Monday, November 17, 2014

Setting Goals

I have a mentor. For the year of 2015, I have the privilege of working with someone who has a wealth of information, experience and business savvy. And she is willing to part with some of that information to help me progress as a professional artist. Puts a smile on my face. 

So the first hurdle I had to face was in setting goals. Not unlike most moderately ambitious people, my first attempt at a list had way too much on it and in much too vague a way. It had 28 items on it. In my second draft I split my ideas into "artist goals" and "professional goals" but pretty much had the same amount of goals combined on the two lists. So then, as suggested, I broke what I had into "short term" and "long term" goals. This got me thinking about time, ability and reality.

As I slipped things into the long term list, I wondered if I was just tabling things that would never be realized due to lack of time. I will turn 59 in 2015. I have always found the "nine" years to be brutal and as I face the inevitability of aging, the looming 60 seems a mountainous hurdle with a hell of a backslide. How much longer will I be allowed to do this work? Will my eyes go, or my hands get shaky, or perhaps an illness or disease will table my goals. So I decided to burn rubber on the short term goals. Seize the day, right?

My business goal list has 11 items on it. My artist goals are 5. I have completed 4 items on my business list already. They were easy, relatively. I now get to dig in to the harder goals. Without listing all of them I will discuss a few key goals. My first artist goal is to create 5-7 pieces in 2015 for entering into specific exhibitions. I have now a detailed list of all the calls I want to enter with their important information, the submission due date and the piece I want to have completed for entry. While a heavy list, I will push to get all 7 done if possible. Having this list in front of me gives me a daily reminder that goal #3 which is to develop better discipline, is absolutely necessary. 

One of my business goals is to smarten up my blog page so that I can use it like a website, offering it to anyone who wants to see what I do. If you read my posts, you will see subtle and even some not so subtle changes happening. I am adding pages to my blog. One for a resume and artist statement, and one for my artist portfolio. Until I start receiving income from my art, I have to make due with an old, slow computer and I can't commit to paying for a website's monthly charges yet. As suggested by my mentor, "You don't need a website, just use your blog." Using my blog not only means adding pages, but also designing it to be a professional extension of my art. Soon you will see a redesign. It also implies that I have to be much more diligent about posting. So the simple goal of having stronger and more professional internet presence entails a moderate amount of work in making changes.

I will be talking about the progress I am making in defining and developing some of my other goals as time permits. In my next "Goal Post" I will talk about how I am developing a few concepts for articles as well as taking those concepts one step further into planning demos and teaching workshops around them.

As our professional lives as artists are so closely interwoven with our personal lives, I have allowed a certain amount of my life into these posts. I have a west coast family. My mother grew up in California with her three sisters. They all stayed in the west with the exception of my mother who moved to her husband's home town in the east. My maternal cousins are all much older than I, as my mother was the last of the sisters to marry and the last to start a family. I have seen some of my cousins on occasion, many of them I have not seen since I was very young. One of these cousins kept in touch with me via snail mail and an occasional phone call. Jeff had been battling with cancer for seven years and has recently lost his fight. In sadness over the loss of him, and in respect for his kindness, gentleness, and his sensitive, generous spirit, I honor his passing here with all the love in my heart. You will be sorely missed, dear cousin.

Jeffrey Wilson Helmer
July 15, 1945 - November 5, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Textile Exhibition in Review

Last evening I was delighted to attend an artist reception for a textile exhibition in Fall River. Called MODERN SPIN: CONtemporary TEXTiles in an Historic Mill it was a fantastic blend of exciting textiles from a broad range of media. Providence artist, Jules of Heron Pond Studio was the juror and the artists came largely from the New England area but also from as far away as Romania.

Called "Pine Needles" this piece is a cutwork of triangular shapes. It is mounted several inches from the wall and with direct lighting on it, cast amazing shadows behind, creating very exciting imagery. Joy Stocksdale of Sebastopol, CA has two other pieces in the show that you can see peeking out in the photo above. Her panels are made of polychromatic screen-printed silk, stiffened and then cut. To see more of her work, 

It was unfortunate that the only place you could read about the materials was in an artist's portfolio booklet. The signs on the wall did not include materials or artist statements. Now I understand why it is important to have all the information printed on the wall next to the piece. While some artwork was easy to spot materials and processes, others were more difficult.

