Category Archives: musings


Once I am all ready for Christmas, I start thinking about the new year. I love the beginning of a new year. I’m not generally the type to party the night away on New Year’s Eve; instead I am happily dealing with the loose ends of the old year, so I can start anew on New Year’s Day.

Apparently this sentiment also applies in the studio. I have spent the past few weeks finishing projects: the sea creature quilt for my little girl’s room, and the eight small quilts that were in progress.

I am ready to start anew. It is not lost on me that January is named for the Roman god Janus, who could look forward and back at the same time, given that he had two faces. I might not have two faces, but the end of one year and the beginning of the next provides a good vantage point for reviewing the past and using it to inform the future.

This past year, particularly in the past six months, I have accomplished much in the studio. I have created several pieces in my Life Studies series; in doing so, I have improved my skills and clarified what most appeals to me in these works.

There are three quilts in the series that I am truly thrilled with. Looking at these together, I can see several common elements: strong lines, strong emotion, high contrast, complexity, and vibrant, warm colors.

Life Study #9 (2011) 9″x9″

Life Study #15 (2011) 9″x9″

Life Study #16 (2011) 9″x9″

I didn’t see this, until I looked at all the pieces together. Now I have this understanding, I can see that it will change my upcoming work significantly.

I have been exploring more with surface design; screen printing, using resists, and over dyeing.

I have also made drawing a regular practice, and I have just started down an exciting new path combining doodling and surface design. I don’t know quite where it will lead yet, but I can’t wait to figure it out next year.

I aim to start 2012 with a month or two of very messy play, creating a good stack of fabrics and fine tuning my dyeing and painting techniques.

I will be starting work on my Life on Mars series, with both imaginary plants and animals, and those that are so bizarre they might as well be from another planet.

I will be drawing regularly still, improving my abilities there.

More indecision/decisions

I feel ready to tackle some more complex ideas. Working on these simple designs is very useful for exploring various principles, and seeing their effects. Yet I am not so satisfied with that right now, and I want to do more.

I feel the need to create, create, create some more. Develop 20, 30, 40 scenes, and hopefully at the end have a better grasp of what I want to do, and how I want to do it. But how to do it? Part of me is drawn to the idea of acrylic on canvas, and just keep painting on top. It seems like a good way to get ideas down. Though I am already out of space, and I don’t want to buy more paint. So sketchbook it is. I’m tempted to choose a sentence (current contender is “Life on Mars”), and illustrate it in all the ways I can think of.

In my spare time. While I finish the sea creatures quilt. And clean the studio. And finish the Life Studies quilts I have on the go. And finish the Painted Pictorial Quilts course – which is fantastic, it will be so helpful with what I want to do. At least I am having fun 🙂

I tried making my bewildered guys with higher contrast, and some shading. I like them:

Life Study #11 (2011) 9″x9″

The Fall "I don’t wanna’s", and making decisions

I don’t know quite what it is about Fall that derails me. The abrupt changes in weather, the first colds for us all, the inevitable last-minute sewing for Halloween, when minds get changed. Even though I’m still accomplishing something in the studio most days, it feels much slower and less productive than usual. And my heart just isn’t in it.

For instance, these guys were finished a week ago, and yet I haven’t taken the few minutes to post them.

Life Study #10 (2011) 8″x8″

Once I had these guys all complete, I realized I must have miscalculated when it came to the final trimming and sewing, and they looked very misbalanced (I blame lack of sleep). It gave me the perfect opportunity to add the moon, and to try a technique I had wanted to, for a while. The moon is fusible webbing painted with acrylic paint, which gives it a lacy uneven look which is perfect to give that lunar quality.

As I was finishing up this piece, I got to pondering the sizes of my small works. To date they have been 9″ x 9″. However, this size is often a challenge, given that the natural width of a bolt of fabric gives me initial pieces of 11″ x 11″. When I cut stencils, my source material is 12″ square, but I can’t cut close to the edges. In short, it would make far more sense to work to 8″ square. However doing so leaves me with the first 15 or so works in the series as larger than the rest. I ultimately decided I was ok with that.

It could be that decisions like this are part of what holds me back in the studio. Also the ambiguity lately. It has been very helpful to spend a few weeks focusing more on art principles, and drawing, doodling, sketching, and designing. And while I have assimilated those into my regular studio time easily enough, I feel a lot of uncertainty over the right balance between practice & exploration of ideas (whether on paper or digitally), and turning those ideas into finished quilts.

I generally need to remind myself that I am doing this for me, and me alone. And so what do I want?

• to have fun
• to learn all I can, and never stop learning
• to challenge myself
• to continue making works in this series

Life Study #9

After having a Thanksgiving weekend so hot we could swim in a lake up north, it’s a little hard to take the cold, dreary days we’ve had since.

My mind is spinning lately, trying to consolidate what I’ve learned over the past few months into a solid plan for studio practice. I think I am getting there. Gradually. More sketching out of ideas, more exploring with paint before I move on to working with fabric.

I discovered this week that I can use the thin flexible cutting mats from the dollar store to make stencils, and cut them with the eCraft. This will be fun.

This is by far my favourite of the 3 creatures designs. It makes me happy every time I look at it:

Life Study #9 (2011) 9″x9″

Life Study #6

Today I find myself wanting to question why I do what I do. Instead of going down that path, I am reminding myself it is because I am compelled to, and because I can. Interesting how much we can doubt ourselves in creating. Not creating wouldn’t be a better choice for me.

I am loving the close up on these guys:

Life Study #6 (2011) 9″x9″

The Deep End

A.K.A. Drawing Boot Camp.

I have a great many tactics for avoiding spending time drawing. Which, when I am developing a series of quilts based on my doodles, is in no way a good thing. My confidence in my drawing, and my drawing habits, need to improve.

Being me, I usually end up taking a drastic approach. True story – in university I chose my major, Chemistry, to get over the fear of blowing myself up in labs.

Starting in a week, for six weeks, I am going to devote ALL my studio time to drawing, except for 2-3 hours per week to work on finishing Life Study quilts that are waiting in the wings.

I had already signed up for Lyric Kinard’s Artist’s Toolbox course.
I had signed up to do Carla Sonheim’s Silly Drawing with my daughter.
I have signed up for Doodling Designs with Susan Sorrell
I have Carla Sonheim’s Imaginary Creatures course materials, and her book Drawing Lab.
And if that’s not enough, I have 100 Creative Drawing Ideas from the public library, and Finding your own Visual Language in my personal library.

I am going to keep track of my hours in my timesheet, so that I don’t avoid drawing by avoiding studio time.

At the end of the six weeks, I will have more confidence in my drawing, have better drawing habits, and a lot of source material to use in quilts.

More Classes

I am trying VERY hard to focus my studio time and energy on the Life Studies series. I’m viewing it as an excellent way to learn and explore, and hopefully build up to the larger pieces I envision, but can’t yet get down on fabric.

I had decided to take no more classes for the time being, in part because it looked like our work would be too busy in the fall. However, it looks like I should have just enough time to take a couple of small ones, both of which have been calling to me.

I think that screen printing is a good tool if I want more consistency in my surface design, and in applying lines to my creatures. I have dabbled in it a little on my own, but I know I will focus better if I participate in a class. I have signed up for Lyric Kinard’s Freeform Screenprinting class at Quilt University.

Likewise I want to develop my art skills further. I have signed up for Lyric Kinard’s Artist’s Toolbox course at Quilt University.