Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I will never be able to describe in words the joy, excitement, pride in my country that I experienced the night of the election. I couldn't let down my guard until I saw the 11 pm postings, and then I couldn't stop crying and laughing...for hours. I woke up, still giddy, the next morning, and went to the Obama campaign office in Bethesda, which was being rapidly torn down. Many people came over to me as I gathered up my "Dear Mr. Obama" quilt, telling me how much pleasure it had given them, and it also made a great backdrop for photos of each other.

As I drove home with Mr. O on the passenger seat, I began wondering how many other ObamaMama's there were out in the country who, like me, was driven to make a celebratory quilt. I thought about how wonderful it would be if there were such quilts, to bring them together for the inauguration. So, after running the idea by several friends as a "sanity check", and asking Susan Shie if she'd be willing to contribute, I sent out this notice:

I have this crazy idea: wonderful "Obama Quilts" on display in
Washington, D.C. for the inauguration.

I see two major challenges:
(1) Can we get enough quilts to make it possible?
(2) Can we find a great place(s) to display them?

I plan to tackle both challenges at the same time.

So, to you wonderful Obama-mamas out there, I'm trying to get a
sense of the "inventory" we could amass in the next month and a half.

I'm excited to tell you that Susan Shie has promised to send a large
Obama quilt to help us jump-start the effort. So, please tell me if
have an "Obama" quilt to display.

While this is going on, I am going on a hunt for places to hang
them. This week I'll start making phone calls. If any of you know
people I could call to get the quilts displayed, please let me know.

I'm open to all suggestions, comments, advice, and tips.


Well....within 30 hours I had over 40 quilters raring to go. So the first question was answered: we did have an inventory. Now where could I find a venue in a town that had no more hotel rooms left? After many days of fruitless searches, we lucked out.
One of my many emails crossed the desk of an art teacher (David Phillips) at a local college (Montgomery College), and he was heading off to a meeting with several people from their Arts Institute, and he thought that our proposal might fill a gap in their winter schedule that they were having trouble filling. He presented the idea and they liked it! In fact, they got excited too. The college had received a donation from the Cafritz family to build a new Arts Center, and that's where we'll be. It's a wonderful, modern urban museum space with high spaces, good windows, good walls. It's perfect. And the college is being so gracious to us: they will insure the quilts, unpack and repack them, have them professionally photographed and hung, prepare accompanying matrials, and do some PR work. They will make a DVD of all the quilts which will play in their lobby. They will print a binder of all the Artist Statements, which in this group, are sometimes even more moving than the quilts! They even hope to produce a book about this historic exhibit, the proceeds of which will go to scholarship funds for the students, many of whom, like Obama, came up the hard way and are inspirational in their own right.

Now, heading into the home stretch, we are a group of 61 art quilters: all-volunteer, grass-roots, multi-ethnic and very talented. We come from all corners of the US and as far away as Australia. We'll have two large Susie Shie pieces, a group quilt by Fiber Artists for Obama that was shown in Houston, a piece by Michelle Flamer that went to the DNC convention, banners, flags, portraits, and more. Many of the quilters (like me) have been moved to do more than one entry. It's going to be a FABulous show.

The show is called: "President Obama: A Celebration in Art Quilts".
It will hang at the Cafritz Art Center, 150 King Street, Silver Spring, MD.
Dates: Feb. 9 to March 5.
Opening reception will be Friday the 13th from 6 pm -->.

You are all cordially invited!!!!

You've seen my original Obama piece, but I'll share two other works (in progress):
"HOME" is made for Malia and Sasha (in my mind), and it depicts the happy new White House on a bright sunny day, with dad going off to the oval office, and the rest waving goodbye to him. The sun is so happy he's wearing sunglasses, but he could also represent the secret service guys whose job it is to protect all these wonderful people.

The second piece is to be an interactive piece, displayed with an attached notebook and pen. The title is "What was it like for you?" It's composed of many different pieces of plaid fabric to represent the diversity of us all.

