The Banana Pose is in American Style!


Hey, there’s my quilt on page 58 of the January-February issue of American Style magazine. Yay, AmStyle did a big big section on “studio quilts” and artists, and Martha Sielman executive director of SAQA mentioned my work in her interview. Thanks Martha!

Yoga 101 - The Banana Split Pose
Yoga 101 - The Banana Split Pose by Pam RuBert - 45" x 53"

This quilt is called “Yoga 101: The Banana Split Pose,” one of my series of quilts featuring yoga poses inspired by food puns.


In the same article there’s also a great photo that Russ took of me working at my sewing machine a few pages later. The section features lots of great fiber artists (that’s Linda Gass’s gorgeous quilt beside mine) including Caryl Bryer Fallert, Susan Shie, John Lefelhocz, Gwendoyn Magee, and Katie Pasquine Masopust.

What is humor?


What is humor? I been thinking about this question since I was asked to juror the show for SAQA called “Sense of Humor” (see last post for more details.)

I’m not going look in some dictionary and give you the definition, I don’t even know what a real definition is — I just have my own personal definition: humor is thinking outside of the box. And here’s another one: creativity is thinking outside of the box.

What was it they told us in algebra? When A=B and C=B, then A=C. You do the math. Anyway, that’s just my own take on things.

The above photo was taken at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art last October at this event on my blog. The artist: Jeroen Nelemas. The art is not the man in the photo, it’s the installation made of grass, astroturf and metal grid called “Six Feet Above.” When you climb the steps, then turn around and look out, this is what you see looking out from “Six Feet Above” to the biggest exhibition space at the center.


The thing below is another artwork by Keith Lemley called “Hovercraft.” Also not as it appears at first glance. You have to experience it. Here’s the directions. hovercraft_directions.jpgAnd here’s me doing my Silver Surfer impression — it really does float and move around, but not recommended after a glass of wine at the opening. Or maybe that’s when it’s best.


That thing hanging behind me is another installation by Vanessa Tomczak and Carl Bajanda. The little gizmo at the bottom very slowly unknits the long white hanging scarf(?), you can see the pile of unknitted yarn at the bottom.


Here’s some details. Click to make big. vanessatomczak_carlbajanda2.jpg

I loved this show and my whole experience at the UICA. Just curious, does anyone else think this stuff is funny?

Public art conference – a day of workshops

iron_pour.jpg Crand Rapids is hosting an ISC public art conference and Russ taught one a great one about three-dimensional computer-aided design for sculptors and artists. While he was teaching inside, a group of sculptors built kilns in the roped-off street outside for an iron-pour and sculpture casting. I tremble at the thought of walking around with a pot of molten metal, but they had many practice runs for timing and safety, and the result was dramatic as the sun set in the evening.

The workshops were held at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art — a very cool place offering artist workshops and exhibitions. I was happy to find a couple of ceramic pieces by Lisa Naples that have me itching to try my hand at ceramics again. Here’s an article about how she changed her style without losing identity from The Crafts Report.


The UICA spread out the best workshop food I’ve ever seen. Take a look at these cupcakes! I’ll be dreaming of painting with icing in my next cake dream. At the end of the conference, the UICA will  also be hosting “One Big Art Party” on Friday — can’t wait!

Cakes and more Cakes


The other night I had a dream that I should draw some cakes. Not just a few, but a whole lot. Here’s all I got started with, then ran out of ideas, so I’ll have to look up some recipes. And I don’t know where that silly elf in the chef hat came from.

johnhimmelfarb1.jpg Here’s probably what inspired the idea of a massive drawing (although not sure about the cake part.) This is a huge drawing by John Himmelfarb that I saw in a private collection in Nebraska. Not sure about the scale? Look at the reflection in the glass — that is a spiral staircase for scale.


It’s made up of hundreds of little scratchy drawings, sort of silly like mine, but of course more organized and thought out in the layout. I really love this guy’s use of line, which Angela noted, “drives my work.”

We were up there, Lincoln and Omaha, for some International Sculpture Centers meetings and as a consequence, got lots of art saturation — the Sheldon had a really lovely Elizabeth King retrospective, a Christo and Jeanne-Claude presentation at the Kaneko, and a sneak peek at the artist residencies of the Bemis. Enough to make one feel very small and awkward in a world of huge talent and inspiration.

Jason Pollen workshop at studio


The weekend of the ThreadLines opening reception, Jason Pollen led a two-day workshop called “J-o-i-n-i-n-g-F-o-r-c-e-s.” Each day he led a series of different drawing exercises on black and white double-sided paper.


This was the most complex exercise, prefaced with discussions of astrology and self-control, a random drawing and a self-controlled analytical response. This was probably the thing that I most took away from the class — a strong reminder that in drawing, every mark should be a response to the previous marks. I later tried to apply that also to some of my experiments in fabric.


Drawing with graphite and chalk were followed by creating small experiments in texture with this clear gesso paste, which were then painted, stitched and otherwise altered any way we wished.


Clearing out the space for twenty people to work in the shop was a job, but created a great creative environment. And  having one of Russ’s neon sculptures flickering in the background probably played into our minds as people often used works like “charged” and “electric” and “shimmering” during wordplay exercises.


