Reflections on the Artistic Alchemy Retreat

by Jane Haworth

Lake view from Zephyr Point

We have reached the end of August and during normal times we would all, students and teachers, be prepping for the Zephyr retreat but these aren’t normal times. Sadly Labor Day weekend will come and go without the excitement of driving to Tahoe, unpacking, settling in and meeting all the students. Alas we will have to wait until September 2021 for this. My post this time will be reflections about the retreat and I am happy to share I have some guest writers to help with me this.

Fallen Leaf Conference Room

If you have never joined us for a retreat Artistic Alchemy is a group of of three but previously four teachers that host a selection of workshops from quilting, collage, upcycling, designing and making wearables and surface design. This would have been the 7th year for Sandra Bruce, Heidi Emmett and I to organize and host this retreat for about 40-50 students.

Early morning solace at the lake

One of my favorite things to do while staying at the Zephyr Point Conference Center is to take an early morning walk around the property, then sit on the dock and look out at Lake Tahoe. 7am is a quiet time and this particular morning unfortunately a smoke haze could be seen in the distance. 2020 I was going to do an organized early morning walk with those who felt the urge or needed the exercise!

Postcard circa 2018

I was lucky enough to join Artistic Alchemy in 2018 after Christine Barnes stepped down. I knew Christine, Sandra and Heidi from the local teaching circuit and the day we took this photo was the day I met Mary. I was honored to join these wonderful ladies and be able to add another creative thread to the retreat.

Guest post from Christine Barnes

“There’s something magical about Artistic Alchemy at Zephyr Point. I think it’s a combination of the higher-altitude air, the amazing “water colors,” and a simplicity like no other place on Tahoe. When you add in the energy of committed sewists and quilters, all happy to be a part of the collective creativity, the result is a very special experience. In each of the four years I taught color workshops, I came home tired but on a high, thrilled to be a part of AA and excited to go after new ideas that came from watching my students work with color. (Getting somewhere with color takes practice, but gosh, the result is worth the effort!) I confess to feeling a bit down the year after I retired, but the memories and the insights I gained stay with me. I hope it’s been the same for my students—you can’t see me, but when I look at my pictures, I’m smiling at what you did and who you are.” Christine

Our design wall was color on display!
A whole of of auditioning went on at the wall. Here is one of my students from the Dakotas working on her Spumoni blocks. I think this is Gail, or Laurie—sorry I can’t quite recall.:-)

Guest post from Mary Boalt

“I want to thank Jane for asking me to reminisce for a moment or two. About now it’s good to spend a few minutes thinking about some happier times. I have fond memories of our retreats at Zephyr. The camaraderie among the women was amazing. Whether a quilter, art quilter, or wearable artist, the relationships built during that week were undeniable. We all shared a love of creating. What could be more fun? To spend four days immersed in learning a new technique and adding it to your repertoire of skills feels like pure joy and indulgence! I think the most exciting year was the five year anniversary of Artistic Alchemy. What a testament to the vision that Heidi, Christine and Sandra had to create a retreat for like minded women and have them “play” together for a week! Additionally, that first week in September has the best weather ever to be enjoyed along with the best view ever! I hope by this time next year you will be able to have this pleasure again. In the meantime, be careful, be safe and carry on creatively.” Fondly Mary Boalt.

Gail showing off her vest
Mary and some wonderful painted canvases

Guest post from Heidi Emmett

“I will TOTALLY miss the camaraderie that is developed during this time with each of my students and how we become a cohesive group with ideas bouncing off the walls for something that’s upcycled or a new technique to try. Everyone is enthusiastic in their own way and it is so fun to be a part of. I will miss the “ahha” moments when it is discovered that they CAN make and ENJOY a garment that they sewed themselves using my Art to Wear patterns. AND that it IS O.K. to break some sewing garment rules. They finally feel free to get some creativity going and it feels mighty fine!” Heidi. 

Sunset over Lake Tahoe. This happened during our nightly program

Sharing the lake with others is what Lake Tahoe is all about.

Guest post from Sandra Bruce

“One of my favorite parts of being at Zephyr with Artistic Alchemy is the shot we get of everyone at the end, on the last day. We don’t always get every single person, some ladies have to scoot early to catch planes, for instance, but it is so fun to gather as a group one last time for this picture. Friendships have been made, stories told and shared, and the week has been diffused with lots of creativity, learning, and laughs! Here’s the collection…2015 is missing from my photo library, but the rest are here.” Sandra

Group Phot0 2014
Group Photo 2016
Group Photo 2017
Group Photo 2018
Group Photo 2019

What a great look back over the years! Unfortunately Sandra couldn’t find the group photo for 2015. It is nice to see so many friendly, familiar faces and returning students too. Has anyone been to every retreat!

