If you are a native of Virginia, then like me you probably love those few weeks in late April and May when the Wild Virginia Bluebells carpet those forgotten places in the woods of the hills and mountains. They have long been one of my favorite flowers. When choosing what flowers to include in my Virginia Wildflower Tapestry there was no question these would be there.
Creating Jack was indirectly inspired by the work of Velda Newman and her gigantic 3-d flower quilts. I can not quite explain it, but seeing her work freed me to do whatever I wanted to do and call it Art Quilting.
My original sketch was simple. I wanted the flower to dominate, but NOT by being so different from the background that it was obvious. In nature, wildflowers tend to be subtle and hidden from plain sight.
I had given myself a goal for this year to create a new work every two weeks. Part of this is that I realized that in order to create quality work I must produce a larger body of work. Not everything is going to be a masterpiece. But the more I produce the more I will have quality. AND I learn and improve my technique by quickly having to solve new problems.
I actually took three weeks to make this piece. And to tell the truth, at the beginning of week three I was really beating myself up that I had not completed this one piece IN my allotted time. But then I realized that In making this piece was not making ONE tapestry; I was making five completely different individual works of art that could stand alone and would be combining them into a single large wall hanging. (So technically, I am AHEAD of my scheduled goal of a new piece every week! BIG SMILE!)
I have learned a lot in this process, and I have enjoyed the work immensely. Next up… Panel # 2: Jack-in-the-Pulpit!
Coming at my quilting as I have from a painters perspective, it is often the first steps that excite my creative juices and gets me thinking outside the box — drawing and color choices. In my last Blog post, I showed the single long sketch idea that started this process for me, and then the individual pieces as they were organically cut apart and readied to begin the work on each one.
My next step in this process is to come up with a color scheme. Not only for each of the panels for in a way that connects the piece as a whole. Using nature as a guide line (very loosely, I might add) for plant color, I juxtapose colors for unity, for conflict, for emotional response. I use Sharpies to paint in the color ideas I have. These are not set in stone but are guides. I tend to choose fabric along the color lines but the intensity and the textures can change at any time.
You can see from these colorized sketches that I use a very liberal connection with natures colors. As both a painter and an art quilter I love pushing color boundaries.
After I have worked out my color schemes come the fun part of picking fabrics! Even as organized as I am this can be a bit of a messy process! But I love to see fabrics against each other and play with their individual color in light and dark and how they respond next to each other.
Now the creative and disciplined part really begins: chop and glue!
I began a new Wall tapestry this week. I have been playing with new quilting techniques inspired by Susan Carlson’s large glued wall quilts. I also recently saw some quilts by Velda Neuman that just blew me away.
We have had a long, tough year here. I have been dreaming of quilting. Last year I began the process of business planning to create a studio business for myself finishing quilting for other quilt top piecers. My original intention was to invest in a long arm machine and set up shop full time as a quilter. I live in an area with a lot of high-income-family quilters who, as one Quilt store owner told me when I was discussing my plans, “Quilt with their pocketbooks.” they love to make tops, they don’t mind paying to have them finished for them. I belong to one quilter’s quilt that has about 300 members. Many of them pay to have their quilts finished.
I rented time on a long arm machine and I love the process of quilting. I actually love quilting and finishing other peoples tops MORE than I liked piecing quilt tops. (Which is VERY different from how I feel about creating one of a kind art quilts!)
In the mean time, life took over. I spent three months driving my partner back and forth to Baltimore for cancer treatments. ( thank god he is doing fine now!) I came to grips with my own health issues — primarily a strange disease called D.I.S.H. that calcifies all my tendons and ligaments where they connect at my spine and turns them into bone, along with cervical and lumbar stenosis of the spine that makes standing and walking for long periods of time incredibly painful. All of which makes standing and working at a long-arm-machine for a job impractical.
BUT! I am ready to make some serious changes in both my life and in my living. I am in the process of relocating to Bedford, VA. where I was born. I intend to open a studio gallery there and to sell my own art quilt works, as well as do quilting for other piece-makers. I am looking at investing in a sit-down long arm machine instead. I seem to be able to work for long periods of time seated and not have the strain on my back for now. ( I am currently doing all my quilting on a little Heavy Duty Singer machine 4011 with a 6″ neck…!!!!) In that mode, I am focused these days on creating pieces for a body of work that is professional quality and unified in my own style of “painting” with fabric. I am focused on creating art pieces not that are based on my own sketches from nature and on my oil landscapes which are all paintings of my sense of place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia.
