Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Two sides of the same coin

What's in a name? As elena, I am Gracious and Amicable.

I am friendly, charming, and warm. I get along with almost everyone. I work hard not to rock the boat. My easy going attitude brings people together.

At times, I can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, I pull it together.

I am relaxed, chill, and very likely to go with the flow. I am light hearted and accepting. I don't get worked up easily.

Well adjusted and incredibly happy, many people wonder what my secret to life is. I am very intuitive and wise. I understand the world better than most people.

I also have a very active imagination. I often get carried away with my thoughts. I am prone to a little paranoia and jealousy. I sometimes go overboard in interpreting signals.

I am usually the best at everything ... I strive for perfection. I am confident, authoritative, and aggressive. I have the classic "Type A" personality.

As mad elena, I am all of the above plus Powerful and Determined.

I am confident, self assured, and capable. I am not easily intimidated. I master any and all skills easily. I don't have to work hard for what I want. I make my life out to be exactly how I want it. And I'll knock down anyone who gets in my way!

I am balanced, orderly, and organized. I like my ducks in a row. I am powerful and competent, especially in the workplace.

People can see me as stubborn and headstrong. I definitely have a dominant personality.

Easy going, yet aggressive. Flaky but balanced. Well adjusted but paranoid. I'm suffering from a split personality! Yes I can be stubborn, but a "Type A" personality? Not!

This was fun but unreal. I'm crawling back into my studio - to organize it and work at mastering some skills.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why blog?

To share my experience at the Nancy Crow workshop, I recently told my mini-group about my blog. One member asked if I know if anyone reads it. Doesn't matter.

A few years ago, I worked through Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. She advocates getting up earlier each morning to journal. Manually write a few pages. Stream of unconciousness. That didn't work for me. This blog works.

It's a personal journal mainly about my quilting life. I blog for me - so I can see where I've been and remember what I've done. Each blogger has his/her own reasons for blogging. These are mine.

I don't post regularly. Doesn't matter if someone reads it. Or not. I don't hide it but neither do I actively promote it. Occasionally I do invite readers. I like to read comments though I may not be able to respond to each one.

A reader told me to post more. My thoughts don't always congeal on the spot so I may finish a post that I started drafting a while back. This may be linear thinking on my part, but it feels right to insert it where it fits best – usually when I started the draft. Even though I have the option of changing the date. Blogger lists the posts in chronological order so a new post may be buried among the older ones.

So dear reader, if you are looking only at the last post, you may miss the new post tucked in earlier.

Color exercise

Recently I made up a color exercise on request from a reader. Disclaimer: I'm not a quilt (nor art) instructor. I've started quilting a year and a half ago. How best could I teach someone what I know about color? I tried to approach it from an artist's viewpoint.

This exercise ended up in four parts – two in mixed media, two in fabric. It's a start. I'm waiting for feedback from my reader before developing a couple more complicated color exercises. I'm curious if these exercises succeed in elevating one's comfort with color and developing a sense of color.

If you want to try this first exercise, promise me some feedback. E-mail me (click on view my complete profile) and I'll send it to you.

Monday, December 8, 2008

La colorista

I've been an interior designer for 19 years now. Add another 6 years of art and design classes, that's 25 years altogether. Though color is not the only thing an interior designer selects, I've been through the paces. A few times I get to start from scratch. But most of the time it's a work-around what will not change. Ever try creating a color scheme that includes an oddball color from 20 years ago? I can't claim success every time.

Despite the years, I am still learning about color. What works for interior design may not work in a quilt. Sure, the basics are there. I don't have to look at a color wheel to find a complementary color. I recognize a color even when it is muted. I know color gets the credit but value does the work. But I love the eye candy!

I am a colorist. I love playing with color. Others complement me on my color choices. Yet I'd get into a color rut if I'd relied only on myself. So I keep an eye out for fresh color perspectives anytime, anywhere. Often it is serendipitous – from a momentary juxtaposition of color objects. Often it is subconscious – it resurfaces from long ago. Other times I deliberately seek out new color combinations. I just play. It looks easy. But really - I draw from a huge color selection tank.

