Archive for October, 2005

Divided attentionHad an okay walk. Moss still hates his halti and Katherine still travels at the speed of a two-almost-three-year-old, so we must have looked a fair sight. One woman walking a normal border collie on one leash and a whirling, leaping, psycho-collie on the other with a child in tow who insisted on jumping everywhere, usually on one foot. The only low point was when Katherine wanted to walk Wikket (which she can do on quiet side roads because Wikket will always listen to my voice commands anyway) on the busy street and I said she couldn’t. There was, of course, public hysteria. Why are there always old women around who look at you like you must regularly strangle children when that happens?

Got back, Katherine made herself a sandwich (sort of – she did most of the spreading and putting together) and we had lunch. Did some helping her to set up paints, clay, etc. and then assuaged her hurt pride when she stabbed herself with a pin. Then we had yogurt and juice and it was QRT (quiet reading time – a hold-over from when Katherine wouldn’t take a nap, but would lie quietly in bed and read and eventually fall asleep). She’s not particularly quiet (having an imaginary phone conversation with her cousin Eleanor about her other cousin’s birthday), but at least she’s enclosed and happy!

Where did the morning go?!

Trying to get through some actual real work, in and around everything, as I just realised that the deadline for the City of St. John’s Art Procurement is November 16th. The Craft Fair starts November 17th. The Comfort & Joy Piece needs to be in November 20th, although I may have a small amount of leeway on that. The Arts and Letters deadline is January 20th and hanged if I’m missing that one again! Plus the Craft Fair folks are looking for people to do demos in the lobby and I’m thinking that fabric painting might actually be a good one and that I should contact them.

I’m being pulled in a dozen different directions here. The only remedy that seems effective is to simply pick something and put one foot in front of the other and work on it. What I need are more feet…..


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You know you’re in a dismal mood when you start quoting that Carpenters song.

I have no really good reason to feel rotten, other than just simple overwhelmation. If it’s not a word, it should be. Also, the weather sucks and that always seems to play havock with my moods. Not to mention that I’m low on sleep, have been waking up in the dark, have a greyhound who commences yipping at 6:30am and a daughter who, since the weekend, has decided to no longer take naps.

Plus I got a letter from the Craft Council Standards Committee saying that they accepted my work, but warned me about using premade stuff as a dominant feature in my future pieces. Which wouldn’t normally bother me, as I don’t use premade stuff like that. They noted that it didn’t apply to the pieces in question, so I should be off the hook entirely, but then, why did they even mention it? In the pieces submitted there were two, count ’em, two beads on each piece. If they even thought that the beads dominated the pieces in any way, if the idea even crossed their minds enough to make it into a letter, then I’ve got to go back to the drawing board, regardless of whether the pieces passed, as I obviously failed in my attempt.

Whine, whine, whine. Sounds like me just grousing, but I found myself sitting in the kitchen crying after cleaning up yet another puddle of dog pee and a bowl of half-eaten cereal that had been tipped onto the floor. At which point a child came and informed me that she wanted to watch TV, to which I was obliged, in the spirit of good parenting to say no. Result: temper tantrum.

Why can’t I have one of those?

Why am I not allowed to scream about how time that should go to keeping the counters clean, for example, goes into picking up cheerios and wiping up dog pee. Every light I turn off to conserve energy gets turned on and left on almost as soon as I turn it off. The laundry gets washed, decreasing the dirty pile, but the pile to be folded grows and while that diminishes, the dirty pile doubles from its original size. Time that should go into vacuuming instead goes to picking up my husband’s dirty clothes from every corner of the goddamned house, or taking dishes upstairs, or putting toys back onto shelves, or trying to figure out what to do with yet another pile of disjointed and assorted junk that has landed on a flat space, namely the floor. As soon as I start to get any work done at all, some disaster hits, or Katherine wants something or I realise that something should have been done ages ago and is overdue, thereby instilling panic.

I’m going out of my mind today.

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Lately, while I’ve been getting ready for the workshops, things have been falling through the cracks around here. Yesterday morning I got up, had my coffee and determined that there actually were no cracks left into which things might fall. Since plugged philosophical cracks don’t tend to cut home heating costs but do tend to cause escalating chaos and general household stress, I decided to play catch-up yesterday.

Managed to get a handle on the laundry, although that’s a never-ending thing. Mopped floors, cleaned the upstairs bathroom, with help from Katherine, we tidied her room, got groceries, did two training sessions with Moss, cleaned, sorted, dried and tidied my equipment from the painting workshop. Made a dent in some of the tidying to be done around this place. It gets undone again pretty quickly, but I did make a start.

