Thursday, October 16, 2014

months and years: Rabbit in the Moon quilt

a couple of months ago, I was approached about designing a table runner. Above is a sketch that was rejected. Even though it wasn't my client's taste, I liked it.

I liked it a lot. I wasn't going to let it go.

So instead, I added a gibbous moon to the mix and shuffled the moon phases around and made a quilt out of it. Or rather, I'm making it into a quilt, for the Months and Years shop. It's 36 inches wide and maybe 42 inches long - more on the measurements when it's all done. It's made of cotton canvas and two silk fabrics: the lighter colored one is a crosshatched medium-weight 100% silk suiting fabric in ivory and gold. The dark navy is silk dupioni (which I also used for the backing). The cotton canvas is the "sky" behind the moon phases. I treated the canvas with cyanoprint (sun print) dye and then scattered small branches and leaves from my garden over it and let the light develop. I overdyed this with a weak solution of purple and seafoam and spritzes of a saturated solution of warm black and navy. So, between the speckles and washes of purpley-blue-green, you can find outlines of cedar fronds and rose leaves on the sky.

I haven't quite figured out how I want to do the outline of the rabbit in the moon; for now, it's sketched in with running stitches. I think I'll couch a heavier thread so it shows up a bit better - for now, I'm just not quilting around it, so that I can still pull the layers apart and work on the rabbit without quilting it to the quilt back before I'm ready. There's a little flower quilted into the rabbits hip there, that you can just make out. I might do more of this on the rabbit...haven't decided yet. So many decisions!

What do you think I ought to do with that rabbit? Heavy thread, couched on? Embroidered leaf stitches? Or do you like it that the rabbit is so light and barely-visible like this? I'd love to hear your two cents!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

a day off

Last week, in the face of some very obvious physical manifestations of stress, I took a "day off." I didn't work on professional development stuff. I didn't apply for jobs. I didn't fuss with emails or spend the day online.

Instead, I took a walk in the park in the morning sunshine. I picked up pretty leaves, and dipped them in wax, using this tutorial from Martha Stewart. I  tied them up with thread to a piece of driftwood and hung them where they would flutter and be pretty and generally get in everyone's way as they walked into the kitchen. 

I  also made some salt scrub for the shower. I had all the ingredients - salt, glycerin, essential oils - on hand, so I quickly mixed this up and now I'm happily scrubbing away. I love salt scrubs. They're great exfoliators; this oil-free recipe from ModernSauce is the one I use. There's a great little shop for glycerin, oils, wax, salts, and other ingredients for making homemade bath products in Seattle, called Zenith (it's on Roosevelt, a couple blocks south of NE 65th St). I have salt from the dead sea in these; the crystals are slightly larger and more rounded/less sharp when you scrub with it. It's like washing with tiny pebbles! I scent mine with some essential oil from the bay tree (laurel nobilis) because I love the herbal, slightly masculine notes of that scent.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

project 52: finale

Well. Time flies. I haven't posted. What's been happening? I proofread a couple of books for an employer (one rush job that put me in a frenzy). I'm working on some "homework" (professional development) assignments from different mentors in two completely different fields (since I don't know where things are going these days, I'm just trying to keep the balls in the air for every potential lead ... it's a lot of work. I got sick last week and I still feel tired - though maybe some of that is the weather changing). I'm finishing an article that still makes me balk - I need to keep pushing through on this, though, so I don't lose the habits of being a writer. I designed and made a quilt top for a baby quilt for the shop and I'm doing some hand-quilting on it - more on that soon; there, at least, I feel like I'm making steady progress.

But where does all the time go, really? I feel like it's slipping through my fingers lately. Time to get back on top of it and do a better job of keeping this place up.

