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The King

This the largest quilt I’ve done so far.  Nine feet by nine feet. Eight-one square feet of hand-dyed Indonesian batiks and colorful Hawaiian prints (162 square feet if you count the back).  I pieced together strips to create the beach landscape, moving from sunset sky colors down to ocean colors and finally the sand.  I love the way the long horizontal strips create a feeling of vastness and make you feel like you’re just catching a glimpse of one small part of a much broader picture. The border is mixture of more of the batiks and Hawaiian prints and gives it a finished look without harshly cutting off the beach scene.

After stretching the background out onto the frame, I free-formed the designs on top of the beach scene, cutting each piece out of paper first to make sure proportions were correct.  Once I had everything laid out correctly, I cut the pieces out of fabric.  Each appliqué has the edges turned under and ironed down, making it a very useable, washable art piece.  It is a king-sized quilt, however that isn’t completely why I called it
“The King”.  One of the Hawaiian prints shows a King Kamehameha style character surfing in an old helmet. There are old structures and lush foliage that hint at ancient Hawaii. He’s not a prominent part of the quilt, but he seems to be there watching over it.  It’s one of the many little subtle details you will find as you explore all the images in the batiks and prints.

After I lay out all the fabrics and get the design just right, then it’s time to take the entire piece off the frame and add the finishing detail work with lots of freehand quilting.  I always compare it to drawing, except I am moving the paper instead of the pen.  All the thread work is my own design and is created as I go along.  No computerized stitches, no pre-programmed patterns and I don’t draw patterns out ahead of time onto the fabric.  It’s just me moving the quilt around under the needle, drawing with the thread.  Not only does it add beautiful lines and textures, but it is another layer of subtle details to be explored.

The backs of my quilts are always a favorite part.  The front has all the variety of colors, but the back is just the thread work on one large batik.  That allows for a graphic line drawing version of what’s on the front.  It makes it visually beautiful from both sides, which is important for a quilt that will be used and scene from both sides. In this case, it is a dark blue batik with a multi-colored tropical foliage. I used a variegated thread for the back that is the same tones as the batik design.

My quilting business started with a surfboard quilt very similar to this one.  It was a twin-size quilt that I made for my son eight years ago.  But, despite the fact that I’ve been making these surfboard quilts ever since, no two are ever exactly alike. Or even too close.  I don’t reuse patterns, and although the theme of the surfboards in the sand recurs quite frequently, the sizes, shapes, colors and fabrics are never the same.  Each piece I create is always a complete original. This quilt represents about 70 hours of work from conceptualization to construction and all the finishing touches.  Stop by and visit Studio 19 to see it in person.  It’s too big to hang on the wall for display, but that means it will be on my table and you can touch it and inspect it close up.

“The King” is for sale for $2900.

This little crab might be my favorite thing on this quilt.
Although I do love this sandcastle as well.
The photo doesn’t capture the sparkle of the stitching. I used a satin yellow thread and a gold metallic thread to add some shine.
I stitched wispy cloud-like lines and swirls into the sky to give it a different texture than the ocean.
I really love the batiks on this sailboat. That seagull batik is one of my all-time favorites, and the leaf one has the exact same color palette but compliments it with the larger scale print.
What ocean sky is complete without seagulls?
I absolutely love the surfboard prints in this quilt. And they were a second choice when I couldn’t find the one that I thought I wanted. Love those happy accidents.
I stitched the border in a lavender thread. I wanted to add some fun details like more tropical foliage and ocean waves, but I wanted the center of the quilt to be the star. There is a lot of detail in the border, but the color is subtle.
The back! I absolutely love quilt backs when done right.
The border.
I just love how the designs look pared down to just the stitching.

The sandcastle.
Laid out for photographing.

 

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Always Rising.

