Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Speak Up, Speak Out

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Emerging briefly from the production tunnel to share my latest piece which, thankfully, I CAN share despite the fact I’ve entered it in the Threads of Resistance Call for Entries (Deadline in about 2-3 days)!  As many of you who have known me for a while know, I haven’t usually been politically involved or spoken out.  This is, in part, the legacy of being a federal employee, when you were not allowed to be political (there were ways you could do it, but it was such a fuss that it was easier just to NOT).   However, the last election cycle aggravated me so much I began making political posts and comments on Facebook and getting involved.   Even though I didn’t really have the time, when a group of art quilters got together with this exhibit concept and called for entries, I knew I wanted to try to make a piece.

Speak Up, Speak Out © Sarah Ann Smith 2017. Although the Women’s March imagery has become ubiquitous since the March, I decided to proceed with my concept because it was my experience.

It began during one of the debates last autumn (2016).  The then-Republican-candidate (I *refuse* to use his name) kept saying “Make America Great Again,” as if it weren’t great already!   I will be the first to say that we are an imperfect union, this great nation of ours, but that is part of why we are a great nation….or were and must recover from the collective idiocy currently gripping the country.  I started sketching during the debate and came up with two ideas for art quilts, one about Maine, one about our nation.  The latter was to have a border of hands, holding hands, and phrases and words that represented the US, but the center wasn’t yet clear to me.

With my soon-to-be daughter-in-law Ashley G., I traveled to the Women’s March on Washington on an overnight bus (overnight going and returning…LONG nights sitting up!).   I bought a cheap spiral notebook and asked riders on the bus, if they wished, to trace their hands so I could use them as the border in this piece.  Every hand traced is here (one twice, because I needed one more hand to make things fit properly).

At the March, I took many many photos and as the day wore on I knew that being in this sea of humanity, most in some sort of pink hat or cat ears (reference to the-one-who-shall-not-be-named joking that he would grab a woman by the pussy–slimeball! that’s sexual assault you jerk!) I had found my image for the center of the quilt.  The images of women and men marching, protesting peacefully (not a single arrest!), has since become ubiquitous.  So much so that I considered NOT doing this view because it has been seen.  But I decided that since I conceived of the quilt before the march and finalized during the day of the March as the images had barely first been seen on the internet, I decided that since it was also “my” March, I would proceed.

This photo became my starting point–it is the only photo I didn’t take (since I’m in it..someone on the street offered to snap pics for us):

Some of the ladies from the bus. We are on East Capitol Street heading toward the Capitol. Mainers were to wear blaze / hunter’s orange. I’m on the far right standing next to Ashley, who has her orange scarf on, and we’re wearing the hats I made us.  There is an odd aberration in the photo, but so it goes.  I printed this photo on the label.

Usually when you see photos of protest marches, so many of the signs are manufactured, a printed graphic done by someone professional (ish).  What impressed me about this March is that almost all–upwards of 95 percent–of the signs were homemade and many were clever and/or inspiring.   I selected my favorite ones and used them.  One of the signs in the quilt is the actual sign that I made and wore on my jacket during the March.

Left side of the quilt. I loved the sign calling for a return to civility, courtesy, charity and compassion.

In the sky above the marchers, surrounding the capitol dome, I quilted the Preamble to the US Constitution on the left.   Brief signs/slogans are under the hands at the top.  On the right I quilted the First Amendment’s four freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, and right to redress the government for grievances (which is what we were doing!  Democracy living and in action!), as well as more slogans and thoughts.

There were three huge signs in the shape of cats, maybe 4 feet tall, so I appropriated one of them to use.

Center left. I LOVED the quote attributed to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (I think I am falling in love with that woman!) and made sure she really did say it before including “Better bitch than mouse” as one of the signs.

By the way, I used Fabrico felt tip pens and Pitt Artist pens (brush and bullet tip) for the signs.

