Hey, I Can’t Sleep Out Here – Creative Insomnia

I have not had a good night’s rest in two weeks. Having room mates is not helping, you would not believe how many times you think you have to go to the bathroom until you fear you will wake the entire house with the flush of a toilet. Or how hungry you can get when you can’t raid the refrigerator at midnight because you are bound to drop a gallon of milk in the dark.

Then there are the odd sounds. When I did an artist residency in South Carolina it was the humidity and swamp critters sounding more like Amazonia than The Low Country that kept me awake. When in Mesa Verde National Park it was hooting owls and howling coyotes. At Agate Fossil Beds more coyotes and visions of rattlesnakes dancing in my head.

There is something about travel and a new environment that really stimulates creativity. The real reason I can’t get to sleep is that I am up all night processing the events of the day and designing new projects in my head. I have taken to writing them down, so I have an idea list that keeps me working for months when I get home. I actually came up with the idea for this blog last night about 2:00 AM after three trips to the bathroom, reading the first 100 pages of My Antonia, writing in my journal and checking out my Nebraska gazetteer for interesting local points of interest. You would think I would be exhausted, but no, it is my 20 something room mates who are perpetually worn out.

Anyway, I am grateful for the influx of new ideas that travel provides. That is actually the point of these residencies, and the loss of a little sleep is a small price to pay. There will be plenty of time to sleep when I get home, not to mention the luxury of using the lavatory at will.

Mesa Verde Resonates with Art

Here in the arid southwest, where the Ancient Puebloan people must have had to work very hard just to survive during times of drought and overpopulation, they still found the time to create beauty. The place is filled with art, in the pottery, basketry, rock art and wall paintings. They even wove beautiful red and blue macaw feathers into stunning robes.

I have been so busy hiking, exploring and visiting museums, both the one on Chapin Mesa and The Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado, I finally settled down to making some art of my own today. I bought a few sketch books before I left and have spent some time doing a bit of sketching. I did some quick sketches while on two of my backcountry solo sojourns, another at 7:00 AM this morning at Spruce Tree House and the other day at Long House. I have also done some sketches of the amazing black and white geometric design found on Mesa Verde pottery.

Today I settled in at the picnic table at the rear of my hogan and translated these designs into screens and silk screened them on to cotton fabric I brought with me. It was a lovely day outside, somewhat overcast and a bit cooler, but a gentle wind was blowing that made the screening process a bit of a challenge. I hope to add some detail freehand with textile markers. I really love how the ancient potters did not dwell on perfection and in their imperfection beauty dwells. Another life lesson worth learning.

Quilted Nudes Not Quilting in the Nude

Being an artist, I periodically get asked what I am working on. Well, over the past year I have been doing a lot of figurative work which is really lighting my fire, and recently I have embarked on a series of nudes. While I get a lot of positive remarks like ” that is so cool,” or “what an intriguing idea, ” or ” Wow, I can’t wait to see them, or “here is a website you might like devoted to figurative work.” I have also gotten the opposite response. Some people just a give me a blank stare and polite silence, or an “Oh,” or my favorite, “What do you want to do that for?” You would think I had just announced that I was quilting in the nude.

Personally, other than showering or engaging in acts of extreme intimacy, I can’t think of many things worth doing in the buff, and at a certain age, the later is perhaps best undertaken in only a partial stage of undress. I have never really gotten the concept of nudist camps. Photos of folks playing volleyball, golf or football in the raw make me wonder about their personal tolerance for pain. Which brings me to another reason why I work in the studio fully clothed, (although if you rang my doorbell on a Sunday morning you might find me sewing in my jammies). Have you ever been in a textile studio? There are all kinds of safety hazards that might sever appendages or otherwise inflict gouging wounds. Rotary cutters, pins, needles and scissors are more like weaponry than sewing accessories. When was the last time you stepped on a needle or stabbed yourself with a pin? My quilts often have a small sample of my own personal brand of DNA from such self inflicted wounds incurred during the sewing process. No way am I exposing my private parts to such potential risks.

