Tuesday, April 22, 2014

one row at a time

Recently I was in my local Farm and Garden chatting with Pat--the very competent owner. As those who follow me probably know, I have a large garden. Lots of flowers. Mainly daylilies. Then there are also all the vegetables. The lettuce and peas. The onions. Basil. Tomatoes. This year I got some radishes. Spinach.

But April and May it always seems like an insurmountable task.  How will I ever find time to prepare the beds. Pull out the grass that invariable seems to grow over the winter. Add the compost. Plant the seeds and seedlings. Much less weed them. Argh!!! What am I thinking? Where can I find the time?

Pat asked how my new studio was coming along.

Pretty well, I said. I hope to move in May. Though how I will find time to do it is beyond me.

I know she said. I have the same problem especially this time of year. Isn't it amazing how one can never get everything done? Just do something. Keep going. One row at a time.

I thought of those wise words as I started my most recent quilt. It was an order I took some time ago. Wonderful people who have ordered before several time. They called last week. How was it coming along? Oops. Time to finish it, isn't it?

Now I know it will be fabulous when I get it done. But it is the process of getting there that will take some time. The quilt is based on this lovely wall hanging--or is it a table runner?

blue and yellow--Ann Brauer--2013  

More traditional than many of my recent quilts. Indeed it is based on the courthouse steps pattern. But the colors give it the dimension. And it is popular. I had another order for one large square as a table topper which I just finished. Dramatic, isn't it?

blue and yellow square--20x20"--Ann Brauer

This order though is for one long quilt with nine blocks. It is to hang over a window in a particular narrow space.  Yes, that will take a while. You see this is another quilt as you go project. So I must pull up and tie off all the threads. One row at a time.

back of quilt--Ann Brauer

After all I want the back to be neat and gorgeous also. That is part of the process.

Well, there is no way to finish but to start and keep going. One block at a time.

block of blue and yellow--Ann Brauer

I guess that is a start. I pin it up next to the original. Maybe it will get inspired and duplicate itself. Nope. I think I just have to keep sewing.

progress--Ann Brauer

And sewing. And sewing. Finally some progress. Enough so I can at least play with the design. Which way to piece it together. This way?

four pieces--Ann Brauer

Or this way?

four pieces--Ann Brauer

What do you think? Only five more blocks to go. Then to join the blocks together. Do the bindings. Add the looped tape for hanging. What was I thinking? Will I ever finish? Meanwhile today I think I will prepare one more row in my garden. After all, isn't that how to get the garden planted?

And you--how do you tackle a large job? One that seems to go on and on. Forever.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

the quilts of Ann Brauer--finally April

Dear all,

Finally it is April. This winter that never seems to end is finally ending. The snow is melting. Of course now we have mud--but that to shall pass. I even have a couple of daffodils just poking up through the ground. Soon flowers.

I am getting ready for my last show of the spring season--The Philadelphia Invitational Furniture Show at the 23rd Street Armory in Philadelphia this Saturday and Sunday. I haven't done this show for a while but I know there will be some absolutely amazing hand built furniture. This year there are also five--count them FIVE--quilt makers. We all have different styles so it should be fun to come and check us all out.

I have been working so hard getting ready for this show. My latest addition to my quilts is an intense over-quilting which provides even more texture and substance to the work. Don't you love the simple design and the colors of this quilt--colors of the sky?

colors of the sky--quilt--Ann Brauer--2014

Another piece I am very proud of is "blue river in autumn" which I finished yesterday. Here is the wall hanging before I added the binding. Yes, it is long. About 76 inches long. I have intensely quilted the rust colored fabrics while leaving the blue river flowing freely.

blue river in autumn--12x76"--Ann Brauer--2014

Speaking of long. Yes, they are still working on my building. Yesterday they blew in the insulation to keep the place toasty warm. Soon they will start sheet rocking. Needless to say I can hardly wait. Patience is not my strong suit.

