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, February 25, 2007

The Fat Lady Sings and Blogger Fumbles

The convention finished today with some great work from my dedicated, highly skilled students but Blogger insisted I switch to the new account and for some reason won't post my pictures. I will try again later...maybe I have to do something to Picassa or switch back to old Blogger.

All that aside this has been another great conference and another visit to one of my favorite cities on the planet. Tomorrow begins the long journey home and a fond good-bye to Melbourne. Had my last dinner at the Jarrah House....they gave me a free bag of shrimp toast and wished me a safe trip home. Sigh...when will I get to delight in the joy of their cusine again.

While in Melbourne, I have been reading notes from two of my favorite books.....The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. Neither of these books are new but I continue to go back to them from time to time and just read the pages where they open. Looking through my notes, I was struck by a common thread: craftsmanship/skill. They both share the same philosophy. If you have technique finely honed, inspiration will come. Without skill, the ideas you have can never come to fruition. They both agree that the better you are at technique the better the finished work will be.

As quiltmakers, we would call Pressfield and Tharp the "quilt police." In their venues, they are considered genius, professional and models for their contemporaries. Just something to ponder since I can't post pictures. See you soon back deep in the heart of Texas.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fish 'n Chips

The most important event of the day. It is official I have now consumed fish 'n chips from a fish 'n chips shop. I really had calamari and prawns...yum. But it was definitely the high point of the day.

Tomorrow the festivities start. We deliver our quilts and attend the evening cocktail party....followed by the opening ceremonies and introductions and a lecture by yours truly on the luxurious life of traveling and teaching. Will try to take some pictures of the party.

During my vacation time, I have been contemplating two books that I recently finished. You know what that means: more blathering to follow. However, I won't spoil the mood of a fun day in beautiful, warm out tomorrow..... both books have chapters addressing/craftsmanship and skill. Just too close to bed time to drag out the soap box.

On a personal note: thanks Caity for the welcome...sorry you won't be here and Sharon, it was so good to hear from you. I will miss your company. I still see the Preston exhibit in my head from time to time. Glad you are working full time but my trip will be the lesser without you. Posted by Picasa

A Few Bits of Local Culture

Since blogger is up to its usual tricks there will be more pic in the next post. This is a standard of some kind...not sure if it is a street light or what but it is covered with posters of upcoming events. It was just too cool to not commerate.

One of the things I love about Melbourne is the alleyways. Granted some of them are just alleys but others are chock full of wonderful little shops and restaurants. Today I took a right after leaving one of my favorite general stores...books, art supplies, food, etc...into one of the alleys. There was a coffee shop. a couple of restaurants, table and chairs to sit outside a enjoy your goodies and a small gift shop. These little treasure troves are just awaiting exploration.

All hope is lost...KrispyKreme has come to Australia. Just when you thought it was safe. Now the news is full of requiring restaurants to lower their trans fats......well, duh....and you invited KrispyKreme to the party. No offense anyone but I never got this. It's just a donut. They are good but they are still just a donut. Maybe there is something I am missing. I welcome corrections to my theory.
This is just such fun coffee shop found in the alley. I am sure Starbuck's is here somewhere but it makes my heart sing to see these mom and pop stores doing well.

Now to post the major event of the day..stay tuned. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Melbourne Day 2

I thought I would have more energy today but still suffering from some jet lag. Fell asleep around 8:30 p.m. and woke upat 3:23 a.m. Hoping for a better tomorrow. However, I did make my usual venture out just not as long as I would have liked.
Today's pictures include two views of the Grand Hotel, the convention center is on the other side of the over pass. Had to include scenes from my favorite Jarrah House, inside and outside. Loved the Backpackers Hotel, if I could get a big enough backpack for my shoes. Last but not least the infamous, Australian diet cokes.Please take note of the size of the bottle and the cost of four. It takes my breath away.
Will try to post some shops, museum, or galleries tomorrow.
Not bad enough the airport snafu but I am sitting quitely in my room watching season 5 of "24" that son Craig loaned me for the trip when suddenly all the bells whistle, sirens and a deep, manly voice comes over the intercom requesting that we please evacuate the building immediately. After serveral flights of stairs...breathing heavily...I arrive on the street to be met by several wardens with explosive unit written on their uniforms. Not to worry it was a drill but it certainly was exciting. I am not sure how much more of this is to be expected during this trip. Like getting electrified by the mic at my lecture.....nah! However, I anxiously await what tomorrow will bring. Nothing like OZ for excitement....and I haven't even had a single Cosmopolitan yet nor have I entered the casino doors.....but I still have plenty of time to get in trouble...ya think? Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Australia Day One

