Sand and Sea Art Quiltlet

For the past several weeks, I’ve been working on two little sewn things. I think you could call them art quilts. They are quilted, and not from a pattern, and use various techniques. I shared in-progress photos on Instagram and kept thinking I’d do that here, too, but instead here I am with a couple of finished things–the first in this post, and the second in an upcoming post of its own. Before I made these I’d never made a quilt, even a tiny coaster-sized one, so I tackled many New Things while making these. I can’t wait to make more.

sand and sea art quiltlet at

I began making this sand- and sea-inspired image because I miss the ocean like it’s oxygen. There is nothing near here, absolutely nothing, that can compare to the Atlantic coast beaches of the town I left behind. I miss our local salt pond, chock full of critters we loved to respectfully observe. More than once, we have followed behind a horseshoe crab until it buried itself in the sand. I set out to sew an ocean.

sand detail (fabric) at

This portion of “sand” was created using Jan Mullen’s “stack, slice, switch” method (my inspiration books are listed at the end of this post). I gathered fabric scraps in sand colors–and remember, sand is a combination of so many components–and mixed and matched until I had a cobble that abstractedly reminded me of sand.

horseshoe crab detail at

This segment of “sand” is one block of linen printed in the center with my horseshoe crab linocut. Top and bottom is a bubble wrap print. For the bottom half of the quiltlet, I joined pieces of blue scraps cut on a slant. For this first attempt, I quilted more or less using straight lines and gentle curves, with the feed dogs up. Here’s a view of the back.

back view of small art quilt at

It’s not perfect! And I added the embroidery around the horseshoe crab after quilting, as you can see. This was my first time binding a quiltish thing, too, and check out these mitered corners!

mitered binding corners at

The finished piece is about 13.5 by 19 inches, and I need to decide how to hang it, and where. The second quiltlet is also of something I miss from Rhode Island, and you’ll see in the next post that I tried new things with that one, too.

Books I used for technique and/or inspiration for both quiltlets:

Reverse Appliqué With No Brakez by Jan Mullen
Art Quilts at Play by Jane Davilá and Elin Waterston
Fresh Quilting by Malka Dubrawsky
Stitch Draw by Rosie James

Field Trip: Baltimore Museum of Art

Living in Annapolis, we are close to both Washington, DC, and Baltimore, which is pretty cool. Turns out Baltimore has a really nice art museum–and admission is free, everyday, for everybody, always. This should be shouted out and celebrated from rooftops because it is amazing. Providence’s art museum, RISD, was free on Sundays, which is great. Boston’s MFA has open houses twice a year, but otherwise, it cost nearly $100 for us all to go. Yesterday we paid $7 to park in the BMA’s lot. (I also contributed to the donation box on our way out.) I feel about museum art collections the way I feel about beaches–they shouldn’t be private, gated off, accessible only to a privileged few. (I can’t remember if I’ve ranted about private beaches in this space; I don’t think so. I despise the practice of “owning” access to the shoreline.) Art is part of our shared humanity. All the praise to the BMA for managing their budget in a way that prioritizes free admittance to all.

The drive to Baltimore was quicker and easier than I anticipated, even factoring in some Orioles traffic. We drove right by both stadiums (football and baseball) on our way. I had a couple areas I wanted to make sure we visited–the Crazy Quilt Exhibition and the Matisse collection. The Cone Collection was fabulous. The 20th Century American gallery included three O’Keeffes, among other little jewels, such as this Joseph Cornell box.

Cornell box from BMA at

Joseph Cornell box at BMA

We learned so much about Joseph Cornell while preparing Art Together Issue 4, but I’d never seen a box in person before, so that was really special. And over in the Modern Art collection, they have a small, perfect Mondrian, only the second time I’ve gotten to see any in person (the other was at the Yale art museum last fall). I just stood there and grinned at it like some crazy person.

I’ll leave you with some photos from the crazy quilt exhibition. The handwork was stunning; the time commitment and dedication truly impressive.

crazy quilt detail from BMA at

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail from BMA at

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail at BMA from

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

I hope we’ll get back there often. It’s good to have an art museum close by.

July Reading List

July looked a lot like this.

July looked a lot like this.

