Monday, April 30, 2007

Give me miles and miles of Texas,

All the stars up in the sky.

Miles and miles of Texas,

Want to live here till I die!

song by Asleep at the Wheel

I just got back last night from a whirlwind trip around Texas with 18 children and 10 other adults.

Everyone loaded up Thursday after school in a very comfortable chartered bus with a bathroom!

We went on a nature walk in Sonora, Thursday evening, and got to bed fairly early. Friday morning, early, we left Sonora for Austin to see the capitol, sit in the Senate Chamber, and talk to our state senator. Hearing an orchestra play in the Rotunda was icing on the cake! The acoustics were incredible!

By early afternoon we were on the road to San Antonio to see the Alamo, the Imax movie "The Price of Freedom," and a glimpse at the Fiesta Parade. All this time, I was handing out candy for Latin inscription sightings!

We then headed to Houston. Imagine, the Texas Hill Country, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston all in one day! This was my first view of Houston other than from the airport. It is bigger than Dallas!

Saturday morning we visited the San Jacinto Monument and The Battleship Texas. That afternoon we turned back north to Waco. We were all fascinated by the blacksmith, potter, and 200 year-old gristmill at Homestead Heritage.

Sunday, we visited the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco and then drove to Abilene to see the Frontier Texas Museum.

After about 1700 miles we were home again home again jiggedy jog!

It was all wonderful!

“Remember the Alamo!”

Saturday, April 21, 2007

This week-end I have finished one art quilt and begun another.
The first, Felted Forest, was inspired by a watercolor sketch from a trip to the Piney Woods of East Texas, with some fantasy mixed in!

The second is based on a painting I made from trips to Colorado and New Mexico.

I will post more pictures as it progresses.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Felted Flower Quilt Explained

I have been asked to explain the process I use to make a felted quilt. I thought I would try to do it with pictures and words, so last night I worked on a little piece and took pictures as I went.

There are two main ways to felt wool, one is wet felting which uses soapy water, temperature extremes, and agitation, basically what happens when you accidentally wash a wool sweater in the washing machine. The other type of felting is called needle felting. The needles used are very sharp and have several sharp barbs on their sides. You use the needle tool to punch up and down. The sharp, barbed needles grab fibers on top and push them down. They then grab fibers underneath and pull then up. This eventually locks the fibers together and attaches the layers. You can work with one needle at a time to create three dimensional items or several at a time in some kind of holder. I delayed taking up this craft because the first time I saw it done it looked too dangerous! But the newer generation of tools have some safety features. The Clover Needle Felting Tool, made in Japan, is the green and yellow hand held tool in the picture. The tool is held upright with the needles pointing down. This is punched up and down, the clear cylinder, safety guard, retracts into the handle. Under your fabric is a flat bristle brush which absorbs the punches. You could still poke your fingers, ouch! So caution is advisable.

There are also various embellishing or needle felting machines available. They look like sewing machines, but with fewer moving parts. If purchasing one of these there are cost factors, safety features, and the ease of changing needles to be considered. Bernina has a needle felting foot available.

I am going to start with a piece of felt for the base and batting. To this I will sew various pieces of fabric, leaving raw edges. I may couch or sew yarn onto it at this stage.

I am a spinner, so I have available un-spun wool in a wide range of colors, also some dyed silk, angora, and mohair. At this point I start adding wisps of un-spun fibers and additional fuzzy yarn. Punch the hand held tool up and down; it is springy.

Continue to add wisps of fiber, small pieces of fabric, felt, and yarn to develop your design. If you have a machine available, use it to make the process quicker.

Here, I am adding red felt petals. I put wisps of wool in several
shades of red to add to the complexity. Neither my camera nor scanner picked up this subtlety.

Needle felt these to attach.

I added felt leaves at this stage.

When the design is roughly as you want it you can add machine or hand quilting, on top, for emphasize and to give the piece additional dimension. Hand embroidery and beads can now be added. You can add backing and finish the edges as you like!

This is the scaned version with the colors slightly different!

