Turtle Trax Diary. Page 53,
July 31, 2007
Winter to Summer!
by Susan Shie
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Above Eva sits on my "Mama Sun" ("Mom and Apple Pie / The Sun" Kitchen Tarot quilt, between Gretchen and me. We're posing as the Buddha Girls we really are. It's good for us!
Topics in this diary: Page 1: Jessica's family comes to visit; kittens; blizzard; "Calendar / Moon"; "Mama Sun"; Arrowmont class; "Tree of Life". Page 2: More Arrowmont stuff; "Luanne as a Teapot" in progress; "The Pressure Cooker / Tower"; Quilt National 07 adventures; duct tape wallets with Shelley and Robin; QN related adventures; Eva weeding; Billboard art in Wooster; "Becky Hancock as a Teapot". Page 3: QSDS 07; Peach's new work; tArts in the pArk; "Olama"; Kendra's wedding pillowcase; tArts at Lime's art opening; "Queen Quatty"; WAGE meeting at Joan's farm; Snyder Picnic; Linda's Thesis Party; Acord Picnics; "Kitchen Blessings #1" for SAQA auction.
Note: TAC - Turtle Art Camp - is coming back this Fall, starting with a September 5 - 11 camp, which has two students signed up so far. I had ended the camp program after 11 years, when I took a year and a half to take care of Eva, up in Lakewood, during the weeks. But when I came back home full time, I hoped to simply focus in my studio and make my living totally from selling my artwork. Well, guess how well that worked out! So then I started "teaching out" again at wonderful places like QSDS and Art Quilt Tahoe and Arrowmont, and THAT made me remember how much I love to teach. So I've opened up to teaching out a lot more (write me if you'd like me to come teach for your group) and to reviving my Turtle Art Camps. Jimmy isn't teaching with me at all now, though he used to show airbrush basics and his precise freemotion machine sewing. Now he'll be an in-house airbrush troubleshooter, but otherwise, you'll find him working on his leather orders for custom fly fishing cases, over in his own studio.
Read all about Turtle Art Camp and its scheduled dates for this Fall, and think about coming. Two to five students can come for each session that includes five full studio days, between two travel days, monthly. 2008 camp schedule can be figured out as soon as someone asks about next year!
My friend Jessica (in back) went to the College of Wooster, and we met at the Food Co-op in the early 80s, somehow missing each other at school. She's from the Northeast, and we've hardly seen each other since she moved back there in the mid 80s. The great news is that in January her son Tyler (far right) came to the college, as a transfer Sophomore. AND now her second son Noah (second from right) is coming as a Freshman! Hannah (far left) may come next year, too. So we hope to see more and more of our favorite COW alumna and her family! They live in rural Vermont, and they've got a pretty wild pack of family pets, including a duck and some llamas.
Welcome to Wooster, Noah. No ducks in the dorm!
Our kittens, who were 8 weeks old when we got them on Groundhog Day, are now 8 months old, but here they are back in February, cute as fuzzy little buttons. Ome (short for Cleome ... full name Cleome Wanda Cupcake Shie, the gray kitten) and Otis (full name Otis Earl Hawkins, the orange kitten) have brawled their way through childhood into adolescence, making double trouble out of whatever they get into. GEM (Gretchen, Eva, and Mike) have their triplet sister Cricket, and I think they wouldn't recognize each other now, so we can't have triple trouble barroom brawls here. The kittens born this last winter seem to all share the issues of destroying paper towels, toilet paper, or kleenex left out in their normal places. If you come to my house, the TP is not on the roller, but sits on a shelf, so the kittens don't unroll it onto the floor for us. Campers who come for Turtle Art Camps will just have to deal with that. Socks or undies left on the floor will find their way into the hall or possibly into the kitchen ... !
Funny how, after a while, you tend to forget how the weather went in any given winter, unless it was super terrible! I think this one wasn't too bad, in terms of super cold temps, but we had some bigtime snowstorms. Jimmy's brother Gary had gotten a new snowblower, so he generously gave us his old one. We have a fairly wide driveway, kinda long, too, so it was good to see Jimmy figure out how to get this loud thing going and blowing. This was a February storm. I remember that we had to shovel big paths all around the house and in the yard for Hattie, our aging black lab, so she could get around outside. The snows were very deep and stuck around, so she had kind of a slolum course, or whatever they call those things. Luges??? Her old arthritic legs just couldn't get up the strength to get around in the heavy drifts of snow. We were all pretty happy when the stuff finally melted off , whenever that was. Spring was VERY welcomed this year, more than usual!
