Thursday, April 10, 2014

Proctoring Midterms

I have a new appreciation for Jean-Paul Sartre, existentialist philosophy, and The Absurd. It is the end of the semester and I was finally given a date for midterm exams (all sections have to do them at the same time, I can't decide this alone). Go figure.
So I squeezed in some stitching between classes and some fast sketching. I have a few prepared pages in my planner (about 3"x6"). 

The nice thing about having my planner/sketchbook always in my purse is that sometimes I record interesting bits of life that would usually be forgotten. Case in point (during exams):

"Doctor, Doctor. My father is calling me. 
    Can I go out and take it?" 
"How do I know you won't cheat?"
"You can come and listen." [What?]
"And why isn't your phone off?"
"It's on vibrate."
"ABSOLUTELY NOT! [howling rage of the professor who is turning beet red in the face and frothing at the mouth] This is cause for going in front of the disciplinary committee!"

Shoot me!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Into the Big City

As a visit into Tunis could not be avoided, I took along some stitching and my purse sketchbook. The weather was sunny and warm and the 15-minute walk to the bus stop pleasant. However, just as I approached the bus stop, Number 26 drove by--I missed it by 30 seconds. Out came the sketchbook and a ballpoint pen while I waited for the next bus.

Yup, the entrance to my town...Sketches always appear better than the dusty reality. [And don't think because of the slanted street lights that I took the photo crooked--people keep crashing into them.]

Then I attempted some of the interior of the bus...toughest thing I've ever tried--the angles were impossible to figure out as the bus jostled me up and down. 

The sketchbook went back into the purse as nausea overtook me...breathe, breathe.

[I finished it at home with colored pencils. What do they say? Color hides the drawing mistakes? I'm counting on it.]

After I took care of business, I went and bought cotton fabric for the back of the Pomegranate Tree Quilt. I suppose the cost was reasonable (about $12/meter), but, for Tunisian salaries, it's excessive. 

I bought 8 meters, knowing that I'll use the fabric for other backs as well. Ouch. A hundred bucks slithered out of my wallet. Oh, well. I'm not going to piece a back for this huge art quilt--I need fabric that is on-grain and stable. [By the way, what is the one appliance that is hard to find in sunny Tunisia? A clothes dryer.]

Then I went to my favorite notions store, the Tunisian version of Ali Baba's cavern, and bought 10 meters of batting so I won't have to return to Tunis for awhile. 
The problem? Garbage everywhere--and this dumpster's looking relatively clean. Will garbage invade my artwork? 

I'm surprised we haven't been hit by an epidemic of the bubonic plague. Thoughts of Camus' La Peste (The Plague) come to mind.

And yet, across the street from the dumpster in a modest neighborhood, I spot a surprise.
A garden in a small space on the corner blooms.
Like an oasis in the desert.
Maybe there is hope...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Biscuit Bandit Strikes Again

Inevitably, the newest addition to the family, Biscuit Bandit aka Bibi, has found his way into my textile sketchbook/journal. It all started when I attempted to sew on The Pomegranate Tree Quilt and he plopped himself down upon it under the warmth of the lamp and promptly fell asleep.

Seeing that the planned evening of work wasn't proceeding smoothly, I took a fabric-covered page from my sketchbook and drew Bibi in his (deceptive) angelic, sleeping innocence.

Then I put on some loud rock music and pinned snippets from my scrap bag to the page in a mad frenzy. Bibi woke up and wanted to get in on the action.

At first, he observed closely. 

Then, in a grab for attention, he gnawed on the presser foot lever and sent the spool of thread flying. 

Despite his enthusiasm, I managed to keep stitching.

However, Bibi apparently does not appreciate Dire Straits and Led Zeplin cranked up to full-blast volume. He stalked out of the room.

But, never fear, on to new adventures.

He knocked a couple pens to the floor in the living room, then sneakily did some reconnaissance at the dining table (off-limits and doesn't he know it!) where I had been painting watercolors.

I later found two brushes under the refrigerator

He proceeded to shred the toilet paper (one of his favorite toys),
 two paper napkins, a paper towel and a kleenex, and knocked over my waste paper basket for good measure.

Then, he tipped over the old laptop, which crashed to the floor and gave up its soul. 

