Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve. It's traditionally a time to reflect. I am often of the ilk to be reflecting anyway. So here goes.

I started this blog this year because I was feeling like I was in a cocoon. Hoping to extend myself into the world to become a part of it, I set out to get some feedback on what I have been doing since 1996. It's been a positive experience from which I have gained a sense of comfort in my own skin. My followers and colleagues have been so supportive that I honestly feel that I am happy becoming a part of the world wide web.

This blog alone has helped to spurn me on to things I have been avoiding. Finishing 'Nancy's Garden' was a huge success in my ability to deal with the emotional baggage that often comes along with the art process. I'm not so afraid to face the art demons anymore. I have a few left to deal with and they are on my list of things I must get to this year. Fear of failing at experimentation is a whole other demon. I'm taking it on with a piece I started a few years back which entails a large area of discharging the drawing of a wicker bench. I've never tried to discharge such a large area and this one will be about 3' x 4'.

Hmm, I actually sold two pieces this year. Woo hoo! Wasn't really expecting that. Unlike so many of my colleagues who look to art as their primary source of income, art has always been just a means of expression and a form of joy. I cart my weary carcass into work for someone else to abuse so I can take home a regular paycheck and this allows me the freedom to complain about it regularly. This last statement I've not allowed to happen with the happy inner art core of me. The rest of the world can be brutal, but the art core must remain pure. One of my best friends in the art world quit doing what he does best in life because it was such a drag trying to make ends meet. I used to watch him dive full heart and soul into a piece he was creating only to see the piece come to life in his hands. This doesn't happen anymore for him. He sells real estate. He hasn't done any art for years now. To me, this is painfully sad. So I've tried hard not to let the two worlds intersect too much. Not putting demands on the sale of my work has let me keep my love of it. It's a bit of a juggle time-wise and sometimes, as has just happened in the fourth quarter of the year, art has to take a back seat for a while.

It keeps my heart wanting for more, though. Knowing that this has been so fulfilling for me this year, and has expanded the way I feel about my art, has given me what I didn't know I could have at this point. I am looking forward to the new year as one of expansion. I'm excited about new possibilities as I have never been before. And from this I know that some fun and soulful pieces will emerge.

I'd like to thank all of you for reading this blog. Thanks especially to those who have become followers and who regularly stop by and leave comments. Your comments help me to keep a perspective I may not otherwise have.

I am wishing all of you a happy and very fulfilling new year. May you all be productive and full of joy at doing so. From the wings of the angel who sits on my shoulder......may you all be blessed.

Peace, Joy & Happy New Year, Nancy

Monday, December 28, 2009


It has been such a busy holiday season this year. I have found myself working at not only one retail store this season but two, in order to help out. I'm used to working retail about 15 to 18 hours a week so my 30 to 40 hour weeks have been a bit tiring. November was the worst but it left me so tired that the month of December flew by in a dream state.

What time I have had at home has been filled with Christmas preparations and family time. As of today, Nick has gone home to Boston, Pete is visiting with his Dad now, Andie is starting the training for a new job and Brad is living in the city and back to his normal work schedule. Christmas 2009 is a memory. The tree is still up with all it's glorious lights and ornaments and I'm still munching cookies and sweets. But in a week it will be all packed away and I'll be on my yearly after-the-holidays diet. I have three more days of work in this quarter, then the first quarter of the new year begins and schedules change. I'll be back to 15 hours a week at work, leaving me long hours sewing.

My poor lonely studio. I keep dreaming of warm summer days past when I was working daily. Next week I should be able to pick up where I left off last summer. There are so many things going on in my head that I'm not sure where I'll start. I just know that I can't wait to start. Next Monday is the beginning of a long, snowy winter at Studio Girasole. I never thought I would ever be happy to see January linger. Hurray for winter!

As I have totally missed wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, let me not forget to wish you all a productive, joyful, happy new year!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Morning's Light

Transformation in the back yard this morning after last night's snow
It's like piped butter cream frosting...
and the whole world has been transformed to angel's wings, lace tatting sparkling like glass prisms. Time stands still for minutes at a time.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dr Seuss tree
front walkway
magical first snowfall

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wanna Do

It's still pretty busy at work, leaving me only little time to play in the studio. However the time I have had has been very enjoyable. Above is a sample sketch for a large quilt. I was inspired by the colors I used below for my block of the month. It still needs some work on composition and I may do the same sketch in several colorways before I decide.
One of my favorite things to do when I need inspiration and I don't have a lot of time in the studio, is to spend a few moments looking over the colors and patterns from my stash. I feel like a little kid again with a new box of crayons.
Sometimes I just like to pull them out and throw them together to see how they play off each other.

