Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just up my owl-ley

Every once in a while, a group of us, usually 12, organize a block exchange. We pick some kind of "focus" fabric or a particular block. We each make 12 of the same block, one to keep for ourselves, and one for each other member of the group. You know, kind of like a cookie exchange. Then after we have had sufficient time to make the blocks, we meet for the "big reveal."

I have done several of these block exchanges, seven, I think. So much fun to participate in--fun with your friends, fun to see what everyone else chooses to do. But then comes the point of actually putting all the blocks together in a quilt. Over the years, this is the state of my block exchanges: one completed, one sandwiched together with the batting and backing and some actual hand quilting--which I intend to take out and start over, one that just needs the binding completed. And the others? Well, they occupy various parts of my house, sad little blocks huddling together and waiting for some kind of inspiration from their owner to put them together in a happy little group.

The theme one time was birds. You could do a bird or a birdhouse, it had to be paper pieced, which involves actually sewing your fabric to paper, so some of us learned a new technique. Ever paper pieced before? It has been known to cause some fairly foul, or in this case "fowl," language to be spoken. It can be really frustrating, although if done correctly (which turns out to be the hard part), you can make a block with teeny, tiny little pieces with great precision.

So....I made a scissor-tail flycatcher, mostly because it is the state bird of Oklahoma, where I lived for six or seven years, and the name is such fun to say. Someone made a hummingbird, we had a cardinal, a couple of bird houses. My friend, Maggie, made a robin red breast, I think mostly just so she could repeatedly say "breast." And another person made the cutest owl.

Enter fabricworm.com. As I was browsing their site the other day, currently one of my favorite online fabric sites, I came up with exactly what I needed. Really, how perfect is this?

I love the background color, which is really a lot darker and more yellowy-green and an exact match for one wall in my sewing room (although, after polling a couple of my friends, I stand alone in being blown away by its green perfection). And the scowly owl with the brown head (the bigger one toward the bottom right) just cracks me up.

So I'll use it for the border all the way around the quilt. Not sure exactly how I'm going to put the blocks together although I have a plan, and I'm pretty sure my birdies are all going to live happily ever after. Chirp, chirp.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hearing voices

America's Got Talent! Yessiree. And we saw the 2007 talent winner, Terry Fator, on Monday night at Table Mountain Casino. Now I have to clue you in that Mark likes to watch shows like America's Got Talent and the audition portions of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance mostly to see people who mistakenly think they really do have talent, and then are shocked to find out that the judges don't agree with them. I always watch those initial weeks of the show with him, but my favorite part is when the contenders are actually competing, and usually by then Mark has lost interest. Fairly normal people with some actual talent. Although now would probably be a good time to discuss why Sanjaya actually lasted so long a couple of seasons ago on American Idol.

But I digress. We were really pulling for Terry Fator two years ago, and had it not been for the fact that we always TIVO'd the show and watched it later in the week, we probably would have actually picked up our cells phones and voted for him. This guy is a combination of amazing ventriloquism (and that is a talent you don't see everyday....), vocal impressionism and comedic talent. And he did not disappoint. He had an amazing variety of (hmmm, do you really call them dummies?) "talent" that he brought along with him. And it's the weirdest thing when you are watching a really good ventriloquist. You have your eyes on the dummy, like it is really the one doing the talking and singing. Weird...

He is scheduled to headline at the Mirage in Las Vegas starting next month, so we'll probably never be able to afford to see him again. Thanks, Terry, for performing at Table Mountain--it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shout it from the rooftops

I had no idea when I read Jessica's blog post that it would start so much introspection on my part. My original intention when I started this blog was to help in marketing Around the Block Designs. Read much about that yet? Yeah, I didn't think so.

I'm warning you right now that I've been pondering this for the last couple of days. If you aren't interested, then just move on. Or scroll down to the bottom and think about the questions there, because I'd love to hear someone else's thoughts on the process.

Turns out that trying to write about things that Mark and I create, even for the greater good of expanding our business, is a really hard thing for me to do. But why? Why is it so hard to write about the fused glass that Mark creates or the quilts that I create? Some people have no problem saying, "Hey, look what I'm working on. Isn't it GREAT?" I've donated three quilts to MCC for their fundraising quilt auction and each time they have been hung facing the auction audience. For me, that has always been the ultimate honor, my equivalent to performing at Carnegie Hall. Why? Because of all the quilts donated each year, only four are hung facing the crowd.
The down side? It causes all those voices in my head to start talking at once: Why mine? What about THIS quilt makes it good enough? And how to respond to people saying, "I really like your quilt"? I usually end up saying, "Well, you know, Mark's cousin, Ione, did an amazing job of machine quilting. THAT'S the reason it's so good." True enough--she is an artist with that sewing machine. It just feels so awkward, just wrong, to acknowledge out loud that, hey, I made this quilt, I LOVE it, thanks for noticing it and thanks for liking it too.

And Around the Block Designs? Mark's work has been published in three magazines, he has been commissioned to make recognition plaques given to world-class quilters and appreciation plaques given to corporate sponsors with really big names--Bernina sewing machines and Gammill. And yet, other than very close friends and family, we haven't really told anyone.