When I graduated from Georgetown University (in DC) in 1979, a t-shirt was popular that said “A woman’s place is in the House, and in the Senate.”  At the time, no woman had been elected (or maybe just one or two…I’m thinking Margaret Chase Smith and Nancy Landon) to the Senate that had not gotten there by taking her late husband’s seat.  It was still common to be told that a woman’s place was in the home and the kitchen, not the office.  Now I’ve said “A Woman’s place is in the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the Oval Office!”

Center of the quilt. I was really pleased at how the dome turned out. I used my photo as my guide and sketched out the pattern, cut the shape (as usual I am using Mistyfuse on fabric and raw edge collage; the dome is a rare case of me using a print fabric instead of a batik. The peach-yellow hand on the left is my dyed fabric, the salmon-pink-purple on the right is Laura Wasilowski’s, from a fat quarter from a class I took with her.  The fabrics in the signs are mostly my hand-dyes.

The coat hanger sign is a combination of two such signs that I saw.   I loathe the idea of abortions. But when I was in my 20s, I was a US visa officer.   I was processing the paperwork for a British man’s visa based on his marriage to a US citizen.  When you do that, you need to establish that the marriage is legal and valid, so you need to see if there were any prior marriages and, if so, that they ended legally.  He was a widower.  To break the tedium, I used to look at cause of deaths when these cases came across my desk.  His first wife died of septicemia (blood poisoning) from a self-induced abortion (because it was illegal in the UK at that time). Ever since, I have stood for freedom of choice because there will ALWAYS be women who are that desperate, no matter how awful I or others believe abortion to be.  Moving on…back to the quilt.

Center right. I loved the take on the Don’t Tread on Me flag from revolutionary war times that turned the snake into a uterus and says Don’t Tread On Me (on left, on Laura Wasilowski’s fabric).  The big pink sign with Michelle Obama’s mantra is what I wore at the January 21, 2017 March on Washington.  That’s my DIL Ashley on the left in this photo, me on the right. I modified a sign carried by a Vermonter to read (in the sky writing) One Maine snowflake in a storm.

Center bottom right. A bit sharper photo.  In the bottom left, under the copyright, you can see a “ribbon.”  The center woman I think of as “Everywoman.”  Then there is Ashley (DIL) in braids, and me on the far right.  Ashley’s hand is the purple one at her right shoulder, mine is the blue one next to Ashley, one in from the corner.

Some generous unknown-to-me person who couldn’t go to DC made and gave away these ribbons to those from Maine who marched. It was done in the Mainer’s blaze/hunter orange. That was pretty bright for the front of my quilt, and I didn’t want it to distract from the imagery. So I scanned the ribbon into the computer, then in Photoshop darkened the color so that it would work visually on the front. THANK YOU whoever made these!

Far right. My friend Gail Galloway-Nicholson used to be the Curator for the Supreme Court so is as familiar with Capitol Hill as I am, if not more so from having worked there for a good bit of  her career..  I worked for a US Congressman for two years, and we also lived just two blocks behind the capitol (yes, I got to see our old house).  She asked me to carry her name in my pocket since she couldn’t go to the March. I did, and added the names of more friends (some I’ve only known via the internet and quilty stuff).  Thank you all for being there with me!   I love knowing you and that you wanted to be there in spirit and on the cloth!

So that is all the details, well, most of them, of what went into this quilt.  Don’t know if it will get juried in–I know there is some awesome art being made for this that doesn’t use the ubiquitous image–but I am glad I made it!

And I have decided to get involved volunteering for my Town of Hope, Maine.  I decided that one needs to put your time where your mouth is, and as the saying goes, all politics is local.   Here’s to giving back to my adopted-shoulda-been-born-here home state of Maine!

 

 

 

 

2016–a Baker’s Dozen of my best photos

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

I’ve been part of a photography class with Ricky Tims (in 2015) and a critique challenge this past (and coming) year.  For our final assignment this year, we are to pick our favorite image of 2016.  Here are my top 12 + 1 for a Baker’s Dozen.  For lack of a better way, I’m posting them in chronological order. You can click/right click on all photos for a larger view.