The colors and shapes of the beads sometimes spark and idea, a thought for some new creation.
Ultimately, it is still just about dreaming of January. With only a handful of hours a week to play, I can't get much done. But by the time January does come around, I surely won't have to spend any time thinking of things to do. My list of 'wanna do's keeps growing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dreaming of Stitching

We should all be independently wealthy or have 'sugar daddies' so that we can do as we please. My art is relegated to dreaming and small accomplishments this time of year as I have to work for the bread on my table. Selling people stuff in a store just is not rewarding in any other way but to provide a paycheck.

So as not to appear too negative as to consume all my thoughts, I have been at least dreaming of all the projects I can't wait to get my hands on. Above is a piece that I did as a sister to 'Iris Dragon', which is completed. I never got to bead this beauty and I'm starting to plan where and how I will embellish it so that I can get it done.
I have been taking an hour or two on days when I am only working 4-6 hours, to quickly cut and paste ideas in my sketchbook.
Some are exciting, as I can see the possibilities and have just the right fabrics for the idea.
And others are just simply ideas that will probably never make their way into a finished quilt.
I always have things that I start but loose my inner direction on. So I put them away for a rainy day when I feel the inspiration. I love the desert Southwest and this was begun as a quilt connected to my travels there. I am feeling lots of cacti and seeing pieces of adobe walls.
It's a fairly long and narrow piece with a 5 inch border. I got these fabrics from the store I used to work at and when I first saw them I knew I would be using them for something. The center fabric is just bits of a map with routes in black and red. The border has vignettes of traveling icons with small maps that are named for the western states, such as TEXAS, UTAH, & NEW MEXICO.
My own cactus plant has afforded me tons of photos like this one to draw from. And the many pictures of homes and walls in Santa Fe that I took on my last trip there, are calling to me to be drawn. If I can just get some drawings done, perhaps the piecing can be done in bits and pieces before or after work.
And lastly, I did manage to get October's block of the month done. For a person who never does traditional patterns I found this to be a bit of a monster. But it's done and looks nice next to the September block. Still hand stitching 'Chlorophyll' and I should be able to put up a picture soon which shows the progress, which is painfully slow.

For those of you who read this and have situations which allow you endless studio hours, remember how lucky you are this Thanksgiving. Kiss your significant others often, embrace and bless your art donors and joyfully meet your teaching obligations with renewed energy. I will be thankful for my loving, healthy family, my hard working husband, the job which pays for the feast and my studio, filled with promise, which awaits my eager heart.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just a quick hello to my readers. Welcome Quilt Architect. I do so appreciate all my readers and often wonder why anyone bothers with my drivel at all. But thank you all.

I'd like to be able to say that I have been a busy bee but that is not the case. I have a day job which 9 months of the year is really a small part of my life. But in the last quarter of the year it becomes a monster - it's retail and holiday related. For Oct., Nov., and Dec. it will surely suck the life force out of me. But I need it to survive, so I put up with it. I am so looking forward to January and a rejuvenation of my creative energies.

I can and do some things in the studio for small periods of time. I am keeping up with the BOM with Sue and Terri, I'm still able to draw some and to do hand work at night, but my energy level keeps me from accomplishing much. My gardens are going into sleep mode. I have cleaned out all but one, moved the bird feeders closer to the house, and cleaned out all my deck pots but a couple. My mandevilla and hibiscus do not want to give up to the cold nights, so I still have a few blooms there. But even my cactus, above, has drooped in wait for the snow that will surely come.

At least I am still dreaming of the art I want to create. This is good. And I will soon be myself again, listening to beautiful music in my studio and stitching to my hearts content as the snow blankets my gardens and stops all other activity outside Studio Girasole.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fun With & Without Color

I had a little fun in HP Image Zone with my nature photos. Took the color out of some to find the contrast and put it into others just to play with vivid colors. May print some out for transfer onto fabric. Fun Fun Fun!
I took an hour to take a walk with my camera today because it was just so wonderfully warm. A balmy 60 in Rhode Island. I wanted to capture some of nature's best during this stunning season. I started in the driveway. We only have one maple on a lot full of oaks. It's a bit squeezed under the mighty oaks but the leaves still turn a brilliant red - just not all at once. A nice study for a future quilt.
Clusters of berries just captivate my eye. This sprig was hanging very near a nest. The elusive bird occupants scurried into the underbrush to avoid my stare. I didn't want to get too close for fear that they would not return.
This hedge is at least 50 feet long, planted between two neighbors' homes as a screen. There is nothing more dramatic in the fall than Burning Bush.
The needles of a white pine are so much fun up close. They create such a linear feel, I can't help but see stitching lines for a quilt when I look at them.

These and many more photos taken today will find themselves used creatively in drawings to come on cold and snowy days in winter. But for now, I'm just loving fall.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Just a note to those loyal readers who have been unable to leave comments. I believe that the problem has been finally fixed. Fire away. I very much welcome your comments.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Studio Girasole

Last week many of my internet friends working in the fiber arts showed pictures of their studios on their blogs. I found it so much fun to see the places that were the beginning spaces for so much exciting art. It was fun to imagine my friends in their spaces working diligently. Some of these were even videos with explanations of where their stashes and supplies were kept and how the storage spaces were made to order for each artist.

