color stories

my Aunt Grace quilt LOC.3

My life-long love of super scrappy bed quilts began as a tiny child.  As a fifth generation quilter I grew up studying any number of hand sewn quilts on the beds at my grandmother's house where I was raised - and also in the upstairs bedrooms at her older sister Grace's place.  All these quilts bore the generational mark of frugal DIY ladies born at the starting line of the 20th century.  They'd been raised to make good practical use of every scrap of cloth they had to hand.  Not all at once, certainly, but eked-out slowly over time so that the various fabric patterns recurred like a narrative theme covering time, space, and an ongoing roll call of the past's play suits and pajamas and special birthday party dresses/boy's dress shirts for Good/church.

Upon immediate reflection - what I just described is what I grasp(ed) of Aunt Grace's methodology.  Her quilts were to my eye joyous and freewheeling - impeccably sewn but otherwise completely off the How It's Done rails - brought to heel only by the implicit structure and rhythm of one patch/bold graphic classic quilt patterns.

For scrap work my grandmother favored impeccably aligned log cabin/dresden plate variations that were by and large unobtrusive or painterly in their color range and its distribution.  Her choices often suggest she pre-sorted her scraps as she accrued them in order to work efficiently in a far more color coordinated/visually restrained style.

(Oh come on Pearl, the Grace of my memory would sometimes goad.  Live a little why dontcha)

As with so many other things about how she presented herself and her home I feel pretty clear that my grandmother's self-expressive style consciously hewed to the specific and implicit dictates of the fairly dour Lutheran sect in which she and I were both raised as the backbone and mental/psychic wardrobe of not just our lives but Life itself.  She was not a showy woman in any way.  But she understood some people were colorful without being prideful.   Quite early on she saw the way I was breaking, so to speak, in the aesthetic sense and had no trouble asking her friends to supply more colorful scraps for me to learn - and practice until perfect - a variety of piecing techniques.

Her sister was a lot more layered in how she lived and created.  She had an ongoing willingness - from which I actively inferred enjoyment - to use all the scrap happy colors and patterns all at once.  She mixed decades worth of fabric to create ingrained family myths of origin.  The kids in our family who were her grandchildren slept in her upstairs rooms full of handsewn quilts all the time.  They knew at least some of the stories connected to each of the fabrics.  Stories about things that happened while their parents and uncles were wearing clothes made from specific scraps in yardage form.  In the timeframe of my memories the quilts were growing worn at the edges.  They held the aura of fading scrolls documenting family life when our own parents were young or mere babies.  The upstairs rooms in our time weren't needed save for sleep overs and dedicated kidspace while the adults talked downstairs.  We could crawl around and sprawl together laughing helplessly much as we later would on living room floor based Twister game mats.

  Every once in awhile one of Grace's masterpieces would require seam mending and patching.  This would be a big deal for the sisters.   In addition to brown paper bags overflowing with scraps at both their feet they were also inundated by young enthusiastic children.  We flocked around them in a minimum of 4 and an average of 6 in number  It was a sunlit offhandedly nurturing environment suddenly awash in Pearl's far from muted alarm concerning all that could go wrong - particularly with so many children and the sisters' combined collection(s) of the very most necessary sharp Things that outnumbered the kids three to one.

I loved being able to watch close at hand.  Adults in my life often granted me a front row seat to their activities because they knew I'd be quiet and more or less motionless. I fully realized this as well as the fact that my freeze frame hyper-focus on what they were doing formed a kind of hedge/buffer zone between their workspace and more overtly excitable kids inclined to shout, grab suddenly for things they shouldn't touch let alone run with, or jump around and around and around the adult who was trying to Get Something Done despite the ongoing distraction. 

When the sisters' stitching time turned surgical I was outright called to Assist by simply being there between them and the other grandchildren.  Immobilized with fascination and Need To See.  I loved the moment when split (homemade and much patched, naturally...) bias binding was pulled free and I could see within Aunt Grace's generous seam allowances the true scope of how colorific the unfaded fabrics were.  My eyes gravitated to the excessively excessive somebody-stop-this-woman factor like a very happy bee in a mile-wide clover field.  In such visual mayhem I instinctively found permission to rest and quiet my ever-spinning child's mind.  And isn't rest what a handmade scrap quilt is most meant to Hold?