The next big job to be done in this house is a basement tidy. I have a feeling that once we get the basement shaken down, we’ll have a place for certain things. Like travel coolers, for instance, which don’t really belong in the bedroom.

So that’s the next big project, although I don’t exactly know when it will happen. Things around here have been pretty chaotic lately. We (or at least one of the “we”) have been out every night for as long as I can remember. Today is Tuesday and I don’t *think* we’re scheduled to be anywhere tonight, although that may change. John had to be at work by 7:30 this morning, so Katherine woke up and was wondering where he was. Poor kid. I was gone Saturday and Sunday mornings before she woke and John was gone today. It’d be nice to all be in the same house for two out of three meals together.

My own next job is to get stock ready for the Craft Fair, which is November 17, 18, 19 and 20. I basically have three weeks. Not only do I need to have enough stock, but I need to make sure that I have the booth design completely developed, implemented and given a trial run. I’m actually not too worried about it, truth to tell, as I have over half of my Craft Fair stock made, with more roughed out. I also have the plans and materials for the booth and have a fair idea of how it’ll go together. So I’ll spend another three weeks of consistent work during weekdays on stock manufactur and then leave the weekends for booth development, when John’s around to lend a hand.

It’ll come together. Just have to get the piece for Comfort and Joy finished up in and around things.

It’s a good thing I thrive on stress….

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fabric painting was, as far as I can tell, an unqualified success. The follow-up to this was Sunday’s Quilted Landscape Design and Construction workshop. My chief aim in going into this workshop was to help people select an idea that they wanted to tackle, assist them in deisgning a plan as to how to implement it and to do all the pattern design, technique planning and construction decision making so that they had a quilt top that was largely started and ready to take away with them for completion, the tools and fabrics for which they would have at hand.

I think I succeeded quite nicely for the most part. There were a couple of people whose ideas were much more stylised than my own and their work looks very different from what I was initially thinking I would teach. It was what they wanted to do, though, so I helped them work through the more linear development of a pattern. I’m actually pretty happy about how I was able to adapt and work with several different approaches.

Many people used fabrics that they had painted the day before, which made their pieces quite unique and really interesting. Some used photos of places that were meaningful to them , others took photos from books or travel guides as their inspiration.

I’ve posted a few pictures to the right showing a rough progression, unfortunately not of the same piece. The first shows the matching of ocean and sky, after having selected a sky fabric that set the tone for the piece. The second is selecting fabrics to use for different parts of the piece such that they go with the sky and all fit together within the work. Next is a photo of the work of one of the women who did a stylised, non-realistic type landscape. You can see that she used straight lines and a more patchwork-type of piecing. The next photo is an intricate layout of a night-time ocean scene inspired by a photo from a book. She varied it to make it more unique and arranged the land and rocks in a way that she found worked. When she left, she had the plans in place for finishing the top, borders and quilting. The final piece is an appliquéd version of photo number two and was also left with the plans for completion.

There were others, of course (15 people in total). I spent the whole day moving from person to person and giving individualised attention, interspersed with brief general presentations of techniques, tools and ideas. I tried to make sure that even the people who were quiet and didn’t request help got regular attention. I think I succeeded pretty well and I was quite impressed by the pieces that they turned out.

I wish I had had more time with them. One woman said that they needed at least two days with me. I may contact the group and see about tagging along to a workday to give some of them a bit more feedback. Things have occurred to me since about the various projects and I’d love to be able to chat with them briefly. Maybe I’ll go to the next meeting.

By mid-afternoon, people were feeling the effects of a weekend of reduced sleep. A few had to leave to get home and prepare for Monday and many were feeling much as I was – slightly tired and not entirely clear-headed. We finished up by three, though, and I think most people left feeling like they’d accomplished something new.

It’s nice knowing that these workshops work well. I’ll have to see about marketing them to some other groups in the near future.

All in all, a good weekend. Now for the Craft Council’s Christmas Fair….

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Photos by VickyTH.
It went well. It went really well. Really, really well would not even be an exaggeration. The drive out was yucky, but shorter than I remember. Lavrock is at the top of the Salmonier Line and so virtually on the highway. It’s a nice spot, actually. Tucked away in the woods near a pond. The retreat for the quilters had started the night before and extended through to Sunday afternoon. Saturday was day one of workshops.

