Dec 28, 2017

new 2018 art quilt idea

I made this zebra art quilt about two years ago and I love it.

This quilt is based on a photo I took when my husband and I made a photo safari trip to Tanzania a while bag. The quilt hangs in our home next to a black and white cow quilt I also made. Clearly, I am attracted to black and white. 

Today, I saw this photo below from the extremely talented photographer Joel Sartore. I love the unconventional pose, the lighting, the limited color pallette, everything about it!

I sought and have been granted permission to base a new art quilt on this image. I think I have just figured out what I will be working on in 2018! Funny, my plate is completely full next year. I have several big projects and commitments already. But sometimes, when the creative spirit moves us... there is no other choice but to comply! Just do it.... I can't wait to get started.

Dec 23, 2017

studio redo, a new Bernina serger, & new DIY large cone thread rack

Sometimes I spend as much time organizing my studio space as I do sewing in it. 

My husband --- the hardest working man in my studio --- moves so fast he shows up twice! 

My studio is large and I am very fortunate to have such a big space. Its home to my computer and author research station, plus my quilting Bernina 820, a heavy duty leather sewing machine, way too much fabric, and all the other stuff.

Then I bought a new Bernina 450 serger and it just arrived a week ago.To give it a proper space, I had to make room for it in my studio. So... we moved everything around.
I found this great sewing table for it. Only $87 on Amazon. Small, has wheels, side storage and the end folds down. Good product for a great price.

You do have to put the table together yourself... or if you're lucky like me, your husband does it. The dog is only mildly interested in the whole process.....

Besides the serger, over the past year, I've acquired a bunch of big, beautiful cones of Superior Thread. These are bonded nylon that I use for sewing leather. I needed a way to store these and kept struggling with what to do....

I used these metal gym locker baskets for a while. But they are heavy and unwieldy. 

I purchased a rack online that was supposed to be designed for large cones, but it was a piece of junk and I sent it back. Then I was flipping around the web and saw cones on a peg board.... duh! I LOVE pegboards. And I had an extra one sitting in my studio closet.  Thanks to my nice husband, problem solved! I purchased 6 inch metal peg board hooks and they work perfectly. Plus I love the way it looks.

I'm a big fan of peg boards. I have another one I use constantly, so I took advantage of the studio redo to organize it better. Here's before and after....

Looking at the photos, I'm not sure if the peg boards looks better before or after....? But anyways, it is better organized.

Here's the finished studio.

All ready for the New Year! Thank you to all of you who occasionally read my blog. I am so grateful to have this place to share my love of sewing and quilting.

Dec 12, 2017

channeling Yayoi Kusama with a Japanese sewing pattern

If you can sew a quilt, you can sew clothes. And lately, I have been expanding my sewing skills to make garments.

Not just any garment... but tops from Japanese sewing books. These oversized fashion designs are super easy to construct, fun to make, and best of all, easy to wear.

For the latest top, I've channeled the famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

Kusama's art is scattered all over the world. She is world famous for her huge pumpkin sculptures covered in dots, her infinity rooms, and a bunch of other colorful and interesting motifs. There are so few famous women artists that people can actually recognize, and she is one of them... so I love that about her.

I visited one of her pumpkins at Naoshima Island earlier this year! And here's my top. Its 100% linen.

One dot on the back, just because. (geez, I need a haircut!!!)

I took this photo while making the top. My red stool popped into the photo and somehow fits right in.... 

The instructions are all in Japanese. I do not read or speak Japanese, but I can follow pictures. I am certain that there are details that are lost on me, but the tops I've made have all turned out great.

And if you are interested... yes, I will make one of these for you! $168.00

I am adding handmade tops to my "mariejay" website (where I sell my handmade leather bags). This particular top comes in 2 sizes, regular (or medium) and large. Keep in mind, it is meant to fit very loose and baggy. I can make this top similar to the one I am wearing in linen, or with other colors. BUT... I am also getting a new shipment of imported Japanese fabric very soon! New designs by Japanese quilter and fabric designer Yoshiko Jinzenji - all in 100% linen. So I will be making this top in her designs soon.

