Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dancing in the Stars!

Yahoo! I found out yesterday that my "Stardust" has been accepted into the special show entitled "The Sky's the Limit" that will debut in Houston this fall. That means I will have at least three quilts at this year's International Quilt Festival: my journal quilt, my "Lily the Llama" as part of the Fabled Fibers Exhibit, and now "Stardust". I haven't decided which, if any, quilts I will try and enter into the main show but I have to make up my mind soon - the deadline for entry is June 15!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Illustration Friday - "Car"

What do you mean I can't drive to the Falls? What kind of second-rate park is this?!

Having just driven through Yellowstone Park for the first time this summer season, I was again amazed at the large number of vehicles and the extremely small number of hikers. Every year it seems there are more and more people who will not travel to see a site if it means they have to get out of their car and use their own two feet to get there. On one hand I am thrilled as that means the wild is left alone for the discovery of those few of us who make the effort. On the other hand I am saddened by the large number of visitors to the Park who will never see more than what is visible through the windshield!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

I called home from the quilt retreat last weekend to hear Ken tell me I had been "Tagged" by Larkin Van Horn. Now Larkin says she hates chain mail but I have to believe she doesn't hate it quite as much as I do or she wouldn't have played along. So I am going to be a bit of a spoilsport and only participate halfway. The "rules" say you are supposed to reveal 7 little known things about yourself and then tag 7 more people. You let them know and they tag 7 more people and so on and so on. Yep, it sounds like a chain letter to me! I will list seven little known facts about myself and I will list a few of my favorite blogs but I refuse to pass this burden onto someone else. I hope you will go visit their sites and enjoy the diversity.

Little Known Facts
* I hitchhiked across Canada (Vancouver, B.C. to St. Johns NFLD) by myself when I was 19 years old.
* I barely made it through high school, coming close to dropping out, failing out or being thrown out at various times. The only way I made it into college was by taking enough time off that I was considered a "mature student" when I finally applied.
* Once I started college I went a little crazy. I have undergraduate degrees in Animal Health Technology, Business Administration and Interior Design. I have a Master's Degree in International Business Studies. I graduated from each of the above with a 4.0 average.
* I speak English, French and Spanish.
* I met my husband when I was 31. I recognized him right away as the man I had seen myself happily married to in a dream I had when I was 21.
* I was the Miss Carolina body building champion when I was 30.
* I think bald men are hot! Especially my husband.

Four of my favorite sites:
Cynthia St. Charles, fiber artist -
Inge Mardal and Steen Hougs, fabric artists -
Jim Macdonald, everything Yellowstone -
Danny Gregory, Illustrator and author -

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Illustration Friday - "signs"

When I first saw the word for this week's Illustration Friday my thought was "what am I supposed to do with this?!" The word "signs" seemed to draw a complete blank in my mind (pun intended). Of course I woke up the next morning with three ideas in my head. I decided to illustrate all three and ask anyone who reads this to let me know which (if any) you prefer. Feel free to tell me all three suck if that is what you think, but I hope that won't be the case. Ken has his favorite and I have mine but they are not the same and I am curious to hear what others may find humorous.

#1 Do you think they may have taken this commercialization thing a little too far?!


Doug chose to ignore the signs although everyone later agreed they had been obvious all along!


Clarissa realized she had taken a wrong turn in the nursing home when she saw the gang signs on the walkers!

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A few weeks ago I spent a long weekend in the Beartooth Mountains at the Northwest College Field Campus participating in an advanced drawing course called "Art in the Wild". As part of our final project we were to expand upon one of our sketches to make a more finished piece. I chose my drawing from Moose Meadows (which you can see in my April 22nd post) and decided to make the final work in fabric. The 20" x 24" quilt pictured to the left is the result. I decided Moose Meadows had to have a moose. The background fabric is one of my hand-dyed Shibori pieces and most of the rest of the fabric is hand painted. I then did some free motion machine embroidery and finished up with machine quilting. I wish I had made the tree taller but I wasn't planning on leaving so much fabric on the top originally. Once I was ready to trim I decided I liked the piney look of the shibori so I left quite a bit in the picture.
I also finished my doll for Bret, Carol's new baby boy. Good job since the baby shower is this Sunday!
Tomorrow I head to Cody for a three day quilt retreat as part of a focus group trying out a new facility. Tough job, but someone has to do it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Ken and I are leading a field trip as part of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition Annual Meeting being held in Cody in June. We will be taking approximately 20 people on a llama hike along the Beartooth Front. We thought we would do a dry run on Sunday to make sure the llamas were comfortable with the route and that it was going to take the allotted amount of time. We picked up our friends Mary and Luis about 10am and headed to Hogan Lake to start our trek. The purpose of the field trip is to expose people to the area and to impress upon them its beauty and the value in keeping it as open space. Much of the Beartooth Front is being threatened with oil exploration and we are trying to convince people it is more valuable as wild land. The trail we will be hiking offers spectacular views in all directions. The photo above shows one small snapshot of the area.
The llamas all did great despite the 90 degree temperatures and the round trip hike took us about four and a half hours which will be perfect.
On the way home we stopped at Mary and Luis' place for a little while. Their ranch is a sanctuary for wildlife of all kinds and this time of year is really active with elk and antelope giving birth and all sorts of birds nesting in their fields and trees. They have about a dozen pair of nesting curlew living on their land. They look like shore birds and it is always a surprise to find them in the fields and plains of the west. The birds often hang out near the irrigation ditches and so have become quite accustomed to people walking close by. I was able to get within a hundred feet of this pair to take their picture. Aren't they the most amazing looking creatures? Their bills are perfectly customized to allow them to go after their primary food source. The first time I saw a curlew up close I thought it must have come from outer space!
The surprise of the day came when we got home. We had convinced ourselves a while ago that Alexis was not pregnant but she proved us wrong. This little guy was waiting in the pasture as we drove up. Since he took 367 days to come into this world - almost three weeks longer than "normal" - we decided to name him "Tardy". So now we have three baby llamas running around; two boys and one girl. The funny thing is all three of them have different fathers and yet all three have more white on them than any other llama we own. At least now we know we are done with babies until September.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Illustration Friday - "Citrus"

