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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Two posts in one day...a miracle

Just because I haven't been quilting or painting or doing much but sitting around watching bad tv, doesn't mean there still isn't a little creativity spark at work. When the tv gets to much to bare, I have been honing my Photoshop skills.
The first photo is the view looking up from our front porch. The second is from a Simple Still Life post last year that I have reworked to heighten the ink in the bottle. Can stitching be far behind?
When you find yourself stuck on a piece or just not motivated or possibly with little time or inclination, try working in a different media. You never know what ideas it might spark for a quilt....or maybe you will love the new media and add it to your creative cycle.
Promise that's all for today. Got to put the final touches on the studio: light, moving out the ironing board, etc.
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Ready for my Close-up Mr. DeMille

Arriving tonight at 8:50p.m. is my beloved son, Chris. He is the man behind the camera in the dvd's. He is also the consummate director, set designer, videographer and general all around pain in the you know what. For one dvd, I had to make fifteen outfit changes before he was happy with the way it looked in the camera....but he knows his stuff. I am sure he will not be happy with the fact that I have gained 10 more distressed than I am, I assure you.
However, I am so grateful to his wonderful wife, Jillaine, for allowing him the time away from their family to shoot "Designing Applique Quilts" which we will release at Fall Market and Festival.....along with the launch of the DVD zine "Behind the Seams." Since he has a full time job with Toyota, I will be doing the filming for the magazine, which I am sure he will critique to no end, but he can't just at the drop of a hat fly to Taos to interview Eric Maisel and Viv and John of ArtSong for the Creativity for Life wish me luck on that one.
He will also hate that I posted this picture since he has lost weight since then but hey, if I am going to look ten pounds heavier, I think it is only fair.
The studio is ready.....projects ready....filming storyboarded so tomorrow morning we start production. We will probably go into the wee hours since I have to leave on the 21st for a gig in California. I have complete faith that he will keep me on task...funny the role reversal of your son telling his mom what to do and what not to do. I think he loves it. And on a personal note, I am proud that he is his own man and has left the nest strong and capable. He is a man fully grown, especially after his 6 years in the Army, which, of course included a tour in Iraq.
All of my sons amaze me. They are all incredibly talented in each of their fields. Craig and Chris are extremely talented in their own right but have to make a living that art wouldn't support. I hope that in the future they can get back to their art. Chris is an incredible painter and obviously photographer. Craig is a 3-D guy who does amazing sculptural work from origami to a formula he developed using plaster of paris with glazes and is also my computer guru, handling the websites and speaking a language only his dad understands. Charles is not only a 3-D artist who is building an HO scale model of a section of Route 66 through Arizona but also hosts a indie radio show and does some technical writing for model railroading. His love is poetry but we know how much $ that makes. Last but not least, Thomas, who can barely draw and straight line or sign his name legibly, is the best debater, gift of gab and general all around performer. His bar exams are coming up this month. Every on keep your fingers crossed he passes the first time.
Not sure where all this talent came from but they have it in their dna. So as Pete Townsend said of the generation of hippies that raised children in the counter-culture, "The kids are all spite of us." Or maybe because of us, our home motto was always "Do the right thing." You will know when you aren' can feel it in your gut, the vibes get bad....walk away.
So , my darling son, I await your arrival this evening and getting to see you smiling face and some big hugs. Will keep you posted on the filming progress as the task master puts me through my paces.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Julie London and C-Span

