Wednesday, May 31, 2006

This is what's blooming today

Wild roses grow along the edge of the community property - here is a sample.

Our first peonies are blooming!

And the last Iris is blooming...

Wild honeysuckle also tangles in with the wild roses at the edge of the property that borders the woodland.

And my miniature roses are blooming.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Today from the Studio and Garden...

This is a detail shot of one of my current projects. Can you tell that I'm having a great time exploring different ways of creating textural effects?

And this one is just for fun - celebrating a wonderful weekend!

The Power of Words... be they Written, Thought, or Spoken

Karoda has me going deeper into my reasons for blogging. She wrote:
"Hi Pat, this entry (referring to yesterday's blog) reaffirms my stance that blogging is more about one's relation to the written word into thoughts and one's need to document me them for self and then connecting with others. Blogging is a monologue and a dialogue and the computer/internet is just another tool to make that happen. Reading blogs has made me more aware of wanting and needing to connect with other fiber/visual artists here in my own community than ever before."

The power of the written, spoken and even thought word(s) has often fascinated me. Isn't it amazing how the written word seems to have more value/credence than that the spoken word? Likewise, aren't our thoughts quite often considered of less valued than the spoken words of others? We live in a society that highly honors words - especially the written word. Look at the number of books published each year, the number of book stores and other places that sell books/magazines. Notice how some people actually believe something precisely because they've read it somewhere - and it doesn't even seem to matter what the source is! Then again, sometimes the source is considered so "sacred" that the words themselves take on gargantuan meanings to some.

The spoken word is also highly valued - look at the popularity of radio, let alone the near-addiction to television. What is also interesting to me by comparison is the replacement of real spoken conversations with minimalist messaging techniques. Our grandchildren write the strangest emails - simplified English, I suppose, within an electronic community. Stranger still is the telephone messaging that some use. Why not leave a 'real' phone message that shares your voice with the one you are calling?

The spoken word has the power to create or initiate action, for good or for ill. Gossip certainly creates more ill than good - whether or not the 'gossip' is true, an exaggeration, or completely fictional. Thankfully, the power of speech also helps to create positive results. Look at the speeches of JFK, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln or Gandhi. Words can inspire positive change with amazing speed. A good friend has the power to shift our perspectives, moods, focus, and more. A teacher can have a lasting impact on his/her students merely by sharing her thoughts, perspective, and enthusiasm for the topic at hand.

One of my deepest concerns as a grad school instructor was my awareness of how easily one can be misunderstood. Since my topic was spirituality, it was vital to me that the students feel free to question, challenge, and disagree with me. Part of the requirements for the class included reflection papers on each class period. These papers gave me a window into what was heard, understood or not, difficult to absorb, and more. Since I was there to offer tools for deepening their relationship with the spiritual aspects of their lives, it didn't matter whether or not the students agreed with different suggestions. They were always free to take what was useful to them and discard the rest. Still, the knowledge that some clearly did not understand some of the subject matter or tools offered disturbed me.

The power of the written word has another aspect for me personally which relates to the power of one's own thoughts. When I was first developing a meditation practice some 20+ years ago, I discovered that the easiest way to empty my mind was by writing my thoughts, fears, and joys down in a journal. Once I emptied my thoughts into the journal, it was relatively easy for me to have an empty mind open to meditation and later to contemplation. Daily journaling was a vital part of my spiritual practice - whether or not it was religious, per se, was and is irrelevant to me. Journaling also gave me a platform for my thoughts and in rereading my entries I was able to see my thoughts from outside my head, so to speak. The written word somehow removed my thoughts by several degrees allowing me a measure of objectivity and detachment. Thus I could come to see different perspectives and become aware of different options open to me with regard to troubling situations. I still journal today, although not daily.

Blogging may well be an interactive sort of journaling whereby the insights of others can intersect with my thoughts to create totally new thought patterns and opportunities. Certainly, for me, the reading of the blogs of others has opened my mind to more than new artistic techniques but also to different ways of seeing the world today. And that, again for me, is worth a great deal. That is part of the grand blessings of the internet – expanding individual awareness to a more global vision. I want to stay connected to a larger world than the one in which I routinely operate. And so I keep on blogging, albeit, intermittently!

Maybe tomorrow I'll add some photos, who knows?!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Today's Thoughts on Art, Business, Priorities, Career, the ‘Meaning’ of Art, and More… (or less?!)

After reading several QuiltArt blogs today, I realized I wanted to think more deeply about the topics brought forward. Laura Cater-Woods has taken a leave-of-absence from blogging. She headlined today’s entry with the title “Seasonal Molt,” saying “from time to time I let go of things in my life. The intention is generally to reassess where my time and energies are going. In a way it's a form of clutter reduction, if that makes any sense to you.”

