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Artistic Alchemy: A Tahoe Retreat for Creative Sewists and Quilters, September 5-9, 2016

The Summer Indigo “Blues”

By Sandra Bruce

Hey, everyone, hope your summer is going well. Aside from really high temps that have me indoors more than I’d like, I’m still managing to play Pickleball, do a bit of gardening, and grilling on the deck. Pickleball, by the way, if you’ve never tried it, is totally addicting and great exercise. I needed something to counteract the hours I’ve been sitting lately, hand-sewing binding on some quilts 🙂

I did finish Maury and Maxine, as part of my bird series. The binding on it was some of the most complicated I’ve done, due to the color changes. This way of making matching binding is one of the techniques I’ll be teaching my students at Zephyr in September. I also have a mini-tutorial on CourseCraft on how to do it. (You can find it at https://coursecraft.net/c/matchedbinding). There are some interesting photos coming to my Zephyr workshop that my students have chosen to make their quilts from…..they have selected lots of animals! I do have a space left, (and I could stretch it to 2) if anyone out there wants to join us.

Here’s how it turned out, along with a closeup, and the back. It’s 24″ by 44″. The eyes are painted. Maury is the jokester!

Maury and Maxine

I never tire of making wonky blocks, and finally finished a batik wonky log-cabin quilt I started a while ago. I’m happy with how it turned out. It’s been fun taking a little break from Matrix to make some different and sometimes traditional-ish quilts. Here’s a closeup of it, showing the quilting. This has been my favorite quilting pattern of late. Smoky swirls!

I belong to a few groups, and the one that has been the longest running is “Friends to Dye For”. We have been meeting for over 23 years, less often now than in the first 15 years or so, but we still do get together when we can for fun days of different projects. In the past we have done every craft and sewing project you can imagine! Altered books, mosaics, polymer clay, prayer flags, paper collage, goofy hats, bedroom slippers…the list goes on and on. We decided recently to repeat an idea we did years ago that was very successful. Each month one of us (there’s 5) gets a turn, where we pick a quilt pattern and everyone shows up at your house to sew for you to get a whole top done in a day. I went first, and we had a blast sewing (inside where the AC was on, of course!). That was a 100 degree day, I recall, or close to it. I planned 2 quilts, as they were super simple and I hoped we’d have the time to at least start the 2nd top. The first, a pattern by Villa Rosa, “Beads”. In all black and white with chartreuse “beads”.

It went together super fast and we had the top together by lunchtime.

In the afternoon we worked on 144 of these little black and white squares (below)…the squares were made by the end of the day and I pieced them all together later. This also is a Villa Rosa pattern, called “Split Charms”. I ended up putting a mixed partial border on it, I’ll post it when it’s done 😉 The photo below shows the blocks loose on my design wall. Lively! I think scrap quilts are my favorite.

A few weeks later it was Michelle’s turn. She wanted squares made from dyed indigo to make a quilt with. We first spent time at Michelle’s kitchen table, with a box of assorted items such as wine corks, rubber bands, string, thread, twine, clamps and other trinkets. We used these things to tie up the stack of white cotton squares before us, in differing configurations, before throwing them in the dye bath, outside.

After coming out of the dye bath, the pieces needed a bit of sunlight. Interesting blue blobs.

Then we sat and untied/cut the rubber bands and such from the squares, to reveal the patterns we created.

Oh my, did they come out beautiful, or what?!

The clothesline filled up as the day wore on, it was such a delight to watch them appear.

Here’s a couple of my favorites…

I have to say, typically this blue is not one of my favorite colors, but I have to admit I love these and can easily imagine making something using this technique. Michelle will put this quilt together, and I will quilt it for her. Can’t wait to see what she puts together!

Coming up, I have a rather complicated Matrix quilt idea in the works, it’s still in my head but I want to start it before summer’s over. Looking forward to making a summer garment first. Then I will have Artistic Alchemy prep to take care of, as the retreat is around the corner! Happy sewing, and stay cool and safe.

Whatsup?

by Sandra Bruce

I hear that word a lot from my son….. “whatsup”?

Well, summer is here (sort of…we’re having a rare chilly spell) and as we roll into the summer season we here at Artistic Alchemy are turning our thoughts and efforts to the retreat this Fall. I want to let everyone in our reading audience know, we traditionally have the deadline for signing up for Zephyr to be the beginning of July, but with this being our last year together teaching (after the year that we’ve all had!) we’ve decided to extend the deadline for those who might have been on the fence about coming. If this is you, please contact one of us for more information, or go ahead and send in your registration form. Having said this, we do have workshop size limitations, and the lake front rooms go first, so don’t hesitate to contact us for further info ASAP. At this moment I have a couple of spaces left in my Matrix workshop…hope you’ll join us! Over the last 8 years it’s been a privilege to work alongside Christine Barnes, Mary Boalt, and of course, Heidi Emmett and Jane Haworth. This fall’s workshop will be special, without a doubt.