Well enough for now. I hope to see some of you at the Furniture Show--the discount ticket is attached below. For others, I do keep posting new items on my Etsy shop. www.etsy.com/shop/annbrauer And I will be working in my studio when I am not at shows--although if you are coming from a distance I suggest calling to be sure.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

When to hold them...

One of the reasons I love doing craft shows is because I can find out how people react to my latest quilts. Sure I don't make quilts just to please the public--puleeze. But let's face it, I need to sell my quilts if I am going to continue making them. And I am only going to enjoy making them if I make the quilts that I want to make. That is the conundrum.

So it was with great anticipation that I brought my latest work to the recent Paradise City Arts Festival. Those who follow me on Facebook--and a bit on this blog--will know that I  have been trying to make my work more abstract. To take it to another level. And after the Baltimore Craft Show that I knew I had to try to add over-quilting on some of my quilts. Now this is not as easy as it sounds. Some of the fabrics look too "country" if I dare say that when they are over-quilted. In other cases there were subtle variations in the colors that stood out in the simple designs in ways that just did not work. And of course there were the technical issues. But I worked hard.

I called the new pieces "fields" and saw them as both wonderful table runners and as wall hangings--either individually or in arrangements.
field of green--12x40"--Ann Brauer
Wouldn't they look wonderful staggered going up a stair case?

3 fields--each 12x40"--Ann Brauer
Or maybe a few over the sofa.

3 fields--each 12x40"--Ann Brauer
Oh I had fun making them. Even sold one out of the studio as I was working on the designs. I was optimistic--which I guess one has to be in this business.

Until I got to the craft show. Now don't get me wrong--it was not that people did not like them. So many crafts people came up to me and commented so positively on the new work. And their praise means a lot to me. After all, these are the most knowledgeable artists who have been following my work for more years than I dare to count.

But did I sell any of them? Nope. Yes there were some people who just had to go home and measure. Others wanted colors I did not have--browns and tans. Reds.  And there is the price issue. You see I had been making another table runner that I sold for less. But I have made too many of them. They are not part of the direction that interests me. And I really should raise their price a lot to justify making them.
river runner--12x40"--Ann Brauer

So what to do? I have one more craft show left in this series. It would be really nice to sell a lot of work at this show since this is my last fair for several months. You must know the problem. I spent the first couple days after the show filling orders. Nothing wrong with that. But then there was the question--should I make the older style that I know sells but doesn't interest me as much? Or do I have the energy to continue pushing myself to make a couple more pieces in the new work. Would that be a waste of time.

I spoke with another craft person about it as the fair ended. One of those people who has been doing shows forever. A person whose work I respect. He reminded me that it does take people at least a year to decide they want the new work. After all, my public has been looking at the older pieces for years--this is what they dream about for their home. But then he said, there will be a new audience that wants these quilts. I mulled this over. Still unsure what to do.

Until I opened up my e-mail. Yes, another of my minimalist wall hangings was included in a Treasury on Etsy. Now Treasuries on Etsy are fun--you get to curate a list of 16 items around a theme of your choice. Sure there is a particular look to these Treasuries. But it is a an interesting way to see your work in a larger setting. Looks good doesn't it?https://www.etsy.com/treasury/MTI1ODI5NDV8MjcyNTkyNjMzNA/390

And I thought about my next craft show. It is the Philadelphia Invitational Furnishings Show. A show I have done years ago--it is still going on and I decided it would be fun to try it again. After all, furniture shows do bring in a knowledgeable and qualified public. It would count as my "new" show for the year--I always try to do at least one new show each year to expand my market. And wouldn't these furniture buyers want nice simple table runners for their new tables? For more information: www.philaifs.com  For your half price invite--just scroll down to the bottom of this post.

Worth a try. So I organized fabrics in browns--a nice color for all the amazing furniture I know I will see at the show. And started to sew. Yes, these are designs that I still think of as keepers. And in writing this blog I realized I do need to add these fields to my web site. That should be easy.

So how do you decide when to keep making a new design? How do you change your look? And when do you call it quits?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Just got to have fun!!

