My Labor Day Reminiscence

I post this every couple of years because 1) it is such a special memory and 2) I am VERY sure that others share similar stories from their childhood.

Labor Day – My Favorite Day of the Year

I’d have a tough time getting to sleep the night before but when morning came I was wide awake and giddy with anticipation. Labour Day !!! It was always a big day in Windsor, Ontario where I grew up – what with Windsor being the automotive capitol of Canada. The unions were strong and what they did always had rippling repercussions throughout the city.

On this day there was always a huge parade down Ouellette Avenue to start things off in the morning. Brass bands, one after the other, and marchers – Labour’s finest – proclaiming proudly their local’s credentials. Even my Dad took part on occasion – being an active member of the American Federation of Musicians local 566 – established in 1911.

A Windsor Parade Staple

A Windsor Parade Staple

So we’d all get up, get dressed – forget about breakfast for me – I had far too many butterflies to swallow a thing! Then we’d walk a few blocks to the big intersection of Giles and Ouellette – where the Cenotaph proudly stood, find a prime viewing spot and eagerly wait for flag bearers to appear. If we kids needed a better view we took turns on our Dad’s shoulders. At 6 foot 5 he had a perfect vantage point.

The parade was fun but that was not the main attraction for me on Labour day…the best was yet to come. Fireman’s Field Day and Carnival!

Immediately after the sounds of the last band faded we quickly headed home, got in our Oldsmobile and drove to Jackson Park. The Carnival – oh I must have sawdust in my veins – how I loved that Carnival. From Labour Day and for the week after – the carnival held me in its thrall. The crowds milling about – who would be there? Chances were we’d run into a bunch of people that we knew. The sounds of the rides, the shrill calls of the guys who wanted to sell you 3 tosses at the bowling pins, the sing song of the vendor with his awesome display of pink cotton candy – all beckoned.

The rides. It was a love/hate relationship – especially with the Ferris Wheel. It held a fascination for me and I loved being at the top and seeing all the way across town. But, you see, in those days I also had a bit of a fear of heights so there was always an edge of danger lurking.

The Carnival always came through and delivered on its promise of fun and excitement. Later I found out that the reason we called it Firemen’s Field Day is that it was sponsored by Windsor Firefighters.

Okay, so far we have a parade, a carnival, wonderful family day – but that’s not all that made this day so special my friends. This was the official last day of summer – next day – school! Now, bear with me. I know that for a lot of you that wasn’t exactly what you wanted to be looking forward to the next day but I was one of the kids who loved school. New pencils sharpened and ready – just could hardly wait to start the new school year.

So Happy Labour Day (or Labor Day) my dear friends and readers. I hope you have even a fraction of the fun that I remember on Labour Day and make some of your own memories. And whether you start school tomorrow or return to work and embark on some entirely new adventure I hope it will energize and delight you.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed reading.  Please share YOUR special memories as well.  Parades, first day of school, local carnivals – whatever shines brightly in your memory.

The Value of Value

Late last year I was VERY fortunate to notice that an online class was scheduled to begin in January that seemed perfect and timely for my resolution to improve my work in 2016.

One of my most admired art quilters is teaching it (Elizabeth Barton) and the Class Title:  A Master Class in Design for Art Quilters – speaks directly to my own need to ‘polish’ my design skills and to explore alternatives.  

We are delving into a different design concept each month and in January, Elizabeth had us take a fresh look at our use of value.   After presenting a couple of possible designs to work with I settled on the following sketch – a sketch that I based on a photograph that I took after a snowfall in Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis.

JAN GG Sketch 2

My next step was to gather fabric for possible use in this quilt.  The instruction was to use a range of at least 5  values of the same color – preferably a color that included an intense dark value such as black or brown or even navy blue.   I selected black, various grays and white.  I also wanted there to be added interest with texture.  Linen helped with that as did some thread work added later.

P1000078

Some of the fabrics that I made available for this quilt are shown above.  I used dark to light gray cotton threads for stitching plus one variegated thread to thread paint a tree trunk and add texture.  I included several of my hand dyed fabrics to the mix.

I ‘cleaned up’ my sketch, enlarged it to actual size, printed it out and created my templates.

In choosing my values for color placement I had to pay attention to how the color value would affect perception of depth and distance.  I also wanted to maintain the lonely, slightly haunted mood of the original photo.   AND to keep the overall image simple and uncomplicated.

JAN GG FIN

My teacher’s critique immediately pointed out my wobbly bench and I plan to correct that. I also plan to add more fine branches to the background and am going to include some hand stitched branches to the mix.

