My grandmother Rose was a weaver. In her back yard was "the shed" where she had her loom set up, not far from Grandpa Carl's Shopsmith. I don't know how much time she spent weaving, but she made skirts for me and my sister Gee Gee, and one for our mother,--the photo on the left is a border remnant of that one-- as well as dozens of placemat sets for various relatives. I have inherited a lot of that and have used bits and pieces in artwork over the years. I remember that her loom came from Norway and had to be assembled in the shed.
I've also had the pleasure of watching weavers. My friend Pam spins, weaves and knits in addition to dyeing many of her own yarns and threads. So when I saw a "Colonial Loom" in the gift shop at a nearby museum, I bought it, thinking, "I won't really get into this, but I'll just try and see how it works." The little wooden rectangle uses yarn for warp and makes a mat about 6" x 8". I started out, more or less obeyed the instructions, and eventually ended up with 24 striped mats, enough to make art. Doing the thing over and over is useful; you find out what works, what can stretch and what cannot. where the knots go, how to finish off the edges and so on. Now, this is NOTHING like the elaborate patterns in Rose and Pamela's work, nor anywhere near as fine. But using my stash of yarns and perle cottons, I could create nice color harmonies (because, don't you know, one always buys the colors that resonate internally, my friendly color family, and they go together well.)
We had gone to a nearby estate sale looking for things Gee Gee could sell on eBay; I spent a whole $2 for a three-piece 100% linen cinnamon-colored pantsuit in excellent condition. It has yielded plenty of material for sashing woven pieces and bias binding around the whole irregular conglomeration (because the rectangles weren't all the same size! duh) that is going to be "Cinnamon River Delta". I'm embroidering over the woven pieces for complexity and texture and contrast and quilting. Such a good project while watching Hamilton--which I will need to rewatch several times in order to get the lyrics. I'm also reading the biography.
Such a lot of turmoil in the past couple of weeks. George Floyd killed on the pavement in Minneapolis. Demonstrations around the country. Black Lives Matter. Juneteenth suddenly becomes a potential national holiday. And the Covid19 death toll spikes again in Texas, and there are many more cases in our rural county, including in two nursing homes. Lots of people in Texas are resisting commonsense protective measures like masks and social distancing for various reasons--"constitutional rights!" "Get the economy running again!" "Masks cause oxygen deficiency and lung disease!" and so on, and on. Mostly, I think, everybody is tired of the pandemic and wants to pretend it's going away.
Mostly we stay home and watch the news and old movies. I finished the commissioned pillow cover, "Surely Shirley" which referenced Shirley Chisholm, and sent it off to Ohio. It used up quite a lot of various yarns, as well as many remnants from "Searching for Order in Difficult Times." And it seems to be at home in its new environment.
Once that was mailed, I prepared to take "Searching for Order" to Houston for photography at Rick Wells' studio. It was the first time I'd left the Eagle Lake area since March. Found traffic to be relatively light except for a 1.5 hour traffic jam due to an accident on I-10. The session went well, including taking the large piece outdoors as it did not fit on Rick's table.
Next?? Well, we've talked a lot about what we can do to recognize and deal with racism in our area. Reading, watching documentaries, talking. Feeling pretty helpless, to be truthful. Then I saw notice that the wonderful Carolyn Mazloomi is organizing exhibitions in Minneapolis titled "Racism: In the Face of Hate We Resist." That very day i sent in application information for "Flyover 5: Chains/Rope/Shame"--and received an enthusiastic acceptance email the next day! She is a great organizer and inspiring speaker, and her story quilts open the mind. Once we know times and places, I think we'll travel to Minneapolis to see the exhibit sponsored by The Textile Center and the Women of Color Quilters Network. This, at least, I can do..
I just came upon this wonderful photo of my friend, Deacon Phyllis Hartman, on her birthday. The Pentecost stole is one of two I made for her when she was ordained, but I never had a good picture. It included parts of a mola her late husband Henry brought back from Central America. Henry, a lovely man, was the Mentor for the Education for Ministry group I joined when I moved to Texas. So lots of good memories, and a few sad ones, but I was so happy to see this on Facebook, and grateful that Phyllis gave me permission to put it on the website.
I have finished "Searching for Order" and will arrange photography as soon as things open up. In the meantime, I am working on a commissioned pillow in similar colors, also including needlepoint.
So many exhibitions have been canceled or postponed due to the virus. Some have decided to do a virtual exhibition online--which is fine, but any fiber maker will attest that there's no comparison with seeing the work in person. Art Quilt Elements announced that they will show the accepted pieces next year, and as I was just about to send mine when the shelter at home announcement came out., I avoided having to get it back and then send it again in 2021. Maybe we can travel to the opening in Philadelphia eventually.