Sometimes it seems I make a quilt for a purpose. It is perhaps an order--or it will look good in my booth--or tis the season--or....  And sometimes I make a quilt just because I want to have fun!! That's been happening a lot recently.

You see I got inspired to test some machine quilting on top of the quilt just to see what happens. And I discovered if I choose the fabric carefully it adds to the quilt rather than making it feel confined. (Harsh words but that can happen, if you know what I mean.) Well one quilt led to another. And then I started mixing and matching.

But rather than telling you about it--let me show you some of the experiments.

field of first growth--12x40 inches--Ann Brauer 2014

Now one of the great things about these pieces if they can be used separately. Perhaps as a wall hanging for that long narrow spot.

harvest field--12x40"--Ann Brauer
Perhaps as a table runner.

field of teal--12x40"--Ann Brauer

But then they can also be used in arrangements. Think of that space over the sofa. And yes I just pinned these in place--they can be hung more formally is you wish.

three fields--Ann Brauer

Or going up the staircase:

three--Ann Brauer

Stagger this combination:

three--Ann Brauer

And then rotate it--why not?

three--Ann Brauer

Or maybe the colors should be switched again:

three--Ann Brauer

Notice the effect of the slightly darker yellow and the addition of the purple or plum. Oh I could pin them up forever and take their snapshots. But I have work to do. Each piece leads me to want so many more to play with. Isn't that why people love to shop from artists anyway--to get inspired and play with design.  I want to make all the colors of the rainbow. Maybe a green with just a tad more olive. Or another brown. Don't really have anything in the blue family yet. And the red family?

How many can I finish before the Paradise City Arts Festival March 21-23? Which ones will sell?  Will the public even enjoy playing with them as much as I do?  And if they sell at Paradise will I also have some for the Philadelphia Furniture Show April 4-6?

What do you think? Which ones are your favorites?

For more information on the Paradise City Arts Festival: www.paradisecityarts.com
The Philadelphia Invitational Furniture Show: www.philaifs.com

And my Etsy shop has some under either wall hangings or table runners--check both places as I couldn't figure out where best to list them.

Monday, March 3, 2014

the quilts of Ann Brauer--is it a lion, a lamb or a snow leopard?

Dear all,

OK--it seems to me the big question is whether March came in like a lion or a lamb. After all, the first day of March warmed up here from the chilly teens to an almost balmy 32. And yesterday even hit above freezing. Only to plummet down to minus 7 tonight. Yes, I am ready for spring. Aren't we all?

That of course does not prevent me from working hard in my studio. After a good Baltimore Show I quickly got back to work and got inspired to create even more new pieces for the Paradise City Arts Festival in Marlborough, MA this March 21-23. For those who haven't been to this show, it is truly the beginning of spring for me. There is great music, fun art, and even places to sit and eat a light lunch as you figure out just what you want to see again. One of my favorite aspects of this show is that there is work that lust after and also work that I can afford. Anyhow, I am Booth 133. For more info and to get $2 off your ticket, visit www.ParadiseCityArts.com

One of my favorite new series includes these "field" strips. Are they table runners or wall hangings? Do you want to mix and match? Don't you just love the colors. If you look carefully, you will see that I have quilted on the top of the design too which creates a truly awesome texture. I am sewing looped tape on the top and bottom so you can create your own arrangement. Or just throw one across your table to create the feeling of spring. What do you think?
fields--12x40 inches--Ann Brauer

Meanwhile in my search for green--I am going to put my quilt "hidden lake" on sale as the Quilt of the Month. I do love this piece. I made it after hiking in the White Mountains with my DH a couple summers ago. Every time the trail would get just a bit tough and I wondered about going on, I would catch a glimpse of the hidden lake we were hiking too. This quilt is just off square--it is 45 inches wide and 43 inches long. After I finished it I realized this and that there was nothing I wanted to add to make it square so that is how it it. Normally the quilt sells for $1200 but for the next 10 days or until sold it will be $675 plus shipping and any applicable taxes. To be the first, either contact me directly or purchase it on Etsy.
hidden lake--43x45 inches--quilt--Ann Brauer

When I am not doing the show, I will be at my studio at 6 Bridge Street (weather permitting.) I also do continue to list work on my Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/shop/annbrauer

Next month I will be at the Philadelphia Invitational Furniture Show April 4-6. I will have some half price admission tickets for that show, so please e-mail me if you would like to receive one.