I may still add more quilting or embroidery.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"A Classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say." ~Italo Calvino

While I can always think of things to make: quilts, drawing, paintings, ... I do sometimes struggle to write. Usually I just start writing and eventually come to my point, go back and delete the first part and then develope my thoughts and ideas. Writing is a hard thing I want to do. It is good to do hard things!

When I read I can usually come up with ideas to write about. I came across this list of Thirty Books Every College Student Should Read This list isn't perfect, it doesn't include anything by C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Solzenitszyn, and others I can think of. I think my children have read most of the classics in his first list, at the classical Christian school where they have gone.

I love to read book reviews and to see the top ten or top hundred books different people list as favorites.I like books about books. Here are some I like:
Invitation to the Classics, A Guide to Books You've Always Wanted to Read by Cowan and Guinness

Honey for a Woman's Heart by Gladys Hunt

Great Books of the Christian Tradition by Terry W. Glaspey

I have been going back and looking at what I accomplished, artistically, all those years when home and family were my focus and little children were always close at hand. While scanning some pages of old sketch books and nature journals I found this. It was painted when my parents lived in Ft. Hancock, Texas, on the Rio Grand River. This is greasewood and yucca; the mountains are on the other side of the river, in Mexico.
My daddy had been invited to take us on a ranch to see some petraglyphs. We hiked and scrambled over rocks and found one sort of vague possible site. The guys may have thought the trip a failure because time ran out without us seeing the famous rock paintings that we had a magazine article about. But I have wonderful memories of that day!

So what am I doing these days? Not spending much time outside sketching! I have not been painting or drawing much. My artistic time for the last two months has gone into fiber art, tiny art quilts(see previous posts).

Some of my available time and creative energy is going into this blog and the flickr thing. I am enjoying the interaction with other artists around the world. Ideas for new quilts are coming faster than I can possibly create them. This is a good problem. I can imagine having time and no ideas, a problem I am not likely to ever have!

I want to use this watercolor sketch as a starting place for a pieced and felted art quilt.

Pine Trees in East Texas

Saturday, April 07, 2007

These are scans of an altered book journal using an old Readers Digest Condensed Book. These books are often free and will not hold up well if you get a lot of moisture (paint or glue in the spine) but I love the way the soft paper soaks up the paint. I tear our two or three pages about a quarter of an inch from the center, then glue several sheets together. I prepare the spread with acrylic paint and gesso, black gesso on this one. This book was begun as an example for a workshop I taught at the Ellen Noel Art Museum.

Looking back can be fun, insightful, helpful, and painful. I don't mean "living in the past" although I am guilty of it at times. I mean focusing in on a distant event or series of events and realizing that you have indeed accomplished something!

Experienced, grown, and learned.

I have been looking at my old prayer/sermon note journals. When I feel kind of dry and wrung out these journals always make me feel better; they refocus my mind and change my perspective.

The last two or three weeks have been exciting art weeks with a new tool and technique (needle felting) added to my arsenal, and a new source of inspiration and friendship in the Flickr artists that I have met.

I am also revisiting old art journals and am quite amazed to see what I did back when the house was full of little ones. It did not seem like much at the time, but it was ongoing and did accumulate!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

This week I'm helping two students with projects, one is my son, and another is my friend's daughter. And I'm feeling stressed! Add to this some seasonal allergies, headaches, etc.

My schedule just doesn't allow for much extra. I don't have a margin for error at the moment! I am reminded of the book Margin by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. The subtitle is: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.

This is Holy Week and I am trying to think about Christ's Sacrifice and Resurrection, but instead I'm thinking about all that I need to do, and the relief I will feel when this or that responsibility is tended to!

Margin gives time to be a better mother, help others, be a better friend. But most of all time to rest, meditate, pray, and abide with the Creator.

What does all this have to do with making art? The creative life and times?

For me, ultimately, creativity is part of my nature, my make up, who I am...created in the image of THE CREATOR. So apart from Him it is shallow and meaningless.