So what is it that makes some people comfortable telling the world about their accomplishments, whether the world agrees with them or not? And others, like me, jump up and down, but only on the inside? Is there a recording that plays in my head, something I got growing up perhaps, that tells me that public attention is bad, like a character flaw, that pride goeth before the fall?

Well, I want to be like you, Jessie. So, resolved for 2009, shout it from the rooftops. You'll be seeing what we're working on, what we've completed, what we hope people will want to purchase. And when things don't turn out the way we thought they would, that's okay too--it's part of the process, and you'll be the first to see--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because in the words of Scott Adams of Dilbert fame: Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

So what about you? Are you comfortable tooting your own horn? Or do you hide your light under a bushel?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Under Reconstruction

As I go through the house, trying to simplify my surroundings, this blog is not escaping either. If things around the house are any indication, blog tweaking will probably be a work in progress for a while.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

That reminds me...

I was reading How About Orange and Jessica had a post about turning paint chips into bookmarks. Such a great idea. I love paint chips. I love reading all the names on the paint chips. I used to think that would be the best job in the world--giving names to paint colors. Until my friend, Maggie, pointed to some random color and said, "Okay, what name would you give to that color." Ummmm, beats me.

Anyhoo...that reminded me of a piece of "art" I have on my sewing room wall which was el-cheapo but still looks pretty "arty." Paint chips, little foam "risers" under some of the paint chips to give them a 3-D look, an inexpensive frame. Voila! Artwork--custom made in exactly your favorite colors. Although on second look, hardly any of these would qualify as my favorite colors anymore. I think I need new paint chips.

Oh, and sorry for the crummy photography. Tried different angles...still got reflections. Ugh.

Why it pays (literally) to be a blog reader

First of all, I got my new Comcast bill this morning and was so mad to see that it had gone up--again. I knew the rate increase was coming, but to see it in black and white just made me mad. Then I caught up on my blog reading before I started my work. And lo and behold,this was the first thing I read (scroll down to the one about "three phone calls..."--in case they update and you get a different post and I can't figure out how to link directly to this post...yeah, I know, more to learn about Blogger). Called Comcast, explained how long I have been a customer, yada, yada, yada. They signed me up for their "doubleplay" rates, which supposedly is only good for six months, but in the meantime saves me about $50 a month! I think I just justified my blog addiction...

Monday, January 12, 2009

And they're off!

Isn't that what they say in horse racing? Oh, well. Doesn't matter. This isn't about horse racing anyway. But I did have a race of sorts, a race against a deadline. Which I actually missed. It was today. I designed my second quilt pattern for potential publication. And if you are surprised to hear that it's my second pattern, that's because I hardly mentioned the first one to many people. I'll have to write something about the process, because they aren't kidding when they say "it's not what you know--it's who you know."

Anyway, I made two quilts and they were to be at the technical writer's house in Walnut Creek (Bay Area) today, along with my version of instructions. Whew. That's why there are people paid to be technical writers. And that's why I was late getting it in the mail. It was easy making the quilts, hard writing the instructions and illustrations on how to get it done.
If you are a quilter, it uses "charm squares" and "jelly rolls." If you are not a quilter, you probably don't care what you need to make it, but all it means is that you are using some precut pieces of fabric to speed things up. My friend Sue came up with the name, Jammin' Jelly, which I thought was perfect because you can make it super quick (the "jammin" part) and use "jelly rolls" (self-explanatory, I guess). So here's hoping that the technical writer and the publisher give the go-ahead that takes me to the finish line.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Meant for each other

Last weekend Sue and I went to REI because they were having a "members only" sale. By the time we got there, things were pretty well picked over. Okay, granted we probably should have arrived at 6:30 a.m. instead of 4 p.m., so that could have been one reason there was not much to choose from. Anyway, Sue was able to snag a great Victorinox travel backpack for $50 (regularly $250!) and a single boat paddle for under $5. I was really happy with my purchase. I was able to get three dog boots for an amazing $4.83! Yeah, I know! I was surprised at the price too. Of course, there was the slight problem of there being only three rather than four. Hmmm.

So what do you do when you only have three dog boots? Why, find a three-legged dog, of course!

So, Roger and Clarine, be on the lookout for a package in the mail just for Jombo! A dog living in Minnesota will probably jump for joy when these arrive. Uh, or maybe not...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm a little cupcake...

....with apologies to the little teapot for changing the words.

My dear friend, Jessica, made me the coolest little pincushion with crystal "sprinkles." She has been kind of obsessed lately with crocheting cute little animals, and was using a book that had this little cupcake..and she thought of me! It makes me so happy. She makes me so happy.

I'm not sure why she thinks I've been focusing on cupcakes lately. Oh, yeah, maybe because I have this very small collection:

But I do have plans for these, oh yes...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why we rang in the New Year at 8 p.m. instead of midnight

First of all, our fellow party guests had a bedtime of 8:30 p.m. Yeah, I know, even on New Year's Eve. Second of all, I'm pretty sure neither one of them knew, or cared, that we were saying goodbye to 2008 and hello to 2009. But no problem. We figured it was the New Year somewhere. So we donned our party hats and blew our whistles. We went outside and played with poppers and banged pots and pans. Did we care that at one point, one of the party guests breached party etiquette by expressing her desire to be at someone else's party? ("I need my mom and dad...."). Nope. She quickly got into the spirit of the party she was attending, and we all had a great time. I think we'll keep them on our party list...