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.

Thursday, August 31, 2006 long did it take you?

Today's news is filled with the research scientist/doctor whose work has produced a way to intoduce a virus into white cells that makes them recognize certain types of cancer and attack it. He has a team, of course, but it was his creative, critical thinking that started the project. They have only worked on limited test subjects, fifteen if I remember correctly. Only two of the patients responded successfully to the treatment but that was two years ago and they have greatly refined the process. The future is looking bright for results in a variety of cancers. The doctor is the most optomistic man I have ever seen.

To the point, John King on CNN asked how long he had been working on this research? A familiar question, no? His reply was thirty years.....basically his entire career. What an amazing human being...we are blessed that he is on the planet.

I vow to never complain about how long anything is taking. I vow to spend as much time on each piece as it needs and not short change it just for a show or a sale. And from now on I will delight in being asked "How long did it take you to make that quilt?" Although at my advanced age, remembering might be a problem.

Excellent answers ladies to the why do you make art....I think we are all coming from the same inner place just expressing it in different ways, both verbal and visual.

Tonight I am going to pop a cork in honor of time and all the magic it can produce.

Still Here

Didn't think you were going to get rid of me that easy. Sorry about so long between posts but we have been filming the last DVD for this year. I will never wear that dress again. Of course, I had to invest in "Deception" cosmetics that have nanoprisms (don't even go there) that hide your wrinkles by reflecting light off the prisms. Sucker....but I must admit it does a pretty good job.
Obviously, no art going on but the good news is that I had to baste a quilt for the now I have two quilts ready to stitch on...and that would be in my spare time.

There is one good thing about menopausal get caught up on all your paper work. Of course, you are so dingy you have no idea what you did. Must answer emails that I have been putting off. Trust me I have read them and will answer soon. We were going to finish tomorrow but with the Labor Day weekend looks like it will be Tues. before the last day of shooting. Like you guys even care....see insomnia and blogging don't mix.

Since I am nattering anyway, let's talk about something weird. Okay here goes...can you answer why you make art? For me it is an obsession being the obsessive compulsive type. It is an inner drive and question that must always be answered. Hey, that was pretty good. The reason I make art is because it is a question that must always be answered. That's my story and I am sticking to it. As a matter of fact, I think that is my new artist statement...short, sweet and to the point.

Not much else to report...oh, forgot important news. The latest issue of Quilters Home has an article title "The Women of Blogland." Fun article and several of us from the ring are mentioned. Check it out...the article is very positive, funny and true to our personalities.

Sweet Ronnie is on vacation for two weeks but stay posted for a major announcement regarding our lives. Shhhh! Can't tell will all be on pins and needles...pun intended.

Okay off to try and read some of those emails but if I answer remember I am in a state of disarray.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Trying to Keep the Studio Clean

Since we are shooting the last DVD of the year, I can't get to the studio...drat and blast. It is clean now and I don't want to have to re-arrange everything just so I can work. However, I need to do something creative so Photoshop to the rescue.
These are a continuation of my living in an urban environment surrounded by a rural environments only minutes away.
The first photo is from the Blue Angels show. This is the plane that Ronnie was on when he was in the Navy. I took two separate images of the plane, superimposed them and then played around with the layers. It was his Father's Day
present from me and it was a big hit.

The second photo is a rock face from all the bedrock we have in our area. You can't dig three feet without hitting rock....and occasionally they are quite large. This has great potential for another of my Earth Strata series. All I have to do is find the "Sweet Spot" and transfer it on the overhead projector. Not like I don't have any quilts to work on or deadlines to meet. Hey, we can't stop the juices when they are flowing.....some day the well will need replenishing and these designs will be there waiting.
The last photo is for my son, Charles, who is a model railroader. I did dink around with the color and layers in the sky but not much else.
He loved it...that's all that matters...but there is a quilt in here as well. The painted peltex would be perfect for a trestle construction or a laying track construction.
See what happens when you just open yourself to the possibilities of anything as design.

