Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The past two days here in NY have been lovely, weather-wise.

A couple iphone snaps of sky and light.
Stuck in traffic in Bushwick.
Walking to the subway in Soho.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Well, so much for stopping to clean up.
But it's done! The top at least. I would do some things differently if I were to do it again. Not so sure I love the degree of difference in the widths of the black borders. Think I should have kept the variation within a narrower scope. Also, maybe would have kept the light blue centers more ordered, less crazy-quilt like. Something I like: the black fabrics I used. I've shied away from using black fabrics in my quilts to date—it always seems to dominate too much. But I think now it's use is more about balance (like everything, I guess). It does provide a nice deep contrast for the deeper blue.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


On the quilting front, anyway. Terrible camera phone picture. I often think to myself at this point in a quilt, Oooh! I'm almost done! I can wrap this baby up by the end of the day! This never fails not to be the case. I don't even know where this weird surge of optimism comes from, but it invariably does. I thought it this very morning, as a matter of fact. And now, as we approach early afternoon, with no finish in sight, I think to myself, Everything always takes longer than you ever think it will. Please try harder to remember that.
I need to stop now and try to clean up my studio. The amount of crap on the floor is actually impeding my ability to move back and forth from the wall to the sewing table to the ironing board. I like to make a big mess. Then I like to clean it up. Both are pretty satisfying. But I like to pick when I do either, not be forced into them, as I am right now. Oh well. No denying. Going to start tripping on stuff and like bust a hip or something if I don't. Srsly. Check it out:

Monday, December 22, 2014


We had a terrible thing happen in my neighborhood over the weekend. Two uniformed police officers were murdered while sitting in their parked patrol car. It happened not that far from where we live, in an area I travel through daily while running errands, getting groceries, etc. I am horrified that this has happened and feel heartbroken for the families of those officers.
Last weekend my husband and I attended the Millions March here in NYC. We walked for a couple of hours until my feet were too cold to continue. At both that march, and one I had walked in just after the non-indictment of the officer in Eric Garner's death, there were some marchers chanting slogans I refrained from joining. Any slogans indicting the whole of the police force as racist, or comparing them to the KKK, I was like, nah, no. Not useful.
In any large demonstration there are inevitably going to be folks who join in with their own particular axe to grind. But the more inflammatory rhetoric of some marchers should in no way discount the larger demand being expressed. That there are systemic injustices happening within our criminal justice system that have to be corrected.
Both here, and in Ferguson, those injustices have fallen most obviously along race lines. In Ferguson, one (legitimate) complaint was that the (primarily white) police force didn't reflect the racial make-up of the population that they patrolled. But this isn't the case in NYC. The police officers assigned to oversee the demonstration were as diverse racially as the folks demonstrating. Promoting greater diversity in the Ferguson police force is a valid and worthy goal, but by no means the primary solution to the problem. And not the problem here in NYC.
I think this city is at a fairly critical juncture. There exists the possibility of real and meaningful change on an institutional level. There exists also the very real and equal possibility of a tragic slide backward. There is a momentum behind some of the pretty dramatic changes happening in our civic environment—the decriminalization of pot, the reform of the stop-and-frisk policies, a more critical look at the "broken windows" theory of law enforcement. But there are invariably people who will use a terrible event as an opportunity to inflame prejudice and discord. I really, really hope we can get it together as a city and take a hard and critical look at ourselves. I really, really hope that it doesn't devolve into finger-pointing and hard lines and entrenched positions. I guess we'll see.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

new quilt

I started a new quilt about a week and a half ago. I had been working on a different new quilt, one I intended as a gift to someone. That one is now sitting in pieces on a shelf. I was sort of bored with it, and unconvinced that it was working. It was bumming me out. So I said to myself, well, f*ck it. Start something new you can feel excited about. So that is what I did. The inspiration was this dress I found on Pinterest.

I'm kind of smitten with spiderweb quilts right now. More ideas are percolating.

QuiltCon 2015

I got the happy news yesterday that one of the two quilts I entered into the show was accepted. I was surprised by the one they selected. I thought for sure if they picked any, it would be this one:
but it was this one below, that I entered because, well, why not, that they picked. I guess it just goes to show you never know what people will respond to, eh?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


That media diet I mentioned last week? Yeah, not so much. I didn't last an entire day off Facebook. I did stay off the Times and New York Mag websites for a couple of days, at least. And I managed to cut the near constant stream of NPR to something more like a trickle. Perhaps it's enough to practice mindfulness with media consumption? I did feel better after limiting my intake instead of allowing myself to obsessively "check in" all day. Ah, well. It's a process, I guess.

