Thursday, December 31, 2009

Losing Our Minds

My friend and fellow artist Christine Mauersberger, sent me an email yesterday with pictures and a question about a family heirloom, a gorgeous mid-19th century red and green quilt. I didn't ask permission, so I won't post a picture of the quilt here, but will tell you a story of what happened when I looked at it.

Gayle and Christine at our group exhibition opening, Flavors of Fiber

I am not an expert in 19th century quilts. My research expertise has been focused on the contemporary quilt movement, which emerged in the 1950s, and which I wrote about in my book Uncommon Threads: Ohio's Art Quilt Revolution. Two of my friends, however, happen to be world renowned experts in quilt history: Virginia Gunn and Ricky Clark. I first met Virginia in 1988 when we moved back to Ohio from Philadelphia. She was presenting a program on quilt dating, and participants had brought quilts for her to look at. Recently retired from the University of Akron, Gunn is still teaching courses at the International Quilt Study Center. Seven years ago or so, we had both been invited to speak at the Ohio Historical Society in celebration of Ohio's bicentennial, as had Ricky. Having recently received a family heirloom quilt of my own, I decided to bring it along, so I could show it to Virginia. Having told her nothing about it, she took one look at it, and said, "This quilt was made in Knox County, Ohio in 1840; I recognize the fabric." I was stunned, and she was right. That's how good she is.

I met Ricky Clark around the same time I first met Virginia. I attended a program on quilt history that Ricky was presenting related to the Ohio quilt documentation project she was conducting. Over the years, Ricky truly became a mentor, enthusiastically supporting my artwork production and my interest in quilt research. It was she who suggested that Ohio University Press approach me to write a book; it was she who gave me all of her old Quilter's Newsletter Magazines, and generously shared her other research materials. It was she who invited me to serve as co-curator for several exhibitions she assembled, and it was she who suggested that I take over as curator of the Artist as Quiltmaker exhibition, which she had founded in the early 1980s.

When Christine emailed me the picture of her quilt, I responded with my initial observations, then immediately went to put my hands on two of Ricky's books, which I knew contained detailed information about the style of quilt in question.

Quilts in Community was published with the research results of the Ohio quilt documentation project, and has always been one of my favorites. It is the perfect combination of quilt and state history, two of my passions. It is chock full of information about Ohio's wonderful treasure-trove of quilts and quiltmakers, with just the right helping of historical detail, such as the types of dyes used, or where Ohio's immigrant community came from. Oh, and there are lots and lots of color pictures.

Quilted Gardens was directly written about the type of quilt Christine had, and, although it wasn't strictly focused on Ohio quilts, the book contains its fair share of Ohio-made quilts from the 19th century, with wonderful genealogical stories to go along with the heirlooms.
It was delightful last evening to look through these books, since it had been several years since I had read them for the umpteenth time. Reading Ricky's words, the exquisite detail ferreted out from 150 years of quilt history by a brilliant mind, reminded me of the joy that comes from following one's passions. It also saddened me, because the Ricky Clark I knew no longer exists. She has been taken from us by Alzheimer's disease.
In the past several years, several fabulous women in my life have fallen prey to this terrible fate. Like Ricky, family friend, colleague and Oberlin printmaker Mary Rosenthal is gone. Painter, entrepreneur extraordinaire, dear friend and former mother-in-law Kathy Pritchard is gone. Kathy technically died of breast cancer, which she fought valiantly, but when I saw her last prior to her death, at my 50th birthday party, she didn't know me. I miss her. She was only in her early 60's. Another close family member, also quite young, was just diagnosed with Alzheimer's last year. I dread the day when she no longer remembers who I am. Finally, two nights ago, our dear Aunt Jane succumbed. Jane was also young, and had been a brilliant accountant, and one of the brightest women I ever knew. I miss her, too.
As the New Year, and the new decade, approaches, I am once again reminded of the frustratingly fleeting quality of life. I was hit over the head with this not-so-gentle fact when both of my parents died a year apart in the early 1990s. Once again, life nudges me to remember...remember love, remember who I am, remember to live in the now, remember, remember, remember...lest we all lose our minds.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Classes Scheduled

I am teaching classes locally for the first time in many years: check out the Winter Newsletter at BayArts for more details. (My class descriptions begin on page 11 of the pdf document.) Hope to see you there! Here is the newsletter description for the first one, coming up in January.

