Monday, December 31, 2018

It's Beginning to Look a Lot like 2019

The Pacific Ocean coast
It's December 31st.  My heart is full after spending Christmas with my family.  The fun continues with weeklong visits from my in-laws, one of my brother-in-law's and his family from Michigan, and my youngest daughter's friend from New Zealand.

With all the excitement heading our way, I'm taking this little bit of free time to reflect on the past year.  It went by quickly, as I'm sure it did for almost everyone over the age of 40.  At the start of the year I listed the following goals:

* increase my quilting --  I didn't finish as many things as I'd hoped, but I was thrilled to be juried into the Dinner @8 exhibition that premiered in Houston.
* docent training -- I was excited and honored to be the docent trainer for two exhibitions this year at the Katonah Museum of Art: Long, Winding Journeys about Islamic visual traditions expressed in contemporary art and Outrageous Ornament: Extreme Jewelry in the 21st Century.  I love learning about and sharing the stories of all the artists and their work.
* more people pictures -- Yeah, I didn't make any progress on that goal except that I did remember to take family pictures at Christmas.  At least I didn't forget that.
* blogging -- This year I posted more than I did in 2017, but not as much as I'd originally hoped.

My girls and I
I'm still working on some of my goals for the new year, but I know these are on my list:

* Continue to create, in all the ways that are meaningful to me.  That means I'm going to adjust my thinking.  I'm going to try not to feel like my needlepoint is taking away from my quilting or that my quilting is taking away from my photography.  They're all important and good for me.

* Continue to docent.  I'm so thankful I started doing this five years ago!

* Make time for exercise.  Yes, I'm still young, but I'm getting too old to ignore my health.  Exercise has to happen regularly.  I have to make time.  No excuses.

* Say yes when I can to new things and/or experiences.  This past year I tried not to be afraid about trying new things.  For example, I said yes to playing on a tennis team, even though I'm new to the sport and didn't know any of the other ladies.  Believe it or not, I didn't die.  In fact I had fun, got lots of exercise, and made new friends.  Now I'm looking forward to next year's season.  Who knows what next year might bring!

* Continue as the NY SAQA rep.  This might be a subset to the "say yes" goal above.  Last September I agreed to be the NY SAQA rep.   I really didn't know what I was getting into.  I've learned a lot already,  have met many interesting people and it's been fun.  I'm hoping that 2019 brings more of the same, plus more activities with my fellow New Yorkers.  I'm hoping to attend the conference in San Jose in April.  Is anyone else going?

* Revamp my website.  There.  I said it.  My website is out of date and this will be a huge project, but something's got to be done.  Maybe I won't get the whole thing taken care of but I'd like to try.  First step: getting the current website files off my old computer.

* Blog more.  Could this is a subset of the creating goal? Maybe, but I'm going to keep it separate.  For me, it's about creating a consistent writing practice, organizing my thoughts, putting those thoughts down on paper.

* Give back. Now that I'm an empty-nester I have more time to do things for others.  To that end, I'm taking my dog, Bella, for a test in January.  The goal: that the two of us become a therapy team.  I'll keep you posted.  I've also been asked to be a part of my church's Mission and Outreach committee, the group that helps to designate funds for distribution to charities and organizes volunteer opportunities for Habitat for Humanity and the like.  I think I need to say yes.

It's time to sign off of 2018.  Fingers crossed for us all to have a peaceful, wonderful new year.

The redwood forest floor.  

Friday, December 21, 2018

Weekend in Miami: Wynwood Walls

Gorgeous street art; I unfortunately couldn't find the artist's name
Wynwood Walls is totally cool. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I'm so glad we went.  

In 2009, the late developer Tony Goldman thought the warehouses of the Wynwood neighborhood would be great canvases for street art.  Since that time, artists have beautified the walls of the buildings and Wynwood Doors, a fenced in area dedicated to the art style.

We visited a week before Art Basel Miami so some of the walls were being freshly painted by curated artists in the Wynwood Doors in anticipation of the event.  Others were already completed. All were amazing.  How do they do it?

Detail of wall by Tristan Eaton, 2017 (Wynwood Doors)
Street art; I couldn't find the artist's name
Dasic Fernandez, 2016 (Wynwood Doors)

Street art; I couldn't find the artist's name

Friday, December 14, 2018

A Weekend in Miami: Vizcaya

Completed in 1914, Vizcaya was the estate of industrialist John Deering, who built the mansion as an escape from Chicago winters.  Today Vizcaya is a museum, filled with the Deering's extensive art collection.  Each room was designed around architectural elements -- such as painted wall panels -- and antique furniture acquired on Deering's trips to Europe.  There are Renaissance tapestries and 17th century Venetian sculptures, paintings by John Singer Sargent (a friend of Deering's) and antique Japanese cloissone vases.  It's rather breathtaking.