Always amazing in it's detail is the work of Salley Mavor from Falmouth, MA. This is a detail of a fantastic piece called, "Self Portrait: Personal History of Fashion". Spiraling outward from the center infant are images of Salley as she grew. She creates her vignettes from wool felt, trims and beads. Set inside a glass case it was difficult for me to photograph without glare and really this photo does nothing to accentuate the detail within this piece. If you are interested in Salley's work you can find her artwork and information at,

Another favorite of mine was this piece by Laurie Carlson Steger, a weaver from South Dartmouth, MA. Laurie's weavings are studies in work with reflective properties and incorporate fiber optic strands. Called, "Black Forest Gold" this piece was inspired by patches of sunlight filtering through the dense trees of the Black Forest in Germany. 

In this detail of Laurie's piece you can see the beadwork she used to help reflect light. This piece is handwoven, stitched, beaded and quilted. Laurie also has other work in this show. For information about her work go to,

I fell in love with the intense work of artist, Kerstin Zettmar. Not only is it colorful work but it is dramatic, and peaceful at the same time. At a distance and in photographs, you see an image not unlike an impressionist painting, but up close and personal you realize she has created her image by embroidering large ply yarns of a multitude of colors that literally burst from the surface of the work creating a cacophony of wildly intersecting fibers and colors. Honestly, my jaw dropped and my husband, Tony wanted to take this one home.

Called, "Sunbursts", this piece by Kerstin radiates light and shadow in a very romantic and captivating way. She has three pieces in the exhibition and all three are well worth seeing. Kerstin is a native of Sweden but now calls Newport, RI her home where she is a licensed massage therapist and artist. She chooses her subjects from both landscapes and more mythological and spiritual themes. For more information about her artwork,

This is a shot of me with SAQA friends Sandy Gregg, Janis Doucette, and Diane Wright. Sandy's artwork is hanging behind us. This really is an exciting show that I recommend highly to anyone who loves textiles. You will find the show at the Narrows Center for the Arts, 16 Anawan St. in Fall River, MA. It is open now through December 27, 2014. For questions on directions or gallery hours call 508.324.1926 or go to their website,

Monday, November 3, 2014

Studio Days

Busy days in the studio. The new wolf has been stitched in part to the background. He has extra loft behind him and it is making him seem more real. You can see some shadows above his eyes. He'll be done soon so I moved onto the next step.

Here, Peter is being fleshed out onto a piece of muslin. All the pieces are fused to the muslin. The excess gets cut away and he settles into the tree. The rope eases down from his hand to catch the wolf's tail. The little bird is flying about the wolf's nose. The leaves on the tree are the last to go on. You'll be seeing more of the process and the completed pictures soon.

Monument was started in 2013 to go with the three other Santa Fe pieces I did at that time. This piece did not fit well into the "Three Cohesive Pieces" theme of the exhibition I was preparing for so I set it aside. However, I really love this piece. I have done a bit more drawing on it with my fabric markers to delineate the stones in the intersecting walls. My new Sweet 16 will help me make short work of the stitching.

More updated pictures coming.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Multiplicities:New Directions in Fiber

Tonight was the artist reception for an exciting juried exhibit of textiles at the IMAGO Foundation for the Arts Gallery in Warren, RI. Called "Multiplicities: New Directions in Fiber" it was a show with a broad range of work within the textile field. Works pushing the boundaries of embroidery, weaving, quilting, felting, and dyeing were mixed with sculptural forms utilizing some very interesting materials such as seaweed, plastic bottle caps, thorny branches and pine needles. The opening reception was very well attended and the gallery is spacious, bright, easy to find, and the show was extremely well curated and hung.

My husband Tony took this shot of Allison Wilbur, who lives very near the gallery, and myself. We had a lovely time walking through the show discovering the many interesting secrets within each piece. SAQA members were well represented in this show with pieces from Natalya Aikens, Betty Busby, Nancy Bardach, Wen Redmond and Marianne Williamson. 

Hanging behind Allison and myself, detail to the right is a woven piece called "1364 Threads Pulled One at a Time" by Debbie Barrett-Jones. My terrible old digital camera does it no justice. Beautifully dyed warp threads were pulled to create tension and texture and through the middle of the piece you saw only the warp threads hanging. It really was captivating and won a Juror Award. The Juror for this amazing show was Elin Noble, a textile artist and SAQA member who lives in the MA/RI region.

