Stages of Buying Equipment

Like many other Americans of my age I am staying close to home this year. Even my quilts seem to be sheltering in place because of exhibit cancellations. I had hoped this year to begin to lecture and teach but this goal has to be put aside. Now I am working through a new plan to take advantage of this unusual period of time.

Last year I entered many more of the traditional quilt shows. Typical art quilt exhibitions are judged on a digital images. Prizes (if offered) are based on criteria not tied to the traditions of craft. In traditional shows I realized that the quality of my quilting was an area I needed to master.

I also started taking some cues from the modern quilt movement. Their quilts are known for an absence of fabric pattern and an excess of quilting. The surface pattern is a key marker of the modern quilt. It fits in a niche between traditional and art by taking visual cues  from both approaches to quilting.

As I write this post, my quilt studio has a new addition. A small frame long arm machine. I selected the Handi Quilter SImply Sixteen with a Little Foot Frame. I want to share with you the process of making this decision and how it will expand my portfolio.


5 stages of change : Pre-contemplation. Contemplation. Preparation. Action. Maintenance

“The trans-theoretical model of behavior change is an integrative theory of therapy that assesses an individual's readiness to act on a new healthier behavior, and provides strategies, or processes of change to guide the individual.”  Wikipedia


The 5 stages of change are associated with behavior change. They are applied in therapy for habits including additions, anger management, eating disorders, smoking etc...

I am going to use these 5 stages to the art quilter in general and specifically to my process of buying new equipment.


The 5 stages of purchasing equipment.

Precontemplation: This is the point where a project is a struggle, excessively time consuming, has to be altered to accommodate the equipment within the workspace. This is the phase where projects that go beyond current skills are and beyond the comfortable use of current equipment. It’s the “what if...” stage 

Contemplation: In this stage the workarounds with equipment are either impossible or too cumbersome. This stage is often sparked by new learning. A week-long  workshop, a trunk show or a studio tour may be a spark needed to consider a new purchase. It should be clear the skill set needed to accomplish the goal is not the primary concern. It’s the level of frustration where the need to make an additional investment is clear. 

Preparation: The first step in this stage is research. That is the point where a network of quilters is important. Ask for suggestions. Make a short list of equipment. Remember to select only equipment that  has a solid support system. (Dealer, Service Center, Online Help, etc..)   Carefully consider the compromises.  (Will you need to sell or move something? Will you have enough walking space? Give up storage?) Understand the number of hours needed to feel competent using the new equipment. 

Action: Now is the time to figure out a budget. This may mean waiting until a floor model is available or going to a show to get a deeper discount. It may also mean selecting from your shortlist based on price. Consider seeking out used equipment. Reconfigure your studio space  before placing an order.

Maintenance: Once equipment has arrived be prepared for the learning curve. Having a series of practice pieces ready. Make sure that you allow yourself time everyday to learn and become comfortable. Having a support system readily available is key to maintaining the commitment to this investment.

My long arm arrived a few weeks ago. Before it arrived I moved my computer, printer and cutting machine to another room in the house. I consolidated my thread collection and measured out exactly where I wanted the new machine and frame placed in my sewing studio.

Before it arrived, I purchased some cheap cotton and batting.  I watched numerous videos on how to load the backing, batting and top. Within a few hours of my Simply Sixteen's arrival I had my first practice quilt sandwich completed.

My plan is to try to empty my dwindling stash of commercial fabrics as I play and learn. In the future I hope to create a new series of art quilts which combines my painted digital designs with a modern background.


It’s a good year to invest in the future.
Until Next Time.....

About Brooklyn

gams (2019_10_06 16_47_57 UTC)

Brooklyn is my newest quilt. This quilt, like all of my quilts; Brooklyn has a hidden story. It began with a simple tale and ended up telling a much more complex story. This story exists in both the past and the present.

My vintage portraits like this one; start with well worn pictures that come home to me from extended family, boxes I uncovered after moving and in old albums I inherited . This snapshot was sent in a manilla envelope along with other photographs from my nephew. The collection included professional wedding photographs, a snapshot from a honeymoon in Niagara Falls and several pictures from World War II. This one of my mother in law immediately caught my eye. 

The picture was taken in her parent’s backyard when she was barely 20. On the back of the photo she had written a note which read “Like the view!” I imagined this snapshot was sent to her boy friend as he headed to Europe during the second world war. This Italian girl  would marry that boy from Brooklyn despite objections from both families for not choosing someone in their community. They would be described by friends as the best looking couple in their small town. 