At the beginning of last Friday the super scrappy hand pieced bow and arrow quilt top featured in this post existed in a state of un-joined but individually pieced/hand sewn 24-inch squares.   Near the middle of the afternoon it looked like the lede image.  I just ... had to do this.  I needed to put together this quilt top - to spend a few day's worth of Workday time sitting quietly in the sun and stitching while I thought things through as much as one can in today's hall of mirrors.  A later point in life ambition became quite tangible in the impulsive form of last Friday morning.   I simply picked up the rolled bundle of blocks and brought them to the studio with me.  It was mid-afternoon before I zeroed in on the nice detail that I finally got my act together* in this specific way - featuring a Bow and Arrow pattern - on Valentine's Day.

What I stitched is primarily a valentine to the woman I grew up calling Aunt Grace even though she was my grandmother's sister.  Her grandchildren in turn called my grandmother Aunt Pearl.   The sisters were very close.  They shared weekend phone calls of fair length during a time when long distance charges usually kept my grandmother's sharp eyes fixed on the clock and her phone call/egg timer. 

Although they did exchange fabric scraps these were kept as a kind of sisterly contemplation - the scraps wrapped small to large within themselves.  They were, at least on my grandmother's end, kept in her nightstand's drawer in a charmingly warped wooden box their younger brother had made.  Grace's scraps were kept there solely to be arranged in various ways on the plain white sheet of Pearl's unmade bed.  Carefully put away for the sheer pleasure of bringing them out again at a later time.  That was in a whole other category from how they worked and with what.  Their quilt and clothes making aesthetics differed enough that unless they were in clear agreement over specific pattern and color choices they worked primarily from stashes as separate (and impressively huge...) as passing ocean liners.

[*It should be said that I first began cutting out the individual scrap pieces on July 4th, 1992.  The occasion marked my first authentically crippling migraine headache.  Had I had an inkling of how many I'd have over the course of the next 20 years I would have curled up on the bed and wept.  But I did not and thus I tried to make some constructive use of young mother alone time while J. and T. watched the fireworks from the old Lechmere parking lot in Cambridge.   I began making my lateral longview way towards a hazy future when I'd have time and inclination to begin putting together a whole new generation of hand sewn bed quilts.]

Each fabric used comprises a single six inch block's worth of pieces:  two quarter circles and the curved bow-tie looking piece in the center.  A number of fabrics I used weren't large enough for the center portion so I cut extra pairs of quarter circles for a wider choice range.  Once I got to the point of beginning to stitch (roughly 15 years ago ...) I used the same fabric on each block's opposing quarter circle because - in a quilt this loud and random the ongoing repetitive duets of the same fabric provides points of discernible focus  if not outright resting space.  The fact that the twin pieces appear in different circles keeps your eye moving.  After a few stumbles as to where or why it's moving your brain registers the repetitive code and starts seeking it out.   It's the pattern within the distortion of "pattern" that my - and Aunt Grace's - seemingly off-the-wall pairing choices create. 

Aunt Grace did this all the time and quite deliberately.  I'd watch her stitching while my grandmother also worked amidst gentle chiding (oh Grace!) that showed deference to their birth order.  It's my inner child's sweet spot/intuitive design point I learned from my loving perusal of the childhood era quilts that most drew my eye and gladdened my heart.  By the end of Saturday I'd stitched together the above.  And my ongoing studio companion was extremely quick to lay claim to my accomplishment.


Mama takes her studio kitty duties very seriously.  Haven't stitched anything big like this since her arrival but she seemed to have an instinctive grasp of how to most effectively participate.  meanwhile on my end - due to my extended hiatus from working big and strictly by hand I'd forgotten how freely the mind wanders through reflection, problem solving, and just plain wiping a grimy media saturated brain's slate as close to clean and blank as it gets these days.