Mixed Media - new & cool
Unraveling the Stories: narrative fiber collage - with Gayle Pritchard

In this course, you will learn the elements of design, composition, color use and idea development, along with lots of encouragement to develop the confidence needed to explore.
Using surface design and embellishment techniques, small base images will be created on canvas. Layer by layer, the compositions will be developed through mark-making, stitchery, collage and narrative to create an art object from the stories of your everyday life. No previous experience is necessary. Drop the kids off at school and enjoy a few hours of relaxation, creativity and spirituality.
tuesdays 9:30 - 11:30 am
Jan 12 - feb 9 (5 weeks)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside...

As I stood outside on my front porch today, a snowflake landed on my black glove. The glistening white stood in sharp contrast, so I could see every detail visible to the human eye without a microscope. Looking at it immediately reminded me of how much I loved cutting paper snowflakes in elementary school, and how, when the folds were opened, a lovely surprise revealed itself. Today's snowflake was teeny-tiny, less than a quarter of an inch in diameter, and it was absolutely perfect. Every little point and space was pristine; it was beautiful.

The plants in my yard have been winterized now that December has arrived, and the still uncut flowers are frozen in their fall colors on their branches. A few of my roses still have pale pink flowers. Meanwhile, inside my porch window, cozy in the warmth of the house, one of my jade plants has decided to bloom.

I have had this plant for a very long time, and over many years it has grown to be about two feet tall. It has never bloomed before. In fact, in all my years of plant-loving and nurturing, I have never seen a jade plant in bloom.

I am in a somber mood lately. Nearly everyone I know is experiencing some sort of difficulty, some with their own health; others are worn out by juggling their lives while care-giving to family members in failing health. Almost all of the others in my circle are struggling through the economic downturn our country is mired in, and my own family unit is no exception. Times are tough out there, and people are stressed to the limit.
This is why it is so important to notice what is around is, and to search for the small pleasures of life. Artists have an advantage in seeing, because artists are hard-wired to see the world through their own peculiar lenses, finding beauty and inspiration everywhere they look. Noticing the small, quiet splendors is an especially potent way to nurture the soul. I can't think of a more healing way to spend a moment of our precious lives.

Today, a tiny snowflake and a blooming jade plant buoyed my soul. I have chosen to see them both as sign of hope. What is keeping you afloat?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Speaking of Engagements

The weeks go by, and I can't seem to keep up with my work, my emails, my friends. Oh, and yes, my blog. Last Friday I came down with the flu, always an unwelcome occurance to a busy person. Sigh. I don't think it was the swine flu, although I never got into the doctor's office to find out for sure. I just hunkered down for the past five days and waited to feel better.

Since I am a person who would practially have to be forced to stay in bed, I putzed around the house, organizing in my office, pulling out fabrics, and generally worked without working. I didn't attempt anything that required a clear head! Mainly I organized and brainstormed through my stuffy, fuzzy head.

I did figure out a new closure solution to my winter Magic Baby dresses and overalls.

Instead of using the adjustable knot closure I had created for the summer designs, I decided to design a tab in constrasting fabric. The tab is stitched to the "inside" of the reversible dress along the back shoulder. It slips through an elasticized loop, buttoning on the "outside" shoulder. The tab has two buttonholes in it, making it adjustable for extra growing room, one of the requirements of my Magic Baby designs. I am very pleased to have finally figured out an aestetically pleasing solution!

The fall and winter dresses and overalls are not only adjustable, but still reversible. I am using super soft pinwale corduroy on one side, and cotton on the "reverse", or cotton flannel with the overalls. I have also designed matching hooded and reversible jackets for winter, and hope to have the first ones finished this week.

It has been several years since I have participated in a vendor's mall. In fact, I think the last time was at the wonderful (and now defunct) Art Continuum events created and managed by my friend Ginny Carter Smallenburg. Ginny's fabulous event was one of the first, if not THE first, art events full of cool vendor stores and workshops that one now sees all over the country. She also managed them perfectly, treating vendors, teachers and students with respect, and bringing in the best of the best from everywhere. They were very fun weekends!

