IMG_0771It is coming together. This is the quilt that I am making from the fabric, that my daughter-in-law, Belle, used in the buntings she made for the picnic when she and Thomas got married in 2011. You can read about the quilt idea here…

I have two more of these 4 squares to assemble and add a note from Thomas to Belle and a note from Belle to Thomas. I also have a square with their wedding date on it and a message from Herb and myself.

Hopefully, this will be waiting on them, on the guest bed, when they come home for Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

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Quilt Fever…

Take Home a Piece of Laughing Orange

Today I feel inspired to go to work because I attended the Artisan Center of Virginia’s Conference this past weekend and have to say that I have so many things on my list of things to do and add to Laughing Orange that I am certainly having to prioritize them all.

First though, I want to give a shout out to the ACV because I am thoroughly convinced that they have their act together better than any organization that I have been involved with for a long time. Sherri Smith, the executive director of the ACV is a “fireball” of energy. She and her board seem to have so many great things going that I am overwhelmed by their excitement about artists and helping artists in our state. I really enjoyed that they take a twofold approach to an artist. First, they seem to understand that an artist can be a different animal and at the same time they understand how politics work and that they need to use the approach with legislature that artists are small businesses that have a serious place at the economic table of our economic situation. Bringing these two things together involves a lot of discussion about how to bring the artisans out of their shells to participate and to also get the funding or support needed from local governments to see them as a viable resource for communities.

When I attended Berea College 30 years ago, Phyllis George, former first lady of KY helped to revive the craft movement and wrote several books to help promote craft in KY and across the US. I know that she saw the need for handmade items to be appreciated, but I also think she saw this as a way for the state of KY to bring in revenue and to help that state’s economy.

I’ve written about this before, but handmade items are not being sought after due to so many of our products being imported in from China and sold here so inexpensively. As a country, we need to put more value on handmade items, if for no other reason than to help bring back the jobs that have been shipped overseas. But more importantly, we need to recognize that mass produced items have no meaning to us. Vanessa Bertozzi, the Director of Community at Etsy was the speaker for our lunch on Saturday at the ACV conference and her talk was about the importance of handmade. She started her talk by asking, “if your house were to catch on fire, what would be the one item that you would take”, (other than other family members). My first thought was my laptop, but as she went around the room and I heard others say things like their old photos, their quilts, their grandmother’s doilies, I realized that I have all my beloved quilts hanging on the stair railings and I don’t know what I would do if something happened to those.  They are irreplaceable. They are extremely special to me. They are handmade!!!

When Sherri Smith came to our county several months ago to give a talk about our county possibly getting an artisan trail, she brought up that we have forgotten how we once had to craft a bucket to carry water, forge our own tools to work in the garden, grow our own foods and put them up for winter, quilt our bed coverings and build our items from our own hands. Even myself, the queen of “I could make that”, heard this and it took me back to a time when these things were commonplace and not mass produced. Today, we go into a Michael’s if we want to make something and they have basically, put all the parts in a package for us and we are assemblers as opposed to artists or craftspeople. We have built a society that assembles kits and thinks of ourselves as being creative. To me, Michaels is a “cheater store” where people can feel a sense of creating.

This brings me to another point that I thought about and was discussed this weekend, which is, the amount of hours that an artist or craftsman will spend on an item only to have to not really be compensated for that quality item in the end. I do this all the time. I will spend countless hours on an item and get really frustrated when the Walmarts of the world take the value of my handmade item down in the eyes of my customers. If our economy is going to improve, if the jobs are going to come back to the US, we need to value our local artists and craftspeople and understand that they may need to ask a higher price than Walmart in order to survive in this new economy.

So, with all my new sources that I have been introduced to this past weekend and with my items sitting downstairs calling my name I really need to stop here and spend some hours at my craft. If you have any topics that you would like to discuss or have me discuss by way of my new adventures, please send me your comments and suggestions. I want to do more of the blogging and sometimes am hung up on what to write about. If you know that I make something that you are interested in knowing more about, let me know. I won’t promise you a kit from Michael’s but I will certainly help you with steps and processes.

 

Do you believe in fairies?

LOS Booth at Blandy Farm

 

On Mother’s Day I did my first official venue as a potter. For those of you who are not familiar with this event, it is held at the State Arboretum, Blandy Farm, in Boyce, VA and is a wonderful way to welcome Spring if you are a gardener. There are all kinds of native plants and annuals and perennials. In addition to planting material there are garden objects (birdhouses made out of beer cans, sculptures, windchimes and chairs), handmade soaps and lotions, and garden tools. I was too busy to get out of my booth to take some shots of the vendors that were there but some of the companies that I could see within my site, I think, gave a good representation of what was there. Companies like, Peony’s Envy, The Bumblebee Studio, Horizons Ltd., EZ Hang Chairs and lots of garden nurseries. I could also see the llamas from Sunset Acres where I was located. In all, there were over 100 vendors.

