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.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Is Blogging Dead?

Okay, I admit the title is ironic since I am sitting here blogging....but let's ponder this for a moment. Everyone is one the internet....YouTube, Blogger, WordPress and too many other places to name. Handmaiden used to get lots of comments; now very few. In part, this is due to my sporadic posting. On the other hand, many of my favorites aren't getting many comments either.

Have we saturated the market? If you are working at any job, do you have time to read multiple sites? The Art Quilters' Web Ring is enormous. This ring is only one of many....there are knitters, embellishers, collage artist,creativity coaches, and whatever you heart desires. But who is reading all these posts?

And if you are reading the posts, how are you getting anything else done? Do you read blogs at night as a form of entertainment? What is going on?

My conclusion, albeit, very biased is that we simply don't have time to do everything. This conclusion is based on my own recent lack of productive. Reading, tv, the computer, NetFlix....all great forms of avoidance. Just ask...there are millions of ways to avoid getting the work done.

There is a deeper question. Have we substituted virtual, digital communication for personal communication? Can you really say what you want to from afar? Possibly I am over thinking this. Nahhhhh, how could that be?

If you want to talk with someone, why don't you just call them instead of texting...blogging....whatever? Good question. You can reach a broader audience with blogging. The texting thing I still don't get. Sorry, my age is showing. The real question is about how we use our time and methods of communicating.

Having posed the question, I will still blog....but the question remains.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why White? Why Long?

After appearing in several dvd's, Busby has acquired a rather large fan club. Many people ask after him when I am traveling and teaching. While I don't want to give him a more massive ego than he already has, I do share their best wishes with him. All that being said I still cannot abide the amount of white hair he disperses around the house.

We don't have dust bunnies. We have Busby bunnies. On any given day I can collect enough hair to stuff a decent pillow. We often wonder why he isn't bald. As you can see he is still as curious as a kitten. His age is a mystery but we can guess. Our son Chris saved Busy from a fate worse than losing one of his 9 lives. He was still a very small kitten and living with a family that had a toddler.

Busby's name back then was "not a toy." Ya see, the afore-mentioned toddler had the habit of carrying Busby around by the throat.....thus "not a toy." Busby suffered this treatment but has henceforth sworn off small children. Just ask out gandkidlets who would love to hug him. Our youngest son Thomas is certain that Busby was the runt of the litter. Busby takes umbrage at that thought. Ronnie and I know better. He was deprived of oxygen at an early age.

For all his cuteness, Busby is as dumb as a fence post. He is surviving on good looks alone. Knowing that there is a camera around usually sends him into posing mode, but today wanting to be coy he turned away almost every time the camera was out. For all the complaining about long white cat hair in the air, on the furniture, dotting the carpet with patterning, Busby knows he is a film star.

He also knows I won't dispose of him because I would have to explain to his public. Oh, the vagaries of having a famous cat with long, white hair.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Still Life Around the House

The creative spark class is still going strong. We have covered tons of information and they have done some amazing work. One of the assignments that I gave them was to set up a still life, with or without shadows to help develop composition skills. The great thing about this exercise is it makes you appreciate all the art teachers who set up those stil life compositions for you and artists who work in still life.

The only restriction was that you had to use things from around the house. You couldn't go out and buy anything to put into the still life. In the tradition of Paul Cezanne, Van Gogh and numerous others, painting what you had because you were to poor to afford a model.

I promised I would set up a few compositions and photograph the results for them. Excuse the dust...remember not a critical part of how I spend my time. Oddly enough, I didn't set up anything. I just walked into the living room, office and studio and cranked off a few shots. So here's the question....after you learn something about composition, does it invade your life?

Looking around the house was a real treat, every spot I looked at had something set up in a pleasing composition. Promise, I didn't take the time to compose anything...just photographed it like it was. While two of the compositions are more complicated, they all work for me. Check out your home using the elements of composition. I would bet even money that you have done some composing as well.