So back to the reason for the new series of nudes. In my mind the human body is beautiful, interesting, inspiring and sometimes, just like a train wreck, you can’t take your eyes off of it. It is so organic and curvy, a form of geography and sometimes archaeology. The nude paleolithic sculpture of the Venus of Willendorf was the first piece of art I studied in Art History 101 at The Ohio State University some 40 years ago. The Greeks and Romans certainly appreciated the human form. Visit any art museum worth its salt and you will see a plethora of nudes from all periods of history.

My house is full of them. Some are pencil drawings my son drew in his college figure class, others I purchased. I have a nude abstract sculpture on my coffee table. My aunt once asked me, “What is that doing there?” I told her “just sitting as far as I can tell.” So it was music to my ears when during a plenary session for a textile exhibition, the director of a local art museum informed me that there was no problem with having nudes in the exhibition, as long as they weren’t engaged in the full sexual act, as this might offend the board! Guess I might get a piece in the show after all.

Coffee with Kathy

Homeplace II: Cattle Barn, Lancaster, Ohio 2010
This has been a very productive year for me. I have clocked in a record number of studio hours, and after finishing my Quilt National 2011 entry in August, I was just plain pooped. Time for drastic measures. I instituted a self-proclaimed sabbatical from quilting for the entire month of September and did a number of things to rejuvenate myself and keep my artistic mojo working. I went to the zoo, got addicted to The Clothes Mentor resale shop and bought a whole new fall wardrobe, visited some galleries and went bicycling and hiking. I also decided to visit one of my old friends from the days when I lived in a log cabin in Circleville, Ohio … Kathy. We practically raised each other’s kids. I used to knock on her door and she would put on a pot of coffee and we would spend the afternoon chatting.


Slate Run Historical Farm , Canal Winchester, Ohio



It was a beautiful day last Sunday, and I hadn’t seen Kath for years, so on a whim, I stopped by and sure enough she put on the coffee and we got caught up. It got me to thinking about the time in my life when we were neighbors, and how I got started quilting. Well, I missed out on the hippie movement, except as a spectator, my mom would have had a fit. But, the back to the land movement in the 70’s was just my style. I lived in a log cabin, gardened, canned, made homemade bread and noodles, even made sauerkraut, although I can’t stand the stuff. Just before the birth of my first child I taught myself to quilt with the help of one of the few quilting books that was around then, The Perfect Patchwork Primer by Beth Gutcheon. I still have the well loved and well worn, black and white book.


Alphabet Sampler Comforter, 1979

Not long after that I decided to join a quilt guild and worked up all my courage to attend a meeting without knowing a soul. The mean age of the group was probably somewhere around sixty, so I immediately gravitated to the two other twenty-something members and we became fast friends. About the same time I started volunteering at Slate Run Historical Farm and talked my two friends in joining too. The farm is a working farm frozen in the 1880’s time period, with volunteers wearing appropriate historical attire and interpreting history in first person. I was in seventh heaven. I got to wear long dresses and quilt all day long, using the treadle sewing machine to piece the tops.

Slate Run Historical Farm

Pretty soon we had a quilting revolution in full swing. We were making and hand quilting tops, including several friendship quilts, sewing a pretend wedding quilt and putting on a quilt show. We started having quilting bees, often after work, with both guys and girls in attendance. It was probably the first time in history that beer has ever been served at a quilting bee.