I like that idea of “clutter reduction.” Frequently I find myself confronted with having over-committed myself, and today is no exception. I’m in the midst of curating three separate shows involving two different groups of artists – and I’ve never curated a show before, so there is a major learning curve in progress!!! Additionally, we have the out-of-state HS graduation of our eldest granddaughter in a few weeks, followed by a major quilt show here in NJ (for which I am curating the art-quilt special exhibit), followed by the annual one-week-per-grandchild visits of the summer. Not to mention, the gardening and other seasonal obligations. I’m also in the midst of creating a whole new body of work having been totally inspired by the workshop with Laura at Greenville Arms fiberarts workshop last month. Laura helped me to see my work from a different perspective – and she did it in the most subtle ways. I hardly recognized her guidance at the time, but her questions and occasional comments pointed me more solidly towards my own strengths as an artist. All this and I’ve decided to become more serious about developing my art career, which means entering more competitions and all that entails…. Clutter reduction??? It’s a great idea. I wonder where to begin!

After reading Laura’s blog, I came to Lisa Call’s, and she has just returned to blogging after a month off. She wrote, “I’ve spent the last month doing a lot of thinking about my art and my art career and how this blog fits into the picture. I’m not sure I came to any conclusions or definite ideas but there are some murky thoughts that are starting to take shape and I’ll be talking about them over the next few weeks as I get back into blogging.”

Notice, I didn’t even mention blogging in my list of commitments above. I guess I don’t look upon blogging as a big responsibility so much as a place where I can let my mind roam – more slowly since I’m typing the thoughts – and explore whatever happens to be important at any given moment. My original plan was to blog at least once a week, keep the blog mostly art oriented, and put up lots of photos. I’ve done OK on those three intentions. While I no longer post weekly, I post several times per month. The blog is definitely ‘art’ oriented, although my definition of art is rather broad. For instance, I love photography, so there are lots of photos on the blog, many of which can be considered “artistic” even when the subject matter is not art, per se.

For me, blogging actually forces me to think in a more linear fashion in order to explain my thoughts, ideas, process, etc. I find blogging helpful to my art because I learn so much from other bloggers and I’d like to return the favor by sharing my perspectives, techniques, etc. And blogging regularly helps me focus on whether or not I am actually producing art regularly. If I have nothing to share after two weeks, it’s time to get back to working in the studio and produce something.

Of course, some of my pieces are not shared on the blog because I am considering entering the work(s) in competition and the rules sometimes indicate that the entries be “unpublished.” So my best work generally doesn’t show up on my blog until AFTER a major show where it has made its debut.

Anyway, I’m glad Laura and Lisa got me thinking along these lines today.

Then I read Rayna Gilman’s blog, where she wrote on Thursday, May 25 asking some vital questions that developed following her completion of Ted Orland's The View from the Studio Door. Her questions: “Does this mean that art is art only if it has content? And does the content (overt or not) have to be political or ecological? MUST it make a statement?”

Must art “say something?” Good question. Perhaps it must – or at least it does simply by virtue of being created. Just what it says might well belong to two totally different realms – that of the of the viewer and that of the artist. And is ‘art’ really about conscious content or does it speak more to the subconscious or emotional aspects of the artist and/or viewer?

For me, my art primarily arises from my unconscious far more often than from my conscious mind. I move with my emotional connection to the fabrics, colors, threads, the underlying idea/design and the inspiration. More often than not, the inspiration is visual, visceral, or emotional and really not very conscious. Less frequently an image or design, along with conscious thoughts and feelings, grows within me for a period of time, sometimes even researched, but only coming out in small doodles or phrases jotted in my journal. When the time comes for that idea to become something, I take all that conscious preparation with me as I step outside time/space and into the creative mode. And that, I guess, is where art really happens for me. Not in the realm of consciousness but in the realms below consciousness – the emotional, spiritual, psychic realms of heart and spirit.

Back to Rayna’s questions, “Is art ‘art’ because it has content? Does art have to be political or ecological? Must it make a statement?” Art simply HAS content. Art speaks. The subject is irrelevant really – but the message IS. Whether or not an intended message is actually delivered is rather subjective, I suppose, although many artists would disagree with me on that. All I really know is that my art speaks – it doesn’t necessarily say what I think it says or what I want it to say. But my work speaks and resonates with those who share a common symbolic understanding, or so it seems to me…

Once again, back to Rayna, who’s entry today began, “Today, I think it matters more that I make ART than whether the art matters, if you know what I mean.” Absolutely, Rayna! Making art is what really matters in the end. In the making of art, I become more fully who I am; I express more fully what I believe; I live more fully by the very act of creating – even if I don’t have a conscious message or a purpose or a mission to share through my acts of creating. Creating brings me joy – and that’s good enough for me!

