Saturday, January 31, 2009

More More More

Well, here's the newest, laid out and ready to sew together. This one is so much brighter. I must have been in a good mood when I laid this one out. My mood has not been so good since.

The grim winter "doldrums" have firmly set in. I have been a cranky person lately.

More books have come in on New Orleans. My husband realizes I have become obsessed. Oh well. I'm just going to go with the flow. My husband thinks that I have this obsession the same time each year. I was thinking it came about every nine months or so. Perhaps he's right. I can't seem to get away from the snow and ice, so I just go away in my head. And now, through the computer. I do spend too much time on Google Maps, checking out the streets of New Orleans. This morning, I discovered my husband has opened his own Google Maps tab and is cruising New York City. He talks about retiring there. I do love it myself. I enjoy walking out the door of the hotel and getting caught up in the bustle. I'm not sure I could keep up with that pace for too long, though. I prefer the more lethargic pace at which New Orleans moves. I am more molasses than quicksilver. And I do enjoy being called darlin' or sweetie at a restaurant than just being handed the bill.

Anyway, back to the artwork. The first New Orleans piece I completed is a tiny one. I have yet to photograph it. I don't know why. While I was piecing together the largest piece, posted a few days ago, I realized that smaller sections might do well standing on their own. I may try to construct a few stand alone pieces that resemble these:

One of these days, you will see the finished pieces for sale somewhere. As usual, I do not have the backing fabric I want and either have to purchase it online and wait 10 days for delivery, or go to our teeny tiny local shop and hope to find the right color. Not going to that big box place. Not gonna do it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Activities

As I write, it is pouring down snow. Yes, I know the word "pouring" usually pertains to rain, but if you could see the snow, you would agree. Schools were closed today. Playdates were made, games have been played, crayons have been worn down, and now the television is on.

Those who know me, know my favorite winter activities. I am not a skier, I am not a skater. I like it warm. I like it inside. Right now, my favorite activities are recuperating and reading. Mmmmmm, reading. And, um, doing research on the computer. Yeah, that's it. Research. For what, I'm not exactly sure. I've been doing some more surfing around on Google Maps.

Everyone must do this. See the world while you're stuck in your home during this nasty winter. I've still been walking the streets of New Orleans. You locate on the map which area you want to zoom in on, then you click on the man icon. While you drag the man icon along, he seems to be flailing, kicking and screaming. Then you let go and drop him on any old street and off you go. I've seen parts of this city that I never knew existed. And I thought I had seen a good deal. Not so.

Someone wanted to know the books I've been reading on New Orleans. There are several I have read since my first visit, and many I have read more than once. Here is a list. Some are better than others. Check your local, independent (ha ha) bookstore for copies.

Gumbo Tales - Sara Roahen*
Galatoire's, Biography of a Bistro - Burton and Holditch
Why New Orleans Matters - Tom Piazza*
The House on First Street - Julia Reed
A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole*
Down in New Orleans - Billy Sothern*
Managing Ignatius - Jerry Strahan
1 Dead in Attic - Chris Rose*
My New Orleans - Rosemary James, Editor
Katrina and the Lost City of New Orleans - Rod Amis
Beautiful Crescent - Garvey and Widmer
Uptown/Downtown, Growing Up in New Orleans - Martinez and LeCorgne*
Gardens of New Orleans - Douglas and Hardy
New Orleans, Elegance and Decadence - Richard Sexton
Etouffee Mon Amour - Kerri McCaffety*
New Orleans, Then and Now - Richard and Marina Campanella*
The French Quarter of New Orleans - Jim Fraiser

*best reading

Arriving soon:

Geographies of New Orleans, Urban Fabrics Before the Storm - Richard Campanella
Letters from New Orleans - Rob Walker

If anybody can recommend any others, I would appreciate it. It appears to be a long winter up here in Pennsylvania. There's lots of reading yet to be done.

Well, back to hacking my head off and watching the snow fall. Soon it will be time to turn that television off and pop my daughter into the bath. And read.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Virtual Vacation

Whee!!! Experiencing the flu here. Perhaps just a cold. I don't know. I feel very woozy. It's kind of neat. I'm going to take whatever over-the-counter drugs I can and I am going to enjoy a virtual vacation.

