One area in which I never have any difficulty is finding inspiration.  If anything, I’m too willing and see beauty and interest in too many things.  Right now, my husband, Randy, is watching some of the post-Thanksgiving college football games and I can glance up at the commercials and see the artistic talent and incredible genius in the commercials.  The marketing wizards of television advertising create such compelling imagery, as well as often having incredible auditory stimulus.

Today we drove across the Cascade mountain range from Western Washington to Eastern, where my husband loves to hunt.  It is with a bit of trepidation that I mention this activity. I grew up in the suburbs of Seattle, and with the exception of a short couple months living in San Francisco and many years of living in the Seattle city limits, I have found myself living back in Bellevue, a short distance across Lake Washington from Seattle.  I bring this up in contrast to how my husband was raised, in the rural countryside of Minnesota.  Having been brought up in suburbia, I don’t remember anyone that I know of having guns or being a hunter.  My impression of hunters was probably pretty biased… radical right-wingers… card-carrying NRA members… although I didn’t have any real ethical problem with hunting, so long as they would eat the meat, rather than just killing for sport.  Even after several years of having been a vegan in my past (a vegetarian who eats no animal products at all, including meat, poultry, fish or dairy) and having studied the issues of being a carnivore, I feel like that hunting or fishing at least gives the animal/bird/fish some change at survival and a better quality of their life than most creatures that are farm-raised.  In contrast, Randy grew up with pheasant hunting every year with his father.  It’s a very nostalgic activity for him.  Regardless, I know that there are plenty of people who are anti-hunting.  So I tend not to mention this aspect of our life to many people, for fear of their reaction or rejection. 

mini crab-apples

As a lover of animals, I’m relieved that my husband only hunts upland birds (pheasant, quail, and chucker.)  I’m pretty good with training, both dogs and as a horsewoman.  So my participation in the past years has been to train and maintain control of our hunting dog.  Yet for the first time this year, my two teen boys passed their hunter education and I took the class with them, so I’m actually participating in the hunting.  I guess I should say for those who’ve never gone hunting, that it’s a lot like fishing… it’s a good day when you see a bird- but many times you don’t.  If you really want to bring home dinner, you pay to go to a bird farm/hunting club, where they place farm-raised birds which you buy (regardless of whether you actually get the bird or not) in a field for you to hunt.  The real joy is in being out in the field watching your dog do what he/she is raised to do and love.



upholstery fabric from restaurant

OK, how does this relate to finding inspiration?  As I said, I find inspiration everywhere.  The sky and clouds, the few lone crab-apple trees in the orchard which are inexplicably filled with fruit while most are bare, pieces of wood, fields of grain… these are a few of the things which I viewed today.  I also saw some wonderful textiles, again in everyday places- the upholstery at the restaurant we ate at, and a cute applique pillow in our hotel room. 

machine appliqued pillow at hotel

 

So where am I going with this?  I suppose that the real trick is not to just find inspiration, it’s then to act on it.  One of my next steps is to figure out how to be making art every day.  How to use all the remarkable inspiration I find (or even a portion of it) rather than taking it in and then it being forgotten.  How do translate inspiration into your artwork?  One of the many questions I struggle with at times. 

Happy Thanksgiving!  I am so thankful today to have had a relaxed joyous day with my family, as well as being able to do many of my projects.  My sweet husband did much of the cooking, to help keep me out of the kitchen, as I’ve worked very hard this year to get down to my goal weight by losing 30 lbs (and keeping it off.)  I do love to cook, but I knew I’d be tempted to taste all day long!  He did ask my support in one thing, however… clearing some space in the freezer for the leftovers.

Well, that meant that it was time to get into my dye studio- I had to use up the snow I’ve had in the freezer since last winter- time for snow-dyeing!  It’s also a great way to use up some left-over old dyes.  While the colors may not come out quite as rich or vibrant, I’ll always be able to over-dye or do additional surface design on the fabrics.  So I prepared 4 separate yards of cotton, put each in it’s own container, packed the snow on top, and poured 3 colors of dye onto each one.  It looks like giant snow cones! 

