Friday, January 3, 2014

No more...

I don't see myself coming back here. I don't want to blog any longer. I have better things to do with my life.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Progress...

I have SO many UFOs... UnFinished Objects... in my studio. For many quilters, myself definitely included, the fun is in doing the piecing, and constructing a quilt back and doing the actual quilting is something to be set aside and hope, magically, that it will do itself. When I make one of my gazillion-piece, free-style works, I expect to do the quilting myself. I use the stitch-in-the-ditch method, because I don't want to distract from those gazillion pieces of fabric I've so cleverly woven into the finished project. I actually very much enjoy that process, and don't begrudge a moment of the time it takes, which is considerable. My problem is with the more-or-less "traditional" quilts I make. I don't have a clue as to how to quilt them.

For many years I just "sat" on my quilts by stuffing them into a huge UFO bin and figuring, one day, I'd take them to a professional long-arm quilter and let her worry about how to do the actual deed of quilting them. Recently, I've begun thinking about how I want to quilt some of them, and, though I'm not up to doing it myself, I realize I have some good ideas to pass on to a professional quilter to guide her (or him) in the direction I want to go. I realize I have a say in the color of thread, design motifs and other details the pro might use, and am not trapped into just surrendering my "child" to an automaton to do with as they wish. There are some very excellent and skilled long-armers out there, and they're becoming more and more prolific with ideas and designs to fit the quilt, and one doesn't have to be satisfied with a "medium meander" in a neutral thread color to get the task done. So, I'm looking at my quilts with a different eye these days, and deciding exactly what I want done to my creation, and am entitled to expect that the pro will be able to understand and execute my desires.

Several weeks ago I found a plastic baggie full of 12-14" blocks that had been stashed in a bin of scraps. I can't remember when I made these blocks, but it must have been a long time ago when I was first starting to work with African fabrics. I recognized many of the fabrics as being among the first African fabrics I purchased, back in the early '90s, after taking a fantastic class with Roberta Horton that was my initial exposure to African fabrics. Roberta opened an entire new world to me with her own marvelous African styled quilts, and I realized immediately I'd found my own niche in the quilting world. In 2000, the fabulous South African quilter, Lee Hackmann, was one of the teachers at PIQF - Pacific International Quilt Festival - held annually in Santa Clara, CA. I took three days of classes with Lee, and she literally changed my life. I learned to mix fabrics in a totally random way, discovered the individual pieces didn't have to be of uniform size and shape, experienced the freedom of points that didn't have to match, that quarter-inch seams weren't necessary and an eighth-inch seam was perfectly okay, learned that steam is my "friend", and a huge number of other "facts" of quilting that totally over-rode the established rules of quilting. What a sense of freedom, of release, of utter exuberance those realizations made. I incorporated all of Lee's rule-breaking techniques into my quilting style, and have never looked back.

These are the blocks I found...


After adding black fabric borders to each block and trimming them down to identical size, I added some sashing and borders, and came up with this...


Bingo!! All of a sudden, my UFO has become an FO, and I'm ready to take it to the long-arm pro and let her turn it into a masterpiece!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why I Love Chiropractic



After weeks of grinding pain, sleepless nights, ineffective physical therapy treatments and hair-tearing, screaming-and-cursing frustration, today I finally did what I should have done in the first place... I visited my amazing chiropractic team. It was a rough session, but I got through it and now I feel so much better I can hardly believe I'm the same person.

Healing is an interesting business. I'm not taking anything away from healers of any sort... everybody's methods work for some of the people some of the time. But, I feel this adage holds true... "When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail." You go to a doctor and they prescribe pain meds and physical therapy, because they're trained to believe those things work for any and all problems. When you go to a physical therapist, they give you exercises and heat/stims and ultrasound treatments, because, in their world, those things work most of the time. When you go to a chiropractor, they do their adjustments by whatever methods they use, because they know that's what usually whips people back into shape.