I am scheduled for a vendor's booth at the upcoming Cleveland Metroparks Reflections of Nature quilt show the weekend of November 14th and 15th. The director, Dan Crandall, had contacted me last year to be a juror for the exhibition, and to present a program and booksigning on Sunday the 15th about my book, Uncommon Threads: Ohio's Art Quilt Revolution. Since the event also has a vendor's mall, I will be setting up a live version of my etsy shop! My Magic Baby designs (dresses, baby blankets, overalls, jackets) will be there, as well as handmade journals, tote bags and other fun creations. Stop by and say hello if you're in the area.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Compositional Conversations

Just a quick note to say that my portion of the Compositional Conversations has been posted on the group's blog:

Feel free to add your comments. The piece passes from artist to artist, each one having it for a week to work on. The goal is not to resolve the composition, but to converse figuratively, artistically and mentally with the piece as you receive it. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Busy is good, right?

Color me! Artist as Quiltmaker entrant Susan Shie brings smiles and happiness everywhere she goes. She added this to the back of her entry envelope.

My busy week began last Saturday in Oberlin, Ohio. I arrived at the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts to meet the Artist as Quiltmaker XIV juror, Carolyn Mazloomi, and the generous volunteers who came to help me, the curator, with the image jury for the exhibition.

Some of the Artist as Quiltmaker XIV entries, organized for the Image Jury.

After a nice lunch with my friend and colleague Mary Ann Tipple, I drove home, showered and dressed for a fun evening out at my local arts facility, BayArts. A local writer friend, Kristen Hampshire, hosted a book signing in the gallery of the art center, and my husband's band, Back Bay (aka 'The Lads') performed. There was a great crowd, as Kristen signed several of her books, and people crowded into the gallery to hear the music and talk. I have never seen so many local writers in one room at one time. What a blast!

Kristen (center) with a fan, and her editor from Quarry Books, Mary Ann (left)

After the show, recording artist Cletus Black stopped by the house to drink some beer and gab with us. It was fun getting to know him better, and, for me, to learn more about being an artist from a singer/songwriter's viewpoint. I have learned over the years that the creative process is the same in many ways, only differing somewhat as the approach takes on different guises. If an artist is a songwriter, musician, actor, poet, writer or visual artist, there is a common experience to be shared. Creative inspiration is universal, yet simultaneously unique to the creator. We stayed up talking way too late. I was invited to join Cletus on Tuesday, when Back Bay went into the recording studio to add some kick-ass guitar and back up vocals for his new album.

Sunday morning, I slept in, and aaahhh, what a luxurious indulgence. I worked on getting the Artist as Quiltmaker jury notification letters prepared, and drank way too many cups of coffee. I like to respond to the artists who enter the show as soon as possible, so that they can either enter their work into another show, or prepare to ship it to FAVA for the Object Jury in November, when the juror selects the final work that will be exhibited next May, and awards the prize money.

On Monday, I began to prepare for my contribution to an artist's group project, Compositional Conversations. This is a cool project started by my colleague Terry Jarrard Dimond. I have blogged about this project before, and encourage you to check out Terry's link to see more. I have now sent the piece to the next artist, and will be writing more about my thought processes concerning this collaborative project later this week.

Back Bay at the Dave's studio (center); David Speaker and Chris Pritchard discuss the microphone set-up with Dave.

Tuesday evening finally arrived, and it promised to be a fun night. I was not disappointed. Chris added a cool rhythm guitar track, then he and David laid down vocal tracks to Cletus' song Drew Us Kings. The album will probably be out in the spring.

Cletus arrived, and he and I sat in the upstairs "crow's nest" listening to the vocal tracks, and talking about art.
Dave's cool board...

Since this was the first time I had been in a recording studio, I was fascinated by every aspect of it. The digital technology is simply amazing. Study and talent in special combinations are required for all: the artists recording, playing music, and singing, and the engineering on the board. Oh, and Dave is also an amazing musician with a great ear!

After David needed to take off to take his dogs home, Cletus invited Chris to stay. He recorded a demo of his version of another of Cletus' songs, Road to Nowhere, from his Down Those Tracks cd. Of the thirty plus years I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by Chris' music, this little demo recording, with his heartfelt vocals and simple acoustic guitar, is one of my all-time favorites. Not to mention, it's a fabulous song, with lyrics that will bring tears to your eyes.