In that mode, I am focused these days on creating pieces for a body of work that is professional quality and unified in my own style of “painting” with fabric. I am focused on creating art pieces now that are based on my own sketches from nature and on my oil landscapes which are all paintings of my sense of place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia.
Bedford VA is a beautiful little town somewhat lost in time in the Blue RidgeMountains. It has become a bit of a tourist destination due to the National D-day Memorial there. (Bedford County lost the highest per capita number of young men in the nation at the D-day invasion of Normandy.) There is also the Smith Mountain Lake area of Bedford that is a resort/ retirement destination for many who love on the water.
Bedford is a Designated Main Street Town, it is part of the Virginia Artisan Trail, and it hosts numerous arts and community associations and events for all.
Because of this, and the incredible beauty of the area, I have always longed to return there in my soul. Almost all of my oil paintings were based on remembered visions and feelings of the time I grew up in that idyllic area. The colors, the emotional response to the landscape and to nature there have always held a fascination for me. And so art quilt work is beginning to reflect that desire and to prepare for a market here as well. Thus the new wall hanging Virginia WildFlowers.
Virginia Wildflowers is a piece composed of 5 different wildflower panels of plants native to Virginia: The Giant Red/Green Trillium, Ladyslipper Orchids, Purple Violets, the carnivorous Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and my favorite wild Virginia Bluebells. The finished piece will measure approximately 30″ x 60″ depending on how the separate panels are connected. I have designed the panels to have organic shapes and to have visual interest with cut outs and with texture from quilting and from 3-d flowers and bead ornaments. I am very excited about the project. I am going to walk you through the development of these. Here are the original sketches on muslin ready for the process to begin.
It has been a rough year. Last year my best friend in the world died. I was her caretaker for the last few months. Watching her give up on life and let go was so painful and yet, so necessary for her. She made it to her 80th birthday; a mile stone she really wanted to achieve. Then in mid-summer, Jane died the day after my birthday, a time we had always celebrated together. I was devastated by the loss of that deep friendship that has sustained me through so much of the last 15 years. It was one of the only truly deep and spiritual soul friendships I have ever had.
Then my partner was diagnosed with prostate cancer at Thanksgiving. We went into fight mode and spent the first 4 months of this year actively engaged in warfare. Daily trips to and from Baltimore from Northern Virginia for Radiation treatments; a strict diet regime; rest whenever possible. It was exhausting for me and I was only driving and caretaking. I can hardly imagine what it was like for Mike. But the good news is his prognosis is great and he is doing very well now.
I have been struggling for a few years with my own body. I have several degenerative bone issues. (No one can have just ONE can they???) in the past 5 years, I have had both my hips fully replaced. the miracle of science allows me to walk now. But the expense of necessary major surgeries when you do not have insurance is overwhelming. I have now been diagnosed with Lumbar stenosis and cervical stenosis. These diseases apparently are caused by bone spurs growing inside my spinal column and putting pressure against my spine, making it painful for me to walk, or bend, or lift anything, or stand for long periods of time right now. I as well have a strange disease called D.I. S.H. which causes all my ligaments and my tendons that connect to the spine to calcify and become bone… which is painful and is reducing my flexibility. Major surgery for the Lumbar stenosis is prescribed.. but at a starting fee of $115.502 for the surgeon alone, that is not an option. I can control the pain with strong doses of steroids and some pain medication, which is allowing me to slowly get my life back.
The depression from all of this has had me in meltdown for most of the year. I can hardly believe it is September already. All of that is to say I am sorry I have neglected to write and to post here. Except for the rag quilt I started in January and finally finished in April, and a couple of American Heroes Quilts I quilted and finished for that charity, I have done nothing in the way of sewing or promoting my business until this week.
The good news is that finally I am waking up and becoming real again. I have spent time working with a coach and I have again focused on building my business for myself and on creating art again.
This week I will be sharing with you the process I am following to create a series wall piece that is based on the wild flowers of Virginia. I am in the process of aligning things to relocate to my home town of Bedford, VA. There I will have a gallery and a studio space for my own work and to finish quilts for others.
I haven’t had much time to sew what with trips to Baltimore daily for cancer treatments for my honey, and my own health issues. But I decided to try something “fun” and not worry about the outcome. Of course, if you know me… that is easier said than done. I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to creating.
