Do Dragons Like Cookies?

April 4th, 2017

DoDragons1000

Here’s my latest quilt, Do Dragons Like Cookies? 

It measures, um, 39 3/4″ wide by 32 1/2″ tall. Thought I’d throw that in. Some folks like to know about sizes.

 

The stitching

GirlAlone1000

A closeup of some of the stitching. Don’t look too closely at the craters on the moon. They aren’t scientifically accurate. They’re more along the lines of “stitched in a desperate, manic fashion after drinking far too much coffee”.

I’ve been thinking of coming up with an obnoxious label for my style of stitching. We have McTavishing and thread painting and I don’t know what else. I’ve been toying with names like StitchGanic (a bad combination of Stitching and Organic), DesperationStitch, and my favorite, ResentStitch. What do you think? Could I market a book on ResentStitch®? I’m envisioning chapters with themes like “What to do when the coffee runs out,” “Is there a problem? Just sew over it,” and “Yes, I totally intended it to be that way.”

 

DragonAlone1000

Whee. More stitching.

 

SnowflakeAlone1000

And … even more stitching. I have nothing nice to say about the process of sewing the snowflakes. Let’s just say that the closer the wings got to the little girl’s body, the harder it was to make out what was printed on the fabric. And I designed the @#$% thing. In several places I ended up making my peace with the Devil’s Thread, aka clear polyester monofilament.

 

GirlReverse

What the heck. I’ll throw in a couple of views of the reverse. Some folks like to see that sort of thing. Just pretend that I went over the surface with a lint brush before taking the photo, okay? Pretend you don’t see stray threads here and there.

 

DragonReverse

This piece is notable for being the first I can remember where I avoided the Valley of Despair. (The Valley of Despair occurs when one has been working on a project for so long that one can’t remember the beginning and one can’t see the end.) That may be because I broke the project down into half hour increments this time. Each time my timer went off, I made a hash mark on paper, then got up and stretched. It made a world of difference as far as time tracking, taking care of my body, and having a tangible measure of progress.

 

About the surface design

The surface design is a 3D rendering printed on cotton. If you’ve looked at my work recently, you know the drill: you create or acquire geometry on the computer, apply textures to it, light it, and have a computer calculate what the scene would look like.

GirlDragon10Wireframe

Here’s the scene layout in wireframe mode. Hopefully that makes it clearer what I mean by “geometry”.

I originally intended this piece to be a lighting study. I thought it would be fun to do a scene inspired by paintings such as The Lanterns, by Charles Courtney Curran, and Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, by John Singer Sargent. However, instead of a bunch of little girls with lanterns, I used a dragon and a fairy holding a firefly. I can’t remember why. Probably it was late at night and I was getting a little loopy.

Here are the models I started with:

Girl

This little girl is Skyler, offered by Daz.

This is what she looks like when she’s loaded into a scene initially. Boom. No clothes, no hair, just the computer equivalent of a rag doll for you to pose and dress and so forth.

 

dragon

This is the Millennium Dragon LE, also by DAZ.

 

GirlDragonV1

The scene took shape pretty quickly. I threw some wings on the little girl and had her kneel on a rock, offering the firefly to the dragon. Mind you, I’m not sure why one would offer a firefly to a dragon. The dragon in this initial version is large and definitely on the menacing side, so perhaps the young lady decided it would be smart to offer whatever she had on hand.

 

GirlMFD

Paddling around in one’s skin can get chilly, so I put some clothes on her. I chose the Morphing Fantasy Dress (MFD)  from Daz because of its versatility. It’s a very basic dress, and one can do a great deal with it by modifying textures. The MFD has been around for years, so there are tons and tons of textures available, things people have created and offered for free out of the goodness of their hearts.

 

GirlDragon1_5

This test render shows the scene lit by the firefly she’s holding in her hand. I was experimenting with some different camera angles to see if there was something more striking than the first view I’d come up with. I like this angle quite a bit, but decided the one from the side was more striking.

The dress has a fern surface applied. One of the things I like about the MFD is the availability of free textures. One can download anything from a belly dancer’s outfit to a meat dress to a princess dress and swiftly try out different looks for one’s scene. Even if one doesn’t use a particular texture, one can get a better sense of what may work.

In this case, since I was working with a fairy, I downloaded a fern fairy texture. This one was offered by a user I know only as Chohole, who has shared many, many textures with the community.

 

GirlDragonV2

Back to the original camera angle. The firefly has been replaced with a cookie, and now the scene has the moon as a backdrop. (Courtesy of the Iray Worlds SkyDome Super PAK)

Our story is beginning to come together. In the way of children since time immemorial, our fairy is offering a treat to a wild creature she wishes to befriend. Hopefully the dragon will like gingerbread!

That dress isn’t quite right, though. It was nice for previewing the fairy look. However, we’re no longer in a woodland setting. She has snowflake wings, icy white hair, and the whole scene seems quite cold. Perhaps a snowflake dress would be better?

 

GirlDragonV3

This dress texture was courtesy of a lady named Trixie, whose ShareCG profile says “I’m just a ranch lady, raising cattle … this is my hobby 3D textures”. And very nice they are, too. Thank you, Trixie!

I’ve curled the dragon’s tail around so that it curves toward the fairy. That felt more balanced, plus I didn’t like having the creature’s tail lopped off by the side of the picture.

 

DressTexture

At this point I decided I wanted to make my own texture for the dress, one which would mimic the snowflakes on the girl’s wings. Here I’ve overlaid the lace on top of a template offered by SnowSultan. If one builds the graphic in layers in Photoshop, it’s straightforward to use the template as a guide, then turn it off, flatten the file, and save the result out as a jpeg for one’s texture.

