Archive for the ‘Shows’ Category

Pulling Out Too Soon

Saturday, 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.



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.



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.


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.


Beyond the Surface

Saturday, January 9th, 2016




This exhibit is currently happening, a show of cool, innovative artwork by members of the Northern California branch of the Surface Design Association. It can be seen at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.

The opening reception is tomorrow, January 10, from 1-4 P.M. Deborah Corsini, the juror, will be speaking. There will also be an artist walk-through. I have work in the show, so I’ll be around. Maybe I’ll even mumble a few words about my piece, which involves 3D/CGI and concerns polar bears drowning.

If you’re in the Bay Area and would like to see some cool, innovative artwork, be sure and stop by the museum sometime between now and February 28. SAQA’s Earth Stories exhibit is also currently at the museum, which makes for a nice “twofer”.

While others were at IQF Houston …

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Random photos spliced in throughout post …


The big quilt show in Houston, IQF, is over. I learned that my piece, Why Knot? received third place in the digital category.

Immediately, of course, I began to see frank, dampening comments on blogs and mailing lists:

“Photo-realism wins the day in Houston. Frankly, I have never entered that show because, yes, I am a snob who considers it the same as a pipe and drape show, only larger. Art? Uh – no. Unoriginal work – yep. That eliminates all the artists I know.”

“… when I look at most of the other works my first reaction is ho hum… Yawn..boring.. same old, same old. I do not know what the others entries were but the winners are sadly without much interest.”

Sorry to hear that.

It’s true that IQF isn’t an art show per se. Although it does show some genuine artwork that happens to be made of fiber and is quilted, the show isn’t on the radar of the larger Art World, as far as I know. If it was, the “Husbands’ Lounge” (I assume that was still there this year?) or events like the costume contest or tiara parade would knock it clean away.

It is, however, enormously popular and many people love to go there, or dream of doing so. It provides an enjoyable escape where people can browse, admire others’ workmanship or artistry, do a spot of shopping, and bask in the font of natural beauty that is downtown Houston. Many people make a week or weekend of it, staying in hotels, eating out, and socializing.

IQF Houston is the world’s largest quilt show. I aspire to create work that is original and interesting (see comments above), and I like having my work in bonafide art shows. However, I also just plain like to have my work seen. It’s nice to have my work on display at the world’s largest quilt show, where fifty or sixty thousand people attend, and I appreciate receiving an award. As my husband frequently tells me, “Not everything is curing cancer.”


This is Serious Art. Give me money now.

Art – sculpture, painting, fiber, you name it – is not a meritocracy. There is no governing body looking to see whether, say, an entrant is re-rendering borrowed or stock photography without acknowledging the original sources. There are no absolute rules about what does or does not constitute art, and whether or not something is decent. There are no overseers looking over the entire universe of work and saying “Well, yours is the best. Here; have some publicity, some accolades, and a bag of money.”

What there does seem to be is a great deal of posturing. People joining organizations with the word “art” in the name and jockeying for position. “Hooray! These people, who coincidentally need membership fees in order to keep their organization afloat, have designated me a Professional Studio Artist and juried me into their organization!” People writing reviews of shows on their blogs, including only their cronies, and sort of not mentioning the fact that their own quilt was hung upside down and they didn’t notice for an hour. People writing pompous opinions of what does or does not constitute Real Art. People having vicious arguments on mailing lists, or hosting exhibits in which they’ve glued fabric on ancient AOL disks and have strung the disks together with fishing line. “It’s a synthesis of technology and tradition!” “Check out my latest piece! I coated teddy bears with house paint, laid them on fabric, then ran over them with the steam roller I keep handy!”


More Serious Art.

Here is what I’ve learned: with few exceptions, nobody cares. Nobody is watching. There are many, many people creating artwork, and most of them are busy doing their own thing. We have to take care of ourselves. If we’re lucky, we get to connect with a few other people and we get to appreciate others’ work.

Do whatever it is you like. In a hundred years, it won’t matter one way or another. Exhibiting in Houston or not exhibiting in Houston probably isn’t going to affect one’s art career. If one is born female and one’s medium is fiber, chances are there isn’t going to be worldwide recognition from the Real Art World anyhow.

One of the things I like is having my work seen. One of my series is comprised of portraits of my son in various situations, both real and imaginary. It isn’t on par with Wyeth’s Helga series, but the boy and I enjoy collaborating and we both get a kick out of seeing his portraits published or exhibited. That’s the majority of my work now, while he’s young and enjoys it. If my work is shown at Houston, I can figure on 50,000-60,000 people attending. Of those, I can estimate maybe 25,000 will walk down the aisle with my work and maybe half of those will take a good look, and hopefully enjoy it or get a giggle. That’s 10,000-15,000 people I got to share some joy or a joke with. That’s probably far more than saw my work when it toured with Quilt National, much as I treasured that experience.

Alas, I wasn’t able to go to Houston this year. Actually, I could have gone but didn’t. My husband would have bent over backwards to watch our kid for a few days. Unfortunately, barring one of those statistically unlikely “Drop everything; you’ve won a top prize!” situations, going just isn’t practical when one has a kid.


