Turtle Trax Diary for July 4, 1999. Page #21
by Lucky Magnolia (Susan Shie)
Summer Fiesta Time!!!
Above: "Ciao Bella!" One of the St. Quilta the Comforter paintings I make, turned into a really caked-up quiltlet, for collector Susan Marks. This one received the ultimate embellishment treatment!
Well, the gardening got off with a big bang this year, but it was a big drag of a bang! Jimmy had almost finished the second tilling with our big TroyBilt, when I heard a sharp and sudden bang, followed by sheer and utter silence, along with Jimmy staring in disgust at the tiller.
I knew it was bad. The tiller had thrown a rod. Bad, bad, bad! Born in 1972, I think, this baby had just performed her Swan Song, before my very eyes! The garden would have to get by this year, with what tilling had been done. Jimmy slowly pushed it back to the garden shed, to await the time and money to rebuild its motor.
Meanwhile, I started imagining the possibility of finally having won the war over tilling: To Till or Not to Till, that is the question. For many years, I've suggested to Jimmy that, if we mulch heavily, as Ruth Stout used to suggest in her organic gardening books, we wouldn't have to till, ever, and I could have some perennials in the big garden, instead of always planting annuals, and losing their ability to reseed, due to the heavy tilling Jimmy does.
I reasoned that we shouldn't really spend this kind of money, to use a tiller on just this little space, a few times a year. It's such a luxury. I might as well tell Jimmy we don't need his Weber. He looked hurt, shocked, and threatened. This is obviously a Man Issue, this tiller thing. You have it to putter with, to adjust, to grind and grease, to make loud noises with, and to lug around. It is essential. Silly me.
This is a crummy picture. Sorry. Dirt is so brown!!!! But it's Jimmy laying down grocery sacks, to start the curved rows of the rainbow garden. A truce has been reached, to shelf the arguement over the tiller's repair, while we deal with the work at hand! We both lay out the bags, and when our year's supply is used up, we ask the neighbors for bags and newspapers, to finish off covering the rows/walkways. The next step is to put straw (last year we used hay) over the bags and papers.
The purpose of the bags/papers is to keep weeds from growing up in the straw. Ruth Stout's process involved 8" of hay at once, always keeping that thickness, so the weeds couldn't grow. But we are using less straw, and so the bags do the job. They also rot down well, by the next year's planting time.
Anyway, this Laying of the Rows is a big deal. Always reminds me of making a big art installation. We have our method down pat now, and when that first big day is over, we have something that kinda looks like a garden, except it has no plants! And it takes a while to get plants, since most of the planting is with seeds. I work along, with my two buckets: one for weeds, and one for rocks, and prepare the soil to take seeds well. We do put in tomato plants, as well as peppers and zucchini as plants. But mostly, we water dirt for a couple of weeks, hoping something will come up, besides the natural weeds who want to grow there so eagerly!
Because it's been so dry in Ohio, we've watered religiously every evening, sometimes with a sprinkler, which I wouldn't do on the grass, which goes into a protective dormancy during droughts. But to save the seeds in the garden, watering had to happen a lot!
Here is a picture of Meeper, taken in late May, just before we took her to our vet to be boarded, while we went to Quilt National's opening weekend. Meeper lived on grass nibblings for almost a month, and I forced water into her sometimes. We were giving her meds from the vet by then, and vitamins, but thought she would die, before we'd get back home. Vet couldn't figure out what had her so down.
But that wonderful vet, Dr. Mairs of Wooster, got her to eat a bit, and sent her home, saying she could go either way. She chose to get well! We don't know what was wrong, tho he thought she could have had an infection somewhere. This is her fourth bout with almost dying the same way, but this was the worst and most dramatic.
Now Meeper is gaining weight again, eating well, and drinking plenty of water. She loves the new privilege of going outside, which I started when I thought she was gonna die anyhow. And she hasn't been throwing up at all, something she'd done for a long time, before this listless streak hit!
She and the other four cats enjoy big handloads of wide blade grass, which I bring them and patiently hold, while they nibble off just the tasty tips of. (I am thinking of asking Jimmy to create a grass vice, which I could clamp the grass bouquet into, and have more time for my own work!)
