Tag Archives: studio

My Own Magnificent Clutter

IMG_1124Thank you for all the bed bug wisdom and sympathy! I deleted a few things here and have moved on to my own mess. The bed bug professionals are up in Salem today, taking care of business and my sister is here visiting. It’s a beautiful fall day.

You might be shocked to know that this disarray of fabric is AFTER giving away about 25 LARGE bags of fabric over the course of the last two years. Furthermore, the picture above shows only three of six shelves. Further, there are seven dressers with their drawers full and bins on the floor!!

IMG_1125This is to the right of the picture above. That glorious paper shelving was a garbage pick. Over the years I have found so many wonderful things on the curb, but this bed bug event of my sister’s may have forever changed my view on that, sad to say.
IMG_1126These shelves were thrown up the week we moved in as temporary storage. They’ve been useful for twenty plus years. But I had K remove these two so that I could move in a dresser from the garage. This killed two birds with one tiger saw — making more space in the basement AND the garage.

  All empty!!! When did less start to feel so good?
  There is the ‘after’ shot. Not a huge “TA DA!”, but something.Enjoy the day! I plan to.This book will occupy some of my morning. Pad and paper the rest. We are going back to 1744 – the year of Eliza’s marriage to Charles Pinckney. Hmmmm, I wonder what she wore…

techno bumps

DONE – FIXED.  So, I couldn’t post the little felt disk photo that I took with my phone a little while ago right from flickr, which is what I wanted to do — Instead, here is a picture of a tray from the basement, which I shot a few days ago.

Our basement is currently riddled with mice, and my general tolerance for the critters has been worn away.  This winter has been characterized by finding their nests and food stores in so many of my fabric bins, that even I am a little grossed out (we have been killing three-four-five a week with traps).  At least the dog food now lives in a mouse-proof bin, so that they aren’t busy transporting those nuggets into little caches all over my studio.

Even WITH my tolerance at an all time low, I see this dead baby and wince.  What killed it, I wonder?  How can I throw it out?  Even as it begins to stink, I can’t bring myself to dispose of the tiny body, curled into death… so vulnerable, so small!

Idiosyncratic sorting

Lest people get the wrong idea from yesterday’s discussion on mess, let me clarify.  I sort my fabric.  It is not heaped in any old way.

I have big bins sorted by color (eg. yellow, pales, blues, greens) and others that capture fabric types (eg. linen, upholstery, denim, gauze/nets/tulle) (actually a lot of my tulle and years-worth of collected onion-bag-netting live in a plastic, huge former pretzel jar).  I also maintain smaller boxes labeled by subject matter, such as:

** small geometrics;
** tropical prints (mostly palm leaf shapes, which I adore);
** creatures;
** farm (chickens, sunflowers, cheery ginghams);
** WIPs (currently I have a small suitcase for Global Warming fabrics; a basket for Ghost House);
** I Spy (prints with subjects suitable for children’s blankets – things like lighthouses, trains, frogs, maps, chopsticks).

To name a few.  Then there are drawers.  In March of 2010, my studio flooded with four inches of water and I used the ‘opportunity’ to buy six IKEA dressers, replacing saw horse supports with STORAGE, and also inserting a couple under the table where previously there had only been laundry bins.  Drawers are ALSO sorted, some by fabric type, others by how fabric was recently used, for example:

** Shirts — even though these could be sorted by color bin, I find it easiest to find them if they have their own drawer;
** Half-assembled little ‘sketch quilts’ along with landscape prints (you know, like the Capri pants with scenes of Paris?);
** Plaids and ticking;
** Felt scraps (actually there are TWO drawers of these and three large under-table bins)
** Silk scraps;
** Christmas fabrics (and two drawers of finished Christmas pillows);
** Christmas photo-transfers waiting for inclusion in a project;
** Sheers and gauze and PFD silk;
** Doll stuff.

To name a few.  And then there are the laundry bins.  Here’s where things can get a little out of control.  Laundry bins generally become catch-alls, in part because they are the links between upstairs/downstairs and stuff gets piled in.  I have a bin for batting (and a milk crate for batting scraps); another bin full of large pieces of upholstery fabric; another bin with recently-used or about-to-be-used teaching supplies.  But then there are at least four more that should be gone through.

Precious scraps generally live in clementine boxes, which I love because they can be stacked like Lincoln Logs, and transport easily for an upstairs sewing session.  I also spray painted the sides of some tray-like boxes from Costco, and labeled them.  What’s in these trays doesn’t necessarily correspond to their labels anymore, but they hold things like strips cut for string quilting or binding; pressed scraps; fabric with words printed on them.  I like ‘trays’ because they can be slid into the shelving above a fabric bin.

I just went to the cellar to take some pictures and I have to say – it is TIME to put some effort into sorting (again!).  Wow.

