Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lemon Still Life

Here is my lemon still life for my sculpture class. The original assignment was to make three replicas of an everyday item using three different materials. I chose a lemon. As we know from the movie The Break-up, three lemons are not enough. So I made a few more. The one in the foreground is painted Paperclay imprinted with netting. Then there is the woven yellow pipe cleaner lemon, the styrofoam wrapped with yellow duct tape lemon, and the stuffed knitted lemon. Out of view (for a good reason) is a yellow cotton fabric lemon that resembles a strawberry more than a lemon despite being bright yellow. Oh well. There is also a lemon made from an oddball conconction of found parts (napkin ring, closet door knob and an IKEA chest of drawer knob) (shown in an earlier post). I have included the original lemon in the still life although at this point it is starting to show its age. And eventually the actual lemon will be the object out of all of them that looks the least like a lemon!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Our area got the milder part of the ice storm. That said, I just spent the last three hours chipping ice off the paved part of the driveway. The photos below show part of the paved driveway during the spring. It is very long and steep, and I have not been able to take a photo that does it justice. Luckily the ice storm started with sleet instead of freezing rain. This meant the ice hadn't glazed the driveway, but had formed a floating veneer instead. I could break apart the icy coating and it fractured into shards that was easy to shovel off.

I launched into the ice removal at the first sight of daylight because the community college where I attend classes planned to open at 10AM this morning, just in time for my class. By 8:30AM, I realized that I was on a fool's mission, and there was no way I could get to class safely and on time. After I emailed the instructor with my regrets, I rechecked the inclement weather message and found that the college changed the opening to 12 Noon. No class after all.

But I dutifully went back to the driveway to finish the job. And now that I am back, Tommy and Jimmy are busy issuing commands. Yeow, yeow, yeow! And when I move, I say ow, ow, ow!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obsession or tedium?

My lemon obsession is rapidly deteriorating into tedium. I thoroughly enjoyed carving down a Styrofoam egg into a lemon shape and then covering it with yellow duct tape. I also enjoyed molding Paperclay into a lemon shape, although paint may obscure the imprint from the netting. I like the knitted lemon, but by the time I finished it, I had reached lemon overload.

And by the make the knitted lemon, I made three ovoid shapes and stitched them together. Although the ovoid shapes tapered like sections from a lemon, I improved the shape with stitching after the lemon was stuffed.

Now I must break away and do something else other than make lemons. The next class is on Thursday and I can see myself continuing to fabricate lemons until then. And without a hint of joy. In this case, more is definitely less.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Making Lemons

This is why I like classes. They put a bug of an idea in my head, and then I get delightfully obsessed with it. Obviously I need to develop my own obsessive ideas. But for now, I'm focused on making lemons from whatever materials I can find. Things that have the right color, shape and/or texture are no longer safe in my house.

I found a cotton fabric that I dyed a few years ago that is the perfect lemon yellow. I also have felt, duct tape and pipe cleaners that match the color of lemons. Yellow is not a color that I use that much of, so I found that I didn't have lemon-yellow thread or yarn.

I carved two sponges into lemon halves and glued them together. I will need to paint it lemon yellow, but I think it has a good lemon texture. I also have a beige netting that may help give the appropriate texture. I could use it to wrap a lemon structure or to imprint on some paper clay.

I like the idea of varying the methods I use along with the materials. With the sponge, I took a larger object and cut it down to size. With paper clay I will be building up material to look like a lemon. And then with the fabric, I will have to construct it somehow. I'm not too sure how that will work out--whether I can mold it a bit with stitches of thread like for a doll, or whether I will do better with more careful construction from pattern pieces.

Friday, January 23, 2009

First week of classes

The pileated woodpecker is part of a monoprint I made last semester in printmaking.

This semester I'm taking a computer graphics class and sculpture (design fundamentals 3D). Our first assignment for sculpture is to take an everyday object, and copy it 3 times with different materials. Scissors, in one example, were made from wire, then twigs, and bread dough.