Anyway, Meeper is well again, and many thanks to all of you who prayed for her! I do think it was a miracle, that she got well this time!!!!!
So, now let me tell you about the Quilt National '99 opening parties! First of all, here is my best friend, Robin Schwalb, of Brooklyn, drawing us as ducks, doing our ceremonial Duck Dance, that we always do, when we see each other. She's drawing it into my QN catalog, which I use as a real reminder of our fun at QN.
The show is wonderful. Quilt world queens Nancy Crow, Caryl Fallert, and the director of the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Art in Racine, WI, Bruce Pepich, did a great job of jurying it. We all spent a lot of time at the gala reception, trying to look at the art, but being distracted as always, by running into people we know, or are meeting for the first time. Miriam Nathan Roberts received Best of Show, and Jane Sassaman won the Japan Prize, a trip to lecture in Japan.
Robin and I worked very hard for over 24 hours, reading all the artists' statements, and looking at all the quilts, so we could give our 1999 GREEN QUILTS award, at QN coordinators Hilary and Marvin Fletchers' party that Saturday night. Our award went to Maya Schonenberger of Miami, Florida, for her beautiful piece, "Heartwood," which you can read all about in my June, 99 GREEN QUILTS update page. What matters most to Robin and me is the statement by the artist, about the quilt, which needs to be a perfect example of the purpose of GREEN QUILTS. Maya's quilt is not only that, but the visual is extremely "up our alley!" We were quite pleased with our search this year! It is our third GQ award, with the first going to Melody Johnson in 1995, and the second going to Rhoda Cohen in 1997, both awarded at Quilt Nationals.
Here Miriam Nathan Roberts uses the beautiful beaded wand Andi Stern made for me, to crown her husband Peter Nathan Roberts, as her Royal Consort! The royal couple is standing in front of Miriam's Best of Show quilt, "Spin Cycle." Yes, they are the couple in the big bed with Jimmy and me, on our site's front page this month. We thought we'd make a new album cover, in case The Mamas and The Papas ever needed one! Relax. It was just a silly prank. :) We don't like each other THAT WAY!
Here are Donna Leigh Jackins and her husband George, of Birmingham, AL, posing with Donna's quilt at QN! She made a bunch of pizzas, which are kinda like cutwork, held together only at their edges. The black is the wall, not part of the quilt. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff she used to create the food textures!!!!! Donna has studied with us, twice at Arrowmont and once here, at a Turtle Art Camp. She has made some really amazing quilts, my favorite being her Golf Course Quilt, which is a GREEN QUILT.
While in Athens for the Quilt National, I got to go visit our friend Andi Stern and her family. Andi is an artist who does quilts and beads, and who owns Discount Bead House. (She has a wonderful business, and you can email her to order the catalog!)
Anyhow, here Andi holds her new son Issac, or Izzy, who was shortly known as Waldo, before his birth! In this photo, he wasn't even three months old yet.
You can see Andi's quilt in The Dishtowel Show, and you'll get the idea that this woman REALLY loves the color lime!!!!!!!
Danny Butts, director of The Mansfield Art Center, Lois Flynn, education coordinator, and the rest of the staff, did an exemplary job of hosting The Dishtowel Quilt Project. This is the poster they made, with a graphic of one of Jimmy's tooled leather pie copies on it. The exhibit is up until July 11, in case you still can go see it. Closed The Fourth of July, and closed Mondays.
On the day we went over to see how Danny had hung the show, he and I sat down to admire the wonder of all those pieces hung together. I think we both felt all the hard work was well worth it. I, for one, was really happy that I had asked Danny to have the only actual exhibition of our show, at his space. Imagine a director who personally hangs the work, calls the artists to check on details, and supervises the graphics! Oh, and writes about the show in his center's newsletter!
I am going back this week, to study the quilts and their diaries more deeply, so I can write an article to submit for magazine publication. Don't start asking me where it'll be, coz I am probably looking at a very long process, the way I drag my feet anymore!!!!!!! But I am trying!
