Friday, July 30, 2010

exploring an urban wildlife refuge

Or--I should maybe I should call this post--why my feet are so tired.

As my frequent readers will know, I am setting up for the PA Guild of Crafts Show this week-end in Wilmington, DE. A town I have passed hundreds of times on the Interstate, but never stopped in. The show is along their developing new Riverfront along the Christiana River. Well I love rivers and I love adventure so of course after finishing hanging my quilts I had to explore.

Who could resist a sign pointing to an Urban Wildlife Refuge? What is an Urban Wildlife Refuge I wondered? Did it matter that my feet were already tired from set up--nope. It was a nice day and not that far.

When I got there I couldn't believe how much fun it was. I soon learned that the Refuge was named for Russell W. Peterson a former Governor of Delaware who was dedicated to the environment.

The first thing I saw was a wonderful hobbit like tree and stone sculpture that sprawls along the ground and creates a great little cave like structure. Here is one of the roots of the "tree".

And part of the cave like house--it's not scary at all--just a lot of fun. I've seen lots of pictures of small children climbing on it though none were there today.

Isn't that wonderful--almost elephantine? But soon my eye was drawn to the stone spheres. I haven't been able to discover if they were by Andy Goldsworthy--although they do look like his work. The first one has a couple of openings so you can look into it.

It's about my height. Peering inside there is an added space.

Mystical isn't it. The other is a sphere with no openings.

I want one. The neat thing is that it is juxtaposed against a slab of rock that seems almost to float above the surface of the earth. A path takes you across the rock. I hadn't even realized how ethereal it seemed until I crossed it and looked back.

There's lots more to see in this wonderful outdoor installation but I wanted to cross the bridge and go through the building to see the marshes themselves. The bridge takes you up and over the railroad tracks. Yes, this is still a working area of town with real cranes in the distance.  These are fresh water marshes--part of what once was a much larger marshland that was diked and drained beginning in the 1600's. It took over a decade to restore these 212 acres to a more pristine condition--burning part of it to remove invasive species, changing the drainage ditches that had been put in place and letting nature take its course.

There is a quarter mile board walk through the marshes that--of course--I had to follow. Yes, my feet said no but my heart said yes. Who could resist being out in the marshes--seeing the variety of plants. Having the grasses rustle. Lots of birds can be seen.

 Some of the grasses came over my head--and since the board walk is several feet above the water you know they were tall. At other places you were near the bank of the river and could see different plants growing on its banks.

It was getting late and I still had to find the hotel where I did a bit more reading on the internet about this wonderful refuge. It really is right off the I 95--open year round--and even has restroom facilities. Certainly I know I will stop there again--there is a nature center that offers exhibits and walks about this fresh water marsh. I love the outdoor installation--certainly I am thinking of ideas that I can use back home to design our property. For more information you can go here:

Now the only question is how will I ever be able to stay inside at the Craft Show when there is such a treasure so near the fair.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

how long does it take to make a quilt?

Did you catch the story on NPR about the person who bought old negatives that he claims are from Ansel Adams at the tag sale? He paid $45 for them and now claims they are worth over $200,000,000. There is a dispute as to whether the negatives are really those of Ansel Adams--one of the pre-eminent black and white photographers of the 20th century. But that dispute is for the experts--we don't have to go there. The more interesting discussion is what value the negatives have by themselves--especially in the case of work by Ansel Adams who was known for manipulating the images in the dark room to create just the right feeling. 

Indeed the former head of the Ansel Adams Center for Photography Andy Grundberg told Michelle Norris said that the negatives don't have any significant value.  Without Adams around to process the negatives--to get the intense contrasts he is known for--what are the negatives? Merely guideposts. Could someone--not Adams--take the negatives and make art from them?  At best, Grundberg said, they could be considered the score but the score needs the conductor to bring out the flavor and art. Otherwise they are only historically relevant. Indeed Grundberg explained how Adams changed the look of his most famous Moonrise, Hernandez photograph over the years as his vision changed. The art is in the vision and process of the artist. Adams had the skill to create the photographs he wanted from the tools he had available. I wonder how many photographs he threw away in the dark room because they did not turn out right. Did he examine the ones that almost worked--pin them up and study them to learn? Did he tear them up and toss them in a fire? Did he sigh? Take notes? Go for a walk? I confess I don't know that much about him.