They knew their love would never survive. The world simply wasn't ready to accept a Grape-mon!

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Time for Everything...

Now is the time for the Cecropias to visit our little piece of heaven. I have seen three of them in the last two days. There is something truly awesome about a moth that is the size of a small bird. They are always remarkably complacent and it seems to take little effort to convince them to hop onto my hand. I found the one this morning in the hay by the llama barn. I put my finger down in front of him and he walked on as if he were casually boarding a train. He sat quietly on my finger as I walked the distance from the barn to the house and I never had to do more than provide a perch. Once in the house I sat him on the table where he rested while I got the camera and fitted it with the close-up lens. After I took a dozen shots I put my finger back down, he climbed on and I took him out back where I released him in the garden by the pond. I love drawing and painting flowers and butterflies but I have always avoided making quilts from the images because it seems that so many people have already done so. But I may have to change my mind - I think this guy is begging to be immortalized in fabric!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Even snakes get thirsty sometimes. We have a small pond - more a puddle, really - we built behind our house years ago. Its primary purpose is as a watering hole for the wild animals that are passing through but yesterday was the first time I have seen snakes drinking there. I like snakes. Probably because they were relatively rare on the Island where I grew up. I think they are beautiful with their geometric patterns and their sensuous way of moving. I especially love the way they feel. The cool, smooth texture of their skin is at such odds with the myth that they are slippery and slimy. Just because I like snakes however doesn't mean I don't respect them. We have two types of the reptiles that are common on our property: bull snakes and rattlers. The bull snakes are magnificent. I have seen them up to eight feet long and they have a wonderful pattern of diamonds on their backs and rings on their tails. Their main defense against man is to try and fool you into thinking they are a rattlesnake. The coloring is similar - for obvious reasons since they are both trying to blend into the same environment - and when approached the bull snake will rear back its head, shake its tail and use its mouth to make a hissing noise that sounds remarkably like the rattle of a rattlesnake. A good look at either his head or his tail will quickly expose his deception as his head is much less flat and triangular and his tail is ringed but lacks the tell-tale rattles. As I was walking past the pond yesterday I caught sight of this guy at the water's edge. He is a pretty good size - about four feet I'd say. Since he was the first snake of the season I went into the house and got the camera to take his picture. A while later I was returning to the studio from the house and was surprised to see him still hanging out around the front of the pond. I walked to the side to watch him for a few minutes and was fascinated to see the way he drank. For some reason I expected him to use his forked tongue to lap up water, sort of like a cat does. Instead, he had his mouth right up to the water's edge and he was sucking up the liquid more in the fashion of a llama. I could see the big gulps of water traveling down his throat. The other strange thing was that he looked much bigger than I remembered. He was at least six feet long and much bigger round than I had thought. As I stood up to move on I suddenly heard a loud hissing behind me. Yep, you guessed it, the first snake was right beside me and I had been watching a second, entirely different animal drinking from the pond. Good job they were both the non-venomous bulls.
Rattlesnakes are a whole different story. My greatest fear is that one of the animals will get bit. It is unlikely Frank or one of the baby llamas would survive an attack and even the adult llamas could be killed if the bite was in the right spot. Several of our neighbors have suffered bites over the years and it always takes an incredibly long time for them to get over it. I worry especially about Ken since the common anti-toxin is made from horse urine and with his severe allergy to horses I am afraid the cure might be worse than the cause. I was thinking about all these things as I left on my run this morning. The problem with day dreaming is that you don't pay much attention to your surroundings. I was about a half mile out on the drive when I suddenly heard the real thing at my feet. Somehow the brain identifies that sound instantly and the body reacts before you even fully realize what is going on. I jumped sideways and then looked back at where I had been. Less than 12 inches from where my foot had come down was a huge rattler. Most of the rattlers around here are pretty small (although there is no correlation between size and toxicity) but this guy was an exception. He was fat and almost as long as the first bull I had seen yesterday. I did the rest of my run on full alert. If the last 24 hours are any sign, this is going to be a snakey summer!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