Linked to Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Friday" and to Sarah's "Friday Linky Party."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Occasionally some of the multicolored pieces of my life come together...once in awhile. For example, I introduced my first-year university students to Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, a play that reflects the human being's inability to control or do anything in an absurd world. However, what particularly caught my attention this time around (it's one of those masterpieces that should be reread every few years...or decades) was the number "two." Each character appears with one other character, linked by invisible bonds. And then, Becket wrote two acts, not the usual one, three or five that make us feel comfortable. Why two? 

Besides making us feel uneasy, two acts are all that is required to show the repetitive nature of the waiting...a third act would be redundant. We are caught in a loop or running on a treadmill. So I have been reflecting on "two."

In the meantime, I began playing with watercolors in a "Rainbow" instruction manual, which I fished out of the trash basket when a brilliant flash of recycling ingenuity hit me. 

One design over two pages appears whole.

One design repeated on each of two pages gives the "eye" look. Two elements that contribute to a whole, like eyes, ears, and eyebrows that give symmetry to our faces.


The vertical version appeals to me more.  I'm breaking that old composition rule about 2/3 and 1/3. After all, Beckett thought "two" had interest.

The construction of a page in my textile sketchbook/journal demonstrates that there is no method to my madness. 

I thought my trusty glue stick would make the job easier, but pins worked much better. An oddball logcabin developed. As the work progressed the fabrics became more and more frayed.

Now, I do realize that easier ways exist to create similar images. You might say, "Well, Nadia, why didn't you just paint onto fabric? Better yet, you could photocopy the watercolor onto fabric." Yes, good points. 

However, the satisfaction of doing this does not depend on the look of the finished work, but on the exploration of what the fabric can do, or what I can do to the fabric. I am not looking for a painterly effect, as such. Rather, looking at the green watercolor paint makes me wonder how far one can push green fabrics and threads.

Another art quilt serves as a frame for this page.

My conclusion? A third element would have balanced the composition. Two elements make me a bit uncomfortable, it's a bit edgy--I think I'll do "two" again to explore the possibilities of edginess. 

And, of course, (need you ask?) I much prefer the textile version.

Linked to Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Friday."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Cat IS the Hat

A kitten found by a dumpster came to live with us a couple of months ago. Named Biscuit Bandit, but, shortened to Bibi, he seems to be hitting adolescence: he still likes to play, but sometimes he's sassy. And he always wants to be in the control tower.

We haven't had a house cat in a long time. Don't know how long he'll be around as we keep only real cats (not "fixed") who eventually go over the walls to party after the day job of catching mice. We will enjoy him for the time being and not worry about the future.

I am always delighted when I manage to catch moments like this. Digital technology fills me with wonder and gives me a sense of luxury. The abundance of imagery is magical. I usually don't like to draw or stitch from photos, but I may have to make an exception. The idea of the cat hat tickles my imagination. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Magic Carpets: The Wild Ones

Saving the best for last. In the official carpet and rug world, these pieces would probably be classified as outsider art. Untamed designs and the wild use of color point to innocent genius.

The most sedate of the group, this pile floral rug has lost a lot of its color. Notice the leaf designs that create the grid for the flower motifs: small leaves similar to a feather design running in one direction, and single leaves end-to-end in the other direction.

The ragged edges on the next rug suggest that it has received much wear.
It must have glowed in the dark when it was new!

One rarely finds dates on rugs so this pile rug is unusual with its "1984" worked into the design.

This dark pink rug still sings and dances despite years of wear.

This rug is right off the charts. In my mind, it's so ugly it's cute.

And last, but not least, and my favorite as well: an eight-pointed star design. It must be the stars that please me--so quilt-like. Or is it the wild colors and crazy border?

Drat! I should've taken this one home, too. 

When so many gorgeous rugs are displayed at a craft show, they overwhelm the spectator. It is difficult to "see" much of anything. I have enjoyed taking a second and closer look and I hope you have enjoyed the magic of these rugs and carpets as well.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Magic Carpets, 3

At the craft show, the beautiful old flat-weaves commanded attention. 

I suppose these are 30 to 40 years old. Lovely weaving, beautiful combination of colors.

There are occasionally surprising touches, like the pink and purple strips in the middle of the diamonds.

And the borders are of interest; they're a sort of signature.


The use of black makes the colors pop out, dramatic.

The warm colors (and especially the pinks) with that soft blue-gray make this rug (r.) sing for me.

Ahh, but my favorite, the one that not only sings, but dances for me:
Such craftsmanship and what an amazing combination of colors. I'm usually not a fan of acid green, but here it's perfect. I wouldn't have dared...Drat! Why didn't I take this one home?