Thursday, January 31, 2008

Chocolate Love

or "what happens to chocolate when it comes into my house!"

This little piece has given me so many fits and starts. The final work is nothing like my original plan. In fact, this is the second piece that I have made, but I won't show the first.

Here is what I did. I first scanned some indigo shibori and turned it to chocolate colors. This became my background. I then took photos of some Valentine candy. Me, being me, the candy did not stay uneaten for long. So, I decided to take photos of the aftermath. I then put on some nice red lipstick and kissed a piece of paper and scanned it. These photos and the lips were photoshopped to give them less of a "photo" look. I then collaged everything in Illustrator.

I ironed some silk charmeuse to freezer paper. The first piece printed quite well, but I didn't like the result. It was on a grid and the quilting just didn't work. So I set up the shibori background to be all linear and not in a grid and reprinted. I kept getting little bits of stray black ink on the fabric. After 3 tries, I gave up and went to bed last night feeling quite weary and upset.

As often happens to me, the problem became and epiphany. I knew why I was not liking the piece, and I knew that the solution would camouflage the ink stains. I made some thermofax screens of the words, chocolate, love, bittersweet and chocoholic. I printed lips in lots of different sizes on organza. Then I went to work adding lips and words, and I came up with a piece that makes me smile and that I am not embarrassed to share with everyone. It still has little bits of drips and doodles that I wish were not there, but the overall design seems to hide them.

Chocolate Desire

Okay, I have to admit this one was a struggle for me. So many emotions and desires that I wanted to capture. Chocolate -- so sensual! How to capture that. Although I tried, I couldn't get away from brown. Since my fabric stash of brown is absolutely nonexistant, I found all my brown (or even brownish) paints and went to work. First, I quilted fabric with a sprial quilting pattern, then painted and finally cut and pieced the piece. The geometric pattern reminded me of a box of chocolates fill with variety.

I figured I must have done something right when I asked my daughter what the quilt made her think of and she answered, "Those chocolates that we had the sample of at Costco that I really want." If the quilt says "Lindt truffles" than I must have captured what I was after. The sensation of truffle melting in my mouth IS Chocolate to me.

Choco Latte

I love dark chocolate. And I love looking at fancy chocolates through a candy store display case. They all look so decadent and artistic and expensive.

chocolate art quilt
I'm not a normal coffee drinker. I don't like just plain old coffee. I love lattes and especially mocha lattes. That brings me to my quilt. The word chocolate could have been chocolatte. Just missing one 't'.

The background and border on my quilt are fabric. The rest is painted. My first attempt was to try this in all fabric, but after a while I gave up and just pulled out the paints and brushes and went to town.

Cacao y canela

When the chocolate theme was announced the first thing I thought of was our wonderful trip, last February, to Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca is famous for chocolate and the aroma of chocolate pours out of doorways on the street where all the chocolate shops are located. Inside the shops cacao beans are dumped into hoppers that grind them into raw chocolate that is made into mole sauces, bars of chocolate, and whipped into hot milk, garnished with a cinnamon stick. Cacao y canela (chocolate and cinnamon) was the drink of the Aztecs and Mayans and is the sweet perfume of Oaxaca.

The "chocolate" theme gave me an excuse to indulge my love of Mexican Talavera pottery, as the chocolate must be served in something fitting! The mug is my own design, using elements of several different Talavera pieces that I own. And the background tile is based on the tile we just had laid in our new house. It was great fun to put this piece all together!

Still LIfe Without Chocolate

This challenge took me all over the place. I played around with so many different ideas (like many of you, a box of chocolates, a piece of cake, cupcakes...). I doodled and photographed chocolate in all sorts of forms, and brainstormed chocolate-related concepts until I had lists of ideas.

And then it hit me -- because we are chocolate lovers around here, chocolate doesn't last long in this house. And that led to the idea of illustrating chocolate just having been eaten.