I remember in maybe 2015 looking at the Artistic Alchemy website and contemplating signing up for Open Studio. I joined the group in 2018 and it was my first retreat, first time at Zephyr Point and first time in this group. For the Artistic Alchemy 5th anniversary I contacted various quilt companies and individuals to see if they would donate some free swag for giveaways and I was totally surprised how generous people were. Thank you sponsors. It was so fun each night at the program/show and tell to be able to share all this swag!

Everyone looks happy with their free swag!!

I was looking forward to my workshop this year it was called Mark-making and Collage and would have included a day of playing and printing with fabric paints. I started to put together a fabric journal with some of my samples but I suppose now I have another year to work on this.

Working to combine the pages of this fabric Journal

Best wishes to you all for following along with our journey and although we won’t be at the Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center this year we can all dream about it. We are planing to return next year September 6-10th 2021. Keep safe, keep well and keep creating.

Jane, Sandra, Mary and Heidi Sept 2019

The (not so) Lazy Days of Summer

by Sandra Bruce

As I write this it is National Lefty Day (Thursday the 13th) so I wish all you lefties out there a happy year ahead. I imagine many of you are, since creative types tend to be lefties. It is also the day before my son Matteo’s birthday, and I always think back to this day that should have been his birthday, but he was hesitant to come into the world and worked me for 22 hours, so it ended up being the 14th instead. Having kids sure does make you mark time, in so many ways!

In this post I’m going to show you 2 Matrix pieces I’ve completed since my last post. The first, a SAQA challenge, was to create a 12″ by 12″ piece that deals with what you are doing in your studio during the time of Covid. I have never attempted a Matrix piece that small, but decided to do it. I took a selfie that was in color and turned it into black and white.
I painted the circles on the mask with ProFab pant, the mask I was wearing did have those circles and this was an easy way to portray them. Everything else is pieced. There’s to be a show at the Blue Line Gallery in Roseville in November, hopefully, that will have 40 of these pieces. I haven’t named it yet….

Speaking of selfies, my son Matteo took one that I have been really taken with. I made a Matrix quilt of him when he was a little boy, another when he was a teenager, and I thought it was time to make one of him as an adult. He grew a wonderful mustache that would be fun to do. The photo is intense and moody, just like we have all been feeling since Covid came into our lives.

I love all the value changes and cool colors. I knew after doing my RBG quilt that the transitions from light to dark would be tricky.

I blew up the gridded photo (2-8-1/2″ pieces taped together) and attached it to a piece of foam core.

I like all the dark sky-looking blues. Started here…

I started out going vertically instead of horizontally, to complete all the blue on the right hand side.  I stayed with all solid black in the darkest parts, which I don’t usually do….and ended up changing a lot of the squares later to textured blacks. What was I thinking?

You all know how I love doing eyes, this one proved to be fairly simple and straight-forward. It was the other eye, the one you hardly see, that was tricky.

In progress…

See all the pins, below, in the bottom 1/3rd. I usually sew together blocks of 16 but I was so undecided about the neck area, that I put all all the 2-inch squares in place there before sewing anything together. I reworked it a couple of times, and just was not happy but couldn’t figure out why. The purple is pushed to an extreme from the photo. I then decided the problem was there was too much neck showing. It was too much purple and too distracting, and just…unnecessary, so I took off the bottom 3 rows. Voila! That solved it. (hold your hand over the bottom 3 rows and you’ll see what I mean).

Once the top was together it went downtown to be quilted. The first thread I pulled out to use was my favorite Omni thread, “Tapestry Taupe”. This is a wonderful color that I use all the time and it looks good on almost everything (in the foreground near the bottom of the photo).
I matched the binding like I usually do. It is 39″ by 47″Here’s the finish, and a couple of closeups:

I named it, “Matteo in the Time of Covid”, since the photo was taken and the quilt made during this time. Not to mention, Matteo had Covid and was pretty sick for 2 weeks. I’m so thankful he was able to overcome it as he did, being strong and young. His test was negative but we are sure he had it from all his symptoms. He’s fine now! 

Matteo looks so much like my dad, especially now that he is grown. My handsome dad….. here he is at Matteo’s age. I see my dad, who is gone, when I look at Matteo.

That’s it for now…I hope you all are well, and stay well. We are nearing the time that our Artists Alchemy Retreat would have been happening, in normal times we would be gathering supplies and goodies for our Zephyr retreat. Next year will be twice as good for all our waiting! Take care, everyone, and I hope you are happily sewing.