Thanks so much for reading.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Making it my own

Recently I have been thinking a lot about how I can take a technique and make it work for my quilts. Oh sure, I know there are those who try a method once and then move on to another style. It may be fun for them, but for me I want to know what it is I can do with it--what are the limits--how can I get it to say what I want it to say. I need to know it and play with it until it becomes  almost second nature to me.

Now those who have been following me know I have been resisting quilting on top of my work for years. Oh, sure I occasionally try it just to see what it will look like. And in the past, I have rejected it since it seems to confine the wonderful prints that I use in ways that I don't like.

But I have known even when I made winter light with my new straight lines, that there was something missing. How though to add it without feeling like I was just adding it to be in with the in crowd if you know what I mean.

winter light--quilt--Ann Brauer

This was even more true for dreaming the rainbow. Now I love this quilt. And I am pleased to say it has a happy home. There were others at the show who also loved the many fabrics that I used to create the white on white canvas. But still it seemed to need more and indeed I had dreamed of adding quilting to the white part but just did not visualize it.

dreaming the rainbow--quilt--Ann Brauer

Until that is--the Baltimore show. I was kitty-corner from Erin Wilson's work. Her new quilts have a minimalist quilting stitch that works so perfectly for their design. Not what I was looking for but it got my mind to thinking. You can check out her web site here: www.erinwilsonquilts.com As did Lisa Call's quilts which are now using the quilting stitch as a brush stroke--exquisite.  Her website is www.lisacall.com No I did not take pictures. I did not want to get too close to their technique. Just wanted to absorb the essence and see if that gave me clues to the question whether I can add machine quilting on top of my quilts and have it add to the quilt not just seem extraneous.

And then I decided I just had to try. I dug out a table runner I had started a couple years ago when I was trying to learn my straight lines and decided I could play with that. If I wrecked it, I would not be unhappy. Not bad, is it? And not as agonizing as I thought it might be. I love the substance it gives, don't you?

table runner--12x39"--Ann Brauer

detail of table runner--Ann Brauer

Time to try another. What happens if I switch the black lines to green? Will it still work? Will practice make the quilting straighter?  How do you get to Carnegie Hall? I choose a few fabrics and cut them out. Make a design that worked the first time. Sometimes I have to make things several times just to figure them out.

table runner--green stripes--Ann Brauer

Yes, that works too. Maybe not as well as the first one--but not bad. So now my mind starts to race. What else can I do? What fabrics can I use? I think of a design. Colors I want to try and cut it out.

Hmm. May not have been the best choice. What happens when I quilt it?

mauve--table runner--Ann Brauer

Slightly better. Certainly there are possibilities here--though some of the fabrics had too much design and the red should have been more consistent. Sometimes I just reach too far. Live and learn.  Isn't this part of making a technique your own? One more try. I have been dreaming of yellows. So again, what happens if...

A little too bold and ordinary without the quilting, isn't it? But still I am curious.

table runner--gold--Ann Brauer

Yes, it does seem to be making more of a statement. The lines are getting straighter. The fabric selection is getting better. Now to finish it and then re-examine the process. Will it work where I want it do? Probably make a couple more as I think about a larger piece. See what happens. I know I will take a couple of them to the Paradise City Arts Festival. Get a reaction. For more info on the Paradise Show: www.paradisecityarts.com You can even get $2 off your admission if you go to this site.

What do you think? Are the table runners too simple? Can I use this for a larger quilt? And what hints do you have for making a technique yours?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How long does it take?

