Monday, January 28, 2008

Busy Busy Busy

Well as we know your best decisions are made when feeling less than your best. No! Well it had better turn out to to be true. Yesterday I finally had time to go and look at the gallery again and start planning what will go where. The good news is that I had mostly remembered things correctly and I have almost the right amount of work to do the space justice. Even allowing for the extra room I have for the private viewing. However I had underestimated one wall so a very large piece I had been putting off is now needed somewhat urgently. Not a crisis, just and irritation. So last night was mostly spent preparing the biggest pictorial pattern I've ever done. It's kinda daunting, not difficult so much as huge. I am struggling to see where I am going to start in putting it together. Still I am sure it will come to me at some point.

I also found out last night that I need a dollar account. I said a while ago that as soon as I won some dollars I would get a dollar account as I do quite a lot of business in dollars. Well I didn't know that there is prize money for my awards at Road 2 California. I am so chuffed. Of course if I payed them into a UK account I would have to pay the bank rather than get money but that isn't the point. I've got real money for a prize, and that doesn't happen often. I only found out because the winners are up on the Road 2 Ca site now. They are great pictures and well worth a look, here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Why are things so complicated?

I just don't quite get the world. Everything seems to be a lot harder than it needs to be. Shipping quilts for example. Most UK carriers simply refuse large rolled goods, where large is defined as more that 1.5m. There is no hope of shipping a bed quilt rolled. When I've managed to find companies that would happily ship a long roll, they will only ship it internationally. Of course I could ship everything to another country then back, but it seems a bit daft.

Trying to give people invitations has proved harder than I expected too. Maybe we are too used to paying for everything but being given things seems to confuse and often distress people. I really don't want to upset anyone, but I do want to share may art with other people. I've found it particularly perplexing talking to picture framers. I haven't yet found one I was comfortable enough to ask about the cost of wrapping prints and framing quilts for me. I know I need to find someone, but I would like them to be approachable. I guess I just don't look like the sort of person who would want the services of a picture framer.

I've also been trying to find place to print some of my images. On this front I've been somewhat more successful, until I get to terms and conditions. Then I find that no one will print nudes. I can understand trying to be selective but there is a world of difference between pornography and art, and surely there must be some way to distinguish in the terms of service?

I need to do some stitching, but I am not really feeling up to it. I think one of the bugs that has been striking everyone around me has finally managed to catch me. I am very poor at being ill. I get bored but I don't feel well enough to do anything interesting. So to reduce my boredom, I've been looking through some old pictures and I found these ones of my first quilt.

It's not what you would call a work of art, but I am still rather proud of it. The attempts before this were rather disastrous. It is made with the cheapest poly cottons I could get from the market (I wasn't wasting more expensive fabric on risky experiments) and polyester wadding. I made it with every speed method I could come up with, aided by the Internet. I wish I could remember how I planned the back. I think it was the same as the next one I did. For that I definitely made a very long strip the right width cycling through all the fabrics in order. Then I just used it off the roll as required. Looking at this back it could well be the same idea. I don't know if you can see but the binding was satin bias tape. I had read that the binding was meant to be bias, and I had no intention of making my own, so this seemed about the right thing. I think I was also influenced by the satin bindings on blankets. It does actually last better than I would now expect, I used it on a lot of my quilts that have been in daily use. This quilt now lives in Bournemouth, so it doesn't come out for my talks.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Postcard pictures

OK, a bit later than I had hoped and not the greatest pictures. They are quite shiny and thus indoors quite hard to photograph. Still I guess it gives you an idea of what is in each set and I can promise you the photographs on the postcards are very good. Most of them were done by the professional photographer, and it really does show. See yesterdays post for details of how to order a set.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Postcards Now Available

Well my house is full of boxes but I can now offer sets of postcards with images of my quilts. I've discovered that dull jobs are slightly better when it's your own work, but only slightly. Still I have 100 sets of nudes nicely bagged up and I will try and get some general ones done later. I can't work on bagging them for too long, it drives me nuts. If you would like to buy a set (pictures will be up later) they are 2.50 GBP per set (approx $5) and for a limited time I am offering free shipping. If you would like a set drop me an email and we can arrange getting them to you. I accept UK cheques and paypal.

I've been working on my book, which I am also teaching. I figured this was a really good way to keep me on schedule, as I have a whole class who need the next part. So far it seems to be working. I never though about how much longer things take if you have to photograph every step, and it sure makes it hard to guess how long something really takes. Still it keeps things exciting.

