Monday, May 30, 2011

Rainy Days in the Studio

It is so suddenly GREEN here that it is like living in the Emerald City in The Land of OZ! And so many kinds of green. There has been nothing but dramatic weather... wind, rain and tornadoes (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!) Several neighbors just over the hill had many trees uprooted and snapped in half. I am constantly reminded of the persistant power of nature.

Yesterday morning it was rumbling and the sky to the south look ominous as we hopped in the car to visit the Hosta Fest in Fontana, Wisconsin. We packed our cameras and a big umbrella. The clouds followed us there and a light rain began as we arrived. But the rain only made the greens brighter and the devoted hosta fans were not deterred. Acres of hostas! It was fabulous! A wonderful study in GREEN.

It was pouring rain when we left the arboretum, so I headed straight to the studio upon our return. It was so dark that I had to turn on the overhead lights, which I rarely have to do in the daytime. But a rainy day in the studio is a heavenly day! I had been working on two new quilt tops in the Garden Diva fabric based on simple 6" squares, so I jumped back into production.

This quilt is a simple check or 9 patch design. The blocks have been fussy cut and arranged to create a plaid pattern with alternating light and dark rows. The dragonfly block is the glue that binds it all together. Instead of focusing the block on the dragonfly moon, I chose to crop the design to concentrate on the negative space between the characters. This black space makes a big X, which in turn creates diagonal lines, which isolate the new motif that appears.

Here you can see the individual squares, 6" finished. It is always satisfying to discover a new and dynamic pattern with such basic shapes. The fabrics are so different in design, yet combined so successfully. I love it when this happens!

Here we go again! When I am on a roll it is hard to stop so I kept on with that 6" square. This time the squares are on point and the composition radiates from the center. Red and yellow are one of my favorite color combinations, so I started with blocks of the Exotic colorway of the Zinnia fabric. From there I tried to blend the colors with each new row of fabric. A red and gold square next to a blue patch with a bit of red and gold, then blue squares with gold and pink next to a pink patch with a tad of yellow. The pink and red checks signal the transition to a border and the border echoes the movement and color in the body of the quilt. The corners are mitered to continue the diagonal movement.

The blocks are easier to see in this close-up. This piece is so wild that I had my doubts during the process. "Jane, you are over the edge here! Are you really going to put those wild fabrics next to each other?" But luckily, I listened to the fabric instead of my doubt and the piece turned out great.

Today the sun is shining and it is already hot and humid. The corn will be pleased and I am happy to spend the holiday cleaning the studio and making space for the next project.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring Cover Up

The spring weather is been as unpredictable as always. It was actually too hot here for a few days and I was forced to fold up my winter uniform and switch to some cooler clothes. This is never easy for me, because I am not thrilled to have to take off my protective parka and expose my winter body to the world. So I need to ease into the hot weather gently, uncovering my soft and glow-in-the-dark limbs in gradual steps. So this smock pattern is a perfect piece of transitional clothing. It is light weight, covers almost everything and is colorful and fun to wear.

This is the pattern. I saw it years ago, but never owned it. In the mean time, it went out of print! So I went on Etsy and found it again. I like to find patterns that can be made over and over again, as I tend to have seasonal uniforms ... the same pattern in many colors, just makes life easier.

I like everything about this pattern, the square neckline, the double pleats in the back, double pockets and the turned up cuffs. Plus we could use Sassaman fabric, too. I wear them with a complimentary colored shirt underneath. There is something rather old-fashioned about it, that appeals to me, too.

This version is especially nice and a bit more formal, too. These were made by my helper, Susan. She is a whiz at garment sewing. She is also the one who added the wonderful buttons. Black leggings work with all of these and I think a black pencil skirt would be cooler and look good, too. But I'm working up to that!

Here you can see the lining and shoulders done with the Bleeding Heart and Iris fabric. All of the printed fabric is from the Garden Divas line. The solid fabrics balance the fancy fabrics, so they aren't too overwhelming.

But in this version we let the prints take over and I love it! Exuberant and exciting. It's right up there with your "rat pack"leopard prints. Kind of retro, in a 1960's way. If this was oil cloth, it would make a dynamite raincoat, too.

The cheeky blue buttons add some electricity and attitude. So perhaps now I can ease into spring and work up to a cooler summer wardrobe. PS... all these photos were taken in the new studio. The saffron
colored walls look great with everything.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

New Zealand Travelogue

I'm hoping that you've missed me, but in any case, I have been visiting with New Zealand quilters since April 16. My first stop was in Queenstown for the Remarkable Symposium, an annually traveling event hosted by regional quilters for visiting quilters around New Zealand and Australia.