After spending years in the medical machine, mostly as a nurse, but also as a psychiatric technician and member of an ambulance crew (before the concept of EMT was ever thought of), I've seen a lot of medical processes in action. Some worked, and some didn't. As a result, I have no contentions about seeking alternate treatment if something doesn't work for me. Doctors are not omnipotent, and I honestly feel most of them don't think of themselves in these terms nowadays. The reasons for their faith in their opinions is a result of their years of big bucks spent in rigorous study, intense internship, residency and the business of establishing themselves in the medical community. When you put that much time, energy and bucks into what you're doing, you have a right to believe what you're doing is the right, if not the only, way to do things.

But, as we all know, doctors aren't always right, medical treatments are sometimes ineffective, and things can easily go amok when you're dealing with health issues on an individual-to-individual level. When things aren't working for you health/treatment wise, you have the right, if not the obligation to yourself, to change your treatment options.

Several months ago, when my pain issues re-located themselves from wandering around my shoulder area down into my biceps muscles, I thought it was due to recent workouts I'd started doing at the gym. The pain was in my muscles, not my joints, so I didn't think of this as a chiropractic issue. My husband and my friends kept yammering at me to "go see my doctor"... a typical American response. Along these lines, I have a friend, who, whenever I complain of any kind of ailment always asks, "What does your doctor say?" When I say I haven't seen a doctor, she acts as though she thinks I'm an idiot for not immediately seeking a doctor's advice, as if that's the only way you can dependably find out what's wrong with you. This is back to the "Doctors as Gods" philosophy, which I totally reject.

Thus, in the search for "something that works," I found myself seeking out chiropractors a number of years ago. In those days, DCs were mostly "twist 'em and crack 'em" kind of guys, and, even though their techniques sometimes (not always) worked, I found myself so fearful of the pain and possibility of injury because I knew what was coming, I was never able to relax enough for the twists and cracks to work. Along the way. I was fortunate enough to discover my current chiropractic team. They employ a newer methodology that doesn't involve the twisting and jerking of the other chiropractic doctors I'd seen, and ultimately quit seeing, for fear of the pain and possibility of breaking my neck, and facing life in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic, and other yada-yada type of fear-bullshit.

In addition to their gentler techniques, my current chiropractors are also very knowledgeable in nutrition and exercise, which go hand in hand with treatment in solving my (or anyone else's) problems. I call them "full-service chiropractors," and they've started me on a path of taking better care of myself, and have also taught me that our spines are the 'backbones' (no pun intended) of our health, and just about any problem can be solved by treatment/adjustment of some area of your spine.

I have a bit of a ways to go yet in the overall care of my body and general health, but these two doctors of chiropractic are my biggest allies in my campaign.

All of this philosophical rambling comes from the fact that I feel so bloody much better tonight than I've felt in the past two months. If the pain returns, which it probably will because my posture is bad, I'm overweight, and, basically, lazy with regards to exercising... let me never forget to next time START with chiropractic in my search for relief!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Guinea Hens

I bought a fun piece of fabric recently that had some really cool, stylized Guinea hens printed on it. I love these adorable little hens. My adventurous grandmother went through dozens of breeds of chickens when I was a kid, and I think I liked the Guineas the best. They were small and had a gazillion white speckles all over their feathers, and were very round, with big butts that stuck up in the air, no tails to speak of, at least not like most other chickens. They had really ugly heads with very few feathers and eyes that were sort of hooded and made them look mean! But they weren't mean, in fact, they were quite sweet little birds that made a much softer and more appealing sound than many of the other chickens I remember meeting in my childhood.


So... when I saw a piece of fabric with Guinea hens on it at my friend Pat's shop, I snatched it up quick.  I thought I was going to be making a small piece, but noooooooooo. This quilt took on a life of it's own and wound up being another 5' x 6' monster! I framed the big hen first, and then put black & white frames around the two medium and the seven small hens...


Then I put some more fabrics around the smaller pieces, and it was at about this time I realized I was in trouble...


Working a little further, and I'm just about up to as big as I want to get...


At this point, my work table looked like this, and I was still wishing I had more fabrics to incorporate...