I remember reading once that Georgia O'Keefe sketched a hundred jack in the pulpits until she got it just right. I love that story and her determination. It has gotten me through many a rough quilting session.

Now I am not Ansel Adams or Georgia O'Keefe, but sometimes I do console myself thinking that if they struggled, struggle itself just fine. When I  last wrote, I was trying to finish a quilt for the PA Guild Craft Show this week-end. The quilt started off easily enough. The colors were the faded dusty colors of rolling fields in late summer.  I have a vision of gentle prairies stretching  forever that is haunting me. I like the intrigue of the land doing gentle dips and rises--almost as though it is breathing. It is at once soothing and asking a question.

I like most of the quilt at this stage but then it got lost and became simply a sketch for a quilt I will make--later. Ugh!! An idea--actually several ideas in this quilt but not what I want. I will pin it up, study it. Maybe even pick it apart. Anger is not my style. At first I am sad and then I get determined. There is something to learn here. I may get more greys and dusty browns.  Eventually I will either make the quilt I see in my mind or move on to another challenge. A few years from now I may look at it--wonder what was I thinking. Or maybe figure out finally what I was thinking?

Ugh! and Ugh!! Ugh!!!

Does this ever happen to you? What do you do? How do you process a vision that doesn't work out just right?  And how do you explain to those who will ask at the craft fair this week-end--and invariable I will get asked a lot-- "How long does it take to make a quilt?"

Check out the full NPR interview transcript here:

Monday, July 26, 2010

schedules and an ornery quilt

Well when you last heard from me, I had just started a new wall hanging that I sure would like to finish before the PA Guild Show. Alas--this quilt is one that is being ornery.

Now for those who don't know--my studio is in the wonderful village of Shelburne Falls. I am open to the public unless I am doing a craft show. Although it took some getting used to, I have learned to like having regular hours. When I am at the studio, I need to work. When it's five o'clock I put the quilts on hold until the next day. I rely on this regular schedule to get the most work done.  Indeed my DH just returned from a 2 week seminar--he asked me if I stayed late and got lots accomplished. I tried to explain to him, that I like my regular schedule. If I stay late, I just futts around the studio the next morning.

As you may remember I wanted to make rows of fields stretching to the horizon in late summer colors--a bit dusty. Not too precious. With color progressions and variations. I sketch the quilt out and tell myself to make what I know. How slowly it goes. These rows do not follow from each other.

This part makes sense. But what comes next?

I finish the bottom corner. Is the green too bright? Luckily it is five and I get to leave. It may look better in the morning.

The next morning I realize the problem is not the green but that the corner is too muddy. Time to pick out stitches. Ugh!!!

Better--although it may still need a bit more definition. And what color comes next on the upper left?
Luckily--guess what. It's five o'clock again. Maybe the answer will come over night.

OK--that works better. A bit more teal in the bottom right corner. Oh how I hate to take out stitches. It is better to do it as they say in the ad. Something's still not right though. Luckily--you guessed it. Five o'clock.

Oh I do like that idea much better. What do you think? Now to sew it together and see what it looks like. Quilts do change when the blocks are joined. So much to do--so little time. And soon--guess what. It will be five o'clock again. Do you keep a regular schedule for work?  How long can you work in a day?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

the quilt I want to make

A week to go before the PA Guild Show. I finished the big quilt a couple days ago and then spent a day or two agonizing what to make next. There are some smaller wall hangings in colors that I know will sell--maybe I should make one of those? Some variation in color of course to keep me interested and to learn something new. Maybe a couple of much smaller pieces--table runners. I could always use more of them. Hmm. I ponder the colors. I just can't get going though.

