review of 2021

Last year started off well (creatively) as I signed up for a drawing class with Susan Shie called Lucky Drawing # 000. At the time, I didn’t appreciate how much of a benefit this class was to me. It really kick-started me into working solidly on something, rather than wandering around my head, ‘should I or should I not do this?” It definitely pushed me into directions I wasn’t used to or tended to fight against. I used the sketchbook one time after that to record my feelings about the big Freeze in Texas last February. It was brutal. I need to get that sketchbook out again!

Quilting was my main focus last year, as it was in 2020. However, I have got to the stage where I know I don’t want to do traditional quilting, but where do I go next? I started off the year by finishing a UFO, which dated back to when I started to quilt in 2018, my Oops quilt. After that, I did a bit of exploring, beginning with a class curated by Lisa Walton called Aurora. I liked it so much, I did another class with her called Fantastic fusion. It was very similar to another course I had taken at the end of 2020 with Susan Carlson. I did a couple of other small quilts after these classes, and then I did a deep dive into Ruler work quilting. I am an OK free motion quilter. I think my ability to draw makes it easier for me than a lot of quilters. I am not a good piecer which is why I have decided I will not be doing traditional quilts, as they cause me too much stress which takes out the enjoyment for me. Given my recent obsession, it is really no surprise that I was drawn to the preciseness and patterns of ruler work. Ruler work, as the name implies, uses a ‘ruler’ or “template’ so you have more control over the shape and size as you sew. With free-motion sewing, it’s harder to keep the stitching regular and the shapes uniform. Well, that is the theory but both methods require a lot of practice. That is what I ended up doing much of the year! By the end of October, after spending too much money on templates after watching videos on YouTube, I came to the realisation that maybe ruler work quilting wasn’t for me unless (pause) I could find a way of using it in my freeform work which is what I did with 2 of the small quilts I made, Solar and Standing stones on a wall. My breaking point came with a set of placemats and a table runner. They are still waiting to be finished and the truth is, it could be done in a day or so; I am that close. But I hate them!
So, where am I going to go with my quilting in 2022? More freeform and mixed media. I have an idea which, given how slow I work, will take me until we move in 2024, at least! It will be a series of smaller wall quilts that could be hung separately or together. I want to explore painting my own fabric and printing on that fabric. I will use all the skills I have gathered over the last decade with beads and embroidery. It will be exciting and nerve-wracking. It will be FUN!

My very 1st project of the year, which I have already started, is a t-shirt quilt. It’s a practice piece before I tackle the main project, making three wall hangings from the t-shirts of my former daughter-in-law. Her mother gave them to me late last year to share among her family in her memory. This is one project I need to get right!

In November, to drive me out of my now familiar funk (I think it must be a seasonal thing), I began trying out my hand with Zentangles and drawing on the digital drawing tablet my son got me last Christmas.
I began my foray into the digital drawing world by downloading Krita, a professional drawing website. The 1st page was daunting enough, without the thought of drawing, although my nine-year-old granddaughter uses a drawing app all the time! Youtube to the rescue again. One particular video channel was very useful. ‘Learn Krita with Bob Ross’ on the Age of Asparagus channel. It was great fun as well as being a good learning experience.

I do a regular countdown to Christmas project on Instagram, and originally I intended to practice my digital drawing by drawing a day up to the 24th of December. I quickly realised that was way beyond my abilities. The tablet has been put away for now but I fully intend to get back to it once I am back into my routine.

At the same time I was delving into the world of digital drawing/painting, I decided to look at Zentangles. I had some experience of them as I was given an instructional book by one of my kids, a few years ago. I tried it out but the book wasn’t overly inspiring. I noticed that one of my long-time Facebook friends was exploring them and posting the results. I knew it had an aspect of mindfulness that I thought might help with my current state of mind (it helped me stop using sleeping tablets after nearly a decade!). I was only going to do it for a week or so. Yet again, Youtube came up trumps! I have found a few very useful channels and have used them with my drawings. However, they take a long time to complete and on some days, I had to stop or end up frustrated. The opposite of the intended effect! I am doing them in a bullet journal which I have never used dued to the pandemic. Not much to plan when there is so little to do!

My Christmas project turned out particularly well, although I never quite completed all 24 days as normal! Next year, I will start a few days ahead of December. Then I might complete all 24 days.

That about sums up my year of work. I did forget one period and that was when I signed up to do a free course by Louise Fletcher called finding your joy. Sometimes I feel guilty about not painting anymore. It was an effort to rediscover the love I have for painting. Maybe I will find it again when, or if we move back to Scotland, I hope so. This course did not help in that regard. You can read my posts about my feelings on this program. In my head, it’s forgotten. It’s the art world’s pryamid scheme basically.
The highlight of this dull year (apart from my art, of course) was receiving the people’s choice award at our local quilt guild’s annual show. I loved making this quilt, and yes, I painted it and quilted it on a domestic machine, but the real credit should go to Helen Godden, who designed it.

Quirky Collections designed by Helen Godden.

That is my round up for 2021. Now onward to 2022 with even more success than last year!

Lot of practice and slow progress

I really haven’t done a lot since I last wrote in September. I had lots of good intentions but life got in the way. I did make 75 koozies for daughter’s wedding using my Brother scan n cut. I also made a centre piece and a cake topper for her bridal shower.