So Laura, Lisa and Rayna, thank you for your thought-provoking entries. And now I’m going back to my Bernina and my latest hand-painted cheese-cloth and commercial batik ‘art’ in the making!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Quilting More Marbled Fabric & a Shipping Story

For those of you who are familiar with shipping your art off to exhibitions, galleries, museums and the like, this posting might be rather boring. To make it more exciting, here are photos of the results of my play-time in the studio - using marbled fabric made nearly 2 years ago with batting and backing, the quilting was just plain fun! This is a tad different from the quilted marbled fabrics in the last posting. That fabric was fused to interfacing and quilted without batting or backing.

Above: Blue Marbled fabric with quilt batting. Below: detail of same.

Below: detailed shots from the Pink/Gold Marbled fabrics that are posted full-size on the May 20 edition.

Back to my shipping story. Of course, before you can ship something, you must purchase the right hanging rods (continental drapery rods), find the right size box(es), pack it/them securely, have everything labeled (including the quilt, the rod, the bubble-wrap and plastic bag that holds each quilt), include the "to/from" information in case the box is torn apart, and finally, the part that has had me stumped - the return shipping label.

Now normally, I send my packages via US Priority Mail. I've never had a single problem with anything I've sent that way and I've been quite pleased with the service. I learned to navigate the USPO website, thereby creating my own shipping labels so I can simply drop the box(es) off at the PO. That has saved me so much time and I've found it so convenient.

However, the USPO website does not allow one to print a return shipping label and lately I'm finding I need a return shipping label more often than not. So, with three boxes going out to two separate locations, two of which needed return postage - but from different senders - I had to learn a new system for sending packages. Saturday I boxed everything up, measured and weighed them, made a nice reference sheet for filling out all the on-line forms, and was exhausted by the time I got that far! Sunday was THE day to go on-line and learn the FEDEX and UPS ways of doing business.

The first hour was with FEDEX - which was going great until I wanted someone to sign for the return shipping... That service is not available to on-line customers!!! How silly is THAT? Where do they come up with these rules??? Because I don't want my artwork left outside in any sort of weather when it is returned, I want the return shipment to require I be home to sign for it. (FEDEX once left 2 brand-new computer printers outside my front door in a large (torn) trashbag - we were gone for days!!! and came home to two very soaked boxes with still-new, working printers...) Oh, there was another problem with having insurance on the return shipment, too.

So I went to the UPS site, completed all their information gathering requirements, and began the process anew. As long as I didn't want over $100 worth of insurance, everything finally worked out OK. After much trial and error - printing the return label but not the outgoing label, etc.

Only after printing all the labels, affixing the outgoing boxes with their nice new labels, sealing them with clear packaging tape as directed - only THEN did I remember that I was supposed to have included the return shipping labels INSIDE each box... argggggggggggggggg.... Mind you, that was after 4 hours trying to master these systems!!!

You'll be happy to know that I found an easy solution. The return labels are now in a nice brown envelop waiting to go out in the good old US Mail. The folks at other end might not be so happy about the labels not being in the boxes, but I'd be gosh darned if I'd open up even ONE of those well-packaged boxes just to put a label inside! The packages are now on their way to Kansas and Connecticut. The shipping labels go out tomorrow - and I can only pray that they arrive sometime in the next month before they are needed! In February, I sent a money order first class to NC for return shipping of the quilts in the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival - it took 6 weeks for the money order to get there...

The woes of modern life - but then I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I'm Quilting, too!

The photos below are some of the marbled fabrics I created in a class, detailed below. I quilted these two pieces in the past few days. I'm not sure what is next for them - although fiberart cards comes to mind...

The Pink+Gold marbled piece measures 11"x16". The pink, gold and blue marbled piece measures 10"x19"

Below is my marbled paper project from the same class.

Well over a year ago, I took a wonderful class entitled "Crafts I" from Geraldine Velasquez, PhD at Georgian Court University. She taught a myriad of techniques, including marbling fabrics + paper, weaving, batik, and more. My marbling paper project became the odd little item above and below entitled: "The Dress." The "dress" in real life is a dress my grandmother wore and was photographed in at age 4 in the mid 1880's, and in which most of the females in the family have also been photographed. Below is a view of the inside of the marbled paper house.

