Things are getting more and more eccentric at Casa de la Swain. Changing styles in my textile work, falling in love again with painting and photography...and then there is the ever illusive quest for continuing creativity through working with Eric Maisel. Still on the road teaching, posting now at the Ragged Cloth Cafe and taking the pledge to keep handmaiden up to date.

Sunday, January 30, 2005


In spite of my best attempts with new photos and adding more from the series, these piece just look pitiful. Trust me, ya sure, in person they are much better. Small background: these are from drawings that I did many years ago visiting the children's science museum with my sons. Dinosaur bones, geological formations, etc. Then one day, I found myself on an airplane...imagine that..and saw amazing patterns from on high. Combined with the old sketches the Earth Strata series was born. More to come, hopefully.

Earth Strata 3: Above Posted by Hello

Earth Strata 2 detail Posted by Hello

Earth Strata (trying again) Posted by Hello

Earth Strata

This is one in the new direction for my work. My apologies for the horrible resolution...and the color is off...and some how the quilt isn's straignt in the photo. So much for being good at the photo thing. Spending the day doing useful tasks such as washing a mound of laundry. Also deciding how to pack for summer in Australia when it is February in Texas. Enough comments for today.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

On Becoming High Maintence

Time for a little narrative about my journey for the last two years. As an aging hippy chick bringing up four sons, I allowed myself to gain up to some 150 lbs. I say some because some days it was only 150; some days it was a teeny bit more. Remember, I am a quiltmaker so that requires sitting on your flat butt for hours at a time. (If I could just learn how to applique standing up.) So as you might have guessed, this was not a pretty picture. Even worse, I am 5'5", small boned and with skinny legs and at that weight I was your basic olive with tooth picks stuck in it. I, mean holy guacamole, I weighed less when I gave birth to each of the boys. What is a post menapausal woman to do?

"Vanity thy name is woman." As much as I didn't want to buy into this having to be thin thing, I knew this was not good for my health and more importantly wasn't going to get any better as the years went by. Exercise to me was walking to the mail box, going to the grocery store or cleaning the bathroom (which I might add is still a pretty good work out if you only do it once a month).

Steps must be taken....I am becoming the blob. (I should add here my husband, Ronnie is 5'8" and weighs about 140.) Not only am I am blob but also bigger than my ever so thin sweet man. It's a gene thing. I have fought for years to be smaller than Ronnie. When we got married I weighed 99 lbs and he weighed 120 lbs.....what happened to me.

But I digress, almost two years ago my son Craig married the love of his life Kelly. I decided to lose weight for the wedding....don't you hate all those pictures of yourself in the mother of the groom dresses. I managed to lose 15 lbs on Atkins but was not going to exercise, never, ever, no way. Even with that attitude I managed to keep the 15 off for a year.

Around November of the wedding year, Ronnie found this place that taught pilates and yoga. On his suggestion we signed up for 5 private sessions of pilates. The rest is history.....I am so devoted to is the best thing since sliced bread and I am loving every minute of it. Problem solved; found an exercise program I could do. I can stop now......but no.

In January of 2004, Ronnie decided he need a rowing machine (an erg indoor rower from Concept 2). His life was not going to be complete without this contraption so we order same. In return, I wanted a Tempurpedic matress, hoping my back and shoulders would stop we order that. Appropriate, no? Mattress for me; exercise machine for him. And that's when it all back-fired on me.

The rowing machine arrives. Being the good wife, I unpack it, get out the tools, some assembly required and when Ronnie comes home from work, there is his shiny new machine just waiting for him to use. And that would be the end of that...he has been on it once. I on the other hand have rowed over 700,00 meters since May of 2004. I am ranked 5 out of 34 for my age range in the 30 minute ranking....6427 meters.

I went back on the diet to see if I could lose some more weight training once a week, pilates once a week, yoga once a week and row 6 days a week. The good news is I lost 35 lbs but that is when the real trouble began.

New clothes, new hair, wish I could afford plastic surgery (that extra tummy skin thing) and am all around consumed with myself. This is not a bad thing; not a good thing either. Occasionally, I get so sick of myself I can't stand much longer can I be Gabrielle Swain. Other days, I seriously want that $900 Donna Karan black pant New York, and I would look so cute. Don't worry I am smarter than that but the thought did cross my mind.

Moral of the story: You can change for the better and more expensive also. I would be happy to guide you down that road....don't forget Kate Spade purses, Stuart Weitzman shoes, manicure and pedicure, massages, your own colorist, a personal trainer............bleech!

