Full House at Cuttin’ Up!

Sunshine on Saturday brought about thirty-six quilt enthusiasts to Cuttin’ Up to explore the contents of my “trunk” of quilts. I had packed almost forty medium-to-large quilts into three large roller-style suitcases. Twenty more smaller pieces were used to illustrate the four major categories of quilts: center medallion, block format, strippy format, and free form or improvisational style. Whole cloth quilts could be considered a fifth style, not often seen today.

For part of my introduction I appeared wearing the beret hat and the orange headscarf of the TWA flight attendant uniform we wore in 1969 as well as a Girl Scout-themed apron stitched by my mother in 1962–all to illustrate chapters of my life story.

After I opened the presentation with some of my life story, I showed my first quilt “Sentimental Morning Glories” completed in 1985 using the Garden Twist design from the 1890s. This quilt features white and lavender morning glories with lots of white accents on a black background. This fabric had served me well as sheets, but as only 50% cotton, I found I could not continue sleeping on them. I still loved the fabric. I was a new quilter on a budget who decided to use what I had on hand. I’m quite fond of this first project (not pictured).
Since I had no photos to share here, on Sunday morning, I put out a call to several women at yesterday’s trunk show asking for any photos they would like to share with me. It’s now Sunday evening. I’m reliving yesterday’s fun through those pictures! I’ve now received thirty-eight pictures! It’s so fun to see what was happening from the viewer’s point of view. However, I’m out of energy tonight. I will post many photos next week. As a bonus, I am sending the full handout I prepared for all who attended yesterday’s trunk show. If you missed it, here are some of my inspirational guidelines central to my thinking when I make my quilts.

Several generous women (you know who you are) provided these photos of our quilt-time together.

In 1969, when I started flying, TWA had moved to the “non-uniform look” of bright colors. We each had a choice of wearing the orange, green or yellow version of these wool winter uniforms. Our summer uniforms were totally different and made of polyester! We wore orange pumps, carried a large orange handbag with the winter uniforms. Our oversize orange coats had a zip-out lining to add for winter weather. Our white Samsonite luggage was the only subdued element in our outfits.

One of the series of four of my quilts featuring the lovely taupe family of fabrics especially ones by Daiwabo.

I rescued this vintage wool crewel piece from a thrift shop, then added my own creativity. Note the non matching borders.

Colorful selvages paired with like-minded fabrics composed these foundation-pieced blocks into a new whole inscribed with lots of information about what contemporary fabrics are readily available, making it an archive of fabrics!

Guild Challenge: Take a photo and then make a quilt from that photo. I photographed this brilliant Stellar’s Jay high in the mountains of Colorado. Can you see the glass beads I used to imitate ice crystals?

My Passion for Playing with Fabric: Exploring the Options
Trunk Show by Paula Mariedaughter at Cuttin’ Up Quilt Studio and More January 18, 2020

“In its simplest form a quilt is just some fabric and a little bit of thread. It’s up to you to decide how to put it together.” YLI thread advertisement in QNM, March 2000

“Color gets the credit and value does the work.” unknown quilt designer

“Make visual decisions visually.” Lorraine Torrence, quilt designer, teacher

“Please yourself and at least one person will be well-satisfied.” paraphrased Irish proverb

“Compositions matter. Artfully arranged, anything can become a thing of beauty.” designer Barbara Barry

“Life for a quilt comes through the play of one element against another. Color, shape, value & texture all play a part in the visual impact.” Paula Mariedaughter

“Creativity is usually regarded as an individual attribute, but it depends on opportunities for expression and a receptive audience.” Margaret Cruickshank in Learning To Be Old

“Respect your gift. Not everyone can or wants to make a quilt. If your gift is to do so, then by all means make quilts.” Betty White in QNM August 2013

“The viewer’s eye will automatically go to the area of your quilt with the greatest contrast.” Irene Barry QNM Jan 2009

“Repetition makes things go together.” Roberta Horton in The Fabric Makes the Quilt

“Try adding black if you are stuck on choosing colors.” Paula Mariedaughter

“To be surrounded by beautiful things has much influence on the human creature, to make beautiful things has more.” Charlotte Perkins Gilman, feminist author in Women and Economics, 1898

“A quilt cannot be hurried. Solutions come in their own good time. Take your time. Take risks. Have fun.” well-respected, contemporary quilt maker Nancy Crow, author of multiple books.

