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Posts tagged ‘Nancy Crow Barn workshop’

Portfolio Time

When I first joined SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) a portfolio of the juried artist members was produced intermittently–I asked–and was told when they had enough new work. Now it is an annual event and every year I try to find something that represents my work but hasn’t been submitted before. I like to do portraiture but there has recently been a wealth of portraits not done the way I do them but in a manner that many people seem to feel attractive. So I have gone back to abstract type or variations of traditional work.

Here is this year’s submission.

It is Floribunda. I started this in a Nancy Crow workshop and had bits and pieces of it to take home after an intense week there.—they are all intense! But great fun! Because I had started doing leader-enders and there are a lot of small seams to be made in this kind of work, I brought along a stack of roughly cut triangles from my grandmother–found in a box neatly labeled ‘material scraps’. I pieced those triangles together and those became part of the piece too.

I quilted it on my new Gamill longarm–named Vivian after my grandmother and so here it is.

Weir floribunda

and a detailWeir Floribunda detail

Arrival at the Barn

Art Retreats are always fun but then there is the challenge of what to bring—which is even more challenging when airplane travel is figured in. I had planned to drive and to take a leisurely three days to get to Nancy Crow’s Barn in Ohio but then my youngest grandson’s baptism was on Saturday and the event started on Sunday–and somehow I missed the timing on the baptism but did arrive in time to see everyone and hold that sweet boy who now has his first tooth. My oldest grandson was not there–he was riding a bicycle –and not even two yet.

I was lucky enough to find a direct flight from Houston to Columbus but it was on a small jet so we found every bit of lumpy air there was. For a change the airplane was warm enough for  me which meant it was steaming hot for everyone else

This year Ohio had an early spring, the fruit trees are in full bloom and the grass is lushly green. There is no standing water this year and I look forward to spending some time walking about the area. My hotel room is quite spacious compared to previous year’s–but then I don’t plan to spend a lot of time in it. A fabulous breakfast is included along with coffee in the lobby outside my door each morning.

Yesterday was setup day; there isn’t much to setup for a class in dyeing but I covered my table with plastic and my dropcloth, pulled out the few tools I had—I ended up shopping at a local dollar store for some ‘tubs’–aluminum broiler pans and a plant mister and rubber bands–hair scrunchies.

Several people from last year’s class were back and so it was fun to catch up on all their doings.

No photos today but tomorrow—if I can make the internet here and my camera download! Otherwise you’ll just have to wait unjt

Day Five Packing Up

Folding chairs at Lancaster Fair Grounds

I thought I was in a good place with my piece nearly
completed and knew exactly where I wanted to go with it when I started. There
should be plenty of time for me to sit and sketch a bit after packing up
everything and putting up my work for presentation. However, then I started
sewing—and sewing—and sewing—and cutting—and winding more bobbins. I think I
used up five spools of thread and most of another one plus the pre-wound
bobbins I had used the first day.

My pieces are not finished but I’m happy with the progress
so far. There were some spectacular pieces done by some of the others in the
class—and then there were some that clearly needed more work.

Working in a class-room is always challenging. First there
is the physical set-up. Although the Barn is probably the nicest facility I’ve
ever worked in, still I like to have my machine positioned so I have room to my
right and room to my left side. The design wall was roomy enough about the size
of the one I have at home but I don’t like to face it so that my back is to the
room with the possibility of someone coming up from behind me. Then, too, there
is the coffee or water issue. I can understand why there is the rule of no food
or drink in the room but for me –and others—it is not my normal way of working.

I’ve also found that I need the breaks from my work to go
fold a load of laundry, to sort the mail, to pack my lunch, to pull a few weeds
outside so that I can come back to the work with rested eyes.

Still, it is a wonderfully intense week and I treasure the
times that I’ve been so fortunate as to come.

Too soon, it was time for final critiques and to pack up
everyone and head out. A small group went to a Chinese restaurant for a
good-bye dinner, I chose to go back to my hotel and spend a quiet evening

Tomorrow I’ll pack up my hotel room, eat a leisurely breakfast,
and head for home.

I haven’t posted photos of anyone at the workshop although I took quite a few. I also have not posted anyone’s work including mine. There was some controversy over what can and cannot be posted and shown and so I have elected to show you some of the visual pleasures that are NOT art related. Of course, I’d like to think my photos are art quality.

