Monday, February 29, 2016


It's finished!!! Yeah.......and I'm happy with the results.  It will be another piece for the upcoming 'Fiber Art - Color of Nature' at the North Carolina Arboretum - April 21 - July 6, 2016.  Three of us, Judy, Kate and I are fortunate to be given the entire 2nd floor of the main building to display our work. 

Each of us sold a good number of quilts during our last show and we are hoping for an equally positive response this time.  We've spent the last year+ creating work to echo the botanical surroundings.  If you are in the area during this time period, please stop by!
 GINKGO LEAVES AT DAWN  21.5" X 22.5" © 2016
Artist hand-dyed with commercial cottons, machine embroidered and quilted.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Despite telling myself that I don't need to be going full speed ahead every second of the day.......which by the way, I have not been for a couple of weeks, frustration is setting in at my lack of accomplishments lately.

Life has taken over my life in the studio.....nothing terrible....just mundane things that needed to be attended to.  But, here and there I've had bits of time to work on this ginkgo leaf project.   It's now designed and the next step - GULP - is machine stitching to enhance the leaves and then - really BIG GULP - machine quilting.

This is forcing me to get better acquainted with the Janome 8900 I bought near the end of last year.  I'm going to fine myself a dollar every time I mentally compare it to my beloved Pfaff.....which now resides in machine heaven. The biggest hurtle is the size of the feet (HUGE) and the cumbersome walking foot....not to mention the unnecessary number of complex settings.  

Machine manufacturers seem to feel required to offer machines that 'do everything', which by the way....don't seem to do the simple things really well anymore.

Stay tuned.......

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I have a tendency to rush through life.....and not take enough time to 'smell the roses'.  At my age.....that's ridiculous....I better slow down, look around, and appreciate everything that surrounds me.

The really magical things are the ones that happen right in front of you."
-Vik Muniz

Monday, February 22, 2016


Finding time to get back in the studio seems to be eluding me lately....but for good recent girlfriend art camp for one.....and over the weekend, for the 10th year in a row, we attended Bluegrass First Class.

It's an annual indoor bluegrass festival that features nearly non-stop music for over 12+ hours each day.  My butt is sore!!
The best known, most professional acts have been on this stage for 21 years.  The 'Queen of Bluegrass"  Rhonda Vincent is one such example. Now this is the way I'd like to travel....that is if a private plane is out of the question!
Most artists in this field of music are not glitzy like the country music stars often are.  She's the exception....high energy, glamour, and great music are a given at all her appearances.
The quality of musicians is outstanding.....just when you think a group can not achieve any higher standards....they do.  This young man on the left is....wait....drum roll......16 years old!!!  He's not considered excellent because of his age.....he is truly an excellent fiddle player.  Incredible in fact!  He's still in high school getting mostly A's with 2 B's.....while still traveling with a group called Sideline.
Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver is a group we've seen and enjoyed enormously many times.  He's the only male bluegrass star I can think of who dresses more 'country' than bluegrass.
I wasn't expecting too much from this group......students at Eastern Tennessee State in Johnson City, TN.  It's the first university in the country to offer a bachelor degree in Bluegrass music.  Graduates are now finding their way into some of the top touring groups in the country.  The fiddler on the left is only 20, hails from Canada and is winning fiddle contests all over the country.

One really special aspect of this festival is the organizer's dedication to offer opportunities to young players.  Generally the first 2 acts each day are just that. It provides them with experience and the chance to rise or fall as their talent warrants.  Kinda like the instructors that enter the quilt circuit.
The Bluegrass World is VERY family oriented. Audiences are super respectful, no talking during performances, no drunks, no disruptive shouting or other craziness, no smoking, no cell phones....I NEVER ever heard one ring in all the years we've been going.  Can't say that for quilt lectures or workshops!!   Oh....there is cheering, clapping, and well deserved standing ovations.....but all very civil.

Here's Lou Reid's 2 year old grandson who charmed the whole room as he stood on the stage for the opening song performed by one of my all time favorite groups, The Seldom Scene. 
The Seldom Scene's last founding member, Ben Eldridge retired in January.  You can see his photo on the screen which almost looks like an obituary.  Many people feel a sense of mourning, he was that loved.  His banjo style has often been copied but never duplicated.  We were delighted to be the first to hear his replacement....who plays every string instrument in the bluegrass he has a great voice.  All in the family....he's the brother of the upright base player.

