Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I'm working on getting a series of thumbnail pictures into a slide show for this blog to showcase the work I have completed over the years. Above is an airbrushed close-up of a whole cloth, 'Alfred's Garden', done at a workshop with Susan Shie in April 2001 and completed at home in May, 2001.
Above is a close-up from 'Nancy's Garden - May, 2001'. This is the piece which I recently finished and blogged about in an older post.
A close-up from 'Iris Dragon' - Finished November 2001'.

Above is another close-up from my second art quilt. 'Without' was done during the year 1997. The facial outlines are created by sandwiching cord between two layers of organza and hand couching them.
Above is another close-up from 'Nancy's Garden - November 2000'. I did several drawings during the years from 1997 through 2001 to fit within the theme of a garden series. Many have not been started as quilts, some were started but set aside. These drawings are quite special to me as they chronicle my family history, one of a love for gardening. As I am becoming more able to work, you will be seeing them emerge on these pages as well as the drawings I am doing currently.

More close-ups and shots of the whole pieces will be coming daily.
One of my glorious sunflowers!
Here I am amongst the Providence streetside flowers which gave a name to my studio - Girasole, about 10 years ago.

Monday, August 24, 2009


For those who are reading this blog regularly, you may be startled to find a background today that was not here yesterday. Girasole is Italian for sunflower. When I first started my fabric quilting, I was living in my first house in Providence, where I lived for 25 years of my adult life. Being in the city, there was little room for gardens, so every space I could find was dug up and planted. The space between the sidewalk and the road on our busy city street was planted with sunflowers every year. Sunny, bright, happy and commanding flowers; they seemed to elevate our city existence. I got to be known as the sunflower lady.

My first studio was an investment into an old mill make-over downcity, named Monohassett Mills. I had a 1200 sq. ft. area on the first floor overlooking the Woonasquatucket Riverway and it was just the most glorious adventure I had ever had. In it's inception, I was faced with giving it a name. The sunflowers I was growing and drawing seemed to nod their heads in approval to the name of Girasole. Studio Girasole was born. I would like to take a minute to say that Monohassett was a gift from my dear Mom, who realized that a studio would be just the ticket for a middle aged, wanna-be artist. I will always be thankful for my mother's support and admire her for her vision and guts. It took over 4 years and many millions for the owners, a group of area artists, to finish the building. It was then, that I decided for financial reasons to sell my space back to them.

I continued sewing at home in the dining room, even though we moved across town to a smaller house. I remarried, and with my new husband bought a home in Smithfield with 2 acres of land to grow my sunflowers. I now have the most beautiful studio right at home. It's sunny with lots of big windows, skylights and sliders at both ends. I can see my sunflowers growing, and Studio Girasole is once again happily humming with activity.

I came upon this background while searching for something less boring than my plain white space. It spoke to me. So here it is to stay. I would like to apologize for my inability to figure out how to change the color of the text on my old posts. Until I can get my kids to help, I think I'm stuck with my previous color choices, which in some cases blend so well with the background that you can't read them. :( So sorry for the inconvenience.

Thanks for reading my blog. Have a 'sunny' day!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Been stitching leaves on 'Poppies and Iris' today. This is really anal work, have to take many breaks to give my eyes and hands a rest. Hats off to my Bernina for incredible even satin stitches even in it's old age. This quilt is going to take a long time to finish.
Taking some pictures today to serve as subjects for quilt drawings in the fall and winter. I like to keep a series of photo boxes full of my shots of my garden. Drawn by the intensity of the reds and pinks in the geraniums. Their leaves are so unusual and fun to draw.
I bought my pitchfork many moons ago from an artist who painted and refinished old garden tools to hang on walls. Well, I actually use mine, a bright yellow graces the handle and the shaft. Like the way the grasses fall over the flowers, cutting up the view. Shards of fabric punctuating the roundness of petals and flowers, brings to mind the cell of an idea for a future quilt.
Wow, the center flower just glows almost neon. The power of the sun. I have masses of sunny 'Susans', one of only few plants that will grow profusely under a river birch tree. Mother nature has done a wonderful job of watering her plants often this year. The Black-Eyed Susans are simply covered with bloom. I like how spidery they look when drawn.