Now one of the questions I know I will get asked all the time at the Baltimore Craft Show--yes, it is next week-end and my Booth is 4209--is "How long did it take to make that quilt?"

Such a good question. After all, the questioner may be genuinely interested or at least they want to talk. Why, after all, do people come to Craft Shows? Sure, some of them want to see what a particular artist is doing. Or they may have an empty wall--a gift to give--a special occasion. Or they may just be tired of winter. Aren't we all? But many I believe come because it is fun to talk with the artists--what were they thinking when they made the piece? What is their process? Just that glimpse of our lives. And quite frankly it is an honor to try to answer their inquiries.

But this question is always such a hard one answer. Sure there is the basic reply--how long did it take to sew the quilt? Yes, the construction is a factor. After all, quilts do not just sew themselves even though I wish they did--sigh. And there is lots of finish work that people don't even think about. It took me a couple hours just to baste the Velcro onto the back of my most recent quilt for hanging. Boring.

rainbow quilt--40x40 inches--copyright Ann Brauer

Time to clean up the loose threads. Even time to pack it into the back of my van so I can take time to have its image taken by my wonderful photographer on Friday. Thanks John Polak for rescheduling.

But then I decided I had to try to make just that one more wall hanging--or is it a table runner--for the Baltimore Show. I loved the central rainbow in this quilt and thought it would look fabulous as a quilt to draw people into my booth. Yes, that is always a consideration, isn't it? And hopefully it will impress people.

Now I had previously made other long wall hangings so I did know what I needed to do to start the piece. These were experiments that I had done in 2012. They took a lot of time of course.

rainbow river--12x80"--Ann Brauer
I already had chosen many of the colors from the quilt I just finished--does that count in the new wall hanging?  Indeed I had used the colors in my quilt--rainbows of the dawn. Does that thought process count?

rainbows of the dawn--45x45"--copyright Ann Brauer

Or going back to rainbows of summer. You can see the theme here can't you?

rainbows of summer--99x99"--copyright Ann Brauer

I just had to stop by the fabric store the other day to get a few more pieces of orange--always a hard color to find.  Yes, many of my orange fabrics were actually gifted to me by my sister after I lost my studio in 2011. I think of her as I use them. But that is another story and still I need more.

Yes, this wall hanging should have a bit more blue with just a hint of green than the finished quilt, shouldn't it? So I get those fabrics out. Search for just the right dark teals and greens. Then I cut lots of strips of fabric to begin. My sewing table looks a mess. How will I find the color I want? Time here too. And let's not even discuss the process of putting the fabric away when I am finished. Not my favorite activity.

So I start. The first few rows are the hardest. After all I have to sketch out how the colors are going to transition. And there is always the question--will it work? Am I taking on too much? I pin it up on my design board and study it. More time.

rainbow runner--copyright Ann Brauer

You can see how long it is on my design board. I had to stand on my chair just to pin it up. Well, I want to get it done so I add more and study again.

rainbow river--copyright Ann Brauer

Yes, the colors are progressing. Sure seems like it takes forever to sew this. And of course I have to iron after every seam. Cut more fabric. Do I need a larger choice of reds? What about the purples? Always I am searching for more. Then I try to figure out the borders. I want something to make it more than just a color study. In case you haven't noticed I am into blacks and greys.

Of course the day is getting late. There is not really enough light for a good image so this is just a sneak preview. And that is where it sits. Waiting for the snow to end so I can make it into the studio and finish the sewing. Then it will be on to the bindings and the Velcro. Cleaning up the quilt.

rainbow river--copyright Ann Brauer

But what is the answer to the question that started this blog? How long? Does it go back to my early color progressions of 30 years ago? And what influenced me to begin making quilts in the first place?
Do you get that same question? How do you answer it? How should I answer it?

And will I see at least some of you at the Baltimore show? For tickets and more information:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2014-american-craft-council-show-in-baltimore-tickets-8022827493 and using this code BWI2014GUEST. I am Booth 4209.