Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Fair and the Rockies!

Before I show you my class of last week in Colorado, here's a fast look at going to the Wayne County Fair in Wooster with my GEM (Gretchen, Eva, and Mike) and Jimmy, on Saturday evening, Sept 12, the first night of the 160th annual Fair!

You have to park quite a way off, because everybody and their brother goes to the Fair! We always tro to get a spot at Dr Mairs' Veterinary, our family vets' place, but it didn't work this time. The push is on, to get there before my sister Debi and her family leave. We want to make sure that Eva and her cousin Olivia, who's her age, get to go on rides together, at least a little bit. And Debi and John, Matt, Amber, and Olivia have been at the Fair all afternoon. Hurry, hurry!

Goody! We found them, and now the girls are enjoying the Dragon Drop together. It's a little rollycoaster, reminding me of the one they used to have at Myers Lake Park, when we were little kids. We all get a big kick out of watching Eva and Olivia, when they get together, and next year, we'll try to coordinate our times better, so they can hang out longer. I can't wait to get them to be penpals! Life is good!

Next up is the Pony Rides. Eva's riding Strawberry, whom Olivia had ridden earlier in the day, assuring Eva that "Strawberry's a very nice horse." Olivia's right behind Eva, on a different horse, whose name I have to ask about. :)

After the ponies, daddies Matt and Michael hoist the cousins up, for a walk around the fairgrounds. It's so pretty there at night!

Off to the little farm animals' barn! Eva lucked out and got to pet this turkey, but Olivia had already gone home, so she missed turkey petting. We had a lot more fun and stayed as late as we could. I love going to the Fair with the kids! They stayed overnight, which was wonderful. Next time we get together will be Oct 25, for a belated birthday party for Eva, who turns 5 on Oct 22. We'd see them sooner, but it's a very busy time this Fall.

And now, the story of going to Colorado!

I had a glorious week in Colorado, teaching for Front Range Contemporary Quilters, from Sept 20 to 28, staying in Denver, Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, at the High Peak Salvation Army Camp, and back to Denver. Above is a view from the front porch of our lodge at High Peak Camp, where you can see part of Long's Peak and the little stone mill at the camp. The mountain goes up much higher, and what you see here is just the part that's in the shadow of the setting sun. The sunlit part didn't show in the photo, but it's tall, honey! :)

Sharon Freeman, the workshop coordinator for Front Range, picked me up at the Denver airport late Sunday evening, Sept 20, and I spent that first night with her, as well as my last night of this adventure, Sunday, Sept 27th. Here she is with her Corgies: Chloe and Dylan. Sharon's daughter Allison is sitting to the left, visiting home on break from her medical school training in Chicago. This is a whole houseful of medical professionals, as Sharon was a pediatrician; her husband Steve is a doctor; this daughter's going to be a doctor; and their son Russ is an ICU nurse.

On Monday morning, Sept 21, my YaYa friend Barb Lamb picked me up, and took me to her house, where we hung out with her granddaughter Ayannah. Barb's doing the granny nanny gig, like I did with Eva! Ayannah is six months old and cute as a button, as you can see!

Barb took me over to my friend and former student Janet Kay Skeen's house in Denver, where I was treated to meeting her friend, artist Alison Dearborn, and we all made art and played the rest of the afternoon. Janet had come to a camp at my house a long time ago, and we've stayed in contact. It was a joy to see her house and studio, and to find her busily creating and learning to use her Mac computer. She's taking those Genius classes at the Apple store, like tons of former PC users are! Yea!!!!

That evening, Janet, Alison, and Barb all came to my lecture at the Front Range meeting, and Barb brought me two pair of new hiking boots, to see which size fit me best, so I wouldn't get trapped in the snow (which was happening on Monday). She had tried to find boots to fit me at her house, but couldn't. So after she'd taken me to Janet's house, she and Ayannah went boot shopping! What an amazing YaYa Barb is!

Here are Alison and Janet, visiting with me before the Front Range Contemporary Quilters meeting and my talk began.

