Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Sneak Peek

Since February I've been trying to finish a quilt and create a new quilt pattern. I designed the quilt while teaching my workshop at Asilomar Conference Grounds in CA. The background is pieced squares, what a surprise. The flowers can be embroidered or appliqued, your choice!  The pattern will be ready to go to press, as soon as the quilt is finished and photographed.

Yesterday I finished quilting the piece, blocked it and trimmed the edges in preparation for the binding. My cat Oreo found the quilt resting on my cutting table and decided she really liked it. She rolled on it, sat on it, and took a bath on it.  She really wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon on it!
Oreo on the new quilt
What is it about cats with new or clean quilts?

So now you have a little peek at my newest quilt and future pattern, Purple Iris. If Oreo ever gets off the quilt, I'll bind it, then photograph the finished piece. Eventually it will go to the printers. I'll let you know when it's done. This design will be perfect for spring.

In the meantime, enjoy the last few days of September.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Something to Think About

My August blog about a recent quilt show and judging generated more responses than any that I've published before. It seems I have hit a nerve in our community of quilt makers.
Detail from Dancing Coneflowers by Ann Fahl
Right now while I am drinking hot chocolate in my new mug, and I received an email from Sherry Reynolds. She has spent a great deal of time thinking about this issue too, and the direction of quilting today. She included a short statement that sums up what I think are the problems with both the entries and the judging at quilt shows. With her premission, this is what she said, "The beauty of a quilt is not how much thread you can cram on a quilt.  To me, you should be able to take away the quilting and still have a work of art.”

Sherry is so right. Just because we can do massive amounts of quilting on the sewing machine, we have all gone overboard with the quantity, myself included.  We need to step back, consider the design, and decide what would be the most appropriate for the piece. Our quilt judges have a very difficult task, they need to weigh the design of the piece, the workmanship, and the quality of the quilting to come up with their decision. It seems they too, have been influenced too much by the quantity of the quilting rather than the quality of the design and the stitching together.We must remember to balance the quilt top design with the stitching of the layers.

I just published a book about free-motion machine quilting so you know I love quilting. It can be a wonderfully rewarding activity, and I love to see the texture and patterns develop on the surface of my work.  But let's slow down a bit, take a look, and perhaps rethink what we've done in the past, and lighten up a bit on what we are quilting now.

Think about it. Pass this message on to your quilting friends and guilds.

Ann Fahl

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Good Design is More Fun!

Last night we met my son for dinner at TGI Friday's. In the dining area the table tops had bold red and white diagonal stripes on the top. I so enjoyed the graphics, I am so easy to please. Lots of color really brightens my day.

After dinner I asked for a cup of tea, and the waiter brought my tea in a beautifully designed mug the likes of which I had never seen before. It is a contemporary vase shape with a delightful red and white striped handle. It struck my fancy immediately.  I asked if I could buy a mug, which I eventually did, and came home with two of them.  I can hardly wait to have my morning cup of tea in one of these.

They will make everything taste better.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Disaster and Discovery

Sewn Together, © 2010 Ann Fahl
This past weekend, I taught a great bunch of quilters in South Dakota. This was only my second time to teach in this state, so I was looking forward to my trip.

Following a successful full-day workshop on free-motion embroidery, I was to give a lecture about my work following the banquet. Everything had gone well that day, but I was quite tired after a long day of travel the previous day. I was ever so grateful for a wonderful chocolate frosted brownie for dessert, I needed the energy! Yum!

I was able to hook up my laptop to the convention center's digital projector. It was a challenge to make sure  everything was working and focused.  The lights in the banquet hall were turned down, and I began my Power Point presentation. I turned around and looked at my first illustration: a red and green quilt block; and the color was green and yellow. What was wrong here? 

