Posts from the Platte

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Quilt Progress March 2009

Here is how far I have gotten on the quilt restoration project. If you click on the collage it will get bigger and you will be able to see it better. The panel on the lower left shows the famous spider, almost lost her in the process.

The stitching around the edges between the old quilt and the framing material is what I have done. I have made it around three sides of one panel so far. I am getting less awkward and am doing much better since I abandoned the antique thread. I will use the old thread again for small sections, and will use the sections of thread that are in the best condition. No use making it harder than it is.

Part of me is very embarrassed by my lack of skill. When this quilt was originally made, probably between 1910 and 1919, girls were not allowed near a project like this. They practiced hand sewing by hemming dish towels, handkerchiefs, sheets, pillow cases - you name it. While you are naming it remember to be thankful for the stacks of linens, blankets and couch cushions that you own and have not made by hand! I digress.

Part of me is quite proud I have even tackled this at all! I rarely sew, even by machine and I am getting better. By the time I finish the fourth panel, I will be quite accomplished or I will never want to see a needle again.

NOTE: Today is Gramma Dee Dee's birthday, she was born this day March 7, 1893! This is her 116th anniversary of birth. That makes the quilt older as I am quite sure she was allowed to stitch the spider as a reward for learning a bible verse when she was ten years old.
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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Journals from the Past

I have stumbled across another type of art journal. A journal indicates a passing of time, and is a recording of events of the lives of the people journaling.

In August last year, my mom gave me a quilt that was passed on to her when her mother-in-law, my grandmother died. The quilt came to my grandmother from her mother and I believe, her mother either made it with my grandmother’s grandmother, or on her own.

The quilt is what is known as a Crazy Quilt. The blocks are made from black and brown velvet and top stitched with bright cotton thread. There were also several blocks made from violet silk, this material did not pass the test of time. When I think back to the women working away, making the quilt, I see them using carefully saved scraps from the best dresses made in that household for a decade or more. There is a little embroidered spider along one side that my grandmother was allowed to stitch on as a reward for some accomplishment. She was about 10 years old when she got to add the spider. And she remembered it as a highlight of her growing up. If you look closely you will see the spider along the bottom edge, near the bad fray.

The quilt I received is dirty and frayed, with several blocks of stringy raw silk hanging with just the top embroidery holding it together. Still it gives the sense of lush beauty overall.

This is a journal with large blocks of time between entries. I think it was the bedspread on my Gramma’s bed when I stayed with her when one of my brothers was born in 1955. My Gramma passed away in the late 1970’s and the old quilt has been in one trunk or another ever since.

Now it is in the process of being restored, well that isn’t exactly the right word, a friend and I are taking it apart, replacing the shredded parts with parts that are still whole, and making it into a wall hanging.

I haven’t sewn much since I was a girl but I find my awkward hand stitching and my friends experienced cutting very satisfying. Between us we are adding a block of time to this journal of cloth. I expect it to hang on my wall until I die and pass it on to my granddaughter. It will need to be cleaned and maybe somewhere along the line it will get sewn back into one piece…those blocks of time will be for another to decide.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009


You know insights seem to happen in the moment, but there are a myriad of things that lead up to having the insight. In this case I went to the Denver Art Museum (first time), visited a friend's studio (and nearly drooled), have been reading magazines and books on my particular art genre, and also have been collaging quite a bit since early December to complete 2008 and envision 2009. I think that all of these 'doings' led to my insight.

I write, and as a writer it is very important to read. Every class, workshop and many books I have read about writing, all recommend lots of reading. And it is recommended that a person read all kinds of things to see how other folk do it – not so you do it like them, but so you see different ways and methods that you can use.

Insight - It's the same with art! To create, no matter what form of creativity you choose, it will serve you to surround yourself with an environment of art! I am not saying you need to move or buy a new house or tons of original art. But you could get an annual pass to the local Art Museum, make a point of visiting the summer art fairs, subscribe to an art magazine, join an art association for your type of art or participate in an art group.

We all know (we do - don't we?) that insights are worthless if they are not followed with effective action. So for your first action get out a pen and list what actions you will take to bring art to your daily environment.

Monday, January 12, 2009

How Many Recycled Containers Can you See?

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Keep Your Eyes Open for Supplies!

Playing in the art world could be a costly habit, but over time I have developed a strategy; spend big money on brushes, paper, paint and classes, save everywhere else.
In keeping with this strategy I haunt the thrift stores, rummage through the recycling bin and clip coupons from the Sunday paper. Here are my favorites:

Recycle & Re-use:
  • Costco Salad boxes are sturdy clear plastic with lids and the Roma Tomato containers are a long slim tray once the lid is cut off. Both make great storage bins.
  • Sometimes Costco also has great deals on pens, papers and storage drawers.
  • Lettuce boxes from other grocery stores are smaller, but also have nice lids and make good storage containers for smaller things like glue sticks or ephemera
  • Large Cottage cheese and Yogurt Containers – good for holding brushes and water and have many other uses.
  • Large Laundry jug lids and Small yogurt containers – perfect small paint & glue containers.
  • Sleeves for to-go hot drinks – for texture and patterns.
  • Gift wrap that is no longer good enough for presents (especially tissue).

