Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quilting in the Desert

My teaching year was launched in an ideal way at Quilting in the Desert last week. It was a gentle way to break from the recent weeks of concentration in the studio. The excitement and sense of anticipation was contagious. I taught three classes and, as always, am delighted with the students willingness to try some new techniques.

The Abstracting from Nature workshop was three days, just long enough to really make some progress. Nature is our theme and I was thrilled that Betty Gilliam decided to use the Venus Fly Trap as her subject.  There have been many Sunflowers and Morning Glories, but this was a first! I'm jealous!!! Her interpretation is quite effective.

Jan Sheets did this very clean and graphic interpretation of a Poppy. Here is a picture at the "cropping" stage. Her plans are to substitute a few areas of background fabric with different black prints to add some depth and interest. Quilting will really be fun in all those big areas of color.

It is interesting how the surrounding environment affects every ones choice of subject. When I taught in Japan, many students chose familiar and traditional Japanese plants for their theme, like the cherry blossom and chrysanthemum.

Here in Phoenix the desert plants were common choices. Sharon Brooks worked on the Bird of Paradise in class. This flower is always a challenge because it is so simple to begin with... Mother Nature has already stylized it.
I enjoy the way she has condensed the orange petals into a single piece and used the unexpected turquoise to improve her composition.

The scale of each project is as variable as their themes. Becky Schroeder's Shooting Star, below, grew quickly and is at least five foot tall. The gradation of blues in the background works quite nicely. The stem fabric proved to be the toughest challenge and changed throughout the process. Then in the last half hour they changed again to a rusty wine color, which seems to be the winner.

So I'm back at home for a few days before I leave for classes in Florida. As always, my students have encouraged and inspired me, too! I will be full of ideas and energy when I get back into the studio again.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Naturescapes Winner!

Wow! Thank you all for your positive response to our first gift give away! It is nice to know who is actually checking into the Idea Book and to know there is a real audience out there. The winner of Noriko Endo's lovely new book, Naturescapes, is "momto2wasd"! Congratulations!! We are planning to do this every few weeks, so stay tuned.

While you were enjoying Noriko's work, we were enjoying another snow storm, so now the landscape is white and gray again. But here in the studio the colors are as brilliant as ever. The pastels have been irresistible this season, which is an unusual attraction for me! I was one of those women that rejected the color pink for many years. It seemed like a frivolous and airheaded color. But now I feel differently! Now I see pink as extravagant and heart achingly optimistic.

Pink and green is always a refreshing combination, so here I have teamed two fabrics
( Lively Silhouette, Blush and Dragonfly Moon, Peacock) from the Garden Divas line for the Reversible Party Napkin pattern. The coordinating Button-Down Napkin Ring is made with the Dragonfly Check, as is the old fashioned styled tablecloth. The English Tea Cozy, another of our Pint Size Patterns, teams up the Lively Silhouette, Aqua with a finishing band and yo-yo with the Dragonfly Check again.

Yes, optimism is the mood this week. I think this is a very pretty combination and I really enjoy the mix of critters, too. Perhaps the new seed catalogs have helped to sprout this spring like project.

Our house is trimmed with honey colored oak woodwork, so I am always looking for blonds baskets and accessories. But, of course, we crafters have to add our own touch. This handsome tea tray is from Ikea with a little extra decoupaged lining of Sassaman fabric... perfect for a summer celebration in January!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Noriko Endo Book Give Away!

It is ironic that the latest FreeSpirit fabric line, Garden Divas, is just arriving in stores and I am already deep into designing the next collection! When I am in "the designing zone" all my energy is focused on my pencil and paper, instead of my sewing machine, so this week I have decided to get my "fabric fix" by sharing the work of a new friend and fabulous quilter, Noriko Endo.
Our paths had crossed before, but this year at Houston Market, we really had a chance to talk and get to know each other. She is a very quiet, lovely and gracious woman with a surprising sense of humor and many tales to tell about her quilting adventures.

Noriko was at Market to introduce her lovely new Dragon Threads book, Confetti Naturescapes: Quilting Impressionistic Landscapes. I am always fascinated by work that is so different from my own and this colorful book takes you through her inspirations, explains her collage techniques and gives you a glimpse into her "real life" in the studio and at home 
(I always enjoy seeing where other artists work and live).

This is a wonderful picture of Noriko in her studio. She looks very peaceful and happy working on this giant quilt! I'm afraid my expression would be much different!! But I don't have a George, either, and I suspect that may help her attitude.

I'm sure this little tour of Noriko's work has stimulated your crafting instincts this week. It certainly has made me anxious to do some stitching. So to keep the creativity flowing,  Dragon Thread's has generously donated a copy of Confetti Naturescapes for us to give away! So post a comment below before next Tuesday, January 18, for a chance to win this inspiring book.

PLUS Dragon Threads is having a reciprocal drawing on their blog!  They are giving 2 pieces of the new Garden Divas fabric, as well as the new Pretty Perfect Pocket Purse Pattern to a lucky reader. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Garden Divas Celebrate the New Year!

It is the new year and Garden Divas is finally arriving at your quilt store. So we are celebrating this week with some optimistic colors and designs! Here is one of the quilts which we made for the line's debut in Houston. I call it Nature Baby because it would make a lovely crib quilt for babies of any persuasion. The construction is easy, so its not too precious for real use. This is one of the free patterns available on the website. It uses two colors of the Life Totem and Dragonfly Moon fabrics and all three color variations of Willow Wands.

You can see some of the same fabrics in this Butterfly Quilt, too. Many of you may have made this pattern in other lines, so you have discovered that these Simple Silhouettes are an ideal way to feature some of your favorite "personality" prints.

I like to make the back of quilts less formal, but still interesting. On the back of this Butterfly Quilt, I made a large checker board, really just an elongated nine patch, edged with the Exotic Dragonfly Check. Pink is the color that flows throughout and holds it all together. I love the electricity that the contrasting blue blue patches create.

My friend Mellissa Peda, proprietor of the 100 Billion Stars Etsy store, has also been busy playing with her new Garden Divas stash. These are two new pillow covers that she is featuring in her delightful e-shop. I really like the simplicity and crispness of her designs.

Notice the embroidered embellishment that she has added in this detail. Quilting could also add some nice texture. The fussy cut Spring Wreath creates a nice kaleidoscopic effect and I can imagine the block being repeated for a larger quilt, too.

So we begin the new year with fresh colors and lively shapes. Stay tuned for new Diva ideas to brighten your winter in the weeks to come.