Then it comes to me. I have been working toward a quilt with rolling fields for a couple years now. I did red barn, blue silos. Loved that piece.

And of course the mystery of bend in the road. A slightly earlier quilt.

And of course the rolling nature of hills and valleys. I bet you can see where I'm going.

This is a quilt I've been thinking about for some time. Although I am certainly not sure if it will work. I make a few quick sketches. I am making a wall hanging which I want to be 45x45 inches. I think this is a nice size.  Takes up wall space but can fit into many homes.

I drink more coffee. And then decide I must simply start. Not think about it. Not worry about whether there is time to finish it. When I was a child, we took swimming lessons at the local pool. Since we lived in the country our lessons were at 8 am when the water temperature was really cold.  There was a high dive which we were expected to jump off.  It really scared me. I knew the water would be really cold when I hit it. The sensation of falling through the air was fun but also unnerving. All I could do was walk to the end and jump--if I thought about it I wouldn't do it. I was always proud of myself when I did it though.  Sometimes quilts are like that too. You just have to start.  Pull out the fabric and make a block.  If I don't get it done in time, there will be another show.

I tell myself to make what I know. I do the greens. It gives the quilt a form and outline. How fragile it looks. But it is nice to be sewing with a purpose.

Then a row of golden browns--let see how this looks.

Progress.  I have no clue what comes next. Luckily for me it's closing time. I have all night to think about the colors. If I can just get one or two more done then maybe it will fall in place. What about a grey? A possibility. I don't want to go to the pinks--not for this quilt.  I want the subtle colors of fields at the end of the season--slightly dusty. Earth colored.  Maybe I could use a misty teal? Taupe?  What do you think?  Do you have quilts that you just start because you want to see what happens?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A few of the quilts for the PA Guild Show

So soon I will be leaving for the PA Guild Show in Wilmington, DE. The show itself is next Saturday July 31 and Sunday August 1 in the air-conditioned Chase Building along the waterfront in Wilmington, DE. This is a show I haven't done before but I am looking forward to it. The Guild treats its artists with respect and care which I appreciate.

I haven't done a show since the beginning of May so I am trying to figure out what I need to remember. The list begins to build--the vacuum cleaner--I forgot that last time, an order form, postcards with contact info, a notepad to get names for my mailing list. But what quilts do I need that I don't have?
I do have the rainbow series--bright primary colors. They will be the highlight of the booth. Although they haven't posed for their "formal" pictures yet. Above the prairie just returned from the US Embassy in Dili, Timor-Leste. It will be fun to see this quilt again.

Above the prairie--40x56 inches

What else do I need? Here are some of the quilts that I know are going to show up. What do you think--another bright piece? Or more autumnal desert colors. It can't be too big. But something--at least to start--even if I don't get it done. I do have the rainbow series.

And here are some others.

Summer sky--50x81"

autumn afternoon--45x45 inches

 first mountain--45x45 inches

colors of autumn--45x45 inches

hills and shadows--99x103 inches

november dawn--45x45 inches

dawn on the hill--17x45 inches

dawn on the ocean--45x45 inches

Any thoughts?

Monday, July 19, 2010

What is beauty? Part 1

Recently I have been thinking about what is beauty? How does it relate to art? How do we define it? I know--heady topics and I really don't have a grip on them--but fun to ponder. I think I'll nibble around it at the edges. Lots of time while I finish my most recent quilt--rainbows of summer--which I need to finish by the PA Guild Show in Wilmington, July 31-August 1.

This quilt is based on the feeling of peak season in my flower garden when everything seems like it is perfect. There is a completeness--at least for me. It's hot (although maybe not as hot as it has been here recently.) The garden has so many flowers that one notices the flowers and not the foliage. Peak season doesn't last for long--alas. Here let me show you the bottom of the quilt:

Of course the colors are going to come around at the top to become blues and purples again. I added another row of blue to the top but I'm sure you get the idea.

