Friday, July 29, 2011

time for some R & R

Sometimes you just have to say "Yes!!!" "Great idea, hun!!!"

Vacation with my DH--a trip to the Green Mountains of Vermont--one of those wonderful parts of the world--so beautiful. So close to home. Having a great time just being with my DH--how rare those moments are--you must know the feeling.

"Let's hike to the top of Stratton Mountain," he suggested. Just under 4000 feet. There is a fire tower at the top. 360 degree views. We know Stratton Mountain--have always wanted to climb it. Have hiked bits of the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail.

I love those activities. Step after step--carefully--up the mountain. A trip with a purpose. A destination. A feeling of accomplishment. Almost like making a quilt--yes, of course I think about quilts--even on vacation. That is just who I am--if you know what I mean.

Slowly, steadily we climb. The path at first easy-- a little muddy in places. Lovely hard wood forest. Tiny streams crossing over. Then the tree roots cling to the ground. A tangle to pick through on the trail. Carefully. Up, up we go. More rocks than roots on the trail now. R & R--Roots and Rocks get it?

We stop for a break at a wonderful boulder. Actually it is two rocks taller than me almost touching. The space in between. I love the power of these large boulders. Such force and reassurance.

The tension of the space between. The cracks just waiting. Paused in the evolution of the mountain. Such simple shapes defining a moment larger than I can comprehend.

A tree seeming to hold up the rock. The twists in each counter-balancing the other.

The small details. What wonderful compositions. So much to absorb.

Simple. Complete. Just colors and shapes that happen--just waiting to be noticed.

 The greens of the moss. The colors of the rock. So much to see.

But how long can I delay. The trail beckons. Up. Up. The trees turn into balsam spruce. Shorter.  The sky is more visible. Lighter. We are ridge running. Catch just a glimpse of distant water. It can't be far now.  Hikers on the way down urge us on--the fire tower is worth it. The goal. Finally we are on top of the world. We have done much harder trails--this one just requires slow and steady care. Water breaks.

Then finally we are there. The fire tower beckons. And the views. Greylock. Monadnock. Killington. Ridges of the Green Mountains. What is so essential about this expanse? What is its power to take our breath away?

Why do we like to see the distant lakes mapped out for us? What longing and desires do we see here?

And you--do you climb those high peaks? Seek those views? Do you find inspiration and patterns in the simple designs of nature? Do you see quilts here? What do you do for R & R?

Monday, July 25, 2011

sometimes it is the little things

Oh--don't you love it when ideas come together? I piece and plan--piece and plan. What a great concept. Jazz and summer scenes. Wonderful colors. Ideas flowing. The quilt just sitting there--so full of promise and anticipation. You must have had moments like that--at least I hope so.

Then I sew it together. In blocks of colors first. It always looks so different then doesn't it. Ooops. I knew I had not measured the two sides to be quite the same--figured I would work it out when I sewed it together. Give me some wiggle room. But....

Where to cut it off? What to eliminate? Is there too much white in this design? I pin it up. Squint. Use my hands to square it off in my mind. Obviously I must tuck in that tail of fabric--that is distracting.

Still too much white, isn't there? Maybe that is the clue?

More images. Yes, that shows the color progression but doesn't glare. Time to let it sit there for a couple days. Amazing how a picture can help define the quilt isn't it?

Do you ever do this? Get inspired and then stuck? Which do you like better? Am I missing something?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

it's too damn hot!!!

OK--the heat wave has finally made it up to New England. Now I know that for those of you in other parts of the United States you are probably thinking what a spoiled quiltmaker I am--after all, so far this weather has been relatively pleasant up here. And we do know that a bit of hot weather is good for the tomatoes and basil. But--let's face it--I am a spoiled. Enough said.

Luckily I just got new images back from my photographer John Polak. You can check out his web site HERE.  I even posted them on my web site last night which is HERE.  So without further ado--let me preview the images for you. What do you think? Which is your favorite?

Desert solitaire--45 x 45 inches.

Don't you just love this close-up?

Reflections on the night--45 x 45 inches.

Hidden lake--45 x 43".

Autumn dawn--50 x 70 inches.

 Into the woods--99 x 99 inches. Used as a bed quilt.

Isn't my photographer great? Which is your favorite? Which themes should I work on? And more importantly what are you doing to stay nice and cool?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

is it okay to actually use your art quilt?

