madhappycrafter

quilting, mosaicing, painting, and other adventures in making


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Dry Spell

Gosh, how did almost a month go by?! This title is no accident – it has been a dry, dry spring and summer – tinderbox dry. I don’t do well with hot and dry, being more of a winter Northwest rainy/ summer Northeast jungle creature. :)  Creatively, I’m feeling dry as well. This has not been a very productive time, but I guess summer never is; I’m too busy working, and tending my own garden. My internet and phone went down again, and I hurt my back a couple weeks ago and have taken it easy so that I don’t hurt it worse. Back injury seems to happen every July once I start dragging those heavy hoses around. I decided to hire out the watering parts of my jobs, but have not created anything “arty” in that time off… dove into some novels and cuddled with the cat instead!

I painted these little paintings in mid-June. Put them into a gallery. Hoping they will sell, but I need to make more, if I want to have a body of work there. I’m pretty rusty at painting but it sure is fun when I do it, however inconsistently!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I enjoy doing abstract art the most, but it’s good to know I can still fake something a bit more “realistic” if I have to!

I’ve been looking longingly at my fabric stash and wanting to get back to quilting! I gave my little Frida Kahlo quilt to my quilting mentor and friend. She’s such an amazing quilter and artist and if she likes it, I’m honored. And then there’s mosaicing – want to get back to that too!

Sorry my posting has been so infrequent. Will try to post more because it gets me thinking about creating, and feeling inspired.


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Internet Troubles – and a picture of an older work


Sorry for the lack of posts; been having modem troubles and haven’t consistently been able to access the internet. Here’s an image of a painting I did some years back that I particularly like. That doesn’t happen as often as I want it to – my really liking a painting – but then again, painting doesn’t happen nearly enough either. I long to be doing more painting! This painting is owned now by a friend; we traded art for services rendered. I think this is up there in my top 5 favorite paintings I have ever done.

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Why is this painting one of my favorites? That is harder to explain – it just “worked” – not without fear, experimentation, and revision, and the willingness to be lost or “ruin” it. Sometimes, magic simply happens, but that seems rare. More often I get lost, then find my way through somet obstacle. I know what I like – abstract art, simplicity, rich color, form, play of hard and soft edges, and most of all, feeling or emotion evoked. Generally, if I know it “works,” other people see it too.

I wonder if you have favorite things you have made, and if so, what are they, and why are they your favorites? How do they work – in what ways? What was the process? – because I believe that process is the fun of the journey.  But, of course, I am interested in “product” so that I can support my crafting habit with some occasional sales, LOL – so I’m curious to know what makes something work, and how I can make it happen more.

No answers here, but I think frequency and practice of your craft, whatever it is, opens doorways to more magic and going with a certain flow that lacks when one only does it occasionally. So what’s my excuse? How can I trick myself into doing more of what makes me happy, intrigued, excited, and sometimes exasperated – what makes me really come alive?

Would love to hear others’ thoughts on this topic – any part of it.


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Art postcards: what fun!

Been taking a once-a-month bookmaking class at the local Senior Center, where we are learning to make a book with pockets. We have a great teacher – John – he is enthusiastic, creative, generous with his amazingly cool array of materials and use of tools, and he’s loads of fun! We segued into making art postcards for each other (which conveniently fit into the pockets of our books.) I mailed mine out yesterday and so far, have received 5 from John and some other wonderfully creative people. I love it!

At first, I was skeptical. Was I was crazy for adding another distraction, keeping me from “real art?” (whatever I think THAT is! Did i read my last blog post that someone automatically wrote in a trance?) Why would I make “arty” books.? But that was before John, our fearless leader. Mailing, and receiving, these postcards has helped me rediscover my love for the United States Postal Service. It’s fun to give, and get, REAL mail –  Arty mail.

Here’s what my book looks like (all the books looked GREAT).  Here’s a picture of the front cover, then one of the book opened to reveal a few pockets, containing some of the FAB postcards I received:

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This is one of the postcards I didn’t (yet) send.

Through John’s delightful tutelage, I’m reminded that art for art’s sake – or rather, play/fooling around, for the sake of play – is FUN, stress-reducing, and entertaining.  And to my mind, it’s necessary. We human animals are designed for PLAY. It’s good to get lost and not know where you’re going, and find your way through the colored paint splatters and glitter. Who needs a TV?

Happy Crafting – Just for the fun of it.


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If Art Requires Craft, Then Why Isn’t Craft Considered Art?

That’s a question that has been in my mind for many years. I think art and craft are both “Art.” Art making requires Craft, developing one’s skills; just as “crafting” does.

