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Retired art teacher from Colorado. I have a Masters in Art. I am passionate about Studio Art Quilting, I love to read, golf and enjoy the life of my dreams!

Apply and Adapt

In my May post I described the wonderful week I had at the "Empty Spools Retreat". In this post,  I am going to share with you how I applied what I learned and adapted that leaning to my own work.

Sometimes people  are so impressed with a teacher or a quilt; they too fully embrace everything they learned in the workshop and make  a “duplicate” or at least a quilt that can easily identified with a specific artist. 

Although this often a necessary step on the road to creating your own unique style, it is best to apply what you learned and adapt that learning to fit your needs.

The class was given by Valerie Goodwin. One of the reasons I was drawn to the class was that her desired learning outcome for participants open ended.  

She described a process of using design thinking.


Map of a road through pebble beach. This was my final project which has an ocean waves, a road and homes under construction
Map of a road through pebble beach. This was my final project which has an ocean waves, a road and homes under construction

"An art quilter’s most valuable asset is his or her creativity — and it needs to be reinforced through an understanding of design thinking. In this workshop you’ll find creative thinking exercises. Beginning with an exercise related to the seven principles of design --work instinctively with color – explore creativity through experimentation."          course description

The products created in the workshop would  combine several techniques. The product was related to maps, but it was clear that the opportunity for creating your own spin on the idea was supported:

You will create paper map-like collage compositions through a series of quick "hands-on" exercises and subsequently make fabric constructions. The goal of this class is to allow you to create little spontaneous works that can become the basis for a final small quilted art map. You will develop these pieces using freehand scissor cutting, layering of varied fabrics, and other techniques to create an interesting work of art.

We started with simple paper compositions that would be an example of the each element and principle of design. Next we created postcard size compositions.These sketches required participants to build a composition on a woven substrate using a technique not unlike quilt as you go. Next we painted some areas, fused organza and finished with both hand and machine stitching. The compositions were loosely based on a map.

Post card sized maps.

In the final project we had a larger substrate. My final composition ended up being 22 x 16. We used the same process but that process to our own “maps”. Most participants created projects in the style of their instructor. Mine was a more abstract composition.

Valerie supported my decision to cut holes through the layers and to create three distinct zones which stretched the length of the composition. I think it came out pretty well.

More importantly when I approached my next quilt, I had an increased awareness of the power of design thinking.

“Sky Lanterns” is the result of apply and adapt. I used fused organza on the lanterns which lets some of the background color show through. When I created the image I focused on design concepts like movement, contrast and balance. I have no interest in creating maps but I do have a passion for creating art.


Until next time.....

Invest in your Art: Empty Spools Retreat

I spent last week at “Empty Spools”, a quilt retreat located in Asilomar. Asilomar is a California State Park located just north of Pebble Beach. It is stunningly beautiful. The retreat lasts for five weeks and offers workshops in traditional and art quilting.

Participants often return year after year with friends who make this more than learning experience; it becomes a tradition. I went with a seasoned participant who knew the routine and helped me find my way around the various buildings on the property . We have already decided to take the leap again next year.


Taking the time and investing the money to go to a retreat like Empty Spools has helped me to sustain my creative process. The class I selected was Map Play. As you may know, I focus on creating portraits and have dipped my toe into landscape. You might wonder why I took a class that focused on something outside my area of interest. There are two reasons I chose this class: the instructor and to learn a process I can apply to my own work.

The instructor was Valerie Goodwin. Valerie is a Professor of architecture teaching in Florida. According to the description of the class, the focus would be on understanding and using design concepts. She presents the class with a visual problem to solve. This kind of instruction allows students to experience a process of visual decision making that can be applied in their own studio.

Valerie described how a map is abstraction of a place that provides the reader with information. She showed examples of maps that show undeveloped plots of land in a urban setting, a map of a power grid, a map of burial ground discovered when a building was being excavated and many more. Each map tells it’s own story.

