In January I had the opportunity to go to one of Sue Spargo‘s fabulous workshops in Tucson, Arizona, a place I’d never been. While there I met some lovely people, one of whom was Anna Bates, who has a blog, Woolie Mammoth, a YouTube channel – Quilt Roadies, and blogs for The Quilt Show once a week under the heading – Anna and G on the Road. During the course of our five days together, Anna interviewed me and wrote a lovely post about me and my work. Though I realized afterward that while I sent her photographs of my early designs in fashion and knitting, even a photo of one of my hand thrown and hand painted pots, I didn’t send photos of my jewelry! (insert wide eyed emoji). So here are a few additions to her post…
Because of my conversation with Anna, I reflected on the past (almost) forty years now, when I began my studies at Parsons School of Design and now, when I am learning everything I can about quilting, quilts, dyeing, and manipulating fabric in different ways to create an image, a feeling, an idea…
All of which led me to a recurring topic – finding one’s artistic voice. How does one find it? How can it be nurtured, cultivated, encouraged?
While listening to a podcast a few weeks ago, two musicians were discussing this very idea and one of them repeated something they’d been told by another artist friend, who basically said – the only way to find your voice is by doing, and in the doing, you will not only find your voice, but it will make itself heard.
I love that! And it aligns with what I have learned through my experiences designing, whether that was fashion, knits, jewelry or quilts and fabric art.
A few months ago I decided I needed to learn how to piece. In quilting terms this is the ability to make something that looks like this: (This hen block was designed by Janet Nesbitt of One Sister.)
I have had a number of design ideas, such as combining pieced blocks with appliqué blocks and overlapping design elements that I cannot realize because there are some pretty basic things I do not know how to do. Piecing was one of them. I’m working on two quilts at the moment that cover all of these things, but in order to do them, and do them well, I need to learn how and then to practice, practice, practice.
At three in the morning, in a fit of frenzied sleeplessness I decided my work space was in desperate need of reorganization. And what great idea that comes to you in the wee hours of the morning isn’t a brilliant one?! However, upon further reflection, I decided reorganizing is not one of my strengths and so, I did what anyone would do. I solicited the help of someone who excels at reorganizing. Step into the limelight my fabulous husband (FH) and take a bow. He is extremely good at just this sort of thing. “Okay,” he said, all business-like, “talk me through this.” And then proceeded to ask me a series of questions.
From this conversation he prioritized and broke down what I needed to do in manageable steps. I forgot to take a photograph of the disaster that was once my work space, but this is what it looked like at about the halfway point.
As I was trying to decide what color I should paint that great expanse of white wall (this was a tricky decision as it is a dark room, made even darker by the red carpet I bought decades ago in Turkey) I thought, “I need a design wall!” This is not essential, after all I have sketch books and a table where I can play with ideas, but a design wall would be really, really nice to have. So I googled design walls and found some wonderful ones. I decided I wanted one that is at least 62″ x 72.” In order to do this I needed to get rid of a great many things scattered all over the place.
I decided on a bright mango color to brighten the room up. However, as with so many things in life, painting one wall proved more complicated than I anticipated. I ran into bubbles. Thousands and thousands of tiny bubbles appeared after the first coat of paint. I pricked one of them with a pin and, much to my horror, the bubble expanded exponentially, revealing all the coats of paint below the fresh coat I’d just painted, so that I was staring at dry board! I was so horrified I didn’t have the presence of mind to take photos, but my FH was witness. I ended up pulling off great sheets of bubbled up paint. After running to the hardware store for advice, making a couple of emergency phone calls to friends of mine who are far more experienced in painting walls than I am, I finally pulled up as much paint as I could, sanded, dusted, spackled, sanded some more, dusted some more and finally repainted and held my breath. What should have taken a few hours took more than a day and a half, BUT it came out pretty well, if I do say so myself! FH had the great idea of hanging my ironing board.Then there was the question of my design wall, which is removable.I needed to organize my fabrics and other materials that I use for my jewelry design, such as wax, files, metals, wire, etc. While I was doing all of this, I came across my old portfolio from my days in fashion design and got a little side tracked… Finally, after all of that, I got back on track.
And here is the finished space!Now it’s time to get back to work – I have a queen-sized quilt to sandwich, baste and free motion quilt and then there are these little guys who keep calling to me.
When we began homeschooling (more on that here, here and here), one of the things Emma told us she wanted to do was take pottery classes. I found a pottery studio with a wonderful teacher who, upon seeing my obvious interest, suggested I join my daughter in learning. We began with pinch pots and working with slabs of clay that we learned to mold into various shapes.
This is one of my favorite early dishes that my daughter made. It was screaming for a pair of my earrings. Okay, not literally, her hope dish is perfect all by itself…
As with anything, gaining any degree of confidence and skill requires practice. So there were lots and lots of pots being made, many of them returned to the great clay graveyard to be recycled. I decided to begin painting on the pots I was throwing and started playing with underglazes, which is a whole art in and of itself.
The first pot I painted was a collaborative effort with my talented son whose taste definitely nudges the macabre, much like his father!
As a child I was surrounded by art. My parents collected modern, pre-columbian and African art. I was used to seeing seemingly opposites side by side, so when I saw this piece, by Picasso in the Museum of Modern Art, I was particularly struck by it. It felt like home.
Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
This piece reminded me of another artist my husband and I love, Alexandra Huber.
I began a series called “Faces.” As you can see, the underglaze can look quite different than the finished product! I found that by diluting the underglaze with water I could achieve a kind of water color look, which I like.