Pictured above is Alyssa, granddaughter #2; my grandmother; my mother; myself; Michelle, granddaughter #1.
Here is a photo of "the dress" in a display case that we have hanging on the wall.

Ah... Spring!!!!!!!!!

I'm having fun with my still-new digital camera - spring is a great time to play with photography. But so is summer, winter and fall! But this is spring in NJ... By the way, be sure to click on a photo if you'd like to see a larger image.

Can you guess what this next one is?

If you guessed the subject of the photo above the Goldfinch was the interior of a blue iris, you are absolutely right. I've had some fun with the camera and with Photoshop. See the results below...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up???

This is an age-old question – as old an age as a person is whenever they are asked – and including all the other times and ages they have been whenever they have been asked!

Here I am, having officially “retired” from teaching and having all the time in the world at my disposal… well, the time in between physical therapy, doctor visits, cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, gardening, art projects, and the computer with all its attendant time-consuming tasks. People ask me, “So, what DO you do all day?” Most presume I do nothing but sleep late every morning, spend the day sit around eating bonbons and reading romance novels prior to rousing myself to cook dinner for Frank when he gets home from his “real” job.

I hardly need to describe the daily responsibilities of a home-maker, housewife, or retiree. The fact is, most retirees I’ve spoken with all say they are busier now than they ever were when they were working. They have found a whole world of new things to do, a wide variety of activities, volunteer work, sports, social stuff and more. But I’m not looking to fill up my social calendar with “things to do.” I’ve had more than enough lists with that title to last me a life-time.

What I really want to do is to dream up my future… It is said that there are three types of power with which we bargain for all our needs, and they are: money, energy, and time. As a retiree, time stretches out before me in abundance. Energy is in somewhat lesser supply, but I have plenty enough to fill my wants and needs – usually, anyway! Money is also in adequate supply, at least for the present moment.

So that brings me back to “what do I want to do with all this precious power at my disposal in the form of time/energy/money?”

To be continued...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Full Flower Moon of May

I've been asked if this is really a picture of the moon. Yes, indeedy, it is. I took it with my digital camera - hand-held - with an evergreen tree overlapping it for effect. It does look a tad surreal, doesn't it?

I took the rest of these photos the same night, using my flash for lighting and the night's dark background for contrast.

And yes, I do do something besides take's a bit of a current project using that machine embroidered gauze from the other day (see May 9th entry). I spent another 2-3 hours machining the gauze to get it to this point!

Happy Mother's Day!

Mrs. Oriole is back at my hemp hanging flower basket gathering nesting materials for her new home.

The Catbirds have raised another family - here is a parent

Here's the baby - note the short wings that are just sort of hanging from his/her shoulders...

Here's a Mommy Goldfinch with two of her young... Mom is brighter at this time of year, the nestlings are dull, as both parents are in winter.

Here's a baby Goldfinch looking rather mottled...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

More Flowers...

Well, the Ostrich Ferns and the Hosta have not yet found their home along the creek... but don't they look nice on the deck?

Wisteria blooming in a neighbors yard...

And now for some art, here's something I did today; it's machine-embroidered, hand-painted (Seta Color) gauze - a technique I learned during our workshop with Laura Cater-Woods.

Won't it be fun to see what I can do with this?!

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Gardening Day

Above is a view of the small creek behind our townhouse which borders on the edge of Monmouth Battlefield State Park. The area is quite overgrown with wild roses; vines of various types - including poison ivy, grape vine, and more; a wide variety of trees and shrubs - including some white dogwood and red maples; and all sorts of different wild ground-covers.

This is a view of the area I've attempted to cultivate... The wilderness creeps in on all sides, but I've managed to create some order and some color amidst the chaos of wildlife. Our deck is just off camera to the right, leaving only 4' or so of grass before the garden and the woods.

Below are some of the 6 different types of ferns that are now gracing this area - they are closest to the water, in the middle area are the hostas, and in the forground are tulips, various types of violets, and a delightfully bright chartruese green creeping vine whose name is convalaria, I think. I'm not so good at remembering names - ask any former student of mine and they will laughingly agree...

Today I purchased a new variety of fern called an Ostrich Fern which reportedly grows to a height of 5-6'! I bought two of them, now all I have to do is to figure out where to put them...

Next, a tall flowering plant, not yet in bloom, whose name escapes my recollection...

Below are a few tulips in bloom...

And here's some lovely Columbine I bought today, along with Lilies of the Valley, blue salvia, a wide-brim hosta, and one spirea or lemon bush (bright yellow-green), plus some pots of petunias for the deck. The columbine and petunias happily have already attracted a female Hummingbird even before I had a chance to plant them!

Happy gardening everyone!