Monday, June 18, 2012

Zen Meow

I love black cats.
I love Zen.
I love this picture!

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Most Favorite Jazz Pianist EVER!!

Erroll Louis Garner
June 15, 1923 - January 2, 1977

I discovered Errol in 1957 while listening to "Bob McLaughlin's Club," a weekday late afternoon program on a Los Angeles radio station. Bob introduced each record as though the singer was actually there, performing live at his "Club." He even managed to get recordings of some of the singers saying a few words, so it all sounded very live and real. Between songs, there was always soft piano music playing in the background, and Bob referred to it as, "Intermission Pianist, Erroll Garner." Having just discovered jazz the year before, thanks to my junior high orchestra teacher, Mr. Schneeweis (for real... Mr. Snow White), and being a pianist myself, I was much more interested in the intermission pianist than I was in most of the rest of the music played on the show. I badgered the people at Carl's Record Store, near where I lived, to find out more about Mr. Garner for me, and they complied, and ordered a few of his records for me. The more I heard, the more I liked, and, though he's been gone for 35 years, I have many of his albums, both vinyl and CDs, and I listen to them often.

Erroll's style was unmistakable and, definitely, entirely his own. He would often play a little behind or ahead of the beat with his right hand, while his left hand remained rock steady on the beat. This created a sense of tension in the music, which he would resolve from time to time by bringing the timing back into sync. The imagination of his right hand was astounding... dancing all over the keys, sometimes throwing in a statement from another piece, which fit in with the tune he was playing so well, you'd only notice it after it was gone. The independence of his hands was evidenced by his truly masterful use of three against four figures, and even more complicated cross rhythms between his hands. To me it was utterly fascinating and I LOVED it!

I saw Erroll in person several times, and always tried to be seated where I could watch his hands on the keyboard. He was a very short man - only 5'2", and had to sit on a couple of telephone books in order to make a standard piano bench work. (It was rumored, however, when he played in New York, the Manhattan phone book by itself was sufficient to give the needed extra height.) He played fast tunes with an exuberance and joy I've seldom seen, and played ballads with an inward sense of contemplation that made you think he and you and the piano were the only entities in the auditorium. He never played from charts or music, because he never learned how to read music. He worked so tightly with his cohorts, that they could follow him no matter where he went with the tune or the chord  progressions. It was totally amazing. He uttered a lot of grunts and vocal inflections while he played, and who knows...? maybe that was some kind of code to his backup men...

This is my favorite view of Erroll from the audience...

Erroll's most famous compositions was "Misty," which was a huge success for both him and, later, for Johnny Mathis.

Erroll's most famous album, and my second favorite of his many recordings, featuring Eddie Calhoun on bass, and Denzil Best on drums. The chemistry between the three on this recording is mind-blowing!

My absolute favorite album... just Erroll... all alone, playing just for him and for me!

He was honored in the USPS Jazz Musicians series in 1995.

Our own personal tribute to Mr. Garner... our cat, Erroll!

Thanks for everything, Erroll! You did, and still do, fill my life with the pure joy of playing the piano!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gallery Presentation

On Sunday, June 10, I gave an informal talk at the McCree-Goudeau Gallery in Vallejo, where the 'Textiles and Tea' exhibit has been showing. Five of my quilts are hanging as part of the exhibit, and I was asked to talk about what I do, where I came from, and where I'm going with my art. I had an incredible turnout of my beautiful and supportive friends and fellow quilters, and I hope everyone had as much fun as I did! My sincere thanks to everyone who joined me. Special thanks to gallery owner, Jeannette, and to Nathell, who conceived and organized the show.

This is the gallery, at the corner of Marin and Florida Streets.

Talking about my early life and influences that sparked my quilting lust...

One of my first quilts - an Attic windows pattern featuring cats and roses. I loved the fabric, but was less than enthusiastic about making the same quilt block over and over... and over...

A mystery quilt from a class given by my quilt guild, The Vallejo Piecemakers, For a mystery quilt, participants are given specifications for fabric choices and are expected to do some pre-class cutting, but no one knows what the finished work will look like. It's qulte wonderful to watch the quilt develop before your eyes!

A 'Yellow Brick Road' pattern made from 1930 reproduction fabrics. Egads! These colors are SO not me... I can hardly believe I ever made this thing. Maybe that's why I never finished it!

This is more like it! Now I'm starting to seriously get into African Fabrics and improvised piecework... the niche I currently occupy, and have no intention of leaving! This piece is called 'Shaman' and is my first attempt at an African inspired art quilt. It's the one behind me in all of the pictures...

This is a piece from a class taught by Guatemalan quilt artist Priscilla Bianchi. It incorporates regular cotton fabrics, batiks, hand-dyed, and Guatemalan fabrics, and is the first time I (gasp!) mixed various textures of fabric in a single piece.

Here's a top waiting to be quilted. The actual quilting is a big job, and, while I enjoy the 'Zen' of the process, I prefer the design and piecing part of making a quilt, so I confess to having many unquilted tops, or UFOs (unfinished objects).

Two of my quiltlets from my 'Bug' series. Whimsical and fun. I expect to have seven or eight in the series.

Explaining the 'stitch-in-the-ditch' process...

My Piece de Resistance (so far)... 'Elephants, Leopards and Cheetahs, Oh, My!'

