Guild Visits · Live-Online Classes · Something to Think About

Who Gets to Make Art?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our world of quilts, and by that I don’t mean the larger world–just our own little world. I’ve made some hideous quilts, some use-up-this-fabric quilts (above), some quilts I consider my best masterpieces. Our own little world is echoed out into our guilds, our social media, our quilt shows, publications and then it echoes back to us in terms of the materials we can use. It’s a cycle, a circle, but at the nub of it is that one quilter looking at her one stack of fabrics, or the sketch she made while waiting at the doctor’s office and seeing the print on the back of the chairs. It could be she was messing around with a traditional block, or created one of her own. And from that nub, that spark, hopefully art begins.

from here

I’ve been thinking about this because of an article by Guy Trebay (found while cleaning out) where he asks straight off, “Who gets to make art?” Written about the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, it is an interesting overview of this age-old question.

from here

Do you get to create art? Do I? Or is it only relegated to that famous quilter that is all over Instagram? The lady who has her face on the ads of the sewing machine you like? Does more fame equal more entitlement to call it art? And then there is the pressure from the outside world, debating forever and ever if making a quilt is a craft or an art?

from here

Trebay attributes this question to Luke Syson, and says that “In asking [this question], Mr. Syson was adding his voice to a growing chorus of museum professionals who are challenging traditional hierarchies of art production. He was talking, in this instance, about the obscure craft of scrimshaw, subject of a fine study show at the Fitzwilliam, but more broadly about the importance of recognizing and celebrating those gifted artists whose work is so often relegated to the stepchild status of crafts.”

from here

Luke Syson, now the director of the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge (Britain), shares his experience of having to address some of his biases about what iconic art is in his TEDTalk, which he titled “How I learned to stop worrying and love “useless” art.” It’s worth a listen, if you have a few minutes. In that afore-mentioned Instagram post about scrimshaw art, he asks “Who gets to be an artist?” In the text he writes ” I thought about the scrimshanders then – working class, almost entirely anonymous, using their time to making things that were beautiful and that documented their lives. Amateurs, yet completely excluded from the world of leisure that this word implies. But I’m guessing there was a collectors market for these objects early on – that these were a sideline rather than simply the making of personal souvenirs.”

Which leads me to think about the anonymity of women, making their art for years and years, hidden in plain sight. They were making that which was beautiful to them, and which represented their lives. And yes, amateurs, all. We’ll leave this discussion here, with a quote from Trevor Bell:

“Art condenses the experience we all have as human beings, and, by forming it, makes it significant. We all have an in-built need for harmony and the structures that create harmony. Basically, art is an affirmation of life.”

Today is Mother’s Day. My mother is on the left (c. 1948), my daughter (named after her) is shown in the center in a photo from high school (c. 1998). (I sent this photo to her when she complained about one of her children being always on her phone.) I’m on the right (c. 1972).

My mother made art: seven of us. She never quilted. She read. She never painted, as did my father. She did do dishes, laundry, dressed elegantly, organized us, kept us going. I owe her everything, and as she approaches her 93rd birthday, this Mother’s Day I celebrate her as a different kind of unsung, ungalleried, un-media-ed, unknown sort of artist, but she was significant and affirmed us all.

I’ll be in my happy place this week, hanging out with the Orange Grove Quilters. We’re making Merrion Square in our Workshop. If you want to hear my program of Abecedary of Quilts or participate in a live/online workshop, please contact Pat (the Workshop Chairman) at workshops@orangegrovequiltersguild.com or drop me a note (and I’ll check with Pat). I love teaching this little quilt, as there are as many different quilts and there are quilters. Each one makes this little village their own.

And as life moves on, it seems this will probably be the last time I teach this class. Let me know if you are interested.

Happy Quilting! (turn the sound on)

Free Download

Fly those Geese!