I forgot about the way I connect to the spirited history of stitchers fairly immediately once I've found my personal needle rocking rhythm and smooth pull of the thread.   And the ongoing almost simian grooming of stray threads that proliferate the more you handle and shift the fabrics.  My grandmother - who could be super impatient and exacting - had quite tenderly and slowly taught me how to stitch well.  Our religion didn't encourage pridefulness and yet she made it clear that she expected to be able to be proud of me in terms of both my stitching manner and rhythm and also the ongoing quality of my workwomanship.


This is how the quilt looked once I got it away from the cat and took it up to the bedroom.  Had to spread it out on my bed in order to gauge how many of the remaining blocks would need to be added. 


By mid-afternoon on Sunday I had finished sewing together this loving tribute to my Aunt Grace  It's something that's still making me shake my head in surprise since the accomplishment was not on the books.  It was more a case of "this is what I'm doing now.  I won't ask why I'll just do it with single-minded creative focus until it's done."  

the luxury of cloth .1


Last year around this time I started looking in all the wrong places for this particular friend.  My intention was to create a bathroom curtain for a room I'd say I dislike if it weren't entirely functional and easy to clean - even at the deep detail level. We don't need a curtain there in the green months.  In the winter we don't need more cover than what you find from a single layer of batik such as this.

When I couldn't find it in the places I looked I pinch-hit with a resurrected quilter's cotton curtain (dark green printed with white hyper-basic morning glories sporting incorrect leaves.  They form staggered vertical lines across the green) from J's music room at the old place.  It's serviceable and okay but ... thought I was looking forward to making the switch ASAP until I finally found the above batik yesterday afternoon.  Then I recalled, in slow delicious layers, how the fabric came into my life and specifically why I bought it rather than another satisfying armload of books.

From there I further recalled that throughout my younger adult years I'd put so much stock and blind trust in my largely unimaginable future Old Woman form - as I hazily envisioned her already nestled in what I thought of as a Sleeping Walnut somewhere near the center of my heart.

 Have recently been unpacking, admiring, and re-evaluating aspects of my fabric stash that aren't sitting on open shelving here in the studio. The extra-significant specially treasured stuff in other words.  My efforts don't have much of a plan to them - I've simply been inspired by both Jude and grace - specifically their recent posts about the importance of handling and dreaming over cloth for however long.

My takeaway from both of their shared experiences is that the cloth we make a point of keeping shows us who we are.  who we have perhaps for quite long imagined ourselves to be - be-coming.

and.  what I now realize to be far more relevant -

I have an old white cotton comforter that's the perfect weight for several months of the year.  Everything about it is entirely cotton - as cotton used to be and it's perfectly worn-in, to boot.  Needs patching that's likely to lean closer to total recovering.  Know this but couldn't quite find the incentive to additionally know where to begin.  Since coming into the studio earlier today I've been thinking of cutting this batik apart at the edge of the repeating pattern.  Using that panel length as the centerpiece of the comforter re-covery process.  Keep the top portion as-is and hem with something else I really love too much to actually use - to become a dedicated studio altar cloth.  Don't currently have one.  Whenever I feel the need to move/work in that particular way up here I 'import' cloths from other parts of the house. 

This seems remiss.

[I bought this on my 34th birthday - It was an impulse purchase after I'd dodged into a large glass-fronted store just beyond Coolidge Corner on Beacon Street.   This piece of cloth was the first gasping half-unfocused  thing I saw when I entered a place I'd never been or previously noticed prior to seeking escape from an unexpected lightning and thunder laced summer shower.   The store was full of batik and ikat yardage as well as beautifully understated clothes made from both. 

There were also store-length tables brimming with every imaginable style and price point of beads.  And, I later discovered, frequently these were peopled by a casual handful of women making staggeringly beautiful jewelry from them.  Along the other store length wall were glass shelves full of Day of the Dead shadow boxes, Nicho frames, carved bone pendants and parquet curio cabinets.  These shelves were interspersed with drop-down accessory displays.   Mostly hand woven shawls and belts or braided cord finger-woven versions of same.