Then, what, to my wondering eyes should appear, but a humongous box crammed with African fabric scraps, that I'd totally forgotten about!!!


After that, I went ape-diddley, and started flinging fabric up on the quilt wall like my arse was on fire, and within a few days, the piece said, "Stop! You're done." As you can see, I only used five of the seven small hens... finding room for the remaining two wasn't gong to happen, so they'll go on the back.


For now, I'm taking a few weeks to let it sit and cool down before I start quilting it. In the meantime, I'm working at completing a few UFOS, so I'll have more pieces to show at my trunk show in November.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Thom Atkins, The Beading Quilter

Last week, my friend Dale invited me to attend a meeting of the Contra Costa County Quilt Guild. Dale has been trying to get me to come to meetings for a long time, always talking about what great speakers they have. I'd been reluctant to go because their meetings are at night, and a fair distance from where I live, but I finally caved at this invitation and decided to go. I can emphatically say I'm very glad I did! The speaker was Thom Atkins, whose book, Beading Artistry for Quilts, I'd picked up at a show I recently attended.


This is a wonderful book, full of pictures of eye-popping, colorful, amazing quilts, some of which have been beaded to within an inch of their lives. While I've recently begun to incorporate beading into my smaller pieces, there's no way I'll ever get into that much beading on any quilt I'll ever make. The book has, however, certainly given me huge amounts of inspiration to jump in and get a little more friendly with beads on my work. Dale told me she is going to work with her guild to see if they can have Thom come back and teach a one-day class on beginning techniques. I certainly hope that works out, 'cause I'll be one of the first to sign up. I've already joined the Guild - evening meetings be damned - because speakers of Thom's ilk and talent are apparently the norm, and I want to hear more. Next month's speaker will be Tracy Brookshire, and I definitely want to see and hear her presentation. I took a class from her at PIQF several years ago... she was a great teacher, so energetic and inspiring.

Back to Thom: here are some pictures of the quilts shared with us...

"Fire and Ice"


"Tenuous Membrane"

"Partial Eclipse"

"Yellow Brick Road"



"Serenity"


"Death Touches Us All"





Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Finally Finished Something...

I purchased this  beautiful quilt kit way over a year ago, and spent an earnest few weeks meticulously following directions - cutting out squares and rectangles ad nauseum, and making a gazillion flying geese blocks, all in preparation for what was supposed to be a quick assembly. Then I injured myself last July and never managed to get myself back on track. While I was at the retreat last month I finally got my butt in gear and was amazed to find how much my "pre-work" helped when it came to assembling the blocks and getting the top finished. And finish it I did...


I'm so happy with the way it turned out... I really, really like it! I've been having a discussion with myself as to whether I should attempt to quilt it myself, or assign the task to one of the several excellent long-arm quilters I know.  Letting someone else do it is probably going to win out for several reasons: I have some specific ideas that I'm really not able to execute because my free-motion quilting chops aren't up to snuff, and, I really, really love this piece and don't want to have it poked full of holes from quilting I've had to "unsew". Besides, I have another top ready to quilt that I CAN handle, and want to get started on it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Out Of the Pit...



Last week, I spent four wonderful, relaxing days at a retreat center in Auburn (CA). I'd been hoping it would bring me out of the doldrums and help me climb out of my pit of depression. I'm happy to report it did. I had a fantastic time and enjoyed myself so much. Sewing all day, eating lots of fruit and chocolate and drinking huge amounts of good coffee, going to bed when I could barely sew another stitch, having my meals prepared for me and no dishes to do, sleeping in a comfortable bed in my own tiny little cell of a room... all of it was pure heaven! It was very difficult to pack up my car and drive away last Thursday, but part of the challenge was to think of the week as a new beginning, and accept that I can change my everyday life back home, and make my own retreat every day in my beautiful studio. I've always thought of my studio as a haven away from the stuff I want to get away from, but I'm thinking about it a lot more now.