On the boxes front, the house should be even more full in a day or two when all the show invites and posters arrive, at which point I will be getting them out ASAP. If you are part of quilt groups who would like a poster for my show get in touch and I will send you one out.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Oh my!

Well what can I say. I've just got some Internet access back and the first thing I find is these pictures. Thank you to Linda Card for taking these for me. Without her I wouldn't have had a clue.

I have to admit that when I saw an email congratulating me I thought the person was mistaken. I had been asking for pictures of these hanging at Road 2 California, just after someone else mentioned winning. So I could see how it could happen. So I went and had a look for pictures...

The rest I think you can see. I was stunned by 'Nude with Rope' getting an award (which I think is a second place) but then seeing a ribbon on 'Guide Me' I just didn't believe. Still other people can see the ribbons in these pictures so I will assume they really did get the awards.

Thrilled doesn't cut it. I cannot say how pleased I am to have collected my first American ribbons. I guess I have top try and build on it now. I have realised I can't enter 'Nude with Rope' to Houston next year, I have already committed it to other shows, maybe 'Guide Me' will get to travel some more.

I will also be interested to see what the appraisal says for these two. They are the first quilts I have had the chance to have appraised, so I have no idea what to expect. I assume that getting awards can only help right?

Now I think I am calm enough to have some dinner and relax.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Textile sketch

I am still very excited by Prague and I have been giving some thought to textiles that will behave like traditional art. This little sketch is mounted on stretchers so you can just pick it up and hang it on a hook. It's odd but very convenient. I've got to say, having tried it, I would much rather have stiff quilts than floppy ones. I like being able to just walk up to a hook and hang a piece.

I'm also quite happy with how this little sketch has worked out. It is 12" x 9" but does have some essence of Prague in it. The fabrics are some I hand dyed for making the Chrysler building, I really like the feel of them for these misty buildings so I guess I will have to dye some more of these fabrics.

As well as having very dodgy internet access we have a burst water main outside the house. After a few phonecalls and some hopeless workmen we now have a decent team working on the problem, which is great. The hours of pnuematic drilling however are starting to get to me. Still I will be happier to know it has been fixed, and if I am lucky I will go out about the time they need to turn the water off.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Spring Flowers

OK so it is quite clear I don't get flowers as well as I get leaves, but hopefully this will apeal to those who do want to do flowers. It is intended as the spring version of my autumn leaves quilt which has proved a very popular class. The only spring flower I like is cherry blossom, and I did think about just sticking with that, but I think for most people the yellow is am essential part of spring. I am looking forward to seeing what my students come up with in the way of flowers.

I guess it probably bears mentioning that I am still mostly without internet access. I am now stealing my friends machines whenever I can and posting from my phone. Apparently something at the exchange is broken, great. No idea when it might get fixed.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Mousetrap

As the longest running stage production it is something I have wanted to see for- a while, finally I have a chance to. A friend chose it as one of the things she fancied for her birthday so I am off to meet a group of chums for a very pleasant evening at the theater.

I am still without internet access. Earlier today even my mobile phone gave up. Aparently my mobile provider had lost their connection too. I guess it must be a quite widespread problem, so who knows when this will actually show up. I forget how much I use the net until I don't have it. I would check the news to see what is wrong with the internet, but with almost no TV or radio reception I can't until the net comes back. I can't look up the map of where I am meeting my friends, and more importantly I can communicate with my customers, several of which haven't given me phone numbers. I guess I need to get a lot more insistant about having several contact methods for each person I deal with don't I.

So I hope the rest of the world is still there an you are all having a good new year. Say hi if you are at the Maltings tomorrow. Assuming all goes well I should be there.


I am assuming there is still a world wide web out there, but it isn't quite reaching me. I had a better connection in a cellar in Prague. So I have finally admitted defeat and I am blogging from my phone again.

It's been a busy few days, starting with a talk to Amwell quilters on Tuesday. It was hard trying to get refocused after the holiday, but they are a friendly bunch and I met a lot of new people.

Wednesday was a 90th birthday party down in Bournemouth. I love afternoon tea, and again I got to meet new people and talk about quilting. Having something you can talk passionately about certainly makes meeting new people easier. I would like to get a chance to do a talk somewhere around there, but I don't know how likely that will be.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Last day in Prague

So my wonderfull holiday in prague is coming to an end. Today is bright and sunny so hopefully I will get some good pictures at the cathederal. It's nice to have had such a range of weather, each changing the look of the town.

