Tag Archives: couching

Boundaries and interruptions and a red thread

C peeking out

C peeking out

Parenting means being interrupted. And it means improvising.

D itching under cast just like the doctors said not to

D itching under cast just like the doctors said not to

Long gone are the days when I craved a solitary bowel movement, or wistfully anticipated the reclined dentist’s chair for the quiet it represented (those were intense times — with two extremely active boys, neither of them particularly inclined toward napping!!).  With a seventeen and a nineteen year old in the house now, the frequency and urgency behind the interruptions have changed, but the fact of them has not. They continue — as they should.

Add to the parenting — a disabled sister for whom I am the sole support (my brother sends money from the West Coast, and that helps, but NOT with the day to day) and a husband who travels often to Asia, and you begin to get the picture here. Our dog is a piece of work, too – requiring special accommodation for getting up and down stairs, for the correct positioning of his food bowl, and a three-person-applied muzzle for basic grooming. Lately, he’s been ill (I think he’s better, but not quite sure).

Relax! I have already ranted in my Morning Pages. This was done while drinking coffee in Newtonville and waiting for the camera shop to open, so that I could purchase photo paper for D. and then deliver it to the high school (speaking of interruptions)…

(I would love to know what the business types in the coffee shop thought of this deranged-looking woman scrawling across a notebook page in ink nearly as fast as one could speak the words…)

And anyway, if I was going to rant it would be about our fucking computer ‘upgrades’ which have produced a series of repeating and ever-unfolding glitches, such that it is nearly a form of torture to blog (one of the reasons for the gaping pauses of late).

No, I would rather look at boundaries.

White House with Red Boundary

White House with Red Boundary

Last night, I surrounded the White House with an edge.  It really changes the composition, perhaps in too obvious a manner, but I’m willing to entertain it for awhile. Study it some. The thread is red, it is true, but it doesn’t scream red. Maybe that’s because it was hand-dyed in India and billed as “Meditation Thread”.

Maybe it is because there is relief associated with having boundaries. From knowing where the house ends and the sky and yard begin. Recently I have learned the difference between asserting ‘a need’ and shouting a demand.  I discovered that need does not have to be associated with basic survival.

Remedial insight, perhaps. But I share it here because I think it governs my response to this red.

The sky poofs and tuckers in places and will require some attention. I find a lot of quilting to be (in my case, anyway) the resolution of problems created earlier in the process. Not unlike parenting, yes?

buckling-sky

buckling sky

As for the bump in the bottom edge and the frayed intersection of the thread-ends, I am going to let those be for awhile, too.  I like the idea of an imperfect boundary, or one that flexes to its surroundings. I like the idea, too, of having an obvious place where the boundary’s ‘gate’ resides, so that it does not come across or function as a solid and permanent fixture. Maybe having had a swinging door for so long makes the idea of a fixed boundary too difficult.

when the edges meet (and a bump)

when the edges meet (and a bump)

In any case, it is food for thought.  And, here are some red lines from the garden this morning. Once you start seeing a red line, or a window (right, Jude?), or a bird in your work, you start to see it everywhere.

red lines as stalks/support

red lines as stalks/support

Around the other side of the house, rhubarb is ripening! Almost time for my annual Strawberry Rhubarb pie. An exception to 2013’s gluten-abstinence will have to be made!

Designing vulnerability

seam-joist

a white ‘seam’ couched as an inner wall

As I look at this composition, I begin to think about vulnerability… what is transparency, after all, if not the quality of letting oneself be known? (IRS, take note!)  I have been looking at other works-in-progress back lit in this manner for many months, so it’s not clear why THIS one speaks of transparency and the others did not. Perhaps it is due to vigorous conversations (with Grace and others) about boundaries, about where to draw the line (a red line, perhaps?) to maintain the necessary sanctuary to create, care giving and its demands, and the desire to be seen.

rectangle with 2 folds = house

rectangle with 2 folds = house

scraps from former quilt - many patches are fabric that I bleached in order to whiten

scraps from former quilt – many patches are fabric that I bleached in order to whiten

It began with ‘Ghost House’ leftover scraps, and was a conscious attempt to marry two recently made houses – both of which left me dissatisfied (The Red House quilt and The White House quilt) [links to follow – I don’t have much time this morning]. I laid the scraps on white, continuing the exploration of WHITE for my online class with Jude Hill (Spirit Cloth, side bar).

lightbacked-tower

part of the roof is white, with stitch and couching, only, to define

There is white on the base, too, which I might build up all around – picking up on Jude’s idea of moving from white as a ‘background’ to white as a field of interest, with texture, and something to say besides, ‘look at what is on me’. I actually seamed some white fabrics together, to use as building struts in the frame… only one made it into the house – that long vertical to the right of the blue window (and yes, I know the tower has the appearance of a goofy face, a fact I’m going to correct with another window or two).

blue-window

hanky scrap from Sandy Meegan pinned, center

The red thread is ‘Meditation Thread’ hand-dyed in India. I like the idea of red, with its vigor and visibility standing in as a symbol of a well-maintained boundary (Imagine that! A sanctuary bounded with quiet intent and silent, purposeful endeavor!! Not angry protestations and complaint). I wonder what each compartment holds.

implied-nine-patch-again

what if the Nine Patch will only be implied and transient?

