Thursday, September 29, 2011

but do I have enough fabric?

OK--I finally decided I must make a new wall hanging. Not just a small square but a mid-size one. Sort of like the ones I used to make. Back in the good old days before Irene. When my quilts were selling well and I had plenty of stash. Just a month or so ago as you may remember. Sigh!! How life can change.

After all, I do need to have quilts to sell and I did lose about half my quilts, much of my stash and my darling building thanks to Irene. GRRR!!! Sometimes though the only way out is through. Luckily I will be doing the Paradise City Northampton show in a few days--hope to see many of you there.

So I told myself a few days ago I must start. I will make a quilt that I have made before. A few tweaks here and there of course. I never make the same quilt twice after all. But I don't want to reinvent everything at once. I know it will be hard enough to work in the new space. Figure out which fabrics I have. Ease myself gradually into the process.

Why not a variation on desert hills? Nice quilt isn't it? Some of the greys that I have been working with. I think I have a few golden browns. Not sure about the darker colors--but A Notion to Quilt has been very generous and they are just up the road from me.

But will I have enough fabric? After all each block requires 10 or is it 12 different  fabrics--all related in color and progressive. Not just any grey will do. A grey with mauve is so different from a grey with green or rust.  Each block must be different--although I do allow myself to use the same fabric more than once. And each row is a different color combination so this means a lots of different fabrics. I can't overthink it though so I start.

Hmmm. Not bad. I look at it for a day and add another row. Let's see what happens.

Yes, there is a color here. Definitely some variation but not bad. I don't think I will add another row of even darker down at the bottom. Instead some pale yellows and tans. Let's see what happens.

Is the sunshine too bright? Can I find the colors for three more rows of golden brown--not too bright?
I don't want to overwhelm the grey. I am thinking about a bit of the thin piecing in the center. Maybe. Luckily I just received a lovely package of stash from a quiltmaker in Washington State--what lovely browns she included. Just what I needed.

Hopefully today I can add another row. How nice it feels to be working again. What do you think? How do you start working again? Will I see you at the Paradise City Show? Or my new studio?

Monday, September 26, 2011

thoughts on kindness and color

I wake up at four in the morning--sometimes five if I'm lucky these days. My mind is reeling with so much to do. Tasks everywhere. Plans. Ideas.  Each seems to take twice as long as before. There is a definite order that must be followed. A process.  The back room is cluttered with boxes. The box from the new open flag must be broken down. Boxes from my track lights. I can't put them in my van--it goes into the service station again. Will they have the time today to fix the check engine light--this will be the third time I have taken it in. Normally no big deal--but right now just added hassle that I don't need.  Then the inspection station. Ugh again!!! Then I can put the boxes in the back. See what I mean.

To send out the order of pillows I must open the carton. Stuff the pillows. Find a box. The packing tape. The address. Things that I used to do automatically now require careful thought.

Where is my seam ripper? I think I have seen it. It used to be on my counter top--right there.  When will it resurface?  For now I can use scissors--it will reappear. I must make order out of chaos. One day at a time. One project done every day. One day at a time.

Today a friend comes to help. She can do some of those tasks that hang over my head. How nice it will be not to worry about those things again. How kind of her to help. How lucky I am.

Then I must make more quilts. After all, I do have a craft show in a couple of weeks. The Paradise Northampton Show--love doing that fair. So much great work there. A crowd that is enjoying themselves. Will you be there? Delicious food. Great music. Great art and crafts. I must have enough potholders. A selection of placemats and eyeglass cases. I know these will sell.

A new friend had sent me a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye probably the best known Arab-American poet. Have you heard of her? I hadn't. Wonderful work. So sure of herself and pictorial. She tells a story. The poem I received is called "Kindness". The gist of the poem is that only after you have been knocked down to the depths by life, lost everything and seen the loss of all--only then can you know that what is left after such loss is kindness. Just read these words.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

She concludes that only after the sorry can you know kindness--let me quote some more.

only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Isn't it wonderful. It is worth it to check her out more. Here is a link to a short poem she read at Earlham College in Indiana.  Great isn't she?

Yes, kindness is left and will sustain me. So many people. So kind. But for me also there is more. There is color. This is what I do. This is what propels me further. I must make more squares with the colors of autumn. What do you think?

This is part of what I dream of at four in the morning. This is part of why there are still boxes in the back room. This is what keeps me sane.

