Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Bird in the Hand or Show Me the Money

Design Wall with New Project
I have been really busy lately. This is the "Year of Taking Myself Seriously as an Artist," so I have been putting in a lot of studio time working on my new series. I have also been working hard on my Visioning Project goal, the development of marketing tools such as a website, paper portfolio and this blog. I just submitted an application for a solo show this summer and am working on my entry for the SAQA, No Place to Call Home show. So, when my friend Kim asked me if I would accept a commission, I had to think a minute, "Yes," well actually... "HECK YES!" Every artist gets a major ego boost when their work is admired in a show, but the greatest form of flattery is making a sale.

Freezer Paper Pattern
Now Kim has been a great client over the past several years. She has ordered numerous quilted collages for gifts, and even commissioned a quilt for her mother-in-law, (now there's a gal with a golden heart), but she has never ordered anything for herself. Some artists aren't fond of commissions because clients can be too picky or they feel confined in their creative process, but Kim told me to do whatever I wanted and actually said, "surprise me." Her only request was to ask if I would include a little bit of a certain shade of green somewhere in the piece. Like I said, what a gal!

Center Medallion Taking Shape
Kim has a fizzy personality and a great sense of humor. She rides a motorcycle in her spare time, so I really wanted the piece to reflect her personal style. I came up with a color palette that I thought was perky, making sure to include her celery green. The major passion in her life during the past few years has been the ongoing restoration of the family homestead in rural Ohio. Wanting to make the work personally meaningful, I decided on the idea of making her home the centerpiece of the work. I asked her for a couple of photographs and enlarged one into a pattern. Next I searched my stash for potential fabrics and placed them on the design board to peruse for a few days before making the final selections.

Homeplace IV: Redfield
I also felt that the piece needed some natural fauna, since Kim is a country girl that likes to garden. I started the quilt before the leaves were out on the trees, so I fished a few leaves out of my pond and used them to make heliographic and cyanotype prints. The piece was quilted and a few beaded embellishments were added. Coincidentally, this piece fit nicely into my new Homeplace series and became Homeplace IV: Redfield. I presented the finished work to Kim this week and she was thrilled to pieces (no pun intended) and actually cried. The next day she let me know that her family was also moved. Kim says she knows that if her father was still living, he would be thrilled too. How much more gratification does an artist need? She even paid her bill.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Siren's Call

I have to admit that Spring is my absolute favorite time of the year. I love the organic smell in the air, the return of birdsong and the lush abundance of nature's color as she awakes from a long winter's sleep. But... it sure does make it hard to stay in the studio to work.

Next to working with fabric, I love gardening and being out in nature best. As I gaze out of my studio window I am called to get outside and get my hands dirty. I started creating a Japanese - style garden outside my studio and I can't wait to get out there and add to it. Last year it was a blank canvas and this year it is calling me to get outside and add the next layer of plants. My yard has several other garden rooms: a Tuscan arbor, an herb garden, a shade garden and an English perrenial garden. Let's just say after a weekend of gardening, it's hard to stand up straight and camoflage the dirt under my nails.

During the winter months I collect fabric for my stash, visiting every quilt shop I know and some I don't, whenever the opportunity arises. In the spring and summer it's the same with plants. Garden stores become my obsession, I swear I can't drive past one without the steering wheel turning in of it's own accord. I feel like Ulysses answering the Siren's Call.

I also am also tempted to go outside and ride my bike or go for a walk. Last weekend our entire family went camping and canoeing, and we just had a blast enjoying nature and each other's company. We made s'mores and popcorn on the fire and laughed until we cried. So what's this got to do with quilts? I have found that to live a creative life and keep inspired I need the balance of outdoors, being with family and having fun. This balance allows me to embrace my studio life instead of resenting the time I need to spend indoors to finish a project. I also take a camera along on my outdoor adventures and often find fodder for a new art project along the way. It's supposed to be cold this weekend, so perhaps I'll finish up that commission I'm working on, unless of course the sun is out and the sirens call.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Wild, Wonderful...Wales!

Pembrokeshire, Wales

There are those seminal events in life that you never forget, like where you were on 9/11, or what were you doing the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Two such events are forever linked in my mind: Neil Armstrong's 1969 moon walk and they day my best friend Anne walked into my life.

Three Cliffs Bay, Wales

As a junior in high school, my mother decided it would be a great idea for our family to host a foreign exchange student during my senior year. The only problem was convincing my Dad that he also thought this was a great idea. After all, feeding another mouth for a year, and having a person in the house that perhaps did not speak English was going to require some doing on her part. My mother was nothing if not inventive, and like women across the ages, she usually came through the back door to get what she wanted, and she was darned good at it. My dad's mother was English, and the apple of my his eye, so, my mother suggested we ask for a student from Great Britain. Voila! Mission accomplished.

St. Davids, West Wales

So, on a hot July day in 1969, after staying up all night to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, our family was off to the bus station in Columbus, Ohio to meet our new family member from Cardiff, Wales, Anne. Little was I to know the full impact of this event. Sure, we had a memorable year. I learned to sing a few songs in Welsh, and Anne learned how to eat corn on the cob (food for pigs don't you know) and peanut butter. We had English tea and took Anne to see Washington D.C. , Williamsburg and Florida. We took her camping and hiking and I sewed her some dresses. We rode our bikes and made Welsh dolls for Christmas, but what really happened is we became lifelong friends and honorary sisters.

Thornhill Farm

I have lost track of how many times I have visited Wales over the last forty years. Anne and I travel together frequently, and she is always willing to indulge whatever weird interest I have going on at the time. She has driven me to Yorkshire to buy textile art supplies, taken me to garden centers when I wanted to see how the Brits do it, followed me through Laura Ashley shops to look at fabric, eaten lunch with me in the crypt at St. Martins in the Field and walked through the Egyptology exhibit at The British Museum to mention just a few. The last time I was there, I asked her to drive me around so I could photograph some trees, "You know, you really have some good ones over here," I said in my most convincing voice. The majestic oak tree I photographed at Thornhill Farm, not far from Cardiff, was later translated into a quilt. I once asked Anne if there was any of my wacky ideas that she would not indulge. After some thought, she stated that she drew the line at bungee jumping or watching sporting events of any kind. Whew! I'm off the hook there. That's where I draw the line, too!