Saturday, September 25, 2010

Stitching in Newport

Here I am in front of the Perry Mill Building, behind the 'Wave' statue in Newport, doing my thing. My daughter Andrea and I arrived right on time and we got set up fast. I created from 2-6pm on the plaza. By 3pm the wind really started to pick up a bit as we were not far from the docks. What we couldn't pin down, we weighted down.
I brought along a few things for people to look at and touch. The "Masters" book was one of a sampling of books I brought for people to look at. A few people had never seen art quilts before. My photos brought lots of attention from the kids who walked by, as I explained how they were quilts made by kids in school art class. The piece above sparked lots of interest. It's called 'Alfred's Garden' and was made in a workshop with Susan Shie. This is a very personal piece which connects to a love of gardening, passed from my father to myself, and a very wonderful reminder of a once in a lifetime experience with a master quilt artist.
My handy little traveling Sunbeam iron has been through just about everything and it is still working wonders. This is a studio iron only, as often bits of fusible web get onto the plate. Several people asked about the process of using fusible web. Some people find that it makes the quilts stiff and therefore don't use it, but I like the stiffness. It gives stability to the piece especially when finished and hanging. It is a bit of a challenge to embroider through it though as I will be remembering as I sew in all the cactus pickers.
So this is what my set up looked like. I brought along some finished pieces to illustrate in a visual way what finishing a piece looks like. A few people asked about how I would finish the piece I was working on. Well, if you are reading here, you know that here is where you will find out what happens to the one with the adobe and the prickly pear cactus.
We had to get a little creative on finding a way to hang the finished quilts. Next to the quilt is my plaza mate, a young knitter and spinner. This was only the first year for the people at Newport Bay Club to organize their Arts on the Plaza series. The coordinator, Bobby Oliveira, is looking to expand his idea next year to providing metal rigs to hang artwork, and possibly including musicians. All changes to the format have to be approved by the city of Newport zoning department. A special thanks to Bobby for the invite. It was a special day and an adventure. To the many of you who picked up my artist cards today and are reading this blog now, welcome.
Here is my progress for the day. I was able to iron down and sew all the cactus pieces including two of the five cactus flowers. I really have only small details left, the windows on the doors, the posts and their shadows, and three more cactus flowers. Then I can start planning the quilting, embroidery and the borders.
OK, what year is this? As we were packing up for the day my daughter noticed this restored 'Woody' rolling slowly up in traffic. My uncle Charley had one just like it years ago, minus the two surf boards, of course. A rolling antique, how cool is this! A fittingly fun way to end a lovely day in the city of Newport.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New quilt taking form: Prickly Pear and Adobe

Every new quilt has to start with a layout drawing. Above is my final drawing in marker ready for me to trace each shape and cut them out. Each fabric has to be prepared with iron-on adhesive first so it can be ironed in place on the quilt.
You can get a pretty good glimpse of how this one is shaping up with the picture above. I have loved the photo this is taken from for several years. When I first saw this building, in the late afternoon, I just knew that I would want to render it into artwork. The long shadows on the adobe make for a very dramatic look. The adobe pieces are already ironed onto the background of two pieces of dupioni silk, teal and rust. Tomorrow morning, before going into work for 1pm, I will attempt to sew down all the adobe pieces so that on Saturday I will have the freedom to add on all the other pieces over the top of them.
Sorry about the blurriness, but in the above picture you can get an idea of the patterning of each of the fabrics. The cactus fabrics all have a lot of blended color in them, which I just love, and I am pleased with the overall hint of lavender. For the most part the adobe is kind of monotone bland, with the exception of the sunflower print on the largest panel. Had to get my "girasole" (sunflower in Italian) in there somewhere. I still have the yellow flowers to cut and the posts which stick out of the adobe walls. They are, of course, what help to define the adobe, southwestern, style.

This may be the last post until Saturday night or Sunday. This is all tiring me out pretty badly, especially the working 8 hrs. a day part. I will take some pictures in Newport and I'll share them as soon as I can. Again, if you are inclined, and close enough to make a trip of it, I'd love to see you in Newport.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kwik Update

I spent the whole day working in the studio to prepare for Saturday. It was my last full day off before Newport. With two night shifts looming I was not expecting to get much done. I decided that because "Poppy Seeds" is so large, it often drags on the floor when I am sewing, I don't want to have it drag on the ground in Newport and I am leaving it home. I did a drawing drawn from a wonderful picture I took in Santa Fe a few years back of one of the museums in town and added drawings of my cactus. The background is prepared and I will be stitching down the first layer of pieces tonight and preparing all the others with "Wonder-Under" for my demo. I'll take pictures at the end of the night and post them with a review. I must say that I just love working with southwestern inspired colors, they are rich and hot. Just the way I like it!

