Category Archives: process of becoming an artist

A Whirlwind Catch Up

     I have all these grandiose plans to write a separate blog post for all the fun things I have been doing. But it just seems like old news. So I will give you the abbreviated whirlwind catch up:

1. Attended a day long workshop by Susan Brubaker Knapp at the WMQG on Thread Sketching. I didn’t take the class but was just a classroom volunteer. She is a very good teacher and  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her for a workshop.

2.After two weeks of Artprize, I loaded up the car and went to the Barn for Sets and Variables #3.    Really intense assignments given by Nancy but I loved it. I , of course, came home with lots of pieces and parts not sewn together but I understood the concepts and am loving fine lines.  Lots of ideas swirling around in my head from this class. I need no reminder to know what a privilege it is to study with Nancy Crow each  and every time I take another workshop from her.

3. More press: Jennifer’s nice article about me

4. The Saturday I drove home from the Barn  I squeezed in a quick  90 minute trip to our West Michigan Quilt Guild  which was held at the Deltaplex Oct 3-5th. I was surprised to have won three ribbons for some of my work.

I was proud of our guild and the quality of the work shown.

4. I over-dyed about 40 yards of medium valued fabrics as I used up lots of my darks at the Barn.  I used an electric blanket under my plastic containers to maintain some warmth overnight. More blotchy than usual but not bad! The dye studio has been packed up and placed down the basement ready for next summer.

5. Yardwork, housework, more yardwork  and more housework in a major catchup mode. ( I did very little around here in the month of September).

6. A week of jury duty where they chose me to sit on the jury. At least it was an interesting case=bad boys in big bad trucks being very bad. A business case.

7. And Lucy , my Bernese Mountain Dog,  who had an anterior cruciate ligament repair at MSU vet school. Looks like a 3 month rehab process.

Oh geez….life just goes round and round, doesn’t it?  I always have hopes of life slowing down but that is not the case. I am just going to embrace it.

I hope to regain a studio schedule on Monday and am looking forward to it.

I Must Learn to Shout

     The recent issue of the Grand Rapids Magazine had an article in it about the American Quilt Society Show coming to our city August 22-25th. And back in July, they interviewed little old me and my friend Terri Watson for this article.

     Very nice to have been interviewed and I didn’t say anything too embarrassing!

      Be sure to enjoy upcoming show next week. I can hardly wait and am volunteering a few shifts. They still need volunteers and a short shift will allow you a free daily admittance.


     I thought  I would have my piecing done today for my Artprize piece but decided to re-make a few of the blocks. Took longer than I thought. I am almost there and could have left them. But then I would always be frustrated that it was just off a little bit.  I dyed about 40 yards of fabric today on a hot 90 degree day, too.

     You know what I will be doing tomorrow! I will be washing out fabric and basting with a lot of pins. I think it will be 7×8 when I am done. That is kind of scaring me as I have never quilted anything that large with a machine.I don’t know where to photograph it as it is bigger than my design wall. Any suggestions?

Trying out a Mercedes

     I have journeyed back to Michigan (yup, a mixed up summer)  late Sunday night and hit the ground running with all things art in my world.  More tomorrow for you on that.

      But today I had a long awaited playmate with my very talented friend Terri Watson. She is a long arm quilter with a successful quilting business called Threadtales and a great teacher. I have wanted to try long arm quilting to see if it may be on my long term goal list. So today was the day. 
     Terri had loaded a piece of muslim on her machine and after some quick instructions, I did a test run. I was initially afraid of this big machine but she drove so smoothly I felt like I was driving a supreme driving machine. I LOVED it. It was sooo much fun. And I need to tell you that it is very addicting. Then, she loaded one of my unfinished tops on the machine and away I went.
     I didn’t expect perfection. I just had fun and considering that I have done very, very little free motion quilting on my machine, my expectations were low. I felt as if I had been set free. The whole time I was quilting I thought-this is it. I want one. A jar full of pennies has been started-haha!  I really can’t tell you how much fun I had. 
     In two hours, I had the machine quilting done. Yup, two hours. Terri’s Gamill was truly a Mercedes.  
    Thanks Terri- It was great catching up with you and I so appreciate this! You are the best! 

Settling In

     Just arrived in Vermont on Sunday for the week. I kept working on my Artprize piece the past few weeks and have driven my family mad with it.  I think I am now on version #2578 of the same piece and left it half assembled on my design wall. I promised them that I wouldn’t talk about it all week long. 🙂

Rooflines # 6 in process , 2012  Colleen Kole

 Nope not it.

Rooflines #6 in process, 2012 Colleen Kole

Nope, not done yet…

So where have I been?

