Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hale and Farewell

Yesterday, May 11, was the Sandia Mountains May Luncheon. It has been going on since before I joined the chapter in 2001. It is a day of celebrating our times together as a chapter and just to be together for a meal. We have a short business meeting, a short program, and then we eat. Sometimes the May Luncheon has been a pig roast at Susan and Michael Newnam’s place in the East Mountains. At least once Jane Moses catered the lunch at the Asbury Methodist Church where we meet monthly. Recently we have been reserving space in local restaurants for our feasts. We always have fun.

The short programs range over many topics. Once Marilyn Rodee came to give us a short talk on her book Southwest Textiles. Once the Art of Embroidery Group showed story boards of how they developed needlework designs. Last year Charline Wells, an EGA Master Judge, gave us a demo on her judging techniques. The programs are always well received.

Yesterday the program was put on by the Beading Group of the chapter headed by Carolyn Bivens. The beaders modeled and displayed their work done over the last nine years since their inception. It was wonderful to see--all the bracelets and necklaces in all colors and styles. They have been very busy.

Carolyn had to leave early because her husband Dale was ill and had been for some time. Sadly he died yesterday, shortly after Carolyn got home to him. I have known Dale as long as I have known Carolyn. He was a gallant man, very amiable, very likable. We will all miss him.

Dale wasn’t the only member of our ranks to fall this year. Ann Cook, a wonderful blackworker, and a very long-time member of Sandia Mountains, died earlier in the year. And last year, one of our most beloved members, Elizabeth Bundy, died. It is hard to have long-time friends, sisters and brothers of the needle, fall by the way. As members of this chapter, we are a big family who see one another on a weekly, if not more often, basis in the course of a year. We have grown close over the years. We see new friends come in and join us to become old friends. And let us not forget the husbands who are so willing to help out, to carry and tote whether to and from airports or up and down the stairs at the State Fair.

Hale and farewell.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Fish

Several people have asked me why I named my class on creativity A Fish Swallowed My Pencil. That seemed a lot more fun than Creativity and You or Let’s Ramp Up Your Juices, or even Ladies and Creative Collage. I had named the class several years ago when I first conceived of it. But the title sort of fit in with EGA’s 2010 National Seminar Stitchin’ on the Barbary Coast. Coast, fish, get it? Pirate’s Gold, the other class for the 2010 seminar, was named specifically for the theme.

This was a long, but productive cold season for pilot classes. The first class was in February and was a four-day. The second was in March and was a four-day. This one on the first two days of May was only a two-day. That’s okay--I was close to mental exhaustion by that time. Three brand-new classes in four months is a LOT. But they are done.

I flew up to Cheyenne to be with Ann for Fish. It is a great rest for me to go up to see her always. We always do interesting things. But this is the first time I have ever run a pilot there. We had a cozy group with Ann’s sister Sharon Wilson from Denver, Ann’s daughter-in-law Tiffany Erdmann from Laramie, Virginia Hazen from Casper, and, of course, Ann.

Class kits are getting more expensive these days because of shipping. No longer can we throw an extra suitcase onto the airplane gratis. I shipped up the kits themselves and most of the class materials by US Postal Service. Then I had to ship back the class materials via the same carrier. Coming and going can be expensive.

The class itself was wonderful. We were certainly a compatible five-some. Tiffany and Sharon are not members of EGA, though Sharon has taken one other pilot from me and so has some idea of the work that the students have to do. Poor Tiff was taken blindside, but she passed through the ordeal with shining colors.

We grouped around Ann’s large kitchen table the first morning. It was a cold May Day in Cheyenne and there was wind as I recall. I mentioned the duties of a pilot class. We went through the kits to make sure everyone had everything. And then we were off. It can be difficult to get immediately into the spirit of the class, especially if a person has no real idea of what is going on. But everyone managed it all.

Fish is a creativity class with a dash of design theory and color theory thrown in. Since a lot of people think of creativity only in the context of art, I decided to teach from that angle, even though creativity permeates a human’s life. But in order to do art, that same person has to have an idea of the ground rules for artistic expression. So the first morning we looked at design theory with the elements and principles of design. We made a few notes in our notebooks. We looked at a few things. Then we started the first of the collages. The first one was doing a collage from one of our own photos. And from there we took flight.

It was a fast two days. I was able to estimate the timing of the various parts of class. At seminar I will have at least twice any many students and I could have as many as 22 altogether. The class will go much slower with that many. But I can adjust for that too. I was glad to have Tiff and Sharon there as people unused to this sort of class. I could judge more clearly what did and did not work. With more people I can shorten the last section with no harm to the main part of the class.

I had a good time in Cheyenne. Ann and John Erdmann as hosts were wonderful. We ate well. I was soundly beaten at Boggle by both Sharon and Ann. And I slept wonderfully well.

Thanks everyone for giving me your time and attention.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Life Goals = A Lottery

Some life goals I set for myself over the years I have reached. Two came into strange juxtaposition this past week. One thing I had wanted to do since high school days was write a book that would actually be published by a publisher. That was realized in 1990 when HarperCollins bought a three chapter manuscript that Eloise Carlston and I had written in the summer of 1989. Mike was living in Colorado with his mother working at his new job there and Barrett and I were living in the big old house in Sandy, Utah waiting to sell it. PJ was also there in Salt Lake City, on his own at last.

Eloise and I hammered out my notes on the art class I had taught with her to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders at Quail Park, a little private school in Sandy. Eloise was the class teacher and I was the general factotum at the school. Through people we knew and through people we became acquainted with, we had the good luck to find a publisher quickly. The book, Experimenting With Art, was finally released in 1991 (with, oddly, a 1992 copyright on it). Not only did Eloise and I receive a check up front, but have received royalty checks twice a year since then. Until about three years ago when the checks started coming once a year and then last year there was none. This week I received another check. It was not a lot, but to have checks coming for close on twenty years has been such a nice touch in my life. I am a published author of some longevity.