Thrift stores & Garage Sales:
  • Micro-wave muffin ‘tins’ 6 cup indentations great for several paint colors and mixing for a project – one of my best finds, and there are always one or two hidden in the cookware section.
  • Lazy Susans, large and small, good way to keep pens, brushes, punches, scissors and rulers handy.
  • Silk ties for small fabric projects.
  • Dress patterns for collage and art dolls.
  • Always watch for paint brushes.
  • Discarded rug kits, the netting/webbing make great patterns for rubbing or spraying or even adding to a collage.

Sales & Sunday Paper Coupons - I use these when I run out of something essential and more expensive, like acrylic matte medium or gel medium or journals!
  • Michael’s, Jo-Anne’s and Hobby Lobby – most Sundays these Stores have a 40% – 50% off coupon in their advertisements
  • Annual clearance sales at the fancier stores, Meininger’s had a great sale last September, and after the December Holidays, many stores are cleaning up, for space and tax purposes. College bookstores often have a summer sale.
Auctions - boom or bust – you never know - look up auctions for your state on Google when you have time for a weekend jaunt.

The fact remains that I spend a lot of money on art supplies, I am satisfied though that I could spend much more if I didn’t watch for bargains and savings. Keep your eyes open!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Time to Organize

One way to encourage yourself when setting out on a new art venture is to have an easily accessible set of supplies.

I am one of those people that is continually trying out new ideas. I will read about a certain type of pen or new way of doing something and I want to try it. This is great fun, but it also leads to having many, many supplies and materials.

I often find myself with time to work on a project only to arrive at an art table buried deep in stacks of magazines, or piles of pens or the remains of the last kid day. OR if the art table is cleared (miracles of miracles) and I get to work on my project, I spend half the time trying to locate a specific paint, or picture or rubber stamp. I have reorganized any number of times and still find that I am not organized.

This time, through the yearly Big Organizing Push, I have decided to put each project that I am currently working on in its own bin. I use the big clear boxes that salad greens come in from Costco. (See project bins in the picture.) They are a good size and the clear plastic lets me see instantly which project is inside. They also have nice lids. For example: I have just started a project in needle felting so my bin has swatches of roving
in several colors, three or four felted balls, a packet of felting needles and some yarn in the right colors. When I want to work on this project I just grab the bin, I don’t have to locate the needles or stop and go get the right color of roving. I just poke along!

Another way to use my bin set-up will be to collect the stamps, paints and ephemera that I want to use on a project - before I start - and keep them together until the project is done. This way not only will I not be searching for the pieces, I will remember what I wanted to include in the first place. In the case of the afore mentioned Girlfriends Altered Book I have fragments scattered through out the art room and am surprised and chagrined each time I accidentally find a piece that I spent a couple of hours making last year.

Just recently I came across a brilliant book by Gwen Diehn, she has more than one book out, but this one is The Decorated Page, Journals, Scrapbooks & Albums Made Simply Beautiful. (See under My Favorites in the sidebar.) Among other great tips, techniques and illustrations, the author has come up with an organization system that works really well. She has:
1. Everyday Supply Kit
2. Supply Kit for Customizing Books and Preparing Pages and
3. Travel Supply Kit.

In the book she lists what she keeps in her kits, and these lists can be easily modified for your own needs. In the same section of the book she also clearly says how to set up a workstation. The idea is that when you walk up to your art table or when you have a moment to do art, the supplies are waiting right there all in one place for your use and you valuable time is spent creating, not searching.
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Collage Fits Art Journaling

col-lage (ke-lazh’) n. An artistic composition of objects and materials pasted on a surface [Gk. holla glue]

Last night I went to a party at my friend, Valli McDougle’s place. It was a Pampered Chef party for women. (If you haven’t been to a Pampered Chef party well, get yourself to one, they are fun and the food is fast, nutritious and delicious!)

Valli, our host, came to the first Art Camp for Women in 2007 and is an extraordinary water media artist. Her home is new and luxury of luxuries, she has TWO art studios, one upstairs and one downstairs. And she has acres of wall space to hang her art.

Right now she is taking a series of courses on collage technique and at the end of the evening she and I were huddled in the studio looking at her latest pieces. Collage to die for. This is one of her pieces
A Bridge to Nowhere.

Collage fits right in with Art Journaling and also is an accurate depiction of how my life is structured. In this day and age we are not a people of long continuums and big families. That era has passed. In my life I have patches and pieces of many different categories or domains of life. My income is from several different sources and endeavors. My social life has different age groups and different interest groups. Likewise, my creativity shows up in blurts of expression, rather than a long string of watercolors or photographs or years of dance. Even my health regime has several different expressions, run club with the kids, gym with my grown daughter, nutrition and cleansing with a peer, household veggie garden and kitchen organization with my husband.

Thus the collage of my life is more accurately reflected in the art of collage or again in the blurbs of art journaling.

Post Card from the Edge - Valli McDougle 1/09