The Taylor or the Fender? The Taylor or the Fender? Chris and Dave test out guitar sounds to see which one will be right for the recording. Just like visual artists, using the right tools for the desired effect is crucial.
After Road to Nowhere, Dave recorded while Cletus and Chris played a rousing Cletus Black version of Kansas City. By the time they were done, it was after midnight (the hour, not the song!), and we had stayed up past out bedtime again. What a fun night!
Did I mention it was only Tuesday? More of the busy week's events to come. Happy October!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

More Experiments and Preparing for The Artist as Quiltmaker IV

Unopened piles of entries for The Artist as Quiltmaker IV

This week, my role as curator of The Artist as Quiltmaker exhibition kicked into high gear. The second oldest, longest running venue for viewing art quilts in the world, this exhibition was conceived of in 1979 by quilt historian Ricky Clark. She had gone to see the very first Quilt National in Athens, Ohio, and was inspired by what she saw. As one of a group of people working to create an arts center in Oberlin, Ohio, Ricky knew immediately that she wanted to create a high quality exhibition that would occur in the off-years of Quilt National. Thus, both the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA) and The Artist as Quiltmaker were born, and the first exhibition opened in 1981. Since that time, every year a major art quilt exhibition is on view in Ohio.

It was in creating a symposium to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the exhibition that I was inspired to write my book, Uncommon Threads: Ohio's Art Quilt Revolution, to outline the untold story of Ohio's role in the now worldwide art quilt movement. We are now in our 28th year, and The Artist as Quiltmaker IV exhibition that opens next spring promises to be another wonderful exhibition. This year's juror, Carolyn Mazloomi, arrives next Saturday to view the entries, and make her initial selections. I'll keep you posted!

In a brief aside, I mentioned in my last blog posting, at the end, that I would be writing next about my participation in Compositional Conversation, an artists project conceived by Terry Jarrard Dimond. I had my weeks mixed up, so will be working on the project now in my possession, and writing about it in the weeks to come. Check out the video of the project thus far, and feel free to add your comments at the link above.

As time presses in around me, I continue to experiment with my Magic Baby reversible overalls design. I finished my second prototype this week. This time I altered a pattern that had no separate bodice, so I was able to applique my desired designs directly onto the body of the overalls. For the outside, I used a brightly colored denim twill with some cotton scraps in soft colors, and for the reverse, a matching and very soft cotton knit.

Other than applying one section of the snap tape backwards, this cute prototype was fun to make. I tried a different solution for the shoulder closures than I have used for my Magic Baby Dresses, because I want to come up with a closure that will work for little boys.

Using twill tape covered with stitched ribbon, I altered the shape of the shoulder pieces, and inserted the strap into the top front. I made it long enough to loop through the back strap, added two button holes to the twill tape, and sewed four buttons in place, two on the front and two on the reverse.
I was worried that the snap tape would not reverse properly. That did not end up being my problem, backward snap tape aside. The thickness of the doubled twill tape gave good body, but there are two things I don't like about the button closure. Number one, I don't like the buttons. The whole design is so soft and cuddly, that I don't like the idea of a hard button on the inside up against a baby or toddler. Secondly, by sewing two buttons in essentially the same location, one on the outside and one on the inside, it is very hard to button the strap in place. Yes, I considered adding some space under the button by either wrapping cording to raise it off the surface, or by using a shank button. Neither of these solve the problem, and, if anything, would exacerbate the problem by making the buttons even more prominently sticking out. I could use my "soft" button idea, but two together is too think. So, for now, it's back to the drawing board.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Experiments in Construction and Composition

Magic Baby reversible overalls experiment

I am swimming in experiments. This past week, as I try to design my fall and winter etsy line, I finished up my first reversible overalls prototype. The design is very cute, with two bodices to play with and a cute crossed back strap.
I pieced one side using a recycled wide wale corduroy blouse and some fun, striped cotton upholstery left over from making pillow case edges years ago.
On the reverse, I used a decorator-weight cotton sateen in light blue, and added pockets lined with the stripe.

As cute as the design came out, there are some problems I discovered while testing out my ideas. First of all, there is no leg opening (think snap tape for babies) for ease of diaper changes. To change the design would require some simple re-drafting. Secondly, with the back bodice design including built-in crossed straps, the shoulder tabs would need to be lengthened in order for me to make them adjustable. The gathering into the bodice is adorable, but perhaps not great for a boys design, which would look better with pleats. Most importantly, viewed from the light of my non-mass-production of these for retail sale, there are too many adaptations to be made and corrected for size. I decided it will be easier to work with a different pattern design altogether, so I am preparing to try Magic Baby Reversible Overalls Prototype #2 today.