So here is my empty chocolate wrapper. I call this "Still Life Without Chocolate." The Americans among you might recognize this as the debris from a mini Reese's peanut butter cup!

This was machine appliqued, then further embellished with paint, pastel crayons, and additional stitching.
This red one is actually version #3. You might recall my tale of having gotten ALMOST done and then doing ONE LITTLE THING that, to my mind, ruined the piece. I started out with the wrappers on a blue field (version #1), and after I ruined it, I cut away the wrappers and appliqued them onto another background. So here is version #2.
There was something about the crispness of the images on a print fabric, versus a mottled fabric that looks more painterly to me, which is why I moved on to version #3. But I do like this one, too.
And all this messing around gave me some good practice creating the look of foil with metallic fabric.
The added irony is that in recent days, a very minor health issue has popped up which prevents me from eating ANY CHOCOLATE AT ALL. So it's probably a good thing I've visually overdosed during this challenge!

Cocoa Beans

This was a very hard topic for me! I wanted to be a little untraditional, and go right to the source of the subject, and I really wanted to avoid using brown. The bean in the upper right corner appears brown here, but in person it is really a dark orange.

I used hand-dyed cotton/silk blend for all the fabrics, couched some yarn around the edge of each one, then did some hand stitching to finish it off.

Soft Centre

What a challenge this theme of "Chocolate" was! My goodness, Francoise, you really chose a tricky one and had me thinking hard!I agonised for weeks and weeks.
Eventually the many months of Jude's influence bubbled to the surface and I knew what I wanted to do. Jude's loving hand-stitches and gently rumpled fabrics floated through my thoughts. I remembered some pieces of cotton velvet that I had in the cupboard. I handpainted this piece with silk paints until it reminded me of all my favourite soft centres - strawberry, raspberry, boysenberry and a smidge of orange.

Soft Centre
The background is pieced together from all the fragments of chocolate brown fabric in my scrap basket. There are curves in those seams to make the most of each piece - never a crumb of chocolate should be wasted! The velvet was reverse appliqued behind the background, the edges of the brown turned under and whip-stitched with six strands of hand- dyed floss. Every stitch was as yummy as a bite of chocolate!
It had to be hand-quilted to make the rumples truly rumple, so I used embroidery floss and a large, uneven stitch to make curvy lines of quilting. I was so pleased with way the velvet lifted and formed gentle folds.
The little heart in the corner came last! It is satin-stitched in place and then triple-stitched on each side of the satin-stitch. One of my current loves/obsessions is little tags and brandings and labels, snuck into corners of things. This heart is a reference to those and also a reminder that the quilt is a love-note to Soft Centres from Me.
In the end, I am so happy with this little quilt. Thank you, Francoise, I would never have made it without you! (and you, too, Jude xx)

More photos and construction info on my blog, twolimeleaves.

Someone has to be first

The long wait is over. The date above may well be shown as 31 January but, here in Australia, it is Friday, 1 February and I present to you my trio of quilts:
Organic Chocolate
This theme is near and dear to my heart. When Francoise announced the theme, I was immediately inspired by the lines in the large tablets of chocolate that often make their way into my grocery basket. And just as it can be difficult to choose in the supermarket aisles, I'm trying to work out which of the trio - white, milk or dark (individually clickable) - should go forward into the Twelve by Twelve collection. I have a preference but I'd be interested to know what others think. I've put a survey in the sidebar so that you can cast a vote.

PS: Your choice of quilt does not need to match your chocolate preference.

Update: Here are the final results of the three day poll. On its own, I prefer "Milk Chocolate" but I agree that "Dark Chocolate" fits in better with the Twelve by Twelve collection.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

So there I was... an italian coffee house (chain) on the high street in Heidelberg, Germany, drinking my Bicerin, when I realized I was drinking what once was probably a very upper crust european drink. I didn't think to photograph it before I mixed up all the luscious milk foam on the top with the espresso on the bottom and the very thick, velvety chocolate in the middle -- sorry. I can tell you that it was quite delicious and worth trying. Not cloyingly sweet, but sinfully rich. When I "Googled" it, I found out that yes, the drink has been around a while. It sort of ties in to my quilt too (and oddly, so does the coffee company's website intro), which is fun. Also fun was messing around with my photo in Photoshop. I like this posterized version.