Centre piece for Emily’s Bridal shower

I am now following a course by Shannon Rendon using the Jakarta placemat and table runner design by June Tailor. The instructor, as I indicated in my previous blog, is using 12 different templates, a bit excessive! I will be using about 4 or 5 templates, maybe just 3 as that is all I have of the ones she is using. In a an effort to use the templates I do have that will fit as 2″ wide space, I have been using my Westalee stitching discs to draw out designs. These discs are so useful as they act like the quarter inch ruler foot on my sewing machine. This way the designs will be exactly the same size as you would sew. It’s just a practice piece so I am not overly concerned about how it turns out. If it does work out, I will donate it to my quilt guild for their fundraiser at the local craft fair in November.

Once I have finished the placemats I will make a start on the three t-shirt wall hangings for my late daughter-in-law’s mother. I have never made a t-shirt quilt so I will be even slower than normal as these will be very special.

In between times I will work on my own art work. I feel I am dragging my feet a bit in that area.

Revamping my website

I decided to add some more pages to my website and change up the design. Unfortunately, it has proved more difficult than I anticipated! I have used WordPress for more years than I care to remember, and I have toyed with the idea of changing to Wix or Squarespace. Then I try them out and hate the thought of starting anew. My main driver in the quest for change is that we (my husband) will be downsizing our house in two years, and I look around my art room, sigh, and think, what am I going to do with all this stuff! I have no idea, but making a huge bonfire out of it might be one solution!

I was definitely in a funk after my disastrous venture with ‘finding my joy’ I did a lot of practising with the Westalee rulers. I watch a lot of their videos, and I would get excited about another template. They are expensive, though. More than paint and canvas! I signed up for one of their free classes for a set of placemat designs. I totted up the cost of the templates (I have a couple), and if I brought the whole lot, I would be out of pocket to the tune of $305. However, you are better off getting their sets with the complete size range, which would be a staggering $990. Fortunately, most of the instructors only use one or two rulers for each project

My 1st actual project after that debacle was a piece based on a NASA picture featuring the birth of a star. I started it while I was doing the painting practice:

  1. I used Mistyfuse to create a painterly collage of fabric.
  2. I used a couple of Westalee templates to enhance the spiral effect of the collage. After that, I embellished it with some thicker embroidery thread and bobbly yarn.
  3. I added some beads.

Solar

Once I finished that, I signed up for a free class from the grandly titled Westalee Design University. It is excellent, and the projects are well priced. The designer I chose to do a course with was Angela Attwood, and it was a templee quilt, a form of reverse applique. It used precisely one template, the 12″ Arc. It was a great practice piece, and I was pleased with the result.

Radiance design by Angela Attwood.

I also did some practising on paper with the templates. Because you are using a ruler foot ( designed to be used with templates) when you are quilting, you have to consider the quarter of an inch that the foot uses. To get around this, you used stitching discs designed for use with a variety of drawing implements. It seems simple enough, but they do tend to slip under the template at times!

Finally, I created another fabric collage with Mistyfuse. I got the idea from a photograph I had taken when we were in Scotland last of some small stones on a wall looking over the sea. It is the direction I am going to continue going forward. I used foil for the first time, plus some paint, beads, quilting, the whole gamut, in other words.

While I wait for a set of templates to arrive, I will continue to redesign this site with additional pages showcasing my past work.

Westalee Templates and Find your joy 2021

I haven’t done much in the past month, although I have watched numerous Youtube videos on Westalee template designs and reacquainted myself briefly with painting.


From having no Westalee templates for quilting at the beginning of May, I now have several! I have done several practice swatches with the first set I got on 6th May. The rulers themselves don’t come with many instructions, so Youtube is an excellent resource for teaching you how to use them.

My sewing machine was due for its tune-up and would be missing in action for what I thought it would be a while. It turned out to be just a couple of days. However, I invested in some ‘stitching’ discs made by the same company, Westalee. They enable you to draw out designs on paper with the required quarter-inch taken up by the sewing foot used for ruler work. Working on paper is also less expensive than just randomly quilting on a fabric sandwich. There is quite a learning curve like any form of quilting, but I am enjoying what I am doing so far. I am not gripping the template so much, and I can unclench my teeth occasionally.

Although my primary focus, at the moment, is quilting, I haven’t entirely given up on painting. Apart from watching mainly art history videos, I have also dipped in the videos by Louise Fletcher. As I was getting my sewing machine ready for the shop, I saw that she was doing a brief seven-day free taster course on Facebook. I thought, why not? So I joined up. It seems that was similar thought to a lot of people. There are 12,031 members in the group! It’s actually way too big to be instructive. The group is named ‘Find your joy taster 2021″ and is a very effective advertising plug for the 12-week course that follows, also led by Louise and her assistants.

I have no intentions of doing the following course, but the exercise I have done so far was OK. I didn’t quite get into my inner child. The 1st painting was very random, and I didn’t know what to make of it. You start by sectioning off the paper with tape, in this instance, into six. You begin to paint, using any medium you liked, over the whole sheet of paper (or whatever support you are using) and ignoring the sections. It was a timed piece, and although you could finish after five minutes, you must complete it in thirty minutes. Once you had finished, you removed the tape to reveal the six mini paintings. I didn’t feel any ‘joy’ in these small paintings. I did realise I am not fond of black. It was just too chaotic for my liking. It reminded me of some pictures I had seen in the Blanton museum by Joan Mitchell, which I never understood or liked!

I attempted the exercise again, and although I enjoyed the process more this time, I didn’t exactly keep within the exercise parameters. It was very obviously a flower painting, and on the reveal, it became a window with some flowers. I liked the individual sections more this time, and I enjoyed the marks made by the various tools I used.


