Thursday, October 28, 2010

hidden lake--creating the promise

Have you noticed that sometimes a quilt just seems to happen. This time, I was finishing prairie hills. You may remember the soft colors of this piece. Based on fabrics that reminded me of feed sack cloth.
Check out this blog post. The sewing together of a quilt always takes forever. I want to see it done. Finished.

I woke up early one morning and had a dream of the next quilt. It was so clear. A large mountain--all encompassing. A field going into the distance. Where the field and the mountain met, water. Was it a stream? A lake? Clearly something I wanted to approach. The mountain a deep vivid green going up to the sky. A sunny day. Warm. The colors bright and pure. A counterpart to the dusty colors of prairie hills.

Was this from the movie A River Runs Through It? Or maybe it was in the White Mountains where my DH and I vacation? Did it matter? No--I just needed to start the piece. A few blocks of the dark brown. The green fabric was needed to keep me focused.

But how to create the feeling of water. I could see it glistening in my mental picture. I pin up some strips of fabric.

Not quite right. The color too blue. Too obvious. I remember a hike this summer to a waterfall. At first you of glimpses of the stream. Occasionally if the wind was right, you might hear it. But basically you were hiking up to a promise.

How would this look? I keep piecing. The mountain must be BIG. Not the small mountains around here. I don't have as many greens as I would like--but I don't want to stop and buy more. I search the studio. Fold and refold fabric hunting for those tiny strips of green that will be just right.

The quilt grows. I wonder if there should be sky at the top of the mountain. Or will that be too much design. Too realistic.

I decide to add just a hint of blue--teal maybe. It is a cloudy day and I am too busy working to want to get the light right for the picture. This quilt is impelling me to just sew.

But I am not sure the water is quite right. Too much red. I would not hike to that. Hmm. How disappointing. What if my idea was wrong after all that work? Should I have thought this quilt through more. I go home disappointed. Then the next morning I wonder if I should just add more blue here.
I pin up a piece.

Yes. Alas another fuzzy image. But this is just what I want. I take out just a bit of the blocks. Add a couple more pieces of blue. I do want the lake to be just glimpsed. A secret lake.

Wow--it is amazing what a simple tweak can do. Yes, that promise. The right blue--warm, summer. Just what I wanted. What do you think? Would you hike to this lake? Have you ever had a project where a simple tweak or two can change everything?

Now I must work hard and sew it together. After all I am doing The Washington Craft Show in November. Yikes!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

road trip--time for a house visit

OK--it is time for a house visit. Now I have a couple of friends who are very good at visiting client's homes--they take several pieces of work, show how great it looks in the setting and walk away with the order. Oh I wish I could do it but I am a shy person and find visiting someone's home is such a presumptive thing to do. Maybe because the first time I did it I drove three hours each way and spent an hour looking at the site only to discover that the woman who arranged the visit did not have an authority to buy. Ouch.

However, every once and a while, such a visit is in order. This time it was for a customer that I have dealt with before. I knew she had a new house which I was eager to see. She also has very good taste in quilts--if I do say so myself. Great taste in art in general--I know many of the people she collects.  And she is a very nice person.

Now I wasn't sure if there was anything special that she wanted to see. I packed a few quilts and put them in the back of my van. I put fresh batteries in my camera, grabbed my order book and my computer if she wanted to see images. Before leaving I called just to confirm--after all I did not want to drive down to her house unless she was going to be there.

Luckily for me, it was a lovely day. Foggy at first. With the last of the autumn colors. Then as I got closer, the sun came out. Of course I had planned it with a few minutes to spare. I did not want to make her wait. Found the road then headed into town.

What fun I had. Normally I don't get to spend time in Lenox--it is just far enough from my studio--a few backroads, a mountain range and no time.  So that is where I headed. Wow--outdoor sculpture throughout the town. Lined up along the sidewalk. What fun. I parked the van and started walking.

Don't you love this abstract grouping?


Here is a close-up. What detail. He reminds me of one of my DH's uncles.

Another sculpture I loved was this one--very simple and concise. Though perhaps a bit expected.

And this woman. What interesting movement here.

