A Fine Time, with Mary Ruth Smith

The Texas Federation of Fiber Artists happened this end-of-February in Kerrville. I had a great time at the events in Kerrville that I attended. (And a wonderful time during the open studio at El Cielo on Friday, with special guest artists Robin Early, Sarah Burke and Mary Lance.)

Tops on the list: Mary Ruth Smith's stitching class. Just to hear her stories and her approach to her meticulous and amazing work was worth the price of admission to the entire conference. (Mary Ruth says take photos, but not of her face...)

Let the photos inspire:


 The piece above is layers of French knots -- Mary Ruth says it takes aabout 2 hours to stitch one square inch, about 200 hours in each of the pieces in this series (and she is FAST).

Mary Ruth says that she works with stitch in three ways: to construct fabric (as with the French knot piece above), to embellish and to draw. Some pieces use one approach, others several. She most often uses only one kind of stitch in a piece -- ie, thousands of seed stitches, thousands of cross stitches or thousands of those knots. Looking at her work, I noticed that quite a few also had maybe two different stitches -- one constructing the surface and one embellishing it.

I've been stitching (by hand) ever since the weekend, and have these observations:

Hand stitiching for me is quite meditative. I think I can give up yoga (no, not really... the shoulders say otherwise).

It takes a LONG TIME. Hand Stitch is the "slow craft" that calls to me. I get antsy with some tedious chores, but not hand-stitching.

I can travel with hand stitch projects -- even walking the Camino this summer, I should be able to carry along something!

I like black thread and the black lines that stitching with it makes. A lot. 

The overlay idea (putting a very sheer black fabric over ones first layer of stitch) is a novel and interesting way to play with value and to tie together bits of small appliqued fabrics -- it serves to hold down all the little threads and edges without fusing or satin stitching the entire edge. Mary Ruth used to buy her sheer Japanese made chiffon scarves at WalMart, but they no longer seem to carry them. She finds them now at (http://www.meinketoy.com/) Meinke Toy. HOWEVER, I think I found a substitute yesterday at the local wholesale florist -- in San Antonio at Travis Wholesale Florist. It's a very sheer, very transparent length of fabric sold as a decor sheer. $6 for a whole lot of cloth. I'm sending a piece to Mary Ruth immediately!

Another great source she shared for yarns, sari strips and paper yarn, perfect for couching: Darn Good Yarn.

She also likes to color her fabric before stitching sometimes with scraps of disperse dye painted papers. These dyes, for polyester and other synthetic fabrics only, are similar to the Crayola fabric iron on dye crayons. She now uses a product from ProChem called Prosperse Dyes. Here's a helpful YouTube with textile artist Mary Gamester that illustrates several ways to use this kind of product. And a helpful one-page sample from a book by Carolyn Dahl.

The picture directly below on the left shows at the bottom of the picture an interesting and simple way to mount these stitched and stretched art works. Mary Ruth stretches her muslin or other fabric around standard sized stretcher boards. When the work is finished, she may remove it and wrap it around another display board, then she nails a smaller by one inch covered stretcher bars onto the back of the piece with the art stretched around it. This gets the hanging hardware, (ie a 13" by 13" art piece is backed with a 12" by 12" stretcher boards stretched with plain muslin).

The Workshop of the Mind

How does your mind work? And what might it look like? Answering these two questions can give any (creative) person (and we are all creative) interesting insight into his or her process of invention, collection and creation.

 Led by my colleague, Dr. Cynthia Herbert, we traveled the road of looking at one's mind at a recent workshop at Ballet Austin. Attending were about 18 arts educators from diverse arts organizations (and/or interests) who took our New World Kids training. This exercise takes adult through a very personal image/collage/sculpture making process based on what currently is known about how the mind perceives, uses and stores information -- and how each of us differently uses that information to create new "products." Products can be as complex as full-blown works or art, as business plans, as research designs -- or as simple as a room arrangement, a lesson plan, a travel plan, a meal.

I'll be leading the same activity in my play and imagination workshop later this summer at El Cielo Studio, and also a parents' version at my weeklong course on creativity for your kids at the Southwest School in August. (There is also a Southwest School of Art weekend course there for teachers on teaching fiber arts, but we will start with this mind=picture activity.) 