This fellow doesn't know that he has found my 'butterfly garden', he just loves the Joe Pye Weed. This garden was amended by me when we first moved here. To the Joe Pye Weed, persicaria, hydrangea, I added bee balm, coneflower, butterfly bush and verbena, to name a few. There are over 25 different plants in this 5x15 foot border garden. Tony and I cleared an area next to the butterfly garden this summer. We are putting up a short retaining wall to hold back the bittersweet and poison ivy vines that creep over the woods towards the edge of our yard. We have several oak leaf hydrangeas to transplant into the back and we will have the fun of filling up this garden in the spring. I'll be choosing more plants that the birds and butterflies love, and that I love to draw.

I think I'll go draw some flowers!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Embellishing 'Goldfinch'

It's time to decide on how to finish this one off. I've pulled out a couple of narrow ribbons which might add to the look. There are also some bird sequins and droplet 'seed' beads.
Like how the beads look scattered in the center of the sunflower.
I'm unsure about the ribbons. I like what the aqua one is doing to the colors. It's pulling the aqua from the leaves out to the border. I just don't know where to scatter the shiny birds.

I'll think on it tonight and start in earnest tomorrow.

OK I'm not the fastest at computer lingo etc. I can sew, but putting this blog together is torture to me. However, I figured out how to add some inspirational music to the blog. My favorite inspirational music has always come from one place, Pat Metheny. To me he's the best jazz guitarist and composer that there is. A few years back I had the ultimate pleasure of meeting him on a break at the Newport Jazz Festival, thus the picture of me, all smiles. All kidding aside, have a listen, and you will get to see another side of where my artwork comes from.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Just spending a little time thinking this evening before calling it a night. These are photos of one of my gardens from a few weeks ago. I dug this garden out completely this spring as it was full of the previous owners plant choices. While I have left some her larger plantings such as a couple of barberries and a large dogwood, I was uninspired by her use of mostly grasses to fill this spot. My favorite choice was to put in the bee balm, the red bloom in the front of the top photo. It's the hummingbird's favorite and therefore mine too.
The deck is right off of my studio, so in the hot days I find myself on the chairs in the shade of the deck taking in the beauty of growing things. Some days all I can manage in the heat is to sketch out here. Things are changing out here though, which I am seeing daily but don't really notice until I look at pictures. The nasturtiums are drying out with age and heat, the bee balm has past it's prime but another variety is blooming raspberry at it's base. My poor tomato plant has succumbed to blight. Time to take it out to the trash and scrub out the pot. Some of the plants I put in as fledgelings are actually blooming. Two coneflowers, a coconut lime and a double pink are in bloom. I can't help but think, though, that summer's prime is about over. The black-eyed-susans are in bloom too and the little field mice are coming inside. Sure signs that before long I will be cleaning the beds for winter.

While I welcome the cooler weather and the productivity I feel when it's more comfortable, I'm a little saddened every year to see summer go. The leaves turning are beautiful, fall skies are the most beautiful color of blue. Autumn is lovely. But.........I just love summer. I think I need to savor these last few weeks by filling my time with every summer activity that I love. I raise a glass of lemonade to toast the summer of 2009. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Machine Sewing

Since 'Goldfinch' needs only hand stitching to finish it, it's time to find something else to sew by machine. Not wanting to start one of the new drawings yet, I found an older quilt, started this winter, to finish up on the machine stitching. The way I piece and sew quilts is somewhat unique to my needs. I would be lost without 'Wonder Under' fusible web. Each color piece I use is backed with fusible web. I lay all the pieces out on my large work table on their background using straight pins to keep them in place. If I need to change something, it's done at this point. I take a look and decide if some fabrics need to be sewn under others. These are the first to get sewn down.
Ironing can be tricky because not every piece gets ironed at the same time. Above is an area of leaves that was ironed down first and will be one of the first to be stitched. I have to use lots of safety pins to keep my background from slipping and bunching. Stitching at this point entails using a tight satin stitch to edge the piece entirely. This way I don't have to deal with rolling the edges to avoid a rough edge.
Often I will have only small areas ironed as I start to stitch. The rest of them remained pinned with straight pins. It is such a welcome part of the process when I have progressed far enough to remove all the straight pins and iron all that's left. I am always getting stabbed as I sew.
I often leave flaps of fabric unironed so that I can pull them back, as above, to sew the piece underneath. With large quilts such as this one, the more you can iron first the better. I will inevitably look up from sewing to see one of my cats running away with a fallen piece that has not yet been ironed down.