What could the two of these possibly have in common? As I sit writing this post, I am listening to Julie London, (Oh, gawd, do I love torch singers), up next is Billie Holiday: The Lady in Autumn (the best of the Verve years) and to finish off Judy Garland: The Definitive Collection. Okay so you are wondering where the heck is she going with this? And what on earth does it have to do with C-Span?
As many of you may have heard me comment sweet Ronnie is a C-Span junkie. There is good information no doubt and excellent coverage of politics but on the weekends we have Book TV. Now don't think less of me but I can only take in so much intelligence at one time. After a few hours, it all begins to sound like blah, blah, blah.
However, this weekend Ronnie got my head out of preparing for filming to watch the author of The Feminine obvious pun of The Feminine Mystique. To the point, the author is taking us to task for not taking better care of ourselves financially. Young girls are still being fed the Prince Charming story and then when he walks in years later and says I want a divorce......yikes, they are left with nothing. Worse yet they can't get back into the job market even if they have advanced degrees, like lawyer, doctor, scientist because they haven't practiced their craft even part time while caring for hubby and kids.
This has apparently caused the author to be practically mugged in the streets by what was referred to as the "mommy wars." Briefly, if you are a stay at home mom you are somehow a better mom than a working mom. Working moms aren't there for their children and are selfish for wanting an identity other than Suzy's mom or Joe's wife.
However, all the author is really saying is follow the money. Know what your financial assets are and possibly, just possibly do something that will allow you to support yourself in case Dad get ill, walks out or worse dies leaving you in the dark.
Stay with me....I'm getting to the crust of the biscuit. As I listen to these women singing these great songs, I realize some of them came out well....Julie London....some of them ended badly....Billie Holiday and Judy Garland. The only difference I can see is who was in charge of their careers. Bobby Troup produced, wrote for and managed Julie's career...always with her best interest....departing the world before she, he left her very well off but not just because of his management but his respect for her immeasurable talent. Billie and Judy got in with a bad lot early on...mostly men and ended badly.
This got me thinking how quiltmaking has empowered women to take charge of our own careers. My business in solely in my name; Ronnie's assets are in both our dummy me? Of course, Texas is a community property state so we would end up in some byzantine financial settlement.....but none the less, Texas favors women by and large.
Now since his retirement, there is a major focus on my business......but then there has been for 15 years. Our lives ran around Mom's schedule not Dad's. Our sons were brought with the role model of an egalitarian marriage. Where what mom did was just as important as what dad did.
Please don't misunderstand this diatribe. If you want to be a stay at home mom, god bless you, it isn't an easy job......but protect yourself. Keep your finger in the pie from home like our fearless leader, Diane. Work three days a week while the kidlets are in school. But know that he who has the gold rules so keep the playing field even.
Don't avoid going to the broker when your husband visits....know all the bank accounts, investments, real estate and get your name on all of it.
Don't be like my mom who couldn't even balance her own check book, which fell to me to teach her when my dad died at 63.
And hey, dad's validate your daughters to this kind of thinking instead of some man will always come along to rescue you. Having been married more than once, supporting children and myself, I own a true debt of respect to my father who made me work in his office every summer. Back before computers, I had to do all the payroll, bookkeeping, deal with suppliers and prepare bids.
I was 14 years old.....thanks dad...I am still better with other people's money than my own but I know how should the moment strike me.
If you have made it this far, congratulations on your fortitude. The moral of the story is whatever your choice is take care of yourself.....and if you happen to have something you love, which for me is quiltmaking (since I can't sing like Julie London), explore all the options for creating your own business. I highly recommend Alyson Stansfield as a business coach....she offers a variety of classes from self-promotion to organization.
Quiltmaking is still a female dominated field.....let's try to stay on top of that and build enterprises that serve our community.
Off soap box and back to preparing for filming.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

An I Told You So

Warning...warning...warning! What ever you do don't clean up your studio?

This is not a cruel hoax but a tale straight from Dickens. Knowing that we were shooting on the 18th, I got busy yesterday to clean up the mess from my previous post. Results: I can't find anything I need for the shoot.

I am going to use "Last Leaf" as an example for designing applique quilts. Do you think I can find the sketch book where the original drawing is....or even the transparency used to enlarge it, nada.
Remember my fit of frustration where I torn up all the full size cartoons that had be hanging on the studio wall for months? Gone. I keep everything very organized in folders or in the original sketch book....but they are no where to be found.

I even messed up the studio hunting for them only to have to clean it again. So my fervent prayer is don't clean until you have only a few inches in which to work. Of course, they will show up right after we finish the's a law.

The only solution was to reverse engineer. I already had the full size drawing and thank to my posting progress and good photo of the finished top. I printed out the top and will put it on the light box to get the sketch and from there create the transparency. Sheesh...what next?

I do still have all the Earth and Sky so the environmental series is in good shape..albeit either not appliqued or not quilted but at least in tact. See what happens when the bad angel on your left hand shoulder starts whispering in your ear.

'Nuf said....just remember I warned you.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Live Earth Day '07

Was anyone else as blow away by the Live Earth Day production, as I was? After being in the "film" business for several years now and finally learning about editing, this was a technical nightmare that they pulled off equisitely. While I did not watch all of the show, what I did watch had a very surprising effect on me. The transition work I have been doing has had the working title of "Earth and Sky." I know now that the subtitle will be "Global Warming." I have a drawing of dry river bed and melting ice floes...slap my self on the forehead and thank you Al Gore. It is probably no surprise that I am a small beacon of blue in a state that was once blood red and now is becoming slightly red violet. All artists probably lean toward blue because of our unflagging belief in the right to express our feelings and opinions. I respect your beliefs and would go to the mat to allow you the same rights that I hope you would allow me.