Thanks to everyone who commented about your retired husbands. What a hoot! Great stories! Peruse the comments on that post if you have a chance. I knew I wasn't alone, but truly feel in great company. One of my students and I were discussing this week that after you get married you lose the being "In love" during the first year. Then you get about the business of being is still there just different.

Don't you wish you could teach your children that..."Teach your children well." Graham Nash

Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tips on Coping with a Retired Husband

Sweet Ronnie's World

I hope everyone had a delightful Easter. Since all our brood was otherwise engaged with family or friends, we spent a quiet weekend with
each other. My only error was going to the grocery store on Saturday...thinking the shopping would already be done and the marauding hoards would be at home. Bad planning on my part. You know you have made a mistake the minute you hit the parking lot. The thrill of it all was that the shoppers were so grim. I get it...Easter is a short holiday with lots to do and no time...but honestly, there were no smiling faces except for the workers. They were delighted that the overpriced good were moving out of the store faster than a dog can trot.

At this time of reflection and grimness, I took a good look at what has been going on since Ronnie retired....since we had to spend the entire weekend with
each other. Don't get the wrong idea...I love my husband very much...not just every single day of the world...with all the hours that entails. Shock, horror!

You see I was accustomed to having hours of solitude in which to do my work....and it isn't like he does anything to get in my way. The simple truth is he is just here...and in his own world...shown above. I am truly delighted that he retired...his job was a monster. My only question is couldn't he have retired to somewhere else?

Two photographs of my or office. Not quite far enough away but better than nothing.....sigh!

Why didn't I listen to my mother in law and all my friends about their husbands? Okay so we all have to learn the hard way...but listed below are a few tips to help you from suffering, oops! to help you enjoy, your husband's retirement.

1. Buy another house near or far away from your own. This is sure to give you or him someplace to know have to tend to the property...or have a quilt retreat with the girls.

2. Get a job. Seriously, my best friend, who shall remain nameless, did this and it worked. She was blissfully happy working part-time to get a few days respite. She had a great time in the real world and loved spending the extra $.

3. Have him get a another job. Something fun that he has always wanted to in a Bass Pro shop...or a bookstore....or as my father in law did open your own company. Anything to get him out of the house so you can vacuum and dust.
Let me extrapolate on the vacuuming and dusting. Neither Ronnie or I suffer from being neat freaks. However, during his retirement I have discovered that his tolerance for dirty and mine are very different. The problem only occurs if they sit in front of the television all the time. Hence, vacuuming and dusting interfere with his viewing pleasure.

4. Buy a second television and procure a cable connection for it. (If you haven't already done this long ago.) Suffice it to say, I watch some pretty inelegant television...but I like it, so there. It is also great to quilt and applique to bad tv because you don't have to watch it...just listen. Sweet Ronnie, naturally, has male instincts regarding Save me.

5. Pretend they aren't there or, if I may be so bold, ignore them. This is an acquired skill requiring the fine art of learning the proper inflection to use when saying, "Yes, dear." Men require a response of some sort because that is what they are accustomed to. A fatal error occurs when you actually forget and start a conversation with them. Soooo...start practicing now to prevent yourself from thinking they really listen or even care what you say. A simple response is all they want or need but it must seem genuine.

Lest, you think that we aren't happy...remember....Sweet Ronnie is still alive, read I haven't killed him yet...and even though baby boy is a lawyer, I am sure I could get off with justified manslaughter....just kidding...seriously...I ahem, mean, really..but now that I have said it in print, it isn't an option. And I am so glad that he is,...see, there is my defense, your honor, she really loved him...and I do...if he would just do something...anything...but be retired.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Fine Art of Piddling

Two posts in one day...I am doing the fine art of piddling. To piddle being the intransitive verb or if you prefer a nice non-committal swear word...Oh, Piddle!
Anyhoo, between calling my creativity students and working in the studio and front yard I found this:

The Recipe For Gabrielle

3 parts Talent

2 parts Ingenuity

1 part Daring

Splash of Intellect

Shake vigorously

What's the Recipe for Your Personality?

