Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Thread Brain: A Story

August 23, 2017

I was in the midst of creating small projects with odd scraps of aida cloth and embroidery floss when I was inspired by an article about the human brain. There was a simple line drawing of the brain in the magazine. “Self,” I said, “that would go well as a cross-stitch.” I charted a design on graph paper, then did the stitching, which was a first for me. There was room left on the scrap of aida cloth, so I stitched in the words Thread Brain. There was still room, so I added another line: A Story.

Now I have a title and cover art, but what comes after that? Since I have yet to come up with a story in words, I decided to continue a story in thread. I have lots of leftover floss, so I made a multi-colored field and stitched an outline of a brain.

There is room on this scrap of aida cloth, so I’m making another image, this time of the two hemispheres of the brain.

I have no idea where this will lead, but I’m keeping my fingers occupied and using up the odd bits and pieces that clutter my sewing room. That’s good enough for now.

Luck and wisdom!

Social Media and the Solitary Quilter

April 26, 2017

Creating art is usually a solo journey. I am lucky enough to have collaborators for some of my fiber art and fiction, but most of my work is done alone. Social media is useful for promoting one’s work, but first you have to get something finished. I started this blog to help me move from solitary quilter in a quagmire of a studio to fiber artist with something to show for it. It was a daunting experiment.

I called this corner Fort Longshore

I’ve worked diligently, finished some things, but my studio still looks like this.

The foundation of a fort on my sewing table

The sad truth is, I have so many stacks of works-in-progess and ideas-that-deserve-more-attention and oh-isn’t-this-a-cute-fabric that my studio will probably always look like the aftermath of a warehouse explosion. However, I figure if one part of social media could make me a little more productive perhaps another part could help as well. Julain Kleist-Corwin, a good friend and wonderful writer, recommended Instagram, and now I’m on that. I believe you can find me as lanilongshore, but if you search under #artquiltsantafe you should find my posts.

My intention is to post once a day, and focus on what I’ve accomplished. Yeah, that was the plan. I’ve already put up many days of flowers blooming in our garden because I did bupkus in the sewing room.

There is always art in the garden

I’ve also posted art quilts I made a long time ago. This is one of them.

Called Window, because it reminds me of a window open to the stars

Blogging once a week helped me to get over my fear of messing up a project, because I wanted to have something to write about. I’m hoping that posting on Instagram once a day will keep me working on a project even when I’m out of ideas because a picture of something is better than a picture of nothing. Check in on my progress (or lack thereof) if you have a free moment.

Luck and wisdom!

Looking For Design Details

March 1, 2017

My friend Kat Mulkey gave me a present that I had to share – not the present, but the packaging. Someone went to a lot of trouble to design this box. Notice the details, especially the little feet.

Lidded box with feet

Lidded box with feet

I try to put details in my art that reward the viewer for taking a closer look. I try to put details in my writing that reward the attentive reader. Then I come across something like this little box and I realize what a lazy observer/reader I can be. There are wonderful design details all around me that I take for granted. Things like headlights and taillights sometimes escape my notice because I’m not a car person, but they can be amazing if you really look. Even your home can surprise you if you look.

Hall light fixture

Hall light fixture

I went around the house, examining everything from fixtures to furniture. Presumably I noticed the little design details when we bought the stuff, but dang if I haven’t stopped seeing them. I’m thinking I should start writing myself a note on the calendar to really see the world around me. It isn’t enough to know details are important. You need to remind yourself to look every so often.

Ceramic penny pig with cork nose

Ceramic penny pig with cork nose

Luck and wisdom!

An Extra Blog For Shameless Self-Promotion

December 12, 2016

 

Ann Anastasio and I entered our second novel, When Chenille Is Not Enough, into a contest on Inkitt.com. You can read it for free, and if you are so inclined you can leave a review. If we get enough people thinking our book is a ripping good yarn, we win. Thanks to the help of Ed at Tech Support, I can now share that link with you: click on link

when-chenille-is-not-enough-2500

When Chenille Is Not Enough is the continuing saga of quilters saving the world from shape-shifting aliens. In the first novel, the aliens assumed the form of bolts of beige fabric. Now they can look like humans, and one is coming after our heroine, Susan. She and her friends still use chenille to save the day, but ice cream figures prominently as well.

Even if you don’t want to read our story, check out InKitt.com. There are tons of books in a variety of genres, and some are free. The people who run the site are trying to find the next big literary thing through crowd-sourcing. Given the state of the publishing industry, this is good for readers and better for writers.

That’s the end of the shameless self-promotion. I’ll be back on Wednesday with my regular reports.

Luck and wisdom!

