Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Challenges and Triumphs of 2022

One thing I can say about 2022 is that it was not a dull year! We have all been enjoying a little more freedom and social interaction with less threat of Covid in our daily lives so that was good. My sister and I decided to splurge and planned a trip together to Cancun—our first time to Mexico! Had to obtain a passport and all the proper beach clothing! I chose February because in my opinion that is the best month to get out of Montana! All-inclusive resort with buffets and entertainment, warm beaches, sunny skies, snorkeling and relaxation here we come! 

The trip was great but choppy seas and a long snorkeling excursion wreaked havoc on my neck and I had to visit my doctor when I got home. She sent me to get an MRI and called within a couple hours to say I needed to see a neurosurgeon! He said no choice but surgery—sooner the better, so in April I had ACDF surgery to replace two herniated disks. This meant 12 weeks in a stiff neck brace—6 weeks 24 hours/day and then weeks wearing it whenever I needed to look down—cooking, doing dishes, using ipad, designing quilts and most of the time I was working in my studio! Not fun, not comfortable, but it went ok and I lived through it. 

So, I need to backtrack to February. Right before I left for Mexico I received an email from Susan Brubaker Knapp—host of Quilting Arts TV on PBS. She wanted to know if I would be interested in being on the new season of QATV that they would be filming in July. Did I hesitate, did I need to think about it, did I have any reservations about saying yes? NO! I got right back to her and said a resounding yes and what do you need from me?! Artists usually film 3 segments so they asked me to submit some ideas for them to approve. I submitted several and they ended up choosing 4 of them!

I spent the next 4 months preparing for the segments complicated, of course, by the neck surgery recovery and brace wearing! Narrowing down my knowledge of a topic into a 10-12 minute segment was very challenging and then I had to make all the samples/examples to show the topics the best way I could. For an artist who never makes the same thing twice, making step-outs showing all the steps of a process is just not easy! I really only did it for one segment and for the others I showed a variety of different examples. It was just more me! 

I had deadlines to meet along the way including writing up a step by step of each technique with supply lists. These would be published on the  website as free EBook downloads and are available now:   

In July my follow-up appointment with the surgeon went well and I was all set to fly to Golden, Colorado to the Golden Peaks Media studio to film my four segments for Series 2900 of Quilting Arts TV. How exciting! I will give details on the experience in another post, but one thing that happened was that Vivika Hansen DeNegre, Editor of Quilting Arts Magazine, selected one of my segments to become an article in Quilting Arts magazine. That article will be in the upcoming Winter 2023 issue: “The Perfect Pair” about combining free motion machine quilting and hand embroidery in art quilts. The TV segment on this topic is going to be moved into next year’s release, Series 3000. 

The current 2900 series of QATV with my other 3 segments is now available as a download on the website and started airing on PBS stations across the country on November 14–but they will pick it up at different times based on their programming so check with your local PBS stations. Here in Montana it will likely air after the first of the year—around the first of February according to the person I contacted at Montana PBS. I am in Episodes 1, 12 and 13. 

I hope you like them! 

Saturday, May 2, 2020

May Gallery Exhibition Postponed

I forgot to mention in my last post that the show I was supposed to have this month at The Artist's Shop in Missoula, MT has been cancelled---actually rescheduled for May, 2021.  I orginally was making work around the theme of "All About Trees" and I have 7 finished pieces (except for the chore of sleeves, rods, and labels!).  It remains to be seen what the 2021 show will feature, but I likely will have a new theme and new direction for that work. I now have that completed work that I can show at my galleries or enter into shows so I don't mind.  I would rather wait until the world is in a better place to display my work!

Please visit The Artist's Shop when it becomes possible to do so, as I always have work on display there as a consignment artist.  I also frequently have work hanging at River's Mist Gallery & Gifts in Stevensville, MT.  Right now those are my only venues, but I will likely be entering some national level shows and am gearing up to write and try to get published another magazine article. 

So please do keep up with my activities here and on my Fiber Into Art by Heidi Facebook page where I am frequently posting work in progress, finished pieces, and anything related to my Fiber Into Art life!