I've been checking into New Orleans blogs and websites lately and I'm getting caught up in a bunch of interesting situations. There is an impending decision on whether to destroy an entire neighborhood to build a new VA hospital. I've been watching videos of residents and business people who do not want to see their homes taken from them. So much of the city is still so damaged. So much was damaged before Katrina. So much of that city is stunningly georgeous. So much needs to done and saved. I've also found some great flickr sites. I've been flipping through hundreds of photos.

After my virtual vacation, I will start to compile a list of sites for anyone interested. If not, I need the list myself to keep tabs.

I'm not too much of a computer person, so I'm sure it will not go smoothly. I hunted and pecked my way to Google Maps this morning. I'm sure I'm the last person to discover this amazing site. So I shall spend the rest of the morning, day, week, whatever, on my vacation. I have just visited the site of one of my favorite restaurants. I knew that it was long gone, but I just wanted to be there anyway. I aint too good with a map, but my instincts took me to the site immediately. Chez Helene, home of the best fried food I have ever eaten. Austin Leslie, you are MISSED.

I have also cruised the neighborhood supposedly slated for demolition. I am now going to visit some happy spots. I'm going to follow the streetcar up St. Charles Ave. Gonna have a look at some storefronts on Magazine Street. I'm gonna see if I can have a look at my new fave restaurant Lilette. Then I'm gonna see what I can see in City Park and fly over to the Zoo. I'm sooo excited. For once, technology is making me happy. Who would have thought?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mars vs. Venus

A conversation today with my hubby:

He: "Ron and Andrea are having a Super Bowl party? Want to go?"

Me: "When is it?"

Now, when we watch television, everything is recorded. We watch no ads. I haven't seen or heard anything about the darn superbowl. I do know that Pittsburgh is in it merely because I live in Pennsylvania. I do not watch football. Nor do I care. The hubby should know this. He's been married to me for almost 20 years. Back to the conversation . . .

He: "Sunday."

Me (thinking, today is Sunday): "When? Which Sunday?"

He: "Superbowl Sunday."

Me: "What is the freakin' date of the Superbowl?" (getting angry now. I just want an answer. A mere date. Why is this so hard?

Finally he spews out the date in a tone of voice which makes him sound like he's talking to a complete idiot. I now have the date. I still don't care.

Are there other testosterone-challenged Americans out there who do not know when the Super Bowl is?????!!!?????

Friday, January 23, 2009

Even More Progress

Another one cut out. I just finished laying this out yesterday afternoon. As soon as the last piece had been inserted, I placed the board on the floor and left the studio. This morning I went up and snapped a photo (after I had spent a while blog surfing), and I will have my first look here, right along with you.

Well, actually, I placed this on the floor out of the way yesterday and spent the last 10 minutes in the studio gathering fabrics for the next piece.

From what I understand from reading the blogs of other fiber artists, the sequence seems to be: lay out a piece, sew together, quilt, and add embellishments. Not me. My sequence seems to be: cut and lay out piece, set piece of foamboard on top, cut and lay out piece, set piece of foamboard on top, cut and layout piece, set piece of foamboard on top. If the pieces are small, I can lay out two pieces before I set a piece of foambard on top. I may do this up to 12 times. Then, usually, I begin to piece the tops together. Sometimes this progresses to quilting and embellishment. Frequently, new ideas crop up and I will begin the process anew without finishing the last set. This seems to be happening now. I still have 9 unfinished Sweet Songs of Birds quilts. But I cannot stop what I am doing now to work on them. I have become COMPLETELY obsessed with this new group of quilts. I'm not going to call it a series. I think I will be doing lots of different sizes and colors. It may not be a very coherent group. It may not be a group at all. But it must be worked on.

I do get a bit obsessed. The Sweet Songs of Birds series required the purchase of many CDs of singing, songwriting, and guitar playing women. A few are still hanging around in the CD player, but some have been replaced with music that reminds me of New Orleans. My blogging lately has centered around New Orleans. My reading is centered around New Orleans. Are these obsessions healthy? Am I a bit schitzophrenic to change my obsessions frequently? I guess it is far better to change my inspirations frequently rather than change husbands or get facelifts.