I think this has turned out to be a great example of how color both interprets and projects mood so vividly!   I am tempted to do this same scene, at some point, outfitted in its mid summer finery.

Hacking the Cranberry Relish

This is quite an unusual Thanksgiving.  Family is scattered, I just couldn’t deal with a restaurant today, and need to rest up for a little eye surgery Monday.  So we’re staying home and harrumphing.

Except I just had to make my Fresh Cranberry Relish.  Because I always have and I always will.  So, like I HAD to, right?

So I pulled out my chopper machine, got the ingredients lined up and went to work.  Then I ran into a little snag.

My cuisinart that I’ve owned since my Macy’s adventure in the eighties was being stubborn and I couldn’t get the bowl to turn hardly at all.

So here’s a little tip if this ever happens to you – with a food chopper or other item – except I think it’s called a hack now.

The darn thing wouldn’t budge. I muttered to myself – …wish I could use WD-40 on this thing – that would fix it. But, of course..
then the light went on…..Food Spray – you know, like PAM or CRISCO or like that.. I got some out of the pantry and spritzed all the stuck parts and abracadabra the thing is working like NEW !! Yay me!🙂

 

IMG_3650

stuck part

 

 

IMG_3652

very stuck part

 

 

 

IMG_3655 Yummy Cranberry Relish to Enjoy 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYBODY!

 

 

Adventures in Shibori Dyeing

I’ve had this on my “To Do” list for years: literally Finally, after some reading, some dyeing experience and creating some suitable space for the project, I accumulated a few supplies and got started.

  • 100% cotton fabric, prepared for dyeing
  • resist material such as rubber bands, twine, flat templates in simple shapes
  • dye bath using Procion MX Indigo color
  • additives – soda ash, salt –
  • Synthrapol 
  • mask to cover nose and mouth while handling undissolved dye powder
  • elbow length rubber gloves
  • plastic sheeting to protect working surface and floor as needed

The term Shibori refers to a technique used to dye fabric.   In Japan, the earliest evidence of its use dates all the way back to the 8th Century!
Shibori is a type of resist technique in which the fabric itself is manipulated by sewing or wrapping or folding. When the dye is applied it is unable to reach the areas that have been obstructed by the folds etc. Thus, some very appealing patterns can be generated.
I enjoyed this process so much and was able to try out a variety. I folded, fan-folded, flag-folded, bound with rubber bands or twine. I even applied plexiglass shapes to the ends of my folded cloth on several occasions and bound it all together. This variety of Shibori is called Itajime.

Some bundles of Itajime ready for the dye pot:

Itajimi Round SamplesF1Itajimi Rectangle Samples

It can get a little messy – took me until the next day to get all the blue off my fingers. And yes I did wear rubber gloves. Traditional Shibori uses an Indigo dye that is complicated to use. I achieved my results with a Procion MX dye – the color indigo.

All the little bundles sitting in the dye bath

All the Little Bundles of Fabric Sitting in the Dye Bath

What I loved most? After the fabric bundles had “cured” for many hours, rinsing them off and undoing them for the great reveal! A lot of Shibori is predictable according to the specific technique. But there’s always that serendipity that the individual introduces so that each piece is unique.

Some of my results showing the bundle after it has ‘cured’ in the dye bath; then the fabric that resulted following unfolding and rinsing with tap water.

C2FanFold Rolled Bound with Rubber Bands

Fan Folded, Rolled, Secured with Rubber Bands

IMG_4015

Fan Folded, Rolled, Secured with Rubber Bands

E2Flag Fold Small Circle Itajime
Itajime, Flag Folded with round templates tied on with twine
E3Flag Fold Circle
Itajime, Flag Folded with round templates tied on with twine
Random pieces of the fabric are tied off with twine
Random pieces of the fabric are tied off with twine
A3Random Sections Tied Off

Random pieces of the fabric are tied off with twine

F2Fan Fold Itajime RectangleMG_4018

Itajime, Fan Folded Fabric, Rectangular Templates attached With Twine

F3Rectangle Itajimi Fan Fold

Itajime, Fan Folded Fabric, Rectangular Templates attached With Twine

IMG_4046

The colors lightened slightly after washing, drying and pressing.  In some cases this added to the definition.

flag folded

tied off random

I also threw in a larger piece of fabric “as is”  and now have some mottled Indigo fabric in my stash.

whole cloth dyed

All in all, a VERY satisfying afternoon of work!

I welcome your comments and questions!

The Making of Autumn Barn –

Several years ago I spent the greater part of October in Pennsylvania, readying my late mother’s home for sale. As you can imagine, this was difficult work both physically and emotionally.