Lazy Days of Summer (especially now)

by Sandra Bruce

Summer is definitely here, wouldn’t you say? Yesterday my thermostat read 100 degrees at about 2:30 in the afternoon. I’m going to hold this image in my mind as long as I can, our last good rain on May 17th.I’ve been playing nurse to 2 sick boys for the last few weeks (trips to Rite-Aid, driving food and smoothies across town, etc etc.) , so I don’t have a lot of images collected to show you today. Both are getting better so that’s the good news.


What I love about summer is the bounty of fruit and veggies that we get here in California. I have realized in the past traveling to other places how lucky we are to have such plentiful fresh food. Beets are my favorite vegetable. At the bottom of this post I will give you my favorite summer beet recipe. It’s beautiful as well as delicious.

While on the subject of food, we have become popsicle addicts here at my house. I have made special trips to the store for popsicles when needed. When it’s hot there’s nothing better. Life’s little pleasures!

I feel very fortunate during this time of Covid that I am able to work on my longarm machine quilting for customers, especially with all my teaching gigs cancelled for the upcoming future. I have had an issue with my longarm which is not solved yet, but it will be soon. It will require a 3rd trip up by the tech from Meissner’s. It has made me find out the hard way that I can continue to longarm without my up/down switch working. I’ve been using the hand-wheel manually which takes a lot of physical prowess. Any of you longarmers out there know what I mean.  I recently did a custom quilt that had to be done and took quite a while to do and involved a lot of hand-wheel turning….but I did it!

When I do a customer’s quilt that is so beautifully sewn/appliquéd and is totally square it is almost not work.

When I scroll through my photos I realize how changed life has become. Social distancing, in all its forms, is our new norm.

I’ve learned that games often played with friends can be played alone.

I got this very sweet text from my son.

Speaking of him, I am doing my 3rd Matrix quilt of him, I thought doing one of him as a child, one as a teenager, and one as an adult was a fitting thing to do. Matteo took a selfie that I really liked and I knew it would make a super fun and challenging  quilt to do. I will do a post later on it when it’s done, but here’s a couple of shots in the meantime. First the photo:

I love how it’s dark and moody. All those value changes, and all the color changes in the skin…it’s a perfect image. It’s going well so far. I’m having to fudge a bit in the shadows. An artist’s prerogative.More on this later, as I said. It will be done soon at the rate I’m going….working on it is keeping me sane.

So if you made it this far, here is my beet recipe.

SUMMERTIME BEETS ON YOGURT

Ahead of time, roast in the oven 2+ pounds of beets. Mixing yellow and red is pretty. Set aside to cool, and slip off the skins under cool water. Also ahead of time, at least a few hours if possible (but not mandatory), chop very finely several cloves of garlic, I usually do 4-5 depending on size. Stir the garlic well into a large tub of plain yogurt and put back in the frig. (the greek whole milk style yogurt is heavenly).

When the beets are cooked and skinned and the yogurt has had time to absorb the garlic and you’re close to time to eat, you are ready to assemble the dish.

In a wide, flat-ish bowl, spread the yogurt over the bottom. Slice the beets into slices. Arrange the beet slices over the yogurt in a nice arrangement. Mix, in a small bowl, approx. 2 T. of lemon juice and 3-4 T. olive oil. Emulsify with a whisk and pour it over the beets and yogurt, drizzling it all over. Give it all a good couple grinds of pepper and sprinkle on some coarse salt. On top, sprinkle a small handful of fresh mint, chopped roughly. The mint really makes it, don’t skimp. The colors of the beets swirl into the yogurt and is gorgeous. Enjoy.

Till next time, stay safe, wear your mask, and happy sewing. 🙂

Changing Times. Embracing Technology!

This is Jane. My blog post this week will start from a message from us all.

 It is our utmost desire when having our retreats at Zephyr to give you the optimum experience….where you are able to learn, laugh, and enjoy the company of the other sewists in the beautiful setting of Lake Tahoe. We three, Jane, Heidi and Sandra have been in constant communication with Zephyr, and between ourselves, about the fate of the September retreat in light of the Covid virus. We want, more than anything, to be able to go forward there in safety and assurance of a positive experience for you all. When we were in discussion about this issue we came to the ultimate conclusion that we cannot assure these objectives. In many ways it is out of our hands and for that reason we are postponing our September retreat until 2021. Your safety and positive experience are our primary goals.
  
We know how disappointed you are, as are we, but you surely understand where we are coming from in postponing the retreat. Please email us for any questions you may have. This is unprecedented territory for us, and we pledge to be fair and equitable going forward. We want 2021 to be a fantastic year with a retreat that is the best yet.

