Saturday, June 01, 2019

Treelines Art Quilt -- The Whole Process

My family and I took a wonderful trip to the Netherlands last summer. One of my favorite things was the bus ride from Amsterdam out into the countryside. I was entranced by the lines of trees. 

I've zoomed in and cropped this picture so it's blurry, but you get the idea. 

Here's another. The cows too!

This was the beginning of my inspiration for a new art quilt collage. Another bit of inspiration was my desire to enter the "large appliqué" category at the Quilters Guild of Dallas annual show which requires quilts be at least 72 inches on one side, but not all sides. Aha. I could made a long narrow landscape design. I took those two parameters and got to work on some sketches.

I put some strips of fabric up on the design wall.

I tried some other fabrics and began cutting strips of trees including big round trees #1 in blue.

Then I tried some other fabrics and cut some more trees including big round trees #2 in aqua.

I knew I wanted to break up the trees with a wide house-like shape similar to the barn in the top photograph. This would be a great place to incorporate some handwriting as a surface design pattern. I tested some pens and colors.

 The writing is intentionally illegible, but I think it was mostly stream-of-thought about our time in the Netherlands.

With the addition of the green barn and big round trees #3 in red, I eventually arrived here.

There are lots of problems with contrast in this composition which meant I needed to shop for some alternatives. I brought swatches with me.

After lots of time at the design wall, the dining room table and the ironing board, I was able to move forward and began adding strips within each layer that were similar in color, but different fabrics and patterns.

One of the pieces I wanted to add was this lovely green pointy print.

But I only had a tiny bit. I sent a desperate text to Kristin LaFlamme and this yardage arrived a few days later. Yeah!

By this point, I was growing weary of working on something so wide. Because all those strips go all the way from left to right, it was tricky to move them around, get them fused together and keep everything aligned. That's part of the challenge of working with an improvisational collage technique. But I can't imagine doing it any other way.

I wanted to break up the wide strip of red on the bottom and remembered the grasses growing along the roadside in the Netherlands.

Ta Da... grasses. 

At this point, I decided it needed something else. My work is all about layering fabric, paint and stitching and this piece did not have as much paint as it could have. I mean, there's already a lot going on, but sometimes more is more.

I sketched some possible motifs to create a foam stamp.

It's a little scary to add stamped painted patterns on top of the finished fused top but I did it. I didn't take any pictures of the process though. You can see the green leafy shape in the foreground as I'm fusing the entire quilt to batting on the dining room table.

The finished fused top. Can you believe how many steps it takes to get here?! I'm glad I added the green stamped leafy motif. It visually ties the layers together.

The sun-like shape in the sky strip is a pattern I created using a hot-glue gun stencil. I wrote about this technique for Quilting Arts magazine.

I printed several copies of the quilt and began planing the stitching.

I knew the green house needed something. Eventually I decided on a ghost tree silhouette.

I created the tree pattern using freezer paper that I ironed to the top to stitch around. I sometimes like this method better than marking the design on the quilt top. Yes, the freezer paper peels off eventually, but it's easily reattached. Pins helped the process too.

After finishing the hand embroidery, I fused on a backing and added free motion machine quilting.

It did hang in the Dallas Quilt Show in the large appliqué category!

I am also delighted to say that it has been juried into an upcoming Studio Art Quilt Associates global exhibition called Connecting Our Natural Worlds which will premier at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum in Tuscon, AZ in October.

I recently had Treelines and some of my other work professionally photographed.

Treelines, 30 x 80 inches

I love how the ghost tree silhouette turned out.

The yellow fabric with the blue raindrops was created using the rolling prints techniques I demo'ed in this video.

 See the tiny snippets of the black and white stripe? They are my suggestion of cows.

Thanks for scrolling through all those pictures! I hope you enjoyed a peek into my process.

Oh, by the way, the big round trees in blue and aqua and several of the other rejected trees from this project have already made their way into other quilts. Scroll through my Instagram and see if you can spot them. 

If you're intrigued by my process, you may enjoy my book Art Quilt Collage: A Creative Journey in Fabric, Paint and Stitch.

I've also created a workbook called Head, Heart and Hands: Developing Your Creative Voice which includes lots of ideas, inspiration and thoughts about how I arrived at my unique style and process.