Good color sense doesn’t develop overnight. In a recent Robert Genn's Twice Weekly newsletter, he cited Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers author, about how cognitively complex pursuits require ten thousand hours to get good . That's 3.4 years of 8-hour days 7 days a week. Or more realistically, 10 years at 1,000 hours each year or about 2.74 hours per day. So if color is a struggle for you, be generous with yourself and just keep working at it.

How do you go about selecting colors? Where have you found your color inspirations?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ribbons of progress

Have a plan for the ribbon quilt started in the workshop. Make more. Finish the exercises. Just do it! Quilt was really growing. Pulled off green ribbon - too bright - too bossy!

A preview of some ribbons:

Kinda stuck now. Nearly all fabric strips used. I think I could work with these two.

But these last two - I don't like these color combinations. What was I thinking? Last night was a real struggle working with the last one. How does the saying go? Making a purse from a sow's ear?

May be thinking too much. New fabric strips or new plan? Do need bigger design wall.

Yikes, holidays coming! Gotta do as much as possible this week 'cuz holidaze means art takes a back seat until end of the year. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Moth Willowshimmer

My fairy is called Moth Willowshimmer
She is a caster of weird dreams.
She lives close to crystal caverns and stalagtite grottos.
She is only seen when the first flowers begin to blossom.
She collects crystals to wear on her dresses. She has delicate green coloured wings like a cicada.

Friday, November 7, 2008


I'm replenishing my solids stash. At the last workshop, I'd sold four pieces and used three yards of the black out of four. Of the colors, if I have at least a 30" - that's my cutting off point - length left, I'm not worrying about it. But I have less - the shortest 17.5" - than that for about a dozen colors. Out of a hundred colors, not bad.

Decisions. If I find the same color, how much do I buy? Only a half yard? Then I'll end up with two short pieces. Another full yard? If I go for more workshops next fall, I'll most certainly be going through this again. I decided on 1.5 yards. Same for any new colors. That should hold me through the 2-week spring workshop at least. And maybe more.

Recently I spent 5 hours to press, catalog, and organize 12 new solid fabrics. That works out to 25 minutes per fabric. Imagine doing 100 fabrics - 25 minutes x 100 = 2500 minutes or 41.67 hours. Not even including shopping and laundering. That's quite an investment! Good thing most of my prior investment is still intact.

Addendum: The updated supply list says at least 1.5 to 2 yards of each solid color. The one-yarders may not be enough.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ohio & Michigan

After the week at the Crow Timber Barn, I met up with my friend Karen, whom I hadn't seen since her move back to Michigan 11 years ago. We meandered through Ohio on the way to her home near Detroit.

Highlights of my four days:
1. beautiful hilly (and green) eastern Ohio – Amish country: stopped at Amish stores and ate at Amish restaurants;
2. introductions to sweet potato fries – yum!
3. met Marilyn and Sonia, whom I'd only known online when we did the Artist's Way together a few years ago;
4. a trip to the Detroit Institute of Art - great art collection;
5. helped Marilyn eat her birthday cake - a decadent chocolate cheesecake made by Marlon - yum, yum!

6. made won ton noodle soup from scratch with Marlon - yum again!
7. learned about true obsessive-compulsiveness in Karen's graduate psychology class - gee I'm not really obsessive-compulsive;
8. practiced Tai Chi together and compared moves - we both study Wu style, but she for 10 years as opposed to my one, and with different instructors;
9. visited Pewabic Pottery - a working museum of pottery, tiles and glazes;
10. toured inside a townhouse and spoke with one of the original residents in the magnificient Mies' Lafayette Park in downtown Detroit.

Yes I ate well and gained back the few pounds lost during the workshop.

I had such a terrific time spending time and reconnecting with Karen and was really sorry to leave my good friend.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Workshop end

The final exercise: an 8'x8' ribbon quilt. Does Nancy give us this near impossible task to see what we could do?! Well we did what we could, as tired as we were at the end of an intensive week.
Here are my classmates - much relieved at the final presentation! Each of them did a knockout job!
Barbara V
Mary Ellen
Barb bjtmn@charter.net




Sandy K





No photo of Karolyn or Sandy S. or Denise, our independent study particant.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Crow process

Nancy posts exercises on the wall and gathers everyone around to explain them. They're handwritten with markers on 8.5x11 paper. No handouts.