I have yet to do the 2nd exercise. I keep putting it off. I have distracted myself by working with some new templates I received on Friday, made up a quilt sandwich to work on, and wrote this. I will admit I am a bit stuck. Fortunately, I didn’t pay for this ‘taster’; otherwise, I might have been a little disappointed, but hopefully, I will get something out of it. The instructor, Louise, is very good with her enthusiasm for playing with paint, which is why it has been so popular. Its a free week of painting exercises and for that I am grateful. I might or might not do the other exercises.

I must stop doing these courses and just trust my own instincts on where I am going.

Planning

I am not a good planner and I procrastinate a lot. Now we have decided to move back to Scotland; we need to downsize considerably! Although it will tug at our hearts to get rid of our book collection, that is relatively easy. We did that to come here and I still miss some of those books 20 yrs later. Art on the wall (not my work), equally easy. Just take the originals or get the kids to chose which ones they want. Two pieces might be an issue as they are both large and are artworks by my two daughters. I don’t think they want them. My biggest headache will be my artwork. I have stuff from high school, my foundation course and my degree course. Then I have the work I have made in 40 yrs since then! As I have never sold anything, I have been hoarding a lot of work, and I don’t want to get rid of it! But I will have to been strict with myself and burn work that really should have been gone a long time ago. It’s not as if I don’t have a record of my artwork; I have photographed (poorly) most of it already. Plus, I don’t think people will be clambering to get hold of them once I am dead and buried, much as I like to delude myself. Ah well, I have about 30- 34 months to get my sh## together

On the creative side, I have had a more productive month. I finished both of the Lisa Walton courses.

This is my piece for the Aurora course.

I was very happy with the outcome of this quilted piece. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed bead embroidery as I have been concentrating on teaching myself various quilting techniques over the last few years.

I also dyed my own fabric on this course, using it like paint, rather than immerse the cloth. I plan on doing more this month plus some indigo dyeing. I tried out bobbin work in some places. It was fine but I think I prefer to hand embroider to get a similar effect. Obviously its quicker, so I won’t say, never again. Finished size 19.75 x 14.5 inches (50 x 37 cm)

Fantastic Fusion

The next project was based more on a traditional quilt. By fusing the fabric before I cut it, the design became more flexible. As there were no seams, it wasn’t bulky and using Mistyfuse as the base made the result more like making your own fabric. I decided to free motion quilt the surface as if I was doodling on a page. There was only one area that didn’t work after I quilted it. I promptly unpicked it! Hopefully, not a mistake I will make again but I probably will. This piece ended up measuring 17.5 x 20.75 inches (44.5 X 53 cm) I finished it by facing the design, rather than do a traditional binding that is generally used in quilting. I also added hanging triangles so it could be hung on a wall. I also faced the Aurora piece like this, as seen above the Fantastic Fusion image.

I loved using Mistyfuse as a way of creating a design. I will continue to use it in conjunction with the painting of the fabric. I am feeling much more optimistic about this direction my work is going. I have already started another piece. As I listened to Kate Bryan’s podcast “How to be an artist”, I was mulling other ideas that were percolating in my brain.

Now I need to get the sketchbook out and work on those ideas. Yes, sketchbook, something I don’t use much. After Susan Shie’s class, I realised that although I couldn’t continue with that way of working, I need to use my sketchbook more to ramble around my brain.

I have hit a wall

And I don’t know how to pull myself out of it.

I think I am suffering from Covid fatigue. I can’t get myself motivated even though I have ideas and plans. It all seems a little pointless. Why have I hit this wall? Things are looking up. Both Gordon and I had our 1st Covid vaccinations. In six weeks, we will be able to go to a restaurant to eat. We will be able to walk outside without our masks. I should be feeling good, but I am not!

I should be happy as we have finally decided to move back to the UK once Gordon is retired. I have been pushing to do it for quite a few years, but after the election of T####, I became pretty depressed about staying in the USA. Gordon was not so sure about returning as all the family would still be here. Then this election came around. It should have made us feel better, but with the riots and the Republicans declaring themselves die-hard T#####rs, it just made us more dispirited. Feb was the breaking point with the winter storm that left us with no power for several days. It’s not as if things are going well in the UK. The Tories are dismantling the NHS bit by bit and the SNP is collapsing in on itself while still retaining power. No-one is even considering Labour, at the moment, in either country (England or Scotland). The difference is that I know this is just yet another turbulent time in UK history and we will get through it, even if Scotland does become independent. Who knows where the USA is heading?

I haven’t done much creatively. I finally finished my Oops quilt. This quilt started as my very 1st attempt at quilting about 2.5 yrs ago. It was a design from a book which was for beginners. I am hopeless at understanding or looking at processes in books. One of the reasons I am not a clothes makers is because I cannot fathom the pattern! I love the videos that are on YouTube and other platforms, as I can rewind them until I learn the correct way or alternative methods. After all the cutting of the fabric and grouping the pieces together, it is evident that it wouldn’t work. I put it aside and went to a class. A couple of quilts later, I decided to pull the Oops quilt apart and start over. It was never going to be a good quilt, but it looks better than it was.

My Oops quilt.

The only thing that remains of the original quilt design is the three rail blocks which as you can see, are all higgle Piggly. It is relatively small, but after not machine quilting for a while, I found it quite an effort pushing it through the machine’s throat and my lines are all over the place!

