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Ellen would be delighted to have a class with you or your group! You can check out her classes at www.ellenanneeddy.com. She also offers independent studio time in her studio in Indiana. Talk to Ellen about classes at 219-921-0885, or contact her scheduler Sarah at 616-485-5646 to set a date

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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Musings: Art outside the Box: Working and Reworking

This is the time of year when I hunt for the studio floor. I'm not a bad housekeeper. You can't be called bad if you don't do it at all. So at this time of year we have what might be called an archeological dig in the studio, looking for what has been lost in the stratta. Things get flung to and fro in the process of creation and at the end there are large heaps of fabric, stabilizer, clippings, thread ends with small inclusions of scissors, bobbins, and dog cookies, strewn through the studio floor. I don't exactly clean it, but I do sort of sweep through, usually trying to find a path to the iron or to the door.


This is when I find the undone. I always have at least 6-12 projects in different states of doneness. There's the large quilt, ready to bind and I need a back for it. There's the small quilt ready to stitch, and I need a day to just sit and do. And then there's the stymied quilt: the one that didn't quite work. It's waiting for a miracle of some sort. Either I need a new skill or fresh eyes or to decide it just isn't happening. 
I found this lady languishing there.
This series of dancing trees was a challenge I started for myself several years ago. It's particularly a challenge because I really have some difficulty living in my body. I tend to live in my hands and my head. The rest is a lump I drag around with me. So it takes some courage and a bit of extra love to look at bodies at all. But I wanted trees that danced. 




I've found a couple of good tools and an ally. It's interesting to me that my camera sees things I just can't. I'm regularly photoing  unfinished quilts ( particularly quilts I can't take time with ) and viewing them through the lens. It's astonishing how clearly the camera shows me what I've got. My friend Rebecca Dorian Brown is a fabulous art ally. Through Team Viewer (this very cool program that lets you look at each other's computer screen in live time) we've been checking each other's work and been able to see what needs to happen next. It's invaluable to have another set of eyes on something, and Rebecca has the best eyes I know.


Thank God for allies and tools! My tree's not done yet but she's in process again, because I can really see where I'm going.


This is good because she has a date. My tree is  going to be shown at Trinity Episcopal Church on the First Friday Gallery Walk in Michigan City, IN on January 7th.


All four of these pieces will be on display at
Trinity Episcopal Church
6th Street and Franklin
Michigan City, IN
 5PM through 7PM
January 7th
6th Street Entrance
call for info
219-921-0885


The First Friday Gallery Walk is something like River North for Michigan City. There's a number of excellent and edgy galleries, all open and on display each first Friday of the month. Wander, eat, see wonders and dream of art! Please come and see them there.


I hope this year brings you new tools, fresh eyes, true allies, and places to let your work shine.


You'll find Rebecca's amazing work at Rebecca Dorian Brown Art.
You'll find more information about Trinity Church here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Silent Night

I'm in complete rebellion  this Christmas. I can't quite get it. I don't want a tree. I will not shop. I've sung carols with my church but I won't put them on at home. I'm not doing it.


This  Santa boy represents everything I would prefer to miss. He's actually a Japanese vending machine for Christmas. I'm sort of waiting for the Easter bunny version and the Jack-o-lantern issue.Talk about Christmas out of the box. Yuck.


It occurs to me that maybe I just don't understand Christmas. Christmas was utterly changed the year my Dad died. My father was the hearth of our home. When he died there was not much there but gin, literature and cold ashes. I desperately tried to put up a tree and make everyone presents. I annoyed everyone mightily. They wanted a steak dinner, gifts out of a catalog,  a stiff drink and to fall asleep in front of the TV. I've been pretty sour on it ever since.


But the one thing that has made Christmas work for me is the kids in my life. I never had a child, but that never meant I didn't have children. For reasons I don't understand, they seem to creep through the cracks in the door. They stay as long as they need to stay, all for different reasons.   To be fed cookies  at your table , or to dye fabric, or hear stories, or play with your dogs, or to have someone hold down their rage while they learn to do that themselves.The price of all that is the price you pay for every child in your life. You need to be willing to let them go as easily as they come.  The love is all there, but their path is not. And it's cruel to mess with that.