All of my finished pieces are finally prepared to hang, with rods, pockets, name tags and loops for hanging. It's one of those tedious things that, while necessary, is just frustratingly time consuming. I'm just about packed, will finish doing so after I work on the cactus piece tonight. So, tonight, pictures.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Poppy Seeds"

Sitting down at the sewing machine at 11pm is not exactly what I was hoping for yesterday, but, *#@+ happens. Dinner was delicious. Anyway, I did get some work done. The lower left of the piece is looking pretty well stitched. There are two poppies and one iris in this area and I only have the smaller poppy left to stitch.
This is looking down at the lower corner area from the top. It's feeling good to see so much done. Below is a view of almost the whole quilt, from the vantage point of my stool. The ribbon border is a jacquard made by Laura Foster Nichols. Her ribbons are amazing and I have been saving this one for a long time for just the right quilt. This is it. I'd like to say that I will be working on this all weekend, but I don't really have a weekend. I'm working Saturday, Sunday and Monday. My next available time to put in some stitch time is Sunday after work. If I get anything done I will post some new pix.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Poppy Seeds" - Today's Progress

These leaves, while being very eye-catching and fun, are a pain to stitch around. I still have plenty to do but I did get this one done today. I was able to take the straight pins out and iron down the poppy over the leaves when I finished stitching the leaves.
Here I have almost finished the branch of leaves. You can see how the quilt is rolled to fit into the machine, as it is showing it's stuffing. It took me about 45 minutes to stitch one branch.
Don't know what is up with my little digital camera, but I have been getting a lot of blurry pix lately. With this group of leaves finished, I was able to iron down one of the last poppies.
This last poppy to get ironed is the biggest and most interesting. I was able to stitch some of it down as well as stitch part of the iris behind it so that this last branch of leaves which is in front of all the flowers could get ironed down too. I'm not looking forward to doing this branch because it is so large. What happens when I stitch something as intricate as this is that I must turn the whole quilt withing the confines of the machine arm opening in order to get the stitching going in the right direction. I roll, pull and push the quilt hundreds of times to get one branch done. I must have been nuts when I drew this one out!

I'm happy with what got done today, however I wish I was able to do more. Groceries, housework, dinner got in the way. My next full day off is Tuesday. I may get some time to work tomorrow night though, after work and dinner. I don't need to be to work on Saturday until 2pm, so a late night on Friday is possible.

Artist Statement Rack Cards

Well I finally was able to finish my rack cards and they just came in the mail yesterday. Above is a picture of the front and the back side by side. Many thanks to Andrea for her assistance. My computer knowledge only goes so far. I have been working on stitching "Poppy Seeds" as often as I get a chance. A good sign that things are progressing well is that all pieces of fabric are ironed into place with iron-on adhesive. As some of the color blocks cross over others, the ones under must be stitched first before ironing those on top. I have only one of these areas left to stitch the pieces underneath before ironing it all down into place.

I'm thinking that it will be "Poppy Seeds" I will be working on while in Newport. I'm working on preparing another though, so that I have a choice of what to work on while I am there. This one already has a backing stitched and ready. It is a drawing of my cactus and it's beautiful yellow flowers. There is not as much detail in this one so it may be easier to show progression in four hours, that it would be with "Poppy Seeds". Four hours doesn't get me very far due to the intricate leaf patterns I am stitching around. I'm also feeling an itch to get started on a drawing I have of three crows in a tree. The crows around the property have been pretty verbal lately and they always remind me of fall. I would need to prepare the backing for this one though. I'll post my photos of my stitching today later tonight.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Business of Art

I must admit that the business end of being an artist is the least appealing to me. I have spent so much time thinking about how to get myself out there, that I'm sure the time would have been better spent stitching. My daughter, Andie, helped me get this business card done on-line for very little money and only a moderate amount of my time. I really needed something to bring with me to Newport in a couple of weeks, which people could take with them. Perhaps I will get a sale out of it.

The one thing which bothers me is that the studio info is getting published, in the name of promoting business. Handing these cards out as well as posting here, may help business, but it's a risk. One, I guess, that I have been hedging on but am now taking. If no one knows how to find Studio Girasole, then I will continue to be isolated. If you don't ever buy a lottery ticket, how can you ever expect to win the lottery.

