Late Minute Painting before Winter

inside-shopIt always seems to be same each year, that last minute dash to get the outdoor things done before cold weather hits. November has been remarkably mild, so I’ve been outside every available sunshiney minute for the last few weeks, trying to get our old studio repaired and repainted.

This is our old studio before moving to the peanut butter factory, and the place where Russ built the Kinetic Man (in smaller pieces.) There’s still a vintage pachinko machine on the wall, a neon face and letters that say “shop.” There’s some kind of weird light fixture stored upstairs, and the walls are covered with old barn wood that came from an ancient barn that my grandfather tore down long ago and stored for years before Russ planed and sanded the boards to make beautiful cyprus paneling.

The building was originally built by a woman who was married to the rabbi who ministered at the synagogue up the street. She was a ceramic artist and designed it for that, so it reminds me how good the place is for clay work. Maybe we should move that ceramic wheel we got last February back here for a while… hhmmm…

painting-doorsThere’s lots of secret nooks and crannies around the bamboo and water garden. Cobblestones that we hand-shaped out of concrete, a hand-forged bamboo garden gate, melodic wind chimes made from old pewter goblets. So there’s lots of memories here and an inspiring place to work for a change.

But there’s also a lot of repairs that have to be done to the wood exterior and the masonry waterproofing paint for the stucco walls is heavy, so I’ve been too tired at night to blog or do much art for a while.

I have stopped to take a few photos though. (click on the thumbnails below to see larger) And now the sun’s out again – better get back outside and paint a few more strokes!

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Have we entered a beige period?

beige_hall.jpgAfter renovating the studio last year, we’ve gone to a whole new aesthetic — from orange and black checkered floors and multi-colored walls to more of a retro-Swedish-modern look with bamboo floors. We call it Studio2.0.

It’s a very calm clean atmosphere, much different than the usual colorful chaos of my fiber studio in back. I like that I’m finally getting papers, books, and other presentation materials finally re-organized after the mess when our studio flooded two years ago.

A couple of weeks ago I also feng-shuied my office, getting it really clean and organized, and usual, building my own furniture out of old doors and stuff I found in the warehouse. (Except for that $150 Art Metal retro desk that I love and drag from to where ever I happen to be working the most.)


However my new problem: The offices needs some art! especially since I’ve started talking to friends and family on Skype. When I’m on-camera, there’s nothing but a white wall behind my head. The only quirks I have in here are the hula girl on my adding machine and my ceramic lucky cat. And that leopard-dotted sofa that I re-upholstered.

I keep thinking about dragging some quilts up here, but worry they will look out of place. But it’s kind of like the cobbler’s children have no shoes. No art hanging in the artists’ studio? Okay, writing to you today has shamed me. I’ll have to get working on this.


Beam me up, Fluffy!


Not much art going on this week, other than emails and boxing up stuff for shows. Also thinking about what I’m going to say for a full hour at the Modern Materials opening weekend artist’s talk.

I was going to transport this quilt to the Untitled [Artspace] gallery via space-age technology, but the space-time portal didn’t reveal itself in time. So I had to fall back on FedEx.

FedEx is not a bad second option though. I usually use the second-day delivery, and have always been happy with the ease of computer-generated labels and email confirmation of delivery. The routine is so regular now it’s almost boring — roll it, wrap it with fabric, wrap with plastic, box it, label it, stick a letter in it and ship it.


However, give me a Sharpie and that girl who likes to draw and hasn’t gotten out much lately takes over.  mmbox-elephant.jpg Although I can’t say for sure what that elephant is tossing — a peanut or a caterpillar? (click for a closer look)


However, Mochi, the supreme guardian of all things postal that come and go through the front door seems unimpressed by my wrapping, boxing and excessive taping technique. (By the way, have I ever shown you the impressive stainless steel floor in the lobby that she guards?)