There were also wooden/pottery/porcelain bowls and plates and all sorts of other well-off gewgaws such as elaborate hair combs and custom-made miniature brocade couches/wing chairs for a cat or small dog but these things didn't interest me at the time.  Now I'm sure I might have envisioned wall displays of such things.  Not for myself to live with but just as an aesthetic exercise to create a cohesive collection/statement wall.  Along the lines (although clearly QUITE different vibe) of the wall display featured here.  Back then I was mainly concerned with the rain stopping promptly so as to get me back home in time for a carefully planned birthday supper  - that I wasn't supposed to know about - with J. and T. 

I bought the fabric - stopping only briefly to consider its price - because I'd picked it up when I arrived.  Once my eyes did fully focus on the colors and pattern I knew it would mean something of a glad-hearted/hopeful nature to me later on in my life.  Just knew.  And so I spent the money meant to be my yearly solar return Book Binge without a blink of regret.]

getting things together .3 selecting papers


This post is intended to help you gather and select paper for your booklet making endeavor.  It's the first of two (or maybe even three) parts comprising a detailed walk-through of my own process  assembling a special booklet for this challenge.   Bear in mind that I've made a point to include the evolution and refinement of my initial choices.  This is to help you feel most comfortable and confident within your own process once this project hits that magic point of taking on a life of its own. 

note:  The challenge itself will begin on January 2nd, 2020.  The terms for participation are easy to understand and follow:  Commit to collaging for 5 to 10 minutes every day for 30 days.  Not in order to speed walk through the 'obligation' effectively but because this little increment of time is so possible. Chances are fairly good there will be a couple days when working on a collage becomes your day's main available time's centerpiece.  On other days you may be long-exhausted yet still have the wherewithal to stick a couple of pieces of paper together for five minutes. And then quite possibly be rejuvenated and into it enough to move deeper into the process for another utterly possible increment of time and then quite possibly go to sleep with an inner (and maybe even an outer) smile.

If you're interested in the challenge but not interested in making a booklet that's perfectly okay.  A future post about working together will focus on alternative ways you might enjoy showing up for yourself at our disembodied collage table. 

[The important thing is that you allow yourself to participate if something inside of you really wants to do it.  There's absolutely no reason to make a booklet unless that's something you want to do and/or feel eager to try.]


gather five papers you love

[This will give you 16 pages in the book plus the inner and outer covers front and back.  If you're drawn to include more try not to go higher than 6 or 7.  For the purpose of this project don't predetermine that you'll want to be in charge of filling all the extra pages UNLESS you already know you love to collage.

Where To Begin ??!?

Play to your most trusted sensory perceptions.  For most people in this context that will revolve around what looks and feels good to them. As an example, I always seem to begin most organically and comfortably when I start by pulling something I particularly love touching.  In this case that's the grey and quin gold shopping bag all the way to the right in the image above. 

For tool-types:  just right of the paper in question is a paper trimmer.  Totally unnecessary for our working together endeavors.  But if you have a lot of paper and the booklet thing takes hold in your soul it could be a wise and joy inducing investment.  Especially if you graduate from creating single folio books to multi-signature volumes.  And let's face it.  Especially if you can score a significant discount coupon from one of the big box craft places.  That's how and when I got mine. 

Once I was holding the paper bag to look at it more closely I decided it was going to be the booklet's centerfold.  Of course there were some reflexive inner murmurings about not rushing into anything but my creative muse was certain I could make a fun quirky treasure map with some drawing pencil line work as well as collage elements.  From there I chose a different (much thinner) paper bag with the same level of certainty that it was destined to be the book's cover. 

[Initially I thought I'd strengthen the much thinner bag paper with two coats of clear gesso on either side, having done something similar quite successfully.   But then I realized I wanted to mount the thin paper on a more substantive backing so the booklet's cover would be heavy enough to provide protection for everything inside in a more stabilized book-like way.]

