a creative life



For almost six months now, I have worked part time as a graphic designer with my friend Laura at Roseberries. The decision to return to design work was in part financial, but also based on a need for order and structure in my life. The experience has been wonderful. It feels good to actually get dressed in the morning, to have colleagues, to bounce ideas, and to get projects done (although still slowly...).



The flip side is that the time I have left for my art has diminished. It is hard to accomplish something or, maybe more accurate, to complete something with only a few days a week available. I am also struggling to dedicate those days entirely to work (there are still things like dishes, laundry, vet visits, and car pooling looming).



But overall it works. Rather than living an artist's life, I am now leading a creative life. My design job is creative in its own way, but it has also made me realize that creativity goes into everything I do – even in tasks like house keeping, gardening, and cooking. And it has enabled me to explore and rediscover things like knitting and sewing. I am no longer obsessing over my art, whether it is likable (or sellable) enough, or whether I produce enough. Instead I am just enjoying the process. It has been quite liberating.


And I am accomplishing things! I just finished Margaret's magnolia, a piece commissioned by a friend as a wedding gift for friends of hers. The magnolia eco prints where made with leaves from a tree growing by the bride's childhood home. I completed a functional quilt (although small...). It is made from indigo dye samples, and backed with soft flannel. And yesterday I finally started on my first tree series quilt. So life here is good, in so many creative ways.

winter blues




The sky is the bluest of blue this time of year. No haze or humidity, just limitless blue. I have been working with remnants from last years indigo experiments. The small shibori pieces will be part of a group show at Chroma Projects opening next week. 25 Chroma affiliated artists will display affordable, lovable, and mailable art during the month of February. I hope you can come by if you are in the neighborhood.




A small throw quilt is also in the works. The layering and quilting is still left and I am imagining a soft backing and lots of hand stitching to finish it off. I love how the shades from the various indigo dips set each other off.



Then there are the blue sachets, all indigo dyed, lovingly stitched, and sweet smelling. They are available in the store ready to ship...




Blue is the color of choice this time around.


regrouping



A series of small mishaps set me off course this week. I planned to apply for a couple of big events, with rapidly approaching deadlines, and worked diligently to make it all come together. Unexpected, last minute issues with two of the pieces, made me realize that it was impossible to finish the work, and have it photographed before the deadline.

Once the frustration died down, I took a big breath and started thinking about my goals, ambitions, and expectations on a larger scale. And my conclusion is that I need to slow things down rather that speed things up. My youngest son is a high school junior and I want to be there for his soccer games, music performances, and soon to start college searches. I want to see my friends more often, and spend an afternoon now and then with my husband. I want more time to care for for my garden and my house.



I love my work. I can't imagine life without textiles, stitching, and making. But I am the first to admit that more often than not, it becomes all-consuming. I think that is what defines an artist - the constant drive for perfection and the unwillingness to stop or take a break.

So the stress and turbulence of this week have a happy ending. Instead of fretting over my show applications, I am cleaning and organizing the studio while listening to music, and enjoying the sunshine outside my window. Tomorrow I will work on new books, and in the next few days I will return to the pesky quilts that made it all grind to a halt.



in excellent company


This coming July, I will participate in a textile invitational at Warm Springs Gallery, here in Charlottesville. The title for the exhibit is Disintegration and Repair and my work will be displayed alongside work by five fantastic fiber artists; Kathryn Clark, Marguerite Gignoux, Karen Henderson, Natalia Margulis, and Barbara Wisnoski. I am beyond thrilled. Not only is this a big event and an honor for me, but it is a big event for our small college town. Owner and curator Barbara Buhr, is  expanding the scope of her already reputable contemporary art gallery by initiating this textile show, with its national and international participants. Here is the exhibition statement:

"Disintegration and Repair, examines the physical, formal and conceptual aspects of cloth's fragility, its tendency to deteriorate, and the human inclination to rebuild and restore. The exhibit speaks of wear and tear, damaged cast-offs and unwanted remnants as metaphors for the evidence of use and the passage of time. The idea of Disintegration and Repair offers artist and viewer the opportunity to reassess the meaning and value of mending and reuse."



True to form I am still working on my pieces for the show (samples of the work in progress is scattered throughout this post). 



The exhibit runs from July 1 - July 31, with an artist reception Friday, July 6, 6 - 8 pm. I would love for you to come for a visit to view the beautiful work on display!


crossroads



The crossroads quilt is finished. By tomorrow it will be en route to its owner. I can't wait for her to see it! The colors in the piece are more subtle than they appear here. The harmonious shades of the natural dyes is what I love most about it!




a special quilt



Prior to the natural dye workshop I was teaching last fall, I made this sample quilt to illustrate the beautiful range of colors that can be achieved by using natural dyes from plants growing in our region. The quilt ended up in the blog post about the event, where one of my readers spotted it.