Art is Making; plain and simple – whether you make a movie, a cake, a basket, a painting, a dance, or a garden. The one requirement for art that I think has been forgotten in our schools and in our culture is the “process” part of it – the joy of making for making. We teach our kids to be product-oriented. This is a grave injustice and disservice to our kids and to Life.

Necessity deems often that we “make do,” and from that comes creativity. Why else would we have the great phrase, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention?” We can still use our Artistry and enjoy this process of Making, to create, say, a finely crafted sweater or a soft blanket. We can make a bowl that is beautiful because human hands touched and shaped it. It can be fine or humble; on matter. It will feel good to touch it. Art involves and engages the senses. Art is sensate.

Where did things get convoluted? What makes a mosaic any less “art” than a painting? Why are so-called “crafts” not taken seriously as, say, “wall art” or “fine art?”

Here are some definitions from Dictionary.com, the first dictionary I came to when typing in the words “fine art.”  I removed all definitions not pertaining to our subject of Art – specifically, Visual Art, and Craft. I highlighted things in each definition that seem arbitrary, and italicized my questions and responses to those things.

fine art

[fahyn] 

noun

a visual art considered to have been created primarily for aesthetic purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness, specifically, painting, sculpture, drawing, watercolor, graphics, and architecture.  (considered by whom, and by whose criteria? does this mean not designed for function or use? Why can’t both function and aesthetics apply? SO… this leaves out all functional work, now relegated to a “lower,” or “ordinary” category of value and termed “craft?” But when I look at the definition of “craft” it doesn’t mention ordinariness or lesser value or meaning.)

craft

[kraft, krahft] Show IPA

noun, plural crafts or for 5, 8, craft.

1. an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill: the craft of a mason. (Art requires manual skill – even computer art!)
2. skill; dexterity: The silversmith worked with great craft. (Skill and dexterity are also required in visual art and physical arts such as dance, acrobatics, magic tricks)
3. n/a
4. the members of a trade or profession collectively; a guild.
5. a ship or other vessel. (which requires Craft and Artistry to make it.)
——————————————————

Because of some arbitrary ideas by a few people, apparently widely accepted by the many, we have the myth that certain types of art are “better, higher, finer” than others. Even the dictionary alludes to this. We add in our own definers and qualifiers  – imaginative/abstract vs representative/realistic, “painterly”, free, loose, VS “tight,” precise, accurate,  ETC. All of these are descriptors and value judgments on different ways of expressing, but none is “better” than any other. It’s a matter of how one works, which is as individual as our genetic blueprint, and of one’s personal taste, which, sadly, is often swayed by outside (and internalized) opinions on what constitutes “Art.”

It’s time to deconstruct the myth that Art and Craft are separate, that one is “better” than the other. What makes a quilt less art than a sculpture? What makes a functional quilt less valuable than an ‘art quilt?” I love the idea of art and artistry infusing everyday useful handmade items. Why shouldn’t it? Why doesn’t it, far more than we allow it to? Why do we hold ourselves to others’ standards, or to the petty Art Police tyrant ruling our own thoughts ? (that question speaks to me because of my own perfectionism and harsh inner critic issues.)

Somewhere along the line, someone decided (in the so-called “civilized” cultures) to make this arbitrary distinction between “Real” Art and “mere craft”), and we all got lost and have paid the price. In other places in the world, Life is Art. These cultures make no distinction between life and art. Art is for all the people, not some rarefied thing that depends on gallery representation. Yes, there are masters in all walks of life. But that doesn’t take away the rightful experience of enjoyment of our Craft from the rest of us.

The idea that some creativity is “better” than others – is hogwash! All creativity is valid, and IMO, necessary. Animals play ~ we are animals, too. We need play. It’s essential to our beings. We each express ourselves in different ways – some shyly, some boldly, some with finesse, some with wild abandon, some sloppily, some tidily and with great care and attention to detail. How did any one way get deemed lesser or greater than another? It’s all as necessary and individual as we are. It’s time to treat ourselves with compassion and respect for what we have to bring to the collective.

What do you think? I’d love to know your thoughts and opinions on this.


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Strip Pieced Quilt, Gees Bend Style

Gosh – here it is May already and I was so busy with my own garden and garden jobs that I forgot to post last week! This is a very long post, so consider it two weeks’ worth and then some.

I had an art show at one of our local banks in April. I sold two paintings to a garden client – that was exciting! I’ll write and post more about some of that art in more blog posts – I am so innundated with gardening, I don’t see myself “arting” or crafting in the next several weeks.

