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.

Friday, April 29, 2005

More Than I Wanted to Know

So I went to the find your Inner European site since it was rolling through our blogs.....and found several other tests. However, be warned you might just discover more than you wanted to know. I won't bother to paste in the icons but I am a 32 year old French anti-social. Good news; bad news. Getting back to 32 seems like a positive and being French works for is the anti-social part that gives me pause. All the years floating through life thinking I was charming and witty...only to discover I am Tony Soprano............a dark day.
What me worry? Nope, I am sewing, making a meat loaf and packing to go to the Out of Heart and Hand Retreat in Cambria, CA. Surely, my anti-social self will be good and not whack one of my students for saying the wrong thing. At least, even though I am anti-social according to the test, I seem to have everyone fooled into thinking I am normal. There are several other tests you can take but thought I better quit while I was ahead.....sheesh, things could get really grim.
On a lighter note, being in the studio this week has been the I remember why I started all this. Just touching the fabric, let alone getting something made from a lucky bunch we are. To have found the thing we love and to be obsessed by it....whoops that probably is an anti-social thought.
See you in Cambria with pictures of the retreat.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

first layer of surface design and example of reverse applique Posted by Hello

Cruising through the new piece

okay so I changed the background

As you can see things are going well on the new piece. Each segment of the background is a separate piece of produce the radiating lines. I applique each of these pieces instead of piecing them since making a template for each piece would take just as much time as template free applique.
To answer Lisa's question, the reverse applique goes in first and then the shape is applied to the background. See close-up of surface design. However, Lisa I do cut up my hand applique when I make quilts like Maple Breaks or the newest two in the Earth Strata series...both can be seen on my website.
The first layer of surface design on the leaves was done with Shiva paint sticks. The next layer will be pen and ink to add darker texture and finally quilting...but who knows I might get out the colored pencils before I finish. Remember all these techniques are compatible with each other so there is no end to what you can do.
Since this piece is coming along so quickly, I took the time this morning to pull out another design.....imagine if I had more than a week home. I might really get some work done.
My suggestion for the day is to not have a clock in your studio. I have a cd player/radio in the studio that has a clock blinking twice a day the clock is right. However, I don't watch the clock...or worry about the time....I am just in the studio working. Give it a try....could be liberating.Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Just Thinking

Work on the quilt is coming along pretty fast for a hand appliquer...oh Melody, that I could give it up and fuse. So anyway, while sewing your mind goes a million miles an hour.....making new quilts and pondering the life we know the quote, "An unexamined life etc." So I was wondering why we set ourselves up for so much grief. It is has to be that old boogey man caalled expectations. I know I talk about this more than you probably want to hear but it just keeps coming back to me all the time.
With no expectations, you are always plesantly surprised at the events that occur and never disappointed when nothing happens. Seeing the universe as always giving what we need when we need it keeps you in the flow....dancing with every day regardless of what it brings. Truly, I understand how difficult this is but just knowing that it can be done brings me great joy.
Don't you have those days that are just golden? Where everything is working in a rhythm all your own? Honestly, you can do this every day if you allow yourself.
Take for example, since we are quilt artist, the concept of perfection. Bleech..what an impossible concept. Perfection is the nemesis of creativity. Creativity is a messy, frought with errors, problem solving play. Perfection is mechanical, often without heart and only technique. I want my brain surgeon to be perfect...don't get in there and groove around...."Hmmm, let's see what happens if I do this?" But I want my artist to be revelatory, exploratory and always working for what is just beyond.
This doesn't mean that you can't have a business plan or a studio discipline. It just means work with the energy, not against it.
Sorry y'all...I rag on this way too much but we just gotta get it in the end before we end up empty...with the well gone dry. Now aren't you sorry I started sewing.....
More pictures tomorrow when there is something new to see.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Ready to reverse applique veins and stones
Not to make y'all crazy but here we are at 11:20, my time and look how far I have gotten.....woohoo. The color is a little off but you have to consider who is taking the pictures.
Will keep you posted as more is done.
Being in the studio is the best therapy for me. There is nothing like being in the zone....which is where I am returning to immediately. Can you tell I am excited?
Posted by Hello

starting to take shape Posted by Hello

Working Again

I swear all I bought at Paducah

Got home yesterday around 5:30 so jazzed to start a new quilt that by 9:30 I had the design ready and the little bit of fabric on the wall. Don't panic there will be reverse applique vein lines and lots of surface design on the leaves.....can't have them looking like big lumps of nothing. Paducah was great except the last two days were way too cold...but look at how little money I spent. What a good girl...pat on back. Mostly the whole experience just made me want to make quilts and so with a week home let's see how far I get.
Big news is that the new update on my website is finished...drop by if you get a chance. You can reach it one of two ways: or
The other big news is the new DVD will be available on 31 May. Even though it feels as if I haven't gotten much done this year...things are looking up. Home until May 1st ought to give me just enough time to get into the quilt. I absolutely can't wait to get needle in hand. Off to the studio.
Posted by Hello