These will no doubt get me barred from providing class cookies in the future.

IQF Houston often occurs around Halloween, you see. I’m going to go out on a limb and state that their target market is largely comprised of people with empty nests – women, middle-aged to elderly. They’re mostly white, mostly conservative. Not entirely, mind you; I always see a few men and some younger people when I’m at a show, and I don’t mean to imply that quilt shows are trying to exclude non-whites. The demographics may also skew depending on the region of the country. But mostly, when I go to a quilt show, that’s who I see: middle-aged to elderly women who probably don’t have kids at home. People who don’t need to worry about staying home for Halloween.


These cupcakes went to a party.


These cupcakes stayed home.

The Festival is wildly popular and, I assume, wildly profitable. The people who run it have quite a bit of practice and know what works for them and most of their attendees. It doesn’t work for me, though, and probably won’t for the foreseeable future.

For example, going to the Winners’ Circle celebration on a Tuesday involves a day of flying, hurrying to the convention center, then having the next day wasted because exhibits don’t open until Thursday. The last time I tried it, my intestines were coiling up and threatening to spring out of my body during the award ceremony.


WiiMote costume

It would have been nice to have seen the show this year, but on balance I’m glad I didn’t go. I would have missed my son’s Halloween party, school party and costume parade, zombie dance number with his Cub Scout troop, and of course, Halloween. Kids grow up. There are a limited number of years when one can bake cookies for parties or make Wii controller costumes.


My kid is the one with the cone on his head. Of course.

The Festival will simply have to wait a few years.


Making goody bags for Halloween, part of my master plan for clearing excess junk and craft supplies out of the house.


PIQF 2015

Thursday, October 15th, 2015


I went to PIQF today. It’s a decent-sized show which takes place in a convention center about five miles from my house, so I look forward to it each year.

Unfortunately, it didn’t hit me right today. I don’t know whether I was in an odd frame of mind, so I wasn’t as receptive to the exhibits as usual, or whether the general level of work just wasn’t as good as in years past. After an hour or so, I had a decided feeling of “meh” and left. I’ll take another look at the exhibits on Sunday and see whether I feel differently. Maybe I’m being harsh. I hate to be overly judgmental about work people have poured their hearts and souls into.

That said, there were several artists whose work I greatly admired.


Susan Else was one of them. I’ve been internet-stalking her for years, hoping to get a chance to attend a lecture or class held by her. PIQF had a special exhibit of her work, including the skeletal family above. Despite my statement of “meh” above, simply seeing a display of Susan’s work is worth the price of admission, and I’m so grateful to the Mancusos for slotting her in.

I’d show more photos of her work, but it’s really better to visit her website or buy some of her postcards. Come to think of it, I should have bought some of her postcards today! If she’s around on Sunday, I’ll do that.



Gloria Loughman‘s work is another treat.


Aren’t the bold, crisp lines of Loughman’s work lovely and designerly, as is her contrast of warm and cool colors?



One of the aspects of PIQF I look forward to each year is the traveling World Quilt Show exhibit, which includes entries from around the planet. As I once told a border control agent, who was asking me why I was visiting his country, “I want to see and learn about things that aren’t American.” I find that the style of the works from overseas can be quite different, and I find that refreshing.

The triptych above, Cathedrals, Castles & Ruins, is from Camilla Watson of New Zealand.


In her artist’s statement, she tells us that each panel is created from photos taken during her travels. That’s a neat way to display one’s travel photos, isn’t it?



This wall hanging, Energy of Fire, was made by the Grassroots Guild of South Africa. It was inspired by the works of the glass artist Dale Chihuly.


Here’s a closeup of one of the panels. It isn’t unusual for artists to be inspired by another artist and explore that person’s work by, say, copying it or by stitching over a photo printed onto fabric. I have to compliment this group for instead taking it to another level, interpreting the works of Chihuly in a fresh, energetic way and creating something new and unique.



Coco, by Neroli Henderson of Australia. This is a very tactile work which captures the personality of the artist’s sweet-faced Bichon Frise.


Around the portrait, we can read a bit of Coco’s biography. This bit about her having had twenty puppies grabbed my eye. Anyone who’s had even one child gets a pang of sympathy at that thought!



Mega Postage Stamp, made by Betty Tang of San Francisco. “A seven year journey and over 10,000 pieces”, the artist’s statement tells us. This strikes me as the fiber equivalent of making a Buddhist sand painting, the sort of thing which drives one to strong drink.


A close up of a section of Tang’s work. She is made of sterner stuff than me.



Some of the best design work was in the Wicked exhibit, an array of squares in black and lime green. Jacamar Eye, above, was made by Elaine Jones.



She: A Self-Portrait by Lynn Dinelli. Boy, do I relate. That’s the face I see pretty much every morning when I get up.



Here’s my thing, The Thief. The lights in the convention center killed it, utterly sucked the life out, plus it looks like crap with the bend at the top from hanging. You’d think I’d remember that and increase the contrast in my work to compensate, but I never do.

