Saturday, May 26, 2012

Studio hopping

Whenever I look at Deborah's Twelve theme piece Seven Houses, Five Trees I think how fun it would be if I could just skip over the hill and visit one of the Twelves.  Fortunately the internet allows for some virtual studio hopping. After I conducted a chakra-enhancing purge of project piles and paperwork, my studio is once again fit for visitors.  I invite you to take the Serendipity Studio Tour:
I have a view of the ocean while the vista from Helen's studio is more bucolic. The building project, painting and decorating are over and Helen is happily esconced in her new creative space.  Check out Helen's Studio Tour:
Helen's Studio View Meanwhile, thanks to the magic of video, you can some of the Twelves over to your place anytime. As outlined in Deborah's blog post, this week there is some special pricing on the STITCHED - a collection of 20 online video workshops including Deborah's Branches, Buds and Blossom: A Botanical Collage and Nikki's Mini Treasure Box of Dreams:
Also, Deborah's new Quilting Arts video workshop, Contemporary Fabric Collage: Design, Stitch and Finish, is now available for download! It's just like taking a workshop with Deborah. As she prepared for the shoot, Deborah made long lists about all the tips, suggestions, ideas and directions she wanted to include. Plus, there are lots of visual aids and examples throughout the DVD. The video workshop includes chapters on fabric selection, composition, using sheer fabrics, stitching by machine and by hand, and unique finishing options.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Percy Jackson and more...

It seems most American school kids of the 70s and 80s (like me) learned about Greek and Roman mythology sometime between third and sixth grade. I'm not sure it's still a regular part of the curriculum, but Rick Riordan has filled the void! He is the creator of the Percy Jackson series of books. My kids (and my husband) devoured them -- along with millions of other young readers. I've been able to glean that Percy Jackson is half-human and half-god and goes on quests based on classic Greek mythology set in modern time. How fun is that? Riordan continued his success with the Kane Chronicles, using the same basic formula but with Egyptian mythology.

Look! The Kane Chronicles are stacked up on the shelf in our office (joined by the Harry Potter series in the back and other treasures).

I think it's going to be a stretch for me to find inspiration that is truly grounded in mythology of some kind. Stretch is good, right? Luckily, mythology is so broad -- as evidenced by Greek, Roman and Egyptian in the Riordan books alone.

So, I've begun digging and I'm starting with Egyptian imagery. Check out these great lines and patterns!

What are your favorite books incorporating mythology?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thinking About Myths

Mr C gifted me with this Prayer Jar for mother's day. It was part of the Artists Among Us exhibit at Trinity Cathedral. The maker of this jar was explaining some of the imagery on the jar and brought up Joseph Campbell and myths.

I decided to do some online research and found this quote from Joseph Campbell regarding the function of myths.

1 The first is the mystical function...realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what a wonder you are, and experiencing awe before this mystery...
2 The second is a cosmological dimension, the dimension with which science is concerned--showing you what the shape of the universe is, but showing it in such a way that the mystery again comes through...
3 The third function is the sociological one--supporting and validating a certain social order. And here's where the myths vary enormously from place to place...It is this sociological function of myth that has taken over in our world--and it is out of date...
4 But there is a fourth function of myth, and this is the one that I think everyone must try today to relate to--and that is the pedagogical function, of how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances. Myths can teach you that.
There is so much about myths to be discovered in Campbell's writings. I better get started!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Synonyms for Myth

So you think you know what a myth is?  Check out all these synonyms:

..allegory, anecdote, apologue, creation, delusion,  distortion, error,  fable, fabrication, factoid, fairy story, falsehood, falsity, fancy, fantasy, fib, fiction, figment, folk ballad, folk lore, folk tale, half-truth, hallucination, illusion, imagination,  inaccuracy,  invention, knowledge, legend,  lie, lore, misapprehension, misbelief,  miscomprehension, misconception,  misinterpretation, misperception,  misunderstanding, misinformation, misjudgment, misknowledge, misreport, misrepresentation, misstatement, mythos, narrative, old wives' tale, parable, saga, sophism, sophistry, superstition, tale, tall story, tradition, urban legend, yarn, wisdom, untruth..

Friday, May 11, 2012

Topographical Myths

It seems to be an easy segue from maps to mythology. Sure many myths focus on gods and supernatural heroes but there is also a large collection of myths that dwell upon the natural world and seek to explain how the earth came to take its current form.