“Bite off more than you can chew, get into trouble, find interesting ways out. Relish ‘mistakes’. They are probably design presents in disguise.” Nancy Halpern, talented quilter in the contemporary quilt world

Explore the “My Way” quilts from the women of Gee’s Bend and their innovative ways of looking at fabric, design, and format which has produced work that is utterly original and stands with the finest abstract art in any tradition. http://www.soulsgrowndeep.org/gees-bend-quiltmakers

“Unfilled with pattern or design, negative space can be a powerful design element often seen in antique quilts as well as contemporary quilts.” Paula Mariedaughter

“The biggest mistake in quiltmaking is judging your work too harshly” Kristin Miller, The Careless Quilter

“The more you play, the more fun you will have. Every quilt that gets finished is a miracle.” Paula
Please go to the top of this page and sign up for my weekly blog posts about creativity!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What’s Hiding in the Trunk?

Paula speaking at the 2013 Quilt Congress in Russelleville, AR.

A quilter’s trunk show can be full of surprises and unexpected connections. In “My Passion for Playing with Fabrics: Exploring the Options” I’ll display an array of my quilts and talk about the various boulevards, avenues and alleys that my quilting journey has taken me. There are unexpected twists and turns as I’ve wandered around the quilting world.

Every trunk show offers you a chance to view another quilter’s workshop. Hopefully you’ll gather information and possibly inspiration from all you see. A highlight for me of any trunk show, is the chance to ask questions and to mingle ideas with other quilters. Additionally, on Saturday, January 18th, you will have a chance to explore Cuttin’ Up for yourself.

Sarea is searching for inspiration on how to use her Wonder Woman panel.

Bonnie said they settled on the name for the shop because both her daughters are always “cuttin’ up”. When I visited recently, Sarea showed me this favorite fabric, exhibiting that playful attitude her mother mentioned before. Yet, these women have a serious commitment to creating a long-lived quilt shop. We can see this as we look around the shop and view the intense creative energy it took to transform two weary spaces into this bright, cheerful studio for quilters.

This doorway did not exist until the Cuttin’ Up crew made it appear.

Sarea is standing next to the brick wall that divided the two shops before sledge hammers and other delicate tools created a large opening. Harmony salvaged the 100 year old oak beam from a local barn to become the supports you see surrounding the doorway.

I’m always attracted to creative, quirky elements that surprise the viewer, whether in a quilt or in this delightful quit shop. The bathroom offered two such surprises. A vintage treadle sewing machine cabinet now houses the farmhouse sink to carry the sewing theme into this room too. Another wall was left with some of the brick exposed and now holds galvanized metal bins used to corral odds and ends.

When you arrive at Cuttin’ Up on Saturday you’ll find parking in front or in the lot behind the shop. I hope you will view the front of the shop because you will appreciate the transformation most from that view. Bonnie, Harmony and Sarea provided me with a historical photo from the 1900s and then a photo taken as they started the extensive renovations last summer.

Harmony, Sarea, and Bonnie had a vision for this building, despite the garish yellow and purple painted facade done by previous tenants. With dedicated enthusiasm, they enlisted the efforts of family and friends to transform the space in a matter of a few months into a vibrant quilt shop and a gathering place for creative sewers. Come join the fun!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Adventures at the New Quilt Shop: Cuttin’ Up

Three creative women with a dream have created Cuttin’ Up Quilt Studio & More located in downtown Prairie Grove, AR. Bonnie Clark and her two daughters Harmony Strode and Sarea Birmingham have enhanced this downtown street with a renovated building and beautiful entrance to their shop.