A few weeks ago, in another composition experiment, I pulled out flannel scraps left over from making Magic Baby Snuggle Blankies. I have always been frugal in most aspects of my life; needless to say, I was not going to let those exquisite scraps go to waste, especially when baby clothing requires so little fabric. My first step was to cut off any selvedges from the scraps, then rotary cut them into strips and squares, which were stacked together in a box. Piecing the strips together, I could make matching snuggly cuddly reversible jackets for the Snuggle Blankies. It was easy to add little tags of ribbon into the seams, keeping everything very soft, and snippets of trim to the fold-up cuffs. After turning the jacket right side out, I inserted a scrap of pre-gathered satin pink ruffle into the bottom edge.

Magic Baby Cuddle Jacket Prototype, front
The biggest challenge in this design, as is the case in many of my designs, is coming up with a unique closure that is also functional. For the jacket, I inserted a piece of medium gauge, round elastic into bias tape, gathered it and measured the length before inserting it in between the front and reverse jacket sections. Next, since I don't want to be buying tons of buttons, and because buttons can pop off, I created a "soft" button using ribbon blanket trim satin stitched over a cut-down cosmetic sponge, and stitched in place with an "X" of embroidery floss.

This design was fast, easy, and, in my mind, a complete success. I have the pattern worked out from NB to 4T, and plan to make jackets that also match my fall pinwale corduroy designs of my Magic Baby Dresses.

I am still working on prototypes for my "story clothes", completing a hand-quilted baby quilt in the evenings (almost done!), making new TagTalk cards, and finishing a girls dress for a friend who gave me two bags of fabric.
I am an artist, so why am I spending so much time designing baby clothes? There are several answers to this question: a) I need to earn a regular income, and baby clothes sell faster than artwork b) I am a grandmother, and like making things for babies c) It's fun and challenging. Granted, I have had to put my current book project on hold, and don't have as much time in the studio to make artwork. Coming in my next blog post, though, is a challenging artists project I am part of, Compositional Conversations. Check out the link to see what it is about. I will be adding my contributions next week.
My new granddaughter, Madison, wearing her MagicBaby Cuddle Jacket.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Into the Swing of Things

Home, one of my mixed media paintings

This past week, my life slowly began to return to normal. As I have written before, in my world, family comes first. Over the past month, family duties called, and frequently! My primary duty has been as nurse to my husband, as he recovered from foot surgery. Between carting ice bags, food, a guitar, laptop, tea and water up and down the stairs of our home, I had little time to think about work. When I wanted to work, I had to find alternatives to sewing, since my studio is right next to our bedroom, and I didn't want to wake my sleeping giant with the noise of the sewing machine motor.

Along with some new handwork, a baby quilt for my etsy shop, I re-read a few books, including one of my favorites, How the Irish Saved Civilization. I took the time to also read a new book from the Ohio University Press Ohio Quilt series, Philena's Friendship Quilt, the same series in which my first book appeared, Uncommon Threads: Ohio's Art Quilt Revolution. It was actually nice to have some time to read for pleasure.

A new book, which just came out, and which I have not yet read, was written by former Shelburne Museum curator Robert Shaw. Entitled American Quilts: The Democratic Art - 1780-2007, Shaw's book promises to be a great read. As a leading scholar in the field, Shaw's previous books, including The Art Quilt, numerous articles, and his concise introduction to Art Quilts: A Celebration, have vastly contributed to an understanding of the art quilt movement in the United States.

To get back into the swing of work, and with fall coming on here in the midwest, I moved my 'garage' workspace into the house this week. My upstairs studio, with just one very large work table, does not have enough room for me to spread out and work on some of my other design items. I needed a place to work on my TagTalk greeting cards, collages made from recycled clothing tags and product packaging.
By moving a few side chairs in my family room, I was able to create a space to organize my vast collection of tags. It's nothing fancy, but has already improved the speed of my composition process.