My next move on this piece is to continue sewing down the fabric pieces, moving the safety pins as needed and ironing as needed until the top is entirely sewed down. I don't really name the pieces until they're done. Just as my last one was called 'Goldfinch' for obvious reasons, this one will be called 'Poppies & Iris' for the purpose of identification for now. Both 'Goldfinch' and 'Poppies & Iris' will get new, and hopefully fun names when they are done.

I'll be posting my progress on this piece as I go. So for now, I'm off to a date with my Bernina!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Children & Quilts

As I was investigating the other day, I came upon another blog asking it's readers to talk about what it was that inspired them to become artists. I immediately thought of my Mother, who really instilled in me a love for beauty and art. But when I thought more, I realized that there was another factor.

For six years I volunteered at my children's elementary school, teaching kids how to do what I do. The art teacher, Robin, had a few free periods that she was willing to give up and work with me in creating community quilts. We created six cooperative quilts and several individual ones as well.
The children started by taking a theme and writing about it. They took their discoveries and drew pictures. Often they had to work with one or more other children on a single drawing. Once the drawings were finished by the children, I would alter them slightly to allow for areas of color, and I drew over them with a bold marker. Using tissue paper they would trace the area they were doing, choose a fabric, adhere it to 'Wonder Under' fusible web, pin their tissue pattern and cut. The finished shape would be ironed on to the sandwich of background fabric, batting and backing fabric. It would then be sewn with a satin stitch to cover the rough edges.
Each child got to experience every facet of the process. We had two donated sewing machines and Robin and I often had a student teacher helper as well. The children learned about distance and foreshortening, contrast, use of color in perspective, as well as how to choose fabric colors and designs, how to sew with a machine, how to iron and bead and cut fabric. The hardest for them was learning to hand sew. But throughout the process I seemed to learn more from them than they did from me. I learned to be excited about the prospect of creating something. I learned to pare it back and see things simply. I learned to take chances. And I learned that I love to teach kids what I do.
Amongst our quilts were as seen above, "The United States of America", in which each child had to discover three things about a state and illustrate them, "The Rhode Island Quilt", in which they were discovering things about their own state and "The Martin Luther King Jr, I Have A Dream" quilt. This quilt was created by making several small quilts and hand sewing them together. My second photo is a shot of one of those panels. It was a drawing by two students who interpreted Dr. King's message as a world where there would be no need for jails and consumerism would reflect an ecological mindset. Below you can see the shape of Rhode Island is the border of the quilt. We made two RI quilts, the one below to keep in the school library and a smaller one which some of the children took to a school in the rain forest on their summer vacation.
All in all, my experience doing this truly expanded my love of quilting. I took so much from it and I miss it. Robin, my teacher collaborator, retired and due to budget cutting the school department decided to cut the art program in half. There were no longer any free periods for us to sew. What an awful shame it is that art is not valued along with other disciplines. Artists are our visionaries, and our dreamers. There is not one thing that we touch that has not been designed at some point by an artist, from our clothes to our homes and everything in between. The excitement and joy that it brings should not be taken lightly. It's necessary to the development of every well balanced child and adult. I keep a few pictures of my time here always in my studio to remind me to always find the child inside and then have lots of fun!

An Afternoon Stitching

I spent my afternoon with my Bernina. I'm still not very comfortable with freehand stitching. I'm not afraid of it, it's more a feeling that I suck at it. I know that time and practice will help to make perfect, but in the meantime, I feel like I'm ruining the progress I am making in fabric selection and piecing.

This piece is rather small. The whole thing with borders will be somewhere in the range of
18" x 24". The loop-the-loops on the green, silk background are rather small. My issue is how to keep the speed up, therefore creating even stitches and not run into the problem of running out of space as you are creating your loops. I'm sure I'll finally get the hang of it but I welcome any feedback. It's always a learning process.

Friday, August 7, 2009

"Nancy's Garden" a piece originally meant as a gift of love for a dear friend, & 'sister', Hannah.
25 1/4" x 30 1/2", begun September 2000, completed July 2009

Looking Back

It's a new day.