Cuttin’Up store front at the Grand opening on October 4, 2019. Even the windows have stitching around the edge!

On a bright June day last year Sarea and Harmony confronted their mother, Bonnie, with the grand idea of opening a multi-purpose quilt shop with additional services offered by hairdesser, Harmony, and massage therapist, Sarea. Bonnie was surprised and delighted. By mid July they had purchased two adjacent buildings located on Buchanan, the main business street in Prairie Grove.
All three women enlisted the aid of extended family and friends to help with the renovation. Lots of “sweat equity” transformed the former grocery into the current bright space.

Browse this corner filled with reproduction fabrics from the 1930’s–a favorite of Sarea.

The three women consider a goal of their shop to be “bridging the gap between the generations” offering fabrics, patterns and tools to please quilters and sewers, whether new or experienced. From batiks to solids to panels and precut collections, the shopper has lots to choose from.

From the first time I visited, I was taken with the building and all they have done to transform the space! The vintage elements which fill every nook made me feel at home. I admired the eye, or rather the three sets of eyes that pulled this collage of elements together. During that visit my quilter friends and I visited with the owners about their adventure in creating this joint project. We got a grand tour of the facility including the back room which is a project still in progress. The classroom is large and bright. The hair salon and the massage facility were both inviting.

Two long arm quilting machines–one available for use by you.

After seeing the long arm quilting machine they use to quilt for the public, we learned of their plans to add a second long arm quilting machine to allow them to rent it out to those who want to quilt their quilts. Bonnie, Harmony, and Sarea are now offering quilt classes and other special events like the Pizza Nights held the first Friday of the month. In our later conversations, we came up with the idea of my doing the free trunk show in January and then a two session class in February.

At this mid-point, you can see the front half of the shop. Draped on the cutting table is my quilt “Indigo Play” the third in my “Mix it Up” series based on the book Circle Play.

Join us at Cuttin’ Up!
“My Passion for Creating with Fabric: Exploring the Options” is the title of my free trunk show at 2:00 Saturday, January 18th. I’ll bring lots of quilt stands so most all the quilts will be visible for a length of time—not whisked away after a one minute glance. You will see early quilts and many of the newer ones of the “Mix It Up” series based on Circle Play. I’ll share some of my ideas about choosing fabrics and how to modify patterns to make them your own.

You’ll have a chance to roam the shop and to see for yourself how these creative women have manifested their dream of “something different”. You will also have the chance to meet and talk to Sarea, Bonnie, and Harmony.

Sisters: Harmony, on the left and Sarea, on the right–Bonnie was not around the day I took these photos.

Contact information for Cuttin’ Up Quilt Studio & More
111 East Buchanan Street
Prairie Grove, AR 72753
Phone: 479-846-2611
Email: cqsm19@gmail.com
Hours: Thursday & Friday 10-6:00
Saturday 10-5:00

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Reflective Surfaces….

Last week I mentioned the use of “reflective surfaces” to add interest to a photograph–that seems a rather obvious action when using a camera. How do we add “reflective surfaces” to our quilts? There are multiple answers with complex variations! Let’s explore some of the the possibilities.

Silk fibers have a natural sheen. Let’s start with my 2015 quilt “Downward Mobility”, 32″ x 32″, which began as a “modern nine-patch” challenge. All these silk fabrics are recycled from thrift shop garments. Notice how the quilting is clearly defined on the pale green. The white silk is dupioni silk which does not have the same reflective sheen as most other silk, but it is washable.

I discovered the second quilt at a flea market. I was drawn to the vivid colors of the silk and the fine hand quilting on this small wall hanging. I’ve named this quilt “Color Study”. The bright colors set against the black background make each square glow like a jewel. However, if you squint, you will see that the lightest rectangle found in the lower right section glows. Can you see the “reflective surface” here? Yes, the lightest section of your quilt will draw the eye–especially if there is a high contrast with the surrounding area!

