Category Archives: process of becoming an artist

It’s Been So Long…

It has been a long time since I visited this little blog. I keep wondering what is keeping me from it.  Probably just a busy life outside of the studio and some things I can’t yet show you.

But in my travels last month to CT for a wedding, look who I found: the amazing Allegra Brelsford at the American Fine craft show in Hartford, CT.  I was looking for something art related to go to on Saturday while we waited for a friend’s wedding and caught a billboard advertisement for it . The show was relatively close to our hotel so I conned my husband to go with me. 🙂

Allegra Brelsford

Allegra Brelsford

And right at the doorway was Allegra who looked exactly the same as the last time when I saw her at the Barn. Her booth looked lovely with all her work displayed very professionally. And her color sense really showed as well. Allegra has been working very hard the last few years. And her work and booth showcased this.

And my husband even enjoyed the show after all.

Congrats Allegra!

Wrapping Up Summer Fabric Dyeing

It was steaming hot here this past week. It’s the kind of weather that the cotton fabrics and dyes love. I definitely have been in love with my newfound knowledge of fabric dyeing after my Carol Soderlund  class last May. 


Processing the fabric in the barn

Processing the fabric in the barn

Carol recommends processing in a plastic bag for low water immersion. But I am way too messy with that. I can’t get manage to get the fabric folded without having the dye all over my legs while I fold it up for the plastic bag. Or maybe I am just too stubborn to not waste all my plastic containers.



Reds on the line

For the first time, I used full immersion for these two yard cuts of red. I ended up loving full water immersion for absolute solid coloring! It does take an hour of full tending to the pots though.

Lighter neutrals on the line

Lighter neutrals on the line

I need a few more neutrals but that will wait until a nice fall day.

Wacky over dyeing of the "ickies"

Wacky over dyeing of the “ickies”

And the dry results…


Neutrals ready for ironing

Neutrals ready for ironing


Brights ready for ironing

Brights ready for ironing

No ironing until after I enjoyed the weekend with friends.

Hazy VT summer days

Hazy VT summer days

It’s summer after all.


From my garden

From my garden

My husband has been with me in VT for longer than usual this summer. He said he’s amazed at how much time I spend working on my art. How did he not know this? 🙂

What are you working on? Can you settle into a summer time routine with your art or do you take break?


It Became an Obsession

I have to admit it started awhile ago. I opened one of the drawers next to my sewing machine and I found a whole boatload of curvy fabrics from a workshop. I know it was a Nancy Crow workshop but I am not sure which one. I quickly shut the drawer knowing I was deep in holiday mania making mode.

But I didn’t forget it. In fact, that drawer became this little niggling thought in my head.  What could I make with those strips? It needed to be cut up. What am I waiting for?

No it doesn’t need to be cut up. It’s ugly.

Yes it does. Don’t you see how much of it there is?

Then began the era of procrastination purging. If I use it up, then I would have a whole empty drawer. Ok, Ok. Normal sane people would just dump the drawer in the trash and move on. Nope not me. It needs to be used. It can be beautiful . I know it can.

Now, I am going on day 4 of trying to make something wonderful with some not so wonderful strips. It has become more of an obsession to make something wonderful .  Up and down and cut and sew some more. It was four times as large as you see in this last photo. Crazy piecing  with strips in colors that I would never choose to sew together today. And finally, tonight, I have given myself a deadline.

If it isn’t sewn together by tomorrow night, it will not be done. Ever . The obsession has become very irrational which is why they call it an obsession.

And there is good reason why I do much better with a set of goals at the beginning of the week and stick to it. Otherwise I waste time with ill thought out projects.  Ugh.

(PS- I keep trying to fix my blogroll  on the right but can’t get it to work properly. I will call in the experts and see how to get this done or removed. )

A Surreal Day

     Still in VT and waddling through the end of summer seeing lots of art and having lots of family and visitors here. I am ready for a quiet week for my art next week.

     I periodically mull over pursuing an arts degree  (when I get frustrated or when I feel I am not moving forward fast enough…)  I had heard good things about a low residency program here in VT which shall remain nameless right now.  So, I took a day this past Tuesday to visit during their summer residency week. I figured a day was a quick investment in moving me forward towards that goal or removing a really time wasting “what if” from my thoughts.

