Friday, May 16, 2014

More Bonsai and Other Gardens

Promising pictures of the bonsai D worked on recently may take a while.  One of them is too large for me to pick up to put on a stand, and I don't feel like lying down on the grass to get a good photo of it.  Okay, so I'm adverse to getting all wet, too.

But here is a picture of the latest in bonsai stands/benches:

This new bench is directly behind our family room so we can see them if we walk over to the window and look down. When we had the house re-sided, we had to tear out all the vegetation that was in this spot so the men could actually get to the house without killing themselves on my rose bushes.  I was philosophical about it since I figured I'd replace them, and only one was a heart-throb-favorite. Guess I'll have to find another place for roses because this spot is much better for these particular bonsai than the older bench as it's more shaded and that's what these babies need.  There are two larch forests - one at either end and a ginkgo forest in the middle that is just beginning to leaf out.   The others are all conifers except the littlest one which is a boxwood.  To the right of the one covered in aluminum foil (to reflect sunlight out to keep the root ball from drying out) is a cypress, next to that is a shimpaku juniper, then a pine, the wee boxwood, ginkgo forest, another shimpaku juniper, and the final larch forest.

The rest of the photos are simply to show you what is happening in some of the other gardens.  The first is in the backyard, and you can see how the lilacs are opening and there is evidence of more green coming up.  I no longer even try to grow tulips or most other spring bulbs because of the critters who simply think bulbs are dessert!

From this angle you can see D's hop poles (though of course at this point the hops are almost all reaching for the split rail fence!).  That birdhouse is home to a family of chickadees this year.  The garden farther to our left belongs to our neighbor and friend.  The pink you see is his bleeding heart.  And note that each of us purchased the same birdbath!


Despite being well and truly trampled when my studio was built, the trillium at the side of the garage form a larger more vigorous patch than ever before!  But I don't see any sign of the deep maroon ones yet.  

In the front yard is my white flower garden which is the site of the next two photos.  The first are white (and almost white!) daffodils down near the road.

And the last picture is the white flower garden in its very early spring bloom.  Dwarf white iris and a white rhododendron in bloom as well as the perennial alyssum are in this picture.

The next couple of weeks are going to be very hectic for us so I won't be writing for a while.  In the mean time, have fun checking out what's growing in your garden and those of your neighbors.  

Enjoy spring!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Facebook Posting

Posting my paintings on facebook is something I've just barely begun, but the reaction I have received is truly heart warming.  Everyone is so kind, and it gives my sometimes doubtful spirit a boost.  So thank you all for commenting on my small exhibit.  Do not be hesitant to mention that you see something off or incomprehensible or ugly to you.  Comments are valuable, indeed, essential to learning and growing.

The downside for you is knowing that I will now regularly post my finished work in the same way.  Fortunately, I don't churn them out so it won't be that often.

Do not be hesitant to mention if you see something off or incomprehensible or ugly to you.  Or even if you merely want to ask a question.  Comments and questions are valuable to learning and growing.

Now here is the other side of the coin.  Where are your lovely creations?  Those of you who create for a living can't post, and I understand that.  But many of you, my friends, are superb photographers, quilters, writers, chefs, gardeners, et al., have wonderful things to show the rest of us.

Where are they?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler" - Completed

My apologies to those of you who looked forward to more bonsai tree pictures.  They will be here eventually but not today.  This afternoon was the only time we were home and could have taken the pictures, but D wanted to get some of the two yards of mulch on our driveway spread in the garden.  While he was busy with that (my days of spreading are over due to back issues), I went back to the painting that I worked on this morning (and many other mornings, too).

I am delighted to tell you that it is finished.

As always there will be a final critique and inevitably some last issues addressed when I take it back to my studio class.  Even now there are things I see that I forgot to take care of and things that I wish I had done better and things that I wonder if I should change and . . .   Things.

But for now, it is as it is.

Monday, May 12, 2014

"Bonsai Camp" Results

Knowing what I do now, in September I will take photos of D's bonsai before he goes to bonsai camp.  I just wasn't thinking this time.  At least I had the sense to take pictures today as it was too twilight-dim when he got home yesterday.  Since ME asked for bonsai pictures in her comment on yesterday's blog I really had to include them today (thanks, ME!).