I have other life goals. Some of them have been met. One was that I would become a teacher of embroidery of national reputation. I have been lucky in that. But one that has been elusive all these years has been that I would have a piece of my work on the cover of Needle Arts. I thought I had finally achieved that when I received my latest copy of Needle Arts last week. On the back of the plastic-wrapped magazine was a nearly full-page ad for my upcoming class, Intense Pattern, with a small picture of Earl Grey, my blackworked teapot. I smiled happily to myself when I saw it, thinking that at long last I had achieved my goal. But it was not to be. It was just the front cover of a little two-pager for educational opportunities for the coming year. Yes, I was a little disappointed.

I still have two life goals that are unfulfilled. One is the cover of Needle Arts and the other is to become a well-known artist in fiber. I am still working on both of them, but the artist thing is in hiatus just now while I work on classes. I am a one-thing-at-a-time type person. I can’t teach and write new classes and still be a working artist. One or the other. I plod along, but am happy with what I do, so I guess all is not lost. Oh, and I would like to win the lottery too. I am sure that 60 million bucks won’t spoil me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pirate's Gold Pilot Class

Pirate’s Gold pilot, the ides of March, Monday. The hardest day of all. I felt like a not over warm zombie at the end of the class. Fortunately there was little for me to clean up (poor Rita), so I was able to get my stuff together and get out of there. With the time change, my sense of timing was a little off, but I am sure that no one complained that the class was forty minutes or so short. A four day class is like a hike across mountains--steep whether uphill or downhill and never-ending. As was pointed out in class, at seminar there are two-hour lunch breaks and a whole day’s break between the second and third day. We seven had no such luxury.

I saw color awareness grow in every one of the students. Possibilities were suddenly open. I was grateful to have Debbie in the class. I know it was a bit frustrating for her, but she was essential to the pilot. I hope she had a good time and learned a little about color. I believe it was Sandy who said that when the class started she didn’t believe that four days could be filled with just the study of color. We changed her mind.

I am making good changes to the syllabus. I think the order of the class will remain the same, but I am including more info in the student syllabus. I have some corrections to make where my teaching notes and the student syllabus did not quite match up. They will match perfectly by September.

Thanks to everyone for making these arduous four days happen. But I especially thank Rita for her unflagging goodwill and hospitality. Thanks to everyone for bringing goodies--they were delights for lunchtime and for afternoon breaks. And thanks for everyone’s thoughtfulness and time in getting this unwieldy rainbow on the road to seminar.

Pirate’s Gold pilot, Day 3, Sunday. This was an easier day for all of us. There were fewer exercises, but they are harder because we had the optical illusions to illustrate. It was winter out and the light had a bright, flat quality. So some of the illusions were harder to achieve.

We are getting tired, but are still eager to learn. I think that they are absorbing all the “book learning” I can dish out to them. Now they mostly have to go out and experience for themselves how color works in the real world.

We are a bit ahead of schedule, so I inserted some enrichment--actually some of the lecture from my original color class, A Fine and Dancing Light. This was very welcome by all. They had a chance to think about color rather than madly getting paper exercises done.
As far as I am concerned, the biggest thing we did today was to obviate the need for needle and thread in one of the exercises. We all decided that the exercise is better done in paper. That is good news. It is also is a sign to the whole class that the pilot class system works and that a teacher can change her plan of attack because of experiences within the pilot class.

Tomorrow is the last day. We will finish up the exercises and start thinking about our own work. We will work outside comfort zones tomorrow.

I hope it doesn’t snow again.

Pirate’s Gold pilot, Day 2, Saturday the 13th of March. This was a much better day. Only one or two major glitches. I feel that everyone has settled in and become acquainted. We even had a few laughs today. We finished up the CCCs, the Classic Color Combinations, and went into the study of Value, certainly the hardest section of the whole class. Even the least experienced grasped value very quickly and was able to peg works of art into the correct Value Key and category. Near the end of the day we went over the difference between Value and Saturation. And everyone could distinguish between them. Congratulations to us!
Tomorrow we finish up value with a couple of Value tests (yes, as cruel as it is, even ladies of a certain age have to take tests) and then we go on to the next topic: Optical Illusions in Color.

Today we had more biscotti from Anna. Again very delicious. We had cranberry bread from Rita, and more of the coffee cake from Debbie.

Debbie is making great strides both in design and color. From being a neophyte in the studies, she has gone on to conquer the first few steps. It is a pleasure to watch her.

I am becoming better acquainted with Sandy and find her very droll. She is a good artist who had a fine, innate sense of design.

Sue is one of my favorite people. She is fun, witty, and very generous. I took her out of her comfort zone a couple of times today, but she easily swanned through the work. Good job.

Patricia is as wry as ever. She does good work and often comments how my art sensibilities and hers do not match. Well, no, they don’t. But that doesn’t stop her from learning and me from teaching. We get along very well--except for focal point!

Anna--still waters run deep. I have the feeling she knows everything I try to teach her. Today I tried to take her out of her comfort zone and was unable to even when I switched her up. Cool as a cucumber.

And Rita I am afraid I am working to a frazzle. At least when she is done with us in two more days, she will have most of Rainbows Bend under her belt. So she is getting a twofer for all her work. I believe that she is seeing new design possibilities around her. She is the best. Oh, and she told us to call her Mother Rita. Well, I had a mom and it didn’t work out well, so we will just have to be good friends.