I spent a good part of the day working on "Poppy Seeds", the name I have given to one of the quilts I have been working on for a while. I really want it done in two weeks. How that is going to happen? I don't know. But I am making every attempt.
Grabbing every second on the machine, around my crazy schedule!
I will take some pictures later towards the weekend and post them with some progress reports.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Weekend Inspiration

A bit blurry, it's true. But the whole weekend was a wash like a rainy windshield. Tony and I took a weekend to decompress in one of our favorite areas, the outer parts of Cape Cod. I have a small digital camera which I use for downloading pics onto my computer. It takes lithium batteries, which do not last long. For most of my day, the batteries were running on low and causing too long of a shutter speed, creating nothing but blur. I erased most of my photos. Above is just a shot of a couple on Commercial St. in Provincetown. Flags were flying across Commercial St. from one end to the other because of a recent festival. Even in the rain it was festive.
The map is of the area in which we stayed. Our choice of motel is not far from the entrance to Marconi Beach, my favorite beach. The motel is on a large plot of land which abuts the bike path running through Wellfleet, so you can rent a bike for the day to go to the beach or to go the length of the path, which I believe goes down into Orleans at this point. Mother Nature just did not cooperate, however, and a brief visit to Marconi was all we could endure, with strong winds and a biting, cold mist, not to mention that sharks had been spotted in the waters off of Truro (the next township)feeding on seals. So we shopped. We started Sunday out with the flea market at the Wellfleet drive-in theater. The rain hadn't started to fall yet and we found lots of fun antiques to poke through. There are so many wonderful galleries in P-town. We spent hours looking in many of them. It is so inspirational to see the creativity of others. Our favorite gallery was Bowersock Gallery. You can check out the art at Another was a crafts gallery we found in Brewster on our way home following Rt. 6A down to the Bourne Bridge. Its name is The Spectrum and you can check them out at

I spoke to Bobby at the Newport Bay Club upon getting home last night. Firmed up plans to be in Newport quilting on the 25th of September. I have a lot of work to do to prepare for being there. More time in the studio and less time here!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I just received a cold call from someone in Newport, RI offering me a spot in the Newport Bay Club sponsored show. Every Saturday during the summer and fall, artists set up on the plaza in Newport doing what it is that they do, paint, sculpt, throw pots and in my case, quilt, while the public walks through watching. They also offer spots to hang the artist's work in local shops for the duration.

I am considering it for Saturday, September 25th. It will be a lot of work, preparing and setting up, but I can't think of a better way to spend four hours on a Saturday afternoon. Everyone, please pray for clear and sunny weather for the 25th. And if you are in Newport, please come around to say hello. I will be posting more on this as the days go by.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

OMG! It has been forever. My job has indeed taken over my life as I now have gotten a second promotion and am working 37 to 40 hours every week. In one very special way this is a blessing. Full time workers get health insurance benefits! My health has improved. I have lost 25 lbs since January, my diet is better, and I am exercising fairly regularly. The focus of my "off" time has been on health these days, not art.

My gardens are just delightful this summer! Above and below are my spring iris, and a bud from the peonies that I just adore. The blooms from the peonies were so large they were 10" in diameter. The bee balm and the many coneflowers came back from last year doubling their size in the gardens to the glee of the many hummingbirds who frequented them. The blooms are already dieing off and the hummingbirds have moved on. However, I have a new pastime watching a huge family of native turkeys wander my and my neighbor's yards. We live on the edge of a large woodland area, so they have roamed down to our yards to feed all summer long. Two females had very large broods, which are presently mature enough to have their own broods. Yesterday, I noticed one of the more mature early spring babies with three of her own very tiny babies following her. I've tried to get some photos, but they aren't very happy about my intrusion into their space. I also, had a wren make a nest very close to the house inside my closed deck umbrella. The song of a wren is so joyful and the babies were truly a joy to watch as I was able to see them emerge and fly off to the trees with their mother. Mother Nature can be such a joy!

I recently took the photo below of one of my studio cats, Pete, formally named Peter Pan by my daughter, who actually owns the cat and two others. He is such a gorgeous cat and very well behaved. I find him to be such a sweet companion when I am working in the studio. He has plunked himself on top of my workspace, claiming the area for his own. My daughter, Andie, has recently decided that living at home doesn't suit her needs anymore, so she is looking for a place to move into with her boyfriend. At nearly 23 I guess it is about time for her to fly off on her own. But as I will miss Peter Pan in my studio, I will be missing Andrea much more.
With so little time to devote to my art these days, I am surmising that I will never get enough time to get "Peter's World" entered into a show. So I have decided to show some photos of what I have been up to. The photo below is of my son, Peter, posing on a bench at his Dad's house for me. I set him up the way I wanted the drawing to be, took several shots, and ended up with this one as my model for the drawing...

