Friday, February 26, 2010

Peace, Love, and Intrique

We all love a little intrigue, don't we? When everything is clear, consistent and predictable we feel secure but we can get bored. A little mystery keeps us on our toes. The trick is to not have the outcome be anything grave or traumatic. I love the British detective series like Inspector Lindley or Miss Marple. It always takes me out of my day-to-day world.

I love surprises and adventures too. The trick is getting small enough doses so as not to overwhelm. It doesn't seem to happen that way though. Maybe it is just me but I feel like things are either practically stagnant, or rushing in like a tidal wave. I try to live in the moment and keep perspective on the importance (or lack of importance) of things. I also try to control the amount of chaos and uncertainty by not taking on too many things. It just seems that once one thing unexpected happens, several more follow.

Is it just the nature of life? Is our culture way too demanding and crazy? I guess it is good to have a foundation of peace and love, and go from there.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

life in a Southwestern Mountain Town #8

Yesterday was stressful, rushed, and chaotic. I hadn't slept well the night before and I was so exhausted by the end of the day. Today was much more calm, quiet, and slow moving. Still, I feel tense and out of sorts. It seems that nothing is going as it should. Something seems to be blocking any progress of even the smallest kind. The computer is freezing up, plans are being rearranged, my car is hitting every pothole, and even my cat won't curl up next to me.

In the quiet, I hear the heater going off and on. I hear the drip, drip, dripping of the icicles melting off of the roof. I look around at the clutter that I am too unmotivated to clear. I am getting work done but it seems like just barely. The sky is dark with clouds about to snow again. The piles of snow are so high that even when it is warm (47 degrees F) they can't melt fast enough. They seem like ghosts just lingering and vexing. I would love to lie on a blanket on a hillside right now, soak up the sun and fresh air, and feel the expanse of the universe and of time and possibility.

The photo is from a San Juan River trip that I took with my daughter's class a few years back. It is a beautiful area in Utah.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Textile Tuesdays : #17 - Tea Towels

I love tea and, although I rarely use one with my tea, I love tea towels. They are a little bit of decoration in my kitchen and they are a tactile, textile bright spot. I always have them hanging off of my oven door. They get grundgey but they can be washed and the more you wash them the better they get.

The textiles most commonly used are linen or cotton. They are usually thick and absorbent, but not too thick. I don't like the ones that are too thick, terry cloth, or have a sheen like polyester! Yuck!

I love the vintage ones that have souvenir pictures on them. Also, any designer fabric that makes the kitchen look stylish is good. Hand embroidered vintage or new are priceless (especially if you or someone you know has done the embroidery).

There are 177 pages of items under the tag "tea towel". There are recipes and calendars, quotes and days of the week. There are funky, retro, shabby chic, and my favorite - kawaii Japanese!

Here is a sample of some that I found on Etsy.

Sorry if they are out of order, I got overloaded with clicking and pasting and linking.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Yes You Can Shovel Snow in a Skirt

It seems the only thing to write about is how much snow we are having and how it is effecting our lives. The girls have another snow day and we are unable to go anywhere. Under these circumstances, it might seem more practical to put on some long pants, but my warm boots, thick tights, and wool skirt are just as good.

I think I'm starting to get a little boring and unfashionable with my outfits. This is partly because I have run out of cute things to wear, and partly because my imagination is weakening. I got a dose of inspiration on Friday when I met a friend in Sedona and was asked to help organize her closet and revitalize her look. I was telling her that you have to have a look or a theme in mind when you put things together. For example, a glamorous top can go with old jeans if you are going for a rock star look. The point is to be deliberate.

So I am going to try to take my own advice and see if I can get back to a stylish 4/5 skirts project. I am already thinking about my summer vacation and how little I will need to pack!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Life in a Southwestern Mountain Town #7 - Only Boring People Get Bored

The story of my life - always wanting to go somewhere, always wondering if I will get to the perfect place for me. While I was wondering, my life was happening. I have lived in many places and they have all been a mixture of good and bad. I know that a lot of it depends on my mood and my frame of mind. I don't know why I have always had this nagging urge to move.

Even when I was growing up in Michigan I thought that it was the worst place to be. Other than my friends, I refused to see anything good in it. I couldn't wait to get to California, Paris, Greece. Let's face it, California, at the beach, is a lot cooler than a Michigan suburb. But I could have had more fun and adventure in and around Detroit if I had tried.

Now I have been in Flagstaff 13 years! I never thought I belonged here and I never thought it was a permanent destination. I was always looking outward and ahead in time and space. I was always wondering what other possibilities might be out there either waiting for me - or not waiting. That is not to say that I haven't lived or gotten anything out of this last chunk of time. I raised my kids. I made great friends. I have had a few adventures, and I was able to get started on my creative business path. There have been many times that I have paused and looked around me and thought "this really is a wonderful place in some ways".

I envy my friends who love it here and would never want to live anywhere else. Either they have found the place where they feel they belong, or they have a more settled, more present focused personality. Some people think it is crazy to want to uproot and start anew. They have good reasons and they may be better off thinking that way.