Pirate’s Gold pilot Day One. This day was a rough one for me. The material I am teaching used to be so close to me and I was used to its rhythms and nuances. But now that I have not taught it in its entirety for most of a decade I have lost that awareness. I thought the first day was choppy and badly paced. The students are a dream team. There are six of them in various stages of expertise in handling color. Debbie our newest member is very brave in even taking the class. But she is willing and very game to try. Our three most experienced members are handling the class information very well. They are taking risks in their little composition and doing explorations into designing. This is exactly how the class is planned--to study composition (design theory) side by side with color theory.

Now we are going to pay a little more attention to the compositions as well as the color, discussing both sides of the coin. Two students, Sandy and Sue, second cousins by marriage, are doing very well. They both come from another part of fiber art. Sue is a world-class tatter and Sandy makes greeting cards besides doing cross-stitch. I feel a bond with each of them. Early in my career I taught quite a bit of needle lace and even tatting on a needle once. But Sue and I are old friends anyway. And I make dozens of greeting cards every year for my own use and to sell. In fact I regard the making of greeting cards as my hobby as opposed to embroidery that is my vocation.

Rita is our hostess. It is in her cozy little room with the perfect light that we are settled for the four days. Rita is also taking the pilot of Rainbows Bend, Carole’s and my ICC on color theory. We have now advance beyond the first lesson of the class into new territory for Rita. I hope she can put Pirate’s Gold to good use with Rainbows Bend.

Despite my rocky start, I feel the second day is going to go much smoother. That is what a pilot is for--to smooth over pebbles in the path. So my thanks to Patricia, Anna, Debbie, Sue, Sandy, and Rita for putting up with me this first day. Now let’s plunge into the second!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A day of laughter, talk, stitching, and warm hearts.

I am just back from a stitch-in at Jane Moses’s house. This is our regular first Tuesday of the month stitch-in. Originally it had a name, but I have forgotten it. Today someone suggested a new name--the CYTT. And in case you don’t instantly know what that stands for, it is the Can You Top This. And we are not talking about stitching here. We are talking about stories from our long and varied lives.

At long last at over sixty I seem to fit in somewhere. I have always felt I was an oddball in any chapter meeting over the years. Maybe with age comes wisdom. And wisdom in my case is just letting myself fit in. I did feel like I fit in at the last national seminar I was at--the one in Louisville in 2008. In the evenings a group of us would meet in the hotel bar. We would eat and talk, and laugh all evening. It was a special group made up of Ann Erdmann, Carole Rinard, Jette and Roy Finlay, and a few others who would drop by. Those evenings and these daytime meeting here in New Mexico make my life, which is in a great deal of turmoil, bearable and more than bearable.

On top of all this, four of the people who were in my blackwork pilot were there, Jane Moses, Ellie Ames, Patricia Toulouse, and Bert Kroening. Bert had actually finished a small sampler based on the class! I was so proud. She took what I taught and turned it into her own work, adding color and her own personal panache.

Ellie was hard at work on her lighthouse sampler. It looked magnificent with the lighthouse and some of the surrounding stitching done. I do not doubt that this is a prize winner. And Jane, who is one of the busiest people I know, has worked on designing new stitches thoughtfully and carefully. She spoke design to me! I was so pleased.

So Intense Pattern is a success--just reaching one person in a class is an achievement, but these four have all been affected. There may be more out there (oh, I did receive a nice note from Peggy Matthews last week thanking me for a great class and saying that she was continuing to work in blackwork.) So for me the day was a Good Day.

I am still working on the visual aids for the color class, Pirate’s Gold. I teach that in less than two weeks. Teaching color is always an exciting proposition. I often learn more than the students.

I thank Jane, Patricia, Rita (for driving, too), Bert, Ellie, Angelica, Jerry, Debbie, and Dorothea for a day for hilarious hours, for warm fuzzies, and for just being there.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

London and the Brick

Once more the ghastly spectre of a professional exhibiting category versus a strictly amateur one has raised its hollowed-eyed head. I am a long-time opponent of separating the exhibiting categories into these two factions.

The Sandia Mountains and Turquoise Trail committees for Albuquerque Fiber Art Fiesta have decided to do just that--to make another subdivision in all the categories for awards. So there are ten more categories, all of which need a professional to enter them.

The AFAF is now open to all fiber artists in the USA--not just members of the supporting guilds. Consequently the Fiesta will be advertising nationally to bring more artists to exhibit. This is really a wonderful idea. The AFAF is a tremendous venue for us to see such a huge range of fiber art and meet fiber artists. The vendors are spectacular with their huge variety of wares that we rarely see in one place all together.

Admittedly I am a little late to put to put my 2¢ in, but I have written about this before. And it may seem self-serving that I, as maybe the only professional who enters the embroidery categories at this point, make this protest. On the other hand, if I am the only person in the categories, maybe I will win more ribbons. Maybe. But this is not my point.

My point is that a person can best improve her skills and creativity by exhibiting against the best there is. If professionals are the best (and separating them out from the amateurs seems to confirm this belief), then the amateurs have no real goals to achieve except to excel as second-best.

A long time ago in a city far away, right after I joined the EGA, I was in an exhibit put on by my chapter, the now disbanded Creative Needlework Chapter in Collingswood, NJ. We were a young, very active chapter who could get nearly 100% participation in a show. The exhibit was held in a large department store that gave us space in some upstairs rooms with glass cases on the walls. We had an embroidery teacher come down from Princeton, I believe, to judge the show. There was no professional category, just original and non-original in the various types of needlework. I was the newest member and really didn’t expect to win anything, but I did original work at that time, almost exclusively. I had entered a needlepoint-covered brick doorstop. It was an ocean scene with crashing surf and beach with sea creatures crawling on it. Someone in my family still has that brick. I was delighted with it, but I knew that I still hadn’t mastered the medium.