The piclures are taken from Charles bridge looking up at the cathederal, and of our 'hall table'. Cool huh. They must have known.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Just a quick one.

It's been a busy day and I need to pack so we are ready to check out tomorrow. We have had a lot of fun in the snow and taken a lot of pictures. Tomorrow we fly back and I will be able to upload them. Strange though it sounds the best place to be in a snow storm is the top of a tower. Tomorrow we hope to get to the cathederal it looks amazing from the town I hope it is as good up close. The picture today is Charles bridge in the snow.

Yay we have snow

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Day 3 Part 2

Hmm, so light rain + cobbles + steep slope = wee ouch. Fortunately I had worked out this was an option so I was going slowly and managed a reasonably elegant fall. No harm done, but given I was wearing very good boots and taking care we are thinking of finding a different route out in the morning.

Having chosen our restauant based on location, we were pleasently surprised to find good food and friendly service. It was a little more expensive than we have been used to, almost £15 per head for two courses and several drinks, but overall a very positive experience. I think the menu was in 6 languages so very handy for a wide range of tourists, but the food is traditional Czech. I finally tried what seems to be the standard desert here, warm raspberries and ice cream. I can highly recommend it, I also have to find out about their cream and butter. They are both white and very light. They feel very low fat and I love them. Better than that so does my body.

...and finally, we have snow! Not a lot yet, but we are hoping.

Steel is very bouncy

So after a very late night last night (drunk brits sadly get everywhere) we did manage to haul ourselves out of bed at a reasonable time this morning, and head off for the Petrin tower. This involved a tram and a fenicular railway both of which were covered by our travel passes. I love the Prague system, you only have to get your ticket out the first time you use it, when it gets a date stamp. After that you just get on and off as you like. They do random ticket checks, and I was very pleased to discover they handle dumb tourists very well. I mistook the ticket checker for a sales man so just walked past, even more so when he tried to grab me. To his credit he fiured out the problem and said in perfect English, "Stop, ticket check". I can't imagine UK transport police handling it like that, or being so willing to accept our apology. I guess having a valid ticket helps.

The Petri tower is lovely. A very pretty grey steel structure with two viewing areas, one at the top and the other half way up. There is no lift, just a lot of stairs, but they do have several seats on the way up. The first landing has an external balcony and provides pretty amazing views of Prague, but for those with a good head for heights and strong legs it is well worth pushing on to the top. The upper viewing area is considerably smaller than the lower on and fully enclosed. It does have some large windows you can open to take pictures, and if you've made it up there you will want to. The view is stunning. To see all the bridges over the river was magical. I also discovered the cathedral. For some reason every where we have been before, the cathedral has been hidden. A great shame, it is a dark gothic building with wonderful flying butresses. I hope we will be able to find time to have a better look at it, but we are hoping for snow, at which point tomorrow will be fully booked going back to places we have already seen and know we want to see in the snow.

After taking the railway back down the hill we found we are actually staying very close to Charles bridge, and on the side with all the good viewing points. Sadly good pictures from the end of the bridge are impossible, there is a constant flood of tourists. Still once you start hunting around the back streets there are some good photo oportunities. Unfortunately I forgot to take any of the with my phone so todays picture is the Petrin tower as seen from our balcony. Which can be seen in the panoram brochure from the tower. Cool.

Now I need to work out how much clothing I need to not freeze on the way to dinner.

Wow. Oh my. Gosh.

Well I think that covers it, Prague (I must find out how the natives say that) is just stunning. I've been to so many cool places it's hard to know where to start. Maybe near the end. The picture today is from the restaurant where we had dinner. I is a medieval themed place by the name of U Sadlu. If you take a look at their web site you can find the English version of the menu. Some things have changed since it was written but it will certainly give you the flavour of the place. The guide book doesn't rate it but I loved it. The portions are sillly, there is no way I would attempt three courses, the setting it fun (and they have three different decorative areas) and both staff and customers are very friendly. It seems to mostly be frequented by natives despite being close to the main tourist area, I think that speaks volumes for the great value for money they offer.