The biggest piece in the show was a strip-pieced throw/quilt which turned out very crooked and “arty” – more like a Gees Bend style quilt. That made me happy, because my major quilting inspiration comes from the quilters of Gees Bend (and also modern improvisational quilters.)  But when I hung it I was embarrassed… until I finally just let go and enjoyed its funk and fun. Still, it would be nice to know how to really sew things straight and square up quilts and have the space to do it, although I accept that I may not be the type of person who ever really feels attracted to making those kinds of quilts.

I have to tell you the story of this quilt… I have a couple of grocery bags full of strips that I got in various places. Some looked really “ugly” and I thought I’d never use them because I am not attracted to those duller colors – dusty rose, rusty maroon, mustard gold, olive green, etc.  I usually work with bright, high-key colors. So… I challenged myself to pull out all the “ugly” strips I could find, and then add fabrics that could pull them together into something more beautiful to my sensibilities. That challenge was fun! I ended up loving the result, color-wise.

Rotary cutting still intimidates me – I still love cutting things with scissors. I love the tactile feel of the scissor in my hand cutting into the cloth, and the unpredictability of it all.  I had to safety-pin on a hanging sleeve on hanging day- I know nothing about hanging the danged things on walls. My plan was to use the throw, not hang it. Here are front and back views.

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The red on the upper left back is really not that garish; I think my camera card is on the fritz.

I learned some things through the process of making this quilt: not until after I made the mistakes, of course. :)

1) If you sew all the strips (strata) together from the same direction, things will become wavy and distorted, as you see here by my pictures. So every couple or several strips, sew together your sections from the other direction.

2) If you are going to sew a curved or widening strip to another strip, you have to cut the next strip in such a way that they will lay flat when sewn together. I kind of remember this concept from sewing sleeves into garments when I graduated from making muu-muus to things with sleeves. I was always amazed that the sleeves would fit into the armholes, because on the pattern it all looked counter-intuitive. So the really wavy “poochy” look comes from not knowing how to fit uneven or curvy strips to each other – yet.

3) The Gees Bend quilters simply took a tuck or dart here and there if things got distorted out toward the edges – which they often do when you do strip borders and medallion quilts – and that straightened things out somewhat. Good to know!

4) When sandwiching the front, batting, and backing, and you’re pinning those together, don’t stretch the backing  so tight that things distort badly and those nice straight lines you envisioned turn into dorky looking diagonals – just crooked enough to look bad, but not diagonal enough to convince anyone that “I meant that!”) LOL . (that happened to my pieced backing.)

5) Thick polyester batting (this came from a garage sale years ago and that’s what I had on hand) is squirrelly, slippery, and a general pain to work with. But – it does have a nice puffy loft, if that’s your thing. Kind of like the Bibendum ‘Michelin Man’ look.

220px-2008TaipeiCycle_Day3_Michelin

6) When machine quilting, increase your stitch size a bit from your piecing type stitch, and don’t grip the thing so tight that you stretch it all out and distort it, thus making a very lumpy back! Oops. Once i relaxed my vice-like grip and just held things firmly flat, things went better. (As an aside, bigger stitches rip out so much more easily than tiny stitches in a fat polyester batting  – and larger stitches won’t cut into your fabric, tearing it and ruining the quilt – like my too-small stitches might).

7)  Love the process – because each time you do something, it gets a little better and easier; more is learned. If I ever do something like this with a rotary cutter, and get all my seams straight and perfect, it wouldn’t have this same funky arty charm – right? (my favorite quilting book for forgiving myself these imperfections is “That Dorky Homemade Look:  Quilting Lessons from a Parallel Universe “ by Lisa Boyer.

So, speaking of dorky homemade looks – have you ever felt that sometimes your first awkward but honest efforts are more charming than the more technically proficient pieces you make later? When someone says to me, “my 5 year old could have done that,” I beam with pleasure. i LIKE those first efforts. In refining and improving technique, something gets gained, but this one aspect gets lost, and I always kind of mourn its loss. I think that is why many artists keep some of their first efforts. To remind themselves of this – because in the beginning it’s the honeymoon phase of loving the process and that root inspiration, and that critical eye is not so harsh. You are just happy that you did something, start to finish. For now, I’m happy with my homemade, kind of dorky quilting efforts.

Time to go out and earn some gardening bucks…. Happy Crafting!


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Gardening!

I’ve not been arting or crafting lately, although 4 of us women painters went to the Skagit Valley tulip fields to paint and photograph. Although I’m so rusty at watercolor painting, I’ll still call myself a painter, albeit a bad one right now! I’m in full garden work mode both with clients and in my own garden, which is an absolute mess. I’m kind of embarrassed about posting any photos of the garden right now, due to its general disorder, but that seems to be life in general for me – a kind of ebullient disorder and riot of color and chaos. I have culled my dahlia plants down from 100 to somewhere near 70 and some of my favorites have rotted. Hope to have a tuber sale at month’s end. Hoping to cull more but I just can’t do it right now. I love all my dahlias.