A woman by the name of Sherry London was also in the chapter and she was a professional. She had published a book and she had designed several kits that sold at least locally. Her needlepoint was of a lion with a mane of bullion knots. It was cute thing. She won. I was not disappointed (there were no second and third prizes--only best in category), but I had several women come up an actually apologize to me about my “loss.” They felt that I should have won just so that I would be encouraged to keep working originally. My work was good, but in a show where technique counted for three points and originality counted only for two, Sherry was bound to win. I did not begrudge her the win. But she never beat me again. Second best should not win: only the best should. It was a valuable lesson to me.

I know as a professional that I cannot devote the time to stitching that an amateur can. In the past year I have been writing classes and my embroidery output has dropped enormously. Everyone needs to practice to keep up skills for exhibiting. In the last Fiesta I did not win three blue ribbons for my three entries. An amateur has every opportunity to study as much as a professional, to work as hard as a professional, and to practice hard. What is magic about that? What is the difference? I personally know of several people right here in Albuquerque who are better at some needlework skills than I am. The way to win blue ribbons is not to exclude people who may be better than I am from the categories, but to include them, so I can hone my skills for next time and bring home the blue!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Winding Roads
A class in dyeing and painting ribbons and grounds, then appliqueing
the ribbon to the ground, adding , paint and beads to create bouquets.

The Bee Book
Even the book itself is an embroidery because of the
hand-stitched and beaded binding that we will learn to do.
We will embroider the covers and the inside of the book
is a stitched sampler on a series of fourteen "pages."

Now is the lull between two pilot classes. Intense Pattern with its intense preparation days is giving way to Pirate’s Gold with less intense preparation. The only reason for the downgrading in intensity is that I have taught color theory many times before and have a pretty good handle on what needs to be taught in the class, at what point, and for how long. Intense Pattern was not like that at all. When I went in the first day of class I had little idea on just how long each phase would take. It was a class that was completely new in concept to me. It worked wonderfully, but not exactly as I had thought it would. All the women in the class were A-1 students who each in her own way helped guide us all through the blackwork forest. Usually I have an idea of what day we will do what and how much time it will take. But the class went much more quickly than I had thought it would through the building block material. I was to the point that I wondered what we would do the last day. But then the class changed and when we seriously started to do the patterning and all its manifestations the women took all they had absorbed and applied it to new stuff. As I mentioned before, they did not want to stop for breaks. They wanted to work on through with their current lines of thought. It was wonderful to see. Thanks, guys!

With Pirate’s Gold I will have a very good idea of the timing of the thing. But during each seven-hour class day, several things have to happen. There has to be concentrated learning, there has to be exploration time, there have to be light moments with laughing and a complete relaxation of the concentration, and there have to be physical breaks; for instance, an hour for lunch and two ten or fifteen minute breaks during the day. In my color classes there is just as much first-rate creativity among the students as there was in Intense Pattern. When we get to the exercises of the classic color combinations, we create about fifteen small collages. Usually the collages get to be more thoughtful and more elaborate as the time goes on. The students are building on their creativity and exploring their own notions about the subject matter whether it is double split complements or hexads.

I am just now putting together the visual aids for Pirate’s Gold. I have most of them from other times I have taught similar classes. But with this class, we will deal with some other concepts also, like luminosity and aerial perspective in color. The student text is about written and just needs a few additions and some tweaking. My lecture notes are essentially done. The star of this show will be that each student gets a full set of Color-Aid® papers to help with the study. These papers are the true hues printed on matte paper. With these true hues we can begin to see how red looks at its true value and saturation. The Color-Aid papers are invaluable.

Next I start on the third pilot I am going to do--A Fish Swallowed My Pencil. This is a two-day class about creativity and design. I have most of the visual aids for it, but still have to write the lecture notes and student text. I do not teach it until the beginning of May so I still have time.

Look for Intense Pattern on the EGA website: under Extended Study Programs. It is to be taught here in NM in mid-July. I cannot tell you how terrific this class is.

Look for Pirate’s Gold and A Fish Swallowed My Pencil also on the EGA website under the 2010 National Seminar in San Francisco around the first of September.

But best of all--look for my two newest classes The Bee Book and Winding Roads to be taught in the 2011 EGA National Seminar in Naples, Florida.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Blackwork Extravaganza

February 15th, Intense Pattern. The Last Day. Things went wonderfully today too. It was a relaxed day and we did a little more talking, but a lot was accomplished. We spent the morning going over the last of the concepts for the class, including design considerations, how to design samplers, some extra questions about chiaroscuro, silk threads, and washing the stitched silk and linen samplers. To finish the morning we reviewed the Elements and Principles of Design.

After lunch (more of Bert's chicken salad that I always find absolutely delicious, and Jane's tuna salad that I find ditto), we concentrated on designing an actual piece. Everyone opted to design a sampler in the end. We had adventurous designs and more adventurous designs. For someone who has never designed a sampler, even the smallest and the simplest is an adventure. Some of the more experienced people went with big ideas. We had a Stonehenge, a lighthouse, an imari plate, and a cross all set up as samplers. Very interesting. We had square samplers, circular samplers and rectangular samplers. It was very exciting to see them all in the planning stages. I believe that some of them will eventually get stitched too.

I was very pleased with the class participants. They were all willing to do work that some of them were afraid of, work that was out of all their comfort zones, and work that was like stepping over an edge with no idea if there is a safety net below. And they did it. Every single one. I am very, very proud of them.