Little Red School House Baby Quilt 1979

There is one bee that is forever etched in my mind. My two friends and I were attempting to quilt on a frame in my dining room, but our kids were driving us crazy. Every few minutes some child was crying or whining or having a runny nose. Then, after a while we noticed that we were just getting a ton of work done with no interruptions. UH OH! When six kids under the age of five are quiet for any length of time, something is wrong. I walked around the corner to the living room and stopped breathing for a moment. My son and his cohorts had taken the fireplace shovel and scooped about an inch of ashes from the fireplace, that contained a live fire I might add, onto my coffee table and were running their matchbox cars on the roads they had made in the ashes. As a good mother, (really? you didn’t even notice they were playing with a live fire) I felt the need to provide a terse reprimand without laughing. However, as I looked at the children, it was hard to tell who was who, and I burst out laughing. Their faces were completely covered with ashes, except for white circles around their eyes. They looked like six little raccoons! I laughed until the tears streamed down my face, so I’m not sure if they ever knew they were in trouble. We were extremely lucky that no child was harmed in the making of that quilt, and that I still had a house to call home. What one does in the name of art!

Slate Run Historical Farm

It’s been a long time since those days. My baby is now 31 years old. I still have my children’s baby quilts, and although I have given up traditional quilting, I still remember my quilting roots and try to honor them. If you have a moment, pull out some of your first work and see just how far you have come. And, don’t forget to visit one of your friend’s this week, she might just fix you a cup of coffee and you can reminisce about the good ol’ days.

C’mon Baby, Let’s Do the Mashed Potato

Poatato Dextrin Sample #1 – White cotton – purple liquid Rit dye

Anyone remember the dear departed George Carlin and his great humor? I love his shtick about Americans’ need to accumulate stuff, or as George would say, sh*t. No doubt about it. I’m a material girl that loves her sh*t. The only thing better than getting new sh*t is getting sh*t cheap. I love the hunt of finding really good sh*t cheap. Finding a great bargain gives me a shot of adrenalin that keeps me going for days

Potato Dextrin Sample #2 – Mulberry colored cotton with bleach

My stash of quilt fabrics is a sub-category of good sh*t, and keeping it up to date is one of my satisfying occupations, so when I can get good textile sh*t, cheap, I’m in seventh heaven. I love to buy specialty fabrics, but sometimes making your own is even better. I’ve been wanting to try some potato dextrin dying, and when my friend Kris showed me some of hers I was sold on the idea. Well, potato dextrin is a specialty item that has to be purchased on the Internet, but I read somewhere that you could do it with instant mashed potatoes. Hey, cheap sh*t! I had to try it.

Potato Dextrin Sample #3 – White cotton – blue Rit dye
I purchased a big box of really cheap instant mashed potatoes and mixed one half cup of the flakes to each one cup of boiling water, stirred well and let it sit until luke warm. Meanwhile I cut some squares of fabric and pinned them to a slab of composition board. Half of the fabric was white cotton and the other half was two different shades of purple, you could use any color you choose. I took my drywall spatula and smeared various thicknesses of potatoes on the fabric and left it outside to dry. I left it outside while I was at work, so I was not at home to check on the progress. When I came home I was downhearted. The pins had popped out and the fabric was all curled up, and big hunks of the potatoes had dropped off. I gently crinkled what remained to create the cracks needed for the dye or bleach to penetrate the fabric. I decided to go ahead anyway, despite the nasty appearance of my project. (Did I mention I’m cheap?)

Poato Dextrin Sample #4 – Deep purple fabric with bleach
I did all of my work outside to prevent having to clean up a mess in my house, and also to insure good ventilation. I decided to use the bleach first. Never to do anything by halves, I used it straight out of the bottle and quickly ran to get my respiration mask because the fumes were so strong (a trip to the ER is NOT cheap). The results however, were amazing. It took about one minute or perhaps even less to get the desired effect. I quickly dumped the samples in a bucket of water and scrubbed the fabric to remove the potato flakes. Next I tried the Rit dye on cotton. The directions called for thickened dye, no other explanation given. How does one thicken dye? Who knows, so I just used the concentrated liquid which flowed into the cracks well. Unfortunately, when I’m dying, painting, etc., I am more like a 6 year old than I would like to admit. I want immediate gratification. I could only stand to wait about 15 minutes for the dye to set, so the color is a bit washed out in my opinion. I think if I had left it on for about an hour I would have gotten better results. Of the two, I liked the bleach process the best because you have no idea what the result will be. I thought sample #2 came out looking like Florentine marbleized paper. I hope to do some more dying before the weather turns cold as this is not a process you will want to do in your home. Anyway, give it a try, you might get some good sh*t, and if you’re really cheap, you can serve the leftover potatoes to your dog or hang a few strips of wallpaper, I never thought they were fit for human consumption.