Day Four amidst a modicum of chaos

a barn somewhere in Ohio

My day began early with a to-go breakfast from Shaw’s and
luckily a very large cup of quite excellent coffee.  The sky was lit in the east with a pale lemon
yellow underneath  peachy gray skies with
bands of dark gray trees and a few cranberry red barns topped with silvery tin
roofs amongst striped harvested corn fields and luxuriant fields of green grass.
I planned to sit down and sketch it all out but as soon as I walked into the barn
I felt desperately behind. I had cut out the companion fabrics, sewn one,
half-sewn the second, and had cut out the remaining two. I had fifteen more
fabrics to construct.

I managed to get about five more done before our next
assignment. Not only did I not have but just one plaid to work with, I
remembered that plaids dominate any photograph and decided that I just didn’t
want to make those fabrics. I concentrated on making fabrics that incorporated
some of the previous fabrics I had used but added several new ones to the mix.

Our next assignment is to make a small construction using
our ‘fabrics’. I whipped mine out in about an hour from start to finish—it was
small—only 15 by 20 inches but I think it will be a nice small piece once I get
it quilted. The final composition is going together well and I am happy so far
with my progress. This week seems much easier than previous weeks—I am not
nearly so anxious –and somehow everything has sunk in and the process seems

I’ve decided the world will not dissolve into total chaos if
I make a bad piece;  the teacher will not
come unglued—or if she does, it’s her problem, not mine. It’s just fabric
after all, and the store will have more and what would happen to all of it
tomorrow if I were to die or a storm or fire destroy it all? Making a bad piece
says nothing about my status as an artist; stopping because I don’t produce a
masterpiece the first time and every time does! Or at least that’s my story and
I’m sticking to it!

Jimmy called me on the way back to the hotel; we chatted for
quite a bit. The baby is growing, smiling but not cooing yet, and Charlie is
having puppies. He is convinced we need TWO of those puppies and has offered me
first choice. I’m not sure I’m up to puppies—the potty training, the chewing,
and worst of all—the fleas! They are not here yet; I’d hoped for a smaller
dog—about thirty pounds max—big enough to present a threat to intruders but
small enough for me to handle—and a breed that didn’t shed. Unfortunately the
father at this point is unknown and Joey was clever enough to say he didn’t
really need any more dogs.

Tomorrow is my last day at the barn; the classes for next
spring and fall have been posted. I’m not sure what I want to take. I’m
thinking I might take a class with surface design; although I’m thinking it’s
time for me to go to my room and create.

It’s hard to create in a vacuum; it’s very lonely. I am
jealous of the painters during the impressionist era and of the writers during
Hemingway’s and Tolkien’s time—they all had a group to present their newest
work with valid critique and stimulation and inspiration or goading to do
better work or to brainstorm the what=ifs? It’s hard to develop a good critique
group and it’s not something that getting into shows or having one-man-shows or
gallery representation exists as a validation of the work. In the end, the work
has to suit me, and represent the best that I can do. Each piece has to be
better than the last for me to think of myself as a successful artist.

I still have to deal with a mass in my chest this spring—another
chest xray when I get back and several doctor’s appointments. I’m hoping my
health will be good this summer. So it may be that my time is limited and I
need to make the most of the time that I do have.

Day Three and I get even more Behind

Japanese Magnolia

I got a late start this morning, choosing to have a hot
breakfast instead of a to-go bag. Most of the other students have arrived
before me and are busily sewing away. Immediately I feel very much behind but I
start out sewing. Half way through the morning, a severe storm alert was issued
for heavy thunderstorms and possible tornadoes. We headed for the basement but
amazingly some people were very casual about the entire process and one person
wished for bad weather as an interesting experience. Definitely, not me!

Rain off and on most of the day made breathing more than a
bit difficult at times but I managed to get most of the first set of 15 fabrics
sewn. Then we were assigned five companion fabrics, ten more fabrics using
print and maybe some plaids or something, and then  five or six more—I don’t remember now. I just
wrote all the directions down and chose to just not think about them until I
was actually sewing them. Some people get all their fabrics done and I am in
awe. I’m not the slowest person in the class but neither am I the fastest. I
found myself wondering what would happen if I repeated the directions for a
first fabric again using different colors or proportions and then what would
happen if I made a large number of them and used just one set in a piece. And
what would happen if I used an extremely limited palate? OF course, I could do
the entire exercise in black and white or blue and ecru or….. But I still had
all those assigned  fabrics left to sew!