We absorb the words when we write it as oppose to just reading a printout. But this also takes some time away from the exercise itself.

Patsy and Annette are intent on understanding the exercise.

Nancy does not drudge out the same-o same-o again and again for every workshop. She puts thought into adjusting them to make them more effective in getting her concepts across. She may even be writing out exercises just before posting. Another reason for not having handouts.

Each individual gets personal attention as she goes around the room to provide support - answer questions and help if you are stuck. Even after dinner when the workshop day has already ended, when we are all still working hard, she sticks around to make sure we are on the right track.

She'd tell you what's on her mind without apologies. I overheard her say "take that fabric off the wall. It's too bossy!" She did forewarn us she can be blunt. But she is also very giving. If she likes what you're doing, she'll give you loads of positive feedback.

So it's true – Nancy Crow is a demanding instructor. She demands your time, your attention, your critical eye, your good craftsmanship, and your best efforts. She gives back in return. With her fabulous eye and her outspokenness, she gives you real feedback. When it's nice, it's great, I love it aren't enough, go to Nancy. She's a rare treasure.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lagging behind at the Barn

I spent a week at Nancy Crow's Timber Barn for the workshop Best of Strip Piecing I & II. Rumors: her workshops are for masochists; she demands a lot of work; you'll be working from 7am until 10 pm; she doesn't pull any punches; she tells you like it is; she's very demanding. Didn't know really what to expect, but I was prepared to work hard.

It's been a hard day's night and I've been working like a dog. The workshop officially starts at 9am, but the studio opens at 7, and my roommate Annette and I would be there before 8 - one morning even the first at 7:04. The workshop officially ends at 5pm followed by dinner at 6. Many of us continued working until we couldn't anymore or until the studio closes at 10:30. One morning with so much to do, I keep putting off coffee or restroom breaks until lunch. Thank goodness Margaret made lunches, dinners and snacks. Who'd have time to cook?

Cut and sew, cut and sew, who's the slowest of them all? May have been me. Make bigger strips for more footage! My scale just naturally evolves. Let crooked seams be! But I am particular about my work and took apart sections to re-sew. For the final 8'x8' ribbon quilt top, let expressionism rule! But I am a minimalist. I haven't figure out how to let loose yet.

When I look at my notes now, the exercises sound so simple, so doable. Yet I didn't get to them all. I got done what I got done. I'll get to the rest on my own time.

Here I am at my final presentation. The end of an invigorating week.

So after all this, I would love to take more workshops with Nancy. And I would recommend her for every art quilter too! I am so glad I did this and now regret not signing on for the second week.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

First time at the Barn

Thank goodness I had Annette to direct me down so many two-lane roads. I'm not sure I can find it again, even after driving back and forth for 6 days. My usually good sense of direction abandoned me in Ohio.

The studio barn is separate from the house and a working barn. It's surrounded by trees, shrubs and vegetation. Expressions of artistic hands and eyes - sculpture, prints, and the arrangements of items – signify it as an artistic shelter and retreat.

The studio was already abuzz with activity. Everyone was setting up. With only half-an-hour before dinner, I focused on finding my place.

Some participants had reserved specific spots. After a quick glance around the room, I picked an empty corner. Good and bad. Everything was only a few steps away: exit door, kitchen, dining room, restrooms and stairs down to the wet studio. So everyone passed by. But no other workshop participant nearby. My closest neighbor, Denise, was there for independent study and Nancy would occasionally sit at the facing table for some paperwork. It was my quiet little corner.

We had great help setting up. Three men who did the heavy lifting, raised tables, located electrical, and just made sure everybody and everything was okay. Nancy's husband and son were among them.

After supper, all the key players – Nancy, her husband, John Stitzlein, her son Nathaniel Stitzlein, the wet studio instructors Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan, and the chef Margaret Wolf, introduced themselves, laid down the rules and outlined time frames. Then we, the workshop participants, got a minute to introduce ourselves.