Turns out the bonsai expert comes in from California and is a very nice man and good teacher.  D really liked his style of instruction and as a result is quite pleased he decided to go into this 4-year commitment.  I'm thrilled also as I think men rarely have an opportunity to develop this kind of social group (friend with people with similar interests) after college, and this is something D thoroughly enjoys as well.  Anyway, here are two of his trees:

This is a Shimpaku Juniper. 

I asked D which was the front of this tree, and he said he doesn't know yet.  I found that totally understandable as sometimes I have no idea where I'm going with a painting until I get there.  Another thing that delighted me was that as soon as he saw the photo he saw things he hadn't noticed before.  See how important that whole "take it out of context" thing can be?  Things look different in photos, in the mirror, or upside down, and that's a helpful difference.    D styled this tree and carved the shari  and jin himself.

This is a boxwood that D found a year or two ago and it has a very dense rounded top.  Until he went to his weekend with this specimen, its top was more dense and completely obscured the trunks.  The decision was basically to leave the developing tree alone after trimming a good deal of the greenery.  The trunks are so interesting, they have such good shape already with potential for even more interest as they age, that leaving best enough alone was the rule for this specimen.

This second photo lets you get a better view of what determined that decision.  Again, D saw something in the photo that he's going to have to look at more closely.  But look at the gnarly trunks and the wonderful colors and shadows.  Great, right?

Tomorrow there may be more photos; it depends on the weather.  One of the trees is quite large and we won't try to move it if it's raining.  So we'll have to wait and see.  I am determined to keep a record of D's work so they'll show up sometime.

*Creating deadwood on Bonsai, in the form of Jin or Shari, can enhance the tree's character significantly. A "Jin" is a bare-stripped part of branch and a "Shari" is a barkless part of trunk. In nature, deadwood is created when a tree is hit by lightning, exposed to sustained periods of drought or when branches snap due to ice stress, wind or weight of snow. The wood dies off and is bleached by intense sunlight.
This technique is almost exclusively used on evergreen trees, as creating Jin or Shari on deciduous trees often looks unrealistic (deadwood on a deciduous tree often rots away over time).

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day

Today may go down in history as the most beautiful Mother's Day in recorded time.  Okay, that's an exaggeration, I'm sure, but after such a long and hard winter, today should receive some sort of special accolade.  The weather was perfect for the day, and there'll be no argument about that, I'm equally certain!

Another reason it was at the pinnacle of days for me was my visit from my daughter and grandson.  They took me out to brunch and then a tour of some of our favorite shop-by-looking (mostly) stores.  We both picked up some necessary items, some frivolous ones, but nothing very expensive.  No, we did not forget the young man who was with us, either.  We went to one store especially for him so he could look for something he collects (no luck, unfortunately), and we also bought him a lovely blue T shirt.  He arrived in a long sleeve shirt as it was cool in the early morning when they left their home, and by noon that shirt was just too warm.

When we returned home, it was time for a lunch for g'son, a nibble for daughter and me, and a mini-nap for daughter.  Unfortunately, after that they did have to return to their home.  Big hugs, lots of kisses, and they were off.

Sigh.  I was a bit lonely after they left (D spent the weekend at "Bonsai Camp") and found it difficult to settle down to anything.  When D came home, things perked up as he had a very fine time.  I will try to get photos of his trees if the weather will permit tomorrow; he's really doing some nice work and feels good about it, too.  

It was a fine weekend for all of us!  Was yours?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Great Quilt Class!

Today I took a class through the Delmar Guild with Dianne Hire.  I have been hoping for years that I could find her books, but it was difficult because although I had seen one quilt I couldn't remember where, what it was called, what the designer's name was, if she had a book out, and if she did, what the name of the book was!  Just a few obstacles.  You see, when I saw the picture of her quilt ("Come Play with Me" one of her several "Oxymoron" quilts), I knew I wasn't ready to make something like that so I just moved on assuming I'd come across her someday.

Photo from:
Well, wasn't I the lucky one!  She was here today (and will be teaching another class tomorrow on a different style and technique which I will take also), and I had one of the best quilting experiences of my quilting life!  She is an excellent teacher as well as a genuinely nice woman with a good sense of humor.  The book is called Come Play with Me  and has a host of super quilts (she calls them Improvisational Quilts which is quite accurate) in it in addition to the one above.  What you can't see in the photo is how heavily embellished with buttons and beads her work is.  Her joy is evident in her choice of colors and fun - my kind of person.

