Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Sewing Lessons

This summer I needed someone to babysit my children while I taught classes at the Arts Center; just over the hill there was a teenage who needed to learn to sew.  A light bulb came on!  I offered said teenager private sewing lessons in exchange for babysitting hours.  We had a plan that suited everyone!

Jessie upheld her end of the bargain; children were alive, feed, and happy when I arrived home.   So our sewing lessons began.  We started with an exercise that I modified from the way my mother learned to sew.   My mother made rag quilts, I taught Jessie to make a rag pillow, an excellent exercise in getting the feel for a straight stitch and how the sewing machine runs.  Next, Jessie made a small bag for her make-up and then a garden apron for her mother.  We were working up to the BIG project she really wanted to do…making a skirt.  In our first lessons she learned the importance of accuracy, measuring and ironing, three skills there is not a lot of fun in learning, but truly essential to sewing.  Undeterred by the first lessons and still excited about the skirt we sewed on. 

Jessie and I butted heads a bit about the design of the skirt.  She came to the table with lots of great, fashionable ideas, backed up with pictures.  I had my own great, practical ideas, backed up with experience.  Jessie REALLY wanted a very wide elastic waist band, and I thought it would be frustrating for a beginner to sew.  We finally found very wide elastic, but not in the color she had in mind. I agreed to let her try sewing the elastic if she would agree to a compromise about the color.  In the end the elastic was a bit frustrating, but she persisted and eventually prevailed!  She did a wonderful job on her skirt!  AND now she wants to make a hat.  We have a talented seamstress in the making...and a very proud teacher. 

Want to make a skirt like Jessie’s?  Stay tuned for directions….  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

As I say “Good-bye” to Summer and “Welcome!” to Fall, I will miss the flowers until the Spring, but look forward to all the colors that Autumn brings. 
2 days a year when the day time and the night time are in balance, the yin and yang of days.  It serves as a reminder in our struggle for balance that the experience of the extremes makes the comfort of balance an even more pleasurable experience.  Enjoy each change, each stage and ride the preverbal wave that carries all of us through the depths of Winter, the heights of Summer, and through the peaceful balance in between. 
In what I now dub a Creative Compulsive “tradition,” here is a photographic peek into my world from the last week of Summer…. 
In a last minute effort to bloom..
the best of all growth and an amazing seed pod!
the corn fields are full of dried stalks
most of the grapes have been harvested, but a few remain
doors seem appropriate imagery for a seasonal change.... crossing the Autumn threshold.  
riding into fall?...OK.... I just like this picture. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kitty Angel

bird wings
Kitty where did you get those pretty parakeet wings?  
OK, I couldn’t help myself…this costume was the brain child of the class combo ideas I had for my upcoming classes at the Arts Center.  This costume combines the Little Critters class (September 21 &28), where we make animal hats and tails, with the Fairy Wings and No-sew Tutu class (October 5 &12).   

cat angel

I had a conversation with one of my students at the Arts Center yesterday about a costume’s wearability.  It is easy to find cute kid costumes, but the challenge is actual getting the child to keep the costume on.  I am a big supporter of costume pretend play and think the more time a costume gets played with and worn, the better.  With my own children I have found that costume pieces that fit over or accessorize their own clothes are the costumes that get the most playtime.  Hats, tails, wings, and tutus get a LOT of playtime in this household!

cat hat

The Kitty Angel costume is currently hanging in the Arts Center window and when it’s time on display is finished it will be sent to my lovely niece for Halloween, who, as it happens, loves kitties and the color green!  The model in these pictures has also requested a black kitty hat and tail.  For her birthday last year she received a white kitty hat and tail, and I’ve heard it is so popular she has even been known to sleep in it, which absolutely tickles me!  

cat costume
Best Lil" Kitty Friends!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An Interview with a (Reluctant) Fellow Creative Compulsive, Dana

Sardegna by Dana 

Dana, a fellow American living in Northern Italy, is the creator of the fabulous blog, 3 in Giro.  She writes about her adventures in raising a family in Italy, their travels throughout Europe, and all of the gastronomical delights along the way.  Not limiting her talents to witty writing, Dana also captures the surrounding beauty with her photography.  In the following interview Dana shares not only a little bit about her creative process, but has also kindly shared some of her photographs. 

