Fabric Crush – new Kona solid colors!

While I was at Spring Quilt Market, I did some more scouting of fabric for Kim Kight of the TrueUp blog. One of my assignments was the Robert Kaufman booth, and the fun folks there (hi Kyle!) showed me a card of new solids that are on their way to us:

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I was thrilled to see a couple more ORANGE selections, and I know that that whole row of grays is going to thrill a bunch of people. I think these colors do a nice job of filling in a hole or two.

Anyhow, in the Post-Market-Clean-My-Studio-And-Put-All-The-New-Stuff-Away-Frenzy of yesterday, I discovered I have two Kona color cards. They are the April 2012 version, so they have last year’s additions, but not the ones above.

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I only need one of them, so who wants the other? Leave me a comment… I’ll pick a random winner sometime Sunday night!

And keep your eye on TrueUp for a peek at a bunch of new fabrics!

Five years!

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Today is a special “birthday” of sorts – it’s the 5th anniversary of my heart attack. A good friend of mine recently celebrated 21 years of sobriety, and she says now that her sobriety birthday almost outweighs her actual birthday because it’s the day she really started living. I truly relate.

So first I’m going to tell you about my heart attack because I feel that its important to be of public service about this, especially for women. (Did you know that more women die of heart disease than breast cancer?) And then I’m going to tell you about how it has helped me to really start living.

Five years ago, I took a car ride with the grim reaper, literally. My heart attack started at 75 miles an hour, singing my head off to Bonnie Raitt, out on dark road coming out of DC when I had just lost cell reception. I went from full bore chorus to an elephant sitting on my chest in one short breath. Somehow, I kept my head, kept on breathing, and got myself to the hospital next to my home 80 miles later.

I went through all of the classic symptoms (which for a woman, is not usually how it goes… our cardiac events tend to be silent). First, the indigestion, which I rationalized away because of the homemade meal of pasta carbonara and rhubarb crumble and perfect English tea that I had just eaten with friends. It was so good I had seconds of everything.

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Next up was the aforementioned elephant. It’s the weirdest feeling. It wasn’t until it was over that I could actually describe the intensity of the pressure. Damned nasty stuff. I didn’t really understand what it was, so I still didn’t think it was a heart attack. Adrenaline came with the pressure, covering me in sweat. Then the pain started. Down my left arm, a sharp, deep ache. This was the first step in giving up denial… by the time the pain went up the side of my face I had my head in the game and I thought, that’s it, I’m fucked.

I kept on driving. I didn’t feel faint. Despite the pressure I was actually breathing fine. The road to the hospital had no other civilization on it big enough to send out an ambulance, so I figured I would just keep going, keep breathing. By the time I got close, I knew I would be faster than anything they sent to meet me. So I just kept driving.

By the time I got to the hospital, the pressure had let up, and I almost headed for home, thinking that if it all turned out to be nothing, then I would be embarrassed to be a bother. Let me repeat that: I WOULD BE EMBARRASSED TO BE A BOTHER. I see you shaking your head at me, as I would be if I read this about you. But this is what gets us DEAD. We don’t advocate for ourselves out of some sense of embarrassment. Or we decide we can tough it out (I’m eyeballing you fellas on this one). We don’t go to the docs because we think we can’t leave our desks for a couple of hours. Right. Ask any doctor… they would rather send you home with a clear EKG and a prescription for antacids than pull the sheet over your face. You are NOT a bother. You are absolutely WORTH being checked out. And your job can damn well wait for a day.

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Turns out, it was a pretty big bother, if I had gone home I wouldn’t have made it through the week. I have two rather rare genetic issues going on in my heart, and the treatment of one exacerbates the other, making management of this a constant balancing act. On any given day, I have to choose between pain or a modest endurance. If overdo it (which in my case is a healthy flight of stairs) I get the pain. If I keep the pain away with meds, my endurance it shot to hell. The best solution is a new heart but I’m not there yet. And the longer I keep out of that game, the better the technology will be when I get to it.

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Yes, this has stolen a lot from me, and I had a tough couple of years working through the grief. Making art about it helped a ton. I’m slower than I want to be and I still get pissy about it at times. Inclines of any size are challenging, so I’m always looking for the hills and elevators. I don’t have the breath to sing anymore – now it leaves me panting. I used to travel alone a lot and now I’m scared to because I know I can’t outrun anything (probably couldn’t back when I thought I could, but still). I’ve modified my diet in a way that works for me but makes me a bit of a pain to feed. Think When Harry Met Sally, right before the big O and without the wheat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, etc. The biggest thing it has stolen is peace of mind. It’s never more than a moment out of my thoughts. My cousin (who’s heart is as screwed up as mine but in a totally different way) said that the luxury of worrying about the little shit is gone. Word.