The setting of the retreat center was absolutely gorgeous. Auburn is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at an elevation of about 1200 feet. The grounds are surrounded by groves of tall trees and lush vegetation. It's incredibly quiet there with lots of gentle bird sounds, and wind rushing through the trees. No Spanish style California architecture is complete without a central patio and bubbling fountain, and here was no exception... I was reminded of my grandparent's house on the Central California coast. The walls of the hallways and many of the meeting rooms were covered with wonderful art - both paintings and fabric work, and there were comfortable, and I mean really, truly, lushly comfortable, chairs everywhere, and beautiful bouquets of fresh flowers on every surface. There was a beautiful grand piano in one of the rooms, but it was so horridly out of tune I simply couldn't stand to play it...  >8-/

This is the view from my room... the building in the background is where our group had our sewing space...                                                                    

The central patio from the residence hall entryway...

The residence hall from the sewing room...

View of the grounds from the sewing room...

Inside, the sewing room was huge, with lots of tables and room to spread out our stuff, tons of natural light durning the day, and reasonably good lighting after dark, though it helped to have that extra lamp near my machine.


There was plenty of inspiration and everyone was turning out great work!
Here's Chilly and her "Gordian Knot"...

Another big, colorful eye-popper from Jennifer...

Jo's whimsical "Day On the Farm"...

Joan's "Canine Stars"...

Trudy's "Hungry Caterpillar"...

As for myself, I pieced and pieced and pieced and pieced, and got all of the squares made for a Day of the Dead "Yellow Brick Road"quilt, finished the eight pieced squares from my "Ave Maria" quilt kit, and completed another block from that dreadful "Canine Stars" project... I'm hoping to put the Yellow Brick Road and Ave Maria tops together this week. I still have two more Canine Star blocks to make, but the Goddess only knows when I'll feel inspired to work on those again. It was about six months since I completed the last block, and that was a just-about-right time gap. Pics later. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Pits...



I've found myself being eaten alive by depression for almost three months now, and I'm to the point where I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever find a way to pull my life back together. So much has happened since my last post - some of it quite awful; other stuff equally wonderful... but the elation I experience from the good stuff only lasts a day, if that long, and then I slide back into the pit again.

The new year started out so promising... in mid-January I reached my 6-month sobriety mark and was so proud of myself. I'd gotten to the point where I wasn't doing any stinking-thinking any more, and the desire for Jack appeared to be a thing of the past. I was enthusiastically attending AA meetings, plowing my way through the 12 step program, doing a lot of writing, having weekly meetings with my sponsor, digging deeper into my head than I've been in decades, and getting some really good work done.

I was starting to practice the piano again, and making some serious progress on a couple of Rachmaninoff preludes; I dragged out my flute and managed to work myself up to a good twenty minute session a couple of times a week without collapsing a lung; I replaced the stacks of crap on the organ bench with my butt and dug into some Bach and, overall, was having a grand time.

I have a trunk show to present in November, followed by a class in January, and I was starting to make up a bunch of class samples, and was getting a good running start on my new direction of "Small-and-Embellished-to-Hell" quilts for this year's Open Studios.

Best of all I was working out at the gym three days a week and was building some awesome muscles and strength, as well as losing a few pounds. I was totally loving it and was experiencing a new kind of high like nothing I'd ever experienced before.

Then... Wham! Bam! Thank-you Ma'am...! Something fell out of the sky and practically shut me down, and I haven't been able to rev myself back up for shit. A good friend died in March, and totally knocked the wind out of my sails. Then a few crummy things happened to a couple of other friends, then the crap in Boston, followed by the horror in Texas... the kind of stuff that normally upsets me but doesn't lay me low... this time around everything has completely flattened me. In the meantime, my over-abundance of enthusiasm at the gym resulted in what's turning out to be a major case of "Trigger Thumb" in both of my hands.  The pain is from hell, and I haven't been able to work out in over a month, and playing any of my instruments has become impossible because it just hurts too fucking much. My creativity in the studio has tanked, and I haven't sewn a stitch for weeks.