Another captivating piece was done by Marianne Williamson. My camera again, does this no justice. It is literally covered with multicolored thread, fabric and paint. Allison and I spent a good amount of time soaking it all in. You can see other works by Marianne on her website at:

This piece was created by New York artist, Natalya Aikens. I have loved watching the progression of Natalya's work over the past few years. She has a finely tuned understanding of architecture and a playful hand with unusual materials and color. Made primarily of plastics, "Sunset" screamed with innovation and pure excitement. You can view her work on her website:

My husband Tony was as enthralled by this piece by Betty Busby as I was. "Dichotomy" is rich with colorful dyed fabrics and a wildly flowing structure of stitching which punctuates and defines both minute and large areas. The colorplay and stitching skillfully seems to undulate areas of the piece so that it creates depth and movement. A master, you will find more of Betty's work on her website at:

If you would like to see this exhibition it is showing at the IMAGO Foundation for the Arts Gallery, at 36 Market St. in Warren, RI 02885. This show runs now through November 8. Gallery hours are Thursdays from 4-8pm, Fridays & Saturdays from noon to 8pm and Sundays from 10am to 2pm. You will find information about the gallery and this show at their website:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

New Additions

45" x 43 1/2"
September, 2014
Commercial fabrics, batiks, silks, hand-dyes, beads;
Fused and machine stitched and quilted

After many months of work, Queen Bee is finally finished. She was finished in time to make the "Food For Thought" call for entry for SAQA but I have received word that she was not accepted into this exhibit. She will be offered as an entry into the first show which comes along that suits her. I truly enjoyed every minute of working on Bee and especially loved working on seeing the bees come to life.

Left and below are my details of this vibrant piece. 
I was very lucky this summer to acquire a few new additions to my workspace which have made life both easier and more difficult.


Four tiny kittens were found under our deck off the studio. My bleeding heart just could not leave them to the coyotes, so I scooped them into the one room in the house that did not already have a cat in studio. Because they come from a feral mom, I have to make sure that they aren't carrying a fatal disease to my other cats. They are about 5 months old now. Ready to be tested, fixed and assimilated. Casey went to a new home right away but I still have one female who needs adopting. The two mischievous males will stay with me.

This is my new baby, a Handi Quilter Sweet 16. It was used gently and the table wings were lovingly devised by the previous owner's handy husband. Runs like a dream and look at the neck. It is not 6" like my Bernina but a whopping 16". I'm in heaven.

However, nothing is easy. The cord running from the computer to the machine became an instant issue. The kittens loved the tent I made for them with fabric to cover the machine and chewed through that cord. IN TWO DAYS! It took me over a week to get a replacement cord to the tune of $39.00 and three kittens got a very stern finger wagging.

Now after every use I disconnect the computer, wrap it in bubble wrap and store it in a drawer. An old box from my daughter's exercise equipment is just the right size to cover the machine and keep curious kittens out. They are having the best time shredding the box. 

Another new purchase was necessary for two reasons: the first was to prevent fading for my blue and green stash which was kept in the open on shelves; the second was to keep the kittens out of it. I found an old black cupboard in an antique shop close by and it was on sale. It is deep and has three shelves but more importantly, it has doors and like my armoire, I can shut the light and the cats out. 

The shelves were put to use housing all my art books some of which were actually still in boxes with no functional place to land. Now not only do they have a nice neat place to be but I can access them easily when I need some information or inspiration. 

From August 20 to September 20 my piece called "Nancy's Garden" was hanging at the Whistler House & Museum in Lowell. This was the first exhibition I have been able to attend the open house.   

Just a sampling of how amazingly colorful and beautiful the show was.

As I had mentioned in a prior post, this spring I became involved in the SAQA MA/RI Regional exhibition committee. I worked pretty hard along with Sue Bleiweiss and decided that I would become a Co-Rep along with Sue and Maryann Gallaher. So I am now a Co-Rep for SAQA and we have so many things going on in our region. Two exhibitions are planned, a regional trunk show is being assembled, the 25th Anniversary Trunk Show is coming to our November meeting, we have a new regional portfolio printed, we have begun a mentorship program and we are doing outreach and workshop planning for 2015 and 2016. To read about all that is going on in MA/RI you can access info from our blog at:

After a small pod meeting in September, Rhode Island members Barbara Chojnacki, Carol Kaufman and I took a selfie at a quilt show in Wakefield, RI. Not only will the SAQA 25th Anniversary Trunk Show be traveling to Amherst, MA for our quarterly meeting November 15, but it will be traveling to Westerly for a meeting of the Ninegret Quilt Guild on January 13. I will be speaking at this meeting both about SAQA and about my own process.

At our SAQA quarterly meeting in September, two demos were given by Vicki Jensen, owner of Pro Chem & Dye in Fall River followed by a hands-on afternoon. Vats of indigo were set up for shibori dyeing and a table was set up for experimenting with gelli printing.

It really was an enjoyable afternoon and we were able to take home our experiments to use in our own projects. The next meeting will take place at the UU Society of Amherst, 121 North Pleasant St. in Amherst, MA from 10am to 2pm There will be demos on simple silk screen methods by Cheryl Rezendes and a demo on the cradle board technique for mounting quilts by Jeanne Marklin. If you live west of Worcester, this will be a fantastic meeting as well.