Yes, someone--not me-- had put some cornflakes in her hand. OK--that is sort of cool. I wonder if the birds ate from it. Though I did wish it was bird seed.

So much to see. A little town common with a perfect New England tree. Lots more sculptures throughout town--even a juried art show. I could have spent several hours. But I had "promises to keep and miles to go...."

Yes, I clearly must do more house visits. Do you? Any hints about doing them?  Have you been to Lenox recently? 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

prairie hills--how long does it take?

Of course everyone wants to know how long it takes to make a quilt. It's just one of those questions that I get asked all the time. All artists that I know get asked that question. Some are able to answer in terms of the number of days or weeks or years that a piece takes. Some answer that it takes a life time. "Forever," I frequently answer. Or sometimes I explain that I just can't say. After all, I spend a lot of time thinking about the piece before I begin it. And I do rely on all of the past quilts that I have made to instruct me for the current piece. These little tricks can be invaluable.

Now, if you may remember I had gone fabric shopping recently. Got some of the most intriguing fabrics--reminded me of feedsack cloth. Reproduction fabric from the Civil War. I had even made some placemats to learn to use this fabric. Here is the blog post.

Time to start. I was thinking of those hills on the prairie--summer time. A hint of dryness in the air. Haunting colors. I knew I wanted to make it similar to desert hills.

So I began piecing. The first couple of rows came together rather easily. Sure each block seemed like it took--well, I must say it--forever. But I did know what I was doing.

I stopped a bit before using this fabric--it references complex Indian fabric. Memories of the British empire.

But it worked. Isn't that sparkle of warmth and light wonderful in the quilt.

 I add another row. The colors are becoming haunting. Now the main question is what color to use on the bottom two rows. Luckily I have one more row to piece and it is quitting time so I pin up a color that I was thinking of. Too red. It overwhelms the softness of the colors.

I try another one. No. I like the softer effect but it still seems too red.

One more try. Maybe a more golden brown with hints of green. Not what I would have thought when I began the piece.

Actually that might work. Time to make a test sample.

Yes, that seems to be working.

What do you think? Time to sew it together. Now that is something that also seems to take forever. But I think of the quilt after this one. Maybe another green one. A slightly darker green. Just a hint of blue. Maybe I can use the redder browns this time. Or maybe I want to use rust tones and olives. So many quilts. So little time. And each one does seem to take forever.

And you, how long does it take you to make a quilt? Or maybe a picture? A new recipe? How do you answer that question? Any suggestions?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

fabric shopping--again

OK--so the blue quilt is almost done. Just a bit of tweaking and finish work. It's time to start a new wall hanging. Now I do have another large wall hanging to work on. It is also blue. But first I need to work in some other color. After all, I will be doing the Washington Craft Show in about a month and my selection of work is a bit limited.

So it is off to The Textile Co again. You may remember this wonderful fabric store--in Greenfield. I have posted about it before. An old buggy factory. In the same family for 3 generations. No web site. No credit card but a wonderful selection of fabric.

I make sure I have a bit of extra time. I am not sure exactly what I am looking for. I think I want to make another quilt like desert hills only in different colors. It is a good size. Sells well.

At first nothing is leaping out at me. Some fabrics just seem too familiar. Too much like the blues I have been working on. Then it hits me. I see a fabric I just have to work with. It is a green--rather soft in color but with so many other interesting fabrics on top of it. I am not sure what to do with it. Maybe that's why I like it. Also it does remind me a bit of feed sack cloth. It could be a reproduction fabric. No, it is from 2009. But still that is what it reminds me of.

I keep looking. Grab another fabric that could be a reproduction. These prints seem to conjure up memories.

Look at all these designs. I grab another--this one a bit more brown. But again a pattern that looks old.
I start to think of prairies. Dry fields and endless skies.

I grab some others--a Civil War reproduction. A fabric called Simpler Tymes. An olive green with wheat enclosed in a hoop. Oh this is getting interesting.

I put them up on my design board trying to get inspired. Hmm.

What interesting colors. I decide I have to make a test piece first. I need to get a feel for how the colors are going to work together. I don't see them as potholders, but I could make some placemats. Get used to the colors. I arrange the fabrics for the placemats. It is hard to get the order right. Which fabric is darker? How do the prints work?