It was such a joy to walk around Patty's studio at her home, looking at so many of her well-known and beautiful quilts. Check out her cat Marigold (same name as my cat Marigold) sitting on the table in front, guarding Patty and Mandy from me. (Patty's cat would rather hiss at you than anything else in the world. Seriously! :) ) On the left you can see Patty's loft, above the turquoise closet doors, all of which are more of Wes's creations.

Melody Randol, current president of Front Range, met Patty and me at the Loveland Art Museum on Tuesday, Sept 22, to view the current exhibition, Momento Mori, by artist Laurie Zuckerman of Colorado. Zuckerman used found objects to create tableau and decorated whiskey jugs caked with objects that stand for her memories of growing up in the 50s, and specifically of her own family's interactions. Her topics also included race relations and the cold war. Our lunchtime discussions overflowed with our individual reactions to seeing this show and with talk about our own work and careers as artists. It's really good to go to exhibitions with other artists and feel the stimulation of their ideas swirled around with our own!

Patty, Wes, Mandy, and I took walks in the national park and in Estes on Wednesday, Sept 23, that totaled over 6 miles, to make up for not enough walks in the last two days. (They and I are tryying to walk 3 - 4 miles a day.) As we walked along Estes Lake in Estes Park, the path ran between the lake on one side, and the golf course on the other. The fenced-in golf course had this sign that said "For your safety: Golfers only on the golf course." Yet many, many little herds of elk were lounging there! Here's a male with his "harem" of what Patty counted to be about 30 females. I loved hearing the males bugling, a very, very eery sound!

This is at one of the bigger lakes in the national park, that Patty and I walked around.

A very nice woman, who was also out walking, took this picture of Patty and me, up in the park.

This large diptych, "Aspen Solace 1 and 2," is one of Patty Hawkin's large pieces about the aspen trees. She dyes her own fabric and does a lot of screen printing in her work, as well. You'll see a much, much better picture of this quilt on the front page of her site!

Wes Hawkins has made nearly 500 children's chairs in his life and is very actively making them now. He builds them from scratch and makes the caned seats, too. His carpentry of furniture and home building is all around their lovely and uniquely peaceful home at Estes Park. Wes was born in Santa Fe, and he's chosen to work with many of that town's motifs in ceiling and wall, window and door, and furniture details. The warm coral and glowing turquoise colors of wooden accents sing out against natural wood tones, and the art of Patty and Wes completes an effect of joy and personality you just want to stay in forever!

Mandy, the Hawkins' five-year-old springer spaniel, is the sweetest little girl, who joyfully fills Patty and Wes' home with the same happiness they give to her.

Wes took time to show me the condo they just sold to friends, while I was visiting with them. The sale came after a long failure of sale action, typical in the current dry spell of the housing market. Wes and Patty and their new buyers were all smiles, having run into each other at a lovely dinner party other friends invited us all to on Tuesday night, Sept 22.

Patty and Wes were happy and stunned, that their condo was finally selling. Mandy and I knew it was a done deal and were content to just bask in Patty and Wes's good news!

On Thursday, Sept 24, Patty and I drove up to High Peak Camp, run by the Salvation Army, where Front Range had reserved the big lodge for our group of 21, for my workshop. Patty put good signs all along the camp's twisting and turning lanes, to bring the students safely to their destination. We were snuggled on the plateau at the foot of Long Peak, which rises 14,500 feet above sea level, and we figured we were around 10,000 feet high ourselves. Drink LOTS of water, girls! Especially you lowland girl from Ohio!

After we all settled into our bedrooms in the lodge, we met in our classroom, down the hall, and began our class around 2 PM on Thursday. Here's Sandy Erickson, working on her first painting, using our group-elected first day theme of Goddesses. (My students create a big list of theme choices, which we select one idea from each class day, by majority rule. You can do the theme or not, or morph it into anything you would rather work on.) At this point, pre airpen lessons, everyone is drawing with Rub-a-Dub markers on Kona cotton (a fat quarter size), and hand painting with Jacquard Textile Colors fabric paints. The three paintings each student would make in this class would all be colored by hand, but after the students got airpen lessons, they had the choice of drawing and writing with marker or airpen.