The phoenix image is just one that keeps coming back to me.  A few months ago, I sold the phoenix quilt I made last year and felt I was in a different place in my life and wouldn’t use that image again.  I thought about how I felt stronger and how maybe I was ready for imagery about power and already being strong, not still rising from the ashes.  And then, I was hit hard by a few things in my personal life.  Really hard.  I realized that this idea of rising is recurrent.  We don’t rise just once.  It is a constant journey.  A constant battle to leave behind the things, and sometimes the people, that pull us down and make us feel like we have no where to go, and that rising is not within our capabilities.  Some people make us feel that way deliberately. Others do it in much more subtle ways.  One of my biggest battles this year has been fighting the fear of insignificance.

We all want to matter.  I want to matter.  I want to feel like I’m worth a phone call, a kind word, a quick message to ask how I am or if I’d like to grab lunch and catch up.  Something.  Anything. And, don’t lecture me on how a healthy self-esteem would cure me of needing that reassurance from others and how I need to just know I am valuable deep within. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all of that.  Sometimes, though….sometimes I want to FEEL it from another person.  And that made me realize that I am still in the process of rising.  Of peeling off whatever it is that holds my spirit down. I am still that phoenix looking up and lifting my wings and flying while part of me is still dripping flames and ash and all the things I’m trying to leave behind.

“My Unconquerable Soul”

And that led me to this latest phoenix design using a very different technique.  My first phoenix quilt, entitled “My Unconquerable Soul”, pictured on the left, was built entirely as appliqués. Every piece was cut and the edges were turned under and stitched down on top of a base batik.  In my newest design, the background is a piecing extravaganza! (which is code for nightmare…)  There is no way to cut out a bunch of one shape because the same shapes and sizes rarely exist in this piece.  Once I piece together the background, I will build the phoenix as I did before, through a series of appliquéd feathers and layers that make up her body.  And then the whole thing will be stitched, and most likely I won’t be able to resist adding lots and lots of Swarovski Crystals, though I’m not exactly sure where they will be placed just yet.  She’ll let me know, though. When she’s good and ready.

 

This is the line drawing I had printed full size for the pattern. I will work pieced by piece, cutting it out of vibrant patterned batiks and stitching as I go along. As tedious as that gets, I find it the least confusing way to approach the design.
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The Strong Will Remain

This year.  Ooooo boy. There have been some incredible highs and
lows.  I have become fascinated with what it means to be strong. I don’t think I’m alone in that fascination, because I’ve noticed that my biggest sellers are often images of strength.  The phoenix rising from the ashes, square-jawed mermaids with hair flowing in the water or withstanding a furious wind, tough women, wolves, bears, tigers and especially lions.  Lots of lions. Most of these pieces have lasted a day or two in the shop before they sold.  Some were sold while I was still working on them.  Why is that?  Why do these strong images resonate with all kinds of people? Is it because we are strong? Or because we want to be strong? Or both? Maybe we are strong already but need to be reminded.  Maybe we need to surround ourselves with these images so that on those days when we feel weak and wonder how we’re going to pay for car repairs or help our child with a learning disability or fight that ongoing battle with weight loss or rejection or abandonment, we can feel inspired. Strengthened. Emboldened. These images send us out into the world in the morning and are there for us when we return at night seeking refuge from the day, battered by life’s challenges, ready again to look at that reminder that we ourselves picked out and placed in our own home.  We secretly believe in ourselves enough to feel the connection with the tiger or the phoenix or the lion, but we also know ourselves well enough to understand that we still need their inspiration in these moments.  We understand, but also welcome the reminder that  “The weak fall, but the strong will remain and never go under!”  — Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

More images of Strength.

“Mermaid Dreams”

 

“I Am Both”

 

“Lionhearted”

 

“Queen”

 

O tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide!” -William Shakespeare

 

“Aloha”

 

“Peace”

 

“Mama Bear”

 

“She-Wolf”

 

“Lion for a Day”

 

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“The Best Way Out is Always Through.” –Robert Frost

Layered batiks on cotton batting.