Friday, January 28, 2005

Basic Rules of Piddling

Piddling (adv.) what one does when you are avoiding work but want to act like you are really doing something important. Usage: I managed to piddle the day away but got a lot done.

1. Answer every email possible even some very old ones that you forgot about. In fact, find people to email just for the time it will waste. This must be done in a highly professional manner to fool yourself into thinking it is work.

2. Clean your spice cabinet. Always a good one and oh so necessary...who wants stale spices.

3. Put your most recent cartoon on the design wall and measure it just to make sure it can go to some show. Don't bother to start working on it. You have the dimensions that solves the problem.

4. Ater putting the cartoon on the wall, change your mind, get out your sketch book and look at the newest leaf design....hmmm.....better than design on wall. Of course, you still have to draw the cartoon so there is some work involved. Close sketch book with all good intentions of working on it tomorrow.

5. Pay bills and do accounting stuff....nothing takes up more time with less results.

6. Call your best friend; solve the problems of the world...a good day.

7. Promise to talk to your sweetie for a few minutes in the evening whether he listens or not.....makes you feel like you did your part even though after 24 years neither one of you have much left to reveal.

8. Post to your blog the basic rules of piddling.....viola, a whole day piddled away.

Newest leaf/grid quilt....November. Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Partial view of Totem Posted by Hello

Living the Art Life

So I've been thinking what is it to live as an artist? Are we waiting on the spirit to move us? Does the muse tap us on the head with a magic wand? Don't we all wish....I could use a good crack on the head with that wand some days. To live as an artist for me is to be constantly examining the world around me. Really looking not just floating around as we mostly do but conscious and aware. See, the thing about being an artist is that you have to believe that your work is the best thing since ice cream, and yet at the same time know that it don't mean nothing.

It's a Zen the tree falling in the woods. The work is dharma...what you were meant to do in this life....a daily exercise in connecting to the within. Seriously folks, I think my plumber is a great artist. When he is working it is like a dance, everything is moving to his own rhythm and suddenly, he takes his last step...sink unstopped. Now that is some serious dharma.

So is this really rambling or do I have a point. Fooled you, I do. We are all creative in a variety of ways. Sure some more than others but why is that. My firm belief is discipline. Talent you may have but if you don't do anything with it what good is it to you. Hard work will develop talent....and creativity can be learned. We have to allow ourselves the freedom to play and learn. Nothing is a from the Buddha. that's what I call them. I learned what didn't work so now I know where to go.

Personally, I am not sure why anyone would want to be an artist. We don't make much money, we work very long hours, we try to stay in balance between ecstatic and desolate. Sheesh, this is even making me question what I do. Take heart.....there are great rewards in living the creative life. Living the life of an artist is a constant state of discovery. Living the lie of an artist is talking the game but not playing it. Get it. Just read a few of those obtuse, esoteric artist statements and you will know what I mean.

So get thee to the studio every day. If it is nothing but a page of 10 minute sketches....or looking at some great art book that inspires you. You just gotta do the work....however you can...every day.

Would I make this choice again? Occasionaly, I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then (to quote Bob Seegar). But the answer is a resounding yes. Being an artist has taken me to places both physically and spiritually that have been amazing. I am finally getting to the heart of what all this life is about.....bliss, passion, and dispassion. Finding something that essential is my wish for all of you

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Now with the help of my very computer literate fellow artist, Melody Johnson, I have conquered the photo publishing. Maple Breaks is one of my leaf series but also one of my grid series. Hey two birds with one quilt. A couple of years ago I became fascinated with the grid work in Piet Modrian's work. We are all familiar with the abstract stuff he did such as "Broadway Boogie" but after seeing a retrospective at the Kimbell Museum I realized he had been working toward this for ages. Light bulb!!! How to apply this to my imgery.....Maple Breaks. Posted by Hello

This picture is not going to be in the correct place but here I am anyway. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Series, Style, Technique

As promised I thought I would discuss some of the conversations we had in my class at Hyannisport. The seemingly endless search for ways of working. What is style vs. technique? Can they be the same? When are you working in series or just doing the same old thing over and over because it is easy?
Those of you who know me are already aware I am never shy of opinions. However, it was interesting to hear the students reflect some of my own thoughts.....and even better for me to play devil's advocate. Here's one example: Somehow Thomas Kinciade got into the conversation. Don't ask how, I can't remember. The general moaning and groaning from the crowd was almost a chorale. Admit it, we all think he sold out...and this over-exposure has lessened the value of his work..blah...blah. Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan but and this is a big but (no pun intended), what would you do to have his market? Isn't he the epitome of where we all want to be dollar-wise? Everyone and their dog owning some of our work whether it is a coffee cup or calendar; it is bucks in the wallet. The question is are you willing to pay the price: Selling out.

