March 16, 2017
Back in the 1970s when I was working in Minneapolis, I found this Marimekko fabric panel at a fabric warehouse. I bought it and saved it in my fabric stash, until about a decade later when I had it hand-quilted and made into a baby quilt for my daughter. I still love the graphic style of the classic Winnie-the-Pooh images. I suppose you could call it a vintage quilt, and for me it is a cherished keepsake.
The Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle is currently hosting an exhibit of Marimekko fabrics and designs. A friend and I went yesterday, and we found the colorful pieces quite uplifting on a gray, rainy Seattle day. I only wish the exhibit were larger, as it left me wanting to see more work from this captivating design house.
Marimekko is a Finnish design company, and its team of designers create not only fabric prints, but also simple and fashionable clothes and home products. I could easily see myself wearing some of the loose, blousey, simple dresses over black leggings. If you are interested in finding out more about Marimekko, its website includes a blog, and a series of posts entitled “Every Print Has a Story,” that give some background into the designers and their work.
Here are some photos from the “Marimekko, With Love” exhibit at the Nordic Heritage Museum:
December 8, 2016
“O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree . . .”
In lieu of a real Christmas tree this year, I’ve created a couple of hand-crafted, scrappy trees from materials at hand. I used a broken, misshapen garden trellis as the base for a rustic tree. One string of lights and a few favorite ornaments, and it transformed into a magical spot of holiday cheer.
I’ve always loved paper crafts, so I created a tree of paper snowflakes. Just cut a bunch of snowflakes of assorted sizes, stack them from large to small on a wooden dowel (I used a pencil), and top with an old earring.
August 24, 2015
On a recent trip to Vashon Island, my friend Carol introduced me to artist Linda Stemer, who makes chemically-treated cotton and silk fabric for sun prints. (She sells the fabric online at Blueprints on Fabric.)
It was fun looking at samples of the blueprinted fabrics Linda had on display, but it was even more fun making our own blueprints following Linda’s super-easy instructions. What a perfect way to take advantage of our sunny summer weather.
You can see the entire process at this link.
I framed the feather print I made. It goes well with our blue guest bedroom.
August 26, 2014
“Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul.”
— W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up
“The question of what art is for has far too long been needlessly treated as obscure: it is to help us live and die.”
— Alain de Botton
After telling the story of my life in 10 objects, I realized that this mini-series was missing something important to me — an aspirational object, my watercolor paints, brushes and supplies. These are the objects I hope to grow into. I am prepared to spend hours with my brush in hand, palette at my side, paper in front of me — to play and practice and experiment.
Drawing and painting are more skills to help me slow down, pay attention, create beauty, play, and express myself. So they are a natural extension of my other interests. I aspire to become a better artist.
So now that I am truly finished with the story of my life in 10 objects, I invite you to share your stories — your 10 objects — in the comments. I’m so curious about what your chosen objects will say about you.
August 24, 2014
“Some of the most common ways in which a craft object attains meaning for a respondent are through information coded into the object by the maker; through the experience of discovering or acquiring the object; through a personal connection with the maker; and through provenance or projection. The object may acquire meaning at first contact — it may, as one passionate craft curator recently said to me, ‘touch your heart’ — or it may accrue meaning over years of use. However it happens, objects ultimately possess meaning to the extent that they affect or confirm the stories through which a respondent constructs his identity and orders his world. The more central those narratives are, the more meaning the object has.”
— Peter Korn, Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman
“Objects carry both history and desire.”
— Priscilla Long, The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life
“Anything a hand has touched is for some reason peculiarly charged with personality.”
— Richard Holmes, Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer
Quilts represent my love of handmade things. I chose as my ninth “life object” this unfinished quilt that I am making. The top has been pieced for several years. I have yet to sew it to batting and backing and hand quilt it. I have a good track record of finishing projects like this, so I trust that someday this quilt will be ready to use and display. The unfinished aspect of this object reminds me that, for me, the creating and making are just as rewarding and pleasurable as owning the finished product.
“The profit of work is in the doing of it.”