I selected the yellow and orange paste paper because I assumed I was going for an all-hot color palette.  Once it was in place I realized the whole design was going to be a lot more interesting for me to work with if I brought in some clashing color swerves.  And also the reliable smoothness and stability of cardstock.  So I turned to my assortment of scrapbook papers and first chose the paper second to the left.  Looked for a super brief time to select a second compatibly clashing option.  Didn't realize until I was editing the pics that I'd chosen something from not only the same company but also the same product collection line.

pro tip:  If you have scrapbook paper on hand and elect to use it make sure you consider the reverse side as part of your auditioning process.  Of course you're going to cover a lot of it up but you want this book to look like you most want it to look before you begin the challenge.   Give yourself that level of quiet inner joy before the organic challenge process changes how everything looks - and thus what it means to you once you're actively creating within it.


isolate the elements of each folio that are most pleasing to you

While immersed in your active building process it's really helpful to take a step back in the visual sense.  I began thinking of 'my papers' as 'a book I'm making' by placing my selected elements in direct comparison with neutral/white paper.  When you do this remind yourself:  this is the order the pages will turn in my book.  This word-based cue helps your thinking brain move into a closer relationship with your creative flow aspects.  Once you've found a page sequence that excites and inspires you, it's time to determine the size of your booklet.

In this step-out I focused on two different pieces of paper to guide my decision:  The yellow/orange paste paper - because it was the 'shortest' paper I had - and the eat sleep read bag - because it contained a number of design elements that pleased me too much to embrace any other size option.

This instinctual approach proved to be a decently reliable guidance system that in part highlighted the importance of giving myself time with the project rather than focusing on ultra efficient time-hacking execution and then on to the next Thing.  This is especially valuable, as a process, for those of us who have spent a significant amount of time sitting on our stashes in servitude to Someday of whatever kind.   I respond really strongly to that scenario being ingrained for many people because for quite a long while it was my own consciously perpetuated inner narrative.  I wouldn't even allow myself to think about paper for a couple of decades due to my fabric collection, love of stitching and feeling that ought to be 'enough'.  Whatever that means in this sort of creative sparking context.

I also thought a lot of my paper-based ideas, inclinations and submerged dreams were silly.  I thought the fact that for years I would squirrel away this or that of a paper/ephemera nature for some time in the future I couldn't visualize at all  - a day when I'd wake up and somehow on that specific day it would not be silly anymore- was in and of itself the height of silliness on my part.  But it's sort of what happened of its own volition, silly or not.  I woke up one day and thought:  I deserve to have fun with this stuff.  And that quickly morphed into:  I loved doing this as a kid.  Why did I ever let anyone else or myself shame me into staying away from it?


Above is my favorite element of the paste paper's design.  It reminds me of a spinal column and I'm inspired to think of using that association as a collage prompt of some kind. But in order to actively incorporate the spine as a design element (rather than having it be the folio's literal backbone known only to me were I to fold it the efficient way - exactly in the middle of the paper's length) I'd need to patch-collage additional paper that was then attached to the paste paper to create a cobbled-together folio of sufficient length.  OH.  I let that sink in, considered the step-out value this unplanned development contained and then turned my attention to the second paper I'd selected as a size determination guide.

CoveradjustedI've loved this bag ever since J. brought me a small writing journal and a careful selection of postcards from a place he visited while driving through GA.   I decided which block of words I wanted for the front cover then cut along the opposite side of the bag and its base to commence marking and cutting the folio.   But first I determined exactly what portions of the bag I wanted to retain as design elements of the front cover. 

Definitely wanted the Indie bound logo and a bit of brown kraft to border the red block of words.  Was also moved to include the strip of fused craft paper that breaks up the red block right before its edge. 


above:  Double checking my ideal cover design against the height of my shortest paper. 

Getting this far is likely to yield a strong sense of accomplishment and increased awareness/ returning sense of your capacity to hold and execute an inner vision: 

You're making a booklet for yourself and this is how you're putting it together.

Your relationship to both my ideas and your own gathered supplies/creative verve is no longer something you're willing to consider.  It's become something you're tangibly doing.  I've given you a look at my own evolving process so that you can activate a process of your own with the sense it will be okay to try and learn and trust and figure out successful ways to cover/work around whatever mistakes you make along the way.  Remember to follow through on any please-listen-to-me sense of creative desire or need.  In life's larger arena that kind of mandate is often called selfish or even out of bounds but once ensconced at your work station you are not just entitled to call all the shots - you HAVE to do it.  And then execute (a/k/a the grunt-work part of creative manifestation).