In my simple map quilt, I created a highly abstract map of drive through the Pebble Beach Community. The composition had three zones which stretched the length of the surface. I focused on my memory of the drive and isolated what I saw; homes, the road, fences and  the coast.

The visual problem was to make a map that included two opposing concepts: expansive/enclosed, order/chaos .......

The road would divide my opposing concepts. On one side of the road was the ocean. The other side were buildings in stages of construction. The view was from above. What struck me during the process of making the composition was how easily it flowed.

  • Using systematic thinking helped. First Decision: What place was I going to map? Next Decision: What information did I want to provide? Big Idea: What were the opposing concepts found within this map?

During the work period I thought about how we could only see the coastal waves when there was hole in a construction fence because the established properties where enclosed by walls and barriers. This struck me as being important. It was a metaphor about the wealthy being able to control their lives in a way that is impossible for most people.

I took a risk and cut some holes in the surface. Valerie was very interested in this idea and suggested I add a few more holes to balance the composition. I was pleased with the result and was happy to have a skilled teacher guide me in making design choices.

In the my June blog I will share with you the techniques I learned in this workshop and how applied them to my own work.

Until next time....


A Professional Tribe

At a recent quilt guild show, a fellow quilt artist mentioned they did not join SAQA because there were "no meetings." Her expectations centered around a perception of SAQA as organization just like her local quilt guild would be if it was only made up of art quilters.

This conversation made me think more deeply about the value of the tribes that I choose to belong to and why a professional tribe is important. 


Photo from Life Magazine
1950 Quilt Guild.

We all belong to tribes. As humans we formed tribes to share work and increase security. Tribes are defined as a social construct that bonds people by something shared. A tribe could share family ties,an area of expertise or a common interest. Successful tribes provide their members something of value.

After I retired and moved to a new community I checked out organizations that I thought would be interesting. After a few misses, I discovered that my local traditional quilt guild was a wonderful tribe that helped me expand my skills and has given me the opportunity to make social connections.

My critique group is a small tribe of trusted friends who provide me with valuable feedback. Recently I helped lead an art quilt friendship group which allows me to share what I know and to learn from quilters who come from a traditional quilt background. This medium size tribe gives me the opportunity to connect with other quilters who think outside of the box.

In each of these groups I belong primarily because I found value in social interaction among people who share my passion for quilting.

A professional organization is a large tribe that  provides value to its’ members by promoting the an area of expertise or a discipline. Members of professional organizations get access to the latest information in their field. Most professional organizations have a conference where members outside a local community can network  and keep update with current trends. 

The primary role of a professional organization is not social.

SAQA is my professional tribe. It is large organization in which members gather in local and regional groups, online and at conferences. Like other professional organizations SAQA’s value to me is not social. It provides me with status as an art quilter and allows me to grow as a professional.

SAQA as an organization promotes the discipline of art quilting. It has a global network of artists who have the opportunity to be included in exhibitions traveling around the globe. Professional publications including a journal, exhibition catalogues and books document the growth of art quilts from craft to museum quality artwork.

As a member I can use SAQA resources to pitch a show to gallery or museum. I can network with local SAQA members to share strategies for promoting our work and creating opportunities for regional exhibitions. I have also participated in webinars, special interest groups and discussions where participants from all over the globe connect via teleconference.

My advice is belong to a tribe which supports your goal.  If your goal is to be an art quilter, don’t be afraid to make a leap into a professional tribe like SAQA. There is real value in going beyond your own local community.

Until next time....

SAQA  is the Studio Art Quilt Associates.

Not All Art Quilts Are Flat!

As I write this post,
I looked  down at the calendar I almost missed the fact that this is the first day of March!

Another year sailing by too quickly.

My life since retirement has increasingly been focused on creating work for entry into art quilt exhibitions. The first three months of this year contain more opportunities than I have experienced in the past.

I have already entered over a dozen quilts into local, regional, national and international quilt exhibitions. I still have more exhibitions to enter. I was glad today when I got a rejection. The rejection allowed me to save this piece for entry into another show.