I was honored and thrilled to received her request to make this quilt into a wall hanging for her home. Her initial inquiry has now led to a budding friendship, and a project that is taking on a life of its own. The stitching (done with silk/cotton thread and a wool yarn) makes each square come to life, and unifies the piece in ways I could not imagine. It will take a few more weeks to complete and I know I will miss it when it is done. But this is a special quilt going to a special place, and the privilege of working on it makes my heart sing.


a vermont quilt and wabi-sabi


It is from Vermont, at least that's what I was told when this quilt became mine. It is made from a variety of fabrics, wool, cottons, thin, thick, even some polyester mixed in here and there. It is probably not ancient, but it is still old, or maybe just used often. The true history of the quilt does not matter so much. Somebody made it in log cabin style, lovingly piecing the rectangular shapes to the backing fabric by hand, then throwing in some machine stitching to keep the layers together. Some squares are intact, but most are worn, some of them to shreads. Even the back is tattered and stained.


The quilt from Vermont symbolizes much in my mind. Things, just as life itself has a beginning and an end. They will not last forever. But there is beauty in all its stages, the threadbare parts are just as alluring as the unblemished ones. There is beauty in imperfection.

Inspired by Natalie Chanin and her blog, I recently started reading simply imperfect – revisiting the wabi-sabi house by Robyn Griggs Lawrence. Wabi-sabi is not a straight forward concept, and it is sometimes difficult even for native Japanese to explain what it means. My interpretation is that we should try to limit our possessions to things with meaning and usefulness, to un-clutter our homes and our lives, to find calm and quiet among chaos, and to care for the things we do have to make them last longer. I am not there yet, but the process has begun. One of the more important aspect of wabi-sabi is to enjoy doing things by hand, whether it is washing dishes, or mending a skirt, or making a quilt from scratch.

niki's duvet

This king size duvet cover is a recent commission from Niki and her husband Claudio in Toronto. It was an amazing project to work on. I love the subtle color combinations and the geometric shapes punctuated by the viburnum leaf prints.



I apologize for my absence these past few weeks. My son got really sick while traveling in Europe, and I ended up accompanying him during his recovery in a German hospital. Most stressful times and not the ideal way to experience Munich. But he is on the mend and I am slowly catching my breath, believing everything will turn out ok.

in place



My commissioned work is finally finished and installed in the waiting area of Sheila C. Johnson Center for Human Services, at the University of Virginia. The main piece is the first in my new swirl series, where viburnum leaves are printed in different color shades on vintage linen, and then pieced together and hand stitched. I love the effect of the similar leaf prints presented in different positions and colorations. The companion pieces are similar prints mounted on pre-stretched canvases. I also did a Queen Anne's Lace piece which is nature printed on pieced linen, and quilted with gently curved sweeping horizontal lines. The bottom panel has tucks and pleats that give the piece an added dimension. I am grateful for this assignment and I am proud that my art now is part of this beautifully designed, brand new building.




barbara wisnoski

white rag quilt
photos courtesy of Barbara Wisnoski. all rights reserved.

 A small single piece of fabric, slightly worn, ends up next to a similar yet different piece of fabric. Some are tarnished, some torn. All with a history to tell. By the hands of Canadian textile artist Barbara Wisnoski, they become part of a much larger picture. With frayed edges and lose threads proudly exposed, she pieces together amazing wall quilts that beckons to be examined and admired. Barbara calls her art 2.5 D textile installations, made from recycled fabric and clothing. The exposed seams, and layered patches gives the quilts a wonderful depth and weight. From afar the wall pieces have clean simple motifs like lines in a landscape, shapes of rectangles, and the contour of a roof, but when viewed up close the true magic of her composition is revealed.



2d-3d house
photos courtesy of Barbara Wisnoski. all rights reserved.

I love everything about Barbara's work, from the innovative reuse of materials, to the subtle flow of color, and the simplicity and texture of the large finished pieces. If you are interested in seeing her quilts in person, two of them are currently on display at Fiberart International 2010, at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA. The show will subsequently travel to Rochester, NY, and San Francisco, CA. Thank you Barbara for letting me share your beautiful art!

grey rain sea
photos courtesy of Barbara Wisnoski. all rights reserved.








platonic target
photo courtesy of Barbara Wisnoski. all rights reserved.





















field
photo courtesy of Barbara Wisnoski. all rights reserved.

endearing collaboration

My successful endeavor with textiles and fiber art came to be thanks to my mother. When I was young she taught my how to sew doll clothes, how to knit, and make my own clothes. Much later she was the co-conspirator in the creation of inleaf. She knew I wanted my life to take a more artistic path, and during one of her visits we explored leaf printing for the first time. She has ben my most loyal supporter ever since, always encouraging, inspiring, and pushing me along.

She is still an amazing fiber artist in her own right, and when she was here earlier this summer she suggested a mother-daughter collaboration. She brought a bag filled with my fabric scraps back to Sweden, with the idea of using them for a traditional quilt pattern. Here is the initial result. I love her color selections and how she mixed pieces from my collection with ones from her own stacks. One of the hexagons even feature a paw print from my late cat, who accidentally walked across my printing table at the time...

We don't know what final shape this project will take. It will evolve over time, and we will work on it together when we next meet up. Thank you mamma, for the wisdom and creative inspiration you continue to provide.

blurring the lines

My dubious- stenciling-turned-into-art-project is finished. It is messy, cluttered, random, un-colorful, and without focus. All things an art quilt should not be. But I love it. I love the way it hangs, the paint splattered binding, the layered shapes. And I truly loved all the hand stitching involved. I am still insecure about my "art", unsure of my voice. This piece is most likely not representative of where I am heading, but it made me appreciate the possibilities within imperfection and encouraged me to try something new. I am not sure where it will end up. Blurring the lines may stay here with me in a happy spot in our house, since its error-filled origins may not be as endearing to the uninitiated eye. To me it is a reminder of awakening.

winter green

I just finished piecing this together this morning. The freshness of these leaf prints echoes the steady snowfall (yet again) outside. The leaves are printed on vintage linen, crisp yet smooth to the touch. I imagine layering it with soft flannel, and backing with dyed cotton. The piece will be hand quilted in white on the white cloth. There will be some kind of edging too, maybe in the palest, faintest shade of green, with more stitching in the same hue... Thinking, planning, and scheming is fun. The final work hardly ever turns out the way first envisioned. But that is fine too...

Our severe winter weather made me think of my wonderful illustrator and artist friend Charlotta from Sydney, Australia, where they right now are in the midst of summer. She recently honored me with the honest scrap award, in which you are supposed to reveal ten things about yourself. Since I received the same award in September (thank you Molly) I will refer back to that post if you want to learn about my secrets. Please visit Charlotta's beutiful blog to find out about hers.

rumination and dreams, part 2

This morning I sent out a short email to the storeowners I have worked with over the past years, telling them that I will no longer do wholesale. It was a rational decision, made after much consideration, and I know it is the best choice for me personally. But it was a hard thing to do. Many of them have become friends, some are disappointed, and I feel like I am letting them down...


Giving up the wholesale accounts is just one of several small changes I am making this year. From now on I will sell my work almost exclusively in the etsy shop. Etsy has been a wonderful experience for me and the artists and customers I have met there have enriched my life. I will be able to concentrate all my production and marketing in one place, instead of stocking and promoting several sites. The etsy shop also allows me to offer one-of-a-kind objects, like the big heart pillow above, while maintaining my original line.

Which leads me to the main reason for all this reshuffling and reorganizing. What I really want to focus on are my larger art pieces, quilts, and textile collages. I love using fabric as my canvas, incorporating printing, dyeing, stitching, and vintage into the mix. I am still learning, and I am not sure if my work is that good yet. But it is evolving and it makes my heart sing... My main web site is now devoted to the art quilts, and I hope that will help attract interest from gallery owners, buyers and collectors.

Only time will tell if my strategy will work. If not there is always room for more change, and new dreams and aspirations...

trees

Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.
Karle Wilson Baker

I am definitely a tree hugger at heart. We have a few majestic ones in our garden, and during stormy night I lay awake worrying that they may get hurt or felled. I can't imagine our life without them. They are especially impressive in wintertide, without their lush summer clothing. Tall and ever reaching as they grace the sky.

I am working on an art quilt that incorporates a grove of trees. The imagery started out as a photo from a fall walk, which was transformed into a screen, which then was used for printing. I love the effect and the fact that this tiny reflection of nature now is part of my art.

The photo, burnt onto a screen, printed on linen...

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comments to my last post! Your friendship and willingness to join me on my bumpy journey warms my heart.

spoonflower

I am working on an art quilt, that requires a large image of the Queen Ann's lace seedpod. Rather than going through the expense of creating a screen for the printing, I had the fabric done through spoonflower, an online digital custom fabric printer. I choose their new organic cotton sateen as a base, and in a few easy steps I uploaded my image, sized it, chose my colors, and picked a repeat pattern that worked for the large format. I am thrilled with the result and the possibilities this printing method brings. Next I think I will design a small scale pattern that I can use for purse linings. I can also imagine additional large leaf images, and practical things like custom fabric labels. The options are endless, and the spoonflower site is easy to use even for non computer savvy customers. The prices range from $18 - $32 per yard, and they currently have three different base fabrics to choose from. They also have an inspirational and informative blog, weekly fabric contests, and an etsy store where a selection of their customers' fabrics are available for sale.

Thank you for the nice comments I received on my last two posts. I truly appreciate your encouragement and kindness. I have some belated thanks to pass along. Thank you Alysia of blue hour design for featuring my apron on your blog. Alysia is a talented jewelry designer, make sure to check out her etsy shop. Merci beaucoup Nat for your post about inleaf and my work! Last but not least thanks to Hayley of Ruby Wren Boutique, who used my queen ann's lace pillow as a starting point for her colour scheme finds post.