The biggest draw for my booth was the broken planter fairy garden. It was located at the corner of my tent and we used it to anchor that corner due to it’s heaviness and allow it to stabilize the tent from wind gusts. We were amazed at the way this garden was like a magnet that drew people into the tent. They would ask to take photos of it, they would bring people back to look at it, they would smile and compliment it. At that time, I would invite them into the tent so that they could get all the accessories to go home and make one of their own. Almost instant sale!

Fairy Garden in a Broken Planter

Fairy Garden in a Broken Planter

I had no idea how popular this trend had become until I was picked up by the blog, Backyard Herbal Patch Herbal Blog, who gave me as a source for fairy garden accessories and showed this photo of the planter. I got a Facebook message from a lady from The Succulent Perch telling me that the photo had gone viral and had been shared over 1700 times. This was before the garden fair at Blandy, so I used this in my sales pitch. When folks wanted to take a photo, I would tell them about the number of shares on the web and that they could find the image if they didn’t get a good photo.

Fairy Gardens are trending and I am riding the wave for now. I was told by one lady that they have always been popular in New England. I found this article that says,

Houses are made so that fairies will have a place to be, to visit or even live if they wish.   With fairies in mind, they are created by children and adults alike in hopes that their creation will be enjoyed by the elusive and mysterious beings.   Whether part of a village or a sole dwelling, they are often nestled amongst trees and gardens.

One day, I hope to catch sight of a fairy out of the corner of my eye while I am visiting one of the villages or enjoying a festival.   Perhaps you will, too.

In the meantime, I am enjoying making the items for fairy gardens and am sprinkling lots of fairy dust around in hopes that I can make the fairies more comfortable while putting a smile on the faces of folks that visit my booth. I certainly believe now…

 

A few of the squares…

Now that the wedding is over and we are adjusting to the idea of Thomas and Belle moving to Seattle, I thought I would use my evenings to start assembling the “Wish Them Well” quilt that I put out for the party here at the house in September and also at the picnic the day after the wedding in Arlington, VA. This way I could envision, while working on it, them seeing the messages that their friends and family wrote for them in their new apartment in Seattle. Their new apartment is all white, as most apartments are and I see this bringing some color into that space and helping them settle in. I envision them either hanging the quilt on the wall to look at or using it on the sofa to snuggle under while they watch movies or TV.

“Wish them Well” table

Today, I thought I would share my progress on the quilt and let you in on the fun. To start, this is an old idea. Quilters call this type of quilt a “signature” quilt and they have traditionally been made to commemorate a special occasion. I thought of doing this for my own wedding but didn’t. My idea at that time was to use it as a guest book instead of an actual book. To have guests sign a square as a way to know who shared our day with us. I have now seen, on the web where folks have done this idea to send off a co-worker, to welcome home a soldier or to share memories of grandparents. So it was only fitting that being a quilter, I wanted to do one for my son and his new bride to begin their life together.

Four inch white cotton was cut with the seam allowance drawn onto the square. Markers were put out in a basket and the sign to write them a message and we collected about 25 squares for the finished quilt. They are wonderful with some of them actually taking the time to color a drawing for the couple.

photoshop map of layout

I use photoshop instead of any fancy quilt software to layout anything that I want to work on and I put together a quick layout of how I want the squares to be placed. A twin sized quilt is about 96″ x 72″ so I used that size to scale the pattern for the squares. I am not sure if the quilt will end up a twin size or a lap quilt when it is finished because there is some white space that I need to design for and I don’t know yet what to put in there. I can be a “quilt as I go” kind of quilter sometimes. So, the wishes will be the whites squares and each of the green squares will be a traditional quilt square to add interest.

I am looking for traditional squares that might have some meaning to beginning a new life together. There are some really adorable cat and dog squares in the book that I am using and some on the web that I also want to add for their pets and a house square for their new place in Seattle. I have favorite patterns that I have enjoyed making through the years and I will probably add some of those. I have about 34 squares to play with so I am sure I can find lots of interesting options. I will get all those squares done and lay out the quilt on the floor before assembling all the squares together. This way I can make sure that there is a balance of color throughout and not have a concentration of too much of one color in any area of the overall design.

I’ve attached a gallery of the squares that I have so far and I am using my evenings to do a square a day. Not sure if the quilt will be done to ship to them for Christmas but I can certainly try. Over the years I have hand quilted all of my quilts but I may take this one to the quilt shop and see if I can have them quilt it for me. My hands are needed for other projects these days and the love that will go into the squares will show through without the added ache of putting all the stitches into the finished piece.

Enjoy the photos and let me know if there is a favorite square that you would like to see in the sample of squares surrounding all the wishes for a happy life in Seattle, WA.

Wishing Them Well…