Do these obsessions and changes of course happen to everyone else? How do you get back on track? Do you get back on track? I need a push to get back to finishing those bird pieces. No one's gonna see them or buy them when they are sitting half finished under a stack of foamboard.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Normally, I avoid talk of politics and religion unless I know I am among my own kind, but I must say that watching all of the inauguration activities yesterday makes me feel VERY hopeful. I am usually extremely cynical and sarcastic, but not yesterday and not today.

Yesterday, both my daughter and husband were home sick. Normally, this would irritate me greatly, but it was wonderful to watch the events with my family.

Today, I still remain healthy and I still remain hopeful. I do not have the flu and I have a new president.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Progressing . . .

Pieces cut and laid out. I'm liking it so far. I'm wondering if those white houses on the green jump out a bit too much. And if so, is that a problem.

Now for a bit more forced time off. School was 2 hours late both Thursday and Friday. MLK Jr. day is Monday and schools are closed. My daughter is sick right now and I'm wondering if she will be back in school by Tuesday. Thursday I will be volunteering at my daughter's school. Guess I will look forward to the week after that for a "full" week of work. HA HA HA.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What I AM Doing!

I decided to follow my guidelines for 2009 listed in a previous post. If anyone needs reminding, my goals for 2009 are:

1. Keep going
2. Buy supplies.

Yesterday, after posting, I approached the studio with great trepidation. I often pace in front of the door, looking for other things to do. I remember a blog I wanted to have a look at and/or a load of laundry I need to get started. Finally, I climb the stairs and look at my work table. I applied rule number one and keep going -- carving new stamps and moving fabric around. When I didn't want to keep going, I went to Michael's and purchased a couple of paint pens and a new carving block. So, I have completed my two goals for the year. I just have to keep doing them again and again and again and again and again.

As you can see, my New Orleans ideas are pouring out. So far, I seem to be using a lot of house imagery and swirly shapes. I had drawn up a layout for a square piece, 24 x 24". Not sure if this is the right shape for the piece, but I just went on and did it.

Today, I cut shapes, stamped, painted, and moved more fabric around. Something is taking shape.

For some reason, I seem to think that each day is going to be easier and easier. I'm always surprised when it is so often difficult to get started. I should make the assumption that it is never going to be easy. It must be a bit like giving birth (just a bit ladies, I don't mean to say that giving birth is easy or should be compared to making art), when a piece is completed, you forget about how difficult it was to complete and you want to start another one.

I look at the fiber art of loads of other artists and am often taken in by calm, ethereal pieces. Often, I think that is the way I want to go, but somehow, I always end up creating pieces that look like this. Guess I just live with it and enjoy it, huh?

My "research" is revealing many interesting New Orleans blogs and bloggers. Perhaps I should compile my favorites and link to them on my sidebar. Anybody interested?

How about New Orleans in Legos?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What are you doing?

My mother calls me every weekday morning and that is always the first question she asks. The first words out of her mouth. I rarely answer. I often say I am messing around on the computer (blogging). I don't say I'm blogging, however. My mother is in her 80s and that would require a long explanation.

My mother is supportive of my artwork (unlike many others I know) and I try to remember to show her pictures, but I don't often give out details. I would then have to give her a long explanation.

My husband often asks me, "What did you do today", when he gets home from work. I really don't want to give a long explanation. Perhaps if I did explain my work to people, it would give it some validation, and often I don't feel that it should be validated. If so, I would have to take it seriously. If I took it seriously, I would be forced to put it out in front of more people. That would increase my chances of having people say, bluntly, that it sucks.

I could say that my hours of computer surfing are research. Then that would lead to a long explanation. And in my explaining, I might just realize that I am goofing off and not working.

I am not sure how other artists, fiber artists in particular, go about researching for their work. I guess I've been lead to believe that artist just create. We are moved. We are inspired. We take a walk through nature and go into our studios and create. We create -- we are gods. Or we just doodle -- we are mice. I guess there is an inbetween and I am there.