I had done a presentation for this group about a year and a half ago and it went pretty well. I remembered some of them, although my memory with names is highly variable. I got there, set things up and found out that I had not one, but two students more than had been initially registered. Luckily I had lots of extra paint and plenty of bottles! Everyone pitched in and helped and we were ready to go quite quickly.

I started by showing them a basic ocean or water and a few variations on the theme. Gave them my, “no fabric is wasted – don’t worry if something doesn’t work for you – sprinkle salt on it and see if it helps” lecture. Before we knew it, it was coffeebreak time and each person had already painted two or three pieces. After a quick coffee and a muffin, we were back at it with summer skies and sponge techniques. When lunchtime came around, they were having so much fun that they asked if we could have a shortened lunch so that they could keep painting. Not a problem by me! We went back to it with sunrises, sunsets, rocks, grass and sunpainting. By the time three o’clock rolled around, most people had completely lost track of time and were still painting away.

There were so many pieces drying on the floor along the walls that we spilled out into the other room. Even after lifting up pieces that had dried, the room was still festooned and looked like a fabric store in which a cotton mill and dyepots had exploded. It was very cool. One of the women told me that she hadn’t had that much fun in years, which kinda made my day.

So it went well!

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Where sunlight penetrates
Photos by VickyTH.
For the last two weeks I’ve been alternately working on a bunch of projects, the most significant, massive, organisationally challenging and lucrative of these being a weekend of workshops for a local quilt guild. I’ve organised notes, made up worksheets, made list after list after list of things to bring, bought supplies, enlisted friends to help measure out fabric paints (Nice friends. Really nice friends. The kind that deserve chocolate chip cookies.), and torn my hair out at various intervals. Well, tomorrow is the weekend. After Sunday, it will be over. The workshops will have been done and finished for this autumn.

I know that a large part of my nervousness and feeling of being overwhelmed has been because I simply haven’t done one of these before. Truth be told, I’m actually not at all nervous about actually teaching. I can handle that. What makes my skin itch is thinking that I might have forgotten something. The location of the quilting retreat is an hour out of town and a good ways away from other things. I don’t have the luxury of forgetting paper towels, or something along those lines, as there isn’t even a convenience store nearby.

Plus there’s the added fact that I have to leave at seven in the morning and drive for an hour on the highway before the coffee hits my bloodstream. But it’s mostly the possibility of forgetting something obvious that is getting to me.

Hopefully it will all go well anyway.

The other problem is that the two workshops are actually only tangentially related to each other. One is fabric painting and the other is landscape design and contruction. Obviously they both involve fabric and obvious they both form a part of my work, but rarely do I ever do them both on the same day. In fact, I tend to do them completely seperately and generally don’t sew in the weeks that I paint and vice versa. So mentally jumping from one to the other and switching from remembering all of the paraphernalia for one to all of the gear for the other is a bit of a leap.

We’ll see how it goes. Report on Monday, or whenever I recover. If it goes well, I might get into this regularly (knock on wood).

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Photos by VickyTH.
No matter what the focus of the foreground of life, the background continues to patter away. In fact, the background is often more interesting in a subtle way.

Lately I’ve been going out of my tree getting ready for the fabric painting and landscape quilting workshops this weekend. Not to mention writing up submissions to the Standards Committee of the Craft Council, working on stuff for the Comfort and Joy Show at Devon House and making Craft Fair stock. Work has been at the front of my life.

Photography has been a sideline creative outlet that has sort of kept me sane throughout the mayhem. I can take quick breaks, look at other people’s photos, go for a walk and take a few of my own and generally exercise my creative eye in an instantly gratifying sort of way. I’m coming to realise that these photos are, in a sense, a record of what’s going on in the background of my life.

Of course, there are things that don’t get photographed and they are in no way less important than those that do, just sometimes more private or less photogenic.

For instance, you can’t tell from the pictures that The Hard and The Easy by Great Big Sea has been playing in the background around our house lately, or that I’ve added Christian Bale’s Batman to Nicholas Cages’ Goodspeed as a means of keeping my butt anchored to the studio. I tend to get distracted by tedious work and have a great sense of procrastination. Movies not only energise me, but they keep me in the same room as my work. Movies I like, that is. The music is good for energy (this GBS CD is especially good – mermaids indeed!), but doesn’t have the holding power, as I can hear it throughout the house!

You also can’t tell that the dishes are no longer piled high in the sink or the laundry overflowing the baskets, as I’ve waged a war on both this morning. Airing my dirty laundry is one thing, photographing it is an avenue that I’m not about to explore this week.

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