As New Zealanders, Kirsty and I grew up with the Maori legend of Māui. One of Māui's most famous exploits was to use the jaw bone of his ancestress as a fish hook and to haul an enormous fish from the bottom of the sea. Māui ws concerned that the gods might be unhappy with the catch and left the fish with his brothers while he went to make peace with the gods. His brothers didn't wait as instructed but immediately set about to cut up the fish. As the fish writhes in agony, the mountains, hills and valleys of the North Island of New Zealand are created.

In Maori mythology, the South Island of New Zealand is also known as Māui's waka (canoe) with Banks Peninsula on the east coast denoting Māui's foot hold as he strained to bring in his fish.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

and the winner is...

Poor twelves! You have been waiting with bated breath, I know, as I have prevaricated about our next theme. I have tossed around a few ideas some of which were discarded on the basis of being too restrictive (the sky, Amazon,circus) and others that may have been a little too vague or esoteric. My favourite (and originally planned-for theme) was "Journeys" but then we did "Maps"so... our next theme is Mythology. Ta daaaah! Such a broad subject should provide us with plenty of variety and I will be fascinated to see what gems you all unearth. The reveal date for this challenge is 12 July 2012. Ladies, start your engines! Ready...set...GO!!

Website Update - All Mapped Out!

The Twelve by Twelve website has been updated to include our latest challenge quilts.  Click on the mosaic below to view the Maps Gallery:

The 2012 Series Artist Gallery pages have also been updated and it is clear that some of the Twelves are developing their own personal series within this overall challenge.  For example, here are Kirsten's 2012 works so far.  We're all curious to find out what Kirsten has chosen for our next 2012 challenge!
And don't miss the new Tutorials Page which sets out a selection of online tutorials and other resources offered by the Twelves.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

you are here

Hmmm....I may be 'here' but with this quilt I never felt as if I got 'there'! It still feels very unfinished but I don't know what is coming next. It's origins are my thoughts about my nearly-grown children and the idea that life does not come with a roadmap. This is my attempt to create a Life Map. Life begins somewhere off the edge (wherever we were before) and continues off the edge (wherever we go next!) so the edges will remain as they are - no neat, tidy bindings in real life - and the threads wander off into the ether. The only constant points of reference are longitude and latitude representative of God/Spirit/Truth/Love and Family (by which I mean those people in your life, related or not, who are always there for you). Along the way are diversions, false starts, progress, people who walk alongside us for a time, setbacks. Initially I thought the quilt would include advice and admonishments but it's not that simple, is it? Each person's map needs different words, different directions. I suppose the point is that there IS no map for life. We all have to make it up as we go along, so I doubt that this quilt will ever be finished. It's only in hindsight that we know what our map looks like and my map isn't even slightly done.
In terms of technical stuff, what really bothers me about this quilt is the complete lack of focal point (I suppose the circle is a focal point except that it's poorly placed for that role). Maybe that's a reflection of my own lack of focus on this project?? I guess some work and some just don't!


My map is inspired by the many moves our family has made in the last 16 years. 
When my husband joined the Army, we were living in the Washington DC area. Since then, I chose to relocate to Los Angeles, and then we've moved (mostly together) to Germany, to Arizona, back to Germany, to Hawai'i, and next, on to Virginia.

Each place has it's landmarks and it's charms. Thinking of each these places reminded me of illustrated (and often embroidered) souvenir tea towels and pillows representing the US states. They may not strictly be maps in the wayfinding sense, but they include sights and cities associated with a state, and in that way provide an inspirational map of what can be found in a particular place. Mine shows our movement from one place to the next. Embroidering something for one's home brings to mind those nesting sensibilities we all have when moving house, especially when it's an item for that most essential of places in each house -- the kitchen. I wrote a little more about the inspiration in a previous post here.

My embroidered towel is mounted on a quilted background reminscent of a potholder. From a practical standpoint it provides a bit of structure, from a conceptual standpoint it makes another reference to home and kitchen, and from a tongue in cheek standpoint it pokes a bit of fun at the fear many art quilters have that our smaller quilted works will be mistaken for fancy potholders.

You Are Here

This is a topographical map (sort of) of the place where I live. That is the Willamette River flowing through the city of Portland. I live on the east side of the river, the southeast region of Portland. The ocean is, of course, out there on the west side. When I moved here, I had a terrible time knowing where I was. Unlike Terry's migratory bird, I have no internal system that immediately says that is east, that is west, etc. I have always lived where I had visual cues. In California, I knew the brown mountains/hills were on the east side and the green mountains were on the west side and could navigate that way. I like visual cues.