"Neil & Ivonette & Lucy" arrived home from Susanne Jones' Fly Me to the Moon touring exhibition, safe and sound. It will be displayed at the new Archives and Special Collections reading room at Wright State University, Dayton, OH once they open. My husband Patrick was the Archivist there for 15 years; it's where we met Ivonette and dealt with the Wright Brothers papers. I am very happy to donate this piece to such an appropriate venue in Pat's memory.
Other works--"Lemonicity" has arrived in Virginia for photography and eventually exhibition by the Sacred Threads organizers. My donation for the SAQA auction has been sent. I have quilts awaiting pickup at Webster Presbyterian, but they haven't yet reopened, so that's in limbo.
I think we're all in a state of suspended animation for the time being. We are well and have good work to do at home; that has to be enough for now.
So there I was, working industriously on "Despues--El Mar de Lodo" (color in photo is not correct, it's really brown but the reflective nature of the fabric messed with the color) and preparing for a week of visiting friends. Suddenly 2020 became The New Plague Year. Our friends came, enjoyed, and left just as the travel ban was announced. Thank providence for that good fortune!
While they were here, I began knitting up some of my many varicolored yarns, just to have a portable project while we sat around talking. That evolved pretty effortlessly into "Searching for Order in Difficult Times", which is how I'm spending my stay at home time during this pandemic.
You can see the knitted piece just under the machine harp. I quilted down all the patches with parallel lines, then trimmed, batted and backed, and have been adding hand stitching.
It's pretty large, so this will take a while. That is a good thing while we're sequestered at home. It's also an excuse for binge-watching all seven seasons of The West Wing (I do miss President Bartlet!), and will use up a lot of my perle cotton stash. Not seen in this photo are the needlepoint elements I added during the hand-stitching.
The other activity, of course, like just about every quilter in the country it seems, is making masks. I volunteered to make them for our food pantry workers and the Post Office staff. So that was maybe 40 and I thought I was done. But the library board now has permission to reopen, so they needed them for their staff, and a board member requested some for his family. I'm up to about 55 now and hope to be done. I'm not as generous as some friends who clock in with 100-200-300 and counting. It's not a contest, of course, everybody wants to do her civic duty etc. So here's a photo of masks drying in the sun, and I think as Forrest Gump would say, "That's all I want to say about that."
Thank you to all the devoted sewists who continue to do this for the public good. I should mention that Gee Gee and I did get to visit the Texas Quilt Museum to see Texas Master Quilters, which included my "Turmeric and Wine" and "Mae--Caught". The exhibit is beautifully mounted as usual. When TQM reopens (soon, we hope), it's worth a trip. The other exhibits include some jaw-dropping quilts from Mexico, and a room full of quilts inspired by higher mathematics--concepts which I could not really wrap my mind around. Thank goodness for the vast variety of thinkers putting their ideas into fiber!
So many interesting things coming up this spring! We are trying to plan calmly, which works some of the time.
Yesterday we drove to La Grange and the Texas Quilt Museum to drop off two pieces for their upcoming "Texas Grand Masters" exhibit. Whee!--suddenly I'm a Grand Master! Who knew? They accepted "Turmeric and Wine" and "Mae--Caught". The exhibit will open March 19 and run through June 21. So, if you're anywhere near the Texas Coastal Plain, head on down to La Grange--it's wildflower season and the drive will be lovely.
While there, we enjoyed seeing "Layered & Stitched', a retrospective exhibit of prize-winning art quilts from the 1970s through 2019. Most of these were quilts I had seen in books and magazines, but not in person--so much nicer to get up close and check out the details. We'll be taking our out of town guests to this exhibit in March. The trip gave me a chance to buy backing for the quilt I'm working on now at the shop next door to the Museum, The Quilted Skein. And though I did not "need" any more yarn, I succumbed to desire and bought a couple of skeins too beautiful to bypass.
The staff at Art Quilt Elements has requested a small donation piece to be sold in their gift shop during that exhibition. I frantically searched through the carnage in the studio and finally found one remnant square of each type used in "Suspended--Final Curtain". It wasn't hard to combine them into one 12 x 12 square, then to embroider in the same way as the large piece.
I mounted it on stretched canvas because the old fabrics are pretty limp. It presents well, I think. In any case, it's the last remnant, so I'm done with that.
I completed "More Moons Than Ever We Imagined" in January. Have not yet found a venue for that one, but something will emerge.