The Apple Tree and Sergeant Brice

September 14, 2016

We decided to cut down the apple tree this year. Processing fruit was becoming a burden and my husband has different plans for the back yard, so it had to go. It deserved better, but there it is. That got me thinking about people who deserved better, which led me to Lee Miller, an actor who never quite got his place in the sun (although he was in the movie by that name).

The remains of the tree

The remains of the tree

Lee Miller was in a boatload of movies, mostly uncredited. He also played Sergeant Brice on Perry Mason. He did receive credit for that, but his name was mostly last on the list. Even if it did move up a notch, it was generally behind such vital characters as “policeman #3” or “attendant.” It just doesn’t seem fair. Like my apple tree, Miller produced good work.

Part of the produce, dried and ready to eat

Part of the produce, dried and ready to eat

There are lots of Lee Millers in the world. I know many art quilters and writers who probably won’t get the recognition they deserve. Shameless self-promotion alert: my friend Ann Anastasio and I have published two delightful sci fi novels (Death By Chenille and When Chenille Is Not Enough) that would make excellent SyFy original movies, but have they come calling? Of course not. They’ll probably ignore our next one, too (The Chenille Ultimatum, coming soon).

But that is the way of life. To mangle Gilbert and Sullivan, there are many “wretched, meritorious B” folks out there. So, for all those who labor on, creating and producing and generally making life worth living – good on you, mate.

Luck and wisdom!

Design by the Seat of Your Pants

June 15, 2016

In the writing world, there are plotters and pantsers. Plotters know where they’re going at every step of the way. Sometimes their plot outlines are so detailed they basically just have to add a few “ands” and “buts” and the story is done. Pantsers, not so much. They start writing and see where the words take them. I am a pantser, not only in my writing but also in my quilting.

A footed flower vase and falling petals

A footed flower vase and falling petals

The gray top is one that the Progressive Party made for me to embellish. The rose petals and leaves were made by someone else, too – Bella Nonna. They’re silk, but feel like a thick, handmade paper. I won the package at a silent auction (don’t ask why I put a bid on them, I’ve long since forgotten). The bag with the rose petals was on the ironing board, which reminded me of my collection of red beads, and then I started working.

Without a plan.

That happens a lot in my studio. There’s no better feeling in the world when things go well and the project tells me what it wants. Nevertheless, to make a quilt one actually has to sew the top to a batting and backing, and that’s when things get dicey.

Handquilting with beads

Handquilting with beads

Forget the trouble with sewing the quilting lines after you’ve done the embellishment. Just marking those lines is a pain in the . . . pants. You’d think I would learn my lesson and consider the end at the beginning, but it doesn’t always work. In my writing, sometimes the end is as much a surprise to me as it is to my readers – so also in my quilting.

The good news is, my idea for quilting continues to develop. I decided to start with diagonal lines and scattered beads. I like the look, but will have horizontal lines along the bottom and vertical lines on the remaining side. Today I thought, “Self, bind it in red and add more rose petals to extend the flowers beyond the edge.” We’ll see what ideas I have tomorrow.

Beaded centers

Beaded centers

The beading may evolve, too. I thought adding a few beads to the flower centers would look nice. It does. I may add beads to all the petals. Heaven knows I have enough to encrust those things.

With any luck, the creativity inspired by this project will spill over to The Chenille Ultimatum. I’m working on the last chapters now, and the characters have been better at telling me what they want. Every so often, however, one of them throws a tantrum and decides something else is needed. Just like my quilts.

By the way, today is a palindrome for those of us who write the date month-day-year – 6/15/16. Sounds like a reason for a cake.

Luck and wisdom!

The Value of Gray

June 8, 2016

I’ve been known to binge on color. Mostly I binge on pink or purple, but a while ago I fell for gray. After accumulating a stack I could never get through alone, I packaged some of it and gave it to the Progressive Party to make backgrounds for me. Here are some of the pieces they made.

Three backgrounds, waiting for embellishment

Three backgrounds, waiting for embellishment

I asked for something I could use for applique, beading, embroidery – any kind of embellishment. Here is a piece that will push my design skills to come up with something worthy.

I like this just as it is, but my bead box is overflowing, so embellished it will be

I like this just as it is, but my bead box is overflowing, so embellished it will be

Luckily, I met a writer and painter recently whose work has given me a few ideas. Harry Freiermuth wrote and illustrated Lo! Jacaranda, the story of a gypsy woman who escapes the Spanish Inquisition and ends up in colonial California.

Harry's book

Harry’s book

Harry is a much better painter than I am, but I’m thinking I could try mixed media techniques to evoke the feeling of being at the coast on a foggy, misty day.