July was for reading–sixteen books on this month’s list. It contains some fluff, but it’s got balance to it overall. As always, books I particularly enjoyed are marked by an asterisk. In the order I read them, here they are:

All the Single Ladies, by Dorothea Benton Frank
Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation, by Ann Marie Thomas *
Flora, by Gail Godwin
The Matchmaker, by Elin Hilderbrand
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee * (re-read)
Death Comes For the Archbishop, by Willa Cather *
Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri *
Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner
Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger * (re-read)
Judge This, by Chip Kidd
The Wednesday Group, by Sylvia True
The Daughter, by Jane Shemilt *
The Shell Collector, by Anothony Doerr
The Listener, by Rachel Basch *
Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older *

I’ve also been inspired by some maker-type books, too. I’m going to try to get back to more regular posting in August, because I’ve been experimenting here and there, in between the reading and general stew-pot weather-induced lethargy. However, this computer is also lethargic (it’s the oldest laptop in the house) and I don’t always have the patience for it. So we’ll see how it goes!

More Changes

lilies at

These are growing in our yard, which is one way you know we don’t actually own the property. (I’m a terrible gardener!)

I’ve been quiet here. Turns out big changes can be a little overwhelming and make you want to sit on the deck reading more than anything else–in between realizing it’s pretty easy to get to Washington, DC; learning your way around without using GPS; and registering all your kids for school. Right, so that’s the first of the “more changes” referenced above. For the first time ever, all three of my kids will be starting out in school this year. For various reasons, we’ve decided it’s time to give that a try. If you know me at all, you know we are proceeding with research and support and, as always, the willingness to try something else if the first thing isn’t working. Also, if you know me at all, you know that I am not unaffected by this sort of change. It’s a big one.

cone flowers at

Many of my neighbors have gorgeous flower gardens. I enjoy them very much.

The second change is that I’ve decided to stop producing new issues of Art Together at this time, although the six existing issues will still remain available for download. I don’t like to rule things out forever, so maybe I’ll pick it back up at some point in the future. But I doubt that, because it’s simply not financially sustainable. While I do enjoy researching it and putting it together, it’s a huge time commitment. I suspect I’m not all that great at marketing–but I have tried, without much success. This makes me sad for those who enjoy it so much, and have let me known, because I enjoy spreading my art-love in this way. I’m not sure what I’ll do, especially with all those school hours coming my way. I’m not deciding yet. The first half of this year was, in cumulative, quite stressful, even as I attended to self-care to keep that stress under control. So much unknowing for so long, along with huge changes, and adjusting to someplace new–I would like to just process for a bit. Sit on my deck and read. Go for runs in a new city. Share things that are interesting, when I get around to turning on the computer, but hopefully, too, become part of the community right here where I live. And just see what comes next.

Settling In

magnolia at

Magnolia tree in our yard. We’re not in Rhode Island anymore.

June was a very exhausting and yes, stressful month. Part of me wishes I’d had time to update here, but there’s no way. I was posting to Instagram throughout the month, but then my cell phone up and died mid delivery of all our household goods, if you can believe it. Let me try to catch you up a bit.

After all the doctor’s appointments and end-of-school stuff, the kids, cat, and I got into the car last Monday for the drive down to our new home. My husband stayed behind for the pack-out and to close on our house (I’d signed a power of attorney so that we didn’t both have to knock around with the kids and cat). The drive was fairly easy, even through New York City. The cat never made a peep; he mostly dozed. The kids did great with minimal rest stops (only two! and none in New Jersey, thank goodness; the turnpike bathrooms are disgusting) in order to keep the cat’s time in his carrier as short as possible. I’m actually still amazed at how well our very old cat handled the long car ride and a new house.

The hardest part of the drive for me was the Bay Bridge. It’s very long, high, and narrow, with no shoulders. Middle child informed me I was both panting and whimpering. Mind you, though I’m not a fan of bridges, I drove just fine over the many and various bridges between Rhode Island and Annapolis. That one, though. Ugh.

