The creative and spiritual journey of a (textile) recycler. . .

I have thought about starting a blog for a long time now. I just couldn’t seem to get started. I thought. . what would I say, what would I do and really . . . . . who would care.

Last year I had the great fortune to witness a ‘happening’. As a spouse at a reunion (I know, groan) I was both an observer and participant. This reunion was attended by some of the most creative and talented people on the face of the planet. Really, no exaggeration! But many were holding onto life long insecurities. They didn’t think they were talented enough and embarrassed to perform in front of each other for fear of . . who knows . . . finger pointing, whispers, laughter, ridicule of some sort for sure. Once it was revealed that many shared the same feelings, the healing began. And I was the lucky one. I got to witness it all and benefit as well.

So, the message is that we all think we are not good enough compared to someone else, but we are. Don’t let your fears and insecurities stop you. We can’t measure our own success by someone else’s talents.

This revelation and the kindness / support of strangers has propelled my creative journey to a place I had given up ever getting to. Tho I thought my creative juices were dried up forever, they have merely been reawakened. Many thanks to all involved in my process, including in-part . . Victoria B, Mrs. W., Charles Mc., Claudia H, Mary B, Cindy G, Sandy B, Traci B., Kat C, and my IAA family. So, thank you. I dedicate this blog to all of you!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Twelve by Twelve Art Quilts

Image my surprise! Quilters are making small quilts and writing books about it too! I've been making quilts that size for years now! Sometime last year I learned that a group of quilters got together and focused their attention on making 12 x 12 art quilts. Then a book had been published to chronicle their journey and show some how-tos! Nice. I got there by crazy evolution. I wonder how it happened for them.

Decades ago I started making bed quilts, just like the rest of us. I finished a bunch and gave them away. As I continued making the tops I ended up with tons of tops, but no bottoms. They never seemed to get finished. Why? I don't or didn't know at the time. I guess it was too overwhelming. And let's face it, unless you can dedicate time on a regular basis, it's going to take forever. At least in my world. Oh, yah, did I mention that every inch, every stitch was done by hand. So you see the problem.

I left quilt making for a few decades. Not enough quick gratification. And, when I went outside the box and made up my own patterns and used crazy wild color combinations, well, people looked ascance at me. Back then it mattered. Tho I did press on, I didn't show anyone what I was doing. Then eventually stopped altogether. When I started again, the thought of bed quilts made me want to gag. I knew deep down they'd never get done but again, pressed forward. I was drawn to work with fabric, so there I was again right back in it. And of course, my 'stash' and unfinished quilts moved with me everytime I moved. It all just seemed to stare at me and draw me closer like the devil beckoning.

Itching to start up again, I thought, well lap quilts may have a better shot at finding homes and less likely to be stashed with the larger unfinished tops. So, I began making tons of lap quilts. . . tops that is. Why didn't they get finished. Well, I had trouble getting them under the harp of the machine and all hand sewing was now off the table. Age was creeping up on me and eyesight and time was becoming a factor. So it was sewing machine only and the opening of my machine was just too small. Geez, now what do I do. I'll keep making tops till I figure it out.

Well the answer finally came to me. . and in my usual fashion . . . by accident. I began making smalllish practice pieces late at night when I couldn't sleep. I found that the size was so much easier and it was becoming a pleasure to do it. So I began officially making 12 x 12 inch quilts. They actually got done. .  every single time! I began to really enjoy the process from start to finish. Prior to that I liked the piecing and design that went into creating the top, but shuttered at the thought of actually quilting it. 

So 12 x 12 inches was perfect. I guess the ladies from the "Twelve by Twelve, The International Art Quilt Challenge" thought so too. If you make small art quilts or want to get started, you must get this book.   

* * *

Twelve by Twelve examines the two-year-long international collaboration between twelve art quilters, during which they created a total of 144 quilts based on twelve different themes. Not only does the book showcase the quilts themselves--a feature quilt from each theme receives an in-depth chapter, written by one of the quilters--it also examines the dynamics of developing a vibrant online community of artists. The result is a very personal and unique blend of technique-based text and discussions on challenge, collaboration, and inspiration.
For more inspiration, check out their blog:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

UPDATE: How is YOUR creative compass?

