My name rhymes with "Lisa,"
I live in Midland, Texas, because it's warm
and the mortgage is cheap,
and of course this is my natural hair color. Of course!
The EGE--The Ever-Gorgeous Earl--is my husband of 35 years.
I have the best job in the world:
I call up artists
and ask them a bunch of nosy questions and then write about them. Or podcast them, if we're going to let "podcast" be a transitive verb. I write, I blog, I podcast, I stitch. In my spare time, I do it all some more.
Well, maybe not all diet cat food. But the stuff we were trying sure did. I told you a while back that Cutie Pie had been really gimpy, limping and not wanting to walk and not playing and crying and just basically sleeping all the time. And the vet coudln't find anything wrong except that he was "fat." And we'd already put them all on diet food. I won't go into all the details--too long and boring--but we put them on it and took them off a couple of times when we had to be out of town. And we finally figured out, watching him get better and then worse and then better again, that it had something to do with that damn food. We put them back on regular food, and he's as good as new. Supposedly only humans and, I think, guinea pigs (just one other mammal) get gout; but I have to wonder. The vet would scoff and look for another explanation besides the food, but I'm willing to bet money.
In truth, we're not sure what this is. My friend Julia gave it to me--she left it on my porch one morning, the nicest surprise. Her mother, who's a most excellent seamstress, copied it from the nuns. She used to sew for them and used one of these to make her own pattern. Anyway, this isn't the one Julia gave me. Whenever I see something I like a lot, the first thing I do is try to figure out if I can make it myself. If it's too hard or would require stuff I don't have or can't afford--like yards and yards of expensive fabric--or stuff I don't know how to do and don't want to learn--then forget it. But if I love it and it's a little bit of a challenge, then I have to try. So I made this out of scrap muslin--the front and the back are actually out of different lots of muslin and don't exactly match. But I've got the basic pattern down and can make one out of good, heavier white cotton. Julia gave it to me to paint and stamp and stitch, etc.; and I can see a whole series of these. But first I have to go shopping--yep: shopping. Which you know I loathe. But I have tights, or leggings, or whatever you call them--the Danksin things I wear to work out and do yoga and wear under skirts, etc. And I need some turtleneck tops just like them, and then I can wear those under these aprons and have the perfect wardrobe forever. Along with my 20 tank tops and 15 skirts. I. Bought. A dozen. Skirts. This. Weekend. You have to know me to know what an effort it is even to admit that, much less put it in print. It's a story, indeed.
Well, for some reason, it won't let me upload the apron. I'll come back later and try again.
OK--remember when I was making the little sweatshirt for Zoe? Here's what it looked like when I was finished--with blue gingham wings attached to the back and ball fringe around the bottom. We wanted to intersperse bells among the balls, but her mother would have killed me--she admitted this out loud, so I know it's true. I'm already probably not her favorite person, as I gave Zoe a bracelet of bells--really nice loud ones, like mine!--that she wears to church. My theory is that it makes her musical AND easy to find in the dark, but I'm guessing her mom probably plots against me late at night.
Yep, that's me. Pond Scum. I haven't posted anything here in forever. It's been a weird time: in early November, I began talking to an editor about a book project I really wanted to do. She loved the idea and wrote the proposal for me--I'm lucky that way--and thought it would go. Waited and waited and waited for almost a month, only to have the sales team shoot it down because the editor couldn't convince them they could sell 10,000 copies the first year. I immediately made a new proposal, which she also loved--and which the sale team again shot down. Now, these were both books I would love to do, and a lot of fabulous artists were already on board. And, working with this company--one I REALLY want to work with--I would have doubled my yearly income. It's not a ton of money by normal people's standards, but it's a ton of money for a freelance writer. Yowza. So I was a little bummed. But here's the great thing about having a lousy memory and not having much interest in the past: you get over things like this pretty fast. I forget about how excited I was to think about doing it, and I forget all the plans I had, and I forget everything. Which is another reason I don't keep a regular journal any more--I found that I tended to write down stuff that I didn't need to remember, or didn't really want to remember--stuff like this book disappointment--and then I'd forget about it and wouldn't remember my disappointment until I went back and re-read it. Better just not to remember at all. So I've been working on other stuff, and I'm going to show some of it in another post. Got to figure out how to get images throughout the post, rather than at the top, which I hate. So nuclear. Or, rather, nucular. Sheesh.