It’s all about energy


Lately it seems that the word-making part of my brain has gone on early holiday. Or maybe it’s honing so many short tweets has hampered my ability to string together a paragraph. Oh well, less words, more room for photos? Not really true on the web, but here’s the photos:

View of my studio as I was working on the Wish You Were Hair series of quilts. These are quilt tops pinned to design boards just before quilting. Wish I could retake this with my new auto-timer photography trick and run into the photo, but the moment has passed.


For backings, I use batiks that seem to carry the same colors and theme as the front — for one reason because as I roll up the quilts to sew on them for hours and hours, I can enjoy the fabric. I try to keep good psychic energy going throughout the making process, and continuity of color is one of the ways. If I get in a bad mood or have trouble while working, I try to leave for a while or change the music, or change my thinking. I want nothing but good energy to go into my work. Stitch patterns are like handwriting – you can sense the emotion driving the writer.


Since I haven’t gotten these on the website yet, you may not have seen the finished quilt – “St. Louis – Wish You Were Hair.” Kind of my nostalgic look at being a kid in St. Louis and remembering trips to the Gateway Arch by the river, and eating at the only floating McDonald’s on a river boat (now gone.)


Speaking of energy, here’s an alternative — riverboat driven by flower power. Notice the swoopy loops of stitching in the background. Today I’m going to focus on getting some more photos of background patterns, so it may be another day of evaporated words.

Wired at Sunset


Here’s the flip side to a photo I posted in October — Wired at Sunrise. This is sunset in the opposite direction looking from our studio. Evangel University is across the street and the sun is setting just behind Evangel’s bell tower that plays short melodies on the hour. After I downloaded the photo, I saw it was like a little poem… You can just see a cell tower behind the bell tower.

How to be in two places at once


The editor at the last book I submitted photos to complained that my photos were not good enough, so I’ve been working on my photography. Something cool I learned this week was how to use the auto-timer on the camera. So I can set up the camera on the tripod, then run around to get in the picture. This photo probably give you a better sense of what it’s like to work on one of these quilts, since you can gauge the scale.

A couple days ago I finalized the design on the wall and started to fuse everything down. The fusing is only temporary, things almost immediately start to curl up and fall off. But it’s good enough that I can get in under the sewing machine and stitch everything together for good. Did I whine it took a lot of time to cut snowflakes. Now I’m sewing them, which could be worse!

Thanks to Virginia, Gerrie, Jeanne, and others for reminding me about Blog Action Day/Poverty. I missed it here, but their posts reminded me to get off my duff and donate to The Kitchen, a great local organization here that provides food, job-training and medical care to people in need.


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.

I’d better brush up on my Greek Architecture


The spirit of the Olympics has filled me, and I had to get to work on this rendition of an early Greek athlete. I had him trade in his dumbbell for an iPod shuffle though, so I guess that brings him up to date.

I print out big patterns for my quilts but nothing is set in stone. Throughout the process, I continue to have new ideas, so I’m often drawing the changes on the pattern as I go along. In this case, I finally had an idea how to use this great light table that Russ got at auction last spring. I don’t know the exact size, but for scale, that’s a Sharpie pen on the right side of the drawing.


Sort of looking like a cowboy right now, but give it time. I’m loving working with all these new characters, it’s getting to be like a crazy party in my studio with lots of interesting wallflowers.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Evacuate


Well, I thought I was tough anyway, sweating it out all summer in my studio with no air conditioning. But truthfully, it has been a mild summer…..until last weekend. Finally it got so hot, and add to that no windows to vent all the heat of my overhead lights and an iron that is constantly on HOT, that I knuckled and resorted to my emergency heat evacuation plan.

I moved my sewing machines to the newly redone gallery, love that bamboo floor! But even better, the now all-white walls and big open space. Formerly a meeting room and kitchen, we redesigned this room to be more of a multi-purpose room, and now it seems a wise investment.


The lighting’s not as even as my studio, but it’s cool! And I have all sorts of interesting new thoughts when I look up from my sewing and see the Russ RuBert beautiful sculptures. What a yummy place to work!