So I decided that maybe you might also like to know how I use my space to work. Above is a photo of my drawing table and my major work table behind it. My studio space takes up a little over half of a huge heated sunroom off the back of our house. There are three sets of windows like the one pictured along one long wall. At the ends of the room are two sets of sliders leading to two decks. Above is a slanting vaulted ceiling with three skylights. The room faces the southern exposure and is extremely sunny during the day. In the summer I always pull the blinds to offer a bit of shade and keep the temperature down.

My drawing table faces out the middle set of windows and my butterfly garden. This garden is full of the flowers I love to draw. Sometimes if it is too hot in the studio I just take myself out to the decks with a sketchbook and a lawn chair and draw near the gardens.
Most of the fabrics I use for my quilts are cottons and silks. I use a very deep and large armoire to house most of my fabrics, cottons arranged by color and silks on the second shelf left. Many of my specialty fabrics are in tubs on shelves in the basement. I also have three large containers arranged by color in the cabinets under my work table of scraps too small to fold, ultrasuede, tulle and organzas. The table cabinets also hold all my batting, fusible web, buttons, trims, ribbons, beads and some of my projects. There are four deep drawers in the cabinet which hold all the pins, scissors, and small tools. My threads are in plastic containers kept in a center shelf in the cabinet and also in the drawers of my sewing cabinet.
My workspace is such a wonderful piece of furniture. I used to work full time for a local chain of a fabric store. They closed doors a few years back about the same time we bought this house, so I purchased one of their cutting tables with the cabinets below. You can see that I have a retractable extension to the table which I fold down on occasion to make more room in the space but often I use this space to lay out my quilts and I cut closer to the wall. There is a metal cutting guide on the side closest to the wall which is great for cutting batting straight.

Above the table are two covered cork boards that I use as a place to pin up ideas, cards, photos and whatnots. On one of these boards I have a small piece that I bought from Susan Shie when taking her workshop. Her St. Quilta keeps watch over my space. In this photo you can see the second window that I sew in front of. My Bernina is housed in a standard sewing machine table under the window which also came from the unfortunate closing of the fabric store. To the far left you can just get a glimpse of my work board. It is an 8' x 4' piece of sound insulation covered twice over with white felt. I have yet to screw it into the wall because it is so heavy that it will take three of us to hold it and one to screw it to the wall. To it's left is one of the sliders.

Well, it was not as comprehensive a tour as some of the ones I saw last week but at least you get an idea of where the work I love to do comes from. For most of my time sewing my quilts I have not had the luxury of this room. In my first house, a tenement, I used part of my living space and the dining room table. My second house was a single family but I really didn't have any space for me there either. I used the dining table, which was at that time our major eating table. I had to put up and take down the machine every time I sewed. I got a lot of work done in both of these places and sometimes I wonder how in the world I did it. The two years that I owned my loft space were the most wonderful and expanding years for me to find the artist inside. They planted the seed within me for the desire to continue to value my work space in my life. So when Tony and I were looking for a new home outside the city, a place just for my studio was the most important priority to me.

As I get older, I wonder how long we are going to be able to stay here in this high maintenance home. My biggest fear is the possibility of losing my space again. But I try to take it a day at a time and each day I am in the studio, I consider it a true gift. It's late but I think I'll go sew in the studio now. Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Autumn Color in the Garden

This is one of my favorite fall combinations in the half-moon garden. Burning bush is in the forefront with an unusual coral bells behind.
There is nothing more transitional than sedum. This variety started out as a pale pink and daily is making the change to a deep crimson. I keep sedum growing all over the yard just for the pulse of color in the fall.
This hydrangea has doubled in size this year and has produced double the flower heads. They started out white and are deepening to a rosey pink.

As I take my walks through the autumn garden I am reminded of the cycles of life and death. It's time to start cutting down the dying summer growth from all the perennials and preparing them for winter frost and frozen earth. We are just surrounded by large oak trees and even though most of the leaves stay on the trees until spring sprouts push them off, we still have mountains of leaves and acorns. The chipmunks are absolutely crazy busy rounding up all the acorns.

We are starting to think of winter. The patio furniture has been stripped of it's pads, the umbrellas down, and the pots of flowers emptied. No more mandavillas or hibiscus, the cool nights have nipped the life out of them. My cactus, the one unusual plant that will survive the cold, has drooped and is starting to wilt. It has made it through two winters OK in it's large pot in a protected corner of the deck. A few more chores are left to do. The wood in the shed needs to come down to the garage for fires on those cold winter nights. The garden tools need to be cleaned and put in the shed until spring. The garage needs cleaning out so we can fit our cars inside to avoid the mountains of snow coming our way.