Anyway, here is a screen capture of a kind of awesome quilt I noticed while watching that PBS documentary on the Roosevelts a while back. I'm guessing those are names embroidered on it? Should research that - maybe school mates or something? Hmm.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

hello holidays

Man! Back again? Weren't you just here?

Friday, December 5, 2014

media diet

I think I need to go on a media diet. Maybe for a week and see how I feel. I'm finding myself obsessively clicking on the NYTimes for updates about the Eric Garner protests (I joined the march last night for about an hour. Walking down the middle of Canal Street during rush hour is a weird experience alone, leaving aside the context momentarily) and I am allowing way too much bad news to enter my head space. I just read about the mass exodus at The New Republic, the flawed journalism of the UVA rape story at Rolling Stone, and am feeling despair at the state of all things American. No Times, no Gothamist, no Facebook for a week. A sort of cleanse. Yep.

random quilt sighting

Photo of Jasper Johns, but check out that sweet quilt.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Art Quilt Gallery NYC

When I was at City Quilter a couple weeks ago, I popped into the Art Quilt Gallery next door. They currently have a show up of Erin Wilson's quilts. I took a few photos with my iphone until the battery died.
Her work is detailed and extremely precise. The top photo, the grid of 6 squares, each square is like 5 inches by 5 inches. She has some seriously teeny weeny piece work. Her palette is lovely, too. Her fabric is hand-dyed. I've always wanted to be able to work with hand-dyed fabrics—it's always seemed like the only way to really be able to explore complex color relationships. But my home efforts with dye have always been kinda disappointing. And I've never really felt like they could be laundered regularly without issues. Here is a closer version of the above piece (which is 24"x33"):
I can't imagine working with the fabric slivers she uses. Working this way would be a short trip to crazytown for me—my policy is to dispose of any fabric scrap smaller than 2" square. But I think it's lovely that she can make work this way. The show is up until December 13, for anyone in the NY area. Here is one more photo I got before my phone crapped out:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

working on

A blurb book to give to my sister for Christmas. She actually asked for one, specifically, after seeing the two that I had made for Linda after our trips to Europe. Or I wouldn't be foisting one on her. I had started a new book for myself, to mark 5 years in New York, and will gift her with a copy.

wee quilt for a wee bairn

Theoretically, anyway, since I don't currently have any babes in my life. No matter! I've kept busy over the holiday sewing up all the small leftover triangles from the geese on Lily's quilt. I think I will add some fabric panels to the sides, while keeping the block of triangles off center. 
The marbling background texture is much less apparent in person.
I ran across this fabric at Cityquilter last time I was there that I'd never seen before—it is a version of the constellation mural on the ceiling of Grand Central. It evidently also comes in a greenish blue that is closer to the actual ceiling, but I bought a FQ of this cream version with gold ink printing. I really quite like it. It reminds me that I had thought once about doing a more directly inspired quilt from elements of Grand Central's architecture, but what do you know! That never happened. Ahem.
My ironing board cover looks disgusting in this photo, I realize. I replace the covers with some regularity, and only ever iron clean fabric so how do they get so gross? Is it the NYC tap water I use to spritz it? Yechh.

Monday, November 17, 2014

just beauty

Piebald python on the left, a Frank Stella painting on the right.

thinking some thoughts, crabbily, and without much of a conclusion

So last Wednesday night I went to this thing, an event, in the city. It was one in a series of talks titled "Raising the Bar" - the general premise being, let's get some experts/academics to give talks about interesting/timely subjects, and instead of a stuffy hall or classroom or library let's hold it in bars. Which, frankly, I'm totally down for. Listening to smart people say smart things while sitting comfortably enjoying a little pinot grigio or what-have-you is all kinds of okay by me.