The gardens surrounding the estate are lovely.  Though crafted to mimic the grand gardens in Europe, Vizcaya's gardens are filled with lush sub-tropical plants that thrive in the Florida weather.  

There's also a orchidarium to the side of the main house that's home to a variety of orchids, in patterns and colors I wouldn't have thought were real.

Located not too far from Miami, on Biscayne Bay, Vizcaya is worth a visit if you're in the area.  

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Weekend in Miami: The Everglades

My husband had business meetings and a dinner in Miami last Thursday. Thanks to an empty nest, I could tag along.  We explored on Friday and Saturday.  We'd never been to Miami and it was fun to discover all sorts of new things, from culture to wildlife, in the surrounding area.

Today I'm going to share some of my favorite nature pictures.  If you follow me on social media, you may have seen some of these images already.  I will confess to being swept away by the alligators we saw swimming through the wetlands and which also came right up to our airboat to check us out.  We also walked on a few trails in the Everglades National Park to explore further.  I didn't realize that each walk is designed to introduce visitors to a different micro-ecosystem within the park.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of wildlife.  I've never been so close to an alligator in its native habitat (meaning, not on a golf course or in a corporate center pond).  They seemed to be as intrigued by us as we were of them.  Some of the birds were skittish, but others let us get pretty close for photography. We explored throughout the day, right until dusk.

The marsh is really beautiful as the sun sets
Our guide didn't know this alligator, but he was a calm and curious fellow.  In my vain mind, I like to think that he was responding to my calling him a handsome, marvelous boy.
This is George.  Our guide said he was one of the dominant males in the area we were in.
I was pretty excited to get this picture of an osprey taking off from its nest.  If you look closely, you can see a bit of fish in its left claw.  Did you know that ospreys always carry their fish with the tail facing backwards?  Scientists think it's to make it's more aerodynamic.
The Purple Gallinule is a common wetlands bird in Florida, but I'd never seen one before.  Aren't the colors lovely? And look at those feet! They're about the size of a chicken: the bird, not the feet.
This is a green heron.  It's one of the few birds that uses tools.  It will try to lure prey closer by dropping or dragging a feather, twig, or insect in the water to attract a fish.  Pretty clever.

It was exciting to learn about and see wildlife we'd never encountered before.  I was snapping pictures like crazy.  Admittedly, I've seen osprey in New York, but never as up close.  A week later I'm still be scratching some of the bug bites I got, but they were totally worth it.  

Next up: culture / history at Vizcaya and art at Wynwood Walls.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Glimpse of Houston

I wasn't able to go to the Quilt Festival to see my quilt in the Dinner at Eight exhibition.  Fortunately, my friend, Deborah Boschert shared a picture of it.  Curators Leslie and Jamie paired quilts to amplify the impact of the overall show.  Here's Daily Bar Code hanging next to Leslie Tucker Jenison's piece, Interstital.

Photo courtesy of Deborah Boschert


Monday, November 19, 2018

Carbo Loading

What's possessed me?  Instead of cleaning the house, putting extra toilet paper in the bathrooms, clearing out closet space, -- you know, all the things you should do when lots of people descend on your house for a week long visit.... I've been spending days trying to make rolls and bread.

I've gone a bit off the deep end.

Still, it's been kind of fun.  Now there are multigrain dinner rolls that will be warmed up for Thanksgiving dinner.

The yeast in the cranberry nut breakfast rolls (complete with the dusting of raw sugar) was most definitely ALIVE!  The balls of dough went from these polite little things

to these monsters, that had no sense of personal space. 

And then, they baked into these beauties.

The wild rice and chive batardes baked nicely too, though we'll have to see how they taste at dinnertime.  They browned quickly and I'm wondering if I should have covered them with foil to keep baking.  Instead, I took them out of the oven, sooner than might have been wise.  They look lovely, but they might be a bit raw inside.   Ah, the adventure.

Well, if it doesn't work, we can all chow down on oatmeal butterscotch cookies.  The cookie jar is packed with them, with extras on the side.

While I wait for dough to rise, or when I'm tired of cleaning, I turn to my pup for a little break.  She's been keeping me in stitches with her antics.

This dog just oozes love.

Now back to cleaning the house.  It got a bit dusty while I was working.  But maybe it's flour.....

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Picking Up Where I Left Off

It's 11PM and I've finally found the time to sit and write. Life, filled with all sorts of good stuff, took precedence over blogging this last month.  No complaints, though it may have seemed to you that I fell off the face of the Earth.

