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 ūüėČ

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!

Yayoi, and Other News

 

by Sandra Bruce

Before I delve into my post, I want to send out a “Get Well” message to Heidi who is at home recuperating from a burst appendix. She is healing nicely and I’m sure she is storing up ideas in her head for projects to come! Sending you lots of love and well wishes, Heidi!

Our Zephyr Retreat is only about a month away we still have details to prepare, it’s sure to be a fantastic time. Heidi and Jane still have space left in their workshops, it’s not too late, if you hurry!

The main topic of my post today is my latest Matrix quilt, entitled “Yayoi”. But first a few words/pictures about my recent goings-on and travels.

I went to teach in Sammamish, WA recently and took the opportunity to visit my 3 (!) friends in that area, Kathy, Kathy and Cathy. I have tried to get all 3 together but have not been successful, yet. They are 3 of my favorite people. First I taught my Matrix class and did my lecture for the quilters in Sammamish, here is Trish in my Matrix class who was my hostess extraordinaire.

They were a great group and accomplished a good amount on their Matrix cup projects. Cathy #1 picked me up and off we went to Gig Harbor. From there a visit to Vashon Island and Island Quilters, woo hoo! Below, the “Kaffe corner”.

Moving on, to Kathy #2, my CODA buddy (Children of Deaf Adults), our outing to ¬† remember was to “Quilt Barn” in Puyallup (which I can never pronounce), and the cupcake store a few doors down. Batiks and cupcakes, talk about heaven!
Kathy #3 lives in downtown Seattle on the 33rd floor of a building with a view! Wowie! One day we walked over 5 miles. We caught the first day of a fabulous exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum called “Victorian Radicals”, representing the Pre-Raphaelite period of 19th century British art. By far Rossetti is my favorite artist of that period, but in this exhibit my favorite painting was by William Holman Hunt, entitled “The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple”, from 1854. The artists from this period rejected traditional pictorial standards, making them true radicals. In this painting by Hunt, he chose not to follow established conventions but to depict Jesus’s life in a historical context, as a boy: Mary and Joseph have discovered the young Jesus missing but find him in deep conversation with rabbis in the temple. You can see relief in Mary’s face, and I love the beautiful depiction of the young Jesus, the colors! Look at the detail in the background. A really lovely painting. (I suddenly wonder if I’m sounding like Sister Wendy ūüôā

It is something else to be on the 33rd floor of a building in Seattle. After our long excursion on foot we relaxed on the tip-top of her building with this view.Tired feet, yes.

In the evening we saw some of the sculpture that dots Seattle. This is my favorite, which consists of letterforms from 7 alphabets in painted steel, which, while not meant to be read, are constructed to create identity and hope that we “can all live together without a common language”. It is titled “Mirall”, by Jaume Plensa. “Mirall” is the Catalan word for mirror. Here is Kathy inside a part of the piece.

Back in California, I did my lecture and taught my “Stitching Words” workshop to the Santa Clara Guild. In my workshop was Mel Beach….she is a natural at writing with her sewing machine! Here’s her work, you can see her enthusiasm. ¬†¬†

I had  lunch and a brief tour of San Juan Bautista while in San Jose. Below a photo from the restaurant where I had lunch with my very kind host Andrea.

On to YAYOI!

So, if you don’t know who she is, here is an excerpt from a film about her that I’m sure you would enjoy:

She is, without a doubt, ¬†a driving force of art culture in our time. She is at present, at age 90, the highest paid female artist living today. I won’t go into a lot of detail about her, watch the movie! You may have seen pictures of her and her art. Her thing is polka-dots. She began to see them in hallucianations as a child and they have greatly influenced her art. She has lived for 40 years in a mental institution, using her art to apply herself to her healing. Every day she walks to her studio to work.

I was invited by Susan Brubaker Knapp and Lyric Kinnard to participate in an exhibit called “A Better World”. We were asked to pick a hero and make an art quilt to reflect that person in our own interpretation. I chose Kusama. Her life story, the challenges she has had to overcome, her incredible talent and drive to make art… these all combined to make her my choice of hero.

I began by making a collage in Adobe Illustrator of pieces of Kusama’s face and inventing a background that resembles the art forms that she makes. She works in bright colors and forms. The quilt had to be 30″ by 50″. I decided to make a border on 2 sides pieced with the letters of her name and fun spiky points. And lots of circles inside. You know how I love circles!

In progress.

When I got the top done and all the circles appliquéd on (by hand) I needed to cut away the quilt parts behind the circles so that I would have a nice flat surface to quilt.

The dots on her sunglasses were drawn on with a pencil, then painted in with “Fabrico” pens (using circle templates saved from my illustration days), and her eye, that is barely showing through the sunglasses was painted on using “ProFab” textile paint. I had just taken a workshop at Empty Spools from Susan Brubaker Knapp on how to use these paints, so it was perfect timing. Painting on top of a quilt that I had spent a couple of months working on was a bit scary but all went well. Relief!

Next came the longarm quilting. I used Superior’s Monopoly on her sunglasses but Omni thread everywhere else. Lots of thread changes.

Since her hair is so straight and vertical I decided to baste the hair and do that final quilting at home on my Bernina.

Here’s the final piece, along with a closeup of the eye I painted.

The schedule of where the “Better World” exhibit will be is on my website, http://www.sandrabruce.com, under “Publicity/News”. It will begin in Houston this Fall. Look out for “Yayoi” to be in Quilting Arts Magazine in the October/November issue.

What’s next in my lineup of creativity? I’m taking advantage of summertime to work on learning my new iPad and how to use the application “Procreate”, along with a bit of lazy time reading (don’t get that very often!) and working on a few projects that always end up on a back burner. Of course I’m prepping for the Zephyr workshop and I’ll be flying to St. Louis towards the end of August to teach Matrix and Stitching Words to the “Bits and Pieces” Guild there.

Happy Summer to you all, here’s wishing you a safe season weather-wise, and lots of sewing time.