There is something haunting about these colors. The placemats are soft. Maybe a bit greener than I might have thought they would be. I like the bits of pink and green though. The undertones of gold.

Should I make another test--or will the quilt be too studied if I do. I want to plunge in. I remember in grade school my sister and I took swimming lessons at the city pool. Now since we were country kids our lessons were always at 8 am. The water was still cold from the night air. There was a high dive--this was a long time ago. And we had to jump in from the high dive. Now I was not a great swimmer. The dive scared me. The fall was long enough that I can still remember the feeling. The water when it hit you was cold and deep and startling. But I soon learned that it was even worse if I stood up there and thought about it. Much better to hold my nose and just jump in. Get started.

That's what I think I will do with this quilt. I have so much I want  to do before the Washington Show. I think I should just start. I do know what a couple of rows will look like. Maybe the other rows will then follow. If not I can always make more placemats while I am thinking. Hopefully then the questions will become more obvious.

And you my reader--how do you start a quilt or any other project?  Do you just look and begin and do you fret about the quilt? Any hints?

Monday, October 18, 2010

what is art? Emily Dickinson and the spider

Last week while I was doing some hand-finishing on a large quilt, my local NPR station played an interview between Christopher Lydon and Helen Vendler on the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Now I will be the first to admit that I have never seriously studied the poems of Emily Dickinson. Though I live in western Massachusetts, I have never even visited her home in Amherst. Sure I know a few of them--who doesn't. "I did not stop for death..." But quite frankly, I like my art to be in story form. Indeed even my quilts tell a story.

But the new quilt was on my lap. The sewing was progressing and I kept telling myself--just a few more stitches. So I began listening. Poems as the ashes of her (Emily's) soul. "Ashes reveal the fire that was..." Stark, chilling poetry. I found myself wondering what her innermost thoughts must have been. An atheist in a land of believers. Hunting for immortality through her art not her religion.  I began listening more closely. It was a deep well-organized presentation. It curved and circled the poems and then returned to art as the ashes--the distillation--of the essence of the person. I want to hear it again. Then read the poems and listen again. You can check it out here.

Ms Vendler--who has just written a book analyzing these poems--spent time on the spider and its web. As she admitted this is a difficult and complex poem that needs to be studied carefully. The first stanza fairly easy--simple one syllable rhymes. An image. Indeed almost a story.

                                    A Spider sewed at Night
                                    Without a Light
                                    Upon an Arc of White.

The second stanza more complex. Turns to the male search for truth. The rhymes longer and more complex. Not quite rhymes. Is the ruff of this world--ie for the dame or is it more of the fantastic--shroud of gnome.

                                    If Ruff it was of Dame
                                    Or Shroud of Gnome
                                    Himself himself inform.

The final stanza most complex. I look up the word physiognomy. Merriam-Webster defines it as : the art of discovering temperament and character from outward appearance. Note the most complex rhymes.

                                   Of Immortality
                                   His Strategy
                                  Was Physiognomy.

Do I understand this poem--no. Not yet. I must ponder it more. It does return to the concept that art is the ashes--the distillation--of one's life. 

And yet I look at the quilt I am currently finishing and think it is related. Many of my quilts tell stories--the bigness of the sky on the prairie, the perfect day in autumn. What is the story of this quilt?
It feels to me that it is going beyond story to another place where the colors and the motion sing. The quilt too large to be glimpsed in anything but sections in my studio.

And you dear reader? What is art? Immortality? What was the spider doing? A ruff for Dame or Gnome?  Is art physiognomy? The ashes of the soul?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

fine craft and crafters--is it "one craft"

Recently my friend Jeanne Heifetz posted a link to the Daily Art Muse a web site dedicated to showing some of the best in contemporary fine craft from around the world. Oh the images here are wonderful. The work on it is curated by Susan Lumoto and chosen to inspire students, artists and decorators alike. Trust me--it does. 3000 posts.  I am hooked. There is sculpture by Douglas J Fisher of Vancouver Island that seems to come out of the wood itself while also evoking memories of totem poles and ancient art.  Titles like Decay of Progress and Worthy of a Deep Silence. Amazing work that I want to come back to again and again. There is the Shoe Fetish of Gwen Murphy--you have to see the pictures to understand this, totems from South Africa. So much to see. Such fabulous new ways of thinking about the world around us. I want to come back to this site again and again. Do check it out.