I see from the comments Teri has taken to the dangerous life of photographing while go girl. Keep me posted of what you get from this exercise....can't wait to see what you come up with.
Off to eat a nice big slab of beef....have been doing the veggies and juice thing for about a week and I need protein. Ah! I can smell it now. Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 18, 2006

Just a thought

In the eating hall, a stuffed parrot hung from the ceiling, and from its golden beak dangled a card that read, "We are in training to be nobody special." I had often repeated this to myself, working against my need for achievement and recognition, and the discontent that could engender. "I am in training to be nobody special." Saying the words in my mind, I felt how they redirected me from a certain seductive struggle and excitement and disease, into a more stable focus: forget what others think of you, forget the future goal of achievement; arrive instead in this body/mind, attending to this present moment. This is is the whole of practice.

-Sandy Boucher, "Hidden Spring"
Copyright Wisdom Publications 2001. Reprinted from "Daily Wisdom: 365 Buddhist Inspirations," edited by Josh Bartok, with permission of Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm St., Somerville MA 02144 U.S.A,

Haven't worked in the studio for a few days Ronnie had two days off so we vacationed.....bad when you work for yourself. But I do have a surprise in the works. Some the miminal quilts I have been working on are about meditation on time. One of my favorite subjects since it is so artifical...and after all that is what we are creating artifice.....see dictionary for all the words associated with art. Please let's don't discuss what is and what isn't?
To the point, there are some time pieces coming.
Other good news is after 29 August, Ronnie is going to be on two weeks vacation....ah! someone to burn, label and package DVD's so I can have plenty of hours in the studio.....little does he suspect.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

All Tied Up

Sorry about the arty angle shot but it is hanging on a wall in our hall.....but it is finished. Now I just have put velcro on the back so it will hang correctly. It actually is quite fragile but with the velcro will hold it perfectly is shape on the wall.

The velcro hanging is a method I highly recommed for art quilts. Even if they are regular quilts, not open like this. I make a sleeve attach one side of the velcro to the sleeve and then with small finishing nails attach the other side of the velcro to the wall. Oops, left out the step where I stitch the sleeve to the quilt. You get the idea....and I guarantee it holds the quilt nice and flat against the wall. Unfortunately with this piece I will have to used sticky back velcro. Keep your fingers crossed it adheres well to the watercolor canvas.
What do we have here. A blank canvas...empty design walls. This will never do. Gotta get something up there quick. Exciting to be finished and eager to get back to some of the tops I had started earlier before "the lost month."

Spent some time reading through your blogs tonight. What great work you have been doing and loved reading how your lives have been going. However, what caught my eye were some posts on reviews, critiques and criticism. Oh no, I can hear you saying, here she goes. Well, you are correct.
I worked too long in the theatre to know a review is one persons opinion...and mostly, they are trying to make themselves look good. Ya
know how intelligent they are and how they can evaluate better than you as the arbitrator of what is good. The are worth the paper they are printed on....not that some aren't truly a viable evaluation of whatever the reviewer was seeing.
It just isn't that important to me. You have to become your own best critic. Sure I make some less successful pieces....but I know that one needs to tell me. They stare back at me every time I see the piece.....but I hold to the concept that some pieces are experimental and some are finished and successful....just keep on working. Turning visual into verbal is a difficult task. You really need to see the work yourself to get the best review. Of couse, taste comes into play. While all reviews try to be objective, it is darn near impossible. You can't just cut out that part of your brain but overall they do their best. Guess I am just too old to give a hoot. I am doing what I am doing....and only what I want to do. If someone else likes it, hooray; if not, so what. Yes, I know we have fragile egos as artist because we are putting so much of ourselves into the work. Just remember you aren't what you do and keep that ego at bay. View your work with fresh eyes....not the eyes of the maker but the eyes of a viewer. Off that soap box.
As to critique and criticism.....I always learn more from the critiques of others work since I have nothing invested in the piece. Criticism is an entirely different animal. Criticism comes from the world of writing....especially essays...and has absolutely nothing to do with evaluating a piece of work. Get it....example: On the Separation from Nature, an essay by whoever. That would be a criticism....not a critique. This may feel like we are talking semantics but there is truly a difference.
Shutting up before I get into real trouble....gotta get something on those blank walls. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ready when you are C.B.