The talk I attended seemed promising in the teaser promo email:

Shake It Like An Instagram Picture
"As technology has necessitated picture perfection, instagram has given its users a platform to provide aesthetically pleasing insights into their lives. While it has exposed its users to photographic and cinematic appreciation, it has had a detrimental impact on the industry it revolutionized; photography. Amateur instagrammers can become famous overnight without any knowledge of fundamental photography. As a result, Instagram’s growth poses important questions for major photographers and their patrons. Amidst photography’s technological innovations, who will come [out] on top?"

and the speakers seemed promising, too:

Jose Silva, Instagram Photographer
Tamara Peterson, Instagram Photographer
Anne Nelson, Associate Professor Lecturer of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Michele Romero, Photo Editor, Entertainment Weekly

When I arrived, instead of the pleasantly divey bar I had anticipated - you know, dimly lit with well worn booths - it was a disco. Yeah, it was in a CLUB, not a bar. With a bouncer at the red-roped door, mirror ball, DJ and 1980's Madonna playing at ear-drum splitting volumes. And drinks priced to match. After paying $14 for my plastic dixie cup of mediocre white wine I parked myself in a chair against the wall and waited for the talk to start. And waited. And...waited. Fully 30 minutes after the "start" of the lecture, the panelists finally took their seats. 
Get into the groove / Boy you've got to prove / Your love to me, yeah
I was annoyed at this point. So I began a conversation with myself (not out loud) about why I was feeling so irked. Was it because the crowd was mostly 20-somethings and the music they were  playing came out when I was in high school? Was it because I had just been charged a ridiculous mark-up for my plastic thimble of wine even by Manhattan standards? Usually I can squash those sorts of feelings and carry on and have a good time, but I was having trouble reigning in my over-all annoyance at the scene-iness of the whole situation. But having committed to the evening, I stayed seated.

The moderator, of sorts, was the photo editor from Entertainment Weekly, who began by reading aloud a version of the promo teaser as if she had only just been apprised of the lecture's direction and had little intention of actually shaping the discussion with it. Not good, thought I. I began to fear the whole evening was going to be a colossal waste of my time.

Those fears were swiftly confirmed when the following non-introductions of the other panelists proved to be a bigger schmooze-fest than the usual in these sort of things. Romero opened by relaying the number of followers each of the two Instagram photographers had (over 100,000 for one and close to that for the other) and then joking not joking, asked them if they'd follow her, her numbers could use a boost. The questions she then posed to the Instagram stars and the answers that followed were so inane that I can scarcely recall them in detail.

There was one flickering moment where Anne Nelson (who has an amazing resume - you should google her) ventured forth a more critical assessment of the impact iphone photography was likely having on previous standards of craftsmanship and what it might mean. You know, a thought with some substance and in line with the premise of the purported discussion, but that was met with general indifference, and the circle jerk of mutual admiration continued apace.

And in my head I'm thinking, Yeah, not so good. Should've stayed home and watched that last episode of The Bletchley Circle. I had expected a lively sort of discussion, with people thoughtfully considering the implications of social media and digital imagery on photo "standards" and "professional" practice and some debate and back and forth about what it all might mean. Kinda like how it was in grad school. But without the crippling depression and poverty. But I digress.

In the past year I've been contacted a couple times through my flickr account about photo usage. Once by Travel + Leisure magazine and more recently by BuzzFeed. Travel + Leisure wanted to know if they could use a pic I'd snapped at the Des Moines airport a couple years ago. They were doing an article about the 10 worst airports in the U.S. and needed an illustration. Doubtless they had neither the desire or budget to send someone to Des Moines just to take a snapshot of their airport, so instead some (doubtless underpaid) photo editor did a search on flickr or google and my image showed up. There would be no money for the use of it, of course, just a credit. I turned them down. 

For the Buzzfeed request I said yes, though I really shouldn't have. They asked me for use of a photo I'd taken of a Brooklyn bar and my thinking was, well, at least it's exposure for a local business. Also they asked really nicely. It was a moment of weakness. Again, no money, but they offered to link to my blog in the credit, so I said, whatever, okay.

Lots of people have articulated why it is bad for artists to work for free.* Even if you are one of those rare and fortunate souls who doesn't need to generate income from their labor, doing so has an impact on those artists (99%) who do. In short, it undermines the value of the labor we perform in the marketplace. It solidifies the misperception that the work we do isn't a real job, like plumbing or lawyering or accounting. 

Although detailing these two flickr interactions might feel like a bit of a detour from my original complaint about the event I attended, they feel of a piece to me. I think it likely has a generational component, as well. There was a pretty wide age gap between the members of the lecture panel - and I had mostly wanted to hear more of what Anne Nelson (someone with a long and varied history, easily 20+ years older than the two Instagram photogs) might have shared. I had anticipated that she might have some real insights about the current status of photographic cultural production. But instead it was just...really superficial talk about how to become popular on Instagram.

