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, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

Woke up this morning a looked in the mirror! Scared myself over not just the bags but the whole set of luggage under my eyes. How appropriate for Halloween. I don't need external spooky stuff to scare me....just a quick glance in the looking glass sans make up did the trick....hopefully as the day progrsses it will turn into a treat. Sheesh! I may have reached the point of diminishing return.

Thanks Caity and Pat for you comments about the booth. Just for you Pat the booth is number 563. We are almost the last booth in the 500's but worth the trip. Stop by if you get a chance.

Upon reflection, the day off was both good and not so good. Eating at Ninfa's made us so full we really wanted to skip dinner but knew we shouldn't. We did eat a light dinner. Jessica had a salad; I had a salad and a small bowl of mussles.....but then we fell off the wagon and each ordered a slice of four layer carrot cake. Big mistake! I took mine back to the room without taking a bite; Jessica made it through one layer and had the rest boxed up for a midnight snack. Upon returning to the room, watched some television and I fell asleep around 10 pm only to wake up around midnight. With a nice 2 hour nap and having eaten my way through Houston, I wasn't able to go back to sleep until after 3 am. Good thing we don't have to be at work until 4 pm today.

Around 2:30 I indulged myself with one layer of the cake which was delicious....and probably helped put me to sleep as carbs always do but it certainly did not improve my girth. I realized a couple of months ago how out of shape I had gotten...think we have discussed this already....but now see the full impact not rowing has had on me. I have gained a few lbs.....we won't go there...but my strength and ability to recover from intense gigs has been greatly diminished. Time to turn over a new leaf.

Just a side note, we really miss Christy, my incredible business manager and loving daughter in law. She, luckily, had ordered everything for market and festival in advance so we were all set to go. However, she has been dealing with an un-diagnosed illness and both her darling hubby, my oldest son, and I decided that a trip to Houston would not improve her condition. The good news is she has been diagnosed and now the powers that be, along with Christy and Charles, are trying to decide on a course of treatment. Being the good business manager that she is there was a call during much have you sold, have you paid for the booth...always my best interest on her mind. Better than that she sounded rested and relieved.....the best news ever. Here's to you Christy....wish you were here and thanks for all your hard work to get us here.

Wishing you all a Happy Halloween and if you come to Fesrival, lots of inspiration to get back to the studio. Be back soon.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Great Market/Festival Turn Around

Today was move-in for festival but we got to stay in our same spot. All we had to do was re-arrange our tables and put out priced product. The security guards awarded us with the world land speed record for setting up a booth. Jessica, photo below, is a master at display and booth decoration. She priced what I handed to her and had the displays up in no time. I did the heavy lifting and storage of extra products. We entered the exhibit hall at 3:45 pm and were back in the hotel room at 5:21 pm. Set-up took no more than an hour. My heart goes out to everyone who worked until 8 pm and then have to finish tomorrow by 4 pm.

In addition to the fast set-up, we got out of the Hilton today and found diet Cokes for less than $3 a can at the drug store in the Parks Mall across from the Four Seasons. However, the best discovery was a Ninfa's restaurant in the mall. Jessica has never had Tex-Mex food so around noon we walked back over for lunch. I introduced her to Chile con Queso with Chorizo. She opted
for a Cheese Enchilada and a Chicken Flauta combo; I had my favorite Cheese Enchilada plate. Yummy! Jessica is a total convert to our Texas brand of Mexican food.

We are going in costume for Preview Night. Jessica is going to be in dress fairy costume which she made. I am going in as a Flamenco dancer in slacks since I forgot to pack my long skirt. Do with what you have.....hopefully we won't be the only exhibitors in costume, but if we are at least we will be having fun working from 5pm to 10 pm.
Not to gloat but our booth is totally different from all the others. We look much like an art supply store for quilters. Everyone else has the same cute patterns and fabric. Keep your fingers crossed for us that there are quilters out there who would love a fabulous Italian artist journal with beautiful colored pages of Italian papers.....along with the paint sticks, markers, art sticks and other assorted goodies.....not to mention the dvd's.

A few market after thoughts.... we had the best market we have ever had. Everyone was in agreement that dvd's were the next step in teaching tools for students. Several people commented that we are all so visual that dvd's are the obvious future for our market. Overall, the response was favorable and excited.

Check back in as soon as possible. Having a great time working hard.

