Escaping my cell

I’ve been trying to write this blog entry for weeks, but various things keep popping up and getting in the way. You know the kind of thing: depression, artist’s block, fix the sheetrock in the dining room, write on blog, delete, take care of kid, termite inspection, artist’s block, write on blog, delete, drama with family, accounting, take care of kid, gardening and, oh, more depression. Will I succeed this time? Who knows. It’s a problem when I can’t finish an entry before it’s stale. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about it.

Work on The Weiner Thief is progressing, but slowly. Today I began to contemplate the end of the log the boy is sitting on, realized that it really needs to be stitched with fairly precise concentric circles, and what in the heck was I thinking when I designed such a thing? What was my plan for getting through the stitching part without losing the remnants of my sanity? No plan at all, evidently. Now it’s too late to take the cowardly way out and stick a bunch of weeds or a bush in front of the end of the log, thus eliminating the need for the concentric circle nonsense, which is what a sensible person would do. Please, somebody smack me upside the head if I ever come up with a design this ill-conceived again in my life. Dear lord. Maybe I’ll just brew up a giant flagon of espresso, stay up all night, and gut it out. Stay up all night, get it done, spend tomorrow whining to my family about how tired I am. That could work, particularly the whining part.

A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that of the brick-and-mortar friends I had ten years ago, the ones one would physically see for a cup of coffee, most have either died, moved, or just sort of evaporated when I had a kid. I’m not going to meet new coffee friends unless I go out in meatspace, the physical world. Although I count myself fortunate to have a number of internet friends, and occasionally I do get to meet them, there isn’t some an online service which drops new coffee friends off at one’s house, the way I order everything else.

Accordingly, I took in a talk at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, with Yvonne Porcella discussing some of the influences on her work. Great stuff.

I’d like to note that if you go to a talk there, when they say 2 P.M., they really mean it. Not 1:59. Not 2:15. Two. I left the house thinking that I’d allowed ample time, remembering the acres of parking right in front of the museum and assuming that it would be readily available on a Sunday. Nope! Whatever it was that I remembered has been turned into sidewalk and planter boxes, or maybe it only ever existed in my mind. Every spot for blocks around was full. I circled around and around like a vulture, finally diving in to a pay parking lot. Miraculously, I had money. I’m one of those people who doesn’t handle cash very much, but that day I happened to have $7. I threw a wad of nasty-looking bills at the attendant, then hustled to the museum with my shoes making startlingly loud flap-flap-flap noises. I’m a one man band, I am.

Once in the museum, I was handed a name tag by the President of the Board of Directors, Marie Strait. “Tanya?” she queried briefly. “How nice!” I thought, “Printed name tags! And they know who I am!” An instant later, as I walked into the already crowded room, I realized “Yes, Tanya, you dolt. They know who you are. They know who you are because you’re almost the last person in, and they’ve been holding up the talk for the stragglers.”

So, yes. That’s something to avoid. Not quite as bad as the time a lady on the bus dropped a mysterious object and I called out “Excuse me, miss. I believe you’ve dropped your pork chop,” but sort of up there in terms of awkwardness.

Porcella is amazing, but we all knew that. When I think of her work, I think of whimsy, saturated colors, deceptive simplicity. It’s joyous work, highly informed by her fascination with textiles and ethnic garments. The talk included a wide selection of the latter. One could mentally compare the garments with her quilts and see the connection. Her work sings, and I hope it will continue to do so for many decades, even centuries, to come.


She now has a plaque at the museum. When it was unveiled, her facial expression was radiant and at the same time a bit teary. Bless her. Such a pleasure to have seen and heard her in person. I hate to say that she’s been an inspiration to us all – I think she’d prefer to be an artist to an inspiration – but there we have it.

I don’t have any photos of Porcella’s work, alas. You’d probably be better off seeing it on her site or in a book anyhow, where it would doubtless be better photographed. However, I do have a few photos from the Museum’s current exhibit, Milestones: Textiles of Transition. If you’re in the area, this is a must-see. It will be exhibited through July 21.

Bridezilla, by Noel Palomo-Lovinski. Oops. I lied. I don’t have a shot of this one. However, here’s a photo from Debra Tomson Williams, from when the work was exhibited at the Fiberart International show. As you can see, it’s a rather flirty-looking wedding gown. From a distance its fabric appears pinkish and textural. When one gets up close, one sees that the artist has custom-printed the fabric with all manner of astonishing, snotty quotes from a wedding message board, thus the “Bridezilla” title. It’s an apt, thought-provoking juxtaposition, one that made me wonder whether the Bridezillas’ marriages lasted longer than the debt for their weddings. These are, after all, people obsessed with superficiality (“My gawd! My bridesmaid is pregnant! I don’t want a whale in my wedding!!!”), apparently incapable of having frank discussions about wedding budgets or the affordability of a given ring.