1. I finished some over dyeing of last week’s fabrics before I left.

 2. Attended a wedding of my daughter’s best friend. My daughter was a bridesmaid and it really shocked me that I have a daughter with a married friend.  They just seem  so young.

my pretty girl 

3. Went to two SAQA exhibits at the Gerald Ford Museum.

4. I was interviewed by the Grand Rapids Magazine in regards to an article they are doing titled (?)The Quilt as Art. A photographer was sent to my studio to take pictures of me working. ( I really cleaned it up before they came and that took a few days! ) They are doing the article in preparation of the AQS show which will be in Grand Rapids August 22-25th.

I really don’t like have my picture taken-ok I hate it… but I hope I am not too much of a dweeb in this article. More importantly, I hope I have spoken somewhat intelligently.  It should come out at the end of July. At which point I could snatch all available copies off all shelves in all stores if it is horrid.

5. I was also interviewed by the experiencegr blog for the same reason. I was more relaxed and had an easier time answering questions for that interview.

6. Packed and rode 14 hours here.

Settling in to summer between Vermont and Grand Rapids. I hate lists in the summer. But I think I might need one this summer in order to get done what I need to do for the fall.

Anything fun planned for the 4th?

Off To Class Again

     I know, I know I am supposed to be buckling down and doing the work with new focus. I am still machine quilting so that does indeed count. I am continuing with my little mini master’s art degree as planned this year. Scheduled next week starting Sunday is a class at the Barn taught by Elin Noble. I have been busy gathering supplies in between machine quilting. And getting a little nervous and very excited. I have always admired Elin’s work so I am sure it will be a great adventure.

    I also had signed up for the Sets and Variables # 3 at the Barn taught by Nancy Crow in October. After this, my money tree fund is all gone. I am also realizing that the next class or the next technique learned doesn’t get the work done. You have to do it yourself. 🙂 I love all these life lessons. Geez. Fun though.


"So how’s your …sewing going?"

     I went to a friend’s house for dinner a few nights ago. She is a very productive person: mom, volunteer extraordinaire, and wears many other titles (which I can’t even begin to wonder why one person would need or want to have). After lots of conversation, I realized she was clearly at odds with how to ask me about how I was doing. But then, I realized it was a matter of she had no idea of how to ask what I was doing. “So how’s….(awkward pause)…how’s your sewing going?”

    And my answer was: great. I am having the time of my life.  No other explanation needed. For the first time, I felt like I didn’t need to justify what I did or who I am. It’s taken  few years to adjust to being something  different than my original career path. But it is just great being who I am right now: mom, wife and, most weeks, part time studio artist. I can’t imagine being anything else.

Another Assignment Done

     This one was by far my hardest assignment. I chose a few parameters for myself and then realized I had chose a silly construction method that just didn’t work for me. I spent hours on this one. It became a case of me against the piece and I truly felt like I had to win. Which really made me crazy and then I just really needed to get a grip on reality and know that the piece really had no vested interest in me succeeding. It really did not care. Oh boy. I didn’t want to give up on all the time I had invested in the project that involved a lot of lines.  I kept telling myself that this was a true learning experience. ( And  few friends reminded me of this too.)

     This was my reference composition and I wanted to work off from this piece.

Rooflines #4
Taking a look at values with my camera

I set my parameters for my assignment : change the thickness of the lines to less than 1/4 of an inch, use a color I don’t like (brown), add more colors within the motif, and try to vary the placement of the motif.
I also tried a different way of constructing the block or motif and that is what made me crazy and tripped me up. Last night when I went to write up my assignment after taking pictures, looked at it and sure enough, I had flipped one of the sections. This –

Ooops -bottom right section flipped the wrong way

Should have been: 

Rooflines #5, 37×37, Colleen Kole, 2012

This is done for the week. And I have never been so relieved. I finished assignment 4. One more lecture on Sunday night, and then one more assignment. I will really miss this class.

Assignments #1 and #2

     I thought I would finally take some time and show you what I have been doing in Lisa Call’s class  Working in a Series. I just needed a little breathing room to post on what I have been doing and realize that it may take me 10 or more pieces before I really find what I may want to work on in a series.

*** This is a long post but then I will be caught up. ***

     The class is structured with a 90 minute telephone lecture from Lisa on a specific topic each week, an assignment given ( seven total ) and follow up emails on the topic three times per week. She has many references for you within the emails so you can do as much or as little research as you would like on a given topic. Within each assignment you can choose from 6 different exercise to design your weekly piece. You set the parameters for your exercise before you begin. (Very good thing to learn for Miss “do it all here” and then never get anything done worthwhile. )

     The first week’s assignment is based on your original macquette which I posted previously. It was  inspired by the rooflines of the local botanical garden. I chose a motif that I wanted to explore and my base design was created.