Some of my TagTalk cards
So, as you can see, I have been busy, as I get back into the the swing of things. As the days shorten, and winter approaches, I look forward to many happy hours of sewing bliss.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Finding Your Soul Through Your Hands and More Fall Fiber Exhibitions

This past week I heard a great interview on PBS by Jeffrey Brown of author Matthew Crawford. Crawford's new book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work sounds like a great read. It is about the value of making things and doing things with our hands. I can't wait to read it. I also can't help but think it represents the current societal trend, as happened in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, of re-learning how to be a maker. Once again, people across the world are turning to making; this is evident in the popularity of knitting, quilting, scrapbooking, and in online places like etsy.

I have been teaching workshops, ostensibly on making, for decades now. What my workshops are really about, though, is reconnecting. If my workshops are successful, the participants come away understanding how to find and listen to their inner voices once again. Listening to that inner voice is crucial for artists, but is also a honed skill that anyone can benefit from. Why do you think gardening is so popular? When my website update is complete, I will be posting some tutorials from my workshops, some exercises you can try at home. You can then test this out for yourself. If you are feeling lost or disconnected, you can find your way home.

Speaking of workshops, years ago two sisters signed up for my class, Spirit Boxes, Sacred Vessels and Shrines. One of them, Gail Crum , really found her voice, and has been creating fabulous assemblages ever since, several of which I have in my own art collection. She, her artist husband Sean Crum and painter Richard Skerl will be exhibiting at the Pentagon Gallery in Cleveland Heights, Ohio beginning today. The show will be up through October 24th.

As I mentioned in my last post, the art exhibition season is gearing up. The postcard announcements and emails are pouring in from friends and colleagues, so I would like to highlight a few more exhibitions I have heard about. Some of the local (greater Cleveland) galleries do not have websites, so you'll have to find your way to those locales.

Rock Ghost 2 by Rebecca Cross, solo exhibit, Transformations: Shibori in Silk At the Fountain Gallery, Malone College in Canton, Ohio

Having completed her MFA a few years back, Cross' work has blossomed, as she shreds the line between work for the wall and work for the sky.

September 4 - 27, Beachwood (Ohio) Community Center, fiber artists Jean Evans, Carole Pollard, Sandy Shelenberger, Judith Kessler Smith and Sonja Tugend will be showing work in Fabrications x Five.

In St. Louis, Missouri, a happenin' fiber art city, you can see the work of my colleague Pat Owoc in several group show venues. Her solo exhibition, Not Altogether Whole, will open in the Charak Gallery at the Craft Alliance on September 11, and will be on view until October 25, 2009.

Detail, Rest Area 1 Mile, by Pat Owoc

Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend, a holiday which was designed to honor the work of our hands. Make something this weekend!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fiber Art Exhibits Gearing Up for Fall, Part 1

One of the joys of looking through the mail is receiving invitations from artist friends and colleagues for their upcoming exhibitions. This is the season for new fiber art exhibitions, and this fall will be no exception. Visiting art exhibits is self-stimulating. It is also a fact that, especially in our field, other fiber artists eschew petty jealousies and competitiveness, instead appearing at openings from near and far to see other fellow artists, and to be supportive of those whose work is on exhibit.

Conversation in Fabric at the Ohio Craft Museum in Columbus. The fabulous work of artist Susan Shie graces the exhibition postcard.

The exhibition I curate, The Artist as Quiltmaker, juries in the fall, but hangs in the late spring, a time when the school year is coming to an end and we all dream of the coming summer. The biennial exhibition, the second oldest, longest-running venue for viewing art quilts in the world (second only to Quilt National) carries the pulse of the art quilt movement, both through the jurors and the exhibitors throughout the history of the show. This year's juror, Carolyn Mazloomi, will bring her own sensibility to the entries, one of the exciting things about utilizing a single juror. The entry guidelines are left purposefully flexible. We do not limit the size or offer a definition of a quilt, for example. As a result, we really receive, and exhibit, very cutting edge work. If any of you are planning to enter, click on the link to the show above, and download the pdf entry form. The entry deadline is September 29, 2009.

Opening on September 13, Conversations in Fabric at the Ohio Craft Museum was curated by Tracy Rieger and Linda Fowler of Quilt Surface Design Symposium fame. The work of twenty-five artists will be on exhibit through November 1st in Columbus, Ohio. The exhibiting artists include longtime friends Susan Shie, Sandy Shelenberger, Deborah Anderson and Barbara Lind, new acquaintance Sue Cavanaugh, as well as the wonderful work of artists such as Dorothy Caldwell, Patricia Larson, and Catherine Jeffers. Because of the incredible depth of Ohio's art quilt scene, (successfully documented in my book), there is always something wonderful to see in Columbus. Don't miss this one.