If I've built this post properly you may have stopped reading more than once or even twice in order to sift through whatever you may have pulled on instinct once these posts began and your interest was sparked.  In any case I'm going to close out this post with some additional suggestions and advice.

In the context of this post the only actions you're responsible for taking are: selection of five different papers for the cover and pages - and - determination of your booklet's closed dimensions.  This in turn will give you the dimensions you'll need to cut for five separate folios.

IF you're fortunate enough to have chosen papers with designs that easily lend themselves to cutting trouble-not folios feel free to take yourself that far.   Save any and all scraps created by your cutting ventures for use as collage elements throughout the journal.  This will help create a sense of cohesion page to page, at a blink-sustained visual level.

IF you have five papers chosen and ready to cut but something about one or more of the papers isn't casting an inner glow.  And/or if you catch yourself thinking things like:  don't overthink. there's nothing wrong with it.   Or  I don't know why I don't like this but I don't. I just don't like it.  Don't cut the papers yet.  Maybe something in the next post I make on this subject will send everything that was wrong into a free fall of possibility that takes what you're ultimately planning a whole lot closer to where you'd like to be in your mind's eye of Making This Work. 

IF you have five papers you love enough to commit to them but they aren't all matching the dimensions for your cover.  And using that specific design/dimension is as solid for you as each of the other mis-matched papers.  This is where I am.  Somehow.  I thought I had the whole book-building quadrant well sorted at an eyeball level - until I stopped ignoring my not-liking what happened to the cover design elements I loved best if I kept the dimensions tighter and more in-line with what I'd pre-determined as "best" for a demonstration booklet's finished size.

Once that was clear to me I pushed through to problem solving just enough to see that it could be solved and probably quite enjoyably.  Definitely in a way that may prove useful for whatever you've got cooking by the time I post with the final results of my trouble-shoots.  At this point I know what to do mechanically so that I can do what needs doing plus photograph the steps and coherently write it up as time allows.  Which in turn will give you the blueprint for collating and successfully translating whatever process of actualizing this endeavor has evolved for you independently.   Once you have all five folios fully prepared and aligned you'll join them together with a super simple pamphlet stitch.

Note:  if seeing the linked diagram above leaves you torn between forging ahead come what may due to general interest level OR waiting it out a few days to see what I'll post next - split the difference and create some other type of pamphlet stitch booklet.  Maybe from no-frills folios cut from a section of the brown paper bag you've collected (see below).  This booklet could become a sort of preview guide/record of tests you made prior to applying ideas directly to the "real"/"good" booklet without being sure of the result. 

  If you have mis-matched paper sizes, don't thrive on self-guided troubleshooting or simply don't have enough time/focus to devote to that level of caper -  just set the separate elements aside.  Wait for my next post because maybe some of my solutions will work for you.  For now simply locate a heavier (grocery store weight) paper bag, cut it open, and find a way to flatten it for a few days under evenly distributed weight  - particularly along any crease lines - in the middle and longest ends.

The point: You're leaving the bag alone within whatever weighted system you can rig so that the greatest amount of the paper is an even surface for you to use as a substrate for collage-building 'replacement' folios, or sections of folios, using the paper bag as a patch-able substrate, etc. 

Obviously if you have other sturdy but relatively thin paper you'd prefer to use, jump in with both feet.  Cut pieces that are two inches larger than your finished collage patches need to be so you have plenty of wiggle room.  If you sew think of this as leaving an overly generous seam allowance 'just in case'.Additionalpulls


Let's close out with a follow-through on my suggestion that you pull at least 15-20% of your project materials from a portion of the paper-based things you save for some undetermined purpose In The Future.  Stuff you hoard, in other words, even if you don't have a collage fodder stash to speak of. I also impulsively challenged myself to make satisfying use out of UNsatisfying very-first-tries level of gelli print plate pulls I made around this time last year.  I'd used gorgeous printer's bond and nice quality paint so I kept them for Someday In CollageLand.