Artistic Alchemy retreat Zephyr Point

Lake view from Zephyr Point

It makes us sad to have made this decision but I feel we can all now move forward and focus on the retreat for 2021. As a traveling quilt teacher I have just about written off 2020. I still have a few things on my calendar but I shall have to wait and see if they go ahead. As I said in my blog title, even I am now having to jump on the technology bandwagon, something a few weeks ago I just wasn’t interested in doing.

Mark-making and Collage Jane Haworth

Fabric Journal, one of the samples for Artistic Alchemy retreat

As for technology I recently presented my lecture ‘Living a Creative Life’ to the San Francisco Quilt Guild using Zoom! My Power Point lasted 30 minutes, followed by Q & A, and went down well, I believe!  We had 138 attendees and all stayed till the end. I will say I did miss the audience reactions and participation though.

Pet Portrait Fabric collage Jane Haworth

Precious

And I am now working on putting together an online class called Love of Pets Fabric Collage. This wasn’t something I had considered but as time goes on and reality sets in I know I won’t be teaching in person for a while. When I think about the opportunities that this opens up, its pretty good. Quilters from all around the country and world will have the chance to take my class.

Fabric Jane Haworth

Fabric selection ideas for Love of Pets online class

The good thing that has come out of this pandemic is reconnecting with family, and friends using either Messenger video groups, Instagram Live or Zoom. I come from a large family, all of them in the UK and for the first we have been catching up virtually. Pokey Bolton has a daily chat with quilters and artists on Instagram Live at 1pm pacific time and I was on with her a few weeks ago talking about this very subject, teaching cancellations and ways to move forward. Then lets not mention the funny glasses my close friend Ronnie and I found on Messenger video!

Hanging out on the porch May 2020

Porch time during lockdown

Staying at home I think is made easier by creating routines. I will work in the morning, have a family lunch and play Yahtzee on the iPad, listen to Pokey’s 1pm chat, work the afternoon till about 5 when its “Beer O’clock”. This is our family time for a beer on the porch and daily card game challenge! Our favorites are Wizard, Knaves and Phase 10.

Big Frank Jane Haworth

Big Frank 46″ x 69″

Now that I have had more time for sewing I will share what I’ve been working on over the last couple of months. With the deadline to enter the World of Beauty quilt competition at IQF Houston coming up, I decided to make a couple of large quilts. I always think a quilt needs to be big to look impressive hanging in a quilt show. So Big Frank was created! I’m pretty happy with him and am now working on Little Frank and perhaps pattern I can share.

Big Franks Eye Jane Haworth

Detail of the eye, approx 9” x 6”

Here is a detail of his eye and really I don’t think it looks as impressive close-up as you just see the different fabrics I included. Some are pretty random! When I started this quilt my intent to use scraps and those old fabrics I have but never use. Pretty much the ugly ones! I started with a grey, brown and blue palette but as the quilt grew I would get bored with using these same fabrics and so I’d look through my stash and grab a bunch in another color. So now as he progressed I added those greens, ochres and even pinks!

Notes of Hope Jane Haworth

Notes of Hope 81” x 61”

This is the other large quilt I have been working on and just finished.  I made it in response to the Mountain Art Quilters Spring challenge. The category that spoke to me was ‘Colors of Emotion’

Forestall Bridge

Small ‘messages of hope’ attached to the railings on the Foresthill Bridge, CA

The story behind this quilt. In 2018 I remember hearing on the news that a lady from Auburn, Brittney Hendricks, organized for volunteers to make ‘Notes of Hope’ that they attached to the railings on the Foresthill Bridge. This bridge is located just outside Auburn, CA is the highest bridge in California and fourth highest in the USA and has been the scene for 90 suicides since it was built in 1947. These ‘messages of hope’ attached to the bridge are an attempt to convince people that life continues to be worth living. I walked the bridge with my son James in the new year and took many photos.

These photos I printed onto fabric sheets and then Improv pieced everything together. Starting with the words, the dark black fabrics around them, included a small colorful border and then more black border. I will say it was a little tricky to square it up!

This little ‘Yorkie’ quilt is one of many samples started whilst demoing in the classes I teach. Having more time now I want to work on these. Once the collage was finished it was time to choose the background. I put these photos on my new Facebook group Fabric Collage School asking for opinions and although I love the busy background on the left I settled with the more restful blue one on the right. Its so fun to get peoples ideas and opinions while you are still working on something!

Dirty Machine Jane Haworth

Time to clean this machine!

After spending a month making masks, and sewing everyday I finally decided it was time to clean out my sewing machine. I have a Juki 2010Q which is a straight stitch semi-industrial machine and I love it. Its a workhorse. Everyday I oil my machine and clean out around the bobbin but it has this little hatch underneath that was last cleaned out around Christmas. I think it was time!

