Friday, December 30, 2011

looking forward not backward

OK--it is December 30. The radio is busy summarizing the highlights of the year--actors we lost, best songs, controversies that weren't. You know the gist of it--they do it every year--just the details are different. That's what people do at this time isn't it? Auld lang syne--singing in the new year with memories of the old.

Not me. Not this year. Sure there were good things in 2011. I started working with very thin strips of fabric. I loved the concept when I began last winter and I still love it now, don't you? The wall hangings that have that splash of intense color.

The smaller pieces--the eyeglass cases, the purses, the wall hangings--that just have the power of those tiny strips. Love them all. Hard to keep them in stock actually, I guess that's what you call high class worries, isn't it?

Of course, there was Tonks. I must remember that I got her this year. What a sweetheart.

 I can't forget how wonderful my DH was. What a hero. Working tirelessly to help me after my studio floated. And speaking of help--I must also say how amazing my friends, the community of Shelburne Falls, other quilt makers and the crafts people and artists and my customers are. The most generous, kind, giving group of friends anyone could possibly have. I just can't thank you all enough. Amazing how people show there true nature in such times.

You see, I am avoiding talking about the obvious. My friend John Sendelbach published pictures of Irene in his blog if you want to see them HERE.  He has got the videos posted there too. I looked at them yesterday--or was it the day before--I have met people who saw the images when they were in France. South East Asia. Australia. Not what I need to see again thanks. I loved that building. I didn't need to get my 15 minutes of fame like that. Nope. Thank you. Enough.

So that is why I am thumbing my nose at 2011. No farewell for me. Think of that word--fare well. Nope. Not this time. It is good bye, good riddance. Don't forget to shut the door on the way out. Can't wait to see the end of you. As for me, my DH and I are going out on New Year's Eve to celebrate the arrival of 2012. Remember I have the walnut table in my studio--that is where I come from. You can read about it HERE. We will raise a glass to 2012. Cheer. Celebrate the dawn. It has to be better, doesn't it?

And you--how do you plan to celebrate 2012? What will you remember about 2011?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

the turning of the seasons

Today is officially the first day of winter. The solstice occurred at 12:30 am this morning--that mysterious time of year when the earth seems to slow down and dark prevails. Soon the days will get longer until finally the longer days will lead to spring and  the return of warmth. Already, thanks to some strange rotations of the earth, the sun is setting a couple minutes later in the afternoon--don't ask me to explain, I just know it is (and if you are really curious you can read more about it HERE.)

For me, it is time to stop concentrating on eyeglass cases and potholders and think of new designs.  My sketchbook is full of ideas. Directions to pursue.The Baltimore Craft Show is only eight weeks away--YIKES!!!

But first, I must finish orders. The ones I took at the craft shows--the ones the customers did not need until January. Free my slate so to speak. First, the big one I saved especially for this time of year. A smaller version of endless fields.

Now maybe you remember this quilt--the wonderful lush colors of the fields changing and stretching into the horizon. How simple and complex this quilt is. How rich these colors are. I made it last year. Love the quilt. Love the design. I even made it in more greys and browns as you may remember.

This time, I have an order to make it smaller--single bed size. The color progressions will have to occur more quickly. The fabric selection must be just right. There is no room for error.

I spend months shopping for just the right colors. Replacing the burgundies and greens, the reds and rusts that I need to make the quilt sparkle. I make a special trip to get enough wonderful blacks--some with a bit of pizazz so it is not just a solid band of black.  New blacks with spirals and leaves. Black blues and black greens.

I study the quilt--trying to absorb the colors and movements. I make more placemats, purses. Yes I am procrastinating. Winding up for the large project. Wind up. Take a deep breath. Try to overcome my fear.  The customer is kind and patient but this is the time to begin. Now as many of my readers know, my  studio in Shelburne Falls is open to the public. I like it this way since I never know who may drop in. What may happen.

But that also means that during this time of anxious anticipation--as I await the holidays--I am in the studio working.  So much to do. A meal to prepare. Gifts to wrap--will the step children--such wonderful young adults--like their gifts? What tales will they have to tell. What about my DH--he has been so wonderful this year--I can't thank him enough. I didn't even do Christmas cards this year--I hope everyone understands. Will I get to see my young friend who told me that she had been in Hollywood too long--unless a movie is a blockbuster, it is just another film.