At left are Jimmy and me and our piece in The Dishtowel Show, with its diary sketchbook hanging on the wall beside it. (Oh, I have the laminated collector's cards of this Kitchen Tarot card ready to order now!) This photo is from the reception, which some of the artists were able to attend. You can see shots of the installation and the reception, on a new page for the show now, besides the individual artists' pages and the diary work of pieces in progress.
At left is a piece we just finished for Elizabeth Snyder of Altoona, WI. It's called "Spring Goddess," and is 25.5"h x 11"w. The big challenge was that Liz has trouble living with bright yellow, and most of our work is pretty full of yellow! So, making this piece, I found myself continually up against restraining my natural urge to "stick some yellow right THERE!" But it really did work out fine. Willy the cat's face is really a lime green, tho it looks yellow here. It's not. Honest!
The quiltlet is a whole cloth painting, using Deka paint on cotton. Then it was stitched massively, using the Lucky School of Quilting technique of embroidering at the same time as quilting, and then beaded. The writing on the dress and some of the black lines are airbrushed, though much of the line definition is with embroidery floss.
Camp time again!!!! Sitting amongst piles of art supplies and projects in progress is a familiar scene, at Turtle Art Camp. Here Sara Lechner of Mank, Austria, and Jane Beckwith of Toronto, Canada, are working on starting appliqued narrative quiltlets in my studio. Jane was here for one week in early June, and Sara signed up for two weeks in a row, and left June 15. Then she went to Q/SDS, Arrowmont, and will go on to Haystack, racking up 8 weeks of art classes in the US, before heading home later this month!!!!!! And home is a second home, as Sara grew up in Argentina. We had a great cultural mix this camp!!!!!!!!
Sara and Jane pause and remove their masks, after just starting to work with airbrush. Jimmy has put them through Airbrush Troubleshooting 101, and they are still all smiles!!!!! They have been thoroughly cautioned to buy and USE a good respirator, if they continue to do airbrush work, on their own at home. I always wear my respirator, trying to set a good example, but people hate to wear them, so we let them use the paper masks, for brief sessions.
Later we did our group project, which had been t-shirts, til now! This time we each worked on tote bags. Like the t-shirt project, we each make our own airbrush designs, which we repeat on all the bags. So we end up with an edition of bags, or shirts, or whatever the campers choose, with our personalized imagery for that week's camp, and everyone's artwork on each piece. As always, after this intense process, doing fronts and backs, switching colors over and over, and cleaning in between, the campers emerge as brave airbrushers, afraid of nothing! (Well, maybe afraid of clogs yet!) Sara and Jane really were good at clean-up, too, something Jimmy highly values! Above you can see him breezing in and putting his final touches on our bags!
The day Jane went home, which was sad for us all, she gave Sara and us each a birdhouse that she had made and brought along! She'd had them in her room all week, making her bedroom look like a shrine. We all told her that was too nice a present, but she insisted.
She makes these art birdhouses from scratch, not kits. She uses copper sheeting over the seams, so the rain won't get in. Ours is sitting on the fireplace ledge. We can't bring ourselves to put it outside, where our birdhouses get pretty weatherbeaten. It's in here, with our own art birdhouses now. We were given the big purple one! Sara sent the white one home to Austria, along with various fabric store hauls, for her own quilt shop there. (She gives classes in Austria, at her home studio, too!)
Sara kept working on her projects for the whole two weeks she was here, and is the first student here to come this close to finishing a really developed piece. She was focused and made each experiment she did with the many techniques, work toward this beautiful diary quilt. Note: Sara has this jacket as her Wooster souvenir! It says "Wooster Lumbers" on the back, and is a thrift store find, a jacket from a local baseball team! Wish I had one of these! Won't she be all the buzz in Austria, wearing this???? Such a wonderful sense of humor Sara has!
Since Sara stuck around extra long, we were able to fit in a few projects we unfortunately couldn't do, while Jane was here, the first week of camp. One such adventure was the remaking of the scarecrow! One day I fished Ruth Stout (the scarecrow from last year, not the organic gardening author) out of the garage, rifled through my wardrobe, and found new duds for Sara and me to fix her up with. You can see from the above photo, that old Ruth's clothes had been through the mill! They had started out bright and cheerful, and ended up full of holes nad faded. But still earthy, yes????