The value of “value”! Lights stand out, darks recede.
This simple observation has taken me years to really comprehend! “Value” refers to the lightness of darkness of a particular fabric or group of fabrics. The tricky thing about that basic definition is the changing reality of how one pairs that fabric. Its value is strongly influenced by its surroundings! More on this later. Let’s focus on the observation that light areas of your quilt will become a reflective surface and stand out!

“Journey to the New Normal”, 42″ x 42″, 2016

In “Journey to the New Normal” our eye is quickly drawn tho the lighter paths created with the split nine-patch blocks I made. Yes, the strong, rich colors grab their share of attention, but without that strong contrast of the light paths the vivid colors would blend together. This is my original design for the challenge I initiated at the Modern Guild in 2016. Our challenge was this phrase, “Too precious to cut, but we will!” Each of the outer border fabrics was precious–so glad they worked together in this exploration. By modifying the basic construction of the split nine patch block I was able to turn the triangle of that block into the squares that punctuate each block.

“Windfall”, another of my quilts from 2016, resulted from a slightly modified pattern from talented teacher Sujata Shah. You can readily see how the lightest “blades” of this “Windmill” pattern keep your eye moving across the surface of the quit challenging you to find the rhythmn. The color theme is loosely a blue, purple and white grouping. I was not pleased with the color combinations until I added the dashes of deep red. Note that the lights appear in both the blades (foreground) and in the background areas making the rhythm more unpredictable, yet still interesting. 46″ x 58″

Silver Taupe (left) and Copper Rose are part of the series of five quilts I made in 2015 exploring the delight of playing with these low-volume taupe fabrics. Working extensively with medium-range values (the entire family of taupe fabrics), made it obvious how essential the clear light fabrics were to creating any pattern capable of drawing the eye! In Silver Taupe the ombre fabrics of the border demand attention as the value moves from lights to darks in an asymmetrical pattern. You can see how in Copper Rose (right) the light squares draw your eye strategically down each of the diagonal lines from upper right to lower left.

Pumpkin Treat (right) depends on small dashes of white in the plaid background and in the white yarn of the crocheted squares. The vibrant white appears as a reflective surface amid all the deep dark colors. This small wall hanging is composed of a variety of thrift shop finds including the tiny crochet “granny squares” similar to those my mother would make from her leftover yarn. Mother also made delightful Halloween costumes for us, so this quilt is one more tribute to her!

“Color gets the credit, value does the work!”
The unknown quilter who first used this quip was a wise quilter! Life for a quilt comes through the play of one element against another. Color, shape, value, and texture all play a part in the visual impact. Creative use of light is an essential tool for every quilter. The more we play around with the elements, the more fun we can have!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Artfully Arranged? Compositions?

“Compositions matter. Artfully arranged anything can become a thing of beauty.” Years ago I discovered this quote from the talented designer Barbara Barry in House Beautiful, January 2013. She put into words my own lifelong interest in everyday living. Our surroundings influence us on many levels. Composition just refers to how something is arranged. For example, often we carefully set up a photo to include what we want. We may choose to exclude unsightly overhead wires from our picture–that is composition! Quilts can be seen as fabric compositions too. You can tell a lot about a person by what she surrounds herself with and how she arranges her surroundings. Here is a brief tour of my surroundings. This photo of our mantel needs some explanation.

As you look in the mirror in the foreground, you see the row of bird’s nests under glass arranged on the mantel. In the reflection, the double shades of the light located over the couch catch your eye. This is the middle ground. In the background the antique green enamel breadbox and all the dishes are located twenty feet across from the mirror. That kitchen area extends along the back wall of the 20′ x 40′ house Jeanne and I built in 1988. There is a lot of history stuffed into this photo!

I imported this 100 year old leaded glass window from Kansas City, MO where I’d salvaged it from a thrift store in the 1980s. I was drawn to the unusual heart shaped glass pieces and the series of moon shapes along the top.