I've been working on a couple of things, but this is the only thing I've finished this week--and I'm not finished with it--got to make a run to the fabric store for some fringe or something for the bottom. It's been an experiment--a continuing one--with Photoshop Elements 2, trying to figure out how to do the things I want to do. This photo was tiny, and I wanted to make it larger but not necessarily this large. But I didn't want to resize it after I put it in the document--I printed out 6 of these on one sheet of transfer paper, thinking I'd have a herd of leaping Zoes, but that didn't work. And the colors didn't come out right. It's all a mystery to me--sometimes things work on the computer, and sometimes they don't. Anyway, I've spent all morning on this photo and now give up. I'm kind of pleased with the sweatshirt, though--it began life as a regular, cheesy-looking sweatshirt (I almost wrote "kids' sweatshirt," leaving you with a squinting modifier and wondering if I know a bunch of cheesy-looking kids), but I've spared us that, at least. ANYWAY--I cut off the dark blue neckband and the cuffs on the sleeves. It's tiny--a size 3T. First kid's thing I've ever bought! If I can find the trim I want--ball fringe, I think--I'll cut off the hem, too, and sew that on. Not a big project, nothing fancy. Just sometimes you gotta do something you can finish in one day to get away from whatever else you're working on day after day after day. Which brings me to another thing--I'm trying to start doing one thing different every day. I am such a creature of habit. I do the same things every day--eat the same breakfast, do the same things at the same gym at the same time. Do the same yoga workout, eat more or less the same thing for dinner. I've always kind of liked the idea of being regular in your life so you can be wild and creative in your art, but sometimes the regular life gets to be a rut. So I'm working on that--I ate a banana and an Asian pear for breakfast yesterday. Sounds like nothing, doesn't it? If you knew me, you'd know it's a pretty big deal. Pathetic, I know. So what different thing am I going to do today? Hmmmmmm.
Oh--the words on the sweatshirt are stamped in black Neopaque, by Jacquard. Usually, on regular cotton, I use Ancient Page coal black ink, which is the most permanent stuff I've found--I don't even heat set it any more. But this sweatshirt--it just soaked up the ink, which then didn't show. So I had to use paint and will have to heat set it--or tell Zoe's mom to heat set it--that's what I'll do! I hate to heatset. . . .
Whew. I finally got another one finished! With all the other things that are going on, it's hard to get things done. I've talked to some artists who do several pieces a day, completing everything at one sitting. I can't imagine that. Of course, fabric IS going to take longer than, say, paper. There's all the stitching and stuff. And with these, there's the hand stamping, letter by letter. But I LOVE that kind of thing, so I'm not complaining. I do wish I could finish at least one piece every week, but I don't see that happening. Like I said when I started this blog, one of my goals is to figure out how to, as they say, "maximize my time." Gack. But you know what I mean--I need to make the best use of the time I have and still have time to relax (and to go to the gym, go to yoga, meditate--every day!). I'm sleeping better--for most of my life, I've been waking up about half a dozen times every night. That's just the way I sleep--or don't sleep, as the case may be. But now that I'm trying Tylenol Arthritis at bedtime for my fingers and hip (I'm going through lots of remedies--aspirin, Advil, etc.--for two weeks at a time, to see which has the fewest side effects and keeps the pain and stiffness at bay), I'm waking up only once or twice--it's practically unheard of, it's such a marvel. And that may enable me to get up earlier--and since I work best in the morning, that would be A Good Thing. (Where is Martha Stewart, anyway? Since I quit watching tv, I don't know any of this stuff--I'm always amazed to find out somebody famous died or something and I didn't even know about it). OK, now I'm rambling--back to work!