Jimmy has a special place in his heart for little Otis (who's much bigger now than in this February picture). Jimmy's grieved for Willy Pendejo for two years, since Willy died of a heart attack in January, 2005. And we hadn't gotten any new kittens in all this time, including when Rita and Meeper both died. Lots of people had offered Jimmy replacement orange tabby boy kittens over the last two years, but nothing happened til we saw those three kittens with their mommy at the Humane Society on Feb 1. There was the mostly orange boy kitten, all round and fuzzy like a baby chick! And lo and behold, he has a personality much like dear old Willy's. He's so cuddly and affectionate, but he likes women, too. Willy only liked men. Willy would drape himself up over Jimmy's shoulder and down over his body, as we'd sit in the livingroom at night and sip our nightcap and watch TV. He was VERY long - Willy Longfellow! Now Otis does the same thing, only he drapes himself from Jimmy's chest down over his legs, since Jimmy now has a recliner he puts the footrest up on. Willy woulda liked that, too. So Mr. Jimmy has his orange cat back, whether you call it reincarnation or not (Jimmy does not.) This goes back to his Maine Coon mix cat Ernesto Juarez. Man wants a man cat!
And yes, Ome is my fluffy little girl cat. And dear Evil Tulip likes the kittens and has become a nice cat to be around, ever since Marigold tried to kill the kittens and we sequestered her to Jimmy's studio. We even dropped the Evil part of Tulip's name. We are now a three cats up and one cat down household. :)
On February 3 I started my piece to represent the Moon card in the Tarot deck. Above is a picture of it with its first layers of airbrush painted colors, after I'd freehand drawn the images with paint marker. (For the next quilt I went back to using airbrush to do the drawing, because it flows a lot better and doesn't need to be gone over again and again.)
I had settled on the Calendar as my Moon image, since most of us have a kitchen calendar, and since our calendar is based on the Moon's orbit around the Earth. Each day I added airpen writing on the calendar, so it would really reflect how I write on my diary calendar on my desk. Normally I don't pick up my airpen til the whole painting is colored in, but I wanted to start that month's calendar diary.
I love the song "Ukulele Lady," which starts "I saw her dancing in the moonlight on Honolulu Bay..." and I wanted to have my daughter Gretchen dancing and being relaxed and happy, and to show Eva playing Mike's ukulele. I had thought about using the coffee klutch (sp?) as what would represent the Moon card, since women gather to visit in the kitchen so often. I decided to add my tArts art group girlfriends, but couldn't figure out how to show them, along with Gretchen dancing. Since my tArts pal Peach and I were working on putting all the tArts contact info into our Mac Address Books, in the vCards with little photos of each of us, I ended up representing us all as vCards, with little bios, not contact information. And I had to put in our pets, including the three new kittens: Otis, Ome, and Cricket. Oh, and Jimmy with a giant trout and Mike with a big guitar. We're all there. A couple of huge moon disks and some patio owl lights in the moonlight got added.
I paint the colors very lightly with my airbrush, so that the airpen writing later will show up well. I can create this same effect of light, washed out colors by using hand brush painting, but it takes a lot longer to dry. In general I hand paint small works and airbrush larger ones. When I teach out I teach hand painting and airpen drawing and writing. But when you study here, I add airbrush to the skills I teach. I don't want to drag the airbrush equipment all over the country, and I don't have Jimmy teaching with me when I teach out anymore. He can fix mechanical airbrush problems, and I can't. Or I'm scared to. He used to be a welder, and he understands all that valves and pressure stuff much better than I do.
After more airbrush painting and then adding the airpen writing over many days, I made the pieced backing, which contains many different fabrics. With a very large piece like this, it takes a while to get the layers of front, batting, and backing all laid out together evenly, especially when the thing is way larger than the table I work on! Here's a picture of me carefully putting those little bent safetly pins all over the qulit sandwich, about four inches apart. I just slow way down and take it really easy, to make sure the piece will be alligned right. No puckers, no surprises. Usually I've got one hand underneath the piece, and one above.
This is a great time to listen to my beloved books on tape, as is the machine quilting time. Whenever I don't have to think hard about what I'm doing, I listen to books: biographies, histories, travel journals. Almost all non-fiction.