Corner Office by Terry Jarrard-Dimond, from her solo exhibit, Textile Constructions

I am currently participating in an online artist dialogue started by South Carolina fiber artist Terry Jarrard-Dimond and called Compositional Conversation. It is the second such virtual artist project I have participated in, and it promises to be a very stimulating experience. I first became familiar with Terry's work when several of her art quilts were juried into The Artist as Quiltmaker a few years ago. A stunning, process oriented artist and craftswoman, Dimond's solo exhibition at the Goodall Gallery at Columbia College, South Carolina promises to be fabulous. Textile Constructions opens September 1, so check it out if you're in the area.
My husband had surgery on both feet earlier this week. As a result of caring for him until he can walk again, my focus is elsewhere this week, and likely in the coming weeks. Look for more information on upcoming exhibitions to see in the coming days. And enjoy your feet, and your hands! I have gained a new appreciation for these taken-for-granted body parts this week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cleaning Out Our Attics

These are fish napkin holders. They arrived in Saturday's mail, carefully wrapped and shipped USPS Priority Mail. Inside the box was a note from a dear college friend I had seen earlier in the week. She was in town from Paris visiting her elderly parents, and they had been cleaning out the attic of their family home. The never-used fish napkin holders, gifted to her parents long ago, had sat boxed up in the attic for years, waiting to be re-gifted to someone who still uses cloth napkins. That someone would be me, the recipient of a sweet and thoughtful gesture from a friend and her elderly parents, all of whom I adore.

This entire episode reminded me that we, 'we' meaning my husband and I, my siblings, my colleagues and all my friends in their fifties, we are all in a "cleaning out the attic" stage of our lives. The attic-clearing can be literal: passing long things we've held onto over the years, but no longer need or want, to someone else.

When my children left home, out of my house went extra furniture, dishes and pots and pans. Now that they both own homes, I have a list in my mind of special family heirlooms or otherwise valuable items in my attic and closets that I have now decided they are "old enough" to value and take care of. By becoming homeowners and parents, they have attained a certain level of stability in their lives at the same time that I am in the mood to clear "things" out of my own.

My 'baby' sister and I this summer, during her visit from Italy

My entire summer has been a more metaphorical cleaning of the attic. I have been acquiring new roles, such as "grandmother of three," "college buddy now in her fifties." I have also had the pleasure of not only forging fresh relationships with new grandbabies and old college friends, but of reconnecting with high school friends on Facebook and my own siblings, all wrapped in a parentheses of the music being created within my own family unit.

At this age, relationships become even more important, as they are my fuel for being an artist. Over the past decade, I have carefully swept my attic clean of unhealthy, one-sided relationships. I find I no longer have a tolerance for being with people who have nothing to give back in return. Instead, I have focused on my family, and building new and stronger relationships with our artist friends and musicians, all of whom provide deep love and support, shared experiences, and new ideas that find their expression in a cleaned out attic, where there is room to grow.

In July my tArty friends, a local artist group, met at my house to share their new work. It ran the gamut from exciting commissions, new, mind-blowing sketchbooks, and ideas developed into artwork.
Christy's commission sketches

Jill's sketchbook drawings

Christine with work inspired by her sketchbooks

In my own work, I have spent the summer working on designs for my new line of Magic Baby clothes. They have been selling as fast as I can get them finished and photographed. Now I am gearing up for Fall and Winter, with new editions being created in soft flannel, knitted fabric and baby cord. I am also trying to work out some baby boy designs. I need to come up with something very cute and very unique, but not "girly." My 'clean attic' and supportive relationships give me the support and space to let my mind have room to think.

Please don't get the idea that my house or my work space is literally clean. Quite the opposite. In my writing studio, every shelf is covered with research materials, my manuscript pages and files, and accented with piles of finished artwork, TagTalk cards and the like decorating the floor.

In my art studio, a too-small bedroom filled with a Pier 1 dining room table converted to a work table, fabric and works in progress are everywhere. It looks like a mess, but this is how I work. I have my fabrics organized in ways that I can find just what I am searching for. My trims and notions are organized in containers and boxes that fill the space under my work table. The lighting is terrible, but this is the space I have to work in, and this is where I work. Every day.