     It was the most surreal day I have ever spent. I saw art in all stages of development. I read graduate process papers in the library. I saw the MFA graduate exhibit. I asked pointed and very honest questions to alumni and faculty. I found out how much it cost. I found out what alumni who graduated in 2002 are doing versus 2012 graduates. I found out whether or not they are using their careers post graduation for their primary source of employment versus personal enjoyment.   I listened to a visiting artist’s 90 minute lecture. I gave it my all and totally immersed myself into investigating .

     And I couldn’t sleep when I got home.

     Because I didn’t like the art I saw. It felt really cold. It didn’t in any way, shape or form move me. Quite bluntly,  it was silly and simple. Lots of installations. There was a significant difference in the current students and the graduate exhibit.  Diluted craftsmanship and art that was there just to make a statement. I was, in some cases, repulsed. I am not even going to take the time to describe what I saw. When I asked a very pointed question about their definition of art, I was told repeatedly:

ART is not art unless it has intention or meaning. Art made for the sole sake of beauty is not art.

     They were little robots all indoctrinated with the same philosophy. It was about the philosophy of art. All for the price of about 50,000 $ which is cheap compared to the new program at the Art Institute of Chicago which looks like about 85-90, 000$ for a 3 year low residency program. I can purchase a few books and be informed about all this philosophy. Or NOT.

     I do believe that art needs to have intention or meaning. But I do believe it can be beautiful as well while conveying a meaning. And fulfill what the great masters of our past did and use principles of  superb design, exquisite color and intriguing composition to make art they love and cause a reaction or interaction with the viewer.

     I am now informed , no longer ignorant artist and have removed this very distracting thought from my silly head.  I will not attend a graduate program which will only allow me to talk about my art in grandiose terms and elevate it to something it is not.

     I will continue to make art, find my voice and find someone to help me with a website. 🙂 I really do tire myself out sometimes, don’t I?


What To Do?

     I have totally avoided blogging because of my last month’s schedule. Or is that the reason?

     I get so confused by what I read.

Blogs : Blogs are dead.  No- you need a blog to link to your website and to FB.  If you do write a blog, be authentic. Be professional and not personal. How are you supposed to be authentic if you aren’t personal in some way?  If you use images, use a watermark. Don’t use a watermark as it’s too distracting.

Facebook: Use it and have a separate page for your art/business. Oh great-now there are 2 pages to manage and  remember -don’t say anything personal on the business FB page. Which would mean 2 sets of photos for each page to manage somewhere. Where is that somewhere as now Flickr is all cluttered up. Is that a private photo managing site for what users -FB users or blog visitors? Link your blog to FB. The blog that is not supposed to be too personal but authentic. And do you mark your images not pinnable? Or do you let them spin out into the universe unprotected? or do you even care?

Instagram- Do this too as it’s instant sharing of what you do in the instant. ( How is that not personal?) Pretty pictures though but those that use it always seem to have their smart phones in their hands at work-hello will you talk to me and not be obsessed about your photos? every instant?

Tweet: I really have no idea nor desire to find out about it.

Website: I know. I need one but absolutely procrastinate about this. How do I link my blog to it after I make one? Will it look cheesy if I do it myself or do I need to have help? How about my photos of my artwork? Should I reshoot my work? Have someone else do it?

Wow, I guess I didn’t realize I was that conflicted or confused. I do know that I miss blogging and feel more connected with the few I have met over the years blogging. And that is my simple reason for continuing. I will update my blog this summer. That’s the only answer I have for now.  How is that for small steps?

I have arrived in Vermont and art moves onward.

The Never Ending One

     I thought I would be showing you a finished piece at the end of this week.  It always takes longer than I think it will. When I went to put the binding on tonight, I realized that I had a huge spot of machine oil on my piece.

     I took a really deep breath . I didn’t hyperventilate but went back and read the directions on the wool batting I used. ( For the first time)  No hot water and no agitation.

     Ok then. Mmm…. I shoved it in the washing machine with cold water setting and some synthrapol. I was worried that the fuschia would run like crazy.  It didn’t.

