Wednesday, April 27, 2011

written in the hand

Recently I was asked to sew sleeves to two quilts made by Phyllis Kirkpatrick. Now I first became aware of her work way back when I was starting my career and did the Ashfield Fall Festival. I loved her simple designs based on traditional designs and her fine attention to detail and fabric. I was saddened to hear by word of mouth that she is no longer making quilts. So it was with delight and awe that I examined her work today.

Yes, it still held up. Her piecing was exquisite. Remember, she was piecing before paper piecing was discovered. She used scissors not a rotary cutter. And the fabrics back then were very different from the cottons we know today. But-ah-the designs. Here is one--a simple mosaic--about 37x37 inches.

I don't know the name of the pattern in the center--do you?

But I loved the detail. Look at the piecing around the edge. So simple and perfect. Remember the entire quilt is 37x37 inches. Don't you just love the flow of the hand quilting?

The other quilt was based on diamonds. Again look at the overall design. Simple, complex and elegant. The quilt is alive with the various patterns that the diamonds form.

Again the piecing is exquisite. See how sharp the corners are. Each one carefully outlined with hand quilting stitches. Isn't it amazing how fabrics have changed?

 And the hand quilting--again simple and elegant. The feeling that this is a quilt to be respected and honored.

This got me to thinking about the importance of the hand and hand work. I went back to the NPR show On Being and the interview with  Renate Hiller--a spinner and the co-director of  the Fiber Craft Studio in Chestnut Ridge, NY. As she said“Our destiny is written in the hand.”  The process of working by hand, she says, grounds us and changes us so that it becomes a spiritual practice. It is a way of connecting with that which is essentially human and meditative. Indeed she says it becomes a way for being healing to our world. And it’s a service for the divine that we are surrounded by.

Take a moment to think about the importance of that statement. Working with your hands as being a service for the divine. What importance is put upon it. What significance. You can see and hear the interview HERE.

Now I will be the first to agree that we all have to find our own ways of working with our hands. Certainly there are quilts that are made for the simple need of warmth. There are quilts that are made to show your care to cover a person. There may even be quilts made simply to relax from our long tedious days.  I will be the first to admit that I frequently clean my house with "a lick and a promise." I can throw meals on the table with the best of them. And I do know that I have my critics who think I am a "quilt snob" because I do think that craftsmanship is important.

But shouldn't we also have at least one place in our lives where we make something with our entire spirit and essence? Shouldn't we sometimes slow down and make quilts with the determination to do the best we can? Isn't the search for fine craftsmanship important? And isn't that the lesson of the quilts of Phyllis Kirkpatrick?

OK--that is my two cents. I would love to hear from you. What do you think? What do you do to ground yourself? Do you have one thing where you try your best?

Monday, April 25, 2011

are you where you should be?

To get to the garden is not easy nor is it difficult, but it is an
experience.  The big problem is a psychological one of wondering if you're
really where you should be.  Once this feeling is overcome you begin to
relax and enjoy the serenity of the drive.

Isn't that absolutely beautiful? How true it is--let me repeat it--the biggest problem is a psychological one of wondering if you're really where you should be.

The article continues: .....The journey is short, but if it is your first time it may seem long.
The road is narrow.....

When you get there the garden is informal, easy to look at, and belies the fact that a hybridizer is at work.

These comments came from a visit that  Bill Munson made to  Solano Grove--the garden of Vera McFarland near St Augustine.  It is from *The Hemerocallis Journal*, December
1973, pages 33-36, and was written by Bill Munson. I read it on the Daylily Robin which is open to all members of the American Hemerocallis Society. Both Bill and Vera were well-known and respected hybridizers. I put more of the article at the end of the post. The writing is gorgeous. And yes, I am glad to be a member of AHS.

I think about these words of the visit as I contemplate the winter that is now passing. It was a long hard winter here. The snow came and lasted. Mud season went on and on. Many mornings I had to hike down the hill to my van and then hike home in the afternoon. It was cold.  More cold. Then more snow.