I kept going, and the color didn't get better. I asked if anyone in the audience knew anything about correcting color on the projector. Someone left to get assistance from the hotel staff. No one came.  I gave my entire lecture, looking at my quilts without all the powerful color:  the red, yellow and orange. I think I repeated my request for assistance, but no one had any suggestions for me; and I was tired, so my problem solving skills were non-existent at the moment.  When I finished, the lights came up, and I showed the audience 4 of my larger and newer quilts.  There were oohs and aahs, they looked so different than my digital slides. Although the evening finished on a positive note, the whole experience was rather devastating.

I'm home now. As I was telling my husband about the disaster, I realized that I had learned something about my work.  My work is all about color. Looking at my work through that skewed lens, made me realize how important all those saturated colors are, they give my work strength.  I love to sew, embroider and quilt, but this isn't enough, quilts truly come alive with the color.
Sewn Together © 2010 Ann Fahl

This may seem obvious, but it is so good to be able to "see" your work from a different point of view.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Little Bit of Gardening

Ann's deck with butterfly bush, petunias, geranium, rosemary and sweet autumn (Clematis paniculata.)
The other day, I was pulling weeds in the garden in my backyard. I'd been weeding for probably an hour or more when something whizzed past my head, and landed on the toe of one of my red Crocks! It was a tiny bird, a blue/gray warbler. I said "hello" and it hopped off my shoe and fluttered off into the coneflowers.  This happened so fast, I can hardly believe it happened!

This was one of life's little miracles.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Little of This and That

It seems like autumn is here in Wisconsin. Leaves are falling, the Sedum and Mums in my garden are either in full bloom or close to it. I'm loving the cool weather.

You may be interested to see an online interview with me by Barb Harms. She interviews quilt artists, asking them questions about where they've come from and where they are going.  There are pictures of some of my quilts included as you scroll down the page.

Summer Sanctuary by Ann Fahl

Last night, I was thrilled to learn that my Summer Sanctuary quilt won a first prize at Quilt Expo in Madison. This is a very well run show sponsored by Nancy Zieman, Sewing with Nancy. I am honored. It is a special quilt for both Oreo and me. You can read more about this quilt on my website.  It has an interesting story to go along with it. The book on the chair happens to be the Harry Potter book 6. I loved the entire series of books and have read some of them twice.

No matter how long I have quilted it is always a thrill to have one of my quilts awarded a prize at a big show. I love this quilt and it means a lot to me, it is good to have the judges feedback, that the quilt is indeed a good one. So much of my heart and soul goes into my work, this is a great reward for me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Where Did My Creativity Go?

Single Water Lily  by Ann Fahl
 Two weeks ago I made a discovery that will make a big difference in the quality of my life. I would prefer not to share personal details of my life with the world, but you may find this worthwhile.

For quite some time I have not had any creative energy. It seemed that maybe I had come to the end of my quilt designing career!  Creative block has happened to me before, but never lasted longer than a few months. As I wrote in my book Dancing with Thread, I mentioned that my creative juices are higher at some times of the year than others. But right now is the time that I should be very creative and I'm not!

For years I've walked every morning 5 days a week. Lately it's been hard to get up early, so I've started walking after dinner. Some days I don't walk at all. I can go on and on with little clues that have been there, but I didn't interpret. Three weeks ago at my annual checkup I mentioned that I thought my hair was thinning.

My blood tests came back, and my thyroid is quite low. My mother and grandmother also had hypothyroidism, but it happened much earlier in life for them. So now I've begun taking medication to raise my levels. Suddenly all the little pieces have fallen into place. When a person has limited energy, of course creative thoughts and activities would be the first to go. I am anxious for my body to come back into balance again. As active men and women, sometimes we need to pay attention to the clues our bodies and energy levels are giving us. When we are young we expect to always be healthy. But......we are getting older each day! To be healthy productive artists we have to pay attention to the clues and nurture our bodies and our spirits. I guess I needed to be hit over the head with it!

After just 2 weeks of the medication, I've begun to feel more and more like myself. Ideas have just started to come again after 6-9 months of nothing. I'm working in my garden again, oh it feels so good.

Here is a link about hypothyroidism that you may find helpful.

Be healthy