Mary McCauley keeps her smile, after she accidentally spilled blue paint on her wonderful Goddess piece. After taking it to the kitchen and washing out a lot of the blue, she did a brave thing: she put more blue around the piece, making a good recovery from the mistake. It gave her piece a sort of batik look, which fit well with her theme. I had thought of suggesting this very strategy, but I usually try to keep my mouth shut about options, unless asked. I was thrilled that she boldly got this idea herself! We all loved this piece!

Elana Gunberg and Katty Fowler were just goin' to town over there in the corner! Katty (ok, REALLY her name is Katie, but she calls me Mrs. Sheeeeeeee) had taken a class from me at Art Quilt Tahoe, and when I saw her name in the class roster, I knew we'd be having a wild and stimulating experience. Happily, most of the Front Range students were as feisty as Katty, and our energies kept the classroom lively and exciting!

Regina Benson saved my life at this class. As we got ready to start class the second day, I realized I'd forgotten one of the main tools for my airpens: the cartridges!!! I told Patty "We're dead in the water!" This was at 7 AM, and we spent the next two hours calling Silk Paint (the inventors and sellers of the airpen and its parts), Jimmy, Wes, and making a list of stores we'd call at 9 AM, when they opened. Someone would drive to Boulder or wherever, to hopefully buy a new airpen kit, to get me the cartridges we needed. This was a painfully slow process, as none of our cell phones worked at High Peak, the internet was as slow as old dialup, and the only way we were getting out was with a calling card Patty'd brought and the camp's phone in the kitchen of our lodge.
Then when class started, and I admitted to the class that I'd really flubbed in forgetting the cartridges, and that we'd be a half day behind, if we could even locate the cartridges, Regina quietly reminded me that she owns an airpen and had brought it along, so I could explain the parts to her. Yes, I about passed out in relief, and I still worship the ground she walks on! She had six lovely, brand new cartridges in her airpen kit, of course, and we were saved! We were able to do the day's lessons exactly as planned, and I trotted off to the kitchen, to fill three airpen cartrdges with black fabric paint, taking with me anyone who wanted to watch and help, joining me. Then I made sure that Regina got the first one-on-one airpen lesson of the class with me. Life is good! Thank you, Regina!
Thanks to all who helped plan my rescue that didn't have to happen! When I called Jimmy, to tell him that the problem was solved by Regina, he'd already packed up six cartridges for me, the ones I'd left at home by mistake, and was ready to take them to the PO! Meanwhile, Silk Paint sent me a set overnight, too, before I could let them know! There are good people all around us! Thank you all!

On a walk one night at High Peak, Kathy Nicolai showed me this whole ring of conestoga wagons she'd found earlier. They're authentic and look like they're being used by the camp, to take kid campers out for campfires. With the beauty of the mountains and the aspen trees turning yellow all around us, we felt we were back in time, just being stunned! Besides, it made me think of how much I'd loved going to Camp Zion, near Navarre, Ohio, for five summers, when I was a girl. I'm a real sucker for campfires! I'd have given a lot to hang out in these wagons then!

Once Regina was able to start experimenting on her own with the airpen, I had her move to the third airpen I had set up, and I called Mary, the next student on my list, to come learn the ins and outs of this mysterious tool. I work with one airpen and have the student use another. Holding it right, keeping it upright, regulating the airflow with a finger on the flute-type airhole, and aiming for lines that will show up well on a painted surface, each student takes to this unusual but really great tool in her own way. Some just "get it" right away, but those with hand problems often need a little more time to find their special ways of coping. Most do! This class was full of students who got the nack quickly or were still intent on figuring it out successfully. I had no rejects and a lot of people who want to buy their own airpens, after getting that intense personal guidance. I LOVE my airpens! Nowhere else can you get such a great and archival paint line! Yum, yum, yum!!!!!