Kathy Zasuwa sent me some photos of her work which I have added to the Tue, Jan 10 blog post. If you have already read it, it's well worth going back to see the photos. Her work is fabulous! Thanks Kathy!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Remember . .

 . . . comments are welcome. This is my journey but I am sharing it with you. So, if you feel moved to comment, or share, or start a conversation, please feel free to. . .

Another new challenge

Well, here I go again. Challenging myself. Wow. I better stop doing this. Just had to one more time (I keep telling myself). I think this is a really valuable challenge for anyone who wants to learn free motion quilting or just to be forced to sit down and practice. 

When I first tried free motion, everyone was doing it. And doing it very well. Me. Well, I just kept breaking needles. I couldn't get the hang of it. I'd sew about an inch or so, and bam. . . a broken needle. I'd try again, modifying my foot, hand and eye coordination, but nope. . . bam. . . another broken needle to add to the growing collection. So what would a normal red blooded quilter do? Yep, I gave up. 

Then I started trying again, but not too often. It was too depressing and frustrating. But, a few years into to it, I had an epiphany. It came with some help from a few wonderful gals and I was off and running. 

So when the notice of this challenge popped up in my email, I was all over it. I can sharpen my skills for sure. And it's just one per month. That's twelve folks! Not like my other challenge. That is one per week! And let's not even mention the self imposed challenges I have going on. So this should be a breeze.

The first tutorial is by Frances Moore. Here is my entry. I know that everyone doing this challenge will be showing samples of perfection. Not me. It is not important to me that it be perfect, but that I experiment with the possibilities of how to use the pattern given. So you will see that starting on the left, the leaves look plain and normal as shown in the tutorial. I then transitioned to the alternate sample which was the circle inside the leaf. I just wanted to fill the 'page' with leaves and see how well I could back myself into or out of a corner. I think I did ok.

This challenge is open to anyone. To learn more or sign up here is the link:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Weekly Quilt Journal Project: week 11

I've really been getting into quilting faces for a while now. In fact, I've had a thing for faces forever. I used to doodle them as a kid, bought and sold face jewelry when I had my store, and have always been drawn to any kind of images with faces. They have character. Some are old, some are young. Some have lots of lines and wrinkles, and others are full and chubby. They all have their own unique personality. Faces intrigue me. Ok, so enough of that. 

This newest piece is another young lady very close to my heart. I came across the photo and thought it was time to find some fabric to bring her to life. Her expression says a lot don't you think.

On this blog, I have been revealing patterns in my life. So here is yet another emerging pattern. . . I have tons of fabric but never the 'perfect' piece when I need it. As was the case with this face. I auditioned lots of fabric and ended up with a piece that needed to be tweaked. So I painted and stamped a soft design on the mottled light pink fabric and proceeded to build the face. . . Another emerging pattern. . . this started off heading in one direction but ended in another altogether. That happens so often. I am learning to listen to the piece. It always talks to me and tells me what direction to go. But of course, there have been times, many actually, when I've tried to fight it. But it's never right and it haunts me. When I listen to my inner voice and do what the quilt is telling me to, happily it all works out.

Creating art as a kid and into adulthood I was always told that everything had to be realistic and perfect. I didn't always like to do it that way, but alas. . . I also struggled with not doing as I was told. So I did. I was drawn to Picasso, Miro, Dali amongst many others. Was THEIR work realistic and perfect? No. So why did mine have to be. I didn't get it. It's taken me a lot of years to figure out that I was duped and still trying to undo the damage.

So, back to the quilt, for the background I chose some fabric that was stamped with one of my own silkscreen designs and didn't like it. I  like the design but the paint seems globby, runny, messy. . . something wasn't so hot. So I tossed it in the failure pile. Just shows you that you never know. I say that out loud all the time. In fact, I preach it. Now it is proven reality. Nothing is a failure!