Let me tell you how difficult this test is...snork, snork. You type in your absolutely sure you got that right by using spell check....and then you hit the submit button. Magically, the oracle of all things spits out your answer. And while those of you who know me in the flesh and not in the word, probably agree with is an eerie experience. Please leave comments if you go to this test. Can we all be the same and still get correct answers from the oracle?

Back to the phone...and while I fully admit that multi-tasking is the doom of creativity. Creativity being the one thing that really requires all your focus. Piddling between tasks has given me a certain since of easily amused I am.

Must be that being old gives you the gift of settling for less on the days when you don't have much. Or could it be that after a long day of piddling, I can imbibe a real, virtual alcohol, please...while throwing dinner at Sweet Ronnie.

The Class of '67 and 17 is 58

The year I graduated from high school is long ago and far away. We were told we were among the youngest, best and brightest. Many of us prepared to go off to university. For me, who had just gotten married to the husband "lovingly" referred to as the revolving door, images of being free from parental control loomed large. Having gotten married to get away from my mother, dreams of domestic bliss danced through my head. 1967 was a good year.

A brief re-cap will tell you why I thought my future was bright. My last year in high school was peppered with cheer leading, editing the annual, being a contestant in the Miss Texas pageant, traveling to the Nation Honor Society convention....sorry I was really a different person. My sons always moan with agony at my apparent goody two-shoes past.

Little did we, my fellow students and I, know that all that was about to change. The Vietnam War escalated to unheard of proportions. The summer of love and Woodstock weren't even on the radar. My university attendance started in 1968 after the birth of my beautiful son Charles "Coyote". His birth and attending university had a major impact on who I was going to be when I grew up. In late 1967, first husband and I purchased a home with acreage.....with the help of my parents. By 1969, we were divorced, not amicably and I was on the way to graduating as a dyed in the wool hippy chick. How things had changed!

Okay, things changed but they were for the better. I attended my 10th reunion...everyone was still young and vital. I also attended my 30th reunion. We were older, established, had only lost one classmate. I didn't discuss who I was, why I had changed with anyone at my 10th reunion. Being with my class I became what they remembered. Not hard and made for a fun time. At the 30th reunion, I talked about my career as a quiltmaker. They honored me with the person who had the most unusual career and who had changed the least since high school. This caused me to pause. I knew just how much I had changed but to them I was still 17. Granted, it kinda felt good...but was scary in another way.

Why do I mention this? We were a class of 33 students. You read that right...I grew up in a town with the population of 600. Everyone knew everyone. You couldn't get away with the smallest infraction. Many times my escapades reached my mother's ear before I returned from the experience. With consideration, it was a good place to grow up if not slightly stifling. Now you understand my attempt to be the "good daughter." Being an only child plays a major role in this attempt. During the late 60's and for the rest of my mother's life, she never felt the joys of having a good daughter again. While my classmates might think that I was still the same; my mother knew better.

To the point of the story, when you only have 33 classmates, the loss of every one is a reckoning about your own mortality. The past few years has brought the loss of three more of us. From 17 to 58 has been a great ride. I often wonder what the next bend in the road will be. Even though my path has made me very different from that girl of 17, I must honor who she was and how far we have traveled from that time.

Since I cannot see into the future, I will gladly continue to wait for the road to reveal itself to me. However, I can't help but remember the faces of my graduating class with incredible fondness. Some of us set out to change the world and almost succeeded. Some of gave up;some of us are still trying. My gratitude to all of you for sharing part of your lives with me.

Post Script: Lest you think I had an awful childhood, I have to confess that my early years were idyllic. So the good daughter was an attempt to re-pay my parents for all they had done for me. My Dad was the greatest and always tried to protecting me from my Mom's crazy fears. The major of those fears was I would grow up. Now I see my Mom was a very fragile Blanche Du Bois. I was her "only chick," her words, not mine. Living with my parents was similar to growing up with Lucy and Ricky Ricardo....those of you old enough know what I mean. They were funny, fought and loved me beyond all measure. I give you one story to prove the facts.