My director/cinematographer is always avoiding the camera. Today I thought I would document some of what a day in the life of fliming was like. Actually, the ready when you are C.B. referring to Cecil B. DeMille applies to my boss. His name is Christopher Benjamin. Wonder if the initials are what makes him so good at this.
He arrived starving a went immediately to the kitchen since our catering service never seems to show up.
It is a sad day when the director has to make his own sandwich. Never fear, Mom made his favorite tenderloin for dinner so he was well rewarded.
Setting up the camera and lights. Please note the messy corner has somehow moved to the other side of the room. This will not be included in the DVD.
An even more detailed shot of disaster. Thom was home from school for a week. Poor thing had to sleep on the sofa since I have taken over one bedroom for an office and the other for my studio. The bedding so nicely folded and falling off the chair was Thom's contribution to the disaster.
We finished shooting two segments so I am feeling good. We may shoot after Chris gets off work tomorrow but if we have to wait until the weekend it will still give us plenty of time. This disc is a single so editing should be lots easier than with the double disc.
And, since I have the best editor ever my tension level is fairly low on the anxiety meter. You should see her at the computer...she can really make it sing.....along with being an incredible graphic designer.....the very multi-talented Kelly.
Tomorrow morning I begin cable tying the construction. Would work some tonight...8 p.m. CDT but I am sticking to my be good to myself policy. Posted by Picasa

Over and Out

This is the final iteration of Building Bridges. It has gone through multiple changes and thanks for all your suggestions. Y'all have the best eye for seeing what needs to be done. When you are so close to a piece, occasionally you lose perspective. I was so determined to have it look like the original sketch that I lost sight of the need for it to look open and at the same time it could hold weight. The arc slipped off the top bar last night but they will be connected.....not just hanging loose as it is in the photo. Now the fun begins constructing it with the cable ties. The good news is I have enough pieces left over for a third construction.
However, it gets to rest, at least for a while today. We are filming the first segment on the last DVD to be released this year. My director son Chris relishes bossing his mom around but the work he does is worth it. Just kinda cute the shoe being on the other foot. I can only imagine how many costume changes we will go through since I have gained almost ten, count 'em, all ten lbs. since we shot last. My lazy you know what has to get back on that rowing machine or I won't be able to fit into any of my clothes......which won't be good at Houston. I'm not sure the world is ready for nude quiltmaking.....and I would never subject anyone to the horror of it all.
Off to put on tons of make-up....yuck. Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 11, 2006

Joanne's Suggestion

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Great minds, etc

Joanne suggested this orientation with the smaller circle added at the bottom left for balance. Didn't get to do any work on it today but got to sit on my favorite twins, Cyrus and Collin, Craig and Kelly's baby boys. Braggin' grandmas are the worst but they have to be the most darling little ones on the planet.
So whadda you think about this orientation? I am consider slicing a small half circle out of the arc. Not as thin as the strips but enough to give it some breathing room. The weekend will tell the tale. Gotta film one day for the last DVD of this year.....hand quilting, design and speciality threads. After that out come the cable ties since I only have until the 20th to finish the construction.....while burning DVD's for market and festival, printing case inserts and packaging. Ooops here I go again. No I promise to only do so much each day.
Val....thanks for the Bon Jovi....absolutely perfect for the moment...will get an email out to you soon.
Mel....hope you read my comment....keep on doing as I know you will, exactly what you are doing.
I need to email so many of you....promise to try to get at least one a day out.

One Last View

Changed the orientation, went back to the original line work, fused the circle and now feel as if it's getting closer. However, I think it needs another smaller circle in the bottom right to balance the weight of the top left circle.
Promise you won' have to put up with this process again until all is resolved...but honestly, it looks better this way to me.

Egads, the first view could have been the best. Oh well, just leaves more pieces for another construction. Need to look at it for awhile before making another change. Comments appreciated.
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Thursday, August 10, 2006

New View

Lest you fall in love....ha!...with the first layout. At midnight it struck me that what was missing was struts....the circle is still missing that will tie it all together but I have to FUSE it to the water color canvas before I can cut it out.
Also thought I would include a couple of close-ups of the paint on the Pelltex. These are going to be a pain to ship but, then, I only have to worry about that if they get into shows. Another day Scarlet.
Off to bed, doctor's orders, already stayed up too late but when the muse calls. Let's see what tomorrow brings. I am already think of a different orientation.
Breaking News Flash: At 6:23 a.m. CDT, I see nothing but an umbrella or a kite in this composition. This will never do.....back to the drawing board. The first composition had more potential. With the addition of the triangle and circle, it will probably be the best....sheesh what was I thinking.

