frenchtown fiber

Chris Mundy and Kate House try to make art while navigating the crap life throws at them.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thursday = Library

I usually need to take Kate somewhere for her social group on Thursday. They alternate cooking a dinner together or bowling. If there is a fifth Thursday in the month, no social group! So I went to the county Library. I had a crazy whopping fine of $18. I am terrible about stuff like that. I had to stop renting videos because the late fees were killing me. Then they invented Netflix. I need "Netbooks." I expressed embarrassment at having such a large fine, and the librarian told me that someone was just in that had a $90 fine! I asked if they paid and she said that they decided to go home and look for the books.

Anyway, I needed books about Egyptian art. I recently acquired some Egyptian-style fabric and some funky gold fabric. they seem to want to be together. I just have to watch out that it doesn't end up looking, I don't know, like a school project. I have done very little surface painting, or distressing, and not much embellishing apart from beads. Now might be a good time to experiment.

I also found some books about vintage fabric in the quilting section. I love old fabric. There was one book that was divided into sections, such as pre-1830. I have to scan this picture for you, there was a pattern in one of the fabrics that looked so modern I feel it can not have been from that long ago. I'll scan it when I get home. (Yes, blogging from work again, but it is lunch time.)

Lastly, I found a book about natural dying that I want to check out. It is at a different branch of the library so I might have it in a couple of days. More soon....

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Joseph Cornell

"...the collision and recombination of ideas..." I grabbed that snippet of a quote from a website I was just on about Joseph Cornell. He is one of my favorite artists and very influential to me. And a lot of other people, too, apparently. I see some artists on Etsy making Cornell-style boxes and I wonder if they are even aware of the guy who started it all. I've made a couple of boxes myself, I should track those down. Probably in the attic somewhere.
You can google Joseph if you'd like, but I'll give you some basic info. He was born in NYC december 24, 1903. He was a very shy person, and stayed out of the limelight most of his life, even after he gained notariety for his work. He would make his assemblages from fragments he found from scouring bookshops and thrift stores. Back then, you could not buy collage sheets of intersting images, you had to hunt the stuff down. Actually, that's pretty much how it was up until the 1990's. The popularity of scrap booking created an industry for all kinds of mixed media elements.
He lived in the same house most of his life, taking care of his mother and his brother, who had cerebral palsy. You can see fron his work that the guy had a beautiful inner life. I think I love art like his, and also outsider artists, because it is so unique. Not influenced by the pop culture of the time. Joseph Cornell died in 1972.
I'm going to do a series of blogs on artists that have influenced me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday Was Better.

I did a little quilting on this experimental piece here. Part of the problem with not working with a pattern and just winging it is that you might fail. It might not come out that good. When I was going to college for art it was called taking a risk. The jury is still out on this one.

This morning it has snowed, and is turning over to that much maligned WINTERY MIX that is so common in New Jersey. That means I take it slow this morning.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Monday Just Flashed By

Yesterday was a typical day in my life. Work til 5:50, then go food shopping. Home at 7 pm. Quick dinner. Dishes. Read the paper for 1 hour. Bed.

So that makes, like, 1 hour that I am not at some task. Tomorrow night should be a little better.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Quilt Mode

I only have one sewing machine, so rather than switching feet all the time, I stay in "quilting mode" for a while. I have a few tops that are ready to be quilted. This one was up next, which I did yesterday. (despite the fact that my left foot was freezing the entire time.) I don't exactly know what this is, a color experiment maybe. I bought a fat Q of that craa-zy base fabric. Stared at it for a while. Then decided that solids or near solids were needed to calm it all down. Anyway, I like it. I 'm going to bind it in red.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I'm Definitely Going to Sew Today