I am a Juried Artist Member of SAQA, and am making an effort to be more involved with the local chapter and keeping up with some of the challenges and exhibitions they do, of which there are many. Twice a year a request goes out to make a 12″ by 12″ piece as a donation for an auction. I took an image that I had made before, you may recall seeing it, where I pieced blue squares together and painted an image of 2 pelicans onto it. I realized then that I like to paint on fabric, but it is piecing that I want to focus on. A bit of paint is OK especially to define something that is too tiny or difficult to piece, like eyes. Anyway, I took a portion of that image and reproduced it in Matrix for the auction. It was interesting to me to make a repeat image in a different method. Here’s what I did. Working small is a challenge to me for sure.

Recently, with life returning somewhat back to normal, I got together with my Friends to Dye For, for an outside dyeing day. We began this group about 23 years ago and we still get together, but just not as regularly as we used to. It was so fun to be with these ladies again! I found a stack of white fabric I was saving for a dyeing day, including a piece of velvet. I haven’t been sewing clothes much in the last few months, but now I have a stack to do some clothes sewing with. I came home with my pieces in buckets and pots. Yummy colors!

The velvet came out to be the best surprise, it’s a greenish gold that is one of my most favorite colors.

When I last wrote a post I was working on the big “scrap Vortex” piece that took up most of the length of my longarm, at 130 inches. It was a blast to put together, and no, I didn’t put much of a dent in my scrap bins. I counted the other day, I have 30 Sterilite 16-quart bins full of pieces that are fat quarters on down, in size. I think I could easily make a few more of these.

It made sense to quilt in as many different quilt patterns as I could think of…good for showing customers. I put in lots of words too.

Here is the finished piece on my studio wall. I matched the binding, natch. I have a short video on both IG (sbruce1955) and FaceBook (https://www.facebook.com/Sandra-Bruce-Creative-230949376954447) if you want to take a peek. People who have never seen a longarm doing its thing have been especially interested.

Back to my Matrix bird series….I’m working on a piece of 2 macaws. The photo, which I found on royalty-free Pixabay, made me laugh out loud. In progress:

I have 2 rows of 3 done (not sewn together), I can see I’m going to have to add a bit of paint to help distinguish some areas in the beaks. They don’t have eyes yet…they’ll be painted as well. I lightly drew them in for placement. Stay tuned!

That’s it for now…off to finish this top (hopefully) this weekend, in between my latest passion for Pickleball. Stay safe and happy weekend to you.

Artistic Alchemy 2021- Here’s Something You Won’t Want to Miss!

by Heidi Emmett

If you have considered coming to one of our retreats before, but delayed for one reason or another, thinking one day you would, THIS IS THE YEAR!

From the left Heidi Emmett, Jane Haworth, and Sandra Bruce.

If you have had a desire to take a workshop from Jane Haworth or Sandra Bruce, THIS IS THE YEAR TO DO IT! 2021 will be the last time Jane and Sandra’s “in person” workshops will be available through the Artistic Alchemy Retreat. Heidi Emmett is at the retreat as acting liaison for the whole retreat as well as being in Open Studio.

Both Jane and Sandra are teachers in demand; don’t miss this opportunity to have one-on-one attention and guidance from these two pros.

For more information on pricing of workshops which include all food and lodging, go to the registration page (on the home page).

This year marks our 7th year of Artistic Alchemy Retreats with workshops. Many wonderful memories have been created along the way. What’s better than time spent with amazing creative people and of course all the new friends we have made on this journey. We are making all efforts and planning for this retreat to be as good or better than previous ones. From short evening programs, to giveaways, show and tell, and “break out sessions”, we aim to please.

Ladies, this doesn’t mean that Artistic Alchemy Retreats are ending, just the “in person” workshops. We are already pondering ideas for 2022.  If given the opportunity for a 2022 Open Studio Artistic Alchemy Retreat, would you want to attend?

Here are a few pictures of Jane’s workshop.

Jane Haworth has a fresh approach to teaching fabric collage to create fabulous pet or animal portraits.
Start with your favorite picture of your pet. Awww…that’s a good dog.
Jane offers some very fun ways of “mark making.” Check out her complete workshop description on the home page under workshops Jane Haworth.

Open Studio is another choice. Read on.

Linda is one of THEE MOST productive people in Open Studio that I have ever seen. We still have spaces left. I, Heidi Emmett, will be your facilitator for your Open Studio experience should you choose that.
This is a great time to work on whatever you want to. Sew, and sew some more. Take a walk. Do your own yoga on the dock and of course, MORE sewing. Make new friends all with sewing creativity galore. Whether you want to sew “Art to Wear”, Quilts, hand stitching,or jewelry making, it’s all up to you. Everyone will have a six foot table of their own to use and plenty of irons and ironing boards are available.