Building an inventory of quality work has been key to getting more quilts accepted to more exhibitions. It has also been key to expanding my subject matter and my techniques.

When I first submitted a portfolio to become Juried Art Member of SAQA in 2015; every quilt was a portrait using a consistent process and was similar in size. Since then I have been adding new materials , techniques and exploring different genres including landscapes.

Umbrella Book

My most unusual quilt this year is an exploration of three dimensional forms using layered and stitched fabric. These sculptural books were inspired by SAQA’s recent exhibitions encouraging artists to submit both two and three dimensional quilts and an exhibition called "3D Expression".

Some of you reading this post will think, quilts have to be hung on the wall: Quilts are flat!  

The definition of an art quilt is a creative work that is layered and stitched. The stitches can be real or implied. So what can an artist make within those parameters? I stumbled onto an idea for a 3D quilt when I entered an exhibition called “Forced to Flee” .


The call for entry asked artists to respond to the issues of people forced to move from their chosen homes. What would that be like for a family leaving on foot, being desperate, possibly scared, with limited resources and no clear roadmap leading to their desired destination?

Since I have never been forced to flee the safety of my home, I thought about what  it was like for me as child to travel. 

My family went a several long road trips. No matter how well planned, family vacations often involved leaving something important at home, impatience, hunger and getting lost.  Everyday of the trip Dad would carefully fold a map that we used to  guide us on our journey.This memory was my inspiration.

I created an accordion folded quilt in  a shape that reminded me of those folded road trip maps. Each section included a Central America country with pictures of a refugee. I was pleased that jurors included this dimensional work into the exhibition. 

Who knows where this new idea of an art quilt will lead?

Until next time......

After the “Road to California”

 Last year I wrote a post about my experience entering my first art quilt in a traditional quilt show in Ontario California.

“ By the end of two days at the show I learned that I needed to improve my technical skills and rethink what might be a better fit using my current technique. I am even thinking of making a more traditional quilt to enter in next year’s show.”

                        Post from January 2018

I have definitely devoted myself to improve my skills as a quilter. I used quilts for my guild’s philanthropy group to practice free motion patterns. Once a month I participate in  a long-arm club at my local quilt shop. At that shop I recently I attended a three day hands on class sponsored by Handi Quilter. During those three days I began to understand and appreciate how quilting can transform even the most basic quilt top.

Like all artists, quilters use design concepts. In planning the quilting for a quilt top, a master quilter is able to transform the composition. A pattern created during quilting will enhance the visual depth of a quilt by densely filling or sparsely  filling an enclosed shape. Quilting provides a visual pathway around the surface of a quilt and can even create a focal point where there wasn’t one.

Quilting lines can be straight or curved, can be heavy or light.  These lines used in a predictable pattern create a visual rhythm which plays across the surface of a quilt. The possibilities are limitless.

Taking the time before I begin to quilt to draw out the designs  has really helped me. I now spend a few minutes doodling with a fine point marker before I quilt. I don't always choose to draw the designs that familiar to quilters like feathers or ribbon candy. I always am thinking about what will add to or enhance the quilt.




Recently I made a simple block quilt. I used a ruler to create a line of oblong shapes. I filled each row with a difference free motion motif. The exercise helped me to expand my design repertoire. 

I am beginning to see how these stitched patterns are important for the visually rich backgrounds in my portrait quilts. The potential of a using motifs in my landscape quilts to mimic natural elements is making me reconsider using primarily thread painting to enhance the design.

This year, as I toured the show; I was able to appreciate the technical prowess of the award winners and of many participants.

The quilt I entered this year (Jana)  had already won an award at a art quilt exhibition but did not get a nod from the judges at Road. So next year, I still have a goal of entering a bed quilt and to enter an art quilt that demonstrates my improved technique.

The goal is not the award.

The goal is to grow as an artist.

Until next time.....