 

GirlDragonV4

Fairy with custom snowflake lace texture. I had to make several custom textures, actually. It turns out that when you’re rendering out a scene at 6300 x 5400 pixels for printing on fabric, many textures are too low resolution to look decent.

At this point I was also trying some different camera and moon positions. I do like the way we see reflected moonlight on the water in this test render.

 

GirlDragon1000

However … surprise! When I placed the moon behind the girl’s head, the composition became much stronger.

That’s one of the advantages of working on a computer and being able to save a thousand different versions. You can do some experimentation apart from whatever you may have sketched out or planned.

I have no idea how this scene ends. Will the dragon accept the cookie and become her friend or will it chomp her hand? Not all fairytales have happy endings, after all.

Speaking as the mother of a twelve year old boy, I do hope the fairy’s vaccinations are current.

This and That

March 2nd, 2017

GirlDragon1000

Tentative title: Do Dragons Like Cookies? (click image to embiggen)

This is the surface design for the newest quilt-in-progress, AKA the latest thing I’m griping about. And gripe I shall. When I stitch, those snowflake wings and the lace dress on the girl are going to give me fits unless I use what I call The Devil’s Thread: clear polyester monofilament.

 

GusherDetail

Yeah, I finally tried that stuff. I used some on Gusher, in the area with balls and cups and such. I feel like it was a devil’s bargain. Yes, I preserved the fine shading of the cups and styrofoam containers and I didn’t have to do fifty thousand thread changes. On the other hand, the texture of the thread itself is yuck, like something I’d cut out of a vacuum cleaner roller with a utility knife. It glistens. It doesn’t have the same soul as the thread I normally use. I know it’s irrational, but I’m terrified that it’s going to spring loose from the quilt and attack someone.

If I’m going to spend weeks or months hunched over a sewing machine, I want the end result to have some poetry to it, even if the quilt depicts a drowning polar bear or an automaton crapping out plastic cups. There needs to be a good reason I chose to make a quilt rather than printing the same design out on flags to sell at a roadside stand. The stitch needs to contribute to the design. Ideally it would be essential. I’m not so sure I’m accomplishing that with The Devil’s Thread.

 

GirlDragon10Wireframe

Anyhow … on to the surface design of the fabric. This is a 3D rendering. If you’ve followed my work in the past, you may be familiar with the process. Create geometry on a computer, barf some textures on it, set up fake light sources, and let the computer figure out what that might look like in real life. If you look at the wireframe, you can see that the scene is extremely simple.

This time I used some purchased assets (3D models) and posed them rather than making everything myself. The little girl is the Skyler model from Daz and the dragon is the Millennium SubDragon LE. I posed them in the Iray Worlds SkyDome.

Much like using The Devil’s Thread, using purchased models is something I wouldn’t have done once upon a time. Instead I would have laboriously spent days creating every blasted model myself, and I would have made sure that everyone around me was miserable while I did it. I also would have bragged about it afterward, and when the thing hung in a gallery, no one would have understood or cared.

Using the Daz assets was nice. I hate to admit that, because I think some of their marketing verges on pedophilia, and there are a couple of things on their site that I find obscenely racist. (Note the afro-wearing gorilla shown in one of the shots for this product. Seriously. Do we really need to go there?)

That said, sometimes it’s nice to grab a pre-made model and get on with it. Daz has a lot of models. Often they’re pretty darned cheap, especially if you consider the labor that goes into them. (Afro-wearing gorillas notwithstanding.)

 

LaceDress

Look at the lace on that dress. I thought I was being real clever when I created that texture. “Oh, it’ll match the snowflakes her wings are made out of,” I told myself, “It’ll be pretty! Visual poetry!” Yeah, it matches. It’s pretty. It’s also going to be horrible to stitch. Either I use The Devil’s Thread on it to hide mistakes or I spend the next two months hunched over it while I stitch with a magnifying glass.

Stay tuned.

 

blueHair

In other non-news, I dyed my hair blue.

Sometimes I hear people complain, and justifiably so, about becoming “invisible” after one turns a certain age. Let me tell you, when you go around with a head full of long blue (or purple or hot pink) hair, you are no longer invisible. People smile and chat with me when my hair’s blue. I get great customer service. My kid likes it. Sure, I get the occasional stinkeye and backing away reaction too, but that’s also fine. It lets me cull out the people who are superficial.

The main reason to do something like hair dying, though, is because you enjoy it. I do. I could care less about growing fingernails and half the time I don’t remember to put on makeup, but seeing blue hair when I look in the mirror cheers me up.

 

HerStory

Here are a couple of new works, celebrating the lives and hard work of Maria Goeppert-Mayer and Mary Blair. They’re slated for Susanne Miller Jones’ HerStory traveling exhibit, along with scads of works from other artists. It should be a good exhibit; the subject matter is juicy, and the other works I’ve seen have been creative and heartfelt.

I admire people who, to use a hackneyed phrase, “do things to make the world better”. It’s easy to plotz on one’s La-Z-Boy and complain, but quite another thing to conceive an idea and bring it to fruition.

Susanne’s doing just that. She’s conceived and spearheaded several exhibits on thought-provoking topics. That gives artists like me a venue to speak our minds, and it makes for provocative, interesting viewing. One of those exhibits, Fly Me to the Moon, is currently traveling the country.

 

MQU

MQU_2

The latest Machine Quilting Unlimited has a few of the works from Fly Me to the Moon. Yep, that’s my rocket in the second shot. Also, check out the articles about Betty Hahn’s work and on pictographic quilting, which are pretty darned cool.

 

OurStory

Susanne is currently accepting entries for a new exhibit, OURstory: Civil Rights Stories in Fabric. Its goal is to “tell the stories of disenfranchised people and their fights for equal rights”. This is another great topic, and very timely.

