Friday, March 31, 2006

Cherry Blossoms

Yesterday we went down to Washington DC. My brother-in-law and his son from Chicago are visiting and wanted to see the Air and Space Museum and Arlington National Cemetery. And the cherry blossoms are blooming, so we wanted to see them also. Traffic from Baltimore to DC is awful so we took the train and then the Metro, much easier.

The Air and Space Museum was full of airplanes, space modules, and teenagers. They have a 'ride' where you get inside a capsule that simulates space flight. It turns upside down and every which way, and you couldn't pay me enough money to get me in one of them. It's cool to see things that have actually been in outer space. You can touch a moon rock, although I would bet that the smooth texture is the result of millions of touches and not the original surface.

From there we went to Arlington National Cemetery. First we went to John F Kennedy's gravesite, where they have an eternal flame burning. Also buried there are two of his children, one stillborn and unnamed, the other who lived for 2 days. I would bet that if that child had been born in this day, he would still be alive. Also buried there is Jackie Onassis; however, the "Onassis" part of her life seems to be beside the point, as her grave marker states Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

The gravestones extend as far as the eye can see. It's a very solemn place and a tribute to all the men and women who have died to protect our freedoms. We wanted to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers.

There is an honor guard around the clock and they change every 30 minutes. The guard on duty paces from one end of the area, stands at attention for a short bit, then turns and paces to the other end. He repeats this for his entire watch. At the time of the changing, another guard aproaches and with great ceremony and dignity, they pass the guard duty from one to the other. There were several hundred people standing around and watching and during the ceremony there was absolute silence. Not even cries from babies. After the official ceremony, there were 2 more where some visiting groups (one from a high school and the other an AmVet group from Wisconsin) presented wreaths and laid them on the tomb. And they played taps. It was a very moving experience.

From there we walked back across the Potomac River to the Tidal Basin (more than 2 miles). As we're walking acroos the bridge jet airplanes are flying overhead to land at Reagan National Airport. For security reasons (can't fly over the White House or the Capitol), planes must follow the course of the river to approach the landing field. There are some pretty tight curves that must be difficult for jet to negotiate. And the runway begins only yards from the river bank. Reminds me of why I don't like flying into that airport.

The cherry blossoms are stunning. I've lived in Baltimore for more than 30 years and this is the first time I've actually seen them in bloom.

Some of these trees are nearly 100 years old and their trunks are twisted and contorted into wonderful patterns. So I also have several pictures of the the trunks, which will probably become thermofax screens.

Just to prove that I was really there, here is a picture my husband shot of me. Sort of looks like I have a cherry tree branch growing out of my head.

From the Tidal Basin we walked over to the White House, another healthy jaunt. Security is quite tight around that building. Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House is closed to traffic, but they did that many years ago, even before 9/11. So here is the classic view of the White House. I don't know if George was home or not, the guys with the guns didn't look like they were taking questions.

From there we went to the train to come home and have dinner at The Hon in Baltimore, where the bread pudding is to die for.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

New work

I actually have done some art work lately, although not much. It's too easy to get sidetracked. Here is a study for a larger piece that is on the design wall. This little piece is about 12" x 12" and the foreground fabrics are some of my recent soy wax experiments.

I'm always in a quandry about what design to use for quilting. The stitching either gets lost or it shows up too much. When you get far enough away, it can't be seen, so what's the point? I think I'm being overcome by indecision.

This weekend is my semi-annual quilt weekend at a retreat center south of Annapolis, Maryland. It's on the banks of the West River and the view is stunning. Except we're mostly inside absorbed with projects and never really notice it. Elizabeth, Martha, Floris, Dale, Linda, Mary Beth, and I will keep the lights burning, the sewing machines humming, and the iron hot pretty much 24/7.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Way last summer I did a mask for the Johns Hopkins University Shriver Hall Concert Series. The mask is to be auctioned off at their Gala that's next month. On their web page they show 125 masks total. Just recently I saw the printed invitation to the event. It's quite elaborate, folds out and has 3 inserts showing the 35 masks that are going to be part of the Live Auction. This is the outside of the invitation:

It measures 5x7. When you open it up there are pictures of half masks on the fold out pages. The is the first one you see:

That's my mask on the left! It's going to be part of the Live Auction, along with masks by Joyce Scott (famous bead artist), Nicole Kidman, the mayor of Baltimore, Serena and Venus Williams (tennis players) , the cast of Wire,, Anne Tyler (writer), and other famous people. To see all the masks, visit the website. If you would like to attend the gala, it's $200 per person. Tell me all about it, please, I'm afraid I won't be there.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Save Our Stories

Yesterday I was interviewed for the Save Our Stories project. This is a massive project by the Alliance for American Quilts to "capture the voices and stories of quiltmakers", transcribe them, and make them available online. There are already hundreds of interviews in the database and as I scrolled through the list, I recognized many names of people I know and of people I've heard of, but the vast majority are not famous. Yet they all have a story to tell and it would takes months to work your way through the list.

As part of the interview, I was asked to have a quilt at hand to talk about. That sort of posed a dilemma because there isn't much of a story behind most of my quilts. I don't make quilts with political statements, and there are no Deep Hidden Meanings. What I chose was the quilt "Nine". I made this as a tribute to my late mother-in-law, who raised nine children. My husband is the oldest; his youngest sibling is only 4 years older than our daughter. My inspiration for the quilt came from the priest who was giving the eulogy at the funeral service. He talked about the "coat of many colors" that she wove as she raised nine unique individuals. With those words, the idea for this quilt sprung almost completely formed in my head, and unfortunately, I tuned out the rest of what he said. Many colors, all woven together, yet making a cohesive whole. That is the family that I have married into.

This is the quilt. There are nine panels, and inlaid into each panel is a strip with nine different fabrics. Everything is similar, yet nothing is identical. The edges are uneven to represent the different personalities, yet the panels are joined into one unified piece.

Even though siblings and their families live on both coasts and in the Chicago area, we meet once every three years at the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a week-long family reunion. At last count there were 39 of us, in three generations. Since that reunion, we have had one marriage and one new baby. With both parents dead, my husband and I are the elders of the group (and that is a might scary thought). We have been doing this since 1973, and the babies on that trip now all have babies of their own.

We also have t-shirts made to commemorate the event. My son designs the logo and we have them printed up in all sizes from baby XS to adult XXL. We gather on the beach and pose for a group photo. As the years have progressed and the group has expanded, the camera has had to be positioned further and further away. Notice how nicely we have positioned ourselves, to make a balanced group.

My husband and I are seated in the center, the places that were always occupied by his parents. We are now older than his parents were when we first started these trips. Egads, I'm making myself depressed!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Good and sort of good news

I finally heard from the Art Committee at Purdue University. In early January I submitted a proposal for a piece for their Art in the Classroom project. I sent them a sample of what the fabrics would look like with the screened images.
So I got a phone call the other day with the nicest rejection I've ever had. They loved the proposal, and really wanted the work, but because the building is flooded with sunlight and they didn't want to have to put the piece behind plexiglas, they decided to turn it down. But the good news is that there is money coming available for art for another building that is not so sun drenched and they want to just move my proposal over for that building's art. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

And I have a piece that's going into the Journal Quilt Project Book. I only did the Journals one time, in 2003, and so I could only submit one entry, but they took it. It's my July piece. I've always visualized the months as colors, and July is red because it's hot. The fabrics are hand dyed by moi, as are the pearl cotton threads used for some of the hand stitching. The sun image is gold foiled with adhesive screened through a thermofax, and then foiling with gold with an iron.

And lastly, this is the view from my window. The first daffodil has bloomed in the garden.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Good grief!

I'm looking out the window at the forsythia blooming across the street and it's SNOWING! Not supposed to be doing that! It's too warm to actually amount to anything (I hope), but, ya know, it was in the 80's on Monday. March is so wacky. Some of the worst snows in Baltimore have been in March.