Wealth of Days underneath a poster of one of our town’s vintage packing labels

When I first starting making this quilt, I cut each flying geese block by hand because I was not able to rotary cut. I drew out the lines, cut a triangle, and piled up the cut pieces in bags for their corresponding temperatures. After constucting them, I found out how unstable the edges were, how inaccurate a method this was. Of course, it didn’t help that one arm was in a sling, but hey, a quilter’s gotta’ do what a quilter’s gotta do.

I’ve also done the snowball-on-the-square method, which is good for single Flying Geese.

But I’m a fan of the four-at-a-time, provided you use the Mostly-Magical-OPQuilt method of trimming them. I showed this trick to my friend Cindy of LiveAColorfulLife the other day and she said it changed her life. I took that with a grain of salt, considering the covid-lives we’ve been living, but I was happy it worked so well for her. Here we go.

NOTE: In the free Tips and Tricks Handout, downloadable below, I give you a formula for figuring out what sizes the large squares and the small squares should be. No more charts!

I use a 4-inch ruler for smaller Flying Geese, and a 6-ish-inch ruler for larger. (Can we talk about Rulers?) It’s all in where you take your first cut, and the angle of that first cut.

Step One. Make your Flying Geese, and grab a ruler, preferably one that has a diagonal line.

Step Two: With the flying geese point FACING TOWARDS YOU, line up the ruler’s diagonal line with that right-hand folded edge.

Step Three: Concentrate on where the r.h. tip of the ruler is, and where the measurement for your Flying Geese is. I’m trying to make a Flying Geese that will finish at 3″ by 1 1/2″ tall, so I’m concentrating on the 3 1/2″. If you have done your measuring and cutting correctly, don’t worry about the lower edge right now. Line up the r.h tip ON THE FOLD.
Line up the target measurement on the LEFT-HAND FOLD, as shown. Note: I am now free to make Flying Geese any size I want, not just what’s out there in the manufactured acrylic cutting rulers.

Step Four: Trim the RIGHT excess and the TOP excess.

Step Five (and final): Rotate the Flying Geese block so the tip is pointing away from you. Line up the LEFT (3 1/2″) and LOWER (2″) side or the measurement at which you want the block to finish. Trim away the remaining excess (as shown).

I can crank through a ton of flying geese using the four-at-a-time and the Mostly-Magical-OPQuilt-method of trimming. So can you.

Okay, because everyone likes a free handout, here it is: Tips and Tricks from OPQuilt.com — Flying Geese.

Happy Quilting!

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

Wealth of Days • Quilt Finish

Wealth of Days
Quilt no. 247
57″ wide by 70 1/2″ high

From my journal
9 January 2019: “Here we go again. Today I had rotator cuff repair surgery on the right arm. My little joke is that I only have two arms, so after this one is over with, I have no more shoulders to operate on.”

18 January 2019: “A dark day. But I was able to shower and dress myself, all the way, by myself. I also made the bed.”

24 January 2019: “Dave took me to Road to California today, where I saw Cindy and Janice and all three of my quilts. After about 90 minutes, I said I was ready to go home. But it was so good to get out of the house.”

1 February 2019: “I started the day in tears, but by the night things were better. I finished the January’s temp quilt flying geese strip, and started on the temperature quilt key block, a circle of flying geese.”

19 February 2019: “The sling wearing is finished! (Cue: Cheering) Another milestone: I did some rotary cutting. I made dinner and we watched another episode of Madam Secretary. So happy to be at this place!”

26 February 2019: “Mailed our taxes, then went to Quilter’s Cocoon for some retail therapy. New Kaffes were in and I picked up some browns for the new Lori Holt Bee Happy quilt.”

29 March 2019: “Photographed the Plitvice quilt in the fields of the Poppy Superbloom.”

24 April 2019: ” I just returned from Utah where I was the Utah Valley Quilt Guild’s “National Teacher.” Such a lovely experience, plus we saw about every relative possible that lives in Utah. Many years ago, I was pregnant with my first child on this day, wondering if he would ever come [he was 4 days late and was born the next day.]”