Friday, May 1, 2020

May Day

"Blue Marble and Stone"
Today is a beautiful sunny day with floaty clouds, the apple trees in my yard are budding, bugs are buzzing, and the creek is high and rushing. Our yard borders Three Mile Creek on the back side and most every Spring when the days start to get warm the waters rise and start eating away the banks and creeping up into the neighbors yard. Only one year that we have lived here did I ever feel threatened by it as it rose so high I thought it was going to come over the high bank on our property and move toward our house. This year I don’t think that will be an issue as it has been a gradual melting of snow in the valleys and unless we get a downpouring deluge of rain, the creek bed will likely be able to handle the melting mountain snows. Crossing my fingers.

"Goldfinch Summer"

As I look out my windows throughout the day I see birds busy gathering mouthfuls of grasses and carting them off to wherever they are building their nests, others feeding madly on the cracked corn and sunflower seeds we put out for them, and still others are singing and chortling at each other from the tops of trees and fenceposts. With the aforementioned creek in the back, we get ducks, herons, red-winged blackbirds and kingfishers winging through our yard and since we are very near the wildlife refuge we get other birds winging over the yard---geese, Sandhill cranes, eagles, osprey, hawks, owls, vultures, and many varieties of songbirds. On the ground are pheasant and quail quickly scooting from the cover of trees and tall grasses to check out our feeders and occasionally calling loudly to their friends. I love all the spring activity and growing things.

"Capture The Sunrise"
May is my favorite month in Montana and it is almost always a good one. There might be some rain, and some cool nights, but in general the days are beautiful and the sounds and smells of spring are welcome and comforting after a long weary winter. It doesn’t hurt that my birthday is in May—I always loved that it was. When I worked a regular job I would often take my birthday off and go somewhere fun all by myself, like the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago or out into the woods of Western Montana to look for roadside wild asparagus or the first morel mushrooms. It was always a calming, pleasant time and I remember the leisure and joy of those days still.

"Blackberries and Dandelions"
In times like these odd ones we are in now with the Covid virus and social distancing, I especially appreciate the fact that I live where I am surrounded by wildness, beauty, nature. Right now, as a matter of fact, I look out my studio window to the willows and cottonwoods by the creek and see that the tiny yellow-green leaves are just starting to come out but the architectural structure of the tree branches is still visible and the early evening sunlight is making for a lovely landscape. In a couple months I won’t be able to see the trunks and branches, only lots of fluttering leaves. As the seasons change I enjoy all the nuances of each one and that is what truly inspires me in my studio when I am creating art.

My art is abstract, but very reflective of the elements, colors and shapes found in nature. When you look at a truly abstract composition, like a collage of scraps with no recognizable shape to them, how is it that it can evoke a memory or tell a story of being in a place surrounded by or interacting with nature? Somehow my memories, experiences and life lived in awe of what nature is about comes through in each piece that I create. It is there—my mother told me so. It is in the weave of the cloth, the stitch of the thread, the depth of the color, and the curves and angles of the lines. Inherent in my work is appreciation and reverence for the gift that is nature. Flora, fauna, landscape, microcosm, light and shadow. It is all so good, and it inspires me. I am a lucky girl.

"Adrift On The Current"

"Sunny Disposition" - Me according to my mom.

NOTE:  These are all older pieces that I am rather fond of, and most of them are sold.  Stay tuned for my next post which will be about my new work and where I might go from here...

Thursday, April 9, 2020

"The Branch"

Hello Fellow Fiber Lovers!
I am returning to my blog as way of recording my art path and sharing that path with others.  I have decided that in order to get myself to sit down and write I should try to post more regularly on my Blog and maybe I will come up with some useful ideas for magazine articles or classes in the process.  Or maybe it will just be a good practice for organizing my thoughts and ideas.  I hope you will visit again to see what I have to say--and show you!

We are currently experiencing social isolation and self quarantine due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus.  It doesn't change too much of my lifestyle on a daily basis since I work at home and create art.  It does however mean that I don't get my usual monthly doses of social interaction with like-minded fiber loving individuals in the various local groups I belong to--two guilds, three fiber art groups, and one art group.  Hopefully that will change in the next couple of months, but until then I have been participating in Zoom on-line meetings and enjoying that style of interaction.  