The amount of daylight and night are nearly the same - 12 hours each - even though the Equinox isn't until next week. When asked why these two events don't occur on the same day, the local weatherman explained. Sunrise is marked as when the sun first peaks above the horizon; sunset when the last rays disappear. The Equinox is measured when the geometric center of the Sun crosses the Earth's equator. I'm sure you can use this factoid to impress all your friends.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

New York Weekend

What a great time we had! The weather was fabulous, brilliant sunshine and warm temperatures. Martha and I arrived Friday late morning and met up with Eleanor and Sidnee and headed off to the galleries. First stop was the Noho Gallery, where SAQA had a show in January. That show is gone, but the others wanted to see the space. We checked out a few of the other galleries in that same building and were impressed by the fact that quality is not a requirement for exhibiting. There were some real dogs. There are a bunch of other galleries in the immediate area and we visited many of them. One of the more interesting sights wasn't in a gallery, but out in the street. Check out this very political truck. On the side not visible, it says "I'M VOTING (something covered by graffiti) OUT. Given the sentiments on the rest of the truck, I suspect "BUSH" is what's covered up.
Walking down the street we saw this newly married couple posing for pictures. So I took one.
People were skating at the Rock Center even though it was 60 degrees. Must be refrigerated.

Off to dinner and then to the Broadway Tickets booth where you can get same day tickets to shows. After much friendly discussion we settled on "The Most Happy Fella", which is a revival of the 50's play, which is an adaptation of an early 20th century novel. Paul Sorvino was the lead. It's a musical but most of the dialog is sung, so it's nearly an opera. None of us thought it was fabulous, but it was fun to be in the New York Opera House, in Orchestra seats, albeit the second to last row, right behind a guy with a Very Big Head. This was the view from our seats before Big Head Guy sat down.

Next morning we headed out to breakfast bright and early. Eleanor on the left, Sidnee facing the camera, and Martha on the right.

Even the window displays are Art. This is a mannequin atop a skirt of cashmere sweaters all artistically knotted together. Very cool.

Then off to MOMA to see the Edvard Munch exhibit. As we stood in line to get in, who should we see but Michael James and his wife Judy, in town from Nebraska. All four of us are taking Michael's class at QSDS in June. Such a small world. Couldn't take pictures in the Munch exhibit, but here are a few things that caught my eye.

Jim Dine's painted tools, belongs right there in the New Image Hardware exhibit.

These are nails, very carefully arranged so that they make a swirl pattern. I wonder how many times the artist (whose name I don't remember) pounded his thumb.

This one reminded me of the construction style of some of my latest quilts, except this one is painted.

And of course, Jackson Pollock's painted paint.

At the American Folk Art Museum was an exhibit of "Obsessive Drawing" and it's aptly named. Talk about labor intensive! One artist used tiny circles and created a value range from nearly black to nearly white just using the size and density of the circles. It was amazing to ponder the magnificent obsessions of these artists.

After a wonder dinner at Joe's Shanghai restaurant, we headed back to the hotel where we all collapsed. Eleanor is a pretty tough tour guide. No rest for the weary. Luckily the next day it was raining, and since Eleanor and Sidnee had planes to catch, Martha and I decided to leave also. It was tons of fun and I grossly underestimated the amount of cash I would need. Thank heavens for plastic and ATMs.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Well, phooey.

Lisa told me my RSS feed was messed up so I tried to fix it. Well, the RSS feed works but I have messed up my sidebar. And I'm leaving for New York in half an hour and don't have time to mess around with it. It will just have to wait until Monday. And by then I'll have pictures and interesting stuff to post instead of stupid computer stuff.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Blog changes

Visiting random links to other members of the Artful Quilters Web Ring showed me stuff I wanted on my site. Debra Roby had a little button that shows the times of sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moon set in her area. A natural for someone who is obsessed with the amount of light. So I got one for my own site. Now I can keep an even closer eye on astronomical things.

I also was impressed with the blogrolls that show when people have updated their blogs. Found one of those at Blogrolling You can put a link on your browser toolbar and when you land on a page you want to add to your Blogroll, click on the toolbar link, fill in the information in the box and Voila! automatically added to your Blogroll. I've been visiting the places I usually visit and adding them. If you want your blog added and it isn't already, just let me know.

