A Year in Review – Updated!

A few days ago, when I wrote about my art quilt, “A Thousand Suns”, I was pretty happy with its success.  It was created in response to a call-out by C&T Publishing through its Creative Troupe: the challenge was to use a new mixed media surface design product called “mul-tex”.  My art quilt was posted in C&T’s photostream on Flick’r, and the image is being used on the mul-tex packaging (!!!)  (There are links to all of this in my earlier post.)

And here’s the icing on the cake:  “A Thousand Suns” was also featured on the C&T blog on May 25, 2012, as a free mul-tex project.  Now, while no one’s going to duplicate this little quilt, I think the project directions will give people ideas for using mul-tex in their own work.

And it feels great to be published!

A Year in Review

Sometimes it’s best to wait awhile before reviewing and/or passing judgment on events of the past.

Take 2011, for example.  Except for a flurry of bindings, hanging sleeves, and labels to prepare art quilts for the “Journey” fiber art show held by Art Quilters Unlimited, Fort Myers, FL,  in January,  I completed only four art quilts in 2011.

Buying LocalOne of them was, I thought, pretty successful.  I intended to create a still life using intense machine stitching on a photo transfer (using techniques from  Carol Shinn’s book Freestyle Machine Embroidery) and that, I think, was what I accomplished.  “Buying Local” will travel with the Michigan Quilt Artist Invitational in 2011 and 2012.


I was also pleased with the second piece, “Asili”, which incorporated a collaged “canvas” I began years ago in a class with Fran Skiles, together with mud cloth and African beads I had been collected.

After it was rejected by two shows, I was beginning to doubt this piece, but this year it was juried into an exhibit sponsored by Quilt Surface Design Symposium International called “Celebrating Our Past: QSDS” to be held at the Ross Art Museum in Delaware, Ohio, this spring.  Lesson learned!


The third piece  was more experimental.  Early in the year I signed up for the Creative Troupe, sponsored by C&T Publishing.  When a “call” came out for projects based on a special “paper surface” intended for use in mixed media projects, I quickly applied, received a piece of the the special surface, and began experimenting with different materials and techniques.

“A Thousand Suns” incorporates extensive free motion quilting; stippling with ink stamp pads; thermofax screen transfers; painting with fluid acrylics; and highlighting with colored pencils.

I sent it off to C&T, where it was eventually shown on their website when the product “Mul-tex”, a laminated mulberry fiber sheet, was publicly introduced.  The photo of my quilt is here; information on Mul-tex – which is really a pretty cool material – is here.

I was only moderately happy with my work, especially seeing it in the context of other projects that were submitted, but it was fun playing with the paper and the different techniques.  Here’s part of the sample I worked with.



And at least the assignment was complete — except for receiving my complementary package of Mul-tex.  But when that arrived recently, there was another surprise.  Here’s the package: notice the packaging?  Click on the photo to get the full effect.

Yes, that’s MY quilt on the front.  Wooohooo!





And the fourth piece?  Well, at this point it seems to have been simply a failure.  But given what’s happened with those other two quilts, I think I’ll wait awhile longer before making that decision final.


A note about my links to book titles: Book titles are linked to the site of McLean & Eakins, an independent bookseller in Petoskey, Michigan. They sell online, and their service is outstanding. Yes, you can undoubtedly buy these titles cheaper on Amazon, but, you know, I think keeping independent bookstores in business is more important.

Finding the Everglades

On Tuesday I went to find the Everglades.

That should not have been difficult, considering that the original Everglades ecosystem covered an area twice the size of New Jersey, extending from present-day Orlando south to Florida Bay, and the present-day (much smaller) Everglades National Park covers 1.5 million acres, only a little less than the state of Delaware. But much of that original Everglades ecosystem is long gone, replaced by sugar cane farms, houses, shopping centers, airports, Miami, and, yes, Disney World. Most of the National Park is accessible only by canoe or kayak (activities not on my agenda!), so most visitors, especially those from the west side of Florida, can only touch the edges of the wilderness.

I set out for the Gulf Coast Visitors Center of the Park. The directions were simple enough: take I-75 (aka Alligator Alley) east toward Miami, turn right at Exit 80, and then drive until the road ends. It turns out that the road (SR 29) actually ends at the Smallwood Store, an historic building and museum on Chokoloskee Island. The Visitors Center is about four miles north of that, in Everglades City. Once there, I took a pontoon boat ride out into the 10,000 Islands area, had lunch in a seafood shop overlooking the Barron River, and then on the way home stopped at Wooten’s for an airboat ride in the Big Cypress National Preserve.

So what motivates a very fair skinned, middle-aged woman to spend nine hours traipsing around southwest Florida, by herself, under a hot April sun, looking at mangroves and sawgrass? In my case, three things: TAQS, Hodding Carter, and the State of Pennsylvania.

TAQS is the Taiwan Art Quilt Society. Last year TAQS announced a call for entries for the Taiwan International Quilt Exhibit 2012. When I first saw the announcement, I thought, “how exceedingly cool to be in an art quilt show in Taiwan!” but nothing – absolutely nothing – came to mind on the theme: “river and moving water”. Nonetheless, I downloaded the prospectus and tucked the exhibit and theme away in a corner of my memory.

