Friday, June 26, 2009

Acting My Age

With a birthday fast approaching, I find myself reflecting on my age and whether I should act it. There are more than a few people who don't understand why someone my age would take up martial arts more easily done and mastered by the younger. There are times I even wonder about it myself, as when I'm explaining to the nurses prepping me for my colonoscopy that no, the defensive bruises on my forearms are not from fighting off my husband--they're from taking a sword away from someone over and over and over. Or when my boss looks across his desk and asks where the large bruise on my elbow came from. At least I didn't have to go into work this week and explain the latest. The left side of my face took a rather hard hit from a shinai, which is the bamboo sword we use in kendo for partner work. The young man who hit me (he was not supposed to be striking my head which is why I was not prepared to block my temple) was the same young man who cracked the scalp on the back of my head open a month ago. That one bled, but you couldn't see any evidence of the injury once the bleeding stopped. This one didn't bleed, but a week later people are still asking me what happened. The young man was very apologetic, though we all know that accidents do happen. I told him last night, however, that I would not be working with him at the kendo open workout tonight or even next Friday. No, it's nothing to do with the injuries. It's because I've been invited to test for my yellow belt in karate in two weeks, so I'll be working on karate rather than kendo until the test. There may be time to act my age later, but for now I have other things to worry about.

The Creative Process, IV

I actually did what is described here on Monday, but it's been a busy week, with several days on which my list of things to try to do included "blog post(s)." Note that I said "things to try to do," not "things to do." If I didn't recognize the difference, I'd be even crazier than I am.

Having introduced the sons to the classic movie Harold and Maude the night before, I set Mr. Mac to shuffle on the music of Cat Stevens. (Note: I also have the CD he did as Yusef Islam, but I was in a mood for the music of his past life.) It set an apt atmosphere for what proved to be an up-and-down session at the sewing machine.

Here's the second story unit I'd finished when last we met here. In the time since then, I'd decided that I really should extend the white roof edges out beyond the sides of the walls, as they appeared in the original photograph. So I started to play around with how to do that. First, the white roof edges. Then, the black of the roof itself.
Then the blue of the sky. Both the black and the blue will need to line up with the black and blue in the main piece; it looks here as if I've done that. The trick will be sewing the two units together keeping both the diagonal and straight lines lined up. If you're at all prescient, you see where this is going. I tried once. I tried twice. I tried a third time. I thought about it logically, and I just tried winging it. I was unable to get a seam sewn that lined all the lines up in a visually pleasing manner. But remember! This is liberated quiltmaking. Would I rather liberate myself from lines that match or from fancy roof edges? I decided on the latter.

First, since the second story unit sits on a background of roof, I had to add a strip of the black roof fabric to the cabin side I'd already made. Then I did the roof and sky to the right of the second story unit. Then I did the roof and sky on the other side, remembering to add the chimney even if I did make it a good bit narrower than it really was.
Finally, I started to play around with what to do on the sides of the cabin, whether to put the red railing in, what sort of trees to add, etc. You may have caught on that this goes much more easily if one can think in rectangles that get added to one side or the other, and the more things that must match up, the more swear words you might hear me muttering under or over the musical accompaniment. Here's the first thing I looked at. And the second. As you can see, this one has the white sides to the main cabin roof, the red railing to the left of the cabin wall, and the white roof edge on the sauna that sits behind the cabin. It also has some grass in front and a different colorway on the pine trees to the sides. At this point, I thought I was getting somewhere. It just needed a bit more sky. This is how it's all sitting, on the sewing table, even as I type. If I still like it when I start working on it again (which I hope will be over this weekend), then I'll start piecing a rectangle for each side. Once those are on, I'll probably put strips on each side of whatever width(s) might be needed to get each side of the cabin unit to a number of inches that's easily divisible. Since the plan is to do liberated log cabins and/or stars around the cabin unit, I need to know what size to make those blocks. Something evenly divisible by 3, I think, or, failing that, then 4.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Creative Process, III

I let the quilt of the Norwegian mountain house sit for a while. I worked some on a jacket I'm knitting that will then be felted/fulled, but that deserves a post of its own. I've also been working a bit on a big project at work. And we had a state primary here last week which meant a very long day at the polls plus the day I took to recover. Finally, there's been the little matter of younger son's wrecking my car on election day. He's okay, and it was a single car accident. I'm still waiting to hear the verdict on the car; preliminary word was "borderline totaled." Yeah, that's another potential post.