Tomorrow I'm going to New York City for the weekend. Four Chicks, no guys. So we can do exactly what we want, i.e. visit art museums and cool stuff like that. I'm not a shopper so that's not on my list, unless we happen upon some fabric store or art supply store. The weather is supposed to be warm (50s and 60s) and maybe rainy, but that's better than cold and rainy, or horrors! snow.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Noon shots

Report on the position of the sun at noon:
Almost to 25 inches. Last picture was Feb 27 when the shadow was at 18 inches. Only 2 weeks to the equinox when we will have more light than dark. It's still light at dinnertime, as long as we eat at 6pm. It's light before the alarm goes off in the morning, which makes it oh so much easier to get up. My daffodils are up about 6 inches but no blooms. No swelling of buds on trees yet. Chances of any more snow are pretty slim, although some of the worst snowstorms on record in this area have occurred in March. Spring, here we come!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Message from the Shameless Commerce Division

After talking about the book on painting a few posts back, I had the brilliant idea to list a bunch of the books I have in my personal library (with links to Amazon so you can find out more about them) (and buy them for your own library). This link will take you directly to the list, or you can click on the link in the sidebar over on the right hand side. Of course, this is only a small percentage of the quilt/art/inspiration books I own, but there is a limit to how much I can bore you.

Gelatin printing with thickened dye

Trying to use up the dye stock and some thickener that's been in the back of the refrigerator for many months, I thought I would try some gelatin plate printing. I've mixed the gelatin before, using the Knox gelatin you get at the grocery store, but this time I wanted to use some bulk gelatin I've had for a while. The recipe on the carton is, of course, for consumption (which makes me gag, sorry). To use for making a gelatin plate, it needs to be much more concentrated. My first try was unsuccessful. After a e-consult with Rayna, I doubled the concentration, and it firmed up very nicely. Except I couldn't get it out of the pan in one piece. Scooped it back into a container and put it in the microwave, melted it, and put it back in the pan. Second try, I used hotter water to loosen the edges and out it came. There was a little bit of liquid gel, the water was a little too hot. Just softened the edges a little bit.

I had a piece of fabric that had been pre-soaked in soda ash and dried. Mixed up the dye, thickened it, spread it on the plate and then pressed various objects in to make impressions. Put the fabric on and rubbed to transfer the dye.
This is the entire piece, about 30" wide by 36" long. I really like it. But the results are quite different from doing the same process with paint. The thickened dye doesn't hold the impression as well as paint, and so the images are less distinct and there isn't near the same amount of detail.
Closer up, you can see the detail better, but it's difficult to identify some of the objects I used, whereas with paint, it would be totally obvious. Here, it's making texture. This will make a good background for further experimentation.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Miniature Art Textiles: Dallas

The Third International Invitational Exhibit of Miniature Art Textiles, curated by Joanie San Chirico, is now live on the web. Because the Quilt Guild of Dallas funded last year's show, they wanted to be able to exhibit it during thier show March 17-18-19. The visitors at the Dallas show will get first choice of purchases, but once that show has ended, everything that is for sale will be available to the public. I already posted my quilt but since a blog entry with no pictures is boring, here it is again.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Nifty book

My friend Martha gave me this book the other day. It's called Make Your Mark by Margaret Peot and it's about using different art techniques to make marks on paper. But there's no reason that most of these techniques can also be used on fabric. Some might need a little experimentation to get the same effects on fabric but it's certainly worth a try. And it's an excuse to get more stuff (like any of us needs an excuse!) Here's a link directly to Amazon (and if you buy it, I get credit for referring you.)

More wax

I now have 2 tjaps that I got from Dharma Trading Company. They are really cool and it makes me want more. Except that they are quite expensive, so I think I will have to space out my purchases. This time I used dyes instead of paints. And after reading an article about using soy wax and how it is water soluble and how dye sitting on top of the wax will eventually works its way down onto the fabric, I was very careful to wipe any extra dye off the wax. There was some staining, which is okay, I like that effect. The original piece of fabric was already blue, so that's where most of the color in the design comes from.

The above tjap is about 6" in diameter. Looks like a sun image to me, but then I like sun images.

And this one is about 8" x 6". Depending on the direction from which you view this, it could be a bird (sort of) or it could just be a bunch of scribble designs. The original color of this fabric was blue also, and then I painted it with an orange which obviously was more yellow than orange.

Next I wanted to test how well thickened dye would stay in place when the areas are enclosed by wax. The thickened dye was about the consistency of chocolate syrup, so not very thick. First, the wet view.
Since the fabric was lying on a board, it seems that the dye was soaking through and then migrating underneath, and not penetrating the wax. Again, I was careful to wipe off any dye sitting on top of the wax. And here is the dry version.

I always forget how much more intense the colors are when wet, and then am disappointed when I see the dried version. But in a few days or so I will forget the wet and be happy with this.

Now I have to go work on preparing stuff for the tax man.