Detail of "The Branch" - Stamped trees, embroidery
The biggest news I have right now is that as a result of this virus my solo exhibition scheduled for May has been cancelled at The Artist's Shop in Missoula.  They don't know when they will re-open, but it is sure they will not hold an opening reception that month which is important to the success of a show.  I have rescheduled that show for May of 2021 and look forward to sharing whatever body of work I come up with for that one.  In the meantime, the current work I have created is now available for sharing and selling.  The theme was to be "All About Trees" and I have 7 finished pieces as well as "mental commitments" to several other pieces.  I look forward to sharing them all since I have only been sharing snippets of them on Facebook and Instagram.  I have showed the backs with the intricate quilting as well as in-process and detail images of the fronts.  Now I will be sharing more of each of these pieces over the next few weeks and look forward to talking about them and maybe having an opportunity to display them at other venues or shows this year.  

I live in the Bitterroot Valley of Western Montana and we are surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and wilderness.  Trees are integral to many landscapes, but here they seem so much a part of our lives and how we interact with the landscape.  I love to walk through the woods when the sun is low and see the light filtering through the Ponderosa Pine trees and highlighting the undergrowth.  In the winter or after a rainfall that light sparkles and dances, but even on a calm dry morning or evening those rays of sun create lovely shadows and highlight the peacefulness of the forest.  It is something I remember fondly when I am at home in my studio or in the city dealing with traffic.  A memory that creates a mood or recreates a feeling.  This is what I capture in my art and hope that people who view and buy my art can share and appreciate. 

Trees have so many different shapes, they have leaves or needles or flowers or fruit.  They have beautiful and varied types of bark, architectural and organic branches, and they house and shelter animals of many different kinds.  I love how some rise so tall and proud, some sway and flutter in the breeze, some change color over the seasons, and some even in death are beautiful and powerful.  Trees have nests and cavities for protection and procreation, provide food for woodpeckers and other bug-seeking animals, have perches for many types of birds and animals to view prey or survey the landscape, and produce fruit and nuts for animals and humans to enjoy.  Not to mention the oxygen they produce which gives life to the planet.  The humble tree.  

Please come back for my salute to trees as I share my most recent work with you!  

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Stuffed Turkey Thigh/Legs

Disclaimer: This is a cooking post not an art post!  But I will say that there is an art to boning, stuffing and baking this recipe--and it comes out looking like a work of art too! 

Stuffed Turkey Thigh/Legs    (Preheat oven to 350°)

If you like dark meat turkey this is the recipe for you---but not an every day recipe for sure! They sell 2 packaged together and frozen so be sure to pull them out and let them thaw a couple days in the frig. It takes time to bone out the bird, make the stuffing, and tie it all up---although I bone the turkey and make the stuffing ahead. I don’t know quantities for everything---I just wing it! Probably used ½ onion, ½ red pepper, lots of mushrooms. Depends on what you and your family like. Mushrooms tend to cook down quite a bit and we like them so I use a lot. Add or change out the ingredients as you like!

2 Boned Turkey Thigh-Leg Portions (I bone them out myself---just make sure to get out all those really skinny bones that are in the leg portion—this is the hard part!) 

bacon – chopped and cooked
mushrooms - sliced
onions - chopped
red sweet pepper - chopped
fresh spinach leaves (frozen, thawed will work in a pinch)
chicken or turkey stock/broth
Italian bread crumbs and/or Panko crumbs
parmesan cheese (maybe ¼ cup?)
pine nuts – toasted (very good---don’t skip these!)

Cook the bacon and remove from pan and discard all but a tablespoon or two of the fat. Saute the mushrooms, onions, red pepper in the remaining bacon fat and when almost tender add the spinach to wilt. Turn off heat. Stir in parmesan, breadcrumbs and enough stock to help it bind. I like it fairly dry as the turkey will give off some moisture and you don’t want the stuffing too mushy. Add seasonings as you like---thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper… Stir in the toasted pinenuts.

Lay out the turkey and put half the stuffing on each portion. Use kitchen string to tie it up as best you can. I never have enough time to be neat and usually just try to get it closed up enough so the stuffing doesn’t go everywhere. It always seems to come out looking appetizing no matter how messy my tying job is!

Rub a little vegetable oil on and season the skin with whatever you like. I used Lawry’s seasoning salt, pepper, onion powder and a little thyme. Put the turkey on a rack in a sheet pan (or on a broiler pan) and put it in a 350 degree oven until the internal temp is about 165-170 degrees. It took about an hour. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Cut and remove strings then slice and serve!