One of the lovely spin-offs of development of this show was that a number of us were invited to be interviewed by Karen Musgrave who is with Quilter's SOS -- Save Our Stories, a project of the Alliance for American Quilts. The tapes and accompanying photos will be part of a public archive that will be made available for the public and future researchers and quilt lovers. The project has more than 800 interviews online, archived at the Library of Congress. (www.allianceforamericanquilts.org/qsos/)

Now, wouldn't it be lovely if this tribute show to a most popular president at a historic junction in our history could be seen outside of the D.C. area? Let us know if you want it to visit your town!

The Fall

I finally put the finishing touches on my Pelican quilt, which is a collage of a bunch of photos Dave and I took when we toured southern Florida. We spent three hours watching them at the Bird Santuary run by Laura Quinn on Key Largo. These are such amazing birds, and when they come in for a landing, they look like pterodactyls with their 7-10 foot wing span. Some, like the guy in the center, are quite cheeky. You see that look in his eye? He's saying, "You got a fish...I know you do...hand it over!" It was fun to figure out how to attach all the shells (many sewed on, others glued), to make a wave (a piece of lace curtain), to show distance (size as well as size of chicken scratch quilting stitches), and to show a storm coming in from the right (luckily found several scraps of sky fabric). I even found a use for the tiny metal fish charms I bought. Now, having hung it in one quilt show, I've realized how heavy all that stuff is....and my horizontal lines are separating in spots, so it's going back to the shop for some overhaul. The photos are from before completion, but they tell the story.

Veggie Update: I added another veggie to my series..a charming beet, who allowed me to pose all her leaves all spread out on a beautiful silk moire background. Not an easy fabric to quilt, let me warn you! But it's so pretty when the light hits it just right. I call it "The Expansive Beet."

Good Things:
(1) first place for "Homage for Donna" at the Young at Art show in Va.
(2) Mississippi John Hurt sold at the SAQA auction and went to a good home.
(3) Viewer's Choice award for "Gotta Dance" at the Nimble Fingers show (a local guild)
(4) Two small pieces sold at Needle Chasers of Chevy Chase show (Homage to Donald Sultan & The Coneflowers)
(5) Masterpiece for Nancy was accepted into SAQA's 2009 "Points of View" show.

This ain't why I quilt, but it sure is nice when it happens. I quilt because I "have to."

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I got a notice about two weeks ago that MoveOn.com was sponsoring an artists' call for ObamaArt, and I got so excited! I've been an ObamaFan since I first heard him speak at the last Democratic Convention. I've found myself cutting out photos of him and saving excerpts from his speeches, as I came across them in newspapers and magazines. I've read his two books, and I continue to experience him as the most remarkable political figure and the most inspirational since JFK. So I buckled down (that is, told my sweet husband, David, that he was on duty to make the suppers until further notice), and produced the quilt below within the two week window of opportunity. I photographed it and sent it in before the deadline, but I still need to do the label, the sleeve, and a bit more surface quilting.

The idea of the image is that from a distance, I hoped it would look like Mr. Obama is looking out of a multi-paned window. Up close, each pane is a page of a letter that I wrote to him. It's called "Dear Mr. Obama." If I'm very very lucky, it will be selected to be shown at the Democratic National Convention. If not, it will be placed on MoveOn's eBay page and auctioned off, proceeds to go to liberal causes. Here's a shot of the quilt, and a detail of page one.

What I've Done This Summer

Well, the summer started with the discovery of a new spring veggie to add to my series: a ramp. I bought this little fellow for 5 cents and took him home and posed him and photographed him and drew him from several angles, and several hours later I began to realize that there was a funny smell in the air. By evening, my ramp was in the garbage can OUTSIDE. So here's the final product. It's only 9 by 11, and the letters are done by couching perl cotton.

You may notice a little red triangle at the bottom of the ramp; that's my new "secret signature." I tried all sorts of arrangements of my name, my initials, and finally fell upon this as I picked up some scraps of red silk from the floor! It'll be hiding in my quilts from now on.

The next piece I finished was unearthed during the above clean-up. It began as a study of negative space and flower suggestion, with just the outline of a line of coneflowers. I noticed that the color values were very similar, which was why I had set it aside for who knows how long. Now, finding it again, I kind of liked the similar values, and decided to continue that theme, adding a tiny inner border and outer border. It's hand quilted with metallic thread, and beaded for practice. I don't know whether it "works" or not, but I like it.