Here are a few pics to let you know I’m not a total blogging slacker.

This was taken from my art show (sold two paintings, one old and one new!) Excuse the poor quality; it’s kind of hard to photograph things while they’re on the walls. This is my Frida Kahlo wall quilt.  The Frida fabric was given me by a fantastic quilt artist named Maggie Kaplan. The hanging devices (clips) are cheesy – no time to sew on hanging sleeves or tabs. “Oh well”  – it worked! As you can see, I’m not (yet) comfortable with the “quilting” part;  hence, the minimal amount of quilting to hold the thing together. Still too chicken to try free-motion quilting…working up the nerve.

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The next picture is of the tulip fields – total ecstatic immersion experience! It’s joyous and breath taking – those flat horizontal expanses of color, and the clouds stacked up in the sky in the same horizontal rows. Being there immersed in it all is the absolute best. We had the perfect weather and light to see the colors. Now, a bit removed from the awe-inspiring experience, i can see quilt inspiration.

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The last pic is of my messy garden. I tried not to show all the strewn pots, plastic, dahlia tubs, and weeds. The kale is blooming for the bees. <3 It’ll be fun to see how this morphs along as the season continues.

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Must go outside now!


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The Story of My first Quilt Top

I never finished my first quilt top into a quilt. I started it years ago. It was a crazy quilt, hand pieced on 12 1/2″ foundation squares, and hand embroidered. The quilt was to be my “words to live by” inspiration. Many of the squares contained pithy phrases or words to remind me of how I wanted to live my life, and what was important for me to remember and keep foremost in my thoughts. Making it was a labor of love. It took about 6 years to complete.

I loved the portability of a hand project. I took my little hand sewing and embroidering kit with my squares everywhere I could. I used 3 repeating fabric prints in each square, for continuity. I winged it for the rest, using many scraps that came to me in various ways. When I got all 30 squares done, I put them together by machine – one next to another –  I didn’t use sashing  between. I wanted that crazy quilt look. It took some time to lay it out just the way I wanted it,  to work in the many colors and motifs. When I got those sewed together, I realized I needed another row – so I started in on more squares. I loved the process of working  by hand because, for me, hand sewing and embroidery are relaxing. But – I didn’t know how to proceed  to the next obvious step. How do you quilt something so full of hand embroidery? I didn’t even know how to make a quilt sandwich at that point, or put on binding, let alone quilt something like that. Finishing has been my weakness when it comes to quilting, and it still is. I slapped on a bias binding by machine, not knowing what I was doing, and displayed the quilt top in several art shows, where it was well received.

My first quilt was a funky, vibrant, and fun work of art. I probably should have donated it to a crafts museum or something.  Once I stopped displaying it, I was unsure of how to proceed with it, so I put it away, rolled up in a dark corner – for years.  I had tried it out on the bed, to see if I even wanted to proceed with the quilt idea, and it was so busy and bright – and my home so cluttered already with art and color – it wasn’t going to work. I felt sad every time I thought of it in the corner, and my disrespect for so many years of work. Then I got a special needs rescue cat. He’s a real sweetheart, but because he was feral for so long, he doesn’t know how to retract his claws fully, and he loves to scratch. I knew that my quilt would never see the bed again. But what to do? It was too big to display on a wall in my very small and crowded apartment.

Namaste, OM, Salam, Flower Power, Be true to Self, etc_

I no longer have a picture on my computer of the full quilt – it was really something! If i upload it again, I will post a picture of the whole thing. This gives an idea of how it looked. You can click the pictures to enlarge for more detail.

I finally have a solution! I took apart the quilt, back to single squares again, and will reconfigure them to make smaller wall hangings; some singles, some put together into larger hangings. I am in that process now. I’ll keep one for my sewing corner, for inspiration. Some will go to a few family members and friends. From there, I will decide what to do with the rest.

every atom is a door

Here is a photograph of one the squares. (that’s why it looks “squared!” ha ha). I will upload more pictures of some of the hangings when I’m finished.

Addendum: I’ve been looking on the Interweave Online Store  – here are a few of their products that stand out for me. The idea of drawing with thread appeals to the painter in me, as do hand dyeing and hand painting fabrics with inks, then embellishing with beads and thread work. This stuff excites me.

http://www.interweavestore.com/thread-sketching-essntls-cllec

http://www.interweavestore.com/fabric-surface-design

http://www.interweavestore.com/inktense-blocks-set-12-tin   

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