Most damning of all is the worsening of my tinnitus problem. I'm now continuously barraged with high-pitched ringing in both ears, sometimes accompanied by a lower pitch (or two) and sometimes by a whooshing sound. I can no longer just sit and enjoy silence, as I once loved to do. But I sit anyway, and have begun to meditate every day, at which time I just sit with the noise and let it be what it is. Most of the tinnitus is caused by the blood pressure meds I take, and, recently, has been exacerbated by the addition of the Nsaids I'm now taking for the pain in my hands. I want to free myself from the Nsaids because I know they're dangerous, but, even in the short time I've been taking them, my body has become dependent on them, and when I stop, other pains from aging joints and old injuries make themselves known and it's quite dreadful. I must wean myself from them, though... that's all there is to it.

The only thing I've hung in with is tending to my orchids and violets, because I know they'll die if I don't stay on top of their care. My roses and other outside plants have completely gone to hell, and, if not for our recent rains, they would have croaked along with everything else. But now that the rain has stopped, I can't even drag my ass outside and turn on the frigging hose.

And my cats. I thank The Universe for my cats. They've been my only dose of salvation.

And... I haven't had a drink, though my caffeine and ice cream intake has gone through the roof.

So, that's where I am.

I. feel. so. lost. and. I just. can't. find. my. way. back.

On Monday, I'm leaving for a few days at a retreat center with a bunch of my quilting buddies. Today, as I was getting stuff ready to take, I felt the tiniest surge of excitement, and I'm hoping against hope this week may be the beginning of my return to My Life.

Please send some good mojo my way!

Friday, March 1, 2013

I'll Be Back...



Note: I haven't vanished from the face of the earth. I WILL return. Not sure when, but it'll happen. I promise!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hell To Pay...

Well, the worst has happened... this morning, my sad old computer wheezed its last and said, "Bye... I'm outta here," then laid down it's pore, tired haid and died. Everything's gone... over 4,000 photos, my address book, passwords file, iTunes library of hundreds of pieces of music, bookmarks, calendar, e-mails, and Goddess knows how much else. I'm in shock, and really can't even think about it right now. Of course, the proposed data transfer to the new machine never happened. In addition, we won't even mention the embarrassing fact  that I, as a former main frame computer operator who bloody damn well knows better, never did a backup on that sad, sick machine. So, even though the new machine is mine to use, I'm at ground zero as far as my important stuff is concerned. Oh well, no use whining... it's a done deal. As for how "important" it all really was... just how important is anything in the long run?

I'm facing my Armageddon, and it serves me right.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

6 Months... YAY!!!


Six months ago, NOTHING you could have told me would have made me believe I'd get to this point... but here I am! Thanks to everyone who helped me get here... I love you madly!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Words...


These words, spoken at the beginning of every AA meeting, are beginning to mean the world to me. I'd heard them at various times and places over the years, and never gave them, or the concept they represent, much thought. Until July 23... the day I attended my first AA meeting and heard them in an entirely new context. Four days before that meeting, my life had changed irrevocably. The words suddenly hit home because I realized I was no longer "in control". Had I ever been? Not a chance. Did I really want to be? Not a chance. Suddenly, control wasn't an issue any longer, and I felt immensely free. I've never been a praying woman, and I'm still not, but, somehow, it now seems okay to say these words, and these days, I even say the first word without flinching. That first word still makes me uncomfortable, but I'm working around it, and maybe one day I'll get over it. In the meantime, I feel I've reached heretofore unknown levels of serenity, acceptance, courage and wisdom... and it feels good.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tribal Art & Textiles

I'm currently exhibiting with Cleven "Goodie" Goudeau in a wonderful show at the Umpqua Bank here in Vallejo. Curated by Goodie's wife, Jeanette McCree Goudeau, the exhibit pairs my African-influenced art quilts with some of Goodie's vibrant African paintings. The result is a colorful and visually exciting feast for the eyes! Enjoy...













The show will be up for a few more weeks, and then will be moving to another venue. Jeanette has big plans to "take it on the road", so stay tuned...

I want to extend my sincere thanks to Umpqua Bank for their support of this exhibit, and for artists in general. Every branch in this area displays art on a regular basis - I think they're awesome!