Here's the summary version of what's been going on:

1) OUTRAGEOUS ORNAMENT: Extreme Jewelry in the 21st Century at the Katonah Museum of Art
I've practically been living at the museum.  Powerpoint presentations, lectures, sample tours, educator previews, opening night and other public tours have occupied my time... and I've loved it!  The exhibition is eye-opening on many levels.  So many guests have been surprised by how much content and conversation a show about body ornamentation can generate.  I know I was, when I was first introduced to the material.

Marjorie Schick, Spiraling Over the Line, 2008
I'm taking a tour-leading hiatus this month, but will be back at it in December and January.  I'll keep you posted about my schedule.  I'd love to see you there.

It's been a horribly wet fall.  I guess it's just an extension of our horribly wet summer.  Luckily I've been able to dash between the storms to get my garden winter-ready and to snap pictures. A recent frost made me pine for winter.  Too soon, I know.

Hmmm... I've just realized I've done a lousy job of posting pictures if I can't find the time to write.  I'll have to work on that some more.

I traveled with my daughter for fall break.  I spent time celebrating milestone birthdays with dear friends.  I hunkered down for a peaceful Saturday night with my husband after he'd been gone for 11 days on business.  All precious.

And now, the clocks have turned back.  The shorter, grayer days seem to push me to the studio.  But, that'll come in when it can. Right now, I'm prepping the house and the refrigerator for Thanksgiving.   My parents will be visiting, along with three of my son's college friends.  It's going to be fun!  Time to start the biscuits!  (If I think of it, and if they turn out, I'll post a picture of my first attempt at homemade biscuits.)

Now it's off to sleep.  Big day tomorrow.  VOTE!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

I'm on the D@8 Blog

Detail of my quilt, Daily Bar Code, that's part of the upcoming Dinner@8 exhibition

Every year, the Dinner@8 team asks participating artists a few questions and the answers  are then posted on the D@8 blog.  Today's my day!

You can find my answers here.

There will NOT be a test later on.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Outrageous Ornament at the Katonah Museum of Art

I'm very excited about the upcoming KMA exhibit, Outrageous Ornament: Extreme Jewelry in the 21st Century.
Robert Baines, Yellow Giraffe, ca. 2012
Sterling silver, powder coat, electroplate, paint

I'm the docent trainer once again, so I've had the privilege of getting sneak peeks at the checklist and working with Jane Adlin, the curator and former Associate Curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Modern and Contemporary Art Department.  As usual, I've fallen down the rabbit hole, amassing more research than I can use.  This topic is fascinating because, until now, I hadn't considered jewelry an art form like painting.  But it most certainly is.  This is art  that can operate at a variety of scales and has the added intimacy of including the body (actually or implied).

This is art that demands to be considered, just like any other fine art, for its ideas, inventions and content.  Wearability, the use of precious metals, and adherence to traditional expectations are not required.

I hope you'll be able to come to the exhibit and see for yourself what I'm talking about.   Outrageous Ornament opens October 21st  and will run through January 27th.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Beautifying the Hospital

I'm pleased to report that seven of my photographs from my Noir Cactus series and Cactus Abstract series will be hanging in an area hospital for the next six months.  I hope they'll brighten someone's day. Here's an image from each of the series.

Cactus Abstract 9, ©Vivien Zepf, 2018

Noir Agave, ©Vivien Zepf, 2018

Monday, September 10, 2018

Getting Bigger

Mishmash in the works
The scrap beast is growing.  The question is, do I make it finished as a square or a rectangular quilt?  If it's a square, how can I make it big enough to snuggle under?  If I make it a rectangle, will the pattern feel incomplete?

I think there's some rearranging work in my future, but I suppose I have a few more blocks to make before that happens.  As of this morning, I had to make some new half square triangles. I've used up all the ones I'd stitched years ago.   Now progress will probably move a bit more slowly.  Given the weather, I'm glad to have the project.  Yes, we're getting more rain...

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Out Exploring

I'm out exploring the natural world and here are a few photos of things I've seen.  There will be more later; I'm off again shortly.

The pelican rookery
 A striped crab in a tide pool
A horbor seal coming right for us. See the water just slicking off its back?
An orca coming at us, too.  Magnificent!
Always fun to watch dolphins off the bow.  They'd just eaten their fill at an anchovy bait ball.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Meet Your New York SAQA Rep: ME!

That's right!  I'm the SAQA rep for the New York region as of this week. Woo hoo!

My primary goal as rep: get the region moving again.  How? Implement plans is to do some fun stuff together and build community.  Be on the lookout for a regional newsletter in the next few weeks with more details.