Sandra Bruce teaches Material Matrix. Check out some of her students work from past Artistic Alchemy Retreats.

A Material Matrix quilt, “Josaphine”, by student France Courteau.

This student is showing great progress. Check out Sandra’s workshop particulars. On the home page, open the drop down menu labeled, “Workshops.”
Another of Sandra’s students transferring details for fabric placement.

For pricing on the workshops, which include all food and lodging, go to the registration page.

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To the right in the picture are 3 stories of rooms reserved for the Artistic Alchemy Retreat. And it’s just steps to the outside lawn, and to the conference rooms where we hold the workshops, the dining room (Zephyr hired a NEW chef) and the shore of Lake Tahoe. You will never find a more reasonably priced venue than Zephyr Point anywhere else on Lake Tahoe.
There are always special goodies to purchase.

Don’t miss a single sunset this year, September 6-10th.

There are still a few spaces left in Jane and Sandra’s workshops and Open Studio. So don’t delay- SIGN UP NOW! Make this year, 2021, YOUR YEAR to get away, relax, learn something new, enjoy the views, and be with friends, in person. Any questions you might have, don’t hesitate to email any of us: Sandra Bruce, sandrabruce@pacbell.net, Jane Haworth, janehhaworth@gmail.com, Heidi Emmett, hmemmett@gmail.com. Let’s all get CREATIVE at Lake Tahoe this year!

Happy Friday

by Sandra Bruce

Happy Friday, everyone! The sun is shining and everything is blooming (achoo!!) I sure hope we get more rain before summer hits. My household is fully vaccinated now, so we celebrated by “going down the hill” (to Sacramento) for a fun day of shopping. In one day we managed Costco, JoAnn’s, Trader Joe’s, Ikea, and Target. To be back in the world! Life’s little (big!) pleasures.

Quick update: the Empty Spools registration is up and running, my workshop is in Session 4, if you are interested.

I want to show you a quilt made by one of my past Zephyr students, France. She came 2 years ago from Canada to work on an image of her dog, Josephine. She recently sent me a photo of the finished piece which I share here…..great job, France!

“Josaphine”, by France Courteau

In my last post I had just started a Matrix quilt of 2 budgies. The background was black in the photo. As it was progressing I felt like the black was…just too much, and not sure what to do. Take off a row? Here you see it in progress:

A blob of black, what to do? The solution was to “unsew” a bit, and insert a few blue pieces. It makes all the difference. Here’s the finished piece, “Beau and Bella”.

My next Matrix piece will be 2 macaws, in my continuation of the bird series I’m doing. But meanwhile…just to shake things up, I like to switch gears once in a while. I have a huge amount of batiks given to me by a friend, so I made 25 blocks of a wonky log cabin which I will make into a quilt. Wonky log cabin blocks are so easy and satisfying.

Meanwhile I continue with my longarm business. I get such an array of quilts to do. I so admire those who have the patience to do paper piecing. This customer makes big ones, they are always perfectly sewn, and not a speck of paper left on the back. How does she do it???

So…I realized recently that I’ve been doing long arming in my little studio downtown for 10 years, it’s unbelievable that that much time has passed. I wanted to do something to spark up my studio space. I’ve had the same 4 quilts hanging on the wall behind my longarm most of that 10 years, and I’m pretty tired of looking at them. Hmmm…maybe a new quilt where I can use up some scraps? What if I made a quilt that is the length of my machine? I was inspired by “MadgeMakes”, whom I follow on Instagram, by this quilt she had posted:

I really liked this idea. Similar to my “Color Dance” quilt I liked the concept of showing a rainbow scheme of colors. Without missing a beat I took the wonky batik blocks off my display wall and pulled out my yellows.

I made a quick sketch and decided to make 13 10-inch by 40 inch panels using the color wheel as my guide. I pulled out Cristine Barnes’ color wheel just to keep me on the straight and narrow, and to have a quick reference for opposites, which I inserted here and there for sparkle.

It’s going to end up being 40″ by 135″, and will just fit on my longarm 😉 It was super fun to watch it grow. I had to overlap the panels on my design wall for the sake of space.

By the time I do my next post I will show you the finished piece on my wall, I hope! In the meantime, I’ll start on my Macaw quilt. Keep on sewing, everyone. And don’t forget to take a look at our offerings for the Fall Retreat at Zephyr in September. I have 3 spaces left in my class 😉

Rainy/Snowy Days

by Sandra Bruce

As I sit at my computer writing this post I can hear the rain outside which is a happy sound, for sure. This is the time of year for us to get the bulk of our precipitation. Since my last post we have had a couple of snowfalls and some much needed rain as well. We need more, but whatever we get is appreciated.

