Thursday, April 30, 2015

Where Spring is Really Spring

Since I'm a native southern Californian, my ideas of changing seasons are a little skewed. We've recently come home from a trip to a land where Spring truly makes sense to me. Our son lives and works in Nashville and his stories of the recent bitter weather full of ice storms and snow left me unprepared for the gorgeous greenness of Tennessee right now, especially contrasting to our local hills already going gold with little or no rain this winter.

Tennessee seems as green as Ireland, especially here at the natural Spring at the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg where we spent a delightful day touring, tasting and enjoying BBQ with our son David and his lady Olivia.

Drifts of White, pink and yellow dogwood were everywhere in public spaces as well as forest glades seen from the highway.

The tulips in the gardens of the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art just south of Nashville were just about over, but the snowball bushes, flowering trees and spring bedding plants were fabulous. We spent a wondrously Saturday afternoon there with Olivia's parents who came up from Huntsville to meet us.

As we left Nashville and drove east into the Great Smoky Mountains to Asheville, NC the flowering trees continued along with wild flowers alongside the highway. The gardens at Biltmore, the Vanderbilt Mansion in Asheville were equally spectacular with drifts of blooming azaleas in all colors ranging down a miniature valley below the spectacular house. The tulips were over and the roses not yet blooming, but these topiary ladies made from blooming posts were fabulous. Inside the house - a special treat -  a traveling exhibit of all the costumes from Downton Abbey were displayed in the magnificent rooms.

What else did we do? Well, we certainly ate a lot of great southern food - real southern breakfasts with wonderful grits and homemade biscuits at the Early Girl Eatery, a superb farm to table dinner at Chestnut and super North Carolina coastal seafood at The Lobster Trap in Asheville and a very complicated new wave southern dinner at Sean Brock's Husk in Nashville. I mustn't forget the great "meat and 3" fried catfish lunch with our son at the Cool Cafe in Franklin, TN on our last day.

Oh, and I did get to a couple of quilt shops... Both in Franklin. One - The Stitchers Garden - a treasure trove of thousands of bolts of fabric in messy towering piles and the other - The Quilting Squares - a charming little shop with a very controlled Traditional aesthetic and a charming staff. At the messy Stitchers' Garden another customer told me that some local quilters love it, others hate it. I checked Yelp and found it to be true.  The haters found it to be impossibly disorganized and disheveled. She loved it because she never know what perfect piece of fabric she might find at the bottom of the pile. A treasure hunt! I agreed.

All Tennessee quilt shops seem to have designated "husband chairs" which they tell you about as soon as they see a man walk in - see the rockers above. All seemed genuinely surprised when I told them Glen liked to help me select fabric. What I bought at both stores -he  helped me find and  it had to go into his carry-on suitcase!

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Friday, April 3, 2015

My favorite week of the year....

Usually I love returning home from a trip away - I love my pretty house, lush garden and my own comfortable bed - but each year I feel a real wrench leaving one of my favourite places on earth... Pacific Grove and the Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar. It's a perfect week in the company of great friends, learning new art quilting techniques, making some new friends and enjoying the simply beautiful background - the beach, the pines, the vintage Julia Morgan designed heritage buildings and the charming town just down the road. It was hard to come home.....

My class this year was taught by Susan Carlson who had escaped the horrible Maine weather to sunny California and happily taught us her technique of fabric collage. Basically we traced our designs on a muslin foundation and then filled the outlines with freely scissor cut fabric and glued it down. So simple, so easy to achieve a fabulously painterly effect with commercial prints, batiks and hand dyes.

Susan is a very relaxed easy going and gifted teacher. She gave each of us a lot of her time quietly moving around our classroom dispensing helpful and pertinent suggestions in a really lovely way. Our tables were quickly piled with the most beautiful combinations of pattern and color - scraps, fat quarters and larger pieces in every color and scale. It was certainly the messiest classroom at Empty Spools last week, but also the most beautiful with the cascades of color and pattern. 

Very soon images began to develop on our boards - landscape scenes, floral studies, exotic animals, family pets, portraits... Even a colorful warthog done my talented friend and traveling companion Roberta Walley.

My portrait of a Green Man - a Celtic folklore forest spirit- grows little by little... My drawing began as a photo of a plaque hanging on our garden fence and grew from there. 

He's almost finished by week's end. Just a few more finishing touches, a background and quilting remain. You'll see final version soon.

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