One morning I decided that I needed a day off. I got into Mom’s elderly Oldsmobile and headed out in the general direction of Lake Edinboro, being careful to stick to rural roads.

Looking Across Lake Edinboro

Looking Across Lake Edinboro

I was greeted with the most beautiful Autumn displays wherever I looked. As I drove I was also treated to glimpses of rural Pennsylvania that were inspiring and refreshing to the eyes of this California girl.

Pennsylvania Highway 99 Travelling South

Pennsylvania Highway 99 Travelling South

One shabby old barn in particular caught my attention. My camera got a workout.

The Original Barn Photo

I was certain that some of these images would one day find their way into my art

P1000532 copy P1000570 P1000521

 Determine which elements to keep in the photo and which to discard.    Convert image to grey scale. Convert photo into an image suitable for making templates for quilt

IMG_2931      3black and white barn

 Assemble fabrics for construction.   I decided to use my own hand dyes and was successful with the exception of 2 that I found in my stash of commercial fabric. My goal was to use a lot of saturated brilliant color to offset the aged  and washed out look of the barn.

IMG_2936

Construct a background – All I needed was some fabric suitable for sky and some greens.  Most would end up being covered up.

Make the templates and adhere them to the fabric

Barn Window Construction

Barn Window Construction

 Determine the order of sewing down all the elements

Thread Paint the details

Sandwich and quilt the quilt

Finish the Edges

Dealing with Setbacks

Of course I was running late finishing the quilt to meet the submission deadline. So I decided to finish it pillowcase style instead of a traditional binding. Well, I tried, but that didn’t work. The quilting was too dense up to the edges and there was no way this quilt was going to be flat with that kind of a backing and edge treatment.

So I had to remove the pillowcase back and come up with something else. I determined that because the barn itself was shabby and had loose boards (think ‘threads’) all over the place, that a casual zig zag finish would be appropriate.

Of course, in the process of “turning the quilt” I had already clipped the corners. But I decided that was just fine. That little imperfection just added to the theme of this dilapidated barn in the midst of the Autumn beauty.

Barn in Autumn

Barn in Autumn

This quilt is part of this year’s SAQA Art Quilt Auction beginning online September 18, 2015

The SAQA Art Quilt Auction Begins 9/18

Prayer Flags Flying High (and mini tutorial)

I thought for sure that I had posted about making prayer flags but not so!  Prayer flags have a long tradition and they can be seen in many different configurations.   There is no right or wrong way.  There is a blog devoted to Prayer Flags at :  ThePrayerFlagProject.blogspot.com      There you will find tutorials and many examples of how various artists have interpreted and created their own Prayer Flags.  (mine are posted in March this year 2015)

I had thought about making and hanging some flags for well over a year and was waiting to be inspired it seems🙂   A few months ago I was walking down the aisle of a local craft shop and found a package of burlap banner shaped pieces in the clearance section.  The first thing that I thought of was that they would be perfect for Prayer Flags.  And if I messed up, then the investment was minimal.

There were four of these burlap shapes in front of me looking like this:

burlap for flagseach measured 5 1/2 ” by 7 1/2 “

The first thing that I did before anything else was to stay stitch inside all the edges of all the flags to minimize fraying.  Burlap frays. I didn’t mind that,  It enhanced the rustic look that I was trying to achieve.  But I did want to contain the amount.    I used black thread and a zig zag stitch and stitched each flag on every side about 1/4 inch in from the edge.IMG_3498

        I figured there was no hiding of the stay stitching so I incorporated it into the overall design

You are goiing to need to attach a narrow muslin muslin hanging sleeve attachedsleeve to the top.  Do that now by machine UNLESS you are going to use that top space for your hand stitching later.  In which case you will attach the sleeve as the last step with each flag.

inspire_dream

Gather your fabrics and threads and design your flags.  I used muslin for the inspirational words, and a variety of fabrics: cheesecloth, bits of organza, felt, burlap.  Use whatever your design calls for!

hope_loveI also added a few beads, some ribbon and buttons and hand stitched with embroidery cotton of various sizes.      

The final step was to string the four finished flags together by running a length of hemp through the sleeves.

Details of the Four Flags Belowdetail_hope

detail_loe

detail_inspire

detail_dream

Monoprinting with a Gelli Plate – Yes It’s Addictive!

So I’m trying to get back on track and catch you all up with what I’ve been up to for the past 5+ months.  Only a PART of that time has been non art related – boo-hoo, but it will be in the future🙂

Rather than try to squish it all into one post I want to tell you about an exciting day I had about a month ago making mono prints.  How many of you broke down and bough a Gelli plate when they came out?  Or at least were tempted to?