The one down side is their reluctance to bring desert. Funnily enough two determined females managed to order, and after quite a wait the food arrived. The other diners started to snigger and we had to get down to the serious business of stunt pudding eating. Huge really doesn't cover it. I had a pancake with fruit ans icecream, doesn't sound too mad does it. It came on a plate 12" in diameter and the pancake alone (rolled arround icecream)went from one edge to the other and filled about a third of the plate. The rest of the plate was full of orange, pineapple, apple and banana. That's the real full not the sort of covered, this was more food than the ,main course, which wasn't small. Just as well we had spent the day walking and our hotel is at the top of a hill.

We started the day with a trip to the Old Town square (Staromestske). It's probably a 20 minute journey normally but with me and a camera it took over an hour and I hate to think how many pictures. The architecture here is amazing, and for me very inspiring. Ideas I have had kicking around for a while suddenly make sence and I hope I will get to work on them soon. The square is dominated by several famous Prague landmarks, my personal favourites being Tyn church and the astronomical clock tower. For 60Kc, about £2 you can go to the top of the tower and get fantasti panoramic views of the city. I froze my fingers but I hope I have some good pictures to show for it. From this vantage point you can really appreciate the architectural variety in Prague, fron the gothic churches to the futuristic tower.

From here it is a short, and inspiring walk to Charles bridge. Sadly the days being short meant that light was fading by the time we got there, so we will be forced to go back tomorrow, oh the hardship. We did however have a chance to scope out possible vantage points for photography. Also, tomorrow being th weekend, we can visit the Petrin tower. This looks like a minature Eifel tower and overlooks our apartment, it should have amazing views over the river. It's funny, this isn't a big city (certainly not when you are used to London) but the number of really worthwhile places to visit is astounding. I'll cover as much as I can, but it will a tiny fraction of what is here.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Prague - day one - it's not all flat you know.

So we left Gatwick as the first flakes of snow started falling, and were promptly served the strangest sandwich I have tried. For the record tuna, chives and sweetcorn don't seem to work together. Still being used to budget airlines any food was appreciated and the free drinks seemed a real treat. OK maybe coffee and orange juice aren't that astounding to most travelers but if you do enough cheap flights it is.

We landed (gently, not the normal throw the plane at the ground) to find a light dusting of snow and the usual not cold cold weather. Public transport here is cheap, clean and efficient, for £15 we have a five day travel pass that includes getting to and from the airport. As you might expect the area closest to the airport is not the mot attractive. The first part reminded me of Scandinavian industrial zones, but as you head into the city it morphs into distinctly continetal architecture with a style of it's own.

As soon as we could we got on the metro, which has three lines, A, B, and C. Easy for visitors to get to grips with. I did get very confused that trains reaching the end of the line don't turn around and go back the other way. I have been assured that there is a magic turny thing just out of sight that put the train on the other platform to keep things easy. It still seems a bit odd.

Much gawping followed as we made our way to our room. It is pretty close to the metro horizontally but vertically there is a good distance to cover. Looks like I will get enough exercise to use up all the extra calories I eat here. However the room does indeed have a great view, two in fact. The picture is looking south towards the river and the center of town. Forgive it being a bit small and blury I am trying to keep to an upload budget ans the picture was taken on the phone. The other view really needs my camera to do it justice, the tv tower is on the next hill and when lit up after dark looks amazing.

Our chosen restaurant has got busy since Nat was last here, so we had to make a reservation for tomorrow and find somewhere else. We found a very relaxed mostly italian restaurant. The food was fantastic and amazing value. Dinner for two, including the best Irish coffee I have had in a long time was less than £20. I was particularly pleased with this restaurant as it had candles outside the door as is the custom in Sweden this time of the year, it made me feel more at home. On the subject of Sweden, Swedish seems to have become my default foreign language. Bit of a shame as it is totally different to Czech. Hopefully I will get get hang of the basiccs soon. There is the same problem that you face trying to learn other European languages, everyone here speaks near great English, and is proud to be able to communicate with us, it doesn't help us learn though.

Before we left I did some reading about Prague. There were mixed messages but I found quite a few the suggested it was still rather run down from a shopping point of view. Having just been to the biggest, cleanest, and for my tastes best stocked shopping center I have ever seen, I would beg to differ. Goods vary greatly in price from about half price up to what I would have to pay in London. It was woderful to see such a range of clothes, boots, and strangely, fountain pens. Where in London most shops stock essentially the same styles, here there is variety and the potential for individuality. It's amazing. So far I have largely resisted retail therapy, but with so many boots so close to my ideal I don't think it will last.

Now to bed and hopefully a good nights sleep to set me up for a busy day tomorrow.