Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Surface Design Association conference 1

I spent the weekend at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, in Gatlinburg TN, at the biennial conference of Surface Design Association.  It's the first SDA conference I've attended so I have to take it on faith that it's a greatly different model than past conferences that have been held in big-city hotels.  Instead, we met in the mountains, at a low-budget, low-amenities art/craft retreat center where we sat amid the looms and saws of artisans, an atmosphere that I found very comfortable.  The amenities may have been sparse but the food was great and the company stimulating.

I attended the conference mainly as a patriotic duty; I serve on the SDA finance committee and know that making the gathering a success was important to our fiscal well-being.  Had I read the agenda more closely I might not have come, because it was a highly focused conference about social engagement as part of an art practice.  If you've been reading my blog this summer you know that I'm feeling a bit jaded about social engagement art (click here for my story) and I was purely an observer of these efforts, not a believer.

The presenter I most enjoyed and admired was Carole Francis Lung, an art professor who maintains a second persona as Frau Fiber, self-described as a former East German garment worker and illegal immigrant.  Frau wears an attractive Eastern-bloc type of uniform and appears in character to raise awareness of injustices in textile manufacturing, and to help people learn to sew and fix their own garments instead of throwing them away.  Her motto is "Stop Shopping, Start Sewing."

She calls this effort the Sewing Rebellion and travels around with a bicycle-cranked treadle sewing machine so she can set up shop in random neighborhoods and mend people's garments or teach them to make their own repairs.

After a wonderful presentation to the whole group, Frau (as she's familiarly known) led a breakout session in which she invited us to become "Faux Fraus," take the oath of solidarity and bring the Sewing Rebellion to our own communities.

I was sad that I was not able to swear this oath on my sewing machine as the other workshop participants did.  I subscribe to all the principles of the Sewing Rebellion in my personal life -- you should see all the mended garments I proudly wear out in public, and one look at me will convince you that I have long ago Stopped Shopping.

But this is not my crusade.  My crusade is to liberate every quilter from having to use other people's patterns and insofar as I have any energy or inclination to take on social awareness projects, that's what I'm going to work on.  Nevertheless, I am in love with Frau and her cause.  It was great to hear about her efforts, and I wish her all the success in the world.

More about other presenters in subsequent posts.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Killing yourself quilting

Earlier this week Maria Shell had a post on her blog called "Killing myself with deadlines" in which she discussed the toll on the body from quilting many hours to get ready for a show.  I can sympathize, remembering vividly the aches in the back and shoulders, and one that surprised me -- the disabled knee from the sewing machine pedal once when I had to sew the last 15% of the quilt with the left foot.  (Amazing how difficult that is -- like writing with your wrong hand.)

But yesterday I almost killed myself not with repetitive stress injuries but a more direct form of suicide.  I had to assemble a bunch of quilts to take to a guild lecture, and located one roll on a bed in the guest room, way over in the corner.  I reached over awkwardly to grab it and discovered that it was a lot heavier than I was anticipating.  I got off balance and started going over backwards.

In that endless moment when you realize you're doomed but the axe hasn't fallen yet, I looked around and tried to find something I could hang on to.  Grabbed onto a chest of drawers, which turned out to be a really bad decision.  Instead of the chest providing me with support, it seized the opportunity to fall down too.  Since it was full of fabric, it had lots of weight behind it to knock me down and keep me pinned there.

Fortunately my husband was at home and heard the crash, then my call for help.  He got the chest off me and set it upright, then spent ten minutes picking up pieces of broken glass from my shirt and hair while I lay in place, because there had been a set of my grandmother's lead-crystal glasses decoratively arranged on top of the chest.  Finally I managed to get up, and spent most of an hour dealing with broken glass in the rest of the room.

It could have been worse, of course, had my head or neck hit the wooden chair behind me instead of just going down onto the floor, or had the heavy chest caught my leg in a slightly worse position.  And if my husband had been out, I might have had to lie there until he got back.

When I tally the ways quilting has tried to kill me, this probably is number three on the hit parade.  One and two were the times I sliced the edge of my thumb with the rotary cutter and ran a sewing machine needle into my finger.  More blood with number one, but considerable pain from both.  I got off easy this time.  

What's the worst you've ever done to yourself in the name of quilting??

Monday, October 5, 2015

I can't believe what the Internet can do for you

Last week I posted a panel in the International Honor Quilt project, made in northern Quebec, that celebrated Inuit culture.  I asked whether anybody knew anybody who could help me type in and/or translate the writing.

To my utter amazement, I got four responses from people who said they could help!  Thank you so much to all of you -- I am so appreciative that you responded and offered.

First to write me was Judy Martin, my longtime internet friend whose work and blog I love.  She volunteered her brother, who has worked with Canadian aboriginal languages, and in a couple of hours he wrote me back with the text typed in:

ᒣᓇᕿᓗᑭ    mainiqiluki
ᐳᕕᕐᓂᑐ     puvirnitu
ᑯᐯ           kupai

Apparently "Mainiqiluki" is the woman being honored in the panel, "Puvirnitu" is a variant of Puvirnituq, the town where the panel was made, and "Kupai" is the abbreviation for Quebec.  And the name of the language is not "Inuit" but "Inuktitut."

Here's where Puvirnituq is:

As it turns out, there's a second bunch of Inuktitut that we may want to have translated, a piece of paper that presumably explains more of who made the panel (we know it was a sewing class) and who Mainiqiluki is.  But that would require higher-level translation that Judy's brother can provide.  If the project director wants to go that far, I may be calling on the other three comment posters for their help after all.

Meanwhile, let's take a minute to contemplate how impossible such a transaction would have been in the days before the Internet.  What took less than a day to accomplish would have taken weeks, maybe months.  And I marvel at how I've had the privilege, through the Internet, to build such a wonderful network of friends and connections.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Photo suite 197 -- jumbo cones

In Japan it's common for restaurants to display plastic food to entice diners inside, but usually it's life size.  When it comes to ice cream, however, bigger is better.