My Matrix online course continues to be popular. I’m getting photos now of the finished course project from students, and even photos of Matrix quilts that have been made as further work. Here’s one that came my way, by Judy B, of poppies….good job, Judy! (she OK’d my sharing)

Anyone who missed my post about my online course in Matrix and is interested, you can view it here:

https://coursecraft.net/courses/z93eK

So far this year I have made 3 Matrix quilts, with a 4th in the works. I’ve been making smaller pieces which, obviously, go faster than the bigger ones…which I’ve been wanting to do. First I made a “commemorative” quilt for a friend who lost her dog Hoochie last year. I didn’t want her to know I was making it so I had to work with a photo of Hoochie that I took a couple of years ago. I would have chosen a different image had I been able to, but I made the one I had work with my process. I mailed it to her in Colorado and she is so happy to have it.

Hoochie had very soulful eyes, that I knew I couldn’t get just right by piecing, so I used ProFab paint to make the eyes just right. Sweet Hoochie!

As I mentioned in my last post, I am teaching at Empty Spools in March 2022, and I had to quickly produce a class project. I started out with a wonderful image of a pelican, only to come to the conclusion about 2 days work into it, that it was a bit too challenging for that purpose. So I put it aside and turned my attention to another image, of a seagull. I named him “Seamus”, and here is the finished piece. I think it will work nicely for Empty Spools. I love his feet 😉

In executing the eye area, I could not resist using a piece of fabric that had the word “bird” on it. After finishing I realized it was too prominent and took away from his eye….so I got out my Profab and painted a fairly transparent layer of white over it, just enough to kick it back a little bit. It’s fun to use fabrics that contain words. The eye is painted over the fabric in yellow with black definition around it. The painting was done after piecing but before quilting.

Here’s the back:

After finishing Seamus I brought the pelican back out to finish. I named him “Petey”. The image is all pieced, with the exception of his eye, the purple in his upper beak, and a bit of yellow in his wing. I used to think painting on my quilts was “cheating”, but it really allows me to create a bit of detail that otherwise would be too difficult to do by piecing. Believe me, I piece every possible place I can, so I have convinced myself that it’s OK to use a speck or two of paint. My work continues to evolve and this is just part of that process. Here is Petey:

And the back:

After doing 2 bird quilts and enjoying it so much I decided to continue and do a few more “smallish” quilts of other birds. Now I’m doing a pair of budgies, such little cuties they are! Here’s the photo I’m using:

I remember seeing a photo of my dad right after I was born, with me in his lap and a budgie sitting on the frame of his glasses. He would like this quilt.

Other birds waiting in the wings on my desktop are: macaws, puffins, toucans, and cockatoos. Oh, and I’m hoping for a good photo of flamingoes, one of the most interesting birds there are. I’ve got my eye out. I’ve had great luck with Pixabay, a site where you can find royalty-free images to use. Jane turned me on to that great site! I want a mama and baby flamingo.

That’s all for now….I’ll sign off here and wish everyone a productive and safe end of Winter. After having both my vaccine shots I’m breathing sighs of relief, as I know many are. I’m keeping positive that by September we will all be vaccinated and life will be truly be getting back to normal. Gathering at Zephyr with other sewing-sisters will be so gratifying! Check out our page on “Workshops” if you’re thinking of joining us, we’d love to have you. As of this writing I have 4 spaces left in my workshop.

Bye for now!

Announcing Our 2021 Retreat!

by Sandra Bruce

Greetings, Sewists! Jane, Heidi and I are pleased to be going forward with our 2021 Artistic Alchemy Retreat at Zephyr Point on Lake Tahoe, September 6-10. If you go to the “Workshops” page on this site it will take you to the information. After a year “off” we’re hoping you will be eager to come to this beautiful place, to gather with other like-minded creatives…..to sew, create, laugh, renew and make new friendships. If you’re new to us, and unfamiliar with what we’re about, be sure to look at our past retreat photos. We always have a blast!

This was the view a couple of years back from my classroom, can’t beat it! I will be teaching Matrix, and will have returning students, I’m happy to say. I hope you’ll consider joining us!

Since we’re hoping you’ll go peek at the offerings for this year, I’ll keep my post short and sweet. What have I been up to? I’ve been asked to teach at Empty Spools in 2022 (March 25-30, Session 4) and I’ll be doing a 5-day Matrix workshop. I wanted to make a good project for the students to do in that time frame, so started an image I loved of a pelican. Alas, only a few hours into it I realized it really wasn’t the right amount of challenge for beginners, so I switched gears and the pelican became….a seagull! The photo: (I love his feet)

I’ve named him “Seamus”, and here’s the top pieced, still a WIP, his eye still needs to be added, and it still needs quilting and finishing, of course:

Because of the size, the eye needs to be painted in. It’ll be good to have a new creative addition to my teaching, I’ll show students how to add the eye. My next post I’ll show the finished piece. Here’s my painting, in progress.