Some of the bad from PIQF:

No work from Charlotte Kruk, or if there was some, I didn’t see it. I’ll look again on Sunday. Charlotte makes the most amazing examples of wearable art I’ve ever seen, painstakingly pieced together from the packaging left from consumables. I first fell in love with her work when she displayed a matador’s suit of lights some years ago; it was made from M&M wrappers which she’d beaded and sewn together. Since then, I’ve looked for her work each year. It’s one of the key reasons I go to PIQF.

No work from Kathy Nida, either. One of her figures is in SAQA’s Oasis exhibit, which was to be at PIQF. It wasn’t, though. Heaven only knows where it is … maybe on a truck or a loading dock somewhere. I was bummed.

However, there was work from someone from my past.

Years ago, I took a paper-piecing class. I was young, dewy, and still had a waistline then, working in a menial capacity at a job which didn’t pay beans.

One of the unstated requirements of the job was enduring repeated sexual harassment. I didn’t know how to handle it at that time. After all, hadn’t my father drilled it into my skull that “those gals” who complained about that kind of stuff were usually exaggerating? Therefore, I really didn’t know what to do when I landed in a work environment where one of the men I worked for liked to undress and hang out in his office with the door open. (That was in addition to the poster on his office door, which showed a nude female torso done up as a face, and the gynecologically detailed posters in the tool crib where I went to inventory parts.) Later there would be verbal invitations and harassment of a physical nature. It was not just from one person, either.

I sought others’ advice. I sought advice at home, where I was told that I “must be doing something to cause it”. I sought advice from a friend, who told me “You just tell them that we don’t do that kind of thing back in Texas!” Finally, feeling utterly alone and running out of places to turn, I asked the quilting instructor what she would do. Please keep in mind that this was a person who was very proud of a quilt/traveling exhibit she’d spearheaded about the struggles of women around the world.

She bridled, informed me that her husband worked at the same place, that the people there were very nice and professional, and that no such thing could be happening to me. It was incredibly painful, one more insult piled on top of the nightmare in which I dwelled at that time.

Now, of course, I wouldn’t take my problems to random people, but at the time I was quite alone and quite desperate. Although my problems really weren’t hers to solve, she could have avoided accusing me of lying. It would be an understatement to say that I formed a lasting, negative opinion of her. And, although I generally try to be open-minded or accepting of others’ work, I’m afraid that I get great pleasure from looking at hers and thinking “My work is quite a bit better than yours.” Also, I inwardly hiss like a movie vampire exposed to sunlight.

Oh – and in case there’s some young, dewy creature out there who isn’t quite sure how to handle harassment, here are some of my personal take-aways:

  • Don’t be surprised if the company/organization doesn’t address the issue, particularly if there’s a power imbalance between you and the harasser.
  • Thoroughly document the situation.
  • Be direct and matter-of-fact, even if it feels uncomfortable.
  • When harassers proceed to touching or, say, laying on top of one while one is working, smashing them in the face with a flashlight does wonders. So does a knee in the crotch. Profanity and very loud yelling are also good.
  • If someone implies that the harassment is your fault, unless they reverse their attitude pretty quickly, they don’t need to be in your life. That includes boyfriends, spouses, and relatives.
  • There are environments in which even a broom dressed in a skirt would experience harassment. This doesn’t make it right or mean one should accept it, though.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

Nice news

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

This is nice. The latest edition of Textile Fibre Forum is out. It has a profile of Annabel Rainbow with, yes, some photos of the matter-of-fact, unsalacious nudes which many magazines are too immature and squeamish to print. It also includes a fascinating article on curation by Brenda Gael Smith, a profile of Denise Lithgow, and a shot of one of my pieces over in the reader gallery.



Me me me me me me me. My work my work my work.

The Australians have a nice tradition of fiber art, much of which we unfortunately don’t see in the U.S., so Textile Fibre Forum is refreshing and a delight. Neroli Henderson recently became editor of the magazine, and her hard work is evident.

I haven’t had much luck finding Textile Fibre Forum on newsstands here in the U.S. Fortunately, it’s available on the iTunes store for a pittance, about the same amount I’d pay for a venti caramel latte at Starbucks. That, plus the fact it’s free of calories and cholesterol, make it a pretty guilt-free treat. I believe it’s also available on the Android store.



This piece, Why Knot?, will be at IQF Houston next month. I’ve received some nice news about it. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make the trip to be present on awards night. I’m very happy for whatever award it receives, though, as well as for the other people who have work in the show. I’m sorry I won’t be there to celebrate and view the exhibits.

The Halfway Point

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

About halfway through summer, halfway through various projects …


This arrived last month, the July/August edition of Machine Quilting Unlimited.


There are several neat articles in the magazine (Marianne Williamson! Awesome!), and they also included my piece Why Knot? They’re a nice magazine to work with and their graphic designers/layout people do a great job. It’s a pleasure to have my work in their publication.

While I’m on the topic of Why Knot?, I’ve learned that it has been juried into IQF Houston, so it’ll be making a road trip to Texas this fall. I don’t think I’ll be going, so I hope my quilt won’t be taking on bad habits in my absence … smoking, eating barbecue, harassing coyotes. Who knows?