See what I mean--this quilt is beautiful. Some quilts are a struggle from their very inception--others almost seem to pop right out. This one is the latter. Sure there were a couple color palettes that I had to contemplate. I even had a few pieces that just did not work. But for the most part--this quilt just came into being. What do you think?

Now as I'm doing the finish work I  have plenty of time to think. Has this piece been too easy?  It is beautiful--but is will it be considered art? Can art be beautiful in the 21st century?

I remember that I  have a copy of Umberto Eco's Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages. Now this is a scholarly book and I must confess that most of it goes right over my head. Whoosh. But the Middle Ages fascinate me. A time so similar to ours and yet also so different.  What was considered beautiful in the Middle Ages? How has the concept of beauty and art changed over the course of history? It turns out that at least according to Eco beauty back then was highly valued. Cathedrals were beautiful. Beauty was sensual--representing the natural world although not necessarily representational. The richness of gold and precious metals as a method of seeing the divine.  The ornamentation on the precious texts so that those who could read would absorb the words and the others would gain the meaning from the illustrations.  I even read a great quote that " the literature of the laity."  Even the ascetics knew  the power of beauty--they just didn't want to be distracted by it.

I need to read more. What is the relationship between art and beauty both in the Middle Ages and in the contemporary world? I know I have seen plenty of traditional quilts that are beautiful but that I don't consider art. However, IMHO  the best of the Amish quilts have an edge that makes them both beautiful and art. Is it that edge that we now search for? What do you think? Any examples?

I feel that I am not even scratching the surface of this question but need to know more.

Friday, July 16, 2010

it's peak season

It's peak season in the garden. Such a fleeting joyous time. The time when the flowers outnumber the foliage. From a distance the garden is a riot of colors and shapes. So hard to capture the magic in a picture.

In my eye I focus on the reds, the yellows. Amazing how you see things different from what the camera snaps.

Up close there are the individual flowers to examine closely and absorb. The complex glow of lily dache.  Glorious isn't it?

The patterns of homeplace widget. Don't you just love it? I think this is its first season blooming here. I must make a note to move it. Rarely do I use the word--but it does apply, doesn't it?

The patterns and colors of the seedling. Maybe not the best daylily but look at those great patterns and colors. I can't wait to see it next year when it should also have some siblings blooming.

So much to see and do. At the studio I started a new big quilt a couple weeks ago for the PA Guild Fine Craft Fair in Wilmington, DE July 31 and August 1 trying to capture the completeness of the season. This was what I got done last week.

And below is what I've done this week. Still so much to do. Two more rows of dark blue to piece forthe top. And then sewing it all together. What was I thinking? Especially during peak season.

I know it will be wonderful. But can I get it done? I wake up every morning as early as I can. Water the garden--we've had just enough rain to fill the barrels so I can water guilt free. Then head off to the studio to do another row or two. At five or so, I head home--exhausted, grab a bite to eat, then head out to the garden to admire, enjoy and alas--weed.

So brief the season is. Already today I noticed that some of my favorite daylilies are on their last flower.  I need more late daylilies though I'm not sure where I'll plant them. I need to finish the quilt in time. Let's face it--I need more time. Do you ever have periods like this? How do you do it?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

my quilts at Landmark Campus in Tarrytown

Wow--I just got the pictures from my one woman show Ann Brauer: Contemporary Landscape Quilts at the Landmark Campus in Tarrytown, NY. The pictures totally reconfirm my feeling that art quilts fit perfectly in modern corporate settings. Of course, the Art Advisor Wendy Kelley did a superb job selecting quilts to coordinate with the surroundings IMHO. What do you think?

Unfortunately while the show runs through October 1, 2010 the building is not open to the public. To arrange viewing or for inquiries about the pieces in the show, please contact Wendy Kelley Art Advisor 203.912.1044.

Without further ado, here are the images:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

the quilts of Ann Brauer--July shows

Dear all,

I know it is a bit late for my monthly post--I guess the heat has been slowing me down. Oh New England in the summer--it is not supposed to be this hot and humid with no rain.