Here is my version of the first "block" she taught us to make.  It's called "Hopscotch".  If you look at the photo above, it is in the upper right and is a long red block with seven dark squares.  Lovely person that she is, she encouraged all of us to make this block as we wanted to and helped us if we got ourselves into a mess.

The next block was made in a slightly different format than the one in hers.  This is called "Tic Tac Toe" and in her quilt it's in the bottom middle (turquoisey blue with lavender "bars").  She had us make ours using four different back ground fabrics that were of the same "ilk" (I do so love it when others use the same words and phrases that I grew up with, don't you?) as the fabrics in our Hopscotch block.

It's difficult to see but the "bars" are purples with black and white fabrics and have a zing of color - again from the previous block - added.  Having always loved the punch black and white can add, I am ecstatic that I finally have a good way to use that combination!

But one of the best things she did?  Before we could go to lunch, we were given a small piece of paper and an envelope.  Our instructions were to find two fabrics we really like, cut them into a 10 x 12 (or something close to that), and write a letter to another quilter.  She suggested that we say something about ourselves or about the fabrics we were to put in the envelope.  When I turned in my letter, I was handed a sealed envelope.  In that envelope was a letter from a woman in western NY and two pieces of fabric.  The fabrics I received were purple and orange and I used them in my Tic Tac Toe block!  Some ladies received letters from quilters in Indiana and Pennsylvania.  Isn't that a super idea?

I am lucky that my letter was from a woman who included her e-mail so I plan to send her a note and these photos.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Entry #600!

Well, if I could set off fireworks on this page, I would. When I started this blog, I had no intention of writing after the McCall's Challenge was over (it was the impetus of starting this blog; a way of keeping family and friends up-to-date on what I was doing during that frenzied time).  Here I am now a few years (the first entry was written on July 21, 2011) later still plugging along.

That I continued is due in great part to Est who pointed out that writing clarifies thinking.  She was and is right.  Over the years, I have written my way through design issues in quilting, learning curves in painting, and vice-versa.  Family and friends have filled my pages, too though, thanks to some of the less wonderful attributes of this digital age, I have had to be very circumspect in what I say or show in these pages.   Successes and failures have also been frequent topics as have mishaps and unexpected delights.

Basically, this blog has given me far more than it has given any of you.  While I do wish that more people would read and comment from time to time, I also understand that blog reading is not for everyone - especially when the subject/s is/are so limited.  Yet, I sigh, and wish I knew how to encourage those of you who do read to join in and answer back (three people responded to the first blog).  Writing is lonely work, and most of the time I really would like to know what someone outside of my own head thinks about my views or what you think I could improve upon.  

So what have I gained?  I have a place where I can record what I have done in both my creative and everyday life.  There is now a record of my photographs, paintings, quilts, travels, and many other aspects of how we live and think in the 21st century.  That may give my descendants some needed information in the future or just something to wonder or laugh about.  It may explain why or how some things were done as they were.  There is also a record I can turn to when I try to figure out when or for whom something was done.   

The conscious thought that goes into writing leaves a trail for me to return to if I lose my way in a similar problem when doing art work.  It's easy to forget the particulars of a solution to a problem if that problem isn't encountered regularly.  Writing it down helps keep it alive, but if that fades - well, I can turn back to this blog.  Writing regularly is itself a discipline of which is its own reward.

For those of you who do respond to my blog, THANK YOU!  I am very aware of your presence through all 600 pages and love you all the more for your unstinting support.  I hope you know that when I write, it to you that I address my thoughts, and you whom I imagine when I think of possible reactions to my words.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Final Re-Cap of Qlt Camp

The last day of quilt camp fun and frolic opens with a photo of ME's latest project; this one a college quilt for the daughter of a long-time friend of her family.  It's called the disappearing pinwheel which may seem like a misnomer, but it is accurate.  One makes a large pinwheel block, cuts it into three equal pieces, reassembles it, and in this case winds up with a pinwheel inside a churn dash.  Neat isn't it?

Not only is the pattern neat, but I love the red and white and the fact that ME made two using the same fabrics but in reversed positions.  She has many more completed and still more on the way to completion, but this was all she had on the wall when I wandered by.

Here is a picture of ME - uncharacteristically serious but full engaged in her task.  Like others ME makes quilts for others before she makes one for herself.  The result?  ME has no quilt on her bed; now that's just wrong!