As you can see I made it to Melbourne but what a trip. First the good stuff....sunrise over the Pacific. There is no way a camera can capture the intensity of the color but it is still gorgeous. Second, notice how large my room, especially the bathroom, is compared to my last trip. The only problem is the closet so as you see I had to invent new storage areas for jewelry, shoes, and knit tops. Third and best of all, it was 17 F. in Texas the night before I left.....stepped off the plane to 89 F. Ooooh, nice to be warm.
Other good news is the Jarrah House, my favorite Chinese restaurant, is still open and less than a block away from the hotel. I immediately stowed luggage, didn't upack a single item and headed down for take-out lunch and expensive diet cokes for the fridge. Upon stuffing myself with something other than bad airline food, took a shower (why do you feel so dirty when you have been sitting on a plane doing nothing?), hooked up to the internet and am beginning to feel human.
Now for the joys of traveling. We were held over in San Fransisco for two hours waiting for a flight from Chicago...gee I wonder why? United for some reason did not book my flight directly to Melbourne so I had to change planes to Virgin Blue to get to Melbourne. No problem right? Oh no, you have to get your baggage and go through customs because you are changing to a domestic flight. Problem: United still had my luggage on the direct flight so a wonderful young man at the airport goes and retrives my luggage himself. None of this calling some baggage handler he physically gets it himself. That is what I call excellent service. He directs me to the proper bus to change terminals and all is well. I check in, get my boarding and have to take another bus to the domestic terminal. Ready to go through security and no passport. Yikes! I have lost my passport....not that I wouldn't mind staying in Australia longer but at some point I have to come home. Trudge to the guest service desk where an amazing young lady tracks down my passport, which wasn't returned to me at the ticket counter. Seriously, these folks are going above and beyond, smiling all the while and reasurring me everything will be fine. I can only imagine what United would have done if this had happened in LA or San Fransisco. My young personal assistant has the passport delivered to her through some kind of magic, gets my luggage placed on the correct plane and hugs me good-bye at security. As Will put it "all's well that ends well." I am happily tucked away in my home away from home and ready to report on what I can explore and report this stay tuned for what awaits.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Late Night Ramblings

See I am trying to be a better blogger....two posts in the same week...the sky is falling. Insomnia is a wonderful thing or at least that's my story and I am sticking to it. It gives me time to plan the rest of the week and what is necessary for my next trips. Also, it gets the gears spinning about artist I want to study and see how I can apply what I can learn from them to my work. Could be good could be bad but at least I will experiment and learn.
It is really glorious to have something that you are passionate about. What do people do that haven't found that passion? Sadly, we all have a passion for something but often we don't allow ourselves to pursue it out of fear. There are two kinds of fear as I see it fear of failure and fear of success. Both quite closely related but coming from different places.
Of course, we have to overcome the personal demons of "I am not good enough," " No one will like what I do," " I will never be able to master the technique."
I have been thinking a lot lately about craftsmanship and inspiration. Here's what I have arrived at after some reading and thinking. If you focus on technique until it is absolutely natural, you never have to question how to create, any technique is readily available to you then something magical happens. The "muse" takes over and the work just comes. If you constantly focus on content, you will often end up having to re-work or trash the whole darn thing. However, if you go to the studio confident you can create anything you want then that is exactly what you will accomplish.
I firmly believe in apprenticeship, internship or whatever you want to call that period of time when you are learning your craft. We should study other artists, historical and contemporary.
Read American Artist and Art News to see what is happening in the world beyond textiles.
I do not believe in working in a vacuum where you never see anyone else's work for fear it will influence you. What is wrong if it does happen to inspire you? You won't work in their exact style; you will just come away with a new perspective.
As I continually blather about to much external stimuli invading our creative lives, I am not referring to art. I am referring to commercialism and propaganda. How can you discover your true self if the tv is always telling you how you should smell, eat, ask for prescriptions from your doctor? That is the type of external invasion that we must keep in check so we can hear our own voice...sing our own our own dance.
Stepping off soap box and possibly into bed....does blogging make one sleepy?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Not Like I Don't Have Anything to Say

First, let's whine about computers. For some unknown reason my desktop has decided to not recognize the USB port from my camera. Guess it just decided not to play nice. So I will upload some pictures from my laptop later.
My lack of posting is because I have been exhausted and at the same time working hard. There aren't enough hours in the day. However, I have a new plan...famous last words. I am picking a time and going to the studio everyday. I will work a certain number of hours until the energy passes and then leave the studio. Why am I taking this new tact? I discovered that I was working all the time. If I am not in the office doing business stuff, I am in the studio. If I am not in the studio, I am sitting on the sofa quilting or sketching. I am never not doing something. Results: I am tired every morning when I wake up. Decision: build in some do nothing time. Sure I will probably be contemplating or maybe even reading, but this will my cooling off time.
Can one become too passionate about their art? I think not but we have to feed the muse. Naturally being in the studio does this automatically but trying to do too many things at one time creates chaos and a lack of focus in me. What to do today? Should I work on this or that?

My travel schedule for this year is very heavy so I will need every ounce of energy just to get through....yet I am still compelled to create. Hope this plan works. I will keep you posted. All suggestions welcomed. I am sure we all suffer from the same dis-ease from time to time. Yet I firmly believe that there is a way to solve this situation.

I leave you with my favorite quote from Goethe (which speaks directly to the heart of the matter):

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, magic and
power in it. Begin it now."