Friday, March 30, 2012

the second time around

Oh how easy it was to make the quilt ancient light the first time. Well, it wasn't really easy--I had lots of thinking--lots of fabrics to audition. Design questions to address. The dark greys and plums, the light of the orange squares that glows against the changing colors. So many choices to make. But the first time I made it, I really did not know how it came together. Does this ever happen to you?

The second time though--especially when the colors and sizes are different--now that is harder--at least for me. I have to analyze the colors. What is the overall effect? How did I achieve it? I have to really get to know the quilt. Study it. Absorb the feeling. What is the essence of this piece?  How do I make it fit into the space? The customers are lovely people and so start I must.

The green and rusts comes together easily. How lovely it will look against the cherry bed.

But the three orange-red squares. Now that is the tricky part. In the original ancient light the squares had lots of gold but is that right here?

Won't the gold just emphasize the gold green of the new quilt? Let me start from scratch. I pin up a scrap from another project. Too dull isn't it? No zing.

Another scrap--is this closer?

Somewhat. Hard to imagine what it will look like as three larger blocks. I play with it. Hmm--is this too red? Too bright?

I don't like that broad swath of red--makes the overall quilt look dull. Try again. Remove a bit of the red--add a bit more rust. See what happens.

 Looks better. Let me begin piecing it in. What will the quilt look like when it is sewn together.

Interesting how it pops. I'm a bit worried about the pronounced line at the bottom of the block but that row is not sewn together yet. I think it will disappear in the seam allowance. What a difference 1/4 inch can make. Now to finish it. See what the three blocks look like as they change against the changing background. Study it.

Is the quilt right for the room? Should I make it again. I love the colors--so warm and rich. The rust against the green.  So intense. Is this what the customers want? Is there more to learn? What will the quilt look like when finished?

Does this happen to you? Do you find it hard to make a quilt--or any art--the second time? When do you quit learning from the piece? So many questions.

Monday, March 26, 2012

messy work table

In this age of decluttering and neatness, don't we all want to keep our work spaces in order? Isn't that what we are told--a clean, neat area is more efficient. And who knows, maybe it is. But as my friend Lynn Krawczyk  of Fibra Artysta wrote, work tables are by their very nature messy when you are working. Isn't this part of the creative experience? Let's share images of our own messy work spaces, she suggested. Here is the blog:  After all, it is an artist at work. Let's all share images, she suggested.

Could I resist? Nope. Now, it's not that I don't try to be neat. I do. After all in my new studio the mess is one of the first things you see as you walk in. And I do clean it up regularly--seriously I sorted it last week.

Yes, that is my cutting board that you can catch glimpses of. I have to keep that area moderately clean. It is after all, also my counter for selling.  But then there is the pile of fabric--some has been cut for the new quilt. Others may get used--and isn't it easier to have it out if you want to audition a fabric?

A bit of a mess, isn't it? Actually I do keep most of the fabrics stored in plastic drawers. The studio is so tiny that I bring out the drawers one at a time to sort through to find the right palette for the quilt. The drawers are loosely arranged by color. Greens and browns, rusts and greys. All have their separate drawers.

You can also see the piles of fabric that I keep right by the sewing machine. Those are pieces I may use on the block I am making. First I move the fabric onto the cutting board and make some wedges. Usually I leave the fabric out until I finish the block in case I need another size or color. And yes, I can cut too much fabric to have by the sewing machine--then it takes too long to find.

But still I always cut too much. Bring out too many fabrics. It is much easier and quicker that way. Then I save the extras in the pile next to the cutting board. Why throw it away?  I do go through it to see if there is anything I can use for the quilt. Great inspiration there. Some of the fabrics are the last little bits of fabrics that I have loved.  I can't throw that away, can I? Although once or twice a year I go through it and recycle strips that I know I won't use. I am even considering getting some plastic boxes to store the extras--would the pile grow too large if I do? Would I use what I have already cut?

And as I work I do stash in the drawers the colors that I am no longer going to use. See, these peach colors are ready to be put away. I told you I do try.

 But I guess this is how I have to work. After all, just look at the range of colors in just one block of the new quilt. The rusts, greens, browns, taupe and even a bit of grey.

And you--how do you create order out of chaos? Is your work space neat or messy? Does it change? What do you think? Can you be too neat or too messy?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

what is the color of celery?

Ah spring is in the air. Time to finish an order. This one should be easy--right? After all, I have previously made my quilt--ancient light.  Nice quilt, isn't it? How complex the colors are. How the combination resonates as a whole.

But the walls of this home are celery colored. Now when I hear the word celery I think of a green--like the celery I grow every year. An intense green in the leaves. Even the stalks have green. Sure a bit of yellow to brighten it. But green. The green of this celery in McCusker's Market.

Probably even greener than this snapshot. But--and this is the catch here--the color celery as defined by the pros is different. Almost a composite of the greens here--with a bit of yellow. Sometimes it is a bit brighter. All are defined by numbers and charts. Here is one link to celery color by the experts. Note the number that defines the color from the chart.