Frequently people will comment that I must spend the long winters in Massachusetts making quilts. While that is true, it is also true that the hot dog days of summer are perfect to work in my studio in air-conditioned comfort. This is a good thing because I do have plenty of quilts I need to be making. As you can tell from the attached picture, I have been inspired to continue my series of folding and rolling hills--the attached quilt is called "rainbow hills."  What do you think?

I will be showing this quilt and many others at the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftspeople Show at the Chase Center in Wilmington, DE on July 31 and August 1. This is the first time I've done this show but I'm really looking forward to it. The Chase Center is along the scenic riverfront in Wilmington. Did I mention it's also air-conditioned?  The show has over 170 great artists including my friends David Bacharach and Kathy Cooper. If you go to their web site you can pre-purchase tickets and save $2 as well as be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate. Do check it out--especially if you are in the Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania area or just passing through.

I am also having a one woman show at the Landmark Corporate Campus in Tarrytown, NY running through October 1. This show "Ann Brauer: Contemporary Landscape Quilts" features eight of my wall hangings displayed on the walls of the campus. All viewings are by appointment. Inquiries should be addressed to Wendy Kelley Art Advisory  203.912.1044.

Meanwhile I continue to be working in my studio most days in beautiful Shelburne Falls where the Bridge of Flowers is lovelier than ever this year.  If you are in the area do stop by and see me--I am there most days though if you are driving from a distance you might want to contact me. There is lots to see in the town. And of course you can read my blog or join me on Facebook and Twitter for further information.

Ann Brauer
2 Conway Street
Shelburne Falls, MA 01370

E-mail me:



Contemporary landscape quilts.

Monday, July 5, 2010

juried craft shows--oh those slides

It's July--that means among other things--that it's time to start thinking about shows for next winter and spring. I know--it seems far too early. But deadlines are deadlines. And I for one--don't want to miss applying for the American Craft Council shows.

Now you would think that after 29 years in business this would be a snap. But I always have new quilts to show--and just like everything else--one new slide means that the others may not work. Besides jurors like to see that you have new work and are pushing yourself. Moreover, as you may remember, this year I got wait listed for one show that I felt I should have been in.

OK--I need five consistent images--the jury will see thousands of images. I do know I have great photographs--my photographer John Polak is among the best. But I want mine to create a clear consistent statement in the few seconds they have to observe my work both when they run through it quickly the first time and then when they vote the second time. First hills and shadows.


I am intrigued by this piece--but it is busy. And I worry that the jury will think I can't make a flat quilt will they understand that the illusion of depth is much harder than keeping it flat?  I wonder if this will be the first quilt in my series. Maybe with just other earth tone quilts. That would be consistent. Will it pop? I try dreams of the dawn--wonderful piece though slightly strange colors.

I like it--but I'm not sure. Autumn afternoon is a good stand by--calming while making a statement.

But  this is getting rather dull. And hills and shadows seems out of place with the simpler color studies. I have also not included prairie sky--another major piece that right now I have been using for branding on social media. Is this a mistake? For this show, jurors will know my name. I look at it again.

The application is on Zapplication--the images are square. This quilt is not so there will be some black around the piece--will it look less significant?  And it is blue--does not go well with all the other earth tones. However, I love this quilt--it may be worth it just that. What about a close-up? Two blue pieces, one multicolor, one pure color. I decide that colors of autumn will add diversity.

It does go with hills and shadows in terms of colors and feeling. Dreams of dawn feels like the odd quilt out. The close-up of prairie sky is adding too much blue--but maybe a close-up of hills and shadows will convey the idea that the quilt really is flat. Amazing how much effort can go into making five images that all go together. And Zapplication is easy to use--just follow the directions and upload the images--then play.

I play some more and then decide like the British royal family that I need an "heir and a spare" so I apply for another show as well.  I reread the directions and realize the jury is instructed to read the description of the first quilt. I go back in and make sure I have used my 255 characters wisely. Time to send it off and cross my fingers. Will I regret my decision when I look at it again? Not sure. What do you think?