Wine Tasting in Sardegna by Dana
Would you diagnose yourself with Creative compulsive Disorder?

I think I would be diagnosed with Creative Compulsive Disorder by immediate family, though I would deny the diagnosis wholeheartedly.  Although, part D: “At some point during the course of the disorder, the person has recognized that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable, but has no desire to stop,” is something to which I relate quite well, the need to create didn’t enter my life until much later than those with this disorder. I spent a childhood almost entirely outdoors engaged in sport with two baseball teams worth of neighborhood kids or crawfishing with lunch meat as bait in drainage ditches. Art and music were essentially nonexistent in my public elementary school education; in their places were religion and foreign language, Roman Catholicism and French, respectively. Things are different in rural Louisiana. I avoided classes related to art in both high school and college, to include any creative writing courses, even though my major, Secondary English Education, required mostly upper-level English classes. I did study art history for a semester in an auditorium of 250 students; I chose this class to avoid the alternative, music appreciation where rumor had it that I would be forced to listen to classical music. The horror!  I was never known as one of those creative types. Ever. I don’t think people see me that way now, either.  I did marry one, though.
Apricot Blossoms by Dana

Apricot Offering by Dana 
What inspires or feeds your creative compulsions?

Creating is a process that battles the hormones percolating inside of me. It’s calming for my soul. Oddly, I am unable to create anything during my darkest moments, which is a pity considering the relief it provides. I think it’s also fed by this fairly recent realization that, yes, I am creative. I think. My day-to-day experiences in a foreign culture also inspire me.

Cow by Dana
What project or projects are you currently obsessed with?

Herein lies my greatest weakness – too many projects to devote adequate attention to one. Writing and photography are always present but recently, I…am studying video production, dabbling some in needle crafts, dreaming of mastering Photoshop, longing to learn to sew, preserving 40 jars of cherry jam, learning to garden. Did I mention I have plans to make vanilla extract and want to devote time to mastering Italian cuisine, though baking is my one true love? If I had the outdoor space, I would raise chickens. Yes, I would. No, I haven’t a clue how to do that. It would only take a bit of creativity. For me, at least, these all represent the creative side of me.

Cherries by Dana

When you look back across your creative endeavors, what are you most proud of?

I am most satisfied with my confidence in writing, but I am also proud of my progress with photography.  I have discovered my voice, and am able to confidently claim, “I am a writer.”  Ironically, I’ve been a competent and accomplished writer since middle school, when I won my first essay contest with an essay on the theme: “Alternatives to Drugs.” Oh, for the love of the high that comes as a result of getting that ball in that basket! Even Mr. Naismith would have been proud. It crafted the perfect middle school anti-drug sentiment in a well-written five paragraph essay, in sixth grade. Even as early as first grade my letter to Santa was one among a handful chosen from the entire school to be published in the local paper. I aced all writing assignments in high school and college and into grad school, experiences that relied heavy on a linguistic intelligence to excel. I have that. It has worked well for me. Of course, it’s only in hindsight and with the confidence that overcomes one on the cusp of being forty-something that I am able to understand and lay claim to this: I am a writer.

Trumpet Lesson by Dana 
Recently I tried to explain to my 7 year old about "Happy Accidents," where you plan for a project to go one way, it takes a turn, seemingly for the worse, but ends up creating something new and wonderful.

I have many “Happy Accidents” in my life, mostly because I am not an expert of anything but generally am not hindered by that small fact and give compulsions a chance. Jam that doesn’t set makes a great topping for waffles, right? When I first starting becoming serious about photography and understood that it is also a part of my creative self I had many, many, many happy accidents with my resulting images. In 2005 I purchased my first DSLR, and about three years later I began adventures in Photoshop. I have learned the art of photography by taking millions of images and by studying the images of others. My secret? Understanding light. I have learned to notice it in ways I never dreamed possible just several years ago; I can’t take a decent picture without natural lighting. Winters in the Veneto are a rough time for me.