All three items in front of the window are leftover decorations from a women’s event we organized last fall. The ornamental kale are from a local nursery. The pumpkin was a volunteer appearing on our compost pile. Every time I approach our deck, I am please to see this simple arrangement. I know that the terracotta pots contribute to my admiration of the grouping since I’m always drawn to terracotta.

“Mix and Match” was a phrase I first heard in junior high school (1950s) as related to our girls’ wardrobe planning. Ever since I’ve used this concept to surround myself with things I like–some match, but most mix-it-up to please my own eye! Here I’ve assembled favorite plants, terracotta pots, seashells. The centerpiece of this grouping is a collection of turquoise Japanese fishing floats corralled in a wire basket. These wondrous glass globes have traveled the sea on their own and then proceeded overland to me as a gift from a dear friend now deceased. Once they were used in Japan as buoys to keep fishing nets afloat.

Our forty acre homestead was owned previously by a group of “hippies” who built a tree house overlooking the creek we call Orchid Creek. The outdoor kitchen, small workshed and the tree house were disintegrating when I bought Cedar Hill in 1982. Left behind in the shed was this ancient Singer cast iron sewing machine. Several years ago I dragged it up hill to our house to become yard art for this avid sewer! Daffodils and ferns surround it in the spring. I see it from my 9′ tall windows every day and never fail to admire the curves and the sturdy frame.

Artfully Arranged. My original quilt pattern “Diagonal Dance” is a carefully composed group of fabrics selected to become a community of fabrics meant to be together. This pattern is like a giant puzzle that will fit together, but only you can decide what colors, what fabrics, what focus should be placed in each spot! The actual sewing is not difficult. Composition is what makes each quilt sewn with this pattern carry a unique visual personality.

Bonus question. In observing the first four photographs, some taken indoors and some outdoors, did you notice that they all have one aspect in common? Each photo contains a reflective surface–one quite effective way to keep the viewer’s eye engaged.

Posted in Black Accents, Color Explorations, Paula's Quilt, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Speculations Abound

Every time I make a Time Span quilt I speculate about my co-creator. That is, my unknown co-creator. For a reason, unknown to me, she was not able to finish the blocks, the embroidery or the quilt top. How did this particular thing that I find valuable end up in a thrift shop?

This question first occurred to me while roaming through thrift shops and vintage clothes shops in the early 1970s when I lived in Kansas City, MO. I found those outings to be adventures and educational. I learned about antique furniture, vintage textiles, discovered folk art, and generally had a good time shopping within my budget. Often the quality of goods I encountered was superior to what was available at local retail shops. One of my best friends, Kate K. published a guide to local thrift stores emphasizing the myriad reasons for how an attitude of “reduce, reuse and recycle” would benefit us personally and be to the benefit of the planet to sustain human life. We shopped together seeking fantastic finds!

The original creator seemed to have worked from her “scrap bag”. I encountered: seersucker, dotted swiss, ticking, striped flannel, organdy, two sizes of gingham, dots, plaids, strips, solids, shirtings, pajama prints, rayon, bandana print, calico, multiple florals, pique, and a feedsack fabric. These Bear’s Paw blocks were set together with garish, bright polyester double knits popular in the late 1960s and early 1970’s. This fact leads me to believe that the older, duller blocks were pieced earlier, then set together in that time period or later.

In fact, the blocks may have been pieced by one woman and someone else chose what fabrics to use to set them together. Or they may have been found at a thrift store. I’ll never know! But I am sure that whoever made this top would appreciate that an avid quilter found herself attracted enough to her flimsy quilt top to transform it into a sturdy quilt! I’ve named it “Inventive Bear’s Paw”.