This is me.
I guess I've been kind of busy lately. Work has gotten back to normal, so no time to post there. On Friday night I took Kate shopping. She had a semi- formal dance the very next day and needed shoes. Plus, she goes on a cruise every year with the ARC in February, so, she needed some things for that. I think I have figured out that now is a good time to get a bathing suit. The selection is small, I guess aimed at those who do go on cruises, but they are hardly touched. In June, the whole bathing suit section is trashed and you are lucky to by able to find a top and bottom that go together.
We have  decided that Valentine's day would be a good excuse to have a party this year.  I've started making little hearts from glittery red felt and hanging them from the ceiling. I added a few beads to the bottom of each one to add some weight. Our dining room doesn't actually have a ceiling right now. When we moved in there was a drop ceiling, you know, like in an office. It was dreadful. One day, Joe and I drank a lot of wine and decided to start ripping it all down. There was half the original plaster ceiling left up there, with the other half taken down to make room for pipes that were installed when the bathroom was renovated at some point. We eventually took down the rest of the plaster ceiling (What a disgusting job that was, ancient mouse nest falling on our heads!) so now we just have beams. I don't consider it permanent, but I can tolerate it this way more than that drop ceiling. Someday we will put up a tin ceiling, but Joe wants to wait until he renovates the bathroom. He is going to redo the pipes so that they don't hang under the ceiling joists anymore. The question of course is, when will all this take place. Answer: Not last year. Not this year, either. So, I have done a number of things to jazz up the ceiling, namely string white Christmas lights up there, hang glittery stars, and now glittery hearts. It's supposed to dazzle you to distraction.

But, I'm definitely going to sew today. I don't think I picked up a needle once this week. Here I go. As soon as I do some wash. And the dishes. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A New Project

Here is a thing I am starting to mess around with. I have hand-stitched some of the componants together. The shells you see are not sewn on yet. I'm just trying to figure out how I want to arrange them. I also need to do whatever quilting I'm going to do before I sew on any embellishments. I have 3 things ready to quilt, but I can't seem to get myself down the basement. It really is a crummy space. Most people would not put up with it.

I was thinking of buying one of those sheds, that they can plop right down in your yard. I saw one,I think it was 10'x16', with big windows and french doors for $3000.00. My first thought was, well, forget that, but, I did spend $1200 just on my sewing machine. I could save for it! It would take up a fair amount of yard, and then it would have to be heated. Joe could do it, he said so. (He's a plumber) Then I started thinking maybe it would be better to finish half of the attic. We would have to sheet rock and insulate it. I can't imagine being up there in the summer without air conditioning. (We don't AC our house at all in the summer) Then, of course, it is that attic shape, with the pitched roof as the walls. I don't know. There just doesn't seem to be any great solution. I'm pretty sure my bonus is going to be crap this year, so I can't rely on that. I will keep thinking about it.

In other news I had another sale on Etsy. I made a wall hanging out of an old flour sack from the Beacon Milling Company. (Egg Mash) I liked how it came out, but then everyone that I showed it to remarked on the stains. They are pretty bad, but it never occurred to me that it would be a problem. I mean, the thing has probably been in a barn since 1948! I put a close up picture of the stain in the listing, and made note of it in the description. I figured it would never sell. I even lowered the price. Well, surprize! The woman who purchased it is from Beacon, NY. You never know!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Resident Gnome

Looking At Art

Yesterday I could not take being stuck inside anymore, so Joe and I went to the Michener Museum.  It is in Doylestown, PA, which is a reasonable distance and has some great work in it. We especially enjoyed seeing paintings by Paul Matthews. He lives in Lambertville, NJ, in a big victorian house. Joe used to live in an apartment in that house. Joe was admiring one of Paul's paintings and Paul gave him a print of that painting. It's in our living room. None of the paintings here are that one. I am disappointed at the images I am able to find on the web. Paul's best paintings are his portraits, and my favorite one is of two people looking at something in the landscape. You can't see what it is that they are looking at, but clearly the people are devastated. The pain they are feeling is almost alarming. The painting is riveting. I was told it was Paul and his wife looking at their son's grave. I can't find anything about it so I can only show you a different portrait. I'm being driven insane because blogger won't upload the image I really want to show.

I also saw a documentary over the weekend called Art City. It was kind of a loosely put together group of interviews with contemporary artists. One of the most intriguing artists was Richard Tuttle. The first image of his art I am showing you is of a wire strung around a few nails in the wall of a gallery. The next one is a peice of rope nailed to the wall. I'm not going to get into a big thing about what is and isn't art, but when I see this kind of thing I feel as if I can do anything I want!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Up the Main Stream Without a Paddle

I'm home sick again. I can't seem to shake what I have. My husband says that if I don't rest, he's going to restrain me. I'm glad he's at work himself and can't see me blogging. I really do feel pretty terrible, and when I'm done I'm going to lay down. 