I like to spend a little time on Friday on Twitter discovering new things. If you are reading this, you are probably a Tweet too. I like to follow other people's discoveries. Mostly I like to find other artists. I love looking at their galleries and reading their blogs. I live out in the country with 8 cats and a dog, two kids and a husband. But my universe is pretty small. My inspiration usually comes out of my gardens and the wildlife I see each day. One thing I know as an artist is that you cannot create art in a vacuum. You need to observe, take in life. I may not be jetting all over the globe or conversing in smoky cafes in the metropolises of the world, but I have my computer and with it I can soar to places I know I'll never see and chat with people I'd otherwise never get to meet.

Technology really has expanded the universe in so many ways. With over 5 decades behind me it is an interesting perusal back over time. What I learned about art 3 decades ago has morphed into something a bit different. Change is always essential and even expected, but as it happens it's always a wonder. Which leads me to a piece which I started nine years ago and just finished. I have this habit of setting off to create a piece, starting in headfirst and then realizing that something has changed or perhaps needs to change in order to complete it. I really think this is an essential element of art. It is an observation of the element of change. Not an easy one to grasp.

"Nancy's Garden" was originally meant as a sort of an art connection between myself and a dear friend. Each square in nine were created within a month's time as a monthly art letter to the friend. At the end of the 9 months we were expecting to see each other and I would assemble the piece for her to keep as a whole. In the meantime she was creating her own art for me. Within two months time the whole plan fell apart. She was not as enthusiastic about the venture nor was she coming home in the time planned. She sent me back my first two installments. So I lost my inspiration to continue. Our friendship really tanked about three years after that and I have no contact with her at all anymore. After the pain of the lost friendship subsided a bit I picked up an interest in continuing the piece.

This is when I started to realize my own limitations in my abilities to create what was in my head. I worked off and on for a few years as I was working other less important pieces. I learned how to bead much better and it brought me to this month when I took out all nine completed pieces and beaded them together. What is usual for me is to let it sit for a while as I decide if I am finished with it. But for the most part it is a complete piece which can be viewed as a whole.

There is so much of life stuffed into it that when I look at it I marvel at how we deal with the changes in life. I have moved twice since I started it; moved the essential flowers that I love and drew originally, twice. Taken a studio in an old refurbished mill and sold it. Moved my studio into storage for 3 years until I moved into the home I now have with a large sunny studio space. My children have grown into young adults, my hair is white, I was divorced and am now remarried. I have never seen or heard from my friend, Hannah, again. All of these huge life changes are sewn into the quilt, like tiny stitches.

And so I resolve to look back more often as well as I look forward because the lessons of living art are not always linear. You will be seeing all of this as I progress.
Welcome to my blog. This is a learning process for me as I am much better with a needle and thread than I am with a computer. Have patience with me.

Where to begin.

I've been working lately on a series of nature inspired drawings from my garden. I draw without shadings, using only outlines to create areas which will become "colored in" with fabric. I often use transparencies to move subjects around on a field. There are three new drawings in my sketchbook that have been worked over the last two weeks. It is my latest intent to create as many drawings as I feel I can do while my gardens are bursting with blooms and full of creatures. I will be very happy to pull them out to start the piecing process in the dead of winter.

I also work my drawings from my own photographs. I am forever taking photos of the blooms and trying to zoom in to get a butterfly or hummingbird. Lately I discovered a cache of drawings that were my Mother's. She was a watercolorist, self-taught, and her subject matter was, like mine, nature; most always, flowers. She would draw her subjects on tissue paper and then trace them with carbon paper onto her block. The paint was applied, and after she finished she would erase some of her drawn lines.

These drawings of my Mom's were a reminder of where I come from and a sweet connection to the woman from whom my love of all things artistic come. The similarities in the way we draw are many. I never really realized it before. Since this discovery, I have been very conscious of this connection to her drawing as I am sketching out my compositions. It might be fair to say that all of a sudden I have new inspiration. I wish she was still here for me to discuss this with her. I think she'd get a kick out of it. One thing I know is that she was my biggest fan and supporter. What would we all do without the love of our Mothers? Without her teaching me to sew, I'd probably have one very boring life.