Harry's paintings

Harry’s paintings

Perhaps I’ll take a field trip to Ocean Beach in San Francisco for additional inspiration, with appropriate side trips for chocolate.

Luck and wisdom!

It Needs Light

June 1, 2016

Despite having the blackest thumbs on either side of the Mississippi, I have committed myself to growing an orchid. The plant was a gift, so I’m motivated enough to research it. By research I mean I went to Alden Lane Nursery and asked Sue the orchid guru what to do. She said the variety I own thrives on neglect. Then she said something that I knew I could adapt to all my creative endeavors. “It needs light.”

This bit of wisdom applies to my stacks in the sewing room. They need to be turned over once in a while so the bits on the bottom come to light.

My orchid, trimmed and basking in shaded light

My orchid, trimmed and basking in shaded light

She also said if I paid attention, the plant would tell me when it needs water. As long as the roots are green, they’re hydrated.

Still green, still growing

Still green, still growing

That definitely fits with my fiber art and writing projects. The fabric and my characters often refuse to talk to me, but they will send out clues now and again. When I pay attention, I know what they want and the project goes smoothly.

I discovered other lessons I could transfer from the garden to my work. This is harder than you might think, as my husband is the gardener in the family (see above if you’ve forgotten why plants dread my approach). Still, he has created a garden that reveals surprises at different angles.

The lily bed

The lily bed

Here are massed lilies. I am especially fond of this view because I’m the clutterbug in the family. Yet here for all to see is the value of letting things run riot, creating their own beauty.

The shrimp plant

The shrimp plant

We bought this shrimp plant because I thought it was cute. It had one itty-bitty flower when we brought it home, and look at it now. Thus we see the value of planning for the best despite evidence to the contrary.

Trevor the garden gargoyle

Trevor the garden gargoyle

Here is my last lesson from the garden – find yourself a patron saint. Trevor the gargoyle doesn’t actually solve my artistic problems, but I laugh whenever I see him and sometimes that’s enough. When it isn’t, I’m taking a cue from my orchid and finding myself some light.

Luck and wisdom!

Road Show Quilts

May 18, 2016

It turns out there was one more piecing project before I tackled the quilting stack. This one is the second in a series of road quilts. I didn’t intend to do such a series, but all I need is one more to add to this one and the Turquoise Trail quilt and I’ve got myself a Road Show Quilts series.

Lani Longshore Rte 66 top

I had two pieces of Route 66 fabric in the Southwest collection. Two small pieces. With a really busy pattern. Then Maya Madhavan suggested I make a quilt from my masonry experience, and that gave me an idea for using this busy fabric.

Lani Longshore Rte 66 detail

When I finished the top, another idea popped in my head. I’ve wanted to explore map quilts ever since I read the book Maphead by Ken Jennings. There’s a great chapter about how the Polynesians drew maps showing ocean currents with twigs and islands with rocks. I’m also collecting fabric for a series of space quilts. Why not combine the two? While I’m at it, why not incorporate those quilts into the fourth book Ann Anastasio and I have planned for our Chenille series. Yes, I know, we’re still working on the third book, The Chenille Ultimatum, but we have a title and ideas for the fourth (The Captain and Chenille, quilters exploring space with lovably crazy aliens). It could work, and in my copious free time I’ll get around to it.

In the meantime, here’s the stack of quilt tops begging for attention.

Lani Longshore unquilted tops

Luck and wisdom!

Muddle in the Middle

November 18, 2015

Writers are familiar with the term “muddle in the middle.” It means the hash you’ve made of your story while you were getting from the grab-them-by-the-throat beginning to the eye-popping ending. This week, I created a visual for that phenomenon in my sewing room.

My messy, muddled middle of the room

My messy, muddled middle of the room

I’ve made great progress organizing my two walls of shelves, but in the process I’ve pushed everything to the center of the room. This is a bad thing – not the Cuban Missile Crisis bad, but still not good. I have a project with a deadline, so I have to sort enough stuff to make space at the sewing machine to work on it. More important, I have to avoid the impulse to pile things up in front of my newly organized shelves.

What I cleared out while organizing the other shelves

What I cleared out while organizing the other shelves

All of this happened because I was able to open up some space on the shelves pictured above. I decided to be sensible about filling the holes, and put all of the like things together. That’s when I discovered that the bead collection I thought I had consolidated somehow grew. A lot. It now takes up nearly an entire shelf all on its own.

The second row holds my bead collection

The second row holds my bead collection

Even with the muddle in the middle, I consider my efforts a win. This is the most floor space I’ve had in ages. I’m not saying being able to vacuum the carpet will help my creativity, but it might cut down on the sneezing.

Luck and wisdom!