Now its time to get back to sewing, video taping my work in progress for my online class and entering my quilts into World of Beauty. Although sadly we won’t be holding our retreat I do want to devote some time to fabric play and mark-making and come up with some great samples for next time. Out of interest is anyone up for some kind of virtual Artistic Alchemy event?

 

What Day Is It??

by Sandra Bruce

I know those of you who are planning to come to Zephyr to our retreat in September are anxious to know the scoop. May I assure you, we are as well, and are in close communication with Zephyr on plans going forward. They plan to open in June. They are having a board meeting in the last week of May at which time they will be making decisions, and have promised to get back to us regarding any impacts that these decisions will have on us. We really want the retreat to happen, in a safe and relaxed atmosphere. So, please stay tuned and we will let you know as soon as we hear anything. Fingers crossed all goes well and the virus has hit its peak.

When it is my turn to post here the first thing I always do is to go to my photos, which is a good indicator of what I’ve been doing. This morning I did so…and what you will see here is a pretty good representation of my last few weeks. Every morning I wake up and say…”What day is it”? If I had to sum up my time since my last post it would be: making masks, cooking/baking, sewing anything I can think of to make that I have supplies for, spouse having open heart surgery (yes you read that right), making grocery lists, being a nurse, and visiting with son at a safe distance.

This shot from our May calendar says it all. Cancelled quilt show, Gary having surgery. It was quite discombobulating to drive him an hour to a hospital in Sacramento to drop him off, and not see him again until a week later when I went to pick him up. That week I was home alone I was a force to be reckoned with…cleaning out drawers, sewing several garments, making masks, baking bread….anything to keep busy until I fell into bed at night. I got so much support from friends, using Zoom and of course talking on the phone. Thankfully he is home now and doing great, although he has a long recuperation ahead. But what better time to do that? I have gotten so much pleasure from preparing meals and checking on him to make him comfortable.

My town, Grass Valley, is just starting to open up. I’ve been doing a bit of long arming , since I work alone, but my longarm is getting a new motor next week after stumbling along for some time. Dixie will be all tuned up and ready to go, and I’ll be able to get back to that work next week. It’s definitely been strange being downtown (where my long arm studio is) with such an absence of cars and people.

I’ve been trying to get outdoors with spring here. I took a safe walk with a friend and her horse Wendell, and saw so many flowers and green leaves appearing on trees. Wendell was most interested in the snack I packed to eat on the way.

In my mask making I have tried different patterns and materials…I’ve made lots. My son has been my guinea pig in trying different patterns. He works in a grocery store so needs a mask that is comfortable for hours. I dug out some fun fabrics for him ( took this with my close up lens).

He’s only allowed at the door of the garage and at a safe distance. I wish I could hug him but it’ll have to wait. He’s buying our groceries for us and dropping them off. I noticed in my photo library I had so many grocery lists! I message the lists to him. We’ve had some good talks in front of our house, making the best of the situation.

I also noticed a lot of recipes in my photo library. I’ve sent a few to friends. Here’s one of my favorites for you 😉

I think in my last post  I said I would show you the small quilt of giant lily pads I made from a photo I took in Philadelphia last Fall. I did use my Matrix technique and painted on top of the fabric after piecing. Now that it’s done, I’m not enthralled with it, it definitely has problems, but I learned a lot and it was enjoyable.

I  also made a quilt from a pattern one of my longarm customers had brought me that I was so attracted to. It was a good project as it didn’t require lots of thinking and it was fun picking out fabrics for each bird, and making those cute goofy legs.

Speaking of birds……….I’ll sign off this post with a photo of one of my recent pastimes, watching the birds at my feeder on the deck. We have to appreciate the little things these days, and this is one I enjoy so much. Binoculars help.

Thanks everyone, for reading our posts and keeping up with Artistic Alchemy. We will be in touch!!!! Take care, be safe, and happy sewing.

In These Times We Create

by Sandra Bruce

Our Zephyr Retreat in September feels so far away right now. We are all wondering how to fill our time at home, and what is in the future with the Corovirus upon us. It feels so surreal. Jane, Heidi and I had a group meeting, each of us in our homes, instead of physically together as we usually are. It was heartening to talk and compare our lives at the moment. We want you to know we are still frequently in touch with Zephyr, and we are thinking how good it’s going to be to be together with other like-minded sewers in September. If you are unfamiliar with Zephyr Cove, they have a super website with pictures of the breathtaking views that you might want to check out. 

zephyr presbyterian conference center

And…what better time to have something to look forward to than to sign up for our retreat!! Consider it a “placeholder”.