My father hated food mixed together. You know what that means. His meat and vegetables had to have separate stations on his plate. One evening my mother, knowing my father's pre-disposition, prepared a casserole. I am in the background speculating..."OMG, Mom. Dad is going to go into apoplexy. What are you thinking...maybe you aren't. How many drinks have your had...This is bad...really bad. I am going to my room and hiding in the closet...This is going to be one for the record." Being curious, I peak around the wall...Dad comes in and announces...."Dinner smells good...What is it." He goes to the oven, opens the door, wheels on his boots to the reply, "Helen, you know I don't like this several expletives removed. Without missing a beat, my mom calmly picks up her pot holders, removed the offending, evil casserole, goes to the back door, opens it and flings the mis-aligned food into the yard, dish and all. With great aplomb, she returns to the kitchen, "That was your dinner." Being the All-American male, my Dad picks up his hat and drives to the local greasy spoon for his dinner. I don't remember what we had to eat that night, but I will always remember how gracefully Mom was while pulling this stunt.

While I am not a person to throw things, I must admit Mom pulled this one off with great flare. The casserole dish was still in the backyard the day she died. Never one to hold grudges...right?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Contemporary Quiltmaker Pleads Being Behind

I don't pretend to have an assistant or many assistants. So it shouldn't shock you when I say I am playing catch-up most of the time. Thanks to my loving sons and their partners I have stayed on top of things for several years. Now it is all down to me since they have busy lives also. The nerve of them to grow up and become responsible adults....sigh.

The picture above is me taking a picture of me from the infamous Designing Applique Quilts dvd that was due out last fall. We have edited this film already but couldn't burn it. Problems with Avid Liquid. Got that fixed and reviewed the edit. Decided it wasn't what I wanted so deleted it. Today I started rendering the film to do the re-edit...not too far behind, but enough late to cause me embarrassment.

My dream project, Behind the Seams, a dvd magazine is edited and waiting for production. Why? The famous duplicator story from previous posts. Can't burn if you have no burner...or burn baby burn isn't happening. Why do I bother to share this with you?

Be careful what you ask for you just might get it. Truly my plan was not to go into the film production business. I just wanted to make quilts. Granted I wanted to design my own images and make what I wanted. Granted quiltmaking has been good to me...and I still love it. Somehow through publish books and traveling and teaching, the dvd business appeared and provided me an outlet to share with anyone who would never get to take one of my classes. Also, it helped students who had taken my classes as a refresher.

Like all good things, there is some thorns on the rose. Time management is my biggest hurdle. One day I will have assistants and time to do all the things I want to do. One day I will dig myself out the hole. Until then I am running in place...but I am still running.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What to Do Until Lou Dobbs Signs Off

Sweet Ronnie is a Lou Dobbs fan; me, I am exhausted by all the political rantings from everyone. So what is one to do until Lou Dobbs signs off for today. One could finish the enlargements for two new quilts. Or get out the design for Last Leaf and start reworking it. Oh, I didn't tell you? I tossed away the finished, layered top even though I had already started quilting it. What? You gasp. Trust me. The design works but my color work had the background competing with the foreground for attention. Lesson learned....don't fall in love with the background design.

Or one could work on the computer while listening to old radio shows on This past Monday, I spent all day at the computer and think I am caught up on the most pressing emails and contracts. Of course, there are still the dvd orders but since my faithful Kanguru duplicator is in the hospital, I am twiddling my the run on sentence.

If so inclined, even a quiltmaker can read. Two books I recently finished....great reads. Or you could update your blog. Now that's a good choice for this time of day....after a wonderful dinner but before the evening starts.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Around the House

Working to stay ahead of my students from the Creative Spark class is stretching me as well. Thanks to one of my design students from Phoenix, I was reminded of the original concept behind my leaf work...take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. This particular student from Phoenix brought a claw hammer as her design element. She had helped build her own studio and this design was to honor her efforts. Keeping that in mind, I have had my creativity students working with common household items...still life designs from only things that are currently in their homes....and then the light bulb went on! This is exactly what I was trying to accomplish with the leaves and the direction I want to continue to work.