You know, I’ve had better weeks.  As I was packing some things up to work on at the studio today, I found this piece that I started a couple of months ago. Sometimes I create happy sea stars and fun octopuses.  And then sometimes, I am inspired by life and how it changes.  How it pushes and pulls you in these different directions, forcing you to either change with it or hold steady and fight it.  And the best solution isn’t always the same choice. Sometimes it’s about the happy things that inspire us–cute animals, beautiful scenery, vibrant colors or a great new piece of fabric.  And sometimes, it’s the not-so-happy things and in those moments of pain and struggle, I often visualize images that seem to parallel what I’m going through.

My rendering for “The Mouth of Hell” for “La Pastorela” at The Adobe Chapel in Old Town, San Diego.

One of those moments reminded me of this painting I had created years ago for a primitive styled production of La Pastorela.  In this little Christmas play, there is a very literal mouth of hell.  For this production, the director just wanted a very simple, fantastical design and this was my rendering for that backdrop.  I don’t know why I thought about it all these years later, but I pulled it out of my stash of paintings and decided I would turn it in to a textile piece.  It seemed symbolic of where my life was and I wanted to create something a little less happy-beach-day and a little more true to what I was experiencing.  That said, I am an optimist and I always like to feel there is hope.  I’ve been contemplating a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel piece for quite some time, and thought it might be cool to combine those two ideas and have the tunnel be this demonic mouth of hell, as that’s what it felt like I was faced with at the time.  I came across this Robert Frost quote that I felt fit so perfectly:  “The best way out is always through.”  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the difficulties of my life these past few years, it’s that.  There are no short cuts.  There are no easy paths that will allow me to circumvent the pain and stress and sorrow that my situation brings me.  It is only in walking through the fire that I will be able to pass my demons and step out of the darkness, over those sharp teeth and into the sunshine that awaits.  I don’t know how long it will take to feel that fresh air again.  Sometimes I feel the breeze and the warmth of the sunshine and know it is getting closer.  Sometimes it seems to take forever.  But, through it all, I know there’s only one way to go, and that’s to face it head on and walk straight through.

The finished piece. 19″x19″. Indonesian batiks, lots of free motion stitching, including red and gold metallic threads. The eyes and the sun are embellished with Swarovski crystals.
Love this little sun clearly bold and visible through the mouth. Lots of thread and a handful of Swarovski crystals make it shine and draw your eyes through the mouth on to something better.
Lots of free hand stitching and a beautiful red and black binding.
One more view.

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Liturgical Art. Such a Great Phrase.


Here’s my second piece of “liturgical art”. I love that phrase.  If feels so classy and righteous. But seriously, I really love making these pastor’s stoles.  There’s something about the odd size and the fact that it’s a wearable that make these quite interesting.  There
are two sides that need to sort of go together but don’t actually touch each other, and each side is only about 4″ wide and super long.  It’s not a proportion I’ve ever used in painting or textile work and it presents and interesting challenge.  The goal is to make it a piece of art in some way, but that can be tricky with such a long skinny surface area to work with.  Well, two long skinny surface areas, that really make up one picture, but split in half, so not exactly.  I feel
like I’m in a Dr. Seuss world.

My friend gave me a quick sketch of what he wanted.  This is to be a special baptism stole and he wanted abstracted water swirling. He had been inspired by a design I had created for my mother’s piece (coming soon). So, I shopped for an interesting assortment of blue batiks and got to work creating this little work of art.  I used a lighter batik with less pattern for the background so the river would contrast more and be the focal point.  I picked one that had a little pink and yellow in it as well, to add to the contrast, since all my water batiks only had blues in them.  Then it was just a matter of cutting out and layering all the swirls.  That’s probably simplified just a touch, but that’s really all
I did.  Layered wavy lines until it looked right. 🙂 The cool way of describing that process is to call it “organic”.  Which sounds much better than “lacking a plan”.  I love building designs from scratch as I go, though.  There are times for patterning and there are times to just roll with it and see where the batiks take you.  This was the time for that.  When it was finished, it needed a few bubbles to break it up and to tie the background together with the waves.  The stitching helps with that, too, but I like adding the circular shapes against the wavy lines.  Five thread colors for the free motion quilting and this beautiful little river was finished!  I also love the back.  I’ve been using darker batiks on the backs of my quilts lately so the stitching is very noticeable and I just love how it looks. Very happy with the way it turned out.