I have an unwavering trust in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights....just a little jaded by the people who are supposedly protecting and defending them. The exception is our troops, the young men and now women, who are every day in harm's way. My father served in the Pacific in WWII, my husband was sitting on Yankee Station in the Tonkien Gulf in Vietnam and my son, Chris, served for 6 years in a combat tatical tank corp in Iraq. My admiration for their bravery knows no bounds. However, the global warming issue transcends all politics. It is a moral, ethical and personal issue. If as an artist I can help bring any awareness to this issue, it is not only my responsibility; it is the least I can do. Strange when the student is ready the teacher always appears....and the energy this has engendered in me is wiping away the dark cloud hanging over my head. Looks like it is back to work thanks to Al and Kevin Wall and all the incredible musicians that took part in this endeavor.

Thank you all for your kind comments on my melt down. We are truly a community of kindred spirits. I haven't met many of you but I feel as if I know you well and your comments were like salve on an open I can never thank you enough. This to shall pass and I will not be broken....maybe a bruise here and there but they will heal.

On a minor note, if you aren't working in your studio how does it end up looking like this? Gremlins, I say or maybe studio imps. Since we are starting to film on 18 July, I guess I better get the place in a little more spiffy condition. Housework, ugh, a necessary evil. There are great advantages to being self-employed and some major dis-advantages.....I gotta talk with my boss about all the work that needs to be done but she is never home and is kinda strident about "just do it and shut up." Maybe I should be looking for a new boss? Nah! I have just gotten used to this one and all in all she is pretty easy to work for.

One more bit of trivia, it has rained for 48 days in Texas....not consecutive but several weeks of consecutive. We have a backyard that is now a swimming pool and Ronnie is getting out the Ark building supplies. Lucikly we live on a high side of the 820 Loop so we haven't been flooded but the grass in my yard could feed a herd of goats. You would think this would bring cool weather but remember we are in you get between 80-90 degrees F. with 80 something % humidity until the rain falls. Outdoor sauna, anyone?

Here's to a productive and beautiful summer week for all.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

A Brief View of Tamps's Applique Society Conference

Two photos from the Borrowed Tools class...showing before and after colored pencil. They had a kids in kindergarten...but what great work they did.

Just a quick shot of the flora we were surrounded with in Tampa....who wouldn't be inspred but these colors and forms.
Last but not least, ladies hard at work on reverse applique. We had a great time. The conference was held at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa....great food and an excellent cosmo. I tried to restrain myself but one or two before dinner was so refreshing in the warm Florida sun.
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The Creative Funk Thang

As many of you know, I talk about creativity all the time.....teach it to students, give them tools to access style and develop personal work. Oh, that I had been practicing what I preach. This is kinda personal so if you aren't up for listening to me whine, stop now and go to a more cheerful blog.
Art/creativity has always been a driving force in my life. I worked in the theatre, writing, directing, acting and in arts management. During this same time I was also doing professional calligraphy work for architectural presentation.....showing my age...this was before computers and fonts. However, hand lettering still has a very classy quality. Back in the day, that would be the '60's, I even sang with a band. Long story short, I have never done much of anything in my life that wasn't involved with art...except for those pesky day jobs that pay the bills so you can do art.

Along the way there have been peaks and valleys and even plateaus but my recent absence has been from an empty well. Some of you have followed my attempts at transition in my work and for awhile it was really cooking. Then something happened, I am not able to label a day or time but I found that I lost the meaning of my work.

As I have repeated many times, art must be evocative and reveal something about the artist. What that is depends on the viewer. We cannot control what emotion our work will evoke or what they think it reveals about us. To the point, I felt I had nothing left to say. I didn't want to do production work just to sell....nothing wrong with that approach, it just isn't me. Nor did I want to skip from subject matter to subject matter. I work better in series where one quilt sparks the concept for the next......woke up one morning completely blank. There were things that interested me but nothing that held meaning for me. Due to some strange brain synapse, I feel that I must make work that is meaningful to me whether it is to the viewer or not. Long story short, I could not force myself into the studio just to crank out something.....maybe I should have just to get some energy flowing. Instead like a lot of artists, I retreated into myself.