What else do I have? Work I can’t post. Hot diggity. It was totally worth visiting this page for that, wasn’t it? Seriously, I find it a pain. Just when I’m juiced up from working on something and could cheerfully post progress photos and the like, I can’t. A couple of things have the “work must be hermetically sealed” exhibit requirement. By the time I can post progress photos, I’ll be on to the next thing and my attention and enthusiasm will be on that, not on whatever I’m working on now.

I will note that I’m working on some 3D-rendered surface designs, though, a couple of apocalyptic environmental pieces. Once the designs are fixed up, I’ll ship them off for printing, then stitch on the resulting fabric.


Sometimes I spend days trying to get something just right and it goes to pot. Here I was trying to do a fluid simulation to depict an oil well. Yep. Things weren’t going well that day. Fortunately, I save versions as I work. I was able to go back a version or two and rescue things.


I also had the great idea of creating a mountain of rendered garbage for the scene’s background. The result did look like garbage, but more in the metaphorical sense. The texture I have on the garbage bags makes them look more like laundry detergent pods or a nasty variety of candy, and the bag arrangement looks more like a stone wall than a mountain. Okay. Part of art, writing, and many other endeavors is fearlessly trying stuff and being willing to admit when it isn’t working out.

I’ve spent hours either making or casting about for 3D models for my scenes. Here’s a model I ended up making, one of those ubiquitous red plastic cups:


Hmm. Maybe should have added a few more vertices to smooth it out. Anyhow, good enough for the job at hand. I could have bought a model – here’s a nice one for $19 – but it wasn’t that hard to make and didn’t need to be too precise for the scene I was building.

There are many, many sources of 3D models these days, some free and some for coin. One such source is the Daz3D site. They particularly specialize in models of humans and accessories. Now and then they offer freebies. A couple of months ago, when they were offering something gruesome like a haunted asylum or zombies (maybe it was zombies haunting an asylum?) I asked my ten-year-old son whether we needed such models. He took a look at the gloom and gruesomeness in the ad and bellowed “Oh HECK YEAH!” He could think of jillions of occasions when he might personally need 3D models of zombies or an asylum, and that wasn’t even taking into account my own needs. Really, is there any occasion for which zombie or spooky asylum imagery aren’t appropriate?

I duly registered with Daz, obtained the freebies, and filed them away on my hard drive. Strangely enough, our need for zombies and asylums wasn’t as great as we thought, so they haven’t yet been used.

Since then, though, Daz and I have become great friends. I say this because they send me an email every day or so, which is what good pen pals do. Usually the letter is filled with colorful and, dare I say it, fetishistic imagery. The subject lines are things like “BOGO is a Go-Go” and “It’s a Zevtastic Weekend”

Here are some samples:


Hot damn. Everybody knows how much I care about fashion. Sea vehicles, too.



Not sure I want to know what the related fantasy items are.



Huh. I’ve never seen anything like that at the hardware store. Maybe I was too focussed on stuff like caulk and bolts.



You know, I’m beginning to suspect that I’m not in the core part of their target market. Members of their target market are probably more the sort who like to gaze at breasts.



Bleh. Nope nope nope. Don’t want to know. Seriously. I’m not joking. I don’t want to know what people are doing with this model, particularly the way it’s dressed and posed. I’m a mom. I even get skeeved out by boy bands. Justin Bieber naked? Bleh. Get thee hence, Satan. Don’t want to see the buttocks of anyone younger than me unless they need a diaper change.



Wait. The rest of the ads weren’t already freaky?



No idea. More breast imagery, though. The outfit looks uncomfortable – the strap across the chest, and what if you need to use the restroom? – but I guess 3D models don’t care.



She looks annoyed. Maybe the 3D models do care about wearing freaky costumes. Or maybe the ears are uncomfortable.

I’ve considered unsubscribing from Daz’s emails, but I never know when they’ll offer something I need. Also, I’ll reluctantly admit that I’ve begun to find them entertaining. I never know what they’re going to send next, and I can only speculate that the young men who form their target audience eagerly await each email and find it very, um, stimulating.

Meanwhile, summer. Outings. Camps. Play dates.

At the beginning of the summer, I drug the boy down to Legoland. I like going to Legoland. My kid doesn’t, or at least not as much as he used to, but he endures it for my sake. I have to have a child to visit Legoland; adults aren’t allowed to visit by themselves.

I took these photos with my hand-me-down iPhone, thinking that I should pare down the amount of stuff I carried on the trip. I wish I’d taken a decent SLR along. There was lint and dust under the iPhone’s lens. Cleaning it out will require taking the phone apart. I can remove artifacts with Photoshop, but it gets to be a pain. Kind of a waste of time to remove something that shouldn’t have been there to begin with.


Legoland. Is there a more perfect amusement park on earth? I don’t think so.



I love every bit of it. The giant models of buildings in Miniland …



… the Star Wars exhibit. Okay. I’m not into Lego Friends, but I guess I can’t blame the Lego company for their pink-burqaed, cynically capitalist attempt to lure in young females.



You know that windmill you drive by when you’re going through Carlsbad? That’s the hotel we stayed at. The interior of the windmill is sad. There’s a massive vaulted space which should feel airy, but somehow it contrives to feel depressing and outdated. Just off to the side there’s a TGI Fridays which is accessed through a door in the windmill, a door which slams uncontrollably and loudly enough to rupture one’s eardrums. The experience pretty much destroyed every fantasy I had about windmills.