My point in showing this to you is that the "cleaning the attic" analogy has nothing to do with literal cleaning. It has everything to do with clearing out our lives so that we can focus on our passions. For those of you who haven't found your passion yet, I suggest the technique of attic-clearing to help you make room for finding it.

Another artist group I am participating in, Compositional Conversations, was formed online by my colleague Terry Jarrard Dimond. You can check the links in my sidebar to some of the artists who are also participating and writing about the project. Terry, an amazing artist, invited 16 artists to participate in a conversation, both in writing online and responding, but also by agreeing to be recipients of an art piece begun by her with a single piece of fabric which is sent to each artist respectively to be added to, considered, and conversed with. It's an intriguing exercise for the artists, and a chance to respond to the choices other artists have made. My turn to receive the artwork-in-progress is fast approaching. Each week, as I see the pictures posted from the other participants, my heart starts to race in nervous anticipation. Clearing out my metaphorical attic has made room for these new experiences and artistic conversations.

If you regularly follow my blog, you may have noticed that I have been absent for awhile. I have been really, really busy working, and have needed to focus on that. Somehow, though, the fish napkin holders arriving in the mail following six weeks of reconnecting with old friends and loved ones got me to thinking about the past, about attics, about relationships, and about making room for what is important. I hope, perhaps, my thoughts will jog your own in the same way. Time to clean your attic.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nose to the Grindstone

Alright now, seriously. It's been almost a month since my last blog post.

Okay, seriously. That sounds like a confession to a priest in a movie. It's true, however. My life is not a movie. It only feels like one sometimes.

This is just a quick note to say hello, and to let you know that I have been working so much, and such long hours, that I haven't had the energy to think of anything clever to share. I will try to catch up with my sweet and kind readers soon.

In the meantime, happy August, and back to the grindstone for me.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hearing Voices

Last year, I was part of a small group show with my local artist group, affectionately known as "the tArts." The show was held at the lovely and spacious Stocker Gallery at Lorain County Community College.

The tArts in the 2008 configuration: Christy Gray, Tina Rossi, Gayle Pritchard, Christine Mauersberger, Lois Carroll, Susanne Gregg, Jill Milenski, Susan Shie, at the opening of Flavors of Fiber in 2008.

One of the pieces I made for the show, I Hear Voices, was inspired by a song my husband wrote, Simon Says. It's a fairly large piece, given the work I have created in the past years, and attempts to tell the story in fabric. The installation image of the piece doesn't quite do it justice, because of my limited photography skills.
I Hear Voices in My Head by Gayle Pritchard, 2008.

All of this is to give a little background to the video I have posted to my blog. My husband, Chris, who has been a musician all of his life, also happens to be the most creative human being I know. Today, he made a video integrating the song, his photography and my art piece. I hope you will enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Busy Is as Busy Does

What have you been doing this week? I hope it involved some pleasurable activities, even if it involved working for money.

My week started last Friday. Since I watch my grandson two days a week, in the middle of the week, I try to think of those days as my weekends, a time when I relax, try not to think about the work piling up, and play with him. The most pleasurable activity in my week, then, was last Friday night, when I went to a concert: two acoustic guitars, microphones, amazing harmonies, lots of friends and family present. My husband and his partner played for two and half hours, and it was really fun.

Chris and David brought down the house. Photo by H. Kimmel

Other than a quick visit with a visiting brother-in-law, I worked like crazy, launching my new line of Magic Baby clothing. I am tired, and have not had much time to write, so I'll just post a few pictures for your feedback. I had planned to put these on my etsy store immediately, but they keep selling before I have a chance. That's a good thing, trust me!

Magic Baby poncho, fits up to 30 pounds

Magic Baby Watermelon Garden dress, 12 mo. size

These dresses are really cute, if I do say so myself. They are completely reversible, two dresses in one, and size adjustable (at the shoulders), so they can be worn for a long time. I love the shaped edge bottom.

Detail of shaped edge from the Magic Baby fruity flowered dress, 18 mo. size

This one also has a really fun princess-y back bodice embellishment.

The third item in the product line are my snuggly Magic Baby double flannel blankies. The are super-soft and lightweight while still being cozy, cute and practical.

So that's my week at work. I am currently enjoying my weekend.