Colleen Kole, 2013,  “Set Free” blocking 

     Blocked, fans on and waiting for it’s binding.

     These are the days that I think I may be a bit crazy for estimating could finish 20 total by December .
 But, I always love challenge.

The Slow Road

     I just keep thinking-oh silly me. Normal people start small and then when they feel comfortable in a skill, they move on to a larger project. Nope. Not me. I just plunge right in and hope for the best.  I am way too impatient to wait until my skills improve. ( Can you see where this is going?) So, it is sink or swim.

     I think I have used free motion quilting to finish a piece to or three times.  Prior to this, I have practiced for a big total of maybe 20 hours and that is a generous estimate. So I am not sure how I came up with the grand idea of ” Let’s go ahead and do a large piece to REALLY get some hours in.

      As I was basting this beast, I was starting to worry about my decision. Did I stop to reconsider? Nope.  Sat down without a clue of how to decide on a design and decided that each section would be a different marking. (Yes, getting crazier by the minute). With the help of  a book by Leah Day , I just took random patterns and started sketching away changing as my abilities allowed. The first few sections were painstakenly slow and my shoulders were killing me after a few hours. I was not liking my choice at all. It was big and hard to move under the machine with any accuracy. I was making a  nasty mess of my beautiful quilt- skipped stitches, lousy tension and areas I needed to rip out. I just wanted to quit.

     The next day, I decided that the basement needed purging. Now, it has been on the long to-do list for about 6 months. I purged the basement and made two trips to Goodwill. I woke up and realized I was finding basement cleaning more exciting than free motion machine quilting. I gave myself a “F” for perseverance and an “F” for attitude.

    I started again. I tucked away my perfectionistic tendencies and moved forward.  Many hours later, I can finally say that I am making slow and steady progress.

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know when I make it to the 50% done mark. 

A Little Sunshine

     I finally woke up from the last few weeks of March. The sun shone here for the past two days and I could feel March lift off from me like a bad dream or the fog. I put my machine in the sun today and just let it wash the winter away. Maybe I was depressed and didn’t even know it. Or maybe I am just ready for spring. Or maybe I just had nothing exciting to share.

     But either way, the grey and cold days made me buckle down and work on a big piece. I never looked up the past three weeks.  The piece is huge -78×83 and involved lots of piecing.  I am not ready to share yet but I will. It is too close to feel comfortable…

     I woke up and it might be spring.

Artist’s Block

     I read a lot of blogs. I call it my art education-watching , reading, seeing what others are up to and sometimes just being nosy.  And I see a common thread in those artists who have just completed a big event: applying for Quilt National, applying for other important exhibits/competitions or having a solo exhibition. And there is a common event after the big event in that they are just not “doing” the work and have a hard time getting back to the studio for their normal routine. Some are panicked by this, some are depressed, and some are just bothered by this.

     In the world without blogs, facebook and the internet this time period would have gone unnoticed by all -except the artist. I felt a little out of sorts after Artprize so could relate to their feelings. But part of me says-well isn’t this time period normal? Doesn’t the brain need time to re-coup ? The adrenaline high is gone and life returns to a sometimes boringly normal day.  Or just  a day making art which is sometimes hard and lots work and sometimes amazingly fun?

      Me thinks- in my infancy of an artist’s career, that this is just part of it. The time after is normal…to get ready for the next time. And that there is nothing wrong with it.  Just do work-any work and start simple.  I am not minimizing what they are feeling, but instead am wondering if this is your body’s healthy way of responding to all that adrenaline. Slowing down. Settling down and then moving on.

     What do you think? Do you have a crash after a big event? Or do you think it’s an normal response to a busy time?




In a Fog

     For the past few weeks  after my workshop, I came home and have felt like I am in a fog. Dragging around  trying to kick myself into gear. I finally gave up on the “in gear” part, got more sleep and read a few fiction books.

      Then I took a few long walks.

 And  then I went to see some art.

      Finally feel like I am ready to sew again. I started with learning how to put a zipper in. I had never done that before. 🙂 It was really effortless to play. When did I start to make it work?

 It  is work though if you want to make progress. Made a list after I read this post by Robert Genn and now back to the studio.  But I added the return to play to my list, too.