The murky blue and turquoise print jars at first sight.  It's included because the flip side of one of the scrap book papers is a deep forest green.  Concluded that to make that work I'd have to start pulling papers that would help me introduce that color throughout the individual collages.  So I'm committing to using all of that paper and however much of the yellow and brown print makes sense.    I'll use all of the bee-oriented collage sheet, at least two/three of the four transparencies and at least two of the gold foil starbursts.  Am open to using them all in both cases.  The last three items represent a group of ephemera I tenaciously hang on to rather than 'risk' using any of it frivolously.  Ditto the early aughts artist paper featuring a chair made from branches that continue to grow.  Have sat on that one - being determined not to 'waste' it - for so long I stopped questioning the squirrel cage aspects of my thought process until earlier today.

Ask questions and share your own sharpening focus-of-commitment in comments or email.


bring me the fripperies


Liz asked to see more of my handwork.  Am currently carrying this small piece (spring nest) roundabout our home looking for a place that feels like a good fit for short term display.  The layer upon layer of glittering and shiny beads and glistening embroidery threads are a conscious homage to my inner Crow spirit.


Have at times hung this as a backdrop for a seasonal/spring altar.  But right now I want it to be in my ongoing line of vision while I contemplate how much I want to de-construct this type of layered story-telling so it's more in line with my shifted sensibilities and things we might all create in a collective thrall of expressive call and response with our shifting species-level consciousness.


It's very true that pretty is as it does. 

Even more true:  sometimes it's just fun on rocket fuel.

this day in 2008


Was planning to post in response to a comment from Liz regarding her interest in a Beautiful Memory Jar project she could do with her grandchildren.  Like, tomorrow or the next day.  But then while editing pics for a post on my main blog I noticed this lovely image beaming up from the bottom of my screen.   Eleven years ago I was taking a wonderful embroidery class given by Sharon Boggon called Developing a Personal Library of Stitches.   The center rectangle is what I produced for one of the lessons.  We were supposed to keep things very small - 3 x 5.  But I found after the first two weeks that I just couldn't Work Small.  The compression of space makes my dyslexia go haywire.  Takes so long to untangle from a design perspective that it's far more pleasantly challenging to just work on a scale where it's easier for me to keep things looking like I know it's "supposed" to look.

I marvel at how much more stitching time I had when this was pretty much the only visually-based creative outlet I consistently allowed myself beyond photography.

live and learn, eh?  Am definitely on the Beautiful Moments trail though...

and then there's stitching

AsaboveblgThis very much unfinished fabric art journal project's been in the mix for about a dozen years.  It lives in a largish tote box full of sewing/fiber arts supplies I keep close to hand for spontaneous stitching sessions.  It's a comprehensive cloth and thread based cache I'd feel myself lucky to salvage in a state of emergency.  That said, I'm thinking it might be time to drop that ride or die criteria as the underlying structure of what I post here. 

I first started this project in the mid-aughts.  Back then I had both my former/undamaged brain and a lot more fluidity in my fingers' joints and tendons.   In part this means I didn't consider ease of stitching in my cloth choices nearly as much as I'm obliged to consider it now.  All the same I'd like to think, if I dedicate myself, I can have this project fully complete by this same time next year.  At the moment every single page is in progress.  So is my tenuous understanding of how it will ultimately be sewn together.  My old brain had a plan.  I found mention of that in a fiber arts idea log book but not a word about the plan itself. InsidecoverThe inside cover features a yukata sample that was stitched to the back of the third-hand army jacket I wore in the woods for a dozen or more years.  This spread offers tribute to the paper bookmaking detail of a gauze/parchment overlay that flips to reveal the book's title page.  Eventually every page will house an embroidered word or two.  Each detail of pattern, specific cloths and threads, and how they came to be assembled as a final project holds layers of personal meaning for me.  This is something I make with my future in mind:  at some point maybe I will no longer remember Enough but I might still remember some things I can look at and touch such as this soft and extremely tactile vessel of meaning and memory.  Now that I know what it feels like to be missing parts of established mind patterns I also know what it's like to encounter ballast through self-recognition at unlikely moments.  Thus I've returned to this project with a sense it holds personal meaning and value that merits showing up to work on it in a regular [timeframe] way. Auspiciousdreamsoverlay