Well, if you are anything like me, you just love to purchase those glossy art mags at Joannes or Hobby Lobby, or Barnes and Nobles. Even though I’ve seen it all before, they are just too darn hard to pass up, after all, I carry one of those coupons for 40% off in my purse for just such an occasion. One of the magazines I like is Where Women Create. You know the ones with the stunning, to die for studios. The ones with cute little antique jars to hold all of your buttons and the antique sewing machines that are artistically placed in the room to give just the right touch of creative ambiance.

I also grew up loving fairy tales, and that is what those studios are … fairy tales. Kinda reminds me of that line in Crocodile Dundee, where Dundee says Knife? That ain’t no knife, eers a REAL knife. Well here’s a photo of a real studio one month before entries to Quilt National are due.
Did I mention that I have battled an issue with procrastination all of my life?

I should probably just ignore one of the biggest quilting events in the country, but heck, it’s only 40 miles from my house! How can you ignore that? Not to mention just to get in could be a career maker. Forget the part where the guy at Cord Camera told me last time that he couldn’t figure out what QN wanted with their instructions for digital images, “Lady, National Geographic is not that picky.” Or the part where they actually give an award to the person who has tried the most times to get in and finally made it. I was told the record was 7 attempts. With the event being held every two years, that’s fourteen years of your life, hoping to hit the big one. Let’s see, that means I have another 10 years to go if I don’t get in this year. I’ll be….uhhh…well… darn near 70 if I wait that long to get in. (I can’t do math, thank god for art quilts, all those little pieces and yardage requirements to calculate with traditional quilts.) Anyway, hard as I try, I cannot let Quilt National go by without an attempt at fame and glory.

I have been pulling out all the stops this year to produce a quilt worthy enough to enter. When I say this year, I actually mean starting last week ( I did mention the procrastination issue). I am using those new silk screen techniques, have a groovy color scheme the judges are sure to love and keep chasing the cats off my entry every five minutes. But still things tend to go wrong. Now I have to admit I am a whiz at printing fabric in my printer, running paper bags and all kinds of fabrics through it (except maybe that one time when I had to go out and buy a new printer due to a severe jam.) But the last two days have been very trying, I have literally used up a 10 pack of ink jet fabric at $24.99, (all right so I did have a 40% off coupon, you do the math), and a whole brand new ink cartridge at $18.99, (I’m too cheap to buy the good stuff), and I was unable to print the big, enlarged photo I had my heart set on for the centerpiece of the quilt. Every print was completly unusable. Yikes!

Then I realized that God speaks to us in mysterious ways. If I had been able to print out that image, I would have screwed up the integretiy and compostion of the whole piece with my determination to do it a certain way. S0, I ‘m out a few bucks and another trip to the store for more printer sheets and another ink cartidge, but I’m much happier with the version I was forced to make.

What am I making? There’s a teaser in the corner of the photo, but I will say no more until I get my rejection letter in the mail, and last time I got a very nice one that I was proud to show all my friends. What’s the saying? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Got to get back to the studio. There’s plenty of time to clean it up after QN.