Here’s the view from our hotel room. Gorgeous! Pipes. A wall. Wires draped here and there. That must be the deluxe courtyard view touted on the reservation website.

Well, I guess this is what happens when you don’t cough up the $400+/night to stay at the Legoland Hotel during the height of the season.



Another trip, just for the day, up to the Musée Mecanique on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The place is so cool. Tons of old coin-operated mechanical arcade machines. One can have a lot of fun on $5-10.



Plaque outside the building. It has a decidedly grotty, impromptu look about it, as though a passerby stuck it up with an entire tube of adhesive. I imagine Ann and Sam aren’t with us anymore – not too many people reach their 70th anniversaries – but their plaque lives on.



Laffing Sal. I believe one of her twin sisters lives in Santa Cruz.



Good. Guess that takes care of sex ed.



Poor fellow. He has a skin condition. Hope he’s not on meth.



Another case of substance abuse, perhaps strong drink?



I didn’t look at this Nickelodeon reel. I had a strong suspicion that it would depict something unpleasant. Dishwashing or toilet scrubbing, maybe. Putting up storm windows. Other things married women wish to avoid. To heck with all that stuff.



While up at the wharf, I made my family visit the Rainforest Cafe. I was curious. I’m glad we did it. Now we never have to go again.

Seriously, if you enjoy dim lights, fairly expensive food which aspires to be more than it is, and animatronic animals which make jackhammer-level racket every so often, this is a great place. Otherwise, perhaps not so much. The waitstaff were pleasant enough, though. Can’t blame them for the fact it’s a tourist trap.


They do hand out rather nice little paper hats. I need a bio photo for some website or other. Maybe I should send this.



Also hauled the boy and one of his friends up to the Adventure Playground in Berkeley this summer. Think “Home Depot meets Lord of the Flies”. I’m kidding. It’s a great place, actually, where kids can earn the right to use tools and woodworking materials to build their own creations. The staff there go to great pains to make sure the kids have enough freedom to learn and enjoy themselves while keeping the experience safe.



One of the kid-built play structures, formed from salvaged materials.



Inside one of the structures. Spooky-cheerful.



Another day, taking the dogs out for a walk beside a lake, because I’m an idiot.



I thought it would do the dog we recently adopted, the white furball in the photo above, some good to get out. Go someplace in the car other than the vet’s, get some fresh air, see some new things.

Alas, he whined pitifully all the way to the lake and most of the way back. Ryan the weiner-basset didn’t whine, but he did slobber all over the front window and pass gas in my face during the drive. Neither dog particularly wanted the (plain) hamburgers we bought them, saving them until they were home again. Too excited, I guess.

Both of them were brats at the park, pulling on their leashes like crazy and barking at other dogs. At least they had the sense to not try that with the geese. Ryan seemed to tell Jake “Be cool, man. Be quiet and don’t look ‘em in the eye.”

Ah, well. Maybe it’s like dealing with kids. You have to take some chances and work with them a little before things get better.



A disguise for every occasion? Yes, please! I particularly appreciate the lack of gender discrimination. I might want a mustache to supplement the one I’m already growing. One never knows.

Only 4 1/2 weeks of summer left. It’s palpably trickling away. Time to get the boy out for more experiences while he isn’t old enough to be ashamed of being seen with his mom, and get another quilt design or two ready to go.

“Why Knot” plus Pinewood Derby

Monday, January 26th, 2015


I’m happy to say that “Why Knot?” will be at AQS Lancaster this March. I wish I could be there as well, but I hope that at least visitors will enjoy the piece. This is my first fiber piece which veers into using computer-assisted imagery rather than purely painting on fabric, and I used the opportunity to plant a few jokes in the background.

We’ve just finished up the Pinewood Derby here, an annual Cub Scout event in which boys prepare and race cars cobbled together out of blocks of wood. I always enjoy it because, since I don’t yet feel comfortable turning my son loose with a band saw, it’s an excuse to collaborate with him and work in a medium other than fabric or CG. (Whether he enjoys my working with him is quite another question!)

The Pinewood Derby began in 1953, held by Don Murphy, a Manhattan Beach Cub Master who wanted an “activity he could do with his 10 year old son who was too young to race in the Soap Box Derby”.

It was a clever idea, one which has evolved and endured. Today when one buys an official B.S.A. Pinewood Derby kit, one gets a block of wood about 7” x 1.75” x 1.25”, four plastic wheels, and four nails to use as axles. One can do whatever one likes to the block of wood  provided that the finished car weighs five ounces or less, is three inches tall or less, and conforms to a few other specifications.

The Derby is a nice opportunity to do a design and construction project with one’s kid, a project which has set specifications but which is also a bit free form. Thus, a few weeks ago, I corralled the boy and said words to the effect of “The Derby is x weeks away. What do you want to make this year?” He hemmed and hawed, then allowed as how he’d enjoyed getting a style award last year and he wanted to try for one again this year. He was thinking of doing something which wasn’t traditional, maybe a shape like a shoe.