July 29-31

Making time to play with odd-ball materials; learning to focus upon artful tasks at hand -- sounds like opposite sides of the coin? At this exploratory and full-of-play weekend, we’ll explore the relationship between the time, play, art and focus. Where does time management intersect with open-hearted fun? Expect bubbles, playdough, sparklers, jello, yoga and seeing the world from new angles and attitudes. Fee $165, including most supplies and meals. (For details, email me through the contact form on the sidebar).


special parent class
on raising creative kids
Susie Monday
Mon – Fri, Aug 1 – 5 | 9:00am – 12:00pm 
Tuition: $140 (Members: $125) | 5 sessions
Discover more about your child’s learning. Explore their world of creativity, and find ways to stimulate and enhance it. With artist-educator Susie Monday, co-author of New World Kids: The Parent’s Guide to Creative Thinking as your guide, find out how to support, direct, and defend your child’s creative thinking at home and in their school setting. Hands-on activities, handouts, problem-solving, and an interdisciplinary approach characterize this invaluable class for the parents of creative kids.

sAug 1 – 5 | 9:00am – 12:00pm Tuition: $140 (Members: $125) | 5 sessions


But here's one little taste that might provide insight (this is actually the final part of the 2 hour experience).

Think of a metaphor or analogy for your mind at work on a creative project, big or small. For example -" my mind is like a bee hive with bees and different tasks buzzing and communicating," or My mind is an assembly line where sensory input goes in at one end, gets organized and reshaped and comes out the other," or "My mind is story telling stage with lots of storytellers taking turns."

Now create a model or drawing of that analogy or idea! This is even more fun in a group, because you will be amazed at the diversity of ideas and of their expresssion.


Memorial for 72 Killed on the Border

Before I left this week for El Salvador, I participated in a memorial/action to honor the 72 workers from Central and South America who were killed by Mexican narcocartel thugs when they refused to join the cartel as drug mules and enforcers. The demonstration was at Northwest Vista College and was designed to educate the college students, staff and faculty about the impact of U.S. actions on the lives of others 

Here is a link to an online story in this week's Vista Voice, the college e-newspaper.

72 Dead; Migrant Memorial Takes Place at NVC

The Vista Voice

An observer, Susie Monday, said the memorial also sheds some light on those victims who have died as a result of the demand for drugs in the US "The primary ...

And on to the City

I arrived in Houston last night to present two lectures and a one-day workshop for the Houston Fiber Artists, HAFA. Great reception and hospitality so far, and I'm off to the second lecture in a few minutes. The Friday workshop has given me the opportunity to jump back into my planning for my online course test -- yes, it really is coming. On Friday I'll do the "live" version of Words on the Surface, and next week I'll launch the on-line version. So if you missed the Houston workshop, stay tuned for sign-up info about the course coming soon. My test pilot group will receive first dibs on enrollment, since I'll keep it at 15 max for this first venture online.

If you haven't added yourself to my test pilot group, please send me a note through the sidebar email form or just directly. I'll put you in the notification group. Words on the Surface will include creativity exercises and writing, collage, mixed media printing, stamp-making and fabric stamping, sun printing,  ink jet printing and maybe a couple of other techniques -- in a 6 lesson format with one lesson a week. I hope to include video and slide shows, and a lot of links to online resources and examples.

P.S. The completion of the Youth Ambassadors program at Selah and then at Say Si was a great success. The kids are now at Tapatio Springs, for their final wrapup with Georgetown University staff and their mentors, in liu of traveling back to Washingon, DC. An impossible journey given the snow!

J. David Bamberger speaks to the Youth Ambassadors group about his amazing journey to restore habitat in the Texas Hill Country, entreating them to do the same in their own countries -- both for the land's sake and for the economic potential in such activity.


Open Studios Online

Ran across this online invitation today, and I thought it would be fun to participate.You might want to, too.

Be Part of Our Online Open Studios Event

The theme of the Fall 2009 issue of Studios is Open Studios, so we're kicking it off with a virtual tour, and you're invited to participate. Here’s how:

Step 1.  Take pictures and/or video of your studio. Maybe your studio is a large, dedicated space or maybe it’s just a corner of the dining room. It doesn’t matter—we want to see it! And don’t worry that it isn’t perfect. Art is not about perfection. You can clean it up, leave it in its natural state—it’s up to you.

Step 2. Announce the tour on your blog/website and include the cover image of the Fall 09 Studios, linked to our website.

Once you’ve posted image and link, leave a link to your blog/website in the comments section of the In the Studio with Cate editor’s blog anytime before October 2.