Not much yet Posted by Hello

finally a new quilt Posted by Hello

Friday, April 22, 2005

Barbara and Dale,the security guy Posted by Hello

what's the point? Posted by Hello

Almost Time to Go Home/Competition

We have just about done it all at this point. Spent all the money, played the slot machines and drooled over all the quilts. All in all another great year at Paducah. Just read Melody's thoughts on competition.....gotta chime in here. Mel, you know better and you know that is not why you make quilts. You are an artist working in fiber...end of story. I remember about ten years ago I told one of my painter friends that I always made a difference between my commercial and my personal work. Did I ever get my ear full...there is only your work...not competition, commercial or personal...just your work.
This almost the same argument as form and function for me. We are just matter what media we chose. Hangin on the wall or layin on the bed doesn't change the intention just the location.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Thursday Already

Where did the days go? Obviously time flies when you are having fun. We are getting to see lots of old friends, eat great food and spend money...the perfect life. Yesterday we went to Hollis' solo show at the museum...met she and her husband being charming and greeting all the viewers. The show looks wonderful...just to see all your work installed in such a perfect environment is a treat.
Our group had a show in the museum many years ago so I can promise you she is delighted.

Found a few pieces of fabric, got some new pens from ProChem and after dinner made our way to the casino in Metropolis, the home of Superman. Amazing I hit a couple of slot machines at just the right about your guilty pleasures.

All the quilts look great....and again spur me on to get home and work. You can truly see how passionate we all are about the work when there are 400 plus quiltmakers revealing their work to 40,000 other quiltmakers. Wish you were here......

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Spending Money Day

Congrats to Melody Posted by Hello
As you can se our own Miss Thin won the blue ribbon for her Triumph of Tulips...a big woohoo to Mel. Now for the important stuff...spending money. Stopped by Marit Kucera's booth, Art Spoken Yardage, only to discover some new yummy fabric...a must have. And believe it or not I need sewing machine needles...strange but true...I have used them all up. There are scads of hand sewing needles at my house, naturally, but had to search for a new machine needle to finish the Pilgrim Roy Challenge borders and binding....which by the way made it on time...hand delivered yesterday.
There are lots of beautiful quilts and great vendors so today will be a busy day. Still just makes me want to come home and make quilts.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

We made it to Paducah

Putting away our massive wardrobes Posted by Hello
Here we are waiting for the big preview tonight of the winning quilts. We have already made our trip to Hancock's for a few meager purchases...moved into our suite...had lunch...and we are now deciding what to wear to our big girlfriend dinner with Melody, Laura, Caryl, Hollis and
Freida. Of course, we haven't heard from Melody and Freida so we don't know what time this is all happening but it is still early. I am so glad to be here doing nothing but obligations but to enjoy my best friends and have fun. Will keep you posted as much as possible.

Our kitchen and bar Posted by Hello

Our lovely accomodations Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Favorite Room and Visualization

Our fearless leader Diane asked us which room in our house was our favorite and why?
Well, of course, the obvious answer would be one's studio. But just to put a different spin on things: my favorite room in the house is when I walk through the door schlepping luggage from a teaching trip and see my "great room." You know that lovely combination of living room, dining room and a view into the kitchen....where you can see the dirty dishes. There is something so comforting about walking back into my own space. Naturally, I love my studio but I do art in every room. I don't sit in the studio and hand applique and hand quilt. I don't sit in the studio and sketch. All of these things I do in whatever room I am in when the muse strikes. So I cop out, Diane....not one room but many.
Now for something completely different, I have gotten back into visualization, verbal or silent. It is amazing the things we manifest through our thought and words. One of my old and corrected verbals was, " I am going to get this done even if it kills me." Whoa, doggies....not exactly what I want the universe to be hearing. Corrected that one ages ago, but have been thinking about how important it is to actually say out aloud, not necessarily to anyone, what your goals, dreams, intentions are. Journaling/blogging is also good for this; but sound is a very powerful thing. The vibrations carry thought forms and manifest in a multitude of I challenge all y'all to pick one thing to work on for the next week or so. Here's mine: " I have all the time I need to create the work I desire."
Keep me posted on how this works for you....and I will let you know how things are going for me.
Remember to say it out loud if to no one but yourself.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

What Is the Work About?