After finding the rest of the bits and pieces I needed to put it all together, along with a suitable backing, I began to fuse, cut and stitch. I like using the black thread as an outline. So, following my photo reference, I stitched the shadows in black. And voila!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Always be prepared for the unexpected

A few days ago I ran into my friend Dawn. She is a very sweet and very talented lady. 'Good people' as we like to say. At our chance meeting, she invited me to an impromptu knitting group get-together the following day. Rats! I'm not a knitter. I tried it when I was much younger. I just never got into it and my stitch tension was so uneven that I gave up. I knew it was a lost cause. A shame, because my mother could knit so beautifully that her clothing looked manufactured. It was amazing. She was amazing. However, I was an avid and prolific crocheter as a kid. I learned that very quickly and easily and even sold hand crocheted items to various stores and had numerous individual clients. But, I was so deeply ingrained in sewing that it didn't matter to me to not be good at knitting. So, no knitting for me. But Dawn, being the sweetheart that she is, told me to come anyway.

So, here's proof that I follow my own advice. I went. This informal get together consisted of a great support system of creative women, knitters in this case, who help each other with problems they are having or an opportunity to share whatever. . . new yarns, resources or working with different needles . . . whatever . . even new puppies! Cool. I like that. As everyone began pulling out their work, it was obvious that I was not 'one of them'. I made my apologies for being a fiber artist/quilter and the ladies laughed. They told me that it was ok and welcomed me into the fold instantly. So much so, that the time sped by. I felt like I just sat down, but no, now it was time to go. At the end, I was invited to join them again.

Why is this significant? Well, I always advocate pushing your own boundaries and being around other creative types even if the medium is different from your own. It is surprisingly amazing how much overlap there is or how with a bit of thought and exploration you can apply techniques, supplies, etc from one discipline to another. And sometimes it's just the push we need to get out of our comfort zone. Overcome the obstacles that block us and create new pathways for creativity.

So what did I do while I was there? Well, in addition to not knitting, I'm also not a hand stitcher like embroidery, needlepoint, etc. I did all that 'back in the day' and had moved away from it long ago. But, I needed something to take with. What was I going to do, just sit and watch people knit?? I thought about it and really had nothing to take, so I took one of my own images, screened it onto a piece of fabric, grabbed a wad of embroidery floss, needles, scissors and a hoop that I keep as a 'just in case' sort of thing. Without any thought I just started adding the floss here and there. I find that I often do something interesting and out of my box when I'm doing it on the fly. And this was surely on the fly! Other than making the fabric piece the day before, with a matter of 5 minutes till departure, I ran around, grabbed random things which I described above and hoped I could make some thing happen. I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, but I think I like the direction I'm going. The photo at the right is just a small detail of a much larger piece.

So again, be open to opportunities that pop up. Ready for them or not, take a deep breath, say yes and muddle your way thru it. You'll be amazed at what comes out of it! Not to mention the new friendships and creative partnerships that are born.

Here is Dawn on the left. She is modeling the lovely continuous or Mobius scarf that she finished. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Trash to Treasure!

Today I was on my way home from running some errands and I was stopped in my tracks. I was in the car, but you know what I mean. The heavens opened up, I heard angels singing . . . well, it was really Marc Anthony . .  but anyway . . there was a bright beam of light that drew my attention directly to something. It was by the side of the road and calling my name. I looked around to see if anyone was going to run over and burst my bubble. There wasn't a soul around. I could not believe my good fortune!

It was there, innocently waiting for the garbage collectors to come and grind it up and toss it in some landfill somewhere. Apparently the homeowner had dismantled a bench or some yard thing and just cavalierly tossed it by the road side. What was sitting with it was a huge pile of PVC tubes which were obviously part of the yard thingy. As much as I would have loved the yard thing, there was no way it would fit in my car and worse yet, how could I justify dragging it home. It would be like a beloved pet dragging home it's latest kill trophy. Nope, wasn't gonna happen. But, the pipes. Oh yah, they were all mine!

I know it seems silly to be so excited about some silly old and dirty pipes, but remember, I posted with great excitement about the piece of cardboard that a friend gave me. I still treasure it, too. So, this makes more sense now doesn't it. I have big plans for those pipes.

Can you guess what I'm going to do with them??

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How is YOUR creative compass?