I love my Christmas Cactus! It blooms at least three times a year, one of which is always in December. It is one of the few plants I brought with me when we moved from Cincinnati more than ten years ago and it is also one of my favorite sketching subjects. It is beautiful and complex and never complains about sitting still while I draw it. It is in full color right now and the sight of it each morning with the sun shining through the blooms is like a bright omen to start the day!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

It is hard to explain the joy that comes from watching baby llamas. Their unbridled exuberance and curiosity for absolutely everything adds an excitement to the air that is like the charge you feel during a thunderstorm. It is as though we suddenly see the whole world through their young eyes. Cupola is almost a month old and Dusty is nearing the two week mark. Their temperaments are exact opposites and even someone who had never seen a llama in their life would be able to tell which is the male and which the female. Dusty is amazingly dainty and shy. She hides behind her mother and peeks out at the world that is so new to her. Cupola is like a whirlwind. He seems to have little attachment to his mother and wants to play with whoever is willing. The real fun comes in the evenings when he tries to lead everyone in a breakneck race around the corral. The older llamas are a little more restrained but even they give in and start pronging after him sometimes. I have seen deer pronging in flight but llamas seem to prong for the sheer joy of it. All four feet leave the ground at the same time and they bounce around the yard like they are on pogo sticks. The most amazing sight is when Jake's Girl joins in. Not only is she past middle age for a llama, she has always held herself like the queen of the corral. Seeing her bounce is the equivalent of watching your normally staid grandmother toss aside her cane, kick off her shoes and skip barefoot through the tender grass of early summer, all the time giggling hysterically with unrestrained joy!
I have been spending quite a bit of time in my studio the last few days. One of the items I made was a hat from the double knit fabric provided by Brooke A. There is a long story behind the reason for using this fabric and once Brooke has her website up explaining what is going on I will post the link. In the meantime I will just keep thinking of creative ways to use this stuff.
I watered the tomatoes this morning. We have a small vegetable garden inside a fenced off area behind the house. On my way back from the studio at lunchtime I noticed movement inside the fence and looked up to see a full size cottontail digging in the soft dirt. The bunnies around here dig their nests in the ground and have their babies. They then cover the nests back up with dirt and for about a week they go back every night and dig them up to feed their young. It is not that easy since much of the ground is hard and rocky so whenever we dig anywhere we can be assured the bunnies will follow to make use of our loosened soil. I knew I had to get to this one fast before the nest was done so I went in the garden, shouting and waving and trying to see where it exited so I could plug the hole. I went over to the spot it had been digging and discovered I was too late. There in the middle of the garden was a depression with three baby bunnies, so young their eyes were still closed. I came in the house to get the camera so I could take a picture to show Ken and by the time I got back out less than five minutes later mama had returned and covered the nest! I guess we will just have to put up with it until these guys are big enough to move out. I hope they don't eat all the new shoots in the meantime.
Once a week I get an email from a group called "Illustration Friday". In the email is one word that you are supposed to illustrate. These are not detailed drawings - just quick sketches. Many of the participants then post their drawings for the world to see and someone picks a new word for the following week. I really enjoy seeing what others have done although I can't imagine sharing my scribbles with that talented group. I have decided to post them here from now on though in the hopes it will inspire me to work on my drawing skills. The problem is I always have a weird response to the word. This week's word was "neighbor". All I could think of was changing it to "neigh - bar" and drawing the two horses to the left. The writing has one horse asking the other "So, did you hear the one about the horse that walked into the bar with a man on his back?" I guess it is better than my cartoon from last week. The word was "remember" and I kept seeing "re-member". My drawing was of a surgeon standing over a man on the operating table and saying "Don't worry Mr. Bobbit, we'll have you back in one piece in no time!"
Its obviously time to go back to the studio.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