I usually accompany this with a vegetable, mashed potatoes or noodles and/or some bread. If you have drippings in the sheet pan you can make a gravy. I used the turkey bones to make a broth and then just thickened and seasoned it to serve alongside.

I cook it on a sheet pan and a rack but you could use a broiler pan with rack as well. Just spray them both with some cooking spray and put the turkey on the rack in the sheet pan. and then season the skin with whatever you like. I used Lawry’s salt, pepper, onion powder and a little thyme. Put it in a 350 degree oven until the internal temp is about 165-170 degrees. It took about an hour. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Slice and serve!

I usually accompany this with a vegetable, mashed potatoes and/or some bread. If you have drippings in the sheet pan you can make a gravy. I used the turkey bones to make a broth and then just thickened that to serve alongside.


Monday, April 9, 2018

How You Are A Part of My Creative Process

As an artist I thought I would write this post to help educate the non-artists out there about how I think about my art after it is gone from my inventory---sold or donated or gifted.  But first a word about the creation of it.

 Making art is a very personal journey.  We take inspiration, skills learned, tools and materials gathered, and time found to put together an object that we call art and hope that others will call it that too.  If we are fortunate to have someone pay us money for one of those heartfelt creations we are honored, flattered and affirmed. With a little doubt thrown in. 

What is that doubt about?  For me it is that little voice that asks if I charged too much (too little?) and if that buyer will continue to think their purchase was worth what they paid.  Will they cherish that art or will it be a regretted purchase that in time is relegated to a closet or drawer somewhere---or worse to the trash bin!

 When you buy a piece of art it doesn't have to hang in your home or in the same place in your home for the rest of your life.  My mom used to rotate her artwork on a seasonal basis, and depending on how those seasons made her feel.  No hot colors in August and no cold ones in January.  Joyous life in Spring and cozy warmth in Winter.  And over the couch is not the only location for artwork.  I have art down my hallway and in my bathrooms and enjoy it no less in those spaces.  Give each piece of art new life by putting it away for a while and then displaying it again with a fresh outlook.  For my own collection it allows me to see things in the art that I might not have noticed or felt before.  Feel free to display an eclectic mix of art together in a room.  It doesn't have to match the furniture.  You just have to like it.

Many artists have self doubt about what they are doing and why.  Even though I feel a passion for what I do and feel like my pieces are successful in my own mind, I still have that niggling bit of doubt that anyone else will think the same.  This is one reason I enjoy showing my work to various groups or friends.  Any positive comments they might offer are so rewarding and in some ways motivating.  Just like with any job a person has, positive feedback helps us do better and continue our work with a positive attitude about it.  When someone is actually interested in paying us money for what we create that is truly a gift to our psyche.  For a while it is elating and inspires us to continue doing what we are doing with our art.

But then time goes by and that doubt starts to creep in again.  Do they still think it was worth buying?  Are they still enjoying the artwork and are they satisfied with having paid money for it?  Will they continue to honor it and keep it safe and display it for others to see?  Do they even like it?  We all know that we make purchases that we regret when we get it home or down the road at some point.  We think, "why did I ever think I liked that....?"   It is my profound hope that this doesn't happen when someone buys a piece of art.  Those purchases are kind of special in that there is emotion and admiration and originality that is all wrapped in the price you pay for someone's art.  You are buying something created just for you and no one else. It speaks to you.  It is personal.  At least I hope it is.  Of course there are those that buy an artwork because it matches their living room furniture.  Then they redecorate and no longer "like" that artwork.  Hopefully they pass it on to someone who might have a more personal connection to the art and will honor it and thus honor the artist. 

Because I have that artist's doubt in my life, I can't tell you how much I appreciate and cherish when someone tells me that they have one of my pieces and still love it.  The fact that they even remember it is my work is enough for me to feel good about it.  But if they still love it---that is the ultimate!  Knowing that my work stands the test of time and that people continue to notice it in their spaces and connect it with me and are glad they have acquired it is reaffirming, supportive, and keeps me going to the studio and being creative.  I don't know if people realize how good it is for an artist to hear that they still notice and enjoy an artist's work, but I'm here to tell you that it is definitely worth your effort to tell the artist that.  I have gotten notes and emails from people who noticed my work at a national level quilt show and were so struck by it that they remembered it and made the effort to let me know they liked it.  That is so gracious--and so appreciated.  Some artists may respond very humbly and just quietly accept your comments with a mumbled thank you, but rest assured they will remember it and it will boost their confidence.  I am grateful to those who have told me about the work of mine that they own and how much they continue to enjoy it. 