Ryan, my Viking warrior

Since I was already dyeing, I also mixed up a fresh batch and dyed a couple yards of linen.  I’ve never tried dyeing linen before, nor is it a material I use in my artwork.  The things we will do for our children!  My son, now 17, is fascinated with Viking culture and hopes to go into anthropology and/or archeology.  He’s found that there are Viking re-enactment groups, similar to the ones that put on Renaissance fairs, and has talked me into going to a holiday “Good Yule” celebration in full Viking dress.   Of course, it has to be authentic!  Last week I taught him basics of sewing on my Bernina (ok, not so authentic that we’re going to sew it by hand!) and he made his own Viking tunic out of wool.  He’s still deciding if he wants me to dye it or not (it’s currently a beige-brown.)  The linen I’m dyeing will be for a Viking apron, the style which they wore around the tenth century.  I’ll make sure to post the pictures when we have our outfits complete!

I’ve been working on encouraging my Mom to start back to sewing again, so she brought over her machine and a Christmas table-runner project which she had started.  She was having some problems with mitering the binding.  It’s easy to get confused with a mitered binding if you are used to making a mitered border on a quilt.  The process is a bit different, since you’re turning the finding to the back side.  She also some a 60 degree angles, which I admit I had to look up how to bind.  Thank goodness for Google!

Once I had my Mom going, I started working on some freemotion quilting samples from the wonderful collection by Leah Day on her FreeMotion Quilting BlogIf you are interested in improving your quilting stitches, I can’t recommend Leah’s blog highly enough.  Here is theCalm Sea” design which I stitched this afternoon.  I have several notebooks of practice samples such as this, which I  keep adding to on a regular basis.  Then, when I am ready to stitch a project, I can look through my samples and think about what would work best for the piece. 

Tomorrow I’m taking off with my husband for a few days, so I’ve packed my sketchbooks and look forward to looking for new design inspiration, as well as working on thinking through some of what I’d like to accomplish in the year ahead. 

jour·ney

noun

1. a traveling from one place to another, usually taking a rather long time.
2. a distance, course, or area traveled or suitable for traveling.
3. a period of travel.
4. passage or progress from one stage to another: the journey to success.
 



Moulin Rouge dans la Nuit
I’ve been on this journey for some time now… years, really.  It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve felt the need to look towards my destination.  Where do I want to go with my art?  How will I know when I’ve arrived?  How do I stay on track and not get distracted from my main objectives?
 



I’ve practiced goal-setting and creating plans to accomplish my goals for years, both in business and in my personal life.  I’ve seen the power of declaring your intentions publicly.  So, starting today, I’m beginning this new journey… one which I invite you to join, whether as an observer, or as an active committed participant. 
Whether I am detailing my plans for the future, documenting my ongoing progress, learning new skills, or sharing the things that inspire me to make art, I hope to both inspire and be inspired through regular writings on this blog.  I look forward to an incredible time of growth together!

Caverna Magica

To introduce you to a little of where I am currently at, here you can see my quilt, “Moulin Rouge dans la Nuit”, currently being shown at SeaTac International Airport in an exhibition named “Journeys” put on by the Contemporary QuiltArt Association (through January 2013.)  The original design is from photographs I took of the Moulin Rouge in 2009.  It is made of both artist hand-dyed and commercial cotton fabrics, which I have then freehand machine embroidered and quilted.
 


The Caves of Nerja
Also in the “Journeys” show is my “Caverna Magica” whole-cloth quilt. When I completed the dyeing of this fabric, it reminded me of seeing the Caves of Nerja, in Andalusia, Spain.  Filled with impressive stalactites and stalagmites, sections of the caves are open to visitors and are lit up with many beautiful colored lights.  I hand-dyed this piece of fabric and then densely freehand machine quilted it with cotton, rayon, and silk thread. 
 


Detail of Caverna Magica



Each day we can make a choice… to further our artistic career and take a step on the journey, or to postpone for yet another day.  When I look back at all the times I’ve postponed, I have to admit it makes me very sad.  Our time is finite here on this earth.  What do we want to leave behind?  How do we want to spend this limited amount of time?  I know that I want to create.  I want my children and hopefully others to have something tangible that I’ve created that they love and which, through it, they can feel connected to me.
 
Where are you starting from today?  Do you know where it is that you’d like to get to?  Do you have a plan for how you’re going to get there?