And you--what do you do when life overwhelms you? What are your tricks? The things you tell yourself? And kindness--what are your thoughts there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mud season

Oh no--no matter how nice everyone has been--and people have been very very kind. Businesses and friends have gone out of their way for me in ways I dare not expect and can't but appreciate and cherish.  Still no matter how hard I try to accept it--and I do try very very hard--there is a part of me that is screaming inside--"NO!" "Let me wake up from this nightmare. This is really not happening to me. Tomorrow I can go back to my happy contented life at 2 Conway Street and create the quilts of my dreams."

OK--I know that is not going to happen. I know I should be so grateful. And indeed I am. After all, I lost my studio--my home away from home--but not my home. More importantly I did not lose any one near and dear to me. That would have been unimaginable. And I don't want to seem unthankful for all those who have been so kind to me. This is just a passing moment and I do appreciate and cherish your lovely and gracious actions--please do not get me wrong.

I did have my best quilts with me and within me. I can rebuild. Maybe even making better quilts or a better career. I have an absolutely wonderful husband who will do anything he can for me. I have great friends. A great community both in Shelburne Falls and in the general art/quilt community.

I know deep in my heart that I was/am very very lucky. Yet sometimes I cry. I scream with rage. I hope to wake up. I hope this is not wrong. I hope this is just normal.

Meanwhile I try to make quilts that contain the mud. Maybe it is too soon. Maybe I need to make quilts about rebirth. Dawn. Maybe a complex quilt will contain my feelings. Not sure. I will try a new quilt tomorrow--see if that tames the anguish inside me.

For now though this is my first quilt of the mud season. I hope you will bear with me as I try to sort through this random act of whatever.

What do you think? How do you cope? Is working through mud the answer or should I go to dawn? How do you use the rage against the night?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

the colors of mud

I wake up early one morning this week--now that is not surprising. I have been doing that a lot recently--3 or 4 am--if I am lucky I sleep until 5. Thanks Irene--and Good Night to you too.. But this time I am thinking of a new quilt instead of worrying about that to do list. Sweet. The way life should be.

Now I had been telling myself that my first quilt should be optimistic. Bright colors like first light. Happy and joyous. A quilt about hope and rebirth.

But instead I think of one in the soft colors of greys and taupe, steel blues and mist. I am scared to make it. The Deerfield River is still flowing strong and brown right now--remembering its rage and sorrow. I can see it from my new studio. Do I really want to go there? Is it too soon? Or maybe this is what I need to do? I am not sure.

I plow through the lovely boxes of stash I have received. Such gifts from the heart. Each one does cheer and encourage me. The one with two pieces--just the colors that I need. The customer who sent a lavender color that I had sadly used up a few years ago--how glad I am to have it again. The quilt maker who wanted to interview me--much like they do at the Animal Shelter--would I promise to use and enjoy the fabric as much as she had? I tore into that package.

Yes, maybe I need to be making the colors of the mud and river part of me. Yes, this is what interests me right now. It is my life.

Don't you just love these fabrics? And the new cutting board--thank you Notion to Quilt. And I start to sew--slowly at first. It is a challenge to figure out the fabrics. A few that I had stored high in the studio--these I know. Many from others that I need to learn about. To study and absorb.  But I am sewing. This feels right.

Gradually I regain confidence. Add the strips one at a time. Right now I can't add that dusky muddy green--that feels too close to home. Instead just a bit of the mauve and pink. That hint of sunrise and rebirth.

Not bad is it? Maybe the next one needs that green of angry water--not sure.  Probably I do need to work through that. But today I must finish this one--just a simple square--but from the heart. What do you think? What inspires your quilts? Do you ever find yourself making a quilt to deal with life?

Monday, September 12, 2011

after all, I am a craftsperson

I remember years and years ago--I was at one of those very prestigious craft shows inside a large convention center. This was back when booth fees were much more affordable and they wanted people to have L-A-R-G-E booths. So I had sprung for a 15 x 10 foot space which used every piece of display I had to create my booth. For those who don't know, my booth is made from 1" steel pipes that very cleverly snap together with some connectors designed just for this purpose. It is a wonderful strong system that does not sag under the weight of my quilts but the one drawback is that it is not very flexible. The booth must be made with right angles and must be the size of the pieces. So 15 x 10 works great, 14 x 9 requires a lot of thought.

Anyhow, this particular space had a huge supporting pillar--about 3 feet by 4 feet right in the back corner of the booth.  I did not have the display parts to deal with this pillar so I asked one of the very friendly volunteers if there was anything that could be done. Her answer was so cut and dry it has always stuck with me.

"No," she said. "Nothing can be done about it. But," she added with a smile, "you are a craftsperson and I am sure you will figure it out."