Tomorrow, I am determined to get over this wall of lethargy that has enveloped me these past few weeks. I have signed up for two online classes with Lisa Walton. The first one is called Aurora, which will include Fabric painting, beading, and bobbin work with different threads. The second class is called Fantastic Fusion. With the dyed fabrics plus batik cloth, we will design a quilt using fusible interfacing. My biggest issue is dyeing fabric. It scares the bejesus out of me! I am a messy painter, so I can only imagine how shambolic I will be with dyes.
The one thing I have been able to concentrate on during this period of inertia is discovering my family roots. I started it years ago but never really got that far. A family relative recently told me a story about the background of one of my very close relatives that didn’t ring true. I have been like a dog with a bone. The weird thing that has happened is that I have discovered a lot about that side of the family dating right back to the 1800s, but I cannot find more recent family information.
I am going to give it a break for now as I can’t take any more Jones (on at least two branches of my family), Barkers, Florence, William, Edward etc.

End of Year round up of my work for 2020

Well, this was going to be my last post of 2020 but it has taken so long, its now my 1st post of 2021. Happy New Year, everyone and good riddance to 2020. It got to be better this year, hasn’t it?

I have been quite active this year in my creative work. I have explored stitch mediation and various forms of quilting. I joined in with the first portrait artist of the week season. I painted a quilt! And I joined a zoom class for life drawing. It’s also been a year of heartbreak with the deaths of my Uncle in March from Covid, my ex daughter in law, Shelbie and my Dad in Oct. Also a world of heartbreak for so many reasons due to a virus that has felled so many as it thrives on our lack of respect for the world that is other than us.

There was no hint on the 1st Jan what lay ahead of us in the year to come.

Stitch Mediation Jan 17

I posted my 1st Instagram post for the year. I had been struggling to get back into my creativity after the holiday season. I usually find it difficult to find my rhythm after all the hectic pace of Christmas and New Year. Then I discovered a tag, #stitchmediation. So I gathered up a tote with odds and ends of scraps of material and thread. I posted my 1st one on 17th January and that got my year on the go.

I continued with these while doing other work up until April 19th when I couldn’t continue as it was too emotional. On 15th April, my ex daughter in law committed suicide in the most brutal of ways, by shooting herself in the head. I always knew she has issues but I never expected this. The torment she must had been feeling to do such a thing, is still incomprehensible to me. You would have never known the deep anguish she was suffering underneath her beautiful stunning eyes and amazing smile. Her death was the one that hurt the most this year and still does. She was so young, only 29.

Shelbie and Alan on their wedding day.
Such a bright beautiful smile, hiding the darkness that finally took you. My ex daughter in law took her own life on April 15 2020. See her poetry at Instagram @sjaires91

Sunflower collage Jan 18

I took, what turned out to be my 1st and only class, at the Honeybees Fabric store. It wasn’t a success as it wasn’t what I expected. But I hate to give up something. I didn’t do much with it again until September 19th. It just didn’t resonate with me. I attached it to a painted background and tried some embroidery on it. Still nothing! Then I decided to clear some of stuff in my art room that I would never use again and came across some large hexies I had started probably about 2 yrs ago. I was never going to do anything with them. So I had the idea of attaching them to the cloth. There were about 8 of them and I used 6 in the end. I also added some tulle and some indigo dyed cotton at the top to cover the paint I had there. Then I stitched them all to the fabric. Still zilch! it was a disaster. That when I decided to chop it up randomly. I ended up with a very thick square that I quite liked. I tried to machine quilt it but that was a mistake as it was too thick even with a walking foot. By that point, the Christmas season was about to start, so it is still unquilted but I will hand quilt it in the New Year.

Finished Pat Sloan Winter Fun quilt top Jan 21

I finished this quilt top and that is exactly as it is now as I although I have a backing fabric, it was not yet been quilted. Another task to finish and I will do it early in the new Year.

Pat Sloan’s winter fun quilt top.

Started quilting Happy Blocks Feb 2

I had made this quilt top in a class at Honeybees in June/July 2019. It was quite a daunting challenge to quilt as it was by the far the biggest I had quilted. I decided to used it as a sampler quilt so each block combination (12 x 2) had it own design and I was going to do it using a walking foot only. I even drew out some of the designs. Others were freeform. I finally finished it on July 3rd. I was very pleased with it.

Made 1st Mask Mar 21

News of a new contagious type of flu in China, started to filtered through to the world towards the end of Jan. By the end of February, it was apparent this was a very serious illness and I was getting worried about my trip to the UK, that I had been planning since before Christmas 2019. By now, people in Italy was were dying in ever increasing numbers and it was only a matter of time before it got here or the UK. Unbeknownst to us, it had been circulating around the world for several months before Christmas 2019. It is generally assumed that it came from China but who really knows. Yes, it was discovered in Wuhan when it became widespread but it had been out in the wild for several months by then, it will be difficult to trace the real origins of it. Much like the so called “Spanish” flu in 1918 which was attributed to Spain because they were 1st to identify the flu because they were not part of the war in 1917. Now they think it came from a farm in Kansas and soldiers from the USA spread it amongst the battle fields of WW1

The Chinese government had been monitoring pneumonia outbreaks with the help of the US for several years due to the SARS virus a few years back. The Trump government decided pull out of that agreement in July 2019. But the Chinese government kept up with their research which is why this virus was discovered. Yes, they tried to hide the fact, which they should be held accountable for but they shared the DNA fairly quickly which is why we now have several potentially successful vaccines. They also did what western countries couldn’t do, shut down a whole city full of millions of people.

