Monday, June 1, 2009

SAQA conference, QN, Eva's Ballet, garden, and Green Bags

Jimmy has an antique lawn tractor now, given to us by our friend and carpenter and computer guru Duane Hart, one of whose genius activities is restoring antique lawn tractors! This 1965 Wheel Horse mows twice as wide as our regular mower does, and I can tell it's a guy magnet. If any of you girls is looking to attract a fine, upstanding and hardworking man, just get yourself one of Duane's rebuilt tractors and mow your front lawn. Yes, it really could be that easy! :)

OK, I got two recycled cotton canvas tote bags from Eleanor Levie, who'd asked me to make a piece for use in her upcoming book about reusable shopping bags. I pulled the bags out, and right away, my cat Ome (the gray girl, as opposed to Otis, the orange boy, her brother) crawled her way into one bag. I decided to throw in some fresh catnip from my garden and take some action pix. This was the research stage of the project. When the kittens were done playing, I had laughed so much, I had to take a breather, but I was really psyched: I had an angle for what I would paint.

Eleanor had asked me to not paint a bunch of people on the bag, thinking that this might intimidate readers who would want to make a bag like mine. And she didn't want people faces, for the same reason. ugh. This is what I do! She also wanted me to journal about my Green Quilts project (1989 thru 2004) on the bag. But I'm done with that project, so again, ugh. But Otis and Ome's play made me think of a new idea. Not Green Quilts, but Green CATS! :) Of course, I would still write about the Green Quilts project as part of my diary on the bag, but instead of drawing and painting a bunch of people, I would do cats, WITH their faces, thank you!
Luckily, Eleanor liked the new idea, and so did I.

I opened up the bag's seams, so I could put a tee-shirt board in between the canvas layers, and fired up my airbrush. I had the two bags on the wall, side by side, and started by drawing with black paint, like I always do, and then moved into applying yellow paint, again, like I always do. Kinda like how Jimmy and I both almost always get the same exact orders at our Mexican restaurant: he gets My Special, a fajita, and I get a Super Quesadilla Relleno with pollo.

Well, there's a reason for starting with yellow paint. Yellow is the weakest pigment, and when working with transparent paints, you want to put your lightest stuff down first. And yellow can be turned into about any other color (not blue, purple, or pink though.) You don't have to be really picky about not going outside your lines, since the yellow will be transformed by whatever background color I put over it. Oh, you should have to come take a class with me to learn all these secrets. Never mind!

But I only put yellow and then green paint on these bags. Then I stopped, instead of adding more and more layers of colors to the paintings, since these bags needed to be green. So I stopped, cleaned out my airbrush, and wrote all over the bags with my airpen and its tiny writing with black fabric paint. Ome, smiling here, loves the idea of Catnip PIe, a new recipe I invented while airbrush drawing on these bags. Eleanor picked the bag on the right for her book, and I sent it to her for publicity. I'm carrying the other one around, enjoying having a fancier grocery bag than my usual Buehler Bags. (Buehler's is our local grocery store.) I LOVE cloth shopping bags, and even used them last Christmas for wrapping some presents. I like Eleanor's idea for the book and can't wait to see it come out! I'll tell you when it's out!

In fact, I carried my Green Catz bag around in Athens,Ohio, at the Quilt National opening at the Dairy Barn Arts Center and the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) conference that went on during Quilt National, May 21-24, at the Ohio University Inn in Athens.

Note: It used to be that only the QN exhibitors and their guests atttended the Memorial Day weekend events for the opening of the show, but ever since SAQA started connecting its conferences with the QN opening, conferencees and exhibitors (sometimes a person is both) attend for the events. Some of the people shown below are in QN this year, some are not. All of us are professional art quilters, and most of us entered the show, but many were rejected, as usual, since they only accept 84 pieces into the show. 51% of the exhibitors this time are first timers, so the show has a very fresh look! The jurors for QN '09 were Sue Benner, Katie Pasquini Masopust, and Ned Wert, and they all graciously attended for the weekend and gave a panel discussion on jurying the show. Quilt National '09 is a really good collection of work, an eclectic mix of the best of what's new in the art quilt movement, well worth your time to take a trip to Athens, Ohio, to see, or to catch on one of its stops around the country in the next two and a half years.