Another project I started is to work slowly through the Art Quilt Workbook by Jane Davila and Elin Waterston. I'm loving this book,and learning a lot! Each chapter teaches several things,and includes a list of websites to visit and artists to learn about, whose work illustrates the topic of the chapter. The chapters end with production of a small (9 x 12 inch, vertical) quilt. I'm only up to chapter 4, but here are some of the small quilts that have come from this work. The first is called "Thistles: A Color Study." My goal in this piece was to practice showing distance (which I did by having farther flowers be smaller and less distinct, and using overlap to show what's in front of what) and to break the borders. Here's the quilt, and below it I'll tell you what I REALLY learned.

You've probably noticed it already. The orange flowers, which were to be behind the thistles JUMPED in front of them. Why? Because warm colors come forward and cool colors recede. I hope I won't forget that again.

The next exercise, in Chap. 3, was to do a little pear from a pattern. Here's "The Pink Pear." I added the leaf, which is two-sided, and has a little bit of wire down the middle vein so the leaf is 3-D and can be "posed" in different ways.

The quilt made for the final exercise of Chap. 3 is called "My Lily" and is based on some lovely lilies that grow in the shady part of my backyard. They're short lived but have large flowers with fluffy, ruffled petals, strong red-orange pistels (or maybe they're stamens?), and sturdy leaves and stems. I must have tried a dozen times to draw one to get a "pattern" for a quilt, and finally a friend suggested that I lay tracing paper over my best drawing, and deliberately leave out lines, simplifying the image. I could do that several times until I got one that worked. That was a very helpful suggestion.

One of the artists that I discovered through this Workbook is Raoul Dufy, and I found his early work particularly appealing. There was one picture that looked like blobs of color, over which he would do an outline of a flower. I had just been practicing my hand at dyeing fabric, and several of my fabrics look like "blobs of color." (And some look even worse than that!) Anyway, here's my attempt to do an "Homage to Raoul Dufy":

A group of friends will be getting together to work through the book this fall, so I get to take a hiatus from homework till they catch up.

Another wonderful thing that I did this summer was to spend a week at QSDS, where the "big girls" play. It was exciting all week, just being in the company of so many artists working up and down the hallway in the hotel where it's held. Several times a day I would prowl through the Master Class to see how their work was progressing. Wow.

Now, I studied with Jane Sassaman, one of my very first quilt teachers, in a course she calls "Shape Shifting" -- but by the end of the week, I still had the same shape! If you ever have a chance to take a class from her, do so. She's organized, inspirational, kind and supportive...qualities that are hard to find in the aggregate. I think I was still stuck on thistles (pardon the pun), so one of the pieces I worked on was an abstraction of them; I'm going to call this piece (if I ever finish it) "Thistles for Jane." Below is a shot of Jane taking a photo of an early stage, and below that is a shot of where it stands now.

The actual color of the background is somewhere between the two pictures above. My next step is to decide where the borders will be -- e.g.,when the center is "done." My daughter, who is an artist, used to paint these enormous swirling abstract paintings, and I recall asking her how she knew when it was "done." She looked at me in amazement. "Mom, the picture tells you when it's done!" I keep listening, but so far no objects have spoken up.

I started a second piece in Jane's class; I got an urge to do a black and white study...so, of course, I began with a piece of the brightest pink fabric I had with me. You can see it below as it sits in my "to do" pile. I don't know if I like it enough to continue working on it, so I'll let it marinate a bit more.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


At the end of April, I went to the Hudson River Valley art workshops to study for a week with Margot Lovinger. If you don't know her wonderful work, just google her. Margot taught how to use layers of sheers to achieve depth and dimension in quilt art. We all brought as many different colors of tulle as we could find, and it was a hoot as we opened our bags and the stuff exploded! We were asked to bring a photo from which we could work. We drew it's major outlines, blew it up in size using an overhead projector, and ultimately traced the image, using a lightbox, onto a piece of artist canvas.

We fused Wonder Under to large pieces of fabric which would form the major shapes in our picture, as you can see in this next picture....

and then we began to build layers of sheers to define shapes, make shadows, modulate color, and create depth.