Jessica in conversation with her mom....keeping her posted on the wonderful madness of market and festival.
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Monday, October 29, 2007

To Market We Went

We had a great market...and so did lots of other folks. The talk was that attendance was down but everyone that was here came to spend. The other new buzz was "Going Green." The batting industry introduced a new bamboo batt. The bamboo has a 30 day growth return so it is a quick and environmentally safe resource. We jumped on that band wagon since all the products we use in the dvd's are totally recyclable....and as y'all know nature is my thing.
Jessica is totally impressed with the quilts and she caught on to handling the business in a snap. She thought we were busy at market and I had to warn her what was about to happen at Festival. They are predicting attendance at Festival to be between 60 and 70 thousand. I am not sure I am ready for that but will do my best.
While we were here, I had a chance to interview two people for the dvd zine.....Jane Sassaman and Sarah Felke from Australia. I am having a ball doing these interviews and everyone seems really jazzed about the idea of this new format. Got to hit the editing as soon as we get home. I'll think about that tomorrow, Scarlett.
Be here early day tomorrow. Sleep in or stay in the room until 9 or 10....go pick up our festival badges......get the booth ready for festival in about 3 hours.....take off until Wednesday night.....Happy Halloween!

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Day Late, Hopefully Not a Dollar Short

Being off the road for two months has obviously turned my sense of time to @#$%. I built in the free time to get ready for Houston and to go to Taos. Sounds like a plan, right? Part of the plan worked but the other side of the coin is I never pay any attention to the day or date unless I have an appointment or a trip. Since sweet Ronnie has retired every day is Saturday or Sunday.

Thinking I am on track with plenty of time to finish everything I need to do for Houston and planning on leaving Friday, I blissfully, full of confidence get out my Market and Festival file. Gloating over how organized I was, total brain blast struck me when I saw what date I had to leave and when I was doing my School House presentation. My reservations start the 25th, Thursday, and School House is the 26th, Friday. Shift into high gear, start burning and labeling dvd's faster than a speeding bullet.....along with the brain freeze, I discover I gave you the wrong booth number. I am chalking it off to a typo...yeah sure! The booth isn't 536; it is 563. Just a slip of the finger I am sure.

Shoes and clothes have slipped to last place on the priority list. Packaging and printing have moved to the top of the list. No more I have plenty of time to get it all done....immediately has become the operative word. Amazing when you think you have it all together only to realize you have neglected too many tasks. Talk about a major dose of reality. Even more of a laugh is that I had printed out a Houston calendar but in my respite had failed to look at it. There it was all neat and so professional and not followed. What a ditzy broad I have become with free time.

I am considering this a morality tale. Don't lose track of the tasks at hand and look at your planner every day. I will try to keep you up-dated on my progress but if you don't hear from me until I get to Houston, you will know all went well.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Woke Up This Morning with Houston on my Mind

When I powered up all the computers this morning, I was stunned to see that it is 20 October. Panic! I am leaving the 26th for market and festival and still have tons of prep work to do. Reality check time. Somehow basking in the glow of creativity, I lost track of the dates. Never fear I already have a solution. I will work first shift and second shift with a nap in between. It was just startling how little time I have left.

Most of the dvd work is done but still fighting with the editing to get it to burn...ordered a restore disc from computer store and hopefully it will arrive in time for computer guru son, Craig to get things back on track. Then I took a deep breath and realized I could produce a brochure with delayed release for the new problem solved. Sat down and wrote the outline for my School House presentation, check another task off the list. Waiting on the art supplies that I carry in my booth that accompany the dvd's....checking FedEx tracking every day....not much I can do but keep my fingers crossed. After reviewing everything, it didn't look so bad......until I realized I haven't given a thought to what I am going to wear, especially shoes! Oh the shame of it could I have not already addressed this issue.

What was I thinking working on marketing and sales instead of planning the shoe wardrobe? I have obviously gone off track somewhere considering business over shoes. This situation must be rectified immediately. I promise to give you an update on the choices....I may need your input on this crisis. Photos to follow tomorrow. Time for a short nap since I started first shift at 3 am so I can get to second shift by 5 or 6 pm, squeezing feeding the animals Ronnie and Thom) some time in the shift work.

If you are coming to market or festival, drop by booth 536. I would love to chat up close and personal with cyber pals.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Holding on to the Energy

As many of you have experienced, when you are in the workshop environment you are surrounded by a bubble of creative energy. You know exactly what you want to do and have no external influences to distract you. Plus you have an instructor to facilitate and guide you through your project. Returning home you are filled with all this energy and then the real world hits you in the face like a wet wash rag. You get distracted by the phone, daily necessities and life in general so the creative energy starts to leak out. This is a common, shared experience but it need not happen.

