Wednesday, May 30, 2012

beyond first light

OK--I admit it. I love this quilt. First light. So simple and yet so complex. The colors seem to glow with the dawn. My husband you see is a school teacher and after I get him off the work on a winter morning I can hike to a nearby mountain top and watch the dawn break. I love the drama and mystery always different and yet always satisfying.

first light--45 x 45"--copyright Ann Brauer

Yes, I love this quilt. But I don't want to make it just like this one. Not that any two quilts I make are ever the same. Different fabrics. Different moods. I always have to pay attention to what I am doing and each quilt takes on a life of its own. But this time I want to take all that I have learned since making this quilt and make it more gentle. More haunting. Maybe because I just spend a week-end by the ocean and saw the misty dawn rise above the marshes. Or maybe because I have been thinking of mountains a lot. What is it about horizons that affects us anyway?

This time I want to take the feeling--that promise--of the dawn and make it gentler. Even more illusive.  As always I start with what I know. This time it is the gentle song of the earth and the meadows. Haunting colors aren't they? Can't you just feel the softness of the mist?

Then the dawn--again this time I want it subtle. Not the bold colors of first light but soft.  The moments before the sun breaks through when the colors of the dawn are just reflected in the sky.

Gradually the colors will turn to a soft blue/grey. Why do these colors haunt me? Will the blues be the colors I seek? Can I sustain this blue as it stretches up?

Will the blue define the dawn? So many questions. So much to do--one block at a time as I sketch out the quilt? Do you ever work like this? Taking a concept but putting it into a different time. A different place. Changing the mood. Do you ever feel the need to make  a gentle haunting piece? What affects your mood?

Monday, May 28, 2012

the exuberance of iris

I am sure my love of iris began with my grandmother. Yes, that grandmother. The one who made the quilts. Her second love was her gardens. Not the long rows of beans and tomatoes that any good farm wife would grow. She had those of course. She had to. Remember they did not have the ready access to grocery stores and fresh produce that we now take for granted. Hours spend planting and hoeing the rows. Pickling the cucumbers. Canning the tomatoes. Braiding the onions.

But there was more to life than this. There were also the beds of iris. Not just one bed--but two. Full of every color of bearded iris she could find. Arranged in no set order. Just planted in an exuberance of joy. My father would roll his eyes. Why did she waste so much time digging and replanting these iris when she could be weeding the cabbage? Relatives from the city would plan day trips just to see the bloom--hoping they could persuade her to give them a tuber of that brown iris. Maybe one of the precious yellows also.

And as a young girl I just absorbed the color. Played games among the flowers. Soaked it in not realizing the care that went into these blooms.

Now I walk across the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls right by my studio. Have you been there? Flowers arranged in the most wonderful combinations. This time I soak in all the wonderful details and colors of the iris there. And here without further ado are just a few of the iris that I saw the other day. The wonderful rich blue. So intense in color.

The many different colors in this one. Don't you just love the orange beard and the white edging?

 This one is called Emporer's Dragon.  Love the golden yellow and that rich orange beard.

 Such a pure simple white with just that hint of color. How rich it looks.

And this one--not sure what it is. But I loved it against the tiny Johnny Jump-Ups.

 Isn't the detail wonderful? Do you have a favorite iris? Or a favorite place to view iris? Do gardens from the past still influence you?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

patterns, rocks and the ocean

No, it was not a vacation although we tried to think of it as such. But one of those visits that a person simply must do. The aging father-in-law who won't even remember that we were there the next day. Except that he will have had that special moment--a break in his routine--a time of peace and safety--apart from the endlessness of his days. And we know we will have given him some happiness and done what we should.

So with considerable effort, we took him to the ocean. He had been a Navy man after all and later chose to live as near the sea as he could. Sure he could not leave the car. Could not even turn to watch the surfers catching the waves just off shore. But there was that timeless rhythm of the waves crashing against the rocks.

