September 26, 2013

It's the RULERS fault!

Frustrated with the flaws in the quilt I created this week, I decided to explore possible causes and solutions for all of the problems I had so that I don't repeat them.  I'm such a cheap date, getting all excited when I found a quilting blog where the blogger provided a tip on stacking the transparent quilting rulers and throwing out any that didn't look like the lines were accurate.  Whaaaat?  The lines weren't all as they should be?  They are manufactured with crooked lines or wrong measurements?!?  I thought I was nuts in the past when I'd cut what I thought was a perfect square, only to find it wasn't square, and it was happening frequently using the same square measuring device.  Woohoo!  I can blame it on the ruler.  Of course, I must now toss it and declare it to be flawed (and I did use it on this recent project) and buy a new one.  If the new one makes for a crooked cut, I'm going to have a harder time blaming it on anything other than "user error."  For now, my story is it was the RULER'S fault.  That, and the stupid clunker of a move not to pay attention to the placement of the needle on the sewing machine.  Whoops.

Last night I received word that the stroller and cradle I painted sold for $185 at auction.  It isn't a huge sum, but given that these auctions are usually all about getting something for a bargain suggests I should consider a little swerve on the career path.  Maybe I will repaint the chair that was intended for my friend's daughter (now 16 years old - another whoops) and offer that next year.  Better yet, maybe I'll paint that and set up the etsy shop I keep honking and wheezing about, yet never manage to get done.  For goodness sake, I helped my son's girlfriend set up a shop for her high school senior project, and she's still selling the bracelets I taught her how to make and for which I purchased the supplies.  Something's not quite right here.

Time to make good on the promise to manage time and commitments to art.  I think project #1 is to sit down and schedule the creativity time and stick to it like a dentist appointment.  We'll see how long this lasts ;-)

September 24, 2013

Keep it Moving...

Whenever I discover that there is a chip or smudge in my rarely painted nails, I figure I can just keep  my hands moving and no one will see the goof.  The same goes for when I let myself go too long between salon visits and the "snow on the roof" is visible in the part of my hair.  With a rub of brown eye shadow and my hair down and moving with me, no one notices the flaw.

Then there's my recent quilt.  I'm not quite sure how much I can flap that sucker in the breeze so that no one notices the flaws.  Can you see the mistake?
There's no such thing as a project in progress without a cat involved in it somehow.  Charlotte wanted to be sure there remained plenty of wrinkles as I tried to smooth the quilt on the floor.

 I'd like to think I'm being to hard on myself, but what a bonehead move on my part.  This photo explains it all...

This note was added AFTER I realized the mistake I'd made, having put the blue tape on the machine the last time I made a quilt, about two years ago, without a note as to why.  Oh my.

Having a new quilt pattern and all of the fabric I thought I'd needed got me in a great and creative mood.  Well, as creative as you can be when you are working from a pattern someone else designed with the fabric matching that used in making the pattern sample.  Just the act of measuring and cutting and assembling requires a lot of focus, leaving the brain unable to fret about other things in life that may not be going so well.  For those who don't sew, this won't mean a thing.  For those that do, I'm sure there will be a lot of chuckling going on in a minute.  This fancy, shmancy Bernina my husband bought for me a few years ago has a great new feature - the hole in the foot plate is a full 9mm wide and with the push of the little white button on the front, the needle can be bumped left or right of the usual center position and remain in place until the machine is turned off (it re-centers when the machine is turned back on).  Since I was using a wide presser foot and quilting with the usual 1/4" seam allowance, I wanted to use the right edge of the presser foot as my guide so that I could clearly see it.  In my infinite wisdom, the last time I made a quilt I simply dropped the needle and tapped that little white button until it was positioned so that it created a perfectly placed 1/4" seam with the fabric lined up along the right side of the foot.  Follow me?  Of course, I was brilliant and put down the blue painters tape, with the left tape edge marking the 1/4" seam edge IF the needle were centered, and the drawn line marking the 1/4" seam edge if the needle were bumped to the right twice and the fabric lined up with the edge of the presser foot.  Only this time around, I forgot the part about bumping the needle over (thus this new note to my goober self).

When I started to put the first pieces together - the black and white horizontal striped section stitched to the vertical coloured and white stripes - I was horrified to see that the colored strips were significantly more narrow, by about 1-1/2 inches.  How could that be?  I thought, "dumb directions!" and double checked the math.  The math added up.  My quilt squares didn't.  I flipped the quilt over and started measure the seams and realized they were larger than 1/4" because I, the nitwit that forgot why the 1/4" mark isn't at the left edge of the tape, had used the foot as a guide without moving the needle to the right.  Every bloody seam hogged up another 1/8" more of less of fabric.  Lots of strips meant the loss of lots of fabric.  O.M.G.  I could either take apart (how many components are there?  Thirty?) every assembled square, or just cut the black & white segments to fit the width of the thirty that were too small and call it a flippin' crib quilt instead of a lap quilt.