John encouraged us to take walks around the farm – in its fall glory: leaves turning color and trees loaded with red apples. The weather during the week was just perfect with some crystal clear days, gorgeous cloud formations, and even some very light sprinkles. Temperatures were still warm with just a hint of winter. Little did I know he meant that day. Heavens, no time later!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What's going on

I joined a minigroup of quilters through the local quilt guild, EBHQ. With a wide range of experience, the challenge would be keeping the more experienced ones interested. We agreed to at least start by working through The Art Quilt Workbook by Jane Davila and Elin Waterson. Not in sequence though.

Started with the chapter on piecing. Here's my four-leaf sampler from Piecing Workshop by Ruth McDowell.
And a nine-patch using double cutting methods from Quilting Outside the Box by Sandi Cummings with a free-pieced center block.

I can't see making wall hangings out of either of these samplers. They will morph into throw pillow covers. At least they'd provide an opportunity for machine quilting. Maybe even FMQ.

Our second chapter was on collage. Due to life, I have nothing to show for this.

Third, working with photos. This from the pear pattern provided in the book.
A more complicated piece based one of my photos.

They're small, so-o-o hand quilting? No border either, just a binding.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Masked bandits

Aaargh! I didn't get to enjoy the fruits of my own labor!

I planted four fruit trees one and a half years ago. Each was multi-grafted to produce four varieties of each fruit. Last summer the squirrels got the few fruits they produced. Or so I thought.

This summer, there were only a few apricots and European pears but many Asian pears and loads of plums. More than enough for me and the squirrels, right? I was willing to share but got short changed.

Fruit was gone before it was even ripe. I managed to pick a few plums to ripen on the counter. But the Asian pears were gone way early. I got nary a one. Maybe the squirrels invited all their distant relatives for dinner. But I had other suspicions.

One tell-tale sign was poop in my back yard. We don't have a dog and these weren't from the neighborhood cats or squirrels. Another sign were the broken branches. Unless squirrels got way fat and lead footed.

Then about 8pm one evening my headlights spotted them crossing the street about two blocks down the hill. Four raccoons. Big healthy ones. The rascals!

Fruit season is over now. I'd probably paid more just for water for these few fruits than they would've cost in the grocery store. I am scheming to keep these bandits out next year.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Nancy mailed back my first check and envelope. The one that took two months to reach its destination.
It's all my own dang fault! In the interest of making a smaller earthly footprint, I used a pre-addressed envelope from somewhere. Stuck on a stamp, a return address label, and another label over the previous address and I was good to go. Wrong!
USPS directed it based on the pre-printed bar code instead of looking at the address on the label. The envelope was covered with markings and cancellations from the many detours that envelope took.
Tripped up by technology. Next time I'm being green, I'll know to cover up or cross the bar code out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I almost lost my spot in Nancy Crow's workshop.

The balance was due 6/1. My check went in the mailbox outside my office building on 5/27. But it hasn't been cashed. If that were still the case at the end of July, I planned on calling her.

She beat me to the punch! 7/16: Nancy left a message to the affect that she hadn't received the balance and she could give my spot away! Oh no! My plans! My reservations! My aspirations! It was late, but I left a voice message plus e-mailed her.

When we connected the next morning, she graciously promised to hold my spot. Whew! Another check in the mailbox directly outside the post office within hours. With five days for mail from California to Ohio, I e-mailed her yesterday to watch for it.

She replied that both checks arrived on 7/21 with both envelopes date stamped 7/17. How is that? Did my first check need a travelling companion? Did they somehow meet up somewhere? Did my snail-mail mantra work? Is someone up there testing me?

Any how, I am enrolled. I am going. But just in case, I am blessing the trip and workshop with another mantra. Other blessings gladly accepted.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A new leaf

I've hand sewn a leaf together - one three for my very first hand appliqué project started in Gabrielle Swain's workshop. The raw edges and ink marks are because it hasn't been appliquéd to the background fabric yet.

For expediency, I used a photo of an autumn leaf from Sierra magazine to make a pattern. I could have found an actual leaf or with a little research drawn my own leaf pattern – if I were more prepared or together. But I wasn't and I'm not.