Clearly, I am biased about some of these, so tell me–which do you think is The Best of the bunch? Doesn’t matter why–just the one you like the best!  I need to submit one on January 1, so pipe up!

Photo 1:  For the past eleven years, the calendar year begins in the middle of wrestling season, so for both quality of photography and affection/nostalgia, I’ll start with photos of Eli’s last Maine wrestling season.

Here’s another very typical shot:

Photo 2:  Eli, in red, goes in for the pin (and win). I have very, very few photos with Eli’s face, but this one shows the intensity of the sport.

This next image is probably the most technically complex I did all year.  I had three layers at one point, but the boys’ position in the frame didn’t make a logical sequence, so two worked better.  I printed this fairly large and framed it as an 18th birthday present for Eli, and it is in his room with his ***many*** ribbons, plaques and trophies from his sports achievements.

Photo 3: Transparent overlay with Eli in a take-down. I was sitting on the edge of the mat and was maybe 6 feet away from them. Luckily, they didn’t crash into me!

Photo 4:  In March the entire family went to hear the Taiko Drummers that came to perform at Strom Auditorium thanks to the Bay Chamber Concert group. I make a tripod of my arms and the rail in front of my seat and was delighted so many of my images turned out well despite the dark.

Photo 5: I love that the drum and legs are crisp, the face is clear, and the arms and drumsticks are total blur, telling the story of the physicality of the performance.

Photo 6:  I don’t know why I like this picture of water boiling in my electric kettle so much, but I just do!

Photo 7: a vintage effect for a summertime photo of a barn near me that has now fallen down (even before the snow).

Photo 8: A “panned” image of a sunflower from the Camden Inn garden by the footbridge over the river, just a stone’s throw off of Main Street.

Photo 9: I had missed seeing Paul Noel Stookey when he was here before, so I made sure I didn’t this time, even if I had to go alone. I loved it! I was also pleased that my “tripod on the railing” worked again to get a good shot. The theme was “past prime” which I interpreted that someone might *think* he is past his prime, but really isn’t!

Photo 10: October is always glorious in Maine, and this year was one of the best. I’m not usually in to “artsy” images or affected techniques, but I rather like the painterly effects you can get with some panning. Panning is when you move the camera on purpose while the shutter is open to create a deliberate blur.

Photo 11: I must have taken 200 photos on a not-too-long walk in my neighborhood. One of my favorite spots is across the main road on Blueberry Lane. This is a close-up of the sumac leaves in full glory.  I always like the simplicity of photos like this that celebrate the beauty of the ordinary.

Photo 12: Another “lots of edits” photo, but one that makes me laugh. This kinda describes my entire year. Sometimes I think I ought to make this into a poster and sell it!

And the “Baker’s Dozen” image, from just this past week or thereabouts:

Baker’s Dozen: I took several versions of this, made one black and white, but I like the soft winter colors and the gentle curves of our driveway.

 

Christmas Quilts, Christmas Memories

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

Christmas may be over officially for 2016, but it will come around again.  And now that the recipients (except for Kate C.–don’t read this post Kate!) have received and opened their gifts, I can share.   I’d love for you all to know about Christmas Quilts, Christmas Memories, edited by Karey Patterson Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes, the cousins who were half of the four (along with their mothers) who founded quilter’s Mecca, the International Quilt Festival.   This petite square book (my iPhone 6plus is a tiny bit taller) is a holiday gem of antique quilts and Christmas memories — and to my utter astonishment, including yours truly!