 

A few more closeups:

Love the back!   

 

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Selective Randomness

You know that song “You Are My Sunshine”? Well, I hate it. Eleven years ago, after going through more than a decade of fertility treatments and so many difficult things, we were finally placed with a sweet baby boy with the hopes of adopting him.  It was the best.  Such a special time for me.  But for some reason, all these years of waiting and preparing for a baby, and the only song I could think of to sing to him for months was “You Are My Sunshine”.  I mean have you ever listened to all the lyrics?  It’s a super depressing song but I think everything thinks it’s happy because it says the word “sunshine” except it’s not about sunshine at all. It’s about loss.  And it turned out to be prophetic.  Five months later, we had to give that sweet baby back to his father, and I haven’t sang it since.  I have this idea in my head that if I sing it, I will lose one of my boys, and I can’t risk that again.  I know it’s not rational, but it’s how I feel. Well, this week, it was featured in my son’s elementary school music program, and it brought me to tears very quickly and unexpectedly. I’ve been thinking about how often I use the sun motif in my work, because it does still represent joy and peace and warmth and beautiful Southern California days.  I just can’t sing that song.

This sun textile art is still a favorite.  I created each piece completely separately because I didn’t want anything to line up perfectly at all.  I wanted each piece to be a quadrant, but I didn’t want them to look like they went together.  I often refer to my process (and I used this term as a scenic artist also) as selective randomness. I need it to look random but if I really threw caution to the wind and didn’t check anything, then there is a big chance some parts would line up way too perfectly or the colors would match too well, and I don’t want that.  So, how do I coordinate but clash?  Well, clashing takes a little more skill than you might think.

I started by choosing four background fabrics that were very different from each other.  I chose two warm colors and two cool colors. From there, I picked up one of those squares and added all the fabrics and stitching.  The first one was kind of easy. But, from then on, I had to make sure things didn’t line up, and I didn’t use the same exact shapes.  It may sound easy to not match, but it’s surprising how repetitive our brains can be, and how they like to go back to their go-to shapes and colors and suddenly you wind up with four very similar pieces.  I often ask myself when I’m laying out fabrics “what does NOT go with this?” and then I choose that fabric. It’s a way of pushing me to step away from a routine or a tendency and instead pay attention to an instinct.  It requires intention, though.  It isn’t something you craft while you’re chatting with a friend.  I find in those times, we often revert back to habit.  It takes a conscious effort (at least for me) to push a boundary and to make a different choice.

Once I pieced all four quadrants, then I had to shift them around until I found the grouping I liked the best.  Next, I photographed it from all four sides to decide what direction I liked best, and that determined how I stitched the pieces together.  The individual quadrants were stitched to canvas before all the free motion quilting, to give the cotton batik fabrics some stability and to protect it when I stretched it over the frame.  Lots of free motion stitching, including several gold metallics.  It’s bold and abstract and full of life and so many colors.  Much better than that stupid song. 🙂

 

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“The Best Way Out is Always Through.” Robert Frost

This past week has been a painful one for me and I was not feeling the desire to make cute little sea creatures of any kind. I felt like I wanted to express the darkness that I have often felt going through these difficult times.  I love words and I often look at poems and quotes and other writings to see if I can find a phrase or a paragraph or a song lyric or something that seems to capture how I feel in a way I can’t seem to express.  I often use these quotes as inspiration for art pieces, although it’s not usually the intention at first. But, when I find a beautifully crafted phrase that strikes a chord deep inside me, then my natural reaction is to have some type of visual image pop up in my mind, and then I sketch that idea.  This natural flow was a little out of order today, but it still resulted in the beginnings of an new art piece.

The beginnings of the fabric layout. Lots of little pieces. I love how the layering is beginning to add depth.