I know myself--making this quilt will anchor me. The slow steady progress of a large piece. One block at a time. Until the quilt finally takes off. Assumes its own life and propels me forward. So I make the first block. How lonely it looks on that board by itself, doesn't it?

Am I moving in the right direction? Are the colors right? Will it work? Amazing how a few more blocks create a pattern. The light is faded in the image but the design shows through.

Do I need to make the colors change more quickly? Are the greens getting light enough? The burgundies the right shade? So much to think about as the light returns. As I check off one more order from my to-do list. As I welcome the visitors to my new studio.

And you--what do you do as the seasons change? How do you prepare for the New Year? How do you schedule those large works? When do you notice the days getting longer?

Friday, December 16, 2011

can a quilt be too thin and too purple?

Now I must admit I tried very hard not to express my fears as I kept discussing the order with my customers. Sure I agreed with them that the color and design of red sky were wonderful.

It would be easy to make a quilt half as wide. Keep the sunrise--or is it a sunset. That would be fun. But--that was not what the customers wanted. No, they wanted the quilt one panel wide and long--64 inches long. And they didn't want the light colors up at the top. Just colors as dark as possible. With a hint of the sun. One panel of the ocean at the very bottom of the quilt. And they wanted it before the holidays. Sigh!!

Of course I smiled sweetly. After all, they had ordered from me before--twice. And I could certainly understand why they wanted it before the holidays--their daughter was coming home. She lives across the country and of course they wanted to show off the new quilt to her.

But quite frankly this has been a very exhausting year--as I am sure you can understand. Even if my studio had not floated down the river, it would be hard to have enough different colors of purple and blue to create an interesting piece.  Now--with a reduced fabric selection, the challenge would be even greater. Would the quilt be too dull? Too thin? Too dark? Where would the story come from?

As you can tell,  I was more than a bit wary of this project. Sigh!! Where would I find the energy to work on this piece that might not even succeed--no matter how hard I tried. Well, there was nothing to do but take a deep breath and start to cut the fabric.  I made the first blocks. Added some dark grey to create interest. And kept piecing. Hmm.

The first effort looked great--but not as warm as red sky. OK--add some navy and blue. I have just time to remake the quilt. See if that is closer to the initial design. Put up a test piece of the yellow sun.

Yes, this is working. Will it look better when I sew it together? More polished and complete?

 Yes, this is a quilt.  Not bad.  I see lots of possibilities. Maybe I should make several. Hang them in an arrangement. Oh, don't you love it when a custom order points to new directions? New ideas?

What other colors can I use? What other designs? Should they be the same length--or different? Change the colors? Sold in groups or individually?  How to display them? Can I get a few ready for the Baltimore Show in February? Or is this an idea that I should not pursue? What do you think?

Friday, December 9, 2011

the walnut table

Now of course I never met her--she was before my time--although I have seen pictures. She was a stolid, solid woman of uncertain age that you did not mess with.  I knew her house quite well. It was a modest two story wood frame house painted yellow. You have been there and can imagine what it looked like.  Downstairs was the obligatory parlor separated by a sliding wooden door, living room and large country kitchen. That is where the walnut table with the many leaves reigned supreme. Upstairs were where the bedrooms were supposed to be.

That changed though after first her infant son and then her quiet kind husband died suddenly leaving her with two young daughters to raise and of course the house. Her options were not great back then--move in with relatives and become a second class citizen, remarry to an uncertain future. The poor house--yes there really was such a place just outside town--was not even considered.She would not give up her children.

She chose to take in boarders.  Moved her two daughters down into the parlor and rented the upstairs to single men working in town hunting for a clean room, solid hearty food two or three times a day on that same walnut table. For extra money she did their wash and ironing--spread newspapers on the table and heated those big flat irons on her cook stove. That much I know for sure--the table bears the imprint of the newspapers.