At the end of the afternoon we discussed the class for a bit. I asked what the highlight of the class was for people, what could be improved, what needs to be done a different way. All of the comments were positive. I do have corrections to make, but no major ones. I will have to reorder the some of the pages--a minor proposition. And I will have to emphasize certain things for a smoother learning experience.

I want to thank everyone for being such good sports about this class. A big thanks to Jane and Curt for hosting us. It was a big burden, I am sure, in some ways, while in others it was handy for Jane because she could stay home. Thanks to Bert for being such a good sport about my merciless and never ending teasing and for taking that step off the edge with me. Thanks to Mary for driving the first day, so Mike could have the car. Thanks to Anna for her wonderful cake and for stepping into a class as a newbie. Thanks to Patricia for her good ideas and practical suggestions. Thanks to Marie for walking into a world that was new to her and facing it with perfect courage. Thanks to Nancy for coming down from Los Alamos for the class and for having such intricate and creative ideas. Thanks to Peggy for working with such concentration and determination. It was a pleasure just watching her. Thanks to Jo for all her questions (I am sure other people wanted to know the answers to them too), for her Italian translation and pronunciation of chiaroscuro, and for being such a determined designer. Thanks to Neenah for being such a cool cucumber in the midst of many mad women--though I did notice that she almost fell out of her chair laughing once or twice. And thanks to Ellie, for her bright and happy personality, for her tiny, tiny fish, and for her big ideas that she is well on the way to making reality. You people are the best.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day Three--Blackwork Extravaganza

Happy Valentine's Day, Intense Pattern. Today was a food day. We are all nurturers and so most of us brought food. It was Marie's birthday and the most scrumptious birthday/valentine cake for her with pink butter cream filling & frosting and cherries on it was made by Anna. There were heart cookies, giant strawberries with a whipped cream dip, a heart-shaped peanut butter /chocolate pie or candy or whatever that was made in heaven by Bert. I brought Hershey kisses because everyone needs chocolate. Both Jane and Bert had stuff there for lunches too, so we had chicken salad, broccoli salad, and avocado & grapefruit salad, plus crackers, breads, coffee and tea. I have told Jane that if Mike ever leaves me I am going to move in with her.

We again started the day on time with most of the students arriving before the teacher. I would almost be embarrassed but I have a chauffeur (Mike) and we have a passenger. Sometimes we cannot all coordinate as well as I would like. We started the morning going over the concepts that have more to do with overall design rather than just with designing the patterns. We did tessellations, random patterns versus strictly counted patterns, and spot motifs.

Tomorrow we start with actually designing a piece of blackwork. I have assured people that we are just going to design work, not actually stitch it--unless they want to. This has calmed fears considerably, which is amazing to me. Even the most stalwart non-designers among us are taking this designing idea and taking it very well. Everyone was able to do all of the exercises today--even though they technically become harder and harder. There was barely a wail heard today. I just explained to them what to do and then they did it! It was wonderful. They were so good today.

Most of the day was spent very quietly in the classroom (Jane's dining room). People were completely absorbed in designing tessellations and then in designing a dozen original patterns. This was hard work. We needed all the valentine goodies that came our way.

One more day. I am sure the enthusiasm will stay with us. I will make sure it does.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day 2--Blackwork Extravaganza

Feb.13,Intense Pattern. The second day started on an upward note. We certainly did more laughing today. People were more at ease and consequently they were more able to absorb. Everyone caught on the the concepts, if not the first time through, then on the second time. We studies the last of the basic nets--the ogees and shells (or fish scale). Then we went on to Patterning Transitions. These are the concepts by which we can vary the basic manipulations and nets. People picked these up as if they really knew about them all the time. And they did know about them. They had just never been formally told about them or had seen them explained in black and white.

The first transition was voids, and then we went on to counterchange, overlapping/overlays, and then value changes. We went on with units & superunits and diaper patterns. Of course we ran into the controversy of what exactly a diaper pattern is. The dictionary definition seems at variance with the EGA definition. But we muddled through.

The crowning glory of the day, as far as I was concerned and none of the students were, was the ekphratic trope. That was like extra credit or a bonus question. Still, everyone weathered that.

Lunch was good. Bert brought her famous chicken salad and Jane prepared some tuna salad. The mini-muffins were still there, along with two types of quick breads. So we were all content.

This day went a lot smoother than the first. There were more jokes and more rested people. I found it almost as hard as the first day. But I am here blogging right after I got home instead of lying down, so maybe it was easier.

Tomorrow we do the last of the transitions and then in the afternoon we really go after our own pattern designing. Wish us all luck.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day One--the Blackwork Extravaganza

Intense Pattern, Friday the 12th. Mary and I arrived at Jane's house at 8:15 for the 9:00 class. I had to set up everything, so it took most of the forty-five minutes. I brought enough baggage that it looked as if I were moving in for a couple of months. Within minutes of our arrival other members of the class starting arriving too. Everyone was very punctual which is a Good Thing.

We started right at nine o'clock and after a few minutes of my explaining about the obligations of a piloter in a pilot class, we got started. I was one set of photos short, but luckily I had tucked another set in with my teaching materials so everyone had a full set. After going through the kit and explaining what we were doing--giving them a choice of either a sampler or a notebook--we dove into the patterning. First were the basic manipulations: translation, rotation, reflection, and glide reflection. Some people got off to a rocky start. Three or four of the eleven students were convinced that they were in way over their heads and that they could never do this. As I could see frustrations levels rising, I did some one-on-one with the troubled ones. Slowly they caught the gist of graphing the patterns. We were into the glide reflection when we all caught on. Glide reflection is the hardest of all the concepts in the whole class. It took me several days, when I was teaching myself, to become comfortable with it. I hope I helped these women over that hump. There was a little stitching in the morning--we needed the rest from the brain work!