Sometimes it seems to me that the simplest questions can be the most loaded, if you know what I mean. This time I get an inquiry from an interior decorator--"Do you make quilts for beds?" she asked. "Of course," I reply. After all, isn't that why people originally made quilts--to cover their beds. And certainly that is the reason that many people still make quilts. Just go to your local quilt guild if you don't believe me.

And yet, when I do a craft show I inevitably get asked again and again if my big quilts are meant to be placed on beds. Now most of these are just questions--making conversation. Speaking with the artist. No problem there really. Hey, I even have people who hang my potholders as wall art in the kitchen. Fine by me.

But when I wrote a blog post about a quilt I had made that the couple envisioned as either hanging on a wall or being used as a bed quilt, I received lots of e-mails advising me in all sincerity to not mention that the quilt might actually be used. I was told that I was hurting the Art Quilt movement by suggesting that the quilt go over a bed. Even devaluing it!!  These are not supposed to be your grandmother's quilts, after all. You can read the bog post HERE.

I got to thinking about this question. Now about half of my large quilts are put on beds and half are hung on walls. Nothing wrong with that. The quilts on walls certainly do look great--the colors blend from a distance. And I certainly know that not everyone can afford one of my quilts on their beds. But shouldn't it be an option? Does it make it any less a piece of art if it is actually used?

Blue hills is used on a bed. The couple wrote me that sleeping under it every night is like sleeping in the gentle calm of the ocean. Nice, isn't it.

Dreams of the dawn is hung in a large office entry way. But the companion quilt--dreams of the sky--is on a bed. The gentleman who owns it told me it is the best piece of art he owns. He uses it every day.

I think of other examples of art. Isn't the design for Central Park art even though it is used every day?
What about the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC? The lamps of Tiffany? Certainly they are not meant to just sit there--unplugged? Or an outfit by Chanel--would you just hang it up and never wear it? Indeed I wonder if the problems that the homes of Frank Lloyd Wright have in usability--I assume that is a word--may even detract from their artistic nature? Just a thought.

So why shouldn't we make art quilts that are put on beds? I glance through a magazine for interior decorators that specializes in fiber for interiors. Lovely rugs. Great pillows. But the bed covers are chenille bed spreads. Comforters with large designs. Throws. Lovely beds--but isn't there something missing? Such a large empty canvas that could be covered with art.  Are we as artists losing an opportunity?

Now certainly making a quilt for a bed does have specific requirements. For instance the quilt must cover the bed. The design must look great on the bed.  How does it drape over the edges? What does the design look like as you approach it? Does it co-ordinate with the bed itself? There do need to be concerns for durability in terms of the materials and techniques used. But that can't limit the nature of art can it?

So what do you think? Do you make quilts that can be used on beds? Do you use a quilt on your bed? Are we missing an opportunity or is this sacrilegious?

Friday, July 15, 2011

is there ever anything new?

Recently there has been a great discussion on the daylily robin that I belong to--the question is whether with more than 60,000 daylilies registered and more than 1000 more getting registered every year--is it still possible for a backyard hybridizer to create a new and distinctive daylily. What more can be done? Sure, there is still the quest for the blue daylily--good luck. And some of the daylilies from the South just don't open in the North. But--don't many of the daylilies begin to look like each other anyway? How do you tell one from the other--is a flower that is four inches across that different from one that is 5 inches across?

Great questions. Indeed on my Studio Art Quilt forum the same issues are being raised. Is it possible to create new quilts that are distinctive and art? Has everything that can be said, been said? How far can the medium of quilts be pushed? And is the act of pushing sufficient or should we just make quilts? Are we too eager for the new?

I look around at my garden. There are so many flowers I love. I love watching new flowers open up. See the clumps develop in my garden. The mysteries of trahlyta. Exuberant. Unfolding patterns that resonate in a clump.

The joy of morning for flamingos--notice how the petals curve round and the slight ruffling at the edge.

The lush color of imperial lemon that opens up into the sunlight. Note the distinctive veins.

These are all lovely--but isn't there something more I want? Not only in terms of more flowers--although it may be possible to have too many flowers.   No, I want to know my flowers better. I am a curious person and the potential discovery of seeing a new flower I created interests me. But I can't do it all. A scattershot approach does not work.  It takes two or three years for a daylily up north to grow from seed to mature flower. How many duds do I need on the off-chance that I get something lovely? Shouldn't my time be well spent?

I read a wonderful post by Bob Faulkner--a backyard hybridizer known for his intricately patterned daylilies. He began his expedition into hybridizing because he did not have the money to purchase the flowers he wanted. You can see images of his work here--well, worth checking out. The key he says is FOCUS. Create an image of the daylily you are trying to create--maybe sketch it out. All of the characteristics. Verbalize it. You know--the elevator speech we are all taught to give. What are you trying to do in two sentences. Research. Keep notes. Compost those plants that are not on the path to the goal.