As I said in my last post, I'm slowly going to finish the little bird pieces. The inspiration (whatever) that came about to create the Sweet Songs of Birds series has morphed into something else. I suppose it could have been more inspiration. Music maybe? Or maybe it is that time of year when I think of places I would like to travel. Maybe that huge full moon the other day. Perhaps it is a whole gumbo of different things where one idea cannot be isolated from the whole mess.

I think it is the New Orleans cycle. I go visit, and then I am refreshed. My body returns to central Pennsylvania, while less corporeal parts of me remain behind. Perhaps I don't notice that something has been left behind, at least for several months. There seems to be a time, at about nine months after my last visit, that the parts of me all need to join up again. I start thinking about the next trip. In between visits, however, is a love-hate relationship. I think of the bad smells. I think of the crime. I tell myself I don't love it anymore. This works for a few weeks. Then the sighs begin. The sluggishness. The need to go back and prove that I can live without it. Which I can't.

All of this thinking about it has lead to to want to create something about New Orleans. I do not do realism. I can't. I'm just not that good of an artist. I have to rely on color and emotion. So where do I start? I don't want to do anything depressing. Of course, there are depressing things about New Orleans. The homes not fixed, the hospitals not fixed, the crime. So, now I find myself wanting to do some research. I am feeling that my research is just an excuse not to go into the studio. Maybe it is. I don't want to do anything about flooding, although I don't think I can completely ignore that. There are some great blogs about the city that I have been going through. I have my ever-growing New Orleans book collection that I have been going through. There are some movies and uTube bits that I need to see. Am I just avoiding?

What do other artists do to prepare for working? Is the avoidance we (I) feel really avoidance? Is there a quiet time before the storm? Is blogging research? Are we really allowed to stare at the ceiling?

And to top it all of, I now have to run some errands. Better not avoid that. Especially since the temperature is going to drop into the single digits by tomorrow.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Year. New Orleans?

I am still going to be working on those happy little bird quilts. Perhaps just not as quickly as originally planned. Artistic ADD has set in again and I must move onto something new.

No matter that I have had doubts about continuing to make art. Those doubts do not matter. I must do it.

But what about? The most common advice is to create from what you know about. From where you live. Someone from Florida should not be writing novels about living in Alaska. So should a resident of central Pennsylvania create art about New Orleans? What do I truly KNOW about it. A tourist has little knowledge of the real living that takes place in those cities they visit. But, then again, what do I truly know about central Pennsylvania? Well, in the winter (which is 5 months long), it is gray, and grayish brown, and grayish green, and black (when it is night). I don't feel particularly inspired to create from this knowledge.

I have been playing with fabrics and stamps for a couple of days. I have skimmed most of my books on New Orleans, several of which have been written post-Katrina. I have considered water, destroyed homes, and black X's which have been spray painted on remaining homes. I have spent the morning surfing New Orleans blogs. Many of these blogs relate tales of the aftermath, but most are on the authors' day to day lives in that city. I no longer want to include such depressing imagery, but this destruction is still a part of the residents' everyday lives. What story would I have to tell? I don't know yet. I do know that I love that city, though. It is part of my everyday life, somehow.

Right now, there are no plans on the book to go to New Orleans this year. New York would be next on the list. Aside from seeing family and perhaps joining my husband on a conference in a new city (London this year????), our vacations always alternate between New Orleans and New York City. But when I start to think about New Orleans this much, well, I usually become quite despondent until I go there.

Above is a photo of the French Quarter taken from the top floor of the House of the Rising Sun, otherwise known as the Hotel Villa Convento on Ursuline Street. Wish I were there. Unlikely there is ice covering everything like there is here. Sigh.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More Sweet Songs

FINALLY. Another Sweet Songs of Birds has been completed. This is number 3. It is for sale on Etsy.

Only 9 more to go. I have completed the cutting of number 12. The others have been pieced together and the "sandwiches" have been made. I still need to quilt in the ditch and do the decorative quilting. I am hoping to complete one or two per week.

This effort may be hampered by the weather. We are having yet another ice storm and schools are closed again. A neighbor called at 8:00 this morning to set up a playdate, so I have until after lunch to get some work done. I feel fairly certain that school will be closed or at least 2 hours late tomorrow. Aaarrgh!