I see the nine patch and wonder if I have the energy and wherewithall to enlarge this quilt in order to make the nine patch more than an ephemeral creation of morning sun and muntin shadow. I don’t need to decide to continue.

Many more works on the table, pinned to the wall, up against the western glass doors, and laid out on the dining room table for design-viewing.

white-house-with-red

same thread around White House, unsuccessful, but a spur to new Tower

Have a great couple of days!

“Steal Like An Artist”

beginning

select subject and materials

The book “Steal Like an Artist” is a great and inspiring volume. You can read it in an hour and a half, and should, many times.

Here are a few of artist/author Austin Kleon’s liberating and clarifying concepts:

  1. “Nobody is born with a style or a voice… We learn by copying.”
  2. Copy your heroes.
  3. Copy from more than one source.
  4. “You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.”

In that vein, today I celebrate a cloth face put together in preparation for an upcoming children’s quilting workshop that I’ll be teaching at the Boston Center for the Arts.*  This exercise served two purposes. One, it acquainted me with the project on the tactile level – obviously important when teaching. Two, it gave me a chance to express something, so there is less chance I will insert myself into my students’ work – always a peril for teachers, particularly of young people.

tacking-ear

tacking ear down

So, from whom do I steal here? At least three artists.

One, Jude Hill. Jude is a master quilter whose techniques and philosophy I have been studying (and copying) for quite some time now. Her teaching style is completely geared to Number 4, above — in other words, she isn’t trying to show her students how to make work like hers. Rather, she is openly and consciously trying to get her students to SEE like she does. Philosophy and process instead of recipes. (her blog: Spirit Cloth on sidebar)

How is her influence present? This time, primarily in technique and a quality of attention:

  1. The attention to the materials themselves (selecting fabrics with a nice hand, easily penetrable by a needle).
  2. The use of invisible basting to adhere the layers.
  3. Managing the layers by carefully inserting batting under face only.
  4. Hand sewing some components together prior to basting the entire piece – eliminating need for numerous pins or glue.
assembling eye BEFORE all-over basting

assembling eye BEFORE all-over basting

Who else?  Susan Carlson – the wonderfully talented pictorial quilter from Maine, whose collage-style technique I learned in 2001.  Her influence:

  1. An illustration approach to rendering the subject.
  2. Building layers from the bottom up.
  3. A liberal combination of patterns.
couching a single strand of satin cord

couching a single strand of satin cord

The third and perhaps most important artist:  the sculptor of the mask. Unknown. Gbi artist, Liberia, early twentieth century.

side by side - eyes not finished

side by side – eyes not finished

I would like to try this again, because I missed on the proportions – that lovely length to the face and the broad, regal forehead got a little squashed in my version. I needle-sculpted the cheeks a little, but next time I would want to use color to add light around the nose and on one-half of the forehead.

Apropos of ‘missing’ (I don’t really like the final product all that much, in fact) – I’d like to add how critical being able to screw up and try again is for creative endeavor. My most favorite spokesman on this is Ken Robinson, the English education specialist. Clearly other people find him worth listening to as well — the last time I posted this link, it had been viewed 7MM times. It is up to 16MM views now!

round-one

All layers together, with some embellishment

*  I will be teaching “Patchwork Faces” – a workshop for children, on May 18, 2013 from 10:30 to 12:00. You can register here:

http://bcaonline.org/public-programs/families-connect.html

Then, on June 1, from 10:30 until 1:00, I will teach a class for adults called, “Sew What? Improv Quilting”

http://www.bcaonline.org/visualarts/mills-gallery/now-showing.html

Both class are offered through the Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont Street, Boston, MA
617-426-5000

First ‘Script Quilt’ in 2010

I ‘wrote’ on the woven Journal Pages by couching cotton threads on top in cursive-like loops.  Sometimes, I stitched with ecru thread, other times, red.

I fiddled with the sides by folding over the bottom floral — which I had placed right-side up, so as to have the more subtle wrong-side showing when folded over.  On the left, though, I inserted a strip from another upholstery sample in order to pick up some of the warm tones of the sharpie and to define the edge a little more.

After the couching, I gessoed the piece, wrote on it with pen and pencil, and hand-stitched a few micro-bits of fabric.  Then, I  applied quite a lot of machine quilting in a basic grid, mostly, sometimes in a jagged, frantic tight mess, to look like another ‘woven’ strip.

I kept a lot of the quilted thread tails on, stitched them to the surface for some added ‘writing’.

Finally, I brushed some pigment (Pearl Ex super bronze by Jacquard) mixed with ModPodge lustre lightly over some areas and a little less lightly in others, mostly to give added dimension to some of the couched threads.

It’s almost done, I think.  Not sure if I’ll do anything to further finish top and bottom edges.  Maybe.

Purposefully, about the size of a piece of paper.

Many directions suggested by this initial 2010 Script Quilt — some suggested by talented readers.  Thank you for the ideas… can’t wait to explore more!

And, now, back to the BIG PIECE which keeps getting BIGGER,

bottom half of the top third?!!!

and to Danny, who feels punky today.