I think about it--yes, I want a tall plant. Dainty and dancing in the sun. Not necessarily yellow. I get some ideas. Start the research. I can begin to picture it. I make notes of ideas. Polly love--but much taller. Maybe a bit pinker? More trumpet like? Not sure yet.

But this is fun. I love the tall flowers I have--citrina. Dancing in the sunlight. I love the process--careful and planned with of course the element of surprise. Isn't that the same thing that quiltmakers or artists should be doing?  The same FOCUS that will make our work truly unique and distinctive. After all if we are true to ourselves then our work will only be like us and we are each unique individuals. I think of the mysteries of landscapes. That edge between what is and the place we take ourselves. Isn't that what I want to keep exploring? Isn't that an answer? At least for me at this point in time.

And you--what are you trying to explore? What is essential? Or do you approach it differently?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

what to bring

Today I packed for the Guilford Craft Show this week-end. Set-up is tomorrow on the Town Green and the show opens on Thursday. But what to take?

Now I do know people who bring everything they have to a craft show. They travel in big vans--leave the vans packed between shows. This is what they do. Some of my friends from the West Coast just store their work on the East Coast. That makes sense for them.  But--as most of my readers know--I also sell work out of my studio. I don't want to pack and unpack everything after each show. It wouldn't be good for the quilts. It wouldn't fit in my Honda Odyssey. And it wouldn't be good for me--if you know what I mean. Besides  customers get confused if they have too much choice--have you noticed that? K.I.S.S. 

So what to do? How to decide? Now some of it is obvious. Of course I always want to bring my best work. There is no point in paying all this money and taking all this time not to show the very best I have. But lots of my quilts are great--if I do say so--and right now my stock is high. So let me think.
Guilford is along the ocean--have you ever been there--really a lovely little town. Upscale but charming.  I think light on the ocean should come with me.

A couple more pieces in blues. Midnight ocean will look great in my booth, don't you think?

I need some browns and tans. Wonder what people will think of desert solitaire. I just had it's picture taken. I am very curious to get reaction to this piece.

This show hasn't seen rainbows of summer. Definitely I will bring that. I try to remember what I brought to the last show in any venue so that my booth does not seem stale.

Ditto with blue hills--what a dynamic piece. Perfect for your beach house, don't you think?

I have a customer who wants to show her husband out of the mist. That's easy--I don't always bring that one but...

But I think I will leave first mountain at home--not a quilt for the ocean. Indeed the only interest I have had for that quilt is someone looking to add it to their Colorado ski cottage.

There are a few other quilts that will stay behind--the ones that I am still thinking about. Not quite complete in their ideas. Or work that has been seen in Guilford already. This is July--I don't want too much work in the colors of autumn--this is not the season for that.  I go through and try to create a collection. Add some smaller quilts that I think will sell. Not everything I make. Again I don't want my booth to look cluttered. But a selection. I hope I chose right.

And you--how do you choose what work to take? Do you take everything? What do you think?

So how do you

Friday, July 8, 2011

capturing the sky

 How do you capture the colors of my iris--the wonderful blues and purples. So dreamy but also with a definition. This one a Japanese iris--dirago star. Wonderful isn't it? So intense and varied in their subtlety. The colors of the sky. I sketch and resketch the quilt. A simple color progression of light to dark blues above a horizon of teal--or is it green? And then the focus--the "story" of the quilt. That square of fine strips of fabric that echoes the looser pieces of the quilt but makes the quilt pop.

This is new for me. I tried it once with desert solitaire and loved the effect. You can read about it HERE. Now I want to do it again and again. There is something here if only I can discover it. I can see it in my mind's eye but not sure how to realize it yet. Again I want the finely pieced square to echo the quilt with a color progression.

But first I tell myself to make what I know. I piece square after square of the quilt. I want blue with hints of purple. Just that bit of warmth. Not too busy. Just color gradually changing. How long this takes. I must see if the idea is working so I pin up a purple square--it seems a bit lost. Maybe it is because I still have to sew the top row of blocks?

Then I think. Look through the squares I have already pieced. Pillows not yet made. What about that rust-orange? Yes, I have made that top row--that also helps the quilt, doesn't it?

Color pops doesn't it? But the square is too high. The quilt looks like a study in geometry although it is hard to visualize with the blocks not sewn together. Let me lower it.