We had to wait a couple of days for our household goods to arrive on Wednesday morning. In the meantime, the kids slept on the floor in sleeping bags and I used the one mattress in the house. The first thing we did Tuesday was get ourselves library cards. After that we went to Target and Whole Foods. All of these places are within about ten minutes of our house, but it took me about three hours to do those three errands. It’s exhausting, not knowing where anything is. It’s just so darn hard to get anything done.

Closing wasn’t until Thursday, so I also got to handle delivery of all our household goods by myself on Wednesday. It was a little overwhelming. Even with all the decluttering I did, we have a lot of stuff. Nothing brings that home like watching a crew of guys bring your stuff in for five hours. The only time I came close to crying the whole week was when my phone quit working halfway through delivery. It had landed face down on pavement Monday evening when an exuberant middle child launched himself into me, cracking the screen, and I guess it took two days for it to fully give up the ghost. With my husband’s help I was actually able to find an old phone in a box and get switched over so I at least had GPS and texting and email capabilities (although, heaven help us, not all at the same time).

I’ve never moved like this before–that is, with someone other than myself packing the boxes. Unpacking is like a treasure hunt, because while boxes are labeled with rooms and generalities (some crew members being more specific than others), I don’t really know what’s in each box. In previous moves, I knew exactly what to unpack to get to what I wanted. I tackled the kitchen and bathrooms and kids’ rooms first. My art room still looks roughly like this:

art room in boxes at

The light through the window is going to be awesome, by the way. But I’m waiting for a floor covering before I unpack and set up, because I don’t want to ruin the hardwoods, obviously. I’m getting a bit tetchy without this room set up–I’m hoping it’ll be sorted by the end of the long weekend.

I have managed to get the living room looking like a living room, for the most part.

living room window.

And my husband showed up late last Thursday night, which was a relief. Despite some last-minute drama, the house was sold. (I won’t get into it here. Just, sometimes, both parties feel good coming out of a closing. And sometimes, one party feels a bit bludgeoned. We felt bludgeoned.)

We’re chipping away at unpacking and governmental details (both our cars have Maryland plates! which was no small task) and getting to know the area. The kids can just hop on their bikes and go; the neighborhood is wonderful, and full of kids. I’ve been finding some good running routes, including right over the Naval Academy Bridge. We’re meeting our new neighbors and getting settled. Soon, hopefully, this space will return to being about art adventures and creative endeavors. I can’t wait.

June Reading List

One of the first things the kids and I did in Maryland was get library cards.

One of the first things the kids and I did in Maryland was get library cards.

I’ll post about moving and settling in soon–June was such an exhausting month, it’s going to take me a while to recover. In the meantime, here’s June’s reading list. I actually managed to read, even when between libraries (that’s when I read the Hincapie book, which the kids and I gave to my husband last year–it definitely got me in the mood for le Tour!). As always, books with an asterisk are ones I especially enjoyed.

How to Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran *
The Memoir Project, by Marion Roach Smith
Van Gogh: A Power Seething, by Julian Bell
A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
The Art of Communicating, by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Loyal Lieutenant: My Story, by George Hincapie and Craig Hummer
Election, by Tom Perrotta *
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng *
The Wishbones, by Tom Perrotta


adventure talisman at

When I thought about 2015 last December, in terms of choosing a word to encapsulate the year ahead, I immediately thought Adventure. So much of how we experience life depends upon how we frame it. I knew this year would involve selling a house, packing it up, and moving out of state. Was I going to treat that as a trial to be slogged through? No. It’s an adventure. I made myself a word charm necklace as a reminder, and I’ve been wearing it a lot lately.

So much is going on this month that I’m struggling to even write about it. To say the schedule is hectic right now doesn’t even begin to describe my days and nights, or my husband’s. In the past two days I’ve napped in a waiting room once and the car (while various kids were in activities) twice. (Moms do what we have to do, you know?) But my overall feeling, along with excitement, is gratitude. My husband and I are handling all the various things coming our way as a team, and it’s good. We’re also reminding each other to do the things that keep us balanced–bike rides for him, runs for me. I’m grateful for running and the way it takes me out of my head and into my body. More than once I’ve been stressed about something related to selling this house (by far the most stressful part of this entire enterprise), and I left it on the road, coming back with my perspective restored. I am moving through these hectic days, not always with quiet and calm, but fairly capably and with huge amounts of positive attitude. This is a great adventure, and I’m excited to get down there.