This year, I have children gone again. They're healthy and brave and well. There's no reason to grieve. But I hate the loneness of Christmas eve.


People who say art is your child, don't really do art. Things are just what they are. Your art is your art. It's not ever going to run to you with it's arms open. Or show you a kitten, or bring you a song. It can't be asked to do what it cannot.


In process Daylily Quilt



It is your creation, in a way a child can't be, although it has a life of it's own. So I'm in the studio, pouring life into a new piece, building day lilies out of dragon claw shapes.




Creation is a love. A dry love often, but a love.And it strikes me that that too is Christmas. For Christmas we get a baby. Not a baby who can love us yet. No baby can. But a baby that coaxes our love out of us. It's a baby that demands our care, our involvement, our concern. It invite us to love and teaches us how. Its advent demands our attention. And flays us open to a heart available for the love that is always there.

I'm making a huge pot of soup for Christmas eve. I'm taking it to church and I'm feeding whoever asks.  Hopefully, angels unawares.
Friday, December 17, 2010

The Butterfly Effect




I Never Saw Another Butterfly
The last, the very last,

So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing 
against a white stone.... 


Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ’way up high.
It went away I’m sure 
because it wished 
to kiss the world good-bye.

 For seven weeks I’ve lived in here
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.

Only I never saw another butterfly. 
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here, in the ghetto. 

Written  by Pavel Friedman, June 4, 1942 





I don't remember the first time. I heard about the butterfly effect. Was it Jurrasic Park? The movie of that name was not a favorite. But the concept made complete sense to me. The smallest things effect everything. The flick of a butterfly's wing in my garden effects the weather in China. 


Is it true? I'm not a scientist. I don't know. But I do know that much of my life is made up of tiny interludes with people as I travel. Moments, really. I don't get years with people except for a few rare and dear friends. Those are also celebrated in moments. So, true or not, I believe in butterflies.
Trudi Sissons from  Two Dresses Studio  has joined with the Holocaust Museum in Huston to help bring to flight an amazing exhibit. There were 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust.


Think about it. I really quite can't. I have no idea what 1.5 million looks like as a number. So they are collecting 1.5 million butterflies from artists, one for each child, to exhibit there.
What did we lose with those children?1.5 million symphonies, lullabies, amazing stories, astonishing art............ 


We can never know. We are in a 
way, as much a victim to the hate that killed them as they. Our world cannot afford hate. Each child is a treasure house, and hate is a vicious thief.
If each child were a butterfly and the wings of their life change the world, what have we lost?


So I've made my butterfly to be sent off. To remember what was lost and to hope we can learn the evil math behind hate. And my job today is to take someone I truly fear and hate and find why I'm wrong. Hard as it is, I think it better than Christmas shopping.  And after all, it's what I really want for Christmas,  both to give and receive.



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Art outside the Box: Pushing Limits


An odd thing has happened to me as I've gotten older. The stop signs in my life have gotten bigger. Redder. My eye sight may be worse, but my ability to notice a red light somehow has improved. It is possible that I notice my limits more. Or am more willing to acknowledge them. Is it possible that I've finally had sense beaten into me? I'm beginning to recognize that there really are limits I need to pay attention to. I'm afraid to eat too much cheese or sugar. I'm terrified I'll fall.

So it's fascinating to take a break from that. I've spent the last year on a project that's demanded I push all my limits. I've run out of underwear and forks and still pushed on. If the news cameras roll up to my house I know I'm in trouble, but I got done. And now I'm discovering what happens when I push past the limits of sense and reason.

First off, my housekeeping is at a new low, even for me. If you have a significant other who needs an attitude adjustment about creative clutter, mess, and general filth, send them over. I can help.

But I've found, not a second wind. Perhaps a fourth or fifth. I've found I resent the sucking sound of the television, that hoovers away my time and energy.And I've found myself breaking my own rules. For years I've worked towards more realism, more feathers and scales, more intricacy. All of a sudden I'm tired of that. I'm playing with simple shapes.
Intricacy is  fun, but it's also a trap. If all you can to do stretch is make it fussier and harder, there's a day where it won't push further. The system finally collapses.