Here you can see that our labor really transformed the scarecrow into a new woman, like when Oprah has some designer remake some tired old woman into a glamourpuss! Our glamourpuss is now named Doris. She is Daughter of Ruth, so that's DOR, or Dore. And when I told our Russian penpal Ivan about her, he thought we should call her Boris. But of course, she is a woman, so I am compromising, and changing her name to Doris, a cross between Dore and Boris!
So here stands Doris, protecting the young and tender plants, in mid June. It surely was a dry spell we had! Now we've had a few good rains, but not enough to bring the green back into the grass, or keep us from having to water transplants, etc. I got a kick out of my neighbor, Hot Lips, who told me she "copied me," by getting inspired to make her own scarecrow woman. We now can see our whole neighborhood, this sedate 60's suburb, getting into it. We can gate it off, and charge 50¢ a carload, to drive through our area, and look at all the Scarecrows of Wooster! We can make up a program, with an artist's statement from each maker! Huh. Wonder if they would ever really do it. Maybe Hot Lips and I can make them, with the help of Turtle Art Campers, and sneak them into the various gardens around here. Oh, by the way, Hot Lips' scarecrow is a fluff chick, with a white dress made out of eyelet. For cryin' out loud!!!!!! So I cannot regard THAT as a copycat scarecrow, as Doris is EARTHY!
While working with the campers, I got started on the next Kitchen Tarot card: The Cookbook / Hierophant, #5. It is just a painting on fabric now, with airbrush over Deka paint. I have to leave it sit a long time, while we work on Issie's Trailer Court some more, hopefully enough to finish it this Summer, FINALLY!
I have decided that the three huge tarot card quilts, The Teapot, Stove, and Fridge, are very good pieces, but look kinda mushy as cards. They have so much going on in them, that they're hard to see in a little card. So I am going back to the smaller size and simpler composition, for now. At least til we do a piece to enter in the next QN! Gotta have a big sucker for that competition! Wonder how far we'll get by then, by next Summer? The original plan with this Kitchen Tarot thing was two quilts a year, and we've done more the first year. Great, if we keep up the pace and finish the project before all of us and our friends are dead and gone! Ha!
By the fifteenth, Sara had become even more family than most campers, having stayed two weeks. We really hated to see her go, and wished we could go along, to all those other fine art classes she was about to take! Here Jimmy and Sara pose in Cleveland, with Sara's massive heap of luggage (!!!!! Can you believe it?????) and her one remaining box of Tony Tiger Flakes. I hope to send her some more, to help her enjoy her stay at Haystack, tho the food there is wonderful! She can sit by the ocean, there on Deer Isle, and cruch away, remembering her stay at Turtle Art Camp!
Jimmy went off to Grayling, MI, for a week at the end of June, which is now an annual event. He goes to the Trout Bums' Picnic, which is partly Trout Unlimited and partly Rodmakers stuff. The guys who make handmade bamboo rods are the main show, as they have classes, etc. Jimmy has now become a total fish snob, there is no doubt! But he made some sales of his great cases, got some orders for more, and had a wonderful time! I really missed him badly, but this Fish Widow thing is something I need to get used to!!!!!! It's gonna last a long time! Somebody had to stay here and fuss with the herd and keep the garden alive in the drought!
When he got home, it was time for our anniversary, and I put this painting (below) onto our anniversary quilt for him. I add a new thing to it each year, and this year's work also included some mending, as we use this quilt yearround. This painting was begun at Leslie Gelber's Beyond the Surface symposium in Sacramento, in January, and I finally finished it and found it a good home, without having to quilt and bead it! Yea!
See you here next time, around September 1. Gotta go teach at CraftSummer at Miami U in Oxford, OH, and have a camp here Aug 11 - 17.... Wanna come??? Still got openings! We'll be eating tomatoes from the patch, by the next time I write!
Turtle Moon Studios
Susan Shie and James Acord
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