This is my third trip to Queenstown and I feel so lucky to be invited again! The symposium is called after the mountains that surround the area, the aptly named "The Remarkables". Although it was spring when I left home, it was autumn in New Zealand. The flight into Queenstown was an amazing blaze of color with the mix of bright gold and red deciduous trees against the dark evergreens.

In Queenstown you are always wrapped by mountains and water... so beautiful, but nearly impossible to capture on camera. We arrived in late morning and dared not take a nap, lest jet lag get the best of us. So I headed for the park that I had enjoyed so much before. This was my first autumn exploration, but all my favorites were still there... the giant monkey puzzle trees, the pond, the bowls ground and the roses. It was school holiday in New Zealand, too, so lots of families and students were romping and enjoying their autumn vacations.

One morning we awoke to snow on the mountains in the distance. Thank goodness I packed gloves and ear muffs. You could smell wood fires burning on the way to the classroom in the morning and back home in the evening.

I conducted three workshops at the symposium and each one produced some wonderful work! Below you can see examples from the Kaleidoscope class, the Shape Shifting class and the Pattern Play class.

Then on Easter morning I began a two day road trip, with my adventurous companion, Anne, through the Southern Alps to Takaka in Golden Bay. It was a wet trip and the clouds sifted through the jungle of dense dark foliage on the steep rocky walls around us. I kept thinking of the haunting opening of Aguire, Wrath of God, Warner Herzog's memorable movie about conquistadors in the Amazon jungle. So that sound track was my companion, too.

My first peek down the other side of the mountain into Golden Bay was obstructed by clouds, too, but it was still an inspiring sight!

Golden bay is a beautiful, pristine and idyllically isolated spot on the northern coast of New Zealand's south island. There is only one road in and out and it's extremely steep and convoluted. Golden Bay sits on the Bay of Tasman, surrounded by water, mountains and green fields and my hosts had a fabulous view of it all! Later that day, the clouds began to lift for a beautiful sunset.

The plush green pastures were sprinkled with grazing cows and sheep. Even in town, there was always some livestock within a block or two. It amazed me that the animals stay outdoors all the time, year round, unlike here where they go into the barn at night. So logical!

Things grow like mad here, too! I visited a student's lovely garden who must have had 20 varieties of fuchsia, plus apples, avocados, oranges, hydrangeas and more!!

What wasn't green in Golden Bay was rocky, VERY rocky. Tramping (hiking) and climbing is a favorite pastime. It was a bit damp and cold, but we went on a little tramping adventure one morning between the rocks, boulder and exotic vegetation. This narrow passage made me feel like Indiana Jones.

Even though I would have loved a longer visit, it was time to move on. Back over "the hill" to the Nelson airport and a flight to Christchurch. It was a short but dramatic trip over the snow dusted mountains.

Then a two hour drive with my new hostess to her quaint little store, Obsession 2 Quilt, in Temuka. Temuka is noted for their pottery, their carrots and bagpipes... home of the New Zealand Bagpiping Champions. Love it! There were some nice old homes and buildings there, too.

The class in Temuka was small, but very talented. They inspired me with their hard work and unique vision.

It was difficult to believe three weeks had passed and it was time to head back home. My flight was late in the day, so my kind hostess took me to see the botanical gardens in Christchurch. The city is still recovering from a series of devastating earthquakes that hit hardest in the lovely old part of the city, but caused damage for miles around. Church steeples lay crashed on the ground and piles of brick and stone exposed the innards of buildings. But scaffolding and protective fences were evidence of rebuilding and renewal.

The large park that held the greenhouses and gardens was a quiet, restful and rainy refuge in the middle of the shaken city.

It was dark when I boarded the plane for Auckland, where I transferred for the twelve hour flight to LA. In LA there was a two hour journey through customs and a change of terminals before the four hour flight to Chicago. I arrived at O'Hare at midnight and I had been gone so long I felt like a visitor, instead of a native... a newly confirmed citizen of New Zealand. So 32 hours after leaving my hotel room in Temuka, Greg picked me up with Korean "takeout" and a smile! After the hours drive home, I ate dinner at 1 am and hit the sack around 2. When I woke up it was spring again!

Home again, home again, jiggity jog! But home again as a big fan of New Zealand and it's gracious and resourceful quilters!