So....if you are a bluegrass fan....I hope you enjoyed this brief look at a wonderful annual festival held every February in Asheville, NC.  If you aren't.....hey......listen to one of the best songs they ever here.

Friday, February 19, 2016


After whittling down the excess number of photos from our art camp are a few that might provide some inspiration.
 After disappointing results over our first ice-dyed fabrics, the duds were selected for further enhancement.  We used mostly acrylic paints, some full strength, others thinned.  Stencils, stamps, texture plates, etc. provided the designs.
Nan found this treasure at a salvage store.....some sort of printing plate we had sturdy raised metal motifs, attached to a wooden base.

She placed one of the pale fabric on the plate and dabbed it with a mixture of several colors of paint using a sponge rubber pounce. (Click to enlarge)
 Here's another one of her pieces, created using a variety of stencils.
 By now you can see how pitiful the fabric turned out that first day....again....since we followed the procedure I've used numerous times, it's still a mystery why they dyed so poorly. 

However.....if there's one thing Fiber Junkie Denny has taught me.....if you don't like the results the first are the solution....and do-overs can be done more than once!  I applied torn painters tape to this piece......
.......then painted the fabric with thinned acrylic paint using a small foam brush.
This is a flexible rubber place mat.....
.......which was placed over my pale, ugly fabric. Using an old plastic awards/credit card, full strength metallic paint was pressed through the circular cutouts.
 Some of our fabrics were rayon, which also didn't color well.  Yup....I'm still scratching my head, esp. because rayon always dyes beautifully.  The motifs were added using stencils, mixed, thinned, and full strength acrylic paints.

Of course I had to ice-dye some felted wool.  This National Nonwoven's 80/20 'woolfelt' began as a peachy color.....some is still visible after the dyeing process.

So....I thinned some paint.....
 ......and using a basket weave stencil to transform it into what I now consider a usable background.
Gwen used a plastic coated wire grid (used for landscaping) to provide the background design on a piece of muslin.  Next, she stenciled ferns and a firefly. Dang....I didn't get a final was adorable after adding some brightly colored flowers.
Happily, we did have success with our next batches of's just one example.  

Another year ended on a satisfying note....good friends, good conversations, good food, good art......  I'm already looking forward to next year! Nan has gotten interested in making glass.....hummmmm....a whole new area of art to explore.  Grab a couple of pals and organize your own art camp....for a day, a few days, or a week.....happiness is sure to follow.

Check out what others have been creating this week:   Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday,  Crazy Mom Quilts, Whoop, Whoop Friday

Thursday, February 18, 2016


I'm fortunate to have such a generous friend who has now offered her home for the 5th year in a row for our "Girlfriend Art Camp". (Thank you Nan!!)  We planned to do some ice-dyeing one day, but ended up doing two trays the first day and one each the next two days.
 I've shared the steps involved with this technique several times in the past so this is only a brief overview.  After soaking our fabrics in soda ash, squeezing out the excess after 24 hours, we layered them in plastic layer on the bottom to catch the extra dye, then added raised racks to hold the remaining fabric.  

I had recently read that soaking for 24 hours achieves better we tried that approach....frankly, the color was worse. So we went back to doing just quick soaks instead.
 The fabrics were covered with ice.

Dye powder was applied (wearing masks and gloves).
Then encased with black plastic and left out in the warm AZ sun.  We waited till the next morning to view our creations.
 In the meantime, we made personal pizzas......way too much good food is consumed in these couple of days.
 Here's the biggest success.  Nan had purchased a never worn wedding dress in a resale shop. I think she paid $10.00.....all silk......lots and lots of laces and pearls.  So we decided to cut it into sections and ice dye it.  Here are some drying on her bushes......FABULOUS RESULTS!!!
 Our first day of ice-dyeing was fairly disappointing.....we still can't figure out why.....the wedding gown fabrics were wonderful, but none of these cottons and rayons had much color or interest.  