I'm looking forward to Friday!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

You've got mail!

I got a nice email today from a stranger in England. Here's what she wrote, in part:

"Hi, I have just joined a contemporary quilt group and one of our members
said to have a look at the "12 x12" Looking through at the lovely work I felt
I just had to e.mail and say thank you for being so very generous with your
knowledge. We have been issued with a journal quilt challenge 12x12 and
although a little apprehensive I think I will probably have a go. Isn't the
internet a wonderful tool this will be the first time I have e.mailed
somebody in the United States but felt so inspired by all your work. I am
trying to get more computer literate along with lots of other things.
My computer is quite old and I don't have a scanner yet but I am
getting there!
By the way I am a grandmother with nine grandchildren. I have 1
elderly horse (27 yrs) and three ponies which keep me pretty busy.
I used to do endurance riding but had a hip replacemtnt last May so had
to stop riding but who knows what the future holds!
I just thought I ought to share this lovely message with the rest of you.
By the way, my chocolate quilt is finished! Woo hoo!

Chocolate Shibori

I thought I would give you all a sneak peak at what may appear in my chocolate piece.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chocolate mess

So I was working on my chocolate piece. It was close to done. (Feel the impending doom lurking in that little word "was?" Clever literary foreshadowing in my part, huh?) I was really happy with it ... it was looking better than I'd envisioned when I started out, even.

But there was ONE little thing bothering me. Should I try to change it? Should I leave it be?

I decided to let it sit on the wall for a bit. I took a few pictures, to see it from a distance. I messed around with Photoshop, to see if I could create the effect of the change I was considering and decide that way.

I emailed a photo to a friend and asked her advice. She said, "Leave it, it's great as is."

Did I listen?

Um, no.

I thought, I'll just do this one TEENY TINY thing, ever so carefully. And then I got a bit more confident. Hmmm... I'll just do THIS....

Uh oh. Problem I didn't anticipate, and it's (to me) glaringly obvious.

I tried to make it disappear. (Hah, you say, fat chance.)

I took pictures, thinking that maybe from a different perspective it'd look better and/or not noticeable.


I thought, Okay. Calm down. This could be a good opportunity to do something really creative. After I finish hyperventilating, that is.

I messed around with various ideas for about an hour, feeling more and more annoyed and unhappy.

Finally, I reached for the scissors. A drastic overhaul was necessary. So, more cutting, more stitching, different fabric, more stitching...

And now it's up on the wall and I'm uncertain but I think I'm back to where I started, basically. I AM NOT GOING TO TOUCH IT FOR 24hours.

I am taking a break from it and alcohol WILL be involved.

Wow, we are inspiring people!

This morning I was reading my favorite blogs and discovered this post at Wednesday's Child. Joanne is following along with our challenge and doing her own 12 x 12 "chocolate" challenge quilt. It pleased me no end to think that our little project is inspiring other people in their work.

Yesterday Joan Samuelson posted on the Quiltart list that she was making 12 x 12 journal quilts and cited our group, along with Jeanne Williamson as her inspiration.

Isn't that great? And humbling? And a little bit exciting? Maybe we should add some links to our sidebar. Are there other artists who are doing their own 12 x 12 quilts following along with our themes?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Research above and beyond

I would like you to know that I -- with family members as willing aides -- have undertaken extensive research on the current theme.

You have to have a clear overview of the subject ...

And also look quite close to study the details.

It's a question of seeing the forest AND each tree, you see.

And research can involve other senses, too...

Like taste, for example.