So…I’m going to start my post with a beautiful photograph taken by my son, Matteo Pierazzi. It captures my feelings lately. Dark clouds, yes, but the sun peeking through.As is typical around here spring has been full of this……and this.

Like so many people I know, since being homebound I’ve been doing a lot of sewing. I’m making masks for my local hospital, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. They put out a call on their website for masks and provided a video and explanation of what they wanted. I dug up enough elastic to make about 10. Then I switched to ones with ties.I’m using my  bias tape makers for the ties, they really help. In case you are unfamiliar, and are making masks (or not) here’s what they look like.They come in several sizes and I love them. You put a strip of fabric in on the ironing board, pull the strip through the tape maker pressing as it appears, and it comes out folded perfectly on 2 sides. To make the ties I fold the strip again and press, and have ties.

I completed my “Yayoi 2” quilt and it has gone to its new owner in Houston. It was satisfying to make another one of these images, and have the freedom to change little things that I wasn’t too thrilled with in the first quilt. I’m happier with the 2nd one.

Before my plans for March and April went haywire I made a big bunch of polymer clay earrings and buttons to take to a retreat I was going to, that was cancelled. But now I’l have a nice batch to be ready with when my teaching and lecturing gets back into motion. I really enjoy matching colors and making color “families”.

My son tells me I really need to get these onto my website for sale. Maybe now is a good time to investigate how to make that happen.

I was gifted a few large bags of batiks. The minute I got them home I grouped them by color. This made me want to make something with them, so I quickly made a version of my quilt “Color Dance”. But without the border. I’m looking forward to quilting it, and it will make a super sample when I’m teaching and selling the pattern.This is a section.

Having time in my studio has been really wonderful and cathartic. I’ve been wanting to experiment more with painting on fabric. In the workshop with Susan Brubaker Knapp we painted on white cotton. I wondered, what would it be like to paint onto printed fabric, or even a Matrix quilt? This piece is made of just blue squares put together, no piecing inside squares. The reference photo:

How is it to paint on top of color, and seams? It’s tricky, for sure.The fabric pokes through a bit.  

Do you know about Bo-Nash powder? I used it to adhere the top of my piece to the batting and back. For a small project it works great, and does not clog up the needle at all. Much easier than a spray. I’m just now starting to quilt this on my Bernina. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I started another one, this time from a photo I took in the Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia. I am fascinated by these giant lily pads. Some of them were 6-7 feet across.

The pads look prehistoric to me. I wanted to mix the piecing and paint more than in the pelican piece. Here it is before paint.

With paint but before quilting. Quilting will be critical to its success.

I am learning a lot about the paint, ProFab.

When I teach I always tell my students about my Strip Sticks. Here’s a shot of my lilies on the ironing board having seams open up…the Strip Stick makes it easier.

When I have a busy teaching/lecturing schedule I rarely have time for those home chores that happen on occasion, like pantry cleaning. My pantry got a thorough cleaning last week and it felt great to have my spices back in alphabetical order again (this is the result of living with a Virgo for 37 years). While cleaning it I came across a bottle of champagne, at least 30 years old, that had a label that I designed in my life as a commercial illustrator. The champagne had gone bad long ago, but I could never bring myself to throw it out. What I have decided to do with these old sentimental things is to take a picture of it, and then get rid of it. So that’s what I did. When I uncorked it I laughed as it gave out a little “pfffft” and that was it. More room in the pantry and in my life.

I hope everyone reading this post stays healthy and is able to channel some creativity from this crazy time we’re living in. Keep sewing/gardening/dancing/singing or whatever makes you happy.  Till next time.

 

Announcing our 7th Annual Artistic Alchemy Retreat – September 7th-11th, 2020

Welcome everyone to our 2020 line up of workshops and Open Studio!

We accidentally hit the “PUBLISH” button the other night before everything was perfectly in place. So, here’s a chance to view the IMPROVED version. And we’re here to answer questions.

Please note that the date seems later, but it’s just the way the calendar worked out this year. Arrive on Monday (Labor Day), the 7th and return home late morning of Friday, the 11th.

Mary Boalt will not be with us for 2020 because of personal family obligations. We have REALLY enjoyed working with Mary and she will be greatly missed.

Another change this year for 2020 is that we are planning on having Open Studio in its own room. We want you to enjoy working at your own pace, staying up all night (if you want); bring all your UFO’s, and enjoy being with other Open Studio attendees. Be inspired by the nightly programs, the scenery,and the new friends you will make. To enable this “private space” to happen we will need a good showing of attendees. So sign up early! Open studio prices are listed on the registration form and the prices include your sleeping room and your working space, etc.

As you check out the workshops, please read all the way through each one. All the workshops have sewing skill parameters and we want you to be aware of each teacher’s needs for the BEST possible experience for YOU! If you have any questions, email that teacher before you sign up. We’ll get back to you asap.