I was going to do a more detailed and fun quilt with visual imagery or with the Mapquest app blue dot taking me from place to place. However, I have been very busy with left brain work for two weeks and so I could only do a more left brain piece.

I enlarged a map that I found on line and cropped it to 12 inches wide and then cut pattern pieces. You can read more about how I executed this on my blog (later today). I have more left brain work to do this morning!! My one nod to being a bit tongue in cheek was to put a big red you are here arrow on my map so that I can remember just where I am. In case you are wondering, Terry is over there on the left side, maybe off my map.

Here is a detail shot.


I knew when I heard the theme "Maps" I would some how be able to tie it into my explorations of the body.  I considered brain mapping, but I wasn't crazy about the images I saw, so I went with cardiac mapping.  Cardiac Mapping is preformed by inserting catheters into the heart and moving them around to different locations to identify where an arrhythmia starts. Once the doctors have identified the area, they zap it (technical term is ablation), to destroy the aberrant tissue.

I looked at several pictures on line to get an idea of the images the doctors see, and this finished piece is a combination of what I saw, and what I imagined.  As you can see, I'm not the best at hand stitching the rounded edges, I ripped them out several times but for some reason I couldn't make them look the way I wanted them to.  I will say I'm really good at stitching arrhythmias.

The background orange started out as ProChem tangerine, but it was really screaming at me, so I overdyed it with dusty purple, which toned it down a bit. The machine stitching was all done on my Sweet Sixteen which moved along really quickly so I was able to spend a lot more time ripping out and restitching the hand work.  I was going to make a series with this, and I still may, but I've only completed one other, which is on my blog /

Driving by Number

    Growing up in California, I've spent a lot of time on California freeways.  Although I've lived in other states, I've not encountered any place in which travel is identified by numbers as much as here. Sure, other places have numbered roads and highways -- but maybe by virtue of the size and density of California, so much travel here involves taking one freeway to another to another.  While I was thinking about how to approach this map challenge, I had occasion to take a road trip with my daughter to Los Angeles from our home north of San Francisco (101 to 1 to 280 to 85 to 101, in case you're wondering) and that caused me to settle on this concept for my piece. 

   The culture of "freeway-speak" is something that has always intrigued me.  As a child, I liked that freeways had names as well as numbers.  Perhaps it's a generational thing, but it doesn't seem to me that people use names to refer to freeways any more.  I miss that!  I found myself wondering about freeway names, which caused me to look them up, discover so many I'd never heard (did you know there's a Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway?), and hand-write many of them on the fabric for the background.

   As I made this, I added the freeways I've traveled on over my life, with heavy prominence to 101, 5, and 1 which run north-south through the state, and the 80 freeway which crosses east-west and is the route from San Francisco to Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, and points further east.  Almost all of these have strong associations of specific times, places, and memories for me. 

I couldn't help but include a few typical seen-from-the-freeway signs. Oh, shoot -- it just now occurred to me that I could have marked the very spot where my sister and I would shout "There's the Matterhorn!" when we saw its peak from the nearby 5 freeway. 

Here's another thing I always think about.  Up here in northern California, we say "take 101" or "take 680."  In Southern California, they say "Take the 101 to the 55 to the 210."  I wonder why?

I knew I had to include the caution sign showing silhouettes of running immigrants, which I've only seen on the freeway near San Diego. 

I wonder if there are other signs like it in other states, on other borders?  It's a clear, if somewhat jarring, warning to freeway drivers of the possibility that people might dash out onto the freeway as they ran to evade border patrols.  There were a number of deaths on the 5 freeway in the 80's and 90's from that very scenario, and that's why the signs were erected.  You can read more about the Immigrant Crossing signs here. 

This is a whole cloth piece.  I drew onto white fabric with black fabric marker, then used inktense pencils (from the Derwent Pencil Factory itself!) and textile medium to color the large areas.  It is machine quilted with monofilament thread. 

The Game of My Life

Thinking about maps made me want a road map for life.  Maps are so helpful.  You can find the destination you would like and then simply follow the path to get there.  Unfortunately, life isn't that easy and more often than not I don't know which road to take.  Sketching life road maps led to thinking about the one place "Life" is mapped out, The Game of Life.  I tried to find our game, but after years of playing and the kids not always putting it completely away most of the pieces disappeared and it was purged on one of those clean out the house days.  So instead, I decided to create a game board loosely based on my own life.