My CourseCraft offerings have been doing well, I’m slowly adding new things. I have so many ideas in my head for new quilt patterns and projects that I want to execute and add. Right now, I have 3: my Material Matrix course which can be viewed here: https://coursecraft.net/courses/z93eK

Also, I pulled out the chapter on “How to Do a Matched Binding” from the Matrix course for those who are not interested in Matrix but would like to know how to make a matched binding, it’s a stand-alone quick course, and it can be viewed here: https://coursecraft.net/c/matchedbinding

Last but not least, a quilt pattern I made a while ago, called “Hugs and Kisses”, just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s super simple and you could do a version of it even before February 14th, if you hop to it ;-). It can be viewed here:https://coursecraft.net/c/XXOO, and it looks like this:

Lastly, I wish you all love, hugs (and good chocolate) for the upcoming Valentine’s Day, and hope you will look at the offerings we have for this year’s retreat. We 3 are excited to be with the talented and fun ladies we always attract to our event!

Wrap-up 2020

by Sandra Bruce

As you may have read here in the recent past WordPress has totally changed the format for making a post, much to my frustration …my last post seemed easier, for some reason. All the photos I wanted to use popped up as you see below, but when I saw this configuration I kind of liked it and decided to leave them as they are and let you enjoy them as a “collage”. I went through my photos from the year and was determined to pick out photos that represented positive elements of my year. I must admit it wasn’t easy! But there were bright spots which will remain as good memories for me.

Please note, we are in the planning stages for our Fall Retreat at Zephyr Point, September 6-10, 2021. How wonderful it will be to be able to gather together for this event that will be our 8th year together as Artistic Alchemy. We’ll be making announcements soon regarding details.

My online Matrix course has been very successful and I hope it continues to be so. Here’s the link if you want to check it out:

http://coursecraft.net/courses/z93eK

I wish for each of you reading this blog, a happy and safe 2021, when we can put this year behind us. There is plenty to be thankful for, and reason for optimism. A truly new year is upon us, let’s make the most of it. (at the bottom of this post is a listing of the photos for those interested).

Left to right, top to bottom:

My outline for my online Matrix course, the intense but rewarding editing done on the computer, closeup of my Matrix entry for a SAQA exhibit “Wear Your Mask”, how it is possible to play Banangrams in the Covid times by each player using their own game tiles, first most-welcomed rain in November, my quilt of a trout made and given for a good deed done by a friend, enjoying my Featherweight, quilt pattern by Elizabeth Hartman made with Christmas fabrics, food in Israel January 2020, a student in my last Matrix in-person class February 2020, mask making makes you feel usefu!, my son Matteo is my mask tester, Zooming Zumba, social-distanced happy hour, a clean studio, watching “Hamilton” safely outside, enjoying being on the deck in the warm weather, perfecting my pizza making skills, working on a Matrix quilt, “Matteo in the Time of Covid”, Sardinia selfie 1993, fabric selecting for mask making.

Making an Online Course

by Sandra Bruce

Oh, my! WordPress has a whole new layout….can I do this? On top of learning CourseCraft?

Since my last post (and even before) I’ve been working on an online course on how to do Material Matrix. It will not, of course, be quite the same as teaching in person, but it’s definitely the next best thing. I don’t feel like I can teach on Zoom, but doing it this way I can really control what people see and do it with the detail I want to show. CourseCraft is the platform I chose to use….Jane used it for her online class and I liked how it looked. It’s pretty easy to use and the templates are simple.

I made a very specific “outline” of what I wanted in the videos, of which I knew there would be plenty…with thumbnails to show Gary (my trusty camera person) where the camera would need to be.

As it turned out my iPhone took good video and we decided to use it instead of a camera. In hindsight….there were limitations. The iPhone did get hot and had to be stopped after a long bit of filming. And since the mic connection was coming out of it instead of the charger it did run out of juice. Oh….and we had to put it so high up in order to see everything it needed o see that Gary couldn’t see what was being filmed. So we set up a TV to use as a monitor to view what was being filmed. That worked well. We had to configure a strange looking setup in my studio. Ironing board to the rescue!

Nice lighting was a must.

I can’t believe I did it but I had to make another sample of my “Wake Up Cup” piece, as that is the project I chose to demo in the course. I have made so many, and taught it so many times, which turned out to be a good thing, in terms of getting my cookies in a row to prep for filming.