Thank you for stopping by. Start by perusing the updated 2020 drop down Menu Bar. We hope to see YOU at our Artistic Alchemy Retreat this year.

All the best from Sandra, Heidi and Jane.

A New Year, a New Decade

by Sandra Bruce

I wrote my first check today including the new year, 2020, and did it ever feel strange to write that number. Years ago I certainly did not accurately envision what this time would look like. Do you have the same feeling?

I don’t really believe in making New Year’s resolutions. However, a new beginning in January of each year does give one a mental frame of mind to consider ways to be happy and fulfilled, and a better person in the coming year. I’m going to try to let the little things that bug me evaporate into thin air. It’s those little annoyances that add up, and I’m determined to let some go.

Before I get any further into my post….very soon in February we will be launching the announcements and registration form for the Artistic Alchemy Retreat for 2020, set for September 7-11. Many people have expressed interest in my Matrix workshop, so if you are interested get your deposit in the mail pronto after the reg form is available to secure your spot.

In case you are unaware, you can find me on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/sbruce/1955/

…and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/sandra-bruce-creative/

It’s January 2nd as I write.  In my last post in November I was about to go to my last teaching gig of the year in Toronto. Since returning, and after finishing the end of my customer quilt queue, I have enjoyed a lot of quiet time at home. Having arrived to the middle of my 6th decade I have come to really appreciate and savor my quiet alone time. As a matter of fact, the last few months have been for me creatively quiet. At least where my Matrix pieces are concerned. I believe it is positive to have a once-in-a-while period of just absorbing everything visual, along with mental contemplation, which always leads to ideas. This works for me and always something new comes spilling out.

Toronto was a wonderful experience. The guild was appreciative, eager to learn, and having 2 gentlemen in my workshop was a treat!

I spent a whole day in AGO, the Art Gallery of Ontario. 

Although it was only the middle of November Toronto was in full-blown Christmas mode. When I left Grass Valley it was warm and dry, with threats of power cut-offs…and in Toronto it was 14 degrees when I arrived, and Christmas was everywhere. Segue!

My friends Rejeanne and her husband Gene, who came down from Sault St. Marie, spent a day showing me around Toronto. They have come to the Artistic Alchemy Zephyr Retreat 3 times which is how I met them, and it was so fun to be on their turf for a change. Rejeanne joined the guild in Toronto so that she could take both workshops I taught, and she brought her Matrix quilt “Gene” for show and tell. That way the new Matrix students could see what is possible from taking my workshop. Here is a charming photo Rejeanne sent me of herself with her quilt “Gene”.

For walking all day in Toronto we needed comfortable shoes, overcoats, and umbrellas.

Back home I jumped into winter and the holidays. As part of my creative “break” I pulled out a UFO from several years ago and finished it, a one block wonder quilt made from a kooky vintage-looking Alexander Henry Christmas fabric. It went right onto the back of the couch and I snuggled in it all of December.
One of the things I love about my longarm work is being able to help people make quilts with very special significance. Here is one example: my customer (and friend) has 3 sons-in-law who lost their dad years ago. This dad was known for his Hawaiian shirt collection. 3 quilt tops were made, each one different, out of the shirts. The theme of each quilt corresponded to the son and his interests. The 3rd one I completed in December just in time for it to be mailed back to Nebraska to be bound and finished. It was a pattern of shelves of books, and I had such enjoyment quilting it.The boys received their quilts on Christmas Day.  Here it is on the longarm:

A special message was “written” into the quilting on the spine of 2 of the books. The back was almost as fun to look at as the front:

It’s projects like this that make my longarm work so rewarding.

In addition to the above I have been working on a customer’s hand-appliqued quilt. I haven’t hand-appliqued in many years but when she brought this quilt to me to longarm I knew hand-quilting would be the best solution and she agreed to let me go for it. I’ve had many happy hours working that rocking motion of the needle and trying to make the smallest stitches I can. Many episodes of “Father Brown” got me through those hours.

So…………..What’s next?  I am headed in one week to Israel. I’ll be blogging about it my next turn, and posting in the meantime on IG and FB. I’m so excited to visit this foreign land so full of history, art and culture. I’m beginning a commission Matrix piece, a reproduction of “Yayoi” for a client in Houston. Speaking of Houston, I’ve applied to teach there this fall, hopefully they will accept me, I’ll know mid-February.  I look forward to a year filled with quilts, quilting, travel and joy in daily rituals.

Till then Happy 2020!