The northern red oak grows mainly in the northeastern states and is not common in California. The leaf points and undulating edge make it a great shape. I was determined to finish at least one to test the technique and process even if I never do it again.

Hallelujah! I like hand appliqué. I'm not tied to the sewing machine and can take it just about anywhere without a lot of paraphernalia. It's relaxing repetitive work I can indulge in for a few minutes here and there. A Slow Quilt Movement?

All the recent talk on copyright issues on quiltart instilled a healthy respect for artists' rights. I wrote to the photographer identified in the magazine, Christopher Griffith. His book really captured the glory of autumn leaves. You can view it on his website. I requested permission and offered him credit on the label. Waiting for a reply before proceeding further with this leaf.

And if he does not reply? Or grant permission? I really like this leaf. Am I prepared to start again with another leaf?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Movie night

I am not a regular movie go-er. These days most movies seem to display pumped up testosterone more than anything else. Not something on which I'd want to spend a couple of hours and $10. Especially when movies show up on dvd in what seems like just weeks later. Not that I'd rent them then either.

When Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released, I made a point to see it. I've seen every previous Indiana Jones movies and always like watching Harrison Ford. So last Saturday – we had a hot spell and the house was an oven – I caught a late afternoon showing at the air-conditioned theater. Ah, relief from the heat!

Though I enjoyed it, I found some characters more like caricatures – the evil Nazis, the primitive natives, the greedy double crossing friend. I also winced at the HUMONGOUS footprint the movie made. In the chase through the Amazon, they plowed through a lot of vegetation. And imagine the cultural loss if all those native warriors were actually killed. I am always amazed by the wonton destruction of people and property in any movie. And the survival skills of certain characters.

Yeah, it's fiction – just a movie. That's not to say the destruction did not happen. How big a footprint does making an action flick like this actually leave?

A movie action does not make. I'd just like to see less action and more character or plot development. More thought. More balance. More shades of gray. Not just invincible heroes and ultimate villains.

Am I among only a few who wants this from movies?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Haves and have nots

Despite the economic doom and gloom, I sent my money in for the Strip Piecing I & II workshop at Nancy Crow's Barn in October. With that done, I am now stressing about plane tickets, lodging and supply. Yes, I am a worry-wart!

At least I have the fabrics - 100 solids, including off-whites, tans, black, white and grays. I would be in a total panic if I was trying to find, buy, wash, press and fold all these in one shot, let alone one or even two months! There are still some color gaps though.

It's harder to find more colors. At the stores, I pull out my handy dandy little fan deck. 'Cept it's not so handy and not so small - I am juggling a deck with a 3x4 index card for each solid. Like my baskets, my deck is divided into six color categories, then arranged by value. I feel a bit self-conscious but how else to separate the haves from have nots?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Workshop with Gabrielle

Gabrielle Swain whirled through here for a two-day workshop through EBHQ. She is a kick! She lets her personality come through and is not afraid to speak her mind! During lunch, she called her niece a pistol, then admitted she must then be a shotgun! I swear she said that!

The first day we designed and selected fabric. This was work! Better to spend time on design first rather than trying to design around a beloved piece of fabric, she said. I came up with a three leaf design with a segmented border. I've never hand appliquéd and was concerned about the small pieces. Bigger would be better. I enlarged the leaf by 200%. My quilt grew to 36" wide. Well, so much for keeping it small and doable!

Gabrielle nixed most of my fabric selection. Okay, I understand: too much pattern. She also kept saying too many colors. Leaves of a plant are all one color with variation only through light and shade. She must have emphasized that a few times and even had us look at real leaves on real plants. Eventually I understood that too.

I needed only five fabrics. The background passed. So did a chartreuse green solid I threw into my bag at the last minute. The rest of the fabric bought specifically for this class were unacceptable. Karen gave me a hand dyed that works. That was so generous of her. And Tish kindly let me borrow one of her shibori hand dyes. So after class, off to the local quilt shop with the approved fabric set for alternatives.