By the time I had selected this photograph for my next project, the world had changed.
A global pandemic was raging and its epicenter was in New York.

The girl in photo has been dead for many years and so has the love of her life. These two were born just after the 1918  pandemic. Now their grandson is living through a pandemic in Brooklyn. The story I am telling in this quilt was now much bigger than my initial idea. 

Art can be much more than a pleasing composition or an example of mastering a medium. Art has the capacity to help the artist and possibly an audience process emotion, think more deeply about an issue or be a witness of history for future generations. 

Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” is an example of a work of art being much more than a masterful composition. “Guernica” is Picasso’s anti war painting which documents the Nazi bombing of a small Basque town in Spain.

Nazi pilots used the town as a training ground during the Spanish civil war. The bombing was ordered by Spain's dictator Francisco Franco, was a act of war his countries citizens. Picasso's painting demonstrates the horror of war on innocent bystanders.

When I began rethinking my approach to this photograph I took into account the current crisis and the original love story. Using digital editing I blended the figure in the photograph with an easily identifiable New York  landmark. The figure was intended to be ethereal, like a ghost which hovers over Brooklyn. Floating in the atmosphere are round shapes that float over the skyline representing the path of the virus.

I have a personal connection to the last big pandemic.  I remember my Dad telling me about the 1918  when his family had just moved to San Francisco. He was out of school for a year and spent his time selling newspapers to help out with the family finances. Both his mother and older sister were very sick. Now I worry about our family in New York.

Art helps me think more deeply and process some of that worry. I hope you will all stay safe and stay creative

Until Next time.......

Visual Language

Artists create in a visual language.

An artist  may be like a poet, a journalist, a biographer or fiction writer. Some artists creating in the midst of global pandemic provide a record of the times like a journalist. Like a poet, artists often use their work as a healing process or a record of deeper feelings during stressful periods of life. There will be artists making work like a biographer or historian, celebrating the hero’s and the victims. 

Like a fiction writer, I considered myself a visual storyteller.

My project ideas are wrapped in a family story, a cherished place, a day dream, an interesting idea, a memory or a person I love.

My image files of future projects are large and although I try to separate them into categories (landscape, vintage portraits, camera phone, etc..) they are random. I don’t second guess the impulse to save an image or to take a photo. This happened as I cleaned out my closets recently. 






Cleaning Out Closets






Old Photograph

I found a pair of jeans that my husband's sister had hand embroidered. They were the jeans he wore to Woodstock. In the same closet I also found a family quilt top that had been left to me. It was probably made by a distant cousin on my father’s side somewhere in West Virginia or Ohio. I pinned the top to my design wall as a background and hung the jeans with pins. I took several photographs. 

The pictures were saved to my computer until I was ready for another project. As I looked through the files this image spoke to me. It was not just the Woodstock jeans, the memory of my sister in law and quilt top from the mystery relative. What sparked my imagination was cleaning out the closets during the first days of the shelter in place orders. Although this would not seem to fit the category of “art during the pandemic” it is a product of this period of time. I will connect this quilt with the pandemic.

My current project would be something that might be recognized as “pandemic art” but in fact it was an image I have had on file for a couple of years. The picture is of my mother in law in an open bathrobe showing her legs. The photograph was taken during WWII. On the back is a caption “like the view!”. I took this photograph and merged it with a picture of the Brooklyn bridge. I used a filter to make the figure look as if it were dissipating like a fading memory.

With the pandemic epicenter being in New York, this quilt takes on new meaning. A viewer might assume it’s a tribute to a life lost. It might look like the dissipating filter is the virus spreading around the city. It could be seen as a portrait of the city itself and it’s outer Boroughs as the victims of this deadly virus. This image's story began as a love story during a war. It has morphed into a homage.

 As I am working on this quilt, the story I am telling has changed.  I am thinking not only of my in-laws but of the family that still lives in Brooklyn. I am missing the trip we planned to take to NYC. Just before starting the quilt I sent out masks that are now required in public. The news is filled with death tolls and infection rates. Now I see this quilt with a new perspective.

My art, like most art changes with the extraordinary times we are living through. It is helpful to keep working and to find a healthy outlet until this is over. 

Stay safe and stay creative.
Until next time......