Of course that only meant we could spend another day enhancing them with paints and even redying some........stay tuned.....

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


The seemingly constant winter storms that have now raced through our area have been such a shock after having super mild weather through the end of 2015.

Luckily I escaped to AZ for some girlfriend art camp fun......and happily due to cancelled flights......I was able to enjoy extra time there......which included lots of walks....where I spotted this attractive manhole cover!

I have lots of catching up to do after getting home this morning.  The way too many photos I took will be organized for them soon.

Friday, February 12, 2016


.....Apparently my 'artist block' hasn't disappeared quite yet.  After feeling rather giddy over the pieced background, (meaning I actually did something) the style of leaves and color of fabric still eluded me.
Auditioning motifs cut from paper saves wasted fabric! now I have a plan......but......I don't seemed too predictable.  (Yet in a way, sometimes these pedestrian pieces can sell quicker than a more 'arty' approach.)  Decisions, decisions.......
 Oh heck....I changed my mind.  Using tracing paper, a new plan is mapped out.  It's an approach I rarely use.  I'm more of a 'fly by the seat of your pants' designer.
 I've never used ginkgo leaves as a motif in my work......but the numerous hand-dyed green fabrics in my stash seemed suitable for that theme.

Have you noticed anything about this piece now??  Yup...though I originally planned and pieced the background for a vertical orientation, it's now horizontal.  Truly, I'm VERY directionally challenged....and I believe this spills over into my work as well.

As you are reading this post......I'll be in AZ attending our 5th annual "Girlfriend Art Camp". A big bonus of travel teaching on the quilt circuit for over 2 decades are the friendships that developed along the way!!  

This unfinished piece awaits my return....when I'm sure to have lots of photos to share with you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Now that my aches and pains from being rear ended on the interstate a couple of weeks ago have pretty much disappeared.....I'm ready to start creating again.  However, my 'lay off' generated some 'artist block'.

I wandered around my studio, choosing and rejecting dozens of fabrics and ideas.  Just when I was to the point of major frustration......two painted pieces caught my eye.
This was done in the fall using thinned mx dyes.  The vertical spot in the upper right side is actually a flaw in the fabric.....I like to call things like this, "design opportunities". The piece is now on my design wall.....waiting for further inspirations....
This is what is left of a larger section that was also painted using dyes.  With all the deconstructive screen printing/and surface design we do at our Fiber Junkie meetings......I purposely set out to make some interesting 'solid' fabrics.
 That fabric was cut into random size rectangles, along with a variety of commercial batiks to create a background.
Happily, several pieces earmarked for an exhibit I'm participating in this spring at the NC Arboretum have sold.  So I need to make a few more featuring nature themes for the display.  

I was excited by the color combination/contrast of the pieced background and the black and white batik fabrics.  However, even before I actually cut out a leaf from the fabric I KNEW it wouldn't work.  The print is too busy for the detailed shape of the leaves.  So.....I'm either going to change the fabric OR perhaps try to change the leaf style.  BUT....that's what keeps us interested isn't it??  One-of -a-kind art is challenging to create.....yet the rewards can be so great.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


A few short months ago the 6 Fiber Junkies members were all blissfully enjoying our monthly meetings together. Life does have its ups and downs....member Denny has had to pull away for awhile to handle a long term family emergency, and member Gen's husband is now seriously ill.  Member Val's situation is not bleak....she spends a couple of her winter months in Florida.

That left Judy, Kate, and myself to gather for our January meeting.  We've been wanting to devote a meeting to problem solving projects we are having difficulties developing.  It was VERY productive.  In part because we are such good friends and could be completely honest, allowing three different minds to build upon each others ideas. Not a single proposed project was left without some suggestions about how to proceed.  We all went home feeling very positive!
 Here Kate and Judy are viewing options to complement the larger piece of shibori dye painted fabric on the right.  Adding, subtracting, shifting locations all contributed to a new plan for the piece.
 This is one of Judy's workshop samples, dyed & painted silk. She offered to give it to one of us.....but it's sooooo Judy that we encouraged her to develop it further herself. After quite a bit of discussion.....there's a plan for this piece too.
 We three are members of another group of 14 that will be sewing up some charity quilts at our April meeting.  We decided it would be more productive if we made up kits ahead of time. So we donated colorful, theme based fabrics and spent the afternoon cutting.
Each kit has all the pieces for the blocks, plus the backing and binding. It's rewarding to see fabrics we've fallen 'out of love' with being used for such a good cause.