The studio has been mostly uninhabited for quite some time. I did get to visit it for a while on Monday, mostly to do some vacuuming and dusting. Yesterday I was able to spend several hours there. It was slow going at first. I have had concerns about doing what I am doing during this recession. Sales have slowed and I am having a hard time convincing myself to keep going. After a few minutes of great doubt, I started to play with fabric pieces for #12. Soon, the pieces were cut and laid out. Then I started sorting all the fabric scraps from this project. I accumulate a lot of "debris" when working on a series. I rarely straighten up until the project is done. This usually leaves me with only a couple of square feet to lay out a piece. So my workspace is almost tidy, a new piece is complete, and a series of 12 has been designed. I feel much better.

I know that many other artist bloggers have compiled large lists of things they have accomplished in 2008. I am not going there. I'm not sure I'm going to post a list of things I want to complete in 2009. Oh well, maybe just a very short list.

1. Keep going.
2. Buy some supplies.

By the way, I was serious in my last post. I really would like some assistance in choosing a new brand of thread. What brand do you prefer and why?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Smaller and Cheaper

My daughter and I went to our fave (sarcasm here) big box fabric store yesterday to match up some thread. I am anxious to get on with my Sweet Songs of Birds series after school is back in session. My daughter put herself in charge of matching colors. I knew that Coats & Clark had changed their numerical system, so I bought my partially used spools with me. The first choice, I felt, did not quite match. The color of the new spool seemed much duller. I felt the same about the next match. My daughter insisted they both matched.

Well, she was right. The colors were matched as closely as they could possibly be. Unknown to me, until yesterday, was that Coats & Clark had changed their thread completely. The original spools I had brought in were much richer and glossier. Closer inspection revealed that the new thread was 100% polyester. The older spools were 37% cotton. The spools were now smaller, containing less thread.

So, do I call and complain to Coats & Clark that I want the old thread back? I want them to use their old numbers, their old cotton content, and their old yardage. I'm sure that they would change everything back for me, right?

What threads do other fiber artists use? Do I dump this thread in favor of something better? What is better? Help!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dear Artist

Don't you just love that greeting? Perhaps someone has received a letter in the mail that begins with "Dear Artist," and positive words have followed. I'm guessing it is unlikely. I received such a letter yesterday. And, well, at least it was irrelevant.

The letter I received came from a local gallery that has not shown my work in three full years. Apparently, I am still on their mailing list for bad news. It seems that the gallery is going to be closing. All is too be blamed on the economy. Possibly. Could it be that it has treated its artists with little respect since its opening. I can't say. It wouldn't surprise me, though.

Like I said, the letter was received yesterday, December 31. It stated that the gallery would be closing as of . . . . . . December 31. Maybe I'm just a good manners freak, maybe I've not been living in the real world for a while, but is this just a tad rude? Wouldn't just a bit more notice satisfy an artist who must go and gather their work and find another gallery? Perhaps I still feel a bit of a sting from this gallery who treated my work and I poorly three years ago.

Until I went downtown to do some Christmas shopping, I had not been into this gallery in over 18 months. So, when I went in just a few weeks ago, I noticed that the type of work they carried had greatly changed. All of the work had gone what I consider "mainstream". Some basic photography, murky pottery, uninspired jewelry, etc.

Did the gallery go mainstream to try and keep its doors from closing? Or did its downfall come from going mainstream? In a smallish town, it is better to tone it down and sell to the masses? Or would greater success result from showcasing more "exotic" work? Or is it a mute point because all galleries are going under?

What are other artists doing? Surely, many have been receiving "dear artist" letters. I just purchased a copy of American Style magazine, so I know there are still galleries out there. Are these galleries going "mainstream?" Are they thinking out of the box and gathering unique artists? Do we all just hunker down in our studios, work hard, and put our work on Etsy? My Space? Tattoos?

Just once, I would really enjoy writing a "Dear Gallery" letter.

I'm thinking of having positive post month. For one month, I write an upbeat post every day. Do you think I can do it?