I mentioned Cloth Paper Scissors an Sew Somerset yesterday. I love these magazines, yet they annoy me. I did not buy Somerset this time, because it is $15. Why is it so expensive?  Just because we will pay it?  Or do they have a small readership and the advertising dollars are not much?  I don't know. I did buy Cloth Paper Scissors. In this issue, someone pointed out, in a letter, something that has bothered me for a while. Tiffany Harris writes, "I must be honest, I'm a bit over seeing whimsical mixed media creations of tea/coffee cups, and birds with text... same with cute houses!" You and me both sister!  I think there are worse things in these mags. I ask you, what the hell would some of these artists do if they suddenly could not use any old photographs of their grandmother, aunt or other sepia-toned female portrait? How about if they were not allowed to put wings or a party hat or crown on anything???  But the thing I loathe the most, the way artists are always putting the word ART on their creations. Like, they need to let you know, in case you might think it is just paint spilled on a photo of your grandma in a party hat. To her credit, Tiffany concedes that it must be hard to come up with fresh content every month. But I suspect what is really going on is that the editors are just giving the people what they want.  In my previous post, "Who the Hell is Amy Butler?" someone commented that while she agreed with me, she could not help but notice that when she used Amy Butler fabric for her Etsy items, and mentioned it in the title, she had 4 times the hits she would normally get. It just makes good business sense.

I feel like I am constantly out of the main stream loop. I don't like most things that are very popular. Life would be a lot easier if I could just like what everyone else likes. Just as an example, the less I watch TV, the more I can't stand it. People at work will say, "Did you see American Idol? Did you see Survivor? Did you watch Heros last night?" No, I have not seen any of them. Ever.  I have had the urge to be entertained while I have been sick. The only thing I could stand to watch was Turner classic movies. The other day they were showing some string of movies set during WWII. They were not really that great, but it is always interesting to notice their clothes, hair, interior decorating, and their expressions. I'll say to people at work, "Have you ever seen the movie Grapes of WrathIt Happened One Night? Cold Comfort Farm?" They have not.

But I digress. I do end up buying these magazines to get ideas of how to construct things, ideas for surface treatments. It is helpful to me to see people do crazy work, with wild stitching and thread hanging all over the place. I still am influenced by years as a traditional quilter. Sometimes I will find myself saying, I'm going to make something like that!" (Whatever it is) but I never actually get a round to making something like that. 

I have to lie down for a while, or I'm going to be blogging from the hospital with pneumonia.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More Bad Pictures of Good Stuff

Valentines! I get a big kick out of Valentine's Day, it falls just below Christmas in terms of coolness of imagery. Red, pink, glitter, cupids, lace, HEARTS! That said, I don't do major decorating for this holiday. I figure I commit enough sins at Christmas time. And besides, I'm afraid if I put anything else in the attic, the house will topple over.

I could not sleep very well last night with my coughing. I camped out on the livingroom couch to give my husband a break, but then I decided to take some more pictures. I had been taking decent pictures outside, but with being sick and the temps falling, I haven't felt like it. The camera being on the fritz is the last straw. I managed to make these pictures somewhat salvagable in photoshop. These little quilted Valentines are about 6" x 7".
Kate had a meeting to go to last night. It was in Flemington, about 11 miles from our town, so there is no point in going back home. I went to Michael's and bummed around for a while. I bought some embroidery floss and a few sheets of glittery red felt. Then I went next door to Borders. There I picked up a couple of books about Photoshop Elements, (The software had just arrived in the mail) and some magazines and had a seat. The Elements books were $35.00 and $40.00. Ouch. I mainly wanted to find out how to resize photos. I could not find the answer to my question in either of these two fat, expensive books. I figure I will just struggle with it myself and save 40 bucks. I will install the application maybe Friday or Saturday.
I also checked out the magazines Cloth Paper Scissors and Sew Somerset. I have a love hate relationship with these publications. I think I will post about this tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Disappointing Photos

I'm back to work. I feel better, but I sound ridiculous. I woke up with my throat all rough. I was probably snoring or something.