For my quilts it has also been a season of self-doubt and exploration. New works. Endless trying and learning. Some worked well--I love the pillows and purses. The eyeglass cases. You can see some HERE. Others are ideas not there yet--still waiting. A slow process of creating quilts that are true. Agonizing and squinting. The journey seems long. The road narrow.

Last week I visited my in-laws by the ocean. As you may remember it was a cloudy misty time--memories ebbing and flowing with the tides. The clouds hung so low and thick there was no direction to the day. I wrote about it HERE.

When I returned I had to settle--to make a quilt. A quilt of this time of mist and mystery. Soft colors-- hints and undercurrents. Slight slow movement. The calm and mystery. The ocean was gentle. The visit was gentle. The colors came together simple and sure. Complex colors that combine for a story. A mood of longing and remembering. Soft and gentle. Informal. Belying the struggles and thought in its creation. Almost done. Then I will sew it together.

Gorgeous colors aren't they? Simple and haunting. I love it when a piece works.  This is what I do.  This is my journey and path. It looks simple but it is not always easy.  The forsythia will bloom today. There are daffodils and crocuses. Little fans of daylilies are nudging out of their slumber. The deep reds of Highland Lord--hybridized by of course Bill Munson.  I can't wait.The layers of purple and mauve with the green/yellow eye of Pharoah's Treasure--you can see it HERE. Aren't the names divine? I go to Flickr and find pages of images of his daylilies--just like his writing, simple and complex. I want them all. Do check them out HERE.  I don't have any daylilies by Vera McFarland--maybe I need "Frivolous Frills" or "Super Double Delight". But does that even matter. Spring is coming. The quilts are coming together. I am where I should be. Is there any more to ask from life?

 And you--are you where you should be? How do you know? How do you decide? What do you think of the quilt? And is it spring finally where you live?

For those who want to read more of the article--here it is from the Daylily Robin. If you like flowers I strongly recommend joining AHS--couldn't ask for a nicer group of people.

"Solano Grove is west of St. Augustine on the east bank of the St. John's
River.  The only major landmark to guide your turn from the State Road 13 is
an over-sized mail box.  Once the mailbox is found you stop and open a gate
and start your journey to the Grove....."

The peacefulness of the following description of Vera McFarland's Solano
Grove appealed to me today.  It is from *The Hemerocallis Journal*, December
1973, pages 33-36, and was written by Bill Munson.  But I have put only a
few excerpts from the first two pages.  All that follows is quoted:

.....To convey the picturesque beauty of this unique garden spot would take
the touch of a poet.  For this garden is unique.  It blends the natural
beauty of the hammock land with the gardening philosophy of its owner,
planner and keeper, Vera McFarland.

.....The majestic oaks, the silent river, the cascading Spanish moss, the
forest birds all exemplifying the quietude that was once so much a part of
our lives and now gone, but experienced again at Solano Grove.  Only the
unwelcome intrusion of a motor boat on the river or a jet high above the
canopy of the trees betrays the 20th Century harangue.

To get to the garden is not easy nor is it difficult, but it is an
experience.  The big problem is a psychological one of wondering if you're
really where you should be.  Once this feeling is overcome you begin to
relax and enjoy the serenity of the drive.

.....The journey is short, but if it is your first time it may seem long.
The road is narrow.....  Wild turkey and quail can often be seen as you
drive along.  Cross a small rustic-type bridge and enter a small cleared
area and you know at once you are at Solano Grove.

The river is on your right only a few yards away.  The hammock is on your
left even closer, and straight ahead is a grove of oaks whose canopy of
limbs, leaves, and Spanish moss shelter the garden below.  The garden is
informal, easy to look at, and belies the fact that a hybridizer is at work.

Large drifts and mass plantings of daylilies abound.  The soil is sandy, but
rich and the water level generally high.  Several times during the year low
portions of the garden may be under water.  Because of this Vera is forced
many times to plant on raised beds or rows.  But whatever the conditions the
flowers love it here.

Small chameleon and garden spiders watch as you enter their world.  Time
seems to have stood still and the silence engulfs you.