The point of style is that you work in a manner that is recognizable to the public. That brings greater name recognition and desire to see what is next on your agenda. Occasionally, style is the technique in which you work. We all recognize Ruth McDowell's work and her students work because (0nly my opinion) her technique has become her style. Does that effect subject matter or series work? Not in the least. Ruth approaches many different subjects and has done work that I would consider series but her vision is not limited by her style.

Conclusion: developing a style is good for an artist; not limiting. What about working in series?
Okay, here are my thoughts: when you find a subject matter that you are absolutely in love with you want to expess it in a variety of all of a sudden you have a series.

Does that mean that you can only work on one series at a time? Can your style become series work without realizing it? I leave you to ponder these a comment and we will discuss further.

For my money, it is the process whatever you choose to do. It isn't the finished product but the doing of it that is the joy. That people like my work or not is outside the realm of my control. All I can do is make the work because I have to....can't help myself...I'm just a girl who can't say no.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Nanuk of the North Returns to Her Southern Home

All I have to say is BRRR, BRRR! My first teaching trip of the year was at Winter Quilt Week in Hyannisport, MA. Sue Campbell, the organizer, is an incredible hostess...articulate, talented and, as you might expect, thank the stars, a liberal progressive artist. My students were eager and very hard workers. We were working on a design class that tests everyone's limits...but they were in for the long haul. Their work and ideas inspired usually happens when there is a great exchange between student and teacher...the teacher becomes the student. YOu get it, right?

However, it snowed all but two days....ocean effect...and the wind was bitterly cold. My poor little rent car was an igloo most days. Needing to brush snow and acrape ice is not one of my favorite sports. So I called home and the love of my life, Ronnie, informs me that it is 75 F. in Fort Worth. Bleech! Knowing that an Alberta Clipper is on the way to New England....than wouldn't be a ship bearing goodies...I re-arranged my flight to leave yesterday. Smarter is better. We were the last flight out of Providence. All airport in New England closed yesterday afternoon...New York, Boston, Philly, Providence.....even O'Hare and the entire midwest shut down.

So how did I get back to my principle place of residence.....through Atlanta....go south young woman. Got in late last night and am wondering why anyone ever thought that flight attendant was a glamorous job? Sheesh...the headaches of it all. So while any of you wonderful readers out there might be considering that those of us on the teachers circuit might be "rock stars" take this post as a caveat. I started my journey yesterday morning by driving from Hyannis to Providence, arrived in Providence around 11 a.m., flew out at 4:15 p.m. on a 3:15 flight, got to Atlanta an hour late for my connection, caught the next flight to DFW at 8:44 p.m. and opened the front door at 11:00p.m.. Talk about a piece of toast.

The good news is finally I am beginning to feel almost human but am giving myself a off. Not good news since I am so behind in my work I don't know where to start...gotta get ready to go to Australia at the end of February...start my quilt for the Pilgrim-Roy challenge for the MAQS auction...and maybe make some new work of my own in my spare time. Yeah right but hope springs eternal in the mind of the artist.

Thanks to everyone who emailed and commented on the blog. This is a whole new world for me, but I do love to amatter of fact talking about art is much easier than making it but not as much fun.

So fellow artist, I will rest up today, hit it tomorrow and post in about some art talk that we had in my class that I think you will enjoy. Lest I forget, I inadvertently stopped at the Blue Heron knit shop...the car just went there...some computer glitch I am sure. Thinking of the 22 hour flight to OZ I bought just enough yarn for two scarves. Very judicious of me, no?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

What Am I doing Here?

So , here I sit wondering why I am even considering this since I have so much spare time. Should be finishing up for my week long trip to Hyannisport, but nooooo. Instead, I have been lured by my chic art quilter type friend and my daughter-in-law to join the world of blog.

I will link this to my website just as soon as computer awareness drops into my lap. Hope to post some pictures and in general, talk about hand applique and quilting in the fast paced world of art quilts. Occasionally, when I feel like the last woman on earth doing my work this way, solace comes by looking at others who work similiarly. Promise to let you know their names in the future.

Right now, off to the grocery store to buy a week's worth of wonderful frozen entrees for loving that I can eat at fabulous restaurants on the Cape. Ain't life grand?