Let no one say I lack dedication to my art.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Open or Secret?

Francoise and I had an email exchange recently where we got to talking about how everyone has kept their processes very quiet this time around, after some discussion and sharing ahead of time last time. I know that from my point of view, seeing the final quilts revealed was so exciting and fun, and all the more because I had no idea what everyone was going to do.

And this time, my own silence has been in part because I've been so unfocused and uncertain, and in part because I didn't want to start leaning one way or another because of what someone else would do. And, of course, I'm susceptible to being intimidated by the vast amount of creativity here.

But at any rate, Francoise and I were thinking that it was curious how we've all refrained from posting anything that might show the ideas we're exploring or the processes we're using. It adds to the mystery and excitement, but it does hamper the sharing and learning and discussion all along that could be really fun. Maybe we could use the challenge and group experience to learn from each other and develop different ideas than we'd do alone, or get suggestions and try some new things because of input from someone else.

So I had an idea: For the next challenge period, would you all be willing to try an "open" process? No secrets--we'd blog on the list about our thought processes and research and ideas and work in progress... It'd be, of course, less mysterious and surprising at the end, but maybe we'd find that it'd be more conducive to learning and spring-boarding to other ideas and processes?

I thought if we tried it totally open one time, that might give us an idea for how we want to proceed in the future....not that it has to be all one way or the other, and not that we can't each do what we want individually anyway, but I thought it might be useful to see how you all feel about the topic generally and maybe try an all-out "open" challenge next time to see where that takes us...

So, what do you all think???

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Some progress

Just a little peek... The quilt top is done. I couldn't help going back to one of my favourite color schemes... But I also used some of the chocolate fabrics that I dyed in December (or was it in November?)
And now I'm in quilting mode...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

And the next challenge theme...

While some of us are still working on our chocolate quilts (ahem), I thought I'd remind everyone that as we're progressing alphabetically, Kristin is up next to choose the next challenge theme.

So get thinking, Kristin!

Chocolat Fabric

Here is a little peak at some of the preliminary work I have been going for my chocolate quilt. The feedback from my family has been mostly encouraging me that I am headed in the right direction, but who knows if you can trust a bunch of kids and a loving husband.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Making progress

I finally got started on my Chocolate piece yesterday after silk-screening this fabric to use in it.

Can you imagine what this design has to do with chocolate? There's a hint on my blog.

Friday, January 11, 2008

There's still two weeks left, right?

I admit, I've been working on my quilt, and though it is fully formed in my head, it's hardly started in fabric. In fact, most of what I've already done is going to be pulled out today and re-worked. Other projects have taken priority, but hearing about everyone else's movements on the chocolate front makes me itchy to make more progress on mine. I don't want to give too much away (or hype it up more than it deserves), but my concept will be visually expressed as cross between a Fragonard painting...


and an African-American story quilt like this one by Harriet Powers:

(via Lion's Den Books)

"Life is Like a Box of Chocolates...

you never know what you're gonna get." — Forrest Gump

I am starting to panic, especially with so many of you posting that you are finished. I don't even know what I am going to do. I am just recovering from the holidays and catching up with other deadlines. But never fear, I will come up with something. I am kind of inspired by this photo that I found by googling Box of Chocolates.

Done (Completely)

Whew! Kirsten, are you gonna comment in all capital letters? I am looking forward to the first of February to see all the results. I'm positive they'll be sweet. Tee hee!

Done! (Almost)

The quilt is pieced and quilted awaiting binding. Is that terribly annoying to the rest of you?! No photos for obvious reasons but let me say that it is not blue after all as per earlier post but quite red. And wordy. And kind of tangental to the subject......