With that in mind I got out the camera and took some photos from around my house. While one of these is probably not common to every one's home (a globe with boomerang), these are still fairly common items. Plus this set up has great lines and color to work with.

My idea at the moment is to use items from every room as a series of quilts. The kitchen and bathroom will be fun. Other rooms provide more of a challenge. How are you working? Do you appreciate the daily, commonplace items in your home? Or are you so accustomed to seeing them that they have lost their potential as art?

Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 10, 2008

Photos from Williamsburg

As promised, here are the photos from Williamsburg...whew! Blogger finally decided to co-operate. Above is a shot of the local shops across from William and Mary and down the block from the hotel. Great food and gorgeous setting.

Some of my students hard at work on their surface design. Note that we put drop cloths under everyone...just in case we had a Jackson Pollack in the group...or an errant elbow!

My medallion students with the designs they created in work. I am at the far left extolling their efforts.

Posted by Picasa

Still Here!

Hello everyone. I am still breathing and trying to work. Just tried to post pictures from Williamsburg but they were sent to the dead posts department of blog world. Will try to post them again later. Moving's the skinny on what has been going on from coast to coast and in-between.

My lack of posting is due to simply being too busy...accompanied with an the overwhelming desire to not narrate my life. If you have been on a plane recently, you know what I mean. Some man or woman talking into their cell phone, "We just boarded and I am sure we will take off soon. Yes, I got to eat before the flight....lucky for me. I found a spot for my carry on with no problem. You have my schedule." Yada, yada, yada. Now call me crazy but obviously if you have their schedule you know they are flying somewhere...departure and arrival info. It is maddening to listen to this constant oration from multiple passengers. I is maddening to me. an effort to cut down on the chatter and the mind numbing daily details of my life, I have decided to post irregulary and only when something is really happening in my life. However, for those of you who are interested.....we ate excellent food everyday in Williamsburg. I highly recommend a wonderful restaurant called "Food for Thought." If you are in the area, this is a not to be missed spot for great food and terrific service.

Thanks, dear friends, for the comments on my last post. Last week in Texas ran the gamut. At Casa de la Swain, we had snow on Monday that was gone by noon. On Tuesday it was beautiful and sunny coming in at 70 degrees F. By night there was snow again which continued until late Wednesday. This sent the entire metro-plex into a state of anxiety. Of course, we lost power periodically from Monday through late Thursday....DFW closed; trapping travelers bound for various locations....the freeways looked like parking lots...all city service offices, universities and schools closed...just an average response to snow in north central Texas.

Okay back to more personal information. I have been on the road since January. Great gigs and insightful students. Feeling good since my illness in Phoenix, except for one tiny problem....debilatating insomnia. Oddly enough this plague has not reared its ugly head when I am on the road; only when I am home. In part, the insomnia is directly related to thinking about all the things that I need to do....brain overload...warning...warning....system overload. My tiny brain tries to compute an order for accomplishing the tasks at hand. Just when there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel Murphy's Law steps in.

Some dvd duplicator has decided not to I can't fill the dvd orders that I have. The above mentioned equipment has to be sent to Millis, MA for the doctor. They promise to send it out asap...but in the meantime, here I sit twiddling my thumbs. The power outages kept me from posting to Ragged Cloth on my scheduled day. The kitchen faucet decided to fall off....guess it also got tired. We had audio problems with the first edition of Behind the Seams. All my fine point Sharpies decided to go dry at the same time....preventing me from enlarging any designs.

You get the picture...I am snake bit as we say in Texas. So there it is...a tale of woe. No promises this time about posting...but hopefully things will be better. I am home until the middle of April and playing catch up every day. As the erudite economics graduate Mick Jagger once said, " You can't always get what you want, but if you try, sometime you get what you need."