While I was viewing Bridezilla, I met a very nice lady, Chris Crawford, an occasional blog correspondent. (Hi Chris!) Of course, as soon as I realized who she was, I lapsed into incoherence. I really need to carry a card around which says something like “Please, you talk. I want to hear what you have to say.” That wasn’t the only time the speech problem hit, unfortunately. Another lady, Christine Jeffers I believe, attempted to make polite conversation with me. I think I actually managed to sputter something about being incoherent this time, and she carried on the conversation by herself with no trace of awkwardness. Bless her. It’s the Valley. Maybe she meets lots of quirky people, so she’s used to smoothing things over.

It’s actually exhausting for me to have unscripted conversations with people I don’t know. If I’ve exchanged a couple of emails with the person or I know what we’re going to discuss, it’s mostly okay. Emails aren’t painful. Jobs have been okay, although I was a bit of a jerk as a manager. Office politics were always beyond my comprehension. (Can we not do this? Can we just freaking do the job?) I think executives tended to trust me because I was blunt and wouldn’t lie. The part where my kid comes home from school, though, and says that he’s had thus-and-such problem interacting with other kids? Ha ha ha. Yeah. Sorry, son. Mommy doesn’t have a freaking clue. Tell you what; let’s either ask your father or see if we can find a book on the subject and try out some of its recommendations. Let’s run some experiments and keep trying. Hopefully you’ll turn out better than me.

Making meatspace friends is hell. Going to new groups is hell. I’d like to just go and listen to other people talk for awhile until I knew them. That would be okay.



Accretion, by Beverly Rayner

Hundred and hundreds of greeting cards, bills, and receipts overtaking a hapless polyester housecoat. The ephemera accumulated by three generations of women. From the artist’s statement:

“Accretion illustrates the burden of psychological entanglements with THINGS. After decades of amassing possessions, our accumulations can take on a life of their own, merging into an occupying force. Sticky, sentimental ties to meaning-drenched material objects can manifest as both a physical and a psychological burden. All of our “possessions” can become a congested mass that weighs on us like the proverbial albatross, chocking our living environment and even lingering on to haunt others when we die.”

Goodness, yes. I have a bizarre, dysfunctional family background and I have very minimal contact with blood relatives. Even so, I have some accretion. It’s probably less than most folks’, but still substantial. The stories have long since been blown to the winds, and I wonder what my son will make of it all in twenty or thirty years when I hand these “precious” objects over to him. They’ll be curiosities, perhaps. Random piles of molecules.


Death Gets Married, Mary Mazziotti

There were twelve embroidered panels in which “Death goes through the standard stages of love and marriage from finding a mate online to rocking out the Chicken Dance at his Star-Wars-themed wedding.”

I don’t know Mazziotti, but I can tell that she has a good sense of humor and a commitment to story. I recommend seeing the full set of panels on her website.



Susan Else, Forever Yours

Skeleton armature covered with fabric collage. “My favorite themes combine contradictory ideas: life/death, eternity/mortality, tenderness/creepiness, and so on. Gesture and color are all important to me. Forever Yours is part of a series of skeletons engaged in benign activities.”

I’ve thought that Else’s work is awesome since, oh, approximately forever. Since I first encountered it at a show and thought “That person has interesting things to say and she’s saying them in a compelling way.” If I know her work is to be in a show, I go out of my way to seek it out.

Unfortunately, there were a number of other works which I either didn’t shoot or didn’t document well, so I can’t show them here. (I’m a bit annoyed with myself.) A stretcher stitched with blood vessels comes to mind, with thread/blood emerging from IV containers staged beside the stretcher. A metaphor for the terrible toll of war, I believe. Unfortunately, my photo is lousy and doesn’t do the work justice, and I can’t find the artist’s name so as to link to her (probably a her) site. Blast.

If you’re in the area, go to the show.

2 Responses to “Escaping my cell”

  1. Martha Ginn says:

    Tanya, we who follow your blog really appreciate your writing it. And I know it is sometimes really something we have to make several attempts at before another installment gets added. In other words, plain hard work. But thanks for persevering so we can read! So glad to read you got to hear/see Yvonne Porcello–what an uplifting experience that must have been.
    The Susan Else pieces are amazing; especially exciting for me to see since I was privileged to meet her at the SAQA conference in Santa Fe. She even took us out to see her camper-studio. She can still create even while they are traveling. I am glad to be an Internet friend, but really wish I could pop in for coffee!

  2. Chris says:

    Hi Tanya,
    It’s Chris who talked to you at this lecture. I went to the next lecture, it wasn’t as enjoyble but ok. I found a new lot to park in, about a block from the museum and its free on Sunday. There were some drunks hanging out there, but they stayed away so it was ok. I will be going to the next lecture since I did buy the whole series.