Eyes Wide Shut Workshop

The all-day workshop at Studio Two Three promised to combine text and print to tell my story. I had never tried printmaking, and the workshop was part of the Rock Star Series. Emmy Bright was the first Rock Star on the calendar. I signed up after going to QuiltCon. I needed to explore other art forms.

The class started with a writing exercise — just write without stopping for eight minutes. Then we pared that down to a 100-word autobiography.

We kept paring it down until we had a three-word autobiography. When I reached my three words, I cried. My autobiography has been wrapped up in pain and loss. And death, grief and depression were in my story before I pared it down. The story in my head says I cannot control my life story. I fear breast cancer; the monthly checks, the yearly mammograms and MRIs, combined with the occasional breast biopsy.

In this paring down of words, I could eliminate that fear and choose other defining words. Striking through death was empowering. That’s why I cried. It made me happy to strike through those words.

The process for making the letters and the prints was relaxing for me. I made the letters L, E, S and Z in the smaller set. (by the way, no one’s autobiography included the letter Z)

make an E cropped

I like imperfections. When I was making them, I didn’t stress at all.  Others were more exacting and wanted to create the perfect alphabet. Ah, a metaphor for humanity. It takes all types to make type.

eyes wide shut alphabet

Here’s Nick, who was already a pro and had carved letters before, so he was chill.

lino print making cropped

Hands at work are beautiful.

The class also screen printed on white sheets of paper and on the Autobiography sheets. We made simple shapes and some more complicated shapes/stencils. This process was less relaxing. It required more technique and agility — plus arm strength. We weren’t trying to produce a finished work. We were playing.

I did the pink blob on this one and someone else added the cat blob. My stencil was off and that little pink stripe in the corner makes me very happy.

eyes wide shut pink and cat

Joy, Learning and Love. That’s my story.

QuiltCon: Mining for Gold

I attended four lectures at QuiltCon. I tried to find a nugget of gold in each one. It was California, after all.

From Fine Art to Functional Quilts

By Kim Eichler-Messmer

I knew Kim from the Slow Stitching Retreat, but her lecture gave me her story as a fine art student/teacher to a functional quilt maker. I gained insight into her process, and it inspired me. Her quilt journey showed how she took fabric collages from her student days and her personal struggle with grief, where she participated in the 100-Day Project, to create large quilt blocks. They reflect her experiences and incorporate her current experimentation with natural hand-dyed fabrics.

What did I take away from this? Fabric as sketches. I could see myself making mini quilts before committing to a large project with that design. My work reflects what I’m internally thinking and I don’t have to know that at the time I’m making the quilt.

Made in Japan: Quilts, Cotton and Indigo

By Teresa Duryea Wong

This lecture explored the history of cotton, weaving and indigo in Japan. Teresa’s presentation was beautiful. I could stare at iconic textiles all day. Teresa explained the expertise of Japanese manufacturers and why textiles produced there are so fine.

What did I take away from this? Thank you Japanese manufacturers. You inspire me. Teresa said quilters use a taupe palette — they want to reflect nature and whisper.

You Make the Rules: How I use Design to Guide Work and Life

By Carolyn Friedlander

The lecture was a personal story of design and the humble beginnings of this quilting super star. I felt I knew all of this because I have her book, Savor Each Stitch, and I follow her on all the platforms.

What did I take away from this? I left the lecture, thinking “no nuggets.” Later when it was quiet in my hotel, I forced myself to replay her lecture in my mind. The advice, Start Where you Are, Start at Home, was the big picture from her lecture.

I began to think about where I am and where I call home. I live in Colonial Heights, but when I think of home, I think of Southwest Virginia. I wondered what ideas I had about Southwest Virginia.

I sketched a few ideas and I can see some of these becoming quilts. I wrote these ideas: underground, ghosts, the company store, addiction, coal keeps the lights on, and we’re feeling f–ing unappreciated, quilts, it’s beautiful here, bluegrass, the crooked road, back of the dragon, take me to church, cornbread, . . . . I envision a series called Living Appalachia.

Living Appalachia sketches

Lessons from Art Critique

By Chawne Kimber

I also met Chawne at the Slow Stitching Retreat. Her story was also new to me. She described a young life immersed in art museums and the study of art. She shared tips on critiquing art.

What did I take away from this? The biggest advice from her: spend time with art. Look at it, think about it, ask questions.

I didn’t take her advice at the quilt show. I wanted to see all the quilts!

