Sunday, December 14, 2014

Life, Going On

These days, many friends know that my sister Jerol, who is the last survivor of the three sisters who were on this earth when I was born, sustained traumatic brain injuries in a fall on November 15, 2014, and has been mostly unconscious ever since.

Heartache over her condition has kept me away from the blogosphere for a few weeks...until now.

Jerol opened her eyes yesterday, for the first time since November 15, and obeyed simple verbal commands.

This is major.  Major for Jerol, major for the family, and major for me, as it will perhaps start to dissipate the black cloud of despair I've been carrying around inside me since November 15.  I'm planning to drive to Lake Katrine to see Jerol again as soon as I can, bearing an I-Pod loaded with fifties hits, the better to spark those synapses. 

Meanwhile, I feel I can let out my breath and take the time to show you what I've been doing while worrying about Jerol:

I finished this piece, which I'm calling Fragile Ties.  This is my first foray into two new techniques:  collage quilting and thread painting.  I find both processes absorbing and challenging

This piece is part of an exhibit at the Hartford Public Library, presented by the CT Fiber Arts Collective, which was just hung the other day.  The show honors the library's recent acquisition of two large collages by African-American artist Romare Bearden and takes as its twin themes jazz and  the civil rights movement.

Here's Linda Martin with her stunning portrait of Martin Luther King, which she also did in the collage style

Christina Blais with pieced letters

Here are all but three of the members of the CtFiber Arts Collective at the Hartford Public Library.  L-r Carol Vinick, Linda Martin, Karen Loprete, Diane Cadrain, Christina Blais, Antonia Torres and Rosalind Spann.  Missing:  Carol Eaton, Mary Lachman, Wanda Seldon.

Everybody is invited to the opening, Saturday January 17 from 1 to 3 p.m.

What else is happening?  Our daughters have brought some new significant others into our family, and those important people will be with us for Christmas, so of course they must have Christmas stockings. I went to Pier One and bought a couple of handsome ones, but then I had second thoughts about the price tags.  So I decided to make a pattern from one of them, return them to the store, and make my own homemade versions.

So I did.

I laid the stocking out on some lightweight nonwoven material printed with a 1" grid.

I found some fabric in my stash and used that pattern to make these stockings:

 The one on the right is herringbone wool with a silk cuff. The one on the left is made of home decorator fabric.

They're both lined.  I hope you're impressed.

Outside our house, Joe Rubin put some holiday decorations up today:

I give him a lot of credit because he wasn't feeling very well . He has a bit of a cold.  I don't know how he does it.  I must say I did hear him mutter "Poop!" as he did this.  But it wasn't "poop."

He's a mensch!

So, life has gone on, Jerol is getting better, stockings are made if not hung, the black cloud is dissipating, and happiness is leaking in.

Art, History and Social Activism: CtFAC Honors Romare Bearden

Date: On display December 17, 2014-March 13, 2015
Location: Downtown Library 3rd Floor Gallery

In honor of the recent arrival of two spectacular Romare Bearden murals at Hartford Public Library, The Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective (CtFAC) presents a special exhibit that pays homage to the stylistic works of Bearden, his commitment to civil rights and his contributions to the African-American jazz and art communities. CtFAC has created a collection of works in textiles, fiber, mixed media and surface design celebrating and recognizing one of the greatest visual artists of the 20th century.

A special reception to meet the artists of CtFAC will be held on January 17, 2015, 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. in the 3rd floor Hartford History Center. This event is free and open to the public. - See more at:

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Background Check

I'm soliciting opinions.

I've finished this image of two pairs of hands, created in a collage style, for an upcoming exhibit at the Hartford Public Library. 

 Now I have to figure out what to do about the background for the hands, and I'm asking for opinions.

What about a plain background of one piece of fabric?  It would be quilted in some manner, of course:

Or what about a strip-pieced background like this?  Too busy?

Or what about a plain background, but with the central image offset in some way?

The offset portion wouldn't have to be squarer--it could be vaguely circular, with its edges following a pattern in the batik.

What if the offset portion had some bells and whistles, like triangles?

I'm leaning toward the plain background, offset with another color, but without the triangles, which I think detract.

What do you think of these ideas?  Can you think of any other kind of background?

To everybody who shares their views:  a big thank you!

Adventures in Thread-Painting

Ever since I took a course in the art of thread painting at Snow Farm, a Massachusetts art center, on Columbus Day weekend 2014, I've been eager to try out my newly-acquired, and still raw, skill.

I decided to use it on my fabric image of these hands, an amazing photo that came my way that same Columbus Day weekend when each of the teachers at Snow Farm presented a slide show demonstrating her work and its development.  The basketry teacher, Jackie Abrams, showed this image of her hands teaching basketry in Namibia.  Jackie's daughter Dani, who was serving there in the Peace Corps at that time, took the photo.  I knew this stunning image would be perfect for an upcoming quilt show to be presented by the Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective, of my quilting groups, at the Hartford Public Library.  The show will take civil rights as one of its themes.  I asked Jackie, and through her, Dani, for permission to use it, and gratefully received that permission.

I set out to reproduce these hands in a collage quilt style taught by quilt artist Susan Carlson

After one false start, this was the result of my efforts.  Once the hands were put together, I intended to thread paint the images because I had just learned the skill, and because I thought that the thread-painting might highlight the lights and darks and thus enhance dimensionality..

Here are some before and after images.

Have I done this image any favors by adding the thread painting?  In some cases it eases the transition between pieces of different colors.  In others, it accentuates shadows or highlights. It certainly enhances the dark outlines where the fingers come together.

Has the thread painting enhanced this one?  I admit my photo isn't the best. but at least you can see how I tried to enhance the shadow on the lower right part of the hand.  What did it add?