Somehow she scraped together enough money to buy a piano for the living room--maybe it was there already. Give her daughters piano lessons--that was what young ladies did in those days. Her daughters were to study not help with the boarders.  They were going to be prepared for life. After graduating from high school, the older--my Aunt Jo--went to nursing school--became the first public health nurse in the county. Although she never married, she did know love--but that is another story (and a good one, I might add.) She lived in that yellow house until she died. Sleeping in that same parlor that became a bedroom. Eating at the same table covered in oil cloth.  Doting on her nephew--my Dad. You see this is a very personal story.

I have written about the younger one before. You can read about her quilts HERE. She was my grandmother. The one who made quilts. She was sent to the Teacher's College. Oh how she hated boarding out with the farm families in the south part of the County. She quickly married a handsome young farmer who said little and came to resent his silence. But she had my father and her quilts. Her degree--the training served her well when she had to go to work in the local school system to save the farm during the Depression.

And I always knew that this walnut table would be mine some day. But first after Aunt Jo died, it was in my parents' kitchen. They replaced the oak table that was almost a carbon copy with the walnut table full of memories. Always covered in oil cloth. Then when they died, it was shipped to my home in Massachusetts where it was of course covered with more oil cloth and placed on the porch for our summer meals. How glad I was to have it.

Then after I lost my studio and got settled in my new space I realized I needed furniture. I thought of the walnut table just sitting there unused for half the year. Sure it was a bit beaten with age. One leg is cracked. There are a few dings and scars. I had forgotten the memories of this table, the stories that are a part of the fabric of my life. But don't I need it right now? We can find another table for our porch for a while.

It was heavier than I remember.  I rubbed furniture polish on its smooth surface. No oil cloth this time. Did my great grandfather the carpenter make it? I don't think so. My sister has the baby cradle that he made. The table looks to be of a standard design. I have looked for his initials but I don't think that matters anyway.  There it sits in my new space. Proudly showing the newspaper print which some day I must try to read. Proudly sharing its stories. Reassuring me that I come from a long line of survivors--don't we all? That we all have stories that help make us who we are, don't you think?

And you--what stories do you have to tell? How do you tell them? And if you are in Shelburne Falls, I do hope you will come into my new studio and see the table. It does look pretty good there doesn't it?

Monday, November 28, 2011

the quilts of Ann Brauer--cyber Monday edition

Dear all,

Wow--is time flying even though the weather is trying to hold onto the lovely warmth of late autumn. This morning the sky was full of those wonderful peaches and brilliant reds of the dawn. Then the clouds came, and a gentle wind from the south. the temperature was up to 56 at 8 am. Yes, I just had to go for a walk in the woods. Indeed, it was all I could do to turn around and come home. But I must get to the studio. After all, I do have not one but two craft shows left this season.

First is the Washington Craft Show at the DC Convention Center, December 2-4. It is such an honor to be in this show--there are 190 of the very best fine craft artists in country in one location. Each booth is full of breathtaking, exquisite work. I do hope you will check it out for yourself--more information can be found at Then the next week-end is CraftBoston at the Cycloramo. If you have never been to the Cycloramo, you are in for a treat. The building is a circular extravaganza with wonderful architectural details. Inside the show is so colorful and alive. I do hope you will check it out if you are in the area.

In between and after I return I will be working in my new studio. What a delightful time this is to step backward into the charm of Shelburne Falls. The colored lights on the Bridge of Flowers reflect onto the river. The light poles are wound with wreaths. I even saw a lighted tree floating on the river. Personally I find the charm of the village matches the feeling of hope and light that we all need this time of year.

Meanwhile I have decided to post the quilt of the month early this year. I actually do love this quilt--the colors are bright and rich. The size--40 x 56 inches would look great hanging over a sofa, buffet table or even a bed. Indeed it was hard to convince myself that this should be the quilt of the month. However, neither my new studio nor my booth have a lot of wall space and so I don't usually get a chance to show it. The colors are brighter than my snapshot of it--I can try to send you a better image if you would like. Anyhow, this quilt began at $1100 but until December 10 or until it is sold, the quilt will be $800 plus shipping and applicable taxes. As usual, this quilt it one of a kind and will be available on a first come/first serve basis.

For those hunting for smaller items, I do have a few posted on my website--HERE Many other colors are available--please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions. Alas, I did not get a chance to set up a shop within my website just yet. Maybe next year...