I posted Clinkers to Etsy. I have a picture of my Valentine quilt, but I find it is really dark and the color is terrible. I need to re-take before I post it to Etsy, but I can give you all a peek.
The center panel was actually cut from an old flour sack. I quilted around some of the graphics to enhance them. I put a black border around the whole thing, and I have ironed on the vines, leaves and hearts. What I like to do is quilt around the edges. Then I have quilted and secured the elements at the same time. I rely almost entirely on fusing, but I really don't expect it to last very long. I always sew the edges. I don't know why the photo came out so dark. Our camera must be on it's way out. It is 4 years old. I now see the same camera for less than half the price with twice as many features, and it is so much thinner. I made a vow to spend less money this year, but it isn't going so well. I would hate to live without a digital camera!
While I was on the couch the past couple of days, I finished 5 small quilted Valentines. I'm excited about getting them up on Etsy, and showing you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Illness Interferes with Art

I've got a pretty bad cold. It's annoying, because I'm usually good at fighting this stuff off. I'm definitely not going to work today, but I still have to drive Kate to work. After that I'm going to take some photos. I have 3 pieces completed and ready to go up on Etsy: Pebbles is totally finished, Clinkers is ready to go and I have a valentine quilt done. I'm excited about this one. It incorporates a 10-pound flour sack and has the most adorable graphic. The thing is I can't get these photos up until I get to work, and I'm pretty sure I'm taking Tuesday off as well. I think today I will break down and purchase Photoshop Elements. The more I get involved with things on the web, the more it becomes apparent that I need to be able to do these things independently.  And besides, I figure I could be downsized at any time.  You'll know if this all went down when you see photos on my blog later.

UPDATE: I purchased it as a disk. Should arrive the 16th.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Something Cool to Look At

Here is a link to the 100 best tutorials of 2008. Some of the projects look like fun.

It is the January 5th post

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Kate's Project

When I came home from work the other day, Kate was in the studio. She was raiding the scrap bin for scraps with WonderUnder on them. She was making a collage on a little tote bag.

Peter's Valley has put up their course listings for the year. They always have interesting classes. The two I am most interested in are Mixed Media Textile Surfaces and Deeply Layered Images, which has to do with printing on fabric. The first one is over Memorial Day Weekend, the second is Labor day weekend. I'm wondering if I should have Kate come along. It will be fun for her, and I would not have to worry about who will take care of her over the weekend, but on the other hand, I will spend a lot of time during the course helping her. I've never even been to P-Valley, but I've been hearing about it for years.

I am going to teach a Mixed Media art class to the ARC that Kate belongs to in the Spring (I can't wait to blog about that!) Thinking of that, maybe I can take some time just for me for a change.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cocktail Quilt?

I like to find strange and wonderful old textile bits, and use them in art quilts. I found this seriously bitchin' tea towel on a recent excursion to Roller Mills Antique Center in Lewisburg, PA. (Possibly the largest Antique mall I have ever set foot in.) My interpretation of this towel, is a housewife doing the dishes, longing for a cocktail. Maybe an early version of desperate Housewives. Pretty funny, and I love the graphics. I just found what I consider to be coordinating fabric, at least in spirit. We've got cocktail glasses with clocks in them, all stating the time to be 5 pm or later. I've been staring at this combination for a couple of days, and I'm still not really sure where to go with this. It's almost as though the towel itself is so perfect it doesn't want or need anything else from me. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

This is the Coal Stove I Told You About

My Goal today is to search for other cool blogs, and to add more links to this blog. When I am at work, I check out a few websites that change every day. It provides a momentary diversion. My question is how did people goof off at work before the computer?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Clinkers in the Coal Stove