On the other hand I read a post by Megan Auman One Craft:An Open Letter to the American Craft Council. To understand the context of her argument, you must first know a bit about the Baltimore Craft Show in February. This show--set in the Baltimore Convention Center--is one of the largest fine craft shows in the country. Indeed it could be said the show is HUGE!! Of course it is juried--a few of the exhibitors are at the level of the Daily Art Muse--though not all. And it is an expensive show to do--my booth for 2011 will cost me over $1400 for four days of retail plus the expense of being in Baltimore for almost a week. It would cost more if I also did two days of wholesale.

As a counterpart, the Craft Council has an "Alternative Craft" section to the show--set up more as a street market with  much smaller booths and a more "crafty" look to it. The DIY movement so to speak. The theory is that this will allow those who are just starting out to have a booth without paying the large fee for the booth. It is hoped that these exhibitors will attract a younger audience to the show.

Needless to say this section is not always popular with exhibitors--to put it mildly. Certainly I would be the first to agree that the craft movement needs to encourage newer talent. We also need to encourage a younger audience--after all many of those who previously purchased from us may soon be downsizing. New marketing methods and new ideas are always necessary.

But are we really "one craft"? Is there a difference between the fine craft represented by the Daily Art Muse and the "crafters" of the DIY movement? Should there be? Why does the very word "crafter" put me on edge? Should it? Megan argues that we should all be juried together--I can go for that. We should all pay the same fees--I can go for that also. And I do know that there are some new craftspeople who are very serious about their work--I am delighted that there is a younger generation--whether they are jurying with me or doing the Crafty Bastards show. (Yes, there is such a show.)

But and I still get back to the concept of "crafter". To my mind it seems that it does not imply a steadfastness of purpose. A seriousness to create the best possible work no matter whether it is a small item to be used or a wall hanging or sculpture to be treasured.

Now my large quilts can clearly hold their own against any work--insider or outsider. Fine craft or DIY. I may not be the absolute "best" quiltmaker but I have style and an audience. No one else works like I do. My heart goes into it.

The question for me focuses on my placemats.This is the crux of the issue.  Like a Mother Hen, I guard them carefully. I spend a lot of time selecting fabrics to create just the right color progression. I hand finish all the bindings and use a polyester batting designed for placemats so they actually can be washed easily. They are not cheap. Oh, how many times have I had this discussion:

                            "What is the price of the placemats?"

                            "Forty", I reply with a smile in my voice.

                            "For one?" they ask in amazement.

                             "Yes," I reply. And they walk away usually whispering to themselves that they    
                             they know where they can get four placemats for $40.

Now I sell enough placemats. Two placemats can make that special breakfast perfect. Others buy six, eight. An assortment of colors. A single one becomes a wall hanging. And they work. One craftsperson even "complained" that her mats were lasting too long.

What do you think of the DIY movement? Alternative craft?  Am I just a snob? After all, we all had to start somewhere. Are fine craft and the alternative craft movement just one craft? Are we part of the same continuum? What do you think?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

fiber at Paradise City

OK--finally I got my booth set up at the Paradise City Show in Northampton. Sometimes, I swear it is harder to set up when you are close to home--after all if I forget something,  I can always drive up to the studio to get it. Argh!!! Alas--I  think I know I-91 North too well!!!

But it looks pretty good. And I had half an hour this morning before the show opened. Time to see the new works in decorative fiber. One of the features I love most about the Paradise Shows is the fact that there is always something new to inspire me. This year did not disappoint.

I stop first at the booth of my friend Alice Pickett Lewis. I feel that I have known her forever. Or at least way back when she did wonderful rag rugs. She has always had such a great use of color and texture. Well now she has taken the concept of recycling wool one step further by using wool to create wonderful textiles that sing with color and movement. Isn't it wonderful?

Here's another one. Gorgeous.