Above are my dear friends Robin Schwalb and Jancy (Juno) McClellan, riding the shuttle bus from the hotel to the campus student center, for our SAQA classes. Robin was on the panel I led at the conference and was my roommate. She and I have been good pals ever since we met in her hometown NYC in 1988, after we both got into our first QN in 1987, and I was living in NYC for half a year on a grant from the Ohio Arts Council. (Those were the days!!!) Juno came to these events for the first time, a busy young art teacher in Columbus, Ohio, who's discovered art quilting in the last few years. Both events, QN and SAQA, bring together so many people you already know, and new ones you become friends with. This is our trade's biggest happening, a biennial thing to really look forward to.

This year I didn't get my piece "The Food Scales" juried into QN, after ten ins and one out previously, but I was asked by SAQA to lead a panel discussion for this conference, so I had a good reason to show up. This was the first time I ever participated in all the mini-workshops for the SAQA conference, and it was really good. We had four sessions on Friday, the 22nd, and I got a LOT out of my classes, in marketing your work, understanding Photoshop better, etc. Maybe I'll con you into buying my art better from now on! Watch out: I'm really shrewd now!

My friend Andi Stern stands with Robin, admiring the beautiful terrazzo art image in the floor of the Baker Student Center, of Aminah Robinson's artwork from 1990, which was chosen by Ohio's Percent for Art project, to be used in this public building, just a few years ago. Yea, public art! Your tax dollars at work for a really good cause! Aminah is a Columbus, Ohio artist, whose work tells the story of black people in her life, from her childhood on. She is probably the best known artist in Ohio now. I was just so happy to see images of her work made permanent in that floor!

And NOW we're at the grand opening ceremony for Quilt National '09, with my friend Shelley Baird posing in front of her QN piece. This was Shelley's first time to enter, partly thanks to my superior nagging, and ta-da: she got in. Yea! She does a lot of deconstructed silk screening on her fabric, using her own images.

Shelley drove me down to Athens, after Jimmy took me to her house in Columbus. We had a great time on the way down and back, and running around Athens in the meantime. Thanks a lot, Shelley! I love your very newest body of work, the paintings using other artists' dropcloths as the basis. Very cool! Can't wait to see one of them on the QN wall next time!

And here we have Shawn - Radical Man Himself - Quinlan, of Pittsburgh, PA, with his very cool and controversial piece "God Bless America." Shawn got into QN with his sixth try. A very persistent artist! I love his very political artwork, and am so happy that it's part of this QN. I heard that the Wall Street Journal had an article about this show, and that they included this piece of Shawn's. :)

This is me, with my Green Catz bag (told ya), with Therese May, my dear San Jose friend, and Joan Hershey, from Indiana, whom I know from Art Quilt Network. We're just livin' it up at the Quilt National opening. For many years, Robin and I would work like maniacs at the openings, reading all the statements with the quilts, in choosing our Green Quilts award for that year's QN. But since we shut it down in 2004, I've been free to just be there. And since my piece wasn't in the show, I was just a civvie, able to loll around and get in trouble at my own leisure.

I sat beside Maxine Diamond and her husband John Lefelhocz at the QN banquet. John volunteers at the Dairy Barn Arts Center where QN is held, and Maxine bought one of the pieces in the show that night! They own the Cycle Path Bike Shop in downtown Athens, one of the best bike shops you could ever find!

While at the SAQA conference, I sketched some ideas for upcoming work. I was thinking of doing the SAQA reverse auction piece as either Michelle Obama's White House vegetable garden, or doing the big hug between her and Queen Elizabeth, and those are the sketch ideas here for the 12" painted quilt for the auction. However, since then I've pretty much decided to use those things in larger pieces. Since I'm starting the auction piece probably tomorrow, I'll soon know what the theme will be. I have an idea, but it's a secret. Stay tuned!

Here are Robin Schwalb and Sally Sellers, enjoying the SAQA barbecue, at the end of our conference. The two of them, as well as Therese May, Dominie Nash, and I were on our panel, called "What's Next?" We had presented our panel that day (Saturday, May 24) in the afternoon, and I think we were all happy with how it turned out. Each of us came to the topic of mid-career issues with a unique sub-topic, and we each gave our own powerpoint show to accompany our ideas. Therese spoke about appreciating your own art ideas; Dominie mused over lessons learned and lessons to come; Robin addressed the issues for people having a regular career, besides your art career; Sally talked about the challenges of changing styles; and I presented my solutions to the problems of health issues and time constraints due to aging. I was surprised that we were being videotaped, but am very happy about this. The panel, along with other programs from the SAQA conference, will soon be available on the SAQA University web site. And I just found out that Jeanne Marklin is writing a review of our panel for the next SAQA Journal, coming out in the Fall.

Sorry I didn't get any pictures of us giving our panel. We looked pretty sharp! In fact, we were stylin'!

