The Summer Indigo “Blues”

By Sandra Bruce

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

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

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

Maury and Maxine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a couple of my favorites…

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

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

Happy Friday

by Sandra Bruce

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

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

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

“Josaphine”, by France Courteau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rainy/Snowy Days

by Sandra Bruce

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

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

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

https://coursecraft.net/courses/z93eK

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

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

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

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

Here’s the back:

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

And the back:

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

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

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

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

Bye for now!

Announcing Our 2021 Retreat!

by Sandra Bruce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.