For my object I'm thinking about using a lemon. Maybe the bright yellow seems so appealing in the dead of winter. I'm already finding this an interesting assignment. The color is the easiest part, I think. The solidity and shape may also be straight forward. So I think the lemon texture will be the biggest challenge. Some potential materials are sponges, screen, and paperclay. But since I'm all about the fiber, I may also have to try knitting a lemon, making a soft sculpture with fabric and maybe beading a lemon shape.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Peace and Harmony?

This was my view while watching Obama's inaugural address. Tommy and Jimmy were obviously inspired by the phrase "Extend a paw, not a claw." (I may be paraphrasing.) During the night there was a tussle, however. Sometimes Jimmy likes to extend a paw and touch Tommy while he's sleeping. These invasions of body space are not well tolerated. I did remind them that the Obama administration was in effect for more than one day.

Yesterday when I washed the red, white and blue quilt, I added some synthrapol as a preventive measure for any bleeding. And yikes. There were several places where the red fabric bled into the white. I discovered this as I was pulling it out of the dryer. So I popped it back into the washer, added more synthrapol and put it in for an extra rinse. And success.

The final steps for a quilt of valor are washing, adding a label and making a presentation case (essentially a pillow case). I did these yesterday, so today I will request a destination.

Today is the first day of classes--Computer Graphics from 10-12AM. And yes, even at my age, I get that weird feeling of anticipation that seems to be an odd mix of excitement and dread.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I didn't expect to finish the machine quilting in two days...but there you go. The photo shows the last curve of stitching. The last line is marked with blue chalk so in the photo it appears to be already quilted.

Last night after I had sewn on the front side of the binding by machine, I went ahead and started the hand sewing. And so the quilt was finished before the inauguration. But that's okay because who can sew while they are jumping up and down with excitement?

Here is the detail view that shows the machine quilting. I used a variegated red, white and blue thread (King Tut). Everything went smoothly until I had a glitch with the bobbin tension. This meant undoing a line of curved diagonal stitching. But when the tension is off, undoing the stitching is much easier.

The final step will be to scrutinize the Quilts of Valor submission requirements. I already know that I need to add a label and wash the quilt. And as usual, I will have to spend some time extracting loose threads and removing as much cat hair as possible.

But most of my day today will be spend smiling, sighing and admonishing the cats that there will be no more fighting under an Obama administration.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Half Way

I made significant progress on the red, white and blue quilt yesterday. I finished all of the machine stitching in the ditch, following the horizontal and vertical seam lines. Then I took out all of the safety pins I used for basting. Today I will stitch curves along the diagonals to form overlapping circles across the surface of the quilt.

I have also managed to catch a cold. Where did that come from? And it came on so fast this morning I didn't even have a chance to circumvent it with placebo concoctions. I am going to proceed anyway combining placebo with denial and see where it gets me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

No Progress

I have been running around the last two days with little to show for it. If I had thought to take my camera with me I could have shown an almost frozen lake with a flock of Canadian geese clumped in an unfrozen section. Or I could have shown my neighboring cow herd sitting on their hay pile trying to keep warm. As they nestled together, they munched on their hay blanket. Here is an earlier picture of Gracie before she became a mother.

Meanwhile, I have made no progress on the red, white and blue quilt. I now have two days to machine quilt it. Luckily its only a medium size, roughly 60X60 inches. I had hoped that writing a blog would help inspire me to make more consistent progress on projects. Unfortunately, the step of "doing" remains undone.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Remember the mystery fabric, an Alexander Henry from 2001?

This morning I discovered a second colorway in my stash. It too is mysterious, except that the colors are such a throwback to the 70's, who wouldn't love it? Also, with this colorway the higher contrast makes the striped patch jump out.

But the discovery of the second mystery fabric highlights the nature of my fabric stash. I essentially have two stashes: fabrics with less than a yard that are housed in wire drawers and fabrics of a yard or more stored as flat folds on shelving units. Each stash is sorted by color with a few exceptions such as stripes and novelty.