Monday, December 31, 2018

12 Podcasts I Loved in 2018

My friend, Helen, recently asked for podcast recommendations on Facebook. As a heavy podcast user, I can't resist sharing some favorites. Here's my response.

  • For long-form interviews with creative people: WTF and How to Be Amazing. 
  • For short informative stories about unexpected stuff: Every Little Thing. (You can hear me ask about water chestnuts in the Help Line episode and read more about it here.)
  • For intriguing, insightful and well-reported stories about contemporary life related to the internet: Reply All and Endless Thread. 
  • For human interest related to African American culture: The Nod. 
  • For human interest related to LGBTQ communities: Nancy. 
  • For human interest related to mental health: The Hilarious World of Depression. 
  • For an absolutely incredible Broadway-style musical in three acts all in audio: 36 Questions. 
  • For a deep dive into true crime: Last Seen, Dirty John, Serial Season 1 -- and In the Dark (which I haven't listened to, but it's on my list and it's on my "best" lists this year). 
  • For an inspiring combination of science and storytelling: Invisibilia and Radio Lab.

It's a good overview, but I thought I'd expand on a few favorites from 2018. This list doesn't necessarily include my all-time favorites or my reliable must-listens. It's more a collection of unexpected brilliance that I found inspiring, informative and entertaining.

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Ear Hustle
Created by inmates in San Quentin state prisons, it offers an engaging view into the lives of an entirely marginalized population. The relationship between the co-hosts, an artist who volunteers at the prison and an inmate, is so warm and they are such talented, professional audio producers.

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Hilarious World of Depression
You know how everyone says that it's important that we talk about mental health more often? This does just that! It's honest, witty, informative -- plus sad yet hopeful. The interview with comedian Gary Gulman is quite devastating but so helpful to hear. The follow up with Gary from the year-end episode rounded out the season beautifully.

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This excellent podcast examines culture, race, economics, parenting, entrepreneurship, comedy and more -- all through the lens of food!

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Anthropocene Reviewed
In each episode, John Green writes and reads a stunningly complex (yet relatable) essay about two things in the world around us, then rates them. (The ratings are just a structure to bring the whole concept together.) My favorite is the episode about Kentucky Blue Grass and Googling Strangers. Warning: Weeping highly likely.

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I'm a big fan of marriage. In this podcast, host Jo Piazza interviews a married couple about their lives. Most have a notable event, challenge, or quality that has had a profound impact on their lives. Some are odd, unexpected or uncomfortable, but they're all honest. 

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The Dream
My son and I both listened to this whole series and loved discussing it together. It's a deep dive into MLMs (multi-level marketing, sometimes known as or perceived to be pyramid schemes). It's so complicated and probably controversial.

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The Habitat
Journalist and host Lynn Levy followed the story of six strangers living in an artificial Mars habitat for a whole year. It's a seven-episode series about the people, the science and the ups and downs of the whole experiment. Plus some wacky musical interludes.

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I'd say awkward discomfort is somewhat trendy right now. Host Jonathon Goldstein leans way into that weirdness. In each episode, he works with one person to try to get an answer to a nagging question about an experience, person or memory. Just listen. (But skip episodes #19 and #20 which treat people with challenging mental health issues with less sensitivity than I think appropriate.)

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Last Seen
I love a good heist movie! Last Seen is a deep dive into the biggest art theft in history. They cover every possible detail and talk to interesting experts. True crime podcasts are very popular, but most are about violent crimes, so this feels less tragic. (Not that it isn't tragic that these 13 paintings may never been seen again, but you know what I mean...)

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This podcast gets better and better. It explores all kinds of stories, questions, challenges and celebrations about queer culture.

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I would not have expected to like this podcast, but it's a delight. My son even agrees to listen when we're in the car together and he likes it too! Comedian and writer Michael Ian Black reads Jude the Obscure out loud and comments on it as he goes. I would never read this book by myself. I once tried to get through Tale of Two Cities, but failed. As he reads, Michael notes themes he's picking up, points out ridiculous characters or plot points, looks up words he doesn't know how to pronounce and makes predictions about what might happen to poor pathetic Jude. On some episodes, he invites friends or family members to discuss particular sections of the story. It's so listenable! Start at the beginning, or just jump in anywhere. He provides enough exposition that you'll easily catch up.

