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Posts from the ‘Artwork’ Category

Bella and Biscuit

Last November, I spent a weekend in Longview doing disability exams for Social Security. The days are very long and hard—with applicants scheduled every fifteen minutes. In that time I am expected to review medical records, do a brief history and physical exam, document in writing and dictation the results addressing each of their medical problems. Some are there looking for a handout while others are in desperate straits—some by their own doings; others by misfortune.

The pandemic was still in full swing; the hotel offered no dining capabilities and even the vending machine was nearly empty.

The owner of the clinic where the exams were conducted owned two dogs–both rescues. One was named Biscuit–obvious from the color of her fur and the other was Bella, a rambunctious puppy of just 14 months. Biscuit spent much of the time I was sitting to review records and dictate with her chin on my knee looking up at me; while Bella when she had a chance would take a flying leap and land all 80 plus pounds of herself in my lap. The owner kept apologizing but for me it was much like the come-back party for the Neonatial Intensive Care Unit I attended one Christmas as a resident—the children were squealing, laughing, throwing cake, spilling punch–and in gneneral being active busy two and three year olds—a far cry from the tiny helpless infants lying on the Ohio beds with tubes and oxygen.

Bella and Biscuit made those two very long days tolerable.

In appreciation, I made two artwork pieces. The bases were a fine cotton embroidered towel from my mother-in-law’s linen closet,

Here are Biscuit and Bella

I converted them to black and white in Elements.

I selected fabrics, appliqued with needle turn applique on two matching tea towels.

They are presented on stretcher bars 11 by 18 inches. I mount the artwork on a larger piece of fabric usually either black or cream colored linen and put a piece of archival foam core behind the artwork.

It was a fun project. Using linens as a background has proven to be both challenging and inspiring. The quality of these linens is wonderful and it is a joy to work with such fine fabrics.

Not staying busy

I’d like to say I have taken advantage of this pandemic and the stay at home (mostly) recommendations and produced gobs of new work to dazzle everyone.

But I haven’t.

What I have done is quilted all the tops and bound nearly all of them–just two left to bind–and one new one on the frame now.

I have kept up with the Quilt Show’s Block of the Month until October when I just could not get to Kinko’s to enlarge the applique pattern for the month (just two and I didn’t want to go to a store for just two) and then November and suddenly they released all the remaining blocks and I had TWELVE to do. Off to Kinko’s I went; enlarged the blocks—I have not mastered sizing on my printer–easy at Kinkos and their copiers and less than $2 to do so for all twelve.

and then there was a project I took on as a thank you to some folks who were so generous and kind to me while working out of town—I’ll post more about that much later, when I get them done—-but for now, here are those blocks ready for hand-stitching.


There is a large stack of covered marble notebooks behind my desk; and a stack of sketchbooks on another shelf. Then there is a pile of patterns for my artwork along with more covered marble notebooks containing notes from workshops and my working through some of the composition/construction/color challenges of both my artwork and what the weaving instructor called ‘utiliarian’ pieces.

And now there is a very small stack of hand-made books on another set of shelves in my sewing room—I refuse to call it a studio—that sounds pretentious and suggests a level of accomplishment not allowing failure.

In the past, I made several fiber books–and those were fun. Several were projects made in a round robin fashion with each person adding to the story and the accompanying illustration. But these are books made of paper with signatures and end-papers.

I have had to learn new vocabulary words along with new technical terms and doings. I have learned a lot along the way, some by doing, others by reading and looking and following the excellent instructions by an expert. The group on social media has been very generous in their praise of my work–humble as it is.

And now, I have blathered on long enough. Here is my hand-made journal.

the cover is a paper towel used to clean brushes in a workshop
and the end paper is marbled paper from another workshop in the distant past

Have I written in any of my books?

No, I still use a covered marble notebook to write about the past day and plan the next day or three.

Waiting with Bated Breath

I am sure everyone is eager to see the results of my batik experiment.

I used one of the tjaps I bought several years ago and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to use. I thought the handle would get hot and I would need a hot pad to hold it—also that one dip in the wax would yield just one print—but I could get four out of each dip. I already knew I had to let the tjap sit in the hot wax for awhile to be hot enough to hold onto the wax and not just have the wax coat the tjap.