Studio Time

Robert Henri

The quote and painting of "Snow in New York"  are from American artist and teacher Robert Henri.  Henri was the  leader of the “Ashcan” school of art.

Henri was born in 1865. As a young man he studied at the Pennsylvania Art Academy in Philadelphia. In 1888 he traveled to Paris to study. Like many young artists of his time he admired impressionist painters and was painting in this style. He returned to Philadelphia in 1891 and began teaching at the Women’s Art Academy.

By 1895 he shed off the impressionism for realism. He painted what he considered authentic American life. He was a member of like minded  group of artists called the ashcan school of art.  Although he may not have huge critical success, his works now hang in major museums. He died in 1929.

Many of us are at home with plenty of time and materials; why might we not be making more art?

I was struck by this quote from Robert Henri because he articulates the struggle I find myself in with studio time. Creative production is not always tied to  having the time, the place and the materials. Production increases when the artist is in the creative zone.

I have found myself struggling to get into that zone. Like the rest of the world I am thinking about the health and safety of my family. My life has changed from going to lunch with friends, attending quilt guild meetings and going to art retreats to making protective face masks to wear to the store. 

During the last week I have been focused on making an entry for the Long Beach Quilt Festival. It is a photograph from a backlot of a Hollywood studio in the 1920’s. The photograph is black and white printed on a large linen cotton canvas. There is a deadline to get this entered which is motivational.

After putting this project up on my design wall, I gave myself permission to not start it immediately. Instead I walked by  the project numerous times a day as I kept busy with other tasks. I began by pinning my color wheel to my design wall. I put out a few paints and have been making little squares of colors on excess fabric.

 Usually I have an immediate feeling about color.  I drive immediately into painting.  This time I used a more structured approach to color. From those little squares I created a color scheme.

A color scheme is a plan for color. You might have a complimentary scheme using colors opposite each other on the color wheel or a triad of colors equal distance from each other on the color wheel. I ended up with a split complement of colors. Next I mixed those colors in various combinations. 

By the time I started on the project itself I had that feeling of being in the zone or as Henri would say “that wonderful state that makes art inevitable. 

My advice is simple. These are tense times and if you are wondering why your art productivity hasn’t increased give yourself extra time, let go of any pressure and go back to the basics.

Stay safe friends. This too will pass.
Until next time......

Leap Year

Leap Day 29 February

Leap Year is....

A common year has 365 days and a leap year 366 days, with the extra--or intercalary--day designated as February 29. A leap year occurs every four years to help synchronize the calendar year with the solar year, or the length of time it takes the earth to complete its orbit around the sun, which is about 365 and 1/4 days

Since it’s a leap year, I thought I would look at some artistic leaps of faith I’ve made in the art quilt world since the last leap year in 2016. Some have worked out and some have fallen flat.  In the end I learn as much from failure and I do success.


Here is my list of artistic "leaps" since 2016

  • Attending yearly  intensive art quilt workshops with National Teachers
  • Submitting to National and International Art Quilt Exhibitions
  • Hiring a professional to manage my website
  • Moving my studio (and my home)  to larger dedicated space
  • Buying a HQ Sweet Sixteen
  • Entering exhibitions at traditional quilt shows 
  • Dedicated time and training to improve my quilting 
  • Created introductory workshops to art quilters
  • Participated in a critique group
  • Used Social Media platforms as a business tool
  • Started a YouTube Channel
  • Submitted articles for magazines
  • Established a local art quilt group within my traditional guild
  •  Had an solo exhibition
  • Booked a speaking engagement and workshop outside of my local community

Not everything on this list has worked out.

For example I found that teaching introductory workshops and local venues is not interesting to me. As a trained art teacher I love to share my knowledge but getting paid to do so is not a motivation. Time away from my studio is a burden. I needed to find teaching environments were I can feel enriched by the experience.

I have tried a few times to form a critique group without much success over time. As my confidence has grown, I have developed a system for testing ideas outside a group process.  Entering shows and social media tracking has helped me get feedback I used to find in critique.

What will be on my next list of artistic leaps?
Expand the number of speaking engagements
Photo to Fabric Workshop Series
Having another solo show
Validate my technical skill with an award at a juried quilt show
Continue to submit articles for publication
Subscription YouTube Channel

 On the business side of my leaps:
Increase social media following.
Total Website Refresh
Promotional Materials
Gallery sales through my website.
Try to publish a book.

Who knows what leaps I’ll take!

Until next time.....