I had been very discouraged for several days. The urgent — dealing with cold weather, car troubles, and the need for household repairs — was usurping my time, taking over time I preferred to spend on what is more important to my life goals. I had not had time to work on art-making and that made me grumpy.
I was brought back to good humor by timely bits of encouragement and fun. Friends invited me and my husband for dinner and euchre playing. Another friend telephoned, relaying her experience of being stranded in the same hotel as quilters at a retreat and how kindly and generous they were to share supplies and instruction in their craft. That made her stay delightful. And finally, I spent a day helping a beginning quilter enjoy making her first baby quilt. My head was filled with pleasant images of gentle pastel prints as I drifted off to sleep that night.
So I remind you, don’t hesitate to make that call or invitation. Small kindnesses make the world so much more agreeable for both giver and receiver. Thank you, friends, for encouraging me.
When you take a class, a great deal of what you pay for is the time and the trial and error learning experiences of the teacher. Trial and error experiences include tests of possible materials and comparisons of the level of difficulty for alternative methods of construction. The teacher may need two or three or even a dozen trials to decide the best materials, methods, and sequence for making an item.
The teacher must do more than know how to make the project. He or she must give good instructions. Instructions should be delivered in multiple modalities: written, drawn, spoken, and demonstrated. Steps must be logically sequenced. Directions must be clear, using simple language with no unexplained special vocabulary. Instructions should never assume knowledge, and should explain basic details that might be obvious to experienced makers. Instructions should encourage, never create doubt.
Then, there is timing, the balancing act makes teaching more art than science. Experienced students will catch on quickly and beginners may struggle. The teacher must have enough content that the experienced student can grow and feel happy that he or she is learning, yet not so much that the beginner feels frustrated or overwhelmed. There has to be something useful for the fast worker to do while the slower ones catch up.
Personalities come into play. Some people demand more attention than others. The teacher must make sure the more forceful personalities don’t take all the time and attention. The quiet personalities deserve an equal amount of nurturing. A clever instructor also facilitates a dynamic of helpfulness between students that augments his or her teaching efforts. A major benefit of a live class over online or independent study is the interaction between students and the opportunity each student has to observe other ways of thinking about and solving the assignment.
If the teacher has done well, the student has the pleasant experience of thinking, “Oh yes, This isn’t too difficult. I can do this.” Best of all is if both teacher and student can think, “This is FUN!”
I think discos balls are magical. When I saw one in a resale store 15 years ago, I wanted it. But, I decided the idea was too silly. That evening, I did tell my husband about my fascination with disco ball light effects, seeing one, and my shopping self-restraint. The disco ball appeared on my next birthday!
This past week I finally gave my disco ball an appropriate place of honor in my sewing studio. The ball had come without a loop on top with which to hang it. I had tried and failed at several attempts to install it. Finally, I carried it into a local hardware store where I knew the employee enjoyed problem-solving challenges. I enlivened his workday, and he devised a hanging loop. A little wood-cutting, painting, and affixing an arched hanger finished the job.
A studio workspace should be a pleasant and inspiring place so one is eager to go to work every day. My disco ball encourages me with a light show every sunny afternoon. What encourages you in your space?
I was introduced to fascinating art concepts years ago by my Otterbein College art professor, Earl Hassenpflug. This teacher impressed me not only for his considerable knowledge about art, especially wood sculptures from Sierra Leone and Benin in east Africa, but for the impression that he was a man genuinely happy with his life.
1. In east Africa, art is created as part of life, integral to the process of living.
2. When carving sculptures, the makers incorporate rituals and materials, like blood, to add power to their work. The makers believe that, even if invisible to the user of the artifact, the ritual or added material invests meaning into the sculpture.
In my work, I incorporate words to invest meaning. I believe the viewer does not need to read every word to perceive the energy of the abstract, invisible concepts contained in them. While not exactly the same as the example in African sculpture, it is my personal interpretation of the idea.
spacing text on acetate
In the photos, I am spacing out words on a figure with dry erase markers on an acetate overlay. The words represent qualities I believe I have, or would like to have. The words act like a mantra, “fake it until you make it” style, to encourage myself. The position of each word relates to word length and/or the part of the body from which that quality seems to originate.
It is time for my annual examination and refolding of finished quilts.
This is part of caring for both old or new quilts. While not the only method,
my process is archival and economical.
I spread each quilt flat on the largest bed in the house. I allow time for it to “relax” to uncrumple fold lines. If I use a bed that doesn’t need to be slept in right away, I stack the unfolded quilts on top of each other for a day while I launder the storage bags.
A cloth storage bag protects the quilt from dust and light, is pH neutral, and allows air exchange. I bag each bed-sized quilt in a freshly-laundered pillowcase or zippered pillowcase cover. I add a label with the name and size of the quilt (so I know what is in the opaque bag) and the fold date (so I know when it is time to refold).
fold damage on antique quilt
I accordion fold each quilt, avoiding any previous fold lines. (The photo at right shows damage caused always folding quilt in the same way.) It is sometimes necessary to vary the width of the accordion folds to avoid previous fold lines. I roll or accordion fold the resulting long rectangle to make it easy to slip in the bag. I use a single safety pin to attach the label to the bag, being careful to pin only the bag, not the quilt (a true archivist might stitch this label instead of using a pin).
Small art quilts can be rolled around foam pipe insulation or a swim noodle cut to the smallest dimension of the quilt. If they have been exhibited, they have a custom-size bag which was made for them for delivery to an exhibition. If they don’t have a custom bag, they get a pillowcase. I buy pillowcases at discount/overstock and recycle stores, where they are easily found and inexpensive. Smaller quilts are combined in a storage bag with contents listed on the label.
small art quilt with storage bag
Refolding is a leisurely and pleasant process. I take time to admire quilts that I have not seen for a while and think about the directions I have traveled in my artistic journey.
I sometimes get ideas for solutions to problems for works-in-progress and I have the satisfaction that I am being a good steward of my quilts.
I treated myself to a gift last week. I bought a three-drawer plastic storage bin for my thread. I’m so pleased, I’ll go back and buy another this week. I have been accumulating such a hoard of threads over the past several years they no longer fit the two trays from old sewing boxes I had been using. The obvious way to sort, by color, is still useful, but now I use different weights of thread, which I wish to store separately from one another. The enclosed storage looks more tidy and protects my thread from dirt or damage from light.
I thought I had finished quilting this piece, but the center area inside the borders “waffled” a bit. So I quilted more in that area, attempting to achieve a density of quilting to match the area around it. My goal is a quilt that hangs square and flat, without sagging or twisting. Consistent density of quilting is the first step to achieve that goal.
Step two, to create a square quilt, is blocking. I wet the quilt in the bathtub, and gently squeeze out the excess water. I lay it on a clean cotton mattress pad and blot it with dry towels. I measured both corner to corner diagonals, tugging and patting the quilt until the measurements are equal and the surface lies flat. The quilt should retain that shape when it dries. This photo is of my quilt being blocked. Because it is still very wet, the white areas look uneven in color.
Tomorrow, I’ll take the third and fourth steps to make the project square, measuring and trimming the edges with a rotary cutter and adding the binding.
I cut the binding on grain, so it has very little stretch. I carefully measure the length of each side as I sew it on the quilt.
“Mortality” is the name of this quilt. I had done some figure drawings from a live model with permanent Sharpie fine line markers on muslin. This pose suggested an introspective person, alone and vulnerable. I imagined the thoughts that might be swirling around in her head.