While I returned home faced with all the necessities of getting ready for Quilt Market and Festival, I still have access to all the energy from the retreat. Granted I am not working on a new quilt, painting, or series of photographs, I am doing all the graphic design work for the new dvd, the dvd magazine and brochures. These are still projects that require the creative skills of design and composition along with creative writing. Also, I know that studio work is on the horizon and that the focus required for that is available to me when the time comes.

How am I managing to not let the creative energy from the workshop slowly leak out? By maintaining a simple practice Eric guided us through in Taos......and I am going to share that secret with you. I highly recommend this simple but powerful book filled with all the tools you need to keep your life as an artist accessible every day and at any time. Also if you visit Eric's site (see previous post), you can visit the Ten Zen Seconds website and sign-up for the newsletter associated with the book.

Don't be concerned about the word Zen; instead be excited about the way in which Eric combines Eastern and Western processes. There are no exotic positions or life-long dedications to hours of learning how to clear your mind and rid yourself of your ego. The book is exactly what it purports to be...."10 Seconds."

These simple practices are keeping me riding the crest of the wave of energy from the workshop. They are guiding me through the transition in my work free from all the angst I had previously posted. Simply put this will help you stop the world and get into the zone where ideas and work flow free from distractions both internal and external.

Even better the practices can be done anywhere at any time............probably not while driving your car but possibly if you can focus without closing your eyes. If this post is beginning to sound like a commercial, please don't consider that. My excitement and endorsement of this book is because I have found a practice that really works....and not just for me but for artist of all disciplines.

The practices are something we all probably know already and have experienced when we get to the work and get so lost in it we lose track of time.....but that means we have to be in that space. We wait for the muse to call, for the closet in the back room to be organized or my favorite avoidance techniques, cleaning the pantry or spice cabinet. While I am disciplined about my work when all is right with the world, I am easily distracted when the smallest event occurs. This small book has re-affirmed my commitment and given me back the awareness that I can do everything I want to do.

After the longest post on record, I leave you to get back to's to exploring, experimenting and creating more art.
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Monday, October 15, 2007

Creativity for Life Workshop

For those of you who read my blog, you will be laughing at this one....I am almost speechless. This weekend has possibly been one of the most valuable things I have ever done. I will be eternally grateful to John and Viv of Art of the Song for organizing this workshop......and to Eric Maisel for his deep understanding of the artist's life.

The creative energy in the room was palpable. There were writers, musicians, perforance artist, painters, glass artist and visual artist of all disciplines in attendance. Some of us with established careers and some seeking how to fit their need to create into existing day job careers. No matter where we were we all faced the same issues. Some of us had resolved issues that others were still addressing but had other issues just as relevant and in need of attention.

Eric got right to the point covering all these blocks or avoidances. Best of all he left us with accessible tools to handle whatever was keeping us from our creative life. I am so
excited to get home and start putting these practices into action. Just the realization that I have been my own worst enemy this past year was a revelation. Now I feel empowered to correct my internal dialogue and trust my instincts.

Whatever your discipline, get thy self to a creativity coach. You won't regret it. Eric also teaches coaching and during this process you can receive free coaching as a part of their training. Of course, you can also work with Eric as well if you choose to. He has a library of published works that are invaluable. Check out his web site It will provide you with all the information on books and workshops. You can all subscribe to his weekly newsletter full of his travels and information to keep you leading the creative life.

In January I will be hosting a blog tour of his book Van Gogh Blues....stay tuned. It looks to be very exciting. Words/language, how you allow your internal dialogue to effect you
are something we all need to be mindful of and Eric has the tools to keep these in the active part of your practice, devotion, love of the work.

At the moment, I feel reborn, fearless and eager to get back to the work.....I know I will encounter obstacles along the way but now feel capable of overcoming whatever might come my way. Viv and John have plans to continue the workshops yearly; possibly increasing them to five days or longer. I will keep you updated on their plans. However, you can always get the information from Eric's site.

