 2013 Not Fade Away conference said: 
"Information shared, inspiration invoked, comfort and ease of facilities all came together."
"Combining the conference with a quilt show was a wonderful idea and helped my decision to attend."
"I loved the entire conference. This was the first Quilt Alliance conference that I have attended, and I was blown away by the professionalism and collegial atmosphere. The presentations were top-knotch and I will definitely attend other QA events when I am able to."
"My experience was outstanding! I thought the facilities were ideal, the staff was most gracious & cordial, the online registration process was easy & was handled beautifully."

This year's conference features a packed day-long program on Saturday, July 18, as well as an optional Friday night program. A two-day pass to the conference costs $75 for Quilt Alliance members and $90 for non-members (annual membership starts at $25/year). One-day passes are also available, as well as packages that include a fundraising dinner on Saturday evening.

A ticket to Friday evening's program includes a welcome mixer with appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks, a preview of the Sacred Threads exhibition, and an exciting night of video previews and a special presentation of the work of Donna Sue Groves, founder of the first Quilt Barn Trail in Adams County, Ohio. Filmmaker Julianne Donofrio will preview her film, Pieced Together and answer questions about how she put together funding for this documentary about "How quilt square trails changed America - and saved Donna Sue's life after job loss and breast cancer."
Admission to Saturday's full day program includes coffee and danish breakfast, a boxed lunch, and a full day of workshops, discussions and informal networking sessions on oral history and documentation techniques, challenges and successes. Conference registration includes one-day admission to Sacred Threads, an international exhibition of quilts exploring themes of spirituality, joy, inspiration, peace/brotherhood, grief and healing.
Marin Hanson will give the keynote address "One Hundred Good Wishes Quilts: Commemorating and Documenting Adoptions from China" about the tradition of American families making a special kind of quilt to celebrate and commemorate their children's adoption from China.
Shoshana (on left) and Anna (on right) Levin showing off their One Hundred Good Wishes Quilts made
by their mom, Michele Levin. Photo courtesy Michele Levin. 
Marin Hanson

 Marin Hanson is the Curator of Exhibitions at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSCM) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). She holds undergraduate degrees from Grinnell College and Northern Illinois University and earned her MA in museum studies and textile history with a quilt studies emphasis from UNL. Marin has served on the board of the Quilt Alliance since 2009.

Saturday's program will also include a panel discussion titled 
Using the Family Tree to Piece Together the Story of a Quilt. 
Panelists include Gloria Comstock, Michelle Flamer, Kyra Hicks, Mary Holton Robare and Mary Worrall.
The Alliance's newest video oral history project, Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! as well as the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project (launched in 1999), will also be demonstrated. Quiltmakers whose work will appear in the Sacred Threads Exhibition will be interviewed for this short-format video documentation project during the lunch break.

Conference attendees will choose two workshops from the following topics:
  • Self-Publishing for Quilters with Kyra Hicks.
  • Label It. Today! with Leslie Tucker Jenison and Michele Muska.
  • Create Your Own Adventure: Using the Q.S.O.S. Project Database with Christine Humphrey
  • How to Conduct Q.S.O.S. Interviews with Pauline Macaulay and Emma Parker 
  • Untapping the records and resources of the Quilt Index with Mary Worrall
The conference will close on Saturday evening with a dinner to honor outgoing Quilt Alliance president Meg Cox at Amphora Diner Deluxe in Herndon. Meg will share both the story of her life with quilts and some of the most meaningful quilts in her collection, like the one pictured below made by Meg's mother, Jo Cox. 
Quilt Alliance President Meg Cox

Those unable to make the trip to Herndon for the Not Fade Away conference can attend virtually by purchasing a Not Fade Away Home Ticket, which will provide them with online access to video footage of the event after the conference closes. The cost of a Home Ticket is $15 for Quilt Alliance members and $20 for non-members.

Discounts for groups of ten or more are available. Contact Debby Josephs for more information at or 828-251-7073.

Not Fade Away attendees can also take advantage of a Museum Bus Tour on Friday, July 17 (9:00 am - 5:00 pm). The tour will stop at three museums, and participants will get to see special exhibits at each, including the DAR Museum's "Eye on Elegance" show. This trip is offered by Sacred Threads and tickets are $75/person. Information and ticket sales for the bus tour can be found here:

The Not Fade Away conference is made possible by support from these generous sponsors:
Sacred Threads logo

Seating for the conference is limited so early registration is encouraged. Not Fade Away conference details and online registration can be found on the Quilt Alliance website here:  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Finding Artistic Balance Between Competence and Growth


I know I haven't written in a while.  I was away for two weeks in May studying at the Crow Timber Frame Barn.  Now that I am home I am working hard to empty my studio in preparation for some construction work.  More on that later....