Some of my guests... Dale, Susan, Janet, donnio, Jeannette, Barbara and Nathell. Love you ladies!

My other quilts in this show...  'Elephants In the Mist'


'Self Portrait'

'Fruit Loops'

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Current Work In Progress...

I took a class at Cotton Patch Quilt Shop in Lafayette last month, and have gotten all of the blocks made but, alas, am on hold for a while until I find the right color for the background. I was so proud of myself, in that I worked totally from my stash for this one - something I'm forced to do these days simply because I don't have any more room to store new fabric. Besides, I've come to a conclusion I should have reached years ago... to wit... exactly how much fabric do I need anyway??? I actually haven't bought any fabric since last year's PIQF (Pacific International Quilt Festival), at which time I went totally over the edge. I still haven't gotten all of my purchases put away from that escapade... and that was eight months ago, fercryingoutloud.

Anyway, this quilt is from a pattern by Laura Nownes, called 'Zig Zag Logs'. I almost never work from a pattern, but I flipped when I saw the sample quilt at the store, so I signed up for the class. I went to the first class, and got all of the basics down, then worked on my own after that. I dislike driving at night, and I dislike schlepping my sewing machine around even more, so I reverted to my one of my bad habits from college, and cut the second and third class meeting.

I chose a combination of yellows and pond-scum green batiks for my colors. I love both colors and was amazed to discover how much of each I had when I started pawing through my stash.

Step one is to sew 32 5-inch half square triangles...

Step 2 - Make 11 3-fabric strip sets using 11 different fabrics in colors that co-ordinate with the light half of the half-square triangle block.

Next, make 16 3-fabric strip sets using 16 different fabrics that co-ordinate with the dark half of the triangle block.

Now, take a deep breath, and take all of those beautiful strip sets that took hours and hours to make, and cut the yellow strips into 32 5" and 32 8" chunks, and cut the pond scum strips into 32 8" and 32 11" chunks. This is where the "measure twice, cut once" principle is very important... you can make one mistake with the yellows, but none/zero/nada/ziltch mistakes with the pond scums. If you screw up you have to make a new strip set!

Sew the chunks, log cabin style, around the 5" square - light chunks to the light sides of the square, and dark chunks to the dark sides. Make 32 blocks, and square them to 11".

Finally!! Assemble the blocks on the quilt wall. This piece is a complete crap-shoot color-wise... there's absolutely no way you're going to know how it will look until you get to this step! Fortunately, I really like it!

Unfortunately, this is where I'm stuck. I've auditioned at least 20 fabrics for the background, and haven't come up with anything I remotely like. I'm going to take some of the squares back to Cotton Patch, and see if I can find something. That means, I have to buy new fabric... phfffttt! I can pull from my stash for the borders and backing, so it'll be a 95% from-the-stash piece. I hope I can get this finished in the next week or so. I like it, but I'm getting tired of seeing it on my quilt wall while there are so many other quilts in my head that I'd rather see on the wall!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Different Drummer...

In recent months, I've broken away from the pack, and have been in a totally different space... wandering about within the confines of my own mind - a fairly expansive place, to be sure, but somewhat restricted when it comes to sharing with the rest of the world. I've made some music, done some sewing, taken some classes, started several new quilts, revived about 25% of my garden, adopted a couple of new cats, done far too much drinking and not enough exercising, am very grateful I didn't make any New Years resolutions because they'd be shot to shit by now, and am, only now beginning to come out of my fog. It hasn't been a bad time, and I don't regret any of the isolation... in fact, I enjoyed it. I really think all of us have a serious need to veg out now and then, so I gave in to it, and that's pretty much what I've been doing.

Today, Martin and I spent much of the afternoon running in and out of the house, looking through our telescope, which was set up on our back patio, at the transit of Venus. It wasn't the most exciting thing we've ever done - not as bad as watching paint dry, but certainly more interesting than a baseball game, and something we like to do. Astronomy fascinates us both, and this was an astronomical phenomenon in the once-in-a-lifetime category. Actually, it was a twice-in-a-lifetime event, but the first event, in 2004, was whacked by bad weather, so we missed it. This was The Big One... it won't happen again until 2117, by which time we'll, hopefully, have a much better seat from which to observe it, but it won't be quite the same as standing on our nice back yard patio.

This evening is quiet and wind free; the crickets are cricking, the neighborhood dogs are conversing over their respective fences, and the traffic on the Interstate is barely audible. A train is clattering along the tracks across the river, it's multi-toned whistle echoing across the water, and filling me with memories of childhood nights lying awake in an upstairs bedroom of my grandparents rambling ranch house, and listening to the trains rumble by through the lower acreage down by the ocean. I miss those times, but am thankful for the delicious memories that will hold me as long as I need them.

This weekend, I'll be giving a talk at a local art gallery where I currently have five of my quilts on exhibit. The curator had a pie-in-the-sky idea that I could teach people to make a quilt in an afternoon, and scheduled me for that before I was fully aware of what she wanted. After I assured her that wasn't possible, we settled on me presenting some of my finished and unfinished work, and telling people how I do what I do. It should be fun, and I'm looking forward to dredging out some of my works in progress and talking about what makes me tick, quilt-wise. If you're in the area and would like to come, please let me know, and I'll give you the where and when details you'll need.