I could also argue that these two stashes are divided historically because I rarely buy more than 1/2 yard anymore. Back in the 80s, the saying was to buy at least 3 yards of any fabric that you truly loved. There was so much less variety in patterns and colors. Yellows were particularly hard to come by. Or a very dark print. In fact, we built fabric stashes to compensate for the color trends that made jewel tones available one year but not the next. And, of course, let's not forget the pure pleasure of wallowing in piles of fabric.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Equal Time

Tommy, the benevolent dictator, demands equal time. Not really. As head of household he judiciously manages his demands to ensure he always gets what he wants when he wants it. In contrast, like the boy who cried wolf, Jimmy tends to yeow for no particular reason and therefore gets ignored more often.

Yesterday I received an invitation to the inauguration! Such an honor to receive an invitation to all of the public events. I think I'll stick with my private inaugural party instead--that is, my plan to sew the binding on to the quilt of valor while privately viewing the inauguration on television. I imagine the quilt would be acceptable on the mall if it's cold. I suspect, however, that the needle and thread for sewing on the binding would not be as welcome.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Center of the Universe

Jimmy usually follows me around, but today he would like me to follow him around. His brother Tommy hates to be disturbed from is late morning beauty nap, so he's off limits. And this is the time of day that Jimmy is most full of beans. We've already played catch the flying balls so now Jimmy is stomping around trying to figure out what comes next on his schedule before nap time. Apparently making loud distress calls from downstairs are the next order of business.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Baby Steps

The quilt of valor is layered and ready for machine quilting. I still intend to have the machine quilting finished by January 20, so I can sew the binding on as I watch the inauguration. I also want to have it finished before classes begin on January 21. I will be taking a computer graphics class and sculpture (a.k.a. design fundamentals 3D).

I also made progress on the mystery quilt. I went to the mystery class on Saturday and found out it's really called a mystery club. And as I suspected, all of the participants were nice with strong tendencies towards optimism.

We were given our first assignment and are expected to bring what we have finished to the next meeting (February 14, the second Saturday of the month). I figured I should pull everything together as soon as possible or I will be looking at the instructions on February 13 and scratching my head.

So I dug through my stash of fabrics for a "focus
fabric," essentially the palette for the quilt. The focus fabric itself will only be the border. As I rummaged around I found a fabric that I swear I have never seen before in my life. It's an Alexander Henry from 2001 according to the selvedge. It seems that this is therefore an appropriately mysterious fabric for a mystery quilt.

For the lights in the quilts I went with sage green, and then decided to go split complementary and pull in the red orange and violet for the medium and medium dark. Not the usual color combination I realize, but I thought the colors in the quilt should tie to the most dominant colors in the border. I'm using a neutral for the medium light background.

The photo shows the completion of the first step: 18 sets of 4 patches. And by the way, I did recognize about 80 percent of the other fabrics I pulled into this project.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Genetic Influences

These are the only two drawings I have from my father. Can you tell he was an engineer?

One of the first major projects for my drawing class was called One to Five. The instructions were to draw the numbers one through five overlapping (fitting within 16X20 inches), then to add and delete lines as necessary to form pleasing shapes. The next step was to use colored pencils to fill in the shapes as a way to learn tonal shading.

I wasn't happy with the clump of numbers I had drawn in class, so at home I drew the numbers out separately. I cut them out so I could arrange them like a collage. In class, I already knew the number one wanted to be a giraffe. With the cutouts I could arrange the numbers to better fill up the page and give breathing room to the animals. I then transferred the layout to the drawing paper.

The following week when all of the students put their works in progress up for the critique, it was immediately apparent that I had been channeling my dad. Other students had rubbed their colored pencils into stubs. One student went through three black pencils. Another student described how she had been angry when she worked on one section, but had felt better when she worked on another. Not only hadn't I felt that much emotion within the entire past year, it hadn't even occurred to me to express emotion within the drawing.

Since then I realize that you can either go with the flow of your natural inclinations or, I guess, decide where you want to go and work your way to that point. For now I'm going to go with my natural inclinations although they aren't really what I would have expected.

And as for the five animals...the giraffe is the one, the snake is the two, the hippo rear end is the three, the zebra is the four and the elephant is the five.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's a Mystery to Me

Today I am going with a friend to a mystery quilt class. I admit I don't have the faintest clue why a person would want to make a mystery quilt. Making a quilt following construction instructions without knowing what design you are making? Isn't that like going to IKEA, but instead of going through the store picking an item you like, you head for the loading dock where a clerk hands you an unmarked box? Then you're supposed to take the box home and assemble the unit without knowing what piece of furniture it is. Do you assemble it step by step wondering whether it's a chest of drawers, a bookcase or a TV stand? Maybe some would think "Oh, I just love IKEA furniture and I can hardly wait to see what wonderful piece of furniture I'm making." Others like me might dwell on, "Oh, I hope it's not a table for changing diapers. Too bad IKEA doesn't make cat trees."

So that might be the answer...quilters go to a mystery class to meet happy optimistic people, because the grouches stay at home. And speaking of grouches. For my printmaking class, each student illustrated a scene from the story "The Three Bears." I didn't realize until today that I had chosen the most tragic scene in the story--the little bear realizing he had no porridge. Well, hopefully the class with happy optimistic quilters will cure my bad attitude.

Friday, January 9, 2009


The red, white and blue quilt (top, batting and backing) is laying out on a table waiting for pin basting. It had to sit and wait today while I drove up to the Washington DC area to visit a longtime friend. I had a wonderful visit. And as part of the visit, her new dog Snickerdoodle took us to the nearby dog park so I could meet some of his nearest and dearest friends. Well, for today that is.

In honor of Snickerdoodle, here is a quilt I finished about a year ago.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Quilt of Valor Progress

I love to read blogs. And I am amazed at the productivity of some of my favorite bloggers. I wonder whether their blogs help them along or they get a lot done anyway. This blog is my experiment to see if having a blog will give me a productivity boost. To do that though, I need to show more work in progress instead of just finished projects.

It may have been a year ago that I started on a Quilt of Valor. It has sat neglected until recently when I finally finished the quilt top. Now I'm wondering if I can layer, machine quilt and bind it before the inauguration.

The quilt is a simple log cabin variation. I have seen the pattern referred to as a Bento Box quilt. I chose red, white and blue because those are the apparent color favorites for Quilts of Valor. But I must say this is not my usual color choice. The white fabric is a bit on the fussy side given the gold metallic (see closeup photo below). However, I made a four block sample that I layered, quilted and washed, and everything turned out fine.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Monotype Jimmy

Taking art classes has forced me to come up with a lot of new ideas whether I want to or not. Sometimes you have to come up with ideas in class, while other times you may be told to come to the next class with six design ideas. Needless to say, I learned to bring a sketchbook and photos to class for a source of ideas. So when I used the close up photo of Jimmy to make a monotype in my printmaking class, it was because I had run out of ideas, not because I was working in a series. And because he's adorable, of course. And with Jimmy, I almost always get a closeup because he always marches towards the camera when I take his picture.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How To Make A Symbolic Jimmy Cat

Last spring I signed up for a drawing class at my local community college. This wasn't something I was expecting to enjoy--I just wanted to eliminate my "I can't draw" mentality. The process of learning to draw has always seemed too tedious and structured. Of course, I was wrong. Although admittedly my drawing class was rather nontraditional.

Now I'm hooked and working my way through the art curriculum. I find it fascinating that you can give a group of people a project--a set of constraints--and end up with so much diversity.

Here's an assignment from my design class. Take a 5X7 (inches) black and white (gray scale) photo with lots of contrast and draw grid lines on it every quarter inch. Next, take a blank piece of paper and draw a light half inch grid that is 10X14 inches. Then transfer the values square by square from the 5X7 photo to the 10X14 grid using a different pattern in each half inch grid. Aagh!

Given I was going to be looking at the photo a lot, I thought it should be something Jimmy Cat.

I used symbols as my patterns for the most part. Because I have a hard time with relative values, I took a 10 step photo gray scale and then made a matching patterned gray scale. This took me several (20) tries. But once I had the mapping, it was much easier to remain consistent and not veer too light or dark. And yes I think its funny that Jimmy has an envelope in the middle of his forehead.