Step 3. On October 3, post the images/video of your studio on your blog or website with a little commentary describing your creative spac and what makes it special to you. Leave the post up through October 4, or as long as you like.

The first 25 people to join the tour (i.e. leave a link to their tour announcement on Cate’s blog) will win a door prize from the Studios storage closet (books, fabric, craft bags, art supplies, and more). Everyone who participates will have the opportunity to share their unique workspace and get ideas and feedback from others.

So, join the fun! Any questions? Contact Studios Editor Cate Prato at cprato@interweave.com.

And it will get me to clean up my studio, at least a little, before I take off on the first of three event journeys to Houston.

Here's what's on the agenda:

Federation of Texas Fiber Artists Meeting -- Houston's HAFA hosts this year's events, held every two years among the four member "chapters" of the organization -- Austin, Dallas/FW, San Antonio and Houston. Here's what I'll be doing:

 Studio tour, Workshops on Photoshop and various facets of art business and professionalism and gallery visits -- Gallery stops at the ArtCloth Network's exhibit at Archway Gallery and the Federation's show at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (nope, my entries were not accepted for either show, better luck next time, right?)


International Quilt Festival, the big one at George Brown Convention Center, all four floors!

I'm teaching, demoing, lecturing way more than I expected. I sent in some proposals last spring, thinking that the way they worked would be to pick three, maybe four of my options. I was asked to present seven different programs. Good thing I am traveling up and back to the Houston Federation event, so that I can take some of the supplies then and leave them at a friend's house. I am excited, but a bit apprehensive about all the activities -- suspect I won't be doing much for fun except teaching. But, I am signed up for Ann Johnston's dyeing course, one I've wanted to take for a long time. This will be the lecture, demo version, but I am certain I will learn a tremendous amount. Ann is the dye guru in my book!

Here's my teaching ,etc. schedule, in case you get a chance to join in. Last time I checked I had openings still in all of my offerings. Workshop registration includes one admission ticket to the exhibits, trade shows, etc. For more information go to www.quilts.com.

The International Quilt Festival in Houston will be
held October 14- 18 (earlier than normal this year only).
Catalogs are now available for classes and workshops
from Quilt, Inc. Several Texas artists are included as
instructors and lecturers. Susie Monday will be lecturing
and teaching (# from the catalog): For more information,
visit www.quilts.com
#368, Wed, 4-5pm, $8
Lecture: Nurturing Creative Kids (and Grandkids)
#411, Thurs, all day, $83
Workshop: Rainbow Prints with Water-Soluble Crayons
#540 Friday Sampler, 10-noon, $30
Demo: Zapped (almost) Instant Silk Scarves
#605 Friday 6-9
Workshop: The Sensory Alphabet, $43
#749 Sat. 10-noon, Mixed Media Miscellany, $30
Demo: Rainbow Prints w/Water Soluble Crayons
#756 Sat 2-5, $50
Workshop: Shapes and Silhouettes
#804, Sun 8-11, $45
Workshop:Inspiration is in the Cards
#Sun, 11:30-1:30
Demo: Stories on Your Shoulder

And third:

ArtCloth Network Meeting

This is a group of (up to) 25 artists who have a special place in the repertoire for art cloth. Right now there are only 20 members, so if you are interested, check out the website for the group and send me an email. We will be opening up for applications sometime later this fall. The meeting is largely a Show-and-Tell with some fun gallery visits, business meeting and lots of fun with friends who I've met through this closeknit group.


Intermission #2: Iraqi Bundles of Love

IBOL on site in Iraq

I'm in. Are you?

Iraqi Bundles of Love is a short-duration project, set to last about six weeks, originally intended to surge fabric and sewing (and knitting!) materials into the area around which I live in Iraq.  It is timed to coincide with both Ramadan, and the departure of my units from Iraq. If you’re reading this, well — it’s kind of grown. It’s going to help a little bit more of northern Iraq than just the area around where I live.

It is intended to be a simple project, requiring little effort and little expenditures from those wishing to participate.  It is based upon my assessment that sewing fanatics and quilters and knitters tend to have stashes that far exceed their actual needs, and that sewing fanatics and quilters and knitters are passionate both about sewing / quilting / knitting, and about sharing with others.