Lesson learned.  I learned how to make a crib quilt.

There were other mistakes and errors along the way, but I am simply going to consider them as learning experiences, make notes so that I don't repeat those mistakes, and consider this is just part of the re-learning curve. 

While I'm looking at these photos again, I should point out that Charlotte is not a poodle as her tail would suggest.  She is usually a long haired cat that suffered with the most miserable knotting of her fluffy fur, so she was subjected to what the vet refers to as a "lion cut."  Alas, the lion's cheeks were trimmed a little lopsided, so she looks like her head is tweaked a bit toward the right.  Her cut also provided a stunning view of her need for kitty Spanx.  How can a young cat that has never had kittens have cleavage like that?!?  She puts most dairy cows to shame.  We are trying to exercise her and help her with nature's tummy tuck, hoping she doesn't notice things like my son spotting her for the first time after she got home, doubling over and laughing so hard that he merely bounced with no sound coming out.  Poor Charlotte.  The indignity of it all!

Tomorrow I start on the back of the quilt.  At this point, I don't see any point in continuing the silly practice of skipping wine while I sew.  Clearly, it couldn't have hurt.  You just can't tell from this photo that the top row of black bars is narrower than the others.  I need to flap that quilt a little faster, THEN I'll take a sip.

September 16, 2013

Friendships End, Art Idles

My posts, like my artwork and my mood in the studio, have been melancholy of late.  There is a huge hole in my heart and soul as I realize that a decades-old friendship has come to an end.  I'm not sure if the other party realizes this yet as I've been unable to have that final conversation.  After really thinking long and hard about the situation for the past few weeks, I've realized how great an impact my emotional state of mind has had on my ability to be creative. 

How do adults cut off friendships?  There was no big fight, no huge misunderstanding.  There were just slap-in-the-face signals that our friendship clearly didn't mean the same thing to her as it did to me.  I realized she just wanted me to say what she wanted to hear at the moment and I obliged, even when I felt it was the wrong thing to say and do, but because I was her friend and she needed to hear it from me.  I began noticing the pattern of every conversation always being about her and the drama in her life and she never, ever asked about me, my life or my family.  I would volunteer information, but with a brief nod of her head and little comment, the topic would turn back to her drama.  Worse, her drama revolves around issues that suggest that her rulebook of life for herself is filled with blank pages, and she doesn't want to hear anything more than, "You go, girl!"  and "You deserve to do whatever you want, right or wrong, if it makes you happy right now."  I can't do it any longer.  I just can't.  I see her family suffering and she appears to believe the problem is theirs alone or someone, anyone, else's fault, and to which she doesn't contribute at all.  I watch a relationship developing that I fear will eventually no longer serve her purpose, but I won't be there to say, "You go, girl!"  But I'll be thinking, "I told you so."  I won't say it out loud, but I'm already thinking it.  For now, I go through the baby steps, the sophomoric stuff that I have the courage to do like removing photos from our shared social media site.  I cried while I did it, but the gesture spoke volumes - I'm at that point.

Why does this effect my art?  Or my ability to be creative?  I've never thought of my being creative as being tied in with my personal happiness.  When I worked full time, I spent so much time fretting that I was dying to be creative and miserable that I didn't have the time to exercise those demons.  Now I have a lot of time to be creative, and I sit at my studio desk surrounded by the materials I need for literally dozens of various projects, but my mind is blank.  I resort to pulling out fabric, seeking comfort in the distraction of having to measure and cut precisely.  If I have to cut 28 strips of 1-1/2" white fabric and make sure they are identical and flawless, I can't also think about how sad I am.

While my artistic self is idling, I have to figure out how to wrap up these sad loose ends.  Maybe after I do that - just RIP off that bandage - I'll be free emotionally to invest in creativity again.  I just have to find the courage to rip off that bandage.  Sooner would be better than later.  I am so incredibly sad for both of us.  For many years, she was a true, wonderful and giving friend.  The scales are just too out of balance for me to be able to say that any longer.

September 13, 2013

On to the Next Project...

After a number of bumps in the road, I finished the doll furniture.  Alas, I had to turn over the finished projects before I could take better photos, so this is all I've got for now.  Again, I am not a good photographer and truly need to work on that skill set!