Okay, a shoe. What kind of shoe? Whose shoe was it? Maybe he could sketch his idea out on paper? I gave him a piece of paper with the dimensions of the wood block outlined, and had him sketch his idea.


The shoe started as a nondescript garden clog affair. Over the course of a few more discussions and drawing sessions, it evolved into a fantasy design, a witch’s shoe.




Heel added


More pronounced witchiness


Final pattern for sawing

This would prove to be an interesting design to execute since the provided block of Pinewood Derby wood was too shallow. We would have to laminate another chunk of wood on top, which meant digging through my wood pile and doing some cutting and gluing.

Since I’m paranoid about the boy having an accident – he’s a little too interested in things like axes and chain saws for my taste – I made the cuts with the table saw and band saw myself. Maybe next year he can make a car with the scroll saw. Although bandsaw accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, one has to work pretty hard to lose a finger with a scroll saw.

There was plenty of other work for him to do, though, sanding and puttying and painting. Provided that one’s Scout has patience and perhaps a parent to nag them into working a bit each day, some fairly decent results can be achieved. It also really helps if one has a spray booth, even if it’s just a cardboard box, which we do.


Here’s the shoe in its primed state, adding weights. The goal is to get one’s finished car as close to five ounces as possible without going over. Sometimes that means adding weights;  hiding them can get to be a challenge. Our plan was to cement the weights in place inside drilled holes, then putty and sand over them. As a side note, if one uses Revell’s round chassis weights, they can be cut in a matter of seconds using a bolt cutter. It’s far, far less taxing than trying to hacksaw the blasted things!


Here we’re testing and weighing potential accents before adding wheels. Note that the holes where the weights were inserted are all but invisible. I guess I should be ashamed to admit that I had all of this stuff, the ribbon and flies and pumpkins, on hand. However, my philosophy is that you never can tell when you’ll need a glow-in-the-dark plastic fly.


The finished shoe. We unfortunately didn’t tune the car up before the race, doing things like insuring the axles were in straight, so it placed in the middle of the pack. However, it did receive a style award for best workmanship, which is what the boy had really wanted. He even had a back story for the shoe, something about a bunch of flies using it to smuggle pumpkins for making pumpkin stew. There were also tons of other fun entries made by other boys, including a sailing ship, a pencil, and a box of french fries.

Here are our entries from last year, the boy’s Gravedigger and my ant car, Mandiblur, for the family competition. We seem to have a black theme going. I can hardly wait for next year’s Pinewood Derby!




PIQF, briefly

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

My artwork The Thief was at IQF Houston. Did you see it? Yeah, neither did I. Didn’t go to Houston. Too bad; looks like there were a ton of great exhibits. It’s just a big darned deal getting out of here and traveling, what with having a kid and all. (Not that I resent having a kid; we were happy to have him and they don’t stay kids for long.)

I did get to PIQF a couple of weeks back. It’s only 6.1 miles from my house, so I’d pretty much have to look for reasons NOT to go. The show seemed more enjoyable to me this year, perhaps because I was surveying each piece for lessons learned rather than whether I “liked” it. For example: persevere, work with the materials one has at hand, experiment with motifs, use an existing technique in a different medium.



I was particularly touched by Jackie Houston’s The Journey. Based on an illustration by Tom Feelings, it depicts a “black man with chains and the body of a ship that’s carrying his people (The Human Cargo) across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World.” She’s also rendered masks in the water, which “represent the millions of lost souls that were discarded into the ocean”.

I’d love to see this work travel, so that others might learn about this hideous part of American history and reflect on its ramifications. For example, when I attended school in Armpit, TX way back when, the business of people being chained down the whole way and being tossed overboard if they were dead or ill wasn’t covered. Stuff was glossed over. It was all “They came across via ships and they were slaves, but now they’re free. Things are great now, right?” Mmmm. No. Maybe not so much.



There was Gloria Loughman’s work, Fern Pool. She and her work are a treat. I heard someone remark that some of the leaves resemble marijuana. Yes, it’s true: both marijuana leaves and the fronds in the quilt are green.



Marilyn Belford’s Perseus Saving Andromeda. Per her artist’s statement, she uses “commercial fabric, fusible web and thread sketching … No inks or paints applied”. I’ve long enjoyed this series, and it’s always a treat to see a new addition. One can see others in the series on her website; I do hope there’ll be a traveling exhibition of all of them at some point.



Marilyn Badger’s Exuberance. Traditional designs aren’t my thing, but the quality of Badger’s workmanship is remarkable. One can’t fail to be touched by the story behind the quilt, too; she did its hand stitching while taking care of her husband during his final illness. He must have found comfort in this ritual: “He critiqued every addition and fondly gave it a big thumbs up and declared it his favorite. Before he passed away, he named it.” After grieving for six months, she forced herself to resume work, and completed the quilt after an additional six months.

I could do an entire post on just the work I saw at PIQF. It would take hours of photo cropping and editing, though, so perhaps I won’t.

