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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, May 26, 2010

Musings: Art out of the Box: The Mentor Waltz

Years ago I learned to contra dance. My friends, Donna and Roy Hinman dragged me out to play guitar for their band. It was loving-hands-at-home music. They insisted that all dancing should be to live music and they didn't care exactly how live the musicians were. They took everyone who was willing to practice, even me.


I was an unlikely candidate. My high school years were a cycle that ran between hide and seek and Lord of the Flies. Ugly things happened at dance class. I'm pretty good at taking a pratt fall, but I missed the humor. I'd learned to never go near a dance. Some humiliations are enough.


But Donna and Roy were relentless. Kind, but relentless. Not only would I play waltzes and reels, I would dance. Donna would take away my guitar I was hiding behind and Roy would take my hand, keep me safe, and sweep me into the movement and the music.


For those of you who have never done contra, it's the antithesis of couple dancing. It's really a lovely version of ring-around-the-rosie for adults. And everyone is included. Couples dance with everyone, sometimes holding their babes. Everyone is part of it. 


But there is a skill set. You need to know which is your right hand. It really does help.


Now, what do they do if you don't know which is which? Someone kindly grabs your right hand and says"The other right hand." I love contra dancers.


Time passed and I finally began to learn. Before my knees gave out, I could stand on a floor, swing, hand out my hand, and find myself beaming like a pumpkin. It's genuinely fun.


It strikes me that this is exactly like mentoring. It's not a formal thing usually. It's just someone in front of you, a little unsure, a bit confused.The answers are simple enough. It's just like contra dancing. You grab the right right hand and give them  gentle push in the right direction.


I've had wonderful mentors over the years. As a child, my neighbor Mary Annis taught me to sew, quilt, be late and not answer the telephone, all things my mother knew nothing about. She got me art lessons, cats, and confidence, but not in that order. She's a marvel.


Caryl Bryer Fallert was perhaps the kindest quilt mentor I had. I'd had a long worship session with the porcelain goddess before my first FACET meeting. It was Caryl who greeted me, talked about a quilt of mine she'd juried into a show, and then, over the years opened doors, answered questions, and purchased The Problem with Princes when I was trying to pay for medical bills. Caryl is the best quilter in America. No one has more talent and works harder. And no one is more gracious. Her work is legend in the quilt community. Study with her if you get the chance.She's an astonishment.


Over the years I've passed it on as best I could. I've mentored people, mostly not in a formal sense. Just in the sense that you grabbed the right right hand and put them on their way. Classroom is built for it. The end of class is never the end of anything. I hear from students years after as they go on to create amazing things. Often I see them later across from me at a teacher's table in a conference. I'm always proud for them.


But independent studio time is a more intense way to set up that. People come to my studio when they want, stay with me, sew as long as they want on what they want. And we focus on the direction they want to take. Lately I've had the privilege of having Genny Frazer from Australia. Her energy,sense of fun, and enthusiasm was contagious.


Lauren Strach is one of my favorite mentes. She came originally to the studio around 4-5 years ago, and continues to visit as a friend and fellow dyer. Her work is fearless and brilliant. She's shown nationally at Paducah among other venues.


  If you'd like to come to my studio for independent studies, contact Melida to schedule it.


So I hope you get the chance to do both. To be a mente and and mentor. To grab the right right hand, to have gentle direction when needed, and to pass it on in the same gracious light. Come and join the dance!


Donna and Roy now run a Morris Team in Grand Rapids, MI. Morris dancing is a hoot and they are the best teachers you could find. They work both with children and adults.Their group is The Bells of River City, and if you're near you can see them there, or better still, join them in the dance.





Sunday, May 23, 2010

Musings: Art Outside the Box: Not Quite Princess Diana

"Diana
She might have been a Catholic,A Moslem or a Jew,
Red or black or yellow,Or some other dreadful hue;
But she's Protestant, she's English,And her blood is royal blue
She's a lady, she's perfection, She's Diana
Ya-de-da-de, Ya-de-da-de, Ya-de-daah-de"

(Ian Robb, 1981)

I am somewhat daunted by our attitude towards our public heroes. The fact that someone can sing like a nightingale, throw a football 4000 yards, run like hell, or create good art does not necessarily mean they're a small god or even always a good role model. I'm told Mozart was a drunken sot, although an admittedly very talented drunken sot. We have a news industry made just for exposing the moments when they're in public with they're trousers down, doing something they wish they hadn't. Or that they wish they hadn't been caught doing. It's always a scandal, and I think some people love scandals almost more than they love heroes.