Soon Vera joins you and is effervescent over a new seedling that has

Friday, April 22, 2011

in-laws and the colors of the ocean

Ah in-laws. An experience in patience and understanding. Kind loving people all trying so hard to help the aging. The aging trying to retain their pride and independence.  So many subcurrents swirling in stories that only reveal parts of themselves each time they are told. The emphasis changing as the mood changes and the audience changes. Events remembered only in the mists of the past. I watch and assist--trying to capture threads of solid ground and truth.  The rhythms of the stories. The search for truth. Stories that I as an outsider--but also family--hear and try to find the meaning of.

I come from a small family. Grounded in the prairies of the Midwest. I can express the power of the sky and the strength of the dirt. This I know intuitively.

But the house of my in-laws is on a river by the ocean. There are many siblings. Many stories. This is not the bright vast ocean of the summer. Blue and endless. Dreams and hope. Light dancing off the waves. Promise and sureness. Understandable.

But the ocean of April--misty.  Fog clinging to the shore.  A slight chill. The sound of the waves on the shore. Harder for me to absorb but still beautiful. An occasional fisherman anchoring the space between the water and the sky.

Distant shores hint at a solidness and hope.

It has been a long slow spring. The salt marshes still taupe with last year's growth. Pools of water stretching out and waiting. A snowy egret in the distance.

The sound of the tide swirling out. Slowly. This is Rhode Island. The tides not high and dramatic like Maine but constant and gentle. There is a quilt here in this softness and mystery. These colors both so soft and so complex. Soothing but deep. There is a quilt in these stories.

But how to capture it? How to capture the mood and the feeling. The sadness of the aging. The swirling stories of families. I pull out my fabrics. The gentle greys and taupes. The dusty greens and blues. Soft colors. Calm colors. How to do this?

And you--what inspires you and the ocean? How do you capture the colors of the fog and mist? This intense quiet and stillness.

Monday, April 18, 2011

simple but not easy

Recently I received this e-mail from a reader.

I *love, love, love your quilts!
I want to make one.  A small piece of one......  More than one square....  I know that it has probably taken you years and years and years to develop your technique and style.  I also know that an eye is not easily developed, but takes lots of practice.  I'm not even pretending to think I can create the art you are creating, but I would love to learn the technique...  I understand basic quilting as you go.  It appears each smaller block has *both* batting and backing attached before they are connected to the next.  I can possibly envision the vertical piecing of the smaller blocks.  But the horizontal blocks I am struggling to understand how they are attached.  Is this a trade secret?  Is it just best, for me, to just jet off and see one in person?  LOL!  If nothing else, I just *need* to know!!!!
You do beautiful, beautiful work, Ann.  I love it all!

Sweet isn't it?

Now the author is right--the style has taken me years and years to develop. However, the technique is actually very simple.  I even wrote about it last year. Now if I was an organized blogger I would create a page with the directions--and maybe I will. But for now let me just reference the blog posts.

First of course I design the quilt and make sure I have fabrics that will work for the piece. My two favorite fabric stores are The Textile Company in Greenfield, MA which I wrote about HERE in my post Confessions of a Fabricoholic.  Since writing that post they have changed their closing time to 5 except on Friday when they close at 8. The other store is A Notion to Quilt which I wrote about HERE. And yes it was called More Confessions of a Fabricoholic--can you relate? Of course if I am doing a show in another location I do check out other fabric stores--can one actually have too much fabric?

Then I begin piecing the quilt using a method I call "quilt as you go." HERE is an illustrated blog post of how I pieced the quilt desert hills.

I piece the quilt in blogs--and then join the blogs together. HERE I wrote a blog post with more pictures as to how I finish the quilt.

As you can see, the technique is simple--but not necessarily easy. This is not a pattern but directions for a technique that you can make your own. Certainly care is required throughout--create a design that interests you. Practice working with the colors to figure out the effect that the colors and fabrics have on each other. Keep your sewing machine clean and in good working order--after all, you will be seeing the back of the block so you want it to look good.