The color in this photograph is a bit closer to "true" than the one taken indoors.  The little bees inspired by Mary Englebriet were requested by my friend that asked me to paint these pieces for the auction. 

Every time I finish a project that really tested my patience, I return to the basics like sewing.  For a while I worked on more soldered jewelry today, but gave it a rest after a bit, frustrated that I knew I was doing SOMEthing wrong, but didn't know what.  I took a break, did a little internet research, and have figured out some problem areas I need to work on like going over the same spot so many times that I melt the adhesive on the copper tape or I'm loading too much solder.  This is going to take a lot of trial and error, clearly.

I decided to work on a simple quilt project when I'm too frazzled to do anything else, starting the cuts today for a quilt called "Traffic" by Jaybird Quilts.  I met the designer and bought the pattern at the Road to California Quilt Show last year.  I still have to get a bit more of some of the fabrics, but have enough of the basics to get started.  There is something very therapeutic about just cutting strips of fabric.  If only I hadn't discovered that my cutting mat had been used by my son for a school project, the back of which was covered and lumpy from the plaster he mixed up for a science model.  Ugh.  The cutting came to an end and the scrubbing began.  Since I'm cutting 28 strips of snow white fabric, I don't dare take a chance and resume the cutting until I'm sure the mat is perfectly clean or I just buy another and hide it when not in use.

All of this is going on while I hear football on the television and hollering in the background.  I am certain that I have suffered at least a little bit of brain damage just from having to listen to the hissing and roaring noise of the crowd that is watching a bunch of grown men play "dog pile!" for hours.  I'll never understand.

September 3, 2013

The Invisible Woman

As I transitioned from full-time mother to full-time housewife and artist, I expected change.  The one thing I did not expect was the eye opening realization at just how invisible I have become and the need to fix this "nothing" that I have allowed myself to become.

My epiphany occured last week when I happened to have the television on just to hear voices other than mine, and Katie Couric's show started.  Working in the library, I could hear the topic from a distance, something about the value of female friendships.  It caught my attention, so I went to the family room to watch and listen for a bit.  Author Shasta Nelson appeared on the program, talking about her book and her web site that focuses on creating a meaningful circle of girlfriends.  As I half listened for a while, I started running through the mental list of my close friends.  I couldn't even fill one hand in the count.  Then I started thinking about the towns and cities I've lived in for the past 35 years and realized that it was the same story in each one - I had maybe one close friend at a time and, even then, I think I'm being generous when I describe the friendships as "close."  The exception was when I worked at a graduate school and many of the students working in my office were my peers and we really hit it off.  Those friendships lasted for as long as we lived in the same town.  Does that even count?  My oldest and most long-term friendship is coming to a very sad end, and it is overwhelmingly sad for me.

Wallowing in this increasing emotional downhill slide, I went to Shasta's website where I read every part of the site from top to bottom and took advantage of the free guest sign up.  In the process of signing up, there was a questionnaire about me, the point of which is to match up personalities for these small "group dates" of women in my area that are also seeking friendships.  Oh my gosh, I am so boring on paper!  In reality, I'm quite the talkative comic in a group.  But when it came to answering questions about what kind of outdoor activities I enjoy or what activities I enjoy doing in my spare time, I realized I have just fallen into the habit of doing very little.  I sort of exist in each day, waiting for the next day, and doing it alone until someone comes home from work or school.  I've allowed myself to slowly disappear, not going anywhere or doing anything unless someone else (almost always my overworked husband) has the time, energy or interest to do something.  Do I really just go to two quilt shows and a few nights at the comedy club a year?  That's it, other than one of his work-related parties or dinner with one of his co-workers or subordinates?  What has happened to me?  On paper, I look like I'm barely conscious, much less fun company.  When I get in a group, my husband teases that I AM the party and I have a blast.  It's getting there that just isn't happening.  Ugh.

I see this disappearing act happening in my artwork as well.  As I've fussed about ad nauseum, I am just dragging myself through the doll furniture painting project.  This does not look like me, but I'm having a hard time figuring out "me."  My identity has just been loss and I have to stop being so afraid to find it again.  Too much of what I do, or don't do, is driven by fear.  There's the fear of failure at the top of the list, failing at being able to maintain a friendship, failure when it comes to sharing art.  I would certainly never advise a friend to just sit in their house alone and live with it, but that's what I'm doing.  I have allowed the fear of failure to stop me dead in my tracks.  I don't want that fear of failure to stop me from making art, from making friends or from finding out who I am as an individual. 

Now what?  I really have my work cut out for me.