Just email me or leave a comment if you're interested in an original, handmade top!

Dec 11, 2017

check out my interview with Ricky Tims on The Quilt Show

It was such a thrill to be asked to be interviewed for The Quilt Show.

This "mini" interview was conducted at International Quilt Festival and when I did the interview, I was so excited that I forgot to even take a photo. So here's a screen shot from the post on The Quilt Show blog / newsletter.

See the interview here:  The Quilt Show

So cool that we have quilt media that takes in interest in such a wide variety of quilt things.

Thanks to Ricky Tims, Lilo Bowman and everyone else who took interest in my books and made this interview happen.

Dec 4, 2017

when the Associated Press asks for an interview, you say yes

You can't make a living writing nonfiction, art history books. But sometimes, you can get your 15 minutes of fame.

This week I was asked by the Associated Press to be interviewed for an article on indigo in Japan. As a researcher who is always asking people to let me interview them, it was very surreal to have the tables turned.

The AP writer had just returned from Japan where she participated in an indigo dyeing class and wanted to talk to an expert about the history of indigo in Japan.

We talked on the phone for half an hour. The great thing about working from home is you can wear whatever you want - no makeup required! Then, much to my surprise, my husband sneaked in during the interview and snapped these photos!

Not sure I look the part of an "expert," but it was an interesting interview.

Any talk of indigo always leads to talk of cotton, and that is where I really get excited. These two plants are simply epic.

I'll share a link to the AP article when it is published.

Nov 18, 2017

tiny Tokyo boutique and a foreigner who recognized the handwoven Japanese cotton

I was wandering around a multi-story shopping mall in Tokyo in September, when I happened to see this little kimono fabric shop. I walked directly the the shelf and touched the gorgeous Ise Momen handwoven cotton.

The shop assistant did not speak English, but she was quite surprised when I said the name of this traditional handwoven cotton.

I showed her the post card for my book... her surprise was precious.

While researching my book, I visited the very place where this beautiful cotton is made. The family has been weaving this same cotton for many generations - and in fact, they are the last weaver still in business in this region of Japan.

Ise Momen is woven form 100% American cotton thread... which make it all the more special for me. The beautiful pastel patterns have been passed down from generation to generation. There is no need for updating.

Many women and professional seamstresses travel from all over to visit the showroom where Ise Momen is made. They buy rolls to make their own kimono and other clothing, bags, etc.

There is an entire chapter in my new book about the Japan's traditional woven cottons.

Living the life of a researcher (and maker) is so wonderful. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent time in the Ise Momen workshop.

And I could not stop smiling at the fact that all my time, research and investment brought my eye right to the shelf where this beautiful cotton was sitting.

Love Japan!

Oct 24, 2017

the stunning quilts of artist Susan Shie

Artist Susan Shie is a tiny, soft spoken woman, with a big and powerful artistic voice.

She has chosen the quilt and needle and thread as her medium because she feels it is a fitting place from which to express her feminist point of view.

Her colorful quilts are infused with folk art drawings and covered edge to edge in text - which she applies using a variety of air brush methods. The stories they tell vacillate between stories of angst, love, and imaginary settings. The famous and the fallen are often front and center, along with powerful women and women who should be powerful.

Every person who sees these extraordinary quilts will come away with a different reaction, and most will certainly react. These works of art are not passive. They have profound expressions that cannot be ignored.

When I study these, I see a mix of artistic references --- from the faces and floating figures of Marc Chagall to the colors of Paul Gauguin to the 'leave no surface untouched' style of street artists and graffiti art. The issues she fixates on are current events, as well as made up events. Her mind conjures up meetings between the most unexpected figures. For example, what if the guy from Bert's Bees met Ghandi... a strange and also refreshing point of view. Susan also focuses a lot of her imagery and love on Barack and Michelle Obama, and these two are her go to subjects. Her stories are relevant and current.