I was due to fly to London with Juniper on 12th March. I was going to surprise my Dad for his 84th Birthday but nursing homes residents were already locked down by the beginning of March, so I wouldn’t have been able to see him. On March 7th, it was obvious, this was a bad idea with people dying worldwide by now of this new virus, so I cancelled my trip. The day I was due to arrived , London went into lockdown. Juniper finished school on 11th March and has never been back in person since. On the 26th March, my Uncle Lew passed away from Covid. He was 90 yrs old. On the 30th April, my eldest daughter was laid off from her State job due to cuts in government spending. Of course, this being TX the environmental groups and the agency that implements those rules, would be one of the first departments to be cut. She is still unemployed despite applying for too many jobs to count but fortunately she and Juniper are living with us, so she won’t become homeless like millions of others will in the coming months. This virus has been devastating in all respects of life.

I made a few masks at the beginning of the pandemic, mainly because I was asked by my future son-in-law, who works in the pharmacy of one of the bigger hospitals in Austin. I soon realised I was better off with the paper surgical masks as cloth masks in the Texas heat are unbearable. The paper ones are not much better but its better than dying.

Covid drawing April 14

My one and only covid drawing. It was done in my journal which has become sort of redundant since we have been stuck in the house of the last 9 months. I am looking forward to going to restaurants and going to the movies once its safe.

Finished “Why” an improv Quilt Aprl 19

I started in July 2019 and I finally put on a binding on it.

Joined an online Zoom Life drawing class April 23

In April I was invited by my friend to join a life drawing group run by Hackney Wick Life drawing group (Instagram @hwlifedrawing) which was doing zoom sessions for the duration of the pandemic. Little did they know it would be still be going right up to Christmas and probably well into 2021. I stopped around August as I get too flustered and anxiety ridden when I can’t move around a room and examine the model from different aspects. Its poor excuse I know.πŸ˜₯

Sky arts Started their Portrait of the week April 28

By the end of April, people were getting more inventive about ways of doing things that couldn’t be done in the normal way. Sky artist of the Year, had been due to start as their normal yearly contest but obviously with the continuing lockdown, that wasn’t possible. So they moved it to Facebook where one of the previous winners would paint a famous personality over a 4 hour period via a live stream. Viewers were invited to paint along and submit their paintings to be judged. They had additional 4 days when the Judges would chose the best ones submitted via Instagram. I was never picked😭, not even for their honourable mention wall and a top 3 were chosen by the judges. The standard of painting was amazing, to be honest. By the end of the 9 weeks, there were 1000’s of artists, professional, amateurs and children participating from all over the world. It must have been challenging to look at so many paintings of the same person! They did do another season but I decided not to take part this time around, I was busy doing the Quirky Creatures quilt by then. Maybe the next time, once my wounded pride has healed.πŸ˜‚πŸ€£

Started Quirky Collections Quilt July 9

I had come across the work of Helen Godden on YouTube a while ago and I thought this would an easy project. No piecing, you simply paint the design with Lumiere paints and then quilt each block as you go. I really didn’t appreciate how big this quilt was. Not quite as big as the Building blocks but very large for a wall hanging! I am rapidly running out of wall space. But I really enjoyed this project and it made me look at fabric collage again. I finished in record time for me by Sept 2. But at the end of it, I resolved not to make any more large quilted pieces.

Made my first project using the project provided by Brother scan n cut

On July 16 I got my Brother scan and cut for my birthday which was not really until August but it was the last machine available locally. I had seen it in a local store just before the pandemic started and thought at the time, this would be great for future mixed media projects. I have not yet used it to its full potential but I am looking forward to experimenting with it in 2021.

My Dad died Oct 12

I had been due to see my Dad in March 2020 for his 84th birthday and for him to meet, Juniper, his great-grand-daughter. He has met her before but Juniper was too young to remember. I knew this would probably be my last chance to see him as he had deteriorated a lot since my Mum died in Sept 2018. He had lived with my sister for the past 3 yrs but he could no longer manage the stairs to get to his bedroom or toilet, so he moved into the nursing home in Jan 2020. After 5 months of being locked in his room due to Covid, his health had deteriorated even more quickly. So I wasn’t surprised when my sister let us know he had been taken to hospital with a chest infection which then turned in pneumonia. Fortunately he was surrounded by the love of my 2 sisters, Sarah and Julie as he passed away from this life, never ever gaining consciousness again. Of course, due to covid I wasn’t able to attend his funeral but I was able to watch and grieve with my sisters via video. He was 84, an age we never thought he would achieve as he retired with ill health on his 59th birthday. He was determined to be with my Mum right to the end after she was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA)and he was there for her all the time. I think seeing his youngest great grand-daughter Ava who was born just before my Mum died, was the factor that kept him going much longer than expected afterwards. Family was always very important to him. Losing that contact at the beginning of March was probably the last straw.

A portrait of my Dad that I made during my foundation year at Camberwell.
Juniper with my Dad when she about 11 months old. Mum and Dad were living in France at the time.