So I had these 5″ charm packs of rustic homespun red and tan fabric and I decided to make a rag quilt. Something I have never done, and not really thought about. (And honestly, don’t know if I have ever SEEN one in person… lol )
I had no idea the amount of time and effort it takes to create each of those 180 squares, stitch them, then figure out a layout, combine them… not to mentions the time to snip all the edges and then fluff for days until it has the natural look!!!!
So far… I have gotten the squares put together and begun the layout process… more later!
Sometimes, like most of us, I am just looking for a way to keep busy. I have these tons of scraps in my sewing room that I never know what they are from or why I have them, nor any real plans for them. But then I have spare time and a hole in my schedule and so I just HAVE to make something.
My kid sister does a lot of beautiful traditional pieced quilts. She is a real artist in the traditional quilting sense. Me, on the other hand, I prefer the actual quilting process to piecing tops. So when I am looking for something to work on, I am more inclined to make a whole cloth quilt or throw together whatever is near to make a top I can practice on.
My sister asked me to make a twin quilt that she could take to a craft market. I had these precut 5″ squares in strange colors I had picked up from a swap table at the Fairfax Quilters Unlimited meeting so I thought I would piece a simple top and a pillow case to go with. The quilting will be what ties the fabric together.
Once I get the rows pieced I will add a border of creme muslin, and a muslin backing. I will then determine the patterns for the quilting. I am thinking Orange Peel for the color blocks using their edges for guides and using a variegated thread. Then perhaps a border of Leaf Meander.
Once we get back from the Drs’ today I will have a better idea of where I want to go with it…
While life is a bit hectic now with daily commutes to Baltimore and for cancer treatments, and the usual stuff of life and love and building a business. I did have time yesterday to quilt this darling little baby quilt. I used a daisy chain pattern fo the 3″ squares and then did a simple paisley for the sheepish boarder. I hope to get the binding on it this afternoon.
In December of 2015, my best friend Jane Bonin was diagnosed with a lung cancer that had metastasized. She died on July 24, 2016, the day after my birthday. (For the last 16 years we had always been together to celebrate each other’s birthdays, Christmas eve, and any other special occasion. In fact, every day was a special occasion for us and a reason to talk, laugh, eat, share wine, and celebrate all of life.) Losing Jane’s close friendship has taken a toll on me that I am only coming to realize now.
November 2016, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to be exact, we learned that my husband and the other dearest friend I have ever has been diagnosed with another form cancer. Needless to say, my emotional stress level went a few notches higher. I would be so completely lost without his support, love, encouragement and friendship!
The good news is that his cancer is in the very early stages and it is easily treatable. There are many different options, but the one we have chosen is Proton Laser Radiation Therapy Treatment. The difference between Proton therapy and Photon therapy treatment is the type of radiation and in the mass of affected tissues around the cancer site. The Proton beam is a much denser bean and can transmit a much tighter beam of radiation that can be controlled and stopped at an exact spot rather than passing through to damage other surrounding tissues. It is a specialized treatment and is covered by many insurance programs. (Thank goodness.)
The BAD news is that there are very few areas that offer the treatments and they must be done on a daily basis for a specific amount of time. (In our cases 9-10 weeks.) Currently, the closest medical centers that provide the proton service are in Baltimore, Md (UMMC) 1.5 hours away; and in Hampton Rhoades, VA (3 hours away.)
We are doing a daily trip to Baltimore — Monday through Friday — before God is awake every morning to beat traffic and to get treatment over with so that my husband can still get hours into his work day. It makes for a long day for him, but he enjoys working and it keeps his mind sharp. And he is just not ready to retire. (We always can still use the money while I am building up my business!)
I am not able to get a lot of sewing/ quilting/ artwork done right now between the driving and appointments and the dogs and the house and making sure he is doing OK. I am also not able to blog every day as I had hoped to do originally. Life gets in the way of Life sometimes. But family and friends are the most important things that we have in life. Studies have shown repeatedly that no one looks back over their life when the are ready to go and says they wish they had worked harder or made more money. They often say they wish they had connected more, been there more, loved more. I want to make sure that every life I touch, however briefly, is better for having known me. And so with gratitude, I thank the universes for the moments I have now. For all that I am. For all that I have. For all that is coming my way. and for the chance to love as completely as possible while the time is now!