Today, I want to share the end of project 52; finished over two weeks ago! Here are the last three cards, with prints available for two (I think I need one of the Raven, Lightbringer cards).

watercolor and acrylic on paper

September has always been one of my favorite months. Indian Summer is truly gorgeous, exquisite, nostalgia-inducing here in the Northwest - the blackberries get sweeter and sweeter, things are a little dusty, night starts to fall earlier, and if the storms don't come to early, we enjoy a beautiful show of color as the leaves change. I was thinking about looking up through those leaves to a pale summery sky as I painted this one. Cass said it reminded him of Dr. Seuss, and proclaimed it a very happy card.

watercolor and  calligraphy ink on paper

And here is one of my most favorite cards. The Haida people of Alaska have a story about Raven as a a bringer of light, so, as we turn to the dark side of the year, I thought Raven, Lightbringer would be a good companion with which to close this project. The circle around the little ball of light (and the white rays) echo the circle round the sun (and the pattern of its rays) from the midsommar postcard, postcard 39. And I'm always so obsessed with stargazing and hunting comets through the winter. Last year I got up one morning at 3am when temps were in the teens (incredibly cold for this part of the country), bundled up in extra socks and my husband's massive down jacket, and walked to the park to hunt for a comet - I didn't get to see it, but I did get to see some GREAT constellations. 

ink and nailpolish on paper

And finally, with little fanfare, we close with  a simple flourish of  marbleized paper and "fin."

And ... that's it. A whole year, in postcards. This was a great project. It got me to explore some new media, and I've learned some things about this format, too. It certainly was no small birthday gift, but I enjoyed this year. Last Sunday, I was suddenly a little sad - I was out on a walk with Cass and admiring some pretty rosehips and thought about asking him if I could borrow his phone and take a picture of them to use as a model, but I stopped myself: no more postcards to make, after all. Hm. Maybe there will be more cards in my future again soon. Maybe. =) Thanks so much for following along with this project for the past year; I hope you've enjoyed seeing this unfold here!

And now ... let's talk fruitcake. This week.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

project 52:49

cyanoprint dye and plants on paper

I finally got my hands on some cyanoprint (sunprint) dye - Jacquard has been making their Solarfast product for I-don't-know-how-long, but I knew when I saw it a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to try playing with it. It's a little rough on the paper, because you have to wash it out for 10 minutes - see all the tears? I had to glue this postcard to another one to reinforce it before I mailed it. Hm.

I got the idea for this project when I stumbled across artist Jill DeHaan's experiments with plant matter and cyanoprint paper, and knew I wanted to try something similar, so postcard 49 is a monogram, the first letter of my brother's (and my) last name. I wanted to capture some of the last of the summer sunshine!

(While it's still sunny in Seattle, the sun has dropped just below the tops of the trees in the doug fir grove that stands just south of our backyard - so now in the middle of the day, we are in shade instead of sun, and things feel a *lot* cooler around here.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

italian renaissance

Growing up, Italian food was, like, the height of seductive cuisine in my world. In any TV show, people who were dating, people who were celebrating anniversaries, people who received promotions ... went to an Italian restaurant. Same with movies. As far as I knew, there was nothing more romantic or intimate or special than an Italian restaurant. Maybe French - but in films and on TV, the French restaurant was a place for experts; you had to speak the names with a French accent, and the waiters were always intimidatingly superior (pace francophiles, I'm talking about a child's impressions of pop culture 25 years ago here). People were obsessed with balsamic vinegar and arugula, every fancy cook with a cable cooking show would whip out that pasta machine and I'd feel a sense of awe and desire - heck, even as small child, one of my favorite toys was that play-doh expresser toy. Man, I loved that thing! 

These days, though, you don't see a lot of hype about Italian cooking. It's everywhere, it's comforting ... probably fewer people have the time for the intensive prep work of making things from scratch. The exciting new areas of cuisine lately seem to be other Mediterranean cultures - and points east. Freekeh. Quince. Preserved lemons.

I've been wondering if it's about time for Italian food to make a comeback as a trend.

Certainly, in my own kitchen, I've been making more pasta and pizza this summer than in many summers I can remember - and yes, entirely from scratch. We even have the fancy pasta machine now, but I don't seem to have the strength to change the settings on the thickness so I only ever use it if Cass is here to help me. Most of the time, I roll my pasta by hand, with a simple, solid wood, French-style tapered rolling pin that I bought at the hardware store for six or seven dollars (seriously, sometimes the simple, basic model is the best - I love the control the taper gives me, letting me pivot the pressure and work one bit of dough or crust at a time).