1 May 2019: Today L. [a girlfriend] and I had a good lunch out together. Tonight I started work on a quilt block that reminds me of ladybugs.”

15 June 2019: “Today was a lovely basic day. Dave went on a bike ride and I picked him up in the neighboring town because he had a flat tire. We then went out for a burger at In-N-Out. Back home, I finished up the days for May, and sewed the strip onto the rest of the temperature quilt.”

25 June 2019: “Saturday, Dave was trying to stomp down the Clean Green yard waste and the giant can tipped over, throwing him against the garage. We headed to Urgent Care, and they took him down to X-ray by himself. While he was there, in walks L., feeling awful. It was good to be there to talk with her. Found out that he’s broken three ribs.”

5 August 2019: “Updates:
• L. never left Urgent Care, and was instead taken to the regional medical center. The diagnosis came back: Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. We are all devastated.
• Turns out Dave only has two broken ribs, but is still sleeping in the recliner.”
• Went to Parliament Artisan Chocolate and stocked up on chocolate bars.
• I am having the time of my life talking to Quilt Guilds and teaching workshops.
• I went to lunch with L., Carole, and Pat.”

1 October 2019: ” Biggest national news this week is that an impeachment inquiry has been opened up. Just wanted to note it in this journal, as so much in these pages is focused on my world, my people, and my feelings about all of that. Meanwhile, I’ll keep quilting, keep trying to be better. I’ll keep trying to forgive more. In September, I only slept in our house 12 days out of the month — gone the rest of the time. That’s too much.”

21 October 2019: “I went to my second quilt show this year: PIQF in Northern California with L, where I met up with Tracy, a quilter I’d corresponded with. More happy fun: Crossroads was published in QuiltMania.

23 October 2019: “I finally made it to the grocery story today for some basics: tomatoes, canned goods, meat and some zucchini, as I’ve had a craving for zucchini bread ever since returning home from PIQF.”

3 November 2019: “I hate Daylight Savings Time. It is soooo nice to go back to regular sun time.”

13 November 2019: “Still dragging around after getting home yesterday from Guatemala to see my sister and her husband, who are on a church mission there. I had no idea that there were so many wonderful fabrics in that country. We didn’t travel very much this year. Next year, we are already planning a couple of international trips, but first, Thanksgiving at Barbara’s [our daughter].”

2 December 2019: “Our very first First Monday Sew-day was today. I taught them about the basics of rotary cutting and quilting, and Simone handled the color portion. We had it at Beth’s house, and it was a tangle of little children, laughing women, fabric and chatter. A good morning.”

25 December 2019: “Just went through a most wrenching, emotional day. We had a big fancy Christmas dinner at Mom and Dad’s, trying to ignore the fact that it was probably their last in their home of so many years. We helped them get papers signed for their new independent living place, and it was a dance of push and pull and trying not to cry, all while keeping up the Christmas Cheer. We said goodnight to them around 7 p.m., then drove down to our hotel in Salt Lake City. I could not just sit in the hotel room, so we parked and walked around Temple Square, taking in all the crowds, the lights, the nativity scene, the carols playing in the background, and an occasional quartet of missionaries serenading us with Christmas carols. It was good to be alone, but with people. It was good to walk. It was good to be with Dave.”

As these journal excerpts from 2019 show that the year came and went, a day at a time. I made this quilt a day at a time, each flying geese in the center showing the high and low temperatures of each day, along with the precipitation. I started calling it Wealth of Days when all of us had a year of days, not recognizing then as little gifts of time and experiences. We made plans, went on trips, had lunches and fun at quilt shows. We started quilts and finished them, and left some undone.

We had regular, precious life: a Wealth of Days.

The label says it all.

The quilt and I on a windy day at City Hall, Riverside, California.
Thanks to Dave for all the quilt holding, the photos and our life together this past year of covid. Update on L: she is home from her stem cell transplant treatment, and is taking one day at a time. Just like all of us.