What I did on My Summer Vacation Part 2

Anniko Feher
Let’s Face It Workshop
No, I have not been abducted by space aliens. I am alive and well and still living in Lancaster, Ohio. But it has been one hot and busy summer for me. I had a solo show last week and have spent the entire month of July getting ready for it. With my ” just one more quilt” attitude, I have been logging in some serious studio time. I have also been working on my SAQA Visioning Project like nobodies business and am proud to say that I accomplished my goal this week! I now have a beautiful little book to use as a paper portfolio (guess the fall will be busy too as I start to market my art work to galleries). There’s no rest for the wicked!
Anniko Explaining her Technique for Portrait quilts
Before the summer got so darn hot and crazy I did spend part of my vacation attending a fabulous quilt workshop on fabric portraits. I belong to the Common Threads Quilt Guild in Bexley, Ohio. What a fun bunch of quilters. God bless ’em. I am the only self-proclaimed art quilter in the group, but somehow they let me in. And for a group of pretty traditional quilters they bring in well-known art quilters to speak at our meetings and sometimes give classes.

A Face in the Making
I had not attended any of their workshops before and decided this one looked really interesting. I love figurative work, but cannot draw people to save my soul. They usually turn out looking rather deformed or perhaps just ape-like, so hey, if she could teach me how to do life-like portraits I was waiting to be amazed, and honestly I was.

She Takes Shape
Before she started with the technique, Anniko told her story of coming to the US from Hungary in the sixties. She had had hopes of becoming an artist as a teenager and going to art school in Hungary. However, due to the corruption of the communist government and the high cost of the bribes required to enter a specialized school, her parents enrolled her in a school for seamstresses. She hated every minute of her time there and soon came to realize that her sewing was the worst in the entire school. Many years later she learned about quilting in the US and has never looked back. She explained that many of her relatives were annihilated in the Holocaust. She was in possession of one tiny black and white photo of her grandmother and made the most amazing quilt of her that was just purchased by a museum for their permanent collection. What an honor for a girl who couldn’t sew!

Completed Face
Well, as we all sat down and prepared to work, I looked at the pattern we were going to be using that was generated from a photo of one of Anniko’s friends. I started to feel the slightest niggling of anxiety beginning to stir in my gut. This pattern looked like a very intricate paint by number canvas. Each color of fabric was denoted by a number. Number? I hate numbers! We were to write the numbers on the backs of the various shades of fabric and keep them in order as we worked. Well, I’m sort of a laid back, do it if it feel right sort of girl, and I was very quickly becoming disoriented. I kept having to ask Anniko to come back to my seat, asking “what did you say to do?, Is this right? What area are we supposed to be working on?” I felt like an idiot. Meanwhile, all the traditional quilters are merrily progressing and are way ahead of me. OMG! I was going to be the one person who couldn’t do it. The art quilter who couldn’t make an art quilt. The laughing stock of the guild! However, an amazing thing happened, after a half an hour the technique just clicked and I got it. I wasn’t stupid after all. I could do this. In another hour, not only was I not behind, I was leading the pack, and ooops, not following directions. All those little numbers fell off my fabric and I was using them in an intuitive way. Hey, this is my style after all. I am proud to say that I was one of the few to finish the face before class ended. Anniko told me that my face was “different from all the rest, and I mean that in a good way.” It was very interesting to observe that while we were all using the same pattern, each face turned out completly different, and even more odd was the fact that the faces actually looked like the person making them. It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to get started on a quilt using my own photograph, but I’ve got just one more quilt to finish first.

I’m in Love (It’s not what you think)

