Art Lessons

I think I’ve mentioned that the art quilt critique group I belong to has decided to give ourselves art lessons. Specifically, we’re going to explore elements of design in a semi-structured way. None of us are in a position to enroll in a formal art program, so we’re going the do-it-yourself route. In the past, I’ve incorporated our assignments into a project I wanted to do anyway. I planned to treat our latest assignment, exploring negative space, the same way. Then I changed my mind.

The tree wants to disappear
The tree wants to disappear

This is not the start to the project I need to get finished. It is, however, a good piece to explore negative space. The fabric for the tree limbs seems to drop away from view. That’s partly because it is a delicately grayed green, and grayed colors retreat. The background contributes to the effect, because it is so exuberantly busy.

The grapevine wants to show off
The grapevine wants to show off

This is the project I need to get finished for a challenge on the theme Colors of The Vineyard. You can see that both projects use the same background fabric. I originally planned to use the yellow and green fabrics on the same piece, but a little voice said, “Think before you cut.”

So I thought, and realized that I had the opportunity to do something new in my art quilting. I could use a project as an art journal page, in effect giving myself permission to abandon a piece if it didn’t work. I fused the green branches onto a small bit of the background and immediately realized the fabric wouldn’t do at all for my challenge piece.

I will show the green piece at the next art quilt critique meeting, and ask the other members what they would do if it were their quilt. If I like their ideas, the project may evolve, but if not it has a place in my art journal. I’m already beading the yellow piece for the challenge. And I’m very excited to be taking baby steps toward becoming a more dedicated art student.

Luck and wisdom!

Shark Week!

There are things I do because I enjoy them, not just to embarrass my children. I wear tie-dye in public, I squeal over puppies, and I watch Shark Week. Don’t ask why I enjoy it – sharks are not my favorite critters, and I don’t like seeing documentaries of animals eating other animals. I just like Shark Week. Since this is Shark Week, here are some of my shark possessions.

Lani Longshore shark peeler

I think I got this as a stocking stuffer one Christmas. It doesn’t work well. Okay, it doesn’t work at all. I’ll keep it, however, because I think it’s cute.

Lani Longshore stuffed shark

This is major cute. Come on – a plush shark, what’s not to love! It’s right up there with plush lobsters and plush armadillos.

Lani Longshore shark chart

This chart was in the latest National Geographic. I might use it in a quilt some day, or I might not. It could be one of those things my heirs unearth and say, “My god, she really was a dotty old bat, wasn’t she?”

Lani Longshore fabric collection

The reason I might use the shark chart in a quilt is that I still have a collection of water fabric. I made one undersea quilt a long time ago, and it’s about time for another.

Until that day, I will continue to embarrass my kids with the tie-dye and the squealing. I won’t embarrass them with Shark Week, however. Who do you think got me hooked on it in the first place?

Luck and wisdom!

Design by the Seat of Your Pants

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

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

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!

Line and Repetition

This week I started the to-be-quilted stack. I had no design plans, which means the quilts had to tell me what they wanted. The bad news is the tops refused to talk to me. The good news is my art quilt group is exploring design elements now. I decided to use line and repetition.

Echoing the edges
Echoing the edges

This quilt was easy to start, because the collage style practically screams for repetition. I did one line of beading, then a line of hand quilting. I’ll continue the process until A) I get bored out of my skull, or B) the top is too heavy to lift any more.

One fabric to hold many threads and beads
One fabric to hold many threads and beads

This quilt suggested I start with machine quilting, which is fine, but the center section didn’t want to cooperate. Luckily, I was reminded that one can combine machine- and hand-quilting. So I did. I’ll also add beads (like you thought I wouldn’t).

I recalled having layered more quilts than I actually did. I don’t enjoy layering quilts. That may explain why these tops have remained unquilted for so long. If I’m very clever, I will schedule a time to put tops together with batting and backing. Once it’s on the calendar, I’ll have a harder time ignoring the task.

Luck and wisdom!

Road Show Quilts

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!

The Turquoise Trail

I received a wonderful collection of beads at the first Art Quilt Santa Fe. I’ve been saving them for just the right project, something to commemorate the Turquoise Trail (yes, it’s a real thing).

Lani Longshore embellishments

You know what happens once you reserve something for “the right project.” First, you put the item up against every piece of fabric in your stash, but nothing inspires you. Then it gets lost because another project comes up and you’ve got a deadline. Then you rediscover the item and put it in a safe place, which you immediately forget because you have at least half a dozen safe places in your studio (don’t lie, I know you do).

Eventually, the item resurfaces once again. If you are very lucky, you have a project that is just right enough. That’s what happened to me this week.

Lani Longshore turquoise trail top

I used some of my chenille tape for the horizontal turquoise lines, and some of the raw silk I had painted. I’m not sure how to quilt this top, but at least it is pieced. I even have a back for it.

While I was thinking about all things turquoise, I opened the bag with my next Progressive Party project. Inside was a wonderful collection of African-themed fabrics. I used a print of huts and a batik that could have been part of my Southwest collection for this block, as well as a solid turquoise for the separator strips.

Lani Longshore framed huts block

My next big push will be to clear off the sewing table for a marathon quilting session. I have a stack of tops that I must attack before it attacks me. After that, it’s beading time.

Luck and wisdom!

My Accidental Modern

A few years ago I started a collection of shamrock and leprechaun fabric, with one green print of numbers. I had a title – Logarithms and Leprechauns – and an idea to use bargello piecing. That was where it stopped until PBS ran a series on the 1916 Easter Uprising. I pulled out the project bag and started cutting.

The piecing went as you might expect. I put a couple of strips together and said, “Self, if you separate the strips into two rows the piece will be more interesting.” So I did that, sewed a couple more strips together and said, “Self, if you smoosh the two sections together the piece will be more interesting.” So I did that, and then it was time to audition borders. That’s when I turned the piece on its side and discovered I had made a modern quilt.

Should I rename this Barging Into Modern?
Should I rename this Barging Into Modern?

I brought it to my friendship group and they agreed it is sorta kinda maybe modern. That’s good enough for me. I pieced the back with the leprechaun fabric (because it refused to play nice with the fabrics for the top).

The leprechauns that started it all
The leprechauns that started it all

Luck and wisdom!

The Front Garden – A Progress Report

We’ve essentially completed the front garden. Of course, when I say “we” I mean my husband because I have the blackest thumbs on either side of the Mississippi (at least that’s the excuse I give for not gardening). The grass is gone, the weeds are as gone as weeds ever are, and some of the plants are flowering.

The center section iris plot
The center section iris plot

Our son commented on how the spiky weeds actually looked like they belonged below the great log wall, so we bought some spiky lilies to put there.

The great log wall and spiky stuff
The great log wall and spiky stuff

The leucadendron from the back garden gave up the ghost. We replaced it with another one called golden tulip, or some such thing. It advertises beautiful yellow flowers with brown cone-like centers.

The leucadendron is on the right
The leucadendron is on the right

The plants for the charging station boxes are doing well, too.

Lani Longshore planting box

All in all, this is the prettiest our yard has looked since the drought started. With any luck from the gardening pixies, it will continue to be pretty if the drought continues. If so, there may be a quilt in here.

A shrimp plant for inspiration
A shrimp plant for inspiration

Luck and wisdom!