To create my quilt, I started with the basic path and then added all the fun details.  I didn't quite have space to add as many side paths as I would have like, but I did include as many twists and turns as I could fit.  When I first started sketching I had the paper once again turned horizontal.  Luckily I caught that right away and quickly turned it vertical.  I pieced together the path from bits of quilted fabric in my stash.  For the background, I followed Gerrie's advice and used chartreuse as a nice bright neutral.  Adding the details of life was the fun part. Once again I was hampered by space, but I managed to include most of the important ones.  I have my husband and four kids, the dog and cats, life on the sailboat, various houses, and even a camping trip.  I added a hurdle and hoops to jump through for some of life's challenges.  Missing are all those little choice that in the end make a huge difference in the final destination.  I also didn't go far in the future.  I added a cupcake and running shoes for my goal of running the Hawaii marathon for my 40th birthday in less than two years.  After that I just have an arrow leading to the next chapter in life.

The inner map

No one knows exactly how migrating birds find their routes and return to the same destinations year after year. Theories include the use of celestial navigation, magnetic influences and other visual cues. Other theories suppose that a kind of inner map is programmed into their genetic code or that baby birds follow their parents and that first migration imprints a map in a particular part of their brains that they carry for the rest of their lives. Perhaps there is a time in the early development of all living things where one incorporates the map of their surroundings. I sometimes dream about the house I lived in as a small child and all the little details of our street and neighborhood. I remember the sidewalk we roller skated on as children and I knew exactly, without looking, where to lift my skate to avoid a hole in the pavement or a uneven seam. I think I could do it today without missing a beat. I see it all in my mind's eye, as if from above, like a map. I love the idea of inner maps.

For this piece I printed a map of Oregon (where I live) on fabric and as I began to trace my bird onto the fabric I was surprised to see that the Oregon coastline defined the edge of the wing, which in turn became part of the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia River, which is Oregon's northern border, defined the change in the feathers at the bird's neckline.

I knew early what I would do for this challenge and thought my piece was finished more than a month ago. A couple weeks ago I looked at it and saw that it needed a third layer— something between the bird and the vast sky. I think the addition of the branches added the sense of space that was missing. Here is how it looked before.

Crossing Good Hope

Look, it's my neighborhood!

I struggled so much with this quilt. I thought I wanted to do something entirely different and I tried. But I just couldn't make it work. I have been feeling like I'd like to make art that is a bit more spare. Quieter. More zen. Clearer. Less frippery.

But, as the deadline approached, eventually I had to give in to the comfort of lots of fabrics, layers, paint, stitching and various symbols. I'm glad I did. I enjoyed making it and I am pleased with the result.

To get out of my funk, I also had to resort to a very familiar design... my own neighborhood and the path that Benjamin and I walk to and from his school several times a week. I placed the blue squares representing houses along our route to school. I could have placed them along all the streets and cul-de-sacs. But once I painted in the streets using a freezer paper stencil, I wanted to focus more on the design and balance of the additional elements -- and I didn't want a bunch of tiny blue squares to overwhelm the piece.

Our house is the yellow square toward the bottom.  Here is Benjamin's school.

One of the streets we cross is called "Good Hope," thus the title of the piece, Crossing Good Hope. This is also a bit symbolic of some of the complicated and frustrating discussions we have about school as we walk. I keep hoping that we'll find ways to help Benjamin reach his potential within the school system, but sometimes I feel like options keep getting crossed off.
Every day isn't frustrating. Sometimes we tell funny stories and discuss other surprising and interesting subjects. I printed blocks of text on organza, cut them into strips and stitched them down in ripples and turns to represent these conversations.
As I designed the piece, I kept adding elements that pulled the color scheme together, added contrast and texture and sparked my interest. I even tried a new hand embroidery stitch with those wheely circles loosely representing trees.


Welcome to Twelvestown. 

Population:  12 happy art quilters

Coordinates:  20 x 12

A beautiful, safe and happy environment in which to live.  Quite dreamlike.

This quilt, the third attempt in this challenge, popped into my head when I was growing quite desperate for ideas.  I named all the streets/roads/highways with names that related somehow to our group.   It is a whole cloth quilt and I created the streets using a gel glue resist.