Getting the wax out is always a challenge but I put all the fabrics into a large dye pot, add some detergent and boil away for an hour or more—then put it in my washing machine with more detergent and two rinses.

The dye I used was quite old and had been through several seasons of hot and cold—and so I was surprised to see my results.

This is the hemp/cotton blend. This fabric is really nice to work it–it is crisp yet soft.

The next piece is the hemp/silk piece. This is glossy on one side and matte on the other. I haven’t worked with any of it yet but it promises to be equally lovely.

And then here is pure silk.

and finally here is just hemp. This is a coarse weave that raveled deliciously around the edges and took the dye beautifully.

As you may guess, I used some potato mashers as my tjaps on these pieces. Overlapping them is fun too, but I ran out of wax… bees will have to be busy this next spring.

Deep Fat Fryer, Beeswax, and Silk

One of the side benefits to having bees is access to beeswax. After processing the annual crop of honey, there is beeswax. We have tried several methods of rendering the wax ranging from a cute little crockpot with cloth filters over bubbling water to a large pan in the oven.

Regardless of method, we have rounds of wax ready to coat foundation or string to insert into an empty frame for comb honey. But there is plenty left and I had always wanted to do some batiking.

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to buy three tjaps that were being discarded–I’m not sure exactly why but I was pleased to get them. I used one as a resist for Shiva PaintSticks but mostly they sit on my shelves as a decorative item.

Saturday, I decided to take the plunge—melt the wax and give those tjaps a trial.

It didn’t take long to melt the wax. I worked outdoors on a table constructed of a piece of siding and two saw-horses (unfortunately not quite the same height). I also have some potato mashers. I had done a bit of batik in the past and had learned the metal needed to be heated before using.

The large handle on the tjap surprisingly did not get very hot–slightly warmish but definitely not too hot to handle. I also learned it would soak up a lot of wax making for three or four impressions with each subsequent impression being more refined.

The fabric–cotton, two kinds of silk, and a hemp/cotton blend has now all been waxed and awaits the next application of dye—I just have to get some more dye buckets as mine seem to have disappeared.

melting beeswax for batik
potato masher in the wax with tjap on the side
Tjap for batik and a small piece of raw silk
yardages batiked and ready to redye
here you can see the fabric hanging from the railing of the deck
closeup of the batiked fabric
here is a closeup of one of the fabrics. I had previously dyed it using my sand and ice dyeing technique

Earth In All Its Glory

A popular set of prompts is earth, wind, water, and fire. Earth is our foundation and the other three impact our lives. Primal Forces: Earth is the first part of a series of three exhibits planned by SAQA sometime soon—hard to tell exactly when due to moving target dates vis a vis Covid 19.

I decided to make something rather fun as my entry. While I am not a native Texan, I am proud to claim Texas as my home and enjoy all the fun and quirky things about it. There is a huge quilting tradition in Texas along with the international quilt Festival held annually in Houston. Then there’s the space industry and all the busyness and excitement of launches and interaction with astronauts.

While this piece will probably not make it into the final exhibit, it may bring a smile or two to the faces of the jurors and hopefully anyone reading this blog.

Texas is the Center of My Universe

And then, with my tendency to use every little bit, I took a handful of strips left from another project—my grandmother who lived through the Great Depression imbued this in me—and created this piece. The strips were laid down in order on top of a piece of corduroy–my favorite supporting fabric, and then stitched and stitched and stitches until all the pieces were flat. It looked too bare and so I added the oak tree and parts of oak leaves.

Oak leaves are the last leaf to crumble away into the earth. Maple, elm, hickory, ash, willow–all dissolve into the earth within weeks, but the oak leaves remain for months. They are sturdy enough to serve as small plates holding water–and sliding against each other when you attempt to stopyour bicycle at a stoplight in late December in Wisconsin—I had a small scrape on my knee from that incident and the bike got a bit dented but still functional.

Earth’s Promise 30TX20W

It was an Experiment

Last weekend, I thought I would try a new approach to the art group I started several years ago. We have not been meeting due to the pandemic and we all missed our time together. Our agenda included a brief lecture about art and an artist…I think it is important to know art terms and place ourselves in art history….then an assignment due at the next meeting, discussion and critique of the previous assignment, then works in progress–we then usually adjourned for lunch at a nearby restaurant for more chatter.