As she pointed out, it is much harder to do a piece that is "random" than a piece that is planned. Certainly I can relate to that.  Oh I want to run my hand over the soft wool. She dyes and manipulates the recycled wool to create these wonderful works of wall art.  How clever that she uses the name salvage--do check it out:

The next work that stopped me in my tracks was that of Corinne Seeley. Again she was a rug weaver who wanted to go beyond the physical process of rug weaving if I remember correctly. These works are made of cotton and silk woven in the most wonderful dynamic designs. The work is then treated with something--she told me and I forget--to give it the finished texture. It makes it a bit hard to photograph but look at the wonderful designs. Alas, she does not yet have a web site but she can be reached by e-mail at

I am sure she has better images than these.

See I told you it was hard to capture. But she adds all these wonderful and perfect details. You really do want to see her work and her use of colors. I had never seen it before and I love it.

Finally there were the paper lights--or are they sculpture?-- of Riki Moss and Robert Ostermeyer. This illuminated sculpture is actually made of paper created from the pulp of bamboo leaves. Just talking with them let me feel the excitement when they realize a piece. Some of them looked so organic--lettuce leaves gone awry perhaps? And the soft colors--much better than those in my snapshots--are truly golden and lush. Do check out their web site- for more and better images of their work.

Aren't those shapes amazing? Haunting. Lush and golden. Turns out the work is also fire proof. Oh am I lusting after this?? For an added treat, Riki also makes a wonderful line of paper work that is currently shown in Japan as part of a Paper Biennial. She definitely knows her media. Her other work can be seen at

And now I must get prepared for another day at the show--there are still a few aisles I have yet to explore--maybe even more great fiber. Oh it is so much fun being at a show that is so inspiring. How hard it is to stay in my booth.

And you--do you find other fiber works to be inspiring? Do you gravitate to them the way I do?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

musings on entering shows

Recently I have been thinking about shows that require the work accepted not have been shown anywhere before. Perhaps the most famous of these is Quilt National. Now I have actually been fortunate enough to have been chosen for QN a couple of times back in the 90's. It is still an honor that I reference frequently. Of course I would have loved to get in again.

I can logically understand the rules of QN--after all they are the premier event of what is new in art quilts. I can easily see why they wouldn't want to show a piece that had been in other exhibits. Moreover, they really do have the right to determine the rules. I am not disputing any of this.

I must also remind my readers that I make quilts to sell them--this is how I support myself. Moreover my studio is open to the public--a couple years ago I had friends who were accepted into QN only to have their work rejected after it was discovered that someone else had taken an image of their work and posted it on the web.

So I knew there was a double whammy against me even if I could create a work that had a possibility of getting accepted. I confess that I had a great idea. I even went into the studio at times when I knew no one would be there--I couldn't risk having some well meaning tourist snapping a picture  when I wasn't looking and posting it on the internet.

The quilt had possibilities--still does--but life intervened. I had orders to fill. Family to deal with. I couldn't justify the time when I knew that realistically even if I made a qualifying work it would probably not get accepted--no matter how wonderful it was. After all, 1800 quilts are vieing for about 100 slots. I was OK with my decision--still am.  I read with a bit of envy the posts of others who could set aside that week or so to create quilts--I was happy for those who got accepted and felt for those that didn't.  I do support myself selling quilts and most of these lovely people do not. It is my choice.

Unfortunately the issue just raised its head again with another show. Now this is a more local show--I can probably get in--there would be advantages to me of showing there. And truth be told I do have one quilt that I have not taken to craft shows or posted on my web for just this show. But now part of me wonders what this show will be like with such rules.

Wouldn't the show be stronger if they would ease the rules--after all don't they want to see the best quilts available? And don't you as an artist want to either share your best work with your fans immediately or maybe even sell it? I doubt if changing the rules would diminish the draw of the show--personally I love to see the actual piece--no matter how great the photograph is there is nothing like seeing the real thing.

Well, I am not in charge. These are not the rules of the organization sponsoring the exhibit but those of the exhibit space.  Because of this I will not submit rainbow hills, rainbows of summer or blue rainbow. I won't submit midnight ocean or prairie sky or colors of autumn.  I will submit my one piece. It is a lovely. This will be their loss not mine.  At least that is my opinion--what do you think? Have you run into this problem? How do you solve it?