— Richard Quinney, Once Again the Wonder
My mother sewed clothes, but she did not quilt. I don’t remember my grandmothers making quilts either. But my oldest sister Sandy, a home economics major, was and is passionate about quilting, and over the years she has passed on some skills to me — how to make my own binding, how to miter corners, how to applique using Wonder Under, how to cut and piece using Square-in-a-Square, etc. So my quilts connect me to my sister, which is very comforting.
Quilting appeals to my frugal nature. I like the idea of taking scraps and leftover fabric and sewing them together to make something useful and beautiful.
“The act of piecing a patchwork quilt is both utterly practical and powerfully symbolic. It’s an act of reclaiming, saving, mending, and unifying. The result, the quilt itself, solves a basic problem — the need for warmth — but it represents much more: the quiltmaker’s resourcefulness, wishes, and fierce opinions; an attempt to make something beautiful out of what otherwise might have been wasted; and the desire to make some kind of peace.”
— Katherine Bell, Quilting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time
And I like the contemplative nature of quilting, its rhythms — repeating color blocks and stitches — and the lessons it teaches me about taking large projects a step at a time and, in time, accomplishing something quite wonderful.
“When we work with our hands and build something, we learn how to sequence our actions and how to organize our thoughts.”
— Robert Greene, Mastery
“I had often wondered if there was some neurological link between the gentle repetitive action of your arms wielding a broom or your hand stirring a pot and the ideas that filtered through to the front part of your mind; some fusion between physical action and creative ignition.”
— Debra Adelaide, The Household Guide to Dying
“It’s only when what we learn while we’re doing what seems to be basically routine that really counts; how to endure, how to produce, how to make life rich at its most mundane moments.”
— Joan Chittister
Several years ago, I created a private blog, “Handmade by Rosemary,” for the purpose of documenting the quilts and quilted things I have made over the course of two-plus decades. I kept it private because I made quite a few references to family in it. But I’ve just edited the blog to make it available for public viewing. There are 46 posts in all. (No recent posts because I haven’t been quilting lately!) If you want to view the entire series and see the quilts I’ve made, you can link to the first post above and then make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom to see the links (arrows) to the next post, and the next, and so on.
I’m at a point in my life where I am deciding whether it is time to get rid of my boxes of fabric scraps and maybe even make gifts of some of the quilts I’ve kept. I am not sure whether I will want to make more quilts in the years ahead or whether I will instead pursue other creative projects. You can see from my blog archive above that I have plenty of quilts to last my lifetime! Do I need more?
July 29, 2014
I was inspired to embellish a couple of plain envelopes with little watercolor sketches after seeing a display of envelopes by Mikisaburo Izui at the Bellevue Arts Museum. The envelopes were included in an exhibit of arts and crafts created by Japanese Americans in the internment camps of 1942 – 1946. The exhibit is called“The Art of Gaman.” The concept of Gaman is “to endure the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.”
I am drawn to the Japanese way of imbuing a sense of grace and beauty in everyday, ordinary things. It takes time and attentiveness and a calm mind, I think, to live in this way. The exhibit at the Bellevue Arts Museum shows that this sensibility did not break under the unfair and harsh conditions of the internment camps. The art created during this time was remarkable and inspiring.
On those now rare occasions when I mail a handwritten letter, I plan to take just a little extra time to embellish the envelope with a watercolor sketch. My small attempt to add a grace note to someone’s day.
Yesterday I travelled by bus across Lake Washington to see the origami exhibit at the Bellevue Arts Museum, which is an easy stroll from the Bellevue Transit Center. The exhibit, “Folding Paper: Infinite Possibilities of Origami,” runs through September 21st. I love papercraft of all kinds, and this exhibit showcases the intricacies and magic of folded paper. Many of the pieces on display were constructed from a single sheet of paper. I can’t begin to comprehend the vision, engineering skills, and artistry needed to create such amazing art objects. I was astounded and delighted by these imaginative works.
I learned that paper folding has real-life applications that go way beyond creating art objects. Scientists who want to transport large objects, like sun shields or telescope lenses, into space might engineer a folded apparatus to save space during the haul, only to be unfolded at its destination in space. Or doctors might transport tiny folded repair materials through a blood vessel, to be unfolded and applied as a heart stent. Think of the miraculous properties of the air bags in your car — another piece of origami-like engineering.
You can read more about the origami in this exhibit in a book, Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami by Meher McArthur and Robert J. Lang.