Then all of a sudden it was time for lunch. We sailed through a morning break. By 11:30 we were tired. I ate my Braunsweiger and Swiss on rye sandwich, munched on my carrots, and desserted on two mini-muffins that Jane had brought in for the occasion. After a short rest, we were at it again.

In the afternoon we started on the basic networks: block, brick, half-drop, and diamond. These are easier in some ways than the others, but none are completely trivial. After I explained these, we stitched the rest of the class time until 3:30. At that time we had show-and-tell for people who brought in some of their past blackwork. It was an exhausting, but pleasurable day.

I need to explain the graphing a little more for the July class. I had made the assumption that everyone knew how to graph and I was wrong. About one-third of the class had no idea what I was talking about. The pace was about right. We did the concepts slowly, but thoroughly. Things will go a bit faster tomorrow.

One student who was busy scribbling and scribbling said that she was finished with the graph of the concept, but she had so many ideas that she was hurrying to get them all down. Another student said she could imagine the patterns she could make from the basic tools she learned. She also could see blackwork with her own patterns. Everyone completed all the graphing--and I hope they understood it. We went over several things that were harder and I had more individual time again in the afternoon. I believe that everyone is up to speed. I am amazed at how much everyone seems to like the class.

I personally could drop from tiredness, but I will not go to bed until after nine. Discipline!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Intense Pattern--The Opus

Today is a red letter day and that red letter is D. D as in Done. Yes, today I am finished finally with Intense Pattern and I am getting ready to teach it tomorrow for the first time in pilot. This class has been a year and a half in the writing, but a half a lifetime in the making. I have studied and done blackwork from the late 70s. I researched it in museums (notably the Victoria and Albert in London), from books, from pictures from museums, from articles, and from other people’s work. I have about twenty major, framed pieces, about half a dozen blackwork samplers, a 4” binder filled with samples, minor works, and experiments I have done over the years, and I have another 4” binder filled with papers, research, articles, and blackwork miscellany. I have the texts of all the classes I have taught on blackwork (maybe ten?). And, above all, I have this powerful urge to pass on my learning to others.

Marie Campbell who in 2008 was head of ESP classes asked me to write a class for her. She mentioned blackwork. ESP stands for Extended Study Program and is sponsored by the EGA. An ESP delves deeply into a subject, more deeply than even a national class might. ESPs can be held anywhere and anyone, even non EGA members, can take them. I knew I had a rip-roaring class on blackwork in me ready to escape. So I wrote up a proposal a couple of weeks later and sent in to Marie. Intense Pattern was born with national board approval.

A non-original blackwork pattern, octogon and square. This pattern is widely used both in Western embroidery and Eastern embroidery. This is a detail from one of my Mastercraftsman Color works, which were mostly done in modern, colored blackwork.

I like to do original work. More than that, I insist on doing original work. My blackwork compositions are all original and I like my most of my blackwork patterns also to be original, even though there are dozens of books out there that are filled with blackwork patterns. A blackwork pattern is the counted pattern that is used to fill and shade blackwork compositions. There are an infinity of blackwork patterns that can be developed--or if not an infinity, at least a number larger than I could ever count.

Voids, tessellation and bats. All original patterns from my work called Japanese Ribbons. The patterns in this were all adapted from printed kimono patterns.

So with the first step done, the second was to decide how the class would run--what exactly would I teach. Patterning theory, a little-known aspect of design theory, has always fascinated me, so I started there. I have had one class on patterning theory that I took in Denver at its 1995 national seminar by Tom Lundberg called Pattern Design for Teachers. From that class I started keeping a notebook on design theory. An invaluable resource and one of the most important tools I own for artistic compositions and classes.

It was in the Tom Lundberg class that I learned the basic networks of patterning. A little later, through researching books on the subject, I found the basic manipulations of patterning. For Intense Pattern, I squashed the two together and that was the basis for the class. Well, the networks and the basic manipulations were just the skeletons. To that I added other concepts that a blackwork patterner would need to know, things like counterchange, voids, diaper patterns, and tessellation. That was the second step.

Basic manipulations and other concepts from the first
Intense Pattern sampler.

The third step was stitching the sampler for the class--before a word was actually written and with just a rough outline. Ah, that sampler. People got very tired of seeing that sampler. I carried it everywhere and worked on it all the time. When I finally finished it, it was a sight to behold, bold, crazed, and packed with information. I was done with it, but I wasn’t quite satisfied. I needed another to demonstrate color in blackwork. So I started work on a second, smaller sampler that has some splashes of color and a few other concepts I had been toying with. They were like Thing One and Thing Two in my life. All I could do was think about them and wrestle with them.

The fourth step was actually writing the class. An easier step than you might think--I already had it all stitched out there in black and white (and red and purple on the semi-colored sampler.) This step was completed a year and three months after I sent in the proposal. I finished the samplers last year in the late summer and early autumn.

Color in blackwork, the simplest mode--just exchanging the black threads for violet ones.
This motif demonstrates voiding and also emotion in patterns.
Who wants bugs crawling all over their leaves?

And then the fifth step--the hardest step of all--was getting the kits together and writing the lecture notes. Yesterday I finally finished the lecture notes and printed them out. Today I put the linen in the kits and they are ready to go. It has been a long voyage and path of discovery. But I think this is my personal-best class ever.

Thanks to Jane, Ellie, Marie, Mary, Patricia, Bert, Nancy, Ann, Peggy, Jo, and Neenah for being my pilot class and for being the ones to suffer through the tweakings and false starts. You guys are the best.