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But let me tell you about what it has given me. First up, less of that little shit. I’m better at letting it go than I’ve ever been, and improving on it daily. I no longer hang out with people who stress me out or drag me down – I just don’t have time, and I just can’t give my precious energy to it. Rather than racing to my next deadline, I’ve had to slow down. And guess what, things got simpler. There’s stuff I just can’t do now, and when I finally, finally, FINALLY decided it was OK to embrace these imperfections and ask for help when I needed it, my life became richer. A gentler me has made for a gentler, sweeter life. The idea that I could ever be perfect is such a myth, but it took a real punch in the chest to teach it to me. I love dozens of wildly imperfect people, and finally, FINALLY get that I’m lovable in my own wildly imperfect way too. I get that I’m worthy of a trip to the docs when I feel wonky. And I get that, while what I do for others is important, it doesn’t trump taking care of myself. My priorities are much more in order… me and my son first, every thing else when I can manage. It’s because it is always on my mind that I am so much more present to taking care of what really matters. What a journey!

It has also given me precious time. Time to work on having the best possible relationship with my son, and to see him bloom into one cool guy. Time to hang out with great people. Time to see more beauty. Time to say important things. Time to fix important things. Time to let go of things that must not stay in my life a moment longer. Time to make more art. Time to experience deep gratitude. Time to say thank you.

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That saying about life being short? It is. It could be as short as tomorrow. We never really know our end date… I’m just lucky enough to have peeked at mine and been given a few more years. I plan to make them special. And I really hope you do the same. You’re worth it.

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All artwork made by me – see more of it at samhunterart.com  And I helped make the handsome fella standing next to me too :-)

Chunky Wee Bag goes to market

Spring Quilt Market begins on Thursday in Portland! I’m going to Market, but not in a booth – I’ll be there running around, so if you need to meet up with me just email me to make some arrangements. I’d love to meet you!

I’m sure you’ve been reading about everyone’s last minute preparations in the blog rolls this week, and my studio has not escaped the insanity.

I spent last week hustling through some Chunky Wee Bags. The good folks at Andover sent some fabrics to play with from their new Poppy Modern and KITSCHenette lines.

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Sorry for the “ironing board in the studio” shot… I was hustling to get ’em in the mail!

I made a couple of bags for the sweet Hoffman Fabrics folks too – but I don’t see the fabric on their website so I won’t let the cat out of the bag just yet -I’ll show you the photo once I get the go ahead. I’ll give you a hint though… humming birds!

You will also find another Chunky Wee Bag in the Brewer booth – it’s one from the pattern cover, made from Melody Miller’s fabulous Viewmaster Reel fabric. I should have bought way more of that when I had the chance!

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If you spot one of my bags at Quilt Market (or you’ve made one yourself), please snap a photo of you with the bag and post it to my FB Page. Be goofy if you like! We’ll do something fun with them when I get back from Market, and give some goodies away!

Image of View master fabric from here.

Paper-piecing hack – slip sliding away!

I was paper-piecing in the studio last week, and ran into that pesky problem of getting one of the bottom pieces folded back on itself ONE TOO MANY TIMES. Harrumph. Nothing like holding the seam ripper endlessly to make you reach for the chocolate. Mind you… like I need an excuse to reach for the chocolate :-)

So as I munched on said chocolate (the wonderful 70% Super Smooth Belgian Mini Bars from Trader Joe’s) I pondered a way to end the “under-folding.” Not that I like having problems to solve, but I find solving these kind of puzzles fun.

I thought that a slicker surface might help – slick enough that nothing at all could drag the fabric and pull it out of place. And lo and behold, I just happened to have a Supreme Slider*  in the studio.

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They are designed to give you a more slippery surface when doing free-motion quilting, but lo and behold, they do the same for paper-piecing.

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I put the edge right up in front of the feed dogs and yep… worked like a charm. I might even buy a second one and cut out the feed dog hole to fit. The only downside I’ve found thus far is that I can’t see the bobbin run out (it’s a top loader) – but even when I can see it I forget about it until I’ve sewn a mile or two on empty, so that hardly registers as a complaint.

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And while we’re looking at my machine, did you notice anything different? Yep, that’s not my beloved Janome 6500 – it’s her new sister, a Janome 8900 QCP. I got a chance to be in partnership with Janome, and signed up in a heartbeat borrow this girl. We’re having fun getting acquainted, and I’m looking forward to doing some machine quilting with all eleven inches of harp space. I’ll be designing some new stuff for Janome, so watch this space.

OK… back to the studio! What are your favorite paper-piecing tricks?

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*I’m not a rep for the Supreme Slider – just a fan!

Chihuly Glass – I liked it, but…

I’ve been home from Seattle for over week. A week? Already a week has flown by! Nuts!