MorninggloryprintblogI made the bold morning glory leaf print years ago at my former home.  Wisteria has been a major healing and illumination touchstone/ally for me since early childhood.  The page on the right is a very well worn fragment of a homemade pillowcase.  The equally worn batik strip running across comes from a comforter that was originally a wedding gift.  In the later 90's I recovered it by hand, one handsewn piece at a time. Each page is constructed from personally meaningful cloth that has multiple layers of significance for me. DonkeysspreadblgThis spread contains another paper-based bookmaking feature.  The "page" on the right is actually a tip-in.  Its substrate used to be one of my all time favorite gardening shirts.  This bit contains the shirt's buttonhole placket to hold the tip-in securely in place. CenterfoldThe book's centerfold is already fully complete in my head.  Had been saving it for the very last thing to be finished before binding but now am thinking I'll give myself the treat of working on it the next time I pick up a needle. Backcoverblg The inside back cover is one part of the book that's close to completion. FajbackcoverblgThe back cover is not.

invaluable companion


This is the single filled sketchbook I keep in my studio go-bag.  At least that's where it lives when I don't have it out as a reference source for whatever reason.  It's my favorite size of 8 x 8.   I made it using a super-simplified bookmaking technique taught by Mary Ann Moss in her Sketchbookery class.  The method works so well for me that I've been using it ever since. 


For about a week this journal was meant to be a colorist exploration of the designer gouache I received as a holiday gift.  But then I heard about Wendy Brightbill's 30 day creative challenge that ran as a free offering of her creative spirit throughout January of this year.  I've taken a number of online painting and collage classes with Wendy and find her to be a very inspiring teacher.   Each day of the challenge she presented participants with a pair of videos.  One featured her speaking in an inspiring way.  Throughout the month she covered a variety of themes integral to maintaining a daily creative practice.  The second video contained process/technique details to match the prompt of the day.

While watching the very first video I impulsively grabbed this volume and repurposed it.  On crisp New Year's instinct I knew this was going to be a process I'd want to preserve in a cohesive and structurally sound way.  Indeed, by the end of the challenge I'd amassed a cohesively strong collection of seed-stage ideas that can be expanded whenever and however I'm moved to explore ... whatever.  By assigning a full spread to each prompt I created a working field  of 16 x 8.  I quickly found I like working on this scale just as much as I like working within 8 x 8 parameters.  I also appreciated that the book signatures were made from high quality water color paper scraps and leftovers.  The quality allowed me a reliable substrate that didn't bleed. The scrap status allowed me to feel creatively resourceful and unrestrained for an average time investment of 20 minutes a day.  This book holds a valuable record of what happens when I show up for myself - on several days, for even half that amount of time  - in order to create in a purely joyful and spontaneous manner.


Above a shaman "older than dirt" awakes from a nightmare in which he finds himself unable to Save The World.  This is the lower left hand corner of the Layers prompt spread. It's an example of the handful of occasions when I had the luxury of moving slowly and with a leisurely sense of time management.  I worked on this one off and on throughout a sunny January day in which I was studio-puttering.  Greatly enjoyed the experience of grounding my time alone & away from family/domestic responsibilities via periodically returning to the work desk to add a new layer of paint or ink.


Above two dogs seek shelter and comfort from each other during the Camp fire.  The prompt of the day was color background.  I had a newly purchased tube of rose madder acrylic paint.  Thought it would be a far darker/more oxidized color based on paint chips.  When I saw this much lighter and intensely red color my brain went straight to those dogs.  I imagined a fragment of their story through inky line drawings with a dip pen; sometimes feathering or widening the lines with a 1/4" one stroke brush.


Above a recurring dream motif from last winter was detailed within the mark making prompt spread.  Used another new tube of paint but this color was a dependable old favorite rather than a startling surprise.