Here is a brief accounting of how much time I’ve devoted to sewing “Inventive Bear’s Paw”. Selecting and sewing the fabric for the pieced backing, sleeve, and label: five hours. Selecting, cutting and preparing the bias binding: five hours. Ironing, then spreading out all three layers to pin baste: six hours (it’s a big quilt). Machine quilting on my vintage 1980 Bernina #930: twenty-one hours. Applying the binding using my trusty Singer #221 or “Featherweight”: four hours. Grand total: forty-one hours.

Why would I spend all this time on a quilt of unknown origins and dubious value (in some eyes) when I have lots of other ideas of my own to work on? Here is my list. I was attracted to the enormous energy I saw in the top. I felt a strong respect for the woman who sewed these blocks. I valued her carefree attitude! It made me smile! I found it a challenge to transform the unfinished piece into a whole. I knew I would learn something from working/playing on this project. Or, as I wrote on the label, “Improvisational piecing highlighted by a jumble of fabrics gives this TimeSpan quilt its unique personality.” I always love a quilt with personality! Don’t you?

Posted in Paula's Quilt, TimeSpan Quilt, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Expanding Energy Everywhere!

“The color palette [of polyester double knit fabric in the late 1960s and early 1970s] was eye-popping, gaudy, sometimes bizarre, and unfailingly cheerful,” notes blogger Suzanne Labry. I’m guessing this was the motivation of the quilter who set these vintage Bear’s Paw blocks together with pink and orange double knit fabrics. “Eye-popping, gaudy and cheerful” all describe the color palette of this creation! My guess is that this top was sewn together in the early 1970’s, the same time I was wearing a polyester TWA flight attendant uniform in a plum color polyester. The easy care, long lasting characteristics of polyester made it seem ideal.

I discovered this scramble of a quilt top at a local thrift for twelve dollars. I almost left it behind. As I opened it and considered the possibilities, I was charmed by the energy emanating from those cattywampus blocks! Some of the Bear’s Paws were askew. The jumble of colors and patterns kept me searching for a rythymn. The workpersonship was poor–one of the setting strips even displayed the raw edges of a seam placed on the front! Who would choose a stretchy polyester double knit fabric as setting strips??

Yet, I wanted it! I wanted to take it home and explore the possibilities! The celebrated quilts made by the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have helped educate my eye and my mind to an avenue of the quilting world I’d been unaware of until the late 1990s. Even if you are familiar with the Gee’s Bend Quilts, please explore this visual journey through many of their quilts: http://www.soulsgrowndeep.org/gees-bend-quiltmakers Wow, what an amazing collection of vibrant quilts!

I’ve not been quilting on large projects recently. This quilt top is 64″ x 88″. To do the pin basting step, which prepares the top for my machine quilting, requires the use of three large tables at the local community center room. The ironing of top and back, then layering of all three layers took five hours of steady work.

For the last week, when time allowed, I have been doing the “free motion” quilting I call my “scribble motif” of swirls and curves and a few flowers all over the top. As I’m scribbling with my fast-moving machine needle, I encounter the duller blocks and then the vivid setting strips. I am amazed by the variety of fabrics gathered into this one top. I am also aware of the turquoise or blue centers of each Bear’s Paw block. She used different fabrics at times, but the repetition of this appealing color is part of what draws me to this unusual quilt.

I’m expecting to finish the machine quilting today or tomorrow. Then another adventure begins as I apply the binding. This quilt has extremely wavy edges, so I’ve cut the binding on the bias and will keep those wavy edges as I bind it.

Because the original quiltmaker seemed to use any fabric she happened to have on hand, I’ve done the same. The expanse of fabric needed for the back was pieced from cloth I had on hand. I’ve cut the dark bias binding from a vintage Ginny Beyer striped border fabric. That long strip of folded bias is carefully folded to prevent any stretching, and is now ready for that almost final step.

By next week I hope to have completed photos and a comprehensive list of all of the types of fabric I’ve encountered in this bold quilt top–from plaids, stripes and ticking, to gingham and organdy. Stay tuned.