Except, I did spend time looking at Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s first-place quilt, Color Play H1, in Modern Traditionalism category. At first, I had that, “well, that’s nice” response. Perhaps it was the simple design repeated with different solid colors. It is the traditional herringbone pattern. After studying it, I realized she used white on the borders and there is magic in how the “bones” recede because of the color choices. Also straight line quilting is balanced with the ribbon candy quilting. At the same time, it made me dizzy. There is one repeating color– the orange on the right border. That’s the only repeating color. And the craftsmanship is stellar. The quilt reflects patience and good design.

Color Play VFW close upColor Play VFW

Final Thoughts

When I returned from QuiltCon, my brain felt fried — like the commercial– this is your brain on great quilt art. I am excited to put my inspirations to work and see what I can buy with my nuggets of gold.

Stop it with “not your grandma’s quilt”

It seems the folks who write about modern quilters use the same trite line about modern quilters: this is not your grandmother’s quilts. Such insight does not flatter the modern quilter. Modern quilters know they sit on the shoulders of those women. Without them, there is no modern quilt movement.

Even some contemporary quilters are guilty of this sentiment, naming books such as Not Your Grandmother’s Log Cabin.

The problem, I admit, is that modern quilting is often described as “non-traditional”. Traditional means perfect grids and sashing, etc. Hence, to describe modern, we have to describe traditional. And, that leads to —grandma made traditional quilts—and we aren’t grandma traditional.

Take the phenomenon of the quilters of Gee’s Bend. Their works were labeled “modern” because their works didn’t fit the typical traditional categories. They looked like modern works of art. They are cited as one inspiration for the modern quilt movement/the Modern Quilt Guild.

The annual Modern Quilt Guild exhibit of modern quilts is next week. The MQG has guidelines on What is Modern Quilting, and they do not want traditional quilts. Critics lambast the MQG because modern quilting, they believe, cannot be categorized and limited. Some think the MQG folks are arrogant and disrespectful of current traditional quilters as well as of quilters who don’t adhere to the modern aesthetic set by them. Who are you to set the rules for modern quilters? they ask.

Many of the original and contemporary modern quilters endured the wrath of the traditional quilt police. Those people were snooty and were critical of any quilt that didn’t meet the traditional model of quilting. They couldn’t fathom a quilt with irregular binding being in a quilt show. “That’s not a quilt”, they’d say.  Expletives on quilts. GET ME the smelling salts. The anger and outrage was and is real.

For me, the modern quilt movement and the MQG gave me outlet for my non-traditional ideas. I have generations of quilters in my family. I made traditional quilts, but I always felt I wanted something more. When I saw quilts from Carolyn Friedlander, Cheryl Arkison, Amanda Nyberg, and Gwen Marston, I was knew I had found my tribe. I was happy and engaged in quilting. I could be creative and design my own quilts.

I embrace my grandmothers’ quilts as the foundation of what I want to do as a quilter. My quilts are different, but I steal from the Grandmas. My Mod Drunk quilt is a new way to present the traditional Drunkards’ Path.

“Not your grandmother’s quilts” implies a negative judgement on their work. I want that to stop.

Celebrate grandma. Celebrate modern.


Lexapro, Menopause and Me

IT’S BEEN almost five years since I took the plunge into menopause. I was 48 years old. One month I was fine. The next month I was on a roller coaster of emotions. Hot flashes, memory loss, anger and sadness. It was crazy, and I was crazy.

The lab work showed positively menopausal. My doctor prescribed Effexor for the mood swings and the hot flashes. Hormone Replacement was not an option because of my family history of breast cancer. The drug helped all of my symptoms, but I was now an insomniac. Lack of sleep made me lose focus and I was less efficient and productive. And perhaps less sane. The doctor switched me to Lexapro. It worked too but without the insomnia. The most upsetting side effect was weight gain. I also felt like I was treading water. I was moving but not going anywhere.37994E18-5629-4976-B0EE-D55B7E597BB5

Now that I’ve weathered the depths of menopause, my doctor has advised me to taper off the Lexapro. She is worried about the effect of the weight gain on my health. Hot flashes won’t kill me but diabetes will.

It must be done slowly since I’ve taken it so long. I’ll begin this process in February. I’m hoping for post-menopausal calmness and a bikini body!

Rhoda’s Fruit Cake 1993

I received the nicest letter yesterday with a typewritten version of my mother’s Fruit Cake recipe. My mother’s sister’s friend, June, makes this recipe each year. My mother gave her the recipe in 1993. June was making it this year and shared it with my aunt’s children. She had the handwritten version and it didn’t copy well so she typed it and sent it to them via email. She sent a copy of the email to me.

My mother died in 1996 and her sister died in 1999.

It’s nice to know someone remembers my mother at Christmas with his amazing recipe.

I’m sharing it with you.


Merry Christmas,