I've gathered all this stuff -- from both the studio and the pantry! Inspiring. (Actually, the piece is well on it's way to completion. But I'll just show you this early development for now.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The research continues

When I was in Pittsburgh, I went to see the stunning Chihuly exhibition of glass works at the Phipps Conservatory (see the multitude of photos on my blog). The conservatory also houses an abundance of exotic plants including the chocolate tree and an orchid-like plant that actually smells like chocolate:

According to the plaque text (click to enlarge), the United States is the largest importer of cocoa and the State of Pennsylvania (home of Hersheys) is the largest processor of cocoa. Now I'm back at home and I'm thinking that my challenge quilt will be predominantly brown. Then again, who can resist the playful colours of M&Ms?*

*PS: I remember when I first read the book of ET back in 1982, I had no idea what M&Ms were!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Chocolate and Chili

I've been working on a project with some of the ladies in the other group blog I belong to, Texies. We're making a "sliced quilt," in which we've divided a painting into equal parts and we're each interpreting our part in fabric. Since I'm the coordinator, I've been getting a few little goodies along with the finished pieces. Today's mail brought chocolate! Look how nicely it coordinates with our project (in the background):

I know we've been sort of poo-pooing crazy flavor combos with chocolate, but since these arrived on my doorstep, I had to try them -- you know, for the good of the group. I gotta say, it's not so bad. Actually, if you think about it, it's not such a big stretch: most of us like chocolate covered strawberries, or fruit dipped in a chocolate fondue, right? So, fruit and chocolate together isn't so far-fetched; especially since the cacao bean is tropical and so are mango and papaya. Speaking of the cacao bean, we all now know that the Mayans, Toltecs, and Aztecs mixed their cocoa with spicy, not sweet, ingredients. And, how about molé? That's got the chocolate and chili mix. So really, these flavors are a nod towards chocolate's origins.

This particular chocolate was nice and dark. I love dark chocolate. When you bite into the bar, you get a juicy burst of papaya goo in the center. The contrast between the smooth chocolate and the tangy fruit was pretty good. Then you realize that there's a bit of heat behind everything. It's not a make-you-sweat kind of spicy, just another layer to the flavor. Though not bad, the dark/tangy/heat thing may be a bit too much though. Any two would be fine, but three things going on in my mouth at once was kind of overwhelming. I don't think this would ever be a staple chocolate in my house, but I didn't dislike it either. I'll definitely enjoy these two bars, even if it's a bit complex for my beer-budget mouth.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

chocolate ideas

I'm with Terri on this one. I knew what I wanted to do 5 minutes after I saw the subject. I felt wierd about that so I spent some time on wikipedia and google images to see if they could change my mind, but I'm stuck with the image I wanted to do (O.K. I did see a picture of the idea I had on google images). Once I had the idea, my brain seemed to think I was done, so I'm just now starting to work on it, and hopefully I can finish it before the deadline.

Painting chocolate

While doing a bit of chocolate research this morning, I stumbled onto painter Laura Godi. She paints small (8x8") still life paintings with many familiar chocolate themes as the subjects. They're quite charming... I love the simplicity in these paintings, and how they evoke childhood candy memories.

And they make me hungry.

Chocolate Obsession

I forgot that my husband bought this cookbook several years ago. One evening while I was out he decided that he wanted to start making chocolates. He made a list, loaded up all four kids, ages 1, 2-2/2, 5 and 6-1/2 at the time, and went to the grocery store. He came home at nearly 9pm with $200 in chocolate and other supplies. He had quite the looks from the other women in the store. "What in the world is this man doing out with all these kids, this late at night, buying so much sugar?" Something only a dad would do.
The book has wonderful recipes that only someone with more uninterupted time and space could accomplish. Inside there is also nearly a hundered pictures as beautiful as the cover. If I can't find inspiration from one of these photos, I'm really in trouble.
I'm amazed at all the textures from soft cocoa powder, to creamy ganache, to a shiny chocolate coating. My memory is no nearly as sharp as I would like it to be. I tend to have a very limited picture in my mind when I think of chocolate. I don't think in images well. I really need to get my journal out again to remember all the possiblities there are with Chocolate!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Gerrie, Terry and Kristin in Portland

Another installment of "When 12 x 12s Meet 12 x 12s". Kristin, from Germany, spent the holidays in the States with family and made her way to Gerrie's house in Portland today. I was invited and got to meet Kristin for the first time. She and Gerrie had met before. We had a great lunch (thanks Gerrie!) and some time in Gerrie's studio. You can see more pictures and descriptions on my blog.