I do my border by bringing the backing fabric out over the batting and tucking it under the painting's raw edge. Since I've so carefully eased out all the fullness in my layers, I am able to start my machine sewing by stitching down the edge of the painting to the border. Then when I do my rows of quilting, I'm able to start at the edge of the border and sew across it through the painting and end at the other end of the border.
When I get going with my "crazy grid" machine quilting, I sew a semi-straight row lengthwise, cut and then sew another row going the other direction, across the width. I keep sewing rows in from the edges to the middle of the piece, and often end up adding rows to fill in too open spaces. I add a row of hand running stitch with perle cotton all around the border, after all the machine quilting is finished. With a piece as big as the Moon quilt, all this sewing takes a long time, and in this case, I got carried away and did about four times as much quilting as I later decided I'd really needed. The little squares are about an inch across each.
Because I was still waiting to write in some of the diary calendar date squares, I did my machine sewing before the airpen writing was all done on the Moon quilt. But usually all the writing is done pretty much, before I quilt. Also, I usually wait til the piece is all done, to decide where my "Peace Cozy" goes. But in this case, I added it to the Feb 20 square in the calendar, on Mardi Gras, as I wrote that day's entry, because I'd decided that I would give New Orleans some peace vibes, due to their continuing mess left neglected by the government ... left even now! This piece got Peace Cozy #14, out of 29. Someday they'll be all used up. What then???? Make more, I bet.
Oh, in the calendar squares, I put the kind of things I write about each day in my own diary calendar on my desk: Temperature high and low, events of the day, the Sun's sign and degree, and Moon signs and phase changes. I also keep track of where all the planets are each day, but that just means I look at the ephemeris, the table of planetary movements, to see the energy weather forecast for the day. It's just what I do.
I finished writing on the quilt on Feb 28, when I wrote on that last empty square. At that point, everything else about the piece was done, except for one last heatset of that last writing, out of maybe 12 heatsets done throughout the making of the piece. (A heatset involves a long period of ironing with a hot, dry iron, while wearing a respirator and ventilating the room well to the outside.)
Here's the finished piece, done Feb 28, 07: "The Calendar / Moon: Card #18 in the Kitchen Tarot." 90"h x 70"w. See its much bigger full image, large detail shot, and full artist's statement in the gallery. You can't see from this size of picture of it, but I wrote in teh border fabric, like i usually do, and there are about five rows of diary in this wide border.
Here are my tArts friends Kumquat (Gayle Pritchard) and Peach (Susanne Gregg), inspecting their vCard minibiographies on the Moon quilt. They came down to Wooster to see my solo show at Wayne Center for the Arts and came to my house afterwards to see this piece, which hadn't been made in time for that show.
I got a bunch of pictures from this sweet little scene, where Eva was reading a book to her PaPaw (Jimmy). She couldn't really read, of course. She was not quite two and a half. But from the time she was old enough to say anything at all, she's played at reading. She used to grab books and spew some gibberish, turn a page, and gibber some more. Then she got so she held books closer to her face while fake reading, and I'm sure she got that from watching me read to her, when I was her nanny. So this was much later, and the close-view thing was gone. Now she was able to sort of tell PaPaw the story, and follow the words by pointing with her finger. I'm writing this months later, and I'm sure NOW she can REALLY rattle off a good yarn. She'll really learn to read soon, I bet. Well, ok, within a couple of years!
Jimmy took some pictures of me airbrushing on the start of "Mama Sun" or "Mom and Apple Pie / The Sun: Card #19 in the Kitchen Tarot." I had started it on March 28, and this time I used the airbrush to draw my black paint lines for the original freehand drawing. That's so much better than using paint markers. Airbrush flows out so well, if you're willing to just let 'er rip and draw! You've gotta move fast, so the airbrush doesn't clog, but that makes you not stop to worry, too.
In the shot above, I'm adding the first color, which for me is almost always yellow. Yellow is such a weak pigment, everything else goes over it and changes it. This is as long as you're working transparently. You just can't put yellow where you want blue or purple. Those two colors layered over yellow will cause green and brown. I usually work from yellow to orange to red. Then I wash out the brush and work from green down through blue and purple. I can get all the secondary colors just by layering, too. I love to airbrush, and anyone who likes watercolor and can loosen up will enjoy working with airbrush in this casual way. It's an Aztek double action brush. Don't expect other brands of airbrushes, which are quite different from the Aztek, to be so user-friendly!