*the following links are to artists/organizations exploring the link between design/labor/money
Jessica Hische, http://www.shouldiworkforfree.com/

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

just beauty

Betta Half-Moon fish on the left, a child's Victorian mourning dress on the right.

Monday, November 3, 2014


Done! And I'm actually really, really happy with this one. I "designed" the quilting pattern, but the actual hard work of stitching went to Cami Cress at AAQuilting.com. I think she did a spectacular job and I couldn't be more pleased.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's hard to feel incompetent. Well, I mean, it's actually easy to feel incompetent (even easier? being incompetent). It's only hard, of course, on one's ego. Unfortunately, it seems an inevitable part of learning something new. This is what I keep telling myself, anyway, while I struggle along in my attempts to rebirth myself as a fabric designer. Yes, another quilter who wants to also design fabric! Quelle suprise, no?

I really should be learning HTML and other useful things like that. Instead I am pursuing a midlife career shift that will likely be even less remunerative than being a publication designer. What can I say? I like doing things the hard way.

To that end, I've started a textile design class at F.I.T. Specifically, designing for textiles in Illustrator. It is geared by default for the fashion industry, but the class is quite small - only 4 students - so the fact that my interest veers a bit can be accommodated. Our first class was this past Thursday. We are working with the pen tool, and though I've used Illustrator for years, I've certainly never mastered that particular tool.

Actually, I've begun to think of myself as the Queen of the Workarounds. Being a largely self-taught graphic designer I've always tended to work technical things out in whatever fashion was handiest/quickest. It's past time that I learn how to do them correctly, but lawd is it painful. I have so many ideas, though, that I am willing myself to endure feeling like an idiot in order to actually realize them.

Homework for this week is to create a mood board for the designs we will be creating. My starting point is going to be a beautiful fabric from a book I have of Frida Kahlo's clothing. I know Frida Kahlo has been mined to death as a source of inspiration for artists and designers, but I don't care. I'm really interested in working with a super-saturated color palette. Chartreuse, purple, red, turquoise. Can't wait!

Done! Ready for class.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Goodbye sweet girl

Shortly after her arrival, still wearing the animal control collar.
Last Sunday we had to say goodbye to Violet. It was sad and hard.
I wish it had been easier on her - her last few hours involved a frantic drive to the emergency clinic through slow-moving Sunday afternoon traffic. I held her, and tried to soothe her, but to what extent that was at all helpful, who knows.

I wish her death could have been softer - it's hard to be responsible for a sick animal, so hard to try to anticipate the end and ease them into it. But some days are better than others and it's hard to give up hope that tomorrow will better, if you just wait.

It's okay, though, I know we loved her and did the best we could for her while she was with us.
Violet helping Steve with some UX work.

Friday, October 24, 2014

in other news

Artwork by Erwin Wurm. Love his name.
Wouldn't this make an awesome Halloween costume? I am in love with this idea. I mean, I don't know how you would actually see out of it, or how you would get anywhere in it, but still!

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Last week I went to Philadelphia for two days. In the past I've flown into it and driven past it, but never really seen it as a proper visitor. I'm not sure that two days constitutes a proper visit, but I was still able to see some interesting stuff while I was there.

We stayed in the city center, at the Loews Hotel, which was quite nice. The first morning I even roused my lazy butt sufficiently to use the lap pool. In the afternoon I walked a couple blocks over to the Fabric Workshop and Museum.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect at FWM. I suppose I thought it would be like going to the Cooper Hewitt. Fabric swatches or samples on walls, a lot of explanatory text, some archival photos. There was definitely an element of that, but a lot more and overall, one of the more memorable museum experiences I've had in a while.

The entrance is marked by a bright pink, orange and red sign (so awesome). Upon entering you are greeted by an attendant at a desk who asks for your name and zip code. No admission fee, only a donation jar. I assumed I would be able to roam the museum at will, but was informed that no, I would be given a guide. There wasn't a guide immediately available (this seemed crazy to me - that each visitor had an individual guide - I could only assume that they didn't have so very many visitors?) so instead I joined a tour in progress (consisting of two women).
The first two rooms held a video installation about a master indigo dyer (maybe someday this sort of thing will interest me, but as of right now, snore) and a series of blueprint renderings of Japanese furniture with tiny, spotlit reproductions of them on a shelf. And by tiny, I mean thumbnail scale. I wasn't able to linger long enough to figure out what that was all about though, because we were moving on to the next exhibition. We exited the entrance I had just entered and walked down the block to the next storefront. Our guide unlocked a door and we were in a new exhibition. This was a room with a "Shaker-inspired" exhibit. Paintings were cradled in these odd hook things that hung off pegs in the wall. A very cool braided rug dominated the front area, and, if one was so inclined, one could crawl through the fireplace opening to a second room, which had a configuration of branches hanging from the ceiling and strobe lights going off. It was like a tiny, weird, woodland disco.
Pretty sure Shakers didn't really decorate their walls, but, interesting.
Look at that rug! Love it.
This is when the other ladies departed, having seen the rest of the museum's offerings, and I had our guide to myself. Unfortunately my guide had only started working there 3 days prior, so she hadn't much to share in terms of insights about the work. I collected the printed info on display as we made our rounds thinking I'd read it later (still haven't, ahem).