And perhaps most importantly--have fun!! After all life is too short not to have fun. So what do you think--does this answer some of your questions? Have you tried this technique--I would love to see pictures.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

a butterfly flapping its wings

There is a scientific theory out there--almost a mathematical principle about complex systems. How do we analyze things that are so complex that we can't use a formula--or even a series of formulas. Things like the weather or the Internet. Air traffic control. And maybe quilts. In its essence the theory is that a butterfly flapping its wings in California can cause a hurricane in Florida--or is it a dust storm in the Sahara. I've heard it many different ways--indeed as I was writing this post NPR had another article on about it. Coincidence or meant to be. I don't know but I love thinking that somehow the butterfly disturbs just the right amount of air to create that disturbance that causes a larger disturbance that causes..... Well, you get the idea.

Isn't the same true for quilts?  Now I know that artists are supposed to be able to manipulate the fabric to create just what the envision. But what happens if you have different fabrics or different sizes. Don't you then get a different quilt. Is this the difference between artist and craftsperson?

Anyhow as you may know from my recent blog post, I have been making a quilt autumn dawn for a great customer. This is the quilt. Nice--huh!

When last I wrote about it, the quilt was just started--a couple of rows of fabric just sitting there so alone and uncertain--you can read about it here.  Now certainly quilts are a primary example of that proverb that the whole is more than the sum of its pieces. Over the last week I have let the quilt grow--slowly--one row at a time.

What color comes next? Is the yellow strong enough?

Amazing how the color seems to pop as I add more rows.

Yes, the lighting in the studio changes as the weather changes and the light changes. Perhaps a little less red or rust than the first quilt. Can I add more? I was worried that the yellow would not even show in the quilt when I started. It's there--is it strong enough.

And the final row. A little darker--is this because the size is larger. More room to have the colors progress? Or was it the yellow in the first row--that inevitable butterfly flapping? This quilt did not want to be warmer.

And how different will it look when it is sewn together.

What a slow process it is. How much faith is involved that the colors and fabrics will in the end work. And you--do you think of quilts as complex systems? Do you ever think of the butterfly flapping its wings? How do you make your decisions?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

no more kale!!!

 Finally spring has come. Yesterday was just right for playing in the soil. I planted a row of peas. Spread some lime. Pulled up the few plants that I had not gotten to last fall. Tried to plan the garden for this year. Where do the tomatoes go? The green beans? The cukes?

Now for me, you must understand that my garden is a hobby--where I play before I go to the studio. On summer evenings after I come home from work.  I don't preserve the food for winter--well, I did make three jars of brandied peaches last year. Yummy!!! Sometimes I freeze a few tomatoes. But for the most part, I cook with what I grow in the summer and that's it. I am a quilt maker--and in the end, even this blog post will be about quilts--please bear with me.

So although my garden is large enough, space is at a premium. Now I dearly love flowers--Siberian iris, Japanese iris, echinacea, and especially daylilies. I love my daylilies. Probably have a couple hundred. I am even a member of the American Hemerocallis Society and in July the colors in my garden are wonderful reds and oranges, yellows and plums which inspired this quilt--the colors of summer.

See it really is "the garden formerly known as the vegetable garden." The veggies are tucked into the corners. Always a challenge to find new places to grow the tomatoes. Rotate the crops.

So I read with interest Pat Leuchtman's blog post recently in The Greenfield Recorder--my local paper. This is her blog site here although the article has not been posted yet. She was writing about gardening in small spaces. A vegetable garden only needs 100 square feet of space she said. Oh I like this. One common mistake people make is to grow things that are easy to grow--such as kale--but which they then don't eat.

That is my problem. Sure I love kale in soup. Portuguese bean soup with spicy sausage and kale. An occasional meal. But no matter how good it is for me--let's face it--I don't eat that much. Think of the space I will have if I just plant the veggies that I know I want--the basil and lettuce, the hot peppers--love having them in the garden, the zukes--yes, they are so good when they are tiny, parsley. Celery--that was such a treat last year. I used it over and over again. What else?