That looks better. But is it right? Aren't design boards great? What happens if I lower it further?

Yes much better. Amazing how small changes can make such a big difference, isn't it? But is this the right color? What about the lavender purple I had originally thought of?

So different that feeling is, isn't it?  So soft and subtle. Yes, that works doesn't it? One more color-- this yellow. Interesting.

Now the square isn't just going to be a solid block of color--it will go from dark to light just like the quilt. No idea how I will piece it into the quilt. First though to make the teal blocks--don't think that will change much. Then on to the square of color.

So what do you think? Lavender, rust or yellow? Will this quilt work? Can I get it done before the Guilford Craft Show next week-end?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

I had only read about how lovely Louisiana irises were when I saw this Louisiana Black Gamecock iris for sale at my local nursery. For several years it lounged in my garden under the shadow of my roses. I moved it a couple years ago and weeded it with the faith that it might actually bloom. This year it graced me with one lovely intense bloom. I can't wait until next year...



Sunday, July 3, 2011

oops I did it again

I have been hurrying so to finish the new quilt--have you ever done that? Working as hard as I can--totally concentrated and driven. Piece it and sew it together--I want to see the finished work now. I want to get it done before the Guilford Craft Show so customers can react to it. Then I look at it--half sewn together--the colors do not flow as I imagined. Was it really just my choice of fabrics?

Or maybe I sewed  a row on upside down. Could I really have been that stupid?  Ugh!!!

Now normally I carefully mark the top side of these long rows--but maybe the pin slipped out. It happens. Maybe in my haste I hadn't noticed. Sewing this quilt together is slightly different from my normal procedure because I want the lines of the solid color to be straight. Maybe that is where I made the mistake. It doesn't even matter now does it?

Nothing to do about it though but get out my seam ripper and pick away. UGH!!!! How securely I had sewn those seams. This takes forever. I must use care since I don't want to damage the quilt.  Then I flip the row over. Redo my work. Yes, that was the problem. Whew!!!

Finish the quilt.  Of course it take forever--well, a lot longer than anticipated. Interesting though. I am enchanted with that very thin line--is it a door? A crack in the earth? Not sure. Maybe the desert concentrated. But a story.

And isn't that what it's about anyway. Shouldn't art be telling a story--even if there are no words to the story? Even if it is not linear? What do you think?

Friday, July 1, 2011

the quilts of Ann Brauer--celebrating 30 years in business

Wow--can you believe it is July 1 already. How quickly time flies. We are having delightful early summer weather right now (knock on wood).  Enough rain that the Siberian iris were absolutely gorgeous in my garden this year. The Japanese iris and daylilies are just starting to bloom and promise quite a show--so many buds waiting to open. It is hard to anticipate the color that will occur. The peas have been plentiful--nothing like eating one's vegetable fresh from the vine. There are lots of little green tomatoes and soon the basil will be ready for pesto. What a summer treat. I do occasionally post pictures of my garden on Facebook if you are curious:

This July 1 also marks my thirtieth year in business--can you believe that? When I look back at this incredible journey, I get so thankful for all the wonderful people I have met along the way and the many adventures I have had. Maybe I will reminisce more later.  I still must admit though that my favorite quilt is the one I am working on right now--or maybe the one I just finished or plan to start. This is the way it is supposed to be, isn't it?

Meanwhile I will be showing my quilts this year at the Guilford Craft Show on the Town Common in Guilford CT July 14-17. Those who have been to the show know that it is a delightful location with lots of wonderful work under cheerful white tents. Outside but protected. I am in Booth B16. This year they have even added Sunday hours. So if you are in the area, I do hope you will plan to check it out. For further information you can visit their website  In August I will be doing the Berkshire Craft Show at Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington, MA and then the American Craft Exposition in Evanston, IL--but more on those shows next month.  I hope to be in the studio as much as possible when I am not doing these shows--but do call or e-mail me first if you are coming from a distance.

And now for the quilt of the month....I have decided that this months quilt will be November dawn. Again this quilt is 45 x45 inches. I love the colors in the piece--slightly out of the ordinary. Indeed I love this quilt but it is my 30th anniversary so I should give a gift to my loyal followers. The normal price is $1200 but for the next ten days only it is $600 plus tax and shipping of course.  Again there is only one of these quilts--it will be sold on a first come/first serve basis. On July 11 if the quilt is not sold, its price will return to $1200. So--if you are interested, please e-mail me.

Have a great summer--hope you are getting just the right amounts of rain and sun where you live.

And thanks so much for being there.