I know I have "wanderlust". I don't know if it is a learned trait or genetic. I don't know if that makes me an unimaginative person, unable to make of myself whatever I want regardless of where I am. At least I am conscious of it and have tried to see it for what it is. I don't think I can fight my nature, but I try to make the most of where I am, and to take on new adventures that will bring about meaningful experiences and growth to myself and my family. I don't want to be always nostalgic for the past and dreaming of the future. I am working on being happy in the present and I think I have gotten pretty good at it.

I can tell a story of a woman and her family that lived in a south west mountain town. I can tell it with comic and tragic details. I can remember the beginning and even imagine the end - but I still see my soul somewhere else. I am not bored but I am restless.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Please Excuse Me

I know it is Textile Tuesday. I know I haven't written anything in almost a week. I think about it everyday and try to get my gift of the gab up and running. But lately I have been coming up empty. The only thing that seems to be occupying my brain is stress about parenting. I am the parent of two teen aged girls but that is not what this blog is about. I don't want it to be a place to hash over issues of drama and discipline. One day it is up, the next it's down. It is totally normal and everyone has heard it a million times. The issue for me, is to try to keep up my own creativity, set a good example, maintain my peace of mind while being a good parent. So, I am off to sew and muddle through.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Art of Sewing

This is a new treasury that I put together on Etsy. I love all the cool items related to sewing. It makes me think that my passion is shared with a growing number of cool people!

Here is the link: The Art of Sewing

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Textile Tuesdays : #16 - Calico - Not the Cat

The word "Calico" comes from the name given to a plain, minimally processed, cotton that was originally produced around the 11th century in a city in India that westerners called "Calcutta". It now has different meanings depending on where in the world one is.

In British english, it refers to what Americans would call "Muslin". In America (which is where I am from) it refers to a simple, woven, cotton covered in a small, all-over print - usually floral. Pioneer women in late 1700's and throughout the 1800's wore long, full dresses made of calico. There are loads of websites and businesses that are devoted to making reproduction dresses (possibly for historic reenactment?) and where you can buy reproduction fabrics. This one called Recollections designs and makes dresses.

Any quilting store will have walls of calico, both historical and contemporary. Hancock's of Paducah is one good on line store. Also there is Keepsake Quilting, or, for a more contemporary, designer chic, selection, check out Purl soho! They feature all the big textile designers and some you may never have heard of. You will love browsing and probably buying!

Calico prints evolved and maintained their popularity throughout the decades. They went from the Civil War era, through the 1900's and are still popular in the 2000's. They have caught the eye and imagination of historians, designers, artists and crafters.

The photos at the top are examples of just a smidge of the fabrics you can get and the things you can buy or make!

Adorable card holders from Rikrak
A little dress by Like My Dress
One of my bags made with some calicos.

The links to these 3 fabrics are in the text above:

Kobayashi, Spring Showers - from Purl Soho
Pink and Chocolate Ivy from Keepsake Quilting, #7840K
Windham Pennock Album Reproduction Strawflower from Handcock's of Paducah

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chipped Nails

I had a friend in college who was obsessed with hands. She judged people by their hands. She photographed hands. She looked for beauty in peoples' hands the way most would search faces.

I have always made my hands work and as I got older and they started to get rough and wrinkled, I thought it was a badge of honor - a sign of all my work and experience. But now, when I look at them, they look like the hands of an old woman. Really. I inherited the Irish skin of my ancestors which is thin and fragile. Now I put on lotions and gloves and try to protect them but I still use them everyday and work them. Fabrics, yarns, paints all take moisture out of the skin.

So I embrace my age. I embrace my tough side. I let them dig in. Of course, I wash them and moisturize them after.

Something I was told growing up is that chipped nail polish is a sign of a tacky person. A chip certainly destroys the dazzling, glamorous effect. Some people think that red nail polish in and of itself is tacky and/or trashy. But somehow, when I look at my nails that are severely chipped, short and spotted blood red, I feel like they go with my weathered skin. So I am keeping them around for a while longer.

You can't control what people think of you. You are not the good or bad that others think of you. I am getting older and I do work with my hands. Anyway, I am just in the mood to be a little grungy.

I am still wearing my skirts. I cleaned up my work space and I am getting my creative juices moving.

Friday, February 5, 2010

LIFE stories

I have an idea to write about people in the form of a short story. It could be people I know very well such as friends or family. Or, it could be people that I barely know, whom I have only observed from a distance or only heard about. Either way, the point would be to tell the story strictly from my point of view and focus on the things that seem important to me.

I have always been interested in the way lives play out. I think that everyone's life could make an interesting story depending on how it is framed. If you focus on the unusual, the twisted, the deep, dramatic, or disastrous, everyone has something interesting. I also think that it is sometimes easier for an outsider to see the thread of a plot without being bogged down in too much superfluous detail.

I did write a story like this one time about a friend and I gave it to her as a gift. I don't think she really appreciated it, but maybe that is because the truth is hard to see sometimes. Once when I was overseas, I was trying to describe my life here in Arizona to some new friends. I was telling the stories of a few of the people that I thought exemplified the community. I thought I was telling something mundane and trivial, but from their point of view, it was fascinating and even outrageous!