The picture below is a lousy one but you can see what a problem it was trying to put my self-portrait behind me for the video…2 big eyes staring around my head! We switched to my Color Dance quilt, just for the opening sequence. Most of the video is shot from overhead so it worked out.

I wondered how to handle the script. I didn’t want to sound like I was reading it, but needed to to keep on track and not forget anything. In the picture below I tried draping the paper script in front of me….didn’t work. My son informed me that there are apps that turn written word into a teleprompter on an iPad…..voila! It worked like a charm. I went off script plenty of times but I had it when I needed it. This is one of the million pictures we took to find the right background and right thing for me to wear.

There was a lot of list making to keep everything straight. I made 10 “chapters” plus a “bonus”, and 9 of them contain video.

When it came time for “Show and Tell” we had to schlep everything downstairs to the living room to have the space to spread out the quilts on a rack with good light. Gary had to climb onto our roof to cover skylights with blankets to control the light sources.

We uploaded videos daily to my computer and reviewed them for boo-boos.

Editing in iMovie is not too difficult, and you can add captions and all kinds of fun tricks to make a video look professional. We did add a few captions, and used the fade feature.

I made a fun logo since there is a space on CourseCraft for it.

At this point we are uploading the videos and will be done soon! When it’s time I will be announcing on social media that it is ready to go. The way it will work is a url will get you to CourseCraft where you can purchase the course and have it to view whenever you are ready! In the course I cover a lot, including (but not limited to): how to do my technique, how to grid your own photo, what makes a good photo to use in this technique, Show and Tell of my quilts and shots of quilts made by my students for your enjoyment. There’s also a bonus feature on how to make a matching binding. Over 2 hours of video in all. If you are interested in a heads-up on the availability of the course, I have started a list (over 100 already on it!) of email addresses of people who are interested in knowing…..send me an email if you want to be on the list. My email is: sandrabruce@pacbell.net. My past students (guilds and retreats) will get a discount on the course if they would like to have it to finish their project that didn’t quite get done, or they wan to go on and make another one using their own photo.

I am motivated to be done so I can start another Matrix quilt, so stay tuned, it won’t be long!

Diversionary Tactics

by Sandra Bruce

Hello, readers…I’ve been working on an online class in how to do Material Matrix!

Therefore….I  don’t have much to show in the way of what I’ve been up to…it’s been lots of writing, re-writing, experiments with lights, and just plain figuring it all out before we start taping hopefully next week. As you can see below, necessity is the mother of invention, right?

Many people have asked me over the last few years about teaching online…. Zoom isn’t the right platform for me. People need to see up close what I’m doing when I demonstrate, clearly and with precise instruction. That’s why I decided to go the route of CourseCraft. It will be the type of class that can be saved and viewed whenever convenient. I’m putting in a LOT of instruction, tips, and visuals with what I think will be 1-1/2 hours of video. So…stay tuned for the announcement that it is done and ready to purchase, if you are interested or know someone who might be. I will offer a discount for any past students who want a “refresher”, either from Zephyr attendees or people who have taken my workshop with their guild. Zephyr students in 2021 will benefit from this too…they’ll have a leg up come next Fall.

MEANWHILE…….

I haven’t allowed myself any sewing while I’m working on my CourseCraft offering. Delaying gratification! But sometimes I do go off on a tangent and find myself in a rabbit hole. I came across a photo I took in Italy years ago, from a slide, and couldn’t remember the exact location. It was bugging me. Next thing I knew, I had dragged out boxes and boxes of slides from Italy trips I’ve taken, literally hundreds, (slides, not trips!) and was busily scanning my favorites into my computer. My scanner will take slides, but only one at a time. I started sharing them on Instagram and FaceBook, which was fun for me (further diversion) and I made some new friends along the way, while reliving some of the wonderful trips I have had in Italy. Since that is what I’ve been doing, I will share a few here, and hopefully provide you with a bit of diversion too. Keep in mind they were taken with a real camera, and mostly in the late 80’s and 90’s, so the quality isn’t what you get with today’s cameras. Those of you who follow me and have seen those I’ve posted, there are a few new ones here. Here they are, in no particular order:

This has been the most popular of my photos that I posted on IG and FB, and is of a street artist reproducing the painting by Caravaggio (one of my favorite painters), “Judith Beheading Holofernes”, the original of which hangs in Rome. I have no idea how long it takes to reproduce such a detailed painting in chalk, on knees, like this…and the sadness that must come when it rains! He’s done a fantastic job.

Sometimes a photo will really take you back to the time it was taken, as the photo above does for me. Here is my traveling companion, and our friend who lives in Villach, Austria, which is very close to the Italian border. We were walking through this very lush and prolific field of lupine, and being grateful for this beautiful place of nature.