I almost never work with heart shapes. Too artificial. Too sentimental. Too silly. Too heart breaking, tell the truth. I do romance the way some people do soap operas. Someone else's, please. It's all vicarious because I'm way too scared, old, plain, fat. Since we know all of that is just the dark whispering, let's just  just be real and say scared.

But after having pushed that many limits and dealt with the great unwashed fork incident, my sense seems to have been blunted. I'm playing with heart shapes.

Perhaps if we never push past the limits into that other place, we're stuck where there's nothing but that icky whispering darkness. Baby birds have to push past that egg or it never happens for them. So having pushed past those hearts, I'm off to go make day lilies out of shapes like dragon's claws. You never know.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Art Outside th Box:The Anatomically Impossible:



This wonderful demonstration by Brandon McConnell is an amazing display of my favorite kind of art: the Anatomically Impossible.


You know what I mean. The kind of thing you look at and say, "How did they do that?" Head scratching, astonishing, omygod kind of art.I love it even more when it turns out not to be so hard as so amazingly clever. It means someone has really thought outside the box.


Nowadays, so much of what we do as artists has to be something you can teach. Is it quick? Is it easy? I understand not wanting to daunt anybody, but if it's too quick and too easy I can't quite pull it in to bother.There has to be something there to make my heart flutter with the impossibility of it. It can be technique or simply a rendering of something I never expected in a way I never dreamed. Or an ability to go wild with saucepans and spray paint. 




All my life as an artist, I wanted to to the work that would make jaws drop because it was anatomically impossible.I think what that really takes is an ability to bend, break, mutilate and somewhat ignore our hidebound rules.The ones that stop us from making something large, or flat, or different. The ones that don't really  relate to an art form we're doing. They just used to.Changing the rules can be a wholly liberating experience. Can stippling threads cross? Touch? Kiss? I hope so. Can I use purple and orange with blue as a chaser? Will the world go on fire?
I hope so.
I hope you all take time to look at a rule, a truly limited rule that needs some real mutilation, and bend it out of shape.Because when we do that, the anatomically possible is a real probability, glowing ahead on the highway of our next creation.


You'll find Brandon McConnell's astonishing work and classes on his site at Spacepaintings.com 
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bobbin Work: On the Loose-Dealing with Distortion


If you've been following this thread,  we've covered almost all the information about doing bobbin work.


As you've seen, the possibilities are endless entertainment. Bobbin work is easy, fast and fun.


I hope you got out your machine, played around, looked through your thread box and started to explore this great new world.


But there is a dark side. Any time you've put that much thread through a fabric surface you can be  looking at some serious distortion.  It depends largely on how much you fill in. If you're just outlining things or stippling, it's probably not a problem. If, like myself, you got a bit crazed and did a four foot cricket, it's probably ruffling up like a child's party dress.


I don't believe in giving recipes for cakes that don't rise. I might forget to tell someone an important ingredient but I'd never deliberately leave it out. I hate games where you can't win, and I won't ever do it to a student, a friend, a stranger or stone cold adversary.


So here's the extra ingredient. If we're working on a dense piece of embroidery, we can always cure it by cutting. 


Any larger image (over 3 square inches) I'll do on a separate sandwich of felt, fabric, and stabilizer and treat it like an appliqué. When I'm done, I cut right on the edge ( don't cut through the stitching) and zigzag free motion around the edges with black thread to make it all pop. We cut of the distortion and life is so much better. What problem?


You'll find the information for preparing your felt and fabric sandwich on a previous blog Fabulous Felt: Unthinking Interfacing




 
Your  sandwich, top to bottom is
          Surface fabric
          Steam-A-Seam 2
          Polyester felt
          Totally Stable



Steam iron it well so that your Steam-A-Seam 2 is melted, sticking things in place and won't gum your needle.

My hoop is Sharon Shamber's Halo Hoop.You'll find more information on it in a previous post Hoop-Dee Do.

Wrapping it up:
Really dense bobbin work may ruffle and distort your surface. Do it on a separate stabilizer sandwich and cut the appliqué out. Use the free motion zigzag stitch to apply  it to your quilt.

Bobbin Work: On the Loose-Dealing with Distortion


If you've been following this thread,  we've covered almost all the information about doing bobbin work.


As you've seen, the possibilities are endless entertainment. Bobbin work is easy, fast and fun.