Tonight, it's fava bean agnolotti with a rich, creamy curry emulsion from The French Laundry cookbook. You can click the link to go to the recipe - it's on epicurious! The guys at my favorite produce stand down at the Public Market (aka Pike Place Market) had fava beans last week and I was terribly excited to see them. "Probably the last of the season for us," they told me, and admitted that the beans were a little past their prime - and should be cooked 1-2 minutes longer than normal. Since these are probably my last taste of favas until next spring, I wanted to find a nice way to showcase their flavor; and grinding them into a pasty filling also seemed a good way to deal with the potential issue of woodiness of overripe beans. I had fun folding the pasta into a new shape (for me), and breaking out my new fluted pastry wheel to make those pretty pinked edges (another one of those cheap, hard-working basic tools, we bought the fluted wheel at Mrs. Cook's for less than $8) that are so classic.

Sometimes, it's just so satisfying to stop what you're doing and spend a whole afternoon kneading eggs into flour, rolling out dough, and carefully forming perfect bites for a special dinner. And to boot, while I was waiting for the dough to rest, I squeezed in a good research session - the limited time was just the motivation I needed to overcome some procrastination/intimidation that's totally been holding me back on putting a grant proposal together. I guess even the quiet ritual of making pasta is a comforting influence, for me!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

project 52: 48 & 47, respectively

nail polish, spray paint, pressed garden flowers on paper

well, things have been a little quiet around here, haven't they? I've been really trying to crank out a few projects I swore I'd have done before summer was out. I just finished the second dress for the Months and Years shop yesterday. I know, I know, I said the shop would be up in August, didn't I? Well, now it looks like it'll be up for the winter holidays, instead. Just as well; I'd rather push the date back than skimp on the quality or ideas I have for the garments. But wow, it has been such a busy summer .

And as project 52 winds down, I'm excited to have more time back to myself - though I might keep making cards of some sort, periodically. I have a feeling I'm going to miss this bit of structure and challenge that I have given this year.

Above, coming full circle: you might recall that the third (I think/) project 52 postcard was made of a collage of 1/2" squares cut out of autumn leaves. And here are some of the flowers of my late  summer garden, pressed since July, and sent off last week.

nail polish, spray paint, acrylic, ink on paper

And catching up, here's the card from two weeks ago, inspired by a news item I'd heard on the radio about a new comet passing by us (I think it was a new one, anyway?), that scientists are going to study with a probe. Of course, the comet moves to quickly and the probe doesn't move quickly at all, so the solution was to latch the probe onto the comet and send it hurtling off into space with it, using  - of all things - a harpoon. I loved this image, kind of like the probe is Ahab and the comet is a white whale. I love that we transpose marine terminology to air and space travel ... there's something so charmingly nostalgic about it, that we get to use the same words our forebears used, to describe new forms of exploration long after the globe had been circumnavigated and mapped.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

project 52:46

ink and colored pencil on paper
It's late August and things are starting to wind down. Or so it feels in the garden. Plants seed and fade, but the sedums are still (always) going strong, their little chewy, succulent leaves tipped in cheery red. My neighbour gave me these plants a year or two ago, just little slips of things that were encroaching on her patio, outshoots she was going to compost - if I didn't want them.

For years, I've dreamed of one day having one of those big iron balls for the garden, of lining its outer edges with coir or landscape fabric, filling it with rich soil, and sticking a wild array of succulents all over it, so that they gradually grow together and coat the outside: a hanging ball of succulents. Someday, somewhere.

So I eagerly potted up those little guys when my neighbour offered them to me; from such small beginnings, a grand succulent ball! (one day!) Or perhaps I'll cave and make a half-succulent ball a whole lot sooner; I have a nice, heavy hanging pot (a half-globe), and I'm wondering if, when the nasturtiums that have been so weakly hanging on all summer finally crisp and wither away, I could pick little holes in the coir lining and start tucking these guys in all over it. Goodness knows, they're getting packed enough in the pots, the tight quarters twisting and perverting the neat geometry of their perfect little whorls.