Started spiral collage Nov 5

I have seen Susan Carlson work on the Quilting Arts program which is show on PBS on Saturday morning and it was the sort of painterly way I wanted to approach fabric collage, not the applique way I had been shown in Feb. I also had the book where she has this exercise but I tend to work better if I see it in action. On her site, she had some short videos to guide you through the process. Going through my fabric stash, I realised I don’t have lot of textural fabrics or large flowery prints, so I was finding it hard to do the spiral when out of the blue, a friend offered me a huge bag of exactly those type of fabrics. It took longer than I expected but I loved the outcome, unlike the sunflower πŸ˜₯ In the end it took me about 3 weeks although I still have to bind it yet. I plan to do another as you can never have enough spirals.

Started advent drawings Dec 2

For the past few years, I have counted down the days to Christmas by posting Christmas themed work on Instagram. The aim is post each day but I rarely managed that as I would try to do something that was too big or complex to finish in one day. At first I wasn’t going to do it this year, but then I came across one of drawings from a previous year. It was late on Dec 1, so rather than rush a drawing, I used that one (Santa with UK/USA flag). After that I decided to stick to one small sketch book and only use the materials on my drawing/sketch table. Also they had to very simple drawings. I managed to do 22.5 drawings. I ran out of time on Christmas eve, too many things to do. So I used a painting I did in 2010! The half done drawing is still on my table!

I think next year, I will do one for each Sunday of Advent

Christmas sacks and other things.

My scan n cut came into use in December when I decided to make Christmas sacks for everyone. First I practised on a t shirt for my grand-daughter as I hadn’t really used the heat transfer vinyl that much.

I got the idea from the software Brother provides. Instead of just using the symbols , I though I would place them down the t-shirt with the corresponding word beside. As you can see from the photo, I got the words the wrong way around. I don’t play the game, in my defence πŸ˜‚πŸ€£ Anyway it gave me practice of layering on top of my mistake. My grand-daughter was delighted with the result.

Then I got a request to make a stocking for a friend’s baby’s 1st Christmas. I had made one for her daughter when she was a baby but it was in the style I had made for year’s. This year I decided to change up the style as I could use HTV for his name for the name instead of cross stitch as I have done in the past. I was very happy with the result.

Finished all sacks on Dec 19

My final task before Christmas was to make Christmas sacks as the stockings, which are like the one’s above are just too small to cope with the ‘big’ small gifts we give to each other after Christmas dinner. Even with the sacks, there were 2 large gifts that were too big for the sacks. 🀨 I did some YouTube searching and adapted a couple of ideas to suit my needs. I even learn how to make boxed corners, some day I will be a sewerπŸ˜‰ I was very pleased with the end result!

1st Digital drawing 27th Dec

Finally Christmas arrived and my gift from my son was digital drawing tablet, a Gaomon M106K Pro with pen. I have tried out digital drawing several times over the years. My old Samsung tablet has a touch sensitive drawing pen but I found all the drawing software programs very daunting with all their brushes, icon etc. I even had one of the first Wacom tablet about 15 yrs ago. At that time, it seem to be directed many towards people who drew Manga type paintings which is definitely not my thing.

Anyway I am determine to crack this nut this year and have downloaded Krita which is a free open source program and recommended for beginners. If I get the hang of it, I might be tempted to try out Corel Paint again. Its still overwhelming when you first dive in. Fortunately, they have quite a few Youtube videos for beginners.

Going forward

I am going to teach myself the digital drawing by daily practice, much like you would if you were using any other drawing/painting media.

I am starting a drawing class with quilt artist Susan Shie ( http://www.turtlemoon.com) called Lucky drawing 149 on Sunday. I want to get back into the habit of drawing but not from life necessarily. I want to spread my wings. The class description is :

Class format: Freehand drawing class, taught in a very radical style: guidance and inspiration without how-to’s, step-by-steps, or judgment. All assignments can be done, changed, or ignored. Positive feedback discussions of drawings posted by all. Drawings done in large, hardbound sketchbooks, with any freehand drawing supplies.

So I am not really sure what I am I letting myself in for but if it anything like her own work, it will be inspiring. I have been a fan of her work for a long long time so when I saw this class was available I decided throw caution to the wind and signed up.

I will continue my exploration of quilts but more small size art quilts like “Why” which I did in 2019 and the spiral collage in Nov. I am going to make a book or books of the stitch mediations I did early on in the year. At the moment, they are just in pile on my drawing table. I might get back to them at some point. Especially if I have an artistic block which I tend to suffer from a lot! It definitely kickstarted me back into action last year.

I might do some painting but its not a high priority at the moment, although I always enjoy painting when I do it. Basically I will be doing what I do best, go where the wind goes and trust my instincts.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Apologies for such a long post. Apologies for such a long post.

Spiral Fabric Collage

I am having one of my regular artistic blocks which isn’t helped by this pandemic. Each day rolls into the next, so I have to mark a cross on the calendar to check which day it is.

I am also trying to sort out all the thousands of digital photos I have on various hard drives. It’s very confusing. I have used photoshop elements for years but only recently took a course on how to use and manage it. The first thing I did was disable the watch files which are linked to Onedrive and Amazon. Before that I would see a pop up downloading from such and such app and stop it but not until several photos were downloaded. I have ended up with so many duplicates. PSE has got a program for duplicates but its not very smart, to be honest. I think mainly because the file names have changed, so it uses visually similar comparisons. You can’t beat a human eye in those circumstances. None of the online cloud programs seem to have a solution for duplicate images either. So far I have deleted about 4000 images because they were duplicates or other reasons ie a photo of your meal for instagram. I don’t do that anymore. I am planning on having it complete by 12/31/2020, to start the year afresh! Then I have sort through all the old photos that we have and the ones from my parents. Unfortunately a lot of them lack names, dates or location. This is why I decide to sort out my digital disaster. That way, in the distance future, my kids will have a reasonable record to wade through. Not until 2021 though!

