Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year Give-Away!

Happy New Year! to ring in the new year, I've decided to do a give-away. I'm giving away one copy of my Scherenschnitte book, which includes paper cut snowflakes I made. To enter, just post a comment. Entries close at 12AM January 1st, 2013!! Winner will be chosen by random drawing. Only one comment per person, please!

2012: Sparks of Creativity

"Julie Silber" 2012
I've been a creative person my whole life, but there were some sparks of creativity in 2012 that even surprised me. The first was quiltmaking. It started around April, when I'd been browsing the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) web site looking for quilts I wanted to buy. I saw some very simple quilts, and thought maybe I could make one, too.

"Escape from Palm Beach" 2012
Up to that point, all of my quilting friends knew me as the guy who "couldn't thread a needle" and that's still very true. But I have an art background, and studied at Rhode Island School of Design, School of Visual Arts in New York, NYU and the International Center of Photography. In school, I was uninhibited about trying new media. Drawing, painting, sculpture and printmaking were all part of the curriculum.

I pretended I was doing a project for an art class, and completed my first AAQI quilt called "Escape from Palm Beach" by the next day. It was fun, much more fun than I thought it would be. It was also relaxing. In other ways it was very engaging, maybe even a little addictive. Working with fabric, thread, some batting and a sewing machine was a much more deliberate process than other media such as painting. If there was a way to push the boundaries, I'd find it.

"House of Wonky" 2012
The next quilt would be for the "Small Wonders" Challenge in Sisters. I thought it would be fun to make a small quilt, enter it in the challenge, and surprise my mother who would be visiting from Maine and attending the show. That's when I began to work on "House of Wonky" - an improvisational pieced quilt made mostly with batik fabrics. I wanted it to be oddly shaped, and it was wider on the top than the bottom.

When I submitted the quilt for the challenge, I heard back from Ann Richardson, who was very impressed that I'd made a quilt, and was encouraging me to make something for the inaugural "ManLand" exhibit of men quilters, so I made another quilt called "Marvelette" and entered it in the show. During this time, I was sharing pictures of the quilts on Facebook and my blog, and everyone was very encouraging. Some were even a little surprised.

"Marvelette" 2012
Nobody was more surprised than Mom, especially when we walked up the the "Small Wonders" exhibit to discover my quilt, "House of Wonky" on display with a blue ribbon for Viewer's Choice pinned to it, and a "sold" sign.

Later in the year, I was fortunate to get a spot in the Folk Art Quilting Retreat with Sue Spargo and Gwen Marston in Sisters, when someone from my guild had to drop out shortly before the retreat. There was a workshop with Gwen on the first day, where I worked on my "Wonky Star" top. In the retreat, I worked on a wool flower garden using upcycled vintage stumpwork flowers.

"Wonky Star" 
Another spark of creativity in 2012 was something completely different. It was a photomontage called "Aquarium" that was inspired by a dream. The kaleidoscopic duotone image was created in Photoshop, printed as a large, archival pigment print and displayed in the annual Spooky Show at the Lightbox Photographic gallery in Astoria.

The show was juried for the first time, and I learned it had been highly selective. Out of hundreds of entries, juror Russell Joslin selected just 27 images from an international field of 20 artists. I was one of the only artists from Oregon to get into the show.

Around the holidays, Tim Latimer was making paper snowflakes and posting pictures on his blog. It looked like fun, so I tried it. I liked how they were turning out, so I spent a few hours making more, and I made them into a book for the holidays. When I look back on 2012, I'll remember it as a year when my creativity was reawakened, It was a year full of inspiration, and many people whose encouragement kept me going. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012: No way to explain it

How could I ever explain this masterpiece falling into my lap?
Last night I got back home from Maine, and discovered a Christmas card from a long lost friend. A year had passed since our last communication, and as I scrambled to reply with the news about the last year, I realized so many good things happened to me in 2012. There was no way to explain it. But I tried.

Of course, there were quilts- lots of them! As much as I hate to single out one piece, the unwitting discovery of an applique counterpane, c. 1820, by Achsah Goodwin Wilkins (1775-1853) in an auction at Skinner was the highlight of the year. When I was trying to describe its importance to my friend, who is not a quilt person, I called it an early relic of American abolitionist sentiment. It was a collaboration between an affluent, white woman from Baltimore, who created the designs, and African-American women who were likely to include freed slaves living in the Wilkins' home. These women worked together, and made some of the most beautiful and enduring objects of the time. That seems to suggest some type of bond within the circle- something more than an employer/employee relationship.

There were so many amazing quilts arriving on my doorstep in 2012, it would take at least five blogs to mention them all. Here are just a few of my favorites.

The Willow Tree Quilt, c. 1790, New England
Layered Fans, c. 1920, New York
Wholecloth wool quilt, c. 1790, New England
Mountain Mist New York Beauty, c. 1930
Cinco de Mayo, 2008, Buda Bee Quilters, Texas
"Great Cities²" 2010, by Christine Wrobel, WA
USA Map, c. 1975, Texas
"Cross Currents Study #3" 1995, by Andrea Balosky, OR
The year wasn't all about objects. It was about friends- longtime friends, new friends, and people I'd wanted to meet in person for a long, long time. I finally got to meet Julie Silber, after buying quilts from her for over ten years. I also got to meet Roderick Kiracofe, who visited me at my home, and Bob Shaw and Joe Cunningham, who were part of Quilt Adventure weekend with Julie at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham.