I hope you'll join me in reinvigorating our region.    My email inbox is always open for suggestions, comments, feedback, you name it.  You can reach me at my private email address or my official SAQA rep email address:

I'm looking forward to the fun!

Friday, August 17, 2018

More Maps

Tomorrow I hit the road again, this time with our youngest.  It's back-to-school time.  (Bummer. I've loved having her home.)  

In the last month and a half, I will have driven more than 3,500 miles.  That's the same as flying from New York to London.  Of course, I didn't do it all at once, but still.  It's sort of fun to think of it from that perspective.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Quilt Police

It's raining and I can't go outside.

I've tackled my studio clean-up.  All the fabric that was lying about has been sorted, folded and put away.  The design wall has been cleared to make room for the current project.


Yes, the ugly quilt blocks are off my table and on the wall.  I've decided this will be my next project.   I thought I could piece it without worrying about making a masterpiece.


I am the Quilt Police.  They are me.

Apparently I can't quite let my hair down, even on a quilt I don't have a strong attachment to, that I think is rather funny looking.  I still want seams to line up and points to be sharp.   I have zero problem with mismatched seams from others. In fact, I often admire other makers' piecing freedom. It's just not me.  Now, that's not saying everything's perfect.  But I have already ripped out several seams to make a block better.  Yep, I am the Quilt Police, for my own work.

There could be worse things / habits, I guess.  And, looking on the bright side, it's good prep for working on the Lone Start quilt, and a few other items I have in mind, that require a bit more finesse and care.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Double Red Donation

Yesterday, I gave blood.  There's a blood shortage, as there is almost every summer.

When I checked in, I've never know anyone to be so happy about my height and weight.  You see, if you're of a certain height and weight, you can give what's called "Double Red" or "Power Red" donation.  That means a special machine will extract double the amount of red blood cells -- two units worth -- from your blood, but it returns your plasma and platelets, plus a bit of saline.  Since red blood cells are the most frequently needed element of blood transfusions, this doubles the donation's potential impact.  I didn't know this was an option.

If you're in good health and haven't travelled anywhere truly off the grid in the last three years, please consider making a donation.  Here's a link to upcoming blood drives in the New York area if you're interested.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What Next?

Do you ever ask yourself, "Hey, whatever happened to that quilt I was working on?  Do I even still have it?"

This morning I bypassed the piles of fabric that should have been put away, in favor of rooting through my drawers for unfinished quilt tops.


The layout to come.  Right now I'm calling it Donuts and Donut Holes
There's one!  I started this quilt top by taking wonky vintage blocks, cutting them apart, and re-piecing them in a new and smoother arrangement.  I have two more large "donut" blocks to make so the bottom row will have a donut > donut hole > donut pattern. I was planning to insert white fabric everywhere you can see my white felt design wall.  Size will be dictated by how many old blocks I have left to cut up. I don't think there are enough to add an additional row.

Here's a close up of one of the squared up large donut blocks.  I love the irregular seams within the square shape.

A close-up of a donut
As I rooted around, I came across some quilt blocks I had completely forgotten about, plus a shoe box filled with half square triangles and four patches to make more. They were even all ironed and flat.

Completed blocks laid out on my table.  Can someone please remind me of the name of this block arrangement?
I think my objective for this quilt had been to use as many remnants of fabric as I could from my stash, trying especially hard to use novelty fabric I'd been gifted and wouldn't otherwise use.  Some of the bits are lovely.  However, there are quite a few that are .... BLECH!  This is, quite possibly, the beginnings of one of the ugliest quilts ever.

Finally! The quilt that popped into my head last night. The one I wondered / hoped I could find.

A Lone Star quilt, not looking too shabby after having been folded and away for a while
There it is!  Folded and, somehow, not smashed.   The left side (as we face it) has been sewn on.  I discovered the already-cut bit for the right side.  But I remember I didn't know what to do next since I didn't have enough of the background material to make top and bottom borders.

So now the big question is, What to Work on Next?  There are pros and cons of each.
#1: PROS:  There's not to much sewing left to do to finish it
      CONS:  I just finished a quilt with a white background
                   Now I'm not sure this layout is interesting enough

#2: PROS: Lots of the parts are already done
                  It doesn't need to be perfect
                  I don't care if it ends up on the floor in my
                      daughter's college dorm room. Could be of use to her
      CONS:  It's really ugly.  Can I stay engaged?

#3: PROS: This one has jogged my memory.  Should I ignore that?
      CONS: I might have to re-learn Y seams.
                  This one might involve more care and thought than I have
                         the mental energy for right now.

Thoughts?  Suggestions? What should I work on next?