A while back, I decided I wanted to explore fabric collage. Much as I have enjoyed the quilt making, there are limits such how many quilts can a person have. I am not good enough to sell them and my family is small, so sharing is not an option. Even before I started doing traditional quilts, I wanted to make art quilts/wall hangings. Fabric collage seems to fit into my broad spectrum of art work. I did attend a workshop at the beginning of the year, oh that seems like another age ago but I wasn’t happy with the result. I am currently working on it and I am still not happy with it! It was too basic and was basically applique with scraps of fabric. I want to create a whole image.

I had seen the work of Susan Carlson. Unlike my work, it is monumental in scale but seems to be more inline with my way of seeing things. On her website, I saw she had a eworkshop where she explained her process by using a simple spiral. I signed up and started the Spiral Eworkshop. It was much harder than I expected! I realised my fabric collection which I thought was reasonable was not. It was lacking in lots of respects, in its variety, pattern, colour and tone. As I was about to go fabric shopping, a friend step up with a huge bag of scraps. She is much more adventurous with her choice of colours and patterns. I still had to shop for some tulle for quilting. Within days, I had finished the project. I plan to make another spiral before I progress further.

Now I have to figure out what I will do with the original sunflower collage which doesn’t look much like a sunflower. I am going to chop it up and rearrange it. I don’t like it, so I might as well experiment. Here is how it looks at the moment.

WIP

I am also going to work on a pet portrait. I signed up for a workshop by Lea McComas. Her style is very different from Susan Carlson and uses digital imagery. Susan Carlson does also but in different way. Lea McComas uses fusible backing rather than glue to place the fabric and her fabric choices are not bright or patterned because she uses different threads, colours and weight, on a sewing machine to enhance the image. As I am wading through my 20 yrs of photos I am trying to find a suitable photo of any of our pets. Again, harder than you think, especially if you have a black or grey cat. Once I have selected the photo, resized and posterized, I will need to get it printed. With the pandemic getting worse by the day, I will get it done online to reduce my risk of catching covid. By the New Year, I should have the enlarged posterized photo and the fabric I want to use.

At end of 2021, I will be doing my own fabric collage, using my photos. I have collected scores of photos over the years, on visits to Scotland,France, London and Texas. Once I have sorted out my catalogue, I will finally be able to use them for what they were intended for. In the meantime, I have a lot of learning to embrace. Until a few years back, I didn’t know a thread had a weight!

How has your Pandemic being going?

Up to now I have been active in a creative sense. With my husband working from home, I don’t like to do housework while he is working other than the basics. That suits me fine as I hate housework. So while the house disintegrates around me from lack of attention, I have been been playing in the art room. Sometimes, I forget about even the basic stuff! Unfortunately, I have now hit a bump in the road. I am struggling to work out what to do. Instead I am writing this blog post, in the hope it might jog my brain back into shape. I am sure I was brimming with ideas in the middle of all this chaos.

Example of a spiral design with a walking foot
drawing design for tumbling blocks on a quilt. Done with a walking foot
Full quilt called Happy Blocks, All quilting done by walking foot.
The finished quilt.

Above are a couple of the quilted blocks and the completed quilt called Happy Blocks. I started the quilt at the HoneyBees Quilt stores in 2019. I decided to quilt it all with a walking foot. Although I had used a walking foot, I hadn’t completely explored this way of quilting before . I got ideas from 2 books.

Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day. Walk: Master machine Quilting with your walking foot by Jacquie Gering. Both are excellent guides but I found the Jacquie Gering, the most useful.

It was definitely a challenge getting a large quilt through my machine throat, a Juki DX7 but I did it!

Finished block from design of tumbling Blocks. Quilting done by walking foot

I have not done life drawing for several years because there isn’t much available in the area. Also, the one place where they have regular sessions has no natural light. Artificial lights flatten out the shadows and forms I find, plus, I like real light. I should add I am very reluctant to go out most days and the older I get, the worse I get. Regardless, I am always up to a challenge!

Through a friend on Instagram, I was able to join a zoom group for life drawing. It was hosted by the Hackney Wick Life drawing group based in London (@hwlifedrawing ). I enjoyed it most of the time. I am not the best student for life drawing. I get very frustrated with my lack of ability. The models were very patient with all the instructions as they posed. Some could keep very still and others couldn’t stop moving! I am not good with moving subjects, so that was a challenge. Also the models were based in their own space which were either cramped or the light was poor. In one instance, the model almost completely disappeared as the sun when down.

The other things have been exploring are videos on Youtube. Many have been how to videos but I have also been enjoying all the art history videos that are available. At the moment, I am watching a series of videos called Perspective. These written and led by British art historian Waldemar Januszczak. He makes me dizzy with all his rushing around from one painting to another. His presentation though is very informative and absorbing.

I have also watched lectures by the National Gallery in London done before the pandemic hit. “Travels with a curator”, led by Chief Curator Xavier F. Salomon of the Frick Collection is also very informative and interesting.

By time the pandemic finished, my art history should be pretty well rounded if I can remember any of it!

Am I a artist, a quilter or a Hobbyist?

Post from my Wix website which I could never really get going. Decided to transfer back to this website. Posted on May 20th 2020.