And isn't that the secret to making quilts also. (See, this really is a blog about making quilts after all.) Why make the things that don't sell? Or the items that I dread creating--yes, there is such a thing?  Isn't life supposed to be fun? Why not clean out the fabrics that I haven't used in years? Certainly they could find a good home?

I no longer make baby quilts--haven't for years. No more pieced quilts. They don't interest me. If I have added the new purses and pillows, the eyeglass cases that I posted on my web site--what can I discontinue? And you what is your "kale"?  How do you prioritize? And what does your garden look like?

Monday, April 11, 2011

musings on the color violet

Recently I have been thinking about the color "violet".  OK.  It began when I read on HGTV's blog post that violet was voted the color of the month for April--beating out pink and grey--although just narrowly. Violet--hmm!! Interesting choice. A color we all know--but do we really know it?  What color is violet? Is it purple? Lavender? Magenta? And why violet--why wasn't green in the running? Or yellow? What was I missing?

Now I love the pictures on that blog post--but I must admit I can't imagine an entire room done in violet. It just feels unsettling to me. Too rich and intense. But HGTV uses the color as an accessory.  Love that a room can be decorated around just one strong piece. A bit of wall painted what they call violet. An accent piece. Great concept. But--as they admit--their violet is a bit pinker than I had associated with the color violet. A bit closer to magenta. What is this color?

It is time to check out on Wikipedia. Fascinating discussion--so many different colors for violet--different tones, different wave lengths. Do check it out here. I learn that Sir Isaac Newton used the word as one of the spectral colors. If both purple and violet are used in a color way, violet is more blue. Violet can be the color in between magenta and blue.  But then there is electric violet, vivid violet, dark violet. Violet the color of the flower--different from lavender and lilac.  Look at all these colors of violet I found on that Wikipedia site--well worth the read.

Color icon violet v2.svg

More research on the Internet. I find out that based on the way we see things, violet not blue could be considered a primary color. This goes back to Sir Isaac doesn't it?  Colors reflect light different ways that can be measured. Fascinating--although the science goes over my head. Check it out here. I learn that in Eastern religions violet is considered a calming color--related to the Chakra. You can check it out here. Not what I would have expected. Do different cultures see colors differently? 

Returning to Wikipedia violet is the color used in Great Britain to wrap chocolate since violet is considered the color of royalty. Violet as colors of Lent and Advent. This is familiar territory. The term goes back to the Latin for that little flower the violet.

I remember violets as a child-- picking handfuls of them,  holding them carefully and putting them into a tiny glass of water. So precious. How long it takes to create a bouquet--using my fingernails to pluck the tiny stems until finally there is that essence of color. Searching them out in the grass. Sugared and dainty on ice cream.  Finding the wild white and yellow violets--isn't that an oxymoron. I think of the violets that now grow in my garden. Not the delicate wild flowers but big clumps plants that spread and have to be dug up with a spade fork in huge clumps. Moved to better locations. Composted.

And violet in my work. I agree with HGTV--a color to be used as an accent. A bit here. A bit there. Violet placemats.

Hints of violet in the purses and eyeglass cases. Not too much.

The progression of the colors of the sky in first light.

Color progressions of violet and blue. And I wonder if violet is one of those colors that can be whatever we want it to be--regal or calming, inspired or electric. At the edge of the visible light spectrum. Hidden like the tiny violets from which it got its name. Or bold like the colors of the sky. In April isn't there just the slightest tinge of violet in the blue of the sky?

Yes, there is something fresh and spring like there. Maybe May is the month that should be green? What do you think? Do you use violet in your work? Is it the color of April? What color is violet? And I must also thank colourlovers for bringing this discussion to my attention.

Friday, April 8, 2011

jumping off the high dive

I think we all have memories of our youth that come back to us over and over again and help us define our lives. One of mine is the hidden fear that I  felt standing on top of the high dive at the municipal swimming pool knowing that I had to jump even though the way down was long enough I could remember the descent and the shock of the cold cold water. Splat! A couple of times I dove like I was supposed to--Swish!!-- but usually I just walked off--held me nose and dropped. Splat!! Splat!! Swim quickly to the surface.  Standing there in the cold of the morning (us country kids had the 8 am slot--city kids got nice warm times like 10 and 11) I wanted to turn around and climb back down that steel ladder but  there was a long line behind me standing on that ladder and I didn't want to let them down so jump I would.  Then pull myself out of the pool and get in line again. Always looking at the clock--watching it creep up to 9 o'clock when the lessons would be over. Whew!!