I hope you got out your machine, played around, looked through your thread box and started to explore this great new world.


But there is a dark side. Any time you've put that much thread through a fabric surface you can be  looking at some serious distortion.  It depends largely on how much you fill in. If you're just outlining things or stippling, it's probably not a problem. If, like myself, you got a bit crazed and did a four foot cricket, it's probably ruffling up like a child's party dress.


I don't believe in giving recipes for cakes that don't rise. I might forget to tell someone an important ingredient but I'd never deliberately leave it out. I hate games where you can't win, and I won't ever do it to a student, a friend, a stranger or stone cold adversary.


So here's the extra ingredient. If we're working on a dense piece of embroidery, we can always cure it by cutting. 


Any larger image (over 3 square inches) I'll do on a separate sandwich of felt, fabric, and stabilizer and treat it like an appliqué. When I'm done, I cut right on the edge ( don't cut through the stitching) and zigzag free motion around the edges with black thread to make it all pop. We cut of the distortion and life is so much better. What problem?


You'll find the information for preparing your felt and fabric sandwich on a previous blog Fabulous Felt: Unthinking Interfacing




 
Your  sandwich, top to bottom is
          Surface fabric
          Steam-A-Seam 2
          Polyester felt
          Totally Stable



Steam iron it well so that your Steam-A-Seam 2 is melted, sticking things in place and won't gum your needle.

My hoop is Sharon Shamber's Halo Hoop.You'll find more information on it in a previous post Hoop-Dee Do.

Wrapping it up:
Really dense bobbin work may ruffle and distort your surface. Do it on a separate stabilizer sandwich and cut the appliqué out. Use the free motion zigzag stitch to apply  it to your quilt.
Monday, September 20, 2010

Art Outside the Box: Hunger is a Sauce


Like most red blooded American women of my age, I'm not used to hunger.I learned my clothes making from the Amir the tentmaker design school. My mother described me as a pork chop in my baby pictures. If somehow I became miraculously thin, I would be in a massive identity crisis.


This is not to say I haven't tried from time to time. But after 15 years of therapy, I've learned there's little that can't be soothed by a half gallon of Breyers in solitary splendor.
So hunger is basically a stranger. I'm very careful not to be hungry, and really only get in that spot when I'm traveling in the back of the beyond. It's just as well. I tend to faint and bite people's heads off. Since neither of those things get you where you're going, they're best to be avoided.


Right?


It's interesting when you're put nose to nose with your fears. I had a health scare where my acupuncturist put me on an eleven day cleanse that had 4 fast days in it.


I haven't fasted since I fainted for my first four communions at church. The last time I woke up with the priest standing over me saying, "Don't even try."
But I love my acupuncturist. I even trust her. So I did it.
It's interesting to find that hunger isn't all about food. 


I found myself desperately hungry for companionship.
I found myself hungry for color and sound, stimulation.
I found myself desperately hungry for parts of my art on hold while I work out necessary practicalities.
I found myself desperately hungry for people I haven't seen.
I found myself hungry for love I can't quite give.
I found myself terrified to be hungry for what is holy in my life.

    Isn't it interesting how much of your real self you can hide in an ice cream container?


    So, if I'm hungry enough to feel those other hungers, maybe that hunger is the sauce, the luscious topping that launches me out of myself and out of hiding, in search of what I really need. 
    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Musings:Art Outside the Box: The Joy of Dyslexia