Here Connie Lehman and Patty (the two Dotties, besides me) sit at the airpen table. Connie's just ready to utilize what she learned in her one-on-one lesson, by drawing on her goddess painting. Patty's just starting her first airpen marks on her experiment cloth. She's already thrilled and amazed, groovin' along!

Miss Patty Hawkins went wild with that airpen, literally singing to it, as she moved from her practice cloth over to drawing this tree-themed piece with the airpen. She "got it" right away, and is now inspired, thinking this is the answer to how to get more detail into her work. She and I had sat and drawn President Obama together at her home, as Wes had recorded Obama being on Letterman Monday night, while we were busy driving up from the Denver guild meeting to their home. Obama held pretty still, and we both enjoyed hearing his thoughts, while we drew from life, via the TV.

By Saturday night, with just Sunday morning to go in the class, we had achieved a lot in our class together, and we held a special show and tell, in which each student brought 2-3 of their own artworks from home, to share with the group. I went up to the second floor hallway of our lodge, to take some pix down on the group, and with the soft evening lighting, it looked like a slumber party was about to happen. But when those women got out their stuff to share, we were all awed by their talents. I especially value a class situation where we all stay together at night, because we get so much more interaction, like we do at my Turtle Art Camps, where you live at my home all week. This was like one gigantic Turtle Art Camp! It was magical!

Claudia Martin showed the class the art quilt she'd been working on for some time, of the refuge she feels in taking her bath, each day after work. What I loved, besides this amazing composition, was that after Claudia'd had her first airpen lesson with me, she pulled out this quilt and started writing all over it. She was unafraid of messing it up, and that, to me, is the mark of a truly brave artist!

And now it was Sunday morning, and our last show and tell of class work. Anabeth Auten, Claudia, Patty, Sharon, and Lili Christensen gather round.

Cindy Doggett, Regina, and Jean Herman listen well, as other students show their work.

Here's Sharon with her art, with her Goddess of Peace pinned together for quilting.

Here's Lorri Flint with her three pieces, for the themes of Goddess, Trees, and Windows. Like many of the students, she wove personal stories of her life into her compositions, and the show and tell process made us all closer, as we all wanted to see how others responded to the same themes we used ourselves. Since we'd been doing short show and tells all through the class, we'd all watched how each student cme at the theme and worked through it to some completion. Some more completion than others, as I encourage my students to go at their own pace, and try to finish one of the paintings into a quilted painting, but even that doesn't have to be all done. You can keep on drawing and painting into it, after you've sandwiched and quilted it in my Lucky School of Quilting style, which is way different than normal quilting or even normal art quilting. It's easy once you try it, but you have to try it, while we're together, so you can remember how different it is!

Vicki Schroeder looks on as her table mate Susie Apte shows the Goddess piece that she's quilted, having chosen that of the three paintings she's made.

Jean got three paintings made in class. She did a big, powerful, many armed goddess, the Garden of Eden for her trees, and a cityscape at sundown for her windows. We were all very moved by her work. Ok, we were very moved by everyone else's work, too, but her stuff was so classy!

Vicki's hidden behind her wonderful Goddess piece here. She's included lots of Autumn forms and the beautiful millrace, or maybe it's called a spillway, that looks like a waterfall coming down over stone steps, at the stone mill there at High Peak Camp.

Lili shows her work in the final show at tell, as Kathy Nicolai and Martha Dykes look on. The complexity of her compositions and the clarity and joy of her colors made us all be drawn in to stay and wallow in Lili's works, which were, again, very autobiographical in this Diary Paintings class.

Here's Connie's Goddess piece, which is a Tarot card, only I can't remember which one. Maybe Temperance?? I loved that Connie both fearlessly wrote all over this piece with the airpen, but also that she quilted it in her new style: using no hands! :) Honest. Well, at least for parts of it, and for great theatrical effect!

Taken on one of our evening walks, this picture shows the lodge part of our building at High Peak Camp. We had nine bedrooms, all on the first floor, a little kitchen for snacks and cleanup, and a big classroom and lounge.