I went to a lecture today about creativity not knowing what to expect. There was a good chance it was going to be a lot of blah, blah, blah, heady, boring, esoteric kind of stuff. I couldn't really tell from the description. I was somewhat skeptical, but I decided to give it a shot. I'm so glad I did. The guest lecturer was Kathy Kasuwa, a very credentialed and talented fiber artist.

Title: Hidden Garden (11” x 8”)
Kathy explained that after doing decades of studying and research, she has devised a moving wheel similar to a color wheel for artists. Her wheel is designed to help unblock your creativity! Yeah Kathy! Who can't use that. We all get blocked. I know all too well. It happens to me all the time. As I have said before, often times I have so many ideas for projects or experiments that I just can't seem to get started. They make sense in my head but who knows because I can't get out of my own way to try them out. I go thru periods where I am bombarded day and night. I can't shut if off. It actually keeps me awake all night. I scribble notes and sketches in sketchbooks, but still, there are so many ideas rolling around in there. It's paralyzing. I can't seem to just pick one and start working on it. I don't agonize over it. I just feel paralyzed. Most of the time I'll turn to something unfinished to divert my attention and help to ignore the thoughts. It's good. I stop the brain noise and get something completed. It's a win-win. But. .  then the noise starts right back up again. Happily tho, it generally gives me the relief I need. Now I can keep the momentum going and pull out an idea and go to work. Even better, sometimes I start 3 or 4 pieces at once. Pretty smart huh. I know how to trick myself!

Anyway, back to Kathy, she talked about left brain and right brain and how and why we get blocked for so many reasons. Sometimes for not feeling worthy or sometimes fear of failure or the myriad of other negative speak that we all have. Being able to be introspective and learn who we are and what makes us tick really helps our forward movement.

Title: Flight of Fancy (14” x 11”)
Everything she said reinforced what I have felt and said for years. She just has a more scientific and succinct way of saying it. I liked it. The audience was into it too. This was a very creative and talented group and they were riveted. That's always a good sign.

Kathy and I agree that you don't have to be educated in art to be creative. You don't have to have a degree in art to be creative. You just need to have the desire and a starting point. As we all age, we evolve. . . in many ways. Creativity is just one of them. You will find as I did, that you will move quickly from your starting point to a place you really want to be. I had to get some ideas and experience under my belt and build on my old skills with new ones. As I did that new ideas and areas of interest opened up to me. I was invited into groups or just joined some without knowing anyone. . So, I evolved. I went from being too shy to say much to anyone and never showing my work, convinced that it wasn't good enough and didn't measure up to everyone elses, to jumping right in the conversation and more readily showing what I've done. I still hold back on that a bit, but not because I care if anyone else likes my work. Now it's just important that I feel good about it. Knowing it's the best you can do at the time is a peaceful place to be. I went from thinking that I was creating work to get accolades from others and that would validate my day to day existence, to creating work to please myself. If others like it I am thrilled. If they don't, I understand that it is not personal but personal taste.

So what I took away from this lecture is this:
  • Prepare yourself. Gather your thoughts and ideas for what to do next. If it doesn't come to you right away, don't worry about it. There's no pressure.
  • Choose how you would like to move forward. Don't let obstacles get in your way.
  • Feel the excitement for what you are about to do and jump right in. Enjoy the process.
  • Then create it and show it off!
This post does not scratch the surface of what Kathy talked about today. I strongly suggest that if you have an opportunity to see her work, attend a lecture or workshop that you do it. She is a lovely person, very accessible and just oozes talent that seems so effortless. Oh, did I mention that the work she brought to show was spectacular? Well it was. She is going to send me some images that I can share with you as well as create a website herself. So keep coming back for more info about Kathy Zasuwa. I know you will fall in love with every single piece of her work . . . I did.

 Below are 2 images of Kathy's weaving:
Title: Bridges & Ladders (68” x 57”)
Supplemental warp & weft inlay
copper, wool, silk, cotton, rayon, metallic
Title: Sea Sway (20” x 48”)
Supplemental warp & weft inlay
wool, silk, metallic, rayon, cotton

All images are copyrighted © by Kathy Zasuwa.

Friday, January 6, 2012