I originally though success for this project was going to be measured in tens. Somewhere along the way, after folks like Sew Momma Sew got involved (see this and this), I began to think about hundreds. Now, thanks to folks like you, I am planning for thousands.

The general premise is this.  I am in Iraq, and I can get mail through the US Postal System.  Willing contributors can send to me a flat-rate box of sewing / quilting supplies, all bundled up.  I’d open the box, pull out the fully-contained bundle, and hand it off (with others) to our counterparts in the Iraqi Security Forces (Army and others) or the local police, for them to distribute.  Some of the bundles will also be delivered by US Soldiers. The stated intent of this operation is to put sewing and quilting and knitting supplies into the hands of two types of recipients:  locals who desperately need such things, and local sewing co-ops and other small businesses who have received grants or loans (typically to purchase sewing machines, rent space, etc).

That is it, in a nutshell.  I owe you more on how this came to be, on ideas, on things to do and things not to do.

See the details on Major Art La Flamme's site (he's married to quilter extradinaire Kristen La Flamme) -- those are his words above.

The general info is here on the what to send page.

How to make a bundle is on this page.

You'll need to leave a comment on Art's site to get the address -- that's to control the timing, since he leaves Iraq in a few weeks, and Ramadan begins as well.


FIberart for A Cause Reverse Auction

Pomegranate Cross will be on the auction block for the American Cancer Society--

I'm one of the invited artists this year, and I'm so happy to be in the company of these fabulous artists. (Click here for photos of the donated work, and for more info see Virginia Spiegel's auction preview. Spiegel has the site up and running (while she's in Texas on retreat at Karey Bresenhahn's).

Invited Artists:
Natalya Aikens
Gerrie Congdon
Marjorie DeQuincy
Rayna Gillman
Carol Larson
Linda Teddlie Minton
Susie Monday
Judy Coates Perez
Leandra Spangler
Roxane Stoner

FFAC Reverse Auction - Press Release

Fiberart For A Cause Reverse Auction Set to Raise Funds for the American Cancer Society

Byron, Illinois, December 12, 2008-
Fiberart For A Cause will hold its fifth Invitational Reverse Auction from March 24-26, 2009. Natalya Aikens, Gerrie Congdon, Marjorie DeQuincy, Rayna Gillman, Carol Larson, Linda Teddlie Minton, Susie Monday, Judy Coates Perez, Leandra Spangler and Roxane Stoner have all donated their artwork. All proceeds from the sales go directly to the American Cancer Society.

A preview of all artwork will be posted at least one week prior to March 24. All artwork will begin at a fixed minimum donation. This minimum donation is reduced by a fixed (and very generous) percentage of the original minimum donation each day until the artwork is chosen by a generous patron. Each artwork will show the minimum donation required for each day of the auction. The preview and actual auction will be linked from http://www.virginiaspiegel.com/NewFiles/ACSFundraiser.html

The Big Leap; Learn as You Go

I am one of those foolhearty types who hates to read instruction manuals, dislikes asking for directions, heartily hates following linear to-do lists -- you get the picture. So it's probably no surprise that when I want to master something new, the best way for me is the sink or swim approach. 'Course I try to choose tasks that are intrinsically intriguing and tools that are intuitively operational. (And that, in a nutshell, is why mac is the only computer for me.)

This past year, I have become a webmaster by intention, building three passable sites, with I admit, not a line of code, just a lot of tinkering with built-in templates, both on the Squarespace site for New World Kids (Squarespace hosts this blog, too -- I love their interface and the support desk is great), for my own gallery website and a new website for Fiber Artists of San Antonio. That's the one that's just gone "live" and, while I hope to tinker and improve over the next few weeks, the basic architecture is up and running and even taking money via PayPal.

I used iWeb (part of the Macintosh iLife suite of tools) to build the FASA site and my gallery site, and with some help from my friends at the Apple Store I know pretty much the ins and outs of using that software. (I do highly reccommend the Apple One-to-One program -- $99 gives you a week of private tutoring from a kid whizbang expert at the Apple Store.)

PayPal and GoDaddy are not exactly what I would call intuitive sites, and I've had to buckle down and actually read instructions, usually about 40 times, before I get the kinks out of using their interfaces with my sites. But, it no longer terrifies me -- that's what jumping in the deep end gets you -- past your fear.