Anyway, you can see the photo of the house I'm doing in fabric here. You can also see where I left off last time. Today's goal was to get the top little red part of the second story done. Last time, I did the bottom and sides, up to the top of the window unit. If I actually planned these things, I might have done this differently and ended up with something that looked a bit more realistic. But in the vein of liberated quiltmaking, I am not doing a perfect replica of the cabin, just something recognizable. Here's where I started today. The two pieces of red strips at the top will be the sides of the roof unit. The white strip will be the white roof edge. I sewed a diagonal seam and then trimmed it. If you're not a quilter, the item on the right that looks something like a pizza cutter is a rotary cutter. It's wickedly sharp but can precisely cut through multiple layers of fabric, using the ruler that's shown as a guide.

The next challenge was to get the blue sky and black roof section on each side with the lines of the roof lining up on each side. I don't have any photos because I sort of winged this. I sewed a strip of the sky to a strip of the roof and then laid the first red and white unit down in a position I thought would work. I basted the seam and checked. It looked good, so I sewed the seam tightly. Then I repeated the procedure on the other side and hoped for the best. I must have done something right, because it looked okay when I sewed the two halves together and then sewed the top to the bottom, window piece. Not bad, if I do say so myself. Of course, this shot shows how I could or should have done things differently. Note that I didn't take the white out far enough on the left side to match the right. And even if I had, I would have had to add the black roof unit by sort of insetting it, not necessarily an easy thing. The alternative? Slice off the roof edges to make the piece into a nice rectangle. Here's what it looks like sitting on top of the black batik I'm using for the roof. I'll figure out in my next session whether to extend the white trim edges and how to add the chimney to one side. Looking at it here, I'm thinking that I should extend the white edges; the trick will be matching things on each side, though if they're only off a little it might actually add to the character of the representation.

If you've been keeping track of the music I've cited in each of my other posts about this quilt, today's soundtrack was three Josh Groban CDs set on shuffle on my Mac. I'm saving raucous, more lively music for when the cabin unit is done, and I'm doing the more free-form blocks that will go around it. Depending on the status of the work project, I may do some more work on this tomorrow. Whether I'll get a report posted here would be another matter. I'm only still up tonight because I'm watching UVa play Arkansas in the College World Series. It's the bottom of the 12th inning right now, and if UVa doesn't stop squandering chances to win, I may have to abandon them. My school spirit (I went to grad school at UVa) only goes so far (and extends only to the non-marquee sports). Of course, since Arkansas just went ahead by one run, UVa, which hasn't been able to score one run in several innings, now has to score two. Oh well.

Friday, June 12, 2009

As if I needed another hobby ...

Look3, the third annual Festival of the Photograph, is going on here right now. It's a pretty amazing event that I haven't really taken part in before. Actually, I'm not really taking part in it in a big way this year, but if there's a Look4 next year, I just might. Today I took in one exhibit, World Press Photo '09. World Press Photo is an independent nonprofit supporting and promoting the work of professional press photographers. For 2009, 5,508 photographers from 124 countries entered a total of 96,268 images. The exhibit is of the 200 winning pictures in 10 theme categories such as nature photography, sports news, etc. I was blown away by the exhibit. There were several images, one in particular of a soldier with the most penetrating stare, that kept calling me back for one more look.

There is another exhibit called YourSpace to which anyone can submit a photo to be professionally printed by Canon and then put on exhibit. You don't need to be registered for the festival to take advantage of this, so I took a photo in today. Had I known that the limit for non-festival folks was one photo per day rather than one for the whole festival, I'd have taken another one in yesterday. As it is, I'll try to get another one printed tomorrow. The range of works displayed in the YourSpace exhibit is pretty amazing. Some are by professional photographers. Others are by very serious amateurs. A few are by people like me. I must admit that I got a bit of a rush seeing my photo hanging up there with the others. It almost looked as if it belonged.

So what photo did I take in? Readers of my Sail A-Hue, my trip blog, might think it was the photo that I said blew me away when I first saw it. It wasn't because there was a photo I took later that, like the one of the soldier I mentioned above, has continued to call me back to it. Interestingly, it was not one I put up on Sail A-Hue since the posts at the end were sort of rushed. It was one of the first shots I took early one morning in Trondheim, Norway, as we walked around the harbor area. Seeing the photo last night, the husband commented that it showed the color of Norway (many of the houses are the shade of red shown in the photo) as well as the darkness. That's an interesting interpretation, but I don't know if that's why I keep going back to the photo. You tell me. As for the title of this post, I must admit to several moments of thinking that I really should get back to taking photography seriously, working at the shots I take both before, in terms of conscious thought about the composition, lighting, etc., and after, in terms of touching up things like the slight angle the photo above is off by. But do I really need another hobby that can require nontrivial amounts of time and money? Probably not, but then that hasn't necessarily stopped me in the past. I'll just have to wait and see if the urge passes or persists, and then take it from there.