I find her voice powerful and inspiring, and its made all the more interesting to me because Susan Shie is legally blind. Her struggle with sight means she must work extremely close to her surfaces. And it this intensity with the surface that enables this powerful voice to emerge from the cloth and inspire or provoke the viewer.

Left, Karey Bresenhan, co-founder of the Texas Quilt Museum, with artist Susan Shie.

The exhibit is titled "The Way I See It: The Narrative Art of Susan Shie" and it is at the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange, Texas. The exhibition will be on view until Dec. 22, 2017. Susan kindly allows photos to be taken of her work. Thanks for that Susan!

Here is Susan's website:

You can find more info about her art and background. You can also take drawing classes from Susan - online or at her studio. But she only accepts female students! She wants to expend her energy encouraging feminine expression from other artists as well as her own.

Oct 13, 2017

chasing Tadao Ando, Japan's super architect

Ever seen Kyoto from this angle? 

I took this photo at a place millions of people traverse through day in and day out. And if you've even been to Kyoto, you've probably been in this building. 

Its Kyoto Station. And this gorgeous mega train station was designed by Japan's most famous architect, Tadao Ando. 

Like most people, on my previous trips to Kyoto, I would rush in and out of this station. 

Occasionally, I would glance up at the massive light-filled ceiling. On my last trip, I changed all that and spent hours walking through this station and exploring its many unique spaces. From there, I went on a quest to chase other Tadao Ando landmarks!

Kyoto Station is huge. And everywhere you turn, the architecture is equally impressive. The seemingly disparate sections of the small city are connected on the 15th floor with a series of uber modern glass hallways.

Kyoto Station has two floors with a dozen or so restaurants each. The 9th floor is all ramen, and the 10th floor has many other restaurant choices. And if that's not enough food, Kyoto Station is also connected to the lovely Isetan department store and they also have an entire floor filled with restaurants. Never leave Kyoto Station hungry!

Not far from Kyoto Station, is one of Tadao Ando's most famous works: The Church of Light. This tiny Christian church sits in an upscale neighborhood halfway between Kyoto and Osaka. 

Its utter simplicity is the crux of its beauty.

I visited the Church, but sadly, visitors are no longer allowed inside. The fame of the architecture has overwhelmed the small staff and in the past, many sightseers were rude and intrusive. Tourists! 

A few people are allowed in on Saturday and Sunday with advance reservations. Next time!

Naoshima Island, also known as Japan's Art Island, is mecca for Tadao Ando chasers. I went there on a hot and steamy September day. Totally loved it!

The famous Benessee House and Museum, the Chichu Art Museum, and the Lee Ufan Museum are are all built by Ando. Plus, there is also the Ando Museum on the island.

Chichu translates as underground --- and this structure is partially underground and the intent what to blend in with the natural landscape. Stunning. Breathtaking. These words seem small compared to this structure's outsized beauty. 

Inside, the space is sparse and minimalist. The art is good, but limited. There is one room with Monet's water lily paintings. Another James Turrell exhibit. And then there is this room!

As I was walked up the path and was about to enter the museum, I stopped to take a photo of the outside of the museum and I was stopped by a staff member. I was slightly dumbfounded to learn that no photos are allowed of the building itself! I understand rules to protect the art, but the building? 

I feel the rule to not allow photos of the building exterior for visitors who paid a hefty ticket price to enter is crazy. That said, the Chichu Art Museum is well worth a visit.

Next is the Benessee House and museum. This is perhaps one of my new favorite art museums. The building is endlessly beautiful, super modern, and surprising.

I needed more time to visit this island. Next time I will plan farther in advance and spend the night.

I'm thinking of going on an 'all architecture' trip to Japan and truly chasing Tadao Ando. Here are the sights on my wishlist. Anyone want to join me?