Original Photo
Don’t get too excited, I’m talking about a new art technique that I absolutely love…silk screening. My art friends and I tried silk screening at last summer’s art retreat, with only minimal results. It sure seemed a whole lot more trouble than it was worth. We used directions featured in Quilting Arts magazine and after doing some of my own research on the topic, I found out that the directions were, shall I say, variations on a theme. Not recommended for the beginner and frankly, I’m not sure I would recommend the technique at all. The article suggested using gel medium to drag through the screen, and if you have used this medium, you know how thick and goopy it is. Physics alone would indicate there is going to be a problem trying to force it through the tiny holes in the screen.
Thermofax Screen
After reading about the subject, it seemed as though we did not give this technique a fair shake. Other problems encountered were not using the proper screen size, correct mesh size and not degreasing the screen before use, all important facts that were left out of the article. For this summer’s retreat, I really wanted to try silkscreening again using the thermofax method. I still remember the smell of freshly mimeographed work sheets and tests from back in the day, sort of an elementary school high that was almost as good as eating paste (yes, there’s one in every class, but I’m not sayin’ it was me). The thermofax uses the old fashioned mimeograph machines to cut an image into a plastic film. I did an Internet search and found that Lyric Kincaid, http://www.lyrickincaid.com/, had the best prices and has what has to be the fastest delivery anywhere, except perhaps McDonald’s. You email her your image and she must burn them the minute they plop into her inbox. I had the returned thermofax in two days.

Thermofax quilt top on the design board.
I purchased Photoshop Elements 8 last winter and used it to alter the original tree photo above. You could just xerox it, but if I’m going to lay out some cash for a new program, I’m going to use it. Besides it was really fun. Keep in mind that high contrast makes the best images for thermofax, and you can snail mail your image to Lyric with a check instead of doing the online route. An advantage to the thermofax technique is that you don’t need to use a screen, just put some duck tape around the edge and you are ready to go. You will need to purchase a squeegee. I got mine at Dick Blick.

Regular Silk Screen of Trees with Fabric
Since we couldn’t get the regular silk screening to work last year because of the gel medium problem, (my friend Peggy said it took so much strength she thought she would throw her back out), I was determined to give it a try too. I had equally good results this time and just used a tree stencil on the back side of the screen to make a long horizontal row of trees. It was windy the day we were working, so there are some black marks in between the trees, but when quilted, these will become undergrowth.

On the design wall
I got the idea to make the trees reflect the changing of the seasons by dropping various colors of snippets on the screened trees.

On the Design Wall
I screened the original tree on to some different background fabrics, again with the idea of representing the seasons. I haven’t had time to do much else but look at these beauties on the design wall, but I hope to get at least two of them quilted for my solos show in July. It would be fun to screen some trees in different colors and perhaps on different fabrics like silk. I see pillows here, and I’m thinking Christmas gifts. So if you are attempting something new, the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again., ” may just be the answer to your problem.

Entropy Revisited

32W x 27H
Many of you expressed an interest in seeing what became of the rusty train photos I shot a few months ago. Well, they morphed into my first SAQA Show entry. I had already taken these photos when SAQA posted a call for entries for No Place to Call Home, a show with the theme of homelessness. I may have shared that in real life I am a clinical social worker, and as such, I deal with this issue and many others in an all too real way. So, about the last thing I had any intention of doing was entering this show. I do make an attempt to keep my professional and personal life as separate as possible and this felt like it was pushing the boundary. Then I got the bright idea to base my quilt on all the homeless men, women and over 250,000 children that “rode the rails” during the Great Depression. I had heard much about this period from my parents, who both lived through it as children. They had it tough, but were never homeless. I remembered hearing a piece on NPR (my favorite) about the boxcar kids and an author who was researching their plight all these years later. It was a very touching piece, and all of a sudden I was on a roll with this quilt. I tossed all my other work aside in order to get it done in plenty of time to enter.
Detail 1933
I was already in possession of some old quilt blocks I bought at a yard sale 20 years ago that looked like they contained depression era shirting material. So, I used some of them whole and others I cut up and mixed with new batiks. I went down to the Goodwill and bought some old jeans, cords and wool tweed pants and threw them in the mix (my friend Jessica would not let me use the zipper, she said it was too distracting, if you know what I mean). Then I printed out the rust photos on cotton fabric. I bought Photoshop Elements 8 last Christmas, battling for weeks with Walmart and my computer to get the darn thing to work. All in all, it was a great move, but I’ve gotta tell ya, I had to quilt just to calm myself down from the frustration of being so technologically challenged. Thank the lord I’ve got a calling plan that allows me to call my two boys every five minutes asking for help, and two sons who know that their Mom is dunce in this area, and don’t care. Anyway, I’m starting to get the gist of it and it is amazingly fun to play with. So, I altered some of my train photos and printed them out too. While I was doing research for the quilt, I learned that hoboes actually had a whole set of symbols they used to communicate with each other to warn of barking dogs, police and Railroad Bulls or to give each other the low down on a handout. These symbols were hidden in the quilting. I decided on a deconstructed look that would mimic a torn blanket, perhaps carried in a bedroll for warmth on the boxcars. I topped the whole thing off with an old spoon I found smashed in the road this winter. It reminded me that many people found their meals in hobo jungles. Well, technology was used to digitally enter the show today and will keep my fingers crossed, but frankly I’m just too darn busy to worry about it. I’ll keep you posted.