Yesterday my kids and I all had ophthalmology appointments. These were originally scheduled for later in the month, after our move date, and they were able to reschedule on short notice and still get us all on the same day, although with two appointments in the morning and two in the afternoon. Since the office is 45 minutes from home, we packed a lunch and had a picnic in between, as well as updating my son’s glasses and going to the library and post office. It was a long day. We left the house at 8:15 and had been in the car but ten minutes when my middle child told my youngest, “There’s a spider directly above your head.”

Oldest child: “Wow, it’s huge, too.”

Youngest child: *Hysterical screams and cries.*

Me: “Thanks a lot, boys.”

You just have to laugh. They tracked that spider until it disappeared somewhere under my seat, while I maneuvered through rush-hour highway traffic, determined not to be distracted when I was notified it was right above you, Mama! It’s on your seatbelt! It’s legs are so spindly! Middle child felt it was a poisonous spider in disguise, which led Eldest child and I to muse on a spider in a trench coat and hat (and four pairs of sunglasses, as he pointed out). Adventure. Seriously, it’s everywhere, if you care to frame it as such, and I do.

May Reading List

This is how I'm trying to keep this move organized.

This is how I’m trying to keep this move organized.

Things are intensifying around here. June means the last three weeks of school, with its attendant events; my husband going back and forth between Maryland and Rhode Island while I stay with the kids up here; 18 doctors/dentist appointments for me and the kids between now and June 18; and the Monday after school ends, our house is getting packed out. The next day, I drive down to Maryland with the kids and the cat and wait for our household to be delivered. Our closing is supposed to be that week too, but that’s still not, um, finalized. (I hate real estate transactions oh yes I do.) The adults here have begun saying July like a mantra.

Well, onto the reading list. I’m amazed I’m reading anything, except I can’t fall asleep without it. I’m including two nonfiction I only read partially, and as always, anything I really liked is marked with asterisks.



Rocket Girl, by George D. Morgan
First Frost, by Sarah Addison Allen
A Small Indiscretion, by Jan Ellison
The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison–I read about 2/3 and then, frankly, tired of the author’s voice.
The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy **
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast **
We Were the Kennedys, by Monica Wood
Craftivism, ed. Betsy Greer–partial, flipped through and read what was interesting to me
A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit **

By the time I post another reading list, I’ll be doing it from Maryland!

How-To: Block-Printed “Hope” Flags

community hope flag activity.

My son wishes his school had a library. My daughter likes when everybody is friends. And I enjoy a community in which children and adults strive to be kind.

I’m helping organize the arts + crafts booth at the school fair this year*, and one of the projects is to contribute to a Community Hope Flag display. These are, of course, inspired by Tibetan Prayer Flags, which are hung in the elements until they disintegrate, releasing the prayer or hope. Fair visitors can depict a hope for themselves, their family, their school, town, or world and add it to the school’s display. Because prayer flags were traditionally block printed, we decided to use a method accessible to all ages and skill levels: scratch-foam printmaking.

Our fair isn’t until next weekend, but I thought I’d share the method and samples here now. I prepared both the flag blanks and the printing plates. The “flags” were made from donated sheets, which I washed, dried, ironed, and cut into 7″ x 9″ rectangles using my rotary cutter with a pinking blade, cutting mat, and a ruler. This made the cutting go fairly quickly. I then pressed a fold at one end to create a 7″ x 7″ square (or thereabouts) and ran a quick line of stitching to make a casing.

The printing plates are Styrofoam trays with the raised edge sliced off, then cut into quarters. Again, using a craft knife, metal ruler, and cutting mat made this go quickly. Other materials are pencils, sponge brushes, and liquid acrylic craft paint. Onto the method!

1. Think about what hope, dream, or wish you’d like to share, and how you can represent it with a simple image.

2. Using a pencil, draw the image onto the smooth side of a Styrofoam rectangle. You want to indent the Styrofoam, but not make holes in it. Your image will print in reverse, so keep that in mind while drawing. Words are probably too tricky at this point unless you are very good at mirror writing.

scratched image onto Styrofoam.