Note: The opening quote came from an article “The Return of Double Knits” from this blog, https://www.quilts.com/sfancy/suzy-s-fancy-the-return-of-double-knits!.html

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Composition, or Setting the Stage….

“Life for a quilt comes through the play of one element against another. Color, shape, value and texture all play a part in the visual impact.” My observations about vibrant quilts can be applied to apply to this photo from Crete, Greece.

Initially you take in the graceful curves of the door, the arch of the brick frame and the overhanging foliage. Your eye is drawn to the lightest part of the photo as if your next step was to enter. “The viewer’s eye will automatically go to the area of your quilt with the greatest contrast”, noted Irene Barry in QNM Dec/Jan 2009. I’ve found this observation extremely useful in designing my quilts.
The rich green color of the door, the lights and shadows of the composition as well as the variety of textures keeps me engaged in viewing this moment in time.

My photo of an arched door in the village of Mochlos, Crete is full of surprises–my own image was reflected in the glass! Roberta Horton in her book, The Fabric Makes the Quilt, offered five valuable ideas for designing your own quilts. One of my favorites of her suggestions is, “Repetition makes things go together.”
Note the strong curved lines of the arch over the door and the graceful palm fronds framing that door. Because your eye has been drawn to those dominant curves you will not immediately notice the square shape of the door itself. The subtle earth tone colors of the building and the entrance bring a calm to the scene. No jarring colors appear to demand attention, until you notice the lavender linen shirt reflected in the photo. Because the proportion of bright color is small, your eye is not overwhelmed but perhaps intrigued.

In both photos the repetition demands your attention.

The play of light and dark is quite different in each photo, setting the stage for your reaction. Whether sun-drenched or shade covered, the viewer will react to the mood portrayed by the light. Or as one wise quilter quipped, “Color gets the credit, but value does the work”. She meant that the contrast between light, medium and dark fabrics will make your composition interesting to the viewer’s eye. I keep practicing all this advice from my contemporary quilters. And it is still fun!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Everyday Creativity: Available to All of Us!

Loading my car on a sunny afternoon after a recent quilting gathering, I noticed these bright yellow fan-shaped leaves scattered on the ground. Ginkgo leaves! Old friends! I first met this unique tree and its bright leaves when I was a young college student in 1963 at Maryville College, Maryville TN. We all know that familiar smells can retrieve strong memories. What memories are stirred by a few fallen leaves? First, you must know that in 1963 I had not experienced fall and the fallen leaves the cold weather brings! I was born and raised in Miami, Florida where hibiscus, bougainvillea, and poinsettias were the bright year-round companions I knew well.

I first met this unusual tree and its golden leaves when I was a young college student in 1963 at Maryville College, Maryville TN. We learned in biology class that this unique tree is considered a “living fossil”–meaning that fossils recognizably related to the modern ginkgo trees have been found that date back 270 million years.

With leaves on the ground, I thought, there must be a source nearby. I looked up and saw two tall, elegant trees dressed in the same yellow-gold of the leaves on the ground. I admired their splendor, then grabbed my camera.
Savoring the intense yellow of the leaves and in awe of the abundance of those leaves still clinging to their tree, I stopped what I was doing. Paying attention, being in the moment, is a central part of creativity! I admired my surroundings and my good fortune to be alive, and to really see these two particular ginkgo trees. I decided to take a closeup of the leaves before leaving. As I returned to the car, I carefully chose two particular ginkgo leaves from the ground to accompany me home.

More memories followed me that day. As a young woman I had not had much encouragement to explore my own creativity–that would come later. Yet I’ve always had a camera to record events and observations. The four years I spent on that campus allowed me to learn more about the world and to learn about who I was. I do know I was picking up leaves then and taking them with me to admire later.

