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.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Peek Into My Process -- Conversations

I'm delighted to share a new art quilt just finished! It's likely my last completion of 2018. (I'll be working on other things in December, but I don't think I'll finish them.)

Conversations, 40x40"

Would you like to see some photos of my process?

I started when I got a wild idea to make something new to enter in Quilt Con. I am a member of the Dallas Modern Quilt Guild and I think the MQG is doing lots of interesting and exciting things. I really love being a member even though I'm not sure what I create is *modern* I think there is some cross-over in what I do and what is typically thought of as the *modern* aesthetic.

I started by choosing these three fabrics as inspiration. (I didn't end up using the leaf print.)

Plus, this photo of the tree at the end of my alley. I see it every day but have only begun to appreciate its beauty. This image is cropped and edited to highlight that wonderful silhouette.

At QuiltCon, all quilts less than 36" on any side go in one big "small quilts" category. I didn't want to be lumped into a category that could have tons of variety. I wanted to enter the applique category, so that meant the quilt had to be bigger than 36 inches. I opted to make a 40x40 inch square.

That helped me plan the size of the tree which I blew up using the excellent online application Rasterbator.

I printed out the pages and taped them together.

Then traced the tree onto parchment paper with a pencil.

Then transferred the drawing to pre-fused brown fabric.

Then I cut it out with tiny scissors. Tedious. Someone on Instagram asked if I used a digital cutter. Nope -- just good old scissors. I don't think a digital cutter could cut a tree this big anyway. Actually, I made it even more tedious by preserving the negative cut-out which I could use in another quilt.

Then I spent a few days at the design wall trying different compositions and fabrics. That low volume background is a nod to the modern aesthetic, but it's still me.

I settled on the blackish batik for the top arch, but that meant the bottom gray panel would need to be much lighter. I didn't have any light gray, so I had to make a trip to the fabric store. You can see I had a slightly lighter gray as pictured here, but not light enough.

Aha. Better. I filled that light gray panel with handwriting. (Actually, I'd already filled the darker gray panel with handwriting, so that's now in my stash for another project.)

Here's everything all flat and fused the batting. You probably wouldn't even notice, but I felt like the tree was a tiny bit unbalanced on the left, so I added one extra sprig. You may be able to see the difference if you scroll up to the earlier versions.

I knew I wanted to add a hand embroidered outline of a chair. I was originally planning just one chair. All my chair quilts are just single chairs. But obviously, this strongly symmetrical composition could accommodate two chairs.

I chose two Ikea chairs and fiddled with the size to make them fit under the tree. It was important to choose different -- and yet similar -- chairs.

Those chairs got traced onto freezer paper and ironed onto the quilt to act as a pattern to stitch around. This method is safer than using some kind of transfer pen.

I also added some scattered embroidered stars at the top.

Then I thought about adding more embroidery. My beloved Y stitches? Ultimately, I decided it didn't need anything else. Modern quilts are often minimalist. But then I needed to decide how to quilt it. That was really hard. I sketched some ideas. I rejected all of them.

Eventually, I decided I should start by quilting the branches of the tree. That meant I had to sketch them. Not my favorite task or a skill I feel particularly good about. I worked and re-worked the sketch using parchment paper so I could see all the little spaces I'd want the branches to fill.

Then I pinned the parchment paper to the quilt and free motion quilted following the lines. Then peeled off the parchment paper. (Another tedious task.)

Then I struggled with how to quilt the rest of the quilt. I decided on parallel lines following the arch. This kind of linear quilting is often seen in modern quilts. It was also tedious because I chose to start and stop at each little cluster of stars. Generally, I don't like machine quilting to cross over hand embroidery.

I considered more linear quilting for the bottom half of the quilt but decided on my favorite leafy motif instead. I especially like how these leafy vines nestle around the chairs.

Ta Da! Mostly done... but wait, still needs a binding. I did a fused binding, mostly matching the body of the quilt. Here's that overall shot again.

I sent off my entry today. From start to finish it took about 12 days. Not full-time days, but several hours. I really enjoyed the whole process and I'm delighted by the results. Here's the statement I included with my entry.

This silhouette is based on a tree at the end of my alley. I set it in a neutral composition and thought about conversations that might occur while sitting under it. The handwriting on the bottom panel represents all the stories and ideas we need to share with each other. It’s intended to be illegible so viewers can envision their own narratives. The combination of a variety of fabrics, frayed edges, irregular shapes, and scattered stitches reminds me of the complicated conversations that may happen between night and day, dark and light, or beginnings and endings.


Read more about the process of developing your own creative voice and creating art that is distinctly *you* even while considering other aesthetic styles in my workbook Head, Heart and Hands: Developing Your Creative Voice.