Here is a little something I worked on between New Years and today. It is nearly done, I just have to sew on more beads. The name of it is "Clinkers in the Coal Stove." An explanation is in order.
When my husband, Joe, was a younger man, he lived in a small cottage on a horse farm. The heat source was loud and annoying, so he got himself a small coal stove. When he left that situation, the coal stove was transported to a friend's basement, where it has been these last 25 years. It has recently been rediscovered, and, to the relief of his friend (and his friend's wife) Joe has reclaimed the thing. He set it up in our cellar and it now provides heat to the area, which would otherwise be freezing. This is where my sewing machine is set up, so I'm grateful for it.
Joe was having a hard time keeping it burning, but now seems to have remastered the knack. One of the problems is "clinkers," which are bits of coal that haven't burned all of the way to ash. When you "shake down the stove," (shake the ash out from the bottom) these clinkers don't fall through the grate and can clog things up. The stove won't draft right and it can go out. That is where the name of the quilt comes from.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I'm a Techno-Dope

It would appear that someone is following my blog, and, someone else has made a comment. I find that amazing. How did you all find me?

I started a blog because it is supposed to be a good idea to promote your Etsy site. I have kept a journal for years, so it does kind of come naturally for me to do this. But I can see how it is way more than just a tool. I'm excited about being able to connect with other people like myself. This would all be a lot easier for me if I wasn't such a techno-dope!

I actually bought a book, blogging for dummies. I figured it would save me a certain amount of grief. In that book, they recommend drafting your posts out in word and then just copying and pasting them before you publish. I did that, and I find it pastes under the window where you would normally write a post. I ended up re-typing the whole thing anyway! I am really loathe to take the time to find out what I am doing wrong. I just wanna sew.

The other thing I have done is signed up for some kind of Google thing that can track how many views the blog gets. I was OK, following the instructions, until they asked me to copy and paste some code... into something. It was very unclear. I need it to be made very obvious, or else I immediately lose interest. Which I have. When I go back to work tomorrow, maybe I can get one of those nice young tech geeks to help me figure it out.
UPDATE: I figured it out! (by myself) And the thing works. I've had three views today.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Who the Hell is Amy Butler?

I spend a lot of time cruising different ETSY shops, mainly looking to see what other quilters and artists are up to. I've noticed a trend where people will include the name of fabric designers in the titles of their quilts. For example' "Patchwork Quilt with Moda Harvest Home fabric,"  or, "Rag Quilt made with Michael Miller Collection fabric." The number one fabric designer would appear to be Amy Butler. Every freakin' tote bag, change purse, burp cloth, apron and lap quilt is made from her fabric. I must admit, I started to find it annoying. I was ready to put this announcement in my own shop: "Absolutely no Amy Butler fabric used in my work!" I've never done it, though. I'm sure it is best to suppress my sarcastic side in my shop, so as not to annoy anyone. (Especially Amy Butler fans.)

There are a couple of things going on here I suppose. If you use the fabrics in a collection, you know they will harmonize and and you don't have to think or hunt for matching fabric. also, if your house is filled with Michael Miller fabric, maybe only a quilt made with more Michael Miller fabric will do.

Before I started to write this post, I decided to Google Amy B to find out more about her. The following is a quote from her website:

"I've never given a second thought to being an artist. It's really who I am and what I enjoy. I'm inspired by my surroundings, my friends, my family, nature and the rich textures of everyday life. I was never much for following trends.I like to remove myself from the cultural influences and design from a very intimate point of view. I collect vintage fabrics and use them in all of my work. I love the hunt, I love flea markets, and shops and traveling abroad to find inspiration."

When I read that, I realized that Amy and I have a lot in common. Well, except that she is rich, successful, has an amazing studio and a team of people to help her. Oh, and she travels abroad to find inspiration, (I travel to antique malls in Pennsylvania.) Maybe what I mean is, we have similar inspirations. And, I should mention that I really do like her fabric. I don't have any of it in my stash, though. I think the patterns and colors are so bold that you would almost have no choice but to use her fabrics exclusively. No thanks.

When I shop for fabric, there is no rhyme or reason to it. I just buy what I like. When you get enough of what you like, eventually there will be all kinds of things that go together. And then you will have developed a style that is all your own. Look at what Amy says in that quote. She says she has never been much for following trends. That is how she created a trend. 

Stay tuned. In my next post I will answer the question, "Who the hell is Kaffe Fassett?"