I also have a background in psychology and have always been interested in how people behave, what they choose to believe in, and why they become the people they become. I think it is interesting from an individual perspective but also from a community and sociological standpoint.

I am going to start to take notes on various people (spy on them) and then write up a story. Granted, it will have to be classified as fiction because I would not want to be held to any facts. I will not use names. I will write in the third person. I will openly profess that it is a biased creation of my imagination.

Check back.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I had a creative day on Tuesday, designing, printing, and creating new works for future bags. Yesterday was not so good. I did spend a long time writing and reflecting on William Morris and my time in London. But other than that, I felt myself slowing down. I didn't use my time very productively or even in a way that would make me happy. I can feel myself stalling and holding back from delving into my creative process. I got the prints done and I stopped. Why? Why not go on? I am not sure. I think there is some fear in me.

I was reading some blog post that I stumbled on (after going from link to link to link) and it said something like: fear keeps us from happiness, fear of failure; and in order to be happy, we have to get used to failure, to embrace it, to make it a fun thing and to learn from it. I think that is good advice and I am going to try to keep it in mind. What would happen if I went out of my safety zone? I wonder?

I think I have some bad habits and changing them could get me in a better groove. The computer and the phone are distractions that suck my creativity. I just need to have the will power to ignore them. When I want to sit quietly and take a break, I need to quiet my mind completely. I can do this.

Am I developing my discipline by doing my SKIRTS project? Maybe. I have gotten used to it and am less chaotic in my wardrobe department. I have had a few failures. Once, when I had to walk 2 miles to school in a blizzard, and once last week when I went to a party and was just feeling rebellious. Like a woman in the '30s, I just wanted to be daring and wear pants! The ironic thing was that all the women who normally wear pants everyday, were in dresses.

I forgive myself for these transgressions. I don't believe in all or nothing. I accept rule breaking and adaptation. Freud thought that women were morally inferior because they didn't have a fixed set of black and white rules that they believed in. Women tended to be more situational and understanding. To me, this is a sign of humanity and of a morally advanced mind. I started this project with an idea and at the end of the year I will reflect on its effect on me. I will see the story in retrospect with the ups and downs, the adaptations and evolutions. I am still working on making it matter.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Textile Tuesdays : #16 - William Morris

I knew who William Morris was way before I knew who he was. Like Impressionist painters, his influence and style had shown up in historic homes on school field trips, on wrapping paper and tablecloths and it was part of the backdrop of design in my world. When I moved to London, I knew a little bit about him and the Arts and Crafts Movement that he started, but I still had not looked closely at his life or work. I had not examined it from the perspective of a textile artist.

Being in London was the perfect opportunity to embrace textile design from its rich and dramatic history to its contemporary trends and technologies. It was 2001, I was about to turn 40, and it was the point in time when I decided to give up my career as a social worker and commit to my passion for fiber arts, textile design, and sewing. I decided to make textiles the focus of that year. I even wrote a book about it that I still have failed to get published. One of my heros and inspirations was William Morris.

I went and saw his works at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I got a book about him for Christmas and devoured the whole thing. There were three landmarks related to his life that I wanted to go to: Elm House (where he was born and which is now a William Morris museum), Woodford Hall (where he grew up in the Epping Forrest) apparently only a memorial plaque now, and Merton Abbey (where the print works were).

For lack of determination, energy and a good raincoat, I found it difficult to tackle all the adventures that were possible in that year. Somewhere between finding my way around, making friends, shlepping two small children to and from school on foot, researching, writing, and being a tourist, I ended the year with those places on my "next time" list. I did manage to go to the W.M. museum two years later and it was small but magical. The other two are still waiting but I don't think they are going anywhere.

Morris was inspired by designs in nature. Flowers and animals figure greatly in his work. At a time when the industrial revolution was booming, he and his cohorts advocated and lived by a philosophy of simplicity, connection to the earth, and fulfillment through working with ones hands. This was the Arts and Crafts Movement. His talents were applied to practical, tactile arts such as book printing, home decor textiles and wall paper, and ceramic tiles and pottery. He was political and published writings on his social philosophies.

He was successful in selling his products to wealthy home owners and his designs were bought and reproduced by Liberty of London. Liberty is still using many of these designs which are now classics. One of the most famous is "The Strawberry Thief" with birds and strawberries. He was influenced by Indian and Asian arts as well as Medieval art and style.

Above are some images of works inspired by or incorporating William Morris' designs. There is also a photo of the W.M. museum. From the top: The museum; a beautiful embroidery based on a W.M. design by Hands of Hope on etsy; a handmade journal by Straw House Books on etsy; a knitting bag made of W.M. print fabric by 1Elephant on etsy; The Strawberry Thief, by W.Morris off google images; The dude himself.

William Morris was a true artist who believed in the importance of beauty and creativity in everyday life. He valued crafts such as embroidery, print-making and pottery as much, if not more than, so called "fine art". He had a whole community of friends, philosophers and artisans that he worked with and with whom he created a movement. His life and work are an inspiration to me.