Wrap Up 2019

by Sandra Bruce

Although it’s only the beginning of November, this will be my last post until January…the remaining posts of 2019 will be from my Artistic Alchemy cohorts. For the last couple of years my last post of the year has been a look back, and I like doing that as a reminder to myself of all the things I have experienced and enjoyed during the year. I feel  lucky to have such a varied and full life, and I acknowledge my Artistic Alchemy “sisters” for helping make it so. I went back into my photo library and challenged myself to pick one photo from each month to showcase. Here goes!

Traveling always affords the opportunity to go to museums and galleries. I had occasion in January to go to San Francisco’s MOMA, which I had not been to since its expansion. Definitely I would never miss a chance to see works by Chuck Close. They are always much more impactful in person, no matter how many times I have seen them. Here is his portrait of artist Roy Lichtenstein.

 

 

In February I made up a new lecture for my quilt guild, the Pine Tree Quilt Guild, about what it is like being a longarm quilter, what we do, and why we ask our customers for certain requirements when you bring us a quilt. In my presentation I included photos of myself doing a quilt…start to finish. This photo shows how we even have to get down on the floor with a flashlight sometimes to see what’s happening on the back. Because of a snowstorm, the meeting I was supposed to show this presentation in was cancelled, but I was able to do it in October.

 

In March I attended Empty Spools for the first time and took a workshop from Susan Brubaker Knapp on painting on fabric. My palette is below…it had been such a long time since I had used one, and it brought me joy.

 

In April I went to the SAQA conference in San Jose, CA, an enriching experience and a highlight of my year. While there I saw Vivika Negre, the editor of Quilting Arts Magazine, who was giving out little packets of fabric pieces with a needle and thread. Her instructions were to make something from the ingredients in the bag. Having withdrawals anticipating several days without a sewing project this was just the antidote for me! I keep the piece I made on my nightstand (approx. 3″ by 3″), it’s a reminder of my time there which I enjoyed so much.

May was the month I finished up my quilt “Yayoi”. It’s always interesting to look at the back of a quilt top.  You can see where I cut out the circles.

Traveling has been a feature of the last half of my year. Combined with a teaching trip to Sammammish, WA in June I visited friends in Seattle, Gig Harbor and Auburn, WA. In Seattle I experienced staying in an apartment on the 42nd floor of a high-rise downtown, gulp! Seattle is such a lively town to discover.

I continue to enjoy my longarm quilting business. Especially when I have a customer with a great quilt who says “do whatever you’d like to do”. Here’s a Tula Pink quilt made by one of my favorite customers, where I quilted a design in the center to complement the overall design.

August found me in St. Louis teaching to a very enthusiastic guild there. I taught Matrix as well as Stitching Words, my newest, which is becoming a popular workshop. I have students try different word groupings, including the blast-from-the-past line, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog”. The applications for “writing” with a sewing machine are endless. Good job, Deb!

September is always Zephyr month with Artistic Alchemy. It was our 7th year there and it gets better every year. We always do a group shot at the end where we try to round up everybody, and always we do a silly shot, as you can see.

Hitting the road again in October, or rather, cruising the skies, I went to Philadelphia and Fairfax, VA to teach for about a week. There were so many museums and sites I went to, I could do a whole post on them. But I picked out my favorite photo from that trip, a shot taken at the Longwood Gardens outside Philadelphia. These lily pads were mesmerizing…I am thinking of a quilt design using my photos….

Which brings me to November…which we are just into.  After 29 years spent in my studio, where I have lived most of that time (aside from sleeping), I had new carpet put in. Which meant cleaning it out, moving very large pieces of furniture (flat files, desks, wall units for fabric, etc) and then back in. It was such a task but now that it’s done I am so happy to have a fresh look and a tidy workspace. Ta-da!!

Next week I head to Toronto for my first international teaching gig. I’m so looking forward to it and am excited to discover a new city that I’ve not been to before. I’ve made a list of several museums to check out, with 2 free days I’ll be doing a lot of walking!

My next post will be early January right before I travel to Israel to teach in 4 cities there. Until then, enjoy the rest of 2019 and I hope you have loads of creative time, being with those you love, and fun too. Artistic Alchemy will be prepping for our announcement for the  September 2020 retreat, be looking for it in February.

The Artistic Alchemy 2019 Retreat in Photos

by Sandra Bruce

Today I am simply going to let the photos I have of our retreat tell the story of some of the fun, creativeness, and learning that occurred in our 2019 Retreat at Zephyr Point. We 4, Jane, Heidi, Mary and myself thank all the participants for giving us yet another successful year! Following are photos of teachers, students, Open Studio ladies, Show and Tell, and some of the fantastic work that was created.

We look forward to 2020!




And last but not least, our annual group shot….the serious one, and my favorite, the silly one!