Andi Stern, another QN exhibitor sitting it out this year, relaxed with her husband Marty at the barbecue. They live in Chauncey, near Athens, and in the old days, their kids would come along or one of these two would stay home with the kids. This time, only their college-student daughter Aisha showed up. Andi, besides making studio art, was busy baking her tasty baked goods for the local coffee shop all week. Long ago she got the nickname Peppy Whirlwind, and is keeping up with her name quite well!

Here is Martha Sielman, the director of SAQA, and to her right, a chopped-off image of the current president, Judith Content. Behind Martha are Jack Walsh, an art quilt collector and member of the SAQA board, along with other luminaries, all out standing in their field. :)

I was sitting with my back to the sun, trying not to melt, just happy to be with such good friends as Therese May. I can't remember the last time I was able to sit around with Therese, but it's been way too long. I look back with great fondness to our big adventure in 1992, when our friend Anne Warren drove Therese down to my house, since she was teaching up in Cleveland, for the Textile Art Alliance. The two of them helped me paint the big double front door of our house that weekend. It's still at the top of the front page of my site, but the real door is now sitting inside the breezeway, no longer opening into it. After 17 years, its paint was so bad, we replaced the door, but kept the old one inside, since it's really a sweet memory and a great painting. I'd love to have Therese come back to Wooster and see my big garage door painting in person!

Sunday morning, when the conference was over, we got to go see Maxine and her birds (she has parrots and cockatoos) and meet her new puppy, Cassandra. With bicycles selling better and needing more repairs in this recession, I know it was a real gift to have some quiet time alone with this Athens friend. I'm sure she was soon back to the shop, after we left for home.

Here we see some cute, but tired artists, waiting to go home. From left: Margaret Cusack, a textile illustrator from Brooklyn (which is also Robin's home), Robin, Shelley, and Beth Carney, from Yonkers, NY, who's a QN '09 exhibitor. Congratulations to all the exhibitors in Quilt National, which is our most prestigious show in art quilting. You can buy the hardbound book/catalog of the show from the Dairy Barn Arts Center or from many bookstores.

While I was in Athens, Jimmy finished some of his best work in a while, in my opinion. These three cases, a fly case, rod case, and flask, made as a set, were a custom order for a retired doctor, who's doing a lot more fishing these days than my poor, deprived husband. The scene on the fly case is based on a photo of the river where the buyer and his wife just built a new home in Montana. As with all of Jimmy's leather work for fly fishers, these cases were specifically made for the buyer from scratch by Jimmy, starting with the hide. All imagery is first carved slowly and carefully by Jimmy, then painted, and all sewing is by hand. Check out his work.

When I got back home, Jimmy had already used our little Mantis and tilled part of the Rainbow Garden. Here he's starting to add organic stuff to build up the tired soil. We haven't done this in a long time, so it was really necessary. We put in shrimp and seaweed, organic compost, and lime.

We used to till the whole garden, not just the rows, when we had my mom's old, gigantic TroyBilt tiller. Then it threw a rod, and we spent a few years trying to garden with shovels and trowels. Ugh. Then we finally bought a Mantis, which is the little handy, dandy tiller Mom used to say she should buy. She was right!

Once we got the Mantis, we no longer tilled the whole patch, but just the rows, or even parts of rows. This little thing can whiz in between big plants, so we were able to start having perennials in our big garden. We kept up the mulching with paper bags and newspapers under hay or straw, like we did when we tilled the whole thing first each year.

Now we're thinking we'll get rid of our mulch walking rows, and start mowing the walking rows. It'll be kinda like an English garden, and we'll just keep replenishing our planting rows. Only I don't know how this will work with mulching around the plants, like we've always done, when they get big enough to live above the mulch. I guess it's like parenting: it's always an experiment! You just try what you think will work best, and if that flops, you try something else!

I got my first mosquito bite of the season this morning, while planting my little peat pots of Calendula starts. Ratz! Musta missed a spot with my Burt's Bees insect stuff!

OK, so now here's the warm and fuzzy story of Eva's first ballet recital. Eva is my four and a half year old granddaughter, daughter of my daughter Gretchen and her husband Mike. They live in Lakewood, next to Cleveland, and Eva's been taking her first ballet class this year, starting back in January??? A couple of times I went along to the classes, sitting outside of the classroom with G and M, and once getting a wild and sneaky tour of the place with Mike, who hates to sit stil for very long. The Beck Center for the Arts is the finest community arts center I've ever seen, and its Saturday morning sessions are crammed full of parents and kids, all milling around in the halls, which are full of artwork. It's a total inspiration just to be in the building!