So I return home today full of ideas and how to implement them, in love with making my own meaning, and erasing negative internal dialogue. Best of all, I return with a deep respect for the creative process of all the artist that attended the workshop and all of you who are working your way through the joy of living a creative life.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Reversal of Roles

When you travel and teach and try to run a business, you get so involved that you often forget to take time for yourself. There just aren't enough hours in the day. I am either at the computer or in the airport but this weekend I am giving myself a gift. I am packing but not for a teaching gig. I am packing for a trip as a student. My excitement is growing daily.
As i have mentioned earlier in posts, I am attending the Creativity for Life retreat in Taos conducted by Eric Maisel. Eric was, probably will always be, my coach. He opened many new doors for me but it was all by phone or email. The prospect of meeting this amazing, gifted mentor in person has me feeling like a kid meeting Santa Claus.
This couldn't be happening at a worse time with trying to get ready for Houston Market and Festival looming on the horizon.....but I am going regardless. For many reasons, this is absolutely necessary. First, to kick start or continue the transition in my work. Second, so I can bring more to my students when I teach. Teaching has been a gift for me as all of you who teach know you often learn more from your students than they realize. However, I have never been satisfied with developing a class and then just continuing to teach it in exactly the same way each time.
To me teaching is also a learning process in which I continue to study the subject matter to bring new ideas and possibilities to the class through time. Just recently, I purchased three new books to work through for new approaches to two of my classes. My reverse applique class has always done well but i decided there needed to be more offer. Put on my thinking cap and have developed two new techniques to present to the students. It is so exciting to see the light bulbs turn on when students are presented with new material. You can see the wheels turning as they are thinking how they can apply this to their work.
However, occasionally the teacher needs to become the student....and this is my opportunity. I need to add some water to the in turn I can bring fresh ideas back to my teaching. Also, I need to get back to the studio to re-charge my batteries. Can you tell I am ready to be there already?
I am taking my laptop so will try to post some of the events. I have no idea how the class will be formatted but I know it will be worthwhile and invaluable. So while sweet Ronnie is enjoying his retirement, I am still enchanted with opening doors to potential.
While retirement is appealing, since it would mean I could devote all my time to making art. I haven't reached the point yet where I am willing to give up the exchange between teacher and student. So I guess you are stuck with me for a little the bad penny that keeps coming back.
Wishing you all a productive fall and hope fully will have good news to report from Taos.

Monday, October 08, 2007

What Me Make Art!

Now the awful truth is out. You have for time and all eternity the reason why I am not in the studio. The first photograph is the editing section. We have a computer solely dedicated to editing....which is the only way to go as far as I can tell. Avid Liquid is a huge program and requires 400 mg every 30 second to save the work you have done. Yep, you read that correctly. Amazing huh?
So this has been my trail by fire....learning how to edit, getting the look I want and then trying to get the blasted thing to burn. Marvin, my tech guy, has been so patient with me and is still working on the problem. At this point I am going to win. This machine will not defeat me but it sure is beating me about the head and shoulders.
This baby is my office computer. As you can see there are stacks of paper work to get through but you will be surprised. Since I can't edit at the moment, I actually gutted it up and sloughed through all the paper and several emails. There is a light at the end of this tunnel.....even though I still feel like a slave to the machine. Hopefully, clearing out some of the clutter will help my chi or re- align my stars.
Now to the saddest of tales...could you work in this? Yes, this is my studio. Only recognizable by the quilt on the design wall. When Thom moved home from Waco, the studio got co-opted as a storage space. Now if I was a good person, I would be quilting on all the pieces I have layered up....still numbering in the single digits only up to 5.
But noooooo, never let it be said that I can multi-task to this point. In my old age I can only do two things at the same time and have them done well. So taking my own advice, I am waiting until all the other tasks are squared away so I can give the quilting line my full attention.

I have said before that I think we all to often short change the quilt when it comes to the line work that the quilting stitch creates. Line work is one of the strongest elements in design and can make or break a quilt. For my money, we should be contemplating the quilting line as we design the piece since it will have such a profound effect on the finished piece. After all, it is like a drawn line that attracts attention and gives makes certain areas advance while causing others to recede. Whenever I start a new piece, I always think I have just the right design, get about an 18" square quilted and slap myself on the forehead with the "What was I thinking?" I take it all out and start again knowing what should be there...but I had to see the incorrect line work before the right design came to me. Sounds like an operator problem to me....which is my story of the past two months...operator error on all fronts.
To wrap this tome up, never short change your quilts when it comes to the line work. My usual modus operandi is to put the quilt on the design wall as it is now and let it rest. Look at it from different angles...see how the light hits one area or another...basically allow the piece to tell me what it needs.
However, this studio is in need of rescue...guess I could take up playing the guitar since there is one in the case awaiting....that'll be the day....ooohh, great title for a song but I think it has already been used. Off to tackle more of the computer disasters.....stay tuned...a resolution has to come soon.
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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Remember the self portrait studies