Most of my fabrics pleased me, some were just dog-ugly but
in the past, some of my yuckiest and poorest samples were the ones that made
the piece work.

I decided to quit when I began thinking why am
I going to all this work to sew in a tiny bit of fabric when I could more
easily top-stitch a piece of perle cotton in the color I want or just insert a
tiny piece of folded fabric with a lot less work and headache but just as much
thinking. And then I sewed  parts of the
strips together requiring ripping. It was time to quit!

An early night tonight along with some Prednisone will
undoubtedly improve my outlook tomorrow.

Day Two Anxiety Prevails

T-posts by the old red barn

I ordered a breakfast to go from the hotel so that I could
get an early start on my work for the day. I took a wrong turn on the way there
and then followed a school bus. However, the coffee was excellent and I dove
right in when I got there. A lot of other students were there as well; and I
parked behind the yellow barn hoping it was solid enough that I wouldn’t get

Ohio has had a lot of rain—the rain we desperately need.
Water stands in the ends of the corn fields and in the woods and more rain is
forecasted for most of this week. But the grass is a lush green—such a soft
grass in contrast with our tough and wiry San Augustine that can withstand lots
of water or lots of sun. The apple trees are in full bloom as are the cherries
and I see a few lilacs beginning to bloom. Cardinals and robins call to each
other as they set up housekeeping for the summer and the air smells wonderful.

I managed to get a lot of my piece together but then had to
put it aside for a new assignment. I remember doing this assignment the first
time I took class here and I have to admit I didn’t enjoy it very much the
first time or this time either. However, then we got to the assignment for
making 15 fabrics—and that is much more fun—unfortunately, I want to make the
same strip over and over again using different colors to see how they work
together. I think I could get just as much bang from doing fat quarters strips
as these selvedge to selvedge pieces. Food for thought when I get home!

Presentations were the last half of the afternoon and I was
the last one—plenty of time to get nervous but this time I had a planned
outline and just a few pieces to show. Others tried a digital presentation
which met with lots of frustration on everyone’s part—everyone used a program
on their computer that with the exception of power-point,  just didn’t work very well with the digital

Tonight was an early night, I read some from my Kindle and
then went to bed quite early—and hoped for no kidney stones as the previous

Unloading an entire sewing room stuffed in my truck cab

April 24, 2011

Doctor's Door Knob at Lancaster Fair Grounds

Driving through the Smokies was filled with magnificient
vistas on either side alternating by driving through canyons of layered rock
towering above on both sides with ominous signs warning of falling rock or deer
leaping unexpectedly across the road or icy bridges. Spring receded as I drove
northward with dogwoods replacing the magnolias and the buttercups giving way
to fields of sunny dandelions.

I made good time although at one point, rain was quite heavy
necessitating slowing down to a mere 40 miles an hour in tandem with a semi-truck
spraying water over my windscreen. I
checked in at Shaws Inn, a lovely old fashioned hotel in Lancaster and made my
way to the Barn. The fields have standing water in many places and I felt quite
envious as we need rain so badly, our governor asked us all to pray for rain.
But the apple trees are in full bloom as are many other fruiting trees and the
air smells quite delightful.

It is always good to see old friends; Connie and Vickie
greeted me, my work area is near theirs; John carried my sewing machine in
along with my two baskets of fabrics that I haven’t even touched since the last
workshop here. It will be interesting to see how productive I will be in this
spot; I can see outside and I can work from a protected area—I must feel

Supper was all abuzz; we had a lovely supper and then
introduced ourselves amongst much laughter as we each had to tell an
interesting little known fact about ourselves. Most of the students are still
working or have just retired; many are in IT or are project managers. All of us
are a bit nervous as we are not quite sure what tomorrow will bring or whether
we will be able to keep up or did we bring the wrong fabric or will our work be
so bad, we’ll hear the northern equivalent of ‘bless you heart’.

But for now it’s time for bed.

PS–My apologies for the weird wrapping of text. I wrote these on a netbook and transferred them to my regular lap top. I’m not clever enough to figure out how to change it to just regular text–sorry!