So we were all hepped up for Eva's first dance show. G and M made a little video clip of the dress rehearsal, which they sent us by email. And in my last blog entry you saw Eva's outfit for the show. So I made her a big drawing to color, of what I pictured the performance would look like, and as soon as I finished drawing it, she began to color it in, starting with the blue bodice of her outfit. That was just before the performance two nights ago. I wonder if she has it all colored by now.

Anyhow, we all had a nice supper together at GEM's, with Mike's mom Eileen, and then we all went over to the Beck. Gretchen and Eva went first, to get ready, and Jimmy and I decided to walk, since it was such a sweet evening and only about 6 blocks away. The walk over made me think so much of back when I had my Granny Pad, two blocks from GEM's house, and would take walks with the kids in the evening. Ahhh! How I wish I coulda kept my Granny Pad!!!! I only had it for a year and a half, and when I quit being Eva's main nanny, I gave it up, three years ago.

Mike's brother Frank, who is Eva's godfather, is a professional photographer, and he had a really good camera at the recital, so he was able to take these excellent pictures of Eva, without a flash. No one was allowed to use flash photography, and when Eva saw Frank, she mouthed to him that he wasn't supposed to take pictures. But meanwhile, she was also doing all her ballet routine and not missing a beat.

Notice that Eva's standing on her tiptoes in the picture above. She's always stood on her toes, especially if she's excited. And she WAS excited this time! The program featured dancers of all grade levels, and her Pre-Ballet group was the second youngest, after the Pre-School group. There were about ten dancers in her group, dancing in a long line, with Eva on the far right end. I edited out the other dancers, since I don't know who they are and can't get their parents' permission, but they were really cute, too!

This happy smile never left Eva's face, as she glowed with enthusiasm. She surely hadn't expected such a huge audience - maybe 500 people - facing her little troupe of first-year dancers. Her only problems were worrying about Frank being bad, taking these pictures, and trying to see her family in the crowd, with bright lights in her eyes. She knew the dance moves by heart and was really into the rockin' little number called "Alabama."

Ta-Da! :) We all melted!

The program lasted two hours, with Eva's group about in the middle. It was a varied and excellent selection of routines that held our attention easily. When it was over, and we all got together outside with our little Princess Eva, she was happy, but losing her energy very fast. Even an ice cream cone couldn't help her spring back, and as we left GEM's house, we knew Eva would go to sleep very easily that night.

Just look at my happy little GEM family above!

As I edit this blog entry, it's raining outside, thunderstorming pretty hard. My new little seedlings are soaking up a good rain, and tomorrow we'll get some tomato plants! I'll be packing up quilts to go to Sacred Threads in Columbus and to Peters Valley Craft Center's faculty show (where I'll be teaching in July.) I still want to start my SAQA auction piece tomorrow, too.

I think I'm caught up on news now, and I really do plan to make shorter blog entries, more often from now on. Or at least when I can.

Have a good one. - Lucky in Wooster


  1. I couldn't ask for better promotion for my how-to book on tote bags (coming out in October), Lucky! And I couldn't do a green quilting book without you!
    Readers of this blog should know that some artists, such as Lonni Rossi, Diane Gaudynski, and Rachel Clark opted to make their bags from scratch, and quilt them. No matter, there will be inspiration galore for adding creative flair to bags, and eschewing/poo-pooing plastic OR paper at the supermarket.
    BTW--I was at the Museum of Arts & Design (MAD) in NYC on Sunday, where your Ceety Sleekers (the sign is edited City Slickers) is a powerful attention-grabber on the third floor...What fun! And now I know that the Rainbow Garden is a real place! Almost as cool as the quilt of the same name.--Elly

  2. Hi Elly. I'm the one who changed the name to City Slicker a few years ago, when the museum decided to accession the work as a donation from the original buyer. When I gave it the original title back in the 80s, political correctness wasn't big in anyone's thinking. The name just sounded wild and colorful to me. But in 2006 I felt that the old title would make me sound prejudicial and mean. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so I decided to prevent that problem from happening, and just renamed the work. I'm amazed that you remember its original name! That was 1987!
    I'm looking forward to your bags book! Say when, and I'll put a link to it here on my blog! Peace, Lucky

  3. Hi Susan!

    I enjoy your colorful and imaginative work and I'd like to personally invite you to be a part of It's been up just about a month and is a very special place already with over 250 mixed media artists sharing their art, the creative process and artful living.

    Hope to see you there!