Christmas Quilts, Christmas Memories, Ed. Karey P. Bresenhan and Nancy O’B. Puentes, available from the Texas Quilt Museum

As a contributor, we received a complimentary copy at Quilt Festival this year.  I **devoured** the book on my flight home–literally read it cover to cover between Houston and Boston.  Well known folks from the quilt community and members of Karey and Nancy’s families shared special Christmas Memories with an antique quilt on the left page.   I was astonished that I know of or actually know most of the quilty folks in the book, and I just cherish that they shared their memories.  I knew I would order many copies to give before I got off the flight!  I gave copies to my sons hoping that they will eventually read the book and maybe find traditions they would like to start for their families and lives.

Here’s the start of my memory, about collecting ornaments from around the world, first as gifts for my parents, then as an annual tradition. What’s this year’s ornament going to be?

As I read through the book, I was more and more astounded that I was selected to have my memory included given who else is in the book.   As I read, I felt closer to those I know for their quilt pursuits, loved the glimpse into their every day lives and memories.   Here’s the stories and the contributors:

The Christmas Memories table of contents

and the contributors to the book

This book is small but delightful beyond all proportion to its size.  It is beautifully printed, fits nicely in your hands, and I’m so happy to have it, and still a bit gobsmacked to be in it!  You can order it from the Texas Quilt Museum website, here.

And what was this year’s ornament?  Well, one of the reasons our tree is groaning with stuff is that we added FOUR this year.  In my defense, the two blown glass ones were gifts for the boys to be taken to their own places when they are settled.   I am actually looking forward to sharing the bounty with them and not having quite so much to put on (and take off and put away) each year, but love sharing the story that goes with every ornament on the tree.

After Eli was accepted to F&M, we went on a college visit and took the long way home via Vermont and the requisite trip to Ben & Jerry’s factory (the original one) and tour. Of course I had to add an ornament–I navigate the world by ice cream stores!

To commemorate Eli’s first year in college, a Franklin & Marshall ornament. Thanks to Eli for adding it to the tree.

When Eli and I visited England 2 years ago, we went to St. Tiggywinkle’s hedgehog (and now other wildlife too) rescue, about an hour west of London. This one is for him.

When we lived on San Juan Island when the boys were little, a great horned owl would perch in the fir tree beside our driveway, silhouetted against the night sky. Joshua remembers the owl and we were talking about it not long ago, so this one is for him.

And here’s the groaning tree….honestly, I just LOVE IT!   And this year was beyond delightful because all three of the kids, Joshua & Ashley and Eli, helped trim the tree!

The tree on Christmas Eve after Santa arrived.  It was a particularly bountiful year!

 

 

Autumn at its finest

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

Dropping in briefly to share autumn’s glory.  Just got back from teaching in Little Rock, now entering final preparations for teaching at International Quilt Festival Houston.  Some of my classes still have openings, and you can sign up on site.  Hope to see many of you there and will try to post to share with those of you who can’t be there.

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Ironic…I love “what is it” type of close ups, but this week somehow my psyche obstinately decided *this* would be my submission. Perhaps not as mysterious as it should be, but I was so tickled that I shot this hand-held and got the effect I wanted.  I’ll post a link to my other pics in the comments, but don’t go there until you (easily?) guess….

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This is what those odd photos are above...I was tickled that I was able to hold the camera steady for 1/4 of a second to get the blur shots!

This is what those odd photos are above…I was tickled that I was able to hold the camera steady for 1/4 of a second to get the blur shots!

Hmmm…there may be a quilt or few in these……

Visiting Franklin and Marshall — random inspiration

Friday, May 13th, 2016

While visiting Eli’s soon-to-be college, I found a bit of inspiration:

Just outside the wrestling practice room.

Just outside the wrestling practice room.

Some of the graduating seniors put on a Research Fair during the Closer Look prospective student weekend. This student allowed me to photograph this image from her research. Wouldn't this be an awesome structure for an art quilt, as well as for a thermofax screen?

Some of the graduating seniors put on a Research Fair during the Closer Look prospective student weekend. This student allowed me to photograph this image from her research. Wouldn’t this be an awesome structure for an art quilt, as well as for a thermofax screen?