I met many more people in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the American Quilt Study Group Seminar, where I did a study center and luncheon roundtable about New York Beauty Quilts. I was happy to finally meet Stella Rubin, and my class roster seemed like a who's who in quilt history circles. During one of the breaks, I met with Barbara Brackman, Debby Cooney, Kay and Lori Triplett, and Merikay Waldvogel when we had a private viewing of the applique counterpane by Achsah Goodwin Wilkins.

While in Lincoln, I had dinner with Shelly Zegart and her husband, Kenny. Shelly and I have kept in touch, but hadn't seen each other in person since 2001. Later, in Williamsburg, I met many more people, and had more viewings of the counterpane with small groups of very distinguished individuals.

In between events, I made my first quilts and surprised Mom with two in the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, including a quilt that won a blue ribbon for viewer's choice in the Small Wonders Challenge. Mom and I had a long, wonderful visit in July.

with Nyima Lhamo (Andrea Balosky) at Sisters
With Shelly Zegart in Lincoln, Nebraska 
Bob Shaw in Bellingham, at the Whatcom Museum

Being in Quilters Newsletter magazine was another highlight of 2012. Like a lot of other things, it just fell into my lap. There was a full-blown personality feature with pictures of quilts, all about me and my collection of New York Beauty quilts.

As a result of the article, I was invited to display quilts at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles in 2013. It's a huge honor, and I can't wait!

Throughout 2012, the thing that impressed me most was the quality of the people who are involved with quilts and textiles. I met so many thoughtful, loving people, and it was particularly evident at the large gatherings. Everyone seemed to know me before I arrived, and I was warmy welcomed everywhere I went.

I wrapped up the reply to my long lost friend by saying, "I really have no way to explain all this good fortune, but I'm thankful for it."

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012: Behind-the-Scenes

Willow Tree Quilt, backlighting photo shoot
If you follow my blog, you may wonder what happens behind-the-scenes. So, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite behind-the-scenes pictures from 2012.

...on the back deck...

Getting ready for AQSG Seminar Study Center
Study Center Quilts return safely home
an alternative setup for lectures and photographing quilts
a UFO! maybe it'll get done in 2013...
I enjoy looking at these pictures because they capture those moments that people don't often get to see. In my house, there's always something going on with quilts!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Perfect Christmas

Ready for Christmas, and everything is perfect. Mom wouldn't have it any other way. Here are pictures from around the house.

So, it looks like we're ready for another perfect Christmas. May you and your loved ones have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!

Christmas Miracle

Mom's cat, Daisy, ran off on December 6th. The cat slipped out when the door when Mom was having a conversation with neighbors, and Daisy got spooked when everyone started lunging at her. She ran into the woods, triggering a long search by friends and neighbors. But she was nowhere to be found.

That night, it was bitter cold in Maine, something like 15 degrees Farenheit. Mom didn't think Daisy would survive, but kept looking out the back window to see if the cat was there. She wasn't. Two weeks passed, and we'd started to think about going to the local humane society to find another cat for Mom for Christmas. We even looked at pictures of cats up for adoption on the humane society's web site.

Sixteen days after Daisy disappeared, Mom got a phone call from one of her neighbors. He thought he'd seen the cat by his back deck, and the cat fit the description of Daisy - a tortoiseshell cat that may have some Devon Rex in her. She chirps and trills like a Devon Rex.

When Mom and I went to look, there was no sign of Daisy. My feeling was she had hunkered down under the deck, and if she was there, it would take a lot of coaxing to get her to come out. When we looked under the deck, it was so low to the ground, it was difficult to see anything underneath, even with a flashlight.

We went back later in the day and left a trail of cat treats going from the deck to our back yard. About an hour later, Mom got another call. The cat was there again, and appeared to be eating something. We looked out the back window, and saw the cat. It looked like Daisy, but by the time we got over there, she'd gone under the deck again.

So we got a can of cat food. Mom scooped some out on to the ground near where the cat had gone under the deck, and moments later, she came out and started eating. It was indeed our Daisy. She gobbled up the food, and Mom scooped more on to the ground, a little farther out. That's when Mom got behind the cat and grabbed her.

Poor Daisy didn't want to be caught, and put up quite a fuss. The neighbor grabbed a pillowcase, and we bagged the cat, but she was in a panic the whole time. It was quite a scene. This cat has got to be three feet long, not including her tail, and weighs 18 lbs. As we got her in the house, she was fine. Better than fine. This cat, who had always been the only cat I'd ever met that didn't seem to like me, was suddenly rubbing up against my leg and letting me pet her.

Later, I was on the bed surfing the internet, and she got up and was practically on top of me. Purring! She fell asleep, right up against my leg, and had a very long nap. So, for whatever reason, Daisy loves me now. Talk about a Christmas Miracle.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Underwater Flight, Urban Aquarium at PDX

Portland International Airport (PDX) is one of my favorite airports in the United States, and one of the things I enjoy most is the ever-changing art display. There is a large, glass enclosed display leading into the "E" terminal, and the current display drew me in and inspired me to pull out my camera so I could share some pictures. It was a fiber art display called "Underwater Flight, Urban Aquarium" by artist Sayuri Sasaki Hemann.

The installation was just lovely, and passers-by slowed down and stopped to take it in. Here are some more pictures.

For more information about artist Sayuri Sasaki Hemann and her Underwater Flight, Urban Aquarium installation, please visit her web site. Click here.