Finally there are the items I worked on.  Here is my version of the cat block made for the Schenectady quilt guild.  While I had intended to be more creative than this swirly gray fabric (yes, I know it looks black but pictures don't always tell the truth), it looked so like cat hair that I couldn't resist. 

Then there are more Friendship blocks for the BOM I started last month.  Four came from fabric as part of the program and four came from my stash and Log Cabin.  

Finally I finished pieced the "blocks" for this little table mat/candle rug that I had started last November (I think).  Like the Friendship squares above, it too is paper-pieced.  Working on the former BOM made me remember this little piece so I dug out to finish and found the fabric with the birds that you see in three of the trees.  That made me especially happy, and all I have to do now is sew it together! 

With my schedule that may happen some time in June if I'm lucky!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Quilt Camp: Room 2

 Over the years, ME and I have made good friends among the people who participate in quilt camps on a regular basis.  Two of the women come from a distance in order to work together.  The lady on the right, Ginger,  drives in from Connecticut to spend time with her daughter-law.  Ginger sews just about anything from garments for grandchildren, to aprons, to bags, to this wonderful quilt.  Note the flange she sewed on just before the border.  It really sets that off beautifully

You may remember this one, but I can't recall the name of the pattern.

This is Lisa (the daughter-in-law who lives about 2 - 3 hours away) a quilter who can sew anything from easy to the most difficult and do it all to perfection.  She is very patient and spends some of her precious time every quilt camp to teach the rest of something new.  This time she taught us all how to make jar openers - perfect for boutique sales! 
This is a pattern Lisa shared with us; it's a BOM she is also working on.
Lisa also makes quilts that would take most of us four days of concentrated labor in no more than a day.  The brown and teal quilt (pattern B-Q) was made the first day.  Keep in mind that what you see is only about a third of the quilt.  In the photo she's sewing some rows of it together.  And there were more projects for which, alas, I don't have room.

Sitting next to those two is Lesley who has grown into a confident quilter over the time we've known her.  She started out sewing only black and white quilts but is now branching out into color.  Look at this one!  Are you familiar with Norman Rockwell's painting "Gossip"?  Leslie has pieced this together (it was all together by the end of our stay at Joyful) very carefully so the pictures are in the right order.  I just love the blue fabric with the old telephones; Leslie is going to use it for the border, also.  The pattern is Alternating Block Basketweave.

Next is Pat who worked on one of her zillion donation quilts.  Wonder if she has kept track of how many she has done?  Anyway, she worked on this one for a veteran using the "Swedish Doors" pattern which is very effective.  I took the picture this way so you can see the whole quilt, and I like the view it gives of this unique use of the patriotic fabrics. Pat has a great eye!

By the way, Pat is another who helps out anyone struggling with her work.  She does it quite quietly, and I think many don't notice what help she dispenses.

Pam and Mary always manage to find a pattern that puts a new spin on ideas that may be getting tired.   Look at this table runner made using a border print.  Once I tell you the name, you'll understand how this is constructed.  The pattern is "Triangle Frenzy".  Pam made three different sizes and used slightly different orientations, and Mary made at least one.  Unfortunately, Mary had taken hers down and moved on to other work before I could take a picture!

Here's my attempt at being clever; I captured all three ladies in one photo!  From the right is Maxine, then Mary, and finally Mary.  Yes, that's correct. The seated Mary is the one who also made the Triangle Frenzy with a border print in a soft medium rose-pink.  Mary just keeps the quilts coming.  Below is Mary's "Tadashi Gardens", and she's just lucky I didn't walk away with it!  Like me, Mary loves the Oriental fabrics (which are getting harder to find), and I think this pattern makes a very effective and lovely use of those fabrics. 

Maxine and Mary were both working on Doug Lecko patterns, and I was really intrigued (I was away when he taught at Joyful).  They were both so kind and took time away from their work to show me the patterns which are marvelously organized and have lots of diagrams.  I certainly don't need any more patterns, but many of his feature stars, and I love stars . . .  So I had to buy one!  The unfortunate part of this is that neither lady put anything up on the design wall so there are no photos.  You'll have to make do with what you see on the table.

Tomorrow, I will finish with the work that ME was doing as well as my own; 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Another Quilt Camp Weekend

If you've been reading this blog, quilt camp is nothing new to you.  If you haven't, well, it's simply a two or three day weekend spent in a quilt store (ensuring lots of great fabrics, interesting patterns, imagination-tweaking samples, and knowledgeable staff) sewing.  This was a two day weekend at Joyful Quilter.  It was a shortened version of the usual three day extravaganza due to the up-coming Shop Hop which requires massive amounts of preparation.  The owner and staff can stretch themselves only so far!