Here you see about three different colors painted on: yellow, yellow-orange, and a soft burnt orange. By the time we went to Arrowmont to teach, on April 8, I had all the colors airbrushed on. (See next picture, with the Sun quilt hanging in the background.) Above you can also see how the painting is too big for the wall, which was true of the same-sized Moon quilt. I have to lay a dropcloth down and allow the painting to spread out about a foot onto the floor. When I want to work on the bottom part of the painting, I have to hitch the whole thing up, making a big pleat in the top part. This is no fun at all, and makes me wish our basement ceilings were a lot higher! I suppose they're normal, 7' basement ceilings. I don't want to paint in my upstairs room, where I have this computer and do my photography on an 8' work wall. But it's tempting! I have a pipe dream about a big first floor studio, but can't give up the student rooms for that. If a big enough ship ever comes in, we could build a big studio out back! Drag a barn over here, like at Nancy Crow's place? Nah. I'd be thrilled with a nice, new, one storey building, about 30' x 50'. So that's my Cosmic Want Ad's beginning! Ta da!
So we drove down to Gatlinburg, TN, yes, on Easter, having spent Saturday night in our fave Microtel in Lexington, KY - kind of the halfway point. We missed Easter with GEM, in order to teach at Arrowmont, where we'd taught since 1995, but not during the Nanny Years. This was Jimmy's first time to go along as my guest, instead of my co-teacher. His job was to fly fish in the Smokys, after assisting us with anything we needed in the class. It was our first time to not offer airbrush as part of the class, but airpen had first overlapped with it in 2004 and now taken its place.
This class had 16 students in it, one over quota for Arrowmont, and they were just the best group you could ask for! They worked really hard, made great art - even the ones who were sure they couldn't draw. And they were all really nice to each other. In this class, like all the classes I'm teaching now, I emphasized making paintings with brush and airpen, using diary themes we thought up and chose one of for each day, as a group. Our show and tell sessions were really interesting, since everyone wanted to see how the others addressed the day's theme. And you could skip a theme, if you just didn't like it. I taught how I machine quilt my work, and the students could jump in any time and quilt a painting. We each made around five paintings in the five day class; some less, some more, sized around 18" x 24", but not being exact.
Here is Benedicte from NYC, who took to the airpen like a duck to water! I had three airpens set up, and once a student had the one-on-one time with me to learn how to hold and draw/write with the airpen, she could come and use it on her own, as long as no one was still waiting to get that private teaching. In this class a lot of students returned over and over to use the airpen, though in some classes, many students choose to stick with using Rub-a-Deb laundry markers or paint markers after learning airpen basics. You can take my class and choose to not even try the airpen, if you like. You can draw with the user-friendlier markers all you want. The airpen's strength is that it uses fabric paint instead of ink. The paint is much richer and more permanent. But the airpen is harder to learn to use, and you have to set it all up and then clean it out, unlike markers that you just uncap and use. Either solution needs to be heatset on the fabric.
I use black fabric paint in my airpens for the look I use and teach. But people put all kinds of things through airpens, from overglazes to cake frostings. Students ask me about using colors of paint, and you certainly could, but it wouldn't give the look I'm after. If you go home from my class and buy an airpen, I'll help you troubleshoot it by phone or email, and you can put any colors you like through it.
Karen Green, the Arrowmont gallery coordinator, invited my class to make a 12" square quilt for the Fiber Totem Pole, which had started as a project a few years earlier. She brought all the pieces already donated to the project and gave us a hands-on talk about them and the whole concept. Each student in each class that chooses to participate contributes to that class's piece. We decided to do it, and chose one of our themes (from our brainstorming sessions) to use: "Tree of Life." We formed a committee to work out the logistics, and I ended up making a painting of the tree, while each of us worked on a tiny, tiny piece 1.5" square, to be added to the tree as a representation of our selves. I didn't want this project to take too much of the students' time, but I also wanted it to get finished while we were there.
The committee worked together to place the tiny pieces on the tree, and then I quilted it on the machine. We all signed it on back and called Karen in to receive it for Arrowmont. Bill Griffith, the Assistant Director, accompanied her, and we had a little photo op and I think a drinkipoo...! Something about how Karen had induced us to work this overtime in trade for a gallon of Merlot. (See my tiny painting at the foot of the tree...)
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Turtle Moon Studios
Susan Shie and James Acord
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