And now I'm working on a piece commemorating the"Sea of Mud" (El Mar de Lodo), which is described in great detail by Gregg J. Dimmick, MD, a local avocational archeologist and pediatrician in his 2004 book of the same name. This is the story of the retreat of the Mexican Army after Sam Houston's victory at the Battle of San Jacinto. Texas was now a Republic. This fine army had not previously been defeated. They had marched more than 1500 miles from home. They didn't know whether their President and Commanding General Santa Anna was dead or taken prisoner. And then it started to rain. For days.
This all took place within 25 miles of Eagle Lake, on what we call the Lissie Prairie. It is flat, rice farming land near the San Bernardo River, which has many branches and floods easily. With few good roads and diminishing provisions, the generals tried to follow hand-drawn maps to safety, but the mud was too deep. Horses and mules drowned in the mud. Soldiers could not find firewood to cook their meager handful of cornmeal rations. They, too, died in the mud or the river. The wounded could not be transported in wooden-wheeled carts. They died. The generals made it out alive and eventually marched their surviving men and camp followers down to the coast for transport back to Mexico; they later filed detailed (and often self-serving) reports about the campaign. For the most part, the retreat from San Jacinto and the Sea of Mud episode were forgotten.
Dr. Dimmick and a group of his fellow avocational archeologists, with the help of property owners, the Houston Archeological Society and the Fort Bend Archeological Society conducted excavations in the Lissie Prairie in the late 1990s, discovering many artifacts from the Mexican Army. No human or equine remains have survived there, but harness brasses, uniform medallions, bayonets and rifle parts, buttons and horse and mule shoes were found and documented. History happened right here!
So I am working with lots of brown fabrics, small bits of color, lots of texture, and some plastic horses and soldiers to give some idea of how it might have been. Stay tuned.
The baby Meyer Lemon tree I planted last year gave us three lovely lemons, and now there are 18 tiny green nubs trying to grow up. Such generosity from this skinny little tree! So when Lisa Ellis opened a new call for entries titled "In My Backyard", I knew just what to make. The exhibition is planned to tour hospitals and similar facilities; they were clear that they wanted peaceful, happy art, nothing that would be disturbing to people in a health care setting.
This is all repurposed stuff--a piece of rusted linen damask, appliqued with yarn and leaves cut from a dyed, embroidered tablecloth. The yellow linen and the binding and backing came from my stash. A little paint and threadpainting on the lemons, a little stitched grass, echo quilting around the stems and leaves--and then, Lemonicity.
I'm also happy to welcome home "Connections--Neil & Ivonette & Lucy" from the Fly Me to the Moon traveling exhibition. It toured all over the country, including West Point and the Library of Congress, the Houston International Quilt Festival, quilt shows in Utah and Virginia, and Lunar Communion at Webster Presbyterian Church in Texas (where Buzz Aldrin still attends church). Opening the package and finding the piece in perfect condition--thank you, Suzanne Miller Jones!--was just lovely.
Next step is to clean up the studio in order to welcome a group of friends who will be visiting early in March. Wait--if I clean up now, won't it become a mess during February? Of course it will. Perhaps I should do what I do best--procrastinate for awhile.
In the month since I last posted, sister Gee Gee has flown to Florida to spend a month with her sons and families. I flew to Dayton OH and spent a week with dear friends Michael and Margot, visiting art spaces in new libraries, shopping a bit and eating at every restaurant they had been wanting to share. I have not dared to weigh myself since I returned. It was totally enjoyable; I do enjoy being taken care of, at least for brief periods. And it snowed just after I got there, big, fluffy flakes that stayed in the trees for several days. Such a treat, especially since it wasn't deep enough to need shoveling.
I finished Sunflower Marshland before I left, and hung it in the front hallway.
Not a great photo, due to glare/reflection on the upper part, but I am pleased with the piece. I had a dickens of a time figuring out how to hang it due to the ovoid shape; tried several stiffening measures, but ended up adding burlap to make the top adjust to a hanging sleeve.
Then I realized that I needed to make a small quilt for the SAQA Spotlight Auction at the conference in Toronto in the spring. Still in the swampy frame of mind, I finished Marshland Study (below) in two days and will mail it off on Monday.
Same materials (mostly) and color scheme, minus the gigantic sunflowers, the crocheted strip, and the lower, printed area. In theory one makes the "study" first, then the larger piece. In theory, I should do sketches first instead of diving into a pile of fabric. But I have never been much of a theorist.
Knowing that I would be spend a good deal of time sitting and talking in Ohio, I took the "green eggs and ham" piece with me to stitch on. It is coming along nicely and has a name: "More Moons Than Ever We Imagined", referencing the newly discovered moons of Saturn, Neptune and Uranus--and maybe Pluto also. I'll have photos soon. Lots and lots of stitching.