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And for our closing remarks

Back in the studio, our almost fearless designer is back to the constructions started months ago. The first piece if you remember was all squares applied on top of each other. The series is of course titled: Under Construction. The first is subtitled: Bricklaying. This one is Bridge Building. Still a long way to go. There is a circle that connects the arc to the top strip and a triangle that connects to the strips on the left.

But I am working....ya hoo! With a new tact, however, I work more 9 to 5 than into the wee hours...gotta get healthy first and then maybe will add more hours.

Aren't you sorry you asked for pictures? I will keep you posted on the progress of the bridge as it gets further along.
Has to be finished by the 20th for a photo shoot on the 21st so things will be moving along quickly.

Will try to post more tomorrow but it might be a few days. Not leaving you again just going to be trying a new balance. Posted by Picasa

More designs

I wish you could see the green leaf design in person. It was solid green fabric that she used colored pencil on to create all the textures and feel as if you could touch it and it would be soft and wet like a leaf. The next is tree bark in progress. It is so gorgeous is person, silk and cotton combined with frayed edges that really make it look like bark. The orchid again was created entirely with surface design.....Neocolor 1 crayons, Setacolor markers, colored pencil....these ladies were cooking. One of our favorites is the field photo doesn't do it justice...again colored pencils at work. Frog and lily pad....with lily pad being done in reverse applique....braver woman than I.
So you can see what great work came out of this class. More importantly, it was the beginning of my recovery. Being with this group of eager, talented ladies made me realize, I am not ready to quit teaching. Just need better time management. I would not have missed being with them for anything. Thank you for an amazing journey through your insights and aspirations. Posted by Picasa

QBL Design Class

Now for the good stuff. We had everything from abstract to stylized....seed pods (be afraid), molecules, desert sand and more. These ladies were so talented I could have just left the room and drank diet coke all day.....or maybe a Cosmo or two. This was one of the most exciting design classes I have had since Asilomar. They each were highly skilled and took to the principles of what we were doing immediately. Some of them ended up with so many designs that they have a series started....but wait there's more. Posted by Picasa

Off to QBL

Driving in upstate New York. Can you believe everything is so green? What a treat for me since it was 106 degrees F. the day I lef home.
More fodder for Photoshop work but hot on the trail of another construction at the moment. There will be another day. I just couldn't resist showing you how cool and lush this was. We didn' even have a/c in the classroom and no one melted. I stayed off campus....terrible allergy to mold and dust. Nancy Crow was caught cleaning her dorm room, probably with Lysol.
I opted for the Madison Motor Lodge, no a/c but fans and all of $35 a night. Now that's what I call a deal.
There wasn't even a telephone in my room but there was brown and orange shag carpet and not one but two of the "Lamps." I felt like I was a kid on vacation with my parents. Kudos to them....there were fresh sheets and towels, a cleaned room with the fan on waiting for me every evening. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Posted by Picasa

OKay here goes....

Remember it has been a long time since I posted anything much less pictures so bear with me.
The grandaughter on the left is Gaia, Craig and Kelly's and on the right, Jene', Chris and Jillaine's. Both are the eldest and show all the signs. They were performing in a concert at the church, which is why they are dressed alike. In real life, Gaia is Cher in minature; Jene' loves bugs and super heroes. Mainly, it is great that they live so close to each other. My poor sons have no cousins so this is a whole new experience for our family.
This little darling is Jayden, Chris and Jillaine's middle one. Talk about going to be a pistol. Dad needs to get the shot gun oiled and ready. She has been wearing high heels since day one and absolutely loves men. I live for the day she turns thirteen.
Out of context but a page from my journal to show you, I wasn't entirely in outer space. We used a photograph similar to this on the new DVD.......which is out of production and finally realeased to the public. Nervous breakdown avoided.
And last, as always, the corner of the studio picture after the last day of filming. There must be something about this corner. No matter how many times I clean it up the next time I go into the studio it looks just like this. Stay tuned more to come. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What a Warm Welcome!