No pictures today, folks; I'm on a tear. I've spent the whole morning looking at artists' websites for a possible project, and I'm exhausted. So if you're an artist who wants to get some exposure--like in a magazine or a book, for instance--there are some things you've GOT to think about. I'm going to put all this on a page on my website when I get a chance, but here are just a few of the things that have me grouchy today. 1. Every artist who wants her/his stuff out there HAS to have a website. How else are we going to find you? And if you've got it under www.artsite.com/kansascity~/collaborativeartists:clothingandfabric:sallysmith/~~!@#?, then how in the world are we going to find it? Put it on your own domain, under a name that makes sense, that's easy to find and easy to tell others about. Make sure when I google you, your website shows up. I can't tell you how many artists I wanted to find this morning--ones whose work I've seen in books or at retreats--who just don't have a site. Or, if they do, it's hidden somewhere, hidden so thoroughly I couldn't find it. 2. Make it easy to navigate. My god. I crawled through labyrinths of crap this morning, trying to find some photographs of ART. Put the resume on its own page. Put the quilts on one page and the bags on another. Make the menu big enough for people to read, and do NOT make it do cute stuff like float around the page or vanish altogether. The links to the various pages should be easy to find and easy to read--one website had little symbols, and when you hovered over them, they told what the link was. BUT the words appeared over the other little symbols, so it was impossible to read. Cute websites GREAT if you're doing them to entertain yourself and your friends, but if you have a business you're trying to promote, think about the exhausted soul who's got 5 minutes to see what you do and fall in love with it. Don't be wordy--if you have a lot to say, put that on a page by itself. Put the art on the page with only the information we need to know about it. Save everything else for another page.
3. Photographs: Big. Clear. Easy to find. Period.
OK--there's a lot more, but this should get you thinking about your own website. Is it a mess? If an editor (or someone like me, who's funneling things to an editor) has been looking at websites for two hours already and gets to yours, are they going to take one look at all the cute links and lists of your friends and associates and awards and just give up and go on to the next one, their eyes rolling up into their heads? I did, I tell you. I finally came up with 38 websites. I weeded out at least that many more. Some of them may well have contained fabulous artwork, but there's no way I was going to be able to find it before next Tuesday, and who has that kind of time?
Last summer, with the proceeds from my second book, I had our bathroom gutted and completely remodeled. The shower was lovely--with clear glass, to help the tiny bathroom seem bigger. We started using Tilex Fresh Shower on the glass, following the instructions. Six months later, we noticed the damage you can see in the photo above (taken from inside the shower through the damaged glass). We thought it was a film at first and tried EVERYTHING, including steam cleaning the shower, which made the rest of the shower really nice and shiny but didn't do a thing for the glass. I contaced the Clorox company, the maker of Fresh Shower, and began a long, long process, trying to get them to pay to have the damage repaired. Or, as it turns out, to replace the shower enclosure. This has taken many, many months. Lots of phone calls. Letters. At first they kept sending me $5 checks. I kept calling them, saying, no, that won't fix it. Then they said they'd send me a claim form to fill out. It never arrived. I called again. They insisted they'd sent it but would go ahead and send another. It never arrived. Finally, after the third time, they actually did send the claim form. I got the estimate for the shower glass, and then the two estimates for labor. Since Midland is doing so well financially, thanks to obscene oil prices, every contractor in town is swamped with business. I finally got someone to come out and take photos, and he said he'd fax an estimate to me that afternoon. Two weeks and half a dozen phone calls later, I gave up and called another contractor. Same thing with him, only this time he misunderstood and did an estimate for replacing the whole shower, which came out to about half of what it had cost to have the ENTIRE bathroom re-done last summer. Greedy, greedy. But I finally got an estimate from him. The second one--since Clorox required two--I got from Bill & David, the brothers who originally did the bathroom. Dave gave me a figure over the phone and told me to make up a letterhead and type it up and print it out and put his name at the bottom. I love these guys! They don't waste time; they're fair; plus they're a hoot to have around the house. If you're going to have a couple of