We returned to the part of the building where we had started and took the elevator up several floors. The first stop was on a floor featuring the work of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. There were a couple fabric designs I really loved - the first was a reproduction of a tablecloth fabric used by somebody's grandmother with a double black line overprinted in a tossed pattern on top. It was the quintessential 1980's MTV looking sort of thing. The second was a riff on those old black and white composition school book covers.
These 2 images are not mine, for the record.

The next floor displayed fabric screen printed by student apprentices at the Museum (thus, the workshop portion of the name) and a video documentary of them in action. The final exhibit was a video installation exploring Black male identity. Oh yeah, there were also a couple rooms somewhere in there with work by Philadelphia photographers. So, yeah, not nearly what I had anticipated in terms of, you know, looking at fabric. But, still, cool overall. Would recommend.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Dying Cat is making me sad. She's here by my elbow as I type this on my laptop in bed. Dying cat has a lot of problems, though they all pale in comparison, of course, to the fact that she's dying. She has anemia and ringworm at present, having recovered from the upper respiratory and eye infections she arrived with. But mostly what she has is FIP, an incurable, always fatal sickness.

She's been here about 6 weeks. She arrived while I was on a road trip with my sister. I was only gone for 2 weeks on that trip, but a lot happened on the foster cat front in my absence. One whole cat came and went. This cat was a Russian Blue, the same as our very first beloved cat, Milos (rest in peace). My husband felt a little sad to let her go, so Eva (the woman from the rescue group we work with) pulled another gray cat from the Animal Control kill list to replace her. Steve bonded with this new gray cat as well. New gray cat (aka Dying Cat, aka Violet) initially seemed mostly just very underfed. Skinny as hell, and with the already mentioned health problems, but not anything that love, devotion and food couldn't fix.

But after a couple weeks she wasn't putting on any weight. She seemed, in fact, to actually be losing weight. Petting her was like stroking a steel folding chair. All sharp angles and hard edges.

I took her to the vet. Then I took her to another vet. Long story short: Feline infectious peritonitis.

According to her shelter record, she was owner surrendered. My guess is that her owner knew she was sick and couldn't or wouldn't deal with it.

When we first decided to foster cats, I knew that practicing detachment would be key. Providing affection and care, of course, but with a constant understanding that they would be temporary boarders. That we would function as a conduit - a happy in-between place. And understanding, as well, that there would always be more. Always more. As soon as one cat went out the door, another could come in.

But Violet will stay, for however long she has left. And I try not to be sad, because being sad is useless.

It is rainy and gray today, truly chilly for the first time this season. The sun is setting earlier and earlier and I try not to take it personally.

Monday, September 22, 2014

paper quilts

Much earlier this year (February or March) I visited the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in Chelsea. They were showing work by an artist named Stephen Sollins. He makes paper "quilts" from used envelopes. They were really lovely. I've had these pictures kicking around on my desktop for months now - time to post and share, even if the exhibition is long over.
From an interview he did last year describing his work: “I am interested in using the geometry, grids, and systematic approaches of high modern, minimal, and conceptual art, in part to show how they do and do not relate to more popular and sentimental forms.”

Initially my thinking was that it must be far easier to get precise corner matches using cut paper and glue than it is using fabric and thread. But he evidently "seams" all the pieces together on the backside with tape, not glue on a substrate. That doesn't strike me as a great deal of fun to do. I can imagine my fingers all sticky with bits of cut tape and the tape sticking to everything and having teeny pieces of paper sticking everywhere and so on. Ugh. Doubtless he has worked out some process that I can't quite imagine that enables him to craft these things without losing his mind. I should probably do a little more research on him. He's pretty cute, I think, in that tattooed greying hipster sort of way. Photo snagged from Bard College website.