In 1963 Maryville College was a small, co-ed, liberal arts college of 850 students located in east Tennessee along the foothills of the Smokey Mountains which look much like our Ozark Mountains. I had graduated from Hialeah High School in a class of over 1,000 students. Baldwin Hall, the dorm I lived in the first two years, had been used as a hospital during the civil war–or so we are told. I found the campus lovely. I admired a spreading white dogwood tree outside my dorm window that had a strong branch of pink dogwood blossoms as a result of a careful graft by biology students done years earlier.
Baldwin Hall (upper right corner in the group of campus photos) was razed decades ago. Yet my memories are clear of the relationships, experiences, friendships and even some conflicts with the other young women who lived together. Campus life gave me a “breathing spell” before entering the work world of adults. I’m glad I had those years to start to mature.
Creativity is full of surprises and unexpected paths. Can you locate the ginkgo leaves in this section from a recent quilt of mine? This quilt began a series of quilts which is still unfolding.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Cedar Trees & the “Lust for Life”

When I first bought this piece of land in Arkansas and dreamed of living in the woods, I named the land Cedar Hill in honor of an ancient cedar tree located near the well and chimney of the 1880s homestead. I imagined that this cedar tree had sheltered the people who built the cabin and dug that well. One of my friends informed me that her father always called cedar trees “trash trees”. That was over thirty years ago. I still remember her dismissive comment. Perhaps I had become tiresome in talking about my desire to move to Cedar Hill.

Even before we built our small deck from the local cedar, we had used standing dead cedar trees as posts inside the house. When we built our 20′ x 40′ house, we left a small volunteer cedar tree in the back yard. That vibrant tree has grown to shade the entire yard. Our outside shower hangs from her branches. Juncos, robins, bluejays and others nest in the branches–we watch them from the kitchen window. Sometimes in midwinter, I bring the evergreen boughs loaded with the plump blue clusters of berries inside to place on the mantel. This tree is our constant companion!

Lust for Life! Cedars grow from the Rocky Mountains across the continent to the ocean. Here in the Ozarks this juniper/cedar thrives! We can see cedar trees popping up along fences as well as large stands of closely spaced specimens. The twigs and foliage are eaten extensively by deer and cattle, but the chief attraction to wildlife is the bluish-black berry-like fruit. The trees offer shelter and safe nesting spots for birds and squirrels.

Juniperus virginiana is the formal Latin name for our cedar. I turned to the USDA website for a little more information(https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_juvi.pdf) “All of the native junipers are valuable ornamental species, and many horticultural varieties have been developed. Red cedar is widely used in shelterbelts and wildlife plantings. The close-grained, aromatic, and durable wood of junipers is used for furniture, interior paneling, novelties, and fence posts. The fruits and young branches contain aromatic oil that is used in medicines.”

When we built the deck, we had to remove the native Virginia Creeper vine which had climbed the wall over the front door. We did cut apart the upper branches, but carefully preserved the lower section while we worked on the deck. Once the deck was completed, we snaked the stalk of the vine out between the house and the long ramp. The vine appears next to the small ramp leading to the cat/dog door.
New Growth!
In the fall, after a long hot summer, we don’t often look for fresh new growth around us. I was delighted, last week, when I noticed the first hint of a green leaf unfolding on the Virginia Creeper vine we rescued. Today there are thirteen leaves emerging from the lower section of the vine. The base of the plant is tucked under the edge of the deck, but still gets water when it rains. We’ve been providing supplemental water, too, to encourage this new growth. As you can see in the picture to the left, this vigorous vine had traced its own path up the wall. I planted this Virginia Creeper vine well over a decade ago. Now we will see what new path the vines will create along the wall. The dark berries from Virginia Creeper are a favored food for a variety of birds. I find myself thinking that “trash” trees and even “weeds” are designations that tell me more about the speaker than about a plant or tree!
Certainly, I admire the “lust for life” I observe all around me! Even when the “weeds” overwhelm my sense of order, I see the life energy and the creative impulse of those plants. I find I need to absorb some of that energy to enrich my own life, so I keep admiring each example I see of a “lust for life”. Do you have any examples you’d like to share?

Graceful new growth for this Virginia Creeper vine!

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments