Monday, November 6, 2017

American Patchwork & Quilting Podcast with Pat Sloan

Had a wonderful time talking with Pat Sloan today on her American Patchwork and Quilting podcast! We talked a bit about Lancaster County, PA, machine and hand quilting and my first introduction to quilts. You can listen to it now via this link: or catch it sometime later after it gets posted here:…/quilting-podcast Note: Unfortunately the sound quality of my interview as well as the guest that followed me was amiss and came out harsh and unclear... must have been a technical glitch. Some folks have told me they could still listen and understand but for others it has proved too difficult. Such is life. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Objects of Curiosity: Exhibits B, C & D

Continuing on with my "Objects of Curiosity" series 
that began with my last post
Above are "Exhibits C & D" but I am getting ahead of myself, 
so let's start below with "Exhibit B"...

 Another bottle is Exhibit B.
This one is clear and rectangular though.

Vintage and thrifted.

Covered in cloth and stitch.

With those porthole openings to see in, 
(or out, depending on your size).

And now onto Exhibits C & D...

A found stick and river rock.
Also covered in cloth and stitch. 
(Because that is part of the purpose, yes?)
... In a hopes of making the ordinary not so ordinary.

Because it never really was, was it? 
(Ordinary, that is.)


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Objects of Curiosity, Exhibit A

I'm starting a new project, one born out of curiosity and meant to give pause, along with a second glance and closer look, at ordinary objects that we typically pass by and take for granted. 

Some of these objects may be found in the home, and some may be found in nature. 

Many could be, and regularly are, discarded without thought. 

What intrigues me is that by simply incasing them in a bit of cloth and stitch, they all of a sudden become something special. They are no longer ordinary, nor expected. Their status is uplifted.
They now demand at least a second glance.

I am beginning this project by exploring bottles.
This first one shown here is simply called "Exhibit A".

I hope that as you view the various angles of this one bottle, now clothed in a second skin so to speak, that you stop a bit and reflect on really how remarkable it is, and was, even before I altered it. 
The beautiful curves, the symmetry, the deep amber color, the smooth and even lipped rim, 
it's ability to hold something... medicine, perfume, a flower...

Contemplate for a minute the fact that glass comes from sand...  how amazing is that?

And how smooth and cool to the touch it is, and that we can see through it, and that it reflects light, and that it shatters so easily and can cut...

It's always helpful to have something to reference size, and how suitable to use the humble penny, another object that has come to be a bit taken for granted, yet is still valuable in it's own way.

One more thing... in light of my last post I feel that I should mention the following:
I have no idea how this current project is visually inspired by my local surroundings, or if it is inspired by them at all. I could say that the stitching mimics the curvy twisty back roads that I often drive, but I don't think that was in my conscious nor sub-conscious at all. 

If anything, the work has to do with honoring that which we so easily discard, of wanting to shine a light on how amazing ordinary inventions are. How beautiful craftsmanship is. How temporary things are in our life. And that indeed is something that I see everyday in my surroundings, with those magnificent old barns falling into disrepair until one day they are gone. I think of the way they served and the memories they hold, and I think about the honor that the ordinary deserves.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Processing Inspiration - An Attempt at Explaining My Method

Anyone familiar with me knows that I get much of my inspiration from my local rural surroundings. I am endlessly drawn to the beautiful landscape and am completely in love with the amazing worn and weathered barns, so many of which are in a delicate process of decay.

But how exactly am I influenced? How does my inspiration get interpreted into what I make?

I wish I had an answer that I could easily document... such as sketchbooks full of drawings and diagrams. Color swatches carefully pasted in and margins filled with notations and arrows pointing back to those diagrams. I love when I see artists work that way to develop their ideas.

But that process has never worked for me. My process is much less defined. More ethereal I suppose.

I begin with lots of visual absorption. I just look, and look, and look at my surroundings. I soak it in. The shapes, the colors, the lines, the textures, the various details that make up the whole, and the mood... at least the mood that is evoked inside of myself. 

And I take lot's of photos. The photos help solidify the impression and mood of what I see into my consciousness, and I suppose subconscious, so it all feels like it is a part of my being. Sorry if that sounds spacey... I just don't know how else to put it.

And then I just let it come back out...

I hold the images in my mind, I feel the mood that it brings up in me, I stay open to all possibilities, and I start to work. 

Below, I will show 3 of my barn photos, (all of the same barn but each one different) and three projects that express how I am influenced by this sort of inspiration. We will start with this first photo below and the following work...

Ok, so above we have one of the typical, (and yet uniquely beautiful) Lancaster County old barns that thrill me so! I see all sorts of design inspiration here, but we will focus on four areas, Line, Color, Mood and Detail.

1) Lines. Specifically in this shot, how that upper seam line wraps around the barn, the bands of wood that create the Z shape on the open door, the rusted post and metal fence part, the lines of the window panes, and the short white lines that are the hinges to the closed doors.

2) Colors. Of course I notice the bright greens of the grass, but also the areas of rusty brown earth, the subtle yellow/gold along the edge under the first 2 windows, the soft brown-grays of the barn, the deep multi colors reflected in the glass window panes, the earthy brown tones of the rock walls, the jet black of the upper window where the glass is missing, and the soft blues of the sky.

3) Mood. Organic, primitive, rustic, comforting, archeological, curious, layered, soft, hard, earthy, aged, rural, poor, frayed, old, worn, weathered, hopeful, peaceful, loved, hopeful, strong, enduring. (Note that some of the moods evoked can seem opposing, such as soft and hard, that's ok. Life is multi-dimensional. I just pay attention to everything that wells up in me.)

4) Detail. The windows, the open doorless area, the rock walls, the soft fray of the grass and plant life, the chimney. 

Now below is an amulet that I made, (yup... barn to amulet) and hopefully you can see how some of this detail that I soak in has flowed back out into this tiniest example of work. Remember though, I don't try to interpret inspiration in any forced or direct way. It's all an interpretation, and that interpretation of the exact inspiration could change from day to day based on other things in my life. It's all a mix that plays off of everything else.

So here is the amulet. The idea behind it was to gather bits of objects that I have a tendency to collect and which give me comfort, (in this case shells, fabrics and beads) and then bundle them together someway. So I choose a fragment of a seashell found along the beach of Cape May, covered it with bits of shot cotton fabrics and stitching and adorned it with a few beads and a vintage brass charm. 

Where some elements of the inspiration comes into play would be the soft muted and earthy colors of the whole piece. The fray of the cloth, (reminiscent of the fray of the grass). The open middle area, (that  pale green place on both the front and the back and reminiscent of the open door). The long scattered stitches, (reminiscent of the lines created by the hinges). The macrame cording, (made with a hand needle and thread) that is reminiscent of the window sashing as well as that seam line that wraps around the building. The glass beads, (reminding me of the colors found in those bottom windows). And the overall mood of something weathered, old, rustic, primitive, frayed, soft, hard, comforting, archeological, curious... you get the point. (I do wish I'd had rusty wire on hand, but you make do with what ya got.) I like to think though that this amulet could have been found hanging off of a bent nail inside the barn, or found tucked into one of the stone wall crevices.

Ok, so next we come to this photo of the same barn...

So again, we soak in the details and the mood... the soft muted colors, the barren yet warm feel, the juxtaposition  of that pale white wash against the dark of the weathered wood, the lines and stripes of the wood, the multi shaped squares and rectangles, the curving lines along the lefthand side of the barn as well as that slightly off-hinge door, the rural-ness of it, the oldness of it, the sense of hard-times it evokes. And look at those two small square boxes, sitting inside a larger box structure... they look out of place to me, especially that tan one... It looks like a filing box. What's in it I wonder?

And now below is a small wall quilt I recently stitched up that hopefully works as one possible interpretation. (Oh, but I believe there could be a thousand plus interpretations from this one image).

Do you see the juxtaposition of the pale against the dark? The soft muted colors? The various shaped squares and rectangles? The stripes? The soft curves of the shapes? The rural feel? The sense of oldness? The feeling of something utilitarian? The boxes inside of boxes? 

Now even though I am giving you these side by side examples of photo + work, I almost never actually reference my photos while working, As I don't want to get too literal in my interpretations, (and I will definitely get hung up there if I start looking at the photos while I work). I just try to hold the image(s) in my minds eye and the mood(s) in my heart and soul. 

After all of these years there are also some elements that I continue to explore and often will incorporate regardless of images I may be thinking of. One of those elements would be the windows, including the shapes, the reflections, and the visual energy that comes from the broken and missing window panes. Also, the cross shapes created by the window sashing. You can see it repeated over and over in many of my quilts, including the quilt shown above. 

Another element that I keep going back to is the curved lines of the plowed farm fields, which I express more often then not by doing various interpretations of Baptist fan quilting, again as shown in this quilt example. Here as I often do, I combine hand and machine quilting, which is a nod to living in Lancaster County where the modern technologically driven world co-exists with the beauty of the world of the Old Order Amish.

Now let's take a look at the last photo of this particular barn and the connected work...

As with the other photos I am drawn to the lines, the colors, the shapes and the mood... it feels mostly abandoned to me, yet it's also strong and commanding, much due to the close up shot as well as the   angle of the shot where you are looking ever so slightly up. Another thing that brings a mood of strength to this structure is the shape of the barn. The way the roof top angles out to meet the top sides of the building, which then angle inward... to me it looks like a mother, stern but loving, shoulders up, elbows out, with hands on hip.

My eye wants to go up to that window, yet for some reason keeps getting pulled down to that one little angled pole that seems to be bracing the left side door from flinging open. It reminds me that someone has been here, someone is connected to this otherwise desolate looking structure.

Below is a small mixed media piece I recently did titled "Homeward". Do you see the interpretation of inspiration? 

With this piece, I'm definitely influence by the desolate mood and the connections, in all their varied forms, that we feel to home, no matter how far removed we may be. The shape of the road that leads homeward is reminiscent to that simple pipe shape that symbolized the lone human connection in the photo and also of the missing section of the door that it keeps from flinging open. If you look slightly up past that shape in the mixed media piece and just to the right you can faintly see a shape reminiscent of the window shape. The home shape is really only half of the barn shape, but it's enough.

The photo below shows the 2nd and 3rd barn photos side by side with their respective works. Seeing it this way may help connect the image and work a bit more.

And that is about the best that I can explain/show my process. It's a bit of a challenge to show what is in one's head and heart and how it gets processed into the work... again, I rather envy those that can produce sketchbooks bursting at the seams, filled with their process, but I hope this post helped to illustrate my process in some small way.

And in truth, I think it boils down to a lot of absorbing, whatever interests you, and then just staying open to what comes out. I have found that there's no need to force it, or even fully understand it, let alone try to control it. Gravitate to what you love. Trust that whatever inspiration is needed is inside and will find a way out once you show up to do what it is that you feel called to do.

I'd love to know how you process your inspirations... please feel free to share in the comments.

And here's a bit of exciting news to share with you all...

will be one of Pat Sloan's guests on the American Patchwork and Quilting Podcast this upcoming Monday on September 25th! You can listen live, or catch it afterwards, just click on that link! Yay!

UPDATE: Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the podcast was unable to tape September 25th's show. I will be rescheduled to talk with Pat sometime in November, so stay tuned!


Monday, August 21, 2017

Union Grove Road Quilt

"Union Grove Road"

This is the 5th quilt in my slowly evolving "Lancaster County" series, 
where all the quilts are named after local roads. 
Made from assorted shot cottons. 
Machine pieced and machine quilted in a baptist fan design. 
19" x 25"

To see the other quilts from this series, please go here.

And may I just congratulate myself on actually posting 2 times this month?
(Must be the effects of the approaching solar eclipse... today's the day!)
I am sincerely trying to give this dear old blog of mine a bit more loving and attention. 
Instagram, where I post regularly, (you can find me here) has truly changed the way that I interact,
but it makes me sad when I see how little I have been sharing here.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sunflower Power!!

A few days ago I saw the most amazing photos of sunflowers, captured by a local photographer that I follow on Instagram. I asked her where this magical field was and it turned out it was just 30 minutes from home. So I grabbed my phone, and also grabbed one of my vintage cameras, an Argus 75, and off I went. Below is a tiny sample of some of the pics I got...

This is one of the pics shot through the lens of the vintage Argus. For those unfamiliar, it's a simple technique of using a digital camera, (in this case my phone) to shoot through the lens of a vintage camera, thus resulting in a vintage looking photo. All those little "hairs" are part of the "dirt" caught inside the Argus' camera's lens and it's part of the appeal of this type of photography.

Here's another one shot through the vintage camera lens.

And another. 

These last two photos shown, along with the one at the very top were just done on my Samsung phone, without the vintage camera. I love how the sunflowers seem to go on for as far as the eye can see. Being in the field felt rather magical. And though you can't tell from the photos, there were people everywhere, all taking photos and marveling in the beauty. It had a sort of "Field of Dreams" vibe to it, and it was hard to leave.