Intense Pattern, the first sampler.
The vine of leaves at the bottom right section of the sampler gives it
a lively look and gives it a place the eye loves to go.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The stitchery for optical color mixing from Mastercraftsman Color.
Notice how the three ribbons seem to be
made up of at least three colors. This is an illusion.
There are only two colors in each ribbon.

The tartan partially finished. There are only six colors in this,
but optically from a little distance, it looks like more.
This is cross-stitch over every other interesection horizontally,
alternating the colors in the code of my birthdate.
Then using the same six colors in the same
order, the empty spaces are filled in vertically.

I taught today. It felt good. Today was the monthly general meeting of Sandia Mountains Chapter. This was the second meeting that I was secretary--a post I have never held before in my life. I guess I take good enough notes--no one has complained. Today I took notes in the general meeting, then I taught the meeting, and then I took notes in the nine-minute board meeting that was held afterwards. Yes, I was tired. But that didn’t stop me from going out to lunch (Rita was buying and Mary Geyer was driving) at Jason’s Deli. Also with us were Bert Kroening (who admits to being born in 1893), Jane Moses (who is recovering nicely from a broken hip and consequent surgery), and Patricia Toulouse (who was just regular--thank goodness someone was). Well, also Rita and Mary. It was delicious and in the best of company!

So I taught a class called Design Your Own Tartan that is really a class on optical color mixing. The class was fun. Everyone except a new member knew how to do the cross-stitch. (Bert did hers in tent stitch on canvas.) We used our birthdates and our own choice of thread color to give us each our unique tartan. If you would like a copy of the instructions, please leave me a message on this blog with your email address and I will electronically blitz you a copy of the instructions.

Optical color mixing is a color illusion in which two colors applied side-by-side look like a third color. The most famous artist for this was Georges-Pierre Seurat and the most famous of his works was A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Seurat called the technique he used divisionism, also known as pointillism. A tartan that is either woven or stitched gives a good idea of pointillism.

When I was doing Mastercraftsman Color, one of the assignments was to stitch a piece that demonstrated optical mixing. I chose to do it in a modern form of blackwork. You can see that piece above.

Bert did a good job presiding over the business meeting. She kept it to just half an hour. I already mentioned the short board meeting afterwards. She’s doing a good job. Everybody else kept it short and sweet--it was run like a good meeting should be run. Even though I am bone-tired tonight, I know I had a good day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tjhe Agony and Ecstasy of Proposing

"Laeta Acus"
A book simlar to Sampler in a Wee Book that was sent to Memphis, Tennessee.
Laeta Acus is now traveling the US in the EGA 19th National Exhibit and won both the Rocky Mountain Region Award and the Judge's Choice Award.

" The Bee Book"
This is a star book (when fully opened it with the back cover touching the front cover
it is star-shaped) with fourteen pocket pages.
In each of those pocket pages is a sample of a stitch on perforated paper.
There is a bee stitched onto each page too.

With great relief I sent two sets of proposals out today. One set was sent to Memphis, TN for the 2011 Tennessee Valley Region Seminar. The other set was sent to Shalimar, FL for the 2011 EGA National Seminar. Now don’t get excited. The chances of my being chosen to teach at either of these places are slim. The selection committees go through hundreds of individual folders send in by many teachers. And let’s face it, my stuff is not the most popular stuff at these learning seminars. My classes seem to be too advanced, or too original, or too thoughtful. Okay, I can be too catty, too.

The national seminar packet had four proposals in it--a four-day and three two-day classes. The region seminar had three proposals--all two-days. Region seminars are almost always just two-day affairs with region meeting taking up a couple more days, while the national seminar can have up to seven or even nine teaching days. Normally I do not send the finished project if I can take a good picture of it to send instead, or if the project is small and I can just tuck it into the proposal folder. This time for the national seminar, I only sent one finished piece--the actual book of the Book of Bees. In the Tennessee Valley proposal packet, I sent two small books also--the book from Sampler in a Wee Book, and The Little Stitchery Book. I think it is an advantage sending the finished piece, but cost and danger of its getting things dirty or creased sometimes make it not worth it.

I have taught several other people how to do proposals. Jette Finlay from England is my most famous student so far. Jette teaches Danish whitework and does a fabulous job of it. She has been to the US many times to teach at national seminars and she has been to Canada to teach also. Her husband Roy who is a magician and all-around-fun guy told me that I changed his life. I think he meant that in a good way! Jette and I lived fairly close to one another in England. I was about a thirty- minute drive from her house through the glorious countryside of western England. I met her at an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting in Newbury, Berkshire. We took to each other instantly.

Most recently I urged Annette Gutierrez-Turk to offer her colcha to national seminars. She is proposing for the 2011, so that she will have experience for proposing for the 2012 right here in our front yard--Buffalo Thunder Resort north of Santa Fe. I hope she gets both positions!

I am not sure why proposals are so agonizing for me, other than I put my heart, skill, and future on the line for theses classes, only to have all those dashed to bits with a rejection notice. When I first started out as a national teacher, I was getting about a 33% return on the proposals for several years. Then I went through a long dry spell with no classes picked up for about ten years. And now I have hope again with one region seminar in California under my belt and two more national classes that I am looking forward to teaching. So wish me luck. And hope that EGA has finally caught up with me and with what I love to teach.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hecklers, Gabbers, and Rebels

An example of my ribbon art.
This really has nothing to do with the words below.

I was having coffee at Border’s the other morning with Laura Sandison, a wonderful and inventive lacer and embroiderer. Laura has been a member of Sandia Mountains Chapter of EGA for some time, is a teacher of lace and other art-oriented things, and is also a member of the local lace guild.

