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!

Kicking Off 2021 with Creativity

This is Jane. Happy New Year. 2021 is finally here, yeah!

Hoping everyone is well and staying healthy. Going forward we will need patience as we keep wearing our masks while waiting for the vaccine program to roll out and hopefully politics will take a backseat in our lives.

The start of a New Year

Leading into 2021 we have been in contact with Zephyr Point Conference Center and are planning our retreat, September 6-10th 2021. Finally here’s an event we can anticipate and get excited about after so much time sheltering at home. We should be able to gather, maybe still wearing our masks but share this beautiful and creative environment. As usual our retreat information and reservation forms will come out at the beginning of February. So be looking for that. We are all excited to make our announcement for the September retreat.

Playtime using my new Gelli plate

Christmas time rolls around and my family asks me “What would you like for Christmas?” I really don’t need anything but usually I will buy items that can be gifted to me! This year these included a knitted beanie, quilting books, and some art supplies. I was caught by surprise as my son James bought me a Gelli plate and two brayers for printing. The Gelli plate by Gel Press is the biggest one I have seen! Its 12″ x 14″

Getting to play with my new Gel Plate

After watching a few Youtube videos, I went outside gathered some leaves and weeds from my garden, organized my supplies and started printing. I used acrylic and fabric paints I already had. Tip: I did buy expensive Golden fluid acrylics but found they worked no differently than less expensive craft paints. I tore up some white muslin into 13″ x 15″ pieces, which I sprayed with Terial Magic to stiffen them. I also gathered some sketchbook paper and covered my table with newsprint in preparation.

With my daughter Lucy to help and all the supplies around, we ended up making about 10 panels of fabric and about the same on paper. Many of the prints have three layers using three different colors and a variety of leaf shapes. Some layers were made using the the paint off the plate and others came off the ghost print that was under the leaves after the initial print.

The question I ask myself and I am sure my family does too, is what will I do with them? They are all unique, some more successful than others but beautiful and unexpected art. I have a few favorites and some of these are on paper. I plan to copy these using my inkjet printer onto fabric sheets.

My workshop for the 2021 retreat will again be a combo class of mark-making and collage. So if you wish to play with fabrics, papers, printing supplies and paint then this could be the workshop for you. As I think about using these panels I could cut and piece them together for a great background for my collage.

Starting some fabric collage using succulent imagery

The two books I “bought myself” for Christmas were The Painted Quilt by Laura and Linda Kemshall and Botanicals by Uppercase. I have also been watching videos on DesignmattersTV which is fun and relaxing, inspiring all things surface design and quilting.

Using my new iPhone to take a picture as I work

This year some of my goals include finishing some of the collage quilts I have made but not quilted or finished. Above I am working on finishing one such quilt which I need for an online class next week. I am teaching my class Little Frank Fabric Collage for Craft Napa Uncorked. Other goals include using my stash of fabric, drawing and painting in my sketchbook, being more experimental in my work and writing another online, on-demand workshop on Coursecraft. Check out more of my work and patterns etc I have for sale on my website

Another new product I have been using is called Applipops These are a variety of different sized metal rings, that you use in pairs, to make simple pressed circles of fabric. I have been using them in the hand stitched Japanese Rice Pouches I’ve been stitching. The pattern I use for the above bag is from KZStevens and is very simple to make. I’m on my sixth one! My current hand stitch, meditative stitching project is this floral panel that I stitch in the evening whilst watching Hinterland on Netflix. This panel will be number seven Rice Pouch!

Work in Progress hand stitched, embroidery panel

So now you know what I have been up to in 2021 and I hope you too have been inspired and creative. So lets get through these crazy times by staying busy and staying home. As Heid says try to get in 15 minutes a day of creativity.

Until next time, Jane

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. 🙂

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.

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!

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 🙂

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.