Also from that day…we 4 went to a bistro for snacks of cheese, cold-cuts and local beer. As we were leaving the village Dieter pulled off the side of the road, took lawn chairs out of his trunk, and full of our afternoon snacking we lazily sunned ourselves on this hillside, looking over the valley with Yugoslavia just on the other side of that mountain range.

Back to Italy….and one of my most memorable meals, ever! I have been fortunate to be a guest of this family in Fabriano, the Sorcis, who own a restaurant and hotel. Here is Sunday dinner, polenta being slathered onto a big wooden board that was part of this family’s weekly tradition. On top of this polenta came sautéed young asparagus, which had been picked that morning, and was heavenly. Each of the 6 or so of us gathered around this board was given a fork and napkin, and dinner commenced. Have any of you readers experienced such a tradition?

Fabriano’s claim to fame is its paper making. If you go to any art supply store you will see handmade paper from there. There are paper stores everywhere in Fabriano, and a nice exhibit, as you see here, showing how paper is made. I brought home some wonderful samples and a paper purse.

The Collegiate Church, in the Tuscany hill town of San Gimignano, is one of those churches that looks quite ordinary on the outside, but the view takes your breath away when you step inside. It is filled with frescoes and paintings. I was amused by these gentlemen, sitting outside the church on a Sunday afternoon, smoking cigars, watching passersby, and chatting in the local dialect. A slice of life.

In the “old days” before iPhones and selfies, and when traveling alone, if you wanted your picture taken you had to ask a stranger to please take your picture. I have many of these…here in the Roman Forum I am drawing in my sketchbook.

Although….you could set up your camera and do a timed exposure…which I did here. I spent a week in Sardinia painting and sightseeing. I was there in May and had most of the hotels and beaches practically to myself. I had just taken an Italian language course and got plenty of practice here, as English is not as prevalent in Sardinia.

This very charming statue, “Il Pescatore” (“The Fisher Boy”) by Vincenzo Gemito, resides in The Bargello, one of Florence’s many museums. The Uffizi gets most of the limelight, but I think The Bargello is a gem and sometimes overlooked. Donatello’s “David” is here too. This fisher boy captured my heart and is so sweet. You can really see the fish squirming in his hands as he struggles to hang on to it. 

Another shot from Florence. A “Bar”….I wish we had such places to stop in the morning for a quick espresso, or a mid-day Negroni, perhaps?

Italians are good designers. Here, a sign for a glove shop. I love those colors together.

On this trip, with a friend, I spent most of my time taking shots of our feet and the beautiful mosaic floors that are everywhere.  Romulus and Remus are depicted here.

A closeup of some beautiful stonework.

I’ll bet there are millions of shots like this one, of Vernazza, my favorite town of the Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 villages, connected on the ocean by a footpath, or “passeggiata”, that is about 7 miles long. I walked 3 of the 5, and visited the others by train. Truly breathtaking scenery! A friend was telling me she was there hiking, and passed French women on the path wearing heels and smoking cigarettes….I cannot imagine!

I’ll make this the last one…a happy face, obviously in Venice, riding in a gondola at sunset. Our gondoleer’s name was Sandro. I hope you have been able to be diverted for a few minutes from our crazy world right now, and that you are inspired in some small way!

Stay tuned for news about my online course, follow me on Instagram at sbruce1955, and on FaceBook at Sandra Bruce Creative, if you aren’t already a follower. Ciao!

DesignsbyHeidi.wordpress.com Comes to the Artistic Alchemy Blog Post This Week!

by HEIDI EMMETT

This was supposed to be the week of our 8th annual Artistic Alchemy Retreat at Zephyr Point, on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Less than 24 hours after the decision was made for Jane, & Sandra, and me to postpone our retreat until next September,  two of my dear friends from Portland, Oregon (who always drive down for this event), called to boost my spirits and said to me, “we’ll figure something out, how about our own Open Studio?”

Fast forward to the last week of August. These same two friends, Linda and Karenanne, rolled into Grass Valley after 10 hours on the road. They were so excited to be back in the Grass Valley area for a whole week of sewing fun. Are you kidding! I was so happy to have them here too because over the years when they come down two days before the Artistic Alchemy Retreat, THEY COOK FOR ME AND MY HUSBAND! This time it’s many, many gourmet meals to come. They cook, I clean up. Works for me.