Sue Bleiweiss was the originator of our SAQA regional mentorship program. I decided to be a mentor to one person who needs help developing their voice and also to be someone's protegee for the business end of being an artist. My blog posts will be getting more regular and will morph a bit into offering my readers something besides a journal of my ramblings. My next post will be about setting goals.

So along those lines, some goals I have been setting and trying to keep for a couple of years have had to do with creating more artwork, getting it out into exhibitions and building that all important body of work. Continuing along those lines I have plans for four or more new quilts to be completed within the next six months.

I have been working and reworking this one for so many years. It is finally time to finish this thing. "Peter and the Wolf" is getting stitched. In the picture to the right you can see two wolves. The wolf on the far right puckered terribly because I stitched it to muslin without adding batting or stabilizer. Dumb move on my part. So I redid him and he is already adhered to the background and almost completely stitched. Pictures to follow in another post.

The next quilt I will be taking on is my large flying dragon. Originally worked for a really large quilt, "Crazy Eights" has been redrawn and resized to a more manageable size. This one will be created within my style but I am pushing the envelope a bit with some unusual and fun designer silks and I will be experimenting with relief work a bit.

Both these pieces have to be completed and photographed for the SAQA show "Wild Fabrications" call for entry by January 31, 2015.

This is just the very beginning of a drawing of a piece I am doing for the exhibition "Art As Quilt" at the Fuller Craft Museum. The name on this one is "Empress of the Pines". Behind her I will do another drawing of tree trunks with light passing through and that will be her background. Her hair is white pine needles. Her dress which I have only begun to embellish is full of pine cones which blend into bark. Curling behind her to the front will be a fawn at the bottom of the imagery. Her colors will be ochres, browns, rich greens, golds and coppers with just a touch of red violet. Another in the series of nature royalty, the Empress will be constructed similarly to Mariposa and Queen Bee.

So that brings you up to date in my world. I will be posting more shots of these three quilts as I begin to cut fabrics and stitch. And there are a couple more that will be coming into light very soon.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Life Changers

Shortly after finding out that Mariposa was juried into the exhibition in Texas two major life altering events occurred in our house. The first was the addition of a new family member. Meet my granddaughter, Riley Paige Theriault who was born on December 11, 2013. She is my first grandchild and I am over the moon in love with her! Below is a photograph of my oldest son Nicholas, with his newborn daughter. 

Having Riley in our lives made getting things done in the studio rather pointless for a while. Who can resist a baby to coo over and cuddle.

I did manage to get a Christmas stocking made for miss Riley. It's made of felt and has lots of hand embroidery and sparkly sequins. Christmas was so much fun this year with a baby around and I am looking forward to many years of holidays with my little angel.

Unfortunately, there was another life changer that happened during the month of December. Right after Thanksgiving I was having some health issues and did some testing to find out that I had a tumor on my right kidney. It was malignant but small and was removed in January. It took a while before I got back on my feet from surgery but I am glad to say that they did remove it all and I did not need chemo or radiation.

Makes you think! Even though it was a very slow growing cancer, found early, I had a lot of time to think about my ticking clock. I came away from it feeling a strong desire to get busy in my studio. The first piece I did after my surgery was Seeing Spots, seen right. This piece is expressive of how I had been feeling at the time, like a Cheshire cat blending in to life but whose spots, one in particular, were giving him away. Every fabric I chose had dots in it. 

7" x 10"
January, 2014
Cotton batiks & hand-dyes
Fused and machine stitched and quilted

This is my Trunk Show piece for SAQA. It is in Trunk show E which will start out showing in Brazil, then it goes to Virginia/North Carolina, followed by Colorado.

20" x 22 1/2"
March, 2014
Cotton batik & hand-dyes, silk dupioni & brocade, beads
Fused and machine stitched and quilted.

Summer Breeze was created quickly as a response to a request that came to me just as I was getting better in my recovery. The request was from a woman soliciting donations to an auction for a cancer center in Rhode Island. God moves in mysterious ways. I felt it was a sign that I needed to give a little back for the luck of having my cancer diagnosed so early. I thought about all the others who might not be so lucky, who might not have insurance and be facing large bills. While having some of these myself, what I could do was donate a piece. So I did. And it sold to the collection of Dr. James Mezhir.

Now I have been one who believes that artists should not give away their work. And I'm sure we could all have a huge discussion about it. But I'm alive! And I am appreciative. End of story. 