The endless promise of far horizons and distant islands that held memories of past visits. As he sat watching entranced by the motion of the waves, I was drawn to walk on the beach itself. I had to walk closer to the water. I had to get that moment of sustenance.

I simply must walk along these rocks. All the same size. Layered and arranged by waves of storms past.

Why am I drawn to these patterns? So many colors and variations. I want to hold and study each one of them.

Something so universal and calming. My eye focuses on the black rocks that seem to define the space.

I find the magic of this circle--was it the nest of an ocean going bird long abandoned? The play of a child? It was not made by happenstance. There is only one of them that I see. But it clearly is there. So many mysteries.

Soon it is time to turn back. The father-in-law needs to be returned to what is now his home. He tires easily and supper comes early these days. But still I feel comforted by the rhythm of the ocean. Soothed by the endless variations of these stones. Their seeming permanence and substance as stories become unspoken.  And since making quilts is what I do, I ponder the patterns of these stones and the piecing and stitching  of quilts. I wonder how I can capture this feeling in a quilt. Why are we so enchanted by these rocks? Why do they reassure me? What do you think? Does this ever happen to you?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

beyond the seen

Now I am not sure why I am fascinated by deserts. There is something so essential and subtle.  Rock and sky.  Plants that stand as statements against the harsh climate. The colors constantly changing in the light.  So simple and yet so complex. The promise of mountains. Humbling and awe inspiring.

As you may remember I have been piecing a quilt to convey these feelings. Complex subtle colors changing and haunting. The blocks flowed out of me to create a whole. The backdrop for the scene. I wrote about it here: But was this sufficient?

I stand in the back room and squint. Best way to get a new view of the quilt from a distance. Figure out what I am doing. Yes, these colors are lovely but do they sing?

I add the hint of purple mountain. Play with the colors. Not red or mauve. Too harsh for this quilt. But a bright almost blue purple. Such a small difference but so big.

Love how this breaks up the quilt and tells a story. See how bright the colors are. Warm but not hot.

I sit and sew other things. Pace the studio. What do the tourists in Shelburne Falls think of this mad artist at work? Do I care?

I try other solutions. All purple. No not right. I have lots of lines in this quilt already. Then I remember I have been fascinated with stripes recently. Decided to see what I thought of a pillow pieced in thin strips that reverberate. Is there some energy there that conveys this promise?

Sure it needs to be played with. All those tiny little details. But isn't this the energy of the desert? That song that is unsung. What do you think? Do you have places of the imagination? Don't you love it when a quilt falls together?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

flying without a net

OK--I finished doing my Happy Dance. As those who also follow me on Facebook or Google+ know, my quilt ancient light found a wonderful home. Yeah!!!

ancient light--45 x 45"--copyright Ann Brauer 2011

But now I need to make a quilt to replace it. I know--high class worries isn't it? You see, I support myself making and selling quilts. And one of the tricks of the trade is to have quilts available in the colors that usually sell. Customers do like choice, you know. And many of them like to actually see the piece before they purchase it.

Sure I do still have autumn. Lovely quilt. Simple and soothing.

autumn--45 x 45"--copyright Ann Brauer 2011

I want a smaller piece. More similar to autumn hills. Another great quilt that fits in many homes.

autumn hills--40 x 56"--copyright Ann Brauer

However, as they say--been there, done that. No I need to do something different. Smaller. In the 32 x 48" size. Large enough to fill a space but small enough to not consume an area. A good size that sells easily. More like above the river--but I don't want to repeat myself.

above the river--32 x 48"--copyright Ann Brauer 2011

Not sure of the design, so I begin by making a set of placemats. What a great way to play with the colors. Lovely, aren't they? I try to imagine designs and possibilities as I piece and hand finish this work.

Hmm.  OK, I begin to get a glimpse of the design.  Colors I want to work with. Purples and mauves against the faded colors of the desert. Soft and gentle. Don't quite see the design in my mind--sometimes I know exactly what I am trying to capture. This time the design seems just out of sight. Around the next corner in my mind so to speak.  I start with what I know.  A dusty green on the bottom. Yes, that is sweet isn't it.