3. Paint a thin layer of acrylic paint onto your scratch-foam drawing. If it’s too gloppy, your image will get obscured when you print.

painted scratch-foam image.

4. Take a look at a blank hope flag. The casing (the folded over and sewn bit) is at the top, and the fold is towards the back. Lay the front of the flag over your painted foam and firmly smooth it to transfer the paint. Don’t wiggle it around or your image will smudge. Just firmly press. Then peel it off.

hope flag placed over printing plate.

pressing the image onto the flag.

finished foam-printed hope flag.

We plan to have permanent markers on hand so people can write any words if they wish (as my kids did in their samples in the top image). We will also have white t-shirts so that kids can make another print of their image on a shirt to take home; the plates can also be taken home and used again and again. It’s definitely hard for some kids to leave their artwork behind, even as part of a community display, so these other options are nice to have.

I think this is a great activity for a community big (like our school) or small (like a family). It’s nice to display hopes, wishes, and dreams, I think, and keep them in view.

*Yes, I’m doing this the same spring I’m moving a 5-person household six hours south. What can I say? Sometimes I’m illogical.

Field Trip: Hokusai


Hokusai is the featured artist in the printmaking issue of Art Together, and the kids and I really enjoyed learning about him, his life, and the times he lived in. So when I saw that the Boston Museum of Fine Arts was opening a Hokusai exhibit in April, of course I wanted to go. My husband wanted to come, too, and between his travel and weekend activities and trips to Maryland, it looked like Memorial Day Weekend would be our best chance to get there before we moved and Boston became out of easy reach. And when I got an email announcing that admission was free on Memorial Day itself, it was decided. We’d go to the MFA, and we’d say goodbye-for-now to Boston, a city we all love and will miss.

Our local commuter train doesn’t run on weekends or holidays, so we drove to the end of the red line, left the car, and took the T into the city. G loves taking the train, but the boys weren’t so thrilled once we switched to the green line and it was standing room only–they may have inherited a little bit of their mama’s claustrophobia. As we approached the MFA stop, we could see the line of people extending from the museum entrance, down the stairs, along the street, and around the corner. Whoa! But free admission is a bargain–it saved us $100.

line into the MFA.

Our view from the back of the line.

We ate some of our lunch while we waited, and the line moved quickly. The MFA has open houses regularly and I figured they’d be prepared and organized, and they were. It was a nice day, not raining, not too warm, and the lilacs smelled lovely. I don’t think we were in line more than a half hour.

Hokusai created more than 30,000 artworks in his lifetime, and it seemed, by the end of our time in the exhibit, that the MFA included most of them. I learned it was the first museum in the US to exhibit any of Hokusai’s works, in the late 1800s, and its collection is impressive. Ideally, we’d visit several times, focusing on one or two rooms at a time, because by the end, it was hard to absorb it all. Even the adults were tired. N explained it well when he said, towards the end, that he liked the art and was interested in it, but he was losing energy.

Hokusai quote.

One of my favorite quotes by Hokusai.

Despite all our reading on Hokusai, the exhibit contained areas of his art that were new to us. (30,000 artworks, after all!) One such area were depictions of demons and ghosts–some of which were fairly disturbing, such as the demon lady with the bloody severed head of a child in her hand. (N: “Gee, how do you think he felt the day he drew that?“) Another was surimono. I had to snap a picture of this exhibit text. It sounds like a zine to me, 18th century style.

Hokusai exhibit text.

The original zine? Sounds like it to me.

And there were many artworks I’d love to still be staring at. I do wish we lived close enough to visit this exhibit several times, but I’m glad we made it. We took our energy-depleted selves to the museum courtyard and ate the rest of our packed lunch to perk us up, then decided to walk in the city for a bit. I know we’ll enjoy exploring Washington, DC, but Boston holds a special place in my heart. We wandered from the museum, through a park, watched some geese and bunnies, visited the war memorial (sobering to my children, the sheer number of names of dead Boston boys on the World War II memorial). We walked some more, past the back of Fenway Park, down Boylston. We had some dinner, got back on the T, got into our car, and drove home.

Good-bye for now, Boston. We’ll be back some day (I promised my 6yo, after all).