Sometimes that same feeling comes to me when I start a new quilt. Now I have been working all month on new designs. Purses and pillows. Eyeglass cases in colors that sing. I am fascinated by the possibilities. So much to do. Such fun. Play. There is a here here--if you know what I mean. Indeed you can check them out HERE.

But I have orders to fill. One is terrifying me. A delightful woman who ordered a custom piece some 20 or was it 24 years ago. I don't remember the quilt but I do remember delivering it--bringing it to her office. Parking my car and carrying through long halls of light and glass to leave it with her secretary. Strange the things one remembers. Now she is retiring and wants to refresh her home. She has ordered a new quilt. What an honor I feel this is.

 The colors of autumn dawn are perfect. Lovely piece isn't it. I made it a couple years ago for a home in the Adirondacks.

You would think it would be easy, wouldn't you? After all I have already designed the quilt. The size needs slight modifications but nothing significant. Sure I don't have the same fabrics but there are new ones that should be close enough. The customer is kind and already loves my work. So why this terror?

Partly it is because the customer is so kind. I want the quilt to be just right for her.  After all, think of the trust she is putting in me. And if she enjoyed the last quilt for twenty some years, I know she will be enjoying this one for a long time too? This is the high dive and I have been procrastinating.

But start I must-- sometimes the only way through is through. To just jump right in. And so I start piecing. I tell myself to make what I know. Always a good place to begin. The first rows of golden yellow. Not too bright--is this too green? Too light? I am not sure. It is hard to tell until other blocks surround this row. The first row always looks so lonely by itself.

I stare at it for an entire day. That is what I do--how I absorb the quilt into my being. I could look at it even longer but I must keep moving forward. Jump in--swim to the side and keep building.  I make a block of the green. It is a dusty olive green. Not too bright. Not too harsh. The color of the leaves just waiting for the end of the season. Is this right? Or too dark? Maybe.

I am not sure. I adjust the fabrics of the palette--make another--slightly less intense in color. That may be better. Let me see. I keep piecing. Yes, isn't that one block standing out like a sore thumb--oh I do love my cliches.
I don't want to redo it--but if I have to.... I take more pictures. Yes, that first block is too dark. Time to take it out. I don't want to get off on the wrong foot so to speak. Gee--another good cliche.

That I can do--won't take that long. Then today I will do the brown at the bottom. Maybe even get the first row above done. I hope the quilt will take over. The colors will start to sing. It is so hard at first getting the colors to flow--the quilt to establish its own presence and being. But for now it is piece, jump, swim, create a new palette. And repeat.

Sometimes that is how an order gets done. And you--do you ever have this fear? Do you worry? What do you do? And have you ever jumped off the high dive before nine in the morning?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April is the cruelest month

Oh how true that saying is. This April we have had an April Fool's Day nor'easter, then more snow. A bit of thunder, ice, rain. Ugh.  And then even more snow. The mud is so deep I  park at a neighbors and hike up a very steep hill half a mile to get home. Did I mention how steep this hill is? Good exercise I tell myself as the road seems to go one forever.  Today I even saw a flock of geese flying SOUTH--that's right you heard me South. Wrong way guys.

Time to remind myself that we really do have not one, not two but four seasons. Luckily for me there is a show at Artspace in Greenfield, MA. Indeed the show is called four seasons 5 artists. Perfect I think. I had planned to see it anyway. My friends Elizabeth Keyes and Cynthia Fisher are part of an artist critique group who have been meeting for years. Elizabeth had told me enough about the show to pique my interest. Even stopped by my studio to detail the hanging process as they mixed and matched their different work on four walls according to the seasons. What would it look like? Who were the other artists?