Then grey--yes, this could be the answer. Is the grey too confining? Will the tans rise above and seem to float like the sky? How will I add just that hint of warmth?

What color of tan do I need?  Will I finally "see" the quilt or just the next row?  When will it resolve itself?  So many questions. It does feel like I am flying without a net this time, if you know what I mean. But isn't this supposed to be the fun part? Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever just take off on a project not knowing for sure what it will look like--just having a feel for the colors that you want?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Focused on the Future

Seems like so long ago doesn't it?  August 28, 2011--a date that I shall always remember. I know exactly where I was when I learned that my beloved pink studio had floated down the river during Hurricane Irene. I was at the American Craft Exposition in Evanston, Illinois.  My article "Focused on the Future" about relocating my studio was just published in the Summer edition of Studios magazine. There it is--in black and white and living color. I wrote the article myself.  Well, actually when I found myself getting too edgy thinking about that day, I let the editor do more of the research.

To paraphrase comments made about the movie Titanic when it first came out--"The boat sank. Get over it." And I knew I just did not need to see more images of my beloved pink studio heading downstream. That's what editors are for, aren't they?

So I concentrated on re-establishing my studio at 6 Bridge Street. Getting to the point where I can make the quilts that I was just dreaming about on August 27. Pushing myself to make something new and exciting.

It's a good article though--if I do say so myself. A few typos. That's to be expected.  An image got misattributed. But who cares? If you get a chance, you might want to read it. Studios is sold at many bookstores.  You can also order it on-line at

Or you can come by my new. I will have copies for sale and you also can see some of the new quilts I have started making including this one I just finished yesterday--rainbows of autumn. Lovely isn't it? And thanks once again to everyone who has been so absolutely wonderful during this whole process. Irene certainly did bring out the best in so many people and organizations including CERF+.

Monday, May 7, 2012

the quilts of Ann Brauer--the merry month of May

Well finally I am getting a chance to write my newsletter for the month of May. Yes, I know it is almost a week late. No excuses but finally the sun has been shining and I have been working in my garden as much as possible. Isn't it lovely to be outside and look at the little pea seedlings coming up in the garden?

In the studio I have been working hard creating some really wonderful new pieces-- oh I can't wait to finish them and see what you think.

Meanwhile the first of my articles is either out--or coming out this week. It is in Studios magazine and called "Focused on the Future" about moving to my new studio after Hurricane Irene. I have ordered a bunch of copies to have in the new studio and I have seen the magazine at Barnes and Noble. Later this summer I will be busy as I am doing the Guilford Craft Show, the Berkshires Craft Show and the American Craft Exposition in Evanston. Yes, I certainly do need to be getting lots of work made.

And now for the quilt of the month. I love this piece--hidden lake. I made it after a lovely visit to New Hampshire. Hiking in the White Mountains I remember long vistas of green and just the brief glimpses of blue water. This quilt is about 43 x 45" and normally goes for $1200 but for the next ten days--or until it is sold--it will be $800 plus applicable tax and shipping.

If you are in the area, do come visit me in Shelburne Falls although call first if you are coming from a distance as I do have an aging father-in-law.

Have a great May.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

it's five o'clock in the morning...

Don't you just love it when you wake up at five o'clock in the morning with the design of a new quilt in your mind? It always looks so clear and so easy at that hour as you lay in bed mulling it over--at least it does for me.

Of course when I started to make it there were elements of the design that needed to be resolved. Next time maybe. I need to study that first quilt more before I write about it.

But that hazy design of a quilt let me on to this little gem--it is only 12 x 12 inches.  Isn't it great though? Wondering if I should frame it?  If only I had three of them. If there were a copy machine for quilts...

Yes, my astute readers will realize that it is an abstract of the quilt into the sky that I used in my poster which I just wrote about here.  Now to make another little one and see what else I have learned.

And you--do you ever wake up early in the morning and envision a new quilt? Do they ever work? What do you think of this little piece?