Many years ago I worked on a sweet little show called La Pastorela.  It is a centuries old Spanish play about the shepherds journey to Bethlehem as told in the Gospel of Luke. I got the chance to design and paint the scenery for a production of it that took place in The Adobe Chapel in Old Town, San Diego. It is a primitive show, often performed as it would have been hundreds of years ago in Mexico in chapels just like this one, and this director wanted to keep that same historic feel to the look of this production.  A few days ago I came across my rendering (pictured above) of a backdrop that I designed and painted for that production.  It is an image of the mouth of hell. In keeping with the tradition, I created the paintings in the style of primitive Mexican folk art, so the images were kept simple but fun and colorful and a little fantastical.  When I saw this painting again, I was immediately struck with the emotions of the last few years and thought about what it means to stand at this proverbial mouth of hell and still move forward towards something better.  What exactly does it mean to survive?  I knew right away that I wanted to created a quilt piece very much like this painting.  But, something was off.  Something was missing.  Hope was missing.  Much of my art work is about triumph in some way, whether large or small, and this painting was missing the triumph.  I have sketched a few ideas in the last few months that explore the idea of the light at the end of the tunnel.  As I was thinking about what it means to pass through some type of trauma–or a gaping mouth of hell–I had the idea to combine the two images and make the light at the end of the tunnel only accessible once you’ve faced this demon.  That light doesn’t always come easily, and there are so many scary things before you reach it. But, it is doable.

The new sketch. I wrote down three quotes that stuck with me, but the Robert Frost quote is the one I felt best captured the concept.

I did a separate sketch of the rendering, incorporating the two images together and then began assembling the textile art piece.  I built the center of the mouth with the sun and the sharp teeth around it like a type of primitive bear trap.  The stitching is really going to be essential on this piece, although the layering of the fabrics has already created a beautiful depth to the piece. I need more red batiks to finish, so stay tuned and watch how I use a layering technique to realize this design.  Despite this being a frightening image, the concept is truly one of hope and triumph.  Of walking past the things that should kill us, or in the very least, stop our progress, to a wide open hopeful life full of choices.

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Strong Women “Keep Going”

My phoenix rising from the ashes. She is unwavering in her determination to fly again. Read the blog post about this one.

I’ve been obsessed with Harriet Tubman lately.  I love tough girls, and she had to have been one of the toughest. I love Susan B. Anthony, Joan of Arc, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth I and Sacajawea.  I listen to Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Miranda Lambert and Pink. And of course my mother…my biggest influence, and my sister and other amazing women in my family.  I saw a girl on a motorcycle today waiting at a stop light in her sleek leather pants. Red helmet, sweet black ride. I wanted to be her. Badly. Learning to ride a motorcycle has always been on my bucket list. I think it’s because the last few years have had me questioning what it means to be a strong woman.  A feminist. Which is a word I haven’t always related to because where I grew up, it often had a negative connotation.  A femi-nazi.  As if all women really wanted to just be men and/or wanted to live in a world without men.  And being a feminist must mean you don’t want be with a man or have one hold a door open for you and your days were spent bashing them.  As a mom of two young boys, it worries me that they will be seen as the bad guys for just being men. I don’t think turning the tide the opposite direction is equality. I have come to understand that the true definition of feminism is that I have the right to think and feel and pursue whatever I want. And if that means I want to cook pastries and raise babies, I can do that.  And if I want to be a CEO or play hockey, I can do that, too.

When I started making quilts as a business, it was really important to me that my more feminine quilts be just as bold and strong as the more masculine ones.  It also became important to me to bridge that gap and use such interesting combinations of colors and prints that both men and women would be drawn to just about any of my pieces. Since I started out making surf-themed crib quilts, I made a point of keeping the surfboard themes in both my girls’ and boys’ quilts, just making minor changes in the fabric choices…mainly adding more fuchsia to the girls’ quilts. I looked at what was already available out there and the boy decor was surfboards and vintage cars, strong prints and bold colors and the girl decor was inevitably flowers and bikinis. No, thank you. I love flowers, don’t get me wrong, but I felt it was time to portray those cool surfer and skater girls that I had seen ripping up the waves and tearing up the skate park.  Despite me not being great surfer and a worse skateboarder, as a more athletic person, those are the girls I could relate to more.  Nothing against Disney princesses, but there was plenty of that.  I wanted to bring a different powerful dynamic to my work.