The answer to that of course is to never be caught doing anything in public you wish not to be caught doing. I wish that were completely possible.

I loved Princess Diana. In spite of the fact that she was in a hopeless family situation and  was living with the privacy of a goldfish bowl, she poured out all the love she had, over and over on the people in front of her, whoever and wherever they were. Yet she had her scandals. And I personally would not like to have died being chased by paparazzi while the world speculated about my sex life. 

There's a problem with having heroes. They cannot live up to our every dream and desire. They will, in their humanity, say something or do something in exhaustion, fear, panic or pain that breaks our image of their godlike abilities. They will fail us. Hurt us. Humiliate us. Embarrass us. Say something awful. Then they're left like a cat trying to cover up an indiscretion on linoleum. 

I've often said my job is to be like Princess Diana without the shoes or the clothes. When I go out to teach or lecture, my hope is to pour my care, my love, my dreams and my support onto the people kind enough to hear me speak. The reason for that is not that I have some special talent or ability. It's that I recognize that talent and ability in all of us. It's a delicate thing. It deserves care and kind treatment. The classroom is a gift we give that ability,teacher and student both,a time and space for talent to blossom and ability to grow.My students are my heroes. I am awed by their courage and ability, always. My hope is to celebrate that with them.

Do I fail? I'm so sorry to say, there are days. I make a very bad hero. I arrive exhausted. My blood sugar dips. I suffer from hoof and mouth disease. There are days where my hoof is definitively in my mouth. When that happens, words do fail me. I can't possibly say how sorry I am.

This quilt got me thrown out of an Episcopalian church One woman saw it as an evil thing. It was the Percival legend, with myself looking for the Holy Grail. Of course, I saw myself as a frog. She was so offended. Frogs are evil. Did you know that?

I hadn't got the memo on that myself. She took it as a scandal and ran with it.  There was no way to stay there after she'd discussed it with the whole congregation. It's just as well. I really do see myself as a frog, often, so if she saw that as evil, I needed to be somewhere else. My mistake was to have shown it to her at all. 

I hope you are your best, brightest, most lionized hero. I hope you recognize that the people around you who you admire are not perfect or godlike, but simply good at the thing they do. I hope you can see their humanity when they fail you by what they do or say. I hope you can take the good they've tried to bring you without throwing out everything when they fumble into something inappropriate. And I hope you can find forgiveness for the moments they are awkward frogs instead of princesses.

It's just as well I'm not Princess Diana. I could never wear those shoes.



Friday, May 14, 2010

Musings: Art out of the Box: Falling and Flying





Spring brings out the birds! I love it. I have wrens nesting in my ivy and a robin couple moved in under my porch pillar.

Yesterday, Mrs. Robin fell. She tried to fly and fell out of the climbing hydrangea. Cara, my mom-greyhound wanted desperately to help her. We discouraged that. I trust Cara, but Mrs. Robin wasn't having that and looked really terrified by a very worried 72 pound dog coming to her rescue.

Mr. Robin acted like most men do. He stood on the roof next door trying to figure out what to do next. Eventually he swooped down and brought her the birdy version of carry out food. As guys go, he was pretty good with the emergency.

My neighbor kids also wanted to pick her up, help her up. I did too. But we went online and checked. They said to let her find her way. Finally I spoke to a rehabber who said to wait until morning and then catch her and take her to the local vet.

It's a hard thing, doing nothing. It feels sometimes like impotence, sometimes like ignorance, sometimes like a lack of empathy. Sometimes it's the only kindness.

I woke up this morning to find her on the other side of the porch. I called the neighbor kids over, got the cat carrier out and watched as she flew delicately into the trees. She waited to let us know. She knew we meant her well. She wanted us to know she was all right.

When I saw that video of the hummingbird it reminded me. Sometimes we need help. Sometimes we just need someone to stand by us while we find our own way. Everyone falls.  The hope is that we find the will to fly. No one can do it for us. But they can stand by, watch, wait, and offer us their strength until we find our own. We find our own wings and our own flight on the love and strength of those who watch for us.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fabulous Felt:Unthinking Interfacing

It's funny how inflexible our opinions become. After having worked seven years at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL, I thought I knew everything about every fabric in the main room. I may have come close back then. It was the best fabric education available that I know of. 
The main room was the ordinary sewers room. It had domestic cottons, polys, wools and test tube baby fabrics like satins and lace. It also had the craft fabric, with a huge wall of felt.