white guys tracking muck across the floor and filling your house with sawdust, these are the guys you want. Then I also had to send in the original bottle and the original receipt. Now, they have you do this because they think you won't have the receipt by the time you file the claim. It had been over a year, after all. Ha. They don't know my husband, who saves EVERYTHING. PlusI had to send in photographs, which is why I have the one above on a CD. So yesterday I go to the mailbox and whoa--there's a check from Clorox! I rip it open, but it's for only the labor--not the glass shower panels. I call, and the woman there insists they can't do anything else. We talk about this for a while, and she puts me on hold a couple of times to go talk to her superviser. But finally she gives me the number of The Man, somewhere off in another state. To cut to the chase--I call him, explain Life to him, and he agrees to cut a check and put it in the mail today--a check for the full amount to replace the glass walls and door. PLUS he admitted they've had this problem in "the South," from Texas to Florida, something about the silicates in the water. Yeah, right--if it'll do it here, it'll do it other places, too. I told him we'd used the product just as instructed, after every shower. With two adults showering every day, that's twice a day for six months. He said, "Whoa. No wonder." Turns out that "regular use" means a couple of times a week (wrong--not what they say on their website: http://www.tilex.com/freshshower.html ). Who are these people who bath only every other day? Or, with two people in the house, each taking only one shower a week? Ewww.
So the moral of the story is that you CAN win, but things are rigged to make it really, really difficult. You'll get the runaround for months because they expect you to give up and go away. If you don't, though--if you have the time and the energy to persist--you can get a lot done. It helps to have a phone plan with unlimited long distance--you'll get put on hold a LOT (wear a headset and do some stitching while you wait--they won't be able to figure out why you're so cheerful). More power to all of us little guys!
I wish there were a way to reply to comments from my e-mail program--I know I can do it from here, but grrrrrr. E14studio mentioned being at the Houston Quilt Show and said how she (?) loved the journal quilts. Me, too! When they first had these, I was so excited about seeing them. What was that, like 3 or 4 years ago? And they were cool, all right. But I was disappointed then--and again this year. Because I've kept journals for over 30 years--over 100 volumes--and I've seen hundreds more kept by other people. And although I know they come in all shapes and sizes, to me, journals need text. The best ones have both images and text--that's what I like. I love the ones that are rich in both, all that rich lushness so you can look at a page again and again and always see something new. I'm tired of seeing so many pages that are messy and so layered you can't really get any details--I know that's the way many people like them and that that look is really popular, and that's fine. But it's not for me. I like Bruce Kremmer's style a lot--of course I do, as I included him in a show at the local gallery about 10 years ago or so, back before I ever saw his work anywhere else. http://www.bkremer.com/archive/journals/index.html It's not all neat and organized, but you can still see individual images. I guess what I like is something that looks like a real journal, like something someone's carried around in their bag, rather than a mixed-media art piece done in a book. So for the last couple of years, as I've kept making the Journal Skirts and the Journal Bags, I've been thinking about two-page spreads, done in fabric. I don't think of them as "quilts," really--because, to me, quilts have quilting. And these don't--at least not so far. Anyway, here's the first of my newest thang--Journal Pages. I'm really excited about these--this one's hanging on the wall--it's got a dowel attached to the back with an orange ribbon tied to the dowel, and one end of the ribbon has a silver car milagro--but when I got rid of the background in Photoshop, I could see that getting rid of the peach/salmon wall behind the orange ribbon was going to take me all damn day. Forget that. This tells about the art car artist, Kelly Israel, we met in New Orleans this summer. If you've been there, you've probably seen his VW parked in front of a bar on Decatur Street, right down from the Cafe du Monde. It tells how he and I bonded over tattoos and stood on the sidewalk, showing each other our ink--he pulled up his shirt, I pulled down my skirt. I wonder if he and his car are OK--I'm assuming so, as his address isn't actually in New Orleans. Anyway, I'm working on another piece this morning--about the Dia de los Muertos weekend. Just stamped my own name on the forehead of the skull I painted and embroidered--now that's kind of creepy, even for me!
It seemed kind of stingy not to give you some eye candy--that last one was just words, without pictures. So here's Cutie Pie again--he's the most agreeable of the four indoor cats when it comes to cameras. He's been gimpy for a couple of weeks--the vet can't find anything wrong with his legs and says it could be some birth defect that's worsening (he's always limped some) OR--and this is the vet's favorite diagnosis for ALL my cats: he needs to lose weight. Humph. This is not a fat cat. Well, maybe a little soft, but definitely not the "beyond obese" the vet insists. Every time I take one of the cats in for ANYTHING, he grumbles about how Earl and I aren't fat, so why do we let our cats get fat. I just look at him and want to say, "Hey, when's the last time YOUR cat got on a treadmill?" But I like him, so I don't. We've been doing the whole diet food thang, and let me tell you: these are NOT happy cats. They think they're dying. They moan, they cry, they follow me around and do all their cutest stuff, trying to charm me into feeding them. I'm here all day with them, trying to work while they're trying to convince me it's an emergency and they must have food immediately. I'm seriously thinking of running away from home until Earl can get them slimmed down and svelte so we can forget this dieting nonsense.
He is pretty cute, though, isn't he? Chubbiness becomes him so.
We had a fabulous time in Houston for the International Quilt Show. Earl took a ton of photographs, but of course I can't put them here--I'm sure that violates some kind of copyright thang. There are miles of exhibits and vendors, and you can buy everything from rubber thimbles to huge, long-arm sewing machines. We spent all day long looking at every single thing. And then we had even BIGGER fun--we went with Pamela Armas (aka Gypsy Pamela, of Treasures of the Gypsy, ) and her consort, Ken, and three other friends to Casa Ramirez, a folk art gallery in The Heights (http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=15451128&BRD=1574&PAG=461&dept_id=541543&rfi=6). The owner, Marcario Ramirez, is a wonderful gentleman (and I don't use that word often, but it truly applies) who hosts an annual Dia de los Muertos celebration. We went on opening night, when the ofrendas had just been set up and there was food and drink and music and dancing on the sidewalk. It was wonderful, and then we went across the street to Shade, a sort of nouvelle cuisine restaurant that has great food but the absolute worst seating practices on the planet. We had a reservation for 9 pm and finally got a table at about 10:30. Talk about some grouchy artists! I convinced the host that the only way to placate us was to provide us with complimentary appetizers and drinks, which they did. And a damn good thing, as their tiny glasses of wine were $8 each. We had a swell time, even if dinner didn't end until almost midnight.
If you've never been to the Houston Quilt Show, you really have to try to go next year. There's nothing like it--the quality of the exhibits is without equal, and the people are friendly (it IS in Texas--we're not all gun-totin' rednecks and are, with a few highly visible exceptions, a really friendly bunch of folks who love nothing more than an excuse to visit and eat good food). Texas is a big place, so we had to drive 8 hours to get there. But then, once we got there, we got to visit with friends and former students from all over--San Antonio, New Mexico, Seattle. So you should just go--if you love quilts, you'll love this!
You'll notice there's no shopping cart here. There's nothing to buy and nobody trying to get your money. You have to go off-site to buy my books, in fact. There are no ads, awards, badges or pleas to give me money in a tacky little "tip jar." Relax, sit back, and enjoy your time here~~