Work on Odalesque is progressing. I had the “yips” about getting started on the stitching, so I had to start a couple of warm up projects first. It’s similar to blank page syndrome, I guess, an anxiety which interferes with getting started. Noodling away at something less exalted seems to make it go away. I’ll have to post the warm up projects another day, or it’ll take me another week to get this blog entry out.


The screen has taken some thought. Now, I know some folks might say “just stipple over it” or “echo stitch” or some such, but that isn’t my way. Look at different people’s work and you’ll see different stitching philosophies. Maria Elkins, for example, may use a naturalistic contour approach on skin, but reference traditional decorative quilting motifs elsewhere in the same image. Others – Susan Shie comes to mind – seem to find the stitching of secondary interest, mostly a way to hold layers together and showcase a surface design, so they’ll stick to stippling or do a loose wave over the surface of the quilt. There’s a range of styles in between.

Mine is more of a naturalistic philosophy. I could care less about replicating a traditional motif such as a feather in my own work unless there’s a reason to do so in the context of the image. I’m primarily interested in using the stitching to make the image more convincing or compelling. I have yet to see a stippled texture on any real life object, unless maybe it’s the crenellations on brains, so stippling isn’t my go-to method. (Braaaainnnssss.)

In the case of this screen in Odalesque, I’m guessing that in real life, its frame would be made of laquered wood. It wouldn’t have much discernible texture at all. Therefore, I’ll see if I can stitch a subtle “noise”. First, though, I have to get through stitching the rice paper in the screen’s white background, which I’ve decided should be graced with roughly parallel but somewhat irregular lines. Yeah. That’s been fun. After one false start, ripping out a whole bunch of stitches, and starting over, I’m about four hours and thirty square inches in. Only mumblety mumble hours more to go on the rice paper. Then, you know, everything else. Do I have a plan for stitching things like the vase and the dog’s fur? Um. No. Not yet.


I finally opened up my wallet and bought a set of magnifying lenses for my machine. Oh my. I had no idea. I wish I’d bought them years ago. They’re seriously great. No more hunching over the machine. Less eye strain. They’ve helped my stitching become more accurate and confident, and I’ve become more relaxed as a result.

The down side? The price. $60 for a set of three from Bernina. Still totally worth it, but since I’m a skinflint who loathes debt, that means $60 of something else had to go. No new jeans to replace the ones which sprung crotch holes, and this morning I reached for a block of homemade soap rather than adding soap to the shopping list. (Have I written about making soap because I couldn’t bear to throw out the bacon grease I’d saved up? Ah, well. That’s an adventure for another time. Yes, as a matter of fact, my strange ways did used to make me a laughing stock with my family.)

Another caveat: when I’m trying to judge whether my stitching is parallel to something an inch or so out, side-to-side distortion makes that difficult. However, I’m trying something else to resolve that:



That’s right. Modeler’s tape. It’s designed to be used on plastic car and airplane models, to go on painted surfaces and peel right off. My husband had a roll of it in a drawer, which he kindly donated to the cause of not hearing me whine, not that he’d be rude enough to put it like that.

Oh my. This is another thing I wish I’d tried years ago. No more blasted chalk or “disappearing ink” marks which I maybe can’t get out later! I’m not going to say which of my portraits have this problem, but yeah, there are at least a couple where residual orange chalk marks can be discerned here and there, and that was AFTER being rinsed over and over again. Now, I’m sure there could be a down side if one got a bad batch of tape or left it on one’s fabric long enough for the adhesive to come off, but so far I’m ecstatic. If I can find tape which will let me lay down curved lines, I’ll be even happier.

Alas, there’s about to be another break in the action due to jury duty. Now, I don’t resent jury duty particularly; I regard it as part of the price one pays for living in a civilized society, just as one pays taxes. It’s certainly the case that if I was in a situation which required a jury, I’d want a group of people to come in with good attitudes and listen to evidence.

At the same time, I dread it. Potentially day after day of having to interact with other people, which is unbelievably draining. Being instructed to believe whatever evidence is presented, rather than puzzling away at information myself. Given my career in Physics and naturally high degree of skepticism, this is like telling a labrador to not jump in water. And oh, lord. Some of the matters are pretty darned serious. As in, a victim badly harmed or sending a person to prison. The time before last, I was briefly seated on a jury for a case in which someone had been killed.

Finally, I have this creature called a child. I guess the assumption in American society is that one doesn’t need to hang out and take care of a child, that there’s daycare or grandparents eager to leap in and babysit or something. Yeah, not so much. I actually do things like pick my kid up after school and harangue him about homework, and I don’t leave him locked up in the house by himself for hours on end. However, in the eyes of the judicial system, that isn’t an acceptable reason to miss jury duty. If anything, I guess I need to be grateful that I wasn’t summoned during the summer while he was on vacation, as happened once. That was a nightmare.

Alright. Crossing fingers. Hoping to get through this period gracefully and without neglecting my kid. Artwork? Yeah, unfortunately that’ll have to be tabled until after jury duty.

What I did on my summer naycation

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Show stuff: The Thief will be at IQF Houston this fall, and Flooded is making an appearance at the AQS show in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I hope there’ll soon be more show news, provided that I get my rump in gear.

Ten weeks ago, this was the scene in the morning:



This was the scene that afternoon, the last day of school:



I had all sorts of plans for the summer. I was going to be super productive and crank out a bunch of artwork. The boy and I were going to build a hovercraft, a go-kart, and a bird feeder. This is what actually got done, a “water blob” made from a water-filled sheet of plastic whose ends were fused together. It began leaking by the next morning. “Oh, let’s drain it and drape it over the bench,” I told the boy, “I’ll get out the iron and fix it later.”

It’s still on the bench.



Other than worksheets, acting and ice skating camps, and drilling the boy on math, we didn’t get too much done. We did get out a bit, though, and visited the Pez Museum in Burlingame. $4 total for a personal tour by the proprietor, who’s a super nice guy. Such a deal!



We went to the amusement park. Dear lord, did we go to the amusement park.



This milestone occurred. I suspect that deodorant and other significant events will soon be in the offing.



We celebrated Father’s Day by tying a ribbon around a box of spark plugs that happened to be laying on the dining room table. I figured it was the least I could do. Note the Mobius Strip bow on the bottom center package.



We tromped all over Lick Observatory, way up on Mount Hamilton. I may very well have set a new world record for becoming car sick on both the journey up and back, despite the fact that I was driving and was therefore theoretically in control of what occurred.



We visited the Carmel Mission Basilica, a gorgeous remnant of California’s colonial mission system.




Since Carmel is right by the ocean, we sent the boy in for a dip, which coincidentally washed off a few days worth of dirt.



I took many awful, blurry photos of cars at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville.



Here’s a sight one doesn’t see every day – these were, I think, in a shopping center in Danville. Group crapping, anyone? (To the tune of Dueling Banjos.)



We took in the water temple in Sunol, which I’d driven past for years but had never seen up close.



At some point I looked at my studio, realized that it needed cleaning, then thought better of it. It’s still a disaster. I’m trying to care.



We made our annual pilgrimage to the Adventure Playground in Berkeley, one of only a couple of adventure playgrounds left in the U.S..



A new motorcycle was acquired. (There goes the neighborhood.)


I chaperoned three days worth of Cub Scout camp, which felt like an eternity but was quite a bit less than many other parents did. I also demonstrated my capacity for bellowing, which horrified the other adults.



This summer I read an article which indicated that many people are depressed by Facebook, due to the relentlessly positive and unrealistic depictions of others’ lives. I vowed that I would offset this by showcasing some of the worst and messiest aspects of my life, so that people could feel good in comparison. My vow lasted for a couple of photos, then I forgot about it.

The dining room table still pretty much looks like this, only now it’s covered with books, Lego, and Hexbugs.



The boy and I visited the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito. He’s mostly aged out of it, but it was fun.





We walked across the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s incredibly noisy.



We took in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit at the Cartoon Art Museum in the city.




Later we visited Yerba Buena Gardens, which has this ridiculously short maze (How are you supposed to lose your child?), then tried making an animation at the Children’s Creativity Museum.



There were Cub Scout events, bowling and this water fight. It’s nice to see that the boy hasn’t lost his penchant for sticking strange objects on his head.



We headed down to Big Sur.



One of the murals in the restroom at Nepenthe.



A brief hike at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park led us to this nice waterfall overlook.



Down near San Simeon, we ran across a large group of elephant seals. From the highway, they look like giant flaccid sacks of laundry.



Hearst Castle.





A giant mucous plug of rock, which some now-dead volcano once rather rudely sneezed out.



My husband scored an awesome hotel for us, which I relished. There were gardens, deer, woodpeckers, and jays.




After the Big Sur trip, we visited a horribly overcrowded Lego show, where we nevertheless managed to do a little shopping:



I decided that since the boy is beginning to hide out in his room more, it should be arranged to look more like a lounge. This weekend we scurried around and found pillows, and I spent a day sewing covers. (I didn’t choose the color scheme!)



This was the scene this morning, as the boy headed back to school. I imagine that if anyone asks what he did this summer, he’ll say “Oh, not much.”



It’s time for me to get back to work.



IQA Silent Auction

Monday, October 28th, 2013

This piece, Paisleyfish II, is my contribution to the International Quilt Association’s silent auction, held at the International Quilt Festival this week in Houston.


It has about the same dimensions as the side of a ten gallon aquarium. My original thought was to create a piece which would give a feeling similar to having a somewhat strange aquarium at hand, without having to remember to feed the residents, clean filters, or deal with aggressive splashing from the fish.


The fish are extravagant paisley-shaped creatures, thus the name of the piece. As a child I wore some really grotesque hand-me-downs which dated from the 1960s. Some of them featured paisley; I became convinced, perhaps irrationally, that they were fish in disguise.

The contours of these paisleys are based on the Paisley and Paisley II fonts created by the House of Lime.


Here is a “No Fishing” sign, a ubiquitous kitschy touch in real life aquaria.

Although this donation piece may appear deceptively simple, between design time, painting, and stitching, it used up three months of discretionary time. While I would like to continue to use my work to help support organizations which I believe in, I probably won’t be creating quite as many donation pieces in the future. For those who’ve wanted to acquire a piece of my work and would like to support a worthwhile organization as well, this is a good opportunity.