But here’s progress – I finally took the time (less than five minutes) to learn how to single space on wordpress between hard returns!!  Yes, progress.  (Part of why I wanted to make a few lists here).

Mess – various outlooks

Yesterday, writing about this quilt (which is evolving through various stages of  ‘mess’), I erroneously typed that as I worked on it, it was becoming ‘less of a quilt’ (when I meant ‘less of a mess’).  It makes me wonder, if it was becoming LESS of a quilt, what WOULD it be on its way to becoming?

I was surprised at how receptive the velvet was to my needle.  Because I find velvet to be completely unruly at the machine, this was a nice surprise.

This image (one quilt on my lap; the other a WIP on the coffee table) shows you how favored fabrics like to show up again and again.  Here I refer to the paisley-esque black, brown, burnt umber cotton from Indonesia.  I wonder how many quilts it is in, exactly.  It must be at least eight.

How many boxes (or piles or drawers or envelopes or bins) of ‘precious scraps’ do YOU have?

I honestly don’t want to know how many I have nestled, stacked and waiting downstairs!!  Just like I really don’t want to know EXACTLY how many hours go into creating any given quilt.

Just as nations have favored statuses, so do many fabrics.  That yellow batik, above, is one, as is the rayon shirt underneath.  These upcycled garments have a way of lasting, lasting, lasting – like the magical pot of stew in the fairy tale.  Just when I think I MUST have used the last scrap, another little swatch will surface (one of the better benefits, I might add, of a ‘loosely organized’ studio).

How often have we heard about some slob (from delicate appellation to all-out condemnation!) that they can ‘lay their hands immediately’ on whatever it is they need?  Alas, I cannot.  Sometimes this drags.  You know, when I really want one of the gold spirals from an African print dress that I cut up and put who knows where?!!  But the silver lining of a less-tended approach is what I’ll call (not euphemistically, mind) – the pleasures of the archeological dig.

Taking time regularly (this is key) to root around in one’s stacks, piles, stacks of piles – is a process of discovery that invariably yields treasure.  I like to think that I put my hands on certain long forgotten half-cut or half-assembled scraps JUST as it is time to use it.  This happens more often than I can tell.

While we are on the subject of ORGANIZATION, though, this being my birthday week, and the time that I thought I might reflect a little on last year (New Year’s did not turn out to be the time to do so) — let me say that 2011 was a turning point.  I have a new hero whose name is Sandra Felton.  She has written numerous books about people like me, people she affectionately and without judgment refers to as ‘the Messies’.  Her tone is humorous and encourages acceptance.  Her tips can work magic.  Look her up.

There were many suggestions of hers that I implemented last year, but some of the most dramatic were: 1) organizing my closet by purchasing plastic hangars and ridding myself nearly completely of wire hangars; 2) organizing my clothes in that closet by color (an amazing time saver!!!);  3) upgrading containers in my closet from ugly, ill-fitting cardboard boxes to snazzy, bright green bins from The Christmas Tree shop; 4) purchasing containers for medical supplies (baking tins turned out to be the right size and price) and then organizing supplies by use (i.e. ‘travel supplies’, ‘cold and flu supplies’, ‘first aid’, and ‘muscle aches and pains’); and 5) making my bed.  I have NEVER been a bedmaker, and now I am (it helps that my iPhone App ‘Tap & Track’ gives a caloric discount for ‘making the bed’ – I kid you not!!).

The other big thing I have done this year (this time I need to thank my office job of 2010/11), is to create a series of excel lists that I keep shortcuts to on my desktop, one of which is a HOUSEHOLD INVENTORY.  You cannot believe what a helpful, time saver this is.  When a major run of the “where’s my?”s occured in advance of a hiking trip for C. recently, I knew where EVERYTHING was!!

Have a great Sunday!!  I will be making Buffalo Wings in a few hours and heading over to a neighbor’s for a SuperBowl Party… believe it or not, I can’t wait!  No Tarot Readings by Madame Mallon in the kitchen this year!  We will all be glued to the screen.


Fabric notes:

teal tatter from Deb Lacativa – More Whiffs, Glimmers & Left Oeuvres

Black and blue rayon in foreground – recycle shirt; as is blue, gold, black silk on right edge

Black and white poly in right corner came from Silk Road in Auburndale, Mass.

to begin

again.  To begin again.

Studio shots remind me of how I’ve been away.  I’ll post them as doorways and invitations.  (All shot with phone, so a tad blurry).

Excerpt from a bulletin board — calling to mind the witch in the fairy tale who heats her oven to cook the children.  And Venus.  In a fugue state.  These days?  I am more witch than Venus.