Here is the color from a color chart.

But why is this called celery? I certainly don't think of celery as this yellow. Not the crisp stalks that I eat. Maybe celery when I add it to a stew. Although when I look at the colors again of the celery in McCuskers--yes, I can see the yellow there. And I confess I do like the color. I probably even like it more than I like the color that I think of for celery. At least for walls.

And yet, as designer Celerie Kemble--don't you love her name--said in Southern Accents, celery is basically a neutral color. Green is one of the natural colors that we are surrounded by. It can be both warm and cool at the same time. Interesting article--you can learn more here.

It makes me stop and think. Reminds me that when customers mention the color celery or celadon or any of those other named colors I should stop for a minute and double check. Because my celery color may not be their celery color.

Does this ever happen to you? What colors do you find hard to remember? And what color do you think celery is?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

the joy of being an artist

Now usually I write about the process of making a quilt--all the small decisions that keep me up at night wondering should I use this fabric or that? Is the strip too wide or not wide enough? And what should I do next? You know that process--maybe even go through it yourself.

But every once in a while, a quilt--or in this case--a pillow--just comes together.  It is a beautiful spring day--the last day of the Paradise City Arts Festival here in Marlborough and I decided that we should celebrate the joy and delight that happened earlier this week when a pillow came together--just right. Why not? Isn't that what spring is all about?

So--without further ado--here are some time lapse images of that pillow.  Of course sometimes I got so involved in the process I forgot to take a snapshot--oh well. And I did spend lots of time getting the color palette just right before I began--isn't that the key anyhow?

What do you think? Does this ever happen to you? Am I right that this pillow just worked?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

don't we all need choice?

Recently--as my followers know--I have been working hard getting ready for the Paradise City Arts Festival this week-end in Marlborough, MA. Oh how I love this show--the real start of spring for me. Enough great artists and artisans that your mind is swirling with possibilities. But not so many that you can't really linger and go back to the ones you like. For more info check out:

Of course one of the problems with this show--or even any show--is that I want to have enough work. After all, my stock was picked over at the Baltimore Craft Show. And even during the holiday season.
And one thing I have learned from experience is that if you don't have a selection, the customers won't even stop and look at your work.

I mean isn't that one of the reasons the customers are there in the first place?

Now I know that each of these table runners are lovely in their own right and each will find its own good home but there are not enough here to take to the show, are there?

So I start making some more--a purple and a blue. Yes, this looks more like it--doesn't it?

Oh I do love this blue one. Want to bet it is the first one sold?

But still not enough. No, I think I need at least one more color--well, I probably could use several more colors but time is limited and I do have much more to do to get ready for this show. One more--a teal--should make the display look complete. What do you think?  How do you make sure you have enough colors for a show? What colors do you look for? Don't we all need choice?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

want to see more fiber?

For those who can't get enough fiber, let me suggest browsing through the selections on the new TAFA web site. This is an international organization of fiber artists--some wonderful work there. In addition they are trying to raise money to add even more to the site. For more info go to their web site:

And you can see a few of my quilts on my listing there too. (Yes, I am a member and my site is

Friday, March 9, 2012

is it spring fever?

Is it the forsythia I forced in my kitchen? Or the difference in the light in the morning? Perhaps it is the maple syrup buckets hanging in the woods as I drive down to the studio. Or the Paradise City Arts Festival March 16-18 in Marlborough?  The lovely warm days where I take my letters to the mail box one at a time. Open the door to the studio. Maybe even sweep the sidewalk.

This week at The Textile Company  I had a list of colors I need for projects but just had to add a few shades of lavender. Could I resist these abstract grapes like little bubbles of sky? Nope--and then I needed something to go along with it. Well, you must know how that goes.

Fabric collection--Ann Brauer

Yes, I need some smaller items, I told myself--after all, one of the great aspects of a Paradise City Show is that there is art to lust after and art to enjoy and use on a regular basis. Art can be fun as well as serious. Shouldn't we surround ourselves with lovely items every day? Can I ever have too many potholders in my booth?

Potholder--Ann Brauer

Maybe a placemat. See how I used the grape fabric here. Won't that help make my display look cheerful--like spring.

Placemat--Ann Brauer

A table runner for just that splash of color. Slightly more rose colored--maybe I should make another one. There are so many lovely lavenders out there, aren't there?

Table runner--Ann Brauer

Eyeglass cases--I forgot to snap their image. A pillow or two that are not quite done. Of course by now I am wanting the challenge of something larger. A new wall hanging perhaps. Maybe rolling hills in lavender. That would be absolutely gorgeous. So many choices. So much to do. I feel scattered--must be spring fever.