We were talking about several interesting topics, including the differences between teaching children and teaching adults and the place originality plays in the art and craft of embroidery. I like to teach adults very much. They come voluntarily. They have actually paid to take the class. They are (mostly) eager to learn. And they are very grateful when you teach them some little bit. Children, on the other hand, are sometimes forced into class. They may be developmentally unable as of yet to do the small tasks of learning. Hormones rage at certain ages. And they have better things to do. Of course, Laura, who loves to teach children does not see me eye-to-eye on this subject. And I have to say that she has developed several clever strategies for keeping the monsters busy, happy, and (mostly) on track. The book I wrote with Eloise Carlston, Experimenting With Art, was written as I was teaching art in a little private grade school in Sandy, Utah. I have taught children quite a bit through my life, so I am not totally ignorant of the little rug rats. But adults--I am much better with adults, though I have had my own problems with certain adults.

Some adults come to the class with an agenda in mind that has nothing to do with learning the topic. They almost seem to be hecklers with myriad questions. It seems that they ask questions just to be asking and disrupting rather than with anything else on their minds. When I was giving a talk to the Sampler Guild up in Denver many years ago, I had one of those. She sat right up in front and wouldn’t let her topic of choice lapse after a discussion of it. I was talking about how Americans have an ethnicity to their work too. How it can be recognized around the world as purely American. And this woman wanted to talk about signing and dating works of embroidery. She came back to it five or six times until I had to ask her to talk to me further after class about the topic. But no, she wouldn’t let it drop. I was embarrassed--I didn’t know how to get out of this predicament. So I started agreeing with everything she said, wild or not, believing in it or not, I agreed. It worked. It calmed her down. What I wonder is why no one else in the audience stepped in to put her own two cents in. Maybe they knew her and knew she was damned hard to stop. Her thesis? Every piece of needlework should be signed and dated on the front of it for future generations. Well, no, I still disagree. Some needlework is not worthy of signing and dating on the front. Some needlework will be spoiled with a signature and a date on the front.

I had one woman who tried to take over the class and who literally stepped in and tried to lead the discussion. We were learning color theory in that class. The woman was the program chairman of the sponsoring guild chapter. I guess she thought she could be better at it than I was. Well, maybe she could be, but it was my class, my paycheck, and, above all, my reputation. It was a frustrating thing, but I managed to uphold my position as teacher. I did learn that sometimes teachers cannot be “nice,” but must be bold enough to step in and step on toes. I learned that some women, like the woman in the previous paragraph, cannot be reasoned with. They are not looking for reason, but for affirmation. I have learned that some people who ask endless questions are not seeking knowledge, but have some other thing in mind and don’t mind disrupting a whole class of people to get their point across.

I do have to say that now when I teach, things like this rarely happen. Are classes getting more polite? I don’t think so. I think that I finally have enough experience that people know not to try that sort of stuff. Maybe I automatically see those problems and put an end to them early. Not that everything is smooth sailing. I still get gabbers who would rather talk to their neighbors than listen to the class discussion. Though I have to say, this happens more frequently with people I know and have been associated with. Things are less formal with friends of many years.

Still, I love teaching adults way more than teaching children. Even with the hecklers, gabbers, and rebels.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The New Year in Wholesale Color

Color-Aid Paper
These examples are arranged in an adjacent or analogous color scheme. The C-A Paper is strictly controlled so that these hues are the correct ones for a color wheel.

Color-Aid Paper
It comes in about 250 colors with the hues, their tints and shades, other colors such as cyan and magenta, and a whole list of white, many grays, and black.
This color scheme is analogous with one complement.
The orange second from the bottom is not Color-Aid.

Lavender Collage
No two people can actually agree on which of the above colors is lavender. This is the reason for the strictly controlled C-A Papers and for the short list of color or hue words. The eleven hue words? red, green, blue, yellow, orange, violet, brown, pink, black, white, and gray.

At the beginning of this new year, I am starting something new. I have opened two wholesale accounts with embroidery supply companies. I worried and worried about it for several months before I was ready to dip my toe. But the reality is much easier than the long-drawn-out agitation of anticipation. But most of it turned out to be instantaneous. Easy-peasy. But let me hasten to add that I have opened small accounts for small orders. I do not have a resale license, but I do have a NM VAT number for artists. That was enough to convince both Wichelt Fabrics and Rainbow Galleries to let me make minimum orders for my classes. So now I can order fabric and silk thread for Intense Pattern, my new blackwork class.

My next area of endeavor is to get Color-Aid Papers to sell to me wholesale in small quantities. Hopefully they will accept my VAT number. That is Value Added Tax that allows artists to charge and collect taxes on their finished products. I know, I know--I didn’t want to know that much about the underside of the embroidery business either. I hope to be able to order the papers for my new color class, Pirate’s Gold, for the EGA National Seminar in San Francisco this September. Carole Rinard and I can also use it to buy paper for our ICC Rainbows Bend when this current order (by Carole who paid retail) runs out (if it runs out--depending on how many people want to take the ICC).

Today was one of the regular stitch-ins for Sandia Mountains Chapter. As usual we transact and talk about guild business for at least half of the conversation. It is a good way to put people in the know, to sound out opinions, to get advice. All of us at the meeting are officers or had been good volunteers in the past. We also talked about the origin of the two phrases: jury-rigged and jerry-rigged. Our conversations do wander far and wide. Ask Cindy Brueck for the etymology and definitions of the two. She knows!
When I told everyone at the meeting that I had finally gotten wholesale orders in for the blackwork class, only the people who were taking the class were impressed. All that worrying and wheezing about getting big companies to sell small amounts wholesale went unannounced, unacknowledged, and deeply ignored. That will teach me!