All the old negative voices, no not the delusional kind although Ronnie might disagree, but the voices of self-doubt and what's the world need with another piece of art from me reminders. Ronnie kept trying to encourage me but I was having none of it. I was going to wallow in my misery or else, by golly. This is about the time I lost my editor and graphic designer to divorce so I had to take on those duties as well.....just another thing to do in my spare time. Literally, I was overwhelmed and could not see any solution.

Suddenly, this week it dawned on me that I wasn't living in the present but instead worrying constantly about the future and how to accomplish all the necessary business duties. Truly, I had experienced a total melt-down that art usually saves me from but I gave up the one aspect of my life that is salvation and was only focusing on the problems.

There were many days when I never moved off the sofa...stayed up until 5 a.m. thinking.....a bad drug of choice in my opinion. This was not clinical depression just sort of a mild form of insanity, which was spiraling down quickly. Of course, no one can help you but yourself in the final analysis so I started writing about what was going on in my journal.

As I read back on these infrequent entries, I hardly recognize myself. I had lost all self-discipline regarding studio time, wasn't taking to opportunity to quilt in front of the tv at night...definately just going through the motions of daily life. In essence, I had stopped being a participant/observer of my own situation and instead was letting it steam roll over me. Something had to change.

While I did not sew today or set foot in the studio, I wrote the story board for the two new dvd's.
Contacted our premier feature artist, finalized the retreat section of the dvd zine, sent all my paper work and $ to Houston leaving me free for the weekend to get back into the studio and make it my own space again. When the creative funk thang comes to visit, don't fight it...just let it run its course, like a fever. When the fever breaks, all will be well. It may take some time to get back to full steam but it will come.

What surprised me is that this came out of nowhere. I am not a fragile, delicate personality (had you noticed?); I guess it was just my turn on the wheel.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Where I Live

See two posts in one day. I am already being better. The only creative thing I have had time to do is a couple of photos of where I live. The pay advances building is a hoot because it is right next to the Chase bank drive thru....wonder which one would be more profitable?

The second photo is an empty grocery store. We are surrounded with half full strip malls and they keep on building new ones instead of trying to rent the existing I guessed the powers that be were looking through rose colored glasses. More money to build new spaces while the old spaces fall into disrepair and no one seems to care.

Will post some photos of Tampa and The Applique Society conference later.
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She Lives

Thought you could get rid of me that easy, Huh? If anyone is still out there who ever reads my blog, Im baaack. There are so many reasons for my absence they are too many to mention. ...but I will the road non-stop (now I know how rock stars feel, except I don't have goodies in a green room or a limo)....trying to learn Avid Liquid to edit the dvd's---a great program but more involved than Photoshop.....still adjusting to Ronnie being retired, ahem! and last but not least, another artistic crisis.....when will I stop doing that one. I know you are sick of it because I am sick of it myself.
However, the fog is lifting. I only have one more teaching date in July and then I am home until Quilt Market and Festival. The smartest thing I did this year was not book right up to the Houston grand finale. Last year I was on the road and trying to get ready for Houston. This year I hope things won't be quite so hectic.
As to the artistic crisis, it is not so much that I don' t want to work but am too tired and don't have time....which has put me in a funk. Even when I would have a week home, I was just not motivated. Solution: I have given myself a gift. I am attending the Creativity for Life retreat in Taos, NM in October. The retreat is sponsored by ArtSong and is being conducted by my former coach, Eric Maisel. Since we have never met in person, this is going to be very exciting for me....and I guess in a way he will never be my former coach because I know he is always there if I need him.
There is a big difference between the business of art and being an artist. I am sure there are many of you who could speak to this issue. For me, it is the 800 lb gorilla in the corner of the room. If I start my day on the business side, I never get to the creative side. Last year I had a plan but with this year's teaching schedule that all fell apart....along with my exercise regimen.
Guess I need to make new year's resolutions in July not I am hoping to get back on track with all the aspects of my daily life including being a good blogger. I know I have made that promise before but I didn't keep it. Mainly because I felt I was just narrating my life and had nothing interesting to say. You know what I mean....packed,went to the airport, boarded the plane, arrived, gave lecture, taught workshop, came home, collapsed in front of television, watched bad tv and did the same thing all over again.
This time I will try to do better. I am feeling better physically already; hoping the mental and creative will follow.