    "Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us."
    Rainer Maria Rilke
    I've been writing a blog thread on Practical Thread Magic about doing bobbin work. While I've been discussing bobbin tension and machine makes and all kinds of practical mechanical issues, there's always a fear issue that needs to be addressed. Yup! It's upside down.
    I've taught this for over twenty years. There's very little new about bobbin work except for the threads available and the fact that it's much more accepted.In over twenty years in a classroom, I've heard almost everything anyone is going to say about it. One woman always says, with fear in her eyes,"It's upside down. How can I know where I'm going? What I'm doing? "
    It's always a bad classroom moment. There's a fervent urge to put your hand over her mouth and/or offer her chocolate. Hysteria is as contagious as pink eye.But everyone is thinking it. It must be addressed.
    Actually the answer is quite simple. A lock stitch leaves a line of thread on both sides of the work. You can see where you're going from either side. And all you're doing is filling it in backward.
    The word backward takes us to that wonderful gift, dyslexia. I'm not being sarcastic.
    I'm quite dyslexic. No one knew until I studied it as a teaching student. They knew I couldn't spell or write well. They thought I was lazy.
    Well, they were somewhat right about that, but the truth is that d's,b's,p's and q's are identical for me. I learned to read through context and configuration.It helped that my school teacher mother made me study and read an extra 4 hours every night after school. She wasn't trying to fix my dyslexia. She had no clue. It's simply what she thought you did with kids.
    I still can't really read a map or a calendar. They move on me, and I can't hold numbers in my head. How do I deal with this? I hire someone who can do those things, and I do what I do well myself.
    But here's the upside. I can read stories in any configuration, beginning, middle and end, in any order, and it makes sense to me. And I can read and write backwards and upside down, cursive and printed.
    Dyslexia is simply an ability to see the world differently. If you can make the translation to the rest of the world, (read and write, speak and hear), it gives you the ability to show a world something they've not seen before. It's a gift.
    So when I'm looking at my drawing, I'm simply looking at it as I would look at a backwards slide. I know it's facing the other way on the other side. That doesn't matter. Instead, I fill it in with gentle shapes and change my color on top when I change it on the bobbin. There's no mystery. Simply a different point of view.
    Fear is a dragon. Perhaps a princess dressed up as a dragon who's really waiting to see us be brave. Besides, everything worth doing is worth doing badly. If you want to do anything well, you need to be willing to go past the worst fear we have as adults: that we might not be instantly perfect at something. If you want to do it badly enough, you can do it. I know. I'm dyslexic.
    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Musings:Art Outside the Box:Embroidery, Art and Truth




    I love this 5 minutes of truth and what is true. Truth and what is true are not the same things. They are often foreigners to each other. We are too used the the courtroom in Law and Order, Perry Mason, and the who, what, why approach to the news. We are obsessed by the actual numbers, the correct dates and the whole truth and nothing but the truth.What is true, is that they perpetrated a fraud. But the truth is that they created a view of the world as we would like it to be.


     There is a  wonderful  truth to be hoped for here, in a world of people dancing together. Real or not, it's something that may not be true, but it offers that which should be. Somewhere there could be a world of people dancing badly together, in harmony and joy. And why not? Truth is so much more strong than what is strictly true.


    I was raised with an Irish American view of all of this.My mother's maiden name was Mulligan. She was a brilliant story teller. She never sewed if she could help it but she could embroider a story to perfection. The facts were often suspect. She told a story about herself as Margaret the African Violet Killer ( seven in one blow) that I really doubt actually involved her punch line about giants. What she did was take the truth, spin it slightly and show it to you through her eyes. And gild the edges, just a bit.


    Was it true? It was way too silly a story to be true. But she was truly awkward and bad with plants. Her not so true story had a  heart based in truth.


    Perhaps all affirmations are a bit like that. I've sat with bad children and told them that they were good. They weren't getting any better believing they were bad. If I told them I saw them as good, then there was at least a reason to try.


    Most recently, I find myself in a room with women trying to do free motion for the first time. I always tell them that they're brave. Are they? Well, bravery is not how we feel. It's how we act. If she's scared and she's not under the table, she's as brave as a tiger. And it helps to tell her so.


    Years ago I was visiting Glacier National Park and someone took me up a ski lift.  It was summer. As long as I could see the ground I was grounded. But when we were hanging just in the air I noticed I had a touch of agoraphobia. I was terrified. I had my hands over my eyes. My friend leaned over and said" So brave!" This was something I'd said to students the whole week I'd been there. It's amazing no one had hit me.


    But it made me feel braver.I managed to look through my fingers to see the mountain below me and an eagle circling above. Was it looking for lunch? We'll never know.Was I truly brave? I didn't fall off the lift.


    I quilted this quilt of the mountain below me and the shadow of the eagle above.
    While we report what is true, I think we create our truths. We declare them, prop them in place, and help them happen, declare them  as we put them in process. That in itself is an act of creation. It's an artistic process as fine as a painting or an tapestry. It's an affirmation. It's a story told well. And it's the recreation of the world as it should be, shown through our own eyes.
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