Kristin and I both brought chocolate for research purposes, but I decided my need to lose my holiday weight gain outweighed (as it were) my need to do research.

More Research

You all would be astounded and impressed at the dedication I have displayed to the task of researching our current theme.

A few days ago, we took visiting friends to Copia, a food and wine center in Napa, California. We enjoyed a delicious and fascinating lunch at Julia's Kitchen, the restaurant there named in honor of Julia Child.

Even though I was rather full, I knew I simply *had* to explore the chocolate dessert, called "Rocky Road Redoux." And look at this presentation. It's like a chocolate amusement park.

From the upper left-hand corner moving to the right, there is a triangle of cocoa powder decorating the plate (and serving as a chocolate zen garden for the making of designs with one's fork). Then a tall shot glass of malted milk with rim of chocolate malt powder... Then a bittersweet chocolate brittle perched on top of a wedge of rocky road chocolate mousse... Then a decorate sprinkling of cocoa nibs lined up with dots of cocoa and mocha sauce... then a circle of brownie type disk, decorated by two perfect walnut halves.

It was tempting to just sit and look at it...but of course, we all enjoyed consuming this fascinating array of chocolate items.

I did sort of crave a bit of sour orange or lemon afterward to cut the sweetness!

You can see the rest of our decadent meal here.

Having a Chocolate Day?

I never thought Chocolate would be so hard. I'm exposed to it almost every day, especially from Halloween through Christmas. We have the standard Hershey's Chocolate for the kids, Lindt Truffles for me, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Oblivion Torte for Christmas dessert. The list goes on and on. Then why am I so stuck? I think it comes down to the fact that Chocolate is a feeling, a sensual experience instead of a visual experience. My desire is to capture that momment of bliss when, in the midst of all the craziness of life, one takes a bite of a really good Chocolate Truffle. The sweet ooze melting in one's mouth and for a second washing all the stress away.

If you couldn't tell already, life can be a little chaotic homeschooling four kids 8 and under, especially around the holidays. I often had what I call "Bring Home Chocolate" days when I call my husband with an urgent request. I then discovered Costco (a large warehouse type store) carries Lindt truffles in a 50 truffle bag. These I hide on top of the bookshelves in my bedroom. I can judge the day by the number of truffles consumed. A one truffle day is pretty good, two a little more stressful, and you don't even want to ask about the days when I don't even remember the number.

So now the task is to capture all this in a quilt. 2008 is going to be time of stretching in my art and Chocolate the first task at hand. Now it's time to get to work.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Where to begin?

Now that the last of the house guests have made their way home and the kids are back in school, I am looking at my calendar and trying to figure out how to get back to "normal." (Whatever that is.)

I see that the deadline for our chocolate challenge is four weeks from tomorrow. Santa brought more research materials, thankfully. And last night's episode of Project Runway was quite inspiring. For those of you without the luxury of American TV (ahem), Project Runway is a reality competition for fashion designers. Last night they had to make dresses from materials found at a giant Hershey's store!

This dress is made entirely from the inside wrappers of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

And this spunky little number is made from Kit Kat wrappers and the the packaging from a giant Hershey's bar. I think those are Rolos studding the belt. And how about that cute "kiss" hair do?!

I do love the idea of using real chocolate packaging materials along with my fabric for our challenge.

You can see all the designs from the Project Runway Candy challenge here.

Some of the designers were criticized for not being very "playful." I'm not sure I'll be striving for "playful" on my chocolate 12x12... what about you?