I will admit I have been avoiding working on this new site as it scares me as it seems more professional than WordPress. With this lockdown, I have no excuse not to learn how to use it! As the numbers in Texas are still rising, I will not be socialising for while yet.
Today I listened to a podcast for quilters which was on the subject of whether you are an artist or a quilter? Podcast is “Quilt and Tell”. In most cases, that would be considered a simple answer as most quilters,I know, follow a pattern to make the quilt top and then pass it on to a person to quilt the top on a specialty quilting machine called a long arm quilting machine which can do free motion stitching or computer created stitching .
However, there are is whole army of people who quilt who I would call artists. They tend to make wall hangings and are just as varied in their subject matter as any other art form. I went to the Modern Quilt convention held in Austin Feb 2020 and was blown away by the amount of art I saw there. It was inspiring and to be honest, quite daunting.

Where to now by Rima Trew.About the Zimbabwe elections in 2018 where 6 people were shot dead by government troops. The 7th dot represents the death of democracy.

Our House is on Fire by the Field Trip Quilters This about climate change and inspired by Greta Thunberg.

No-one is Free by the Portland Modern Quilt Guild.This was in response to the Trump era of locking up and deporting children seeking asylum in the USA. The words are by MLK.

Gateway by Debbie Grifken, Ann Arbor MI.This was inspired by a photograph of some rustic fencing at the Palace of Versailles. I love the fact that with all the gaudy beauty of this enormous palace, the artist was inspired by some old fencing that surrounded the ‘outdoor’ rooms in the garden. A gateway to mystery and intrigue.


I started quilting a brief year ago after going to quilts shows since I first moved to Texas in 2000 and I have a long way to go before I am at that level of professional work. At the moment I am working on a quilt top I made in a class last year. It sort of follows a pattern in that you take 2 x 12″ squares, cut them up , make them into 2 different blocks. Repeat for however many blocks you want to make. Mine is 4 blocks a row x 6 and is called Happy Blocks.

And that is the beauty of quilting, you may be working on the same design concept as the person next to you but it will never be the same as the fabric and size of block choice comes into play. Below is a quilt made in the same way as mine above. Chalk and cheese!

Do I consider it art though, no, its definitely a craft unlike the art quilts I saw at Quiltcon.
Definition of craft: skill in making things especially with the hands. 2 : an occupation or trade requiring skill with the hands or as an artist. So a painter could technically be called a craft person but I suspect most would reject that definition.
I have made a few small wall hanging over the year as I progressed with learning to quilt. This is the reason I got into quilts as I saw it as way of displaying some work I had made a few years back. These I would consider art, not craft, as they are all individual and unique but then each quilt I have made has also been individual and unique to me, so where is the divide? In my mind, basically!
Definition of an artist:

1a: one who professes and practices an imaginative art

b: a person skilled in one of the fine arts

So what am I? An artist or a quilter? Apparently one of the presenters was told if they hadn’t sold anything, then they weren’t an artist. That seems like a pretty narrow definition and would mean that Van Gogh wasn’t an artist. I liked the end of the discussion where one of the guests said they were neither a quilter or artist but a creative!
I would add the word Hobbyist as well. Definition: an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation: I might well come into that category as I swing from painting, embroidery, bead embroidery and now quilting, next year I might try my hand at sculpting again! Anything that will convey what I want to express artistically, but it has never been my main occupation. That has been Mother, trailing spouse, Grandmother and wife. However, I strive to be recognised for my work without success as I have regularly posted images of my work on various social media sites like Instagram and Facebook. I have my own domain name and write infrequent blogs on my art work
So I am a CREATIVE!

I will be back in the New Year

Just a quick post to say I will be back in the New Year after an 18 month break.

My plans for the blog are that I will continue to  add what I am working on as I do them but in the main it will become focused on my life as as artist, beginning with my first embroidery which, in a sense, makes a full circle of my work so far. A biography in other words as no one else is going to write it.  I will be honest, its only recently that I have used the word ‘artist’ for myself as I make no attempt to sell my work or show my work other than via this blog and Instagram. It seemed too grand a title for what has been a rather stop start stop approach to my work.  There were years, especially when my kids were younger that I didn’t do anything creative other than paint kids faces or make birthday cakes.  Art has always been part of my life though, so I thought I should record its progress from its earliest days when I didn’t even know that being an artist was possible, through the college years, etc to present day. Turning 60 in August 2017, really was a turning point, although life does intrude, as it always will.  Now though, I am accepting that and hoping I can get another good 20 yr or so, just enjoying what I do. 

2018 was productive in the sense I realised that I needed to stop putting on pressure on myself for not being ‘productive’. ie not painting. I took an almost complete break from painting and plein air painting. Instead I focused on what I enjoyed doing which at the moment,is learning to quilt and free motion quilting. I am sure it will eventually tie in with my other creative practices.  Until I actually learn how to do it properly though, quilting is what I am focused on.  I am also going to do a class (with actual people) on how to dye my own fabric in March.  I did a bit of that when I attempted the online course in 2016 and did some mono printing. From that I learnt online courses are not really my ‘thing’ and that I enjoyed making my own cloth. Youtube, however, is a great way of learning all sorts of stuff! I am also going to do a couple of quilting classes from the experts at one of the local quilting stores. 
Keep tuned. Hoping to make this a regular thing this year. 

20181013_172619
learning to free motion quilt via Leah Day’s Building Blocks Quilt-As-You-Go Sampler Quilt which you can find on Youtube.