I've been thinking about the yin/yang of working as an artist:  finding a balance between competence and comfort with a certain working style versus the need/desire to push outside of that style and deliberately challenge oneself in a new way.   Am I alone in thinking about this?  I've been feeling it for a couple of years.
It may have started when I found myself attracted to the idea of making larger work again.  I think my love for the Gee's Bend quilts coupled with the Modern Quilt movement got it going.  How can I combine my love of surface design with all this?  Where might it take me?
Interestingly, there are many people who were not terribly supportive of my plan to take this little side-trip in my work.  Why was I doing this?  What do I hope to accomplish?  What about my "other" work?
Well, what about it?
Does this exploration mean I'm abandoning the "art quilt"?
I'm writing this stuff because I wonder if I'm alone out there in these things.
Look, maybe I do have a split personality when it comes to the work I do.  I'm very comfortable with that.  I guess I must have a multiple personality disorder if we take painting and mixed media into account.
When it comes to quilts, I began as a traditional quilt maker.  I'm reminded of this as I clean out my studio to prepare for a major remodel of my wet space.  I'm finding many "artifacts" from my earlier work!  Not very prolific early on due to professional and family responsibilities, I began producing more work about 12 years ago when my family responsibilities changed.  Coupled with my passion for mark-making with dye and paint it seemed a natural fit to make art quilts.
Frankly, it still does.
I know that my work will not evolve unless I am in my studio making art a regular practice.  There is no substitute for just "doing the work": it is how the work evolves.  I have interests other than my textile work, but there is no question that the textile/surface design/quiltmaking work is the main focus of my artistic intent.  I love to paint, embroider, and do encaustic work (such a parallel to surface design work on cloth!).
 I had a desire to explore new territory in my quilt work.  I tell people I like to "poke a stick at myself" to see what shakes out.
I've been doing two new things this year:  I'm studying with Nancy Crow and I am trying to learn how to use a longarm machine.  So far both are challenging, and in a good way.
Here I am begin my critique, held at the end of week 2 in May.  I am pictured with a portion of the 
work I generated while there.  I worked very hard and put in long hours, as did all my fellow workshop participants.

In working with Nancy I am learning about figure and ground.  I'm beginning to view my improvisational freehand rotary cutting as my new form of line drawing.  I'm learning a new way to work with value as it relates to color.  I really can't explain how exciting all this is for me!

And then there is the longarm learning curve.....!
Loading my first "solo" quilt on the Bernina Q24 longarm machine...

Some of my free motion quilting.

With the longarm I am learning an entirely new set of muscle memory.  I hope to become halfway competent at it because, as stated earlier, I am working larger.   I am weary of pushing large quilts through a domestic sewing machine.  I've done it many times, but my body is starting to resist the idea of it.  Since the quilt line is truly the third design element in this wonderful medium it seems to me that I should work to master a larger machine format.  I continue to hope that my million hours of free-motion quilting will work to my advantage as I surf this new learning curve.

These are my two newest artistic challenges.  I do not mean to imply that I have mastered my other artistic pursuits:  most of them continue to humble me on a regular basis!

I am interested in hearing what my reader have to say about this.  If you have a few minutes to comment, I'm "all ears".

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Colorful Fabric Collage! Come play inside Sue Bleiweiss' new book!

When Sue Bleiweiss invited me to be a contributing artist in her new book I jumped at the opportunity to participate.  First, I like and respect Sue as an artist and author.  Second, I love to use fusible, and when I say fusible I am ONLY referring to Mistyfuse because it is the only kind I use!  It works beautifully on a wide variety of quilt and mixed media projects.  I love using Mistyfuse on both cloth and paper!  I work with silk organza a great deal.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING will allow your sheers to look like they are supposed to:  transparent and with a lovely non-stiff hand, like Mistyfuse.

For my project in the book, a small piece called "Labels", I opted to use silk organza, a wool-blend felt for the substrate, and a wide variety of clothing labels.  I wanted to show how much fun it can be to work with silk organza (in this case, a piece of my hand-dyed) as the layering possibilities are endless.  I discovered how cool it is to cut two different shapes from (as it turns out) two different die cutting systems and create an entirely new look.

First, I pressed the felt, organza, and the clothing labels so they were as crease-free as possible.  
I applied Mistyfuse to the surface of the felt and the "wrong side" of the organza by placing a Goddess Sheet under and over the surfaces of each.  

Note:  This is one of the two places I use rechargeable electric scissors:
Cutting Mistyfuse off the roll is a breeze with these, especially when working with organza.
Organza tends to have a great deal of static electricity.

Once the felt piece was cool, I cut a second piece of Mistyfuse and overlaid it on the surface of the felt but did not fuse it.  With certain items I have discovered that a second piece fused to the first will often assist in containing things that are errant and loose, such as these wonky clothing labels.  The labels do NOT want to play nice, so the second layer of the Mistyfuse makes it mind better!

I took the organza and cut the Ricky Tims shape from my Accuquilt Go! cutter, the layered it onto the remaining uncut piece of organza.  This double layer of fused organza was then cut with the dress shape on the Big Shot cutter.  Magical!

Note:  I prefer laying the organza over the cutter so that the fusible side is facing up but it isn't 
necessary.  The main thing to remember if you are cutting more than one fused layer is to "stack" your pieces so the fusible sides are always separated.  They can get stuck together a bit and it will cause you a bit more work!

This die-cut piece is then overlaid onto the remaining piece of organza and fused.

The double-layered piece is then positioned over the dress die 
and run through the Sizzix cutter.


I carefully placed the labels in some sort of closely organized mosaic over the surface of the felt (remember I have a loose layer of Mistyfuse there).  Once I have it the way I want it I fused it to the surface.  

Then I placed the dress in position and fused it.  One of the best parts about the organza is the layered transparency.  I love being able to see the clothing labels through the dress.  So much fun!

The original piece was very closely quilted in rows using my dual-feed on the Bernina 750QE.  

The book is available on amazon:

and here's the interweave website link:

Please be sure to stop by all the other blogs on this hop and leave a comment to be eligible for the giveaway!
May 4: Sue Bleiweiss:
May 4: Jamie Fingal :
May 5: Leslie Tucker Jenison:
May 6: Terri Stegmiller :
May 7: Deborah Boschert :
May 8: Desiree Habicht :
May 9: Kathy Sperino :
May 10: Barb Forrister :
May 11 Kathy York :
May 12: Lyric Kinard :