The sheers are hand sewn through the canvas with tiny "tacking" stitches, often layer upon layer, to get the desired effect. Ultimately, we auditioned different colors of tulle to use as an overlay (mine turned out to be a vibrant purple!). The fabric picture was made 6 inches larger on all sides so that we could use the mounting Margot taught us. Foam core board was affixed atop wood framing. This layer was followed by one-inch foam, cut to the edges of the board, and topped with a layer of batting. The quilt-canvas is the top layer, and it is stretched around the framing and stapled to the wood in the back. The image, therefore, continues around the sides of the piece. Here's a picture of my final project, which I call "Water Carriers."

The second project I recently completed was to try to make a 12" x 12" square for the SAQA online auction to be held in October, proceeds going to support the organization. As an Old Folkie, I'd long wanted to make something in honor of one of my folk heroes, an old bluesman named Mississippi John Hurt. John was born in Avalon, Mississippi in 1892, and I got to hear him in a club in Washington D.C. shortly after he was "discovered" and shortly before he died (1966). John's family were very poor sharecroppers, but his mother managed to squeak out $1.50 for his first guitar when he was 9 years old. Nobody taught him to play his syncopated finger-picking style; as he said, "I just make it sound like I think it ought to." This wize, but gentle and soft-spoken man wrote some great hot songs, like "Nobody's Dirty Business" and "Candy Man Blues." This is my quilt for John:

Now go see all the amazing quilts that are piling up on the SAQA auction site, and buy one!


After a brief skirmish with breast cancer (lumpectomy, clean margins, no further treatments!), I got back to work. This little piece was the next thing I completed. It's called "Lily and her Dog" and was mailed out to Lily's mom after she'd sent a photo in their Xmas card. I learned that dog hair is hard to draw!

Meanwhile, I'd been working along on a Fractured Flower #2 challenge, sponsored by SAQA. We all got a large print of this gorgeous flower, and you can see that it's divided into 4 irregular segments. The idea was that we would do 4 separate "quilts", leaving unfinished edges around all sides of each piece. We were to photograph our work, mail the 4 pieces to the moderator of the challenge (Tomme Fent), who would then send back 4 NEW pieces (we'd never see our own again) which we combined into a finished quilt, which was then posted on the website. Here are some shots of this sequence: First, a practice piece I made:

And here's a shot of my four finished pieces, in parts:

Here's what I did with the new interesting and creative segments I was sent...

And here's a shot of the label on the back, showing the artists who did the various pieces. All in all, a very interesting and fun project.

That brings us to about March, when my first-born son (Alec) and his wife (Rachel) returned from Germany. They'd been living in Heidelburg and working at the Max Plank Institutes for a year, and as a welcome home present, I made a quilt based on some photos they'd sent of the castle. I played with things a bit, adding two little figures in the back (me and my hubby), a tourist with two camera bags on the left front, and my beloved travelers on the right. I took the heads from a photo of them at their pre-wedding dinner and dressed them up in winter togs for the Heidelburg chill. The photo below shows the work in progress.

They loved the quilt, until they saw their pictures on it. Two weeks later they hesitantly asked if I could just take them off! Geez. But I'm working on it.

Hey. Remember that Nancy Crow course I took last year? I promised to post the final project that we did, and I have just declared it "DONE." Now in full disclosure mode, I have to tell you that when our final projects were put up around the room in Nancy's great barn studio, I was forced to conclude that I am probably the worst student Nancy has had in several years. Mine didn't look anything like the sophisticated pieces others displayed on their design walls. But it's big, bright, and cheery, and has a -- shall we say -- happpy childlike quality to it.

Now Nancy Crow has long been a quilting idol of mine, and after I recovered from the course I took from her, I realized I'll always be grateful to her for making me realize that I loathe strip-piecing!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Here's my latest work, and I thought some might be interested in seeing it as a work in progress. It's called "A BIRD IN THE HAND..." (It's 27 x 22.5)



STAGE 3, and then came adding "the poop."


If you've gotten this far in my blogorama, I thought you might be interested in a picture of Dave (and me)...above. (30.5 x 24)

I took a one-day course in "wonky log cabins", and tried to use some of my "african" fabrics. I called this " EYE OF THE TIGER." (32 x 26.5)

This little quilt was done as a study in negative space. (8.5 x 10.5)

A little piece to echo a very dramatic picture taken of my mom when she was in little theatre work as a young woman. [9 x 11]

This long skinny quilt was a personal meditation on two years of my life, as seasons in fabric (get it?)