Felt has gone through a lot of reincarnations. In the 1980's I would have given it the most useless fabric award with bells and ribbons on it. 


The original felt of felt skirts and jackets was pure wool. It was a delicious fabric to work with. It was strong, bright and beautiful. By the 80's it also cost the earth. So it was replaced with a hybrid of wool and rayon. This nightmare fabric had curly wool fibers mixed in with straight tree bark fibers (Rayon is made from tree bark.) What a tactical error. Instead of being strong and vibrant, it was always pulling apart( curly and straight fibers don't make a good combination.) At some point I completely wrote it off as a fabric I would ever use again. It didn't even paste together well.
When the first poly felt came out it too was thin and nasty. So I've ignored felt for neigh on 15 years.


So I was completely surprised when Lauren Strach (a fabulous quilter out of St. Joseph, MI) came in with some embroidered flowers where she'd used the new poly felt as a stabilizer.


I began to experiment. I've been making a stabilizer sandwich with hand-dyed fabric, Steam-A-Seam 2,and a final layer of Totally Stable as a pattern. The hand-dye is the surface that the embroidery shows on. The Steam-A-Seam 2 fuses and stabilizes the felt. The felt is fused on to the surface fabric with Steam-A-Seam 2 and then the pattern, made with Totally Stable is ironed onto the felt.
So the sandwich, top to bottom is
            Surface fabric
            Steam-A-Seam 2
            Felt
            Totally Stable


I've used it for both bobbin work and for embroidered appliqué. It creates a solid easily applied embroidery where all the distortion is cut off the edge.
You can use wool felt as well. It's pricey and the poly works just as well.


The other thing that makes this work is Sharon Schamber's Halo hoop. This weighted hoop supplies extra support without having to be clamped or unclamped. See my blog  Hoop de doo  for more information about this fabulous tool.


Wrapping it up:
Poly felt makes a fabulous stabilizer for embroidery. And keep your mind open. Fabrics change all the time. There's no knowing when you'll a new use for something old.





Fabulous Felt:Unthinking Interfacing

It's funny how inflexible our opinions become. After having worked seven years at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL, I thought I knew everything about every fabric in the main room. I may have come close back then. It was the best fabric education available that I know of. 
The main room was the ordinary sewers room. It had domestic cottons, polys, wools and test tube baby fabrics like satins and lace. It also had the craft fabric, with a huge wall of felt.


Felt has gone through a lot of reincarnations. In the 1980's I would have given it the most useless fabric award with bells and ribbons on it. 


The original felt of felt skirts and jackets was pure wool. It was a delicious fabric to work with. It was strong, bright and beautiful. By the 80's it also cost the earth. So it was replaced with a hybrid of wool and rayon. This nightmare fabric had curly wool fibers mixed in with straight tree bark fibers (Rayon is made from tree bark.) What a tactical error. Instead of being strong and vibrant, it was always pulling apart( curly and straight fibers don't make a good combination.) At some point I completely wrote it off as a fabric I would ever use again. It didn't even paste together well.
When the first poly felt came out it too was thin and nasty. So I've ignored felt for neigh on 15 years.


So I was completely surprised when Lauren Strach (a fabulous quilter out of St. Joseph, MI) came in with some embroidered flowers where she'd used the new poly felt as a stabilizer.


I began to experiment. I've been making a stabilizer sandwich with hand-dyed fabric, Steam-A-Seam 2,and a final layer of Totally Stable as a pattern. The hand-dye is the surface that the embroidery shows on. The Steam-A-Seam 2 fuses and stabilizes the felt. The felt is fused on to the surface fabric with Steam-A-Seam 2 and then the pattern, made with Totally Stable is ironed onto the felt.
So the sandwich, top to bottom is
            Surface fabric
            Steam-A-Seam 2
            Felt
            Totally Stable


I've used it for both bobbin work and for embroidered appliqué. It creates a solid easily applied embroidery where all the distortion is cut off the edge.
You can use wool felt as well. It's pricey and the poly works just as well.


The other thing that makes this work is Sharon Schamber's Halo hoop. This weighted hoop supplies extra support without having to be clamped or unclamped. See my blog  Hoop de doo  for more information about this fabulous tool.


Wrapping it up:
Poly felt makes a fabulous stabilizer for embroidery. And keep your mind open. Fabrics change all the time. There's no knowing when you'll a new use for something old.





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