She is her own woman, looking out over her limitless domain on a cloudy day, at peace with herself. The manager of her own destiny. The decision-maker in her own life and the chaser of her own dreams.  Maybe she’s a mermaid, but she’s a badass mermaid.

I sketched a lot and worked hard to create feminine designs the rivaled they boy stuff in the cool factor. Yes, I still use mermaids and flowers and feminine things.  But, I try to create powerful designs with those images.  As women, we are both feminine and strong.  Soft and tough.  Bold yet compassionate.  That’s what I want you to see when you see my work. I want you to see life and movement and passion and struggles and darkness and despair and triumph.  That’s what I see in myself.  All those things rolled into one person.  And many many people.

 

I started out with the surf quilts, and that led to creating other ocean-inspired designs. I’ve since branched out into desert landscapes and mountains and wildlife and so many other things.  Even when I’m designing a basic flower, I want that flower to embody how I feel about other women and about being a woman myself. So, even down to the simplest notecard, my designs are full of strength.  You may never know the thought behind each of my pieces or who may have inspired them, even in some small way, but know this…behind each work of art that I create, there is ALWAYS the influence of some badass woman who kept going.

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” –Harriet Tubman

 

More of my strong feminine designs:

“I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible.” ― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
My surfer girl sunset.
This was for another amazing tough woman I know who is a business woman and also conquers the lake on her paddle board regularly.
Fearless flowers.
One of my surfboard notecards. Strong colors but feminine touches in the print.
This little octopus has stories to tell!
Mermaids are often girly, but the vibrant colors and her independent nature definitely make her a tough girl.
I love these wildflowers. Strong shapes and colors and design with a sun full of feminine sparkly Swarovski crystals.
It may be a simple heart, but the strong diamond print background gives it a little extra power. Hard geometric lines against the soft curves of the heart. Very symbolic.
There’s a blog post about this amazing she-wolf.
Touches of fuchsia bring a fun feminine element into this abstract surfboard.
her face…so determined. Wild mane flowing in the water. She knows where she’s going.
Even my jewelry is more rocker chick than quilt diva. So is my hair.
I freehanded the outline of the girl looking out at the wave there on the right. I love that image–of the surfer preparing to go out, reading the break. I also put her in a summer wetsuit because I get tired of the girls always being in a string bikini when most of the surfer girls I see aren’t.
I did a whole blog post about this girl and this design. Check it out under “The Calling”.
Now, this is one of the few I’ve done with more pastel colors. It’s also also more traditional style, which is unusual for me. But this collection of prints had the texture of denim…a little worn looking but still bold and colorful. I really loved them all and put them together in one quilt. I love the very simple design of the single surfboard and the sun on top of the squares and rectangles.
The poppies! I also did a blog post about this one, but I still love how bold and strong this design is. It’s flowers, but they’re powerful with their red color and proportion to the sky and grasses.

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An Object in Motion

One of my goals when designing and building a piece of textile art is to capture the feel of objects in motion, whether animals, or plants blowing in the wind, or both being carried by the ocean currents. When you feel motion, you feel life. I love to look at a static piece of art and be able to feel that movement that comes with something being alive.  It’s amazing when an artist can capture that, and it’s something I aspire to.  This new design is another example of that. I’ve had this sketch for quite sometime.  It will require some difficult piecing, so I’ve been avoiding it, but I came across it again tonight and felt inspired that this would be the next big project on the table.  I’m going to make it a twin quilt size, 70″x96″.  Unlike most of my quilts and textile art, I don’t think it will have any appliqué. I think part of the beauty of this piece will be the skill it will take to piece in all those curves and have it look seamless. I want to add some sparkle into the sun colors, and will either do that with metallic threads or Swarovski crystals, or perhaps both.  I’m not sure yet. My quilts usually tell me what they want when the time comes.  Like my kids, only without the temper tantrums.  Stay tuned to see this one come to life!