Mirror mirror on the wall?  TV is the screen I look in the most and oddly, there have been a raft of shows lately with Grim Reapers (‘Dead Like Me’ and ‘Grimm’) and mirrors on the wall and evil stepmothers (‘Once Upon a Time’).  I plan to read fairy tales to gear up for the Sketchbook theme of ‘a path through the woods’ because fairy tales that enter the woods always have something intense and dramatic going on.

‘A path through the trees’ implies direction, even though one could be thoroughly lost.

The unfinished work.  The idea of invitation rather than admonishment/burden/todolist…

Old friends.

New work.

Experimenting, again, with gesso, drawing on top of gesso, scraping away, cutting up bits, moving, rearranging, stitching inbetween most steps.

Tomorrow, I will burn some of the sandalwood in the cellar to clear out the dusty, stagnant air down there, and the heavy feeling in here (ribcage).

Heat Wave

For any reader in the middle of a heat wave, like we are here in the Northeast, I offer this cool image.

In my fourth week of working full-time.  Something about saying that, “working full-time”, and hearing the responses to my news (“Oh, you’ve gone back to work?”) have made me want to write somewhere a list of a few of the things that I accomplished while I was “not working”.  It is disorienting to have crossed the divide between Stay-at-home-mom and Working-mother, and my guess is that the list is one of the ways I am trying to integrate the experience.

So, while not working, I:

  • Designed almost a dozen gardens and installed all but two of them;
  • Participated in Newton Open Studios four times (hosting three of those times) and partook in at least 15 craft shows — organizing PR for one of them;
  • Had a solo show at the Arsenal Center for the Arts;
  • Showed in the Quilter’s Connection show for 3 or 4 years, and helped hang the show two of those years and co-chaired PR the year before last;
  • Helped beautify the grounds at my local elementary school, including: planting a butterfly garden with second graders; soliciting a landscape contractor to donate three raised beds; advocating that the city make-good on a contractual obligation to replace plantings destroyed during a renovation;  soliciting donations from two nurseries and Home Depot; organizing four NewtonServes; recruiting parents to build a tool shed; forming a committee to totally renovate the side yard where drainage was a severe problem & to that end — raised almost $300,000, acted as project coordinator working with six departments across the city over a period of two and half years; weeding with first graders; making salad and basil with first graders and kindergartners with greens and herbs that we planted together; helping to create several Earth Day celebrations; propagating plants on the grounds with fourth graders; and, and, and…
  • Made quilts for four elementary school teachers, incorporating art work of the students, and in one case, using fabric butterflies that second graders created in a workshop that I ran;
  • Served on Bowen School Council;
  • Served as Ass’t Treasurer for the kids’  preschool;
  • Virtually single-handedly advocated for our two boys during elementary and middle school to obtain proper testing and services for their learning disabilities, including obtaining private testing; getting the city to pay for one (pricey) intervention; hiring tutors; reviewing IEPs; attending meetings; following up with teachers; etc.
  • Taken the kids to virtually every doctor appointment (K. just learned where the pediatrician’s office is) — including two years when both boys were in braces;
  • Made paper with four year olds; made paper with 6 year olds;
  • Taught religious ed at the UU in West Newton for 5 months, made paper with them;
  • advocated for my sister, obtaining MaHealth, COBRA, SSI and SSDI and EAEDC — all this past winter and spring;
  • Edited over two dozen food articles for a Cooks Illustrated freelance contributor;
  • Settled two estates.

And then there were a couple of more official part-time jobs in there. And there was a lot more volunteering at the school  — like staffing a table at the Harvest Fair or serving as room parent or helping on the day the kids made Wampanoag crafts.

So, am I “going back to work”?  I don’t think so.  It’s more like I’m working regular hours for a regular pay check now.

As for how that’s going?  Hmmmmmmmmm.  The paycheck part is pretty great.  The people are super nice.  But, if I had tried to come up with an arrangement for letting go of ego, I couldn’t have done much better.  Doing all those peon jobs (e.g., standing at a copier, filling out forms, typing, scanning documents) when I have a law degree is humbling.  And then fucking up at doing the peon jobs as I learn, is even more so.  It’s one thing, I’ve discovered, to have ‘given up’ any feelings of pride or accomplishment about having gotten a JD when I’m making quilts.  It’s quite ANOTHER thing when I am in an office working as a paralegal.

Part of me is feeling out and out punished for having taken the time to raise my family.  Part of me is inclined to bow down and kiss the ground, grateful to have gotten a job —  (yes, I’ll use these tired words) —  in this economy. And the truth is, I wouldn’t be able to hack the substantive part yet, anyway — so I’m experimenting with the idea that this is a good thing that came along at just the right time.

I have not been in the studio ONCE in the last three and a half weeks, however, and THAT cannot continue, or I certainly will not be able to believe that this is a good thing that came along at just the right time.