And in fact I did. I jerry-rigged some method of tieing the booth together and taping a curtain over the offending pillar--I forget exactly how but remember lots of duct tape and bungee cord--and I had a great show.

Needless to say, this is a skill that I have had to use more than once.

The last couple days as I was getting the  new studio ready for a "soft" re-opening I found that my  coping skills lacking. Little things wore on me. The young reporter--who was herself overwhelmed by the numerous tragedies of Irene in West County--and many are far worse off than I am--asked me one too many questions that showed she did not know how hard I was working to set up the new space. The friend who wanted to sell me something. You must know the feeling. Hey, I even started to hold a pity party for myself--and trust me, I don't like pity parties--especially when I am the hostess. Time to snap out of it.

I needed my quilts up. I needed to be open for business. The new studio had been so lovingly cleaned by volunteers--both wonderful old friends and new ones that I have made. Sure there is a ton more to do. The floor needs lots of TLC. Storage space needs to be in place. Lights. But that could wait. I just needed to get the quilts up. Display the smaller items.  But how?

Sure, I had received a wonderful grant from CERF+--do check them out--such a marvelous caring organization.  My friends had out-done themselves. How lucky I am. I had even pre-shopped for used furniture that would look great in the space.  The new studio is half the size of the old. That will come in a few weeks.

But I wanted to be open NOW. I needed to be sewing NOW!!! That is after all, how I stay sane and cope with life--or at least as sane as I normally am. So when a friend said, "You are a craftsperson. Use your booth display furniture for now," I realized she was absolutely right.

Why not. This I know how to do. This I have been doing for so many years. So I enlisted yet another friend to help me hang my quilts. Set up my booth furniture and tables. Put out the table runners and purses that I had taken to the craft fair. Made a stack of the placemats that had not sold in Evanston. Don't want to do it for long, but not bad for now, is it?

Now I can sew. After all, I didn't have flood insurance--only two people in town did, FEMA does not help small businesses--GRRR--I had not known that before, and I am not sure I want a loan from the SBA, so the only way out is to make the very best quilts that I can. There is a tax write off for losses--I just need the income to write off . I need to make the orders I have received.

And though the studio still looks unfinished, I can now see there is a bit of normal in my life.

And you what do you do when life takes that unexpected turn? Whether it is health or family or business? How do you stay sane? Return to normal? If you are a craftsperson or an artist, how do you return to work?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

the quilts of Ann Brauer--Good Night Irene

What an amazing few days this has been. This will be a short note for now. For those who don't know, my beloved studio was washed down the Deerfield River as a result of Hurricane Irene. I can't really bear to go into the details again--for those curious I have been posting regular updates on my Facebook page: If you want you can google me on YouTube--just look for Ann Brauer Hurricane Irene.  Luckily for me I was doing the American Craft Exposition in Evanston, IL and had my best quilts with me. Because the studio floated down the river and came to rest against a valiant maple tree, some of the items I had stored on higher shelves survived. Most importantly for me, the two quilts my grandmother made were dry. Some of my equipment can be salvaged. Some fabric was OK. Much of my stash was lost.

Indeed much of Shelburne Falls suffered very serious damage although we were very lucky that the entire town was not destroyed. The whole community has pulled together in so many wonderful ways. Already the streets are lined with equipment pumping water, clearing streets and helping people put their lives back together. Many businesses are still open including McCusker's,  Salmon Falls Artisans Showroom and many of the businesses on the Shelburne side of the river. The Iron Bridge is now open for pedestrian traffic.

Which leads me to the very good news. I just rented a lovely studio space on the Shelburne side of the bridge. I am right next to Dick and Dianne Muller--whom I have known for almost as long as I have been a quilt maker. I could not have nicer neighbors--and if you don't know their leather work--especially their wonderful handbags--I know you will want to stop by and see them when you visit me. The space is actually really nice with those wonderful patterned tin ceilings and those wonderful windows overlooking the sidewalk.

Sometime next week I hope to begin getting moved into the space although I am sure it will take a while to become accustomed to my surroundings. I will be at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton on Columbus Day week-end as usual. If I was supposed to contact you for any reason, please forgive me.

Here is a picture of my new space.

Soon my address will be 6 Bridge Street, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370 I plan to keep the same phone number. As always, if you are coming from a distance do give me a phone call since there will be lots of meetings with FEMA, MEMA and probably others. For now if you need to reach me, you can e-mail me or call me at 413 628 4014. My mail is getting held at the 2 Conway Street address.

And I am sorry but this month I just can't do a quilt of the month. I am sure you will understand.