Did I do this one any favors by covering up those batiks with thread painting?  I wanted to enhance the darkness of the skin. 

This hand, I can say, was enhanced by the thread painting, because it enabled me to show the wrinkles in the skin:

This shows all four hands, after thread painting. 

The thread painting is done, and I'm not proposing to pull it out.  But I'm not sure of its effectiveness in all cases.

Next: what kind of background?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Let's have a big hand for persistence

Let's have a big hand for persistence. 

I'm working on an image of hands (a pair of dark-skinned hands working on a project with a pair of light-skinned hands) for an upcoming art quilt show centered on a theme of civil rights.  I'm using a technique taught by an art quilter named Susan Carlson

The photo of the hands was kindly furnished to me by Dani Abrams, whose mother, Jackie Abrams, owns the hands on the right.  Jackie was teaching basket-making in Namibia at the time.

Susan Carlson's technique involves using lots and lots of little teeny-weeny pieces of fabric, holding  each one in place with a tiny spot of glue in the center until all the pieces are in place.  Here's my initial attempt at that technique:

But after many hours spent on this iteration, I decided that the pieces had a more haphazard look than I wanted.  The hands looked...well, scabby.  Or leprotic.  Or psoriataic.  The skin on them looked as if it were exfoliating.

See what I mean?

So I started all over with a second pair of hands.  Here's what I have so far.

The pieces are still teeny-weeny, and the concentration it takes to place them is still intense.  But at least they don't look like they have psoriasis.

 I'm willing to put in the time because, well, I want this image to be good.  It will hang at the Hartford Public Library starting in about mid-December, for a show with a theme of civil rights.  It's worth doing right.

You know how they say art is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration? Well.

Persistence.  Let's have a big hand for persistence.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


When the Hartford Public Library invited my art quilt group, the Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective, to mount a show to honor the library's acquisition of two enormous murals by  African-American collage artist Romare Bearden, part of the deal was that the Library would produce a video about our group.

And so today, it came to pass.

 Pramod Pradhan is the Hartford Public Library's videographer
All ten members of the Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective met on a Saturday morning at Carol Vinick's West Hartford home, each of us bringing the piece we plan to put in the show, intending to work on it and talk about it while the videographer got it all down.  Did I tell you that our exhibit will not only honor Bearden, but also focus on civil rights, honoring the anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

So here's Carol Vinick telling the camera about the stunning images of Rosa Parks which she's creating from tiny pieces of fabric:

Carol is showing Pramod the iconic photo of Rosa Parks being booked after being arrestred

Carol traced the photo and enlarged the traced version to create this pattern

How about that!  Are you impressed?  I am!

Carol is also creating this image of Rosa Parks on the bus, about to be arrested.
 And how about this portrait of MLK by Linda Martin?

Christina Blais is creating a quotation from pieced letters.  The quote is from--Christina, correct me here if I'm wrong--Rosa Parks, who said that when she was about to be arrested, she felt a determination come over her. Here Christina is showing us the pieced letters of the word "determination":

I think this show is challenging us each to stretch, to try new methods, to give her all to going out on an artistic limb.  Many of us are trying a new method of collage piecing which we learned in a recent group class with quilt artist Susan Carlson.  I know I'm stretching myself in my efforts to emulate her technique.  Here's my piece:

While all this art was happening, and Pramod was taping it, we enjoyed hanging out together:

Wanda Seldon, Christina Blais, Toni Torres, Linda Martin (partially hidden).

Christina Blais, Linda Martin

Rosalind Spann, Mary Lachman
We're working against a deadline of early December to have our pieces ready to be hung at the Hartford Public Library.  We're pumped!

The Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective.  Standing, L-R, Diane Cadrain, Carol Vinick, Karen Loprete, Rosalind Spann, Wanda Seldon, Carol Eaton, Christina Blais, Mary Lachman, Linda Martin
Seated: Antonia Torres

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Silver Tapestries

I'm a fiber artist, but this post, Silver Tapestries, isn't about fiber.  It's about my garden.  Because I view gardening as an alternative means of experimenting with shape and color...but with a bit of science thrown in.

 I planted a silver garden in 2007.  I chose plants that have either silvery leaves or silvery flowers.  It's a learning curve.  Not everything I originally planted has survived.  But much of it has.  This fall, I'm relishing that silver, which continues to shine out, despite the falling temperatures and waning sunlight.

Here's snow-in-summer (cerastium tomentosum) on the left and dianthus Tatra Fragrance on the right.  Silver threads and silver needles.
These two types of leaves illustrate two different types of silver foliage.  The snow-in-summer is silvery because it's felted.  The dianthus is silvery because its glaucous--a shine similar to the silvery sheen on a grape.

Of the few plants still flowering in the garden at this late date, two of them are in the silver garden.  Russian sage (perovskia filigran) blooms pale silvery lavender on the left, and on the right, October daphne (sedum Sieboldii) blooms silvery pink.

How about these cabbages, battered but glorious?

As you can see below, someone or something has been gnawing away at one of them.  I think it's my husband, Joe Rubin:

Elsewhere on our expansive grounds, another part of the garden features plants of silver and maroon foliage.  This Heuchera Silver Scrolls lives there, and it doesn't seem at all bothered by the crisp autumn temperatures:

The lamiums like the cool weather.  Look how they continue to put out frosty silvery foliage:

Lamium White Nancy (lamium maculatum) nestled among the still-dewy foliage of forget-me-not (myosotis sylvatica)

Lamium White Nancy cozying up to Lamium Beacon Silver
On the picnic table:  October Daphne with Sedum Cauticola:

So, silver tapestries.  But no fiber.