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Reply All
One of the things that makes me love a podcast is the host or hosts. I really like Alex and PJ. Reply All theoretically tells stories about things that happen on or through or because of the internet. Some episodes are light and funny. Some are well-reported and complex. I also really love the every-now-and-then segments Yes Yes No and Super Tech Support.

I hope these suggestions will bulk up your podcast library! Let me know what you think and which podcast you love that I should listen to.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

I've been in the studio! 2018 Art Quilt Collages

Here are all the quilts in made in 2018.

You can see my review of 2017 here and 2016 here.


Ever Arise Eventide, 44x40
I love this quilt-- the dramatic shape of that big blue tree, the interesting mix of fabrics and stitches in the foreground, the wavy contour quilting lines in the background, the offset purple stripe along the arch and the feeling of magical realism with the ladder. I'm delighted that it was sold to a collector.


Small Delights, 12x12
This was my SAQA Auction donation for 2018.

Rising, 8x6
Another SAQA auction donation, this one for the Spotlight event at the conference.

Hand Full of Wonder, 34x22
It was a delight to have an opportunity to make two art quilts for the release of Carrie Bloomston's fabric line, Wonder.

Hand Full of Flutter, 34x22
I also created my first fused applique art quilt pattern for these two quilts. That was an ambitious project and I learned so much from working through that challenge. Check it out.


Beagle and Lab, 12x12
A commission celebrating and remembering two precious pets.


Abundant, 6x4
A small art quilt collage donation for the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show.

Hope on the Hillside, 6x4
Another donation for the Sisters Outdoor Quilt show.

Lightly, 7x5
I only made one in my on-going "ready to frame" series of 7x5 art quilt collages. There are several more that are in various stages of completion.


This series was created to celebrate Melanie Testa's stunning new fabric line. See each individual piece below. Working with a limited selection of fabric allowed me to highlight hand embroidery in new ways.

Spring Sprout, 7x5

Graceful Greens, 7x5

Blushing Bud, 7x5

Rising Rose, 7x5

Floral Flutter, 7x5

Floral Fusion, 7x5


Shifting Shelter, 20x16
This is the featured artwork for the first article in my three part series for Quilting Arts magazine.

Glossary, 50x30
Another quilt that I am just thrilled with the outcome. It was created for the special exhibition curated by Dinner at Eight artists and premiered at International Quilt Festival. I'm delighted that it sold.


Brimming Bounty, 20x16
This is the featured artwork for the second in my three-part series for Quilting Arts magazine.


Kristin LaFlamme asked me to create four small art quilt collages with Carrie Bloomston's fabric line, Wonder for the new Montavilla Sewing in Lake Oswego, OR. I'll be teaching there in April.

Shine, 7x5

Grow, 7x5

Ride, 7x5

Soar, 7x5


Flourishing, 9 2/3 x 28
I haven't shared this yet. (I really should do a whole blog post with close ups so you can see all the texture.) I created this piece for the annual Dallas "art on the plaza" call for entries. I was awarded an honorable mention and the piece is now in the collection of the Catholic Foundation.


I created these five tiny pieces to make into stickers to give to my students in my workshop at the Hudson River Valley. (They're tiny and simple, but they count!) You can read about how I created the stickers here.

House sticker, 3x3

Stone sticker, 3x3

Chair sticker, 3x3

Bowl sticker, 3x3

Ladder sticker, 3x3


Pausing Pattern, 20x16
This is the featured art quilt in the third article in my Quilting Arts magazine series. I've edited it to black and white since isn't supposed to be revealed until the issue comes out in February. Shhh.


Conversations, 40x40
Another major work that I'm really pleased with. You can read about the process of creating this work here.


Flutter Home, 14x14
One last quilt made for the Quilting Arts challenge to be donated to people transitioning out of homelessness through Furnishing Hope.

A few statistics...

19 Small -- Less than 9" on all sides (38 last year)

7 Medium -- 9 to 30" on all sides (13 last year)

5 Large -- greater than 30" on any side (2 last year)

Total: 31
I made fewer overall, but more large works. I hope to continue that trend in 2019.