What a treat it was to see. Now the show is in a small room at Artspace and the walls are full of art. Such is life and such is what happens when you have five very talented artists. But it was fun to puzzle out the work--figure out why different pieces were placed where they were. I began by looking at work I knew.

Of course Cynthia's work was gorgeous and very powerful. Amazing mosaics with strong graphics and powerful colors.  I wanted to be able to step back from her work and spend time studying the textures and techniques she used in each piece.

Some techniques I had not seen before. I am amazed how much depth and texture she can get using the mosaics. Now I get to see her work often as she did a series of murals throughout the village of Shelburne Falls that portray the different towns of West County. These are worth the trip to Shelburne Falls by themselves. She is a name to be remembered. Her website is here.

Then there was the work of my friend Elizabeth Keyes. These are intimate works in fiber--pieced and then embroidered. I love her work and I love it even more when I get to see a collection at once. Just look at the detail. This piece is probably 4 x 9 inches.

 And this piece is part of a series about her gardens. Oh her gardens. She and her husband have the most amazing and well tended vegetable gardens you have ever seen. Rows upon neat rows. But I digress.

Then to refresh the palate, there are several of her "simpler" works--where she has pieced colors of fabric without the intricate embroidery. I had forgotten this piece. Fabulous isn't it. The works are all framed behind glass--makes them more important but harder to take snapshots. Sorry.

Now when I go to a show like this sometimes I play a game--which piece would I buy if I won the lottery. In this show, the winner is the wonderful painting by Elizabeth Pols.

I had not previously been aware of her work but think it is wonderful. These are paintings.Some are scenes from Italy. Did she used to live there? Has she visited? I want to know more.

Then there was a recent piece--realistic and mystical. This seems to be a new direction for her.

Her attention to detail and use of color is quite lovely don't you think?

Helen Haddad had lots of lovely prints. A wonderful very sassy pig. And my favorite. This very happy and quite cocky rooster (pun intended.)

Rebecca Clark is showing several different styles. Some pastels of still lifes including this image of cherries--very cheery wouldn't you say? Again--I confess the pun is intended--can you tell that my mood is improving the longer I linger in this show. Yes, Ann there really are four seasons.

Rebecca also appears to be experimenting with more abstract shapes and colors. For instance I thought this simple basketweave was actually anything but simple. Don't you love the colors?

It was next to another wonderful piece in green. But that indeed was the essence of this show--the fact that each piece complemented the one next to it. And then there was the intrigue of trying to figure out what--if any--these artists who had been meeting with each pother--some for as long as 19 years--had on each other. Sure I could have wished the location was larger. But it was like looking at a private collection assembled by some knowledgeable person. Why had they chosen the work that they did? What was the correlation? And wasn't it great that there were really four--count them FOUR seasons in New England?

The show runs through April 15. For more info check out the Artspace website here. Have you seen it? What do you think? And will spring ever show up here in New England?

Monday, April 4, 2011

astonishment--thoughts on elephants, whales and my blog

Yesterday I heard on the NPR radio show--On Being--a great quote from Annie Dillard:

We are made to give voice to our astonishment.

Just listen to that again--voice to our astonishment. So wonderful and succinct. That word astonishment--think of that--shock, dumbfound, stun. From the Gallo-Latin for thunder. What a powerful word. It takes a wordsmith such as Annie Dillard to use the word with the care that it deserves. Have you read her books? A Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek. Compelling. Sacred. But I digress.

Back to the quote--doesn't that allow for the sense of awe at the world? In this case, Krista was interviewing Katie Payne--a Quaker biologist who studies whale songs and elephant loves. Fascinating interviews. Whales teach themselves new songs constantly because--and I paraphrase--the females like originality. Isn't that cool.

And elephants can remember the distinct sound of a departed matriarch for years. When a calf dies, the other elephants--even those not related to it--mourn its passing, try to revive it--lifting it with their tusks. making sounds of disturbance. Amazing what happens in the world. You can hear the complete interview here.

Recently I realized that my blog is more than a year old. I had actually forgotten until my internet friend Jeanne Yocum posted that her blog is celebrating its first birthday.  Congratulations Jeanne--nice blog. You can read her post here.