The second day was easier - less thinking involved. First off, she approved my latest purchase for the leaves and the pseudo-border. Yeah! I didn't need my backups! Then she showed us how to select leaf segments pieces by placing the pattern and fabric on a light box. How to mark the fabric, pin and hand baste. And her hand appliqué technique.

I started one leaf section in class. Gee, I could appliqué in front of the tv, in the car, in waiting rooms, etc. instead of being tied to the sewing machine. Wonder if I can actually finish this?

Monday, May 12, 2008


Uh oh, another sign of aging: two white lashes on my right eyelid.

All white lashes would be an interesting departure from my natural black ones. Then I could color them to suit the mood of the day and they'd really show up. Ooh, fun! Then I can dress up any day!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

EBHQ workshops

EBHQ gives great workshops. I've been signing up for just about every one since I joined. All in my quest to learn as much as I can this year. And I haven't been disappointed yet.

Katie Masopust Pasquini was here for a two-day workshop in February that parallels her book on Abstraction which will be out soon. We learned how and where to look for source material. I now have a great idea for a series. And other ideas are tucked away.

In March Carol Soderlund taught us about dispersed dyes. The techniques to get color on paper then transferred to fabric are so fun and easy. So many variables affect the final outcome that a why-worry attitude is more useful than obsession about every little mark. A great idea for an artists' play date!

We made fabric books in Nance O'Banion's April workshop. She provided most of the materials - simple really: magazines & stamps - and encourage us to let our inner voice guide our creativity. Surprise at what emerges. Another artists' play date idea. Her lecture and slide show was just fabulous - creative, warm, inspirational and spiritual. I am in total awe of this woman.

I love how quilting merges with other art. The creative possibilities are exponential. Wow! What a difference a few decades make!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Seismic activity

Preceding the quakes in the Reno, Nevada area, there was a whole lot of shaking going on here. Haven't posted much lately. What with tax season , I over committed and life just got in the way.

I joined the local quilt guild, East Bay Heritage Quilters, last year and have taken a workshop each month starting in February. With a whole month between, I'd think I can manage. But alas no! As I put together supplies for the next workshop, I am finally putting away stuff from the previous month's. Throw in a 7-Saturday class and a 4-week online class, I am over my head. Add tax returns, spring gardening (weeds never sleep in California), tenant and family issues and I have seismic activity! I still think I am younger and more energetic than I really am.

Life's pace has slowed for the moment. The calm before the storm? I aim to get my workspace cleaned up and some friends over for an art date.

But I am devoting this year to learning. More workshops through September with a reprieve in July. Then off to Nancy Crow's Barn in October.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I am an Empress

Beauty, happiness, pleasure, success, luxury, dissipation.

The Empress is associated with Venus, the feminine planet, so it represents, beauty, charm, pleasure, luxury, and delight. You may be good at home decorating, art or anything to do with making things beautiful.

The Empress is a creator, be it creation of life, of romance, of art or business. While the Magician is the primal spark, the idea made real, and the High Priestess is the one who gives the idea a form, the Empress is the womb where it gestates and grows till it is ready to be born. This is why her symbol is Venus, goddess of beautiful things as well as love. Even so, the Empress is more Demeter, goddess of abundance, then sensual Venus. She is the giver of Earthly gifts, yet at the same time, she can, in anger withhold, as Demeter did when her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped. In fury and grief, she kept the Earth barren till her child was returned to her.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ask & receive!

As with life, we know that's not really true.

My wish list included Ruth McDowell's no-longer-in-print book, Piecing, Expanding the Basics http://www.ruthbmcdowell.com/ . Of the six books borrowed from EBHQ's library, that's the only one I designated for my own library because it'll take me wherever I may go with this quilting life.

Also on the wish list: The Uncommon Quilter by Jeanne Williamson
http://www.uncommonquilter.com . Use of non-traditional materials fits right in with my recycle/reuse ethic. And justify my found objects, LOL. Since they're small quilts, this book can jump start my quilting motor.

Well Santa came through on the former and got help from myself for the second. Let the fun begin!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

can a canna can?

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

You stand up for what you believe in, even if it gets in the way of what other people think. You are proud of yourself and your accomplishments and you enjoy letting people know that.