Colleen Kole, Rooflines # 1 ,  First Series sketch

     The next week’s assignment focused on color and value. I thought I would be in trouble with all my bold and bright colors so after conferring with Lisa decided to change up my original design ( save this for more subtle colors I dye this summer) and use the fabric I have on a new design. I chose the assignment of using a color combination which I hadn’t used before-red and green.

Colleen Kole, Rooflines # 2, 47 x 37

     The proportions weren’t right with this piece and I feel the middle third needs to be re-done. I fell in love with the linework while doing this piece. And I am becoming less dyslexic with triangles.

     I got a little bolder and more comfortable and thought I would try to use my bold and brights on the original design.  The second week’s assignment was on space and scale so I modified the size of some of the elements.  Looking at how successful piece was as far as figure-ground composition was also part of the self critique.

Colleen Kole,  Rooflines #3 ,  37x 46

MMMM….the bold, bright colors worked but I really played it way too safe and worked in a grid rather than bringing any interest to the piece. Plus I ended up with a huge visible line dividing the piece  and little to no value change within the elements or background. Even though I like the piece, it wasn’t what I knew it could be.  The great thing about working in a series is that you critique your work and decide how the piece can be improved in the NEXT piece.  I also found you can enjoy a piece and like it but it can be improved upon.  I love the moving on part! But this piece frustrated me so I re-did the assignment. 🙂

Colleen Kole, Rooflines #4, 38 x78 

     This piece turned out really large.  I haven’t done a self critique yet on this piece.  I photographed it on the barn as we are in Vermont on vacation this week and the sunlight on it is kind of odd. But this feels better and now I will go write down why. Needs improvement but that’s ok too.

    This class has it all: working at home at your own pace, a kick in the seat three times a week with informational e-mails, establishing a good studio practice, and learning how to actually work in a series. I feel it is finally giving me the tools to move forward. Finally.

Ninety Percent and A Relief

   Ninety Percent: As I was laying in bed last night unable to sleep ( I really hate insomnia) ,  I realized  that I have three projects ninety percent complete.  Two of those projects are small Christmas gifts and one is a small study that I need to figure out how to complete it. That is really silly and why can’t I seem to focus enough to finish them? I guess I know what will do this weekend and I have promised myself not to  start my sister’s gift until these projects are done.

  A Relief:  For about a year now, I have felt extremely guilty about retiring from being a physical therapist. I could be making money contributing to the family and helping others. It was and is a profession I absolutely love except for the dreaded insurance paperwork. I loved working with people one on one and helping them to see what their bodies could do. I gradually weaned out of it as my family responsibilities grew but always kept my foot in the door and my license active.

    But, truth was and is that I no longer could do the part of it that I loved-the manual therapy, the massage and the treating of back pain patients. After many years of using my hands, they are just tired . They aren’t as strong as they use to be and can’t do what they need to do to be an effective set of physical therapist’s hands. In feeling guilty at not working, I was forgetting one of the key reasons I am no longer a PT: my hands and back. They just can’t do it anymore.

    I wanted to extend the life of them for sewing. And that felt selfish. Has felt selfish. Until this week. I have been volunteering packing shoeboxes for an organization that is also near and dear to my heart: Operation Christmas Child. I will be done today. But I have been reminded of the fact that my hands hurt when I do heavy work and lifting. If I can’t safely lift a 50 pound box with my hands and back, I have no business lifting patients. I have no idea why I keep forgetting that. I retired because I hurt too much when I work. I am strong but the joints are just worn down.

    When I sew, it doesn’t involve heavy  manual work. I can take breaks when I need to. I will need a joint replacement in my thumb at some point but not now. It is a huge relief to be reminded of that. I can’t tell you how much I have been beating myself up being selfish and making art. There isn’t another career to go back to. My art is it. This is my career . And I am very grateful for being reminded of that! A huge relief to let go of the guilt of not being a physical therapist anymore.

     You deserve a fabric picture after listening to me ramble. I did buy fabric  from Pink Chalk Fabric earlier this month( which is why on the last post why I am not buying any more…) The top bunch is a group of solids from their fabric of the month club. Great way to add stash if you need solids. Then on the bottom, two new pieces from Lotta Jansdotter and the red piece from Anthology. Pink chalk carries both of them.

Pink Chalk Fabric Purchase

     Ever onward, my friends. Thanks for listening to me. I am hugely relieved and hope to have some of my enthusiasm back again.  I didn’t even know it bugging me that much but it was. Now back to Christmas gifts.

    Happy sewing 🙂