This long lapquilt is based on a model taught in a mini-course by Donna Radner, so I call it my "DONNA RADNER KNOCK-OFF QUILT." [50 x 72]


Sue's dying and death not only knocked a hole in my heart, but knocked me on the head: time's a-wasting. While I loved my private practice work, I did find myself looking at my watch and saying, "OK, three more hours and then I can get back to my studio." And then it hit me: I'm too old and life's too short to be pushing away hours like that. So I gave myself and my beloved patients four months to wrap it all up, and find everyone who wanted one, a new psychotherapy home. In January of 2007, I hung up my "Doctor" hat.

Of course, right after that, my hip went out on me, and off I went to get my first bionic part, a new right hip. The living room became a hospital room, and we never did return the hospital bed because my hubby Dave did exacatly the same thing with his left hip right after me!

It was almost two months before I got back to my studio, which I had carefully tidied up before surgery. I sat down on my sofa and looked at my wall 'o fabric, my two sewing machines, my boxes, drawers, files, and said to myself, "WHAT WAS IT I WAS DOING DOWN HERE????" I felt overwhelmed. Lost. Where was my muse? My passion? OMG.

So I picked up a book on loan from a friend; it was the museum catalogue showing the work of Ayako Miyawaki, a Japanese fabric artist whose work always made me smile. She's one of my quilt-idols. Look at the cover picture and see if you could resist this fishface?

Ayako's work is so elegantly simple, so graphically strong, and so charming. I had seen a little black and white film of her at work in her living room. She'd bring back something from the market -- a fish or two, perhaps -- and would lay them on her table, reach into her scrap bag by her chair and begin to free-cut a fish.

Remembering that, I decided I would go to the spring farmer's market and buy something beautiful and make a fabric picture. Of course, I was drawn to a Japanese eggplant! Well, one week led to another, and before you know it, I was making a series of Spring Veggies. Here they come:

Three red peppers chatting among themselves:

two strawberries (13.5 x 19.5)

spring onions (note silken strings from unravelled fabric as roots)

a beautiful radish

bok choy

and last, A Fennel and A Scape


I had a dear friend named Sue, one of those warm, welcoming, huggable ladyfriends that you only find every once in a while. She too was a psychotherapist,and we kept discovering common tastes in clothing, decorations, jewelry, movies, just about everything except opera, which gives me shpilkes ("restless leg syndrome" for those again from a different village).

So Sue was going to redo her bedroom and make it entirely blue and filled with built-in cupboards theoretically big enough to hold her vast collections of clothes and shoes. In honor of this venture, I tried my first attempt at a crazy quilt, using blue fabrics which were piling up in my stash. So, here's Sue's Blue Quilt.

One day, several years ago, my friend Sue told me that the doctors had figured out why she'd been having such bad back trouble; Sue was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. She was so courageous,so uncomplaining as she did battle with that dreadful illness. And Sue, who'd always been -- like me -- kinda chunky, began to lose weight, and as the weight dropped she told me over and over again how beautiful she felt. She went out almost every week and bought something lovely to celebrate her increasingly slender figure.

At one point, she asked me if she could give me some of her chubby clothes. She was particularly concerned about giving me her old Blue Fish clothes. Blue fish was a very expensive hand-painted line of clothing, made of cotton knits, easy to wear. Sue had 3 boxes set aside for me. I picked out a few tops I liked and then we tried to decide what to do with the rest, and Sue lit up with an idea. "You could make me a quilt", she exclaimed. "In fact, there's enough there to make two quilts, one for you and one for me!" I didn't have the heart to tell her I had never worked with stretchy knit fabrics.

So, I went home and began to cut up the clothes, putting aside all the painted designs, the funky labels, and the arty buttons, and cutting the rest into big hunks. Gradually, on my design wall, I built up a collage of these images, finding panels that had been skirt hems to be good border pieces. Eventually, with all the pieces backed with a non-woven interfacing, I began to sew and sew and sew. The back was constructed of panels of plain fabric and the quilting was done by tying, using the gorgeous buttons instead of knots.

I was able to give Sue her quilt and it made her very happy. She died about two months later. Here is Sue's quilt.