Does this happen to you? Do you find you change the colors you want to use with the seasons? How do you make your selection reflect the seasons?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

getting back on track--a blast from the past, I guess

How hard it was this morning to spend several hours finding videos and images of my studio that floated down the river during Tropical Storm Irene. I still cannot watch the images all the way through without feeling that I have been hit in the stomach--ugh!!  But I had promised to write an article for a national magazine on the process of re-establishing my studio and I knew that this was a good thing to do.  Not only would it hopefully give others a few tips but also as the saying goes--there is no such thing as bad publicity.

How amazing it is to me that it was just a few short months ago that my DH rode his Vespa down to visit me at 6 Bridge Street. How much I have done since then.

I realized that just as I did through the entire process for me the most important thing is to think of the new quilts that I have made and those that I do still want to make.  Sometimes I feel that by making optimistic quilts one can become more hopeful. How do you get back on track? How do you deal with the events that try to push you off track? And no, I won't give you more details about the article just yet--but stay tuned. Of course I will promote it when the time comes.

the break of dawn--45 x 45"--quilt by Ann Brauer

Monday, March 5, 2012

getting back on track--making work that sells

Sometimes I swear I am my own worst enemy. After all, I know which quilts are most likely to sell--either out of my studio or at a craft show. And I will be doing the Paradise City Arts Festival in Marlborough March 16-18. Have you been to that show--such wonderful work. Big enough that you can find plenty of work to get amazed at--and small enough that you can actually see the entire show. You can even get discount tickets on their website--

Now I have made my quilt--rolling hills--before. Basically I think of it as a study of different scenes. Not sure if it is the same scene on different days or from different vantage points. Maybe it is even different scenes. In any case, each quilt I make is different just like each scene is different--almost like jazz riffs. After I start, I have to pay careful attention since I am never sure what will happen.

And let's face it--while we artists are not supposed to be working for money--still, to put it bluntly--money buys fabric and time to make more quilts. I mean, how lucky I am that I can actually support myself making quilts.

I hem. I haw. I drink more coffee. I even clean the studio. Then I start--and the quilt takes off. So quickly that I don't even have progress images. Still I love the colors. Wonderful blues. That hint of peach and salmon. I love how the darker colors accentuate the scenes. Cool, isn't it?

Then I realize what else I can do--how I can use this quilt to push my work even further. I have been thinking for some time that I should make my work almost as tableaus. After all, that is how I now do it in the studio. That is one of the good things that happened with the move.  And I think it would be a fun thing to do with my galleries. Help focus my work.  Let me try it.

Yes, this is interesting. Maybe I should even make a couple more pillows--add a bit more of that salmon in a pillow. Maybe a lighter blue. Perhaps a table runner. Hmmm--what do you think? Do you ever find it hard to make the obvious pieces--because they are too obvious? How do you keep your work fresh--how do you keep pushing yourself? Is it OK for an artist to make work that she knows is more likely to sell? What do you think?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

getting back on track--she's a fighter

The bend in the road--Ann Brauer--2009.
Isn't it interesting how we use our own stories to add meaning to works of art? Is it fair to the work of art or even the artist? I don't know. Are we missing something by doing this? Again I don't know.  But when I first saw she's a fighter by the very talented Kirsten Stingle--I thought it was such a sad piece. Look at it:

It is maybe four feet high--a trophy of the fighter--looking in my opinion--exhausted. Battling the world--or so I thought. This is the image from Kirsten's web site--worth checking out for all of her wonderful works. Aren't they wonderful?

I had to know more. Why was she so tired? What was Kirsten saying? What could I learn from this? Now I confess I had seen her work before--of course. We had done shows together and I had walked into her booth. But now she was across from me at the Baltimore Show and I got to really study it. Just look at the detail--it is sculpted ceramics with found objects. Amazing work, isn't it? These snapshots are by me--taken and posted with permission of course.

Kirsten of course has a theater and dance background as you can tell. This piece began with the boxing gloves. Perfect aren't they? Then there was the ribbon--a bit hard to see--but it says Bantam Weight Champion. Isn't the color wonderful?

The shirt is actually sculpted and painted clay. As Kirsten told me she had to have the ribbon before she knew the colors of the outfit. What detail there is here. What great use of color and technique.

 "But why is so so sad, " I asked Kirsten.

"Oh no, she is not sad at all", Kirsten replied. The markings on her eyes and lip are just how Kirsten accentuates her features--can't you see the theater background there.  And the hair is one of those iconic images that Kirsten uses frequently. Almost an armor.  OK--I felt better.

As Kirsten went on to explain, the woman was not sad all. Indeed, she thought of her as a fighter who fought with Grace and Patience.  Maybe Humor was there. I forget the other positive sayings on the boxing gloves but you get the picture. All those positive methods we have long been taught to use.

And, tucked away in the back of the figure--in a location that I could not take an image of--but the key to the entire piece--she also fights with a bit of the B**** word. Her secret weapon.

Isn't this the answer? The lesson learned from this piece and indeed an important lesson in life--that we fight as hard as we can with all the graces that we have but if push comes to shove and you need to use it to get by--then just a hint of the B**** word in our back pocket can see us through? At least that is my thought for the day--what do you think?