Likewise I am looking to my studio with different eyes. All the wonderful windows, sliders and skylights are like double edged swords in the winter. What sun we get will help to warm the room in the day, but also wick some of the warmth out at night and the glass is so cold. I need to make insulated curtains for the windows. When we moved here, the window treatments in the studio were vertical blinds. Unwilling to spend a lot of money, we just left them. They do nothing to help to insulate against the cold and need to be replaced. A huge task, it is daunting to me. As much as I love sitting at my machine for hours working on a quilt, I hate sitting at it to perform mundane chores like curtains.

With the coming of snow and after the holidays are over, there will be time to quilt long hours again. My day job will wane in hours, and there will be no garden chores to take my time. But I'll have to wear heavy sweaters and socks in order to stand the cool of the room. My machine gets more use in winter as it is warming to sit with a quilt on your lap stitching at a machine. There are a couple of juried shows that I would like to create work for. I will use the drawings I sketched this summer to develop pieces for them.

This shift in perspective, moving from the extroverted warmth of summer to the inner workings of winter is happening as I type. A slow shift inward.

There will be more here on this progression as time moves on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It's been too long since I have blogged. Those who look to read often were probably disappointed to see the same old post. Sorry. With fall come increases in the hours I work my day job. I work as a retail sales goddess for a national card and gift store to remain unnamed. Their focus is to sell lots of stuff for upcoming holidays. They are in their peak season. And I am wishing it was still summer when I only had to work 12-15 hours a week. Unfortunately, I have to keep the job to pay some of the household bills. Not retired yet!

I have been taking time to sew as often as I can, I just can't devote the time I had a few months ago. Above is the September quilt square done for a block of the month club at Two Creative Studios. I am looking forward to the next months. I very seldom work traditional quilts but I do love to do them. This should be a very fun aside.
I found a pattern for a bee in an old magazine recently. I love bees as subjects for my drawings so I just had to make up a few squares. I'm going to make a few more up in different colorways. Not sure what I will do with them then. But I love the way they came out.
I've been hand stitching on 'Chlorophyll' too. Using embroidery floss to create the random stitches above. I'm not sure about the pale green floss. I think I might take it out and substitute another color. All the handwork is done on the border, so as soon as I finish this embroidery, I'll move on to some more machine quilting.

Again, I'm sorry to have taken such a long break from posting. I'll try harder to find more time for the blog. Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Being Professional

Wave I
17 1/2" x 24 1/2"
Begun 1999, Finished 2001
Mixed fabrics including hand dyed silk, Embroidery, Beads
Completely hand stitched

Lions, Tigers, and Bees
27" x 32"
Begun April 2006, Finished July 2006
Cotton, Silk, Ribbons, Buttons
Machine and hand stitched

These are two of the finished pieces I have recently put up photos of on my Facebook and Flickr sites. Today I became a true professional by selling both of them. They sold to the same patron. I will be spending my week packing them and getting them mailed out. I can't even begin to express the excitement that I am feeling. I'm over the moon.

Thinking about why one is an artist leads me to philosophize a bit. I create these works because I have to. They are within me and I have to let them out. I need to create in order to feel happy. It is just who I am. But I think all artists struggle with how their work is perceived by others, because we can't create in a cocoon. We create, and then we put it out there for everyone to see. We strive to show our work, and to sell it because we know that it is within the interaction of others that the work comes alive. It is no longer just your own perception, but also that of the beholder. Music needs to be heard, art needs to be seen. It is in this that the creation becomes 'whole'.

My excitement stems from knowing that for the first time ever, my work is being seen by people and ultimately it has in two cases communicated so deeply as to become the property of the viewer. Those of you who have been doing this for a while, may be smiling a bit. You may have sold many of your pieces in your artist lifetime. Lets face it, there are many who are making their living as artists. Selling is a necessity of existence. But I don't think it ever gets better than this. It's like a first kiss. Intense, scintillating, and unique to the moment and I am ever thankful for the experience.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Progress on 'Chlorophyll'

I have been working on 'Chlorophyll' lately. The center leaves are all stitched down and their veins are stitched in too. Have been thinking about how to quilt and embellish already. I think that I want to hand quilt in the background with some embroidery thread. But no beads in the center of this one.
Andrea, my daughter with quite an eye for design, and I took some time last night playing with the fabrics in the stash. With her suggestion, I chose the border for color and also for the contrast of large to small pattern. We stepped back from the pinning and were wowed by it's movement and contribution. So here it is. I will be beading this border heavily. The bursts of the pattern remind me of fireworks and to me should be bright and sparkly. So I have an intense beading project on my hands. My next work is to hand sew the border to the background and to miter the corners. I will then move on to quilting the center background. More progress in days to come.