We brought my pin boards out the fiber room to pin up and look at the drawings.  And the most wonderful tool of all is hard to see, but check out the black cast-iron 100+ year old paper cutter — great for chopping up big drawing papers into excercise-sized pieces for the group. Russ got that at an auction a few years ago when a school tablet and sketchbook factory up the street went out of business.


For a wrap-up, I cleaned off one wall of the gallery so everyone could tape up their work and discuss it. (except for the squiggly aluminum wall piece – couldn’t get that off the wall.)


Jason didn’t much like our fluorescent lighting, but really we just got the floors and walls done, lighting is next on the list.

Jason was amazingly good at challenging each one of us and providing a broader context to think of working with fiber — a weekend well spent. For photos of some of the work done in the class, check out the Uncommon Threads post here.

Moving a Sculpture, or this weekend reminds me why I make quilts


We finally got back up to Omaha to pick up this sculpture purchased at the Bemis Art Auction last fall. It will be a fun Memorial weekend project to move it back home for our new sculpture garden collection.

It’s very heavy and awkward to move — took six guys to drag it to the edge of the loading dock at the Bemis, before it could be lifted with a fork truck.



Oops, lost a wheel.


Actually in the end, it worked better to take off all the wheels and load them separately.


Oh well, if the wheels really worked, it would just spin in a circle anyway. The sculpture is very heavy and now the truck and trailer is difficult to drive on the highway. Although it was a beautiful evening in old downtown Omaha last night, today the forecast is for heavy storms, wind and hail. Should be a exciting trip home!

Also stopped yesterday at the 51st Brownsville, NE historic flea market and craft festival. Wait till you see what I got there…

Mosiacs at Dallas International Terminal D


Never had much chance in Dallas to look at at art, but a three-hour layover gave me plenty of time to study a big collection of what they tell me is eight million dollars of public art installed at the International Terminal D.


I especially enjoyed a series of mosaics in the floor. These are photos of Jane Helslander’s “Floating in Space: A Waltz.” What is it about mosaics that are so intriquing? Is it the way the tiny fragments fit together to make a bigger image?

Here are some more photos on Flickr.

What did I say at the Lux?


Can’t remember really. Something about how I used to draw and do digital art, but missed the joy and funkiness of the handcrafted object, and so began to combine my drawing with making quilts. Also, how I was inspired by the mis-matched patterns of old-time patchwork quilts, and tried to preserve that kind of spontaneity and humor in my own work.

And since I was standing in front of this quilt, (thanks for this photo Robert Duncan:) I used it to explain how I enjoy putting memories of objects and people I love into my work. For instance, on long road trips I often eat those little white powdered donuts you buy at the gas station. So when I made this quilt, I was thinking about how the aliens had been on a really long road trip to get to Earth, and gave them some white donuts and Tang for the trip.


Photo of the opening by Lisa Call who gave a good talk (read her funny version of her road trip with sharks) about her own work Fencing In or Keeping Out and since she was curator for the show, about the other artists — Deidre Adams, Joanie San Chirico, and Jeanne Williamson. The Lux is a great art center with 20 year history, and the show looked great. Here’s a photo gallery of the whole show on Flickr.

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International Quilt Study Center and Museum


While in Lincoln, I was able to sneak over to the new International Quilt Center and Museum very early in the morning before the sun rose, because I had heard the new sculpture in front of the building was beautifully lit.


The sculpture by Linda Fleming is called “Reverie” (daydream) is wonderful to walk around and through — lots of different viewpoints and even some matching fantasy chairs inside the structure.


The museum itself is another work of art designed by architects Robert R.M. Stern of New York. The wall of glass front facade wraps about interior gathering spaces, exhibition rooms, and will house the world’s largest collection of quilts. Currently and through the summer exhibits include: Quilts In Common from the museum’s collection and Nancy Crow: Cloth, Culture, and Context which traces the development of Nancy Crow as a studio artist.

Lisa and I also got a chance to see another beautiful exhibit of quilts by Michael James in Lincoln’s historic Haymarket District. You can see a slideshow of James’ “The Life in a Day” series of quilts based on abstracted photographic imagery on the Modern Arts Midwest gallery website here.

Sticks and Mosses


Ruth Asawa – tied wire sculpture from

I’ve been studying the art and life of Ruth Asawa, a Japanese American artist who among many other things, crocheted and wove beautiful sculptures out of simple wire with her fingers.

You can read my essay on her life and art that I wrote last night for my first contribution to the Ragged Cloth Cafe art discussion blog. What I didn’t say in my academic approach for the RCC, was my personal reflections on this artist’s life story.

In my research, I found that at age 16 she was interned in the same Japanese American internment camps that my grandparents were sent to during World War II — first the temporary housing in horse race stables in California, then one of umpteen permanent camps spread throughout western and midwest U.S. This was something that happened to people of Japanese heritage living on mainland  US. because of racial discrimination and war hysteria, regardless of the fact that many were U.S. citizens.

Asawa and my family happened to end up in the same camp at Rowher, Arkansas. I once tried to find the remains of this camp a few years ago but nothing was left. My family never says much about camp — my father was too young and my grandmother had the common Japanese attitude of shigatakani… and so it goes.

I once asked her what they did all that time in camp by the cypress swamp that smelled of rotten eggs, and she said, “oh, taught each other things, like ikebana.” (Japanese flower-arranging). “Of course,” she said, “There were no flowers in Rowher, so we used what we had, sticks and mosses.”