Everything I do is for me.  I doubt that I could ever create on demand. 

War and Peace by Dana 
Many thanks Dana for sharing her insights about her creative process and the beautiful photographs!  To read from Dana  and see more of her photography please visit her at 3 in Giro.

Lumignano Branches by Dana

Monday, September 12, 2011

Phase One

This is the beginnings of my son's Halloween costume.  We are going with a 1950's space inspired costume, relying heavily on a picture of a Buck Roger's space helmet, originally a "free gift" with the purchase of a Sylvania TV.  The picture we found comes from the book, Blast Off by S. Mark Young, Steve Duin, and Mike Richardson.  Phase one is getting the white paper model just right...we are still working on it.  Very excited about this costume!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lady Bug

I teach three Halloween Costume classes at the Arts Center, a super cape class, an animal hats class, and a fairy wings/ tutu class.  My goal is to make the classes as open ended as possible, and encourage students to use their imaginations and make something unique.  This year as I made samples for the classes I wanted to illustrate how the classes could also be used together to create a costume.   I created  Ladybug costume samples for each of the classes.   I added black spots to a red super cape, antennae and spots to an animal hat, and some black spots to simple red wings.  
Little Lady Bug Hat

Super Cape becomes Super Ladybug

Grouchy Little Lady Bug!

Wings and Tutu...Somebody got a little crazy with the glitter paint!

Tutu with a simple "apron" added over the top.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tying the Knot

In the center of the tattoo on John’s upper arm is a Celtic knot.  One morning 9 years and a few months ago, I was studying the knot as John slept, thinking that Celtic knots would make such beautiful quilt patterns.  And so an idea was born.  I designed a quilt, intended to be my wedding gift to John, using the knot on his arm as the central design and a boarder of another knot design.  
John and Me with Judge Waters

The quilt was pieced together by machine, but having tendency for really grand ideas, I decided to ask my friends to help do all the quilting by hand.  I inherited a quilting frame from my grandmother and decided this would be the perfect opportunity to break it in.  However, at the time all of my friends and I were in our 2nd year of an extremely rigorous Naturopathic Medical program at Bastyr University.  We shared one really great day of quilting, but reality hit and we all had to get back to the books.  So the quilt sat. 

9 years ago today John and I were married.  We had a very small court house wedding.  The most “stressful” part of the day was spent picking wildflowers for corsages and my bouquet.  It was a lovely, beautiful, and very joyful day.   John and I stood in front of Judge Waters as he explained to us that he does not tie slip knots.  I thought of the knot on the quilt and really wished it had been finished. 

After we were married, the quilt continued to sit.  Eventually I ended up sending it to one of my mother’s friends who finished the hand quilting and binding for me.  We received the quilt back from her in time for our second anniversary, and has been on our bed ever since. 

The "New" Quilt and Our Sweet Bouncy-Pouncy-Rollie-Pollie  Baby Boy.
Perhaps tattoos are a bit unconventional for quilt designs, but in the end it all seems so perfectly fitting.  Celtic knots with all of their ins and outs, ups and downs, twists and turns of infinite loops seem to me the perfect symbol for marriage. And like quilts, marriage too, grows softer, more comfortable, and lovelier with time.  

Happy Anniversary My Love.
9 Years Later...The Quilt Drying on the Line

Friday, September 2, 2011

Beach Bag Basics

Designing projects for students just learning to sew is not without it's challenges.  There needs to be just enough challenges so there is an accomplished feeling when the project is complete, but not so many challenges that frustration over runs the sense of accomplishment.  Last Wednesday I finished teaching a "Beach Bag Basics" class that I think was a big success!  I am so proud of my students! They worked through their challenges, and we managed to keep frustration to a minimum. In the end, everyone had a fabulous, finished bag!  (Just don't ask any of them about the knotted handles...I may have been in a bit of trouble over those!)  Check out all of their lovely creations and a few of the creative changes they made to the bag!  

These handles are creatively re-purposed curtain ties!    
Such fun details were added to this bag, there is a small polka-a-dotted ruffle trimming the top of the pocket and a great gingham bow!