I love the Faces series…
While I was starting the Faces series I was also falling in love with all things quilted and began drawing little sketches of things I liked, which gave me the idea to draw them on my pots too.
And then I’d go back to my Faces…
My daughter even allowed me to paint on her pots.
A few more…
A few of these are already in My Etsy Shop and many more will be added as they come out of the kiln. However, at the moment, I’m here…
So all of this will have to wait until the end of the week!
Last May we pulled our daughter, Emma from school and began homeschooling or non-schooling or… I’ve written more about all of this on the other blog, the one I share with my daughter: Emma’s Hope Book. One of the many benefits of homeschooling, aside from the huge relief and plummeting stress level, is that we get to explore, together and separately. The beauty in exploring is that the goal is to be curious and discover. There’s no right or wrong and there’s tremendous comfort in that. The entire process of learning becomes one of joy and experimentation without the burden or stress of feeling one should know something before having learned it.
So it was, some eight months ago when I sat down with Emma and asked her what she was interested in learning about. She typed that she wanted to learn German and take a ceramics class among a number of other things. So we bought Rosetta Stone for German and Emma began taking pottery lessons at a nearby ceramics studio. Her teacher, seeing my obvious excitement and interest, asked if I might like to make some things too. I eagerly said, “Yes, please!”
Learning anything new is full of experimenting, exploring, tweaking, practicing and refining techniques learned. To dive into something you’ve never done before can be daunting, but only if you are comparing your work to another’s. Particularly crushing is if you expect you will be able to produce something that is of similar expertise as someone who has been studying and refining their technique for decades. The exhilaration comes with the process of learning, practicing and improving. But so often we are not taught that this process is wonderful at all. In fact, we are taught that it is hard work and the end product, only produced after years of practice and toil, is all that is of value. Everything else pales in comparison.
This cereal bowl that Emma made for me is perfect for walking while eating. It has an indentation that perfectly fits one’s thumb while cupping the bowl in your palm. Why hasn’t anyone designed a bowl like this? I’ve never seen one before, but oh, how I love it. This is my new, favorite bowl.
My favorite cereal bowl made for me by Emma.
The platter below? “It matches” was what Emma typed in reply to my exclamation that I thought it perfect for serving cheese and crackers or maybe a brioche en croute with fresh baguette.
This bowl that Emma made used cookie cutters and then she painted after joining all the shapes.
An Autumnal Bowl
A few months ago, or maybe it was years, (this is an aspect of getting older, the years feel like months, yet another example of that saying people tell you when you first become a parent – the days are long, the years are short) I asked Emma if she had any interest in learning to knit. She said she did, and as I love knitting (I wrote about some of that “here“) and used to design knitwear, I thought we’d start with something simple, like a scarf. Emma chose a light blue yarn. After a couple of tries, she lost interest and so I began making a long scarf using an alternating knit 2, purl 2 pattern. I rarely use knitting patterns or cooking recipes for that matter, but that’s another post. Anyway the scarf began like this.
Light blue scarf in alternating Knit 2, Purl 2 pattern with the beginning of a navy blue chenille infinity scarf in the background.
The finished scarf ended up measuring 87 inches in length and 11 inches wide. What you don’t see is the other side where I changed my mind after an inch or so and decided to make the pattern more elongated.
The Finished Scarf
This is the edge where I began knitting and decided to change the stitch. Three times. The final stitch pattern is a Knit 2, Purl 2 for three rows and then Purl 2, Knit 2 for 3 rows and repeating for the remainder of the scarf.
I’m hoping Emma will try knitting again sometime, but in the meantime, I’ve started a couple of other projects, one is this deep blue chenille yarn that I’m knitting, using a newly learned brioche stitch, into an infinity scarf for a friend.
The makings of an infinity scarf using a brioche stitch
And finally this is one of my ceramics projects.
Pebbles in a Plate
For those familiar with my jewelry, this may remind you of something else…
Life is busy. We are homeschooling our twelve-year old daughter. Best decision we ever made! (For more about that you can read our group blog where Emma writes many of the posts – Emma’s Hope Book.) I continue to juggle my business and its needs and demands with parenting, homeschooling and writing. As I no longer have my jewelry in stores, I am doing trunk shows. There are not enough hours in any given day and things fall through the cracks. Still… art bleeds through in myriad ways to make life even more exhilarating and exciting. In preparation for this last trunk show, whose theme was Halloween, I roped my family into carving pumpkins and helping me cook halloween treats.
Art? Crafts? Who cares?
Let’s begin with a little Halloween fun.
Grinning Pumpkin ~ Carved by Richard Long
Our son tries his hand at carving…
Nosy Pumpkin with Rotting Teeth ~ By Nic Z-L
I’m a purist and went for a more traditional pumpkin, which means I googled “cool carved pumpkins” and found one resembling this and copied it. 🙂
Originally I wanted to paint this wreath black and have a few snakes and rats poking out from the foliage, but this idea was vetoed by all but my 14 year old son…
Welcome to Fall Wreath
And since that was so much fun, I went a little “wreath crazy”…
Entryway to my pre-Halloween trunk show
Raven’s Nest Wreath
And then there was cooking that needed to be done…
Trunk show treats – Yes, I made them. From 11 o’clock going clockwise, Pumpkin granola bars, Spider Web Cupcakes, Pumpkin Blondies, Delicious, decadent fudge and Pumpkin Scones
In addition to the halloween treats, I made my spectacular Bloody Mary’s garnished with large green olives, celery and lime. They were a big hit!
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