Peter is now 19 years old. He was 11 in this picture. As you can see, it takes me a long time to work through my projects!
Above and below are some detail shots of Peter's face. All the curves have been hand stitched and the smaller pieces in the face are reverse appliqued. I am leaving the body in large pieces to give myself some flexibility when stitching them down to the background of wicker and leaves. Its coming along, but slowly.
For those of you who like to buzz around to read and view other blogs, including mine, I have to apologize for such a long hiatus from writing. It has not been very "blog-like" to have taken so much time between posts. I will endeavor to be better about this. Thanks for reading and checking in on me. TTFN. Nancy

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


The snowdrops are just glorious these days. I was finally successful in capturing a shot of them today. It feels like 60 outside in the sun today. The bees were out in force buzzing around the snowdrops completely ignoring my presence, as if after a long winter they have much better things to attend to. If you look carefully in both of the snowdrop pictures you can see bees at work.
Clumps of snowdrops are now visible all over the yard. I have always loved them more than crocus and the owners of this property prior to us put in scads of them. I also have daffodils which I am sure are up, but they are in the most boggy places in my yard. We have just had a week of rain, which followed a week of snow showers. Needless to say, I need a good pair of garden rubbers before I venture to all of the gardens.
I just love looking closely at the ground in spring. So much is going on and you can see every little thing, pebbles to sprouts to bugs. Above is my 'silver mound' sprouting it's first spring leaves. They are such an interesting shape. Fun for drawing especially if you are looking to draw graphic representations of nature. My favorite model for such drawing is Jane Sassaman.
A flock of titmice are chitting just above where I shot this photo. This is a shot of one of my strongest foxglove perennials. There are several planted in the half moon garden in the shadier areas under the dogwood and close to the stone wall. As they start shooting up and blooming they create a beautiful vignette in peach and yellow from the other side of the wall.
And with any luck, the giant alliums which are companion planted with the foxglove will be blooming at about the same time bringing a touch of purple to the garden. I peeked under the large foxglove leaves to find allium shoots beneath. Yay!
I have a couple of these 'coral bells' planted in the half moon garden too, along the wall. 'coral bells' have the sweetest spikes of tiny flowers but it is the shade of these leaves that I love the most about these plants. They stay a reddish, pinky shade all summer and fall.
My garden walk ended today on my deck, as I took stock of winter's harsh weather. My poor cactus does this each year during the winter months. It looks like someone has sucked all the water out of it, as if it were half dead. As the weather warms, it's arms will start to plump up and rise to it's usual shape and with any luck by May I will be seeing the most beautiful yellow flowers. It has grown in the past three years to a decent sized plant and is living in a large pot in a protected and sunny spot on the deck. I hope I never have to repot it as it's tiny cactus needles are nasty. I decided that as it is not a native plant it had to be planted high in a pot to keep native animals away from it's nasty thorns. I'm sure the chipmunks and mice will be all the happier without noses full of thorns.

I have been steadily working on 'Peter's World' bit by bit, hand-stitching one piece at a time. It's going slow. But I am determined to finish it this year! It is my #1 priority and thus everything else has stopped but it in the studio. I must remain focused and this is why you haven't seen any artwork. By April I hope to have all the stitching done on Peter so I can start on the wicker settee.

So I'll just keep stitching and writing here about my garden until I get it finished and can move on to other things in the studio which I can share in pictures......

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This sunbather is our dog, Tiger, as he looks longingly out the back sliders, wishing he could race around in the muddy woods chasing squirrels and chipmunks. I'm with him on that one. We both have spring fever, but spring is long in coming in New England, as has been proved by a week of snowy days. Thankfully the snow melts almost as soon as it hits the ground these days.

I have been a bit remiss in posting lately, however, life has been changing as it usually does. I am feeling better than in January, due to some diet changes and a cholesterol med which is slowly but decidedly taking my high number down. Days in the studio have been few, unfortunately, due to a promotion at work which has taken me up to 32hrs each week. It is good for our growing bills, but not very fulfilling for me, and those 32 hours are not the 'sittin' at the desk' type of hours. I have been exhausted.