The day to depart for Paducah is coming closer.....and believe it or not, I may actually get everything done. All I have been thinking about is getting home so I can make quilts which is a big problem. I am not in the moment....but in the future which never comes. Everything is right now no matter where you are there.
I wonder if all the external events in the world aren't having a deep effect on many of us. They seem so hard to avoid....not to fall into the black hole as if you are constantly passing an accident on the freeway. Yet how can we as artist not address, at least in our thoughts, the world at large? My work has centered on environmental issues using the leaf and tree designs. We are not separate from nature but a part of it....and yet, our government is the least interested in what our environmental legacy will be.
There are no expectations on my part that the work will make a difference. It is just something I feel deeply and must express. Creativity is the deepest compulsion of our lives. We do it in small ways each day....and occasionally, in large ways through art and public protest.
However, recently my thoughts have been turning inward....toward a time where I will lead a less public life. I love teaching....being with the students is such fellowship...and yet, the impulse to create is becoming overwhelming.
Through the past 22 years, being in the studio was the greater part of my it is a few months a year. I think I am becoming neurotic from the lack of working....of course, that would mean that I wasn't neurotic before....hmmm.
Apologies for the venting....back to packing....will try to stay in touch from Paducah....while I am gone, make more quilts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Week's Work

Chris, acting like a film director

This has been a busy week that finally got productive. The challenge quilt is about two days from being finished....with quilting until midnight every night. Gosh, do my fingers hurt..suffering for my art. The best news is the new DVD is being edited. Chris came yesterday, did all the set up and we shot the entire DVD today. Started work about noon and finished at 6:30 p.m. When you have a great cameraman/director, you have to learn to work fast. Of course, I forgot to mention the story board we brainstormed last night to make the shoot go well.
We delivered the tape at 7:30 to Kelly for the release date should be in May. Keep your fingers crossed on that one. Editing is the hard part....smooth flow....good cut aways...takes a great eye....go Kelly. Not only is she stuck with the editing but also has to design the cover art and the label. This will mean big gifts to a very talented chicka.....who just happens to be the loving mom of Collin and Cyrus. Take note of grandma's first solo babysitting with the twins.
Hey that was nothing compared to the filming. Chris actually had me make 15, count them 15, wardrobe changes before he was satisfied with the way I looked. Then we had to set the lighting so I looked there any other way.
My thanks to his wonderful wife, Jillaine, for taking him away from home to do this. He is on a 30 day leave ending 27 April. Havng just returned from Baghdad, I hated to take him away from his family but he wanted to do the camera work. Our other big news is Jillaine had her sonogram yesterday and we are having another little boy...see I told you we were working on number 8.
So all in all, even though the quilt is still in the works...I have no food in the house...I need to do laundry so I can go to is good. Will keep you posted on the release date of the new DVD.....also Craig is doing a rework on the website so stay tuned for that....and in my spare time???Posted by Hello

My favorite Cameraman, Chris Posted by Hello

Cyrus ignoring grandma for a nap Posted by Hello

Collin enjoying the toys Posted by Hello

Monday, April 11, 2005

How Time Flies

Home from California and working like a mad fool on the challenge quilt for next year's MAQS auction. Amazing how much you can get done when you really work. I have two segments between the branches to finish quilting and then in the ditch quilting on the border. Of course, there is squaring up, binding, and sleeve which all expand to fit the time allowed.
Naturally this week was supposed to be devoted entirely to the quilt but somehow I got a good way. Got to baby sit with Collin and Cyrus they have grown. Chris, our son in the Army, is coming tomorrow to start filming the new DVD on surface design for applique. Probate on mother in law's estate is Thursday......Saturday I absolutely have to get my hair done for Paducah and Monday, Barbara Hartman and I head for Kentucky. I have visions on sewing on binding and sleeve in the car...yikes.
What is the deal with all this time slipping away from me? The challenge quilt is the only piece I have made this year and it is already April. I absolutely am not giving up working by heard it hear first...but the frustration level is rising. Breathe.....breathe...visualize that you have all the time you need to complete the work you wish.
Do not give in to the pressure to produce.....grrr! The time is there just use it wisely. Of course, the first week of May I will be at the Out of Heart and Hand Retreat in Cambria, Ca and the middle of May at The Applique Society Show......but somewhere there is a quilt in there, I can feel it desire, just following the flow.
How many of you work by hand? Do you share the same frustrations?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Guilty Pleasures