Live an Artful Life, Attend a Lecture

Debra Lunn and Michael Mrowka of Artisan Batiks, a division of Robert Kaufman Fabrics

Some of my friends think I need to have my head examined, and frankly sometimes I agree with them. One of the more impulsive, (and interesting) things I have done in the past few months is to volunteer to be the Ohio representative for SAQA. Those of you in the know recognize this as the moniker for Studio Art Quilt Associates. In my quest to pursue life as a real, honest to goodness artist I joined this organization because its goal is to promote quilts as art and to promote textile artists, too.

Michael Mrowka Explaining the Design and Production of His Line of Artist Batiks
A few months ago, the position of Ohio representative became vacant and a call went out by the powers that be to fill it. Well, I waited around for a couple of weeks, but darn it, no one volunteered. So, I sent off a little email and just like that, I was the new rep (wish other things were that easy). This is when my friends questioned my sanity, and frankly so did I at the time, but it has already been interesting and I have had the opportunity meet some fantastic SAQA members. It is in my capacity as SAQA Ohio rep that I had the privilege to attend a lecture and interview Debra Lunn and Michael Mrowka, also SAQA Ohio members. The way I natter away on this blog, some of you may have the idea that I am an outgoing person. Well, I’ve learned to fake it when necessary, and interviewing Michael and Debra following their lecture was a real treat.
Michael Displaying the Use of his New Batik Stripes (I bet you thought you had to do a lot of strip piecing. Nope, just cut big triangles.)
This artistic couple started manufacturing their line of batiks in Java, an island in Indonesia, several years ago. It takes 200 weaving machines to provide them with enough cotton fabric to produce between one and two million yards of batiks a year. This represents about 600 new designs every 365 days. The fabric is handmade in the hot and humid weather of Java, which lies close to the equator. Oddly enough, this extreme environment helps to set the dyes. The company employs about 250 workers, and Michael and Debra have dedicated themselves to giving back to the people who provide the quilt world with such wonderful fabric. They have a free lunch for employees each day, and live, eat and attend ceremonial events with their staff, many of whom they consider family. They adopted a Javanese daughter a few years ago and figured prominently in her wedding last year. In addition, they built a water treatment facility in the plant, returning only purified water to the river.

Larger View of Quilt Featuring Striped Line of Batiks

Debra and Michael met in a bookstore, so it is no surprise that their love of reading has inspired them to open a lending library called Ganesa in the community, which has just achieved non-profit status. The pair explained that reading and libraries are not an inherent part of Javanese culture, so they have had to encourage patrons to read and actually make reading suggestions to individuals reluctant to borrow books. They indicated that many of the books are non-fiction titles that teach skills such as crafts, fish keeping or fashion. In order to raise money for Ganesa, the couple had many half yard samples of their cherished designs for sale at the event, and 100% of the proceeds went to benefit the library. I admit I came home with several pieces to add to my stash, it was for a good cause (justification number 127). After attending this lecture, I will no longer complain about the high price of batiks. Considering the intensive labor, extreme working conditions and handmade nature of the end product, they are a bargain at half the price!