Monday, October 4, 2010

I love templates

Oh--how quickly September flew by. I have been spending much of my time working on a very big quilt. Finally I have the top half of the piece done and sewn together. Yes, it is so big it is hard to get a good picture in the studio.

The bottom half of the quilt is outlined--I still have 23 blocks to piece and then it has to get sewn together and hand-finished. Oh it does seem like it will never end. Though I do think it will look great when it's done.

Meanwhile I look at the calendar and realize that I have been working so hard that I haven't really had enough time to prepare for the Paradise City Arts Festival this coming week-end in Northampton. Now this is one of my very favorite shows. Linda and Geoff Post use great care to make sure the show is a fun experience. There is great food, great music, great art.

For me, this is a local show--I can actually sleep in my own bed. Sweet. Of course this increases the pressure  since I want people I see every day to know more about me and my quilts.

I look at the flyer I handed out this spring. Amazingly it is so out of date already. Most of the quilts pictured on it have been sold or on display in various gallery shows. I do have a collection of new work that I want to highlight. I am in new shows that I want to be noted.

Yes, I  have a postcard which gives my web site and blog site. But I want a bit more about me. Shows I am in--highlights from my career. How I make the work. Even a bit about why I make the work. Time to make a new flyer.  Sure, I could write a statement and just copy that. But I want more excitement about it--I am not sure that in today's world simple statements get read carefully. Plus I feel that  my quilts make strong images. Put my best foot forward so to speak.

Now, my knowledge of Photoshop is rather basic. I can crop, size, even play with color. But I don't know all the features. I don't really know all the other editing possibilities either. Yes, I could use a graphic designer--but lets face it--I need this by Thursday. Planning ahead is not always my strong point.

Instead I get out my templates--now I must confess I am lucky enough to have an Apple and I do own iWord. So I go to iPages--lots of templates there. Flyers, brochures. Places to put pictures in. Places for text. I choose one that works. Add images. A bit of writing. Play with it a bit. I am pleased how quickly this goes. I proofread as well as possible. What do you think? Here' s the front.

And the back.

Now I e-mail the images to get it printed. Hopefully it will be here by Thursday. Set-up is Friday. Oh don't I wish I was more organized. But I must confess it is fun to play with the templates. I'll just have to see if it is effective.

What do you think? Do you use templates to create flyers, brochures, whatever? Do you read such hand-outs?

Friday, October 1, 2010

the quilts of Ann Brauer--October shows

How quickly the summer has sped by. Already, the colors are changing--they are early this year because of the drought conditions. Now we are  having flood watches--already we have had over four and a half inches with more on the way--glub!!! glub!!! Oh well, it keeps me inside as I finish orders and get ready for the Paradise City Arts Festival next week-end in Northampton, MA.

I love this show--just the right mix between a fun and casual event and some wonderful work to look at. To make it even better, this year the theme is "Food". Those who have previously attended the show know that the food tent has some of Northampton's finest restaurants along with great jazz. This year it promises to be better than ever.  Chinese crab cakes, lobster bisque and my favorite--mango lassi. Yummy!! My booth is 837. For further information and to purchase discount tickets, please visit

In other news, I am pleased that I have not one but two quilts in the new book: The Art Quilt Collection: Designs and Inspiration fro Around the World.  What a wonderful book this is with both some work by artists familiar to me and some I have never seen before. Do check it out. Meanwhile my show at the Landmark Campus in Tarrytown, NY has been extended until November 23. To read more about the show and get viewing information  check out Much of this show will then travel to the Hines Corporate Center in Milford, CT where it will be easier to view. Later in the year, I will be showing at the Washington Craft Show in Washington, DC and CraftBoston in December. I do hope to see some of you there.

As usual, I should be in the studio most days when I am not doing a craft show--although if you are traveling from a distance I would advice checking ahead.

This is one of the quilts pictured in The Art Quilt Collection. It is currently hanging in the main entrance to a private foundation in New York.

Note--I will be closed this Saturday afternoon October 2 .