Thank you all for such a wonderful welcome home. I have missed our time together. Even though I was checking in on you from time to time, I still felt outside. It is good to be back among good friends. Not too much to post today. Packaged an large order for individuals from QBL and the web site, going to watch a movie and address the labels.
Spent the rest of the day painting the last piece of Pelltex for the third of the constructions. Felt so good to be working even if I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I put it on my design wall and saw some immediate areas that need help. Back to painting after shipping the orders. Just wanted to check in and leave you with a quote that helped me work through some of my changes.

"To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is a delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening." ---Dogen from Actualizing the Fundamental Point

Will post pictures of the new constructions as soon as they are in process. Off to thoughts of thanks are with you all.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sewing Seeds (no pun intended)

First, I cannot thank you all enough for your encouragement and compassion from your comments and private emails. Everyone meant another break through in the thin ice I was skating. If you are still out there reading this from time to time, here's the latest update.
First, it was total exhaustation that started everything. Followed by catching a bug from one of my darling granddaughters that laid me out for almost two weeks. But there was more, as always, internal stuff to dig through that was brought on by the period of not being able to work.
Since all y'all are used to my self examinations none of the following will be a surprise to you, but some of them actually surprised me.
Let's just tick them off in no particular order:
What's the point? Is my art going to change the world? Rather I came to the conclusion that it is meant to change me. However, again because it is my career as well as my passion, I found myself trying to create to please others or to get into shows. To follow the marketing agenda that permeates the business side of our art. Major philosophical crisis to follow.
I don't want to work toward any other artist style. While I want to be influenced by everything around me, don't think you can help from being effected by anything to which you are exposed. I see too many textile artist doing derivative work. How can I keep this at bay? Really had to think through this one. Again, as if I haven't regurgitated this a bazillion times: art is meant to be evocative. What it evokes in the viewer is out of my hands.....all I can do is make the work.
Then there is the marketing: this where many art quilters (not all, this is a broad generalization) and I break ranks. The idea that the marketing of your work is far more important than the work itself is a neurosis that is effecting our entire society. Huge manufacturers spend billions of dollars on marketing believing that they can sell anyone a product, whether that product is of quality or not. I try to swollow this pill but it is a bitter medicine. For me it must always be about the work, marketing be damned. I have no desire to pull the wool over anyone's eyes just to get sold.
I didn't become an artist to be rich and famous....and luckily, that hasn't happend. Imagine that? I became an artist as a meditation, a place of solitude, a place of freedom where I did not have to follow anyone and their restrictions. That was the major reason behind my leaving the theatre...egotistial artistic directors, equally fragile actors and the whole concept of team creativity sent me running. I wanted to give make meaning. Right, right, that sounds pretentious but it is coming from a place within not from some external need for attention. Still wrestling with this question but coming out the other side. To be honest, at this moment it would not bother me if no one ever saw my work but me...but I know that is also folly.
To draw this all to a conclusion, I am back in the studio but I am also taking photographs, exploring more sculptural work, and still painting from time to time. I know as artist we are all subject to these periods of highs and lows, plateaus and peaks. Guess this one just hit me in a weakened state from being physically vulnerable.
Will I always be a quiltmaker? it all I am going to from time to time I will stray from fabric. Will I continue to seek and scramble to make everyone see what I do? Sorry but that answer is no. I want to move to a place that is quiet and internal...dancing occasionally with the world but stepping lightly so as not to get caught in the mud.
We all know it is a lot easier to talk about art than it is to do it. There are several online venues that discuss art continually but that is all a head trip for me. Certainly knowledge of art history or design principles is vital to an artist but it leads to more thinking than doing. Them than can does; them that can't talks about it. I include myself in both groups....loving to talk and loving to do.
If you have made it this far, know that I am now physically well...a big plus...being ill was a real bummer for this old lady. I am more spiritually open and waiting for whatever is to come.....and creatively raring and ready to go but on my own schedule, at my own pace, not agonizing over the fact that no work was done today.
The flip side I am putting myself out there at market and festival, both teaching and having a booth at both. I know the work needs to be seen but don't want to work to a formula where every piece is made by rote. I am not speaking of working in series which has changed my life. I am speaking of the dolldrums we get into when you just start cranking out work thoughtlessly.
Thank you all for being there while I was traveling this roaad...destination still unknown but at least now back with a "ticket to ride."