The set up was fast. First thing the next morning. We re-arranged as more machines were added. We had a couple of sergers and another sewing machine (mine) a better ironing set up and design walls to come.
The dining table was perfect for cutting out our projects. Open Studio via Heidi’s house, ready to go in under 1/2 hour.  Karenanne began her project immediately, a quilt for her step-daughter and son-in-law. They love everything to do with “Day of The Dead.”
A beautiful book by Tula Pink & Angela Walters from which Karenanne found her “Day of the Dead” project, skulls. It’s the project right in the middle (blues and grays) above.
Design wall up and being used. It’s flannel on a stand. 5’x5′. More about this later. The beautiful blue fabrics are discussed in last weeks post. Go here if you missed it.
Riley the “helper” dog checking out Karenanne’s progress on her sewing table set-up.
Karenanne & Linda were soooo smart. Before we even greeted each other upon their arrival, they had treats for Riley. It’s their first meet and greet with our dog and they knew just how to win him over. Riley is in love! His tail is wagging so fast it’s a blur.
There it is, My “Sweet Sixteen.” I purchased it used, 3 years ago.
Somewhere within the first 6 months I actually quilted this Terrific Tabard on the Sweet 16.
Trying it out, Sadly, I really had no idea what I was doing. I watched 2 short videos. How I managed to get this vest quilted is beyond me. What IS that “thunk, thunk, thunk,” sound? Acckk…Ohhh forget it! Yep, I walked away from it. It has been sitting for over 2 years until NOW!       I LOVE YOU LINDA! She told me on Sunday afternoon, that on Tuesday morning, right after breakfast, be prepared to sit with her and we WILL LEARN HOW TO USE THIS MACHINE! She had the perfect opportunity to see if she wanted one herself. O.K. I’ll do it as I dragged myself up the stairs.  Only 1 hour later, a bunch of videos, sample tests, checking the manual, and Linda was quilting a baby quilt she had put together ahead of time. WOW! I can do this! The “thunking” sound from before, gone! (thinking the needle was placed in the wrong direction).  I have a quilt sandwiched together and will quilt on my own after I get this blog post published.
Another project of mine, a baby quilt. After the 2nd time I blew it on piecing the backing to fit correctly ( I mean REALLY Heidi, you can’t piece the backing properly the first time?…sigh…) It was sort of folded, wadded, in the corner of this same room. “Heidi, let’s get this quilt finished so you can give it to the baby while she is still a toddler,” was Linda’s comment to me. I had actually thought that as long as she got it before college I would be o.k. with that. Ha, Ha. Linda calls finishing projects, “Closing Windows.” Her job at home is in technology (in a very BIG way. She is in charge of soft wear implementation in hospitals and clinics in western states with over 100 people working under her) She said she is sooo tired of hearing people at work tell her, “this or that project is finished, but…  No more BUTS. Let’s CLOSE THE WINDOW!
I did whine about not knowing how to quilt it. Linda said, it’s a baby quilt. Keep it simple. She used a simple serpentine stitch on her super big open armed Janomie and zipped zipped right through this quilt.
Whoo hoo, almost finished. At one point, all three of us were sewing bindings on various quilts at the exact same time. We were in a circle facing each other, and laughing, and talking, and having the BEST time. We thought that this must be what an old-fashioned quilting bee was like.

I cut out this quilt while up at Zephyr Point in June. So I pulled it out (gotta close another window!) and got started on it. Villa Rosa has great fabric and quilting patterns for sale on line. Go here to check out this weeks special.
Looking good. Some progress. Sigh…”I spy” some strips (black ones) that are either too narrow or too wide. “Rippp” goes yee olde seam ripper. That’s o.k. I have always felt that the mark of a good sewist is one who knows how to rip out their seams properly.
How about my cool design wall? It is perfect when you are short on wall space.
I haven’t been able to find a web site for these design walls. Yes, I own 3 different sizes. But here’s a number and address. Love mine and they are really well made.
I was tired of lugging my heavy, older Bernina up and down the stairs for classes or whatever. This Baby Lock “Joy” (I got it 2 days before the shutdown here in CA in March) and it does just what I need for “classroom” sewing. It purrs along very nicely. Some things are in different places than what I’m used to, but for $175. it will pay for itself in no time (no more chiropractic fees for the bad back). Ha, ha.
A few more of Karenanne’s and Linda’s “favorite things” that they gave to me. These little clips are so strong and handy for holding bindings in place. No more blood on a quilt or hand done hem (when using straight pins).
How about this Yo,Yo magnifier/LED light? You NEED one of these puppies. Love led lights.

I have tried oodles of granolas. This one is by far my favorite. Linda made some last year for the first time and ohh yes! They brought some for us this year. We like Muesli for breakfast and with the fresh fruits of summer this granola is perfect. Then add about a cup of 2% plain, Greek yogurt  (good for your gut, high in protein) and on top add a tsp. of cinnamon (lowers blood sugar). Recipe below.

This is just a smidge of all we did at “Open Studio” at Heidi’s with Linda and Karenanne. I can’t wait to share more next week. Please join me at DesignsbyHeidi.wordpress.com if you can. I hope you will have time for some creativity this weekend,  even if it is by yourself. Thank you so much for stopping by. Big hugs to you all, Heidi