And the bees! Bumblebees were everywhere! 
And seeing as we need more bees, I think we should have fields of sunflowers everywhere. 
Good for the Earth, good for the soul, and good for pretty picture taking!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Summer Days

Throughout the summer I have been continuing my explorations in painting. (Yes, I am still quilting... have one in the machine right now!) I've moved away from the little illustrations shown in my last post to explore abstract painting, and I am finding it to be most enjoyable. I think in part because my mind isn't as critical when working abstractly, (which is probably why I like  improve quilting so much.) I'm working small, as that seems to be what I find most comfortable, but eventually I may go a bit bigger, time will tell. Here's a few more...

"Untitled" Acrylic on Hardboard

PS. When I get a free day to play around, I'm thinking about maybe uploading some pics of these paintings to Spoonflower to see how they might look as fabric!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tiny Works in Paint and Stitch

Working tiny is so satisfying. 
Below are a few Spring inspired tiny projects I've been working on in both paint and stitch...

Little bird and bunny studies I did around Easter.

Some pretty little embroidered beads with cornflower blue flowers.

A little mouse house complete with a mushroom chimney.

Another trio of pretty little beads, this time with pink blooms against an aqua background.

Four little imaginary birds, each perched inside their own 2" x 2" square.
(I think they each reflected the mood I was in when I painted them.)

More spring time blossoming beads. 
Obviously, this style with the flowering vines are fast becoming my favorites to make!

                                 And if Mrs Mouse gets a house, then so does Ms. Ladybug!

And speaking of tiny...

When my youngest daughter came home for Easter she asked me to accompany her in getting her first tattoo. She had been thinking for sometime about getting these words, "You inspire me." placed on her arm. They come from a letter written to her, about her, by my father when she was 8 years old and shortly before he passed away from cancer. She has carried that letter with her ever since, holding on to the lovely things he spoke to her in his written words. The tattoo artist captured my father's handwriting precisely, right down to the tiny hook on the "u" and that tiny curl on the "s". I was beyond honored to be asked to witness this. I know that when my dad wrote those words to her, he hoped with all his heart that they would whisper his love for her, for all the passing years she would grow up without him around. Now they truly are a part of her, and I think he too, would be honored.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Fabric Beads 1, 2, 3, and 4

Real job and real life seem to keep encroaching on real studio time, and often by night time when all the must do's are done, I just want to sit on the couch with a heating pad behind me and a blanket over me. Happily though I am able to stay creative while relaxing by stitching up some of my fabric beads. 

I've been focusing on four styles...

Style #1 are these assorted Hand Quilted Fabric Beads made from various Japanese Chirimen fabrics, shown above and below.

One of the keys to a successful fabric bead, (at least in regards to the type that I make) is to take one's time to carefully build up the edges with layer upon layer of stitching. Doing so creates a solidly sculpted shape. 

Here you can see the stitched edges of the beads as well as a peek at their inner fabric core lining. 

Style #2 are these Frayed Fabric Beads...

Unlike Styles 1, 3, and 4, which basically follows the construction method outlined in my 
Quilted Fabric Beads PDF Tutorial Pattern, this style of bead uses a different method that I am just starting to play around with.

However they still utilize the same sculpting method of building up the edges with lots of slow stitched layers.

Style #3 focuses on beads inspired by the rough patching and stitching of Japanese Boro...

Made from bits of shot cotton, the beads feature lots of rough hand stitching while wrapped bands of heavily stitched strips act as my boro inspired patches.

The bands of stitched fabric strips give each bead it's own unique "figure" and shape.

I like to think of each one of these beads as little sculpted works of textile art.

While doing these boro inspired style beads, I started morphing them into my 4th style.

This bead above and the one below show a bit of the morphing where I am beginning to incorporate more "pretty" embroidery stitching into these previously rougher stitched boro inspired ones.

And then finally, in Style #4, I have started embellishing the beads with just the "pretty" embroidery stitches as shown below...

I've just begun making beads in this 4th style, and need to play around with different stitches to see what I can come up with, but I really enjoyed doing these simple little flowing vines and always love making french knots.

I generally make the beads in two sizes as reflected below...

And that's the fun of having various styles... one of these styles always seems to fit my mood! If you'd like to see which beads are currently for sale you can go here. Note that some of the beads shown have already sold, and that as time allows I will hopefully be listing more beads. And who knows, maybe more styles and variations will emerge.

Oh, and while I like to just wear 1 or 3 on a ball chain or a cord, here's a more decorative necklace that I made using some of my Japanese Chirimen beads as well as little colored glass beads and vintage buttons...

(I would love to have enough to make a bohemian beaded door curtain, but I don't think that is going to happen any time soon... or ever. That's would take a whole lot of beads!)