Well, I did, and it has been very busy collecting dust – well except for once when my friend and I got together and messed around with some fabric; neither of us knowing what we were doing.

So a local Art Supply store sponsored a half day workshop – a ‘how to’ to create mono prints with a Gelli Plate and I was first in line.

I can’t go through ALL that I learned that day but it was extremely productive and in addition to some beautiful prints that I brought home with me – here are the main points that I picked up.

1.  It can get messy: Do your printing in an area that can withstand the mess of spattered paint – get dressed with that in mind as well.

2.  Use OPEN acrylics.  Yes they made a huge difference!  I suppose if you’re very sure of yourself and can work very quicky you could get away with the much shorter drying time of regular acrylics.  But for a novice like me – or if you want to work extemporaneously, do use the Open type.

3.  Have a variety of objects at the ready to make marks.  Make sure that none of them are too pointy.  You don’t want to damage your plate.

4.  Use every bit of paint left on your plate – have a journal at the ready for instance so you can use the leftover paint to start backgrounds.

5.  Become intimately familiar with the color wheel and which colors NOT to mix together if you want to avoid mud.

6.  Just let ‘er rip – Use your imagination.  What’s the worst that can happen?  You’ll have an ugly print which you can then gesso over and reuse.

I’m eager to show you some of what I brought home with me that day.  Most of these were done on printing paper; some on card stock, and a few on 140 wt watercolor paper.

Next up – as soon as I can work in a day – will be fabric prints!

Some cards using Monoprint techniques with a Gelli Plate:

2 color monoprinted cardbronze_copper_card

Using Stencils with Monoprints

Using stencils in various combos

Trees blue_monoprint

trees_duo_monoprint

Some are even suitable for framing themselves; others can be used in whole or in part in other pieces.

IMG_3280

bronze and more  monoprint

bronze spiral Monoprit3color_monoprint

And look at what you can do by cleaning off your brayer on a sheet of printing paper!!!  🙂

red_yellow_monoprint_edited-1blue_purple_monoprint

Tee, hee – Not bad for brayer cleaning, huh?  I won’t tell if you won’t tell!

Who wants to try mono printing next?

A Few Christmas Memories from a Jewish Grandmother

Abby peeking

 The earliest memory I have of Christmas was when Santa came into our living room, unannounced, and handed out cookies to my sister and I. We were so young at the time that my brother wasn’t even born yet! We found out later it was our elderly (she was assuredly younger than me at the time) next door neighbor Mrs. Dubs. We should’ve been tipped off by the hermit cookies she was famous for. But at ages 2 and 4 we were too ready and willing to believe it was really Santa. And I must admit, just a teensy bit scared of this bouncy red clad intruder.

A couple of years later – a bigger deeper voiced Santa appeared – very jolly and carrying lots of gifts. I remember not being quite sure of the situation – my little sister wasn’t either – but we were delighted nevertheless. It wasn’t until much later that we learned it was our daddy himself!

It was around that time, maybe a couple of years later that our mom would take us downtown and we’d visit Santa himself at Smith’s Department store. We’d then visit the perennial Christmas exhibit set up on the walkway between Smith’s and Bartlett’s (the snooty store). It was one of those you used to see with miniature mice sitting around playing cards and yet more mice jamming away on their musical instruments with appropriate Christmas music playing in the background.

We LOVED it and couldn’t wait to go see it each year.

 But it wasn’t long before that display was overshadowed by the one across the river. We’d all get on the bus at the Tunnel in downtown Windsor for the short drive across to the states. Once on the other side we’d trek on over to Hudson’s and join the throngs already assembled to ooh and aah at the window displays there. To this day I haven’t seen anything to quite match the magic and fascination of those Christmas scenes. There’d be anything and everything from solemn nativities to Santa’s elves at work to children singing around a beautiful twinkling tree.

 And I am so glad that my elementary school years were well before the years of rigid political correctness.   We had a Christmas pageant every year and for many of those years I got to sing in the choir. And I enjoyed every moment of it. As a little girl from a Jewish home who was simultaneously learning Torah and Hebrew, it didn’t bother me one bit that we were singing Odes to the birth of Christ. To me it was a time of fellowship and joy and I belted out those carols with gusto!

 And so I wish to all of you – whatever your personal beliefs may be – enjoy this time of year for the sheer joy of it. If your personal beliefs differ then take the opportunity to focus on the good in people. I believe that is always essential and especially when day after day we are reminded of the worst.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a very Happy 2015 to all!