We are not artists so that we can make art for our closets.  We want to share it.  We put it in shows and galleries, we post it on-line, we show it to friends and acquaintances.  We put it out there and because it is a part of us that makes us vulnerable. When the response to it is positive we feel good about it.  For me it means that I am justified in spending time, effort, expense and creative energy in my studio creating art.  I will do it anyways because it is a passion, but justifying those things makes it a whole lot easier!

So thank you to those kind people who think of complimenting the artist and sharing with them your positive thoughts about their work.  If you live with it and enjoy it we would love to hear about it.  If you admire a piece on display somewhere we (the artists) would love to hear about it.  If you see the work in a magazine or at a show and really enjoyed it, let the artist know.  You are what gives me some of the inspiration that goes into my work.  It helps me put into it the joy and happiness that a fulfilling occupation provides.  I'm not "fishing for compliments" here or hoping to get a bunch of half-hearted flattery.  Just some good honest sharing about the art you enjoy with the artists who make it if you should feel so inclined.

I hope I have impressed upon you the value of positive reinforcement to the creative process and how you play a part in that process. 
Now go forth and enjoy art!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Finding My Mojo

One of the questions I am asked most by people who view my work is how do I come up with ideas or what inspires me.  I usually say it is the fabric and that is mostly true.  But, I have plenty of fabric and still there are times when I am not inspired to create with it.  So what is it that REALLY inspires me?  I think it is related to how I feel, how much is going on in my life that is stressful or difficult, and how much time I have to spend in my studio.  But the biggest thing that keeps me from creating is when I have something I have to do that is challenging, difficult or just plain uninteresting to me.

Life interrupts and the emotions, good and bad, that we experience affect the way we create art.  My mother died several years ago and I have not returned to my level of productivity from before that time.  I was always very productive and could make multiple pieces in a month.  I was in my studio for some amount of time every day.   Now I will go a number of days without stepping into my studio for anything but to lay another unwanted household item of some sort onto my work table.

 Another thing that has happened in the last few years is that I told myself that I should try to work bigger and make the larger more dramatic pieces that are common in many national fiber and art shows.  Maybe I could get my work into these prestigious shows and compete with other artists if I made the larger pieces.  I have a small studio and working large is a challenge.  And I am used to making smaller pieces and I find that designing the larger ones is more difficult for me.  I have made some larger wall pieces but I struggled through the entire process. 

When I start a small quilt (say up to 20" x 24"), I am able to pick out fabrics and design a piece in a day or two. Then another day or two to quilt it and maybe another day to embellish it and the piece is done.  Sometimes it takes a few days longer than that, but if I am inspired and motivated I can pretty much follow this schedule.  The key for me is to find something that sets off the thought process and gets the wheels turning.  Many times that is a piece of fabric but it can be a particular bead, a color or combination of colors, a particular technique, or even a theme/motif.  Once I get the itch to work on something I find that it is difficult to pull myself away for the mundane chores of the household.  I am in the groove, inspired and finding the passion is easy. 

Because I told myself I should try to work big I have been avoiding doing anything!  So I finally decided I should make whatever size I am inspired to make and not try to force something that I'm obviously not finding inspiring.  I find that I usually procrastinate when I have to do something challenging or difficult.  Some artists will meet those challenges head on and love that. 

I think I enjoy the flow of creativity more than trying to work things out that don't come naturally to me.  That isn't to say that I always want to the same old thing and actually I have experimented with many different techniques and styles in my work over the years.  I have done some very innovative pieces and enjoyed the challenge of making them work.  But taking on a challenge that is not creatively inspiring to me just doesn't seem to be motivating for me.  I have always worked by inspiration. 

So, this year I am going to go with the flow.  I'm going to create fun pieces that I like and that I hope my customers will like.  Maybe some will be bigger but that remains to be seen.  Each one is as it should be and I will just let it happen.  I feel inspired already!!

The Challenges and Triumphs of 2022

One thing I can say about 2022 is that it was not a dull year! We have all been enjoying a little more freedom and social interaction with l...