Since I am on a mad frenzy of posting, I thought I would post the latest in my self portrait studies. These are all done for my own purposes of self-discovery but they are also a quick art fix.
What I notice the most is how much older I look than last year. There is a tiredness that wasn't there....probably from not exercising....or just another year older. Nah!
I have tried to explain to sweet Ronnie what not making art has done to me...spiritually, mentally and physically but I just can't seem to find the words that he can relate to.
Of course all of you understand what I am trying to say. There is a hole in my pun intended but I am no longer whole. The parts are all there but just not in working order.
For me, making art adds meaning to my life that nothing else can fulfill. It doesn't mean I love my family less or don't want to be professional regarding my business. Making art is an entirely different space. In part, I have gotten out of the habit due to circumstances beyond my control. However, when I do have a moment there is still
a lack of energy.
This to shall pass but brother am I tired of whatever this phase is. Anyway the photos at least keep me in touch with some comoposition skills.
Watch out I might post again tomorrow....faint and fall over.
Maybe not your favorite but reminds me of a shot from an old film noir movie...if only my nails were painted blood red.
Really liked the angle of my shoulder and where the dot of my strawberry mark fit into the scene. Weird one should like their strawberry marks but I have more which cannot be revealed in mixed company.
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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Thank You Dear Friends

You will never know my delight when I checked my blog and found all your comments. It really made my day to hear from all of you especially my old buddies Caity, Valori, and Sharon. Not that this will mean much to you Valori but I am so ready to come back to Australia...sure do miss my visits to Melborne. 2008 will be the first year since they started AQC that I won't be there...sigh!

Patsy thanks for the offer of your husband's tech support. Unfortunately, I edit with Avid Liquid a Pinnacle Systems program. Marvin, my techie, and I are totally baffled by what is happening but it's his product so I am hopeful he can figure it out.

Naturally the thing I am missing the most is making art. This is the longest period in my entire life that I haven't done something. Gotta tell you it is making me totally neurotic. I haven't even put pencil to sketchbook much less touched fabric. If this was a chosen respite to cogitate on new work but this has been a forced avoidance because of business.....which makes me nuts. I totally feel like I have lost touch with who I am as an artist.....but keeping the faith it will return when all this is over.

Not much else to report.....Ronnie and I are still adjusting to his retirement and my still working. Thom's bar exam results are expected on November 2nd while I am in Houston. He has had to swear in blood to call immediately upon receipt. I did actually finish a novel that I had been reading for about six months.....took it to the bath with me every night after sitting over the computer. Real exciting stuff, no?

Enough nattering just wanted to thank you all for the comments....surely soon I will be back harping to you about making art. Oh one exciting piece of news Get Creative, an Australian magazine, did a nice profile about me in the September issue.....maybe Sharon and Caity can check it out.

And Jana I totally agree with the computer being a vampire that sucks the creativity right out of you.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Gabrielle Who?

After all my promises to be a better blogger, life got in the way. It has ranged from hectic to grim to give up all hope ye who enter around here. I have finally learned the editing program only to lose the edit three times when trying to export it to burn a master. I haven't been able to get any work type. After reformatting my hard drive, lost my word program and have been trying to convert all my documents into rich text files in Open Office. The list goes on and on.
Every morning I wake up ready to go and somehow between noon and 3 everything goes south.

On top of all that I had jury duty for a week. Glad I did my civic duty but hope it is a long time before I have to do that again.Although Tarrant County has raised jury duty to $40 a day so I actually got a pay check. However, the time lost from work has me running as fast as I can.

The good news is next week I get to go to Taos for the Creativity for Life retreat. Ah, time to take a breath and exhale and get back in touch with something other than paper work and computers. What a treat.

We are in the process of getting ready for Quilt Market and Festival so it is imperative I get this edit to work. But, I gotta say tech support is less than helpful. They will only communicate via email instead of by phone.....visions of me trying to explain something I don't understand. I can't even explain to them what is wrong without them telling me that can't happen....sure guys...but it just did.

I am near the point of just giving up but too stubborn to do so. However, I am taking today off before I crash and burn. Why is it sitting a the computer all day is more exhausting than doing physical labor?

So you can imagine the blog has gone to seed after spending 10 to 12 hours at the computer, blogging got left out of the mix. I will make no more promises of being better but will try to drop in more frequently.

I miss all of you and reading your posts...hopefully after this crunch is over life will return to some semblance of reality. Thinking of you all often.