On the day before I left, we visited the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass which is a recent addition to the area by the Needle and the Experience Music Project. The Chihuly space is an interesting one – obviously created just for this purpose, and therefore each installation is roomy and beautifully orchestrated. All artists should be so lucky to have their work seen like this. It’s also a serious marketing space – like most museums or theme park rides, you get to exit through the gift shop, and in this case it’s one hell of a merchandising gauntlet of all things Chihuly. This guy is as much a business as he is an artist (something that all artists should pay attention to).

I have an uneasy relationship with Dale Chihuly’s work. On the one hand, I’m thrilled to see an artist in the “crafts” world make good. So often glass, metal, ceramics and fiber get the bastard step-child treatment in the fine art world. Chihuly has done some trail-blazing work with the glass medium, and in my book deserves accolades for it. But I have some “buts” too, and some thought about how these relate to quilting, so here goes:

I like the fact that he breaks scale with the huge pieces. He took glass off the pedestal, and pushed it into something so big and sculptural that it can’t be ignored like a shiny tchotchke in the corner. There is striking tension between the perceived fragility of glass and the towering structures he creates with it.

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For instance, the Mille Fiori garden above. There is contrast between the idea of a garden of delicate plants made from hard glass, which, though fragile in its own right, will last years longer than the life of a real bloom. The intense color and scale are also quite confronting, while the smooth surfaces invite a museum-forbidden touch. And now that I’ve owned (and dropped) three different iPhones, my thoughts on the fragility of glass are not what they once were!

I find that I get pulled out of reverie of enjoying the pieces by wondering about how they are made. How *does* one create a tower of spiraling shoots? What type of armature is needed to support all the components? How many get broken? Do they make spares? Who dusts all this stuff? I will also confess that I think this way about a lot of things, so it might not be the fault of the art that I ponder its construction rather than its meaning.

And while I’m definitely a color junkie, I find the endless full saturation of bright colors a bit exhausting. Note to self here… not all quilts need ORANGE :-)

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Of course I liked the ORANGE chandelier, above. But I also liked it the best because it is different from spiraling tendrils of most of Chihuly’s chandeliers, like the blue one on the right. It’s a shape that he uses constantly, and so while the first one or two are pretty WOW, the tenth one becomes a bit of a yawn. I think quilts do a better job of varying what can be done with our standard shapes of squares and rectangles, though I do wonder if there is any new take on the wonky log cabin block possible. I also find the chandeliers confronting. While I’ve become accustomed to the traditional lead crystal behemoths of older buildings, the spiky-ness of these in general makes me walk around them rather than under them. And is it because I can’t see, and therefore trust, the armatures like I can their older counterparts?

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This vessel was in the Northwest Room. It is from a series of works where Chihuly was looking at the weaving patterns in traditional Native American baskets and responding to them in glass. Although this work pre-dates the big sculptures, I found it more deeply engaging. I like art that creates a conversation with other art. And yes, I was wondering how the woven lines are made in glass.

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These vessels in the Macchia forest were also lovely. Each was at least two feet across, so a technical marvel as well as one of simple beauty, and lit to reflect their colors on the walls. I’ve traveled to a lot of European churches with spectacular stained glass, and seeing the colors reflected through to the interiors has always been a profound delight. I think I liked the reflections more than the vessels!

The interior spaces lead out to a full outdoor garden, where the glass is planted to interact with real flora. I was delighted by the pairings of plants and glass based on colors and shapes, and I think this was my favorite space. I wonder if the glass was made to match the plants, or the plants were found to match the glass. No matter… conversations between them were notable.

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Chihuly is now known for no longer blowing his own glass. An injury took him out of the studio, and while he was directing his assistants he found he liked it better that way. The glass works sold in the gift store bear his name, but not his hand. And this is one of those things I find tricky… if I bought a Chihuly, would it be enough that he directed its creation, or would I expect him to be the maker? Art has a very long history of the studio assistant, and what it really comes down to is that if you want to get more work made, you eventually need more hands to help you. And who could blame an up-and-coming artist for wanting the stability of a studio job with access to the mind and tutelage of a guy who reportedly makes millions. The chance to hone your skills with someone else’s materials budget alone is pretty juicy.

I think about this in terms of how it relates to me as a pattern designer. While a pattern might be mine, if you make it I think it then becomes a collaboration. But if I give you the fabric, and tell you where to place it, are you still an involved artist, or are you just the construction tech at that point? I think push and pull of this line also exists when ever we send out a quilt for quilting, and especially if the resulting stitch pattern is the choice of the long-armer rather than the direction of the top-maker.

In my case, I would not credit the person constructing for me if their role offered no artistic interpretation beyond their technical assembly capabilities. I would, however, credit the person that quilts it if I gave them room to do their thing. And I doubt that I would ever stop sewing entirely – I love it too much!

So what are your thoughts?

All images taken by me with the permission of staff at Chihuly Garden and Glass.