The deadline is March 8, so it’s coming up pretty quickly. Fortunately, all one has to do by that date is submit an idea, not the actual quilt, so there’s plenty of time to register.

http://www.susannemjones.com/ourstory-call-for-entries/

 

TORlogowhite500

On a related note, The Artist Circle, a group of well-known quilt artists, is accepting entries for an exhibit to “protest the Trump administration’s actions and policies”.

One only has to skim over the news to see matters of concern – climate change, fake news, education, racism, and on and on. This exhibit is an opportunity to speak out about those issues. The deadline for that is May 1.

http://threadsofresistance.blogspot.com

 

GusherTrim

This thing, Gusher, is finally stitched and faced. I need to do a little inkwork on it, but I think I can call it all but done. Not a moment too soon, either. I don’t know how many years I’ve been working on it. I could look it up, but hey, why don’t I not do that? The number is probably depressing.

The fact is, I’m not one of those gracious people who writes only sweet things or gushes about how many spools of thread they’ve used or how they were inspired by a butterfly tenderly sucking the nectar from a flower. I start projects because I believe in them. Sometimes I get tired of working on them and I finish only because of sheer cussedness. This is one of those projects.

I’ll leave you with a few gratuitous shots.

desk

My desk, or a portion of it. I also call this Still Life with Key Pad, Dust Mask, and Brain Pin.

Sometimes it’s fun to see others’ work spaces. I hadn’t realized how cluttered mine had gotten. It’s taking on a “Where’s Waldo” appearance.

 

Shoes

My twelve year old’s shoe on the left. My shoe on the right. Having your kid outgrow you is one of those rites of passage, I guess. Bittersweet. We want our kids to grow and thrive, and it’s horrid when they don’t, but it would be nice to hold the baby he once was just a few more times.

 

Endcap

Alright. This. (Another “click to embiggen” picture.)

I try to be a decent person. Hopefully I’m a better person than I was ten or twenty years ago, and that usually includes just walking by and not commenting if I see something that I think is nonsense.

I’m going to make an exception this time, though. This was an end cap at one of the local Michaels. It’s for “customizing” slime. Not making slime – there’s school glue, which is an ingredient for making slime, but no borax and no instructions, so I guess we aren’t actually MAKING anything, are we? We’re just taking glitter and plastic crap and mooching it inside a viscous polymer blob so we can, I don’t know, have it fall on the floor, get dirty, and throw it away?

I have clearly outlived my usefulness on this Earth.

SDA Journal

February 7th, 2017

Let’s see, what are the standard things I write when my work is published?

“This came in the mail today …”

“Oh, what a nice surprise! I totally forgot that I spent a week writing this article/sucked up to the editor and got my thing in the reader gallery/etc.!”

“Tee hee. Look at the little thing I whipped up. And now it’s on a pulverized slice of dead tree!”

Lord, I’m even boring myself. It’s time to revamp my schtick.

 

SDAcover

Anyway … the Winter 2016/2017 Surface Design Journal arrived. It’s very cool. This edition is their “Inaugural International Exhibition in Print”. It celebrates the SDA’s 40th anniversary with a selection of work from forty artists. I’m one of them.

It looks like the competition to be included was pretty stiff, so I’m quite gratified. The magazine’s intro article mentions that “40 artists were chosen from over 400” and that jurors had to sift through more than 1200 images.

Based on looking through the published works, I think they tried to select the most diverse range of work they could in terms of media, technique, and theme.

SDAJournal

My piece, Game Over, is in there representing the art quilt end of things. Hopefully it will depress thousands of people. Edit: Here’s a PDF, courtesy of the kind folks at the SDA Journal.

What else is in there? A reliquary containing samples taken from a two mile deep ice core in Antarctica. A pair of needlefelted hairless cats who are hugging each other. Sculptural baskets woven from watercolor paper. A truly disturbing set of beaded hoods. Enough other artwork to make an MFA advisor gleefully rub his hands and start muttering phrases like “vegetarian fetishism” and “synthesis of zeitgeist”.

It’s art, baby!

Go here to see about getting your own copy: http://www.surfacedesign.org/journal/about-the-journal/

Thirty Infamous Views of a Gusher

January 18th, 2017

Yes, I totally stole the title of this post from Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. When I steal, I like to steal from the best.

While I was cleaning my hard drive, I ran across these images from the development of one of my pieces, Gusher. It’s fun looking back at the design process and some of the disasters.

See that first image, with the bold, graphic marks depicting the oil shooting out of the derrick? Yeah. Those bold marks looked okay on paper when I was sketching, but they didn’t translate well when I built the scene. Neither did the huge backdrop of garbage bags one can see in the third image. Using moody blue and gray clouds in the background didn’t, either. After looking at some photos of pollution in China, I decided a yellow would be more forboding and would provide better color contrast.

Then there was the oil. I’ll just put the words “particle system” and “simulation” out there and spare everybody details. It got ugly, comically so at times.

I did all that work just so I could print the thing out on fabric and turn it into an art quilt.

I’m still stitching the thing, using the stitching to create motion lines for the oil droplets and so forth. I don’t know that it’ll look significantly different after I’m done with the sewing, but I guess that’s part of the fun. We try things, see if they’re going in the direction we want or a direction we think is interesting, and we make adjustments.

Now … I just need to find some shows that want a quilt showing a guy gulping down oil and defecating out plastic cups.

gusher01 gusher02 gusher03 gusher04 gusher05 gusher06 gusher07 gusher08 gusher09 gusher10 gusher11 gusher12 gusher13 gusher14 gusher15 gusher16 gusher17 gusher18 gusher19 gusher20 gusher21 gusher22 gusher23 gusher26 gusher27 gusher28 gusher29 gusher30 gusher31 gusher32 

 

Christmas in the Park, 2016

December 28th, 2016

As I’ve noted in previous years, I love San Jose’s Christmas in the Park tradition.

Each year, a park downtown is filled with horrible animatronic displays and trees decorated by organizations such as businesses, schools, and Scouts. The ornaments usually lean toward being weatherproof and on the cheap side, so they won’t be worth stealing, which often adds a note of tacky fun. Sometimes they’re frankly awful, which is even better from my point of view. Recycled materials often have a starring roll.

Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorites from this year’s display.

 

atheist

Flying Spaghetti Monster. Somebody did a great job of whipping up this tree topper out of balls and pipe cleaners.

 

atheist2

A strand of DNA. More clever use of pipe cleaners.

 

atheist3

A galaxy, one of many wonders to be appreciated on the garland of the tree decorated by the Atheist Community of San Jose. The atheist tree is always a delight.

 

batteries

Creature with soulless eyes, holding batteries. Now I’m definitely in the holiday spirit.

 

candy

Fun and clever candy-themed decorations.

 

cigarette

This was an anti-smoking tree. I’m not a smoker and I feel for those who are hooked, wish to quit, and have trouble doing so.

That said, sometimes I also have the emotional age of a nine year old boy. I find the idea of a Christmas ornament with somebody puffing away on a cigarette hilarious.

 

danny

Danny Dwagon!!! He’s here fwom Happy Howwow to hewp Santa Cwaus dewiver pweasants!!!

 

danny2

Uh oh … so elves come out the back ends of dragons? I had no idea. I think I was happier when I didn’t know.

 

elf

Female elf in drag. “Sorry, girls. If you wanna work in Santa’s workshop, you’ll have to wear a beard.”

 

frosty

Clever use of plastic cups. Fill ‘em with beer, chug the beer down, make a snowman. Perfect, except for the fact that I loathe beer.

 

gourd

From a tree decorated with gourds. Somebody did a great job painting this one.

 

grinch

Grinch tree. Clever and minimalist. Throw green netting over the whole thing, stick on some facial features, and you’re done.

 

grinch2

Another Grinch tree. Photo provided so that loyal readers can compare and contrast the two.

 

honey

Neat idea for a tree topper.

 

nightmare

Jack Skellington. It’s hard to beat a tree with Tim Burton-inspired decorations.

 

oz

Oh, how fun! It’s the cast of the Wizard of Oz!

 

oz2

Wait. What is that … thing … on the back of Toto’s basket? Did the Tin Woodsman lop off Dorothy’s hand?

 

penciltopper

Tree topper made out of whatever the hell you have on hand. I approve.

 

pineapple

Pineapple made from pine cone. Very clever.

 

purple

More minimalism. Toss purple netting over the top and call it done. Yeah. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

 

recycled

Nice sampling of ornaments made from recycled goods.

 

reindeer

Santa and his reindeer, with Rudolph hiding out in a none-too-pleasant snow grotto.

 

reindeer_2

“Rudolph? Get your butt up here! Like it or not, you’re leading my sleigh tonight, mister!”

 

snowman

DARE to keep snowmen off drugs.

 

snowman2

Fun. This is the mullet equivalent of a snowman, with business up front and wildness in the back.

 

snowman2_2

Check out meditating Santa, who’s on the back.

 

snowman2_3

There’s also this dude, who I nicknamed “Nightmare in the Box”.

 

snowman2_4

Christmas tree? Taco Bell intestinal mishap? The possibilities are limitless.

 

snowman3

Another snowman, this time very Japanese.

 

snowman4

I think this creature rates its own horror movie, don’t you?

 

sugarskulls

Fun.

Nida’s Nightmare

December 28th, 2016

Let’s do this.

It’s chilly here in Silicon Valley, where I make my home. I’m in the mood to gorge on the fruitcake I have hidden in the laundry room, fiddle around in the studio, and have a nice soak in the hot tub I don’t own.

However, before I sink into a total state of sloth and dissipation, I have a couple of announcements.

tff124

Issue 124 of Textile Fibre Forum is out. It’s been out for awhile, actually, but you can get a copy on iTunes or via PocketMags if you don’t live in Australia or didn’t see it on the newsstand.

This issue was Neroli Henderson’s last as editor, a fact I mourn and that will probably make her waggle her shoulders to get some stress kinks out. I’ll miss that relationship; she did a bang-up job as editor and was great to write for.

nidasnightmare

On that note, I have an article in this issue, “Nida’s Nightmare”. The story is a followup on the sorry mess that was Kathy Nida’s censorship debacle, with a new twist involving nonexistent penises.

Note the pullquote you can see above, Censorship thrives in secrecy and darkness. If we want to fight it, we need to keep shining a light on it. That’s the best way to keep nightmares at bay. Let’s all keep that in mind, both in terms of our artwork and our lives. I believe we’re on the edge of some extremely challenging times. We’re going to have to work hard to promote a sense of decency – and by decency, I mean things like combatting bigotry and having compassion for others. We’re going to need to shine that light and work hard to keep the nightmares at bay.

The issue also has an interview with Annemieke Mein and showcases a variety of wonderful artwork. Go check it out.

odalisque490

One of my works, Odalisque with Squeak Toy, never made it back from Houston this year because it found a new home. I hope it’s bringing its purchaser and her loved ones great joy!

Beware the fickle Daz shopping cart

November 12th, 2016

I have a minor annoyance to gripe about. Minor. It isn’t on the scale of people having homes wiped out by a hurricane and scrabbling to find clean water or shelter. It isn’t on par with the overt racism, mysogyny, homophobia, etc. which are evidently part of this country’s core values, or the fact that people feel they have targets painted on their backs.

No, it’s a minor whine. I was shopping. I’m not a clothing or shoes or handbag kind of gal. I’m more like a books or software or 3D model person. I could care less what I wear, in general, as long as I can whomp up a plate of Mexican food and have some cool books and art and computer stuff.

Lately I’ve been buying stuff from Daz. One of their products, Daz Studio, excels in “allowing users to manipulate ready to use (3D) models and figures”, as Wikipedia puts it. Once upon a time, that wouldn’t have been interesting to me. If I wanted to create a piece of artwork that involved 3D, it was going to be highly specialized, not something that involved models one could purchase in a store. The idea puzzled me, actually; why would I want to use somebody else’s models? No, it was Blender for me all the way; I’d just go hack together whatever I wanted myself.

Then I started making book covers as opposed to pure art. Dear lord, so many book covers and so many people on those book covers, people making out or turning into dragons or being chased by UFOs. Yeah, you can do paintings a la James Gurney, pay human models to pose for you, or you can troll through the offerings of stock photo agencies. However, that stuff gets expensive and time-consuming.

You know what’s cheap and easy? You go to Daz, download their free software and core set of free models, and you start posing the figures. Then, after you get the figures the way you want ‘em, you poke the render button and use the result as a reference for a painting, or throw it into Photoshop with some lens flares and vague fuzzy blobs that might be Bigfoot.

So that’s what I did.

“I can do this,” I thought. “I can get by with just their base models and work everything else out in Photoshop. It’ll be cheap and easy. I don’t have to spend a bunch of money. I’ll keep things simple.”

nudebasefig

One of the free stock characters, who is deeply unhappy because I chopped off his legs at the knees and he lacks the equipment to urinate.

Then I found out about the Platinum Club. “Discounts galore! Girls, girls, girls!” their ad read, or something like that. Okay, fine. They were running a deal on memberships. I paid a pittance, something like ten bucks, for a three month membership. The risk seemed minimal for that price, and I figured I’d see if the membership paid for itself.

lillithenvintens5

Lillith 7. Hobbies: crouching in virtual water while I experiment with bump maps. Likes midnight taco runs, strolls along the beach, and fast render times.

Holy cow. It was like getting hooked on crack. So many 3D models I couldn’t live without, discounted oh-so-cheaply. They started their “Platinum Club” sale somewhere in there, and my buying resistance eroded even further. Sure, I could get by without more stuff, but wouldn’t making covers go even faster if I had a few more figures and clothes for them?

So I bought. I became one of those people who lurched over to the computer at the crack of dawn to see what had been added to the “Eight for $2.99” category. One model became another and another, and this morning I went hog-wild. “Platinum Club Final Catch-Up!” bellowed their website. I could barely even tear myself away from the computer to go use the toilet, the offerings were so succulent. Pretty much every darned thing on my wish list was discounted by mammoth amounts!

terradome3

Terradome 3 was going for $12.95, massively on sale from its $59.95 list price. I flopped it in the cart and got another nice discount, down to $10.36. Woohoo! I found a bunch of stuff on my wish list on sale, and soon had piled in about $50 worth of stuff. For example, a base model of Ivan 7, which lists at $44.95, was on sale for $9.71 – then, when I added it to my cart, I received an additional discount to $7.77.

ivan-7__2

My thuggish heartthrob, Ivan 7. A steal at $7.77!

Wow. So much wonderfulness. At those prices, I wanted to see what else they had. But meanwhile, my kid was joggling my arm and whining about how he was hungry, so very weak he couldn’t even make it to the kitchen to whip up a piece of toast by himself, and he desperately needed some pancakes and an orange and a couple of pieces of bacon. So I muttered under my breath, heaved myself up off the couch, and lurched into the kitchen.

An hour later, I came back to my computer and updated the cart. Suddenly, its contents shot up in excess of $80. What the heck? We’re talking a difference in time of ONE HOUR on the SAME DAY yet the prices shifted upward. For example, Terradome skyrocketed from $10.36 to $17.26 – still on sale, but now $7 more. That was true across the board.

Or, to summarize my experience, “Big sale! Things I want massively discounted! I throw things and things and things in shopping cart! I go cook breakfast and look for even more things! Shopping FUN!” Then: “Prices go up … what do I do now? NOT fun.”

My theory is that they’re running an algorithm to see what kind of pricing gets people to buy or not buy – Amazon does that kind of thing – and if people were jumping on the sale in droves, maybe the algorithm hopped in and adjusted the prices upward. Or perhaps there’s a coding issue.

Here’s the thing, though. Once I’ve added something to the cart in good faith, at a particular price, I like it to stay at that price. An hour or two delay in checking out is not excessive. I should be able to hammer on the shopping cart and update it and add things all day long, until the clock ticks over to midnight, without seeing pricing changes.

This is not the first time I’ve seen this. It’s happened enough that I’ve started making screen captures of the shopping cart in between adding items, or making a text document with items and their prices itemized. The appropriate thing to do now would be to write the company, send them the screen captures, and ask “Say, folks, why did your prices bump up over the course of an hour?” Alas, I jotted prices down this time, which is equivalent to having no solid proof. (Much like the saying about oral contracts. “They’re worth the paper they’re written on.”)

It is what it is. Now I know, and now you do too. Double check that shopping cart one last time before you check out and enter your credit card information; otherwise, you may get a nasty surprise.

I didn’t actually need those models; I just wanted them. They were luxuries or items that would have made my work go a little faster. It’s not like I can complain about the company’s pricing in general, really; it takes time and hard work to make models, and I’ve benefited plenty from the Platinum Club sale. I know that running a company and all the trappings that go with it are expensive. However, once I’ve seen a price I find acceptable and put something in my cart, I really, really don’t like seeing the price increment upward. It’s one of those practices that lowers my trust for a company and makes me tend to avoid them.

I was planning on writing a review/comparison of Terradome 3 versus some other systems, but that isn’t going to happen now. On the positive side, I just saved myself $50-80 by abandoning the entire transaction.

I doubt Daz will notice the difference. They were doing fine before I came along. They’ll do fine after I’m gone. There are plenty of people who’ll see Terradome 3 listed at $21.58 and will swoop in and happily grab it up, not knowing that it was listed at $12.95 this morning, with an additional discount down to $10.36.

But I know.

Yep, I made some more stuff.

October 21st, 2016

Whee! Look what the letter carrier angrily hurled on my doorstep! It’s the 2016 edition of IQF Quilt Scene! That means one of my quilts must be inside. That means I must rapidly thumb through looking for it – with great care, though, so as to not wrinkle the magazine. I want the magazine to look nice and crisp so that I can leave it out on the table and nonchalantly lure people over to look at it.

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Here we go – page 75, deep in the bowels of the Special Exhibits section. The title of this piece is Leaving Home: Launch of the Apollo 8. It’s one of a collection of art quilts in the Fly Me to the Moon exhibit, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 spaceflight and humans’ first steps on the moon. That exhibit will be debuting at IQF Houston soon.

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My particular piece commemorates the moment when Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders first blasted away from the Earth and headed toward the moon. They orbited the moon ten times, then returned to the Earth. Although they didn’t get to land on the moon, they were the first to make this particular trip; their mission was important in terms of demonstrating its viability.

The piece was executed in watercolor on soy-sized cotton, then stitched. I wanted to evoke something of the spirit of the works of Ando Hiroshige.

This is only one of the pieces in the exhibit, of course. There are, I think, 176 pieces total in the collection, a portion of which will be at IQF. They have a diverse range of treatments ranging from the literal, to pop culture, to folk art.

One can see a few more in the friends@Festival eZine, a publication of Quilts, Inc. The article is also well worth reading for its interview with Susanne Miller Jones, the person who thought of the exhibit and has driven it.

Also debuting at IQF Houston: Odalisque with Squeak Toy, seen below. It’s supposed to be in the digital art category, so do say hello to it if you’re in the area.

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Alas, I suspect it’s another of my pieces that no one will really “get”, at least in terms of understanding how the surface design was executed. On some level, that’s okay. People don’t necessarily have to understand how something was created in order to interact with it, like it, or dislike it. On the other hand, people often are curious about that sort of thing.

As a reminder, Odalisque involved things such as creating a computer-based 3D scene:Odalisque6

 

It also involved simulating the fall of the cloth throw that’s at the end of the chaise, “dropping” it and having my computer figure out what that would look like.

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Game Over involved similar activities, such as modeling the polar bear and the water it’s floating in:

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water

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When I recently received a judging sheet for Game Over, there were comments about thread tension and binding. This is standard for work I create, unless it wins an award, so I am sure that the sheet for Odalisque will have similar comments.

Here is how I feel after I’ve spent countless hours on a piece and I get back comments which totally disregard the surface design and whether the stitching compliments it, in favor of issues which are difficult to see except from the back:

Moving on … just finished this piece, Chaos Contained. It won’t be going to any shows, so get your fill of it here.

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I made it from a variety of bits and scraps, such as fabric and yarn tidbits. The stitching is eccentric and messy, and would utterly horrify the people who congregate at quilt shows and run their ungloved hands over the backs of display pieces.

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(Click image to embiggen.)

I like it, though. Good enough.

The Annual PIQF Post

October 14th, 2016

I saw this when I went to PIQF this morning:

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I’ve been telling people it’s an award for not bleeding all over my work, but I think it’s actually for machine workmanship.

Awards aren’t everything. They’re a polite gesture on the part of the show, and I’m guessing the judges have just a few minutes to make a snap decision about what grabs them by the gut. Get a different judge or have the same people look at things on a different day, and somebody else would have gotten that ribbon. Maybe most of the works in the show deserve some kind of ribbon, because they have good heart and it took the creators some guts to put their work out there.

Nevertheless, this week I got lucky. I really appreciate it. I’ve been in the dumps this week, heaven only knows why. Maybe there isn’t a good reason, other than spending too much time staring into the open running sewer that’s the current presidential election campaign.

I could have gone to the show yesterday. The convention center is six miles from my house, so it’s not as though it’s an arduous drive. Instead, I stayed home and repaired the floor in one of the bathrooms, because nothing says glamour quite like crawling around by a toilet prying up wobbly floor tiles.

Anyhow, went today. Glad I did. Couldn’t stay long, because I’m nursing a mild sprain, but I managed to hobble around the show for an hour. (Bo-Nash lady, I’ll have to come back Sunday to hit you up for fusible powder. You were being nice telling the lady ahead of me all about Angelina fiber, but my ankle just hurt too damned badly to stand much longer.)

spectators

One thing I enjoy about shows is seeing how people interact with the work.

I have a couple of pieces in PIQF this year. One is the depressing, semi-apocalyptic piece on the righthand side of this photo, showing a plastic polar bear clinging to a plastic block of ice. The other is Why Knot.

Almost without exception, people tend to walk by the polar bear piece, Game Over, in favor of looking at Why Knot. That isn’t a knock on the viewers, by the way, but simply a statement of fact. Maybe the composition is just better, or maybe people relate better to children than they do to distressed polar bears who are about to drown.

Among those who look at Why Knot, there’s a group who look at it, smile, maybe study the workmanship, then move on. Then there’s the group who stop and actually read the knot names in the background. Once they do that, they’re usually stuck there for awhile. Let’s just say that I didn’t use standard knot names.

I’m not going to itemize all the work I saw at PIQF – there are plenty of other blogs that’ll do walkthroughs – but I did want to point out a few things that caught my eye.

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The first is this work, whose name and creator I unfortunately didn’t record. Sunday. I’ll go find out Sunday, just before the show closes and I pick up my work, and I’ll post an update. Anyhow – lovely abstract of cheerful colors. Sucked me right in.

If memory serves, the artist is from the U.K.. That’s one of the things I appreciate about the Mancuso shows, the fact that they have a sampling of works created by people from outside the U.S.. The work is often stylistically a little different or depicts subject matter we don’t see over here, such as poppies for Anzac Day or swagmen hanging out with their faithful Blue Heelers. You see, I’m of the opinion that we don’t need walls built around the United States, either physically or metaphorically. We need to instead look outside our boundaries and wonder and learn. Most years, when I go through the entries from the World Quilt Show, I learn something that’s a little new to me, then I come home and learn a little more. Alright. End of that lecture.

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This piece caught my eye, Le Chat de Mondrian by Connie Kincius Griner. It’s a nice crisp, bold piece with a good heart. I like her background stitching. There’s just enough of it, and it’s large enough to make an interesting, discernible texture without competing with the foreground imagery.

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This quilt is The Three Watchers, by Kathryn Harmer Fox of South Africa. It’s a huge, monumental piece, 72 x 56”, and is all the more impressive when one takes a closer look at her stitching.

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Look at that. I’m going to guess that she’s free-motion stitching on a zig-zag setting, but maybe not. However it is that she’s achieved this effect, it’s given the work a wonderful organic, painterly quality.

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Here’s one of Kathy Nida’s works, Part Time Oasis. Always nice to see Kathy’s work in person. I’m going to note that it includes nudity yet, astonishingly, I didn’t see any viewers clutching at their pearls and calling news stations, or any horses getting startled and bolting. Perhaps it’s because we’re in Northern California. The place is probably lousy with aging hippies, and no doubt a few of them quilt. I think I even smelled musk or patchouli when I paid for my admission.

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Yuja, by Linda Anderson. She’s done a great deal with wonderful economy. Look at the marvelous, skilled base painting she’s did, and how expressive the waves of notes cascading around the piano are. I think she won Best Wall Quilt for this, and it was well deserved.

Also, not to change the subject, what is it with people wearing thigh-high stockings with short skirts or shorts? Is this a thing now? Am I just revealing that I’ve gotten past my sell-by date because I’m unfamiliar with this custom? I ran into another example of this yesterday; I’ll post it in a minute.

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Glimmer, one of Neroli Henderson’s lovely nudes. She’s done a number of photo-based nudes, printed on fabric and stitched.

Again – astonishingly – no one seemed particularly shocked or scandalized by the nudity.

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True Blue Mates, by Yvonne Chapman. She’s done a very nice job on this. She’s told a story of friendship with great economy.

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Look how she’s conveyed the water sort of bubbling over with the stitching she did around the rim of the billy can. That’s the kind of clever work she did throughout the piece. Oh, you say you can’t tell how nice it is because my photo kind of stinks? Alright. Come Sunday, I’ll see if I can hobble alllll the way to the back of the ballroom and get a better photo. Her workmanship deserves to be seen.

 

barista

So a minute ago – or, rather, a few paragraphs ago – I was grumping about the possible trend of people pairing thigh-high stockings with short skirts. This is where I first saw it, on a picture for a 3D model of a “trendy coffee shop barista outfit.” I’m guessing “trendy coffee shop” really means “Hooters with caffeine”, but perhaps that’s just the fuddy-duddy in me speaking.

I’ve been using more readymade 3D models lately, since I’ve been cranking out book covers that use a lot of human imagery. Oh, it’s not clear what I mean by a 3D model? Um, here. Maybe this’ll help:

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This is Michael 6, a Daz offering. Sadly, he has no privates. (Click the image to enlarge it, if you’d like to verify this for yourself.) He had a tragic encounter with a viewer at a quilt show in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and that put an end to his aspiration of being able to digitally urinate while standing up.

I’ve usually made my own 3D models, as with the bear for Game Over and whatnot, but sometimes it turns out to be incredibly convenient to be able to download a model of a guy and pose him like I would a real human model. This is how I crank out tawdry book covers, for example.

Alas, some of the models get a little pricey. I’ve had my eye on the Scott 6 Pro Bundle, for example, but I just can’t bring myself to puke up $135 for the guy. He’s really dishy, though.

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Just look at him, holding his helmet. Oh yeah, Scott 6. You can hold my helmet any time.

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Here he is patrolling a subway car for manspreaders. I feel safer knowing that Scott 6 is out there with his digital gun, ready to shoot anyone who dares to use more than his fair share of seat space.

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He also moonlights doing surveillance, I guess. Ah, Scott 6. Is there anything you can’t do?

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It’s sad. I think I have a crush on a 3D model. However, it could be worse. I could have a thing for Harpoon Girl, who stands around in a bikini and a pair of stylized spats, thinking wistfully about stabbing fish.

Pulling Out Too Soon

August 13th, 2016

One thing I’ve learned: if you create innovative, thought-provoking work, at some point somebody’s going to crap all over it. They’ll say things like “This is ugly; I want to see pretty” or “Somebody sure had a lot of time on their hands” or “You couldn’t pay me enough money to have that in my house.” It doesn’t matter how objectively good the work is. You can make a piece showing how people were transported on slave ships during the rum trade era, and somebody will whine about it because it made them think for a split second and their brains couldn’t handle it. I’ve seen it happen.

Works with nudity really get this treatment. If a piece includes nudity, real or imagined, somebody will have an apoplectic fit while they’re crapping on it. Sometimes, if the work is exhibited in a show, they’ll have their little fit all the way to the show’s organizers, then maybe hang out and wait for a TV news crew so they can be offended on camera. If they’re really good at being manipulative, they can scare the show’s organizers into taking the work down.

 

TFF

A few months back, I wrote an article on this type of thing. I interviewed Annabel Rainbow, Randall Cook, Kathy Nida, and a couple of other people who didn’t wish to be identified. Their stories of censorship are truly chilling.

The piece appears in Issue 122 of Textile Fibre Forum. I recommend checking it out, not only for their stories, but because TFF is a nice, crisp, high-quality publication. That issue also includes articles on the work of Grayson Perry, Charlotte Kruk, and others. Electronic back copies can be purchased on iTunes or via PocketMags.

 

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I Was Not Wearing a Life Jacket, © Kathy Nida

Alas, censorship has reared its hysterical, pearl-clutching head again. One of my friends, Kathy Nida, just had work pulled from AQS Grand Rapids because a viewer THOUGHT she saw a penis in it. Here’s her blog entry. ***

I happen to know that the visitor didn’t see a penis. She didn’t see a penis, because there isn’t one. I’m posting a photo of the work for yourself, so you can verify that there is, in fact, no penis in it. That’s right. We’ve reached a new level of censorship – having work censored for something that isn’t there!

Based on this event, I think there’s some confusion about what a penis looks like. This worries me a little, because about half of all mammals have them. Chances are, no matter how sheltered you are, you’ve seen a penis. Dogs and horses don’t exactly walk around in tighty-whities, and most women have had husbands, boyfriends, or at least changed the occasional diaper.

However, I will concede that it’s possible this woman had never seen one, given the state of sex ed in Michigan’s school systems. Apparently it’s optional, and is given to things like pro-abstinence speakers.  Therefore, let’s have a little chat about what a penis looks like.

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Mr. Happy

Here is a representative penis. I call it “Mr. Happy”. It’s a nice, non-threatening toilet paper holder and Kleenex dispenser that I made it for an art show a few years ago. I thought it was apt because it’s rendered in fiber. Maybe the AQS visitor was confused about what a penis looked like because she was looking at fiber-based artwork.

Mr. Happy depicts some of the standard characteristics of a real penis, such as being longer than it is wide and getting shorter and longer. (One adds and removes rolls of toilet paper to achieve that effect.) It even has furry testicles. I will admit, though, that the eyes are not true to life. If I saw eyes on a real penis, I’d probably flee as fast as my legs would carry me.

I hope that helps clarify things a little.

 

Show organizers, your censoring of works has gotten old. Real old. Even if the woman had seen a penis in Kathy’s artwork, so what? There’s been nudity in artwork for the past 50,000 years or so.

You know what I do when I see a piece I don’t like? I move those funny pink blobs at the bottoms of my legs and I walk past it. Personally, I found the picaninny quilt that was exhibited at PIQF a few years ago deeply offensive. And it won a prize. (Evidently it was a kit quilt, too – what a marvelous world we live in, when you can buy your very own kit for making racist quilts!)

Show organizers, you need to get clear on a few things.

What type of show are you running? 

Are you holding what’s essentially a bigger version of a county fair exhibit, where people gather and look at patchwork and say things like “Look, Paw! That shore is some plum purty stitchin’!”? Or are you going to support the growth of the medium into an art form? *

What type of work do you allow in your show?

Do you allow in artwork? Can the artwork include nudity, or just stuff like kitty-cats popping their heads out of pumpkins? How about you get real clear on your policy, and be up front with exhibitors like SAQA and the rest? **

What is your policy on pulling work out of the show? 

If it’s met your openly stated standards for being exhibited, are you going to do that? Are you going to pull work if someone complains about something imaginary? Are you going to deprive the rest of the paying visitors the right to see a piece of artwork simply because somebody else didn’t like it and didn’t have the self-control to walk by?

Allowing in artwork, then getting scared and pulling it when someone blanches and clutches at her pearls, isn’t working out. It’s bad for all of us.

Also, the next time someone threatens not to come back to your shows because of some damned thing she imagined, maybe just say “I’m sorry to hear that,” politely wish her well, and consider yourself lucky to not see her again.

 

* Edit: I now see that this paragraph implies that patchwork can’t be art, which isn’t true. However, I’ll let it stand, since that’s the way the majority of people have seen the post.

One of commenters also made a good point about my using “country speak” in a ridiculing manner. She’s right. Probably I shouldn’t have done that. On the other hand, “country speak” comes natural when you’re a first generation descendent of hillbillies and rednecks, and have used an outhouse more than a few times when visiting grandparents.

** Another clarification: I don’t want to revile AQS or any other show if they really don’t want to get in the business of displaying art. If art-lovers aren’t a key part of their business, so be it. But clearer guidelines would be useful for everyone.

*** Kathy has written a second blog entry which shows some of her base drawings and analyzes a variety of things which could be construed as penises. I think that from now on, whenever she has an umbilical cord in her work, I’m going to squint at it and refer to it as a penis.

 

Update as of Monday, 8/17: Per Kathy, “So AQS made the decision to pull my quilt I Was Not Wearing a Life Jacket with the nonexistent penis from QuiltWeek in Chattanooga and Des Moines. They are now considering whether my other piece, Fully Medicated, which has zero complaints, should also be pulled (still no penis). Please let them know how you feel about either decision at the link below.

I am so disappointed and frustrated by their actions…please share this if you think it will help. I appreciate all your support…”

Here’s AQS’ contact form.