I went into town yesterday to mail my "Lily the Llama" quilt to North Carolina where it will be photographed as part of the Fabled Fibers exhibit. Thanks to the hard work of Ann Flaherty the exhibit will open at the International Quilt Festival in Houston this fall. Ann offered this challenge as a way to raise awareness (and possibly funding) for the charity she started and manages called Operation Kid Comfort.
While I was in town I did some banking in my role as Treasurer of the Wyoming State Quilt Guild. As I walked into the building I was met by the manager who said she wanted to talk to me (never a good sign!) I was surprised and thrilled when she went on to ask if I would be one of two featured artists in the bank during Rendezvous Royale in September. This event is a major art happening for Cody and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. It has been occurring for a number of years and is the primary fund raiser for the museum as well as a chance to showcase some of the top western artists and galleries of the area. Art lovers and collectors from all over the country come to little old Cody just to take in the happenings during Rendezvous. Many of the businesses around town take the opportunity to sponsor an art related event as part of the festivities and now my quilts will play a small part as well. Of course I said yes - and then immediately started worrying about which pieces I will show since many of them are travelling this summer! The manager asked me how I wanted to be listed in the printed program that identifies the various displays throughout the city. I decided to forgo the "quilter" label and asked to be listed as a fabric artist. That should raise some eyebrows!
That little boost of ego helped make my decision to stop by the Art League next where I added my name to the list of artists wanting to take part in the decoration of the grizzly bears. You know those painted cows, donkeys, horses and so on that seem so popular in cities around the US the last few years? Cody has decided to do grizzlies as a fund raiser for the children's section of the new library. I am sure they are envisioning painters as their artists but I think a fabric covered bear would be pretty special.
By the time I finished all my business in town and headed home it was supper time. Ken is away so I watched some TV and had just turned off the light to go to sleep when my pager went off. Poor Frank the cat jumped about a foot off the bed! I drove the hour back to Cody to go search for a missing 19 year old who had gone horn hunting on Carter Mountain yesterday morning and didn't return. We had barely finished plotting a course of action and loading up the truck when the call came from his father that he had shown up at the trail-head. I got home a little after midnight.
Today I am going to work on my "Moose Meadows" piece, the doll for Carol's new baby and the borders on the raffle quilt for the local guild. It feels good to be sewing again!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Last Thursday's Search and Rescue training was a situation in which I hope to never find myself again. Just the words "Confined Spaces" on the training schedule strike fear into the hearts of many and it is easy to tell who is claustrophobic by those who are absent. The "newbies" show up because they don't know any better and they think "how bad can it be?" Once they find out we invariably lose one or two who decide this is not their idea of fun and in fact bears little resemblance to the romantic image of SAR they had in mind. Over the years we have trained in grain silos and in caves and it is always a frustrating experience but none can compare to Thursday night's exercise. The location was the drywall plant in Cody. The situation was an injured worker who had entered a kettle to do some maintenance and had fallen. The kettles are 12' deep and not very big around. They are filled with heating ducts as well as multiple levels of huge blades that mix the gypsum dust inside. The bottom of the kettle is domed quite severely with the high spot in the center and there is no level spot. We were assured the kettle had been cleaned for our exercise but all that meant was that there was only a foot of gypsum dust on the bottom and every surface was coated with the fine white powder. There was barely room for the injured man (yes, there was a real patient) on the bottom and somehow we had to get in, assess his condition, stabilize as much as possible and get him and ourselves back out safely. We decided to try and send three people in even though it would be crowded beyond belief. It was pretty clear I was going in because 1) I am relatively skinny 2) I am strong for my size and 3) I was one of the few to show up who has some medical training. I entered the kettle first so I could get to the patient and assess his condition. To enter there is a small square opening in the top. You step down onto two steel steps at which point you have to wiggle yourself around and push your back into the wall of the kettle, using your legs against the heating ducts to worm crawl your way to the bottom. I was directly over the patient and one slip could mean a serious injury to both of us. As it was, every move I made caused fine gypsum powder to rain down on his upturned face and I was afraid I was going to smother him before he could be saved! We had been offered the option of wearing respirators inside the kettle but the temperature was about 90 degrees and it was obvious we would have a hard time breathing wearing the masks. As it was my safety glasses fogged up constantly and I had to keep trying to wipe them off so I could see. Once I examined the patient it was obvious he had a probable spinal injury and possible head injury. That suddenly made everything much more complicated as we were even more limited in how we could move him. I should point out that on every exercise there comes a point when you forget that this is not real. In this case it was about 30 seconds into it and there was no question in any of our minds that we needed to do everything just right to save this man and get him out safely. I won't bore you with the details but it took the three of us more than three hours to get him treated and packaged to a point where the rest of the team could begin to haul him out. For the entire time I was bent double, on my knees at his head, supporting his neck and back and assessing his vital signs every 15 minutes or so. After the first hour every muscle in my body was screaming for me to move but that wasn't an option and when the time finally came to stand up I wasn't sure I could. We were told gypsum dust is water soluble and totally non-toxic but I certainly haven't enjoyed coughing it up for the last few days.
The real Search and Rescue calls continue to be few and far between. We searched for a missing two year old that was found hiding in his home but the pager has been uncharacteristically quiet for months. Maybe this summer-like weather will change that.