And I started to think about my blog. I confess that I find blogging the most rewarding of the social media. It allows me to think about issues that matter to me--what is art, what is craft, what awes me, what underwhelms me--yes, that really is a word. It is my personal journal to the world--my personal cry for what I believe in.

When I started blogging,  I was scared that I could not attract an audience. What did I have to say and how would I say it? It took me a few months to find my voice. To get over the fear of showing my astonishment at life. Again that word.  But soon I no longer had to think to find topics. They just  flow out of me. As Anne Truitt said, the problem is not in creating designs for new art--the problem is in choosing which ones to make.

In doing so I have celebrated the seasons, art that I love, great places to visit. I have questioned what is art, what is craft--perhaps more than some of my readers are interested in.  I have analyzed, probed, listened.  Shown my readers what astonishes me. Occasionally perhaps been a bit too intemperate.  I have mourned the passing of too many friends and relatives. I have shown quilts that don't work. My booth. My excitement at selling my work and my agony when it doesn't sell.  I have questioned the direction of my work. And sometimes simply had fun.

Is it sometimes self-centered? Of course. So am I. Do I have opinions? Of course.  Can I be a snob? Sure. Aren't we all? I have debated and discussed, probed and analyzed and showed my astonishment and wonder at the world. Met some wonderful friends. Had some great and positive reactions. And learned far more than I ever thought possible while still trying as best I can to have my opinions well-reasoned and thought out. After all, isn't this what life is about? And in the end I think it is this vision of what astonishes each of us that matters most.

To celebrate the anniversary--although a bit late, I changed the header on my blog--check it out. I hope it comes through. Maybe I will do even more changes. And  I made a quilt--another rolling hills in the wonderful spring colors--lovely blues and purples. Happy flowing colors. Now I am planning many more years of interacting with my wonderful fans and showing my astonishment at the beauty of the world and the joy of life in all its complexities. This is too much fun.

And you--oh reader whom I depend on. What do you think? Have I succeeded? Where can I do better?
What issues should I tackle? What interests you? And what do you think of my new header? 

Friday, April 1, 2011

the quilts of Ann Brauer--April Fool's Day news

Hope all is well with you. As you may know I just finished doing a series of three craft shows--I  even got to meet several of you--how nice--but it does feel good to get home and start working on my orders and new quilts, My mind is spinning with new ideas and designs--I can hardly wait. Of course just as the snow drops began to bloom, Mother Nature decided to drop snow. Ugh--I didn't need that for April Fool's Day. Oh well, it is pretty and won't last long.

This will be a rather short news letter this time--the No Holds Barred Show at the New England Quilt Museum goes until April 6. The Salmon Falls Artisan Gallery is now re-open after some more renovations. If you make it to Shelburne Falls do visit my quilt "medieval views" which they have displayed in a wonderful and dramatic location. Spring really is coming--the Bridge of Flowers was supposed to open today--probably in a day or so--and of course you can visit my studio if I am there (do call first as I am planning a couple of home visits to discuss custom orders.) In July I will be doing the Guilford Craft Expo on the Town Common in Guilford, CT. This year the show will run from July 14-17 as they have added Sunday for the show. Another fun show that I am looking forward to.

Meanwhile after much thought I decided that the April quilt will be "endless sky" Now I love this quilt--it is 45 x45 inches. Cotton, cotton batting--machine pieced and quilted using my usual quilt-as-you go method.  I made it a couple of years ago. The regular price of "endless sky" is $1200 but for the next ten days it will be $500 plus shipping and taxes. Obviously this is a first come/first serve offer so if you are interested do e-mail me. Another quilt will be posted in May. The quilt is SOLD.

And for those interested in smaller items--I have redesigned my eyeglass cases slightly using the very thin strips of fabric similar to what I am using for the pillows. The eyeglass cases are still $20. I have made a few other color combinations since I took this picture. They are fun to do--and I may also make some for cell phones--what do you think?

Thanks so much for reading. I do hope to see many of you soon.