My thought/idea was to do the lecture part as a facebook live video and follow it with a zoom show and tell. Managing all the parts of a live video was more than I wanted to take on–and so it was going to be a video only with no audience participation.

Here is what I have learned.

It is very difficult to speak to a little blue light as though it is a real person.

I have not done mirrors in over ten years, so monitoring the image I could see on my laptop screen was not something I am accustomed to doing.

I speak fairly slowly; a hold-over from the days in which I had to dictate hospital summaries and the transcriptionists complained bitterly I spoke too fast and my accent was weird.

My husband viewed my video and said very kindly, it was informative.

Like I said, it was an experiment and I will do better next time.

For those who are interested; the topic was Anni Albers with a quote from Egbert Oldendag. Anni was married to Josef Albers who is known for his treatise on color, Anni worked on weaving–one of the only three artforms available to her at the Bauhaus, Oldendag was a Canadian painter.

The assignment is to choose an artist’s work as a starting point in both color and composition for our next piece….a self-portrait that is not representational.

One of my favorite pieces of sculptures in the sculpture garden in Houston was Giacometti’s. I called him Matchstick Man and he stood at the entrance to greet all the visitors. He has since been moved indoors and I have only seen him once standing at the foot of the stairs. Here is the link to some of his work at the Tate.

I find his work to be both intense and spare, an interesting and challenging dichotomy.

Ta Da! Destination: Baum’s Oz

Getting this artwork to smile for its formal portrait was not easy. With the projection of a possible tropical storm–fingers crossed for only a storm, not a hurricane, all of us anxiously watched the live radar and the weather reports and tried hard not to remember the onslaught of heavy rains from Harvey and Imelda. While I grew up preparing for a blizzard in the Midwest, and we always knew to run to the basement for a tornado…it was easy to tell when that might happen–the temperatures plummeted and the sky became black and the wind howled. Enough of that though. Time to move on to the artwork.

Several pieces were presented at the meeting and the entire thing was captured on facebook live. It was an odd meeting with people scattered throughout the room with chairs separated into small groups. References to the movie were evident in most of the pieces. I wanted to create interest in reading the book.

I used bias tape to form the tornado; it was surprising how little fabric was required; the largest piece was about 10 inches square. In the Emerald City, everyone was required to wear green tinted glasses and so i put a pair in for each character. I decided Dorothy would wear cats-eye glasses and used fabric from my grandmother’s stash. The tin man would have slightly dented shiny (satin) lenses–a fabric from my mother’s stash of remnants from choir robes. I put in Toto, the wild forest and two smiling monkeys. And I used some small pieced Kansas Dugout block hand-pieced from bits and pieces of my mother’s, grandmother’s and my stash.

I quilted it twice in a swirling pattern to suggest the tornado slinging things out. All those circles were intended to be Munchkins but after some reflection, I thought they might look like dozens of Humpty-Dumpty’s and left it as it is.

It was a fun piece to make and I am looking forward to the next challenge.

Here are two details

do you see Toto?
Dorothy’s slippers were silver in the book but they did not show up on the black and white version of the movie and so they were changed to ruby. I added the red bow to tie the movie and the book together.

Dangling Participles IV

When I left off yesterday, I had a good idea of what I planned to do on the lower right side. Some of the blocks needed some additional strips to make the sizes all even and some required some odd shapes sewn on.

While adding the strip was not hard, squaring up all those miscellaneous blocks to a common size took some time to complete.


yes that is the same photo as yesterday–just to see if you are paying attention.


I had to add a strip on the right side of the bottom right section. Notice the curved seam on the top right block–that block is composed of three diamond shapes–all hand-pieced. I added the triangles to convert it to a rectangular shape and the curved section to make it even.

And here is a peak at the left side.


Dangling Participles III

I’m sure everyone has been anxiously awaiting this next step. I’m not as methodical as some but still tend to approach certain projects by breaking them into smaller pieces and moving bits and pieces around quite freely.

I have now completed the majority of the middle section and have some fairly defined ideas about what will happen next on the right side. I could have easily worked on the left side instead but it is probably instinctual to work on the dominant hand side.