Monday, February 8, 2016


I've talked about our love of Bluegrass music many times on this blog.....the proximity of great nearby shows/concerts was definitely in the 'pro' column during our discussions whether or not to move here.

Balsam Range is a local group that has hit it HUGE.....each winter they host a concert series in a small restored theater in the paper town of Canton, NC. Most of the members have been playing music professionally all their lives and luckily for us, they feature some of their very talented friends at the shows.
My photo isn't good but that doesn't reflect on the quality of these two guests.  Trey Hensley's voice was like no other I ever very powerful!  But his guitar playing was nothing short of unbelievable.  Truly genius.  I'm guessing he's probably in his late 30's......but get this....he played the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville when he was only 9, plus played at the White House twice before he got out of his teenage years!!

Rob Ickes has been awarded the International Bluegrass Music Association's 'Dobro Player of the Year' award 15 times......having the opportunity to hear the best of the best will not be forgotten soon.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


In the spirit of good sportsmanship............
wishing the Carolina Panthers the best of luck tonight.
(but can I say, I'm sad it's not the Packers?!?)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


One final bowl......all remaining bowls from this recent batch will be posted in my online gallery shop me if you are interested now.  Click here for more.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Like so many of us.....spending 24-7 creating is only a wish, though of course that's not practical or probably not even healthy. 
 So, for the 11th year in a row....the pause button was pushed as we headed to Daytona Beach, FL for the Rolex 24 hour car race.

****I'm not sure why the video isn't showing up....will continue to try.  Yes, I said 24 hrs. - 12 of which are run in the dark.  Mercifully, we don't stay for all 24 hrs. but normally spend a good 14 hrs. there each day.  I'll admit I'm less and less interested in the actual race.....on a scale of 1-100....I spend less than 10% paying attention. If you can see's LOUD (even if you have your computer speakers on high it won't come close) and the cars go FAST - 140 MPH at times.  Snapping my head back and forth to watch makes me dizzy.  We arrive before it's light just to get a parking place along the fence line in the Porsche Paddock....they can accommodate only 190 cars (must be a Porsche) so each year it's a effort to keep track of when those tickets go on sale.
It's dark when we arrive and dark when we leave....but how lovely is this sunrise on Saturday morning?!?
 In fact, on Saturday we are there so early the garages aren't even open yet!! The race begins at 2:40 PM on Saturday and ends at 2:40 on Sunday.
 So besides reading 3 books during my 3 days at the track....I marvel at the spectacle.....can you imagine the skill it takes to park these huge vans, nearly touching.  All the transporters are wheels shining...the teams take pride in every aspect.
There are more darn rules than the IRS for theses races.  Here's the inspection station where cars are weighed, equipment is checked.....they go over every inch of the car before giving it the okay to race.
This is why we get up so mid. morning the Paddock is full.  Only the first row faces the track (north) ....all of these cars are facing East.
 This is the coveted first row......and THIS IS a $200,000 special edition Porsche!!
Think that's unbelievable??  Well....This is a MILLION dollar very, very, very, special edition Porsche.  We saw the owner being helped out of the car...he was about 90, had to use a cane to walk and stand, plus one wrist was in a brace.....sure hope he has good insurance.
 These are not million dollar vehicles but they are valuable....for those who don't know.....Porsche's are a derivative from a VW bug.  'The husband' claims if a car was can see one here.

A major number of attendees spend 4 days at the race.....$100,000-$200,000 fancy motor homes are are $50.00 pup tents.  This is a rental....pretty fancy I'd say...they even had a big screen TV on the top deck...

I spend a lot of time rubber necking as we walk, walk, walk around the facilities.....  Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI is still my favorite track.....mostly cause I love the food....but this one has made big improvements in that area.....including good coffee..... so until next year.......