Some of the best things about quilt camp for me are the opportunity to spend time with friends (some of whom one sees only rarely), a chance to make new friends with like-minded people, the inspiration one gets from seeing the work others are doing, and the possibility of learning from and/or passing on tips to other quilters.  If you look at the following photographs, you will certainly see inspirational work.  Any wavy blocks are the result of either the angle at which I had to stand to take the photo or the haste in which quilters put their work up on the design walls - not their piecing and any other co-missions or omissions are mine!

Anita is a new acquaintance who did some pieces with bold and beautiful colors.  Her chosen works are contemporary in feel and as you can see quite striking.  If I remember correctly, this is the second quilt top on which she worked over this weekend.  It is from a Quilty magazine (January -February 2013 issue) and is called "Rainbow Striped".

Ingrit is working on a local designer's pattern that is also quite modern looking, "Confetti Cake".  I like the white sashing with the red "confetti" that divides the "cake" layers.  You can't see the two blocks that Ingrit made for one of our local guilds.  The block depicts a cat (color the maker's choice) on a white background with a pink border.  We laughed when we realized that she and I both made cat blocks this weekend, and we both chose black/gray fabrics for our cats!

Now this next project was done by Maria and made me feel both envious and slightly guilty.  Envious because of the lovely work and guilty because this is one of those Blocks of the Month (BOM) to which I also subscribe but of which I have completed none.  This one is called Words to Live By and Maria is doing a lovely job.  She and I also had a brief conversation about how we are all artists though in different ways and all have something special to contribute that is our own gift.

Sandy is a good friend who has made many enviable quilts over the course of our friendship.  This one is definitely a departure from her usual, and I loved seeing it. The pattern is Atkinson's "Tile Tango", one I haven't seen.  She made sure to show me this one because she knows I love bling and sparkle in all forms.  While you can't see it here, this fabric looks as though it were sprinkled with fairy dust.  Some little girl is going to be very happy!

Doesn't this next one remind you of French textiles or table ware?  This pattern came from the Layer Cake and Jelly Roll book that's been around for a while - an almost-oldie but definitely goodie.  You'd recognize the cover if you saw it.  This piece was made by another Sandy, and it is large and simply lovely.  I don't know for whom she made it, but that someone is in for a special surprise.

And here is where I have to apologize profusely to a good friend from both the teaching and the quilting realms.  Deb, I couldn't believe it, and I had to look through my camera files twice, but I don't have any photos of the astonishing Urban 9-Patch you were working on.  Basically, it is a modern version of a double wedding ring quilt that Debby is making in purple/lavender background and 9-patches with a very striking black and white fabric for the "wedding rings".  I was so taken with this pattern that I went immediately to sign up for the next class on this technique/pattern (July 17th, 2014, a Thursday).  That's probably why I missed the fact that I hadn't taken a picture!

Tomorrow I will share the work of the quilters in the other room, and I assure you that the treats will just keep coming.  These are some very talented ladies!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Pickles can be Sweet

That pickle I got myself into yesterday with my current quilt project?  The one that resulting in unsewing the entire thing (by the way, "unsewing" is a euphemism for what we used to call "ripping out")?   After ME and I returned from our 10:00 a.m. quick trip to Log Cabin to see P, a member of our friendship group, I went to my studio and spent the rest of the afternoon re-sewing what I had torn asunder.

The result?  Pickles aren't always sour or bitter or too hot to swallow.  I am so very glad I destroyed what I had done because the re-do is so much better.  Perfect? Well, you know the answer to that one.  No, but it's so much more pleasing to both my brain and my eyes that it's darn close.

So I guess I have learned another lesson.  Or maybe it's more accurate to say that what I always knew to be the truth was reinforced by my actions.  If I had left the quilt the way it was and hung it in my home, my eyes would always go to the elements that bothered me (much the way a tongue keeps finding that painful tooth), and I would never be pleased or even moderately satisfied with that piece.

And what a waste of time and energy that would have been!

I never willingly eat sweet pickles, but I can imagine that making them could be enjoyable.  And looking at one, well, that'll be just fine.

P.S.  According to Blogspot's tally, five more days of writing will get me to the grand total of 600 entries!