I am hoping that as I settle into this new position, I will get more used to the flow of it and able to find more time in the studio.
Soon it will be time to get outside and into the gardens to prepare for the growing season. The shot above is of my 'butterfly garden', a woods to yard transition garden, heavily planted with perennials which attract butterflies. My euphorbia in the foreground is sprouting spring leaves already, but the general condition of the garden is still very boggy from melting snow and there is not much happening in the way of growth yet.
The 'Half-moon' garden is sprouting my favorite 'snow drops'. I tried to get a close-up shot of them poking through the leaves, but the camera kept focusing on the leaves. They are planted in large groupings under the dogwood and all around the half moon stone wall. As they start blooming I will attempt another photo session.
I am always amazed that sedum is one of the first garden perennials to sprout green leaves and one of the last to mature their flowers in the growing season. I have them everywhere as I love their display in the fall.
My last shot is of my poor allium bulbs. Seems they have wiggled their way up to the surface of the garden bed. They are the giant kind which sprout a head full of flower that is 4-5 inches in diameter. I guess I need to leave them alone until they have bloomed and then transplant them deeper. For now I am just happy to see them sprouting.

Well, it is 50 degrees today and sunny, so I think I will go back out and rake up some of the hundreds of twigs that have fallen this winter from our River Birch trees. They are messy trees! Wishing all my readers a happy spring, as I am sure some of you may be seeing more spring than I am up here in the NE. Later this evening we are celebrating an early St. Patty's Day with some Irish stew, colcannon, soda bread and Guiness. We can't afford to travel lately, so we are doing so in our cuisine. Have to go make Tiger a green bandana. Bye for now. N

Monday, January 25, 2010

For those of you who have been following here, an update. I'm feeling OK, no more episodes sending me to the ER. I am waiting to hear from the insurance company confirming my coverage before running the stress test. So I sit each day praying that my arteries are clear enough not to bring a stroke before I get that test. I'm taking it easy. Lots of time to sew and to think.

As a result of my thinking I have decided that although a very pleasant part of life, it is better to curb a great deal of my computer time. It takes time away from my art. So I have canceled my twitter, flickr and facebook accounts until such time as I feel I can afford the time. I feel twisted about this decision because I have met so many wonderful associates this way. I will miss chatting with them and I am hoping that some of you will be reading this. I will continue here to blog as I have time and hopefully keep in touch with at least some of you here. I encourage your comments more so now, as it is a way of communicating with you.

On a brighter note, I have restarted my work on a piece called 'Peter's World.' It is a pictoral portrayal of my son at age 11 watering his morning glory plants which had grown so profuse as to completely cover a wicker settee. This is a very large piece which will top out in the range of 7'x8'. I am a little hesitant to put my progress in pictures here as I will want to enter this one in one of the bigger quilt shows. I'm not sure what the rules are about showing a work, in piece or in whole, before entering it for a show. The wicker settee is being drawn with resist on a beautiful hand died piece of cotton. Before I begin on it I will be doing many test runs, as I don't want to ruin the good fabric. Perhaps I can show you my progress on my testing. But I can at least talk about my progress. Peter is about half constructed. His face, hair, and upper body are completed in three sections which need to be sewn together. This week I am working on his shorts, legs and shoes. All my piecing is being done as applique and reverse applique by hand - tiny stitches. It is very tedious and hard on my eyes and hands, but very satisfying when completed.

Well I hope that I will be hearing from my followers and some others regularly. I regularly check out your blogs and will continue that because you are all so inspiring to me. With my son, Peter, as helper, I will be figuring out a website so that I can show my completed work. He has switched his major, bringing a smile to my heart, to ART. He is working towards learning graphic computer programming.

My love and appreciation to all my readers and to those who regularly chatted with me on twitter, flickr and facebook.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Detail 'Blue Girl'

That's me today, blue girl. The new year is not starting off as planned. It's all a bit more challenging than expected.

Late into the night on new year's day I had an episode resembling a heart attack. I ended up inside a rescue headed towards the local hospital with a nitro pill under my tongue wondering what in God's name I was doing there. Several doctors and many tests later they discharged me from the hospital saying that it was not a heart attack but it indeed could be angina. I am at high risk for a heart attack or stroke. I have scheduled a stress test. Until then, I feel a bit like I'm hovering over a cliff waiting for someone to push.

I've been trying to keep calm, my blood pressure as normal as possible, and I have been doing absolutely nothing which could constitute strenuous activity. I've been sitting in my studio just looking around at all the stuff. Been thinking about what things will get finished in my life and what will be left behind. We always think we have so much time for all we want to do in life, until we are reminded of how quickly it could end. I am expecting that with modern medicine being so advanced that some crew of doctors will snip and sew their quilt of me and I will have more time to enjoy this life. But I really just don't know for sure. No one can.

I am, as always, very grateful for the life I lead, my family and the wonderful people in my life, the freedoms I enjoy. As long as I am able I will continue to do the things I must do, love, live and sew!

I'll be in touch as I am able.