Thanks again and have a great holiday season.

Friday, November 25, 2011

don't stop thinking about tomorrow

Now, don't get me wrong. I love my abstract landscapes "painted" with wedges of fabric. The freedom of the piecing. The controlled exuberance of the colors. The endless quests for the horizons. But--and this is the big but in this post--on my drive OUT to Evanston last August I spent some of my time as I drove past endless cornfields thinking about the new quilts I wanted to make with the very thin strips of fabric. The ones that would have even more of the pop of the sun in capturing the sky. You must remember this quilt.

The power of the thin pieces in the sun. The sophistication and intensity of that square of purples and lavenders and magentas.

The same power of detail in the eyeglass cases.

 I wanted to make whole quilts based on these colors. This effect. Can you imagine that? Indeed I had experimented last winter with a larger piece based on this concept. Days of working on a concept. Teaching myself how to do this.

Of course--sigh--as my loyal readers know--on the drive BACK from Evanston I had other things to think about. So I did what I had to do. Got the studio more or less in order. Made the eyeglass cases that I know will sell. And practiced working in the new space making quilts that had a bit of familiarity to them. Meanwhile thinking of the samples I had made that floated downstream because of Irene.

Still though--in the brief lulls, the early morning hours of the Paradise City Arts Festival last week-end I realized that I wanted to move forward. Indeed I needed to push myself more. After all, I hadn't gone through all of the hard work and emotion of re-establishing my studio just to make eyeglass cases. No matter how lovely they are. Besides I had sold my quilt mist on the ocean.

So I decided I just had to start a new quilt with the thin strips. Now I hope I will get it done before the Washington Craft Show next week-end. But even if I don't, there will be CraftBoston or the Baltimore Craft Show in February. Certainly I can show it in my new studio. Besides, I want to see what it looks like.

How tiny it looks at first. How long it takes to do the piecing. Is this the best use of my time, I worry again?  After all, I do need money to buy more fabric. I do have orders to fill. Isn't this the time to make those eyeglass cases and potholders? Now is the season to sell, after all. In January shoppers hibernate and I do need money to pay rent these days.

Still I persevere. I think of my father-in-law--now confined to a wheel chair and requiring constant assistance--he still dreams of cross-country skiing this winter. Sailing on the open ocean. Thinking about tomorrow. And yes, that song runs through my mind as I start piecing this new quilt. How slowly it grows. Each strip an effort to figure out which fabric works. How tiny the quilt looks. Fragile and tentative right now.

The new quilt may not be as large as I want--this time. I will have to juggle the smaller items with the new quilt. But it feels right and I can't wait to see what it will look like. After all, this is who I am and what I do. And I need to think about tomorrow. So I admire the progress and keep cutting and sewing.

And you--do you think about tomorrow? How do you do it? How do you balance the dreams, the vision with the reality of day to day life? And will you be in Shelburne Falls for Moonlight Magic this year? Will you get to see the new quilt? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

a brief history of a quilt

Sometimes it is the little things that matter most in making a quilt. A few weeks ago I had in my mind's eye a quilt similar to gentle dawn. But with more of a horizon. And the sun--I wanted the sun to have just risen with the reds and oranges, the yellows and pinks streaking across the sky. A joyful dawn.

 Now those who follow my work know that I have a constant fascination with the sky, the horizon, the promise of the dawn. Just look at prairie dawn. A quilt from a few years ago.

Or prairie sky. Another piece from a couple years ago.
I wanted it similar. After all, I am still getting used to my new studio. One day at a time. One step at a time. But still I wanted to use the knowledge that I have gained since making these pieces. What can I now add? How can I say more? Some days as it is I feel like I am just treading water. It is not that I am not trying--there are so many quilts that I see just beyond my grasp. But there is only so much I can do. Besides, I love these colors and these quilts. I love working with the rich blues and purples of the sky. The reds of the sun. So why not?

Of course I begin by piecing what I know. The gradually changing colors of blues and lavenders. Pinks and yellows. How happy and cheerful on my design board. Pin up a piece of red to see what it will look like.

Not bad. But it lacks the zing of the color changes I want to add. Let's see what happens.

OK--still seems a bit stilted though, doesn't it?  Shouldn't I use more oranges?  Magentas? Where is the pop? Let me play with the colors. Cut lots of strips of fabric. Lay them out on the table.

 Better. But should I take even more risks?

Yes, that marble looking fabric does help--doesn't it? Not sure who donated it to me--but thank you so much. Amazing how much one fabric can add to the quilt. I play a bit more and piece. How does it look?

Not bad--but could it be even better. Step up the yellow a bit more.  Take more risks. I take out a few rows. Try again. Gotta love my seam ripper.

 Yes, isn't this what I want? Doesn't it sing? It always feels like such a risk to begin sewing it together.

 But yes, I like that effect. Enough yellows and golds to make it pop. Not so bright it feels garish. Now, I can't wait to show it at the Washington Craft Show December 2-4--check it out at

 What do you think?  How much do your quilts change as you play with them? How do you move forward?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

what is the deal with horizons?

Recently I have been thinking a lot about horizons--you know--that division between the earth and the sky. That line that stretches across the fields. Offering that promise of something. Is it the promise or the journey? After all, the more you walk to the horizon, the further it recedes.

Am I longing for the views from my late great studio? The expanse of sky and the distant everchanging mountain. The new studio offers instead hints of the clouds in the west rolling in and the endless promise of the trains carrying such power and industry. Amazing the difference a block or two can make, isn't it?

Or is it the order I have? The one for the quilt where they don't want that distinct line of the sky. A gentle horizon. Dreamy and subtle. More teal than this piece. But a good start.

Not sure why but I do have horizons on the mind. Interesting word. I check the etymology--of course it is from the Greek, via Latin and then French. Actually it is an abbreviation for the boundless circle of the open ocean.  After all, the Greeks did know their geometry. If you were in a boat on the ocean and looked all around, from above this would form a circle. Think about it. Chaucer was apparently the first recorded usage in English. The question was whether the "h" should be used though apparently it was not pronounced at the time.  The French don't use "h" very frequently.
You can read more about it here.

I had a class from the Academy in Charlemont visit my studio this week. What fun. Great smart kids asking a lot of good questions. Things that I don't normally think about. One of my favorite was whether my landscapes are inspired by a specific scene. No, I said they are a feeling. A sense of time and place that I am trying to achieve. Each quilt leads me to the next. It is a journey--almost like a horizon. The more I work, the more ideas I get. Searching for something I can never attain. But isn't the process in the searching? Isn't that what life is?

And so I start another quilt. Another experiment in horizons. This will be similar but different. I do have more teals. It will be dreamy. Just look at these colors. The first block says a lot. Sets the tone for the quilt.

I want to feel the ocean. The movement of the waves. Then the whole row. Is this right? Or too stark?
I put just a strip of yellow there--can you see it? Yes, this looks better doesn't it? Sometimes it is the little things that matter.

So I keep piecing. Slowly. Adding the colors. More teal. More dreamy colors. I must be patient.

And the sun. I want a red sun hanging just risen. Floating above the sky. That will come later though. After I finish piecing the quilt. And already I think of the next piece. How to give the effect of the open ocean. Turning. The full circle. I do love it when one quilt inspires the next and the next.

And you--do you think of horizons? Is it the journey or the place? And what inspires you to make the next piece? What do you think?

Monday, November 7, 2011

the colors of november

Ah November. The maples and birch have lost their leaves. The sky is now a wistful shade of blue. The bright flowers of summer are gone. The light is at that great angle where everything is more pronounced. And--yes--the October snow has melted--but that is another story. Instead  it is the time to watch, to wait, to observe the splendors of this season.

In the distance, Massamont is soft in shades of brown and gold protecting the village of Shelburne Falls that I love so dearly. While the Bridge of Flowers is officially closed for the season, on bright sunny days  it is still open. A good time to stroll, to look at the wonderful complex colors of November. So brilliant and subtle. So unexpected. Just look at these leaves--so many colors of red.

The many browns of the hydrangea. Yes, this is how it looks--so many shapes and textures.

 The surprise purples and mauves.

Tiny purple berries. Each so precious. Like gems.

The shapes. The movements of the yuccas and kale.

 Oh there is so much more I could capture. So much more to observe. The carefully selected stones. The bending shapes of the vines. Berries against the blue of the river.

But instead I must head to my new studio. Use my inspiration to choose fabrics for a new quilt. After all, soon the light will be even darker. It will be the time of fire and light and the crisp night stars. Although maybe tomorrow again I will walk across the Bridge again. I mean shouldn't one enjoy these colors while we still have them?

What do you think? Do the colors of November inspire you? What have you seen?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

the quilts of Ann Brauer--Snowvember edition

Wow--it is November 1 already. That is 11/1/11 if you write the abbreviation. How quickly time is flying. Yes, we did get 24 inches of that white stuff during the Snowtember storm although luckily it is melting and we did not lose power. About time Shelburne Falls caught a break if you know what I mean.

Thanks to everyone who has been so generous. I have been busy working in the studio most days trying to get ready for the Holiday season. Gradually I am beginning to fill my studio with new quilts, table runners, eyeglass cases and potholders for the holiday season--can you believe that it is almost upon us? This Saturday November 5 I will be participating for the first time in the Shelburne Falls Gallery walk--Art under the Stars which runs from 5 until 8 pm. Please--if you are in town, drop by and see my new space. I usually do not like to stay open late so would welcome encouragement to be there.

I will also be doing the Paradise City Arts Festival in Marlborough, MA on November 18-20. I do love this show--there is always something new and absolutely wonderful to admire. The music is good and the atmosphere is so much fun. For more information and discounted tickets check out their web site  In December I will be doing the Washington Craft Show Dec 2-4 and CraftBoston at the Cyclorama on Dec 8-10.  What was I thinking? More on these shows in my post next month.

Meanwhile Shelburne Falls is basically up and running. Several more businesses have re-opened. Most roads including Route 2 coming from the East are open and from Williamstown and the West the route is only slightly longer and even lovelier. I will be there most days--although call first as I do still have errands to run.

And now for the news you have been waiting for so patiently--the Quilt of the Month is back!!!! After all, this is November and this is the perfect quilt for this month. November oak. I love the colors of the piece--the greys and mauves of the fields after most of the leaves have gone against the rusts and browns of the oak trees. The quilt is about 45 x 45 inches and began life at $1200. It has Velcro stitched on the back for hanging. I am offering for $700 plus shipping and applicable taxes. As usual this is a first come first served offer which will automatically end on November 10 so if you want it do send me an e-mail.  For those seeking gift items, I will post images of potholders and eyeglass cases on my web site in the next couple of days in case you want to order a few--just contact me.

Have a great month. Thanks again.

Ann Brauer
6 Bridge Street
Shelburne Falls, MA 01370

413 625-8605



Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's Snowtober

Sometimes life forces you to rethink your normal patterns, in case you haven't noticed. Now usually I don't use much white in my work. Not sure why. Don't really like that stark contrast of color and white. For whatever reason.  But maybe I should. After all, the snow against the colors of the leaves is just magnificent. Yes, as you may know--it is Snowtober.  24 inches of snow. In October!!! Yes, you heard me right. 24 inches of snow in October. It is still too early to even get the studded snow tires on my van. Ugh!!! I am stuck at home on the mountain.

We were lucky--our snow was fairly light and fluffy--there are advantages to living on top of a mountain even though it was a challenge getting up here yesterday afternoon. We have a wood stove, lots of dry wood and a delicious pot of chili in the frig. Yes, I feel sorry for those without power--ugh--some may not get it back for days. But still--time to go for a snow shoe.

How gorgeous to see the colors of the leaves through the trees.

And up closer it gets even better.

What an assortment of colors. Look how intense the reds of the oak are against the snow.

 Aren't they fantastic? And the beech beckoning us down the driveway. A light of sunshine isn't it?

So much to see and absorb. How to use white and grey without it seeming forced. How to make it seem universal--after Snowtober is the most snow ever in October. Or maybe the most snow since 1804 in October.

Something to think about as I ponder the storm--maybe even go outside and think more about the colors. And you--how are you surviving Snowtober? How do you use whites and greys in your work? What do you think?