Next assignment will be photography for several pieces that have been awaiting the opportunity. Maybe next week
Starting a new piece (with no name yet) that includes a lot of velvets and velours, some silk, and various linen pieces, joined with curved piecing. And here's what I have learned so far:
"I do not like this, Sam I am. I do not like it on the table. I do not like it in a fable. I do not like it with a goat, on the machine, or near a moat. This slippery stuff is not much fun. But I'll persist until I'm done."
These fabrics have a tiny mind of their own, and they do not like me any more than I like them. My seams are a mess. There are bulges. The saving grace is that none of this matters, as they will be manipulated and embroidered and stretched and cut up again before I'm finished. And the colors are really nice, lots of purples, blues and greens. I had forgotten the roll of linen squares I bought long ago at some fiber art thing, but their subtle colors and lovely texture contrast well with the silks and help to contain the elusive velvet gremlins. I have made 24 squares so far; more tomorrow.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving at son Phil's house. We baked pies in the morning and traveled the two blocks with our stuffed celery, wild rice casserole, cranberry sauce and pie to join the feast. Lots of family, fried turkey, overwhelming amounts of food. Everything was lovely, and this crowd likes to greet, eat and head out to other obligations, so we were happy to return home and spend the evening quietly. Giving thanks all the way.
Lovely news in my email yesterday--"Suspended--Final Curtain" has been accepted for the 2020 Art Quilt Elements exhibition in Wayne, Pennsylvania. I visited this beautiful gallery several years ago during a SAQA conference. Very professional and an excelllent, international exhibit. The piece is currently hanging at Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster TX; it will come home in mid November. I'm awaiting information on shipping, etc. for AQE.
So now I'm working on a new piece, not a Flyover this time. It started with the dark blue fabric, which was a gorgeous Italian wool skirt given me by a friend ("Maybe you can do something with this . . . .") If only it hadn't been about a size 2! So I took it apart, and it sat around for a while as I crocheted swampy colors together, and then a couple of weekends ago . . .
We went to the annual rummage sale in nearby Lissie, and I paid 25 cents for a 1972 Bucilla embroidery kit, linen canvas stamped with sunflowers. The yarns were missing, but the directions were intact. So, I painted the design, applied fusible web, and started putting things together. It will be something about wetlands.
I had been thinking about trying threadpainting, as I have seen so many beautiful pieces from others using this technique. I am doing it on the sunflowers--seems to be successful--but it's getting tedious. Doubt that I will use it extensively in future. The actual painting was fun, though.
At the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson, for the opening of Connecting Our Natural Worlds, SAQA's global exhibition. My piece, Flyover 6: Glacier is on the wall. Seventeen artists came for the opening; each had an opportunity to talk about her art and the dangers presented by climate change. The works were beautifully lighted and presented, and there was a nice crowd for the reception. We were able to invite some family members to the event, none of whom had been surrounded by fiber art before--always a rewarding experience.
The day before, artists were invited to participate in video interviews, and a professional makeup artist was available to make us camera-ready. Now, I haven't worn makeup since I retired in 2010, so this was a new venture. She did a fine job--I haven't yet seen the video, but expect that I look better than usual--even though I had been up since 3 a.m. Texas time and spent all day on airplanes.
We stayed at Hotel McCoy, a 1960s-era motel that has been completely updated and transformed into an art venue. If you ever get to Tucson, look them up. It's delightful, fun, and they have an oatmeal bar with all the fixins for breakfast.
So that was my great celebrity opportunity. In the meantime, I've been working on Flyover 8: Pathways. It's almost done now, made from a beautiful piece of Ghanain batik and some buffalo check fabric from my stash, plus lots of yarns. I wanted it to have the rumpled appearance of an old map, folded up in the attic.
This is just a quadrant of the piece, but you can get the idea. I think of it as land and sea (the viewer can decide which part is which), crisscrossed by the multiple paths taken by people, animals, mining operations, gas and oil pipelines, merchant ships, wars, migrations, cyclones, earthquakes, erosion and on and on through the ages.
"Nothing new under the sun" says Ecclesiasticus--we keep making "new" explorations over ancient territories without regard for the claims of our forbears or of fellow creatures. What must the birds think of us?
Home now, to stay for a while.
Bobbe Shapiro Nolan, Fiber Artist in Eagle Lake, TX. Trying to learn to call the sewing room my studio, and myself an artist. I retired after 15 years in hospice nursing--so now I have the time!.