In January, on one of my visits to the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel, I noticed, in the gift shop, the book The Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1947), along with several books of gorgeous photography by Clyde Butcher. “River of Grass” — now there’s a image! But neither Mrs. Douglas’s luscious prose nor Mr. Butcher’s gorgeous photos gave me quite the approach I needed.

On the other hand, *Hodding Carter’s book, Stolen Water: Saving the Everglades from Its Friends, Foes, and Florida (2005), found at the local library, had the right blend of humor, facts, and outrage – after reading it, I wanted both to see this environmental treasure and to create something protesting its desecration.

Michael Grunwald’s The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise (2007), provided a further description of the current situation, although his depiction of Florida politics is stomach-turning.

Despite Grunwald’s title, the Everglades are not a swamp. Originally, this ecosystem began in the watershed of the Kissimmee River, which once meandered 103 miles through central Florida, collecting groundwater to flow into Lake Okeechobee. During the rainy season, “Lake O” overflowed into the Everglades, feeding a vast, shallow, slow moving river – 60 miles wide and 100 miles long – that flowed into Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Since the first white men came to Florida, they have talked of “taming the swamp”. During the last century, they have channeled the Kissimmee into a series of straight ditches, dammed up Lake O, directed millions of gallons of “excess” water into the Caloosahatchee River (damaging its ecological balance), and built miles of drainage ditches to move “overflow” east to the Atlantic. The Tamiami Trail, US Highway 41), built in the 1920’s to provide better access between the east and west coasts, is one of the most successful environmental assaults: it was built on top of a dyke that essentially prevented water from the north part of the Everglades from flowing into the south part, effectively interrupting the river of grass and beginning the destruction of the ecosystem downstream.

Of course, in the process of taming the Everglades, these developers and visionaries and politicians almost destroyed the freshwater supply for Miami and the southeast coast of Florida.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas was instrumental in drawing attention to the importance and the plight of the Everglades. Federal and state projects have been underway for years to try to correct and repair some of the damage, but the official map and guide to the Park still refers to the Everglades as “presently on life support, alive but diminished”.

So here was definitely a subject for a piece of art – in my case, an art quilt – and maybe a series. The back story is, I think, more interesting then talking about how the art quilt was made or what techniques were used. Suffice to say, I did complete it, I did send in the entry and photo by the due date, and …. it was accepted! It’s called (of course) “Everglades: River of Grass”. [Click on the image to open for a photo of the entire quilt.]

But I still need to know more about the Everglades, still need more first hand experience (even if I can only nibble at the edges), still need my own photos of the mangroves and sawgrass. That was the main reason for my expedition.

Oh, and the State of Pennsylvania? That’s what caused my trip to be on Tuesday, April 17. That was tax day, remember? I agreed to help my son with taxes for his business in Pittsburgh, so I spent a long weekend at the computer trying to figure out and fill in RCT-101 forms and PA-205/PA-65 forms and all the required schedules and attachments….. When I finally finished and put the damn things in the mail, I needed (and actually felt entitled) to be out in the open air and sunshine.

What better place than “the swamp”?


* W. Hodding Carter IV is a journalist and writer and son of the Hodding Carter who was Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs during the Iran Hostage Crisis.

A note about my links to book titles: Book titles are linked to the site of McLean & Eakins, an independent bookseller in Petoskey, Michigan. They sell online, and their service is outstanding. Yes, you can undoubtedly buy these titles cheaper on Amazon, but, you know, I think keeping independent bookstores in business is more important.

The Package at My Door …

WindYesterday the package at my door (delivered by our friendly and accommodating USPS lady) was a little quilt returning home from an exhibit in New York.

The quilt was “Wind”.  The exhibit was the 2009 National Small Art Quilt Works Exhibition, held July 23 through September 6 at The Main Street Gallery in Groton, New York.

Last fall, after an encouraging and rewarding workshop with Laura Cater-Woods, I decided that in 2009 I would concentrate on making more work and sending it out into the world to be juried, judged, and (perhaps) sold.

It’s been a good year.

Two quilts – “Heron Hunting #2” and “Moonlight on Water” – were juried into “Focus on Fiber II” at the Studio Channel Islands Art Center in Camarillo, California.  Much to my surprise and delight, Heron was awarded first prize in the Small Art Quilt division.

Another little quilt – “I Know So Little About My Mother’s Life #2” – was accepted into “Conversations in Fabric”, a juried exhibit at the Ohio Craft Museum in Columbus, Ohio, September 13 through November 1, 2009.

A 3-D work – “Pueblo I” – was juried into the Blurred Boundaries exhibit held in Kalamazoo last month in conjunction with Fabrications Retreat 2009.

And I managed to complete a little quilt for the SAQA Benefit Auction (look for it on page 3a on the auction site) and one for the Michigan Quilt Artists Invitational.

So were there any rejections?  Of course – since this is after all real life.  I really wanted to be part of the SAQA exhibit “Musings” at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan (ended August 31, 2009).  I submitted my best (in my opinion) piece that met the size and theme requirements, but it didn’t make the cut.  HOWEVER, after reading the juror’s statement and seeing the pieces that were selected, at least I understand how my quilt did not fit in.  So even that rejection was a useful learning experience – although it really is a lot more fun to receive an email that says “Accepted!”