If you've been thinking about building a website, I say, dive, dive, dive. And if that or some other said-to-be-difficult task looms in your new year, consider whether an external deadline or expectation from a (unpaid) volunteer client (like the Fiber Artists were for me) might be that little push on the backside that you need. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, at least on the computer, few errors are actually fatal and most stupidities can be undone. I may never be a "real" webmaster, but at least now I know enough to design and put something up that I like and that does the job for client/s (me, FASA, our book). I certainly don't sneer at templates and WYSISYG editing programs -- they frankly just make me glad I never invested time in learning to write HTML.

I know, I know, my sites won't win any awards for innovation, real techie types will point our their shortcomings in style, elegance and probably speed, but I loved the experience of learning more about electronic media and how to work in some personal style on top of a template.


Holiday Bazaar

Above: Linda Rael, my tablemate, makes a sale.

Fiber Artists of San Antonio artisans turned out on Sunday for a sale at the San Antonio Garden Center. It was a great location, and though we had fewer customers than we would have hoped for, the people who came all seemed to be buying. Just for fun, here's some photos of the event. I plan to upload some of them to the new FASA website --- yes, another cyber project for El Cielo Studio. You'd think I wanted to do web design, given the amount of time I've spent lately doing so. Not my intention, but hey, it may prove a skill well worth having. Just don't expect me to write actual code.

IN ORDER: Lisa Kerpoe's scarves, Sandra E. Taylor's batik painting, Reneta Kuhn's kimono, Sarah Burke's bowl, plastic jewelry by new member Sara Katherine Boyd, bags from Sandy Edsell, scarves from Lori Burnett.

More Houston: Artist's Altar

Well. I didn't win the tiara parade. I don't think my garden glove, yarn, shredded fabic, needles and pins entry was quite tiaraesque enough. But I had a great time all day. I did a "Meet the Teachers" session early in the day -- 10:30 am and believe it or not, people, a few, showed up to hear me (or the person who was next on the list). So I continue to learn a lot. and continue to meet wonderful teachers, quilters, artists, all. Here's the basic outline of my presentation, I hope you can follow along:

An Art Quilt Artist’s Altar

By Susie Monday, artist, coach and teacher
3532 Timbercreek Rd.
El Cielo Studios, Pipe Creek, Texas

Making an artist’s altar is one of the creative exercises suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. I’ve adapted her practice by combining it with the process of art quilt journaling. Art quilt Artist’s Altars start with an acknowledgement of our human heritage of creativity. Episcopal priest and radical theologian Matthew Fox has written, “We are creators at our very core. Only creating can make us happy, for in creating we tap into the deepest powers of self and universe and the Divine Self. We become co-creators, that is, we create with the other forces of society, universe and the God-self when we commit to creativity.” The act of creating an artist altar honors this deep connection to the Source.

Here are some prompts, suggestions and techniques that will help you make your own art quilt artist’s altar. First construct or purchase a simple box or altar shaped frame that will determine the size of your art quilt work. I build simple 1 by 3” frames in a “house” shape for the ones I make, but you can use a pre-made gallery canvas as the structure.

1. Start with your favorite colors. Pull fabrics from your stash that represent your most beloved hues and shades. You can use one or 50 different prints. No rules, here. Combine a rainbow or stick to the subtlest shades of white you can find.

2. What symbolizes creativity for you – is it a person, a goddess or mythological figure, a place, a shape, a sound, an image from nature or from art history? Is it all of the above. Collect, draw, cut, photo transfer or collage a central image for your art quilt artist altar by starting with what speaks the name of creativity the loudest.

3. Use your favorite quilting techniques to assemble the top of your art quilt. I use fusing, piecing, machine quilting and hand embroidery for the ones I make, but you should honor your own favorite techniques. Assemble with batting, but a back layer of fabric is usually not needed.

4. Make the top of your art quilt large enough to wrap completely around the frame, whatever its size. Wrap and staple the top around the frame, fitting and folding the corners neatly. If desired, stitch fabric to the back

Good news of the day: when I went to pick up my art materials for the demo, I found a note from Leslie Riley (she organized the mixed media classes). Pokey Bolten of Quilting Arts magazines. (Cloth, Paper, Scissors, etc.) wanted to talk to me about writing for the mags. That's incentive to get my proposals in to the editors. Hold me to it.

On other quilting fronts: check out Ragged Cloth Cafe's last month post by Kate Themal,  food for thought as we look at the amazing variety of quilts here in this venue: traditional, antique, contemporary, cutting edge, stange and digital.