Heian-kyo was the name of Kyoto at the time it was the capital city of Japan. It means something like "peace capital".
I knew at once that I wanted to make a map quilt related to Japan, especially since a fourth trip to Kyoto was planned at the beginning of April.
In March, I quickly made a little sketch and wrote down some ideas based on my former trips to Japan, but I decided not to start the quilt before this new trip.
When I came back, I drew a very rough map of Kyoto featuring most of the experiences of this trip.The two vertical light blue lines represent the Katsura and the Kamo rivers. The green areas are the parks, the gardens and the forests. I've added pink little spots to represent the amazing cherry blossoms. The three brightly coloured striped areas are there to remind me of these elegant women celebrating the beauty of spring by wearing their most gorgeous kimonos. Most red spots are shrines. The yellow rectangle is Kinkakuji. The shibori dark blues are there to feature the textile workshops and galleries we visited.
Actually, every piece of fabric in this quilt has a special meaning to me. At some point while working on this quilt, I began to think that it was much too busy. I like simple, almost minimalist, work. But on the other hand, each time I go to Japan, I'm overwhelmed by its beauty and the richness of my personal experience. Thus, I decided it was ok this time to squeeze many things into my quilt. Finally, I didn't resist the urge to add a little piece of the weaving I had done in Osaka.
I don't know if I really like this quilt from an esthetic point of view, but I certainly had fun making it and, in some way, it helped me to "digest" this trip and to come back to real plain old life in Belgium. ;-)
Here are a few detail shots of the quilt. (The colours of the quilt are a bit brighter and lighter in person.)
I've posted more detail shots on my blog, here.

Twelve Ways

 Do not go where the path map may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
-  with apologies to Ralph Waldo Emerson
Desire Lines #8: Twelve Ways by Brenda Gael Smith

In landscape architecture, the term "desire lines" describes an informal path developed by erosion of footfall caused by people finding a short cut or preferred route often bypassing the official or constructed way. As explorers forge their own path, desire lines manifest on the surface of the earth leaving a trail for others to follow thereby encouraging more travel. And so it has been for the Twelve by Twelve project.  We have each followed our heart's desire, our own personal creative path and yet, together, we have created a kind of map that inspires others others to venture out.

During this challenge period I have been travelling extensively including two trips to New Zealand and time in Tasmania, Sydney, Brisbane and the Hunter Valley.  This latest work in my Design Lines series was created in a brief time in my studio over Easter.  Each line represents a Twelve, starting with Deborah (purple) and ending with Nikki (cerise). The colours are loosely based on colours chosen by the Twelve for their Colourplay challenge and/or the Twelve's favourite colours.

Vilakazi Street

My first task when the Maps theme was revealed was to consider how I could tie that into Africa having set myself the added goal with the 20/12 quilts of working in my own series with the parameters of (a) wholecloth (b) surface design (c) visual cohesiveness and (d) african theme. Of course, both Maps and Africa are delightfully wide and compatable in many ways but, my very first thought was of Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto.

This street is the only street in the world to be home to Two Nobel Prize Winners ( Mr Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu). It was also a central location in the Soweto Uprisings of 16thJune 1976 which were a pivotal event in the fight against apartheid.Students marching to protest the imposition of Afrikaans as he mandatory language of tuition for some of their classes were shot by the Police in and around Vilakazi street. The iconic picture of Hector Pieteson,shot by Sam Nizima who was the second student shot but the first to die caused international outrage. The first boy was Hastings Ndlovu.

The quilt is based on a map of Vilakazi Street and the surrounding areas and is made of a wholecloth base of scraped and stamped screenprinting inks embellished with Pitt Artists Pen and silk string. For those who wish to know more about the writing on the quilt ( which I am very pleased with as from a distance it appears as topographical texture but closer up tells the story of he street) see the entry on my personal blog where I set out exactly what is written on the quilt top.

I am pleased to say that in making this quilt I have revived my fascination with apartheid era history. By coincidence just after it was finished the shelves in my studio were finally finished and I was able to unpack my collection of South African books which had been packed since we moved some eighteen months ago. n there I found a book I had forgotten all about detailing the history of the uprisings. I have also stumbled uppin a website detailing the routes the various students took from their schools on the 16th July. The two are inspiring me to start a whole series. This is the second one, again based on Vilakazi Street albeit rotated so that west is at the top.

And this is the next piece of fabric with bits and bobs ready for a bigger map.