Here you can see the classroom we worked in, attached to the lovely lodge. We had every comfort of good beds; clean, new bathrooms; great mountain and forest views out our windows; and lots of space. We just wished we had our cell phones! :) It's the price you pay to get away into Nature like that! It was stunningly majestic!
I'm sorry I didn't get pictures of the staff at High Peak. They took such good care of us, and they fed us great meals with excellent service. What a joy it was to be so comfortable at the Salvation Army Camp. It's clear they're doing everything right! Many thanks to Darcy and her staff!

Here's the start of my piece, which is the only one I worked on, even though I drew ideas for the other two themes. Teaching 19 students is tricky, so I was glad to just keep pushing this one painting forward. It doesn't have a title yet, but is on the Goddess theme. It's the Goddess of Water, but I want something more specific than that for a finished title. The above picture is after I started with my yellow paint and added orange, and did some shading.

The goddess is holding a hot water bottle, to send Jimmy some healing for his sore foot and leg, which he'd injured around the house in what seemed at the time like little accidents, but were lingering on and needing a lot more attention. The big Red Cross type of cross in the middle is for all kinds of compassionate rescue from various family problems, for all of us. It's central heart is the love of family, the strongest medicine known. The ladder image on the right came from the ladder in Patty's studio at home, and the bunk beds ladders in our lodge, the symbol being how we climb up to succeed. Water is all through the ladder, and water is the element of love and compassion. I put one of Wes' children's chairs up in the top left, as his constant wood working for beauty is such a symbol of ongoing love and support of family and friendship, a joy of life in a peaceful and sustained effort. The full-length big face looking in from the right is the real Goddess of Water or Love, so I guess the little Buddha Girl holding that hot water bottle on the left is really just me. I'm always trying to nurse and heal my loved ones with my folksy remedies! It drives Jimmy nuts! :)

This is as far as I got on this piece. I strengthened the outlines with a Painters paint marker (by Elmer's now, used to be by Speedball.) And I'm partway through writing stories on the piece, with my airpen. I sandwiched the painting with my Nature-fil bamboo/cotton batting and with a backing fabric I'd brought along. Then I did my "crazy grid" random quilting, using several colors of machine thread, just to keep it interesting. I still need to finish the writing, which I can now heatset from the front with a press cloth, and then sew around the edge with a row of perle cotton running stitches, before putting my casing and label on the back. I'll add one of my little Green Temple Buddha Boy beads, of course. Maybe I'll call it "Water Power: The Power of Love." Whatcha think? Or just "Water = Love." I like short titles. :)

I wish I could keep working on this piece right now and finish it, but we're packing to leave home tomorrow, to drive down to Gatlinburg, TN, where I'll teach at Arrowmont and Jimmy will fly fish in the Smoky Mountains National Park. I got home Monday, on my birthday, and have been flying around in big circles all week, to get unpacked and repacked. But I've had a head full of great mountain memories, from those wonderful Front Range girls!


  1. you rock just like those mountains.

  2. WOW!!!!!!
    Your blog is one of the only ones I read through and through. I'm imagining I'm there with you and all the adventurious, artistic ladies. I'm inspired every time I come here.
    Love, Carol

  3. Thank you, Susan, for taking the time in such a hectic week of getting ready for yet another workshop. It is an incredible log of a wonderful journey. You are amazing. We still want you and Jimmy and your family to move to Colorado. We who attended the workshop will never forget your amazing skill of combining nurturing, guiding, and teaching. And yet I would have just been content to watch you while you work and explain what your thoughts are. I feel so lucky ( without the capital ) to get to know you. Thank you. Thank you. Love, Sharon

  4. The Wayne County Fair! WOW! When I was a kid, I showed a horse there. Thanks for the memories. Your class looks like it was a BIG hit. Congrats.

  5. Y'all looking like you know how to have a good time. Keep them children away from the weed! LOL!

  6. Good to see your family, then Patty Hawkins too.
    love IZE