After reading how brave everyone on the ring was to post their guilty pleasures, I guess, I too must confess. This will be short but so meaningful to me......I cannot resist fried chicken and cream gravy...that Southern girl thing. Of course, this means hours of rowing and weight training but I do indulge almost every week. Number two and probably the guilt of all time is that I love, adore and find irresitable Stephen Segal movies or anything with all the various martial arts in movies. Somehow these movements are all to graceful for me to avoid. Ruined any hope that you might have thought of me as intellectual or even bright.....but the question was guilty pleasure
Even worse, I love Barry Manilow...Neil Diamond.....Dan Fogelberg and Gordon I have stepped over the line....oops, I forgot Hall and Oates. I am a hopelessly mediocore.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sitting in San Jose

San Jose airport...waiting to fly home....wi-fi connection and found the list of statements the class created on instead, of knitting, egads what is the world coming to, I thought I would post a few. Remember the exercise: five words on creativity, trade a word with your table mate and create a statement from those words. They asked to be anonymous...sorry..they really deserve credit.
1. The creative process is scary in the beginning, but as success is achieved (sometimes serendipitiousy), it becomes an exhilirating, sleep depriving and often messy process.
2. Creativity needs to have focus and commitment knowing that frustration often follows experimentation....but in the end your dreams and great joy will come.
3. The creative process is engaging in discovery and struggle in spite of yourself...releasing your fear of failing.
4. Innovation can be an all consuming, intuitive, and freeing inner activity.
5. Although it is difficult, I am stretching and reaching to be open-minded and stay relaxed as I reach for the unknown.
That is just the first sampling.....what do you see of yourself or your own work in their statements? For me, it was both reassuring and enlightening, knowing that the paths may diverge as far as style or subject matter but in the end, we are all on the same journey.

On another note, a new book: In Buddha's Kitchen subtitle: Cooking, Being Cooked and other Adventures in a Meditation Center byKimberley Snow from Shambala Press. Picked this gem up in Monterey on the way to Asilomar...reading every night...almost finished and not wanting it to end.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Colleen's first of four blocks Posted by Hello

Jo Anne's design in progress Posted by Hello

Mary Ann's design

As promised here are the results of some of my fabulous students hard work...more to follow.
They managed to skip homework for tonight since we only have until 11:30 for class tomorrow. They have accomplished so much...I am so excited about all they taught me. Back to my room tonight to finish packing and then flying the friendly skies to DFW tomorrow evening.
I still have to finish my Pilgrim-Roy challenge quilt so it will be take out and pizza for Ronnie all next week. However, after all the inspiration of this week, I am electric to get a needle in my hands. Why is it that teaching always makes me want to get to my own work.....Hmmm?

Hope you have enjoyed the week at Asilomar.....see you back in Texas.Posted by Hello

session three teachers minus two Posted by Hello

Free Night

Oops...I forgot to download the pictures of the teaching staff at dinner on our free night. Tomorrow, I will be better. However, the amazing news is homework from the night before. The assignment was to pick five words that described the creative process......positive or negative. Then you had to trade a word with your table mate and finally create a statement from! Absolutely the most incredible stuff ever written. My goal was to teach them to translate the visual into the verbal. They were so overwhelmed with each other's statements that Robbie Robertson, who I cannot look at without thinking of The Band, complied them all and is making copies for each of us. You know what that means dear reader, you will soon be reading them on ye olde blog. In response, they each gave me a word...20 words...that I had to turn into a statement. My first homework from a class ever.
Here is my statement:
The enjoyment of creativity is not only all consuming but also brings a beautiful strength to one's life. It is liberating to find inspiration through persistance....searching always to tempt the viewer to enter into the world through the music in your heart....ceasing the judgemental opinions the often contrive as art. While the work is stimulating, it can be lonely but the sensous quality of our medium used in a painterly way urges us to focus on evoking our own vision, whether humorous or socially relevant. It is the process of creation, the simplicity of finding our own voice and the joy of discovery that brings us to the quiet place in our spirit...that place of wholeness and purity.
See ya'll tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Right after dropping my camera
So I promised to leave the ladies nameless, but this is the moment right after they dropped my new Sony Cybershot camera on the biggie, obviously it still works because I took their picture. Because they have been working so hard, I asked the class if they would like to go to dinner...and we had a great time...and good food..two cosmos and lamb with pine nuts and spinach...yum.
Yesterday's homework was to pick your favorite artist and describe what their work evokes in you. They came up with great answers...and then my question to them was why aren't you applying that to your work? Interesting, no?
We have another exciting exercise for today.....the saga continues. We are having too much fun and getting loads of work done.Posted by Hello

Pat and Jan Posted by Hello

Colleen and Anita Posted by Hello

Dinner in Pacific Grove Posted by Hello

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