I cleaned up my studio a bit and took a look at upcoming calls for entry. There are a lot out there. I was hoping to enter one in this year's IQF and chose the one about pets. A friend, left, had just undergone a devastating loss. Her mother died of cancer rather quickly and she took it extremely hard. Young and alone she felt more than just grief, it was panic and despair. Her cat, Medonja, was all that was keeping her sane. This little cat is responsible for easing her deep depression. Sometimes our pets do more for us than people do. With Gabriele's permission I started my new quilt, based on this photograph of her and her beloved Medonja.

Of course, IQF requires you to keep images of quilts off of social media. So no one but Gabriele has seen my progress. I was chugging along and doing very well.

Then life happened again. This has been a challenging year. My husband's mother, Marggi suddenly became ill. We dropped everything and flew to Florida on Mother's Day. Marggi passed on the following Tuesday. We stayed a while with family, working on how to deal with her funeral, which was to be up here in New England. We flew home, prepared a bit and welcomed the Florida/California family into our home until her funeral, which was 10 days later.

Marggi was a creative and vibrant woman, who loved life and always had a sunny disposition, even when she was ill. Above Marggi is flanked by Brad, her grandson and my husband Tony, or Anthony as she always called him. 

You will be missed Marggi.

This brings me up to current time. I missed the IQF deadline, needless to say. On the 31st of May, the MA/RI region of SAQA had their quarterly meeting. One of our reps who is new to the position, Sue Bleiweiss, has been a very busy bee. Her enthusiasm is catchy and I am now greatly involved with our newly formed regional Exhibition Committee. 

I am the Co-Chair of this committee which I am sharing with Sue. With 10 members searching for possible venues, thinking of theme ideas and pitching in to make phone calls and send emails, we are having some success at finding willing venues. I will be posting about our successes and upcoming calls going out to the region. Sue is penning a new blog for us in MA/RI. You can check out what we are doing at:

One of her goals is for us to have our own regional trunk show which will travel throughout the region. The piece above, detail below is my submission to this trunk show.

9" x 11"
May, 2014
Commercial fabrics, batiks and silk
Fused applique, machine stitched and quilted

Can you hear the buzz of the bee in the yellow quilt lines?

While I was in Florida, a call for entry came due. Before I left I put together everything I needed to send it off. My daughter, Andie helped me get it done by sending off the email and mailing my entry. It was accepted.

25" x 30"
July, 2009
Commercial fabrics, hand-dyes, beads, sunflower petal beads
Fused appliqued and machine stitched

Nancy's Garden will be at the Whistler House Museum of Art in Lowell, MA from August 20 - September 20 for a show called "How Does Your Garden Grow?". The Artist Reception and Awards is on Saturday, August 23 from 1-3pm.

So I am back in my studio staring two new deadlines squarely in the eyes. I am finishing the one above and entering into another show. Still hush, hush. So I'm afraid you will not be seeing it for a while unless it is rejected. And I am looking to finish Queen Bee as well. Both need to be done in September. Hoo boy! I need to stop chatting and get back to my machine. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

MARIPOSA at Texas Quilt Museum

42" x 42"
November, 2013
Cotton batiks & hand-dyes, silk dupioni
Fused and machine stitched and quilted
Fimo, metallic and glass beads

Well it has been a long time since I have posted here, so I will try to pick up with where I left off. I have been busy in the studio. Less time here at my computer means lots more time in my studio. As you can see, Mariposa was completed in time to be entered into an exhibition, Butterflies and Their Beautiful Kin, at the Texas Quilt Museum and juried into the show. Not only will it be at the Museum but will join 25 other quilts on a tour around the United States through 2017 for an exhibition called, Butterfly Whirl: Contemporary Quilt Art.

"Mariposa is part of a body of work that blends both my love/concern for nature and my penchant for whimsy and storytelling. I am reinventing a hierarchy of imaginary royalty intent on the survival of their realms." 

There are six butterflies pictured in this piece: The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, the Blue Spotted Purple and the Monarch make up her collar. The Blue Morpho is lighting on her hand. The Eastern Tailed Blue is flying and the Great Purple Hairstreak is on her chrysalis hair. 

This is my first time having a piece published in an exhibition catalog. The princess is on page 23. Of course, that is part of Velda Newman's Wings, 62" x 182", 1994, on the cover. In addition to the juried exhibition, 17 quilts were selected for an invitational show, A Flutter of Butterfly Quilts, in which Ms. Newman"s spectacular quilt Wings was a part.

There is a lot more that I need to post about and more things coming up in the studio. For today I will wrap it up. Most days I use my iPad to take photos and do most everything. The one thing it won't do is create posts on Blogspot. So I am going to try to get some pictures transferred from it to my main computer. Then I will update some more.